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Friday, 31 May 2013

My hopes for left unity

I have had various comments about my views towards left unity I seem more for it than a lot of my socialist party comrades maybe they have been through things more with the socialist alliance and seen it all before but for me maybe I’m being naive I think this is new and different and lets be honest exciting. The thought we could have a new left party is something is what we have needed for a long-time. I do hope at some point sooner rather than later TUSC and Left unity could have a proper comradely discussion and an agreement to work together be that a merger or a common mutual agreement to not tread on each others toes. After all surely there is more common ground between the two projects than disagreement? The question for me though is what sort of party it will be. We all know us in the socialist party campaign for a new workers party and TUSC is some sort of start towards that. But never mind my misgivings over TUSC I think left unity could fill that vacuum that labour has abandoned in pursuit of the market and big business. There is room for a new party of the left and I’d argue it should be a new workers party. I don’t buy into the idea the time isn’t right, When will it be right? Not just when the bureaucrats have given up on labour surely if that is the time then we will be waiting a very very long time maybe forever. I think a workers party can start to take shape today even if just in an early stage. But as Nick Wrack of The independent Socialist network wrote http://www.independentsocialistnetwork.org/?p=2148 “Will it be a explicit socialist party, as Ken Loach clearly wants it to be, setting out its aim to create a new form of society based on the democratic, collective ownership of the wealth, natural resources and the means of production – factories, machinery, technology, transport? Or will it be some more vaguely defined ‘party of the left’, a social democratic party that limits its goals to fighting austerity and neo-liberalism but not fundamentally challenging capitalism, as others appear to want? Will it accept the private ownership of the means of production, with production for profit, or will it fight for a society in which we can all participate in drawing up a democratic plan of production for need? Now begins a serious period of debate and discussion, which is exactly what Ken Loach called for. So far, over 8,000 have responded to that call. Such a debate, carried out in a rigorous but comradely manner would show those watching that we are serious about challenging the political status quo. A serious debate on the nature of our society and how we want to change it would draw in many who are fed up with the existing way of things. Pointing the way forward to a society without exploitation, without rich and poor, in other words, without classes, could attract all those who want to fight for something different. What is the party for? Our new party cannot just be against things: against the cuts, against unemployment, against the destruction of the NHS, against tuition fees. It is very difficult to inspire people with a negative. It has to be for something. A new party starts out with inevitable difficulties. It is small, weak, unknown. It has no purchase in the minds of the nation’s citizens. To begin to change that, the new party will have to be bold and confident in its ideas. In the first instance it will have to organise those who want to build a party against the odds; those with a vision that this new party can become a mass party, with the adherence of millions. To inspire the pioneers, the party must have some clear guiding principles. Firstly, it must see its task as assisting the working-class in resisting the unprecedented attacks we see on every front. No other party is prepared to do this. Secondly, it must link the daily battles to the overall struggle for a new society, where there is no longer the need for such never-ending defensive battles. The need for a new party that fights on behalf of and alongside working-class people, who face attacks on every front, is obvious. None of the existing parties represent the interests of the working class. Labour has abandoned any attempt to defend its traditional supporters. The working class is ignored, forgotten or taken for granted. Perhaps the second point – the struggle for a new society – is less obvious. But so long as we have capitalism – the rule of the minority owning class – we will have exploitation and class division; we will have rich and poor, them and us. So long as we have capitalism we will have to defend what we have previously won. We will have to labour for others’ profit. That struggle will go on until we are able to change things fundamentally. So, those of us who have taken up the challenge have our work cut out. Our goal is nothing less than the transformation of the way the world is run. It will not be easy or quick. It will take patience and hard work. But the rewards will be wonderful. There is no short-term quick-fix. Our ideas may be a minority at the moment, but with confidence we can persuade a majority. By being involved in every aspect of working-class life and struggle – at work, in the community, at college, in retirement, in culture and sports – we can show that our party is worthy of support. Linking that daily struggle to the cause of socialism can only strengthen its appeal.” Lastly democracy must be at the heart of everything we do. Fighting for the most extreme form of democracy you may say not allowing things to be decided without the participation of all involved nothing less will do. We cannot create socialism within capitalism but we can start to uphold some important principles and tat is a basic grounding in workers democracy. Democracy as Trotsky once said is the oxygen of socialism without democracy socialism would die.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Why German football is getting it right

Cheap ticket prices, beer on the terraces safe standing these is just afew of the good things German football is currently getting right but it goes much deeper than this. In this country where football is so expensive to watch to be a supporter even at a lower level. At my local club Stevenage FC it is 20 quid for an adult to stand 3 pounds for a programme and between 30 and 40 pounds for a replica shirt. No wonder so many are being priced out of football this is just league 1 level the 3rd tier of English football not even the top level. I believe something needs to be done to make football our countries national game affordable again to the masses. Football is so much a part of our culture that it often makes politics and has television channels and radio stations dedicated to this. Following a football team is similar to a religion in this country with passions running high. Much like England Germany has a huge passion for the beautiful game and has got it right in so many ways I do hope we in England can learn some lessons from our German friends. The Germans arrived some time ago, and have the players, management, organisation, infrastructure and fan base, if not necessarily to dominate European football for years to come, then certainly to keep their flags flying near the summit. How did they do it? The key point is that German football has got it right on and off the pitch. After finishing bottom of their group in Euro 2000 Huge radical changes were under taken by the powers that be in German football. Inure. Instead of hoping that success would somehow turn up next time, they went in for radical changes. They recognised genuine improvement would take time, and invested in youth - specifically, hundreds of millions of pounds in academies, with the German FA and the Bundesliga (the equivalent of the Premier League) working together. At national level, successive managers gave young players their heads - and vital experience - at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Clubs have trusted the products of those academies; too, sometimes on Dortmund’s march to Wembley two-thirds of their team have been German, in stark contrast to their English counterparts, not least the Manchester City line-up they outplayed in the autumn. The off-field contrasts are equally stark. As a fan, you pay £9 to watch Dortmund in the Bundesliga, and there are large safe standing terraces. Fan-friendly policies from clubs run by fans. With three historic exceptions, clubs are controlled by supporters. No owner can control more than 50% of the shares. There are no foreign owners. Result: average crowds above 45,000, the best in Europe. Currently watching the best teams in Europe. The Spanish powerhouses are already planning their response. Italy is stronger than for some years, and David Beckham and his new friends at mega-rich Paris St Germain will be a threat. Even here, the FA has made sensible moves in youth football which deserve, in time, to pay dividends. But the German footballing castle, like those picturesque fortresses that dot either side of the Rhine Valley, is built solidly on high ground. I’d love to go watch a German football match one day the experience sounds fantastic thre is no reason why we cannot do it here in the UK. Fan owned clubs is something which hasn’t taken off him in the UK AFC Wimbledon, Wycombe and Exeter and more recently Portsmouth have been taken over by the fans but yet these have been down to fans bailing their club they love out due to financial troubles. If we could get a fan owned club system going where they still remained competitive on the pitch at a good level this would be ideal. It is still seen in Britain that to get anywhere you need to spend big and have big sugar daddy’s on board I think this doesn’t have to be the case. There is much we can learn from Germany not least the fan involvement and the clubs being part of the community and not just in words in deeds too. with thanks and credit for extracts from http://news.sky.com/story/1085808/german-football-success-comes-as-no-surprise

Should PCS merge with Unite?

It has become clear that these two unions are looking t merge or as I put it for unite to take over PCS. Personally in my own opinion I cannot see the sense in this politically. Clearly PCS has been under huge attacks from the gov and not only this one but the previous Labour government too which has meant they have take n a huge financial hit as a result. The Public and Commercial Services Union are in big trouble. Many of the early austerity measures forced through by the Con-Dem government have been aimed at public sector workers. The aim was to reduce the number of civil servants by 20% - and they are not far off achieving it. Fourteen percent of civil service jobs - 72,400 posts - have been cut since the coalition was elected, pay has been frozen, pension contributions increased, the retirement age raised and terms and conditions attacked. Accordingly, PCS membership has shrunk by almost 12,000 in the 12 months to September 2012 and now stands at just below 263,000. In addition, the government has been attacking the facility time for trade union representatives. More people are being sacked on more spurious grounds - and union reps have less time to fight back. This also affected this year’s conference with less being able to attend. This is set to get worse in the next few years too. The union’s fight back against these attacks has been hampered by the hesitancy of other unions. Last year’s conference committed the PCS to fight - but only if, for example, Unite and the National Union of Teachers were willing to participate in joint action. However, those soon proved resistant to pressure and so the PCS decided to go it alone after all: there has been short-term “rolling strike action” by various departments, which is aimed at “disrupting the employer’s activities”. In some workplaces, PCS members walked out for an hour or two. This tactic will continue in the foreseeable future, “Because it doesn’t look as if the TUC will call a general strike any time soon”, as PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka put it. There will be localised action throughout the year. Plus, starting on Monday June 3, the DWP and HM Revenue and Customs will call out members in two regions (about half the union’s membership) for a day each. At the end of June, it looks like there will be localised, joint action with the NUT which must be made as big as possible to show there are unions still willing to fight even if other seemingly have waved the white flag to fighting the cuts unfortunately. But a long-term all-out strike by PCS that could actually put pressure on the government seems pretty unrealistic for a number of reasons, mainly financial. For example, the union does not have a strike fund, so members are not compensated for loss of wages. Last year, conference overwhelmingly rejected a motion to set up even a voluntary strike levy. However, this year Mark Serwotka simply announced that the national executive committee would look into setting up a strike fund. “Not everybody in the union likes it, but I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary in order to organise effectively.” Clearly, some very painful lessons have been learnt in the last 12 months. The PCS is in dire financial trouble - chiefly because of the fall in membership the union incurred “net liabilities of £3.2 million” in the 12 months to December 2012, compared to “net assets at December 2011 of £687,000” It does not help that a whopping 57% of the union’s total outgoings of £29.9 million was spent on employment - that means £17 million paid to the 271 PCS employees, or just over £70,500 per staff member (which includes pensions, national insurance contributions, etc). By comparison, the even smaller Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union RMT spend ‘just’ 40% of its income on its employees. A couple of PCS employees are on pay band 7, the maximum of which is £89,847. Still, a rather tame motion that sought to make sure that “full-time officer pay rates in PCS are much closer to the pay received by the majority of PCS members” was heavily defeated sadly at last weeks conference. The socialist party’s policy is for all elected officials to only take the average wage of a skilled worker. Given we have 15 paid officials by the PCS I do hope we would be upholding that principal of only taking the average wage of a skilled worker of the members. As PCS is struggling financially it would be sad if any member of our party or not would be taking a huge pay packet and pension home when your average PCS member is facing huge attacks. The union leadership has taken some measures to counter the effect of the loss of membership, but things could easily get worse. No wonder then that rumours of a merger with the mighty Unite union have been doing the rounds for a few years. Opposition to a merger is huge, despite the obvious advantages of building a bigger union. “With almost two million members in Unite, this would in reality be a takeover, not a merger,” said one delegate. The PCS is, on the whole, more democratic and membership-driven. Unite has, for example, just closed dozens of area branches without consulting the members, as a furious conference delegate pointed out. And there is, of course, the elephant in the room: the Labour Party. Unite is affiliated to it; PCS is not What would happen if PCS and unite came together and a labour government was elected and started an attacking civil servants? I do also wonder if the socialist party’s support for Len Mckluskey was partly linked to making the merger between unite and PCs a bit easier for all concerned. I am sure that’ll PCS officials some being SP members of course will hope to maintain their positions if a merger goes through but what are thegaruntees ? We all know how bureaucratic unite is and the right in unite has been pushed back a little but this merger wont go down well with the right in unite I think. I have already hear of opposition from the right of unite saying we don’t want a union to merge with us who are lead by a load of old trots. Whether that is true or not it shows this could be a bumpy merger with hostility and tension coming about from both sides. For a union that is so proud of its fighting and political edge, it is curious that, when it comes to UK politics, it has been somewhat lost in the wilderness (though it has to be said that Labour MP John McDonnell has done sterling work in the PCS parliamentary group). In 2005, PCS voted to establish a “political fund” that would allow it to intervene in “and between” elections. In 2007 it first established a ‘check list’ of “our key industrial issues” and put them to parliamentary candidates, publishing their answers online. In a ballot in June 2012, members endorsed the proposal that the union “has the authority to stand or support candidates in elections, in exceptional circumstances, where it would help our campaigns. To save jobs, stop office closures and defend public services.” With this I would hope there is a move towards the PCS backing anti cuts candidates such as TUSC very soon I have heard no progress on this though and seems an open ended question of what the political fund will be for. More links and initiatives between the PCS and TUSC needs to start happening in my view as the political attacks are huge a political alternative for PCS is necessary too.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Why theory matters

In the day to day struggle of making a living and just getting by the matter of theory can sometime seem abstract and not relevant. I think this is a mistake I. Recently I’ve been shocked and surprised at the level of political understanding that your average socialist party member has when it comes to Marxism. Whilst I don’t think this is uncommon the left due to the driving back of workers consciousness is at a very low point as we stand. No amount of talking ourselves up and saying things are good just around the corner will do I’m afraid. Things are very poor for us and we must face up to that not continuously con ourselves into thinking if only the trade union leaders were better and more militant we would have a chance. This completely fails to understand the role of trade union leader’s labour aristocracy if you like in the class struggle. Very few if any are revolutionaries and most are out and out reformist and some have even brought into the idea there is no alternative to the market and capitalism. What saddens me most though is the attitude towards theory. Of course our day to day struggles are important probably more so at the moment with the bedroom tax and the other huge cuts on their way. But even within more so called advanced members of our party I’ve found a big lack of theory and understanding. Most get that capitalism is bad and needs to be replaced that’s a g even or should be at least. # Yet you start to talk about Marxist economics and many run a mile a sort of fear of Marxism a fear of theory and economics. Few I know have actually read or even tried to read capital one of Karl Marx greatest works. I’m currently working my way through volume 3 myself and I haven’t found it easy but I believe it is fundamental and absolutely necessary for a comrades understanding of the system we are looking to over throw. I genuinely feel you cannot over throw something you have very little understanding of. Few comrades I note have even tried to read capital fearing its s size and its complicated language actually it isn’t that bad once you get into it I found. Some parts are hard there is no getting away from that but you must endeavour and once I finish reading it there is much to understand from it I will no doubt read it again at some point as it is a very rich text with plenty of lessons for workers today. Take for example Marx’s theory of labour value most comrades know the workers are being mugged but mention surplus value or necessary labour time they mostly haven’t a clue. An understanding of theory doesn’t have to be academic far from it it is the basic under pinning of any good party and membership. A failure to grasp what we’re up against will result in coming up short I have to say. This is not a plea to start reading everything Marx ever wrote but a plea for the party to take the idea of theory far more seriously than it currently does. There is always time to read and read some more. We even try new member’s schools which need to be developed for more advanced comrades too who want to develop their ideas further taking on bigger and bigger ideas if they can. Whilst some will say to me we need to be relevant and talk to workers in ways they can understand this misses the point I’m not saying we are about to go out and start talking in Marxist terms about excess surplus value or variable capital on the picket lines no not at all but this is something we as a party must get to grips with. If we can understand things better about the way capitalism works or doesn’t work depending on your point of view the better chance we have of convincing workers putting things into a way they can understand things as I do believe many workers can understand Marx it is not something that is way out or very hard to read. Sure Marx wrote it in a day where language was very different but there are so many help books lectures by the likes of Prof David Harvey who help you understand things much better from capital that there really isn’t any reason why ordinary workers could start to get this sort of stuff. Also understanding and learning the lessons from history is key reading and learning workers struggles from the past including the Russian revolution the Spanish and what happened in Chile is also key. I think understanding Trotsky’s writings on fascism what it is and how to fight it will become key in the future too but that’s for another post. Theory is important and should be given more time and thought certainly for me a good Marxist understanding should be fundamental to any good revolutionary worth their salt today. I mean I am starting to understand a bit more why can’t others?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Busting the myths on immigration

With the question of immigration making its way back on to the agenda sadly it’s a good chance for us to rebuff some of these more popular myths and how wrong the right wing media and politicians are. Isabelle Koksal counters the right wing myths with some facts and figures MYTH: The flood of immigrants is unsustainable the movement of migrants is not just one way. As people arrive, others are leaving. This gives us net migration figures which for most years since 1840 have actually been negative. Geographer Danny Dorling notes that before the economic crash, the number of migrants coming to Britain was roughly balanced with the number leaving. In total, ‘there are 10-14 million people who live here that were not born here – and there are 10-14 million people born here who no longer live here’. So not really a flood at all. It is also worth viewing Britain’s migration figures in a global context. This shows that our experience of international migration is not at all remarkable, growing in line with world migration. Migrants make up 9 per cent of the population, which is the average for Europe. Britain has a smaller proportion of migrants and lower rates of net immigration than the US, Canada, Australia and several large European countries. The number of asylum seekers that Britain receives is again average for Europe, ranking 14th out of 27 when looking at asylum seekers per head of population. The UK receives fewer asylum applications than France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Belgium. As of January 2012, the UN estimated that the number of refugees, pending asylum cases and stateless persons made up just 0.33 per cent of the population. In fact, it is the so-called developing world that receives the majority of refugees, with 80 per cent being hosted there. The past decade has seen higher net numbers of migrants. However, rather than being ‘unsustainable’, this migration is actually vital for the functioning of our society. Danny Dorling argues that the real problem is actually too little immigration. With a rising elderly population and decreasing fertility rates, we will depend even more than we already do on immigration to provide tax revenues and services. MYTH: Britain is a soft touch Successive governments have been making the asylum process increasingly tough for asylum seekers despite their duty under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees to provide protection to those fleeing persecution. The system is particularly hostile to women as UK Border Agency officials often lack an understanding of gender-based persecution. A recent report by Oxfam stated that all aspects of the asylum system are flawed and that the entire process should be urgently reviewed. The fast-track system does not give the time needed for asylum seekers to make their case; this and many other issues with the asylum determination process means that often people are wrongly denied asylum. With devastating cuts to legal aid, this situation will only get worse as asylum seekers cannot access the legal advice and support that they need. When an asylum seeker reaches the UK they are photographed and have their fingerprints taken, they are security checked and issued with an ID card. They are then required to report at regular intervals to immigration reporting centers. They are issued with a letter that informs them that they can be detained at any point during the asylum process. EU citizens have free movement across Europe under European law – although home secretary Theresa May has been drawing up plans to curb intra-EU migration. But the rules governing the entry of non-EU immigrants are incredibly stringent, with a points-based system that requires people to show documents such as their bank statements and exam results. It is during detention where, far from being a ‘soft touch’, the reality for immigrants and asylum seekers is often a hard fist. Medical Justice has documented hundreds of cases of abuse of detainees at the hands of security guards during detention and deportation. Each year, 1,000 children are detained with their parents. MYTH: They come here for our generous welfare system Research commissioned by the Home Office concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that asylum seekers had detailed knowledge about the UK benefits system. When someone is fleeing from persecution, they often do not know where their end destination will be; some may choose the UK because they have friends and family here. Asylum seekers anyway do not have access to the mainstream benefit system. Rather, they have a parallel system of welfare support that provides them with £36.62 a week, 52 per cent of Jobseeker’s Allowance. Surviving on £5.23 a day puts asylum seekers well below the UK poverty line. Those who are refused asylum but are too scared to return home find themselves destitute as they cannot access any benefits. Oxfam estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of destitute asylum seekers in the UK. Asylum seekers do not have access to social or council housing. They are allocated housing on a ‘no choice’ basis in ‘hard to let’ properties. This housing is often of very poor quality. This is likely to get even worse with the privatisation of asylum housing through G4S, Serco and Reliance – all of whom have poor records in managing detention centres and transport and escort services. Indeed, there are already concerns that G4S will repeat its Olympics shambles in asylum seeker housing, leading top officials in the Home Office to monitor the situation closely. Migrants most often come here to work and they do just that. Many have high skill levels but often find themselves in jobs that do not utilise these skills and are poorly paid. National insurance data shows that foreign nationals are less than half as likely to claim unemployment benefits as UK citizens. Access to benefits for migrants is complex, and as with access to welfare for asylum seekers has become increasingly limited since the mid-1990s. Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission dispels the myth that immigrants jump the social housing waiting list. This found that 60 per cent were privately renting, 18 per cent were owner occupiers, and only 11 per cent were allocated social housing. The research found no evidence of abuse neither of the system nor of ‘queue jumping’. MYTH: They take our jobs Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, despite often being highly skilled and keen to use these skills. Once their claim has been decided they may work if they have been given refugee status. However, they face many barriers to entering employment. The government has cut the Refugee Integration and Employment Service, which provided them with support in finding a job. Refugees may also struggle to work in their chosen profession as their qualifications may not be transferable or they may face discrimination by employers. Migrants generally travel to where there are jobs available, often filling vacancies where there are skill shortages. The UK Border Agency’s points-based system for non-EU immigrants means that they are only permitted to take jobs where there are recognised skill shortages and if they can prove before entering that they have the relevant qualifications. Numerous statistical studies have shown that there is no link between EU immigration and unemployment levels. MYTH: They are draining public services it is our duty, not a drain, to protect asylum seekers. As discussed above, the welfare provision that we do provide is woefully inadequate. A number of other European countries provide more generous support than the UK. The minimal provision the state provides for asylum seekers and refugees is now being decimated by government cuts with devastating consequences. There have been massive cuts to support services for asylum seekers and refugees and cuts to the Home Office housing budget for asylum seekers. The cuts to legal aid will affect asylum seekers’ ability to access justice in a system already stacked against them. Asylum seekers and refugees are being used as an easy target by the government. The Home Office has acknowledged this itself, stating: ‘Because the UKBA is not facing uniform cuts, some areas – including asylum – will be required to bear a greater proportion of the cuts.’ Besides, far from ‘draining’ public services, migrants (including refugees) actually contribute significantly to their funding through their tax and national insurance contributions. They make a net contribution to the UK economy of £3 billion. Because they are often young, healthy, and skilled, their use of public services is actually very limited. Migrants also help deliver many of our public services, working in the National Health Service, education and social care. It is a fact that the NHS could not function without migrant workers. The myth of immigrants’ dependence has obscured the reality of our own dependence on them.

Taking on the far right, why we must get serious

Over the weekend and last week there has been a upsurge in racist attacks and the likes of the EDL seem to have seen a increase in their numbers whilst this may be a temporary increase we still must be rigorous in our opposition to all forms of racism and any form of fascism be that on the streets with the likes of the EDL or through the state. Racism is something we cannot take lightly and we must look to confront it wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. I thought I’d re cap on the socialist party and formally Militants attitude to fighting the far right and our strategies we look to push for. There is the popular front model the likes of the SWP and the UAF look to push with tries to unite everyone whether you’re a labour party MP or councillor who has just made cuts or religious figures celebrities the lot unity for the UAF is something which just means getting everyone together then we can all stop the fascists they tell us. For the SWP fascism is always on the verge of taking over they have to up hold this line as UAF would cease to exist if they actually told us that fascism isn’t about to take over but we must be on our guard against it and any forms of racism. Looking back to last year’s EDL demonstration in Walthamstow which I think is a good place to look at and how the community organised and how the socialist party saw things at the time and our disagreements with the UAF and the SWP. The first was the political basis of the campaign. We all agreed on the need to mobilize the biggest opposition possible to the EDL, and we were all prepared to link arms with anyone on the day to oppose them. However, Socialist Party members argued that the most important force to mobilise is the working class, and in particular the organised working class in the trade unions. Deepening austerity means that there is the potential for the EDL, or a force like it, to grow, unless the campaign against them is united with the campaign to stop the cuts. Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs; millions more are hit by attacks on their pensions and the public sector pay freeze. Benefits are being stripped away, while essential services are slashed. Yet 85% of the cuts are still to be implemented. We are told that the cuts will continue until at least 2020. When fighting the EDL we need maximum unity. All sections of our communities have an important part to play. But it is a massive, united campaign of working class people that has the power not only to marginalise and smash groupings like the EDL, but to hold out hope in a real future to those small layers of people who might be attracted by them. The big events of 2011(the 26 March TUC demo, 30 June and 30 November public sector strikes) and the 10 May strike in 2012, all show that the organised working class in the trade unions has the power to mobilise masses of people in decisive action. The trade unions should be at the heart of any fight against the EDL, making it clear that they stand firmly in the interests of defending all sections of our communities against austerity attacks. Yet under the SWP leadership of 'We are Waltham Forest' the trade unions only played a peripheral role. It would take preparation, but the serious mobilisation of firefighters, bin workers and so on in the borough would have had an even greater impact on the ability of the EDL to march. In fact the SWP insisted throughout that the campaign could not take up these class issues against cuts. But it’s the SWP’s welcoming of pro cuts labour representatives which isn’t helpful we find. The Socialist Workers Party argued that in order to achieve maximum unity against the EDL the campaign should not introduce issues that might alienate some people, and 'not everyone is against the cuts'. In particular this referred to Labour councillors who implement cuts and Labour MPs who do not oppose cuts. The argument went that many people have joined the Labour Party recently and still vote Labour, and so Labour's involvement would draw more people into activity. If the campaign against the EDL was also against cuts, Labour leaders would not get involved, so the campaign could not oppose cuts. While of course we had no opposition to Labour Party members being involved in the campaign and mobilising on the day, we argued that it was a mistake to uncritically put up politicians such as New Labour MP Stella Creasy and local Labour councillors as speakers and leaders of this campaign. The reality is that those working class people who vote Labour and the few who have joined Labour are seeking protection against the cuts. It is the policies of the main political parties - the Tory-Lib Dem government and the Labour councillors who pass on their cuts in our borough - that create the despair and division in which the EDL thrives. It is Labour's betrayal of the hopes of masses of working class people that led to nearly 70% of the electorate not voting for anyone in the 2012 council elections. Labour politicians' uncriticised involvement could put off many workers whose jobs and livelihoods have been torn away. In fact, the Labour council encouraged people not to take part in the counter-demonstration. They even failed to put up any real opposition to the EDL planning its rally in front of the Town Hall, claiming they had no powers to stop them - despite having previously tried to stop anti-cuts campaigners holding stalls in the town square! But the growth of the far-right in some European countries is a clear warning as to what could develop in Britain. In Greece the lives of millions of working and middle-class people have been shattered and the social consequences have been devastating. Public sector workers have seen wages slashed by 40%. Many workers are paid starvation wages of €400 per month. The number of hospital beds is being slashed by 50%. Thousands of schools have been closed down. Many thousands have become homeless. Unemployment is over 21%, - 51% amongst youth. In these conditions the neo-fascist Golden Dawn has achieved 7% of the vote in the general elections in May and June. This is despite their violent terror tactics: attacking left-wing MPs on television and attacking left-wing campaign stalls; hospitalising and murdering immigrants in pogroms while the police stand by. In France, for the first time in 24 years, the far-right Front National won two seats in June's elections to the national assembly, with 13.6% of the vote. In Hungary the right wing government allows the "Garda" bands of neo-fascist Jobbik to rampage the streets terrorising people and driving Jews out of villages. Of course, in Britain the development of the far-right has not reached such proportions. The British National Party (BNP) made some electoral inroads up to 2010 but since then has lost those positions, having been riven with internal strife and successfully opposed in local communities. But we think there is a need for an honest and democratic debate in the trade unions and anti-racist movement about the ideas and methods necessary, not just to defeat them one protest at a time, but to defeat them long term.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Say no a snoopers charter defend our civil liberties

After the Woolwich terrorist attack the government and others including London Mayor Boris Johnson have revisited plans for a so called snoopers charter to track every email, website skype chat you make and so on and to make a record of this. All in the so called national interest. Now where have we heard this before? We must defend our civil liberties all be them quite limited after the last labour government had a right good go at them but what there is left must be defended and protected in any way we can. The Tories seem intent on getting this bill through parliament now and Ed Miliband and his merry men of capitalist supporters on the front bench’s of the labour party appear happy to support David Cameron in a clear sign of how a future labour government will play out protecting the interests of British capitalism of course as they always have done. The bill, allowing the monitoring of all UK citizens' internet use, was dropped after a split in the coalition. But Lord Howard said David Cameron had "to act in the national interest" following the Woolwich murder. Labour leader Ed Miliband has said that "if he [the PM] wants a communications bill, we'll help him get it through". Mr Miliband told the Commons earlier this month that if Mr Cameron was being forced to drop certain policies because of "people behind him" - his own backbenchers - then Labour would step in. 'Who's contacting who' The Communications Data Bill would have given police and security services access, without a warrant, to details of all online communication in the UK - such as the time, duration, originator and recipient, and the location of the device from which it was made. It would also give access to all Britons' web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media. The police would have to get a warrant from the home secretary to be able to access the actual content of conversations and messages Home Secretary Theresa May is very keen on giving the police and intelligence agencies more power to access details of online communications where necessary. There is no such thing as a trade union of former home secretaries. But on this issue, it sounds as though there is. Labour's Lord Reid and Alan Johnson and the Conservative Lord Howard all agree with her. In short, their argument is we have seen the classified files and the spooks need this power. Critics - including most Liberal Democrats - accuse them of going native and backing a "snoopers charter". As a socialist I always uphold the democratic right for all individuals to communicate and talk about whatever they like without a government or organisation snooping on their discussions it is hugely anti democratic and lays a dangerous settlement in my view. I mean how far do we go with this? We say ok to this and next everything we do, write or read is monitored. Is that really where we want to go?

Saturday, 25 May 2013

No to racism say no to divide and rule, terrorism not the answer

Following the horrific scenes on Wednesday of the Woolwich terrorist attack which I wasn’t sure was a terrorist attack at first now appears to be one there has been a sharp rise in anti Muslim attacks up and down the country. Police estimate over 1500 EDL demonstrators were organising in Newcastle today and causing havoc. Even I just on a walk about my estate over heard a man moaning about the government having let in too many Muslims and they are now preaching hate against us and the police. It just depresses me we need to stand together and oppose racism and any form of discrimination of any minority group. Quite clearly these terrorists who made the attack on a British Soldier on Wednesday are not true to their religion if at all and I thought it was right and correct for the Muslim council of Britain to come out and condemn the actions of a minority. This for me has a real danger of boiling over into something really ugly on our streets in Britain. Even before all this racist groups and political parties like the BNP and UKIP were starting to make a comeback in the polls this will only fuel the fire even more sadly. A fantastic statement was put out by Greenwich Socialist party a day after the events in Woolwich and I thought I’d republish it here as it hits the nail on the head and puts things all into perspective I feel. Statement from Greenwich Socialist Party on the Woolwich killing No to terrorism! No to racism! No to war! The unprovoked, barbaric and vicious murder of an unarmed soldier in Woolwich on Wednesday of last week is a horrific event which must have been profoundly traumatic for the people who witnessed it, and, of course, an appalling tragedy for the victim, and the victim's family and friends. Local residents showed incredible bravery in intervening to try and assist the victim. The Socialist Party completely condemns this attack just as we condemned 7/7, 9/11, and all similar attacks aimed at indiscriminate slaughter. This latest killing, while of one individual rather than many, appears to have been completely indiscriminate, with the victim selected possibly only because of the 'help for heroes' t-shirt he was wearing. The attackers apparently claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, and in protest at the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the vast majority of Muslims will be as sickened and horrified by this attack as the rest of the population. The brutal imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in the deaths of over one hundred thousand civilians, are not the responsibility of ordinary soldiers, but of the governments that took the decision to invade and then occupy. New Labour went ahead with the invasion of Iraq despite opposition from a majority of the population, including the biggest demonstration in Britain's history, which the Socialist Party helped to organise. Terrorism Terrorism is a completely mistaken and counter-productive method of struggle. It was the mass terrorism of 9/11 which gave George Bush a 'justification' he could use to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq. One of the attackers in Woolwich called on the people of Britain to overthrow the government. It is the same government which continues the occupation of Afghanistan that is carrying out terrible austerity measures on the working class of Britain. However, this brutal killing will be used by Cameron to try and bolster support for this incredibly unpopular, weak and divided government. In the wake of this killing the racist thugs of the EDL have already cynically tried to use the event to whip up racism against all Muslims. Two attacks on mosques took place on the night of the Woolwich killing. The Socialist Party is totally opposed to the scapegoating of Muslims as a result of this tragic killing. From whatever section of society mistaken and damaging methods of struggle arise, the only way to combat them is for all working people - from all backgrounds - to unite to build a movement against racism, against terrorism, but also against the endless austerity of capitalism. Democratic rights We must also resist any attempts by the government to use this as an excuse to attack our democratic rights. Anti-terror legislation has been used to undermine anti austerity protests. Ordinary working class people have fought and died for these rights in the past. This is not the first time working class people in Greenwich have had to stand firm in the face of attempts to divide. Just a two minute walk up the same road is the Kings Arms pub which was bombed by the IRA in 1974. The community in Greenwich resisted those who tried to whip up anti-Irish hysteria at the time. In 1993 Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham just 20 minutes away. A mass campaign against racism was mobilised by members of the Socialist Party (then Militant) and others which resulted in the far-right BNP's headquarters in Welling being shut down. It is important now, more than ever, that working class people in Woolwich and the country as a whole remember that history of solidarity and struggle. We must stand united against any attempts to divide us in the wake of this tragic event.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Where is TUSC heading?

I often wonder this myself. The socialist party who I’m a member of are committed to TUSC for the foreseeable future and seem to be the one in the driving seat of the project with the RMT union. Yet I’m no more clearer which direction the project is heading. I know we are not a party and are simply an electoral vehicle for the socialist party and anti cuts campaigners who wish to standing election. So far only a minority of anti cuts campaigners have stood for TUSC with other groups staying away for now. I am disillusioned with our strategy with TUSC and what we see it transforming into. In June’s edition of the Socialist party’s monthly journal Socialism Today Clive HEEMSKERK takes a look at TUSC’s development and gives us his thoughts on TUSC’s results and prospects. I thought I’d give a few comments in reply to his points. “May’s local council elections showed, five years into the worst crisis of capitalism since the 1930s, how deep the alienation from Britain’s ‘traditional’ parties has become. The BBC made a projection of the national share of the vote from the 2013 results – the elections covered 24 million people, but did not include Scotland, Wales, or most big English cities. Despite this element of psychological guesswork, their figures were sobering for the establishment parties. Labour was ahead on 29%, the Tories on 25%, and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) third on 23%, with the Liberal Democrats on 14%. For the first time ever no party had reached over 30% of the vote. These trends were confirmed in the first Guardian/ICM series opinion poll taken after the council elections. It found the three main establishment parties all down four points on the previous month, the first time in the 29-year history of these surveys that all three had fallen at the same time (The Guardian, 14 May). Labour’s 34% is its lowest rating since the immediate aftermath of the 2010 general election defeat. The Tories’ 28% is a low point they had not reached since the 1997-98 Blair ‘honeymoon’. The Lib Dems were on 11%, their lowest score since September 1997. While the poll also showed limits to UKIP’s support – at just 2% in Scotland and 6% in Wales – overall it was up by nine points to 18%. The Guardian editorial correctly described these results as “a rejection of British mainstream politics without modern precedent”.” TUSC’s last few national election results have ranged from 10% to less than 1% more towards the 1% than anything else. In last months county council elections TUSC stood 119 candidates across the country gaining about 8000 votes with 17 of those candidates receiving less than 1% so we cannot pretend we’re having a break through in any shape or form. The lack of direction and analysis of such poor low results is skimmed over by many comrades and a sort of shrug and put it down to working class consciousness just hasn’t caught up. If only we had the trade unions more on side and well we’re only small anyway so we shouldn’t expect too much this side of 2015. Clives analysis of the UKIP vote is interesting and I think underestimates their ability to pull in votes in working class areas. This focus on UKIP just going for council and parliament seats is to miss the point. UKIP as I’ve mentioned before is having an influence in the media and having an affect on the other political parties just to do with its presence. Clive writes “A Guardian reporter interviewed one South Shields UKIP voter who explained: “I was very disappointed that Labour made no effort whatsoever to stand up for ordinary working people’s rights… They ought to change their name. But I’ve found a party now that represents some of the views that I would like”. (4 May) Meanwhile, in Yeovil, a 30-year-old pub worker “said he had not voted before but decided to back UKIP this time. ‘I think the party is the only one that speaks up for the ordinary working man. The rest seem to be more interested in keeping rich people happy’.” The real position of UKIP, for even more brutal austerity in the interests of the capitalist elite, is either not known or shrugged off in the urge to grab the most easily available stick to fight back with. Why not to a working-class alternative? So why is the developing anger not finding a mass electoral outlet in a working-class political alternative to the establishment parties? Clive asks” Well UKIP are not just a protest votes I’ve consistently pointed out they are of course picking up a protest vote element but there is more to this rise. UKIP is tapping into a racist vote element which the Tories used to occupy and have moved away from the working class Tory daily mail reader and are seen as out of touch by many of these former voters. UKIP speaks for the common man many feel now without understanding that they are more in favour of austerity than even the Tories yet they see a savvy politician in Nigel Ferrage who goes in the pubs and talks to ordinary people this is something the etonian Tory can no longer do or connect with the petti-bourgeois nationalist vote. This is summed up with genuine support in those voting UKIP as 25% of voters in the last county council elections could not all have been ignorant to what UKIP stand for surely ? Not surprisingly, one South Shields voter, a North Sea oil worker and former Labour voter, was quoted in the Guardian as backing UKIP because “I want a change. I know quite a bit about Nigel Farage. I’ve seen how he handles himself on Question Time” (4 May). This suggests people are quite aware in some regard what UKIP do stand for which we must respond to. As for TUSC Clive lays a bit of blame for not building a working class political alternative by trade union leaders yes those pesky leaders again who refuse to break with new labour he cries. Yes the same trade union leaders we are appealing to to go for a 24 hour general strike. Clive continues in his piece In its three years’ existence, 582 candidates have stood under the TUSC umbrella, in a range of contests from parliamentary elections, to city mayoral polls, to local council elections. In the recent county council elections, TUSC stood more candidates than the BNP – “the first time in recent history”, according to the New Statesman, that a left-wing party “will be better represented than Griffin’s mob”. This did not stop the BBC from carrying items on the BNP while refusing to acknowledge on its website that TUSC was standing any candidates at all, until the day before polling day. More than 100,000 votes have been cast for TUSC candidates in that three-year period – still a modest electoral record but not insignificant. Overall, TUSC is still only a ‘pre-formation’, a precursor of a future mass workers’ party that could impact decisively on the political struggle against austerity. What kind of precursor of a future mass workers party it is still not clear. How will we get from here to there? It’s these sorts of vague phrases which frustrate me how do we see TUSC. Sometimes we say it’s a first step towards a new workers party with no plan given how we get there other time we play it down saying it’s simply an electoral banner and something bigger may or may not come out of it. Clive claims but it is the most promising development, at this stage, and certainly not one to be lightly pushed aside for ‘the next new thing’. I beg to differ I can see TUSC being swept aside if say Len Mckluskey of unite pulls funding on the labour party however unlikely that is I can see TUSC being dropped like a stone in pursuit of another trade union leader on an adventure if unite went of a new workers party I could imagine we would head for that. An interesting part of Clives article states TUSC, as the name says, is a coalition, and has written to Respect, the National Health Action Party (launched in May 2012), the SLP, the Communist Party (CP) – and, most recently, Ken Loach – inviting them to discuss participation in TUSC, or at least electoral collaboration. The National Health Action Party and the SLP have not responded. Respect replied but declined the offer even of exploratory talks. The SLP and Respect, unfortunately, share the ‘dissolve into us’ ultimately stance of the Greens. Two meetings have taken place with CP officers and they provided a guest speaker to a 2012 TUSC conference, but they have not taken up the offer to join TUSC, with the full rights of a participating organisation and a place on the national steering committee. What is the problem here? It is not a question of TUSC being ‘narrow’ and ‘non-inclusive’, or that the Socialist Party allegedly ‘dominates TUSC’. The coalition is based on agreement on a quite limited core programme, although with a clear socialist clause for democratic public ownership of the banks and major monopolies, supplemented by policy statements for particular elections. Every TUSC candidate is asked to endorse these before they are issued with the legally necessary ‘certificate of authorisation’ ( Clive miss’s the point her what if these groups don’t want to just join a steering committee which I’m still not sure is the best way to organise things. Clive claims TUSC isn’t narrow and isn’t controlled by the socialist party but I can confirm to him I’ve heard from other independents that that is indeed the feeling from outside the main TUSC component groups at this stage and this must be addressed in my view. Later on Clive as you would expect launch’s into attack on the recent left unity project which sadly has not been taken seriously enough by the socialist party and TUSC in my view. A sense of arrogance that we’ve been here before and you’re doomed to fail is the sense you get from the SP when it comes to left unity. It’s barely been mentioned in our paper and there was no report on its national conference held on 11th of May sadly. “Unfortunately, this attractive feature of TUSC – unity with equal rights, not the domination of one group over others – has been used by some of the founders of Left Unity to dismiss TUSC as ‘undemocratic’. Counter-posing ‘one member, one vote’ (OMOV) to the democracy of organisations electing accountable representatives, they have often echoed the propaganda of the Blairite right-wing in the 1990s as they sought to transform the Labour Party into New Labour. John Prescott, who pushed through the OMOV constitutional changes – which, for example, abolished the role of local union delegates in selecting parliamentary candidates in favour of an individual membership ballot –, saw this as more significant in changing Labour than the abolition of its socialist ‘Clause Four’. The plebiscitary ‘online democracy’ of Grillo’s Five-Star movement in Italy, or the German Pirates’ Party – a cyber equivalent of US-style party primaries – is not a model for the workers’ movement.” I’m not sure how Clive has come to this decision the RMT themselves operate using this structure is it right we should be telling the RMT not to use this form of organisation either? Clive goes on and incorrectly states In fact, Left Unity itself is not operating on an OMOV basis. Eight thousand people clicked an online declaration supporting ‘Ken Loach’s appeal to discuss the formation of a new party’ following the release of his film, Spirit of 45, a Guardian article and other media publicity, and over 500 have been reported as attending local meetings. Its first national meeting was composed of local group representatives from ‘minuted meetings of no less than five people’ (and ‘volunteers’ from yet to be constituted local groups), which elected a committee. Well maybe Clive they haven’t yet had their founding conference or formally launched a party. Criticising them before this has happened which I’ve seen many SP comrades do is foolish. We can’t and should not write off Left unity just yet whatever we may feel about the people involved. Clive goes on to state that the RMT do indeed use the same structure so if it’s good enough for the RMT but not for left unity? Clive says “But how is that fundamentally structurally different to the RMT, with its national officers, executive committee and annual conference delegates all elected by union members, choosing its representatives on the TUSC national steering committee? Except that the RMT has 80,000 dues-paying members and has proved its ability through collective action – its social weight – to defend working-class interests. If a viable organisation emerges from the Left Unity initiative, why wouldn’t it want to come into the TUSC umbrella?” Well why haven’t we asked them? Maybe they don’t agree that TUSC’s structures are the right way of doing things and the direction is vague of how we get to a new party. TUSC has never stated it wants to become a party whereas Left unity has done that from the outset. “‘But TUSC stops individuals from participating’. No, that’s not true. The TUSC national steering committee agreed in June 2011 that individual members would have an elected place on the committee through a ‘TUSC Independent Socialist Network’, duly filled at its inaugural meeting in October that year. Nobody has been excluded from a local group, or prevented from setting one up.” The key in this bit is participating acting as foot soldiers not gaming voting rights or membership rights to join an organisation. I’ve said before there are many socialists who have no organisation who want to feel part of something so far you cannot join TUSC as it is not a party and doesn’t appear to want to be one. Yes you can maybe join the ISN or set up a branch but this still does not mean you’re a member of TUSC and have a voice in terms of influencing policy. Lastly Clive puts a lot of the frustration with TUSC down to the lack of a break through with elections. Whilst this is one frustration of course I don’t think this is the only one. I am glad Clive is engaging with independents who wish for a new workers party but engaging and being sectarian when it comes to left unity is an old habit of which the socialist party is finding hard to break with sadly. TUSC is still far too small with only a handful of RMT members involved in building TUSC. Clearly we need to be doing more. I’m glad a national branch officer has been appointed in Pete Mclaren I hope he can get something going on a national scale for those wishing to join TUSC. But now with left unity springing up TUSC will be forced in to discussions and vice versa both groups must find a way of discussing co orperation and genuine unity on a socialist basis. Not to water down our programmes or remain a limited organisation but to state our intentions are clear to remove this failing rotten capitalist system and replace it with a genuine democratic socialist order of society. If we keep watering our programme down to not scare off the working class they will never know what we truly stand for. That’s why I support the idea of a mass revolutionary Marxist party which is needed for now and the coming struggles. Marxism is the science of socialism and a party is necessary. I thank Clive for this article which you can read in June’s edition of socialism today I encourage Marxists to read it and respond in the debate for new workers party.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The impending crisis’s of the coming century

This may sound all a little depressing but it is a post I’ve wanted to do for a while now. It focus’s on the crisis’s that are not so spoken of that will play out in the future no doubt. These crisis which revolve mainly around vital resources to live including food and water will potentially lead to wars as resources become scarce in big over populated areas of the world. All this is in among the back drop of a global economic crisis which shows no sign of improving despite the reports of green shoots and slow growth and the like. This is the norm now for many now we will never see a return to the post 2008 so called boom years of consistent 3 or 4 percent annual growth with a rising wage economy. Not in my lifetime can I foresee this changing under this current capitalist system. Food and water shortages does sound utterly ridiculous to comprehend in the west today wit our glut of over production and far too much food produced and plenty going to waste yet millions if not billions still go hungry every year due to lack of profitability in selling food to the poorest on the planet. As with water the thought of us not having enough will soon absurd to many reading this that may live near water and certainly in the UK we are surrounded by it yet we are running out of clean, good quality drinking water for life to survive. The fact tat capitalism due to its short termist nature of producing for profit and not for need has resulted in a situation where our population has grown but our infrastructure has not kept pace with the ever growing demand. In fact in a recent Guardian article it is claimed The Yemen is already running out of water Sana'a risks becoming first capital in world to run out of viable water supply as Yemen's streams and natural aquifers run dry Despite plans to focus on rainwater harvesting and on water drilling, Yemen's political uncertainty has pushed sanitation and water access down the list of priorities. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA Under a staircase, clinging to a wall of Sana'a's Grand Mosque, groups of women and children lug plastic canisters to the leaky spigots of a public fountain. Some small children struggle with canisters nearly their size as they weave slowly between the fountain and the pushcarts used to wheel the water back home. Whether in cities or villages, this is how millions of Yemenis secure their day's supply of water. As few can afford to pay for water to be pumped to their building, public urban fountains, which are free, remain the only option for most. Umm Husein, a resident of the capital Sana'a, said she has tap water only once or twice a week. Trips to the communal fountain – taking time out of work or studies – involve her whole family. "The women, the children, every day we go to the fountain to get water," she said. Water and sanitation are chronic problems in Yemen, where, on average, each Yemeni has access to only 140 cubic metres of water per year for all uses – the Middle East average is about 1,000m³ a person annually. In recent years, the government of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh had taken strides to improve water access in Yemen, but the political turbulence that arose from last year's uprising has pushed water down the new government's list of priorities, according to aid workers and a government employee. Changing priorities Two years ago, Yemen's general rural water authority (GRWA) commissioned an assessment of existing water projects and coverage. The organisations that took part came to a collective decision to focus on rainwater harvesting in Yemen's highlands, and on water drilling in the coastal and desert areas. Yet the ensuing political chaos halted progress in implementing solutions, according to Abdulwali el-Shami, an engineer in the government's public works project (PWP) in Sana'a. Beset with crises, the new president, Abd Rabbu Mansoor Hadi, has put little energy towards resolving the water crisis threatening the majority of Yemenis. Ghassan Madieh, a water specialist for UN children's fund Unicef, said he did not "see any serious attention being given to the issue of water scarcity, or the low coverage in water and sanitation". Jerry Farrell, country director of Save the Children in Yemen, echoed this assessment: "[In June], the ministry of planning rolled out its plan for the next 20 months … and water was at the bottom of the list." Though solutions exist, the will and attention necessary to put them into practice remain absent, observers say. Farrell said that without a greater governmental commitment to water issues, international aid organisations dealing with water will not be able to work effectively in the country. The government must also provide water subsidies for the extremely poor while water infrastructure is developed, he added. The spectre of a country run dry looms over Yemen's nearly 25 million inhabitants. With its streams and natural aquifers shallower every day, Sana'a risks becoming the first capital in the world to run out of a viable water supply. The water table in the city has dropped far beyond sustainable levels, Shami said, because of an exploding population, lack of water resource management and, most of all, unregulated drilling. Where Sana'a's water table was 30 metres below the surface in the 1970s, he said, it has now dropped to 1,200 metres in some areas. The water supply in this largely arid country has been the source of decades-long ethnic conflicts, particularly among nomadic groups. In the northern governorate of al-Jawf, a blood feud between two prominent local groups has continued unabated for nearly three decades, largely a result of the contested placement of a well on their territorial border. Abdulwali el-Jilani, a water specialist in Sana'a with the Community Livelihood Project, a programme to improve water access funded by the US aid agency USAid, warned that as water supply diminishes, tensions will rise: "Water is and will be the reason for powerful conflicts in the future."

When you find you disagree with something

Following to my blog post on sectarianism which is deeply ingrained on the British left I thought I’d share a few more thoughts. I have a few times recently raised criticisms or perceived criticisms I tend to see them as more suggestions with a critical tone to help move things forward. I’ve been rebuffed by some of my own comrades in the socialist party not by many just a few I must admit sadly. A few private messages had come to me in a quite sharp tone noting I shouldn’t be raising criticisms of the party and its strategy on a public interenet forum instead I should take any disagreement I have to my regional committee or an elusive internal bulletin which has been promised for months and I’ve still not heard anything about it or how I can access it. Being blind doesn’t help as no doubt it will come out in print form forgetting we have comrades who may not be able to read print but tat is by the by. Its my issue that how democratic centralism is interpreted that any disagreement or public criticisms is a crime and must be kept all in house which troubles me. I suppose for most of the left discussing your differences in public is a "cardinal sin". Minorities within the 'party' are either expected to keep their views to themselves or at best limit the airing of their disagreements with the leadership to closed meetings or the pages of internal bulletins. A monolithic facade of 'unity' must always be presented. The public expression of differences supposedly portrays weakness to those outside your ranks and, worse, serves only to 'confuse workers'. That, at least, is how much of the left have chosen to interpret the Leninist organisational principle of democratic centralism it would seem. We’ve seen just this year how the SWP leadership tried to clamp down on public out cry on how the leadership looked to cover up a allegation on rape I do think although slightly better in terms of democracy our party I feel can still be found wanting to shut down debate and to keep our disagreements in house. Is it a lack of confidence I wonder? Facts that we don’t want to let the class see we have those who are not all 100% signed up to the party line or have questions over things. I do wonder sometimes. I mostly agree with what we say in our programme but when there is a issue which comes up like our attitude towards Left unity and the direction or lack of in TUSC I am shot down for daring to ask valid reasonable questions. In reality of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Democratic centralism - genuine Leninist democratic centralism, that is - while imposing on minorities the duty to abide by democratically agreed decisions, provides also for the fullest public criticism. The party should allow access to its public press for dissenting views as a matter of course. If a particular submission is considered unsuitable, then the author must have the right to publish it themselves - even in the capitalist press. Only in this way can we correct our mistakes and arrive at the truth. If you fear answering public criticisms and would prefer to brush them under the carpet comrades doubts and questions will only grow. Instead of other comrades taking a sharp tone with me how about trying to help me understand or to work with me to understand what I’m saying maybe clarify things in a comradely fashion. As sometimes when you are not feeling like you’re listened to or feel valued in an organisation you will start to talk out in anyway you can. Finding an elusive internal bulletin and talking to a regional committee who are far more experienced than myself and in a way make me feel small and less knowledgeable simply for being a member for a shorter period of time I am not sure why they feel my issues must be channelled down a path convenient to them. Surely they are my disagreements or issues should it not be up to me how I express them. I have tried to explain my frustrations to other comrades but have felt like I’m the stupid one for asking questions or daring to give differing points of view. Comrades our arrogance isnt pretty sometimes we sometimes may be wrong a bit of humility sometimes wouldn’t go a miss. We do not have all the answers and a set way to do things. We’re still a very small party if we were 100% correct on everything we would be far bigger it would be good to remember that sometimes and try to bring people with us rather than writing them off so soon. No comrade or political party is politically infallible I don’t think its right to pretend we ever are. We all have our own beliefs and understandings we all come to conclusions at different times not allowing any form of public criticism as it doesn’t present a unified front in action is sad. As long as it doesn’t hamper the overall thrust of what the party is saying a few questioning critical comrades giving constructive suggestions should always be welcome in my view. Who knows they may actually have some useful points to help.

Cuts kill, con-dems must be stopped in their tracks

Steven Bottrill, whose disabled mum Stephanie killed herself because of the bedroom tax, said: "Hopefully now someone will listen. Someone will realise what has gone on and change things." Studies by charities, as well as the NHS and the DWP, have shown that suicides and suicidal thoughts have increased among disabled people due to benefit cuts With the governments so called work programme it is failing people badly especially the disabled. According to charities for the blind, not a single blind or visually-impaired person has found sustained employment through the Work Programme. Capitalism always blames its victims. Now, more than ever, claiming benefits is portrayed as scrounging rather than being a right. This adds psychological despair to the harsh reality of scraping by on a pittance. Threatened and attempted suicides, as well as actual deaths, have doubled among 24-35 year old men in the UK since 2008. Last year there were deaths among sick and disabled people who had been subjected to the profit-driven bullying of Atos. Figures published in the Lancet showed UK suicides jumping 8% in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. Suicide rates have risen nearly everywhere except Sweden and Finland. In Algeria, Portugal, Greece, Tunisia and Italy suicide is a growing problem, with deaths three times higher among men than women. Few of these deaths make headline news but the government has the evidence. Richard Colwill, from mental health charity Sane, said: "No one should be surprised that factors such as unemployment and job insecurity can push people who may be already vulnerable to take their own lives. Life events like redundancy, bankruptcy and the relationship breakdowns that often follow can cause bouts of mental illness." Claimants slashing their wrists in jobcentres or setting themselves on fire is not deemed as newsworthy by the right-wing media as sensational headlines about benefits fraud. But government figures state only 0.5% of Disability Living Allowance claims are fraudulent. Before the crisis, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe: 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. Suicides have since doubled and attempted suicides have also increased. Debts, joblessness, job insecurity are the key reasons given, but it is also the sense that the future holds nothing better. In the US, suicide rates rose dramatically in high unemployment areas. Macomb County, Michigan, with 13.7% unemployment, reported almost 40% more suicides compared to before the recession. Researchers at University of Chicago found that mass layoffs in America caused an immediate rise in suicides, followed by a bigger spike six months later when unemployment insurance ran out. In Ireland, suicide rates increased by 25%, while in Japan, a 2008 study found one in five members of the population admitted contemplating suicide as the recession began to bite. Many people are finding themselves in a place where nothing seems certain anymore, as if the world around them has gone mad. Economic crisis is turning into a mental health crisis. The absence of a generalised struggle is a contributing factor that reinforces the idea that 'there is no alternative'. This despair is a product of capitalism - a system that is sick and rotten to the core. It must be replaced, by socialism, through mass struggle, to give people a purpose and sense of worth that this society cannot. The number of US deaths from suicide surpassed the number of deaths from car crashes in 2009 Over five million Americans lost access to health care due to losing their jobs in the recession. 750,000 have turned to binge drinking, while the number of anti-depressant prescriptions have soared Suicides and bad health have increased far more in countries that have slashed health and welfare budgets A University of Cambridge study found that for every 1% increase in unemployment, there is a 0.8% increase in suicides by under-65s With extracts from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/766/16715/22-05-2013/cuts-kill-con-dem-benefit-reforms-mental-health-and-suicide

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

What has happened to the student movement?

Is a very good question since two big demonstrations one a lot smaller and angrier than the last 2013 has been a somewhat quieter year for the students movement. Not being a student myself I look on from outside but the anger on tuition fees, lack of EMA, rental prices for students, cost of studying all haven’t gone away surely and the anger can’t have either. No doubt much of this lack of fight can be laid at the door of the NUS who have failed to mobilise students to defend education and mount a challenge to this rotten government. Socialist students which are affiliated to the socialist party have been doing excellent work on campuses up and down the country having our best year yet in terms of numbers. But our influence is still small. We will be putting pressure and calling on the NUS to organise a national demonstration this autumn very shortly. There have been small victories and incidents Sussex university had a fantastic demonstration with an occupation which was disgracefully evicted a while back now in protest over privatisation of the education system. Again NUS did not show up most students now are starting to fight without their own union of students this is a worry but not unsurprising given the role the NUS places with its pro labour party leadership and timid outlook. Recently a victory at Birmingham university has shown an example how students and workers when they unite can win victories even on a small scale and not totally resolved is a good start and shows we can win. Maintenance & support staff at University of Birmingham are celebrating near-total victory as university management have abandoned restructuring plans. 361 Hospitalist and Accomodation Services (HAS) staff faced compulsory redundancy, pay cuts and being forced to work anti-social hours under plans announced in March; the £407,000-a-year pay packet of the Vice-Chancellor would have been unaffected. The University also planned to force staff to work weekends and holidays for no extra pay. These plans have all been dropped and staff has won extra flexibility in setting their own schedules. Edmund Schluessel - NUS NEC-elect, UCU and Socialist Students Birmingham University Unison worked closely in partnership with the students’ union, Birmingham Guild of Students, to fight back against the cuts and job losses. Staff and students demonstrated together against university management on May Day, and, in a major show of solidarity, the Students’ Union put out a call for a national student mobilisation in support of the Birmingham HAS staff. In a statement, student campaigning group, Birmingham Defend Education, said, “This outcome demonstrates that protest and direct action work. Unions were negotiating on these issues behind the scenes for two months, whilst the University kept announcing further attacks. As soon as they started to sign up large numbers of new members and talk about strike action, and we sent our statement to David Eastwood, the University abandoned the majority of their attacks within two weeks. This also illustrates the power of students and staff when working together. We should remember that staff and students, not management, are what make the University work. If we recognise this, and the power that we have when we stop doing what we’re told, we can claim the conditions of work and study that we want to see.” The problem of low pay remains unresolved. Many maintenance staff at Birmingham and dozens of other universities is paid only the national minimum wage, while the university makes annual profits of nearly £30 million. Lecturers and other uni staff on the national pay spine have received real-terms pay cuts every year since 2009. The five-way consortium of university trade unions, consisting of UCU (lecturers), Unison, Unite, GMB (all support staff) and EIS (teaching trade union), are meeting with employers on the 21st to discuss the latest 0.8% pay offer. The five unions should unanimously reject the offer and prepare for national coordinated action to stop the pay cuts and job losses, and push the TUC (Trade Union Congress) to name the day for a 24-hour general strike against all the cuts. As an incoming Socialist Students member of the National Union of Students’ (NUS) executive I will push for NUS to learn from Birmingham students’ example and to give the fullest possible support to any action in defence of education and against the cuts. Once students come back after the summer there will be new angry students paying higher fees getting charged even more to live and get by. It’s a disgrace that the NUS would rather spend their time doing pointless survey’s and focus on the smaller issues not that they are not important but when our whole education system is at threat surely their priorities could be better placed. With socialist students getting its first member elected on to the NEC of the NUS in Edmund Schluessel we can now begin to gain influence beyond our own ranks. A statement put out by Edmund on socialist students website said that students need a voice and for too long the NUS has not represented the real views of students on the ground. Our aim is to turn the NUS into a fighting union to give students hope and an avenue to fight back in. Socialist student’s basic aims and demands are: What We Stand For Education  Abolish tuition fees. Write off student debt.  Restore EMA. Campaign for full living grants to cover the living costs of all students in post-16 education – including those at university.  No to higher and further education funding cuts. Defend every course, job and service.  No to academies and Free Schools.  For exam boards and all other privatised services to be taken back into public ownership – no repeat of this year’s exam mistakes fiasco!  Stop the marketisation and privatisation of universities in Britain. No to the government’s white paper and a two-tier Higher Education system. No university should be allowed to go to the wall!  Lift the cap on places and publicly fund the expansion of high quality higher education.  Build local anti-cuts campaigns and ‘Youth Fight for Education’ groups in every school, college and university, linked on both a regional and a national level.  Support action taken by education workers to defend their conditions and our education –their fight is our fight.  For the transformation of Students’ Unions into fighting organisations, with bottom-up democratic structures.  For a fighting NUS.  For education that is fully funded, publicly owned, democratically run and universally free at all levels – a socialist education system. Work and Welfare  Support the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign.  No to mass youth unemployment- for a decent job for all.  No to the government’s slave labour ‘workfare’ schemes. For decent training opportunities and apprenticeships for young people which pay at least the minimum wage, with a guaranteed job at the end.  No job losses in the public or private sector. When private bosses claim they can’t afford to maintain jobs, we say open the books. Let us see where the money has gone.  For nationalisation of companies threatening closure, under democratic control with compensation given on the basis of proven need.  Fight for a minimum wage of at least £8 an hour as a step towards a living wage.  No cuts to housing or other benefits.  End lower benefit rates for young people – for the right to Job Seekers Allowance at 16.  No to ‘workfare’ and slave labour internships. For decent jobs paid at least a minimum wage of £8 an hour.  Support the National Shop Stewards’ Network anti-cuts campaign which fights all cuts to jobs and services  The immediate re-opening of all youth services that have been closed, including reinstating sacked staff. Rights  Defend the right to protest. No to the victimisation of student protesters. For the right to organise in every school, college and campus.  No to ‘kettling’ and police violence on demonstrations.  No to racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination.  Fight the far-right racist BNP and EDL. Jobs, homes and services- not racism. Build mass campaigns to defend communities.  No platform for fascists in education.  Rape is never the victim’s fault. For a mass campaign against sexism.  No to reactionary attacks on women’s rights.  Defend and extend abortion rights.  No to the three main bosses’ parties. For a new mass workers’ party that fights in the interests of ordinary people. For International Solidarity and Socialism  For solidarity between working class and young people across the world.  Solidarity with the Arab Spring – No to western intervention – it is on behalf of big business and capitalism.  No to war and imperialist intervention. For the Immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.  End the siege of Gaza.  No to Trident nuclear missile replacement  Support the Sri Lanka Tamil Solidarity campaign – for the right of all people to self-determination.  No to environmental destruction. For a sustainable democratic socialist plan of production that won’t destroy the planet.  No to capitalism. For a socialist world, where the big monopolies are taken into public ownership, the economy is democratically planned and resources are used to meet the needs of all humanity. A campaign for students must start here. As terms are drawing to a close exams are being taken work must start now for action in the autumn to defend education and to fight for free education for the many not just the few.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Tories tearing each other apart of Europe

The crisis in the Tory party grows ever deeper with sharper and sharper comments being exchanged from back bencher to back bencher from cabinet ministers now coming out and breaking ranks to support a referendum on the EU David Cameron will have a tough job on his hand to quell descent over his leadership or lack of. Europe has always been a dividing issue for Tories many do not wish to be dictated by some faceless bureaucrats in Brussels and detest the red t ape of the EU and all the laws they have no say over. Yet on the other side the business world the other part of the ruling class are worried and are jumping up and down worried that we may actually end up leaving the EU damaging business and trade. So this issue the ruling class in Britain really are split more so than most other issues it would seem. Even President O’Bama has weighed in saying the UK should remain part of Europe as they find it easier to do business with one block rather than several different nations. No doubt their interests go deeper than this with economic benefits being high on the agenda. But the way the Tories are hammering each other over Europe and pressuring David Cameron to go for a referendum is very interesting to see. For many years it’s been a divided and faction riddled labour party we all remember the famous spats between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and their people who couldn’t work together now its Cameron being marginalised in his own party as minister after minister decries his lack of leadership and support for a referendum for Britain. Let’s be clear though the Tories do not want this for the so called national interest it is all about their own pure class interests all along. The fear of having the city of London dictated to by Brussels over a financial transition tax and more regulation worries their banker friends and there donors as a result. The Tory party is so interwoven within the city of London now that any event that happens in the city and in government affects the other so acutely now. It is to the Tories detriment that they rely so heavily on the city of London for their backing which has backed them into a corner on this issue. Where in the past they would receive backing from more industrial capitalists now they rely solely on the financial sector. This will continue to play out right up until the general election. With a threat that it may tear the coalition apart with the Lib Dems still refusing to back a tin out referendum this will heighten tension between the coalition partners who are drifting further and further apart all the time. Deliberately maybe the closer we get towards the next election they will want to make themselves separate as much as they can but we all know they are tied on the main policies of cuts, privatisation and austerity. The issue of Europe won’t go away and with UKIP gaining more influence this will only grow. How the Tories play their hand now with a declining support now in the polls will be interesting to see. No doubt they will try and tack right play on the immigration card as much as they can and increase the divide and rule they use so effectively. The question for the working class is how we fight back. Labour has clearly shown they are no alternative to cuts and misery so we need a political alternative. TUSC looks to lay down an early marker of a marker for a new workers party with anti cuts candidates standing across the country. This is just a start but is an important start none the less.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Succumbing to reformism and how to avoid it

As Marxists we are all too aware of reformists in the labour movement those who see no alternative to the capitalist system of exploitation and despair. They genuinely think we can reform capitalism into a nicer system which is a bit less brutal. This is completely false in so many ways and is quite a dangerous position to hold too. If you’re a trade union leader you’re quite likely to be reformist or at least confine yourselves to fighting for reforms within the current system however difficult that may look. We encounter them all the time reformists and some are won over to a revolutionary stand point and can develop into good Marxists but the type of reformists around today are the sort who worship the accomplished fact. Much like Owen Jones in the labour party and independent journalist. They do not see the world in a dialectical fashion with all things in constant flux and change. Jones and his ilk see things as static entities and do not see the changes going on in society under their very eyes. For example Owen believes there is a labour party and always will be a labour party he can see no further than the end of his nose unfortunately. I respect Owen a lot he writes some excellent stuff in a national newspaper and is no doubt socialist and fights against capitalism but ultimately does not see things in a process or a Marxist point of view. This is not to do down the likes of Owen as this is not uncommon. Those who support Cuba uncritically think well that’s socialism over there so we must support it without seeing the faults and contradictions locked up in that bureaucratic workers state where there is little democracy there. Reformists are often the ones looking for the easiest answers to everything take for example many in the labour party and see themselves on the left. Many shoot down TUSC and our low election results without seeing that we have a perspective over this and ok the votes are not great but we have had the fore sight to lay down a marker for a new workers party at this stage it is hard. The original founders of the Labour party including Kair Hardie were ridiculed and faced the same bemusement from those who pelted them with stones for daring to stand against the liberal party now look where we are a similar situation where we are laughed at for daring to stand against the labour party who are a fully fledged capitalist party now the second eleven for the ruling class if you like. But how to we avoid falling into reformist ideas ourselves? Its all about having perspectives and a basic understanding of Marxism the scientific socialism which Marx and Engel’s stood by which Lenin and Trotsky stood by too. It is not demanding more than the party can give or getting too down when things don’t appear to be going our way or get too excited if we win a victory. As we know that any reform won under this current capitalist system is only temporary and the ruling class will come back to take it back maybe in a different o name one day. Take the bedroom tax we may defeat this rotten cruel tax but there will be more attacks and unless we put an end to the capitalist system for good the ruling class will keep coming back for more and more as they always do. SO we must warn our younger socialist friends the dangers of reformism while being the best fighters for reforms ourselves whilst pointing out the temporary nature of those reforms. Our eventual goal is the over throw of the existing order of society turn it on its head in a sense for the working class to become the ruling class therefore abolishing itself as a class.

world in crisis, central banks not providing the anser

Increasing concerns and contradictions Per-Ă…ke Westerlund, from Offensiv, newspaper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) The severe downturn in 2008-09 made the world economy into an experimental workshop. But neither extreme austerity or trillions to the banks has led to a solid recovery. Now there is growing concern among politicians and economists. At the center of concern is the crisis in Europe. In early 2012, both Italy and Spain were close to sovereign defaults, which in turn would have made the whole euro project collapsing. EU’s leading politicians and institutions were scared into taking extreme measures. The European Central Bank, ECB, promised "unlimited access" to capital for both states and banks. Since then, the ECB lent 360 billion euros to Spanish banks and 260 billion into Italian. A large part have been used to buy their respective state bonds. The interest rate gap - how much more it costs for Spain or Italy to borrow than Germany - have fallen from 6-7 percentage to 2-3 percent. The ECB’s generosity is matched by other central banks. The U.S. Federal Reserve is in its fourth round of Quantitative Easing which means that the Fed buys government debt notes for $ 85 billion each month. Japan’s new right-wing government has now embarked on a "quantitative and qualitative" monetary policy in double pace compared to Fed. In two years, the central bank (Bank of Japan, BOJ) will use equivalent to a quarter of Japan’s GDP - the third largest economy - to purchase government bonds, equities and real estate. Central Banks But now there is increasing concern that central banks’ intervention is not the solution, but rather deepens the crisis. "Some of the leading figures in central banking concede they were flying blind when steering their economies," reported the Financial Times (18 April), from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) spring meeting. Lorenzo Samgh of the the ECB’s executive board: "We do’nt fully understand what is happening in advanced economies." The head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, said that no one can be sure that the expansionary monetary policy is correct and wondered if they are “running the risk of reigniting the problems that led to the financial crisis in the first palce?”. Central bank intervention has eased the immediate crisis for the most vulnerable banks and states. But they do not kick start economies - investments in the advanced capitalist countries is still at a record low. However, the new policy opened for sharper conflicts between nation states. The Japanese currency, the yen, has fallen by 25 percent since last year. It has benefited the Japanese export industry, at the expense of for example German and South Korean industry. The IMF’s semi-annual reports from April (Global Financial Stability Report and World Economic Outlook) notes that central banks’ actions have achieved “a broad market rally” but also created new risks. Capital now flows back from the richer countries to developing countries, creating potential instability. The Fed boss Ben Bernanke recently warned that banks’ speculation may increase. IMF But especially worried is the IMF for what happens when easing ends. There is no equivalent in history to learn from. "Continued improvements will require further balance sheet repair in the financial sector and a smooth unwinding of public and private debt overhangs. If progress in addressing these medium-term challenges falters, risks could reappear. The global financial crisis could morph into a more chronic phase marked by a deterioration of financial conditions and recurring bouts of financial instability", writes the IMF. The conditions raised here - balance sheet repair and unwindling of debts - have so far failed, which points towards a more chronic crisis. The second leg of the crisis policy - the extreme austerity measures - have had worse immediate effects. 19.2 million are now unemployed in the euro zone, of which six million in Spain alone. In Greece, youth unemployment is 59.1 percent. The New York Times reported in an article on Greek school children who faint and are searching for food in the bins. The Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Caolho - a strong proponent of the infamous Troika (IMF, EU and ECB) austerity - promised in 2011 that "two terrible years" would be followed by recovery. But as a result of the extreme austerity, in 2013 Portugal "faces a much deeper and longer recession than the government or international lenders had foreseen" (Financial Times). The IMF estimated in April that the risk of recession (the economy contracts) in the euro zone was 50 percent. Since then, the ECB president Draghi warned that even France is dragged deeper into the crisis. The EU has given Spain and France two additional years to meet the rule that budget deficits should not exceed three percent of GDP. Under new rules they would otherwise been fined. In a large survey among capitalists and finance investors in Europe, made by the credit rating company Fitch, a large majority believe this year’s calm in Europe is transient. "Fitch warns in a statement that it [2013] can once again become a summer marked by the euro crisis, just as in 2011 and 2012, since there is a strong contradiction between the recent stock market rally and euro zone recession and rising unemployment." (From Swedish daily, Dagens Industri). No capitalist solution None of the capitalist institutions have a solution. Many warn that austerity has gone too far, but stil emphasise the need for a balanced budget for the "medium term". How quickly the Cyprus crisis threatened to spread shows that EU countries need a banking union, writes the IMF in its report. And before the ECB’s "limitless" capital flow eased the crisis, leading EU politicians like Germany’s Angela Merkel and European Commission President Barrosso put forward the EU needed a much tighter budget policy and synchronisation. But national interests and conflicts makes especielly German politicians hesitating. The risk, in their view, is that Germany then definitely become the guarantor of banks across Europe. In parallel with the growing contradictions within the EU member states there is a sharp increase of distrust against the EU itself. In Spain today 72 percent are critical of the EU, against 23 per cent before the crisis. Germany the increase is from 36 to 59 percent. The crisis has been exploited to push through many of the counter-reforms the capitalists dreamed of. Worse pensions in Italy, easier to fire workers in Spain, pay cuts of 50 per cent in Greece and so on. Now the capitalists increase their pressure on French President Hollande go the same way. He has already abolished the capital gains tax and promised to reduce the cost of unemployment insurance, pensions and municipalities. At the same time, the political pressure from below is increasing. In a French opinion poll, 70 percent believes a "social explosion" is possible in the coming months. The IMF in April again lowered its forecast for world economic growth this year to 3.3 percent (though 3.5 in October). World trade is expected to only increase by 3.6 percent this year after 2.5 percent last year. The index of large corporate purchasing managers in both the EU and Japan is still below 50, indicating that the economy is not growing. But even the index for China is just over 50. China China’s economy - the world’s second-largest, estimated to overtake the U.S. before 2020 - is now slowing sharply. The large stimulus package in 2009, which held up growth through massive investment, is now hitting back with full force. Debts of municipalities and provinces is estimated at between 20 and 40 percent of the country’s GDP. In the first quarter of this year these debts increased twice as fast as in the same period in 2012. The IMF and politicians in the West are talking about how consumption in China must increase and investment must go down. But lowering the investment share of GDP from the current 50 percent to 30 percent in a position when economic growth will be 6 percent instead of the previous 10 percent "would cause a depression, all on its own", concludes economics columnist Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. Demand would collapse, with considerable effects on the world economy. Governments and capitalist classes now places greater pressure on other states. The U.S. wants to see greater demand in Germany and Europe, while European politicians requires that the deficits in the U.S. and Japan are reduced. The budget deficit in Japan this year is near 10 percent of GDP for the fifth consecutive year. Public debt is expected to be 255 percent of GDP in 2018. The U.S. deficit is five per cent of GDP and the debt is 110 percent. Growth in the US is expected this year to be the highest of the developed capitalist countries, 1.2 percent. But the forecast is uncertain since the automatic cuts, the sequester, will have effect in the latter half of the year. With the failures of "unorthodox methods" more and more people will realise that there is no solution within the framework of the capitalist system. The resistance from workers and poor will grow, like for example the general strike in Portugal in early March, which was the largest since the revolution in 1974. The task for socialists is to build new workers’ parties with a clear socialist answer to the crisis.