Socialist Party | Print
For working-class people the Tories have always been toxic, but now they are also in utter disarray. For the capitalist class this is a foreboding crisis, with no clear way out.
Theresa May is hanging on in office by a frayed thread. Clearly she faces an almighty battle to get her 'Brexit-in-the-interests-of-big-business' plans through parliament on 11 December. According to the BBC, 86 members of her own party have said they are unlikely to back her Brexit deal. Even her ally Donald Trump has stuck the boot into it.
However, the problem facing the Tories is that May's departure would not save them. The ultra Remainers and the ultra no-deal Brexiteers within the Tory Party have irreconcilable differences. And, in reality, even the Tory Brexiteers are split.
Then there is the thorny issue of the right-wing and sectarian DUP, whose MPs prop up May's government. Their recent abstention in parliament against a series of amendments to the government's Finance Bill sent May a clear political message of opposition to the 'Irish backstop' plan.
The vast majority of workers don't believe May when she asserts that her Brexit deal has been "delivered for the British people", and will set the UK "on course for a prosperous future."
Years of harsh austerity measures inflicted on the majority, while a tiny elite got wealthier, highlight how any deal negotiated by the Tories will be in the interests of the super-rich and big business.
A bold call by Corbyn and his supporters in the labour movement to mobilise for a general election now to kick out the Tories is essential. This, alongside a clear call for a socialist alternative to the EU, for socialist policies to end austerity and the ousting of Labour's Blairite MPs and councillors, would light up the sky for workers, the most vulnerable, and young people.
On 11 December, after a five-day House of Commons debate, Theresa May's Brexit deal will be put to a parliamentary vote. Among the multitude of divisions and rows, what all sides can agree on is that it seems unlikely the vote will go her way. This presents a huge opportunity for our side - workers, trade unionists, young people, all who oppose austerity - to strike a final blow against May's hated Tory government.
The Tory Brexiteers oppose the deal because it's not 'hard' enough. But it's not only the right wing who will feel this deal is a no-Brexit Brexit. Many workers will recognise that it comes as close as the government dares to reversing the anti-establishment vote to leave the neoliberal EU in 2016.
The deal commits Britain to a 'dynamic alignment' with the EU on things like state aid rules - which place obstacles in the way of nationalisation. The 'backstop agreement' for Northern Ireland means that the whole UK will remain in the Customs Union if no alternative to a hard border on the island of Ireland is developed during the transition period. What's more, there's precious little actually agreed about the long-term arrangement, only the transition period is really covered.
As the Socialist has pointed out many times, the majority of the capitalist class was against leaving the EU and has continued campaigning for a result as close to Remain as possible. It says it all that in the main they are in favour of May's deal. The Confederation of British Industry, TheCityUK (lobbyists for finance bosses), the Institute of Directors, and the British Retail Consortium have all backed the deal - many specifying that it's the best possibility and that the priority is to avoid crashing out with no deal.
Capitalist politicians can also see the danger. While European Commission president Juncker called it a "sad day", the leaders of the EU 27 countries officially endorsed the deal - again recognising that this is the best option they have any chance of getting.
If, as seems likely, May is defeated on 11 December, what are her options? She will almost certainly try again - the deal can be put to the vote a second time a few weeks later. It's possible that in the interim some pro-capitalist politicians may be convinced to get on board. This could include the right-wing in Labour. Currently they are mainly opposing the deal, but if they backtrack and vote to save May, Jeremy Corbyn must immediately withdraw the whip from them.
Some still hope for a second referendum. But this seems an unlikely, high-risk strategy for May. The problem, as the Tories found in 2016, is that people often don't vote the way capitalist politicians tell them to!
Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, Blairite Kier Starmer, has raised the possibility of extending Article 50 - delaying the deadline for an agreement to be reached. This is an outrageous attempt to give May's crumbling government time to stabilise, and highlights yet again why Corbyn needs to take the reins on this issue rather than allowing pro-capitalists like Starmer to set the tone of Labour's approach.
The Brexiteer wing of the Tories may still attempt a leadership challenge against May. But this won't resolve the problem. Who would the candidate be? What deal would they negotiate that could win more votes from across parliament than May's?
The reality is that the reason any deal is likely to fall is because the capitalist class - and their representatives in parliament - are simply so divided that they are at stalemate. The Tories are wading through mud to move forward with Brexit, and may very well fail. Neither can they proceed with any other significant policy. For the capitalist class that they are supposed to represent, they are useless.
This crisis of political representation for the capitalist class is an international phenomena. The world economic crisis has undermined the authority and base of support for all capitalist parties. Just look at the anti-austerity upsurge against President Macron in France - exposing that the supposedly all-powerful EU 27 are facing their own crises and instabilities too. If Corbyn fought for a Brexit whose 'red lines' were workers' rights, it would have enormous appeal to workers across Europe.
So if May's government is so unable to give the capitalist class what they want, why do they continue to back it? Boris Johnson gave away the answer when addressing the conference of the Democratic Unionist Party. He said: "It is thanks to the arrangement between our two parties that we were able to stop [Jeremy Corbyn] taking over, and today we are looking at a country that is benefiting from a sensible, moderate and One Nation Conservative government... I hope you agree that it is absolutely vital that we keep this partnership going and that we are not so complacent as to abandon the government of this country to a man whose avowed policy is to break up this country."
Pro-capitalist politicians are becoming clearer that one of their main priorities is to avoid a Corbyn-led government coming to power precisely because that prospect is potentially closer than it has ever been. The opportunity in front of Corbyn and his supporters cannot be underestimated.
But as yet this opportunity has not been seized. Theresa May has announced plans to send ministers around the country to sell her deal to the public. Where are the plans for mass Labour rallies opposing it and explaining a pro-worker Brexit alternative? Instead the space has been left for the far-right leader Tommy Robinson to call a protest against the 'Brexit betrayal'. If Corbyn doesn't step up, forces like these can misdirect anger at the Tories towards racism and division.
A general election is inherent within the current political situation. But it is far from guaranteed. May - or even the Tories under another leader - could continue to press ahead whatever happens on 11 December if there is no push from below forcing their hand. Corbyn's Labour and the trade union movement have to take a lead.
Corbyn has rightly accepted May's challenge of a TV debate over the deal, but the important question is what he will argue. He could point to recent workers' actions like the strikes by shipbuilders at Cammell Laird in Merseyside against planned sackings and should argue for nationalisation to save the jobs. This is an opportunity for Corbyn to add meat to the bones of his proposal for a Brexit in the interest of workers and their jobs, conditions, pay and services. Masses of workers could be mobilised around this type of programme and would have the strength to kick out this rotten Tory government.
Over the last weeks, France has witnessed widespread protest against neoliberal president Emmanuel Macron and his government. Close to 500,000 people blockaded roads and roundabouts on Saturday 17 November.
The protesters wear 'gilets jaunes' - yellow high-visibility vests, a legal requirement for motorists to have in their cars in France. They were initially protesting against increased taxes on diesel.
But protests organised via social media quickly developed into a general mobilisation against Macron and his pro-big business agenda.
When returning from Toulouse in south-west France on Sunday 18 November we encountered two blockades. The first, close to the airport, immobilised the toll booths, with protesters waving traffic through without payment. Reports of other blockades across France were posted on Facebook.
The second was on a huge roundabout outside Albi, a town near Toulouse. Here, as we approached, we could see protesters had closed down traffic lanes. On the roundabout itself, traffic flow was controlled by protesters in high-vis jackets - police intervention clearly ruled out.
These demonstrations show the volatility of the political situation in France. Spontaneous popular movements such as this are erupting alongside more planned actions such as the teachers' strike which took place on Monday 12 November.
Saturday 24 November saw the protests move into the main town centres, assembling around the 'préfectures', the government administration buildings. All across France, vehicles formed slow-moving processions and roads continued to be controlled by protesters.
In Albi, a noisy but peaceful procession of heavy vehicles, motorbikes and about 300 protesters was met by riot police.
Protesters refused to disperse, and moved a police vehicle out of their way to allow a digger to lead the procession past the préfecture. The police used tear gas, but the protesters remained until a delegation was invited to meet local officials.
Another big day of action has been called for Saturday 1 December, this time by trade unions as well as the gilets jaunes.
Gauche Révolutionnaire - the Socialist Party's sister party in France - calls for the movement to urgently build for a day of general strike and blockades. This needs to involve both the public and private sectors for maximum strength, to stop tax increases and further attacks on living standards by Macron's 'government for the millionaires'.
California is suffering a major environmental and health crisis that the authorities prepared no one for. It's exposing the complete failure of a profit-based economy to respond to the needs of the people.
The Butte County Camp Fire is now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. 85 people are confirmed dead, 249 are missing, and 19,000 buildings, mostly homes, were destroyed. The entire city of Paradise, home to 26,000 people, was burnt to the ground in one day.
A second disaster has now ensnared the San Francisco Bay Area, home to seven million people. Streets are empty as hazardous air quality breaks records and people stay in their homes.
Air quality index levels over 200 are considered dangerously high. San Francisco has recently recorded levels of up to 245. On one day the state capital of Sacramento recorded a 337, possibly the worst air quality index in the world for that day. The fire, although contained, continues to rage.
Bay Area school districts closed all schools on Friday 14 November. San Francisco's Department of Health urged people to stay indoors, with a warning of a future spike in cardio-pulmonary deaths. Being homeless on a day like Friday was the equivalent of smoking a half pack of cigarettes, according to environmental groups.
Bay Area people are angry. State and local government should have coordinated an ongoing, mass distribution of N95 face masks.
Large facilities with filtered air systems like museums, malls and movie theatres should have been identified and made free and open to the public.
Expert advice and supplies should have been widely disseminated on how to control air quality inside your home. Instead, people are calling around to multiple stores trying to find masks and relying on Facebook posts to jury-rig fans as air filters. This is not an organised response.
The full resources of the state must be mobilised to provide quality temporary shelter until permanent affordable housing can be built. This fire has further underlined the crisis of availability of housing in California. It has also highlighted the need for a high quality 'Medicare for All' health system.
People are angry at the privately owned public utility company, PG&E. Its poor electrical infrastructure maintenance record has been implicated in previous fires and it is under scrutiny for transmission line problems at the source of the Camp Fire.
For the past three years the hugely profitable company has been under a state investigation over its safety culture. On 15 November, after initial reports of the causes of the fire, PG&E stocks crashed 30%. This led state regulators to promise a bailout, which in turn, led to a rise in their stocks.
No matter how big PG&E's mistakes are, the government continues to bail this billion-dollar private company out and lets it continue to suck profits out of the California community.
President Trump, an advocate of privat-isation of public lands and escalating logging, cited California's poor forest management for the fire disasters. He did not mention the deepening of federal cuts that have undermined any ability to manage these lands. But climate change has also contributed to drier and hotter forests.
The privately owned fossil fuel companies continue to fund both the Republican and Democratic parties. A recent report in the Financial Times exposed that they are only spending 2% of their capital investments on renewable energy development. These companies are so short-sighted and profit-addicted that they cannot in any way be trusted with the power they have over this economy.
The governing party of the state, the Democratic Party, has the experts at hand that could have predicted this crisis: what it was lacking was the will to put the people first.
We need a party that will put our needs first and will be independent of what the utility, fossil fuel, and private healthcare companies demand. Ultimately we need to get rid of the entire system of capitalism that creates disasters like the Camp Fire and then is completely unable to respond to them.
The Iranian economy is in freefall, and the Iranian working class is the main target of this slump. Prices of staples are increasing day by day.
The regime has only delivered empty words, and its explanation of the situation is contradictory and deceiving.
In the summer, the regime's supreme leader, Khamenei, said that "not all our problems stem from the sanctions but from internal issues and the way of our management and policy-making".
Afterwards, Rouhani, the regime's so-called president, referring to the US sanctions, said: "The country is in a state of war and the people must tolerate the problems". But later he, like Khamenei, confessed that not all of Iran's problems could be attributed to sanctions.
The economic crisis led to protests in December 2017, which heralded the beginning of a new phase of class struggle. However, the subsequent nationwide crackdown on protesters and the arrest of more than 4,000 people could not put the genie back in the bottle.
In August 2018 protests occurred in tens of Iranian cities and towns. These protests, like the ones in 2017, had two characteristics: firstly, they were fully independent from both factions of the regime and fully mistrusting of both. Secondly, the bulk of the protests were comprised of the poor, workers, and women, especially in remote and small towns.
Countless small and big campaigns, pickets and demonstrations by workers, women, university students, environmentalists, shopkeepers, farmers, lorry drivers and depositors in bankrupt banks filled the gap between the peaks of the protests, and with every step, the people and workers have learnt new lessons.
Currently, the pinnacle of the new wave of protests is the strike of workers at the Haft-Tappeh Agro-Industry Company.
Haft-Tappeh is located in the north of the oil-rich Khuzestan province of Iran. The company cultivates sugar cane in 100,000 hectares. It can produce 100,000 metric tonnes of sugar a year but the actual production is about 50,000 metric tonnes.
The government declared the company bankrupt in the mid-2000s, and decided to sell it off to the private sector. It was privatised in 2015. Privatisation saw the number of workers reduced from 7,000 to 4,000.
The workforce, especially in the plantation, suffers intolerable and tough conditions in the area's extreme humidity and high temperatures.
A government report says the company suffers from inadequate liquidity, uses obsolete technology and has high production costs. Some sources also refer to lowering the tariff for imported sugar that dealt a blow to domestic sugar production.
Workers have been victims of the crisis in capitalism and corruption and mismanagement. Haft-Tappeh workers have frequently gone on strike over unpaid wages. Their strike in September ended after the bosses agreed to pay the owed wages.
However, the failure to pay the wages for four months caused infuriated workers to not only go on strike again from 4 November, but extend their protests to the nearby town Shush.
On 16 November, Haft-Tappeh workers occupied the Friday prayers compound to voice their protest in the regime's heart of power. They disrupted the state-organised religious ceremony by roaring angry slogans in which they called the religious official 'an enemy of the people'.
The following day, the workers, together with their wives and children, took the streets of Shush, and thousands of the town's people joined their demonstration.
The Haft-Tappeh strike has shown the rise of class consciousness among workers with every step they have taken. Esmail Bakhshi, one of the Haft-Tappeh union's leaders, said: "Workers no longer allow the private sector to control the company, and if the government wants to take over, all the company's business must be managed by the workers' council and based on collective decision-making."
Loads of videos and photos went viral on social media, each displaying a dazzling scene of workers' rising consciousness. In one video, workers chanted "bread, jobs, freedom, council management".
This slogan was not only a direct attack on the regime and its tyrannical and barbarous rule but on the pro-imperialist, pro-monarchy and right-wing opposition. Both counter-revolutionary camps alike dread the slogan.
Women workers bravely appeared as speakers and invited workers from all over the country to support the Haft-Tappeh strike.
Workers in other industrial centres like Arak and Ahvaz declared their solidarity. Workers of the steel company, on the sixth day of their strike, held a rally in Ahvaz, the province's capital, and enthusiastically expressed solidarity with Haft-Tappeh workers.
An amazing video showed a woman teacher attending the workers' picket and saying she came to the workers because no protest had happened in her town and she decided to voice teachers' demands at the workers' rally.
The regime sent riot police forces to Shush on 18 November to intimidate the hungry workers. Later, fearing that using force might pour fuel onto the fire, the regime evacuated its forces from the town.
However, the regime arrested about 20 workers, including Esmail Bakhshi, and a female journalist who was preparing a report on the protest.
Undoubtedly, the regime may use force and arrest more workers, but hungry workers have nothing to lose but their chains!
In less than one year, the Iranian working class has taken big leaps forward.
These expanding struggles have loosened the regime's grip and created a space, though still shaky and narrow, for political activity among the working class.
A number of Iranian left parties in exile have started an attempt to organise united actions. This must be linked with developing a network of workers' movement activists and leaders inside the country, and raising the flag of internationalism and lining up with the world's working people's struggles.
Haringey Labour Party members have been shocked and outraged by the announcement that their north London council is considering cuts of a further 10% in its budget (see 'Haringey's 'Corbyn council' must refuse to make cuts!').
The previous right-wing Labour administration, led by Councillor Claire Kober, had already cut 40% from the borough's services. It also proposed wholesale privatisation and gentrification through the 'Haringey Development Vehicle' (HDV), sparking successful protests.
But most of those councillors were deselected last year by Labour members who expected something different from a new, pro-Corbyn Labour council.
This new council leadership has been planning more cuts behind closed doors, keeping them secret from the Labour membership. But some of the details have leaked out.
For example, capping personal social care budgets to the cost of residential care. This means elderly and disabled people who wish to live independently will need to pay a premium to stay in their own homes! It's reminiscent in some ways of the Tories' notorious 'dementia tax' proposal.
The council leadership hoped a Labour councillors' group meeting on 22 November would push through decisions on the cuts, pre-empting discussions within local Labour bodies and presenting the membership with a fait accompli.
But such was the opposition reflected by councillors that the Labour group postponed the vote for one week, while the leadership agreed to use reserves to at least soften the blow of some cuts.
Councillors opposing the cuts had organised a meeting where Corbynista MP Chris Williamson spoke. He described how his local Labour council spent years implementing Tory cuts.
Voters promised to vote for him as MP, but told him they could not vote Labour in the council elections. The council leader lost his seat to Ukip, and the council fell to a minority Tory administration backed by Ukip and the Lib Dems.
He acknowledged this proposal is not a panacea, as council tax is still a regressive tax that needs to be totally replaced. Also, raising council tax by more than 6% requires a local referendum, and would need a full year to organise and campaign for.
Imagine the shock of local residents when they receive a letter asking them to vote for a 150% hike in their council tax. And even if the council can reach the majority of voters with a promise to pay it back, will it be trusted?
He replied to objections from the floor that such a referendum would be lost by claiming the 'only' choices are council tax hikes or budget cuts. Even if it could be won, it would take over a year - but the proposed 10% cuts are to this year's budget.
Chris Williamson said a referendum would democratise the choice and ensure that residents owned it. He described this as a "win-win situation" - saying if Labour is defeated at the referendum, and so 'forced' to make cuts, then it is the people's choice!
But in reality, both the cuts and the proposed council tax rise would utterly discredit the Corbynista Labour left in the eyes of workers and residents.
In actions, cuts-making left councillors would be no different from the pro-austerity Blairites that preceded them. At best, this would cause widespread demoralisation and disengagement - at worst, leave the field open to the populist right.
Some councillors have responded to the brutality of the cuts by arguing against only those hitting the most vulnerable residents.
But this would divide the fightback, with each sector having to argue it is the most vulnerable and that cuts should be transferred to others. The Socialist Party's approach of passing a no-cuts budget and fighting for the needed funds would instead unite the whole council workforce and local community in joint struggle against all cuts.
This would also be a dangerous mistake. It would sow confusion in the Labour and trade union movement.
The message - and reality in many areas - would be that the Corbynistas had approved a cuts budget. And council managers - many of them appointed by the Kober regime - could still enact all the cuts as officially agreed.
Haringey Labour's manifesto conference in February passed a motion calling for the council to prepare a legal no-cuts budget, utilising reserves and borrowing.
The truth is that nobody is advocating an "illegal" or "deficit" budget. The council has over £100 million of usable reserves, and substantial prudential borrowing powers, which can legally prevent all cuts in this year's budget. Never mind that the Tories can't even control their own cabinet right now, let alone stand up to an anti-cuts council if backed by a mobilised workers' movement.
This is correct. So the council would have to use that breathing space to build a campaign among the Labour Party, trade unions, council workforce, service users and residents to win the needed funding from Westminster. The Labour Party alone has over 5,000 members in the Haringey area.
This is an abdication of leadership. The councillors are the leading members of the local Labour Party. And if they carry out cuts, it will seriously damage Haringey Labour's credibility if it later tries to campaign against these cuts.
The Socialist Party calls for a coordinated campaign by Labour councils, to be backed by the national Labour leadership.
But how do we construct such a campaign? Haringey - the first 'Corbyn council' - has a duty to take the lead, launch the struggle, and call on other councils to join it.
And even if forced to fight alone, Haringey would be facing an unpopular, crisis-ridden, divided, minority Tory government - we can win!
This is particularly the case if Haringey Labour joins with the Socialist Party in calling on Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to underwrite all debts incurred by councils who refuse to pass on cuts.
There is no excuse for inaction.
But it is not too late for Haringey Labour to set a no-cuts budget and mobilise a movement to force the Tories to restore its funding. Such a campaign would hasten the demise of Theresa May's chaotic government - and the election of an anti-austerity Corbyn government.
Haringey Socialist Party has written to Labour councillors to seek an urgent dialogue on this approach - read the full text below. Local workers and Labour members showed last year that fighting gets results when together we defeated Kober and the HDV. With left councillors in office, rank-and-file pressure could win a no-cuts budget.
Many Labour, trade union and socialist activists are very concerned about the discussions taking place at the moment with regard to cuts in Haringey. We understand that cuts currently being considered are in the order of 10%.
Many of us in the Labour Party, Socialist Party, trade unions and anti-cuts organisations were very pleased when the old Blairite, pro-Kober councillors were deselected in favour of anti-HDV candidates. This was a very popular move which successfully enabled Labour to distance itself from the old Kober regime.
By taking a stand, the current crop of Labour councillors could transform the political situation in Haringey and have a decisive influence on the course of events beyond. Haringey could spearhead a united campaign of Labour local authorities who face the prospect of making similar cuts. Such is the anger that exists towards the Tories, and the disarray in their ranks, this could even ignite a movement to force a general election and propel Corbyn into power.
We understand that the level of cuts being discussed would represent a brutal attack on the most vulnerable people in our borough. We believe that this would be a disaster not only for those who suffer the effects of local austerity, but also for the fortunes of the Labour Party. This would be particularly damaging to Corbyn as Haringey has been dubbed the first 'Corbynista' council.
We are utterly opposed to the implementation of any cuts. Haringey has suffered cuts in the order of 40% since 2010. The fat has well and truly gone and now we are down to the bone. There were high hopes that this new administration would wipe the slate clean.
We believe that remains a real possibility - but only if councillors commit themselves to a struggle by refusing to implement any of the proposed cuts. It would be quite possible to pass a legal no-cuts budget by using reserves and prudential borrowing.
If this were backed up by a series of meetings and a conference called by Labour councillors across the borough to explain why we have to resist the cuts, we are convinced this could provide the basis of a real mass movement in Haringey to eradicate austerity in the borough, thus putting Jeremy Corbyn's words into action.
A public announcement by council leaders committing them to such a strategy would be a huge step forward and a real inspiration to all those looking for a lead on this issue.
We would like to meet you at the earliest possible opportunity, to join forces with any of you who want to form a powerful anti-cuts coalition across Haringey. We eagerly await your response.
The Tories have recently announced a bill to end letting agency fees, as well as capping deposits at a maximum of six weeks' rent.
While looking for a flat this year, I was stunned at a list from one agency quoting £497 for administration fees. This was excluding the deposit, first month's rent, and a 48-hour holding fee - which would have added over £1,000 to that total.
This is only one example of the money-grabbing reality of renting in Britain today, with 11.5 million people renting private homes in England alone. One in four households will be renting privately by the end of 2021, says estate agency Knight Frank.
The Tories' bill pledging to tackle these kinds of fees is a desperate attempt to claw back votes under the pretence of doing something about the housing crisis. This shows how vulnerable they are on this and other issues.
However, the bill fails to ensure the loss in fees is not passed on to tenants in other ways. For example, landlords and agents who only ask for a month's rent as deposit could raise this to the six-week maximum. And there is nothing to stop them raising rents in response, meaning even more unaffordable homes.
As well as this, the bill does nothing to stop the shocking fees landlords and letting agents can charge during tenancies and when you leave the property. For example, Shelter reports that some landlords have been charging £20 an hour for maintenance, and an anonymous letting agent says it's about £50 just to come out to the property!
The Socialist Party supports banning letting agency fees - but we mean all fees. This should be linked to compulsory landlord registration to ensure standards, and rent controls to end the landlords' and bankers' racket.
Nationalisation of building companies and land would allow us to build quality homes for all. But local councils can - and must - build council homes now. By using reserves and borrowing, they could start tackling the housing crisis and build a campaign to win the needed funds from central government.
Tories out! For affordable homes for all, and an end to privatisation of social housing and gentrification!
The voting for the PCS Left Unity elections closed on 23 November. These results determine the Left Unity slate in next year's PCS civil servant's trade union elections for assistant general secretary (AGS) and national executive committee as well as leading positions in Left Unity itself.
The incumbent AGS, Socialist Party member Chris Baugh, who has been in post since 2004 has been challenged by Janice Godrich supported by general secretary Mark Serwotka.
The campaign and the close election results have shown that there are two distinct currents within Left Unity, with two different approaches. Chris's campaign has shown that it wants to ensure that PCS remains a militant lay-led union.
Throughout the campaign and emphasised by Chris at a number of debates, a fighting strategy and positive approach has been given that can take the union forward. Chris won a majority in three of the five election debates that he took part in, with Martin Cavanagh and John McInally deputising for Janice Godrich. This included London, which was attended by Mark Serwotka who argued against Chris.
We thank all those Left Unity members who took part in the debates, particularly those who supported our candidates.
On the AGS election, the interim report indicates 139 votes for Chris Baugh and 167 votes for Janice Godrich. However, Left Unity members are still waiting for the final results. This is because a whole number of votes have been ruled out - some postal ballots and those cast at three voting meetings, including London.
Despite this, the 'interim' results were published. Many Left Unity members are shocked and angry that this was done when there are issues still outstanding. Despite the claims of Janice's supporters in Socialist View, the ruled-out votes could materially affect the results of three key positions: AGS, Left Unity chair and Left Unity editor.
The only way to clarify this is for the full report to be published, with all the results included, along with explanation for those omitted. This is not an attack on the integrity of the scrutineers, as Socialist View claims, but a call for transparency and democratic processes.
Socialist View asks, would it "be acceptable to count votes that fail to comply with laid down, and agreed, Left Unity regulations?" But to us this would be far more preferable than to disenfranchise Left Unity members who through no fault of their own have had their vote discounted.
In at least two of the meetings, we believe that Chris had a majority. The discounted votes at the three meetings could be over 12% of the total vote! These issues could easily be remedied but are a further sign that Socialist View want to move away from the inclusive spirit of Left Unity which encourages genuine debate and can accommodate differing views.
The Left Unity conference is 1 December in Manchester. It is an opportunity for Left Unity members to have their say on the elections and fight for a transparent and democratic process. And the future direction of Left Unity as a militant and socialist rank-and-file organisation.
Regrettably, I have been put in a position where I feel I have to make a statement about the Left Unity elections. This is because the PCS Left Unity secretary Gordon Rowntree has published the interim scrutineers report even though I have raised a number of genuine and legitimate issues.
Gordon has published this report despite me raising several concerns and despite the fact that he proposed to the Left Unity national committee that this should be done at a later date. I agree the interim report should be published, even though the Left Unity constitution states that election results are announced at the Left Unity conference by the chair.
However, I also believe the national committee should be given enough time to respond to the concerns that I raised (and any other concerns raised) and to consider the next steps in the best interests of democracy.
Only four members of the 13-strong national committee responded to agree the publication of the results. The report was then published less than two hours after my initial email (on a Sunday afternoon) and without any majority agreement.
This, in my view, is a blatant attempt to brush over genuine issues I have raised, ignore Left Unity democracy and prevent the national committee from discussing and reaching a view. It has gone against the inclusive left spirit that we have tried so hard to foster.
As things stand, the votes of three Left Unity voting meetings - London, West Midlands and Fylde - have been ruled out because of clerical issues. I am totally opposed to Left Unity members being penalised and disenfranchised through no fault of their own.
There have also been 13 postal votes ruled out. I am of the view that these votes, taken together, could have a material effect on some of the results, including for example the positions of AGS, Left Unity Chair and Left Unity editor.
The margin of votes for editor is only seven. Therefore, it would have been correct to wait until we have the additional information I have requested from the scrutineers before publishing.
This would have then given plenty of time for the national committee to consider the additional information and an opportunity to resolve any issues.
This year's conference is 1 December in Manchester - please come. It is open to all Left Unity members, delegates or not.
I hope you appreciate my reasons for making this statement and support me and others who want to ensure the spirit of Left Unity lives on in PCS.
26 November was the first day of rolling strikes by ship-building workers at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, Merseyside, bringing the yard to a halt.
No significant amount of work was done, despite pickets telling us telling us that migrant workers had been intimidated by the bosses. Meanwhile outside the yard Unite and GMB union members and their local supporters rallied in strength.
The dispute is over job losses, the company is threatening workers with unemployment in the run-up to Christmas. Workers at the yard won improvements to their terms and conditions in a major dispute recently, and this looks like a case of bosses' revenge.
Cammell Laird is 75% owned by giant company the Peel Group, which owns a lot of land and property in Birkenhead. The rest of the shares are held by five directors. Through 2016-2017, £10million in profit was received by the shareholders.
Yet now apparently the company says it cannot afford the £300,000 it would cost to keep employing 91 workers who otherwise will be made redundant, despite turning down work that would have delivered a £400,000 profit.
Anyone would smell a rat, and the unions believe that the employer is looking to casualise the workforce with increased use of agency workers and zero-hour contracts.
The strike has huge support from across the trade union and labour movement. Wirral council is apparently considering withdrawing cooperation with the Peel Group, which would be a major blow.
Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said: "Cammell Laird bosses should be in no doubt of the determination of the workforce to defend their jobs and take a stand against these unnecessary job cuts that could see people out of a job before Christmas.
"Unite members will not sit back and allow their livelihoods to be casualised for bosses' own cost cutting ends.
"Unite put a proposal to management using the company's own figures proving that the company could avoid dismissing anyone until at least February allowing time for additional contracts in the offing to be secured and come on stream. Instead bosses have signalled their intent to press ahead with their callous plans."
Three weeks of Monday-Friday strike action has begun, with pickets outside the gates. We urge all supporters to visit.
Lecturers across Wales will be taking strike action over pay and workload on 4 and 13-14 December. This follows the fantastic ballot result of University and College Union (UCU) members who voted overwhelmingly to strike.
On pay the result was 90.5% in support of strike action with a 52.3% turnout. On workload there was a 53.8% turnout with 90.1% in favour of action. Both ballot results comfortably meet the thresholds set by the 2016 Trade Union Act indicating the strength of feeling among lecturing staff over these issues.
College trade unions met Colegau Cymru, Welsh colleges principal representative body, on 16 November. This meeting did not result in a revised offer. Colegau Cymru claimed they haven't received additional funding from the Welsh Government yet and are awaiting the outcome in January. It is clear that Colegau Cymru are testing our resolve.
The further education sector in Wales is in crisis and the increasing intensity of workloads, coupled with job cuts and a decade of real-terms pay cuts are leading to low staff morale which is having a negative impact on the quality of learners' education. A decade of austerity and inadequate funding has devastated further education in Wales.
Pay is a crucial issue for education workers. Members have endured a 20% pay cut in real terms over the last decade. Our members are seeking support from charities as they face financial difficulties. Education workers cannot afford not to fight on pay.
In addition a UCU Wales survey on workload showed that members are working on average 50-hour weeks, but getting paid for just 37.
UCU Coleg y Cymoedd hopes that Colegau Cymru will recognise the damaging effect working conditions are having on both staff and students. Welsh Government and Colegau Cymru must understand that the working conditions of lecturers are the learning conditions of students.
Representatives from the GMB trade union, along with Swansea Trade Union Council and Swansea Socialist Party gathered at the entrance of the Amazon warehouse in Swansea at 7am on 23 November.
We wanted to catch the morning shift on Black Friday, Amazon's biggest day of the year. 20 of us, with flags, banners and placards made our presence felt as part of a national day of action. The aim was to recruit and organise workers at Amazon and to protest the awful reality of pay and conditions.
A steady stream of cars and workers on foot stopped to take leaflets and honked to show support. The mood was markedly enthusiastic and determined.
The fight is part of an international battle against Jeff Bezos, richest man in the world and his company's continued exploitation of workers.
Workers are organising across Europe - in Spain, Germany as well as Britain - and across the US. Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Party's US co-thinkers, and its Seattle councillor Kshama Sawant have been at the forefront of the Tax Amazon movement in the city and in New York.
At Peterborough Amazon Socialist Party members joined the GMB union handing out several hundred recruitment leaflets.
We drew attention to the June Socialist Alternative [US paper] centre page spread on fighting for a tax on Amazon in Seattle.
Was there ever a starker example of the destructive and unplanned nature of capitalism than the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings?
The report is blunt: the very planet we live on, the only one we have, is being destroyed. There are just 12 years to start the work to prevent potentially irreversible damage to the environment.
This is clearly a growing concern for many ordinary people, who will not only be affected by the physical impact of the damage to the environment, but who are also worried about the kind of planet we will be left with if environmental destruction continues.
This generation of young people will not only be the first in recent history to be worse off than our parents, but, if the capitalist system is not challenged, we will also live under the impact of huge damage to the environment, the destruction of habitat, the extinction of animals and land lost to rising sea levels.
Across every continent on the planet, working-class and poor people will see their access to food, water and safety affected.
The environment is an important issue for socialists. A programme which can save the environment, and which does not ask already impoverished working-class communities to pay the price for climate change, is needed.
It's estimated that 100 of the world's biggest corporations are responsible for 71% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Under capitalism, the needs of people and planet are treated as secondary to the drive for profit.
There is now more CO2 in the air then has been seen for 3 to 5 million years. It's expected that, as global temperatures continue to rise, a further 500,000 to 1 million people in Europe alone will be affected by flooding. In the US, there has already been a tripling in the number of heat waves. 81% of US states experienced abnormally dry conditions in 2012. This has led to a growing number of wild fires, especially in summer months.
The latest of these, in California, resulted in 85 deaths and the destruction of over 11,000 homes. This happened in the richest country on earth. But not everyone suffers the results of environmental destruction and resulting extreme weather events evenly.
For example, in the recent forest fires, reality TV star Kim Kardashian hired a private team of firefighters to protect her $60 million mansion. The super-rich have access to the resources necessary to minimise the impact of environmental disaster on their lives or property.
It goes without saying that working and middle-class people don't have this option. As well as the terrible loss of life, many lost everything in the California fires, including their only home.
When hurricane Katrina hit the US in 2005, one climate scientist made headlines when he accurately commented that, while the winds were indiscriminate, their worst impact was on poor, working-class and black communities.
They are more likely to live on land which is susceptible to flooding and in buildings that are less likely to survive extreme weather.
What's more, in the case of hurricane Katrina, many families were unable to access transport to leave their homes. Some working-class families spent their life savings on motels after evacuation orders.
The brunt of the impact of climate change will continue to be primarily borne by the poorest communities across the globe.
Even if the IPCC's recommendations were followed, and if a maximum rise of 1.50C in global temperature were achieved, it would still be the case that "13.8% of the world population would be exposed to severe heat waves at least once every five years", according to the research. Three times as many people will be affected if world temperatures are allowed to increase by two degrees.
Despite the fact that millions of people will be affected by climate change in the coming decades, the IPCC report doesn't suggest aiming for a zero emissions policy, which they predict would mean only a 0.50C degree increase in global temperature.
The reason cited is that the measures needed to achieve such a target would be 'unlikely' to win the support of governments and policy makers.
But even to achieve the target the report does suggest - that of a maximum global temperature increase of 1.50C - the IPCC itself states that "transformative systemic change" would be required.
In effect, the report counterposes the delay and inaction in implementing 'green policy' which is evident under capitalism, with what would be possible in "a fully cooperative world".
But what system might provide the basis for such cooperation?
While the report does not state it explicitly, its authors are essentially forced to concede that capitalism, in its never-ending drive for profits, is a barrier to implementing the changes needed to save the planet.
The IPCC was set up in 1988 following a resolution passed at the UN - a gathering of capitalist governments dominated by the major imperialist powers. It's therefore unsurprising that the authors do not suggest a socialist alternative to capitalism.
The report sees genuinely protecting people and the planet as 'unrealistic'. Rather, the IPCC plays off the differences between the disastrous impact of a 20C temperature rise and a 1.5 degree rise, hoping that capitalist governments will aim for the 'least bad' option.
At a 1.50C temperature increase, 420 million fewer people would experience extreme heatwaves.
But this would still leave millions more people than today struggling to find food, water and safety. Land where grain and cereal is typically grown will be destroyed, taken by rising sea levels.
And the record of the world's capitalist governments of meeting even extremely modest targets has been utterly abysmal.
On the basis of capitalism, millions already starve despite the fact the planet produces enough food to feed everyone. This is because even food is distributed on the basis of profit, not need.
Climate change is clearly a pressing concern for the majority of working-class people. But with 71% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from 100 corporations, capitalism presents a fundamental barrier to solving the problem. After all, you can't control what you don't own.
Under capitalism, production is unplanned, driven by the demands of profit. Only on the basis of public ownership of the major monopolies, with democratic workers' control and management, would it be possible to begin the work of tackling climate change.
Huge investment is needed into new low-carbon and energy efficient forms of technology - according to the IPCC, approximately a doubling in the next 20 years.
But capitalist companies don't make decisions about investment into technology on the basis of the needs of the environment. The decisions are made on the basis of profitability.
In fact, the IPCC goes on to point out that much of industry is "locked-in" to carbon intensive technology which it would be "difficult or costly to phase-out".
Some researchers have attempted to appeal to big business to become more environmentally friendly by showing the huge economic impact climate change could have on their profits.
In Europe, the damage from flooding expected with a 1.50C, 20C or 30C global temperature rise ranged between tens of billions and hundreds of billions in Euros each year, according to the data. But faith in big business and the capitalist class is misplaced, because of the short-term nature of the drive for profit.
Alongside energy efficient investment, the IPCC calls for "climate friendly public investment". After a decade of austerity, many working-class people will expect they, rather than the super-rich and big business, would be asked to pay for any such measures - even if they were agreed. Meanwhile, those responsible for the destruction keep their profit.
Many ordinary people diligently recycle, for example. But this diligence clashes with a Tory government intent on slashing spending, and local councils content to carry out cuts without a fight. To give one example, Hounslow council in west London has started sending all waste from public bins, including separated recycling, to land fill. This is to save £1.3 million from the council budget.
Since the destruction of the environment caused by carbon emissions has begun to be understood, very little has been done. Agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord are ineffective. Paris didn't go nearly far enough, aiming to keep global temperature rises to 2 degrees. But it was also non-binding.
Even so, Trump withdrew the US earlier this year. For Bolsonaro, the newly elected far-right president of Brazil, opening the Amazon up to deforestation is high on the agenda, and pulling Brazil out of the Paris Agreement is also likely.
Where energy-efficient technology does exist it is largely underused because it is expensive and therefore not profitable.
This is why socialists raise the need to fight for public ownership of industry, so that environmentally friendly technology can be fully used.
The 'profit' of saving the planet is not in money for a rich few today, it would be in protecting the lives of millions of people, saving animals from extinction, and in securing for future generations a decent standard of living, with air they can breathe.
Instead of the destruction of what can be well-paid jobs in the fossil fuel industry, socialists call for retraining and redeployment, without any loss of pay or worsening of conditions. On the basis of public ownership of the energy industry under democratic workers' control and management, this would be possible.
We can look to examples such as that of the Lucas plan for how this might be done. This was developed in the 1970s by aerospace workers. They devised 129 socially useful products they could create using the machinery that was then used to make military equipment.
So the question remains, is capitalism capable of saving the environment? Or is it necessary for working-class people to instead unite in a mass struggle to demand the fundamental change that is needed - to fight for a socialist system?
On the basis of socialism, the nationalisation of the big monopolies would lay the basis for working-class people to democratically plan production in the interests of people and planet.
Ultimately, tackling climate change cannot be achieved within the boundaries of a single nation state. That's one of the reasons socialists are internationalists. We stand for working-class unity across borders, and for a socialist world.
A planned socialist economy, on an international basis, could make the plans of emissions neutrality a reality and start to reverse some of the impacts of climate change.
A recent US government report on climate change (released when many Americans were on holiday) warned that unless drastic action was taken to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the US economy would shrink 10% by the end of the century and there would be thousands of premature deaths each year. Trump, backed by fossil fuel companies, dismissed the report compiled by 300 scientists and continues to deny global warming is happening.
Islwyn Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has demanded Labour-led Caerphilly Council pass a no-cuts budget.
The CLP passed a motion from Maesycymmer ward calling for "all its serving Caerphilly councillors to plan for a 2019-20 council budget that will protect services and employment, not cut them."
Hundreds marched against the threatened closure of leisure facilities on 3 November (see 'Hundreds march to save Blackwood leisure centres').
Left-Labour activists spearheaded the campaign to defend Pontllanfraith leisure centre and Cefn Fforest swimming pool, and feel betrayed by Labour councillors who voted to close the centres. Some councillors who marched against the closures voted to close them!
The council leader and all the other right-wing councillors boycotted the CLP meeting, except for the mayor who stormed out after the motion was passed.
"We demand that our Labour councillors do not vote for any council proposals that may result in service cuts, job losses or privatisation, and instead that they demand that the Welsh government truly mobilise the public to ensure the Westminster government provide them with the money needed to adequately provide services."
The motion calls upon the councillors "to force the council to use its significant financial reserves and borrowing powers and if necessary to consider the drastic steps such as deleting the post of Chief Executive, in order to stave off making any cuts while building a campaign."
Caerphilly Council has been embroiled in a scandal costing more than £3 million. The previous chief executive was accused of using underhand methods to inflate his salary.
Campaigners are also moving the motion in Caerphilly CLP, the other constituency in the borough.
If the existing councillors continue to implement the cuts, then local ward parties should prepare to replace them as Labour candidates for future council elections. But the campaign cannot wait until the 2022 elections. The campaign to stop leisure cuts must be built into a mass struggle to force the council to step back.
And candidates for the Welsh Assembly elections in 2021 must give an unequivocal commitment to support a no-cuts budget by the Welsh government in line with the policy agreed by the Wales TUC in 2016.
New Tory Department for Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, of Windrush-scandal notoriety, hailed Universal Credit (UC) as a "tremendous force for good". It's been so good that in her constituency, food bank use went up by 87% in Hastings in the year following UC roll-out.
UC is the Tory-designed all-in-one means-tested benefit that combines administrative chaos and a minimum five-week wait for payment, along with £12 billion of benefit cuts.
Another Tory DWP minister has suggested that families struggling with the benefit cap should take in a lodger. Take in a lodger? Some of these are families with three children in one bedroom, how are they going to take in a lodger?
And there won't be any festive cheer for 110,000 children this Christmas because new UC claims made after 20 November will not be paid until the New Year. The Trussell Trust foodbank charity expects to provide a record 1.5 million meals to struggling families over Christmas.
No wonder then that even the United Nations 'special rapporteur' on extreme poverty and human rights branded Tory welfare cuts as "punitive, mean-spirited and often callous".
He said UC treated "claimants like guinea pigs". 400,000 claims for UC have been rejected or stopped in the past year, with one in three people applying having their claim knocked back.
Even the Tory government has admitted that half of all single parents and two-thirds of working age couples with children are set to lose an average of £2,400 a year. Altogether, it is estimated that 3.2 million working families could lose on average £48 a week compared with the old system.
That's why the Unite Community union has called a national day of action against Universal Credit on Saturday 1 December with protests in towns and cities around the country.
But if we are really going to turn UC into the another 'poll-tax' for the Tories, then this must be the start of a coordinated campaign reaching out from the trade unions to job centres, claimants, and housing estates.
Under pressure, the Tories have had to make some concessions and delay the full roll-out (for existing claimants), but we should demand the complete scrapping of Universal Credit and its replacement not with the old benefits system, but welfare which guarantees everyone a decent standard of living.
Led by drumming-band Bangshees, Newcastle's Reclaim the Night demo attracted lots of attention and support particularly from young working-class women who stopped to take videos.
The organised trade union presence on the march was smaller than last year but a lively contingent of young women and men with homemade placards like 'blame rapists not victims' and 'the way I dress never means yes' attended for the first time.
With excellent articles like 'Spanish state: over one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education' and 'solidarity with Irish rape trial protests' at socialistparty.org.uk to draw attention to in the last issue of the Socialist, we sold nine copies. And a number of young women and men expressed an interest in the Socialist Party.
The Reclaim the Night march wound its way into the heart of Nottingham's night life. Around 300 mainly-young women were on the march.
The march was led by a samba band and dancers and was very noisy. We got a lot of support from men and women on the streets.
A minute's silence was held at the beginning of the rally for the two women who are killed by partners or ex-partners each week.
King George Hospital A&E remains under threat. That's the warning from a march and rally on 26 November.
A year ago, in a major victory, Save King George campaigners forced reluctant Labour councillors from the affected London boroughs of Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham to back their campaign to force the government to keep the A&E open.
The result was a promise from the local sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) to review the proposed closure. Yet no review has taken place in the last year. Now, a new report from the STP excludes King George from a list of east London hospitals with A&Es.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party has pulled its support for the campaign. It would not support the latest demonstration, which was backed by the Socialist Party, two residents' associations and others.
Campaign leader Andy Walker told Redbridge councillors: "Jeremy Corbyn says that a Labour government will save Telford A&E." So why can't Redbridge Labour-led council back our campaign?
If local councillors do not defend A&Es, campaigners should stand candidates against them.
Queens's Hospital in Romford, where many patients would have to go if the King George A&E closes, is already in "financial special measures" and has had £20 million in emergency bailouts. It was built through PFI, a 36-year obligation to pay back £211 million to big businesses like infrastructure-investment firm HCIL - which made £192 million in profits April-September 2018.
Meanwhile, as reported in the Socialist (see 'new winter crisis looms - Tories out now to save our NHS' at socialistparty.org.uk), King George has closed its chemotherapy ward, and there's already a threat that the A&E will close at night. Campaigners will challenge the lack of consultation on the cuts that have taken place and demand that they are stopped and reversed.
We've had a busy week in Southampton! 100 staff and others packed into Valentine Primary School hall for a National Education Union (NEU) meeting on 20 November.
Liz Filer, the headteacher, explained how hard it is to continue to meet the needs of her children while resisting the pressure to cut teaching assistants and other staff, and much more to balance the books.
Many pledged their support in refusing to cut any further and demanding fully funded education.
At the meeting, the Labour council cabinet member for education also pledged his support, although his 'support' was advising the school on how to make cuts, and that, oh yes, he has written strongly worded letters to the government.
NEU backing has helped maintain confidence and morale. A NEU representative said that strike action will be supported.
This meeting gave a glimpse of how working-class communities will respond in defence of their services when a lead is given.
The following day there was a full-council meeting. Council unions Unite and Unison protested the proposed closure of Southampton's last two remaining care homes outside.
In a very short time a petition of over 1,500 signatures triggered a debate in the council. But it was pitiful.
Labour rightly blamed the government for robbing the city of £136 million over the last seven years, but said they would cut services and jobs.
The council attempted to mollify anger with a 'consultation'. But we've seen these consultations before. The council will still press ahead with closure unless sufficient pressure is exerted by trade-union action linking up with an organised campaign to save the care homes.
The Socialist Party also made a deputation to the council, to argue for a legal, no-cuts budget instead of the further £15 million cuts by 2020-21. We explained that by doing the Tories' dirty work they are undermining the possibility of a Labour government being elected that could reinstate full funding to local councils.
The public gallery applauded, but the council predictably said that absolutely nothing can be done. But this is not the end. Trade unions and their allies will step up the campaign.
On 25 November the Socialist Party called a public meeting against the cuts. Mick Tosh, Southern regional secretary of the RMT transport union addressed the meeting and spoke about their members striking to keep guards on trains.
Local teachers, health workers, care-home campaigners and other trade unionists spoke in the meeting - a cross section of our communities. There was a seriousness to the discussion as we prepare for the big battles ahead, but optimism that win can beat the cuts and fight for a socialist alternative.
Bristol Socialist Party member Frankie Langeland called a protest after late and cancelled buses repeatedly made her seven-month-old baby miss bedtimes and even forced her to breastfeed by the side of the road.
Frankie was flooded with stories of the horrendous impact of the failings of the privatised service. People complained of missing hospital appointments and regularly being late for school or work.
Up to 200 people protested the state of Bristol's bus service on 24 November. Bristol's buses, overwhelmingly run by First, are 150 drivers short.
The priority of private bus firms like First is to make a profit, not to run a service. Many passengers have seen steep fare rises, even as the chaos continues. We have no control over these companies who are only accountable to their shareholders.
Speakers at the rally, including Socialist Party members, called for bus services to be returned to public ownership and democratically run through local councils. The Tories made this illegal, another example of them putting their big business mates first.
We need to end their shambolic rule and an incoming, Corbyn-led Labour government needs to give councils the power and the funds to run bus services themselves. Buses are a crucial part of many working-class people's lives - we need a decent, affordable service, run in the interests of passengers and staff, not profit.
Nat West bank made an ultimatum to a Belfast landlord seeking to remortgage their buy-to-let flat - either evict your vulnerable older tenant or seek a mortgage elsewhere.
Nat West, along with at least eighteen other lenders, has a clause in their buy-to-let mortgage agreements that prohibit landlords from renting to benefit claimants.
With the availability of social housing at an all-time low and in-work benefits claims at an all-time high, where do they expect benefits claimants to live? A Shelter spokesperson stated that this "is likely to amount to unlawful indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010."
In Sheffield on 24 November, part of a national day of action, we decided to 'move in' to a Nat West branch. We even brought along a Christmas tree and did some vacuuming!
40 activists occupied the branch for 20 minutes, singing and handing out flyers. The staff politely complained that we were "being disruptive", but no attempt was made to remove us and no customers were delayed in going about their business.
On a cold November evening, myself and other Newcastle Socialist Party members went along to see The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. To say it was wonderful is an understatement.
Actor and adapter Neil Gore commanded the stage from the beginning, regaling us with Edwardian songs that would have been music-hall favourites. It seemed appropriate as we were actually in the beautiful Wallsend War Memorial Hall, built around the very time that Robert Tressell wrote his socialist masterpiece.
There was 'Old Misery', 'Slyme', and of course 'Crass' - characters that workers will instantly recognise from the workplace.
As the play progressed, and with an array of props including myself and my cap, it became obvious to us why this play is doing the rounds. It is not only a classic, but it completely reflects the jobbing nature of the precarious work market today - this was the precursor to today's zero-hour gig economy.
One thing that did strike me was the amount of young people in the audience. In conversations with some of them, they told me they did not see this play as some distant memory - but as happening now.
One young man said he is on a zero-hour contract and could not afford to rent in Wallsend, one of the most affordable places in the country. In light of this, I asked if he had any info on our campaigns around rent control and brutal working practices by employers. He went away with quite a lot of information.
Socialist theatre company Townsend Productions is taking the play on a national tour at the moment, and I would urge all socialists to go and see it. Not only for its artistic merit, but also the very powerful and timely message.
By clever use of old-fashioned slideshows, music hall sing-a-longs, atmospheric lighting, shadow puppetry, audience participation, and the extraordinary talent and storytelling skills of a solitary actor, this fantastic production does indeed hold true and successfully tell the story of The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists.
It's the latest stage production from socialist theatre company Townsend Productions. Their previous work includes 'Dare Devil Rides to Jarama' about the Spanish civil war, and 'We Are the Lions, Mr Manager' which tells the story of the Grunwick strikers.
I knew beforehand that this production was a one-man show. I was intrigued to discover the theatrical tricks and illusions he would use to tell this story.
Having read the book - many years ago - I understood that much of it is played out within group discussions between the painters and decorators, between the gaffer and the workmen, working on the big house on the hill.
Satirical names are given to the bosses to expose their meanness of spirit and general weakness of character. So we have a Mr Crass, the site foreman; Mr Hunter, the works foreman; and the town's capitalist mayor, who owns the big house on the hill the men are decorating, is a Mr Sweater.
Socialist Party member Neil Gore's version is unusual in devoting good time to the outlook of characters beyond the autobiographical figure of Frank Owen.
What struck me was how the conditions faced by the working class in 1911 seemed so similar to those we face today. The swallowing up of wages by the extortionate cost of rents, the 'race to the bottom' in wages. The exploitation of young or desperate workers, and the alienation of workers from their work as the boss cares little for any creativity involved in the job. The general meanness of their lives as a result.
This production successfully recreates the fear that accompanies loss of employment in the absence of a welfare state to save you. The novel was first published six years before the Russian revolution, an event which would give all workers struggling against their immediate conditions an alternative system and something to fight for.
Neil Gore's excellent adaptation charts some of the conditions which led to such an event. Well worth a look if this production comes to your town.
At 'Red' Mary Jackson's Doncaster memorial service in February 2018, it was mentioned that she had been inspired by Robert Tressell's epic, 'The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists'.
In turn, I was inspired to buy it, but having to work on a zero-hours, minimum-wage contract to pay my absurd university costs has seriously curtailed my reading time. The news that someone was putting on a play of the book was very welcome!
That someone is Neil Gore of Townsend Productions. I went with other Socialist Party members to see them perform last year's excellent 'We Are the Lions, Mr Manager', about the Grunwick strike.
This time, Neil was performing on his own. But there was audience participation, (red) flag-waving, sing-a-longs, and a genuine Edwardian magic-lantern show.
I certainly got the sense of the class struggle that Tressell wrote about. The Great Money Trick was a definite highlight of the play: Neil, as the socialist painter and decorator Frank Owen, illustrates how lazy capitalists exploit workers' labour, using audience members, some coins and some slices of bread.
This was the first time Neil had performed it to the general public, at Sheffield's Lantern Theatre. He operates the equipment and of course plays all the parts: it is a real one-man show.
Neil has done an excellent job of adapting this huge book into a very accessible play, full of humour, while putting across Tressell's important commentary on the inequalities of capitalist society, as true today as in Edwardian Britain.
The play is highly recommended, and is on tour until July 2019.
I have worked, since leaving college - 22 years - solely in benefits. I have witnessed the systematic destruction of a support system meant to help those who need it most, creating a widespread situation of poverty, ill health and despair.
The bulk of our work currently revolves around three benefits: Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Universal Credit. Of these cases, the majority concern poor assessments that need to be appealed. Over 95% of the cases we take on are won at tribunal with an increased rate of benefit.
We are finding that the private companies who carry out these assessments - Atos for PIP, and Maximus for ESA and Universal Credit - regularly complete reports that are inaccurate at best, and contain lies at worst.
They twist claimants' words or write down things that were never even said or done. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which sends out the decision letters, bases its decisions on these reports.
This process, and the devastating decisions, leave people feeling desperate and undervalued. They are made to feel as if they are lying or being targeted.
Despite most appeals being successful, a claimant may have to wait over a year from the initial decision to their case being heard at a tribunal. The knock-on effect cannot be underestimated.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service, in charge of hearing appeals, has seen its caseload triple over the last few years, with little or no extra resources to process it.
There needs to be a complete overhaul of the assessment process. Both Atos and Maximus profit through their contracts with the DWP. These assessments need to be brought back in-house, like they were 20 years ago when the Benefits Agency Medical Services carried out the assessments.
That could be a step towards accountability and a better monitoring process, as well as saving money - something the Tory government claims it is keen to do. Better assessments would mean fewer appeals, costing the government less on that front at least.
Many decisions are more favourable to claimants when heard at appeal, due to more detailed evidence and a chance for the claimant to be heard fully.
The human cost is the greatest. Health deteriorates due to poor assessments. Claimants suffer financially, having to make choices between rent, food and bills with what little they have, often falling into debt or becoming homeless.
This puts greater strain on already overburdened public services that have all seen cuts in their budgets. Some will resort to crime, or turn to self-medication with legal or illegal drugs.
It is widely reported that many have died by suicide due to these decisions, leaving behind bereft families and friends. There is a downward spiral of poverty, illness and deprivation.
It is no coincidence that demand at the Hastings foodbank has increased by 87% over the last few years. It is time for change!
'Fear: Trump in the White House' by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward is based on 'inside source' material - secret interviews with some of Trump's closest advisers and staff.
What it reveals is a character who makes major decisions on a whim, and rules by tweet. Throughout the book, you feel that Trump is a child playing at being president, or a stroppy teenager who will pull out of an international trade agreement because someone annoyed him.
When looking for a national security adviser, he apparently rejects one guy because he didn't like "his big bushy moustache," and chose General McMaster instead because he "looked the part" in his uniform. Policies are decided on what sound good, tax rates decided on "big round numbers" that Trump likes.
But, far from being a regime of "fear" as the title suggests - a quote from Trump referring to what he thinks "real power" is - it is a regime of chaos.
Trump's staff are not fearful of him. They describe him as a "fucking moron." You get the impression that actually Trump is not in control at all, but is being controlled by the people around him - and is completely unaware.
His protectionist economic policies, approach to Syria and Afghanistan, and attacks on immigration are representative of only a small section of the ruling class in the US. Those individuals are using Trump to promote their ideas, while others try to undermine him.
It's true he has utter contempt for the people working for him. Staff get fired or promoted on Twitter. Decisions are made by the Trump family that go completely against what has been agreed in committee meetings.
Talking to Rudy Giuliani, the right-wing former New York mayor and only person who would go on TV to defend Trump after his comments about grabbing women "by the pussy" emerged, Trump says: "You're a baby! ... I've never seen a worse defence of me in my life!"
But on the other hand, Trump is treated like a toddler. When he is playing up, he is distracted with a shiny toy.
Executive orders are stolen from his desk before he can sign them, because "if the paper was not sitting in front of him, he'd likely forget it... Without something or someone activating him, it might be hours or days or even weeks before he would think, 'Wait, we're going to withdraw from [Nafta], why didn't we do this?'"
A staff memo went out in the White House saying - in bold - "on-the-fly decisions are strictly provisional." In an attempt to stop his tweeting, Trump's weekend TV watching was limited to after 9pm!
Overall, this insight into Trump in the White House only confirms what many people know. On the one hand, we are right to be worried about this unhinged, bigoted billionaire being in power. But on the other, the book reveals more who is really in control.
Trump may be a liability to the US ruling class. But removing him from power, while important, will not on its own end the "fear" that working-class and oppressed people internationally experience at the hands of US capitalism.
Only a mass workers' movement, with its own independent political party and socialist policies, can begin to do that.
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What the Socialist Party stands for
The Socialist Party fights for socialism – a democratic society run for the needs of all and not the profits of a few. We also oppose every cut, fighting in our day-to-day campaigning for every possible improvement for working class people.
The organised working class has the potential power to stop the cuts and transform society.
As capitalism dominates the globe, the struggle for genuine socialism must be international.
The Socialist Party is part of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), a socialist international that organises in over 40 countries.
Our demands include:
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