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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Solidarity with striking Aslef tube drivers

Firstly merry Christmas to all who read this blog hope you all had a peaceful and restful Christmas. Mine was not great had a rotten cold all day just starting to feel better now. But enough about me today I’d like to send solidarity to striking Aslef tube drivers who are taking strike action today on Boxing Day over a long term dispute which they have been fighting with the boss’s of TFL for ages now. The bile some have been throwing at these workers today has been saddening selfish football fans who cant get to watch Arsenal West ham as they bottled the game and called it off forgetting there is still taxi’s, bus’s and overground rail pretty pathetic really and then there are those going to the sales. Such anger from them too how dare these workers go on strike don’t they know how much of a mess we’re in without going on strike too they tell me. Others tell me how inconvenienced they are and how much hassle these greedy drivers are causing. So greedy drivers is the nub of the issue it seems. Pushing aside the huge salaries the boss’s get into the 100’s of thousands a year plus expenses this miss’s many by. But tube fares go up in January will ordinary tube drivers see this increase put towards their pay? Like hell they will It is a interesting thing that many people would ratehrmoan about tube drivers taking strike action more so than the rising fares which happens every day and yet they still get on with the train system and don’t boycott the tubes at al. It’s an odd sense of workers lack of confidence and a huge lack of solidarity with our fellow workers which ultimately saddens me so often. This is not about greedy drivers this simply wants a decent level of pay for leaving your family at home to work. My view is if they boss’s want a tube service to run they should pay their staff a proper wage to do a job when they’d otherwise be at home enjoying Christmas like the rest of us. Its sheer ignorance to attack tube drivers as greedy when bankers and the likes of the Queen come in for no attacks at all. Tube drivers are skilled workers and go through huge amounts of training before even stepping inside a train and these people who want driver less trains well no thanks I may be a bit old fashioned but I’d rather like someone who knows what they are doing caring about their job and being paid well than a robot with no mind of its own driving the train I’m on. I always support workers entering into struggle as they are standing up for our class against the boss am who else is going to? Solidarity with Aslef workers defends them when you can and remember an injury to one is an injury to us all. Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Greek society collapsing under weight of austerity

As we all know Greece is being buried under the weight of austerity and no amount of headlines can convince me anymore how bad things are anymore there they clearly are beyond help from capitalism. Capitalism is unable to help Greek society any longer and must be ended in the founding country of democracy. Greece has been the poster boy of austerity from the word go and has been a huge huge failure. Greece’s debt is higher than ever and has not gone down despite austerity which is beyond many in the UK’s understanding. Recent news has astounded even me lots of heart ache for millions of ordinary Greek people middle and working class people with many more being thrown into poverty. In late November, Greece’s parliament agreed a draconian budget for 2013 that will see 9.4bn euros more worth of spending cuts. In return, EU ministers have agreed to a new 44bn euros ‘bailout’ for Greece. Beyond the headline figures, the people of Greece are suffering seemingly endless hardship, which is set to get worse. Eleni Mitsou, from Xekinima (CWI in Greece) describes the terrible human and social toll of the disastrous austerity policies. Socialistworld.net Official unemployment is at 26% but, in reality, it is around 30-35% of the working population. Official youth unemployment is at 58% and official unemployment amongst women is at 30%. Last May, the government cut the budget (the 2012 budget) for mental health to half. As a result, mental health workers have not been paid for about 6 months. Although most of them realise that they will never get the money the state owes them, they have not quit their jobs because there are no job alternatives. They hope they will get paid next year. There are young doctors that volunteer in hospitals; they work without getting paid, hoping that someone will notice them and hire them in a private clinic, or practice. And this is something also done by young lawyers and young journalists etc. The health case system is being dismantled. Many people, particularly pensioners, are not getting all the medicines they need because they have to pay for it (they used to get medicines for free or very cheap) and they cannot afford to buy them. We have a young Xekhinima comrade who has multiple sclerosis. After the "changes" in the health care system, she had to cut back on her therapy. She cannot get the medicine she needs every month but now only every two months. During last summer, newspapers published a letter written by health care workers from a psychiatric hospital on Leros island. It was addressed to the Minister of Public Health, asking him to raise the budget for the hospital because the inmates are undernourished. Most of their food is donated by the local community. Undernourishment, which was non-existent three years ago, is now prevalent in schools in some areas. Children faint in school because they have not eaten for a couple of days or have eaten very little. Across Greece 250,000 meals are distributed every day by the Church and the local councils. But still needs are far from covered. There are parents who leave their children in orphanages because they cannot support them. The number of children in these institutions has almost doubled since the beginning of the crisis. There are now 40,000 homeless people in Athens, whereas last year they were 30,000 and before the crisis, three years ago, they were 2,000-3,000. In 2012, electricity was cut in 260,000 homes and small businesses / shops because people could not afford to pay the electricity bills. In 80,000 homes and small shops electricity was never reconnected. During October and November in almost all blocks of flats (even in middle class and richer parts of Athens) meetings were called for people to decide if they would turn on the central heating during the winter or not. In one comrade’s block of flats, for example, the decision was to turn it on for just one hour every evening. 3,000 suicides Since the beginning of the economic crisis in Greece, close to 3,000 people have committed suicide. A few months ago, a 50 year old man pushed his 90 year old mother off a roof and then followed her because they were in dept and did not have enough money to survive. Recently, a farmer in Crete committed suicide because this was the only way to save his family’s house - it was threatened with being confiscated and his family ending up homeless. The farmer saw this was the only way to save his children from accumulated debt. There are very large numbers of people mentally depressed. The whole society is under extreme stress. Many people cannot sleep at night because of the sudden and severe reductions in wages they cannot cope any more with mortgages, loans and standard family expenses. Greek society is in shock. The collapse of living standards has happened suddenly and violently. These stark facts alone are enough reason to fight the governing political parties and their cuts policies and to struggle for a left government with socialist policies to transform society. With extracts from www.socialistworld.net

Friday, 21 December 2012

Spain, property bubble explosion and the aftermath

I watched a BBC documentary this week by Paul Mason one of the BBC’s better political correspondents on Newsnight this week. The show took you right from when Spain had its first democratic elections after the fall of Franco right up to the present day post 2008 housing crash where all of Spain’s huge property bubble went through the floor in a spectacular way. Spain was rocked to its very foundations when the sub prime mortgage effect of property in Spain crashing and huge debts were mounted up when people simply could not pay back the interest let alone the re payments. Thousands upon thousands of workers in the construction industry were thrown out of work into poverty those who had stable jobs earning a decent wage in construction found themselves right up against it and now Spain unemployment stands at 25 % and a lot higher for young people who have felt this harder than most. The biggest crisis in Spain is currently the housing crisis where forced evictions are occurring regularly. I wonder myself if our comrades in Spain could take a leaf out of our American comrades who used the occupy movement to defend families being forced out of their homes by big banks. In recent weeks Amaia Barakaldo Egaña climbed onto a chair and jumped from the fourth floor of her building. This was the second high-profile death related to mortgage foreclosure in only a few weeks. The outstanding debt default which led to the eviction was less than € 214,000. José Miguel Domingo, 53, was found dead in the courtyard of his home in the neighbourhood of Chana in the city of Granada. Joseph had a loan for 240,000 euros. A man also jumped from a balcony in Valencia before being evicted. He was hospitalized with serious injuries. They are the last three known cases of a social drama that is taking place in the Spanish state, a graphic reflection of the barbarism of the system and the crisis of capitalism. Every day of the first half of this year (2012) 500 evictions were executed in the Spanish state, a social drama that overflowed into a people’s revolt with the second suicide in 15 days. These tragic cases have caused widespread shock and anger. In Madrid, about 50 people threatened with eviction for non-payment of their mortgages were sleeping rough in a camp in front of the main branch of Bankia in Celenque Square, near the Puerta del Sol One of these protestors said: "People are extremely angry over the issue of evictions" In Barakaldo where Egaña Amaia lived thousands, 8,000 according to organizers, marched directly following her death, under the slogan "No to unemployment. No to evictions. Yes to Social protection.” During the march, protesters chanted slogans against the banks and financial institutions daubed "murderers" on their windows. Paint cans were thrown at the bank ‘La Caixa’ where Amaia had her mortgage. The demonstrators chanted slogans: "Not a suicide, a homicide," "They have the money; we have the dead", "No eviction without response" or "Stop financial terrorism". The public reaction has shaken both the PP and PSOE and they have been forced to be seen to be ‘doing something’ about the issue, entering emergency negotiations to agree on a “humanitarian” bill to stop executions in very limited extreme circumstances. It was the pressure from social movements and the street that has obliged them. PSOE particularly must be condemned particularly for its opportunism. During last PSOE government issue was repeatedly raised IU / ICV and measures were put forward to end the drama of evictions. These measures were repeatedly rejected by PP and PSOE. The Police Trade Union (SUP), adopted a semi-revolutionary decision in response to the movement. They said they would legally support agents who find themselves unable to execute evictions. It also requested that the Government take measures to stop the evictions. Other police unions branded the eviction orders as "barbaric" and "very difficult to implement." The Basque Police union, Erne, also said that the organization will support and provide legal defence to members who refuse to participate in evictions. Judges also denounced usury, unjust enrichment and abuse by banks. A judge said: "Judges are not the mere appliers of the letter of the law." The reactions of the police and the judges in the face of the protests are very significant. The PP policy of cuts and attacks on living standards of workers is reaping a whirlwind of opposition. These cracks are the first to be seen in the state machinery. Clearly many in the police and judiciary have no desire to continue with the policies of the PP and its consequences. The TV channel La Sexta has shown images of police actions in which they resemble an occupation army. They are seen going from house to house throwing families out of their homes. The feeling of great injustice is a very bitter taste in the mouths of millions in Spain. Even the Queen daytime television presenters, Ana Rosa Quintana, dared to call for civil disobedience! Because of this social pressure, in Euskadi, Kutxa and Caja Laboral had to immediately suspend all evictions, even before the PP government announced their measures. Although clearly insufficient, the temporary measures that the PP government have announced can be considered a victory since they would never have been implemented without pressure from below. The anti-evictions movement also shows that a sustained and determined movement can force the government to back down. However, the fight should not stop here. The conditions of the two year moratorium are very restrictive and the problem is far from solved. The consequences of evictions and the opposition will continue. Mortgage law and the law of civil procedure will be untouched. People who are evicted in Spain face abusive default interest charges and court costs. As well as losing their homes they also have to keep paying the mortgage even though the bank can sell their property! The PP Economic minister, Luis de Guindos claims that people have to rely on the Banking Code and the willingness of the banks to follow ‘good practice.’ Some hope! There is one law for the working class and another for bankers and big business. Since 2008 bankers and politicians have ruined building societies and banks yet have received multi-million euro payoffs while in the same time period half a million working class families have lost their homes in Spain. Perhaps the saddest aspect of Amaia case was that she was a PSOE member along with her husband and a former councillor. A party with ’Socialist’ in its name should offer a vision of the future and have a programme to fight the injustices of capitalism. However, these tasks are on the shoulders the left real. Our challenge is to completely stop ALL EVICTIONS and nationalise the banks and use their enormous wealth and empty housing stock to ensure the right to adequate housing through social rents for all workers and their families. Second part of this post taken from www.socialistworld.net the homepage for the Committee for workers international CWI

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Desperation crime on the rise in austerity Britain

As the economic crisis deepens for many people desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve blogged about this before but it’s becoming more and more common. There are concerns that growing numbers of people, including young mothers, are stealing out of desperation, according to South Yorkshire Police. Its officers say shoplifters increasingly appear to be targeting essential items such as groceries, rather than luxury goods. There were almost 350,000 cases of shoplifting recorded by police in the UK last year and that figure has remained relatively steady over recent years. However South Yorkshire Police and a number of other forces say there have been marked increases in some more deprived areas. In Rotherham crime has increased by 28% in the last 12 months and the town's district commander believes that rise has been fuelled by the economic downturn. Baby food "What we are seeing is a small number of individuals - particularly young mums - who are committing crimes to feed their children," said Ch Supt Jason Harwin. "If you look at powdered milk or baby food it's quite expensive. "These are individuals that have had no dealings with the police in their lives and this is the first offence they've ever committed." Some people are getting so desperate these petty crimes are taking place” This is not people turning to crime for luxury goods or to make money out of these are people simply stealing to survive in society. A society which has abandoned them. No politician cares, no local authority cares, the police don’t care and others down their street may be taken in by the scroungers rhetoric the media and the government have embarked on to demonise those who receive benefits. Despite many who do receive benefits being in work just to make ends meet as their pay is so poor. This is the cruel cold reality of British capitalism making the poorest in society pay for a crisis not of their making. This is not just because we have a bunch of nasty Tories who don’t know what they are doing either. They may well appear to give that impression but believe me this goes far deeper. This is a crisis in capitalism and on a global scale. People who have had to steal to live will be criminalised for being poor. In the same report it mentions that this will have an affect on business and shops profits that is the real agenda here not that poor people are going hungry or can’t feed their babies but that shops are losing money. This is the true face of capitalism right before our very eyes. It’s time to end this system once and for all. 2013 will be a hell of a lot worse for many we could see a explosion of anger we don’t know at this stage which way that will manifest itself but I’m not ruling out anything. The anger is growing it is bubbling beneath the surface waiting just waiting. We as socialists feel that the best way to fight back is to join the labour movement and the organised working class to exert its power to stop austerity by starting with a 24 hour general strike with the threat of more if the go don’t back off. Quite simply a change is needed not just in government because labour who would likely come to power in the event of the government falling would be no better it would slow the cuts down but would not end the pain or misery at all. It’s time to fight for a workers government, a socialist government who will reverse the cuts and help people back to work using the 800 billion stored in the banks of big business sitting idle as they refuse to invest as do not see a profitable outlet. A 50% levee on this putting people into public works building new truly affordable council homes collecting the lost 120 billion in evaded tax would go some way to help. Of course this would just be the start, a very small start but a crucial one. We live in what is one of the wealthiest nations on the planet why do things have to be this way? They don’t. Let’s fight for change, socialist change today.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The minority movement, learning the lessons for today

Tonight we had our last socialist party meeting of the year and ended in traditional fashion with our annual Christmas lectures delivered in excellent terms by Jim Horton one of our ex full timers and very experienced in Marxist and trade union history. This year our discussion was on the minority movement of the 1920’s the rise and the fall of the British Communist party and the lessons for today’s especially given our own role in the National Shops Stewards Network which although is not a decisive factor in the labour movement is growing in numbers and influence all the time. The first part of the twentieth century was a stormy period in the relations between the working class and the bosses. It was when the bosses tried to make the working class pay for the failings of their own system. But it was also when the working class built new organisations - both trade union and political. Stirred into that pot was the revolution in Russia in 1917, which had a profound inspiring effect on the working class worldwide, including on Britain. Later developments in Russia, the rise of Stalinism, in turn had a baleful effect on some of those new organisations. At the end of the nineteenth century, workers were pouring into the towns and cities of Britain during a period of rapid industrialisation. Unskilled workers organised into new unions outside the old craft unions. The employers aggressively attacked the working class as they scrabbled for profits with their rivals in Germany and the USA. Trotsky, writing where is Britain Going? In 1925 described the nature of those times: "... a state of internal want of confidence and ferment among the upper classes and a profound molecular process of an essentially revolutionary character among the working class..." Taff Vale One of the most notorious of these attacks on the working class was the Taff Vale Railway case of 1901, when the railway union was sued for losses after a strike. The bosses were awarded the equivalent today of £2 million in damages - effectively ruining the union. The fact that the bosses were using their own courts to seek revenge on the trade unions for organising strikes spurred many workers to discuss the need for political representation. In the 1906 general election the Tories were defeated by the Liberals. 29 Labour Representation Committee MPs were elected, along with 14 miners' MPs. Under this pressure the Trade Disputes Act of 1906 reversed the Taff Vale decision. But the working class still had to fight tooth and nail. The period of 1911-1913 saw a whole series of battles by the miners, railway and other transport workers. It was a period which Trotsky described as having the "vague shadow of revolution" hanging over it. The First World War, when the British ruling class attempted to cow its economic rivals, at huge cost to the working class, resulted in a labour shortage. And the bosses were forced to give some concessions in sickness and unemployment benefits. This had the effect of reinforcing the conservative tendencies of some of the leaders of the trade union movement. After all - if the bosses are giving concessions, all you need to do is to appeal to them to act reasonably. But most of the working class had other ideas. There was a huge strike wave between 1917 and 1920, most notably 'Red Clydeside', when the Clydeside engineers, led by the Clyde Workers' Committee came out for a 40-hour week. This was one of the early developments of a shop stewards' movement and where the government showed their true nature by sending in tanks and troops to try to break the strike. They were terrified of the idea of a 'triple alliance', of a united struggle of transport workers, railway workers and miners. That was the background to the formation of the Communist Party in Britain in 1920, led by hardened industrial militants like Willie Gallagher of Red Clydeside and Tom Mann. As those trade union and political organisations were being forged, the post-First World War boom was coming to an end. There were two million unemployed by June 1921. The miners were locked out in March 1921, after rejecting pay cuts. When they appealed to the Triple Alliance for support, the right-wing trade union leaders refused, on a day which became known as 'Black Friday'. This showed the need for the left to organise in the trade unions, making demands such as the democratic control of trade union officials. In 1924 the first congress of the Minority Movement was held, with 271 delegates representing 200,000 workers. It was led by Communist Party members but it also involved non-members like miners' leader AJ Cook who had left the Communist Party in 1921. At least some of the CP leaders saw the necessity of not only helping to mobilise workers against the bosses' attacks but also to challenge the muddled ideas of some of the left-wingers. Stalinism Unfortunately the Minority Movement was organising at a time when Stalin's ideas were developing in Russia - the idea of 'socialism in one country', abandoning the idea of international revolution. After Red Friday in 1925, when the government announced a subsidy to the mines, the TUC should have prepared the working class for a mighty struggle. That was certainly what the capitalists were doing, by buying time to prepare. Instead the CP ended up giving uncritical support to the "lefts" and eventually the TUC itself. The Minority Movement was still growing, with a nearly 700-strong conference in 1925 and a special conference to prepare for the 1926 general strike. After the TUC surrendered and called off the general strike, the CP leaders confessed that they had not realised what sort of a role the "lefts" could play. They were disappointed that the lefts had "turned out to be windbags". In 1927 the TUC instructed trades councils to disaffiliate from the Minority Movement, which effectively died shortly afterwards. By 1931 Trotsky referred to the CP as a "negligible sect". But there are rich lessons to learn from this period. Workers are often prepared to struggle but they need worthy leadership. And you have to fight to build that leadership - not just in the tops of the trade unions but leaders in every workplace and at every level of the trade unions. • for a more detailed account and analysis of the general strike, see 1926 General Strike, Workers Taste Power, by Peter Taaffe. With thanks to Alison Hill, industrial editor of the socialist

Happy fracking Christmas

This Christmas fracking is back on the menu. The profiteering exercise of extracting shail gas from rocks is back and ready to rake in profit for the capitalists. Fracking in Britain was suspended after earthquakes were caused around Blackpool by fracking operations, but the moratorium soon ends. In the US, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake occurred in Oklahoma, while a Geological Survey report concludes that: most, "if not all of the earthquakes [in the USA] since August 2001 have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater" in fracking. 60% of Britain's countryside could potentially be exploited for shale gas as Osborne looks to Texas - which produces more CO2 emissions than all but the top six countries in the world. Texas has 48,000 jobs relying on fracking. Osborne intends to water down Britain's commitments to cutting emissions and threatens renewable energy programmes, which, if properly pursued, would create as many jobs as fracking does in the USA, while saving the environment rather than wrecking it. Eight million gallons of water and carcinogenic chemicals are used to frack a well, then disposed of deep in the earth, where they contaminate groundwater and poison the surroundings. Methane released into groundwater by fracking rises through fissures and water wells where it can be ignited at the tap. US reports claim over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas of gas drilling as well as cases of "sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water." David Kennedy, who heads the statutory body advising the government on meeting its carbon reduction goals, severely criticised Osborne's announcement, saying the dash for gas through fracking, "would not be sensible, or compatible with meeting carbon budgets and the 2050 target" and would damage investment in renewable. The UK target is to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, compared with 1990 levels. David Cameron consequently vetoed Kennedy's appointment to a post heading the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Osborne's government puts energy company profits before the welfare of the planet. This is the cheapest way for gas companies to find energy. It’s time to end the lie that the con-dems are the greenest government yet it’s time to end this all for profit motive and end the rule of this illegitimate government who have no mandate to govern even less to tear up our environment for their friends pockets. with extracts tkane from the excellent article in this weeks socialist on fracking by pete mason.

American school shooting more questions for society

With the tragic gunning down of 27 odd people many children in America last Friday the media has gone into over drive looking to blame the gunman for being unhinged unstable or worse. Yet the facts many commentators are missing and the elephant in the room is the figure of 300 million Americans own a fire arm in the United States this is a huge market for profit making and any laws or tighter controls on gun laws will be met with resistance by gun manufactures. Charlie Wolf an out spoken right wing journalist from America but now working over here and regularly appears on BBC 5 live on the paper review session in the evenings was quick to get his voice out saying this massacre was nothing to do with Americas gun culture and the right to bear arms. I beg to differ I’d point towards the untold social situation the system which drives people to mental illness and desperation the system of capitalism which mess’s with your mind day in day out the constant drive to conform to be a wage labourer and sell your labour power just to exist. It puts lots of untold pressures on individuals. I don’t know much about the gun man he may well have had under lying issues Just like with the poor nurse who took her life last week at the hospital who was looking after the Duchess of Cambridge who apparently took her life after taking a prank call from two Australian DJ’s we don’t know if she had underlying issues either whether that be down to stress of work family life or social issues including poor pay and Christmas coming up all could have lead to a breaking point. Capitalism is a system which looks to drive down workers wages force you to crave work just to live and yet it greets you with poor pay and awful working conditions more often than not. Gun laws are something I have always thought are dangerous allowing mass’s to own guns always means they could end up in the wrong hands. Gun shootings although rare when do happen are tragic and we must as Marxists understand the under currents of what drives situations such as these to appear. It is not as simple as capitalist commentators would have you believe it is just down to one sick minded individual or someone who has just lost it. They may well have but we have to ask ourselves why this is and what society is failing them on. SO let’s not jump to conclusions blame individuals but look at their social circumstances and look to rehabilitate people who do have genuine troubles not just lock them up and forget about them. For me prison does not work. Locking people up then hoping they’ll behave and not reoffend are hopeful at best stupid at worst. I believe in fully funding rehabilitation projects are introducing people who have committed crimes to the community. But we also have to think why crime exists and who it benefits. Crime can pay as much as we don’t like to think so drug money can be lucrative for those who own the means of production yet those n the sharp end get punished for falling into a trap of poverty and desperation. It’s time to end this ill system of capitalism and plan a future to meet people needs so crime and gun crime is no longer an issue.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

From Marikana to a new workers party in South Africa

The recent determined struggle of South African miners, who have braved bloody repression by state forces, has created political shockwaves throughout the country. The intensification of working class struggles has exposed not only the ruthlessness of the capitalist system but also the rottenness of the ruling ANC government and its allies in the trade union bureaucracy. Weizmann Hamilton of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Socialist Party's sister party in South Africa, spoke to the Socialist about how these developments have propelled the beginnings of a new workers' party with a socialist programme, onto the political agenda. There cannot be any question about the historical significance of the recent strike movement of the miners; specifically, the massacre that took place on 16 August at Marikana when 34 Lonmin workers were mowed down by police. It is no exaggeration to say that that single event constitutes an historical faultline in the post-Apartheid history of South Africa (SA). The impact of the event on the consciousness of the entire population, but especially the working class, will determine the country's future political course. Because what was revealed in those 300 seconds of gunfire - the biggest atrocity in the country since the 1960 Sharpeville massacre - was the role played by all the key political and social forces inside the country. It clarified in the minds of the working class the class character of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government and its relationship to the mining bosses and the role of the state and the trade union leadership. All of these things were laid bare by the massacre in a way that no other event could have, ie it sharply posed the nature of the tasks and the challenges that face the working class in SA. One thing is clear, the massacre was the result of a plan that had been thought through by the state, together with the bosses, and carried out as a premeditated act. It is inconceivable that the decision could have been taken to try and drown the strike in blood without it having been authorised politically by the tops of government. In that sense the administration of president Jacob Zuma has the blood of the Marikana workers on its hands. The manner in which the trade union leadership of Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and, principally, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), has reacted to these events, has reinforced the conclusions that workers had been drawing prior to the massacre about what the NUM had been turned into. There is a widespread understanding - even expressed in the media by capitalist commentators - that the NUM has revealed itself as a 'baas boy' union, ie a union of the bosses. There is a widespread contempt for the leadership of the NUM. Everything they did subsequent to the massacre was to reinforce those conclusions. The historical tragedy of these events is that the NUM - the most powerful and influential union, whose history confirmed the most militant traditions of Cosatu - was revealed to be the conduit through which everything that is rotten about the trade union movement has been channelled. The NUM leadership has degenerated to such a level that even after the Lonmin workers, despite the massacre, courageously continued the struggle, forcing management to capitulate into conceding a wage settlement ranging from 11% to 22% - at the highest end, not far off the miners' original demand for R12,500, the NUM leadership could not bring themselves to acknowledge that achievement. On the contrary, they denounced the agreement! The NUM general secretary, Frans Baleni, earns R100,000 (£7,000) a month from the subs of his members and yet he had the temerity to go to the workers and say to them that the demand for R12,500 a month is unrealistic and that it will do damage to the economy! 'Intolerable' In the first instance, the workers had risen up in support for a demand for a decent living wage. And given the substantial profits of the platinum bosses and throughout the mining industry, then the demand for R12,500 a month was entirely realisable. But it was the fact that the miners rose up against the entire arrangement for the perpetuation of their own slavery; that is the most significant aspect of the strike. They were also rising up against the authority of the NUM as the principal instrument for the maintenance of their own subjugation by the mining bosses. This was why the strike was 'intolerable' to the mining bosses and the state and why they deemed it necessary to try and crush the strike in blood. But of course it has had the entirely opposite effect because, now, the NUM is hated beyond the platinum mining industry. With that this has led to a precipitous decline in the authority of Cosatu itself. Cosatu and the NUM leadership has completely failed to appreciate the historical significance of what took place on 16 August. Instead they have attempted to restore the NUM as the recognised organisation of the miners. They even went to the extent of actually organising a "hands off the NUM" demo on 27 October in Rustenburg to, in the words of the Cosatu president, S'dumo Dlamini, 'reclaim Rustenburg out of the hands of counter-revolutionaries'! So against who was this demo being directed at? The workers themselves and, of course, the DSM. Strike committees Fortunately the clashes between the mineworkers and the Cosatu officials were not as bad as we had feared. Nonetheless, it was a humiliating experience for Cosatu's leadership. For a long time they were prevented by their own former members (miners in Anglo Platinum) from getting to the stadium for a rally and could only hold it under the protection of the police! Similarly, when Cosatu's general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi attempted to address thousands of striking miners at the Orkney Mine in Klerksdorp he was chased away. He later blamed, falsely, the DSM for this humiliation. This is the beginning of the end of the NUM in the platinum industry and in the whole of the mining industry but it is also potentially the beginning of the unravelling of Cosatu itself. This is not a certainty but if the leadership does not change course, combined with its failure to address the critical class issue in SA and in particular its determination to remain inside the trap of the Tripartite Alliance (ie the ANC, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party), then it is likely that it will completely disintegrate. The SACP reaction to the Marikana uprising was to say that the workers were being misled by a 'Pondoland vigilante mafia'. In other words workers are incapable of comprehending their own oppression and exploitation! There are a whole host of 'conspirators' who the Cosatu, NUM and SACP leaders identify for the Marikana uprising. They blamed the Chamber of Mines for creating Amcu, attributing the strikes as arising out of rivalry with the NUM. In fact, AMCU is the accidental beneficiary of the collapse of authority of the NUM. Some workers have joined AMCU but now have misgivings because AMCU does not have a radical alternative programme to the NUM and because the main leadership in the mines is the independent workers' strike committees. It is these committees where a framework for the embryo of a new trade union federation exists. As far as the DSM is concerned the committees need to become the repositories for the restoration of the militant traditions of the working class in the trade union movement. The DSM's role in developing workers' struggles Our role is, partly, to be the memory of the working class so that it can retie the knot of history between the old traditions that created Cosatu in the struggle to defeat apartheid, and the new tasks facing the working class today. Last year we took the initiative of calling an Assembly for Workers' Unity (AWU). Its purpose was to face one of the most important challenges in front of the working class. There are three main theatres of struggle. One is the protests against corruption and poor service delivery, which are growing in intensity and frequency. There have been some 11,000 protests over poor service delivery this year. Then there has been an enormous increase in workplace action among organised workers. And then there are protests by students against debt and academic and financial exclusions, in particular over the unaffordability of tuition fees and of student accommodation for working class students. There is a permanent class war taking place along these fronts in the country. However, there is no coordination of the service delivery protests and even of the workplace disputes and no coordination of the student strikes. The student formations have become a mirror image of their political counterparts because they operate as the student wings of the ANC and PAC (Pan African Congress) etc. They have become training academies for the new post-Apartheid elite. At their conferences you see luxury cars in the parking lots. And yet these formations are meant to be representative of the working class! So our approach was to encourage the coordination of struggles within each theatre and across them. This is the concept behind AWU. The AWU pulled in organisations like the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, and invited the Socialist Civic Movement in Mpumalanga, and others, to promote a common programme and platform of action, for example a single day of action for service delivery protests starting in the regions, then provincial and finally on a national basis. We didn't get the response we were hoping for but nonetheless it laid down a marker for future struggles. And it is this same approach that we developed among the striking mineworkers. Our first tactic was to bring together all the efforts of the struggling miners; because up to that point the Lonmin workers were protesting on their own, as were the Anglo Platinum workers. There was a common determination to struggle but no common demands and without any coordination. So we did the obvious thing and encouraged the establishment of strike committees and on a coordinated basis to campaign, firstly, for a general strike across Rustenburg, and then to call for a wider general strike of the miners within the country. At the same time we promoted the idea of unity between the working class communities surrounding the mining areas and the strikers. In Limpopo we have had great success in getting the communities on board not only to support the mineworkers but also the idea of a mass workers' party, which was endorsed at a mass meeting of 5,000. The current 'balance of forces' in the mining industry As far as the recent strike wave is concerned, most areas have returned to work. The only mine still out on strike is Bokoni in Limpopo, where the key members of the local strike committee, (including the chair of the national strike committee) are in jail at the moment. Last week we were able to bring local Cosatu structures on board and stage a protest over the detention of the strike committee. At Anglo Platinum the return to work agreement was signed by the strike committee which is highly significant as officially no provision exists for such recognition in the collective bargaining arrangement in the mine. Although they didn't achieve their demand for R16,500 a month wage they did receive a R4,500 and 'incentive' (partly a loan) which breaks the 'no work, no pay' principle. In reality they have been paid for going on strike! The bosses have also agreed to bring forward pay negotiations which weren't scheduled until May 2013 and to withdraw the threat of mass dismissals. The mining bosses have been forced to recognise the reality of the change in the balance of power in the industry. It represents a defeat for the state and for the mining bosses and for the Cosatu and NUM bureaucracies. The bosses are hinting at massive retrenchments in industry in 2013 so the battles lines are being drawn for a new wave of struggle. There is now a breathing space for the workers to coordinate and develop their organisations and their strategic and tactical plans. Building a new mass workers' party on a socialist programme The strike has elevated the question of a political alternative for the workers firmly and irrevocably onto the agenda. The idea of a new mass workers' party is now part of the political discourse inside the country. Many commentators recognise that this demand has been injected into the political situation by the DSM. The DSM is now taking the initiative to take matters forward. On 15 December plans to launch the new mass workers' party will be announced by the DSM and the miners' national strike committee. Already, at a meeting in Limpopo, 5,000 workers endorsed the call for a mass workers' party. A press conference, preceded by a rally of the mineworkers, will proclaim the political independence of the working class from the tripartite alliance in which they have been incarcerated. The new party will target the 2014 elections. The press conference will happen the day before the ANC's conference, the run up to which has exposed sharp factional conflicts and is likely to prove to be the most divisive conference certainly since 2007 and the eviction of Thabo Mbeki as president. The ANC's authority is in such decline that the strategists of capitalism are encouraging the historically-white liberal opposition Democratic Alliance to "change its demographics", ie elect more blacks to leadership positions to give it greater appeal to black workers, as well as other political alternatives. A resolution proclaiming a new mass workers' party has been discussed by all the miners' shaft committees. The idea will be to launch the new party on 23 March 2013, coinciding with the Sharpeville massacre anniversary. Before that there will be various events, rallies, marches, and a recall campaign of councillors so that they can be substituted with real fighters from the new party. It will be a broad formation with provision for the participation of existing organised political entities. We will be approaching a number of organisations to be part of this process. We are confident that such a new party will fill the political void that has long existed on the left in SA. This will be the crowning achievement of the Marikana uprising. Marikana Commission of Inquiry According to Jacob Zuma the motivation for the establishment of the Marikana commission into the massacre is 'to establish the truth', because no one, apparently, knows why it happened! Prior to the massacre on 16 August, ten people had died at Marikana. Consequently, the workers took the decision to relocate away from the mine and to go to a nearby koppie (small hill) and demanded that management should come and discuss with them. The forces of the state had prepared by portraying the miners who carried traditional weapons as being provocatively armed. A radio interview on 15 August, between management, the NUM and AMCU, publicly stated that negotiations would take place the following day. When AMCU turned up management was nowhere to be found. Later management said that all negotiations were off. It is clear that the decision had been taken overnight to end negotiations and that the strike was going to have to be crushed. Three thousand police were deployed from the tactical response unit with military firepower. Armoured vehicles were deployed, helicopters with snipers and reels of razor wire to trap the workers. Incidentally, the majority of the 34 dead miners were not killed at the spot shown on the TV footage when police opened fire, they were killed elsewhere. Some had bullet wounds to the head suggesting executions. Evidence has also been tampered with. What revelations have so far emerged at the commission completely confirms what workers knew. It is clear that the tops of the ANC and NUM regarded the situation as an 'intolerable' defiance of state authority. The ANC's Cyril Ramaphosa, in particular, is implicated in the massacre. Beforehand he had described the strike as an 'act of criminality'. Ramaphosa is the former general secretary of the NUM who sits on the board of directors of Lonmin (he has a 9% share in the company paid for by Lonmin itself!). Ramaphosa's reputation has been tarnished irreparably. This is a man who was once a leading worker militant who has become one of the world's richest individuals. The role of the commission with its four-month long investigation is partly to take the sting out the situation but is also to cover up the government's culpability. It will probably result in some naming of scapegoats, in all likelihood junior level police officers. The overwhelming mission is to ensure that the government is not held responsible. Even in advance of the commission's outcome Cosatu's leadership has confirmed its political support for president Jacob Zuma. Marikana represents the biggest atrocity since Sharpeville and yet Cosatu has not organised a protest but instead tried to rehabilitate the discredited NUM, whose shop stewards at Lonmin, incidentally, have their offices next to the police station! This article was first published in issue 746 of the socialist the weeky paper from the socialist party of England and Wales detailing workers struggles at home and around the world and pointing the way forward.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Have British workers lost their fight ?

The National Shops Stewards network and the socialist party answered brilliantly to the calls by Observer journalist Nick Cohen who claims British workers have lost their fight. This is just not true and the NSSN fantastically replied to him this week with this reply. Dear editor Nick Cohen (“The British have no fight in them any more” – 9/12/12) would have us believe that the resistance of working people is next to non-existent in the face of the ConDem austerity offensive. Nick hasn’t been the first with this pessimistic view. In November 2010, on the eve of George Osborne’s first Autumn Statement which set out his initial cuts target of £81 billion, Jeremy Paxman asked TUC leader Brendan Barber on Newsnight, “Why aren’t British workers like those in Europe?” Paxman was contrasting the TUC’s modest 3,000-strong rally that day with the mass protests and strikes that were raging across Europe. However, between that Autumn Statement and Osborne’s latest effort last week, we’ve seen the greatest mobilisation of working and middle-class people for decades. Nick briefly mentions the student movement at the end of 2010 but this was a mass movement of hundreds and thousands of young people. On March 26th 2011, well over half a million marched on arguably the largest union-led demonstration in this country’s history and on November 30th last year we saw possibly the biggest single day of strike action since the 1926 general strike as public sector workers took action to defend their pensions. That day could and should have been the beginning of the type of concerted and co-ordinated industrial action that could have forced the government to retreat on pensions in the same way that they’ve U-turned over 40 times from culling badgers to the pasty tax. But because the cuts have been so unrelenting, millions of workers still see the need for the unions to strike together to stop the austerity programme that is destroying our lives. This Tuesday, the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) is lobbying the TUC General Council to call on the union leaders to name the date for a national strike of workers across the public and private sectors – effectively a 24 hour general strike. The NSSN believes that such joint action would be hugely popular and well supported. The strikes that are almost a daily occurrence but rarely reported by the media, from the victorious the construction electricians early this year to the Tesco delivery drivers who are currently on all-out strike in Doncaster, show that actually the willingness to fight is absolutely present amongst workers in this country. PCS has announced a strike ballot early next year, we call on the other unions to join them. Rob Williams NSSN national chair www.shopstewards.net Sign the petition! It will assemble from 8.30am at Congress House in Great Russell Street. Get involved with the network! Check out more info updates and events at www.shopstewards.net And follow on twitter and facebook @NSSN_anticuts

Monday, 10 December 2012

Busting the myths on benefits

As attacks and smears get harsher and faster on the poorest in society we are hearing more and more about the work shy, feckless poor, lazy benefit scroungers and much much worse being fed to us daily by the capitalists who control the media who daily play on stories of benefit cheats and how dare this person down your road be getting more for sitting at home and being paid for it while you slog away at work getting paid little. This is a complete lie of course benefits are not generous in this country at all and if anything are a very tough way to live. I suspect many couldn’t do it given the cost of living and how much in benefits you actually can get. SO is it true foreigners are flooding over here for our generous benefits who can apparently claim a free house free treatment on our NHS and live the life of riley. Is this actually the case? Reality would suggest not. While the benefit system in this country is not what anyone supports as a perfect system the benefits in this country do not compare to what is there in other nations such as France for example. Recently in George Osborne’s autumn statement he declared another round of cuts to benefits. His claim to want to make work pay is an illusion given the fact pay for many has been frozen for years in the public sector and in the private sector pay has gone back if anything given the level of inflation. This idea of cutting benefits back to make work pay is a false economy but this is not Osborne’s intention at all he is clearly doing the bidding of capitalism who demand the driving down of the living standards, pay and conditions of the working class to pay for their crisis. This is not about making work pay at all. He wants to set one group of working people against the other to avoid the blame himself. As unemployment rises, those in work are being forced to work longer hours, work harder, often being bullied and are doing so for less real pay. Who could blame those suffering in that way for idealising what an existence on benefits could mean. But Socialists say to workers and pensioners: "Beware!" Watch out for your wages and pensions, they plan to drive them down using the brutality of benefit cuts. Lord Bichard, former benefits chief, recently said that retired people should do community work or face losing some of their benefit. When did a fund you pay all your life become a benefit? When the Con-Dems want to make you pay for their crisis. The extreme acceleration of workfare the governments flagship scheme to get people back to work, what work you may ask has brutally failed missing its own 5% tiny target it’s no wonder people are getting angry and pissed off at a system which does not work for them. Capitalists will be thinking their Christmas’s have all come early with workfare being pursued by the Tories with such vigour this is almost 100% profit from all of the surplus value going to the capitalists while young people who are the ones often on these schemes but it’s rumoured the disabled will join them get their benefits if they are lucky. Many people believe it or not who receive benefits are in work themselves even housing benefit is mostly paid to those in work and are struggling to make their pay go far enough given the other rising costs of living in 2012. Regarding workers, benefit attacks are, plain and simple, the government's way of forcing down wages. Unemployment is an economic policy of capitalism to 'regulate the labour market'. Capitalist strategists actually debate what kind of unemployment they want. The long-term unemployed aren't 'good', they want more of a 'precariat': millions of insecure workers increasingly desperate and impoverished enough to take any job on any terms to undermine existing jobs, wages and conditions. They hope that, as a result, people will be too scared to fight back in the unions. This wwill not wash we have confidence that ordinary people will not just take this forever. We are seeing a lag in the class struggle where events are raining down on us so much it’s almost indignation fatigue tiredness from austerity. But this will not last the class struggle dictates workers and non working workers will return to struggle for better conditions and pay. We must fight with all our might to destroy and smash the myths on benefits and this scroungers and strivers idea the Tories are using. All working people are strivers some have a bit of luck and others, many others are crippled by a system which only wants their labour power their pound of flesh. Sheffield socialist party has produced this myth buster which I hope they don’t mind me sharing with you all its fantastic. If this piece made it into the mass media or a opposition used this to defeat the lies we could really get somewhere as it is Labour buy into the scroungers idea too unfortunately something we must fight against too as they are no better. The welfare state has led to a 'something for nothing' culture? IT'S A LIE. There are over 8 million people receiving benefits in this country. There are more people IN WORK who get benefits than not working. 90% of all housing benefit claimants are IN WORK. The Welfare state is actually a massive state subsidy to business which enables it to pay poverty wages and charge exorbitant rents. You're all sick of paying a huge swathe of chavs to lay about watching Jeremy Kyle all day? IT'S A LIE. Less than 5,000 people, out of a population of 60 million, have been on Job Seekers Allowance for more than 5 years. Historically, whenever jobs get created, they always get filled. The idea that there is a vast horde of the work-shy is a myth. Living on benefits is a lifestyle choice? IT'S A LIE. More than 80% of benefit claimants are aged over 35. The vast majority of unemployed claimants have worked, and paid taxes, for years and are now on benefits due to redundancy, sickness, disability or having to care for someone. Millions more are receiving benefits due to poverty wages. People won't work because benefits are too high? IT'S A LIE. Average benefits amount to £3,400 a year. These people are living in poverty. Since 1997, due to various Government actions, the value of benefits has fallen sharply year on year in real terms. People on benefits are far worse off now than in the last 30 years. People should get off their arses and look for work? IT'S A LIE. When Iain Duncan Smith suggested the jobless in Merthyr Tydfil should get on a bus to Cardiff to find work, Merthyr had 43 people for every job vacancy. Problem was, Cardiff already had nine unemployed people for every job vacancy. The jobs just don't exist. In 2010, there was 1 million more unemployed than there were job vacancies. Benefit cheats are bankrupting the country? IT'S A LIE. Benefit fraud does amount to about £1.5 billion a year. However, £16 billion goes UNCLAIMED every year. Meanwhile, the amount of tax lost through avoidance and evasion is a whopping £120 billion a year. (And don't give me the crap about avoidance being legal, the truth is, it shouldn't be. Not one of the major parties will openly state the real truth. The biggest causes of poverty in this country are lack of jobs, poverty wages and part time work. All the parties have social policies that they KNOW are based upon outright lies, lies that are allowing a whole section of society to be vilified as heartless people cast around to find a victim upon which to blame all this countries woes The money is out there for us all to live comfortably I say lets tax the rich and bring their wealth into public ownership to benefit the many not just the few. With thanks to Sheffield socialist party for the exert on myth busting benefits.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Solidarity with Harlow welfare rights centre

The political climate in Harlow has warmed up in the past few weeks. Labour’s success in gaining a Majority at last May’s election has shown the divisions within the Labour group. The council cabinet Have been shown to be no more than lap dogs for the officers; carrying out a vendetta against the Welfare Rights Advice centre (who successfully took the old Tory council to High Court and won) by For closing them. Harlow Welfare rights are not only a vital service for the town and serve many who rely on benefits to get by in life. Due to the crisis in capitalism more and more and being thrown into poverty even those still in work seeing their pay frozen and hours cut so the need for a centre like this is very important. I was at the meeting myself and give 100% support to the campaign to keep the centre open and to those who rely on this service every week. Last Saturday a public meeting gave full support to the campaign to keep the HWRA open and Demanded the Labour council stand up to the officers. Three labour councillors spoke in favour of The campaign, which amounts to an open split in the Labour Group. They were backed by former Labour MP for Harlow Stan Newans. On Friday the workers were given their redundancy and the council were going to close the centre, However a high court injunction stopped the closure. The campaigners now have 10 days to save the Centre. The Unison Steward and some workers have backed the Socialist Party’s tactics to defend the centre, And in turn the Harlow and Stevenage SP branches have offered full support to them. Monday night will see a Labour group meeting and will set the tone for the battle to come. Messages of support should be sent to lapsy28@googlemail.com.” By Steve Glennon Socialist Party Eastern region full time officer.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Capitalism does not work, time for system change!

As the crisis in global capitalism grows deeper and deeper by the week many workers will be looking ever more for an alternative grappling with their emotions and their thoughts for an alterative to this rotten capitalist system. Many still don’t know what is causing the crisis and why we have got the cuts. As Marxists we have to patiently explain why we are where we are and what needs to happen for things to change for the better. Chancellor Osborne has had to admit the humiliating truth - his policies to revive the British economy aren't working. But his solution is to carry on with more of the same - make the working class pay more and do nothing about his tax-dodging, multimillionaire friends. Councils across the country are cutting jobs and services. Now Osborne's autumn statement is rubbing salt into those wounds. It carries measures which will hit the poor and the most vulnerable the hardest. In fact everybody except the super-rich is facing rising bills and falling wages, as well as job insecurity and a bleak future. We're definitely not 'all in this together'. Big tax-avoiding companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Google are embarrassed that their antics have been exposed. It's not good PR. But they know that the chancellor will generally leave them alone, along with his rich chums. After all it was Osborne who cut £3 billion from the tax office HMRC's budget in October 2010. This included axing 10,000 jobs. When you look at this alongside the scandal of MPs still with their snouts buried in the expenses trough, it's no wonder that workers are fighting back. The call for co-ordinated action against the cuts, low pay and the Con-Dem's austerity agenda in general is gaining support. For example Unison's Scottish council has voted unanimously to instruct the union to "immediately take the necessary steps to promote with all STUC affiliated unions the need for a coordinated industrial action strategy, beginning with a one-day strike across Scotland." Brian Smith, Glasgow city branch secretary and a member of Socialist Party Scotland explained that the trade unions "must step-up our campaign to defend wages, jobs, pensions and services by organising coordinated strike action across all sectors of the economy. "At times when Unison members are facing yet more pay cuts, further attacks on pensions and tens of thousands of jobs losses its clear the Con-Dem government will not stop unless they are forced back. A 24-hour general strike must be organised urgently to stop these attacks." The rotten establishment - of a rotten system Just as arrogant bankers flaunted their wealth while they helped crash the economy, so establishment politicians, press barons and some police have had their arrogance and contempt for 'the plebs' - the mass of working people in Britain - revealed in a seemingly ceaseless series of revelations of corruption and abuse of power. From hacking, to Hillsborough, to blacklisting and blatant robbing of the public, Britain's establishment are spoilt rotten by power, and working people are getting sick of it. Even Leveson's tame report exposed the rotten and corrupt relationships between different parts of the British state's establishment. Appalling abuses took place with impunity as press, politicians and senior police enjoyed cosy relationships. The media is now full of debate about a 'free press'. But we don't have a free press! Do ordinary people own our big newspapers? Of course not. Rich people do, and they do it to buy power and influence. Murdoch owns four papers and satellite TV. The press barons are part of the ruling establishment and use their media to defend their rotten system, a system founded on the wealth of a few and impoverishment of the many. They are the image of George Orwell's 'trash' media from "1984". Poisoning people and setting one group against the other to deflect the flak from themselves. Leveson hoped his report would be accepted by all three political parties. That in itself indicates its' timidity. It is little more than a beefed up version of what exists and allowed such abuses in the first place. After the experience of toothless watchdogs like gas price regulator, OfGem, who'd imagine OfHack would be any more effective? However, media barons are demanding that they police the press, and there is a serious attempt to bury his report by them and many politicians. Many ask can the con-dems survive till 2015 it looks increasingly likely that they will but things don’t have to be this way. If met by a determined trade union and workers' movement, then no. But faced with a Labour opposition that agrees with cuts they may still be able to drag on. The economy is grinding to a halt, yet the deficit is not reducing. They now admit the pain will go on for another decade! All that unites the coalition is agreement that working people must be made to pay for the crisis. Governing parties were hammered in November's byelections. But Labour's victories didn't reflect huge enthusiasm for them, despite the hatred of the Coalition parties. Mass voter abstentions reflect a feeling that none of the establishment parties offer working class people a voice. Britain's rulers are rotten and there's only one thing that unites them: Making us pay for their crisis and 'dividing and ruling' us to achieve that. They threw pensioners against students when fees raised, private sector against public sector when they wanted to cut pensions, and now they want everybody to blame benefit recipients. But they can be fought. Scottish Unison's call for a one day strike, across Scotland and the UK, is a clear call to action as is the refusal of councillors in Southampton to vote for cuts. Working people and youth must unite to fight back. But we must go further than resisting attacks. Things are rotten for a reason. While the system that spawns such a corrupt elite continues, so will all the abuses, injustices and inequality. The capitalist free market system demands we suffer and the politicians and press are merely the instruments of enforcing that. They have had it all their own way for over 30 years and the result? The mother of all economic crises and a sick society, made more unbearable by their arrogance. When Leveson reported, Andy Coulson and Rebecca Brooks were appearing in court. One or two of the elite may get rapped knuckles - don't bank on it - but as well as fighting every cut or injustice, the real answer is to change the system. If the super-rich 1% carry on owning the vast majority of the wealth they will continue to pull the strings. We need a voice. Imagine if there was a mass party that said what we all know - that cuts are just a way of making workers pay for the bankers' crisis. Such a party would oppose them. Imagine if that party was also part of the campaigns in workplaces and communities, if its leaders were workers, trade unionists, pensioners and young people. A new mass workers' party will need a programme that shows how jobs, services and benefits could be paid for without making other working class people suffer. Socialists points to the hoarded billions of the mega rich - an estimated £800 billion they hide away in bank accounts as they can see no easy route to a quick profit. What about a 50% levy on that as a start to pay for investment in jobs, homes and the NHS? But fundamentally it's about ownership - and that means nationalisation of the banking system and also the taking back of all the privatised utilities and services that the 1% vultures are grabbing. So don't waste energy shouting at the TV. Get involved instead and join the socialist party today. With extracts taken from this weeks socialist paper issue 745

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The day of regressive budgets hitting ordinary people hard

So today it was budget day in the UK and over in Ireland. News and comments are still filtering through and I haven’t read them all in full and will probably depress myself if I did so but what is clear is that these budgets are austerity budgets designed to further the pain on ordinary people the working and middle class’s All this is to pay for a crisis not of our making, this is as I’ve stated many many times now is a crisis of capitalism and no wonder George Osborne has missed his deficit targets as he is increasing the deficit rather than looking to cut it. What he is cutting though is the fabric of our society, all we’ve ever fought for our welfare state, our NHS you name it it is all up for grabs under this government. Below is how the BBC saw the main points from the budget. As we can see there are increases in areas but this will be offset by bigger cuts elsewhere such as local government, NHS, welfare and major benefits. All the measures like housing fall way short of what we need and the idea of teachers pay linked to performance is a joke. FUEL The 3p-a-litre increase in fuel duty, planned for next January, is cancelled ECONOMIC GROWTH Predicted to be -0.1% in 2012, down from 0.8% predicted in the Budget Forecasts for next few years are: 1.2% in 2013, 2% in 2014, 2.3% 2015, 2.7% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017 BENEFITS AND PENSIONS Most working-age benefits to rise by 1% for each of next three years From 2014-15 lifetime pension relief allowance to fall from £1.5m to £1.25m - annual allowance cut from £50,000 to £40,000 Basic state pension to rise by 2.5% next year to £110.15 a week Child benefit to rise by 1% for two years from April 2014 Local housing allowance rates to rise in line with existing policy next April but increases in the following two years capped at 1% Changes to welfare to save £3.7bn by 2015/16 TAXES AND ALLOWANCES Basic income tax threshold to be raised by £235 more than previously announced next year, to £9,440 Threshold for 40% rate of income tax to rise by 1% in 2014 and 2015, from £41,450 to £41,865 and then £42,285 Main rate of corporation tax to be cut by extra 1% to 21% from April 2014 Temporary doubling of small business rate relief scheme to be extended by further year to April 2014 Inheritance tax threshold to be increased by 1% next year Bank levy rate to be increased to 0.130% next year. £5bn over six years expected from treaty with Switzerland to deal with undisclosed bank accounts HM Revenue and Customs budget will not be cut ISA contribution limit to be raised to £11,520 from next April Prosecutions for tax evasions up 80% - with anti-abuse rule to come in next year No new tax on property value No net rise in taxes in Autumn Statement GOVERNMENT BORROWING Point at which debt predicted to begin falling delayed by a year to 2016/17 Deficit forecast to fall this year, as is cash borrowing Deficit to fall from 7.9% to 6.9% of GDP this year, and to continue falling to 1.6% by 2017/18 Borrowing forecast to fall from £108bn this year to £31bn in 2017/18 £33bn saving to be made on interest debt payment predicted two years ago Deficit fallen by a quarter in last two years Bradford and Bingley and Northern Rock Asset Management brought on to balance sheet, adding £70bn to national debt GOVERNMENT SPENDING Period of austerity to be extended by another year to 2017/18 Departments to reduce spending by 1% next year and 2% year after Local government budgets to be cut by 2% in 2014 Government spending as share of GDP predicted to fall from 48% in 2009/10 to 39.5% in 2017/18 Spending review to take place in first half of next year JOBS AND TRAINING Unemployment expected to peak at 8.3%, lower than the previous prediction of 8.7% Employment set to rise in each year of the parliament Since general election, 1.2 million jobs created in the private sector TRANSPORT Extra £1bn to roads, including upgrading A1, A30, and M25 £1bn loan to extend London's Northern Line to Battersea EDUCATION AND FAMILIES £1bn to improve good schools and build 100 new free schools and academies £270m for further education colleges Teachers' pay to be linked to performance INFRASTRUCTURE Ultra-fast broadband expansion in 12 cities: Brighton and Hove, Cambridge, Coventry, Derby, Oxford, Portsmouth, Salford, York, Newport, Aberdeen, Perth and Derry-Londonderry £600m for scientific research Annual infrastructure investment now £33bn £1bn extra capital for Business Bank Gas Strategy to include consultation on incentives for shale gas HOUSING Funding to assist building of up to 120,000 homes OVERSEAS AID Promise to spend 0.7% on development to be honoured next year, but not exceeded

Monday, 3 December 2012

International disabilities day but we are going back not forward

Today is international disability day, whatever that means in the capitalist form of the term. Many today have been highlighting the disgraceful treatment of disabled people at the hands of this system and the Tories who look to manage it. In many ways the disabled are the hardest hit with cuts attacking them disproportionally than others. With DLA being phased out and the introduction of the Universal credit to come in next year many people are disgusted with the attacks on the disabled. Yet the media true to form continue with their anti scroungers, anti disabled benefits lines as if nothing had changed. Even just on Saturday night I stumbled across Ian Collins on LBC a presenter I used to respect but his show on Saturday night was all about our bloated welfare system. He moaned and moaned about students getting EMA why don’t they get a Saturday job he cried despite not realising how many young people struggle to get a job today. Such ignorance in the media is toxic as this feeds a political agenda to turn the non disabled against the disabled, the working class against the working class not in a job, public vs. private and so on all to create division and resentment the age old tactic of divide and conquer which the ruling class have employed for many many years. But the media focus heavily on benefit cheats and the disabled are lumped in with this never separated in my experience yet tax evaders of the super rich big business evade 120 billion a year more than enough to cover the deficit in one go if it was properly collected. This is a political decision not an economic one. We’ve had bigger deficits in the past yet built the NHS and a huge number of council housing. No one is standing up and putting an alternative in the media. Labour who presided over 13 years crows about tax evaders now but what did they do in their 13 years of government sweet nothing I would suggest. In fact one of their high profile figures Peter Mandelson was once quoted we are relaxed about the rich getting filthy rich in this country. But as for the international day of disability it’s a huge disgrace that the closures of the last remaining remploy factories that employed disabled workers will be closing very soon. This is a national disgrace in my view. This is not just limited to Britain either in Spain over the weekend over 50 thousand disabled people and friends and families marched in Madrid demanding an end to cuts to disabled people. All over the globe disabled people are treated with contempt and disrespect under capitalism there can be no fairness for the disabled or any section of workers. It’s got to be up to us to organise and build a movement which can remove this rotten exploitative system once and for all. Only a truly democratic socialist system can provide for the needs of everyone including disabled people to meet their daily needs to fulfil their potential in life in any way they can.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Socialist party eastern region conference

I’ve just returned from an excellent regional conference of the socialist party in eastern region. Held in the centre of Cambridge 15 comrades from across the region got together in a little café to discuss the perspectives for Britain and in the second session our regional perspectives. In the morning we had Steve Score who is a full timer from the East Midlands come to speak and I was very impressed with his contribution a well put across points figures and convincing argument for socialist ideas. Steve touched on TUSC and the recent by elections we contested and lamented the difficulty we face in getting a public profile and to do as well as we did at this stage was a good marker for future struggles as I’ve previously outlined in this blog too. The wider global economic crisis could not be over looked and Steve and other comrades linked the struggles in Britain into the wider crisis in Europe and beyond. The discussion was excellent with many comrades discussing the role of the LabourParty left celebrities such as Owen Jones and their downfalls. Many comrades were aware we are just at the start of a movement and workers in Britain will return to struggle in the coming period despite the setbacks and the sell out’s of various right wing trade union leaders in the last year or so. The afternoon’s session after a lovely lunch was focused more on regional matters the development of TUSC and the 2013 county council elections will be key in the development of building a profile for TUSC in the coming period. As for the socialist party we heard reports of an excellent year for the eastern region anyway with a net growth of 65 odd new comrades we have since lost some due to some leaving the region to go to university moving away or fallen inactive for whatever reason. The regional committee which has been recently restablished after years of low activity is looking to build up a presence and develop the leadership in the eastern region as we look to build the party further still. We have gone from 4 and a bit branches to 9 now and we will look to increase that further in 2013. As Marxists we must patiently explain the alternative arguments and an alterative system to this rotten capitalist system. The number of young comrades joining us in the region is up and also we have a terrific record on ethnic groups joining our party with many Indian/tamal comrades now which can only bode well for our interventions in communities. The youth are a key component with our student work taking off major in the last year with the biggest up take of socialist ideas in our societies across the region for many years. There is plenty of potential for our rapid growth if we in bed the ideas of socialism, democratic Marxism and look to take our newer members with us and always approach new people with a friendly open comradely fashion I think we have big potential. Of course we are in a minority and probably will be for a very long time but we are starting to have an impact across the region in terms of numbers and influence. I can only see the socialist party in the East of England going from strength to strength.

World economy faces ‘chain of crises’

THE US ECONOMY – which is one of the few to regain the production levels of pre-2008 – has slowed to its weakest pace since 2009, growing at less than 2% while the world’s biggest economies have lost steam simultaneously. If the Republicans refuse a deal with Obama, if the US topples off the fiscal cliff, this could almost automatically plunge the world economy – which is basically stagnant – into a new deeper recession. The interests of capitalism should logically compel the Republicans to seek a deal with Obama. But the political system in the US, designed originally for an 18th century population of predominantly small farmers, is now completely dysfunctional, along with the Republican Party. Obama, in one of his more revealing outbursts speaking to American bankers in 2009, stated: “My administration is all that stands between you and the pitchforks”. But in the election, this did not earn him the support of the American bourgeois as a whole who favoured Romney in the main. This just goes to show that a class does not always recognise its own best interests! It is the strategists and the thinkers of the ruling class, sometimes in opposition to those that they supposedly represent, who are prepared to stand up for the best interests of the capitalists and chart a way forward. The problem for them today is that the choice is between different roads to ruin for capitalism. The decay, their loss of confidence, is evident in their refusal to invest, as well as the warnings from the hallowed institutions of capitalism: the IMF, the World Bank, etc. Their predictions of a quick escape from the present crisis have been dashed and they have now swung over to complete pessimism. Cameron and the Governor of the Bank of England warn that the crisis might last another decade; the IMF whistles a similar tune. The theme first employed in Japan of ‘zombie banks’ is now used to describe not just the banks but the economies of America, Europe and Japan. And like Japan, bourgeois economists are predicting a ‘lost decade’ for some countries and for Europe as a whole. A comparison with the 19th century depression from 1873 to 1896 is being made, at least for Europe. Martin Wolf in the Financial Times mused, “is the age of unlimited growth over?”, extensively quoting from a new study, Is US Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds. (NBER Working Paper no 18315) This raised the vital question of the role of innovation in the development of capitalism, and particularly in driving forward the productivity of labour. The authors of the above study concluded that there have been “three industrial revolutions” since 1750 that have been crucial in the development of capitalism. The first was roughly between 1750 and 1830, which created steam engines, cotton spinning, railways, etc. The second was the most important with its three central inventions of electricity, the internal combustion engine, and running water with indoor plumbing, in the relatively short period of 1870 to 1900. Both these revolutions required about 100 years for the full effects to percolate through the economy. After 1970, productivity growth slowed markedly for a number of reasons. The computer and internet revolution – described by the authors as industrial revolution three (IR3) – reached its climax in the dot-com era of the late 1990s. But its main impact on productivity, they say, has withered away in the past eight years. They conclude that since the year 2000 invention has been largely concentrated on entertainment and communication devices that are smaller, smarter and more capable but do not fundamentally change labour productivity or the standard of living in the way that electric light, motorcars or indoor plumbing did. This is not to say that there are not the potential inventions for enormously lifting productivity but the dilemma is the current state of capitalism in decline, which is incapable of developing the full potential of the productive forces. The tendency for the rate of profit to fall – and actual falls in profitability – discourages the capitalists from taking up inventions which can develop the productive forces. Then there is the problem of ‘demand’ which in turn has led to an ‘investment strike’, with a minimum of $2 trillion of ‘unemployed capital’ in the cash piles of US companies. And, on top of this, exists the colossal debt overhang. Satyajit Das in the Financial Times berates the American bourgeois who “seem unable to handle the truth – the prospect of little or no economic growth for a prolonged period… Ever increasing borrowings are needed to sustain growth. By 2008 $4-$5 of debt was required to create one dollar of US growth, up from $1-$2 in the 1950s. China now needs $6-$8 of credit to generate one dollar of growth; an increase from $1 to $2 15-20 years ago”. Capitalism faces not one crisis but a chain of crises. They are trying to reconcile the working class to the prospect of little or no growth and therefore of severely reduced living standards, as Greece demonstrates. We must counter this through our programme and emphasise the limitless possibilities – evident even today – if society was organised on a more rational, planned way through socialism. Europe’s intractable crisis THE ECONOMIC CRISIS in Europe is the most serious facing world capitalism. So intractable does the crisis appear, with austerity clearly not working, that a spat has broken out, with the IMF warning against the ‘excessive austerity’ applied by national governments in Europe with the benediction of the EU authorities and the European Central Bank (ECB). On the one side the ECB has sought to implement, like the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, a form of Keynesianism through the purchase of government bonds as well as cheap loans to some banks and countries. On the other hand, these very same authorities – the ‘troika’ – have been the instruments for austerity policies. They have been stung by the implied criticism of the IMF, which has pointed out that a negative ‘multiplier effect’ operates when severe austerity is implemented – cuts in government expenditure, loss of jobs, etc – and therefore reduced income to the state. The ECB and national governments counter with the ‘absolute necessity’ to cut state spending, accompanied by all the other measures of austerity, privatisation, etc. Despite all the pleas and expectations of growth, austerity has had the effect of snuffing out even the economic embers that remained during the crisis. It is true that Keynesian policies have failed to generate growth. In the current situation, it is like ‘pushing on a piece of string’. This has led born-again Keynesians, such as former Thatcherite monetarist Samuel Brittan, to lobby for bolder measures; he advocates what amounts to a giant game of ‘treasure hunt’ in a desperate attempt to get the economy moving again. He suggests, only half-humorously, that hordes of cash should be buried and then the adventurous souls who discover it will then go out and spend it! There is no indication of this happening, however. The largesse that has been distributed so far has been used to clear debts not to increase spending. This is an indication of the desperation of the ruling class for some improvement at this stage. Keynesianism has been partially tried and failed but this does not mean that, faced with a revolutionary explosion, the capitalists would not resort to far-reaching Keynesian measures. Concessions can be given and then the capitalists will attempt to take them back through inflation at a later stage. Even now, the EU authorities are attempting to avoid the default of Greece by suggesting that more time is given for its debts to be paid off. This will not prevent the savage attacks on the Greek working class, which are being applied remorselessly by the EU. Nor will it solve the basic problems of Greece which will still be lumbered with colossal debts. Therefore, a Greek default is still likely, which will have huge repercussions throughout Europe, including Germany, which is heavily indebted to the banks of other countries. It is even possible that Germany itself could take the initiative of leaving the euro, such is the political opposition within Germany itself to bail-outs. Even the proposal to give Greece more time to pay off its debts is meeting with opposition from the German capitalists because it means writing off a small portion of their debt. It is possible that, in relation to Spain and some other countries, the ‘can will be kicked further down the road’. But eventually the can will become too big to kick! Therefore, a breakup of the eurozone still remains on the cards. Even the Chinese express alarm at the turn of events in Europe with a top Chinese official, Ji Liqun, sitting on top of a massive state-controlled sovereign wealth fund of £300 billion, warning that the European public are at ‘breaking point’. He had previously argued that Europeans should work harder but now recognises that the depth of public anger could lead to a ‘complete discarding’ of austerity programmes. “The fact the public are taking to the streets and resorting to violence indicates the general public’s tolerance has hit its limits”, he commented. “Unions are now involved in organised protests; demonstrations and strikes. It smacks of the 1930s”. Not least of his unspoken concerns is that the example set by the European working class could spill over into China itself as well as his fear for Chinese investments in Europe. Greece is the key EUROPE IS THE key to the world situation at the present time, where the class struggle is at its sharpest and with the greatest opportunity for a breakthrough for left and revolutionary forces. But if this is so, then Greece is therefore the key to the situation in Europe, with Spain and Portugal not far behind in the chain of weak links of European capitalism. As Trotsky said of Spain in the 1930s, not one but three or four revolutions would have been possible if the Greek workers had a farsighted leadership and mass party at their head. A Greek computer programmer on the day of the recent general strike commented to the Guardian newspaper in Britain: “Personally, I’m amazed there hasn’t been a revolution”. British TV also commented that just 3% of the population actually supports the austerity measures of the government and the troika. With all the agonies that the Greek people are being forced to endure, by the end of the present austerity programme the debt of Greece will still be 192% of GDP! In other words, there is absolutely no chance that this debt will be paid. Nevertheless, endless austerity is the future that capitalism has decreed for the Greek people. All the conditions for revolution are not just ripe but rotten ripe. Nineteen one-day general strikes – out of which four have been 48 hour strikes and the rest 24-hour strikes – testify to the colossal reserves of energy of the Greek workers and their preparedness to resist. However, they have concluded that, in the teeth of what has been a magnificent struggle, the troika and the Greek capitalists have still not budged and it is therefore necessary to turn to the political front, towards the idea of a left government able to show a way out of the crisis. This is despite the fact that there is scepticism towards Syriza and its leadership on the part of the masses. Significant sections of the masses are prepared to support Syriza, which currently receives as much as 30% in some of the polls, but are not prepared to join and actively engage within its ranks. There is an element of this in many countries. Big disappointment at the failure of the workers’ parties has led to extreme scepticism towards them, even those formally standing on the left. There is a willingness to support left formations and parties in elections, but not to devote time and energy to engaging in their ranks and building them. Workers have been disappointed in the past and fear being let down once more. This mood, of course, can and will be changed once they see these parties actually carrying out what they promise. Instead of moving in a leftward direction, however, left parties in general and Syriza in particular have tended to move to the right, watering down their programme and opening their doors even to ex-leaders of social democracy who have played an open strike-breaking role in the very recent period. In the circumstances of Greece, the flexible tactics employed by our Greek comrades, while remaining firm programmatically, meet the needs of a very complex situation. We have to have an eye not just for those left forces within Syriza but also to the sizeable forces outside, whom in some cases are re-evaluating past political positions. We cannot give a timescale as to when the present government will collapse – as it surely will – with the likely coming to power of a Syriza-led left government. But we have to prepare for such an eventuality with the aim of pushing such a government towards the left, while at the same time helping to create democratic popular committees which can both support the government against the right but also pressurise it into taking measures in defence of the working class. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a new significant semi-mass force can emerge through the tactics in which we are presently engaged. This will involve not just a concentration on developments on the left and in the workers’ parties but also against the danger posed by the far right and specifically from the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn, whose support recently rose to 14% at one stage in the opinion polls, but has now declined to around 10%. One of the reasons for this is the formation of mass anti-fascist committees, which we have helped to initiate and have drawn in workers, youth and refugees. This work assumes exceptional importance and could be a model for the kind of situation that may confront the working class in many other countries in the future. If the working class and the left fail to carry through a socialist revolution, history attests to the fact that they will pay a heavy price as a consequence. The social tensions which exist in Greece cannot be contained forever within the framework of ‘democracy’. There is already a veiled civil war with more than 90% of the population pitted against the ‘one per cent’ and this can break out into an open conflict in the future. Some far-right elements in Greece have mooted the idea of a dictatorship but this is not immediately on the agenda. Any premature move that seeks to emulate the 1967 military coup could provoke an all-out general strike like the Kapp putsch did in Germany in 1920 and a revolutionary situation. Also a coup would not be acceptable at this stage to imperialism, the ‘international community’, in this era of ‘democracy and conflict resolution’. The capitalists, in the first instance, are more likely to resort to a form of parliamentary Bonapartism, like Monti’s government in Italy but more authoritarian. The fraught economic and social position of Greece will demand a much firmer and more pronounced right wing government than in Italy, with the powers to overrule parliament in an ‘emergency’. If this does not work, and a series of governments of a similar character are incapable of breaking the social deadlock, and if the working class, through a revolutionary party, fails to take power, then the Greek capitalists could go over to an open dictatorship. We have to warn the working class that we still have time in Greece but we have to utilise this in order to prepare a force that can carry through socialist change. The response throughout Europe to the strike on 14 November illustrates how the struggles of the working class are bound together. If the Greek workers were to break the chain of capitalism and appeal to the workers of Western Europe, at the very least to those in southern Europe, there would be a big response to the call for a socialist confederation – probably involving Spain, Portugal and maybe Ireland in the first instance, if not Italy. China at the crossroads US IMPERIALISM HAS identified Asia as a key area – more important than Europe, for instance, strategically and economically – shown by the fact that the first visit of Obama after his victory in the US presidential election was made to the region. This was partly to reaffirm the economic stake of US imperialism but also served as a warning to China of the importance of US military strategic interest. It was felt to be necessary because of the new military assertiveness of China, which was revealed in its recent naval clashes with Japan over uninhabited disputed islands. Japan is beginning to build up its military forces, of course, for ‘defence’ alone! This means that Asia will become a new and dangerous theatre of military conflict with the rise of nationalism and the possibility of outright conflict, where the contending powers will be prepared to confront each other, with weapons if necessary, in order to enhance their influence, power and economic stake. China is the colossus of Asia, the second power in the world after the US. How it develops will exercise a big, perhaps decisive, effect on the region and the world. And China is certainly at the crossroads, as its ruling elite well understands. Like many a ruling group in history, it feels the contradictory tensions swelling up from below and is unsure how to deal with them. Chinese scholars described the current situation of the country to The Economist as “unstable at the grassroots, dejected at the middle strata, and out of control at the top”. In other words, the ingredients of revolution are brewing in China at the present time. The spectacular growth rate of 12% is a thing of the past. It is now like a like a car stuck in snow: the wheels churn but the vehicle does not advance. Growth has probably contracted to between 5% and 7%. The regime claims that there has been a certain ‘recovery’ but it is not expected to return to double-digit growth. This will automatically affect perspectives for the world economy. A growth rate above 10% was only possible through a massive injection of resources, at one-time amounting to a colossal and unprecedented 50% of GDP invested into industry. This, in turn, generated discontent: resentment against growing inequality and environmental degradation as well as communally-owned land being illegally snatched by greedy officials. These and the sweatshop conditions in the factories have generated enormous opposition from the masses with 180,000 public demonstrations in 2010 – and it is has grown since then – compared to the official estimate of 40,000 in 2002. The removal of the ‘iron rice bowl’ and attacks on healthcare and education have added to this discontent. This has forced the leadership to reintroduce a modicum of health cover. How to handle this volcano and which route economically to take haunts the Chinese leadership. The village of Wukan rose a year ago and successfully fought running battles with the police to reclaim land which had been stolen from them by the local bureaucracy. This was symptomatic of what lies just below the surface in China, a subterranean revolt that can break out any time. On this occasion, the local officials retreated but, also, the protesters did not follow through with their movement. It seems that this incident and many others are “small uprisings that continually bubble up across China”. (Financial Times) Many of the protagonists naïvely believe that if only the lords in Beijing knew the scale of corruption, they would intervene to stamp it out. Something similar occurred in Russia under Stalinism. The masses initially tended to absolve Stalin of any responsibility for corruption of which he was ‘unaware’. It was all down to the crimes of the local bureaucracy but not Stalin himself. But the arrest of Bo Xilai and trial of his wife have helped to dispel those illusions. He has been accused of abusing his position by amassing a fortune, accepting ‘huge bribes’, and to have promoted his cronies to high positions. Bo, as a member of the top elite – a princeling, a son of a leader of the Chinese revolution – is accused of complicity in murder, bribery and massive corruption. This naturally poses the question of how he was allowed to get away with this for so long. In reality, it was not these crimes – true though they probably are – which led to his arrest and impending trial. It was because he represented a certain danger to the top elite – in going outside this ‘magic circle’ – and campaigning for the top job. Even more dangerous was that he invoked some of the radical phrases of Maoism, associated with the Cultural Revolution. In so doing, he could have unconsciously unleashed forces that he would not be able to control, which could go further and demand action against the injustices of the regime. And who knows where this could have ended? The Chinese regime is in crisis. It is quite obviously divided as to the next steps – particularly in relation to the economy – which should be undertaken. One princeling commenting to the Financial Times put it brutally: “The best time for China is over and the entire system needs to be overhauled”. Bourgeois commentators in journals like The Economist, the Financial Times, the New York Times, etc, have recently resorted to the terminology which the CWI has used in describing China as ‘state capitalist’. They do not add the proviso that we do, of ‘state capitalist, but with unique features’. This is necessary in order to differentiate our analysis from the crude position of the SWP and others, who incorrectly described the planned economies in the past in this fashion. The direction of travel of China is clear. The capitalist sector has grown at the expense of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the past. But recently, and particularly since the stimulus package of 2008, there has been a certain recentralisation with economic power tending to be concentrated more in the state sector, so much so that SOEs now have assets worth 75% of total GDP. On the other hand, The Economist described China in the following fashion: “Experts disagree on whether the state now makes up half or a third of economic output, but agree the share is lower than it was two decades ago. For years from the late 1990s SOEs appeared to be in retreat. Their numbers declined (to around 114,000 in 2010, some 100 of them centrally controlled national champions), and their share of employment dropped. But now, even while the number of private companies has grown, the retreat of the state has slowed and, in some industries, reversed”. It is clear that a ferocious discussion is taking place behind closed doors amongst the elite. ‘Reformers’ favour a more determined programme of dismantling the state sector and moving more and more towards the ‘market’. They are proposing to lift remaining barriers to the entry and operation of foreign capital. The new ‘leader’ Xi Jinping, despite his ritualistic incantation of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, is rumoured to support the reformers. On the other hand, those who have proposed an opening up, both in the economy but also with limited ‘democratic’ reforms, seem to be side-lined. Studies have been made of how former dictatorships like South Korea allegedly managed the ‘cold transition’ towards ‘democracy’. These took place when the boom had not exhausted itself and even then was against the background of mass movements. China’s proposed ‘transition’ is taking place in the midst of a massive economic crisis. China’s rulers are rumoured to be avidly studying Gorbachev’s role in Russia. He began intending to ‘reform’ the system and ended up presiding over its dismantlement. Serious reforms from the top will provoke revolution from below in today’s China. It cannot be excluded that a period of very weak ‘democracy’ – but with power still in the hands of the old forces, like in Egypt today with the army and the Muslim Brotherhood in power – could develop after a revolutionary upheaval in China. But this would be merely a prelude to the opening of the gates to one of the biggest mass movements in history. Conclusions FOUR TO FIVE years into a devastating world economic crisis, we can conclude that there are very favourable prospects for the growth of Marxism. With the necessary qualification that consciousness – the broad outlook of the working class – has yet to catch up with the objective situation, it can still be described as pre-revolutionary, especially when taken on a world scale. The productive forces no longer advance but stagnate and decline. This has been accompanied by a certain disintegration socially of sections of the working class and the poor. At the same time, new layers of the working class as well as sections of the middle class are being created – proletarianised – and compelled to adopt the traditional methods of the working class of strikes and trade union organisation. The potential power of the working class remains intact, although hampered and weakened by the right-wing trade union leadership as well as by social democracy and the communist parties. The CWI has not made a decisive breakthrough as yet in any country or continent. However, we have retained our overall position in terms of membership and especially increased influence within the labour movement. There are many workers who are sympathetic to and watching us, and on the basis of events and our work can join us. We must face up to the situation by educating and preparing our supporters for the tumultuous next period in which great opportunities will be presented to strengthen the organisations and parties of the CWI and the International as a whole.