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Saturday, 30 June 2012

In support of the Sheffield recycling workers on indefinite strike

In Sheffield another wonderful Labour council has been feebly passing on the tory cuts and has resulted in all sorts of chaos this is what you get with a lab our run council for anyone thinking labour are a party worth supporting.

After already taking 15 days of strike action over the last month, the GMB members started an indefinite all-out strike on 23 June. They are fighting for their jobs and conditions, and for re-opening of the sites every day to provide a decent service.
Big multinational Veolia, that has a 35-year contract to run the city's waste management services, wouldn't take a cut in profits so forced down the tendering bid by sub-contractor Sova to operate the recycling centres.
In turn, Sova have cut the opening days and hours of the five Dump-It sites, sacking six workers and cutting the hours and pay of the remaining 30.
The workers only get the minimum wage as it is, under the proposed annualised-hours they'll only get 22 hours a week in winter!
Everyone knows that the cuts in recycling will lead to more waste-dumping and fly-tipping.
Who'll pay for that mess to be cleaned up? Won't be Veolia, it'll be council tax-payers. So much for the council 'saving' £500,000!
"This is privatisation for you," says one queueing driver as he signs the union's petition, "why should they (Veolia) pocket the profit, that money should go back to the community."
Nearly everyone agrees with the strikers, the security guards direct drivers to the petition. But it'll take more than public opinion to win this strike.
Socialist Party members have been on the picket lines every day and helped raise money for the hardship fund.
We presented a petition to the last council meeting at which the Labour councillors were lambasted by the strikers.
The all-out strike needs to be as hard-hitting as possible. The Socialist Party has suggested that the GMB sets up a support group and appeals, not only for finance, but for supporters to help the strikers picket each site 24 hours a day in order to stop the full skips being emptied.
Because union drivers won't cross the picket line, Sova has hired another haulage firm to strike-break, protests should be organised against them as well. A few managers and a few scabs can't keep the sites going.
Please send messages of support (email: peter.davies@gmb.org.uk) and especially financial donations to: Peter Davies (Sova Strike Fund), GMB office, 188/190 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1SY. Please make cheques payable to GMB.
Sova strikers will be marching on the Rally for our Future - Defend Education and Public Services called by education unions NASUWT and NUT. Saturday 14 July, assemble 11.30am, Devonshire Green, Sheffield
Open the books!
Sheffield claims to be the greenest city in the country. It won't be able to for much longer if the Labour council's cuts in environmental, waste-management and recycling services go ahead.
Instead of cuts, the council should be investing more in expanding recycling services which would not only encourage more environmentally friendly behaviour, but also save money in the long run.
Socialists believe that the way to encourage changes in behaviour is not through coercion or punitive charges and fines, but through education and providing the services and facilities to make recycling as easy as possible.
But Sheffield's waste-management services were privatised eleven years ago. The then Lib Dem council signed a 30-year deal with Veolia which was then extended another five years when Labour got in. Veolia sub-contract the operation of the recycling centres every five years.
This year Veolia will cream off over £300,000 profit just by sub-contracting out at a lower tender price. On top of that they make more profit from selling on recyclable materials, £1 million, maybe more.
Exactly how much, nobody seems to know. The GMB put in a Freedom of Information request but there are still lots of unanswered questions. Under the cloak of 'commercial confidentiality', what many suspect is a dodgy deal is being covered up.
The GMB learned that Sova Recycling Ltd were advised to reduce their tendering bid. At least two managers for Sova were working for the previous sub-contractors, South Yorkshire and North Notts Recycling. And Sova were only registered at Companies House in November last year, well after the tendering process started. This all smacks of an 'insider deal'.
This is why socialists call for 'opening the books'. The accounts of these companies should be open to inspection by the trade unions and workers' representatives. Let's see where all the profits have gone, profits which could have kept the sites open and workers in jobs.
Socialists oppose this privatisation rip-off. We believe that all privatised services should be brought back under council ownership and control.
In fact the GMB proposed that the council submits an in-house bid at the start of the tendering process. They were told that the council did not have the necessary experience to run the sites. But it's the workers who run the sites, know the job inside out, not councillors or management bureaucrats.
Under the current privatised and out-sourced set up, there are three tiers of management and supervision - the council, Veolia and Sova! If the service was brought back in-house and run under democratic workers' control and management, not only would it be a better service, it would be cheaper as well.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Backing NSSN’s call for a 24 hour general strike public and private workers uniting

With 85% of the cuts still to come, it is imperative we organize now to prevent anymore attacks on our pay, pensions, NHS, benefits and our general living standards.

This is why I’m backing the National Shops Stewards Network’s calls now for a 24 hour public and private sector general strike. Uniting public and private sector workers is the only way we can defeat austerity and bring this government to its knees and start to build the future for the 99% not just the 1% which is currently the case.

Back on the 16th of June the NSSN met for its 6th annual conference and endorsed the motion to start building now towards a 24 hour public and private sector general strike.
You could say last November on the 30th of November we had a almost public sector general strike but now is the time to start linking up sectors bringing back in the sparks, the Honda workers, the ratcliffe power station workers the Coryton workers and many many more I can’t fit in this piece where private sector workers are starting to fight back. No doubt encouraged by their comrades in the public sector on pensions.

This government is a weak government and can still be defeated. There are no absolutes in the class struggle and to say this con-dem government will last the full 5 years is something even fortune tellers could not predict. There are lots of cracks opening up and lots of areas where division can occur in their ranks.

For our part we must unite and put an end to the government’s claim that the public sector is greedy and the private sector isn’t fighting back. Let’s be honest all workers are under attack in some form or another. Uniting them together in combined targeted co-ordinate action could really show the true power of the working class.

We saw that the potential power workers have when a threat of a strike by tanker lorry drivers caused a fuel shortage just imagined if they actually had gone on strike.
We welcome the TUC’s move to call a mass national demonstration on October 20th this year and will do all we can to build for that too but that can’t just be another march 26th 2011 we need to see this as a start of a concerted fight back uniting all of the struggles.

We estimate there is currently 400,000 workers in live disputes at the current time with surer to be drawn in to struggle. With the idea of a mass sick in which has been tried in America in the past can create the effect a general strike can have. This is no small task and the NSSN is well aware of this and we do not take calls like this lightly we will not for example as others on the left have done called for a all out stay out tactic. That is far in advance of the current state of play and peoples thinking right now. We look to build our demands slowly and carefully popularizing our ideas among workers and testing our slogans. Having the correct ideas at the right time can have a huge impact.

This is what we found last year with our calls when lobbying the TUC in September of last year for a one day public sector general strike. Which a matter of weeks later did actually happen.

But let’s be under no illusion the TUC and the heads of the labour movement will not want this and will do all they can to prevent this. So our task is doubly as hard when we are fighting with one or two hands tied behind our backs effectively.


"We advocate that the next step should be for the TUC to organize a one-day general strike, which includes both public and private sectors" (for the full

NSSN GUIDE TO ACTION
Since last year's conference NSSN has been involved in an increasing number of workers' struggles, and, as the austerity cuts bite, we expect these struggles to intensify.
• We encourage supporters to concentrate on organizing local and regional NSSN Networks with events and meetings to help rank and file activists to build up reliable support networks.
• We welcome the TUC national demonstration on October 20th and we will do everything we can to make this day a successful start to the next phase of an action-based campaign against austerity.
• We advocate that the next step should be for the TUC to organize a one-day general strike, which includes both public and private sectors, against all cuts to pensions and wages, jobs, services, and housing; to stop privatizations of NHS, education and public services; and to stop the slavery of workfare.
• To this end we call on trade unionists, campaigners, youth and pensioners to come to Brighton for TUC week
• to lobby delegates to press for a national strike
• to hold an NSSN fringe meeting to highlight this demand




We call on all NSSN supporters to redouble their efforts over the coming months to build support for this strike around the country, at the same time this will build the NSSN and increase the effectiveness of rank and file trade unionism throughout the country.

PFI = Profit from Illness, drive profiteering out of our NHS!

Private finance initiative has been crippling our NHS for decades now. With many hospitals now a certain hospital trust in south London facing difficulties it’s time to end this profit mad system and re nationalize the NHS and kick out the profiteers from our health care once and for all.


The South London Healthcare NHS Trust has already lost £150m

The trust runs three hospitals and has run up deficits of more than £150m over the past three years. It is thought to be on course to lose between £150m and £375m by 2017.
Our staff has worked hard for patients and in spite of significant financial issues we are extremely proud we now have among the lowest mortality and infection rates in the country

Its chief executive was informed on Monday night that the trust is likely to be put into the "unsustainable providers regime", which was introduced by the last Labor government but never before used.

The administrator will take over the board and recommend measures to the Health Secretary to put the trust's finances on a sustainable basis. Which to me means nothing but cuts and a contraction of services offered and a round of redundancies for the staff.

Hospitals run by the trust include Queen Mary's in Sidcup, the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich and the Princess Royal in Bromley.

It is clear to me to save the NHS PFI must be rejected out of hand and all services brought back into proper democratic public ownership. With a trade union lead campaign with local communities and the mass of the working class behind a campaign to save the NHS we can save it only if we act now. Each day a further piece of our NHS is lost if we don’t act now it’ll be gone in a few years time. A distant memory.

PFI was begun in the early 1990s by the then Tory government. It was attacked by Labour when in opposition, but then massively accelerated under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's governments. Today there are hundreds of PFI projects covering hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, police stations and prisons.
Instead of a public body building a new facility using public money, albeit through a contract with a private builder or developer, PFI involves a private sector developer or consortium doing the whole job. It borrows the money (often at higher rates of interest than the government would), builds the project and then charges a fee for 25 to 40 years for maintaining the buildings and usually also providing various services.
Labour spokespersons such as Patricia Hewitt and Alan Milburn condemned such PFI projects as 'backdoor privatization' when in opposition. In government, however, as health secretaries, they claimed it was the 'only game in town'. And curiously, after government, they (and many other Labour ex-ministers) got lucrative private sector jobs and consultancies, many in the same areas where they had been ministers.
The Financial Times estimated in 2007 that, after ten years of New Labour, the total capital value of PFI contracts across the UK was £68 billion - but that the total which would be given to the private companies involved in those contracts, by the time they were finished, would be £215 billion!
Three years later, in November 2010, the total payment obligation for PFI contracts in the UK had rocketed to £267 billion. And in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition a further 61 PFI schemes, with a capital value of £7 billion were approved. PFI has become a 'milch cow' for big business in the public sector.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Austerity Games get involved with Youth Fight for jobs

This summer London will play host to the costly Olympic Games. While many look forward to a 'summer of sport', in its shadow, workers and young people in London and around the country face, not just months of disruption and misery that go with the £24 billion games, but poverty and homelessness as the cuts bite.

Housing in London stands on the brink of a crisis. With more cuts to housing benefit due to come in next April, a new government-commissioned study has shown that 40% of London landlords plan to stop renting to housing benefit tenants in the next year, dwarfing the already high 33% nationally.


Tens of thousands of working and poor families face being forced out of their homes as a result of the changes. The increasing lack of affordable properties only promises to exacerbate the problem and force people onto the streets or into insecure, temporary accommodation.

The government argues that the changes will stop families from claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds for large properties in expensive areas at the expense of the taxpayer and that landlords will be forced to lower rents.

The reality is that greedy rip-off landlords, who are the real beneficiaries of housing benefit, will not lower rents. In fact, 37% of landlords in London have said they are more likely to evict tenants or not renew tenancy agreements, three times higher than the 11% that said they would consider lowering rents.

The reality is that over the last year there has been a 61% rise in the number of households with children living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation and homelessness has seen increases of 14% nationally and 36% in London, with children increasingly at risk.

We refuse to accept the government's scaremongering attacks on so-called benefit scroungers to justify the return of Dickensian poverty stricken conditions.

While the real scroungers - the tax-avoiding super-rich - splash out on the luxury services on offer around the Olympic games (for between £295 and £4,500 per person you can get a champagne reception and four course dinner with your Olympic ticket) Youth Fight for Jobs will be organising to show workers and young people that, in the seventh richest country in the world, we can, and should, be afforded the right to a decent home and a decent future.

That is why young people and trade unionists from across the country will be sending teams to Hackney Marshes to compete in the Austerity Games on Monday 23 July - the week before the Olympics. We will be launching the Youth Fight for Jobs Manifesto: A Future for the 99%, which lays out the problems faced by young people in Britain today and a strategy of how to get organised and fight for a decent future.

We will be putting competitors through their paces with ten athletics events from the Race to the Bottom to the Deficit Discus and Property High Jump to highlight the plight of workers and young people, lost underneath these expensive and corporate Olympic Games.

To get involved in Youth Fight for Jobs or the Austerity Games email youthfightforjobs@gmail.com


Post originally written by Suzanne Beishon, London Youth Fight for Jobs

Camerons tories look to further attack young people time to get organised!

With the news over the weekend of David Cameron and his Tory chums plans to scrap housing benefit for all under 25’s which is the latest in a long line of austerity measures in order to make the poorest in society pay for a crisis they did not create. If ever there was a time to fight back and get organised it is now.

Youth fight for jobs which I’m involved in condemn this cynical move by the Tories to attack the youngest in society and force them out of homes and most likely into homelessness.

When we think about it with only an estimated 10 % of the cuts so far we haven’t really seen anything yet it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse yet. This is why we must stand against all cuts to start with uniting and bringing together as many people against the cuts as we can organising in our communities, trade unions, anti cuts organisations and in our workplaces.

Youth fight for jobs has been at the fore front of opposing the cuts on young people and campaigns for a mass programme of affordable house building and we mean affordable not the sort labour and the Tories consider affordable.

This summer just before the Olympics start in London YFFJ will be holding our own version of the games called the austerity games with clever sounding events to highlight the plight of young people and the cuts. This will hopefully attract some media coverage and push YFFJ’s name forward in the movement and highlight the attacks on young people.

Last year we marched 330 miles from Jarrow to London for jobs. Unfortunately the government didn’t listen we knew they wouldn’t but it paved the way for young people to re enter struggle since the fantastic student protests of 2010.

Young people deserve a future like everyone else let’s not fall for divide and rule tactics young people must get organised and link up with other workers under attack which is why I will be supporting the Coryton oil refinery workers in their fight to keep the refinery open and to preserve 850 jobs and 100 million pounds for the local economy. Only by linking up and uniting our struggles can we win.

Say no to Cameroons Tories say no to all the cuts and let’s fight for a socialist future for young people and a society which benefits all people.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Learning from trotsky’s transitional programme

Many people will be unfamiliar with Leon Trotsky’s Transitional programme which he set out in the 30’s which Trotskyist parties across the world worth their salt have looked to base their programme on. The Socialist party formally Militant Labour and part of the CWI the Committee for Workers International which I’m a member of would claim to look towards and formulate a transitional programme which can fit to the current consciousness of the working class at a given period.

Trotsky described the situation as thus
The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.

Which still till this day is absolutely bang on the money, the leadership of the working class is at best asleep at worst in the pockets of the boss’s and the capitalist class. Trotsky made many points in his original transitional programme and by no means meant it to be a blueprint which to follow but any Marxist worth his or her salt in today’s society will recognise the need to bridge the gap between current consciousness and where we need to be heading. Trotsky in his day recognised this too with the gap between the minimum programmes
It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demand and the socialist program of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.


Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program no bridge existed. And indeed Social Democracy has no need of such a bridge, since the word socialism is used only for holiday specifying. The Comintern has set out to follow the path of Social Democracy in an epoch of decaying capitalism: when, in general, there can be no discussion of systematic social reforms and the raising of he masses’ living standards; when every serious demand of the proletariat and even every serious demand of the petty bourgeoisie inevitably reaches beyond the limits of capitalist property relations and of the bourgeois state.
The strategic task of the CWI lies not in reforming capitalism but in its overthrow. Its political aim is the conquest of power by the proletariat for the purpose of expropriating the bourgeoisie. However, the achievement of this strategic task is unthinkable without the most considered attention to all, even small and partial, questions of tactics. All sections of the proletariat, all its layers, occupations and groups should be drawn into the revolutionary movement. The present epoch is distinguished not for the fact that it frees the revolutionary party from day-to-day work but because it permits this work to be carried on indissolubly with the actual tasks of the revolution.


As Trotsky says we fight for every reform and defend all the gains of the working class but look to go a lot lot further than just defending reforms won in the past.

The CWI does not discard the program of the old “minimal” demands to the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital forcefulness. Indefatigably, it defends the democratic rights and social conquests of the workers. But it carries on this day-to-day work within the framework of the correct actual, that is, revolutionary perspective. Insofar as the old, partial, “minimal” demands of the masses clash with the destructive and degrading tendencies of decadent capitalism – and this occurs at each step – the CWI advances a system of transitional demands, the essence of which is contained in the fact that ever more openly and decisively they will be directed against the very bases of the bourgeois regime. The old “minimal program” is superseded by the transitional program, the task of which lies in systematic mobilization of the masses for the proletarian revolution.

As the socialist party we not only use Trotsky’s transitional programme we actively look to learn and develop it to discover by living and interacting with day to day struggles of the working class able to use our Marxist theory to develop a understanding as to which demands are reasonable at this time to put forward which raise consciousness but also look to move the working c lass forward in its pursuit of power and the eventual over throw of the current exploitative system of capitalism.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Solidarity with London bus workers taking strike action today

From 3.00 BST today many of London’s bus workers on many of the major routes in and around London will be taking industrial action for the first tiem in many years. This is all over the failure of TFL and the bus companies to agree a Olympic bonus for the bus workers. Unite the union who is the major union in the London bus workers will be supporting its members across the capital today. I will be lending my supporta and solidarity with the workers who deserve a decent bonus for being made to work harder and longer hours during the Olympic games.
Bus workers from 17 companies will go-ahead with a 24-hour strike in London despite an injunction, a union said.
The Arriva, Metroline and Go Ahead firms applied for the court injunction, which was granted, and their workers have been told not to strike on Friday.
But union members at the other firms plan to walk out in a row over a £500 bonus for working during the Olympics.

Unite had called for the bonus to be paid to its20,000 members, in line with extra pay deals agreed with train companies.


The failure by the bus companies to negotiate seriously and their desire to run to the courts will only heighten tensions”
End Quote Peter Kavanagh Unite
The three companies who went to court account for 15-20% of London's bus routes, providing services in north-west and south London.

Unite's regional secretary for London, Peter Kavanagh, said: "Bus workers across the vast majority of London's bus network will be on strike tomorrow.
"This comes despite an injunction which was given without any proper explanation.
"Granting an injunction in the face of a massive vote for strike action is an affront to democracy. We will appeal [against] this anti-democratic decision."

BUS FIRMS AFFECTED
• London United
• London Sovereign
• Stagecoach East
• Stagecoach Rainham
• Stagecoach Selkent
• Arriva North
• Arriva South
• First Capital
• First Centre West
• London Central
• Abellio West
• Abellio South
• Metrobus
• Docklands
• Blue Triangle
• CT Plus
• Arriva Southern Counties

Talks between the bus operators and the union aimed at halting Friday's planned strike action broke down at the conciliation service Acas earlier.
On Wednesday the mayor announced that the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) had offered £8.3m in a bid to avert action.
Unite said it "cautiously welcomed" the offer. It blamed the failure of the talks at Acas on TfL's and bus operators' refusal to negotiate a meaningful settlement.
The £8.3m is in addition to £91m the ODA gave to TfL to cover the additional costs of running extra services during the Olympics, including bonus pay deals agreed with rail workers.
Deals have been announced giving workers at Heathrow Express £700, Network Rail £500, Docklands Light Railway £900, London Overground £600 and London Underground at least £850, Unite said.
Unite estimates it would cost £14m to provide a £500 bonus for every bus driver.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Greece a uncertain future left must get organised and lead the fightback

Below i republish the last of Paul Murphy MEP's blog entries Paul is a MEP for the United Left Alliance in Ireland and is a member of the Irish socialist party CWI

So after four days campaigning in Greece, the elections are over and I’m headed to Brussels, where a vital vote on ACTA will take place at the International Trade Committee. I watched the election results with some members of Xekinima, the Socialist Party’s sister organisation in Greece, before going to the Synaspismos (biggest organisation in Syriza) offices where big crowds were gathered.

Although there were a few nailbiting moments, like when the first exit polls came out that put New Democracy’s range of votes only 0.5% higher than Syriza and rumours circulating that Syriza might just do it, in the end the private polls circulating over the past days were accurate and ND beat Syriza by about 2.5%.

The mood at the Synaspismos offices was mixed. On the one hand, Syriza had come so close to becoming the first party and potentially being able to form a left government, and so there was a certain disappointment. But on the other hand, there was celebration at the massive vote of 26.9% that Syriza received, which represents a huge increase of support of 10% since last month’s election and over 22% since the previous election! This demonstrates how quickly left parties can grow in public support in certain conditions.

When the outcome became clear, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, rang the leader of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, He congratulated Samaras and informed him that the responsibility for forming a government now lies with New Democracy, whereas Syriza will lead the opposition. This is undoubtedly the correct approach, any pressure from PASOK to join a ’national government’ in order to provide PASOK political cover must be resisted. Of course, the whole notion of a ’national government’ is a fraud – there can be no government which puts forward both austerity and socialist policies or which represents both the interests of bankers and working people. Afterwards, Tsipras arrived at the party headquarters for a very short press conference and then moved on to a nearby square, where over a thousand people gathered in good mood for another short speech.

Although PASOK initially declared it would not join a government without Syriza’s presence, I think it will be pressured to do the ’responsible’ thing for capitalism in Greece. Nonetheless, they will also try to trap Democratic Left (Dimar) into the government, and it currently seems that Dimar will join, which demonstrates the sell-out character of that party.

The marginal victory of the campaign of terror against the Greek people is likely to be pyrrhic and may be extremely short-lived. The stability promised by New Democracy in the election campaign will not be delivered and there will be a continuation of harsher and harsher austerity measures. The eurozone crisis will deepen and it is likely that Greece will find itself outside of the euro, even with a ND government. The focal point of struggle will move back to the streets and workplaces as workers respond to the renewed austerity attacks.

The left, in particular Syriza, is in a strong position to lead and organise this resistance and opposition, given its enhanced parliamentary position and public profile. If it does so, the incoming government can be defeated and can probably be brought down within a relatively short space of time. An election in such circumstances is likely to favour Syriza massively and it could well be in government within a year.

The continuation of Syriza in opposition will allow some time for a full discussion on what programme to advocate. This will be a vital debate and may be quite polarised, as some of the newer arrivals from PASOK attempt to shift the party to the right, while others, such as Xekinima, correctly emphasise the need for a full socialist programme to deal with the problems facing Greek society and economy. Given the deep nature of the crisis, any illusion that the rule of capital can be maintained, while more ’social’ measures are implemented, should be dispelled in this discussion. Syriza needs to flesh out a programme for repudiating the debt, immediately nationalising the banks and key sectors of the economy under democratic workers’ control and a democratic plan to redevelop the economy.

The other party which is now likely to be convulsed by a major internal debate is the Greek Communist Party (KKE). The drop in the KKE’s vote from 8.5% to 4.5% will provoke a major discussion and opposition to the leadership’s sectarian approach to Syriza. By refusing to implement a united front approach with Syriza, while making criticisms of Syriza’s leadership and programme, the KKE missed a big opportunity to engage with millions of people moving against austerity and towards socialist policies. The reports from the ground suggest that many KKE members, activists and supporters are deeply unahppy with this approach.

The other notable and worrying feature of the election is the vote of the fascist Golden Dawn. They maintained their vote at 6.9%, despite exposing their character with daily assaults on immigrants around Greece and their MP’s attack on KKE and Syriza MPs on a TV channel. This result will embolden them to continue their attacks and with a new government committed to implementing the memorandum programme, they can probably be expected to experience further growth.

With hundreds of dedicated activists and now a wider support in society, they are a real menace. Of course, the majority of their voters are not fascists, but are people affected by the crisis, in particular small businesspeople, who accept the easy answer that the immigrants are the problem and see Golden Dawn as an anti-establishment force.

The Left in Greece must now take this threat seriously – which means joint work now to stop the fascists in their tracks. The left parties together (Syriza, KKE and Antarsya) should take the initiative to form anti-fascist committees in every neighbourhood – bringing together left activists, community and trade union activists. These committees could wage a campaign of education explaining the pernicious anti-democratic and anti-worker nature of fascism. They could also take up and campaign on the issues that the fascists thrive on such as the inadequate provision of housing and public services. In addition, defence committees are needed, to be able to protect immigrants, gay people and left meetings and activists from attack from these emboldened fascists.

The KKE in particular, with its base of thousands of working class activists, could play a particularly important role in combating this threat and should take an initiative in a non-sectarian way. If the left does not take this threat seriously and respond to it now, the problem will only grow greater.

Although Syriza did not win the elections this time around, their massive vote does herald a new period for left parties in Europe and in the so-called peripheral countries in particular. As the crisis and struggles deepen, there will be big opportunities for the left to grow.

All eyes will rightly be on Greece as the crisis deepens. People in Ireland and elsewhere should provide active solidarity and support for those struggling against Greek austerity and capitalism. In addition, each stage of the crisis in Greece should be studied and discussed – because in many ways it is a window into our own future. Above all, the best solidarity that we can give to the suffering Greek people is to develop movements in Britain and across Europe that can defeat austerity policies and put socialist change on the agenda.

Monday, 18 June 2012

100 turnout to support Corryton oil refinery workers at public meeting support their struggle

I've just returned from an excellent meeting hosted by the National Shops Stewards network in support of the Coryton oil refinery workers who are facing redundancy if a buyer doesn’t come in and save the site. I blogged about this the other day but the public meeting in Basildon which I have just returned from was well attended with over 100 in attendance from local residents, workers, councillors and trade unionists and socialists. A fighting militant mood for action was felt coming away from the meeting with a public demonstration called by unite and the NSSN tomorrow afternoon at 4 pm outside the department for energy and climate at Whitehall where unite will be meeting with the government and the minister for energy Unite are calling on people supporters trade unionists and all that can get along to show a big turnout to show we mean business in defending Corryton and its workers who will not only loose their jobs but it will loose their local area of south Essex millions if not billions in local revenue annually. This is not just 1000 odd workers lives at stake it’s their families, friends, and local communities too who will feel the knock on.
A linking up with otehr oil refinery's across teh country such as Grangemouth linsey etc will put huge pressure on the powers that be. Mass solidarity is needed to win. Coryton workers know they cannot win on their own and need our support as the organised labour movement.

Throughout the meeting parallels were made between the ex mining towns once the pits had closed the deprivation and the poverty of the areas they simply have never recovered. In the south east of England which is meant to be the hub of the country and its economy this could all unravel if we’re not careful and industry we have in this country could soon disappear completely to be outsourced abroad to a more competitive tender for the boss’s. We must say no and stand up to the government and the boss’s.

The sparks dispute which defeated the boss’s on proposed wage cuts will give workers confidence to take on these vicious boss’s and fill the spirit’s of workers to win and win and win again.

There is potential for this dispute to escalate and the NSSN and the socialist party will support the workers involved every step of the struggle. There is talk of unofficial action being discussed and possibly may happen sooner than we think. It is possible for there to be major disruption to fuel supplies across the country but this is something which will not be publicised as is not strictly legal but is certainly a option being considered to force this government of millionaires to listen. A government who today has granted a contract to Rolls Royce to build the next generation of nuclear submarines which is a huge huge waste of money estimating a cost of a billion pounds. Enough money to save these workers at Coryton their jobs and pay them a decent wage too.

Unfortunately at this meeting it became clear there were a few BNP supporters present and a vote was held to exclude them from the meeting. We must be clear the likes of the BNP and the EDL are no friends of the labour and trade union movement and must be opposed firmly wherever they are. They only look to divide us and drawn on the race card and the chair was right to call a democratic vote and then asking the racists to leave.

So this is the concern if disputes like Coryton are not won and a demoralisation sets in the likes of then are then able to come in and divide workers and use the immigration card which would not be helpful in the slightest. This is not a race issue of course but we must be aware some may look to use it as thus.

Again to remind anyone who can make it
Unite and the NSSN have jointly called a public demonstration tomorrow afternoon at 4 pm outside the Department of Energy and Climate to show solidarity with the workers and the unions looking to put the case for keeping Coryton open. Lets be frank this is just the start of this dispute with further attacks likely to come if not at Coryton then it will be elsewhere. The only way this government will listen to the workers is mass civil disobedience and direct action.
It is important for the NSSN to lend support to private sector struggles aswell as public sector disputes as these age all workers and we must unite the struggles. Unite will be publicising picket dates and dates of action very soon so do keep a eye on the NSSN and Unite pages on the internet if you can.

I am hopeful this campaign can be supported and seen through to a victory for the workers involved.

Solidarity

Support the coryton oil refinery workers stop the jobs massacre

If the government and the liquidators get their way, over 800 workers at Coryton oil refinery in Essex will be sacked as the plant is shut down on 19 June.
The refinery has been under a shadow since its Swiss owner, Petroplus, having loaded itself with debt, became insolvent in January, placing the facility in the hands of the receivers, Price Waterhouse Cooper.
PWC plan to sell the plant to the highest bidder, regardless of the effect of their decision on the workers.
In this case the highest bidder would appear to be a cover company for the Shell oil company, who intend to dismantle the refinery and replace it with a terminal - a facility for the importation of fuels employing a fraction of the numbers that currently work there - leaving Coryton workers without even the guarantee of basic redundancy pay - even though many have given decades of service.
Members of Unite at the refinery are fighting back. On 11 June they mounted protests at the refinery gate and at the Vopak fuel depot, a supply hub for petrol stations across the region, as well as marching into the centre of the local town (Corringham), where they were welcomed by the people there, who understand the blow that the closure will deal to their community.
It has come out that Shell's offer for the site was not the only one, and that in fact another bidder had a proposal that would have maintained production at Coryton.
The difference between this bid and Shell's amounts to some £50-£60 million. Calls for the government to step in with guarantees for this amount have been stonewalled, even though it has been reckoned that the closure will cost up to £80 million to the local economy. This is quite a contrast with its actions in relation to insolvent banks.
Visteon
There are echoes here of the Visteon struggle, where a ruthless employer and the former parent company Ford attempted to weasel out of its responsibilities towards its employees.
That struggle, played out only a few miles away at the Visteon plant in Basildon, is well known to Unite members at Coryton.
It showed that workers can win something if they fight. After months of occupations and pickets, Visteon workers facing only statutory redundancy payments won an enhanced pay-off.
For the Coryton workers there is a very limited amount of time in which to take action. If the closure is allowed to go ahead as planned it will not only be a disaster for the workers on that site, sacked with the maximum statutory redundancy off the government of under £13,000, but it will be used to undermine the security, pay and conditions of workers right across the fuel supply industry - including drivers and depot workers as well as refinery workers.
While the Coryton workers need to have an urgent but serious and sober look at all of the options open to them, including occupation, their union has a responsibility not just to back their actions, but to deal with the issue on an industry-wide basis, by taking action across the industry to protect jobs at Coryton.
If Unite made the threat that the sacking of these workers would trigger a national stoppage at all oil refineries and in particular the oil tanker drivers, it would put huge pressure on the government to intervene.
Industry analysts and commentators speak ominously of "overcapacity" in the UK. It would be naïve to imagine that the closure of Coryton would settle the matter.
The Coryton closure is part of a 'race to the bottom' in a global industry whose key players are amongst the most ruthless capitalists on the planet.
Even a successful campaign to save Coryton would be only a temporary victory. As socialists we call for the public ownership of the fuel supply industry, under workers' control and management.
Then we could look seriously not just at securing the future of the workers in that industry but also at the wider issue of the efficient, sustainable and ecologically sound development of the energy industry.

A public meeting is due later to rally support to help keep the Coryton oil refinery in Essex open.
There is a public meeting planned for tonight if you can get along
Stop the jobs massacre! Support the Coryton oil refinery workers!
Monday 18th June, 7.30pm
Pitsea Leisure Centre, Northlands Pavement, Pitsea, Basildon, Essex, SS13 3DU
Speakers – Unite Coryton worker, Linda McCulloch – Unite National Officer for Chemicals Sector, National Shop Stewards Network, Visteon 2009 Occupation, Right to Work

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Greece 2nd elections over, real battle now begins to oppose austerity

As the dust is still settling in Greece after the latest round of elections and a narrow win for new democracy the centre right party has a narrow majority and will try and govern. The most remarkable story of this election has to be of Syriza the radical coalition of the left have became the official opposition party in Greece. Even to reach this stage it cannot be underestimated how far they have come from being on about 3-4% a few years back to gaining 28 odd % of the national vote this weekend is some surge and just goes to show how a party with the right ideas and a correct programme at the right time can be thrust forward on a wave of support.

The results of this election are just a snapshot of where Greece is the major political parties largely discredited with new democracy being the preferred option for the capitalists to prop up their failing system. It will now face a huge opposition lead by Syriza who will now go back out into the streets and form opposition to any further austerity new democracy tries to ram down the Greek workers throats. The elections are over in Greece but the battle for a change in society is just starting with capitalism rocking own in the EU and with outside forces like the US and China faltering and slowing the EU is the hotpot where the water is coming to boil. This is sure to spill over at some point and eyes will turn to Spain and Italy and Ireland where further austerity will only aim to make things worse still.

Since the introduction of the first memorandum of austerity, Greece has been convulsed by massive social struggles. In the past two years, it has seen 17 general strikes. It also saw the development of the ’Squares’ movement, in parallel to the development of the indignados movement in Spain, but which had a greater connection and impact on the workers’ struggle. It is these movements that laid the basis for the smashing of the Troika parties elect orally in last month’s election and for the meteoric rise of Syriza. At the rallies I have attended, Syriza speakers have explicitly connected themselves to these movements as representatives of them.
There are some struggles ongoing now, including the strike led by the KKE (Greek Communist Party) in the steel works in Athens; it has now been ongoing for around 200 days. In recent days, a court ruled that the strike was illegal. Scandalously, a prominent Syriza representative declared that although the strike was heroic, the law was the law and the strike should now end. That is not the Syriza position, however.
The movement to boycott the payment of tolls on the road ebbed as a result of the sanctions which the state was able to implement. The boycott of the household tax continues however, although the levels of non-payment are significantly lower than the 50% there is in Ireland, because the bill was linked to the electricity bill and they threatened to cut off electricity from those who didn’t pay. This was defeated in the courts and now the government plans to shift collection to Revenue, a possibility for the property tax in Ireland that has been mooted by the government.
Right now, although there are some isolated struggles, things are relatively quiet on that front. Exhaustion flowed from the repeated general strikes and with the number of working poor, the choice to strike and lose another day’s pay in the absence of a strategy to win, is not an easy one to make. The attention and hopes of activists and workers have therefore very much focused on today’s elections.


It is clear that new workers parties are needed urgently across Europe to oppose austerity out right and offer that alternative.

However, make no mistake that post-election is likely to see an upsurge of extra-parliamentary struggle. The lessons of the general strikes and the inspiring ’Squares’ movement, which gave a glimpse of the power of people to self-organise, will not have been lost.
However, now in the event they have won and can cobble together a right government, the problems for Greek capitalism are far from over. They will be unable to implement the level of austerity demanded by Merkel and Co and despite their promises of stability; I believe Greece will be forced out of the euro. Such a government would be inherently very weak and would face a strong left and workers’ opposition in the parliament and on the streets.
In such a situation, the task for the left would be to organise to resist the imposition of yet more austerity and to prepare to bring the government down with struggle from below. That would also provide an opportunity for Syriza to turn itself into a party with full rights for tendencies within it but allowing individual members to join. A very significant debate within Syriza and the left would probably ensue about what programme for power.

Certainly Greece is in very unstable and unpredictable times, The crisis in capitalism is deepening even still and will only weaken what is left of democracy what is most worrying is the fact that even still all the TV appearances and the threat of the far right the Golden Dawn’s vote in Greece stayed largely at the same level this shows there is a base of support out there for far right anti immigrant ideas and needs to be combated head on. With workers defence councils set up to defend workers rights and pickets where possible. This is a much read threat and needs to be faced with a serious response from those on the left.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Why Greek people should back Syriza this Sunday reports from Paul Murphy MEP

This Sunday will see a major turn in the euro crisis book of developments. The good people of Greece who have been through so so much and are living in almost povety status go to the polls again this Sunday for the second time in under a month to vote who should govern them. The question is very clear austerity in the EU or austerity outside the EU. Either way the Greek people are locked into austerity unless Syriza the beacon of hope on the left and who’s eye’s many on the left all over Europe and the world will be on. This could be a explosive situation as our socialist party MEP Paul Murphy explains below.

the run-up to Sunday's election. He'll be writing daily reports of his experiences; the first of these is below.
The eyes of Europe's left and many working class people suffering under austerity are now on Greece. This was brought home to me when I arrived yesterday in Greece and found myself amongst many international visitors who were also present to support Syriza in the final days of the election campaign. Those present included Francisco Louca, the leader of the Left Bloc in Portugal, together with many of his Portugeuese comrades; Willy Meyer; a Spanish MEP of Izquierda Unida; a left MP from Argentina, and people from Occupy Wall Street. Many more are coming, including the Marxist academic, David Harvey, and Gabi Zimmer MEP, the President of the GUE/NGL left group in the European Parliament.
Is this simply 'revolutionary tourism' that we are all engaged in? Not at all. A war has been waged across Europe since the economic crisis began. This is not a war between the peoples of Europe, rather it is a war waged by the bankers, bondholders, speculators and rich capitalist elite against working class and poor people. Austerity has been imposed, not because it 'works', from the point of view of working people or the economy as a whole, but because it is a means for those forces to make the rest of us pay for their crisis. Concretely, in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain this takes the form of the repayment of unsustainable and odious debt that is paid by the destruction of people's living standards and society.
Greece is at the very frontline of this war. The Greek people have suffered the most vicious austerity, with Greece having been turned into a laboratory for extremely harsh neoliberal measures. The human costs are seen in the 22% rise in suicide, meaning Greece has the highest suicide rate in all of Europe; the soup kitchens of the orthodox church which feed over 200,000 people daily, and the mass unemployment, with an official rate of 21% (50% for young people). When we look at Greece, we see the future that menaces working class people in the other countries that have also been the victims of austerity programmes. It is therefore a basic duty of solidarity to support the struggles of workers in Greece against these policies.
However, the working class people of Greece are not simply the victims of this war, they now have a unique opportunity to strike a blow against the austerity agenda and demand alternative socialist policies. If they strike that blow by electing Syiza in first place on Sunday and laying the basis for a left government, it will have enormous ramifications for people all across Europe. It will open up a new chapter of explosive struggle within Europe and potentially expose the mantra of 'there is no alternative' for the neoliberal propaganda that it is. It can also turn a new page on the development of left parties elsewhere in Europe.
So I have come to Greece to express the solidarity of the Socialist Party in Ireland and the Committee for a Workers' International (www.socialistworld.net) with the Greek people suffering under austerity, and also to show our support for Syriza in these vital elections. Together with the sister party of the Socialist Party in Greece, Xekinima, I will do whatever I can to enable Syriza to achieve a victor,y and I am also here to learn from the struggles of the Greek working class.
It is only slightly over a month since the last general election in Greece, and we are now two days away from another one. May's election produced a resounding defeat for all of the bailout parties and a massive rise of support for Syriza, the 'Radical Coalition of the Left', which finished in second place. A government could not be formed and so another election was called. In the opinion polls, the main right-wing party New Democracy and Syriza now vie for first place. Whichever finishes in first place will get a 50 seat bonus in the 300 seat parliament as a result of an undemocratic system constructed to try to ensure stable rule by establishment parties. If Syriza wins, it may be in a position to form a left government.
It is this possibility that has raised the stakes and tensions in this election campaign. The political and economic establishment in Greece and throughout Europe have waged a massive campaign of fear against the Greek people to terrorise them into voting for New Democracy. Like in Ireland, there is a large majority which wishes to stay in the euro, and this group is preyed upon by right-wing forces who declare that if people elect Syriza, Greece will be ejected from euro, will have to return to the drachma, and will see its crisis will deepen dramatically. In contrast, the hopes of many who have suffered terribly under two so-called 'bailout' programmes have been raised by the real possibility of a left government committed to ending austerity.
This hope was in clear display at the major outdoor election rally I attended last night, where an estimated 6,000 plus people attended. Flags and banners of Syriza and its component parts flew throughout the crowd as music such as 'People have the power' and 'Bandero Rossa' blared out of huge speakers. Eventually the first Syriza MP to address the crowd strode onto the stage, a female former PASOK MP who broke early with PASOK to join Syriza. She was warmly welcomed as was her internationalist speech. She emphasised that “it is finally the time of the people” and said that on Sunday, Greek people had the opportunity to “send a message of struggle and solidarity across Europe”. Tackling the scaremongering tactics of the right, she denounced the leaders of Europe who have been terrorising people for years and are now using “the final terror – memorandum [of understanding – what the 'bailout' deal is popularly referred to in Greece] or drachma”.
After a relatively short speech, the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras walked onto stage to loud and sustained applause. His speech was one of hope, tapping into the expectations of change after this election. He repeatedly declared that Monday would see a new era open up, one of “sustainable and just development.” In detailing the “historic opportunity” that people face on Sunday, he rejected the scare tactics and declared that the vote is “a referendum on memorandum or hope”. Despite the length of his speech, around 45 minutes, neither he nor the crowd flagged at the end of what must be an extremely gruelling campaign. The message was one of confidence of victory on Sunday and that real change would flow from that.
Within Tsipras's speech however, the pressures of the struggle to finish first in the elections were also clear. In the course of the election campaign, the demands of Syriza have somewhat moderated – moving from outright rejection of the memorandum of understanding to a demand for its renegotiation – for example. In the speech, there were also concessions to nationalism, portraying Syriza as the true upholders of the 'Greek flag' in contrast to those who support the Troika, while the word socialism was notably absent (although not from the crowd, who interrupted Tsipras at one stage with a chant demanding the end of capitalism and socialist change!)
The danger with these concessions is that Syriza seems to me not to be preparing people fully for the scale of the struggle that will be unleashed on a European scale if a left government is formed in Greece. Ending austerity in today's Europe means a revolutionary break with the logic of capitalism and the implementation of socialist polcies. On a European scale, it also means not just a national battle, but a Europe-wide war.
In particular, this danger finds its highest expression in Tsipras's promise last night that Greece will not be kicked out of the euro if Syriza is elected. This may well prove to be a hostage to fortune.
The dynamic of the Eurozone crisis, with or without Syriza being elected, points to Greece being kicked out of the Eurozone. If Syriza comes to power and keeps to its promise not to implement austerity, a major clash with Angela Merkel and the leaders Europe's governments together with the European Commission and Central Bank will ensue. While no country can be legally expelled from the Eurozone, the political leaders of Europe could achieve expulsion by cutting off funding to the state and Greek banks and provoking a major crisis.
Regardless of the possibility of being forced out of the euro, Greek people are still correct to vote against austerity and for a change of policy. The savage austerity in Europe is deepening the Eurozone crisis and creating massive instability. Continuing with that policy will not secure Greece's place in the Eurozone or guarantee any stability. So people should not vote on Sunday on the basis of false promises that Greece will stay in the euro if austerity is implemented, but rather take the opportunity to vote for radical anti-austerity and socialist policies.
In Syriza's five point programme at the the time of the first election, and in many of their statements since, they have opened the discussion on many of the key questions to be tackled by a left government. Like in Ireland, the first issue has to be a refusal to pay the debt, because the effort to repay it is destroying the economy and society. Syriza has also rightly highlighted the importance of taking the banking system into public control - this can only be done through nationalisation and democratic control and management. With such a banking system, capital controls could be imposed to stop the flood of rich people's money out of the country and to provide credit for small businesses and farmers.
Regenerating economic growth will require a break from the past policy of relying on the rich to invest their wealth, which they have proved unwilling to do. Instead, the key sections of the economy need to be taken into democratic public ownership and a plan developed to redevelop the economy, including a strong and sustainable manufacturing and industrial base.
If Syriza is elected on Sunday, it will be a big step forward towards this fundamental and necessary change. But it would be mistaken to think that it will represent the final chapter of the struggle against capitalist austerity. The people of Greece should prepare for the continuation and intensification of the attack of European leaders against them. However, they should also know, as demonstrated by the many international visitors here, that they will not be alone. Tens of millions of people across Europe will welcome a clear rejection of austerity and the election of a left government. It would assist massively in developing the Europe-wide struggle necessary to defeat the capitalist establishments and their austerity.
There is the distinct feeling amongst all of the international guests of being privileged to be in the eye of the storm here on the eve of the what may be an extremely important development for working people across Europe. I intend to take full advantage by learning lessons from the Greek struggle that can be applied in Ireland and across Europe.
Paul Murphy is Socialist Party MEP for Dublin West in Ireland.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The fight for democratic fighting trade unions

As Marxists we are always looking to open up more and more democracy this is no different when it comes to the trade unions. We advocate a democratic fighting union with its member’s interests at heart.
If the whole of the trade union movement, from top to bottom, was to launch a serious struggle against the cuts it would be impossible for the government to implement its programme.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case up until now.
In the coming months hundreds of thousands of workers, perhaps even millions, will be attracted to the trade union movement as they look for a way to fight the cuts.
If they are lucky they will join a trade union whose leadership has a clear and determined strategy to fight every cut. In many cases, this will not be the case.
Over the last twenty years an increased tendency in the leadership of the trade union movement, at national and sometimes at local level, has developed towards accepting the 'logic of the market' - that is, the logic of cutting workers' pay and conditions! Many trade union leaders have become used to administering defeat rather than leading a struggle to defend their members' interests.
This does not mean that workers should turn away from the trade unions. As 30th November 2011 showed, the trade union movement - which organises over six million workers - has enormous potential power when it stands together and gets off its knees.

However, in many cases in order to defeat the cuts it will also mean campaigning to transform the unions into democratic and fighting bodies.
This will mean campaigning to commit the trade union leaders to action, or if that proves impossible to replace them with leaders that will fight in their members' interests.
Other demands that will form an important part of the struggle will be for unions to be democratically controlled by their members and for all full-time officials to be regularly elected and to receive a workers' wage.
The National Shop Stewards Network has an important role to play in bringing together militant trade unionists from different sectors in order to share experiences.
It will also be necessary, however, to building fighting union lefts in every union.


This has started and some success has been made in such unions as the PCS, RMT, and FBU etc who are all fighting left unions with a good recent record of fighting for member’s interests. Workers are always attracted to trade unions and organisations which stand up and fight for them. They will be put off by unions throwing in the towel and acting as a damage limitation exercise and not really believing they can win.
It is key that the trade unions are as open and as democratic as possible shifting unions away from talking shops and a route for labour party careerists to forge a career is important. Union structures need to be as transparent as possible too with regular bullet inn’s branch meetings and a open and clear environment for good comradely but positive debate with the aim to forward workers interests at all times.

Union membership is lower than it’s ever been but this can be changed if unions give a lead. Show that an alternative is possible and begin to put down real markers to fight for such ideas.

It is a disgrace for example when unions such as unison attack its own members for daring to put forward the idea of breaking with new labour and questioning the unions funding to then be attacked and witch hunted through the courts over jumped up claims. This is not on and unions like this should be ashamed and should be fighting the cuts instead of wasting members money on such pointless actions.

Unions and their leadership should always be accountable to teh rank-and-file of its membership as at the end of the day its members money that keeps the union going. Unions have to show some fight to recruit the next layer of workers. But as socialists we advocate going much much further than just recruiting. We need to get organised fight for democracy within our unions and fight for the union we're in to be opposing all cuts and following the lead of such trade unions as PCS, RMT, FBU etc who are some of the best militant unions going.

Defeating the myths on the need for cuts

Before the general election in 2010 David Cameron tried to claim that the Tory party had changed and was no longer the brutal anti-working class party of the 1980s.
Within days of taking office they revealed themselves as Thatcherites to the core.

The Tories' propaganda is that cuts are necessary because of New Labour's excessive public spending. This is a giant con-trick.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The crisis Britain is facing is not a crisis of the public sector but of the private sector.
It was the collapse of the banking system, not greedy public sector workers that the economy into crisis.
Yet, while public services are being destroyed, the rich are increasing their wealth further still.

In reality, New Labour did not preside over a significant increase in public spending. On the contrary, under New Labour, as under the Tories before them, public spending on measures that decrease poverty has fallen back and, as a result, for much of New Labour's tenure, inequality and poverty increased.

High quality council housing, unemployment benefit and a pension that it is possible to live on, these are all now distant memories. Job Seekers Allowance is at, £64.30 a week, equal to just 10% of average earnings compared to 17% when Margaret Thatcher was in power.
It is the lowest in the developed world and is literally impossible to live on. Even in those sectors such as health where public spending increased under New Labour, although not enough, this has been linked to increased privatisation.
When New Labour was elected in 1997 total public spending had fallen to 37.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), its lowest level since the 1960s. New Labour kept it at the same level for its first two years in power.
By 2008 it had increased marginally to around 41%, although this remained extremely low compared with other major European countries such as Germany, and particularly France, where it was still 53%.
Since then it has jumped again to around 46%. To put this in perspective it was 45% in 1985 - when the Tories had been in power for six years! However, the jump has nothing to do with increased spending on public services and everything to do with the bailout of the banking and finance system.

The Treasury department spent £109.5 billion in 2008/09, an increase of 49,891% on the previous year! This vast sum of money, slightly more than the entire spending on health for the year, was used to bail out the finance system.
Yet the same big financiers whose profligacy triggered the economic crisis are now demanding cuts in services. All capitalist politicians accept the need for cuts because 'the markets' demand it.
The Tories are particularly enthusiastic about cutting as much and as fast as possible, but New Labour has also made it clear it would do as the markets demand and carry out severe cuts.


What are these markets? Not some elected or democratically accountable body but a few handfuls of unelected bond market traders interested only in their own mega-profits.
These are the people who are demanding vicious cuts which will ruin the lives of millions.
If this government gets away with it, the clock of history will be unwound with levels of poverty returning those of the 1930s. But it will not get away with it.
This government is deluded if it imagines it will be able to carry out its programme without meeting an avalanche of opposition.

United we are strong, divided we will be defeated. The government knows that and is desperate to divide us - public sector from private sector, old from young, benefit claimants from everyone else...
To avoid the government's trap, and build a united movement, it is vital that we oppose ALL cuts in jobs and services. If we fall into the trap of accepting pay cuts on the spurious grounds that they will stop a local library or swimming pool open, or fighting to save one local hospital but not another, we will allow the anti-cuts movement to shatter into a thousand pieces.
Of course, we will not always succeed, but our starting point must be to fight every single cut. This includes cuts implemented by Labour councils, who are willingly wielding the axes handed to them by the government.

The socialist party does not accept the need for any cuts and fights for a new mass workers party that can give ordinary people a voice again.
To be fully effective, a workers' party would need to put forward socialist ideas. Socialists do not accept that cuts are necessary.
Capitalism has created enormous wealth, science and technique. We have technology today that was unimaginable a generation ago.
The world economy is 17 times the size it was a century ago. Yet we are being told that the most basic public services - a decent public health service, the right to an affordable home - cannot be afforded by capitalism.
The current crisis is not caused by a bloated public sector but by the worst crisis of capitalism in 70 years. This is a crisis of the private not the public sector.
Yet all the major capitalist parties - Tories, Lib Dem and New Labour agree that it should be the working class and public services that pay for it.

Any government that acts in the interests of the markets would put forward savage cuts along the lines of those being proposed by the Con-Dem coalition.
Across Europe - from the ex-social democratic governments (equivalent to New Labour) of Greece, Spain and Portugal to the right-wing capitalist parties of Britain, France, Germany and Italy; the cuts are virtually identical in their brutality.
All of Europe is dancing to the axe-men's tune. Capitalism is in crisis and it is the working class that is expected to pay the price.

This crisis is more than simply the responsibility of a few greedy bankers. The severity of the economic crisis that began in 2008 is a consequence of the increasingly parasitic nature of capitalism over the last decades.

Capitalism has always been a system based on the exploitation of the majority, the working class, for the profits of a few at the top.
There was a brief period, from around 1950-73, when capitalism developed rapidly. At least in the more economically developed countries, including Britain, working-class people were able to win a few crumbs from the capitalists' table.
In Britain, a National Health Service and a mass council house building programme made a real improvement in workers' lives.
However, when capitalism went into crisis, it set about restoring its profits by driving down the share of the wealth taken by the working class. Production was moved abroad to countries with cheaper labour, wages were driven down, and spending on public services was cut back.

The consequence of all of this was that, by 2007 in the G7 countries, the share taken by the working class (wages plus benefits) had fallen to a post-war low of 53% of total income.
During the last boom profits reached an all-time record. However, they had difficulty finding profitable fields to invest in.
Investment in science, technique and production remained at an historic low. Why? Because working-class people lacked the means to buy the goods that could potentially be produced.
This is the terrible reality of capitalism. It does not matter that two billion people are without the most basic necessities of life, they are not 'a market' because they lack the money to buy what is produced.
Instead of investing in industry, the capitalist class made its profits in the last boom by gambling on the world's stock markets in a speculative frenzy. To try and increase their markets the working class got its own little share in the credit frenzy: cheap credit cards and mortgages - not crumbs but bubbles from the table.

But while the bankers' debts were nationalised - handed to us to pay off via cuts in our public services - our debts (the £1.5 trillion consumer debt overhang from the boom) remain like millstones round our necks.

Socialists argue that the rich should be the ones who pay the crisis, via dramatically increased taxes for the super-rich and the big corporations. For most of the 1970s the tax rate for the highest band of income was 83%.
Likewise, for most of the 1970s, big corporations paid 52% of their profits in tax. But that percentage has been reduced step-by-step ever since, to just 28% now.
As the PCS points out, even with the existing low levels of taxation for the rich, more than £120 billion goes uncollected every year. While we favour taxing the rich, we also recognise that the 'markets' - neither the big corporations nor the bond traders who hold whole countries to ransom - will never meekly accept dramatically increased regulation and taxation.


So what is the alternative to this market madness? The starting point is to refuse to accept the cuts. Faced with a determined working class, big business will be forced to retreat.
However, in its relentless pursuit of profit, capitalism would then come-back with other ways of making the working class pay, for example, by using inflation.
That is why we need a socialist solution. For a start we call for the nationalisation of the big banking and finance companies.
Compensation should be paid on the basis of proven need. Not one penny should go to the speculators who are demanding that the working class pay for the crisis for which they - the speculators - bear responsibility.
It would then be necessary to introduce full government control of all incoming and outgoing foreign trade. That would enable a democratically elected government and the working class - not the market - to control imports and exports including capital.
A socialist nationalised banking sector would be democratically run by representatives of banking workers and trade unions, the wider working class, as well as the government.
Decisions would be made to meet the needs of the majority - for example, offering cheap loans and mortgages for housing and for the planned development of industry and services, and ending all repossessions of peoples' homes.

However, that would only be the start. Capitalism has led to enormous economic destruction.
In Britain around 10% of wealth has already been lost as a result of the recession, due to factories and workplaces closing, resulting over 2.6 million officially unemployed with the number rising.
Nor is there any prospect of a return to healthy growth. This is the real difference between now and, for example, the end of the second world war when the total national debt was far higher than it is today - over 200% of GDP compared to around 60% now.
Then, however, Britain entered a period of significant economic growth, thereby shrinking the national debt.



Its time to reject the need for any cuts at all, we do not accept like new labour that some cuts are needed at all. Lets redouble our efforts to win the arguements and win more people to our ideas of socialism and a change of society to benifit the many.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: RIP Karen Sherlock

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Youth fight for jobs national meeting 10th June: organising the lost generation

Yesterday Sunday 10th of June at University London youth fight for jobs held its annual national meeting. What was originally titled as a steering committee meeting turned into a national meeting due to the size and demand of the tasks ahead of us. Also the turnout was fantastic.

A good number of young people students, trade unionists, young activists and all those who are not able to find work or afford education were present.
The meeting was kicked off with an excellent outline of the last year by Sarah Wrack of youth fight for jobs and the socialist party. Detailing the struggles young people face across the world not just in the UK with solidarity paid to those students battling bravely against fees and cuts in Quebec in Canada.

The first speaker was an international speaker Brandon Madson from occupies Minneapolis in the US. Brandon is young students who is finding education in the states very expensive and has in the last year got involved in occupy Minneapolis and the movement there has developed to defending people from being evicted from their homes. Brandon recounted some fantastic stories of protests to ensure the poor were not forced out of their homes. The potential for a mass campaign there could be huge as the banks are looking to make ordinary people who did not cause this economic crisis pay for the mistakes of the greedy bankers. How familiar does this sound ?

The occupy movement in the US has perhaps been a little different to others in other countries linking up a bit more with the labour movement and the local communities a bit better than perhaps other occupy’s around the world managed to do.

A really inspirational speech from Brandon was followed up by Ian Paterson a young youth fight for jobs organiser recently getting involved in the organisation side gave a brilliant outline of the current political situation facing us and how austerity is being rejected across the world wherever you look now from France to Greece and more recently in Britain. Although this has not manifested itself in to mass movements of workers and students just yet days like the 30th of November and the fantastic student demonstrations of 2010 cannot be forgotten.

Following Ian’s brilliant speech the floor was opened up for young people to come in and discuss whatever they had to say on big issues like workfare and their horrid experiences of this rotten scheme, students struggling to get by with rental accommodation going through the roof, with graduates struggling to even find voluntary work let alone paid work.

Time after time the meeting highlighted the real victims of this crisis young people who did not cause austerity and pain is being made to pay still. It was very moving to hear such real stories up close and real. It is one thing reading about these things online but another to speak to people involved and going through things like workfare which is effectively slave wage labour where young people especially are forced into unpaid work for the collection of their benefits if they do not they may have their benefits stopped.

The success of Youth fight for jobs was also highlighted with the fantastic Jarrow march in late 2011 talked of and how it opened up a new phase in YFFJ’s progression as the only young people’s organisation dedicated to working and building links with the labour movement and linking with workers in struggle. The brilliant backing the march got opened up new avenues for our organisation and can pave the way for bigger mass movements which are sure to follow.

Youth fight for jobs also played a leading role in the anti workfare protests while victories and u-turns have been forced out of this con-dem government we are keen to stress the schemes still exist and we have not won all out yet. The fight against workfare must continue and be stepped up with national days of action planned very soon.

One of the key announcements of the day and certainly the afternoon session on organisation and where we go from here introduced what we’re dubbing the “manifesto for the 99% an 18 page document detailing Youth fight for jobs’ demands and lists of examples how we can win. Things like an immediate reinstatement of EMA pointing to the two councils in the c country still paying young people EMA to encourage young people to stay in further education with a demand for decent public works with a living wage keeping in line with inflation and for an end to fees and all cuts. The document is far bigger and more detailed but is only in draft form at the moment. We will be launching the manifesto on the 28th of July with a proposed “austerity games” being organised for the day where the media will be about at the Olympic park in London. The austerity games will look to create a public stunt so the media can see that the Olympics is not for all of us and austerity is still here while the rich enjoy their games. More announcements on this too and how you can get involved will be announced shortly no doubt.

All in all today is not a good time to be a young person with little to no opportunities out there for us but with organisations like Youth fight for jobs going from strength to strength growing in numbers and influence all the time the future can be brighter for young people if we get organised and fight back with a desire to eventually change society to benefit the 99% with a socialist planned economy meeting the needs of the many.

If you enjoyed this blog and wish to find out more about Youth fight for jobs and the campaigns we’re involved in and have been involved in do please check out
www.youthfightforjobs.com

Sunday, 10 June 2012

NSSN conference 2012 the hot breath on the necks of the trade union leaders

Yesterday Saturday the 9th of June in London’s friends meeting house probably the most militant layers of the labour movement met for the 6th annual National Shops Stewards Network conference. What a fantastic opening and the bar was set high with the standard of PCS Union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka opened the conference with a rousing speech. Assessing the last year where so much has gone on since we last met in a smaller room which is testament to how far the NSSN has come in just a year.

The potential for a mass rank-and-file organisation like the NSSN which was set up for periods of crisis like we are living through now. The NSSN was originally set up in 2006 by the RMT union and various other lefts in the unions with the intention of holding the unions leadership to account. SO far the NSSN has played a vital role in the struggles of the working class as disputes are increasing all the time.

This year we heard some fantastic accounts of the brave fighting militant sparks and construction workers who defeated the bully boys in the construction industry and took unofficial action every Wednesday at various locations around the country going beyond the unions official leadership and this is a victory we must celebrate and look to build on. Victories of such groups of the sparks was helped by organisations such as the NSSN and this was one of the main reasons like this for setting it up to lend to support to ordinary workers in struggle.

The NSSN despite being widely written off a few years back is clearly going from strength to strength with a turnout of 400+ delegates this weekend alone and those were just the ones who could make it this weekend.
There was fantastic speech’s and calls for action and to go further into the unions and continue to build for October the 20th mass TUC demonstration but it was made clear that this cannot be enough and the call was put out to start building the slogans for a all out general strike involving the public and private sector. Each one of our slogans last year of a mass demonstration then a 24 hour public sector general strike went down really well too so we’re hoping this can lead to bigger, wider escalated action on pensions of course as that battle is far from lost as mochas the right wing union leads and the government would have you believe.

There is also an opportunity to tie the pensions battle into other big national disputes such as regional pay and pay freeze’s that some in the public sector have faced for some years now.

The NSSN as the title suggested can play an important role in acting as a lever on the trade union movement lending support and supporting those who wish to go above and beyond their union and beat back this government intent on making ordinary people pay for a crisis not of their making.

Speaker after speaker made it clear there is an alternative and if we fight we can win. Although celebrating victories in the last year it was clear that these attacks on our living standards, pay, benefits and standards of life will only continue we are only an estimated 15% into the proposed public sector spending cuts. Which is frightening in itself time after time the NHS was talked of and the need to keep fighting to defend the jewel in the labour movement’s chest. It is clear that all disputes are linked up and not lead to separate disputes as as a class we are all under attack not some more than others. An injury to one is an injury to all was another slogan put out that is still very
apt.
With the democratic nature of the NSSN with so many key speakers from key disputes telling their story as they saw it and not spun or twisted genuine workers stories was hugely inspiring indeed.

The conference confirmed to me that the NSSN is still very well placed to grow and gain influence and give a voice to the rank-and-file in all the unions. We don’t look to replace the unions but act as a lever where the union’s leaders shirk their responsibilities. If they will not act to defend their members then we will move them aside and change the unions from the bottom up.

There is plenty for us to get our teeth in and the NSSN is always looking for donations and support from trade unionists or trades councils so if you can lend supporting anyway please do.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Come to “organising a lost generation” Youth fight for jobs national meeting 10 June

Organising the lost Generation

As you may or may not have seen on the news today further embarrassment for the government and their flagship workfare scheme of slave labour as news of around 30 unemployed people were forced into a terrible ordeal all in the name of the jubilee celebrations.

Some of those hired as stewards had to spend the night before the pageant sleeping under London Bridge.
A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.
Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth as part of the government's Work Programme.
Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.
One young worker said she was on duty between London Bridge and Tower Bridge during the £12m river spectacle of a 1,000-boat flotilla and members of the Royal family sail by . She said that the security firm Close Protection UK, which won a stewarding contract for the jubilee events, gave her a plastic see-through poncho and a high-visibility jacket for protection against the rain.
Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday.
The firm said it had spent considerable resources on training and equipment that stewards could keep and that the experience was voluntary and did not affect jobseekers keeping their benefits.
The woman said that people were picked up at Bristol at 11pm on Saturday and arrived in London at 3am on Sunday. "We all got off the coach and we were stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes until they came back and told us all to follow them," she said. "We followed them under London Bridge and that's where they told us to camp out for the night … It was raining and freezing."
A 30-year-old steward told the Guardian that the conditions under the bridge were "cold and wet and we were told to get our head down [to sleep]". He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the concrete floor.
The woman said they were woken at 5.30am and supplied with boots, combat trousers and polo shirts. She said: "They had told the ladies we were getting ready in a minibus around the corner and I went to the minibus and they had failed to open it so it was locked. I waited around to find someone to unlock it, and all of the other girls were coming down trying to get ready and no one was bothering to come down to unlock [it], so some of us, including me, were getting undressed in public in the freezing cold and rain." The men are understood to have changed under the bridge.
The female steward said that after the royal pageant, the group travelled by tube to a campsite in Theydon Bois, Essex, where some had to pitch their tents in the dark.
She said: "London was supposed to be a nice experience, but they left us in the rain. They couldn't give a crap … No one is supposed to be treated like that, [working] for free. I don't want to be treated where I have to sleep under a bridge and wait for food." The male steward said: "It was the worst experience I've ever had. I've had many a job, and many a bad job, but this one was the worst."
Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.


This is just the most recent incident of unemployed people being exploitive for their benefits. This is not on and Youth fight for jobs along with others will be stepping up our opposition to these schemes and the battle against workfare is far from over. I for one feel the government is going to push ahead even more with this scheme as they frankly have no other idea of how to provide decent jobs for young people. YFFJ calls on all that oppose workfare to help to organize a national demonstration against workfare not as a substitute to weekly protests in regional areas but as a way of bringing it to the fore again. Its time workfare was smashed once and for all.
We demand decent jobs with decent pay as a demand towards decent future for young people.

Also come to this meeting to hear what YFFJ will be planning to do in the next year building for a national demonstration in the autumn against fees and cuts and also how young people can get involved in the TUC’s October demonstration planed. That and much much more this coming Sunday.

Speakers include:
Occupy Home Minnesota campaigner
Helen Flanagan, Public and Commercial Services union, National Executive Committee member
Suzanne Beishon, Organizer Young Londoners Forced out campaign
Sunday 10th June 10:30 AM – 16:00 PM
Venue:
University of London Union,
Malet Street,
London,
WC1E 7HY

Monday, 4 June 2012

Che’ Guevara, the peoples latin revolutionary lives on

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara died young. This Argentine doctor who left his home and a career to join the Cuban Revolution was murdered in a Bolivian mountain village while he lay on a bare table. It was October 1967, and Guevara was not yet 40 years old.

In Cuba itself, where Che was a charistmatic and powerful leader of the revolution of 1959, his face picked out in neon lights decorates several floors of a building in Revolution Square in Havana. And on posters and hoardings Che’s image sits beside propaganda to support the Cuban government. Che’s face fills the public spaces of Cuban cities rather than the man who has dominated Cuban life ever since the revolution: Fidel Castro.

There is now an entirely new generation who instantly recognise the deep eyes and wispy beard of Guevara, who wear the T-shirt and buy the enormous variety of consumer goods that carry that famous image. Even though many have little memory of the Cuban revolution and the details of Che’s life aren’t well known; there seems to be wide ackonowledgement that the face has a symbolic power and a meaning that everyone understands. The symbolism of Che, the beret, the star and the red scarf, is a call for something different, a call for revoltution to transform society. That project has a general characther. It is generous, honest, selfless and romantic. And it is youthful. Most fundamentally though it is Socialist.

Che

Ernesto Che Guevara’s birth happened under a garb of ambiguity. Guevara’s birth certificate records his birthday as June 14, 1928. His real birth date was on May 14, 1928. In a way this typified the way Che spent most of his adult life. He was born in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in an Argentine family of Spanish, Basque and Irish descent. In reference to Che’s “restless” nature, his father declared “the first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels. Very early on in life Ernestito (as he was then called) developed an “affinity for the poor”. Growing up in a family with leftist leanings, Guevara was introduced to a wide spectrum of political perspectives even as a boy. His father, a staunch supporter of Republicans from the Spanish Civil War, often hosted many veterans from the conflict in the Guevara home.

During adolescence he found the Guevara home contained more than 3,000 books, which allowed him to be an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, with interests including Karl Marx, William Faulkner and Jules Verne. Additionally, he enjoyed the works of Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels and Jean-Paul Sartre (who would later describe Che as the most complete human being of our time).

As he grew older, he developed an interest in the Latin American writers Ciro Alegría, Rubén Darío, and Miguel Asturias. Many of these authors’ ideas he cataloged in his own handwritten notebooks of concepts, definitions, and philosophies of influential intellectuals. These included composing sketches of Buddha and Aristotle, along with examining Bertrand Russell on love and patriotism, Jack London on society, and Nietzsche on the idea of death. Sigmund Freud’s ideas fascinated him as he quoted him on a variety of topics from dreams and libido to narcissism and the oedipus complex. His favorite subjects in school included philosophy, political science, sociology, history and archaeology. Years later, a 1958, declassified CIA ‘biographical and personality report’ would make note of Guevara’s wide range of academic interests and intellect, describing him as “quite well read” while adding that “Che is fairly intellectual for a Latino.”

His main objective though at this point was still to qualify as a doctor with a view to helping the sick and the poor. However, within him a passion for travel was beginning to develop. Initially this was within Argentina itself and then later he undertook two journeys which brought him throughout Latin America and eventually beyond.

The experiences which he encountered during this Odyssey changed his perception of the tasks necessary to end poverty and exploitation. It was during the adventures and events which he witnessed on these journeys that Che eventually embraced socialist ideas.

Che’s first international tours took place in the early 50s. These had a more pronounced effect and ultimately changed the direction of his entire life. At first Che Guevara was content to play the role of an observer at the beginning of his voyage. As it progressed he was eventually increasingly drawn into the revolutionary struggle which ultimately cost him his life.

At the outset of his voyage he and his traveling companion, Alberto, were more interested in having a good time and gaining some medical experience as they toured South America on a Harley Davidson. Che’s Motor Cycle Diaries provide brilliant examples of this. Drunken brawls, romantic encounters and other, “youthful” adventures, dominated the trip they were making around the continent. As they crossed the border into Chile they passed themselves off as leprologists. Frequently they had to flee local towns and villages having aroused the wrath of the local peasants, especially fathers with attractive daughters. During this first trip Che led the largely bohemian and carefree existence which reflected the independent spirit which marked his character.

However, whilst it is this aspect of the trip which is the dominant feature in his diary, other experiences had an important impact on him. The poverty and conditions he witnessed increasingly aroused a profound social awareness. Che’s anger at the indifference shown towards the poor by the ruling class was being stirred during his travels.

Whilst encamped at the Chilean port of Valparaíso, Che was asked to use his medical skills to try and help an elderly woman who it transpired was dying of chronic asthma (which Che himself suffered terribly from all his life). There was little he could do but the experience of trying to treat her, surrounded by poverty, evidently left its mark. Afterwards he wrote: ” There, in the final moments of people whose farthest horizon is always tomorrow, one sees the tragedy that enfolds the lives of the proletariat throughout the whole world; in those dying eyes there is a submissive apology and also frequently, a desperate plea for consolation that is lost in the void, just as their body will soon be lost in the magnitude of misery surrounding us. How long this order of things based on an absurd sense of caste will continue is not within my means to answer, but it is time that those who govern dedicate less time to propagandising the compassion of their regimes and more money, much more money, sponsoring works of social utility.”

Unable to get a boat to Easter Island as they intended Che and his companion headed north, eventually arriving at Chuquicamata, the world’s largest open cast copper mine. “Chuqui” as it is still known in Chile today, was owned by US monopolies such as Anaconda and Kennecott. US ownership of the mines at “Chuqui” was a symbol of imperialist “gringo” domination of Chile. They were eventually nationalised by the Popular Unity government, led by Salvador Allende of the Socialist Party, between 1970 and 1973.
It was here Che and Alberto encountered the harsh realities of class struggle. They met a former miner and his wife, both members of the then illegal Chilean Communist Party. Che was told the bitter story of repression, disappearances and black-listing used by the company and government against those who tried to fight for workers’ rights. Che and Alberto succeeded in entering the mine where a strike was being prepared.

This visit to Chuqui made a lasting impression on Che and he kept a note book on the experience in which he detailed not only the impressions he had of the workers, but also production techniques and the political importance of the mines for Chile. Referring to the mineral rich mountains he protested about the “exploited proletariat” and environmental destruction of the landscape.
The next stop on his Odyssey was Peru which proved decisive in Che embracing socialist ideas through an encounter with a prominent leader of the Peruvian Communist Party, Doctor Hugo Pesce. The discussions with Pesce evidently had a profound effect upon Che. A decade later he sent the doctor a copy of his first book, Guerrilla Warfare, with the inscription, “To Doctor Hugo Pesce who, without knowing it perhaps, provoked a great change in my attitude towards life and society, with the same adventurous spirit as always, but channelled toward goals more harmonious with the needs of America.”

At a party to celebrate his twenty fourth birthday in Peru, Che made a toast declaring “…that (Latin) America’s division into illusory and uncertain nationalities is completely fictitious. We constitute a single mestizo race, which from Mexico to the Straights of Magellan presents notable ethnographic similarities. For this, in an attempt to rid myself of the weight of any meagre provincialism, I raise a toast to Peru and for a United America.”

This spirit of internationalism was a theme to which Che returned many times and he soon realised the aspiration of the masses to unify Latin America is not possible to obtain within the context of capitalism because the ruling capitalist class of each Latin American nation have their own economic and political interests to defend. They are also linked by economic and material interests to imperialism from which they cannot break free. Imperialism itself also opposes unity of the continent under capitalism, generally preferring to impose its will on a number of states weaker than itself. The establishment of a democratic federation of Latin American states, as a step to unify the continent is only possible by breaking free of capitalism and imperialism and building socialism.
Once back in Argentina Che’s family hoped that his days as a vagabond would end and that he would take up his chosen profession, medicine. Che completed his studies during April 1953 and received his doctor’s degree in June, a few days prior to his twenty fifth birthday. However Che soon set out again to visit other parts of Latin America with Che gravitating to the idea of committing himself to a life of disciplined and self-sacrificing revolutionary struggle.

Cuba

At the time of Che’s travels through the Americas, Cuba laboured under the Batista regime, Batista was a former army officer who, despite the pretense of independence had essentially run Cuba as a puppet leader for the United States since 1940. Batista had revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor. Havana and other Cuban cities became a playground for the rich Americans who visited the island and in a manner that antagonized the Cuban people, the U.S. government used their influence to advance the interests of and increase the profits of the private American companies, which “dominated the island’s economy.”

In 1953 Che, was in Guatemala where a “socialist” experiment was taking place that had drawn thousands from all over Latin America,to see first hand the challenge to US imperialism. Che secured work as a doctor in a hospital and was introduced to Hilda Gadea, an exiled leader of the youth wing of the radical populist Peruvian movement. She introduced him to activists and leaders of various political groupings and gave him political works to study, including some works of Mao. It was during these events that Che encountered a number of Cuban exiles. They had been given asylum by the Arbenz regime and had participated in an attempted assault on July 26 1953 against the Moncada military barracks in Cuba. For the first time Che began to discover the struggle developing against the Cuban Batista regime.

Arbenz was later defeated and Che fled to Mexico and it was while Che was here that he initially met one of the leaders of the July 26th Movement fighting the Batista dictatorship in Cuba, Fidel Castro. Their first meeting was during 1955, after which Che eventually joined the Movement. Che was drawn to the July 26th Movement rather than the Cuban Communist Party due to the policies advocated by the Stalinist Communist parties in Latin America at the time.

Born the illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer, Castro had became involved in leftist anti-imperialist politics while studying law at university. Involving himself in armed rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he concluded that the U.S.-backed Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, who was widely seen as a dictator, had to be overthrown; to this end he led a failed armed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. When Che finally met Castro the immediate prospect of a struggle which was offered to him by Castro and his movement together with his “well-defined convictions” finally led Che to accept that “iron discipline” which he had previously rejected. Che subsequently threw himself into the struggle body and soul as preparations were undertaken to land in Cuba and begin the “revolution” during 1956. However, the group was arrested in Mexico and then released. From prison Che wrote to his parents: “My future is linked with that of the Cuban revolution. I either triumph with it or die there”.

His commitment to the cause of revolution was now his entire life. This spirit is indispensable to defeat capitalism and win a revolution. It is the quality in Che which those fighting to free the working class and exploited classes today need to emulate. As he engaged directly in revolutionary struggle his self-sacrifice was to become very evident. At the same time his ideas developed in a one-sided manner. He based himself on the peasantry and guerrilla struggle. This is one important aspect of the Marxist policy which applies in the rural areas where a peasant class exists. The other though is the question of the role of the working class in urban centres is also of decisive importance. This is true even in countries where the working class which form a relatively small section of the population.
The revolutionaries, 80 strong, led by Fidel, his brother Raul and Che finally landed in Cuba on a boat called the Granma. It arrived two days later than planned because the boat was heavily loaded which dashed any hopes for a coordinated attack with the llano wing of the movement so the band of rebels began to make their way into the Sierra Maestra mountains, southeastern Cuba. Three days after the trek began, Batista’s army attacked and killed most of the Granma participants – no more than twenty of the original eighty-two men survived the initial bloody encounters with the Cuban army and escaped into the mountains. The dispersed survivors, alone or in small groups, wandered through the mountains, looking for each other. Eventually, the men would link up again – with the help of peasant sympathizers – and would form the core leadership of the guerrilla army.

On 13 March 1957, a separate group of revolutionaries – the anticommunist Revolutionary Directorate (RD), composed mostly of students – stormed the Presidential Palace in Havana, attempting to assassinate Batista. The attack was suicidal. The RD’s leader, student Jose Antonio Echeverria, died in a shootout with Batista’s forces at the Havana radio station he had seized to spread the news of Batista’s death. The handful of survivors included Dr. Humberto Castello and Rolando Cubela who would later play roles in the revolution. Batista’s support among Cubans began to fade, former supporters either joining the revolutionaries or distancing themselves from Batista. American capitalists however continued their support.The regime resorted to often brutal methods to keep Cuba’s cities under government control. But in the Sierra Maestra mountains, Castro staged successful attacks on small garrisons of Batista’s troops. Che Guevara and Raúl Castro helped Fidel to consolidate his political control in the mountains, in addition, poorly armed peasants harassed Batista’s forces in the foothills and plains of Oriente Province. These peasents also provided direct military support to Castro’s main forces by protecting supply lines and by sharing intelligence. Ultimately, the mountains came under Castro’s control.


Batista finally responded to Castro’s efforts with an attack on the mountains called Operation Verano, known to the rebels as la Ofensiva. The army sent some 12,000 soldiers into the mountains. In a series of small skirmishes, Castro’s determined guerrillas defeated the Cuban army. In the Battle of La Plata in July 1958, Castro’s forces defeated an entire battalion, capturing 240 men while losing just 3 of their own. However, the tide nearly turned on 29 July 1958, when Batista’s troops almost destroyed Castro’s small army of some 300 men at the Battle of Las Mercedes. With his forces pinned down by superior numbers, Castro asked for, and received, a temporary cease-fire on 1 August. Over the next seven days, while fruitless negotiations took place, Castro’s forces gradually escaped from the trap. By 8 August, Castro’s entire army had escaped back into the mountains, and Operation Verano had effectively ended in failure for the Batista government. After the defeat of Batista’s ofensiva, Castro’s forces began their own offensive directing attacks on four fronts. Descending from the mountains with new weapons captured during the ofensiva and smuggled in by plane, Castro’s forces won a series of initial victories.

On 31 December 1958, the Battle of Santa Clara took place in a scene of great confusion. The city of Santa Clara fell to the combined forces of Che Guevara, Cienfuegos, Revolutionary Directorate (RD) rebels led by Comandante Rolando Cubela. News of these defeats caused Batista to panic. He fled Cuba for the Dominican Republic just hours later on 1 January 1959. Comandante William Alexander Morgan, leading RD rebel forces, continued fighting as Batista departed, and had captured the city of Cienfuegos by 2 January. Castro learned of Batista’s flight in the morning and immediately started negotiations to take over Santiago de Cuba. On 2 January, the military commander in the city, Colonel Rubido, ordered his soldiers not to fight, and Castro’s forces took over the city. The forces of Guevara and Cienfuegos entered Havana at about the same time. They had met no opposition on their journey from Santa Clara to Cuba’s capital. Castro himself arrived in Havana on 8 January after a long victory march.

Aftermath

Initially in an effort to court, or at least confuse, the American government, Castro installed anti-communists, Havard graduates and political moderates in the new regime. The radical opinions of Che were far from invisible though. The pretence of non-alignment could not last long. In 1960, using laws drafted by Guevara, revolutionary Cuba seized thousands of acres of private property, most notably that owned by American capitalists. The Soviet Union could only afford to maitain a safe distance from such a thorn in it’s opponents’ side for so long. Che had been sent on secret diplomatic missions to meet Soviet officials, after which Kremlin interaction with Cuba increased rapidly.

At this point radicals took centre stage. Moderates resigned who were levered from power, Fidel assumed the presidency and Che took charge of econonmic reform. The US orchestrated a campaign to oust Castro by demanding he call elections. The response was a massive demonstration of hundreds of thousands on May Day, of armed Cubans chanting, “Revolution- Yes – Elections -No.”
Within Cuba itself a massive radicalisation of workers, poor peasants and youth was taking place alongside a polarisation within the government. Vendors were selling fruit juice on the streets to raise money for the state and the revolution.
Kruschev, the Soviet leader, committed to buy the newly nationalised sugar exports which Kennedy had rejected. US-led arms and trade embargos followed. While uncertainty exists over the depth of KGB operations in Cuba, Eastern bloc military hardware and Soviet ballistic missiles were being shipped to Cuba within eighteen months of the revolution. The resultasnt nuclear face-off in October 1962 – the Cuban missile crisis – underlined how high the stakes were that Castro and his band of former mountain guerillas were now playing for.

More than anybody else in Cuba, Che now terrified US imperialism with what he was preaching. He anticipated the onslaught from the US government which would follow the adoption of more radical policies. He delivered a speech, ‘Social Projections of the Rebel Army”. Che proclaimed: “Our revolution is intimately linked to all the underdeveloped countries of Latin America. The revolution is not limited to the Cuban nation because it has touched the conscience of (Latin) America and seriously alerted the enemies of our peoples. The revolution has put the Latin American tyrants on guard because these are the enemies of popular regimes, as are the monopolistic foreign companies…… Today, all the people of Cuba are on a war footing and should remain so, so that the victory against the dictatorship is not a passing one but becomes the first step to the victory of (Latin) America.”
It was a call to revolutionaries throughout Latin America and a declaration of war against US interests. The US was adopting a policy aimed at strangling the measures being taken by the new regime. Castro retaliated to the trade embrago with a decree legalising the nationalisation of all foreign assets. In October, 383 large Cuban industries and the banks were taken over by the state. Capitalism was snuffed out. Soon after, Castro for the first time proclaimed the revolution in Cuba as “Socialist”.
Eventually though, in the face of increased pressure from the US and therefore increased reliance on the USSR a Stalinist bureacuracy manifested itself in Cuba with the resultant impositions on personal freedom. This has only worsened since the collapse of the USSR in the early 90s.

Che meanwhile reacted with hostility to what he saw in the Soviet Union. On one visit, invited to dinner in the apartment of a government official, he ate his meal on the finest imported French porcelain. During the dinner he turned to his host and sarcastically quipped: “So, the proletariat here eats off French porcelain, eh?” Although repelled by what he saw in the USSR and frustrated by the emerging bureaucratic methods and mistakes in Cuba, Che had no clear alternative. His central weakness, the lack of an understanding of the role of the working class in the revolution and in consciously planning and running society, now prevented him from developing a viable alternative policy. To this must be added his lack of any worked out explanation about the Stalinist states in the USSR and Eastern Europe. From a Marxist point of view, both of these deficiencies in his ideas would conspire against him. He correctly looked to extend the revolution beyond Cuba’s borders but failed to grasp how this could be done.

Conclusion

Che’s revolutionary yearnings took him first to the Congo and then to Bolivia where he ultimately met his death. The tragedy of Che was that his heroism was not linked with a fully rounded-out programme and ideas which could bring about the objective he aspired to – an international socialist revolution. The necessity of achieving this is more urgent than ever. It will be accomplished if today’s revolutionaries learn from the experience of Che Guevara’s struggle and emulate his audacity and self-sacrifice in the struggle to bring about a socialist society.


For me Che wasn’t, as Satre said the most the complete human being of his age, but most fundamentally he had the potential to be the most complete human being of all time. Amongst Che’s possesions when he died was some of the works of Leon Trotsky. Who knows what this heroic, courageous, passionate and beautiful Marxist revolutionary would have achieved, armed with the programme of Trotsky! Nevertheless he shall correctly, forever remain a symbol of struggle for Marxists and oppressed masses the world over.
As for Cuba four decades after Che’s death it is once again at a cross-roads. Against the background of a transformed international situation the threat of counter-revolution and capitalist restoration threatens. US imperialism has once again tightened its grip and is spearheading attempts to overthrow the communist regime and recapture a playground for business tycoons.

With the loss of favourable trading arrangements with the former USSR in 1990/91 Cuba was plunged into economic crisis. This has been compounded by the attempts of US imperialism to isolate Cuba with the imposition of a brutal trade embargo aimed at strangling the economy. Every US President since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 has attempted to take measures aimed at bringing about the downfall of the Castro regime and restoring capitalism. Castro (despite last year handing power to his brother) much to the irritation of the occupants of the White House, has survived nine US Presidents, each of which underestimated the massive support which existed in Cuba for the revolution – despite the absence of a genuine regime of workers’ democracy.

However, the past gains of the Cuban Revolution are now under threat as the prospect of capitalist restoration looms. The regime, confronting the loss of economic support from the former USSR and isolation, has been driven to adopt a new economic policy. This has opened it up to foreign investment and ownership of sections of the economy, legalised the circulation of the US dollar and begun to threaten the existence of a centrally planned economy.

The apparent defence by Castro of the revolution and “socialism” in the face of imperialist aggression from the USA has re-enforced support for Cuba in the minds of many youth and workers internationally during the last five years. For many Cuba is now seen as the only regime which is still defending socialism and fighting the threat of imperialist aggression and capitalist restoration. The international workers’ movement has a responsibility to oppose all aggression by imperialism and attempts to restore capitalism in Cuba as it must never be forgotten that Cuba has continued to set an example to the world of what can be achieved if an economy is organised according to people’s needs rather than corporate profits.

One of the first tasks of the revolution was to eradicate illiteracy, achieved within a year with the aid of hundreds of thousands of volunteers. Quality, free education is now universally available to all Cubans, and thousands of Cuban teachers are volunteering in dozens of countries around the world. The story is similar for health care. Before the revolution, the life expectancy of Cubans was only 58 years, the country’s 6300 doctors demanded exorbitant fees that placed treatment beyond the reach of most and there was only one hospital in rural Cuba. Today, world-class healthcare is universally free in Cuba and in 2008, Cuban life expectancy was 78 years — more comparable to developed countries than Cuba’s poor neighbours. In 2008, infant mortality in Cuba reached a new low of 4.7 per thousand births, well below the US rate of 6.4 per thousand, and the world average of 52. Cuba has more than 70,000 doctors — the most per capita in the world — and tens of thousands of these are volunteering in more than 80 countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia, the Solomon Islands and in East Timor, where there are currently over 300 Cuban doctors.

At the same time it is necessary to see what lies behind the defence of “socialism” by Castro and the Cuban bureaucracy. Thankfully a section of it is resisting attempts to move towards capitalist restoration. In part this is because it does not want to abandon the social gains conquered by the revolution and preside over the misery and chaos which a return to capitalism would mean in Cuba. But those sections of the leadership which are more inclined towards capitalist restoration are likely to be more assertive with the death of Castro who, at 85, is in ailing health.

The establishment of genuine workers’ councils, locally and nationally, which have control and management of the economy are essential. All representatives and officials must be elected, subject to recall by those they represent and receive only the average wage of a skilled worker.

There must be an ending of the one party regime which exists. This is often justified because of the threat to the revolution from imperialism. This threat is real but will not be averted by only allowing the party of the bureaucracy to organise itself. All parties which are opposed to imperialism and defend the idea of a socialist planned economy should be allowed to organise, conduct propaganda and stand candidates in elections. Independent trade unions need to be established.

The threat posed by imperialism and capitalist restoration in Cuba can only be avoided through the victory of the socialist revolution in Cuba and throughout Latin America and internationally. This would win the support of the working class in Latin America and put pressure on socialist leaders Morales and Chavez to establish a true socialist state in Bolivia and Venezuela respectively and to then establish a Socialist Federation of the continent. This would be the start of worldwide revolution and the foundation of Che’s dream, international socialism.

For further reading see “Che Guevara ~ Symbol of Struggle” by Tony Saunois of the Committee for a Worker’s International.

This is a written version of a lead off first given at a Llanelli & West Wales Socialist Party branch meeting on 22 May 2012.