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Sunday, 31 March 2013

The inspiration of the Workers and Socialist party in South Africa

Over the last few weeks and months I have been hugely inspired by our CWI comrades in South Africa. With the launch of the WASP the Workers and Socialist Party in South Africa shows what can be achieved with very small resources and numbers of comrades on the ground. The launch of the Workers & Socialist Party was the direct outcome of the struggles of the mineworkers of South Africa throughout the course of last year. With thanks to Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in South Africa) reporters The Marikana massacre, where police armed with automatic weapons opened fire and killed 34 striking miners, was a watershed in post-Apartheid South Africa. Echoing this, one headline covering the launch read “born in post-Marikana anger, Workers & Socialist Party enters SA politics”. The most significant feature of the 2012 mineworkers’ strikes was the organisation of independent rank-and-file led strike committees outside of the existing unions and bargaining mechanisms. Across the country – in the platinum belt, the gold fields and elsewhere – shaft after shaft created their own organisation and pushed forward a new militant leadership. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which had collaborated with the mine bosses were evicted at a stroke. On the initiative of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM, CWI South Africa) these shaft-based committees organised first across the mining heartland of Rustenburg and then into a national mineworkers strike committee. The ANC government and their Tripartite Alliance partners – the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) of which NUM is the largest affiliate – refused to support the mineworkers. Not only was support refused but the mineworkers were vilified and demonised by the very organisations that claim to represent them. There is no doubt that in their campaign against the mineworkers’ independent strike committees the groundwork for the Marikana massacre was laid. The recognition by the mineworkers that they stood alone and without a political voice was decisive in the emergence of WASP. The mining industry is the mainstay of the SA economy and the mineworkers the backbone of the working class, but it is not just here that the class struggle rages intensely. The farmworkers of the Western Cape have risen up in several waves from late 2012 to demand higher wages. They followed the model established by the mineworkers and moved to organise independent strike committees and they too forced concessions from the government and the big business farmers. In community after community, service delivery protests are held daily, in demand of roads, sanitation, electricity and water. In Sasolburg, the community exploded in a mass movement against attempts to cut funding even further. In the public sector, under the pressure of a growing budget deficit, mighty battles over pay and outsourcing loom. This is the South Africa that the ANC governs. Raised to power on the backs of the mass workers struggles up to 1994, its support had already eroded before Marikana for its failure to satisfy the aspirations of the masses. Now, in the aftermath of Marikana, and mired in corruption, it has lost whole swathes of its ‘traditional base’ amongst the working class and poor masses. Cosatu is riven with division and the process of disintegration is progressing. Workers are not allowing the slavish support for the Tripartite Alliance by the Cosatu leadership to hold back their struggles. New independent unions are being created and discontent amongst Cosatu rank-and-file and shop stewards is simmering. Against this background, and with a continuing widespread support for socialism amongst the masses, the Workers & Socialist Party has emerged. The launch event and the aftermath have given a clear indication of how WASP has emerged organically from the conclusions workers have drawn from the betrayals of the ANC and the recent experience of struggle. As one of the speakers at the launch, a workers’ committee member from the Carletonville gold mines south of Johannesburg said: “This is the time to build and prepare to fight… During the strike we saw the NUM, Cosatu, the ANC and SACP – none of them came to defend us. Instead they attacked us. It was the DSM alone that came to us when we were on the mountain, and stayed there with us to fight.” The mineworkers embrace WASP as “our” party. It was in these terms that delegates from different mines pledged their support at the launch. Speakers included workers’ delegates from Klerksdorp Uranium, Kumba Iron Ore, Bokoni Platinum, Gold Fields KDC, Harmony Gold, the Mpumalanga coal mines and Anglo Gold Ashanti. As the launch was broadcast on TV, a mineworkers leader from a mine that was unable to attend the launch phoned to report that dozens of workers had turned up at his office demanding to know: “how do we join OUR party?!” The president and executive members of the new National Transport & Allied Workers Union (NATAWU) attended and spoke from the top table. NATAWU is a left-split from the Cosatu-affiliated SATAWU transport union and is already out-stripping them in membership because of their willingness to decisively lead struggle in a series of strikes in the transport sector over recent weeks. The turnout at the launch far exceeded expectations. Pretoria/Tshwane is outside of the mining heartlands. The bulk of the 600-strong audience were Tshwane Municipality workers who, alongside the DSM, waged a struggle against dismissal and won. Hundreds walked miles in order to attend the launch of THEIR party. Already WASP is establishing itself as a party of struggle that can win victories. Students and young people also travelled from far to attend the launch. As Elmond Magedi, a DSM activist and initiator of the new Socialist Youth Movement that is being formed, said in his speech at the launch, young people are at hit by the hardest blows of a system in crisis – mass unemployment, a dysfunctional education system, rape and violence – and have a key role to play in building WASP to fight for a socialist future. And it is not just in South Africa that WASP is making waves. A teacher from Namibia – a member of the teachers’ worker committee – travelled days to attend the launch, despite the death of his son days earlier. Since the launch WASP has been contacted by, amongst others, a group of farmworkers and a group of health workers asking to join and help build WASP. Big business and the capitalist class in SA recognise the discontent amongst the working class and the vacuum that exists and are scrambling desperately to renew the credibility of their system by promoting “new” faces in the ANC, the neo-liberal Democratic Alliance and now also the newly announced Agang, led by one of Africa’s richest women capitalists, Mamphela Ramphele. WASP will sting the hopes of rallying any substantial mass around such attempts. While the ruling class has mostly responded with deafening silence, the few attempts at discrediting WASP by bourgeois analysts nevertheless reflect their warranted unease. The working class response is off to a good start with the launch. A worker from the Sishen Kumba Iron Ore mine in the Northern Cape summed up the mood in his speech – “We are so fortunate to be here today to launch our organisation which is we must build into a force to fight for us. Now we must go back to all shafts and build.”

Friday, 29 March 2013

Answering workers fears on immigration

The Con-Dem government grows more unpopular by the day. Endless austerity is combined with falling living standards, rising unemployment, and no prospect of a return to economic growth. If anger at austerity was harnessed into a mass, united movement the Con-Dems could be forced to call a general election within months. Tory Prime Minister David Cameron knows this. Desperate to creep up a few points in the opinion polls, under pressure from the Eastleigh byelection result of right-wing nationalist Ukip, Cameron is attempting to tap into many workers' concerns about the potential consequences of increased immigration. This is an attempt to divide the movement against austerity. The trade union movement needs to respond by launching a serious united struggle - starting with a 24-hour general strike - against those who are really responsible for the misery we face; this government of millionaires and the capitalist system it defends. Trade unions must warn that the Con-Dems will attempt to use limiting access to public services for immigrants as the thin end of the wedge to attack universal access to essential services and benefits. However, the trade union movement also has a duty to answer the fears of some workers about increased immigration. Over the last decade there has been a rapid increase in the number of people, mainly from other parts of the EU, who have come to Britain to live and work. This is a major factor in the increase of around two million in Britain's population in the last five years. A small minority of new arrivals in Britain move to wealthy areas like Kensington and Chelsea - but they are almost all foreign fat cats and Cameron is more than happy to hobnob with them. The vast majority of new arrivals, however, join the ranks of the poorest sections of the working class. Increased population density has overwhelmingly taken place in working class communities with already over-stretched public services and over-crowded housing. Against this background it is inevitable that tensions exist about who does, and does not, get the limited public services that are available. It is on the question of housing that these tensions are particularly acute. By declaring that EU immigrants are to be kept off housing waiting lists for at least two years, Cameron is encouraging the idea that people from other countries are taking a disproportionately large share of social housing, and that this is causing the current acute housing crisis, where over five million people are on the waiting lists. Is this true? Increased population has increased demand for social housing, but it is the complete absence of any other option for millions of people born in Britain that is the central reason for the increase in numbers wanting a council house or flat. Cameron is attempting to shift the blame for the housing crisis away from its primary cause; the profit-driven housing policies of current and previous governments. House prices have gone up 40 times since 1971 whereas prices in general have gone up tenfold while wages have mostly stagnated. This means home ownership is now out of reach for the majority. At the same time rents in the extortionate private rented sector have increased by 86%. But social housing is in incredibly short supply. Twenty years ago there were more than five million council homes, now there is barely half that number. If the Con-Dems get their way even these will have their rents raised to extortionate 'market' levels. New Labour in government also continued the previous Tory governments' policies, selling off even more council houses than Thatcher. A puny 2,019 council houses were built during New Labour's entire period in government, an average of 400 houses a year! Contrast this to 5,000 council houses - all with front and back gardens - that just one Labour council - in Liverpool from 1983-87 - was able to build when it stood on a socialist programme. Labour leader Ed Miliband has stated that Labour 'got it wrong' on immigration, but why doesn't he admit that Labour 'got it wrong' on housing? Labour would be elected on a landslide if Miliband was to pledge that the next Labour government would carry out a mass council house-building programme, to create high-quality, genuinely affordable, secure housing for the majority and to provide work for unemployed construction workers on union rates of pay. This is not unprecedented - from 1948 to 1954 the Labour and Tory governments built an average of 240,000 council houses a year. However, Labour today, wedded to big business, will never implement such a demand. The Socialist Party calls for the organised workers' movement, in the form of the trade unions, to launch a mass campaign to defend and expand council housing. This could unite existing tenants and the five million people on waiting lists by demanding decent housing for all, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. At the same time we recognise that, particularly given the current lack of supply, the lack of an open, democratic and accountable system of allocations, which would be accepted by most workers, increases anger and suspicion that housing is being allocated unfairly. Cameron is whipping up this feeling in relation to migrants from other EU countries, who are in fact already only allowed to apply for social housing if they are currently in work, or have been in continuous work for at least the previous 12 months. And that is only for the right to apply - the current acute shortage means that the vast majority of applicants for social housing languish indefinitely on a waiting list. Statistics indicate that only 0.9% of social housing allocations have gone to workers from Eastern Europe. This is largely because, to actually get social housing, particularly in London and other areas with a severe housing shortage, it is usually necessary to not only be homeless, but also in priority need - that is pregnant, with dependent children, or vulnerable because of old age or illness. The mainly young economic migrants from EU countries rarely qualify. Nonetheless, there are of course cases where homeless families who are new to an area, sometimes refugees fleeing war, famine and persecution, are housed above families living in severely over-crowded conditions that have been on the waiting list for many years. While it is the extreme lack of council housing which is the root cause, leading to a choice between housing the homeless and the 'merely' desperate, this inevitably creates resentment among those who do not get council housing against those who do. The Socialist Party believes that the right of families to be housed in the same community is an important one. The policies of this government and Labour councils are annihilating this right; forcing desperate families to move hundreds of miles from family and friends for social housing. The struggle to achieve it has to be linked to both the fight for a mass council house-building programme and for the democratic control of the allocation system. Decisions should be taken on the basis of need, including the right to be housed near relatives and friends, not by council officials, however, but by elected representatives of local community organisations, including tenants associations, trade unions, elected councillors and other community campaigns. The workers' movement needs to take the same kind of class approach to other aspects of the government's attempts to increase divisions between immigrant and non-immigrant workers which are, unfortunately, being echoed by Labour. The Tories hypocritically claim that immigration is undermining 'the British way of life' but it is the government's driving down of workers' living standards that will ruin our way of life unless we fight back. Miliband has been forced to recognise belatedly that over the last decade big business in Britain used super-exploited migrant workers to lower wages for all workers. His proposals to prosecute more employers who pay less than the minimum wage are welcome. There have only been seven prosecutions since it was introduced 14 years ago, and for the first ten years of New Labour government not a single successful prosecution took place! Miliband should also pledge immediately to increase the minimum wage - to at least £8 an hour - a living wage rather than starvation rations. This would lift millions out of the benefit trap. But if Miliband was serious about stopping the race to the bottom he would be calling for all workers - both non-migrants and migrants - to join a trade union and organise together to win decent pay and conditions. This is the only way to effectively combat the employers' relentless attempts to drive down the wages of all workers. Instead Miliband, like Blair and Brown before him, has opposed workers striking to defend their living conditions and has made no pledge to repeal Britain's vicious anti-trade union laws. Unfortunately there is no possibility of Labour adopting even these minimal policies. Under Miliband, as under Blair and Brown, Labour remains a party wedded to capitalism. Miliband is not willing to even vote against slave labour Workfare schemes. Promising to reverse the Tory-Lib Dem cuts is too much for him to stomach. That is why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is beginning to lay the foundations for the creation of a powerful electoral voice for working class people. TUSC brings together trade unionists, including the transport workers' union, the RMT, and socialists, including the Socialist Party. TUSC stands in elections in opposition to all cuts in public services, and to fight for the kind of policies outlined in this article. Socialists stand for workers' unity, explaining that the only way to effectively prevent big business's attempts to drive down wages is by uniting workers - non-migrant and migrant - to fight for everyone to get decent pay and conditions. With most taken from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/758/16390/27-03-2013/cameron-whips-up-immigration-fears-to-divide-movement-against-austerity

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Is Italy’s 5 star movement something we could or should follow n the UK ?

With the emergence of a new formation based on the characture of Italian comedian Bepe Grillo gaining a very respectable vote in the recent Italian elections made many on the left in the UK sit up and take notice. In the CWI we’d known about this rising movement for a year or so now with our comrades in our Italian section explaining what he and his followers wereall about at last years CWI euopean school in Belgium. I don’t hink any othr left grouping has anything like the CWI does on a international scale at present. The CWI currently has operations and comrades in over 40 countries on every continent in the world. Not only are we trying to build our sections there but it also gives us invaluable insight in to the goings on in those countries and various movements there detailed on our fantastic website www.socialistworld.net Comedian Beppe Grillo and the Five Star Movement have taken centre stage following Italy’s general election in February. It is the latest, dramatic manifestation of the widespread rejection of establishment politics. CHRISTINE THOMAS of our England and Wales section writes on this new political phenomenon. The shock result in the recent Italian elections reverberated around the world, leading to market instability and fears about the possible economic fallout. The Five Star Movement (M5S – Movimento 5 Stelle), launched by the comedian Beppe Grillo just four years earlier, emerged as the biggest single party, with more than 25% of the vote. “We channelled all the anger in society”, said Grillo, summing up this election ‘victory’ in an interview with the international press (he refuses to speak to the Italian media). While workers and youth in Greece, Spain and Portugal have been waging general strikes and taking to the streets in their millions in opposition to a never-ending austerity onslaught, in Italy there has been relative quiescence. This is in spite of the devastating economic impact on ordinary people, with living standards falling to the level of 27 years ago. But, on 24/25 February, all the accumulated anger and dissatisfaction poured into the ballot boxes, with the M5S becoming the main beneficiary. In packed electoral rallies in piazzas all over the country, Grillo’s cry of “tutti a casa” (send them all packing) had a particular resonance with a population sick to the stomach of the corrupt, moneygrubbing, self-seeking politicians of the establishment parties, and of the industrialists and bankers involved in scandals. With just 2% having faith or trust in political parties, more than eight million voters turned to the M5S which pledged to ‘clean up’ and ‘shake up’ the political system. Consistent with its election pledges, the M5S is refusing at this stage to form an alliance with the PD (Partito Democratico) electoral coalition, or with the coalition of the PDL (Popolo della Libertà), the party of Silvio Berlusconi, both of which got around 29% of the vote. The ‘grillini’, as they are often called, effectively hold the balance of power. While the immediate perspectives are unclear, if any government emerges from these elections it will be weak, unstable and short-lived. New elections are likely, possibly within months. In that situation, the M5S could even increase its support – it has already gone up three points in opinion polls to 29%. A ‘movement’ not a party Clearly, the Five Star Movement is a key player in the Italian political arena. But what is its character, what does it stand for and how is it likely to develop in the future? In reality, the confused, ambiguous and fluid nature of the movement makes it difficult to define. Grillo describes himself as its ‘megaphone’, because the M5S, which developed in opposition to the traditional parties, is a ‘movement’ rejecting the structures of a party and which, therefore, cannot have a ‘leader’. In actual fact, Grillo, who co-founded the M5S with Robert Casaleggio, a wealthy marketing and web businessman, has an enormous personal influence over the movement. He owns the M5S ‘franchise’ and can personally decide who can and cannot use its symbol in elections. Grillo describes the M5S as “neither right nor left”, a “movement of ideas not ideologies”, and this is reflected in its membership, programme and electorate. The movement is mainly one of young, educated middle-class professionals. Of its MPs and senators, 24% are self-employed or small-business owners, 35% are professional/white collar workers and 15% students, pensioners or unemployed, 78% have a university degree. The M5S votes were geographically evenly spread and came from all political parties, both ‘left’ and ‘right’. Around 25% of its electorate had previously abstained. Which parties its votes mainly came from varied from region to region. In Turin, an industrial city in the north, for example, 37% of the M5S votes came from the PD (which includes part of the ex-Communist Party), and 20% from the ‘radical’ left. In Padua, 46% came from the right-wing populist Northern League (Lega Nord). In Reggio Calabria in the south, 49% came from Berlusconi’s PDL. The movement has a programme, voted for online by its members, but the pronouncements of Grillo in the piazzas and, in particular, posts on his blog, the most widely read in Italy, hold considerable weight. He also has a million followers on Twitter. The use of the internet and social media is central to the way in which the movement is organised, with ‘horizontal’ democracy seeking to replace the normal ‘vertical’ forms of democratic structures of elected committees, delegate conferences, etc. The 163 grillini MPs were selected online, with 20,000 people participating. Grillo launched his blog with Casaleggio in 2005, and the first ‘friends of Beppe Grillo’ began to discuss online and organise local ‘meet-ups’ (they use the English word). Things really started to take off in September 2007 when Grillo organised his ‘V.Day’ (V standing for an Italian expletive), when tens of thousands of people queued for hours in piazzas around the country to sign a petition calling for politicians with a criminal record to be banned from holding office. The movement spread via internet and social media, and the first Five Star councillors (30) were elected in local elections in 2008. In autumn 2009, the Movimento 5 Stelle was officially launched, going on to get more councillors elected and its first mayor of an important city (Parma, in Emilia Romagna). In anticipation of what was to happen later in the national elections, M5S became the biggest party in elections in Sicily in November 2012. Awash with corruption The corrupt political ‘caste’ and political system are the main targets of the movement. Grillo’s comedy routines have always had a political edge to them. In the 1980s, he railed against corrupt politicians. In 1986, he was banned from public TV after a joke about the then prime minister, Bettino Craxi, who eventually fled the country to avoid charges during the Tangentopoli scandal. Tangentopoli lifted the lid on a sewer of kickbacks and corruption spanning the political spectrum, leading to the collapse and disintegration of most of the main bourgeois parties. It was against this background of political crisis that Berlusconi was ushered to power, and the Northern League began to grow, both claiming to be ‘new’, ‘fresh’ untainted forces. Now, once again, Italy is awash with corruption scandals, undermining virtually every institution from football to the Vatican. In an international corruption league table, Italy is ranked 72nd, below Botswana, Chad and Rwanda. At national and local level, politicians of all the establishment parties, including the Northern League, and in particular Berlusconi’s PDL, but also the PD, have been found guilty of, or are under investigation for, taking bribes to give favours to friends and family members, creaming off millions of euros of public funds to finance lavish lifestyles, and a myriad of other charges. The idea, already extremely widespread in society, that they have all got their snouts in the trough, that they are all thieves, has been reinforced by these latest scandals. This partly explains the success of the grillini. Grillo uses revolutionary sounding phraseology about sweeping away the current MPs, parties and political system. This strikes a chord, especially with young people who hold the traditional parties in contempt and see no credible, mass left/anti-capitalist alternative among the existing parties and political formations. Fifty per cent of under 25s voted for the M5S (67% in Sicily), and 60% of students. In reality, however, the movement is proposing not revolution but democratic reform of the existing political system. This would include cuts to parliamentary salaries and expenses – the grillini representatives will only take half of their salaries, possibly less. In Sicily, the remainder of their salaries has gone to help local micro-businesses. The M5S calls for a change in the electoral law, halving the number of MPs, and abolishing the state funding of political parties, etc. The money saved, it claims, would go towards financing the rest of the M5S programme. The remainder would be financed from scrapping military spending on wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Voicing deep discontent Before the economic crisis, Grillo only really ever touched on two main issues: the political caste and the environment. The problems faced by workers in the workplace, cuts in health, education and public services were barely if ever mentioned. Even now these economic and social issues take second place to political reform. But the impact of the economic crisis has been severe both on working and middle-class people. Nearly 40% of youth are unemployed and tens of thousands of workers are on ‘cassa integrazione’ (short-time working or at home with part of their salary paid). The overwhelming majority of Italian companies are small, often family-run businesses struggling to obtain credit from the banks. A company closes down every minute. In his ‘tsunami’ election tour of 77 piazzas, Grillo began to give voice to the deep discontent at economic crisis and austerity. ‘Borrowing’ demands from the anti-capitalist left, he called for the nationalisation of the banks, a shorter working week and a ‘citizen’s income’. He spoke about restructuring the debt and called for a referendum on the euro. The M5S programme opposes cuts in education and supports a totally free health system. It is against the privatisation of water and is for the renationalisation of telecoms. In a context where the parties of the ‘radical left’, like the PRC (Rifondazione Comunista), have become invisible both in struggles and in elections, the fact that these issues are being raised and discussed is a positive development. The PRC stood in the elections as part of a heterogeneous electoral alliance (Rivoluzione Civile) dominated by magistrates which got a mere 2% of the vote. However, while the M5S’s reformist agenda has reflected and channelled the anger in society, it is entirely inadequate as a response to the crisis. Even if the political reforms were enacted and military spending cut, it is estimated that this would provide barely €2 billion, nowhere near sufficient to finance the proposed reforms in the M5S programme. There are many on the left who say that the vote for the M5S is a reactionary vote. This is based primarily on comments that Grillo has made about the trade unions, public-sector workers and, in particular, CasaPound, a neo-fascist organisation. It is important that these comments and the vote for the M5S are put into context. A distinction has to be made between Grillo, the M5S and those who voted for the grillini. A breakdown of the vote for the M5S shows that some of its best results came in areas where there have been important local struggles. In Taranto, for instance, where thousands of workers face losing their jobs due to the closure of ILVA, the biggest steel factory in Europe, the M5S got the highest vote of any party. In Carbonia Sulcis, Sardinia, where miners occupied the last pit in Italy with dynamite strapped to their bodies to stop it from closing, the grillinis got 33.7%. In Bussoleno, Val di Susa, centre of the mass No TAV campaign against a high-speed rail link, the M5S obtained a massive 45%. Undoubtedly, in the Veneto region in the northeast, many of the grillini votes came from former Northern League voters, including small-business owners. But some of these would have voted for the left in the past and, as Grillo has shown, could be won over to a programme which included the nationalisation of the banks and low-interest credit for small businesses. An eclectic mix of policies If a credible anti-capitalist alternative had been on offer there is no doubt that many of the votes which went to the grillini could have been channelled in a leftward direction, as has been the experience in Greece with the rapid rise of Syriza. But this is not the case in Italy. The historic weakness and collapse of the left has created a vacuum which the M5S has filled rapidly and spectacularly. This is most definitely a complicating factor in the development of a new mass left workers’ party. But, in the absence of a viable alternative, the vote for the M5S marked an important break from the parties of austerity and a searching for radical change. The programme of the grillini is a confused, incoherent, eclectic mix of policies reflecting its middle-class make-up. Grillo’s comments are often ambiguous and open to different interpretations. They also express clumsily the genuine feelings of many middle- and working-class people. His comments on CasaPound were not an open endorsement of fascism but a recognition of the reality that some of CasaPound’s policies overlap with those of the M5S (and even with the anti-capitalist left), and that some youth attracted to fascism could be won over to the M5S. However, many on the left interpret Grillo’s comments as being sympathetic to fascism. The question of the character of fascism needs to be addressed – the grillini group leader in the lower house has also made comments revealing an ignorance of its real nature. So do some of the comments Grillo has made regarding immigrants: saying that Italy cannot take on all the world’s problems, and that the children born in Italy to immigrants should not be given the right to citizenship automatically. However, this needs to be done not by labelling the M5S as ‘fascists’ or in a moralistic way, but by putting forward a programme which explains how it is possible to fight for an extension of jobs, workers’ rights and quality public services for all, and how this entails challenging the economic base of society. When Grillo called for trade unions to be ‘eliminated’ because they are ‘old structures’ like the parties, some interpreted this as an attack on unions in general. Others, including many organised workers, saw it as a welcome attack on the union bureaucracy, especially as Grillo said that, if the unions were like the FIOM (the more militant union of engineering workers) or COBAS (union of the base), things would be different. In the same speech he went on to declare that companies should belong to those who work in them. This is consistent with the grillini support for ‘direct democracy’ over a democracy which requires intermediaries such as parties. The real issue here, however, and which has been expressed in Grillo’s praise of workers’ participation in Germany, is a denial of class conflict and the promotion of the idea that workers and bosses have a common interest in working together for the good of the economy, a position which flows from the M5S’s middle-class composition and outlook. Conflicting pressures In the very short term, the movement is likely to grow both in terms of members and electoral support. But very quickly the political and organisational contradictions are likely to intensify, leading to its decline and fragmentation, especially if it enters or forms a government at national level. Some reforms will be possible. In Sicily, the grillinis have blocked the building of a controversial US satellite ground station, and the same could happen with the TAV. But the weakness of the Italian economy and the ongoing crisis mean that these reforms will be very limited. The movement will come under conflicting pressures from the capitalist class, on the one hand, demanding austerity and labour market ‘reform’ and, on the other, from the working- and middle-class people who voted for it in the hope of real political and economic change. The limits of the M5S’s reformist policies and the methods of the movement can be seen in Parma, where the mayor, Federico Pizzarotti, is a grillino. As a legacy of the previous corrupt administration the mayor inherited a budget deficit of almost €1 billion. Already the administration has started to increase charges for local services and impose cuts ‘because the money isn’t there’. The grillini were elected in Parma partly in opposition to the building of a local incinerator which, they claimed, would go ahead ‘over their dead bodies’. The incinerator has now been activated and cannot be stopped, they say, because of the crippling compensation that would have to be paid. There is no concept of building a mass campaign among local people to demand more money for local services from central government or to stop the incinerator. While individual councillors have recently begun to go to factories faced with closure, and individual members are involved in local environmental struggles, like that of the No TAV in Val di Susa, the main M5S campaign initiatives have been limited to the question of democratic political reform. The absence of party structures in the M5S means a lack of accountability and democratic control over elected representatives, especially at a national level. The unrest among members in Emilia Romagna and the expulsion of two councillors, including the first ever elected M5S councillor, who criticised Grillo for undemocratic methods, is a foretaste of future rebellions against the political and organisational dominance of Grillo over the movement. Already, Grillo has threatened around ten to twelve senators with ‘consequences’ for the ‘betrayal’ of voting for the PD candidate (an anti-mafia magistrate) for president of the Senate, causing uproar among the movement’s members in blogland. As the political and organisational contradictions emerge this will open up space for discussion about the need for an anti-capitalist political party based on the workers’ movement and on struggle. The M5S represents a new and important factor in a situation of political, economic and social crisis. An analysis and understanding of the character and the weaknesses of this movement is necessary but is not, in itself, sufficient. Those on the left in Italy need to engage politically with the grillini and their ideas and, most importantly, with those radicalised workers’ and youth who voted for them as part of the process of building a real working-class alternative to the capitalist system.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

march 26 2011 a look back, TUC vacated struggle for now

2 years ago today we were on the embankment in London lining up to march against the cuts the first major demonstration since the con-dems came to power. There was great noise and expectation that this could be the start of a mass fight back by the unions and the working class as a result. Yet today looking back 2 years on we’re left wondering what was it all for? Hearing big grand speeches from union leader after union leader we need to go further one march is not enough one day strike action is not enough yet barring November the 30th 2011 was a big march up a hill and back again. The TUC disgracefully has still not responded to the consultation on the consideration of a general strike agreed at last year’s TUC congress in September which the NSSN lobbied. I hear today unison one of the biggest public sector unions has the lowest days lost to strike action in its history at this present time one strike and one strike ballot live at present apparently. That for me sums up the trade union leadership absolute capitulation to the cuts a willingness to rush into negotiations before fighting. November the 30th sell out by right wing trade union leaders set our movement back a huge way from a point we were at a weak point anyway before. Thinking back to march 26th 2011 I was full of optimism I’d just joined the socialist party and felt the working class was awakening again to take on this vicious undemocratic government yet we’re in this big lull at the moment waiting and intervening where we can waiting to see which way the class turns . But I can’t help feeling March 26 and the following year was a big disappointment and an opportunity lost. The following year in October of 2012 there was far less on the demonstration a “future that works” was the title not march for the alternative this time and from a demonstration of 500 k plus in 2011 was probably less than half of that who c amen on October the 20th. No doubt disillusioned and disheartened by the continued sell outs of union leaders and a failure to take the struggle on. While labour politicians used both platforms to spout their too far and too fast line rightly miliband got booed on the last demo. No pro cuts MP should be invited from now on in my view it disarms us. We will again be lobbying the TUC with the NSSN this April on the 24th when the general council meets again. We cannot let these bureaucrats off the hook. If it has to be we will go it alone PCS has already shown it is prepared to fight even if no other unions are alongside them. This is far from ideal and PCS must be supported with solidarity and other unions joining the action next time. The Tories are out for unions like the PCS so they need our solidarity and what better way than to get other unions to join the action. Unity is strength in this case. March 26th will live long in the memory for me one of my first big demonstrations and inspirational in some ways yet it could have been so much more. We must remember that going forward learn from our setbacks so we do not make the same mistakes again.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Imigration, Romania and Camerons lies

Immigration is a tool used by the ruling class to undermine wages of all workers. It accepts that foreign workers coming from a lower waged economy will take lower paid jobs here as it is a little better than where they have have come from. This as a result drives down all wages of all workers. Romanians coming to live in the UK are not migrating to claim benefits, but to work, one of Romania's leading recruiters for Britain has said. David Cameron has warned those coming to Britain they can no longer expect "something for nothing," and is to reveal tougher curbs on benefits for immigrants. But Brindusa Deac, who works for Romanian recruitment website Tjobs.ro, told the Huffington Post UK the number of job openings available shows Romanians do not need to claim benefits. More than 47,000 job openings were advertised on their job site offering Romanians positions in England last year, many for doctors and nurses. Cameron is due to say in a speech on Monday: "We should be clear that what we have is a free National Health Service, not a free International Health Service." But Miss Deac said she had no idea why the prime minister would suggest Romanians are emigrating to be treated on the NHS as their own health service currently offers free treatment. She said most Romanians came home for medical attention, as it was much cheaper. "We think since there are that many job openings in the UK, Romanians aren't going there for benefits, what would be the value of that?" she told The Huffing No doubt many who do come will be lumped in as scroungers and demonised but the facts speak for they Romania has a free health service so they clearly are not coming for that reason. I would encourage all foreign nationals thinking of coming to the UK to join a union and get involved as we all need to fight for the rate of the job not to give in to divide and rule. If we all do the same job we all should be paid the same rate for that job. As for their claims of jobs a plenty in the UK I wouldn’t be so sure they are no doubt low paid possibly even 0 hour contracts with long hours and poor conditions these are the jobs immigrants often take and would prefer to do that than to claim for benefits. We must smash the myth on immigration and try and ease people’s concerns that people are not here for our jobs and health service. That is the boss’s and the Tories who both need to go. Organising workers unemployed or not into unions is a key task for unions right now. Workers should see unions as their home and something they can rely on its time for unions to regain their relevance and that starts with working for their members and being member lead.

Mass trade union response to austerity needed to channel anger

There is the real danger of peoples anger which is growing by the day in Britain to spill out in unconstructive ways including riots and other counter productive expressions. We do not condone riots as socialists but they could become all too real again if peoples anger at the cuts mass privatisation and hefty austerity is not opposed in a positive constructive avenue. The Socialist Party has consistently called for the unions to organise and coordinate strike action, including a 24-hour general strike against austerity. This is urgent. Even more than the two million-strong N30 strike in November 2011, effectively a one-day public sector general strike, this type of action would get huge support across the public and private sectors. The N30 strike rallies and demonstrations were massive but since then people's anger against Con-Dem cuts, including in the NHS and now the hated Bedroom Tax, has only increased. There is huge potential to build support for generalised strike action among the wider working class, large sections of the middle class and especially the youth. Measures are needed to help precarious workers facing intimidation to unionise. Youth Fight for Jobs has begun this work with its Sick of Your Boss initiative showing the potential for trade unions to reach out to unorganised workers. A 24-hour general strike would be a mighty demonstration of the power of the trade unions and their appeal would grow enormously. But since N30 there has been no follow-up national coordinated action by the unions although there were numerous local and sectional disputes, securing a number of victories such as that of the sparks against the construction companies' vicious attempt to slash a third of their pay. PCS members have organised group action in many government departments, often securing significant concessions or even outright victories, such as preventing compulsory redundancies in the DWP. However, millions of other workers will be asking, 'What about me?' By April 2014, all public sector workers will be paying increased pension contributions, another pay cut on the back of a five-year pay freeze or below inflation pay rises. Tory minister Pickles has just imposed a 1% pay rise on millions of council workers - a 2% pay cut in real terms - with strings! Teachers are facing attacks on all fronts - on pay, through academisation and on workload. In September 2012 the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) brought 1,000 union activists to Brighton to lobby TUC Congress in support of the POA motion that called for the "practicalities of a general strike" to be considered. The TUC General Council of union leaders is meeting on 24 April to discuss each union's submissions on this after it was passed. The anti-trade union laws present a certain obstacle - as they have done in southern Europe. But as has been shown in Greece, Spain, Italy, etc, the ability of the government and employers to use the anti-union laws depends on the concrete balance of forces. When prison officers, who have no legal right to strike, organised action on 10 May 2012, the government did not dare to use the law against the POA, as they knew it would escalate the struggle. As the Socialist party has said, if the TUC was to name the day for a general strike, and then make it clear to the government that if any unions or workers were threatened for participating in the strike the TUC would immediately call another 24-hour general strike, the anti-trade union laws could be pushed aside, losing their power to hobble the trade union movement. The left unions won the vote at a recent TUC executive to get the left legal experts Keith Ewing and John Hendy to the April General Council to explain their opinion on how a general strike could be legal. We welcome this discussion - but there is already the potential to build mass joint action. This could start in the public sector on pay, privatisation, redundancies, etc, and then the appeal could go out to workers in the private sector to ballot on the innumerable grievances that face them. For example, the CWU facing planned privatisation of the Royal Mail and the RMT and the other rail unions have the prospect of the devastating McNulty Report. The NSSN is calling for a lobby of the 24 April TUC General Council meeting. It will demand that the trade union leaders do not just consider the general strike submissions but name the date. But the union leaders don't need to wait for that meeting; they should already be discussing coordinating ballots and action for late June. PCS is following up the recent 20 March budget day strike with a half-day stoppage on 5 April - the final day of the tax year. As PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka outlined at a TUC pre-budget rally, this will herald a series of group and departmental actions of various durations, in the build-up to a likely one-day strike on 26 June, when Osborne sets out the next phase of the cuts in his Comprehensive Spending Review. Since then the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions have announced regional strikes, starting with the North West on 27 June. This should be turned into a national strike, coordinated with the PCS, who have appealed to other unions to strike with them. Activists will not be content to sit and wait while the TUC deliberates and living standards are eroded. It was pressure from below that forced the trade union leaders to vote for the POA motion and even greater pressure must be applied to force them into taking the much-needed action. Branches and workplace meetings should pass resolutions urging their union leaderships to take up the call from the PCS for serious discussion among the left unions' leaders. Those unions should go to the April General Council with the confidence and knowledge that their members and the rank and file of other unions will not be satisfied with anything less than a strike date. Some on the left, with the financial backing of Unite, are pushing the People's Assembly on 22 June as a vehicle to resist austerity, organised a week before the NSSN's 7th annual conference. The Socialist Party and the NSSN will use every opportunity and platform to put pressure on the union leaders to call decisive action. But there is a danger that this event, which will give an uncritical stage to Labour and Green politicians as well as the union leaders, could be a talking shop, helping to kick the idea of mass strike action even further into the long grass. There is no alternative but mobilisation around a serious strategy to coordinate and escalate action by the most powerful organisation in British society, the labour movement. The trade union leaders should not hand leadership of the anti-cuts movement to an unaccountable, unrepresentative nebulous People's Assembly but organise action themselves. A 24-hour general strike could transform the situation. The Con-Dems have had some success in their pernicious attempts at division: young against old, low-paid workers against unemployed, etc. Coordinated action by even a section of the 6.5 million workers in the unions would make the case for united struggle and undermine the Con-Dems' divide and rule tactics. It would instil confidence in the anti-cuts campaigns and it would show this hated and despised government that they cannot get away with destroying our lives. This will be the key issue for discussion at the NSSN conference on 29 June because it is the key question facing the working class. What is needed now is a real 'Workers Assembly' - a 24-hour general strike at the end of June, which can mobilise mass demonstrations in every town and city - a movement of millions to force this government back and open up the way to a victory against the cuts. With extracts from this week’s editorial of the socialist http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/757/16343/20-03-2013/trade-unions-must-lead-anti-cuts-fightback

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Iraq 10 years on, no lessons learnt, no to all imperialist wars

10 years on from the start of the Iraq war where we were taken in to a unjust illegal war still no lessons seem to have been learnt from the western capitalist powers. Its almost as if we’re at year zero every time. Iraq costing billions and killing over a million was one of the defining periods of the last labour governments reign and will forever have their finger prints all over it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say all who stillare in labour supported the war as clearly many didn’t but why would you wish to remain in such a party which took us to war illegally? Ten years ago, under the banner, 'Operation Iraqi Freedom', the US-led 'coalition of the willing' attacked Iraq. Despite huge public opposition, including tens of millions-strong global anti-war demonstrations on 15-16 February 2003, the "shock and awe" bombing campaign began on 20 March, followed by a land invasion a few hours later. The enormous military force descended on a people who had suffered 35 years of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, the 1991 Gulf War and 13 years of cruel United Nations (UN) sanctions, which destroyed the Iraqi economy, reduced millions to poverty and cost between half a million to one million Iraqi lives. WMD fiction The 2003 war was 'justified' by a torrent of propaganda and lies emanating from Washington and Downing Street, which was repeated by a compliant, right-wing media. President Bush accused the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, of attempting to enrich uranium to develop "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD). US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told the UN on 6 February 2003 that Iraq was acquiring biological weapons capability. Tony Blair, the Labour prime minister, claimed that Iraqi WMD could be ready for use "within 45 minutes". Saddam was also accused of aiding al-Qa'ida. These were all lies. Soon after the invasion no evidence of Saddam's WMD could be found by the occupying forces or links between the former Saddam regime and 'terrorism'. In fact, it was the occupation that caused such resentment that it brought al-Qa'ida's sectarian terror to Iraq. Yet on the eve of the war's tenth anniversary, the former prime minister told the BBC: "So when you say 'do you think of the loss of life since 2003?' of course I do. You would have to be inhumane not to, but think of what would have happened if he had been left there." Blair's trite comments do not even begin to address the enormous human cost of the war. From 2003 to 2011, 150,000 to 400,000 Iraqis are believed to have died violently, according to several studies. The respected medical journal, The Lancet, estimated a much higher figure of over 600,000 people dying violently between 2003 and 2006, alone. Added to this are countless thousands of Iraqis still missing and thousands of US, British and other coalition military personnel deaths and serious injuries. The harvest of death in Iraq left two million widows as primary family breadwinners and 4.5 million orphans (600,000 of who live in the streets). The war created four million refugees. One million fled to Syria. A further 1.3 million are internally displaced persons in Iraq. Only one in eight of these have returned home since 2008. The Bush/Blair Iraq adventure also came at considerable economic cost to the US economy. According to Joseph Stiglitz, the former World Bank chief economist, it took $3 trillion from the US economy. While the funds are always there to fight foreign wars on behalf of big business profits and interests, American and British workers find their living standards falling dramatically. Interviews with Blair fail to put to him the real reasons for the invasion. Instead the war of imperialist aggression is dressed up as 'humanitarian interventionism' and attempts by Blair and Bush to export Western-style liberal democracy to the Middle East. The ruling classes internationally were divided over Iraq. World and regional powers were fearful of the consequence of invasion and the USA gaining at their expense. The Bush neo-cons, however, pushed for war. American and British imperialism, which previously backed Saddam, did not go to war to stop oppression or to introduce democratic rights and improve living standards. For decades, Saddam's sadistic regime murdered and terrorised Iraqis while enjoying Western backing. After the overthrow of another Western favoured regional despot, the Shah of Iran, Saddam was encouraged by the West to invade its neighbour. Millions perished or suffered terrible injuries in the resulting eight-year war. Saddam fell foul of Western imperialism's interests when he invaded neighbouring Kuwait in 1991. The potential for Saddam to control vital oil supplies terrified western powers and they quickly assembled a massive military force. The first Gulf War saw a US-led coalition quickly retake the oil-rich statelet but stop short at Iraqi borders. Little concern was shown for the opposition to Saddam in 1991 when the Western military force stood back as an uprising by Shi'ites and Kurds was brutally put down by the dictator. Cynically exploiting the heinous '9/11' al-Qa'ida terror attacks, the White House and Downing Street eagerly seized the opportunity to directly intervene militarily to overthrow Saddam and to impose a pro-Western, pliant regime. Seizing control of Iraq's abundant oil reserves, estimated to be 9% of the world total, was a key objective for US imperialism, as well as its vital geo-strategic interests in the Middle East. Perhaps it was to stop naked imperialist ambitions of these kind becoming public knowledge that led the Cabinet Office to insist the much-delayed Chilcot inquiry report will be published without crucial evidence that would reveal what Blair and Bush discussed in the run-up to the invasion? Backing dictators Blair and Bush have not faced trial for their Iraqi war crimes. The International Criminal Court (ICC), like the UN, is dominated by the interests of the powerful nation states. Only former despots and warlords from the Balkans and Africa, who have conflicted with imperialism, have been brought before the ICC at the Hague. With all other justifications for his war shredded, Blair asks: "If we hadn't removed Saddam from power just think, for example, what would be happening if these Arab revolutions were continuing now and Saddam, who's probably 20 times as bad as Assad in Syria, was trying to suppress an uprising in Iraq?" There is no doubt that Saddam was a brutal tyrant, whose regime murdered many people, including communists and trade unionists. But the former prime minister has no problem with dictators, per se. 'Tony Blair Associates' advise the Kazakhstan despot, Nazarbayev, the butcher of striking oil workers. And Blair's 'liberated' Iraq is today run by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who even the right-wing Economist accuses of "dictatorial tendencies". The 2003 invasion greatly increased Arabs' sense of humiliation and injustice at the hands of imperialism. This was an important factor fuelling the 2011 revolutions against Western-backed dictators in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as widespread anger at the lack of democratic rights, mass joblessness and poverty in these societies. The 'Arab Spring' does not at all justify Blair's neocolonial adventure but actually validates the position of the Socialist in the run-up to the Iraq war; that removing the tyrant Saddam was the task of the Iraqi working people by a united mass struggle. The toppling of close Western allies, Ben Ali and Mosni Mubarak, who were supposedly 'impregnable' dictators like Saddam, in late 2010 and early 2011, showed this was also a possible course of action for the Iraqi masses. John Prescott, Labour Deputy Prime Minister in 2003, now Lord Prescott, recently admitted to the BBC that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 "cannot be justified". He said he had backed the invasion because he believed George Bush had a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bush and Blair did claim the defeat of Saddam would act as an impetus for a new 'road map' for peace in Israel and Palestine. But as the Socialist warned in 2003, the oppression of Palestinians would continue unabated after the Iraq invasion. For its own imperialist geo-strategic interests, the US continues to support Israel, its closest ally in the region, while genuine Palestinian self-determination and statehood is further away than ever. In an interview with BBC's Newsnight, Blair agreed that 'daily life in Iraq today is not what he hoped it would be' when he opted to invade ten years ago. Blair claimed there have been "significant improvements" but that "it is not nearly what it should be". This is an understatement, to say the least! The Socialist resolutely opposed imperialist intervention in 2003, and correctly predicted it would bring oppression and chaos - opening up the gates to sectarian conflagration - and that imperialism would be bogged down in a long conflict. The occupiers' policy of 'de-Ba'athification' of Saddam's largely Sunnis-based regime, and the disbandment of the Iraqi army, resulted in sectarian purges of Sunnis. This ignited fierce Sunni-based resistance. Brutal colonial occupation, including the systematic torture and abuse of civilians in notorious jails like Abu Ghraib, the siege of Fallujah city and the massacre of resistance fighters and many civilians at cities like Haditha and Balad, ensured growing mass opposition to the US-led occupation, which was not just confined to Sunnis. Anti-war sentiment grew in the US, Britain and internationally. Despite their awesome military machine and war chest, the Coalition was unable to crush the resistance and resorted to divide and rule tactics. They backed Shia against Sunni, causing an orgy of bloodletting. Consequences According to investigations by the Guardian and the BBC's Arabic language service, in 2004 the Bush administration turned to the "Salvador option" - named after the US's role in running right-wing death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s. Shia militias were armed and financed by the US. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died and millions were displaced as a result. The Sunnis were the main losers in the sectarian civil war. A US-imposed 'constitution' institutionalised sectarian and ethnic divisions. Elections in 2005 led to Shia-based parties winning a majority in parliament and the prime minister's office. A corrupt ruling class, and reactionary, sectarian-based political parties struggle over Iraq's natural resources while the mass of people live in poverty. Although Iraq has $100 billion (£66 billion) a year in oil revenues little of this trickles down to the people. It is the eighth most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International. The capital, Baghdad, which is home to a fifth of the country's 33 million population, is still a city at war, divided up by oppressive military checkpoints and barriers, and vulnerable to indiscriminate, sectarian outrages. Baghdad and central Iraq suffer daily bombings, assassinations and kidnappings. Bush and Blair's legacy includes a fivefold increase in birth defects and fourfold increase in cancer rates in and around Fullujah, as a consequence of the Coalition forces' use of radioactive depleted uranium munitions. Western politicians like to contrast Baghdad to the relative peace in the oil-rich Kurdish region and majority-Shia provinces. But this is illusory. The Shia in the south are relatively safer because one community dominates overwhelmingly. Unemployment is high, however, and most Shias still live in dreadful poverty. Tensions between Kurds, Arabs and other minorities simmer in the semi-independent Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Much to the chagrin of the central Baghdad government, the Kurdish regime has made 50 oil and gas deals with foreign companies and exports oil directly to Turkey. After decades of brutal oppression, many Kurds hope they can move towards real self-determination. But the KRG is surrounded by states that have a long history of oppressing Kurds. The reactionary Kurdish leaders are in 'alliances' with the US and Turkey, one of the worst perpetrators of Kurdish oppression. An indication of the growing conflict over oil and territory between KRG and the central Iraqi regime is seen by clashes between Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi troops. The removal of Saddam has not made the world a "safer place", as Bush/Blair promised. In fact, the world became much more violent and volatile. Saddam did not have "weapons of mass destruction" but after the 2003 invasion "rogue state" regimes, such as North Korea, concluded that only way to stop a US-led attack against them was to acquire them. Despite imperialism's setbacks in Iraq, the US and Britain continue to wage conflicts around the world to further their vital interests. Trying to create distance from Blair's war, Ed Miliband said the Iraq war was a mistake but he continues to support British troops in Afghanistan and does not call for an end to US drone strikes. The 2003 war and occupation have had long-term consequences for the region. Putting Western forces in Iraq was meant to further isolate and encircle Iran. However, Tehran found it had influence over the Shia-dominated Iraq government and the regional 'Shia Arc' was strengthened. Partly to counter Iran, reactionary Gulf states and Western imperialism are meddling in Syria, exploiting the Sunni-based opposition to Assad. The Syrian conflict is spreading to Lebanon and Iraq, where a 'Sunni Spring' has seen mass opposition demonstrations in Sunni areas. Revolution The majority of Iraqis do not want to be dragged back to the horrors of civil war. But to stop more conflicts, to end imperialist interference and to kick out the corrupt, reactionary ruling elites, working people need an alternative. Iraq had a powerful Left until it was crushed by a CIA-backed coup in the 1960s and, later, by the Saddam regime. The most important lesson from that tragedy and from the horrors of the last decade is the need for working people to have an independent, class-based party to fight for their interests. Such a party would demand the nationalisation of the oil riches, under democratic public ownership, to benefit the masses. As the 2011 revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia showed, mass struggles will develop against tyrants, and despite the movements' limitations, can throw them from power. But to succeed in making fundamental system change, working people need a socialist programme, in each country, regionally and internationally. With extracts taken from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/757/16346/20-03-2013/iraq-ten-years-after-shock-and-awe

Labour party on Workfare, a dirty little secret?

The labour party are nothing but an all out capitalist party nowadays we can be under no illusions if we accept that fact we can begin to move forward. Sadly many deluded left wingers still seem to harbour illusions in a labour party which has long since given up on them. Their reasons? I cannot fathom myself but blind loyalty and insanity must be well up there with reasons why people still support this awful excuse for a political party. It was Tony Blair who introduced the first mass workfare scheme with the flagshipNewDeal back in the late 90s. Much like the Government’s current schemes it was widely derided as a failure that placed billions in the pockets of private sector providers like A4e, but had less than impressive results actually finding young people work. Despite the disastrous results, workfare continued throughout the Labour Government’s period in office, becoming rebranded as the ‘Flexible’ New Deal in later years. When the Tories came to power it was expanded and renamed (at vast cost) as the ‘Work Programme’. Six months unpaid labour, under threat of benefit sanctions, has been at the heart of all these schemes. Labour’s workfare obsession is set to continue although gormless gimp Miliband is claiming that placements will be paid the minimum wage. He promises a million new jobs, all funded by the tax payer. But then he would say that wouldn’t he. In fact he can say pretty much anything he likes, no-one’s really listening after all. He also warns that those who don’t take up his pretend jobs will face the toughest sanctions ever. These jobs would be paid for with a ‘bankers tax’, a fine idea except spending it on subsidising low paid workers for multi-national companies is missing the point somewhat. Almost all of the problems that exist with workfare still exist with Millibands scheme, which in many ways could prove far worse for worker’s pay and conditions. This daft plan would enshrine six months Government subsidised work for private companies as the norm for young people. Whilst a million people currently in minimum wage work would lose their jobs, young people, whether they had other plans or not, would be sent to replace them or forced into poverty. Just like under the current policies, it would be the most vulnerable who faced sanctions. As Miliband’s workfare workers would be paid by the state and face benefit sanctions for non-compliance, they would have few, if any workplace rights. Just like today’s workfare staff, they could potentially be used to undermine industrial action. The Unions should reject outright any plans for a million strong army of scab labour. If private companies want workers they should pay for them. And young people deserve a choice about where they work. Don’t expect any change from Labour though. So desperate are they to show they hate the poor and unemployed just as much as the Eton toffs, they are determined to look tough on benefit claimants. It’s a little bit pathetic really. New Labour was bad enough, now we have Forced Labour. As it was Labour who introduced the brutal Atos testing regime for sick and disabled people it’s unlikely they would plan more enlightened policies for claimants on health related benefits either. The truth is most of them supported much of the recent Welfare Reform Bill. They voted against it purely for political point scoring, not ideological concern for the country’s poorest people. The Labour Party are not the opposition, they are a slightly inept carbon copy of the Tory Party. They will do nothing should they ever claw their way back to power, but continue the attacks on the five million voters on some form of benefit. Just like they have done nothing to support public sector workers or supported the biggest strikes in living memory. They haven’t been the party of the working class for a long time, if they truly ever were. But more than ever they are toadying sycophants to the rich, sucking up to big business in the hope of making lots of money like Tony Blair did when they do the decent thing and retire. The entire fucking lot of them, Labour and Tory alike, need stringing up. The system is broken. It can only be fixed from the bottom up and that means us.

Friday, 22 March 2013

New developments in Cyprus open new chapter of Eurozone turmoil

No trust in capitalist government! No austerity for the Euro! Kick out the Troika! For a socialist alternative! By Tony Saunois, CWI The eurozone crisis has dramatically intensified during the last week. It has blown away the optimism of the ruling class in recent months that they had resolved the crisis. Once again, the continuation of the eurozone, as currently constituted, is seriously threatened. The Cyprus crisis could also dramatically pose the viability of the euro. This time the threat has erupted not from one of the so-called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain). The latest threat to the existence of the eurozone has come from Cyprus. It is a measure of the parlous state of the eurozone and the EU that Cyprus which accounts for 1:500 of the EU GDP (compared to Greece’s 2% of GDP), threatens the continuation of the current eurozone. These developments have intensified the crisis and raised again the spectre of rapid contagion to other countries, especially Italy, Spain and Portugal. Cyprus was also, at least initially, the first country to apparently call the bluff of the Troika. This threatens to set a “trend” for other eurozone countries to do likewise, something which Merkel and the other EU leaders are terrified of. While, at the time of writing, it remains unclear exactly how this new phase in the crisis will unfold, the developments in Cyprus represent the opening of a new chapter. Arrogantly, like a colonial master, the Troika insisted that the Cypriot government confiscate a percentage of the bank deposits held by both rich and poor, 9.9% for those holding over 100,000 euros and 6.75% for others, as a condition for a bail out of 16bn euros. The Troika would provide 10bn euros with an additional 5.8bn raised by the Cypriot government. This was perceived as a dictate by colonial rulers. Yiannaki Omiras, President of the Parliament, argued that, “Europe want Cyprus to return to be a country of limited sovereignty – neo-colonial”. The history of colonial rule under the Ottoman Empire and British imperialism is an important part of Cyprus’s history, fuelling opposition to measures being imposed by the Troika. The confiscation of a percentage of the deposits of all savers provoked a massive backlash in Cyprus and other EU countries caught in the centre of the storm, especially Italy, Portugal and Spain. In one stroke, the imposition of this measure fatally undermined the insurance guarantee for depositors throughout the EU. This can lead to a flight of capital from other weak economies in the EU, such as Portugal, Italy and Spain. If the Troika could impose this on Cyprus, then why not Italy, Spain or Portugal and other countries when the next bailout is needed? It was a blunder by Merkel and the Troika, driven by the ‘hard-line’ Dutch, Finns and Slovaks in support of Merkel and German imperialism. The deposit ‘tax’ threatened to trigger a run on the banks in other countries, as depositors withdraw money from their accounts in fear that they could loose at least a percentage of them. The consequences of this miscalculation – reflecting the arrogance of the EU leaders and that they are lashing around for solutions – has only intensified the crisis. President humiliated In Cyprus, the reaction to the Troika demands was such newly-elected President Nicolas Anastasiadis, in power for just over two weeks, was left humiliated. Bullied into accepting the deal in Brussels, Anastasiadis returned to Cyprus to face a revolt of the mass of the population and all the political parties, including his own. In the end, not a single MP voted for the deal and the governing party, DRP, abstained on the vote! They effectively called the bluff of the Troika, which, in turn, put the ball back into the Cypriot court, by threatening to cut off ECB funds in days, by Monday 25 March. Such a move would effectively put Cyprus outside the euro-zone and possibly even the EU itself. Developments in Cyprus can increase the pressure in other countries for the national governments to stand up to the Troika and the EU. However, the Troika will impose harsh conditions on Cyprus, to punish its people, as a warning to others that this will be their fate should they defy the Troika. Apart from the pressure by the mass of the population to oppose this measure there were other important factors which also allowed the Cypriot ruling class to withstand the demands of the Troika. Deal with other powers Unlike the Greek ruling class, the Cypriot rulers have the prospect to strike a deal with other capitalist powers outside the EU, in particular Russia. But the vote to reject the deal in the Cypriot parliament was not a vote against an austerity package. The cuts package had already been accepted by the previous government, led by AKEL (the Cypriot Communist Party), which has significant support amongst workers, and passed on to its successor. The bail out was a bail out of the banks, which together with tourism, are the mainstay of the Cypriot economy. Cypriot banking is awash with money from Russia – US$31bn invested in Cypriot banks by the Russian banking system alone - due to very favourable tax rates. The vote against the Troika package by the pro-capitalist parties was partly a vote to maintain Cyprus as an offshore tax haven. Banking, which is currently eight-times the size of the country’s GDP, has been teetering on collapse after being exposed to heavy losses as a result of the crisis in Greece. At the same time, Cyprus has gas reserves worth an estimated 475bn euro. This, the ruling class had hoped, would give them the opportunity to broker an alternative deal with Russia. This revealed a clash of national interests between the capitalist and imperialist powers. The prospect of Russia acquiring a share of the oil reserves, in return for at least a percentage of the bail out, enraged Merkel and German imperialism, in particular. Even US imperialism is disquieted at such a development. The extension of Russian influence into an EU country will aggravate tensions with German imperialism and other EU powers. Reflecting this threat, it appears that the Russian deal has collapsed. At this stage, Putin and the Russian oligarchs do not want to come into a sharp collision with Germany and other EU powers, which would threaten trade and other commercial interests. At the time of writing, the apparent collapse of this alternative deal has left the Cypriot government floundering around in a desperate search for a solution. Failure to secure one will possibly result in the ejection of Cyprus from the euro. This would undoubtedly provoke a major crisis in Cyprus. The introduction of a new currency would result in a massive devaluation and flight of capital from the country, massive hike inflation and a slashing of living standards. Moreover, it would also put the question of the viability of the euro back on centre stage of the crisis. This follows a respite in recent months during which the ruling classes in Europe have claimed that the euro crisis was ‘resolved’. Italy next? Yet it has already emerged following the dramatic elections in Italy. Despite the lack of a socialist alternative for the Italian workers and masses, a clear majority voted for the anti-austerity parties. The populist movement led by Beppe Grillo took 25% of the vote, campaigning against the euro, for a return of the lira and a restructuring of Italy’s mountain of 9 trillion euro public debt. There is still no government formed in Italy. Greece Italy, the EU’s third largest economy, would make the drama of the Greek crisis seem like a minor side show in comparison. Moreover, Spain and Portugal also set to follow an eruption of the euro-crisis in Italy. It is possible that the Cypriot government will be compelled to levy a higher tax on wealthy depositors and take other measures, such as nationalising the pension funds. This may allow Cyprus to remain in the euro for a period although this is far from certain. A new crisis would inevitably emerge, posing again the prospect of Cyprus’s ejection from the euro, if Italy, Spain or Portugal has not already gone through the exit door. Need for a socialist alternative. The crucial issue facing the Cypriot workers and middle class is the urgency of building a mass movement to reject any austerity programme demanded by the Troika and capitalism and to oppose any measures which see the masses help pay for a bail-out of the banks. Unfortunately, the leadership of AKEL is not organising a mass mobilisation and presenting an alternative programme to break with capitalism, as a way out of the crisis. In government, holding the presidency, until only two weeks ago, the party accepted the austerity package demanded by the EU and simply passed it on to the new government to implement. Today it calls for a “powerful response by the people” and “mass resistance”. It demands “the popularisation of the vision for the liberation of Cyprus from the suffocating embrace of the monopolies”. It urges people to take to the streets (AKEL Statement 16 March 2013). However, AKEL is not offering a concrete alternative of what should be done in the face of this crisis and the prospect of Cyprus being ejected from the euro. AKEL is currently calling for opposition to the Troika but not the eurozone. Yet membership of the eurozone means acceptance of the austerity demanded by the Troika. Many Cypriot workers and youth will ask what it did when it was in government. In the recent elections, AKEL lost up to 25% of its vote compared to 2008. There can be no trust in the capitalist government. In or out of the euro, these same capitalist politicians will attack the rights and living standards of the Cypriot working class. The Cypriot government, elected only two weeks ago on a promise of securing a ’softer’ bail out, is now largely discredited. Now it is urgent to fight for an alternative government of the workers and others exploited by capitalism. Such a government would oppose the terms of the bailout and reject the austerity programme demanded by the Troika. The banks should be immediately nationalised, under democratic workers’ control and management. Working people reject austerity to keep the euro. Such a government would face immediate ejection from the EU and the euro. A government of the working people of Cyprus would need to prepare for such a prospect. It would need to immediately introduce capital controls to prevent a flight of capital and for a new currency. An emergency economic programme would be necessary to defend the interests of workers and the poor. This would be possible on the basis of a democratic socialist plan of the economy through the nationalisation of the major companies and financial institutions. However this crisis of the EU is a crisis of the global capitalist system. A socialist government of the workers and poor in Cyprus would immediately face the wrath of European and global capitalism. Temporary loans and trade arrangements could be negotiated with other states as an interim step. But it would need also to forge links with the working people of Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal. It would be necessary to appeal to them to follow such an example. Together the working peoples of these countries could form a democratic, voluntary federation of Mediterranean and Iberian states. This could be a bridge to reach over to the workers of the rest of Europe with the aim of forming a democratic socialist federation of European states as an alternative to the capitalist EU and Troika. The crisis in Cyprus has opened a new chapter in the crisis in the eurozone and the EU. It has illustrated that the crisis is far from resolved. Deeper and further crisis are certain to erupt in the coming weeks and months. On a capitalist basis there is no solution to the crisis. The struggle for a socialist alternative is now more imperative than ever.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Kill the bedroom tax , defend all at risk, cant pay wont pay !

As we edge towards April when the much disputed bedroom tax will come into force protests are growing by the week with many protests happening in towns and cities up and down the land. I would like to add that many of these protests were hijacked by the labour party to sit itself as against this tax despite being for a similar tax in 2008 in fact. Could this be what tuition fees were to the lib dems for labour? Time will tell of course. David Cameron and his multi-millionaire family have four homes, mansions in reality. Tory welfare minister David Freud, who is bringing in this law, owns an eight-bedroom mansion and a £1.9 million London home. These well-housed millionaires want council house and housing association tenants to lose 14% of their housing benefit if they're deemed to have one spare room, 25% if they have two. There are things councils can do. There's a huge pot of money from the sale of council houses. Ring-fenced, because of legislation brought in by Margaret Thatcher and not repealed during three terms of a Labour government. And nationalising the banking system under democratic workers' control would free up more resources. This will hit 660,000 households including many disabled people and low-paid workers. Tenants are faced with an impossible choice of moving from their family homes or being left with a much smaller income. This situation will only get worse in October when benefit caps are introduced under 'universal credit'. In Scotland working class people are already getting organised On 13 March over 100 people packed into a Glasgow public meeting to build for the 30 March demonstration against the hated bedroom tax. The meeting, bringing together people from across the West of Scotland, agreed to launch a West Scotland Federation of Anti -Bedroom Tax campaigns. Well-known socialist campaigner Tommy Sheridan gave a rousing accounts of his experience of how millions of working class people "melted the iron lady", Margaret Thatcher, by defeating the poll tax through mass non-payment. The lessons of that struggle, Tommy said, can play a vital role in mobilising resistance, and winning the struggle against the bedroom tax today. Socialist Party member and Unison activist Nicola Crawford outlined her experience of building a campaign in Shawlands and Pollokshaws in Glasgow. After a successful public meeting, street meetings of tenants increased the spread of the campaign and gave confidence to more benefit claimants to get involved. Nicola called for a national campaign to build mass resistance to evictions and raised the demand for a council house-building programme. The meeting agreed a resolution calling for the scrapping of the bedroom tax and for a massive programme of council house-building to provide affordable homes for all. The campaign's demands include: • Scrap the bedroom tax • Support those who cannot and will not pay this austerity tax • No evictions for rent arrears. Build an army of anti-eviction campaigners to stop evictions • Councils should rule out eviction for bedroom tax and fight the cuts • Write off all debt due to the bedroom tax. Demand compensation to councils and housing associations as part of a mass campaign to win back the money stolen from public services by the Con-Dems • For a major programme of council house-building to provide affordable homes for all The pressure being put on the government and local councils is starting to tell we may have to prepare ourselves to defend those being evicted from their homes at this point labour party members and officials will leave the campaign and stick to empty rhetoric. They could pledge to reverse this tax if elected yet no such pledge looks likely. So it’s left to us the organised labour movement and the socialists to get organised and raise the ideas of mass resistance. It will be tricky as those affected are more in some areas than others no doubt quite deliberately thought out by the Tories but we must link up where a common issue arrises. This can be defeated and we must link it to the need to fight all cuts and raise the need for a working class political alternative which could mean supporting or standing for TUSC this may in the local county council elections TUSC is looking to contest.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Budget 2013 more austerity to come fightback needed!

As George Osborne got up today in the commons and declared Britain is open for business few believed him Tories cheered as well they might the rich is doing well in this crisis. As for everyone else it’s more austerity for us and it will go on longer than planned too. With no end of cuts and misery in sight the budget this year had very little for working people to get excited about. A cancelling of a fuel duty escalation and a cut of 1p off beer will do little to raise spirits in Britain today. The squeeze on living standards is set to continue into the next parliament whoever is in power be that Tories or labour with a lib dem mob by their side or not. The BBC reports that most government departments will face a cut of 2% of their spending over the next two years, amounting to about £2.5 billion. These cuts follow spending reductions of 3% for the next two years announced in last December's Autumn Statement. Even by Osborne's own standards the cuts aren't working. Deficit reduction has been a key aim but borrowing is expected to go up this year. 56 months after the start of the first recession in 2008, the UK economy is now more than 3% smaller. Grim outlook Roger Bootle, head of research body Capital Economics, said: "In my 30-odd years of analysing budgets, I have never known a situation as grim as this." But it's not just grim in terms of economic outlook - the outlook for people's living standards is appalling and getting worse. While hundreds of bankers are piling up million-pound bonuses new figures suggest the average worker will lose around £6,000 by 2014 as a result of wages failing to keep pace with rising prices. The Lib Dems have argued that they are softening the blows by campaigning for rises in the personal tax allowance, while supporting austerity in the main. TUC research shows that by 2015 low-paid workers will be losing up to four times more a year from the government's 2010 increase in VAT than they will gain from the raising of the personal tax allowance to £10,000. At the same time a further cut to corporation tax is predicted. This would follow a previous cut worth £3 billion a year by 2014. No wonder 'them and us' rage is boiling as low-paid and unemployed workers face the bedroom tax, council tax hikes, pay freezes and a host of other methods of immiseration. There have been attempts to sugar the pill, bringing the cap on social care costs down and introducing them earlier. But this is a pittance compared to what is being taken from us. Childcare vouchers worth up to £1,200 sound tempting but only families where no parent earns less than £10,000 will be eligible for the new cash. So this represents a further blow to the low-paid and those who are unable to find work or full-time work. Wednesday's jobs figures are predicted to show a slight improvement in the unemployment figures but this will not represent the end of the crisis of joblessness. A number of Labour and other pro-big business economic commentators have called for 'measures for growth' but none call for an end to cuts. But there is an alternative The news of the Cyprus savings theft brought shock and horror to workers across Europe. Here was a government planning to blatantly dip into workers' savings to bail out the banking system brought low by massive greed and profiteering. Instead, the owners of the financial institutions and big business should pay for the crisis that is of their own making. A socialist government could, for example, reverse the decades of corporation tax cuts and impose a 50% tax levy on big business's hoarded billions. The banking system should be nationalised under democratic popular control. Only on this basis would it be possible to get rid of the spivs and speculators, lined up behind the Chancellor, who are holding working class people to ransom. A genuinely nationalised banking sector would be run for the benefit of the majority, rather than for the super-rich. Those struggling to pay their mortgage could have it converted to an affordable rent; small businesses could get cheap loans, and public works such as a massive house-building programme could be cheaply financed. The need to build a mass party of working people which stands for this demand as part of a broader socialist programme has never been clearer. Socialist Party news and analysis Axe the bedroom With extracts taken from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/757/16364/20-03-2013/another-dooh-nibor-budget-stealing-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich

How Stalinism distorts Marxism

Stalinism as an ideology is a dieing set of ideas but for decades it distorted the true ideas of Marx Engels and Lenin too. I thought I’d give some examples and explained perhaps why the Stalinists looked to distort the real ideas of Marxism over the years. Stalinism basically the safe guarding of the bureaucracy the elite in the labour movement quite often was something born out of Stalins ideas in the Soviet Union. Those who like to draw the conclusion that Lenin’s ideas were carried on to their natural conclusion by Stalin are completely incorrect in many ways. Stalin was a brutal dictator and abused Marxism to fit in with his own agenda unlike Stalin Lenin was a big supporter of debate and discussion rather than persecution and murdering your opponents who seem to be a threat to your leadership. Lenin debated with them, fiercely demanding high standards of evidence and principle in his opponent’s arguments, always calling people to task for unclear, illogical, factually weak positions. He brought the best out in people, who on their own were fatally flawed. He even threatened to resign several times in order to make his points. Lenin was a master of Marxism at the global level, European wide level, national, regional and city by city level. One of Lenin's most powerful accomplishments was his ability to translate Marxism to the individual and personal level and then return to broad general points, not just "What is to be done" but what is to be done by you and I right now. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Stalin, in leadership by himself, with his cynical tendency unchecked, then gutted Marxism's emphasis on carefully considered revolutionary action. Stalin's disastrous political line equating the Social Democrats as an equal danger to the fascists was a prejudiced course of action reflecting his cynicism about the Social Democrats rather than a careful examination of them. Stalin did not abandon this ill-conceived perspective until after it was too late to stop Hitler. As Lenin might have put it, the "What is to be done?" was replaced by "Left Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder." Stalin replaced Marxian dialectics with a mechanistic version that emphasized the "inevitability" of socialism in place of Karl Marx's stark choice for revolutionaries in "The Communist Manifesto," "a fight that each time ended, either in the revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes" (CW Marx Engel’s V 6 pp.482). For Marx the possibility of terrible defeat was so real that all prejudice and intellectual short cuts had to be abandoned because each serious choice in a crisis that revolutionaries make on the "ground they have been given" can lead to advance or "the common ruin of the contending classes." Stalin's disastrous line equating Social Democracy as an equal enemy to the workers movement as Fascism was so clearly prejudiced and filled with intellectual short cuts that it can only be explained, at least in part, by the same character flaws that Lenin wanted Stalin removed as Secretary General of the Communist Party for in 1922. All revolutionaries have to accept "the ground they have been given" such as the militarized imperialism and ferocious racism in Germany in 1932, but Marxists have no excuse to abandon careful analysis for cynical prejudice. We have no excuse now nor should we excuse Stalin. Stalinism doesn’t see Marxism as a guide to action more an excuse to batter your opponents with. Using revolutionary language doesn’t make you a revolutionary its in your actions that your judged and Stalin and Stalinists today do not apply genuine Marxism only a bastardised version of it with rigid dogma out dated and used to sure up their own positions in the labour movement and the unions. Stalinism also subscribes to the stagiest theory that we must have a period of growth under capitalism first and deal with a socialist revolution at some undefined point in the future in essence this point never comes as its all about Suring up your own positions and fearing the working class Justas much if not more than the capitalist class. This was the case in the Soviet Union where great purges and mass killings took place to put down workers revolts to quash dissent. This is not socialism and has nothing in common with Marxism we follow today. Its brutal dictatorship looking to up hold its own privileged positions. Thankfully Stalinism is all but dead today in the labour movement mass communist parties around the world are dieing if they haven’t already. In their place we must fight to build new workers party true and democratic with a right to free speech and critical thinking without the fear of reprisal.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Democratic deficit in Europe

Right across the Euro zone and beyond the crisis in capitalism is deepening by the day. When all seems calm and stable another shock is set off the latest in Cyprus where people’s personal bank accounts have been raided by 10% on their savings to bail the country out. Were people asked first? No they weren’t this is the democracy of the Euro in action. Or not. Since the onslaught of austerity was placed on the shoulders of working people and the poor across Europe people’s democratic rights as limited as they always are under capitalism are being slowly eroded under our very eyes. This crisis is not just a financial crisis it’s a series of crisis’s and one that myself and certainly the Committee for Workers International CWI including our own MEP Paul Murphy MEP have pointed out for a while now the democratic deficit we are seeing in Europe now. The ruling class is not afraid to take away democratic rights if their system or profits are under threat and wish to safe guard their interests. Although now Greece has a elected government back in power and Italy well who knows they are still trying to figure something out already we have seen the lengths the ruling class will go to safe guard their system by installing their own men in power. The imposition of the 'technocrats', in reality bankers, in both Italy and Greece, shows the seriousness of the crisis for the capitalist class nationally and across Europe. To try to save their system across Europe, the democratic rights of people to decide who will govern them have been trampled on. The markets, through the Troika of the IMF, EU and ECB, have usurped democracy and placed their own men in charge to ensure that the cost of this crisis is placed on the shoulders of the working class, unemployed and poor. The technocrats elevated to rulers in Greece and Italy, Lucas Papademos and Mario Monti, are the banking sector's choice of leader. Monti was an as advisor to Goldman Sachs until his appointment. Papademos was a former vice-president of the European Central Bank, and has publicly been opposed to the write down of Greek banking debt as it would hurt the banking sector. Goldman Sachs was described in a 2010 Rolling Stone article as: "The world's most powerful investment bank" and "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." It can manipulate "whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere - high gas prices, rising consumer credit rates, half eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts." These 'technocrats' have been presented to the world as the experts who will be able to solve the financial crisis, as some sort of wise men who can rise above politics. It has been put out that these men will put the 'national interest' first. This is a lie. The 'dictatorship of the technocrats' is an attempt to divorce economics from politics. The technocrats will act, not in the interests of the mass of the people, but in the interest of the people they represent - the financial elites. The protest movements and strikes that have swept across Greece and Italy need to be intensified against this anti-democratic and anti-working class move by the national and European establishment. No matter how much they try to persuade us that the technocracy is above politics, a mass movement of workers, the unemployed and young people which builds its own party, can brush away this dictatorship of the markets and start to create a society that is democratically run in the interest of the mass of the people.

Britain needs a pay rise!

British workers have faced incredible suffering for some time now. One of the main issues behind the current struggles of working people in Britain is the fact we have a low wage economy with British workers pay often not covering their weekly out goings and more often than not leaving them down on the week. Quite often workers are having to take tax credits to top up their pay and therefore costing the welfare state pounds in benefits. If a living wage was properly paid to all workers there could be put money in workers pockets to go and spend in the wider economy. Just a thought ay? The real value of wages in the UK has fallen by 7% since 2008, more than £50billion a year. This means people have less money to spend, holding back growth and a potential economic recovery. PCS members are striking on budget day after five years of a pay freeze and the current 1% pay rise. There has been a real terms cut in the total value of Britain’s wages by £50 billion since 2007 and there needs to be immediate stimulus and improvement In terms and conditions for workers to put this money back in and restart the economy. Without drastic action there is now a very real prospect of a triple-dip-recession with many forecasters predicting a prolonged negative Outlook for our economy. Since the start of the economic downturn in 2007 the real value of wages has fallen by about 7%. This in part is because of the Depression of wages in the public sector. It has been proven time and again that putting money into people’s pockets is the most effective way to stimulate Local economies around the country and putting the lost £50bn back into the economy are the best way to foster growth. I support the PCS members throughout the country, who are engaging in a programme of industrial action starting on Budget Day to demand that the Tories take action On low pay and our faltering economy. I support them in their struggle as do the MPs who have signed EDM 1081. This post may sound quite reformist and you may ask why am I not demanding the end of the wage system and a end to capitalism well we are not at that point yet and even revolutionary socialists will fight for every possible reform capitalism can give working people and will fight tooth and nail for this. We must also point out the limited nature of reforms and concessions in that they are only temporary under this system of capitalism and ultimately we do need to change society on to democratic socialist lines. An immediate pay increase will help many workers in the short term though and it shouldn’t be something we oppose if it’s fought for and struggled for. Besides every gain breeds confidence into workers that they can struggle and gain victories. There is no reason why other unions other than the PCS could co ordinate strike action around the question of pay and the ongoing pay freeze into wider industrial action. The money is out there while we sit here over 750 billion sits idle in the vaults of big business and banks. A 50% levee on that would instantly free up cash for a wage increase and other public services we so desperately need in this country.