Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What could a 24 hour general strike achieve?

I’ve heard it a lot of late what can a 24 hour general strike achieve and in many ways I can understand those voices saying one day will not be enough we need more and I’d be agreeing with them. But and this is a big but we are starting from a very low level of consciousnesses we are not in the 1980’s trade union militancy is not what it was and we are having to start from a very low position. This is not to say that we cannot achieve big gains on the way back up but we have to realise and start from where we are not from where we’d like us to be. Some may say we are not doing that by calling for a one day general strike but we feel the working class and certainly the most advanced layers are ready and are at that stage now. Last year our calls for a 24 hour public sector general strike were taken up and made the property of the working class and turned into action on November the 30th. Now we are under no illusions that just by calling for something it wills just happen we are not that naive but slogans are important and how they are put across is important. A lot of work is needed to build for such an action we are under no illusions we face a huge task in front of us. But we must start now. At the 20 October anti-austerity demonstration, three trade union general secretaries - Len McCluskey of Unite, Bob Crow of the RMT and Mark Serwotka of the PCS - reflected the feelings of the majority of trade unionists in calling for a 24-hour general strike. Urgent plans must be drawn up now to give flesh to this call with an early date set for a strike to take place. However, it would be a mistake to imagine that the whole trade union movement is convinced and united in agreeing, let alone carrying out, the strike call, which was also endorsed by the last TUC Congress in September. It was noticeable that other general secretaries did not, in their speeches, either support or join in the general acclamation in Hyde Park for the general strike call. This indicates that right-wing trade union leaders will attempt to hamper and frustrate a strike taking place. They will seek to hide behind the 'difficulties' - particularly the hurdle of Thatcher's anti-union laws - in organising such a strike. Right-wing trade union leaders who habitually betray their members should take a warning from the recent splendid and heroic actions of the South African miners. Kept in the dirt by ruthless South African capitalism, their suffering was compounded by their 'leaders' in the NUM and Cosatu , who have shamefully collaborated with the bosses. Consequently, the miners have elbowed their former leaders aside. A similar fate awaits those trade union leaders in Britain who let trade unionists down at this momentous time. A mass campaign of explanation should drive home why a one-day strike is necessary to stop the government in its tracks. The trade unions have marched together; now it is necessary to strike together in one massive demonstration of the power of working people. Imagine the scene; with factories, workplaces and transport - apart from the essential means of getting to demonstrations, etc - all falling silent on one day. It would bring home that society cannot function without the working class. The same could not be said for the parasitic capitalists who, through their government - the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition - are dragging the British people into a social abyss. The British working class has not had such an experience for 86 years, since the time of the 1926 general strike. Greece has had 20 general strikes in the last two years alone. Spain, Portugal and Italy have trod a similar path, France and Belgium likewise. Britain did come close to a one-day strike at the time of the jailing of the dockers in 1972. Even the right-wing then general secretary of the TUC, Vic Feather, was compelled to threaten the Tory government of Ted Heath with a general strike unless the Dockers were released. He did this knowing he would not have to carry out his threat because the government had already indicated that the Dockers would be released through the medium of their own 'fairy godmother', the Official Solicitor, who few people had ever heard of before! This demonstrates the lengths to which the British ruling class will go to in order to avoid setting a new benchmark - a one-day general strike - for workers resisting them. It also illustrates that they can be compelled to make concessions when they are threatened with the power of the trade unions and the working class. It is no accident that the issue of the general strike is back on the agenda of the workers' movement. There are similar features in Britain today as in the early 1920s, which culminated in the 1926 general strike. The scale and the depth of the economic crisis of British and world capitalism are devastating. Like then, the capitalists want to impose the cost of this crisis onto the backs of the working class. They prepared a savage programme of cuts, outlined in the Geddes report of 1922. A similar scale of cuts has been proposed by Cameron and Osborne today, with the working class and poorest sections of the population, such as the disabled and low paid facing benefit cuts, etc, most affected. Unemployment - the most visible expression of the sclerotic state of 'modern' capitalism - stands at 200 million worldwide, according to the United Nations' International Labour Organisation. That is fully 30 million higher than before the crisis started in 2007-08. 40 million more people have also dropped out of the labour market since then. Yet by 2013 the figure of worldwide unemployment will have risen by at least seven million to 207 million. Cameron and British capitalism offer nothing different. A month ago, Cameron said the crisis would last at least until the end of this decade. Larry Elliott of the Guardian speculates that Britain may experience not one but possibly two or even three 'lost decades'. This will be characterised by economic paralysis, resulting in stagnant and falling living standards. Yet Cameron tries to hide his nakedness by triumphantly waving the latest 'growth' figures, prepared for him by the 'Department of Wild Guesses', and the 'Ministry of Thin Air'! These are just one quarter's figures. They largely arise from the Olympics, which had an effect almost solely in London. Even here they merely boosted part-time jobs and the self-employed, usually on miserable incomes, while the rest of the country outside of London still looks like an economic wasteland. In fact, the crisis is so deep and profound, the sacrifices demanded of the working class so severe, that some workers say, why just strike for one day? If we come out for one-day, why not then take it further into an all-out general strike? It is a question here of soberly estimating the stage through which the working class and the labour movement are passing. An all-out general strike is one of the most serious actions the working class can take, posing as it does sharply the question of power in society. Either the working class takes power and establishes a new socialist society or the capitalists can inflict a crushing defeat. Sometimes, as in 1926 with the Baldwin government, a general strike can be provoked by the capitalists without the working class being properly prepared, and its defeat can have lasting consequences. Therefore, before engaging in such a decisive battle it is necessary to go through a preparatory stage, maybe a number of limited strikes of one day or even longer, as in Greece. It is vital to understand the rhythm of the workers' movement at each stage. Today, a one-day strike is the most appropriate and effective action the working class can take. Even the six million workers organised in trade unions - encompassing 26% of the labour force - coming out in a one-day strike would shake this rotten government to its foundations. The trade unions should lose no time in organising the most massive display of working class power seen in generations - a colossal and effective 24-hour general strike! With extracts taken from

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

N14 could open new chapter of class struggle in Europe

For a Southern European-wide general strike on 14 November! CWI Statement • Towards an all-European general strike! • Down with the governments of the Troika! • Down with the Europe of the markets! • For a democratic socialist Europe of the working people! • CWI solidarity on November 14th On 17 October, Europe’s “leaders” gathered in preparation for a summit of heads of state in Brussels. This was their umpteenth crisis meeting since the capitalist economic crisis and resulting social and political turmoil began to violently shake the foundations of the bosses’ “European unity project”. Little surprise then that this summit, like those which preceded it, ended without the slightest indication of moves towards successfully stabilising the continent’s explosive economic and debt crises. Under the rule of the Troika (IMF, ECB and EU), the markets and capitalist political leaders, Europe continues along the path towards a deepening social disaster, with the economic recession accelerating and a slash and burn policy, of attacking the living standards and livelihoods of workers, young people, the unemployed and pensioners across the continent. In the last three weeks alone, governments in Greece, Portugal and Spain have introduced new super-austerity packages, the latest in a never-ending offensive. However, on the same day in the same city, an important decision - for a European-wide day of workers’ action against austerity - which could potentially represent a turning point in the struggle of workers was made at a summit of the European Trades Union Confederation. 14 November was declared a European-wide day of action, with coordinated general strikes confirmed for Portugal and Spain, at least, to be accompanied by mass demonstrations in other European capitals. This will be a day of international struggle on a higher level then seen before, and the first attempt in the current crisis at coordinated general strike action. The CWI welcomes this decision, and will struggle to ensure that 14 November is a successful day of struggle that can lay the basis for further more generalised actions. A successful day of strike action and protests can send a message of unity, demonstrate the anger of working people across the EU and help overcome feelings of isolation which exist amongst some sections of workers and youth, in countries like Greece. Since the beginning of the current crisis, the CWI has stressed the need for the European-wide coordination of the fight-back - including in this statement published shortly before the ETUC formal announcement – and has taken concrete initiatives to popularise and promote international action, beyond the symbolic European-wide demonstrations called by the ETUC, up until now. The positive decision by the ETUC leadership to coordinate action on 14 November, which flows logically from the continental-wide character of the attacks on workers and the growing fightback, is also the result of growing pressure from below in the workers’ movement, particularly in Spain and Portugal and other countries of Southern Europe. Although it comes late in the day, and is the result of the massive pressure for action which is building up, 14 November represents a key development and lets the “genie” of international general strike action out of the bottle. It could lay the basis for international struggle on an even higher level in the next period. However, the full scale of this action, broadly agreed by the tops of the European trade union movement, has not yet been fully clarified. In many countries, the trade union leadership is hesitating and delaying calling action. In Spain and Portugal, they have been compelled to call a general strike. In Italy, the COBAS have called for a strike although the CGIL has yet to decide. Outside of the Iberian penninsula, there is a clear basis to add to the number of countries in which general strike action could and should take place, if the trade union leadership were to make the call. In Greece, five general strikes have taken place already this year, and the rotten coalition government has just agreed a new list of brutal measures to further the destruction of the lives of millions, including a 6-day working week. The inclusion of 14 November as a key date in the ongoing struggle of the Greek working class movement to do away with the government of the Troika and for a workers’ government, is possible and would represent a uniting in battle of the inspirational Greek working class fighters, with those whom they have inspired in Spain and Portugal. The conditions exist for 14 November to include a general strike across the whole of Southern Europe. In Spain and Portugal, strikes have been called. In Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Malta the question is being discussed. In Belgium, important sections of the trade union movement have come out in favour of a general strike on 14 November. There is anger and demand for action throughout the EU. Even in some countries where protests have yet to be called, the situation is ripe for the calling of a general strike. We urge the organisation of solidarity protests in those countries where no general strikeare officially being called. Following on from a day of international action, including a Southern European wide strike on 14 November, a plan of escalating and widening international action could be put in place. Crisis nightmare The worsening of the crisis nightmare throughout Europe and the determination of the working class and youth to fight back, is creating the conditions for such a process. On 20 October, 150,000 marched in London against austerity, where massive pressure is being brought to bear on the leadership of the TUC to call a 24 hour general strike, with three major trade union general secretaries speaking out in favour. The TUC leaders have been compelled to discuss such a possibility in great part due to the struggle for a 24 hour general strike by trade union activists organised in the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN). As in other countries, anti-union legislation makes the organising of a general strike extremely complicated in Britain but this cannot be used as an excuse for inaction by the union leadership. In Ireland, tens of thousands continue to refuse to pay the Troika’s “household tax”. In France, the Hollande government’s turn towards austerity, following its election just a few months ago, is preparing the ground for a new period of class confrontations. Thus we see how, while not immediately realisable, there is the basis for socialists and working class and young activists to set their sights on an all-European general strike. Action on ‘14N’ could be an important springboard for a campaign in favour of such a strike. But just calling strikes is not enough. Such a campaign would have to be taken up in workplaces and throughout the workers’ movement, to be explained and popularised, building confidence and developing a strategy to take on anti-trade union laws which are put forward as an obstacle to general strike action in countries like Britain and Germany. Despite the importance of an international plan of coordinated action, it is important that this question is not used to put a break on the class struggle in any given country. International coordinated action flows organically from the calendar of the class struggle in each country, and begins with the fight against national governments and bosses. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, for example, we must not allow the need to coordinate action on a continental level to allow trade union bureaucracies to hold back from quickly escalating action following 14N. Forty eight hour strikes, for example, to build momentum against the weakened governments of the Troika and big business in these countries are an essential next step. November 14 must be the start and not the end of a struggle to unify the fight-back of workers across the EU. • Down with the capitalist EU! • For a Europe of the working people! The European class struggle is entering a new stormy phase, where the bringing down of bosses’ governments will come within the reach of explosive movements of the workers and youth. With the forced withdrawal of the TSU wage attacks in Portugal we have already seen how victories can be forced from pro-austerity governments and capitalism’s representatives. However, we believe that to achieve lasting victories and to break from the cycle of desperation and impoverishment, our movements need to be armed with alternative policies, to invest the wealth of society in jobs and regenerating living standards, instead of the payment of the speculators’ debts and bank bailouts. Socialists have a key role to play in intervening in the coming battles to popularise the struggle for workers’ governments based on such policies and the nationalisation, under democratic control, of the banks and key sectors of the economy. As the struggles of European workers become coordinated across borders, we see the potential opening up for a workers’ alternative to the capitalist EU of the markets. An international movement, under the banner of a struggle for an alternative, equal and voluntary, democratic socialist confederation of Europe, is on the order of the day. A CWI statement republished from

Monday, 29 October 2012

Come to socialism 2012 this weekend 3rd 4th November

This weekend sees the socialist party’s annual showcase event a weekend of debate and discussion from some great top speakers. This year will be very good with so much going on in this country and around the globe. Join the fightback. Fight the 1%. Fight for socialism. Socialism 2012 is a crucial event for all those fighting back. We are living in a time of mass movements. Millions have taken part in strikes and demonstrations against the Con Dem government and their cuts. Across Europe, mass resistance is meeting capitalist austerity. The Middle East remains in turmoil. The millions of workers and youth who overthrew dictators refuse to allow their achievement to be snatched back. Across the world the 99% are rising up against the 1%. To win, we need to arm ourselves with the best ideas, the clearest alternatives, and the correct strategy. Socialism 2012 Rallies ________________________________________ Saturday Rally Kick out the Con-Dems Build a 24-hour general strike 6.30pm Saturday 3 November Friends Meeting House, Euston Road Speakers include: Bob Crow, RMT transport union general secretary; Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary; Hoshoko Letshoba, a South African miners' leader; Keith Morrell, Southampton 'rebel' councillor; and more... Tickets from ________________________________________ Closing rally Rally for Socialism 3pm Sunday 4 November Friends Meeting House, Euston Road Speakers include: Hannah Sell, Socialist party deputy general secretary; Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary ________________________________________ ________________________________________ Register for the Socialism 2012 workshops and debates from Saturday at 2pm at University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY Aswell as our excellent rally’s on both nights we have a wide range of workshops and smaller debates focusing on more indepth issues. I will be speaking at the disability one if your interested in hearing about how we can fight the attacks on the disabled. 3pm Saturday Theme Saturday 3pm Speakers Introducing Socialism Is human nature too greedy for socialism? Sean Figg, Socialism 2012 organiser Introducing Marxism Marxist Philosophy: using dialectical materialism Robin Clapp, South West Socialist Party region secretary World Economic Crisis Can capitalism escape economic crisis? Is socialism viable? Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary Politics Murdochgate scandal & Leveson: a socialist programme for the media Judy Beishon, Socialist Party executive committee Society Are the police just a tool of the government? Nick Chaffey, Southern Socialist Party region secretary Programme 5 years since Northern Rock: a socialist programme for the banks Jane James Welfare vs Workfare How can we stop the ConDems attacks on the disabled? tbc Fight austerity Where next for the fight against austerity? Can we bring the government down? Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network & John Mcinally, PCS vice-president Internationalism Sri Lanka: a new epoch of struggle Senan, Tamil Solidarity & Frint Line Socialist Party of Sri Lanka Internationalism Spain in revolt Spanish socialists Science Can we have green growth & do we need it? Pete Dickinson, author Planing for the Planet & Clive Lord, founder member of the Green Party (personal capacity) Other The role of popular culture in normalising sexism Sarah Wrack, Rape is No Joke organiser 10am Sunday Theme Sunday AM Speakers Introducing Socialism How could a planned economy work? Alistair Tice, Yorkshire Socialist Party region secretary Introducing Marxism Historical materialism: how Marxists understand progress Ken Douglas, Socialist Party executive committee Politics Should Scotland be independent? Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland Society The Royal delusion Becci Heagney, Socialist Party national committee What we stand for Does the Occupy movement offer a new way to change the world? Sarah Sachs, editor The Socialist Welfare vs Workfare How can we defeat workfare? Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs & Boycott Workfare Fight austerity How to stop the sell off of the NHS Dr Jackie Grunsell & Roger Davey, Unison Wiltshire & Avon Health Service chair (personal capacity) Internationalism Syria, imperialism and the Arab revolutions Niall Mulholland, CWI & eyewitness to Tahrir Square Internationalism After the Venezuelan elections: what prospect for socialism in Latin America? Tony Saunois, CWI secretary Science The God particle, science and Marxism Pete Mason, author Science, Marxism and the Big Bang Other 1972: the general strike that never was. The lessons for today Other LGBT: 40 years of pride. 1pm Sunday Theme Sunday PM Speakers Introducing Socialism Is the Russian Revolution relevant today? Ben Robinson, Socialist Party national committee Introducing Marxism An introduction to Marxist economics Lenny Shail, Socialist Party national committee World economic crisis What future for the European Uniion? Lynn Walsh, editor Socialism Today Politics Is the Labour Party a vehicle for socialism? Owen Jones, journalist & author of 'Chavs' & Clive Heemskerk, Socialist Party executive committee Society The Hillsborough cover up: what does it say about the role of the police, media and government? Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool mayoral candidate What we stand for Immigration: a socialist programme Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary Welfare vs Workfare Scroungers? The role of unemployment in capitalist economy & the ideology of the 'benefit culture' Dave Griffiths, West Midlands Socialist Party region secretary Fight austerity How can councillors fight the cuts? Harry Smith, Liverpool 47 & Dave Nellist, TUSC chair Internationalism Campaign Kazakhstan Clare Doyle, CWI Internationalism South Africa erupts: what does the miners struggle represent? South African miner & eyewitness to Rustenburg Other How do we combat the growth of the far right? United or popular fronts? Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party region secretary

Sunday, 28 October 2012

My article on housing for this weeks socialist

This week I had a article in this weeks socialist. I republish it below. A recent report by the National Housing Federation (NHF) shows that over the last three years there has been an 86% rise in housing benefit claims by working families - that's 417,830 more households now receiving the payments. What's to blame? The NHF says that the cause is a 37% rise in private rents and house prices rising three times faster than wages since 2001. Pay freezes and a poverty minimum wage also contribute. This is another sign of an ever-deepening housing crisis in Britain that gives young people little chance of ever owning a property or being able to afford to rent. In my local area, Hertfordshire and Essex, private rents are rising faster than property prices, which could lead to some of the steepest increases nationwide in the next decade, says the NHF. The NHF says that years of not building enough homes will push charges in the area up by nearly two thirds (64%) in just ten years, compared to a 59% rise nationwide. In Herts, monthly rents are predicted to rise from £902 to £1,478. House prices in Herts could rise 52%, and the county's tenants have faced average private rents rising 4% while real incomes actually dropped by 2%. In Essex monthly rents are set to rise from £773 to £1,267 in the next decade. Claire Astbury, a regional manager for the NHF said: "One in 16 East of England families is currently on the waiting list for social housing and it looks like the situation is going to get far worse. "Successive governments have failed to tackle the under-supply of housing. Now time is running out... A whole generation are at risk of being priced out of renting a home, let alone buying one." The main cause of these problems is a huge shortage of genuinely affordable housing. We need rent caps introduced and properly enforced to make sure rents are always affordable to working class people. But the case for massive council house building is now overwhelming - if Labour councils won't oppose Cameron's diktats on public spending cuts, I'm sure the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition could show them how!

Socialism will be accessible for all

As a disabled person a person who has been registered blind now for a number of years I know how difficult life can be. Life is not accessible to us and is a constant struggle. This post isn’t meant as a blind person rant or an I cant cope an I need help kind of post but I would like to say that we as disabled people face incredible challenges day in day out. Many disabled people do not work as either they can’t or work is simply not practical for them. It’s not as the right wing media would have you believe we can live an easier life on benefits as I can tell you right now living on benefits is no life at all. Even as a disabled person with incapacity benefit as it used to be known its no walk in the park ok I used to get £210 every two weeks but that for me just got me by the price of living now would mean that would just about cover my expenses to get to the shops, buy my weekly shop, pay for taxi’s, pay for any doctors or hospital appointments which disabled people often have to attend to receive treatment or medicine and your looking at the bulk of that money being spent. Not just spent but reinvested into the wider economy we use taxi’s we are contributing to a hard working taxi drivers living, we attend a hospital we are providing in a round about way a doctor or nurse a job and a living if not a great one. So in a way life is not a breeze for us I work 2 days a week part time but many do not and this is through no fault of their own it can be for many many different reasons which I cant go into here but each person has their own difficulties and challenges they overcome everyday. Just getting out of bed each day is an achievement for some and that should be recognised. I think personally and many socialists share this view that capitalism has no time for disabled people as the reemploy factory situation showed if disabled members of society can’t work like other workers, i.e. for awful wages with poor conditions being driven into the ground they are no good to them. They have no problem with throwing disabled workers on to the scrap heap if it means their profit margins are looking healthy. You may think I’m giving the rich, the capitalists a hard time and in a way you’d be right, but it’s not without reason. Pushing disabled people and the poorest in society some of the most vunerable people in society into harsh conditions and poverty type conditions is not something to be proud of. If this is all in the name of the pursuit for profit I wish to be counted out. I feel under capitalism we will never achieve equality why do we still have to fight for a living wage, why do we have to fight for our dignity as disabled people? Under socialism there will be choice, more choice but not for the price of exploitation but of the bettering of society, Choice under capitalism means the driving down of workers wages and conditions and the choice of the gutter under socialism people will be free to decide if they wish to work and help better society or help in other ways. Apples I phone is a big step forward under capitalism for the first time blind people can buy a phone with a screen reader which helps us use a mainstream phone with no extra cost or software for the first time. This is ground breaking but this is all too rare under capitalism and the price is huge. In a socialist society this will be standard when products for society are produced the thought that blind or disabled people may be using them will not be a after thought but fundamental in the production process of all products, transportation, housing, living conditions and everything you can possibly think of. The fact that the drive for profit will be gone for good will allow society to plan production and the economy to meet the true needs of the people not just the few but for everyone, disabled or not.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Uk out of recession but not for the 99%

As today’s growth figures for the last quarter show the UK is out of recession cue the celebrations from the capitalists a whopping 1% growth between June and September is nothing to shout about but if you are in the 1% you may well be recessions never affect you. For the rest of us the 99% the recession continues, pay freezes continue, attacks on our terms and conditions continue and job cuts in the publican the private sector continue so forgive us, the working and middle class’s for not whooping and hollering when we heard today’s news. For us we will still be made to pay for the crisis we did not create, the crisis of capitalism is on our shoulders even further as we are still only roughly 15% into the proposed cuts. So while the rich celebrate over a 1% bit of growth mainly born out of the fact we had the Olympics which doesn’t tell the whole story as we all know other parts of London which were normally busy in the summer suffered hugely due to the Olympics. We the workers will not see any benefits to this bit o growth are there more people in work now ? We are told yes but I highly doubt it with still a million young people out of work and the unemployment figures still high this is nothing to be jumping up and down about. This is in fact one of the longest not yet the deepest but it may be recessions we’ve ever seen. With today’s news of Ford motorcar manufacture in Dagenham and Southampton deciding to close its factories and move to Turkey at the expense of 4000 jobs this news of growth will appear very hollow to many workers facing redundancy. I do hope Unite the union at Ford gets its finger out and shows its full might in fighting these job cuts and factory closures. It’s no good telling us how bad it is these workers are loosing their jobs workers want to see action and a call for national strike action if that’s what it takes. The National shops stewards Network put out this piece earlier today in reaction to the news. The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) sends its full support to Ford workers and their unions – Unite and the GMB after their company’s announcement that it intends to close two British plants and sack up to 2,000 workers by next summer. We support any action taken by these workers to defend their plants and jobs. At the same time, Ford is shutting its factory in Genk in Belgium with the loss of 4,300 jobs. The closure of Southampton Transit and the Stamping plant in Dagenham which supplies Transit panels is an attack on the whole Ford UK workforce as it will leave it smaller and vulnerable to a total closure or attack on workers’ terms and conditions. In the year 2000, there were 52,000 workers in Ford UK, these closures will leave under 11,000. This is the reward for sacrifices made by Ford workers over the last few years – from outsourcing indirect jobs to agreeing a new starter pension rate and closing the final salary pension scheme to new starters. This announcement shows that no workers are safe, whether they be in the car industry or anywhere else. These redundancies could lead to 20,000 workers losing their jobs in the component industry or related sectors. Unite and the GMB must link workers in Ford with these companies to build a huge army of opposition. Plant closures and redundancies are difficult to stop, but they can be stopped if a serious and determined fight is organised. Unite members in the construction industry and London buses this year have won victories, showing that the bosses’ plans can be resisted. Union policy is to trigger a national dispute over a closure threat. There should be an immediate national meeting of all Ford UK shop stewards and convenors to discuss what action is needed, including the organising of a ballot for national strike action. Action, official or unofficial, should be coordinated with workers in Genk and throughout the European plants. Therefore, an emergency meeting of the union-side Ford European Works Council should be organised, with stewards from every plant invited. This could give Southampton and Dagenham workers the confidence to raise any and all means to fight the closures, including occupations. In Southampton, a call across the city for a demonstration opposing closure of the plant would get a resounding echo and bring thousands onto the streets. The NSSN campaigned on the 20th October 150,000-strong TUC demonstration in London for a 24-hour general strike against the attacks being made by this Tory/Lib Dem government of the bosses. The threat to the Ford plants shows yet again why the unions and the TUC need to link together all workers – in the private and public sectors – to defend all our jobs, pay and pensions. Fords should be nationalised if it refuses to stop the redundancies, in order to save workers’ livelihoods and their skills and the plants they are working in. All Ford workers must fight Looming over both Ford workers and pensioners is the company’s pension deficit of about £2 billion. They will ask themselves how a company of reduced size that is blaming its closures on losses of £1 billion really intends to keep the fund afloat by paying the deficit. Workers should remember how the ex-Ford Visteon component plants were closed in 2009 through administration, which saw 600 workers sacked. Now, over 3,000 Visteon pensioners are taking Ford to court to protect the full value of their pensions because the fund has gone into the Pension Protection Fund. The option to dispense with this financial ‘burden’ must be increasingly tempting for Ford. The Visteon workers would have got statutory redundancy money of a maximum of £9,000 each but won an enhanced pay-off because they fought for it, through occupations and pickets. The immediate launch of serious national and even international action would give workers in the two UK plants confidence to fight and send the strongest possible signal to Ford that the battle to save their jobs and pensions is on. Solidarity with the Ford workers! Rob Williams So forgive me if I don’t get too excited over this bit of news. Its time we fought back on every plain. TUC name the day for joint public and private sector national strike action. Time workers felt their power once again!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A hardening mood developing?

On October the 20th TUC demonstration in London I noticed a hardening of the mood of workers. The demo was a smaller march yes but those on the demo had a better understanding as to what will be required. On the run up to last year’s demonstration we’d been swamped for 6 months or so on mobilising for the march. This time with sell outs from the right wing trade union leaders and many feeling marches won’t get us anywhere the number attending was well down. This can be explained by the fact that the march was near enough finished by 5 pm whereas it was still strong and coming this time last year. People I spoke to had a realisation that the government won’t listen to protests, march’s or petitions and that more sustained action is needed and more often than every 18 months. It’s clear that the mood has changed since last year more are realising labour will not fight the cuts. The mood for an alternative is still there and many still want to fight. The take up of our material on the day of NSSN and socialist party materials was a clear sign of this. The thing now is to transform this change in mood into action. Passing motions in local trades councils, union branches and community groups is essential. I posted the NSSN’s latest bulletin and list of public meetings coming up on this blog yesterday. Pressure from below must be built on We may well have to be demanding another general strike next year as there is no grantee this will end this gov. But we must try a 24 hour general strike will be a step forward uniting public and private sector disputes, getting the students, unemployed onboard is key. Unions are not well organised in the private sector, our more militant unions are now in the public sector which is good but unfortunate as these cannot cause as much disrupting as the private sector where we are poorly organised. A strike involving our IT sector which serves local government and government records would have a devastating effect as would the RMT taking action on the underground in London. The TUC’s passing of the motion 5 to consider the practicalities of a general strike must be taken up seriously now. Let’s hear no excuses of illegal wrangling or having to win the public argument the 99% are under a barrage of attacks its fight now or see the rest of the cuts through unchallenged which must not happen. The unions must be making every opportunity they get to explain why we need a 24 hour general strike. More unions are coming on board now with the ideas so with the NSSN and our support let’s name the day!

Monday, 22 October 2012

NSSN builds mood for 24 hour general strike on october 20th

Below i publish the report by the NSSN from the 20th of october “Blimey!” was the reaction of one railway worker as he heard about Lennie McCluskey’s call for a general strike in Hyde Park on the massive TUC demo last Saturday. We expected Mark Serwotka and Bob Crow to do that, and they did. The RMT, PCS together with POA had committed to campaigning for a general strike even before the TUC Congress in early September. But here was Len, leader of the gigantic Unite union, asking the crowd to raise their hands if they were in agreement. A forest of hands went up with a roar of approval. The fact that three general secretaries of some of the most militant trade unions put out this call from the podium is extremely significant. So significant, in fact, that the main stream news media have blacked it out! The rich and powerful are terrified of a mass movement building up against their cuts agenda. Even the reporting of the actual fact that more than 150,00 trade unionist were marching through central London, Glasgow and Belfast. This seems to have stuck in the throat of those in control of the media. They would have us believe there is no opposition to austerity or alternative to cuts. NSSN is proud to have assisted in the campaign to persuade TUC delegates to adopt Motion 5 from POA and seconded by the RMT which called for the TUC to look into the practicalities of organising mass national public/private sector action. It now looks like the general council has been ‘nudged’ to contact unions to start that discussion. All over the country this week there are follow-up NSSN regional meetings (see list below) to discuss how we can add further mass pressure from below to ensure that the TUC carries out this democratically decided policy. It will not happen if we leave it to the general council alone. As one woman shouted on the demo, “We want a future that works………not a TUC that shirks!” So come to your regional meeting to discuss with fellow campaigners in your area how to take the struggle forward; get your union branch to adopt the NSSN model motion ; if your union is inactive take it to a meeting of your colleagues at work, send round a petition; send an individual letter; organise a local debate and get the matter raised in your local paper; do whatever you can to add force to the idea that marching on demos is one thing, and we have done that in huge numbers - twice – but it is mass action A 24-HOUR PUBLIC/PRIVATE SECTOR STRIKE that this millionaire government cannot avoid reacting to. Everyone can play a part. So, get stuck in, brothers and sisters! Linda Taaffe NSSN National Secretary ************************************** NSSN Meetings & Conferences coming up: Bristol Defend NHS Workers! SW NSSN Bristol Public meeting Tuesday October 23, 7.30pm As almost all NHS Trusts in the South West are planning to break away from national collective bargaining, this is an important regional campaign with national implications. Cheltenham Road Library, Bristol, BS6 5OX Reading Build a one day general strike! Wednesday October 24, 7:30pm Speakers include Dave Gorton. Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC), Room 1, 35-39 London Street, Reading, RG1 4PS Caerphilly Fight the NHS cuts! Wednesday October 24, 7.30pm Tower Room, Twyn Community Centre, Caerphilly London Build a 24 hour general strike. Wednesday October 24, 7pm Speakers include Chris Baugh - PCS Assistant General Secretary, Steve Hedley - RMT Assistant General Secretary, Suzanne Muna - Unite LE 1111 housing branch secretary & CYWNFP NISC, Frank Morris - sacked Unite Crossrail shop steward ULU, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY North West Build for a 24-hour general strike. Saturday October 27, 1pm-3pm Speakers include Steve Acheson - Unite Construction NISC and Sparks rank & file and Alex Davidson - PCS North West vice-chair Town Hall Tavern (upstairs), 20 Tib Lane, Manchester City Centre M2 4JA Scotland Shop Stewards network conference. Saturday October 27, 11am-4pm speakers include Janice Godrich PCS President & Rob Williams NSSN national chair Glasgow Unison Offices, 84 Bell Street Swindon Defend the NHS & Build for a 24 general Strike! Saturday October 27, 12noon-4pm Great Western Hotel, Station Road, opposite entrance to the railway station Midlands Midlands NSSN Conference (Birmingham) Saturday 17th November, 12-4pm Speakers include: Lee Barron CWU Midlands regional secretary , Joe Simpson POA assistant general secretary, Kevin Greenway PCS national executive, Linda Taaffe National Secretary NSSN, Dave Auger UNISON & Nick Harrison FBU & afternoon workshops on organising the workplace, fighting to save our NHS & organising against the cuts. Unite offices, 211 Broad Street, Birmingham, B15 1AY. 1200-1600 Yorkshire & Humer Regional Conference Saturday 24th Nov, 10-4pm Conference sessions will include sessions to discuss the fight back against austerity and plans to develop the NSSN in Yorkshire, as well as the following workshops: Trade Unions and the Media, Building Trades Councils, Organising Youth & in the Community & Anti-Union Laws, Blacklisting & Victimisation. Cosmopolitan Hotel, 2 Lower Bridgate, Leeds, LS1 4AE *************************************** Twitter NSSN_Anticuts Facebook main group ‘National Shop Stewards Network’ & ‘Stop the cuts’ New website: Email: Phone: 07952 283 558 Post: NSSN, PO Box 54498, London E10 9D ***************************************

Europe’s car industry another crisis in the making

Below I republish an excellent article posted a few months back by the CWI detailing the slowing down of the European car market. What has always been thought of an ever expanding market now appears to have dark clouds on the horizon for German, French and Italian car manufacturers. Europe’s car industry Another crisis in the making, 27/09/2012 website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI For a European-wide and international strategy of the trade unions to defend factories, jobs and working conditions Stephan Kimmerle, CWI “It’s a bloodbath of pricing and it’s a bloodbath on margins”, Sergio Marchionne, boss of troubled Fiat and chair of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) wails about the European markets. “Europe’s auto industry has reached day of reckoning”, was the headline in the New York Times. With the slowdown of growth in China the car industry internationally faces harder times. But for Europe it’s a disaster. Sales in Europe went down from more than 15 million in 2007 to approximately 12.4 million in 2012. A further clogging up of the outlet of exports to Chinese markets will drown the European plants in overcapacity. Given the fact, that huge over-capacity already existed before the crisis, the constant cost of maintaining the factories puts enormous pressure towards the closure of around 8 to 10 plants, according to capitalist commentators. This implies getting rid of the capacity to produce at least 3 million vehicles in Europe - an equivalent of around 250,000 jobs. According to analysts, factories must operate at 75% at least to be profitable. The destruction of that capability to produce goods – not necessarily cars – and the sacking of a very skilled workforce, lining up in the ranks of the mass unemployed – is the capitalist ‘solution’ to this problem. However, so far in the course of this crisis, only a very few plants have been closed in Europe (e.g. Opel Antwerp, Fiat in Sicily) and, at the same time, new capacity has been built up in Eastern Europe and internationally. Winners and losers The developing car crisis is hitting the different mass producers in very dissimilar ways. While Volkswagen appears to have increased its share of the market (despite some problems for its Seat arm), the Peugeot group (PSA) and General Motors in Europe (Opel, Vauxhall) seem to have suffered the most. Opel has losses of €938 per car sold, Peugeot-Citroen €789. Opel is discussing whether to close factories either in Eisenach (eastern Germany) or Bochum (western Germany). Ford is considering the closure of its plant in Genk, Belgium. Peugeot announced a reduction of its 100,000-strong workforce in France by 8,000 including the closure of its plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois near Paris (in total 14,000 jobs will be lost from the global 210,000 workforce according to this plan). While the workers at Aulnay took to the streets in protest and to demand that their jobs are safeguarded, a so-called expert, on behalf of the French government, just argued to close Peugeot’s Madrid plant instead and sack the workers there. The announcement to make the workers redundant in France’s Peugeot plants in June immediately triggered protest actions across the country. On 9 October, the CGT trade union federation has called for a demonstration of car workers in Paris, confronting the bosses presenting the new models on the same day. However, delegates coming together from the different factories of Peugeot had to push the trade union leaders to take this and more decisive action, and there is no strategy to fully use the power of the combined workforce in Aulnay and other plants. While the Aulnay workers went on strike, others were not called to join in. The differences between companies also reflect the uneven effects of the economic crisis in Europe and the devastating effects of the austerity measures imposed on Southern Europe. While German car sales are stagnant, France saw a decline of 14%, Italy minus 20%, while the number of purchases went down over 40% in Greece and Portugal. The decline in sales in Southern Europe had a much bigger effect on Peugeot and Ford purchases given their car fleet and traditional markets. Ford implemented short-time work, for example, at its plant in Cologne, Germany, which produces for these markets. At the same time, workers are being blackmailed to accept worsening working conditions in a race to the bottom. The current problems in Bochum reflect GM’s decision in May in favor of their Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, Britain. They forced workers to accept longer hours, losses in real wages and more flexibility, with the company dictating the times of work even on the weekend in order that production would be continued there. With this, the internal competition between the Opel plants in Germany (Rüsselsheim, Bochum) and Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port was used again in a successful way by the bosses against the workers. A whole series of deals involving workers giving concessions to save their jobs have been implemented in the past. Now, despite the ‘guarantees’ given to the workers that their jobs would be safe until 2016, the Bochum factory is faced with the danger of closure, and Rüsselsheim will see huge over-capacity as soon as the next changes of models are fully introduced. Unfortunately, instead of developing a joint fight back, the trade union leaders in Britain and Germany always justified the concessions, sharing a very narrow view on defending jobs in the framework of their nation state or even only looking towards saving one plant against another. Strategy of the bosses: following the US example? The bosses’ attempts to make workers pay for this crisis are obvious. But what is their plan to organize a way out? Billions of euros were spent after the crisis hit in 2009 to bail out the car industry in Europe. Looking from a US point of view the New York Times commented: “But instead of using that money to ease painful downsizing of plants and payrolls, governments provided financial incentives for people to trade in older models for new ones, or subsidized worker salaries to dissuade companies from cutting jobs.” (New York Times, 26 July) That’s what happened in the US. In an act of state intervention, the Obama administration took effective control of GM and Chrysler, two of the three big US car companies and organized a massive restructuring in order to restore profitability to the shareholders. The restructuring involved the shutting down of dozens of plants across the Midwest, the loss of thousands of jobs and getting rid of the historic gains of decent wages, pensions and health care for newly hired workers. Their wages of new hires are now at half the previous scale. This ‘restructuring’, at the expense of auto workers, was only possible with the active cooperation of the leadership of the United Auto Workers (UAW), the once mighty trade union of US car workers. A part of the trade union bureaucracy has turned more into managers to run the shares controlled by the UAW at GM and Chrysler, as well as the management of their $1bn Wall Street ‘strike fund’, and of the health plan for retirees which is controlled by the UAW. As part of the longer process of reorganizing the terms of exploitation, a sharp decrease of the wages of US car workers was implemented. The traditional factory bases in the north of the US, with a high level of trade union organization and traditions, have been gutted with production moving towards the US south, where trade unions are hardly present in the auto industry. Several Japanese and German companies now have low-wage car manufacturing plants in the US, which increasingly is seen as a low-wage manufacturing centre. That is the actual restructuring plan that is taking place under the Obama administration – a devastating blow to the living standards and conditions of US workers in the auto industry under the pretext of ‘saving jobs’. But the main objective was to cut costs in order to restore profits for the shareholders. Given the huge over-capacity in this industry in Europe, Sergio Marchionne, Fiat chief and current president of the European auto makers’ association, Acea, called for such a US-style method on an EU level to deal with the problem: “[Europe] needs to provide a unified, concerted road map to get this done,” Marchionne said. “Look at what happened with the steel industries in the ’90s, and copy that example.” That means factory closures, sackings and worsening working conditions for those who keep their jobs, organized by the governments of Europe. Will the European capitalists implement a US-style plan? Unable to solve the fundamental crisis of the car industry, will the European bosses be able to go the way of the US? The different nation states will try to act as in 2009. But it’s more than unlikely that the European capitalists could find a joint approach. In 2009, the different nation states put forward schemes like ‘cash for clunkers’. Formally they dealt with the different producers in a neutral way, but the design of the different schemes was made up of competing national interests. If Fiat and Peugeot are the losers of this crisis, the German state, from a capitalist point of view, does not bother too much. It may even open up new opportunities for Volkswagen. In the logic of capitalism, the tensions and differences between nation states and the companies based on nation states increase. That does not rule out that, in a joint interest to stabilize the economy or to prevent an escalation of protests, some joint actions could be decided on. But, as the euro crisis shows, the nation states in Europe are the tools of the different capitalist classes. They cooperate as far as it is in their interest, but the contradictions are increasing. And the use of their nation state is a one way street for them and does not oblige them to do anything. Two-and-a-half years ago, Fiat chief Marchione argued for what he called an ‘investment plan’ in Fiat’s Italian factories under the name ‘Fabbrica Italia’ (Factory Italy). (The origin of the word ‘Fiat’ is: Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili – Torino). Playing on the Italian card, he argued for state help and massive concessions by the workers in the working conditions and wages. Today, he just argues that an international company (now making more money with the Chrysler arm) needs to re-adjust the plans according to the market developments, despite some repetition of empty phrases of protecting Italian interests. Workers in Italian factories have already been forced onto short-time working linked to loss in pay – some even down to only 4 days of work a month. Perspectives However, it is far from certain that the current winners, e.g. German car producers, will just continue to be on the gain. After the crisis in 2009, it was mainly the Chinese markets that helped to overcome the problems for European car makers. Given the sales in Asia, the higher range cars – the German Daimler, BMW and Audi – has still not been hurt by a new crisis yet, but a slowdown is there. Even booming Volkswagen announced to its suppliers in Germany the possibility of a fall of 10% in production. Daimler announced further programmers to reduce costs. The attempts at increased cooperation between companies increased (e.g. Opel with PSA, Daimler with Nissan). The failure of the Daimler-Chrysler fusion is still a warning, however, that the pressure on companies is immense and that further fusions, as well as the collapse of whole companies, are on the table. The best option the companies are hoping for at the moment is that the decline in Europe is cushioned by markets in the rest of the world. It is very open as to whether this scenario materializes. Even then, it would be linked to further reductions of plants and jobs. An even more severe development cannot be ruled out with a hard landing in China (a growth rate falling to 5%) and other emerging markets being hit by global downturn. Trade union strategy In the first days of horror that greeted the car crisis in 2009 the fear of losing jobs and factories enforced a debate about a change of the whole industry towards electro cars and ‘green mobility’. However, this was quickly forgotten as soon as sales in China increased and cash-for-clunker schemes evolved. Trade unions like the mighty IG Metal in Germany signed agreements that workers had to accept short-time working with severe losses of pay. Contract workers lost their jobs and the core workforce paid a heavy price. Trade union leaders accepted a continuation of a "two-tier system", where younger or new workers are employed on much lower wages and worse working conditions. Trade union bureaucrats in Germany accepted – off the record – to play the same role as their counterparts during the decline of the German steel and coal industries: organize the end of jobs and companies with some minor concessions, avoiding bigger upheavals. The crisis is starting again to bite for car workers. It’s urgent to avoid a repetition of these developments on an even worse economic basis compared to 2009. A trade union strategy is needed to coordinate resistance all over Europe and internationally to defend all jobs and factories and to end the playing-off of workers in one plant or country against others. A unified struggle is needed to fight against all cuts, concessions, job losses and closures. All factories where workers are threatened with redundancies have to be taken over by the states and run under workers’ control and management. But, given the links between the factories, the inter-dependencies and the over-capacity in the industry in general, the struggle for nationalisation cannot be limited to those factories the bosses do not need any more. The whole industry needs to be put under state ownership and democratic management by the workers, the unions and the state to start a transformation. A plan is needed for how to reorganise the car industry and use this well-educated and skilled workforce in the interests of working people in Europe and internationally. If necessary, that might require switching the production to other socially necessary products, reducing the hours of the working week and linking it to a plan to overcome the economic crisis in general – not by cuts, unemployment and poverty but by reorganising the production in the needs of working people. When Marchione calls for a “unified, concerted road map” to slaughter jobs and plants, the workers’ and trade unions’ answer should be united and concerted. To open this road, the trade unions also have to be transformed into fighting organisations, based on internal democracy, building close links of workers European-wide and internationally. A militant movement in the workplaces and trade unions is needed to struggle for these changes, developing direct links of workers’ representatives between factories and countries and overcome the barriers towards a joint fight back.

Grim picture for private renters in Herts time to cap rents now!

With the ever deepening housing crisis in Britain and with no political party prepared to do anything about the private sector which they bend over backwards to please. There is very little hope for young people today ever owning a property or being able to afford a rent. In Herts and Essex recent figures out are staggering. PRIVATE rents in Herts and Essex are set to see some of the steepest increases nationwide in the next decade, rising faster than property prices according to a new report from the National Housing Federation. The organization says years of not building enough homes will push charges in the East of England up by nearly two thirds (64 per cent) in just 10 years, compared to a 59 per cent rise nationwide. In Herts, this would mean rents rising from £902 per month to £1,478 per month – an extra £577 every month. Meanwhile, house prices in the East will rise 52 per cent, compared to 50 per cent nationwide. The picture is already bleak for the county’s renters: average rents in seven out of 10 districts – including East Herts - rose faster than incomes in 2012. Across the county, average private rents rose by four per cent while incomes actually dropped by two per cent. Three Rivers was hardest hit, with rents rising six per cent while incomes dropped 10 per cent, but in East Herts, rents rose from £839 in January, 2011 to £865 in Jan 2012, up three per cent while incomes dropped an average of six per cent. The NHF predicts monthly rents will hit £1,419 in 2022. In Essex rents are set to rise from £773 per month to £1,267 per month in the next decade. In Uttlesford costs have jumped from £832 in January last year to £834 this year – a hike of 0.3 per cent and monthly charges are estimated to hit £1,368 by 2022. Claire Astbury, East of England lead manager for the National Housing Federation, said it was crunch time for Herts and Essex’s “unsustainable housing market”, She said: “One in 16 East of England families is currently on the waiting list for social housing and it looks like the situation is going to get far worse. “Successive governments have failed to tackle the under-supply of housing. Now time is running out to fix the problem and a whole generation are at risk of being priced out of renting a home, let alone buying one. “Being unable to afford the homes they need can stop people from moving for work. It also prevents young couples from starting families, having a huge impact on people’s aspirations and ultimately affecting the economy. “Even working families are becoming more and more reliant on housing benefit to help pay their private rent. It’s clear that the chronic undersupply of new homes … needs to be tackled now, to ease the financial pressure for families and Government.” With extracts taken from According to the National Housing Federation there has been an 86% rise in employed people claiming housing benefit over the last 3 years- 417,830 more since 2009 Its time rent caps were introduced and properly enforced to make sure rents are always affordable to working class people. With a 37% increase in rents over the last 5 years. The Main cause is housing shortage. The case for massive council house building now is overwhelming

Sunday, 21 October 2012

20th October how I saw it and where next

I like many other trade unionists made my way with other socialist party comrades yesterday to London we luckily don’t vie too far away. We took a different strategy this year instead of going on the march we stayed at Hyde Park all day and leafleted and held stalls as the march reached the end. Early estimates reckon the march was around 200,000 I’d say that would be about right it felt big still very big but the march did seem to thin out the nearer it got to 4 pm whereas last year there were still loads of marchers still making their way to Hyde park at a similar time. The atmosphere on the march was very Good lots of people hardened since last year and the betrayals of the right wing trade union leaders. There was a sense of we have been here before though and that may have played a part in the lower turnout perhaps. The NSSN and the socialist party’s calls for a 24 hour general strike were taken up very well by the workers on the demo lots of leaflets handed out many by me and lots of socialist papers sold too have no figures as yet but we made a terrific intervention I thought. Lots of positive comments coming our way when people came up to our stalls. I wasn’t sure how the demo would go before hand but was pleased with our efforts in the end. Clearly our calls for a 24 hour general strike caught an echo as several trade union speakers like Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka and Len Mcklusky all endorsing the NSSN’s calls. It’s clear now the TUC has to act and if not the left lead unions need to take the lead for further co-ordinated action. Len McCluskey, general secretary of the union Unite, got the overwhelming endorsement of the crowd when he asked all those who supported the organising of a general strike to raise their hands. Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT and seconder of the motion to 'consider a general strike' that was passed at the recent TUC congress, got massive applause when he called for a 24-hour general strike. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, also called for coordination of strike action across the trade union movement. Huge support was received for the campaign by the Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) to demand that the TUC name a day for a 24-hour general strike and then launch a massive campaign to mobilise the working class behind this call. What I was glad bout was the fact that Ed Miliband was roundly booed for his speech which I was disgusted to hear he was even there in the first place. He said he and his labour government if elected had to make tough decisions and they won’t be popular, dam right Ed you won’t be. SO its clear that labour will not be on our side if elected as if we didn’t know that before but some clearly still need reminding. As a result of this our stall could not give away TUSC leaflets quickly enough there was a big thirst to find about a alternative and TUSC can be that alternative in the coming by elections and beyond. All together the 20th of October must be remembered for being used as a springboard to further action this autumn or as soon as possible. Trade unions need to link their common disputes pensions, pay, privatisation you name it could be one of many issues and name the day for action. This demonstration opened a new phase in the war against austerity, giving a glimpse of a more hardened and militant working class. There was a widespread interest in socialist ideas, with many applying to join the Socialist Party. It’s now time to take the ideas forward and win the arguments; no cuts are necessary and must be fought.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

17 Fire stations at risk with 600 jobs on line too, fight all cuts!

In London plans have been revealed to close 17 fire stations across inner and central London with the loss of about 600 jobs. Some of these stations only have one fire engine others have two. Boris Johnson the London Mayor who I think behind his stupid bafoonary is a very dangerous anti workers Tory. Boris thinks these cuts will not have any impact on the fire service and will not put lives at risk. I beg to differ and I’m glad to say the FBU do too. The Fire Brigades union who are a strong left militant union especially in London have gone to war before over cuts and I have no doubt will lead their members in yet another battle this time of a bigger degree. In the FBU’s press release today it sounds very clear its view and that it will be opposing these dangerous cuts which are wrong but not even necessary, are we seriously saying that too many fires were put out which lead to the global economic crisis? No way Jose! The plans, which were revealed in a leaked document, look set to be put before a meeting of the London fire authority on 22 November. The brigade was told by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to save £65m over two years, and senior managers have been working on proposals to meet that demand. The FBU’s regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said: “These proposals present the biggest threat to the London Fire Brigade since the days of the Luftwaffe and would lead to the decimation of fire cover in London. The stations under threat of closure have stood proudly for generations, protecting local residents from bombs, fire and terrorism, yet Boris Johnson is about to hammer a ‘For Sale’ sign on to their front doors. “Such a huge cut cannot be made without there being an impact on public safety, and we call on Londoners to join with us in defending our fire service. “All around the country, chief fire officers are beginning to warn publicly of the danger of catastrophic cuts. So far, the commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Ron Dobson, has remained silent, but surely now it is time for him speak up. “The London Fire Brigade is a proud organization with a fine history. But it is now facing possibly its greatest challenge. Its leaders must do the right thing and tell the politicians these cuts are wrong and dangerous. If they don’t do it, the FBU will.”

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

20th October and where next after it?

This Saturday I will be marching against the cuts. But I’m under no illusion that this will change the government’s austerity agenda. I am disgusted that Ed Miliband is being invited to the demonstration to speak in Hyde Park. He agrees the need for cuts like the Tories all be it at a slower pace. No doubt the ever delusional labour left will claim it as they did with the Durham Miners Gala that Ed is winging labour back to the left. This will be nothing of the sort as labour councils up and down the land pass on Tory cuts to the tune of millions. I will be marching and intervening in the demonstration with the clear message we march today but we strike together another day and the NSSN’s calls for a 24 hour general strike must be taken up by the property of the rank-and-file. We will have thousands of leaflets, placards, papers and posters on the day and having our own alternative platform for the NSSN and the socialist party if you wish to hear the real alternative to austerity and are sick of labour and Miliband telling you the cuts are too far and too fast. It’s not that Ed it’s the fact the cuts are happening at all. We have only seen around 15 % of the cuts with a future labour government refusing to reverse any of the cuts and will continue on the deficit reduction path which in reality is not reducing any deficit only increasing the deficit. But all trade unionists, anti cuts activists community campaigners and more will have only heard from the bureaucracy on Saturday many will come in contact with us for the first time and wish to know more. I urge any who are interested in finding out more to contact us on the day and after. After the demonstration the NSSN has public meetings and conferences planned up and down the country you can find a listing of thse at Many will ask is march enough and what can we do next to bring this gov down and end the cuts. Firstly we must build workers confidence which a march against the cuts can do. But arm them with the militant programme to own their own struggle. Giving rank-and-file workers a voice. The NSSN does exactly this and our calls for a 24 hour general strike will start to gain traction on the demonstration and beyond. We want the calls for a 24 hour general strike to become the property of the working class as I said earlier but this must be followed up with motions being passed at trades councils, union branch’s, community groups and so on. Of course 24 hours may not be enough but it’s a start and even if just 6 million who are in a union at present go on strike at once the political ground will never be the same again. For the motion you need to put forward in your union, trades council or wherever you can you can copy this below .................... NSSN model motion This.... [trade union body] is alarmed that a relentless barrage of even more austerity cuts is coming down the line, and will continue into the foreseeable future. Millions of workers, young people, the sick and the disabled face a lifetime of severe hardship through cuts to pay, conditions, benefits and services - the horrendous situation facing working people in Greece could be our future if we don't stop the Con-Dem attacks. We believe austerity cuts must be stopped, and that the labour movement has the potential to force a massive U-turn on this Coalition government of the rich, IF our trade unions were to organise action decisively together. We urge all members, friends and families to come to the TUC demo on 20th October, and that this day is seen as the beginning of a new stage of action. We urge all unions participating in the demo to follow up with a further coordinated 24-hour national strike of both public and private sector workers, making direct calls to youth and students, the unemployed, and community campaigns to join in. We, therefore, agree that this branch will organise a local/regional meeting to discuss how to progress these ideas put forward by the PCS and POA at the TUC. We also call on the national executive of our union to work together with other unions to find the most appropriate way to coordinate the biggest possible joint strike.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

24 reasons for a 24 hour general strike

Below I will describe 24 reasons as to why we need a 24 hour general strike to bring down this gov or at least start the fightback to doing so. So without any further waiting1 1.. the carving up of the welfare state by this con-dem government. The biggest cuts we’ve sen to welfare for a generation. 2. The privatisation and the passing of the health and social care bill meaning an end to the NHS as we knew it. 3. The trebling o tuition fees, enough to rile any young person today university tuition fees now are on average 9K a year. 4. Slashing of EMA for young people to stay on and get an education. 5. Over 1 million young people are now unemployed no thanks to this government of Tory millionaires. 6. The criminal slave labour workfare scheme making young people work for nothing to get their benefits. 7. 5 million officially on the housing waiting list and very few truly affordable council homes. 8. While the poor get poorer the rich get richer every week. Gap of weather between the very rich and very poor widening under this gov unlike any other gov . 9. The continued use of ATOS by this government assessing disabled people driving many to suicide due to the stress of it all. 10. Public sector pensions cut we’ll now be working longer, paying more and getting less for it. 11. cutting of housing benefit to those under the age of 25 making it near on impossible for young people to find home of their own let alone afford one. 12. new food banks are opening up every week in Britain, this is not widely reported but is a absolute disgrace, Not that they are opening to help those in need but the fact that we are one of the richest nations in the world and still yet have food banks. 13. Rising unemployment and those who are under employed in total that figure looks more around the 6 million mark a shocking statistic whatever way you look at it. 14. A slash and burn culture on our employment rights. Tories wish to be able to sack us on the spot to improve competitiveness in the private sector. This is all about driving down wages, terms and conditions. 15. Pay day loan sharks. Wonga, the pay-day loan company, saw its profits almost treble last year to £45.8 million. The number of people seeking a loan from Wonga to bridge the gap between stagnant wages and rocketing bills and food prices, has quadrupled. With an interest rate of 4,214% APR, Wonga and companies like it trap people in a poverty cycle for years. 16. A massive plan to privatise almost everything that moves. Including our NHS, police, Ambulance services, local council services, Bus’s, trains you name it al to their rich mates in the private sector to make a nice quick buck out of. 17. The news international and Murdoch scandals phone hacking and the closeness of politicians to the media and the police is beyond comprehension. Corruption goes deep at the heart of the establishment in Britain. 18. Only an estimated 15% of the cuts have been made making another 85% still to come a fight back is needed now to stop the cuts in their tracks before the rest rain down on us. 19. The Libor fixing rate affecting millions of workers 20. Government-instigated hate campaigns against the disabled and unemployed 21. Banks laundering drug money 22. Still billions being wasted on pointless wars in Afghanistan where our troops are being needlessly killed and for what? British imperialism. Troops out now. 23. PCS estimate 120 billion pounds goes evaded every ear by big business and corporations this could pay for most if not all of the deficit in one fail swoop, Tax the rich or take their wealth off them for good. 24. Together we can win. If we stand together fight together fight every cut up and down the land we can win. But we must have an alternative and that alternative must be a fight to end capitalism for good replacing it with democratic socialism. Of course there are far more reasons for a general strike like the disgusting closing and treatment of the Remply workers and the attacks on education by Michael Gove such as Free schools, academies and the changing of the GCSE marking which are all fair enough reasons to strike against this gov. The need for a serious and determined resistance is clear - which is why the historic vote by the TUC to pass the POA prison officer union's motion is so important. It called for "coordinated action where possible with far reaching campaigns including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike". This offers us a way to take on the Con-Dem cuts. The Socialist, a weekly paper of the Socialist Party, is 100% committed to backing and building the campaign to make this happen. We back the likes of Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka and others who have called on the TUC to now name the date for as soon as possible after the 20 October demo.

Britain’s housing crisis deepens urgent socialist policies needed

As we hear every week now reports of the deeding housing crisis in this country we hear of young people sofa surfing, sheds with beds horror stories and many many more homeless people than ever before. All the mainstream political parties make noises about this crisis but none have any solutions to the crisis at all. Under the last labour government fewer homes were built and even fewer affordable homes were built and yet they today lecture us on housing, pretty hypocritical. More than 1.6 million people aged 20-40 are still living with their parents because they cannot afford their own home, a report suggests. More than 5,000 people were surveyed by YouGov for housing charity Shelter. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "These figures paint a vivid picture of 20- and 30-somethings in arrested development." In May the Office for National Statistics said 2.9 million people aged 20-34 were living with their parents. But some of those may have been living at home for cultural, medical or other reasons. According to the survey of 5,379 people, 41% do not believe their children will ever be able to save up for a deposit to get on the housing ladder. Yet I'm faced with a choice between living with my parents in my mid-thirties, and paying rents I can barely afford while somehow finding a huge deposit for a mortgage.” End Quote Dan Montefusco Of those living at home, 59% said it was harder to develop new relationships because of their domestic situation. Mr Robb said the housing crisis was "putting the brakes" on young people's aspirations. He said: "Our chronic lack of homes that young people can genuinely afford to rent or buy is at the root of the problem. "There's no doubt that young people are grateful to be able to live with mum and dad to save money, but we have to question whether it's acceptable that this is becoming the norm for people to live at home into their mid-30s - when we know that they are desperate to be independent and make their own way in the world." Mr Robb added: "As rents soar and deposits become even further out of reach, the government needs to look seriously at how it can meet these young people halfway, and make housing more affordable so that this generation and the next can get on in life." The survey suggested 35% of adults had been forced to move back in with their parents while nearly a quarter said their relationship with their parents had deteriorated as a result. Dan Montefusco, 35, from London, said: "For my parents' generation, it seemed possible to get on the housing ladder and see a steady progression in front of you: a career, a comfortable home that they could afford, a family. "Yet I'm faced with a choice between living with my parents in my mid-30s, and paying rents I can barely afford while somehow finding a huge deposit for a mortgage. "I've had to move back in with my parents a few times when I struggled to pay rent or find somewhere to live." What we need is a real socialist solution to this crisis removing the market and the private sector entirely. What we need is not nice words from tired out capitalist politicians we need a real change in society where homes are built for peoples needs not for profit. We should remove the profit motive from housing for good. A first step for this would be a cap on private sector rents and un do the cap on benefits until enough housing is built which by taking the wealth off of the rich we can afford the rich and big business is sitting on a estimated 800 billion even just a fraction of that could be used to build genuine affordable homes for young and old to live in a comfortable, safe and decent home for life with no worry of rents which cost the world or any threat of loosing your home. A home is a basic human right we should fight for that and dump the market for good. Capitalism cannot meet people’s needs so a socialist plan for the economy and the 99% is needed. And soon! With extracts from the bbc

Friday, 12 October 2012

Why socialist students is an important component of fighting austerity

I have been really encouraged by the positive reports of the socialist student’s societies being set up and refounded across the UK. As a member of the socialist party I feel we haven’t paid nearly enough attention to student politics in the past. All that is starting to change though and I’m really pleased to hear such positive moves from new comrades coming on board and long standing ones paying more attention to such work. It’s no wonder we are finding a really strong support for our ideas on campus’s up and down the lands. I’m pretty sure we could have had a bigger student activist section of our party if we’d done the ground work in the previous decade just gone. Sadly work has been mainly focused on trade union battles, electoral challenges and the anti war movement. Student work and youth work more generally is a key component of any revolutionary party and I am glad to see the socialist party now taking this aspect of our work far more seriously than possibly in the past. Not belittling comrade’s work but it seems to now be stepping up a gear at long last. A concerted effort to reach out for those disenfranchised students who are facing the new £9,000 tuition fees for the first time and the rising cots of student living will create a groundswell of anger which we can match with our key demands we have as a party and societies up and down the land. Students need a voice since the lib dems who promised not to raise tuition fees broke their promises so catastrophically students have been looking for an alternative ever since. We as socialists should be looking to bridge that gap in consciousness and to linking up struggles including linking to the workers movement including joining the October 20th TUC demonstration in London and helping students join calls for a 24 hour general strike popularised by the National Shops Stewards network who lobbied the TUC on the 9th of September in Brighton. We are entering if we haven’t already a explosive period of class struggle which students who first showed us the way back in 2010 can play a key role in the struggle. We have had a good reception on freshers stalls in universities across the UK. At well-attended meetings we have discussed topics ranging from economics and theory to how we can take the lead in campaigns across campus such as Rape Is No Joke and the TUC demo on 20 October. Recently two Spanish members volunteered to lead a discussion on the situation in Spain laying the foundations for Socialist Students to launch a solidarity campaign for young people across Europe fighting back against government austerity. It is always key to link our struggles in this country to those around the globe Socialist students meetings where international topics have been discussed including the successful Quebec students strike of earlier this year and the huge battle of the South African miners will inspire many. Having an internationalist theme keeps our struggles linked to the wider battle to change the world to end capitalism and bring about a democratic socialist society which will benefit all not just the 1%. Clearly we will be facing many difficult questions by new attendees on stalls and socialist student meetings which are why the party and the youth department must support socialist students and new societies in particular to feel supported and linked in to the wider movement and the party. Most of all we must be starting to gear students and new recruits towards the 21st November NUS national day of action and mobilising as many students as we can. Contacting local Student unions and student bodies to gain support and transport is a must. Socialist students will be doing all it can to make the turnout for that day as big and as militant as possible. With socialist demands at the front of any action. Clearly the student movements leadership is still not up to leading a serious fight back against fees and cuts to education and youth services we must also while fighting our own local campus issues link this with the need to transform the leadership of the student movement with fighting left leaders who are prepared to take the battle on and win. Students makeup a big size of people in this country they must not be ignored their anger must be channelled in a constructive way into linking with the labour movement in removing capitalism the root of all exploitation from society once and for all.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Chavez victory reelection must mean a break with capitalism

With Hugo Chavez winning a historical 4th election in Venezuela’s recent election workers of the world are rightly upbeat about the prospect ahead. But as we have always warned in the CWI that if you do not look to take on capitalism and put an end to it it will find a way back. Despite Chavez’s radical rhetoric little has changed in terms of the economy since he first gained power. Of course there have been big concessions to the working class and the poor but this cannot be described as one left wing labour MP stated on twitter a socialist revolution. Capitalism still exists in Venezuela and will do for as long as Chavez fails to break with capitalism for good opening the way to spreading the revolution across Latin America. This piece below by Tony Saunois, who is one the International Secretariat of the CWI reports from Caracas Thousands flocked to Miraflores, the Presidential Palace in Caracas, Sunday night (October 7) to celebrate the victory of Hugo Chavez in Sunday’s presidential election. In scenes reminiscent of the defeat of the right-wing coup in 2002, soldiers from the presidential guard waved flags from the roof top of the palace while other soldiers joined workers, youth, the unemployed and others who came to the city centre to celebrate the defeat of the right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles. The victory of Chavez, his fifth electoral victory since 1998, has inflicted yet another defeat on Venezuela’s right wing and is welcomed by the CWI and its Venezuelan section, Socialismo Revolucionario, together with workers and socialists internationally. A victory of the right wing would have resulted in an attack on the Venezuelan working class, a rolling back of the reform programme and a political offensive by the ruling class nationally and internationally, celebrating another defeat for ‘socialism’. A massive turnout of over 80% – up from 75% in 2006 – the highest in decades, reflected the political and class polarisation which continues to grip Venezuelan society. With over 98% of the votes counted, Chavez had won 8,133,952, 55.25%, compared to 6,498,527, 44.14%, for wealthy businessman Capriles. Chávez won in 20 of Venezuela’s 24 federal states. If he completes this mandate for another six years, Chávez will have been in power for two decades in total. He will become the longest serving Venezuelan President since Juan Vincente Gomez who ruled from 1908 until 1935! The difference is that Chávez has been elected with mass support, as opposed to the dictatorship of Gomez. Capitalist politicians and leaders of the former workers’ parties in Europe and other continents must look with envy at Chávez’s continued electoral victories and ability to mobilise millions of supporters. Certainly, no other political leader in recent elections has had the ability to repeatedly attract millions to election rallies or be greeted by such crowds celebrating his victory. Right-wing campaign’s populist character This election campaign has been presented in Venezuela as ‘historic’, one that will determine the future of the country and as a choice between ‘two distinct models’. However, such a choice was not reflected in Chávez arguing during the campaign for a clear socialist programme to break with capitalism. Neither did he advocate such an alternative in his address to the crowd which greeted him outside Miraflores. The election campaign reflected important aspects and new features of the struggle that have unfolded in Venezuela during the last fourteen years following Chávez’s first victory. One of the most significant features of the election was the character of the right-wing campaign. The effect of the policies and struggles of the last fourteen years has left powerful support for radical social policies and, to an extent, the general idea of ‘socialism’, which is now deep in the popular political consciousness. Reflecting the radicalised left political consciousness that is now dominant in Venezuelan society, Capriles was compelled to present his programme in a populist manner that masked his real right-wing neo-liberal agenda. This represents a significant change in the strategy of the right wing. Capriles’s propaganda and speeches attempted to address the plight of the poor and promised to defend a welfare state. He argued he would not dismantle all the ‘missions’, the reform programme introduced by Chávez in health and education. He called for the defence of ‘independent’ trade unions and tried to win the support of public sector workers by promising to end the obligatory attendance at Chávez rallies and protests, which is a major source of discontent. Capriles energetically crisscrossed the country – attempting to portray himself as a ‘radical’ new youthful figure as opposed to the older ‘tired’ figure of Chávez in order to win the youth vote. He had some success in this. The real programme of the right was to be found buried in its material where it argued for reduced state intervention and an increased role for private investment in the economy. In the failed 2002 coup, Capriles was implicated in the right-wing assault on the Cuban embassy. Had the right wing secured a victory in this election, a Capriles government would have attempted to roll back the reform programmes of the Chávez governments and introduce more neo-liberal measures. This change in the right wing’s propaganda is a reflection of the real balance of political forces at this stage. Capriles was compelled to rein in the extreme right. To have unleashed the forces of the far right or to have argued explicitly for more right-wing neo-liberal policies would only have resulted in a bigger defeat for Capriles. A serious warning Despite the welcome victory of Chávez the voting in this election is also a warning, from which important lessons need to be drawn in order to prevent a possible future right-wing victory. While Chávez’s percentage of the total vote fell by 7.6 percentage points compared to the last election in 2006, Capriles increased the right’s share by 7.2 percentage points. On an increased turnout Chávez increased his actual vote by 824,872, but Capriles increased the vote of the right by 2,206,061. This represents a serious warning. Apart from the referendum on constitutional reform in 2007, this was the lowest percentage vote for Chávez in any election. The right has been increasing its vote at each election, reflecting a creeping, slow-motion counter-revolution. But support for radical left policies remains dominant at this stage and the masses, including some sections who this time voted for the right, are opposed to any attempt to revert back to the old order that existed prior to Chávez coming to power. However, the failure to break with capitalism and introduce a genuine socialist programme with democratic control and management by the working class and all those exploited by capitalism, is allowing the right to exploit the growing discontent and frustration due to the worsening social conditions, corruption and inefficiency that accompanies the growing Chávista bureaucracy and the government’s top-down bureaucratic approach, which the CWI has consistently warned about and opposed. The largest percentage of the vote ever won so far by Chávez was in the 2006 election when he took 62% of the vote. Significantly, this was also Chávez’s most radical campaign when the question of ‘socialism’ was dominant and to the fore in the campaign. At that time, there was a revolutionary development following the defeated right-wing coup attempt and 2002-03 bosses’ lockout. However, since that victory, rather than advancing through the introduction of a programme to break with capitalism and introduce a real system of democratic workers’ control and management, the revolutionary process has stalled and been in retreat. The government has increasingly collaborated with the ruling class and sought to reach agreement with it; hence its policy of ‘national reconciliation’ and agreements struck with the employers’ federation. This, together with the emergence of those who have grown rich on the backs of the Chávez movement – the ‘boli-bourgeoisie’ – inevitably resulted in growing discontent and protests against the government. Reforms & despair in the poorest barrios Moreover, the response of the government to the global economic capitalist crisis which began in 2007 has not been to drive forward with a programme to break with capitalism but to move in the opposite direction and seek to appease it by moving to the right. Increased tax concessions since then have been given to multinational companies. The national oil company PDVSA, which has financed the ‘missions’ reform programme has cut its budget to them by nearly 30%. There has also been increased repression against workers and others who have taken strike action in recent years. Workers in the public sector are subject to the Law of Security Defence of the Nation. This allows for the banning of strikes and even protests in the public sector. The state police in the city of Barcelona killed two workers’ leaders at the Mitsubishi car factory; the governor of this state is a Chávista. Workers at Toyota suffered the same fate. Despite the popular reform policies of the ‘missions’, which have aided millions in their health, education and other programmes, catastrophic social conditions remain in the poorest ‘barrios’ and show little sign of improving. These have been the breeding ground for a dramatic rise in crime, brutal violence and kidnappings to extract money from the families of victims. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world: the government’s official figure was 19,000 deaths in 2011. This is almost certainly an under-estimate of the scale of this slaughter. Venezuela is currently one of the most violent countries in the world. In one predominantly wealthy district near Caracas, El Hatillo, 70 kidnappings have occurred so far this year! The experience of CWI members is typical. One CWI member living in a barrio arrived at a meeting the day before the election to tell of the shooting of his brother-in-law the night before. Another told of the shooting of their landlord. Others speak of work colleagues being kidnapped. Another spoke of withdrawing money from a bank for work, only to be robbed five minutes later by armed youth on a motorcycle who had been texted of the cash withdrawal by bank clerks, who then take a cut of the money. Such attacks make the lives of the poor and the middle class a state of almost permanent anxiety and even fear. The housing situation remains desperate especially in the poorest barrios. The government, in the run-up to the election, launched a rushed housing programme, claiming to have built over 200,000 new dwellings. Many people question these figures. Many who saw their shacks washed away by heavy rain in 2010 remain in refuges. Here, conditions can be so bad that even massacres of the occupants have taken place by other occupants or the drug cartels which operate in the barrios. Yet what is being constructed are in reality new ghettos: tiny apartments in blocks with no facilities, built on any piece of empty land or land that has been expropriated. One new development is isolated with one road in and one road out at least an hour’s drive away from the nearest metro. Corruption, lack of democratic planning and control and inadequate building techniques have often meant cracks have appeared in the blocks even before they are occupied! These conditions are the potential breeding ground for armed gangs of young people driven into violent robberies and kidnappings in order to survive. They are also the breeding ground of discontent, which the right wing can build upon or could lead to demoralisation and apathy towards the government. This is already developing and was evident in the campaign. Minimal reference to socialism The Chávez campaign during this election was to the right of the campaign fought in 2006. It was shortly after this that Chávez proposed the launch of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) as a ‘revolutionary party’. Chávez made references to Trotsky, the permanent revolution and the transitional programme. He spoke of building a ‘fifth international’ of ‘left parties’. But in this election, none of that was evident. Reference to socialism was minimal until the last week of the campaign. Instead, the main slogan of Chávez was “Chávez the heart of the fatherland”. It assumed a very nationalistic character with promises to develop the ‘fatherland’. The election was highly personalised in both camps. While the main avenues of Caracas were full at the closing rally, it was noticeable that the placards simply featured Chávez and the ‘Fatherland’ with no political content. Absent were the banners of the PSUV or the trade unions. Many workers wore shirts from the companies they worked for and often said they were there because they were ‘obliged’ to by their employers. While many enthusiastically rallied to Chávez as their only hope and fearing the right, some were simply mobilised around chanting for ‘Chávez and fatherland’, with no content. These features reflect the lack of an independent organised political force of the workers and the poor, which the CWI has commented on in previous articles. This, and the bureaucratic top-down approach of the government, has seriously weakened the movement right from its earliest period, something of which the CWI has consistently warned. This top-down approach was again reflected during the election campaign. On two occasions when Chávez spoke in mass meetings in states, some chanted “Chávez yes, but not ...” referring to the imposed Chávista candidates for the forthcoming state elections in December. Chávez responded by saying if the imposed candidates were rejected then they also must reject Chávez! The lack of a democratic independent workers’ movement is one of the biggest weaknesses and greatest dangers. It has already allowed the right wing to make gains and advances. If the working class, youth and poor do build a democratic independent organised force, the threat of the right and advance of the counter-revolution will grow. It cannot be ruled out that the right wing will make gains in December’s regional elections given the rottenness of some of the Chávista candidates. Unfortunately, following his victory, Chávez, when speaking to his supporters, gave no indication of taking steps to overthrow capitalism. He offered dialogue and debate to the opposition. “We are all brothers of the fatherland,” he thundered after praising the opposition for accepting the result. He spoke of building one united Venezuela. Both sides towards the end of the campaign emphasised this same point. As the polls closed, there was a barrage of television propaganda from both sides appealing for peace, unity and reconciliation. Both Chávez and Capriles urged ‘calm’ and ‘tranquillity’, evidently fearing that polarisation could result in clashes and some kind of social explosion. ‘Mixed economy’ or break with capitalism? As Chávez greeted the crowd after his victory, he made two passing references to socialism. However, these were drowned in pronouncements of “Viva Bolivar! Viva La Patria! Viva Venezuela!” During the campaign he argued that the ‘socialism’ of the Soviet Union had failed and a new type is needed in the 21st century. But this was not a rejection of the former totalitarian Stalinist regime that masqueraded as socialism, in favour of advocating a programme of workers’ democracy. Chávez’s policies illustrate that what he means by this ‘new type’ is a ‘mixed economy’ combining capitalism with state intervention and reforms. The reforms which the CWI supported are now being rolled back and cut. They could only be maintained and strengthened on the basis of breaking with capitalism and introducing a democratic socialist plan of the economy. Capriles is clearly biding his time and now intends to consolidate his base following the election campaign. Chávez is set to continue with his policies of conciliation and working with those sections of the ruling class which are prepared to collaborate with him. Such a policy will increasingly bring his government into collision with workers and the poor. Social discontent will increase. It is urgent that an independent democratic socialist workers’ movement is built with a programme to break with capitalism. If this is not done, then alongside growing social disintegration and alienation will develop the threat from the right. The deepening global capitalist economic crisis will have a heavy impact on Venezuela. A significant fall in the price of oil, Venezuela’s main export worth $60 billion last year, would threaten to undermine Chávez’s policies. It cannot be excluded that Chávez could be driven back towards the left and introduce more radical measures that encroach on capitalism. However, this is far from certain and would not, on their own, represent a socialist transformation. To break with capitalism and build a real democratic socialist alternative still needs the urgent construction of an independent, democratic and politically conscious workers’ socialist movement. With extracts taken from