Socialist Party | Print
"What I say to people on the doorstep is we will only cut your throat slowly, the others will cut your head off" was a comment of New Labour MP for Blyth Valley in the North East, Ronnie Campbell, in a local paper. This message has been mirrored by New Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, when he admitted that public sector cuts will be 'deeper and tougher' than under the hated Tory regime of Margaret Thatcher.
This is the best a New Labour government is offering workers facing an uncertain future, that they will kill you more slowly than either a Tory or LibDem government. An increasing number of workers are drawing the conclusion that New Labour, Tories and LibDems are now nothing more than carbon copies of each other.
They are all offering a diet of cuts, cuts and more cuts. All of them are gearing up for ferocious attacks on public services.
The economy generally is showing signs of an extremely fragile and maybe temporary recovery but one commentator forebodingly remarked that "the starting gun has been fired on a public sector recession that is likely to last for several years". According to the research institute, Centre for Cities, 290,000 public sector jobs could go by 2014, and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development goes further and says that over 500,000 public sector jobs will be axed.
In the North East we have the biggest percentage of workers working in the public sector of any region. That level of attack on the public sector will hit the North East like a hammer blow.
But while the big three parties tell working people to tighten our belts and brace ourselves for austerity measures, it's a different story for the bosses and bankers whose free market mess got us into this situation. This recession is hitting the shop-floor not the boardroom!
Tesco boss, Sir Terry Leahy, gets a massive 900 times more than an average Tesco worker. A hundred bankers from the bailed out RBS bank received bonuses of at least £1 million last year - that's more than many workers will earn in a lifetime.
All of this at a time when workers, such as redundant Corus workers from Teesside, are facing a bleak and uncertain future. It's champagne and caviare for the bosses, bread and water for redundant workers.
In Gateshead and Redcar two Socialist Party members, myself and Hannah Walter, are standing as general election candidates as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). We are standing alongside other candidates in TUSC throughout Britain who have a proven track record of fighting cuts and privatisation.
Also, Socialist Party candidates have pledged to only take the average wage of a worker if elected. We are standing to give a fighting alternative to workers facing the knife being wielded by the three establishment parties.
Do you want to be underpaid, undereducated and burdened with debt? That's what the establishment politicians offer young people in this general election.
Compulsory low-paid work is the order of the day with Brown and Co. According to Labour's manifesto: "all those [young people] who are long-term unemployed for two years will be guaranteed a job placement, which they will be required to take up or have their benefits cut."
Labour's 'Backing Young Britain' campaign is an 'invitation' to businesses, charities and government bodies to "create more opportunities for young people" by bidding for Future Jobs Fund places.
Through this scheme, public money, which should be used to invest in socially useful job creation programmes such as council house building, will instead pay businesses to provide slave labour; temporary jobs on the minimum wage for 25 hours a week - far from enough to live a decent life on. Sounds more like 'opportunities' for big business.
The Tories' National Citizen Service would force young people to work on services that local councils should pay skilled workers to carry out. But they, and the other pro-big business parties, should be warned! In the 1980s 250,000 school students organised a strike which defeated Thatcher's Youth Training Scheme, a similar plan. Such mass action will have to be built again to defend the right to a decent job.
And all the parties promise the destruction of huge swathes of public sector jobs. The next generation's inheritance could be snatched away, leaving them with a future of low-paid, temporary work and minimal provision of public services.
In reality, the differences between the main political parties are superficial in the extreme. The Conservatives are keen on academy schools because Labour copied them from the Conservative manifesto in 1997! Both parties promise a huge expansion of academies, ie handing secondary schools over to private companies.
Labour's plans for everyone to be in full- or part-time education or training up to the age of 18 could see a major expansion of apprenticeships, but on a pittance. Colleges, already struggling with student demand and facing huge cuts, will either have to limit places or accept a huge drop in the quality of education.
Against this backdrop, the LibDems aim to mop up the 'youth vote'. But why vote for a party that would be happy to implement "cuts worse than Thatcher"? The LibDems recently dropped their commitment to immediately abolish university fees and the huge debt they entail for most students, claiming it was 'unaffordable' - just at a time when more young people are looking to higher education as a way of avoiding the dole queue.
This election shows that young people desperately need a real opposition to the bosses' parties. The Socialist Party and Youth Fight for Jobs say no to cuts and no to writing off this generation. The bosses' crisis must not be placed on the backs of future generations.
Young people will have to join workers, trade unionists and socialists in campaigns and struggle after the election, in the fight for their future.
The National Union of Students conference took place on 13-15 April against the backdrop of the threat of increased tuition fees and huge cuts in higher education. There have been large protests and occupations recently in some universities, against the threat of cuts, and many students are getting involved in anti cuts and fees campaigns.
However this fighting mood which is spreading across campuses was only dimly reflected at a conference which is now dominated by a pro-Labour right wing bureaucracy in the leadership of NUS.
In previous years, NUS conference has been a gathering of around 1,000 students but this year there were only 600 delegates, with the majority being full time student union officers.
The right wing won the majority of motions and won large majorities in the elections to the national executive (NEC). Not all the results are known at the time of writing but it is likely that the left's representation has decreased.
However there were a significant minority of delegates open to ideas put forward by Socialist Students, particularly from the further education sector. An anti cuts and fees fringe meeting organised by Newcastle Free Education Network attracted 30 delegates.
The right wing did not get their way on everything. They had to make vague promises about calling action after the fees review has reported. They put forward a motion promising a national demonstration "at the appropriate juncture" if the review board recommends an increase in fees. And the left was able to win a motion calling for support from student unions for industrial action in defence of jobs and education by trade unions like the UCU.
A motion was put forward by the leadership without discussion in many delegations or on the NEC. It merges NUS with its corporate arm NUSSL (which runs bars and shops in student unions) and with a right wing management association AMSU. AMSU organises "management teams" in local student unions who often act as a pro university management bureaucratic obstacle to campaigning. Representatives from NUSSL and AMSU will now have votes on the NUS executive.
Socialist Students activists will continue to fight for student unions to take up a campaigning strategy and organise mass action involving students and workers. The organisation of a mass campaign of demonstrations and student strikes on a local and national level in the aftermath of the fees review in the autumn is the most vital task confronting student activists. We will be discussing our work in NUS at our national meeting on 6 June.
A vital new pamphlet for student activists: Our education under attack, Why a mass campaign is needed. A Socialist Students and Youth Fight for Jobs pamphlet. Price £1
What we think
Seemingly endless column inches in the mainstream press are devoted to analysing meaningless sound bites from the top politicians and how they look and smile. Similarly with television and radio. Only one ideology is promoted, that of the pro-big business consensus of the main parties.
Small parties like the Greens and UKIP are given the occasional hearing. But the big business media owners prevent left-wing ideas from being heard, because they know these ideas oppose dictatorial, undemocratic ownership and control of industry and the media and are a threat to their prestige and enormous wealth, as well as that of their big business friends. This makes it very difficult for left-wing candidates to be heard, because this general election is being fought more than ever before on television and radio.
This is not democracy. A democratic election would mean opening up the media to include alternative points of view. There are hundreds of left and anti-cuts candidates standing in the general election but most people cannot hear their ideas. Some are 'independent' candidates or anti-cuts trade unionists. The Socialist Party is standing 20 candidates as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
If these candidates were given access to the media, a real debate with the inclusion of pro-working class and socialist ideas could take place. The election would then have relevance for working class people and the boredom and disengagement of a huge layer of the population could be lifted.
It is not just the media that is suppressing socialist ideas, but local councils also place huge obstacles in the way of election campaigning by smaller parties. Socialist Party branches have often been stopped from booking meeting rooms, displaying posters publicly or having street stalls in certain areas, due to local authority edicts.
Meanwhile people are supposed to get excited because the three main identikit parties have never before been so close together in the polls. But these poll results are a reflection of the lack of appeal of all three of them. There is widespread disillusionment with Labour, while the Tories are soiled by the memory of past Tory governments and their current pledge to make brutal cuts. The LibDems are posing as 'different' but are fundamentally the same.
Nine out of ten leading world investment funds surveyed by the Financial Times said they would be equally happy to see a Labour or Conservative government. That says it all about the lack of difference. The fund managers were only worried about a hung parliament, in case it finds it harder to inflict draconian public sector cuts.
A hung parliament is clearly possible, but these fat cats need not worry too much about that eventuality, given the desire to slash the public debt shared by New Labour, the Tories and the LibDems. Instead they should worry about the reaction of trade unionists to the cuts that the post-election government will try to make, whatever its composition.
This reaction needs to be as strong and unified as possible, because while the three pro-Thatcherite capitalist parties are competing in front of the television cameras for the privileges and prestige of power, working class people are crying out for measures and action in their interests. Already suffering or fearing unemployment, low pay, debt, insecurity, stress, poor housing, or lack of services, workers will have been completely horrified to hear the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development predict there will be over half a million public sector redundancies, ie 10% of the entire public sector workforce.
In the same week as this prediction, the London School of Economics revealed that the top 10% of earners are now taking home nearly a third of the UK's total wage bill. With this unprecedented chasm between the classes in society, it is almost unbelievable that working class people are so disenfranchised at present.
Following on from this undemocratic election and its unwanted result, it is extremely urgent that moves are stepped up towards forming an organised political voice for workers. In the meantime, during the election campaign, everything possible must be done to build support for the candidates standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and other genuine left and anti-cuts candidates.
In the space of a week the LibDems' prospects were apparently transformed, following the first television debate between the main party leaders. Nick Clegg gazed with doe eyes into a camera, and suddenly his chances had undergone a metamorphosis! A YouGov poll put them on 33%, one point ahead of the Tories and four ahead of Labour.
The polls indicate how volatile this election has become, but this is partly because there is little difference between the programmes of the main parties. 75% of people polled by Populus said that there needs to be a change from Labour but only 34% said it is time to change to the Tories.
It is this space that the LibDems are exploiting, with the mantra that they represent 'change'. They haven't been in government since Ramsay MacDonald's national government in 1931. However even for people who hope they might be a change, a major hurdle for the LibDems is to convince them that they could actually win and therefore are worth voting for.
"We're different," Clegg has said time and time again. But at their last party conference Clegg and LibDem shadow chancellor Vince Cable called for savage cuts in public spending and argued that the public deficit should be repaid over five years rather than eight as Labour had proposed.
While Gordon Brown and David Cameron say that some parts of the public sector should be protected from the worst cuts, such as the NHS, Cable has said that there should be no ringfencing. Of course he is simply being a degree more open on this; there is no real political difference.
Vince Cable has been hailed by right wing papers like the Daily Mail as the best candidate for prime minister and by the Guardian as "one of our classiest politicians". A former chief economist of oil multinational Shell, following the 2008 banking crisis he gained a reputation for his economic analysis but he himself endorsed the policy of 'light regulation' of financial services in 1999, which contributed to the crash.
Clegg and Cable were two of the architects of the LibDems' 'orange' revolution, ending the party's image as the 'beer and sandals' brigade and implementing a right-wing, neoliberal programme. Clegg has been in Cable's shadow since becoming leader but the television debate has now enabled him to shine on the national media stage. But his policies differed only slightly from the Tories and New Labour.
The LibDems would pay off the public deficit by cutting 'waste' and bureaucracy in the NHS, in education and in the army (the latter to pay for better equipment in Afghanistan). They would cut tax credits and the child trust fund and cap pay rises at £400 for all public-sector workers for two years. In other words the same 'efficiency' savings (cuts) and other cuts. However Clegg has been able to mark a small difference by saying his party would scrap Trident and ID cards.
One glance at the LibDems' record in local government shows that they are no different to the other two parties when in power. In opposition they pose as tireless campaigners, photographed outside local hospitals and standing next to potholes. They pledge to defend services, but time and time again when they take control of a local council or share power they carry out cuts and privatisation. For instance in Leeds City Council, the LibDem-Tory coalition is slashing council workers' jobs and pay.
Will Clegg's popularity last? The Tories cite the example of Ross Perot, the maverick Dallas billionaire who ran as an independent in the 1992 US presidential election. He led the polls after the first television debate but subsequently declined to 19% by the time of the vote. Even if the LibDems maintain their current level of support, its geographical spread would result in a hung parliament and Clegg would be faced with his main dilemma.
If he forms a government with Labour then the party that pledged to be different is seen to keep the same party in power and he alienates the right wing of his party. If he goes into coalition with the Tories then he blows out of the water the idea that you can vote LibDem to keep the Tories out and he alienates the left wing of his party, which is likely to lead to a split with those who see the party as having a radical tradition.
As a result, Clegg isn't committing himself to either scenario at the moment.
The LibDems are for the time being moving onto the centre stage for the first time since the days of Lloyd George, mainly at the expense of the Tories. However, the policies of a future government which contains the LibDems will be 'big' business as usual.
The first television debate, on 15 April, between the leaders of the main parties was the first such election debate in Britain. The press loved it, even calling it "gladiatorial combat", but it was more like fighting with cushions. If the other ten million viewers were like me, they would have been bored stiff.
If you didn't already know who the parties were, you would not have known which was which as there were no ideological differences in evidence. Any differences were of a managerial nature, over the detail of specific measures, or not even disagreements but: 'I want to do that too but I want to do it more'. Then Gordon Brown would say 'but we're already doing it' and David Cameron would say 'but you've had 13 years to do it, you're only doing it now' and Clegg would say 'the more they argue the more they sound the same'. This was Clegg's 'winning' argument.
Nick Clegg delivered the most competent performance and managed to inject a slight human element into it, occasionally sounding exasperated. He constantly said: "it's time to try something different". But the audience would have been hard-pressed to see what that difference was. The only stand-out difference was on Trident, with Clegg saying he would scrap it, Cameron saying that 'the defence of Britain is vital', and Brown managing to not comment on it.
In this medium there was no real debate, no dialogue, no one held to account. The audience sat passively in the TV studio and at home. Questioners were not allowed to comment on the answers, or make comments of their own. There were no heckles or applause, and no one was challenged.
On the economy, no one argued anything other than that there should be cuts. Clegg's 'something different' amounted to telling the others to be honest about what needs to be done.
With a massive onslaught coming on the public sector that will devastate the lives of masses of people, the voice that was missing from this debate was the one that says: 'No! We will not pay for your crisis!'
NO, WE will not be able to control the eruption of volcanoes under socialism. But we can make sure that the effects will not lead to a chaotic situation such as we see now as a result of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland.
As an airline passenger, stranded in London without any help from 'my' airline or officials, one thing is very clear to me: privatisation and 'free competition' under capitalism have lead to the catastrophic situation that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people face all over Europe and beyond.
As the transport systems are divided into national systems and, even further, into different competing companies, no international plan has been drawn up to help stranded passengers.
In nationalised, integrated transport systems, orientated to the needs of people, the situation could be handled much quicker and better. But in today's capitalist system, it is those who are stronger and quicker then others (and especially those who have more money), who find ways to travel - the others are left to fend for themselves.
With international planning to meet the needs of people and not profits, trains, buses and ferries could be coordinated much better then they are now. A nationalised transport system would mean no private companies suddenly increasing their prices to make extra profits and that stranded passengers could be transported for no extra charge to their destinations.
Now, in the present crisis, passengers are totally left on their own. They do not know where to go, how to pay for the accommodation, for trains and other things.
Money is a big problem for many - it is not sure if they will get the money they have spent refunded by the airlines and the insurance companies.
The current chaotic situation should be taken up by trade unions and socialists all over Europe. They should not only demand a halt to privatisation, they should explain the need for nationalised transport systems, for international planning of transport, and the need for a different society - a socialist society where the needs of people are central, not profits.
FOUR DAYS after planes were grounded in the UK leaving 150,000 British travellers stranded abroad, the government finally got around to deploying Royal Navy ships to help bring stranded Britons home.
As usual it was a case of too little, too late for many, who at considerable cost and much time, arranged their own rail and ferry crossings from mainland Europe.
Alarmingly, the commercial airlines, worried about a dip in their profits, seem determined to challenge the Meterological Office's advice over the resumption of flights.
However, a coastguard helicopter in Shetland flew through the ash cloud to rescue a seriously ill woman. Afterwards engineers had to strip down the engine to remove large quantities of ash.
Airlines worldwide are estimated to have lost £130 million ($200m) a day during the shutdown. A BBC article says a fall of between 1% and 2% for European economies is not being ruled out.
However, hotels, ferries and railways have experienced exceptional revenues by a huge increase in demand from stranded airline passengers. Many delayed passengers complain of being ripped-off by taxi and travel companies charging ridiculously expensive fares.
The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) said the financial impact "could not be more serious... The government needs to step in and show the same approach it took to keeping banks afloat."
If that means nationalising the major UK airline carriers as part of an integrated, air, rail, road and sea planned transport system, then socialists would wholeheartedly agree. Otherwise, the pleas of union hostile, profit hungry giant corporations like BA should be ignored.
Internationally, air freight has been badly affected - in particular, flowers and vegetables grown in countries like Kenya and flown thousands of miles to fill supermarket shelves in northern European cities.
Apart from the enormous use of resources involved and its huge carbon footprint in burning aviation fuel, much of this produce is now being thrown away as the refrigerated warehouses in Kenya become full. This in a country and on a continent suffering from food scarcity.
According to a report in Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, the Kenyan economy is losing $3.8 million a day and thousands of agricultural workers have been laid off.
The Tory leader told The Catholic Herald: "The way medical science and technology have developed in the past few decades does mean that an upper limit [on abortion] of 20 or 22 weeks would be sensible". The current law allows for an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Apparently, Cameron thinks he knows better than the medical and scientific experts who investigated the issue as recently as 2007 and concluded that there is no evidence that foetal viability has improved since the last time the upper limit was changed.
Cameron's comment in a Catholic magazine is a blatantly opportunistic attempt to win votes from religious groups.
That's not to say the threat isn't a real one. Cameron is a long standing supporter of attacks on a woman's right to choose when and whether to have children.
For example, he signed Nadine Dorries' '20 reasons for 20 weeks' pledge in 2008. (Dorries is the Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire and aligned with the socially right-wing Cornerstone Group).
One of the Conservatives' main six policies for the election is "to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe". You might think this would mean introducing the free childcare or free university places available still in some other parts of Europe.
In fact, the Tories, along with the other main parties, are making no secret that they will make massive cuts to the public sector including education and social services which thousands of working class families rely on.
The proposed attack on abortion rights is just one part of a wider attempt to make women pay a large part of the price for the economic crisis.
Women are more likely to be in the part time and temporary jobs which are at risk of being cut first and will suffer more from attacks on public services.
Controlling our own bodies is a basic human right that has been fought for and won by political struggles in the past.
Cameron's comments show that far from being complacent, we need to be prepared for big struggles of women, men, workers, students and the trade unions to defend that right in the future.
Muhammad Yunus, the economist who pioneered the practice by lending small amounts to basket weavers in Bangladesh, won a Nobel Peace Prize for it in 2006. "We created microcredit to fight the loan sharks; we didn't create microcredit to encourage new loan sharks," said Mr Yunus.
Some are charging interest rates of 100% or more. In Mexico the average interest rate is around 70%, compared with a global average of about 37% in interest and fees.
An early sign that there was money to be made was CARE, an Atlanta-based humanitarian organisation. It started a microfinance institution in Peru in 1997. The initial investment was around $3.5 million, including $450,000 of taxpayer money. But last year, Banco de Credito, one of Peru's largest banks, bought the business for $96 million, of which CARE pocketed $74 million.
The microfinance industry, with over $60 billion in assets, has outgrown its charitable roots. Banks and finance firms serve 60% of all clients, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) 35%, and credit unions and rural banks 5%.
Private capital first began entering the microfinance arena about a decade ago, but it was not until Compartamos, a Mexican firm that began life as a tiny non-profit organisation, generated $458 million selling shares in 2007, that they got a whiff of what profits could be made.
"The lesson is simply that it didn't save the world," Dean S. Karlan, a professor of economics at Yale University, said about microlending. "It is not the single transformative tool that proponents have been selling it as."
Socialists would agree with that. Socialists call for the nation-alisation of the banks and finance industry under democratic control. Small businesses and the self-employed could then be given affordable credit at reasonable rates and not be at the mercy of profit-hungry private banks.
In addition, small businesses should be protected from the big suppliers who are, next to banks, the bane of small businesses. They should have access to guaranteed supplies at agreed prices.
TENS OF thousands of low paid council workers, NHS workers, teachers, etc, face the sack as part of a 500,000+ jobs cull during the next five years as the next government slashes public spending to curb the £167 billion budget deficit. This black hole in public finances was massively increased by the Labour government's multi-billion bailout of the failed banking system.
The health service could bear the brunt of the cuts, despite party leaders Gordon Brown and David Cameron pledging to protect frontline services.
The jobs warning comes from a report by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. John Philpott, its chief economic adviser, said a 10% reduction in the 5.8 million core public sector workforce is probable, "dwarfing anything implicit in the election manifestos".
AND WITH youth unemployment hovering around one million, British Gas has received more than 65,000 applications for 600 gas fitter apprenticeships. Such is the high overall level of unemployment, some of the applicants were aged over 50.
Under the scheme an apprentice is paid £5,000 a year (under £100 a week) to repair boilers and radiators.
One-in-five young people are currently unemployed of whom more than 100,000 are recent graduates with another 300,000 graduates expected to enter the jobs market.
THE GLOBAL investment bank Goldman Sachs has been charged in the US with fraud after investors lost $1 billion (£650 million) in the sub-prime mortgage led financial crash. The civil lawsuit follows the bank's recent announcement that it would be paying out $5.3 billion from a pay and bonus pool to its managers.
Also charged is Fabrice Tourre, the British-based Goldman banker who earned £1.5 million a year. He is accused of creating sub-prime mortgage investment deals devised to fail. US investigators claim Goldman Sachs lied to investors - which included the bailed out Royal Bank of Scotland group - to make the mortgages sound like a safer deal.
Meanwhile, billionaire hedge fund manager, Paulson and Co - which paid $15 million to Goldman for selling this 'financial product' - made $1 billion betting on the stock market that the investments would fail.
Tamil refugees aboard a tiny boat held in Merak port, Indonesia, since 11 October 2009, have been forcefully transferred to a detention centre in Tanjung Pinang, a small Indonesian island.
They were fleeing a brutal war in Sri Lanka and have suffered immensely in the last seven months. The Indonesian authorities have still not allowed their refugee applications to be processed and have reneged on the agreement made with refugees prior to the transfer.
Tamil Solidarity - campaigning for their rights - has called for protests. Please read more details on www.socialistworld.net and register your protest against the inhuman treatment of these refugees.
BILL TOLD me he was watching Sky News on 25 March when it was announced that Jarvis had gone into voluntary administration. "Lads started asking me what was going on. You can imagine - my phone was going non-stop."
Bill was told Deloitte had been appointed as administrators. When asked what that meant and would people get paid, no watertight guarantees were given. But workers were being advised to keep working.
"I pointed out that it was totally unsatisfactory that staff were working trackside, with trains hurtling past at 120mph, whilst in a state of shock, confusion and worry. Their minds were on what their future was. The Jarvis HR guy completely agreed with me, but said it wasn't in his power to do this. Deloitte would be doing this - but we had no contact with them."
The following day Bill again tried to get guarantees about workers' wages. By 2pm there was a phone call from HR giving assurances that everyone would be paid and everyone should work as normal. But within an hour he received another call saying all work for the weekend had been cancelled.
It wasn't until Tuesday that the union was invited to 'pop in' to speak to a senior partner from Deloitte. The meeting lasted around 15 minutes: "Very polite, but then we were shown the door". At the meeting the administrators said they wanted Network Rail to pay upfront for work done, and a guarantee for staff wages for the coming four weeks. Bill said: "We were told if Network Rail rejected this, then compulsory redundancies would be the most likely outcome."
On Wednesday around 50 Jarvis workers were waiting outside the office. Bill confronted Deloitte, demanding a statement. Eventually he was given a five minute meeting with them, where he was told that all the rail staff would be sent redundancy notices, and there was no money available to Deloitte.
"Everyone was in a state of shock. We had no job, no back pay. Initially Deloitte said they would try and get us 50% of what we were owed - which they didn't. There was just a numb silence. We couldn't believe it - the work was still there."
Bill described how news networks filmed the office workers, with all their personal belongings in cardboard boxes, leaving the building - you could see they were dumbfounded. "The lads weren't even allowed into the depot to empty their lockers."
Approaches were made to MPs, and to transport secretary Lord Adonis, asking that the government intervene, utilising the Railways Protected Companies act. This would have protected Jarvis workers' jobs, wages and pensions. These approaches were rebuffed.
Jarvis workers have now learned that Network Rail intend to carve up the Jarvis contracts between Babcock Rail, Balfour Beatty, and Amey/Colas. These companies are all arguing that the workers were made redundant before they were awarded contracts, so their wages, terms and conditions are not protected.
This will have a devastating impact on workers, who now face an uncertain future. "One of the lads in my gang is just starting out. He's got a young child, a £900 a month mortgage - no job, no money. But the work's still there, we should still be doing it. It is so distressing."
Former Jarvis workers who have been going for interviews, to sign on with agencies to do the work they used to have, are being told they have to register and pay a fee for a drugs and alcohol test, pay for overalls, and sign a disclaimer saying they won't request travel time.
The disclaimer will mean they can be sent anywhere in the country to do a 12 hour shift. They could be travelling for hours before doing a 12 hour shift. Bill pointed out: "This is courting disaster. When the Clapham disaster happened, fatigue was a major factor."
WHILE BILL Rawcliffe was being interviewed about the atrocious way Jarvis workers had been thrown on the scrapheap, he received a phone call from his local MP Ed Miliband. Miliband seems rattled by the announcement that Bill is standing against him, as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate for Doncaster North in the general election.
In a heated discussion, Bill invited Ed Miliband along to the next day's demo against the job losses - he declined! Bill explained to Miliband: "I'm 53, I've worked on the railways since I was 15. Now I've got no job, no pay."
He went on to say: "Labour can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you say you're powerless with Network Rail - That's enough reason to stand!"
Bill also told us: "When I went to the Jobcentre they asked if I was actively seeking employment. I told them I was standing as an MP. The women just looked at me, wouldn't write that down - it seems that being an MP isn't a proper job in their eyes."
Bill said that sacked Jarvis workers were being made to feel like criminals for being unemployed - but MPs are doing "nowt". He added that if he is elected to parliament: "All I'll take is the same pay as I got as a Jarvis worker".
AS IBM announced a 'consultation' over threatened redundancies in Portsmouth, Mick Tosh, TUSC parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North, called for solidarity with the workers facing job losses. Mick blasted New Labour MP Sarah McCarthy-Fry for failing to fight to protect jobs in the city.
"Sarah McCarthy-Fry said that the decision to make 480 workers redundant is IBM's 'commercial decision to make'. That simply isn't good enough," said Mick Tosh. "As our MP why isn't she fighting to save those jobs? This happened during the Vestas campaign on the Isle of Wight nine months ago, Sarah and her New Labour colleagues consistently put company profits above the people they are supposed to represent and it has to stop.
"Every time working people in this area have faced job losses or are forced to fight for their conditions or pensions we have been there to support them, but that cannot be said for New Labour. That is the point of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, we are not only representing ordinary working people, we are ordinary working people representing ourselves.
"TUSC doesn't simply promise a fairer society, we are standing to build that society with working people by building a new political alternative that fights for us."
In Cosham, TUSC campaigners spoke to local hospital workers and many residents who simply felt betrayed by their current politicians. "We're losing our jobs today," said Linda, a shop worker on the high street. "We were promised that this area would be regenerated by a Labour government and the LibDem council, but that was clearly a lie. We'll be voting for TUSC, it's time that an ordinary guy like Mick was representing ordinary people like us."
"TUSC's Portsmouth North campaign isn't going to lose momentum after the election," said Socialist Party member Stuart Thompson. "When the government comes for our jobs and our services, we will be ready to face them.
"TUSC has brought us together and the coming fight will keep us together. We are calling for the current campaign team to become a potential branch of a new worker's party to continue, and win, this fight!"
The Telegraph Hill ward in the south east London borough of Lewisham has been represented by socialist councillors for 15 years.
Socialist Party members, Ian Page and Chris Flood, are the current socialist councillors in Telegraph Hill wards.
Over the years the local party branch has produced regular editions of a newsletter, Socialist News, to keep local residents informed on what their councillors are doing.
The last four years' newsletters have now been pulled together into a comprehensive report on the activities and voting record of our socialist councillors Ian Page and Chris Flood - and the other parties' records too!
Copies of the report are available for sale at £2 per copy. Please note that payment is required in advance and cheques should be made payable to London Socialist Party or LSP.
Please make orders by contacting Jess Leech, Lewisham Socialist Party on: email@example.com
AS WE go to press, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is holding its manifesto launch at a meeting during the Scottish Trade Union Congress in Dundee. We will have a report in next week's Socialist.
TUSC is standing candidates in 42 seats in the general election and in a number of seats in local councils. These two pages show just some of the campaigning issues that are coming up in this election.
Our candidates include sitting Socialist Party councillor Rob Windsor (who is defending his seat in St Michael's ward), trade union representatives, community activists, campaigners against student tuition fees and youth unemployment, veterans of the battle against Thatcher's hated poll tax, and leaders of the anti-PFI car parking charges campaign at Walsgrave Hospital.
All three establishment parties, New Labour, Conservatives and LibDems, aim to make working class people pay for the huge budget deficit by making huge attacks on our public services. All three parties agree that attacks on the public sector will be as severe as the 1980s, if not worse.
This means attacks on the NHS, services provided by local councils, the civil service etc. Look at the state of Coventry's roads - they prove that lack of investment in public services means real problems will be created!
Not only will any incoming government take the axe to our services, the use of private companies could also increase.
Socialists say that private companies have no role to play in provision of our public services. Look at the railways, have they got any better? Or look at the involvement of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) at Walsgrave hospital - which amongst other things means private companies making huge profits from charging for using the car park.
The Tories running Coventry city council proposed budget cuts of £72 million over the next three years. What was the reaction of the 'opposition' Labour group? Every Labour councillor voted for the Tory cuts. Some opposition! Only the Socialists, Dave Nellist and Rob Windsor voted against the cuts. Only the Socialists can be relied on to campaign against cutbacks!
We stand for good quality public services. The privateers have no place providing them - we want public ownership, democratically run by elected representatives, the workers who run the services and those that use them.
Britain is a hugely rich country but wealth is concentrated amongst a tiny minority. There is enough wealth to guarantee 'top class' public services without making cutbacks. The problem is public services are never safe under this casino capitalist system that we have.
Since her election, Jackie stands out as Kirklees' only fighting councillor. Throughout 2006 and 2007, she played a leading national and local role in organising resistance to the government's cuts agenda for the NHS. By the end of 2007, Labour backed away from imposing more cuts, but they are now ominously planned for after the general election.
Locally Jackie was the driving force behind the launch of Save Our Services (SOS), a group with the backing of trade union branches of six major unions and several campaign groups. After the elections, its work will be crucial in mobilising opposition to the huge cuts agenda.
Jackie Grunsell told Socialist reporters: "Our brilliant campaign four years ago stands us in good stead in this local election. We have canvassed the whole ward and the returns are very promising. However this is also a general election, and people will be tempted to vote Labour to keep out the Tories, which could be repeated locally so it's still all to play for.
"People are fed up with the mainstream parties offering the same old medicine. On the doorstep we try to convince people that we are different, that we can make a difference, and that their vote counts. The corruption scandal around MPs' expenses is still a huge issue. It makes a big difference explaining that I have not taken a penny in expenses and donated back my free parking permit.
"People are anxious about jobs and services. Too many people told us about their own pay cuts, losing their job, the decline in services. There is despondency and anger. They are fed up with New Labour, but have no faith in any other party to deal with these problems. Our campaign offers people hope that there is resistance.
"My overwhelmingly youthful canvassers work night and day to secure my re-election. People are impressed that so many young people are concerned about politics. Almost 20 people have applied to join the Socialist Party, which is brilliant."
KIRKLEES COUNCIL is in deep crisis and its Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in chaos. Last year, Labour and LibDem councillors combined to throw out the Tories, but are now promising to create two new academy schools, putting them on a collision course with parents and trade unions. Other schools are earmarked for closure.
The new minority Labour administration pushed through a £400 million cuts budget with the prospect of 2,000 job losses, for which there was all-party support (with only Jackie Grunsell voting against). Already, up to 800 workers have left the council on voluntary redundancies or early retirement.
The council is now tearing up the single status deal it agreed with the major public sector unions last year. Hundreds of council workers have lost pay through downgrading with only a year's protection. Others lost various enhancements such as overtime rates, bonus payments, and other allowances.
The local Unison branch could be leaving a ballot for industrial action dangerously late, it should be before workers' pay is lost forever when protection arrangements end by June. An indicative ballot for action is now underway.
Eight chief council officers in Kirklees have a combined income of over £1 million! The redundancy scheme has cost the council almost £30 million, yet some of the best paid officers who leave are getting massive payouts and then come back through the front door as highly paid consultants!
The council has even paid Deloittes £35,000 to advise them how to impose the cuts. Little wonder that the council is in such a mess. Jackie's re-election, along with independent candidates who share a similar platform, can provide a springboard for organised resistance to the jobs and services onslaught.
Whilst unloading the boxes from my car another three or four workers came over and we had an impromptu 'workplace meeting'. None of the workers live in Spelthorne so couldn't vote for me but they were all very enthusiastic that someone was making a stand for the unions and for working people.
They said they had taken delivery of leaflets from a few parties but I was the only candidate who had stopped to talk. They promised me they would cherish my leaflets and have them delivered immediately.
Manchester. Wednesday 5 May, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, Mount St., Manchester, M2 5NS.
Merseyside. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm Casa bar, 29 Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9BQ.
Hull West and Hessle. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm, The Gilson Hotel, Anlaby Road/ Ferensway.
Colne Valley. Thursday 29 April, 7.30 pm, Moor End High School, Dryclough Road, Huddersfield.
Coventry. Tuesday 4 May, 7pm, Methodist Central Hall - Warwick Road, Coventry. Speakers include Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin and Dave Nellist Socialist Party councillor and candidate for Coventry North East.
Stoke on Trent Central. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm WRVS Building, (at side of Hanley Bus Station next to Iceland).
Leicester West. Wednesday 5 May, 7.30 pm. West End Neighbourhood Centre, Andrewes Street (off Hinckley Road), Leicester, LE3 5PA.
Lewisham Deptford. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm Telegraph pub, 87 Dennetts Road, SE14 5LW.
Greenwich and Woolwich. Thursday 29 April 7.30pm. Glyndon community centre, Raglan Road, Plumstead SE18 7HX. Capitalism isn't working - the case for socialism.
Walthamstow. Thursday 29 April, 7.30pm. William Morris Community Centre, Greenleaf Road, off Hoe Street.
Brighton Kemptown. Wednesday 5 May, 6pm, Phoenix Community Centre, Phoenix Place (near St Peter's Church), Brighton BN2 9ND.
Spelthorne. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm Staines Community Centre.
Southampton Itchen, Thursday 29 April, 7.30pm Itchen College, Middle Rd, Southampton. Speakers include: Brian Caton general secretary of the POA trade union.
Portsmouth North. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm. Cosham Community Centre, Wooten Street, Cosham, PO6 3AP.
Bristol East. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm. Cross Keys pub, Fishponds Road, BS16 3BA.
Bristol South. Wednesday 5 May, 7.30pm. Bedminster Library, Bedminster Parade, BS3 4AQ.
Cardiff Central. Thursday 29 April, 7pm. Sandringham Hotel, St Mary's Street.
Swansea West. Tuesday 4 May, 7.30pm. Railmen's Club, Wind Street, Swansea, SA1 1FE.
Public services are already inadequate, underfunded and overcrowded. But, whichever party wins the general election, Tories, New Labour or LibDems, they will take an axe to what is left of our services, with proposed cuts of 15% or more over the coming years.
Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, is not campaigning to defend public services, but the bankers! As a member of the European parliament he has argued that the European Commission does not understand "the City of London's role in world markets and that it is a leading economic and commercial asset in Great Britain."
Far from being an 'asset', the rich bankers in the City of London bear responsibility for the dramatic increase in public debt. Deregulated under the Tories and then New Labour, the City enjoyed a massive party of profits. When the hangover came, it was taxpayers who propped them up. Now the bankers are partying again and our services are being cut to pay the bill.
Socialists demand nationalisation of the major banks - with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need. Instead of being run by and for the profiteers, a nationalised finance sector could be run by and for the mass of the population. The BNP, by contrast, not only opposes nationalisation, but even demands increased deregulation of the City!
The BNP's programme for the economy does not include one proposal to make the rich pay more - either in taxation or by other means. Nick Griffin may pose as a friend of working class people, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Where the BNP has councillors they have consistently supported massive cuts. In Barking the BNP moved an alternative budget, which not only accepted all £14 million in cuts proposed by the New Labour-led council, but added its own cuts of several million - including £0.8 million from the school buildings budget.
In Stoke-on-Trent the BNP supported the council budget, which proposes savage cuts in jobs, closure or further privatisation plus an almost 3% council tax increase.
In Kirklees the BNP voted for a huge £400 million worth of cuts over the next five years. A BNP councillor called for public sector jobs to be slashed by 25%, even more than the cuts that the Labour council was proposing. Only councillor Jackie Grunsell, a member of the Socialist Party, is actually fighting the cuts.
Defending our services will require a united mass movement. To be successful, like the movement against Thatcher's poll tax 20 years ago, it will need to unite as many working class people as possible - men and woman, old and young, migrant and those who were born here. The racist and pro-cuts BNP will never lead such a movement. It creates division not unity - and supports the cuts!
Five million people say they want social housing. But as a result of government policy over the last 30 years, there is virtually none available. 20 years ago there were more than five million council homes, now there is barely half that number.
In Barking and Dagenham alone there are 8,000 people on the council house waiting list. The number of council homes in the borough has fallen by 22,000 in the last 20 years. Now the Labour council, frightened by the growth of electoral support for the BNP, is building its first council houses for 25 years - all 32 of them!
From 1949 to 1954 an average of 230,000 council houses a year were built. The Socialist Party campaigns for a programme on a similar scale now that would refurbish existing stock and build enough new homes to genuinely solve the housing problem for all. Such houses could be built to the highest environmental specifications but, unlike the eco-housing Brown is proposing, be public and affordable.
The BNP has gained support in Barking and Dagenham as a result of anger at the terrible housing situation, for which it has no solution. BNP councillors propose to take a council site in the borough and bung 1,000 caravans on it - worth £1,000 each. That appears to be as far as their 'Steptoe and son' solution to the crisis goes!
At the same time the BNP actually opposes a major council house building programme in Barking and Dagenham, ignoring the huge drop in the number of council houses. Completely wrongly they argue that if indigenous families are prioritised, it will be possible for them all to get housing without building new homes.
Given capitalism's and, in particular, New Labour's failure to provide council housing it is inevitable that tensions will exist about who does, and who does not, get council housing. These tensions are exacerbated in areas like Barking, where there has been a recent and significant increase in the population, including increased numbers of immigrants. The lack of an open, democratic and accountable system of allocations, that would be accepted by most workers, also increases anger.
The Socialist Party believes that the right of families to be housed in the same community, if they wish to be, is an important one. The struggle to achieve this, and to satisfy the housing needs of other categories of applicant, has to be linked to both the fight for a mass council house building programme and for democratic control of the allocation system.
Decisions should be taken on the basis of need, including the right to be housed near relatives and friends, not by unelected council officials, but by elected representatives of local community organisations, including tenants' associations, trade unions, community campaigns and councillors.
The struggle for decent housing has to be linked to the election of councillors who stand in the interests of working class people. That means socialists - not the BNP. From 1983 to 1987 the socialist-led Liverpool City Council mobilised a mass campaign to defy the Tory government and built 6,000 new council homes, as well as massively improving local public services. We need councillors who are prepared to do the same today.
Since Nick Griffin was elected to the European parliament (less than a year ago) he has claimed £200,000 in expenses, in addition to his £82,000 salary! So much for standing up for working class people!
Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist explains how Socialist Party MPs and MEPs would be different:
"I was a socialist MP for nine years and, unlike the current money grubbing MPs, I only took the average wage of a worker.
"I lived the same lifestyle as my constituents. Any Socialist Party member elected to parliament will take the same principled approach that I did."
Over the last decade in Britain big business has moved might and main to keep wages down. One way that they have done this is by using workers from other countries as a supply of cheap, highly-exploited labour. The BNP has no solution to this problem.
This is understood by workers who are fighting to defend their pay and conditions. Last year, during the victorious construction workers' strikes at Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) against the race to the bottom, BNP members tried to visit the picket lines - but the workers sent them packing. The oil refinery workers understood that the only way they could defend their pay, conditions and jobs was by united action - demanding the rate for the job for every worker, regardless of their national origin. The vile racism of the BNP would have divided the workforce and led to a defeat.
As Keith Gibson, a leading member of the Lindsey strike committee put it: "The workers of LOR, Conoco and Easington did not take strike action against immigrant workers. Our action is rightly aimed against company bosses who attempt to play off one nationality of worker against the other and undermine the NAECI agreement.
"The BNP should take heed; UK construction workers will not tolerate another racist attempt to sever fraternal relations with workers from other nations."
The LOR workers' strike has lessons for the trade union movement. The only way to prevent big business driving down wages is a united struggle to demand that all workers - regardless of national origin - are paid 'the rate for the job'. To do this successfully means appealing to immigrant workers for a joint struggle. Otherwise big business will continue to use the tactics of 'divide and rule'.
The same applies to the struggles in local communities to defend public services. It is also important for the British trade union movement to support struggles of workers in other countries against low pay, cuts in services, etc.
Video: Keith Gibson, a leading member of the Lindsey strike committee, addressing Socialism 2009
The BNP claim that they are not a racist party, but this is a lie. Until the courts forced them to change their rules, only people of "Caucasian origin" were allowed to join their party. To give another example, the BNP councillors in Barking and Dagenham voted against congratulating British athletes on their success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They do not consider athletes such as Amir Khan and Kelly Holmes to be British!
The leadership of the BNP has a long record of supporting neo-fascist ideas. Now, to try to gain votes, they are attempting to present a respectable gloss. However, as recently as 1998 Griffin was found guilty of inciting racial hatred for holocaust denial.
In 1995 Griffin wrote: "The electors of Millwall [who elected the BNP's first and short-lived local councillor in 1993] did not back a post-modernist rightist party but what they perceived to be a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan 'Defend Rights for Whites' with well-directed boots and fists. When the crunch comes power is the product of force and will, not rational debate".
Mark Collett, previously BNP director of publicity and general election candidate for Sheffield Brightside, has been sacked by the BNP for allegedly threatening to kill Nick Griffin. However, he was never sacked for supporting Hitler.
In 2002 Collett was filmed saying: "I honestly can't understand how a man who has seen the inner-city hell of Britain today can't look back on that era of Hitler's Germany without a certain nostalgia and think 'yeah, those people marching through the streets and all those happy people in the streets, saluting and everything, was a bad thing'."
The BNP is growing because of the lack of a mass party that stands in workers' interests. New Labour is a party of big business, yet most trade unions continue to fund it to the tune of millions. Meanwhile New Labour continues to kick working class people in the teeth. The trade unions should stop funding New Labour and begin to build a party that stands in their interests.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - supported by militant trade union leaders like Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, Brian Caton, general secretary of the POA, and others - will contest seats in the coming general election as a step towards an independent political voice for working class people.
In addition to calling for a vote for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition wherever it is standing, the Socialist Party supports a vote for genuine, left, anti-cuts and anti-privatisation candidates. Only a party that genuinely stands in the interests of working class people will be able to successfully expose and undermine the BNP.
That is why we are campaigning for the development of a party that, instead of backing the 'banksters', fights to defend the NHS, stands for a living wage for all, for a mass programme of council house building - a party that stands for the millions, not the millionaires.
Video: Launch of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
On 15 April the BNP held a demonstration outside the Home Office in Croydon under the slogan 'Britain is Full Up'. The local PCS branch along with Battersea and Wandsworth trades council and the South London Anti-Fascist Campaign (SLAFG, a coalition of anti-racist, trade union and socialist activists) organised a counter demo. The idea was to have a peaceful protest but also to offer support to foreign nationals who had to access the building in order to process their immigration claims.
Unfortunately the organisers of the demo were unable to put this into effect as Unite Against Fascism (UAF), led by full time officials from the SWP hijacked the demo, placing themselves at the front of it, sidelining the stewards from the PCS branch.
As a result of this the demo became disorganised. Suddenly a group of 20 individuals came steaming into the back of the demo chanting something indecipherable. They ran straight for police lines in an attempt to attack the BNP protest.
It quickly emerged they were anarchists, styling themselves "Antifa Hooligans". The anarchists were able to get through because there was no proper stewarding at the back. However it would be wrong to place the blame for this with the PCS stewards. The role of the UAF had the effect of emasculating them and relegating them to onlookers at their own demo. The anarchists were promptly arrested and escorted back into the demo but not before the police then moved to surround the anti BNP protest.
Some workers, obviously not keen to get arrested on their lunch break, started to leave. In an attempt to de-escalate the situation a PCS organiser put together an impromptu rally with speeches from various demonstrators.
Unfortunately UAF members tried to drown out speakers who they didn't agree with. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka was listened to and applauded.
But when Nadine Houghton, a member of the Socialist Party and one of the key organisers of the demo through her work with SLAFG and Battersea and Wandsworth trades council tried to put forward a class position advocating workers' unity against the BNP she was heckled and booed by UAF members.
Despite this behaviour, there were many positive aspects of the demo. The number of counter-protesters easily outnumbered the BNP by 3 to 1. The initiative taken by the PCS branch in organising their own demo against the BNP is a step in the right direction and needs to be replicated across the trade union movement. The involvement of SLAFG is also a pointer to the fact that many activists see the need for democratic, independent and locally based campaigns against the BNP and the far-right.
Serious questions must be asked about the UAF's behaviour. PCS is one of the biggest contributors to UAF and yet UAF feels free to hijack a protest organised by a PCS branch. How much input into actual decision making does PCS get in return for the money it puts into UAF?
We started building the new federation last year but it was not officially registered until 25 February 2010. It arose out of the Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan (TURCP) that was formed in 2005 to organise a fightback against privatisation and attacks on workers' rights. Some union officials and activists in TURCP thought we should go further than a campaign, and set up a registered trade union federation, because as a campaign it is difficult to represent workers in an official capacity.
Socialist Movement Pakistan has been fully involved throughout. Four of the nine officials of the new federation are members of SMP, including the secretary general.
All the other trade union federations are like NGOs, involved in projects of the International Labour Organisation, of various Social Democrat linked parties and bodies in Europe etc, and they make no serious effort to build a working class movement. Also, when we visit workers in the industrial areas, they ask "which industrialists have hired you to spy on us?" because the private sector federations have such a bad reputation. Some of the officials are collaborating with the bosses and secretly receiving payments for it.
But there are genuine class fighters on the ground who want to organise a fightback against the bosses' attacks. The new federation has been set up to assist workers' struggles and resistance, and to help workers to organise. We stand for solidarity with workers internationally and that is part of our policies and principals; we will give solidarity to workers' struggles in any country.
So far it encompasses 23 trade unions. The total number of workers in these unions, together with workers who have joined the federation as individual members, is just under half a million. Every union has equal representation on the federation's executive board.
The private sector unions involved include unions from the following industries: pharmaceuticals, chemicals, textiles, power generation, ceramics, telecoms, transport, the informal sector, agriculture and the commercial sector.
The public sector unions include unions from: television, radio, rail, post, banking, gas and health.
Yes it covers all areas because it includes national unions that exist in all parts of the country.
What issues is the federation taking up at the moment and what workers' struggles is it currently involved in?
We are campaigning on three issues. Firstly, for implementation of the legal minimum wage in the private sector. Public sector workers receive at least the minimum wage but most private sector workers receive less.
Secondly, against privatisation. And we link campaigning against retrenchments and the price hikes of basic goods with our anti-privatisation work, because a free hand to make these attacks has been given to the private owners.
Thirdly, for the repeal of all anti-trade union, anti-worker laws. Three anti-union laws have been repealed by the government but others remain. We want new pro-trade union policies on labour rights and industrial relations.
We are currently involved in three workers' struggles:
In Pakistan there is a strong tradition of having united workers' demonstrations and rallies on May Day. This means that in some areas we will participate in demon-strations organised by other bodies such as May Day committees, while in other areas (particularly in parts of Sind and Punjab provinces) we ourselves will be the main organisers and other organisations will come to participate.
We will be producing a leaflet in two languages (Urdu and Sindhi) and a poster.
A RECORD 7,680 candidates contested 196 seats in 22 electoral districts in the parliamentary election in Sri Lanka held on 8 April. 36 political parties and a large number of individuals participated.
These figures were paraded by the ruling class as the sign of a 'flourishing democracy'. They claimed it was a 'new beginning' after 30 years of civil war, which was brought to its brutal end in May last year.
In fact this election registered a record low turnout, with the average just above 50%. The lowest turnout was in the Jaffna district with just 18%; including the internally displaced people (IDPs) this only rose to 23%.
This election was also marked by a record increase in violent intimidation and corruption. Around 1,000 complaints were recorded. But the actual number is believed to be even higher as the monitoring agencies were prevented from functioning properly.
The seriousness of the violence and violation of electoral law resulted in the suspension of ballot-counting in 34 polling stations and re-elections had to be called in two districts, Trincomalee and Kandy - the final result will be known after 21 April.
Ruling party ministers and thugs are reported to have taken control of polling booths and chased away opposition supporters, preventing them from voting. The media was barred from the vicinity of the polling stations and a number of journalists faced intimidation and threats.
A number of opposition activists and journalists are still in prison, including Sarath Fonseka who stood against president Mahinda Rajapaksa in the recent presidential election. He has now won a parliamentary seat in the Colombo district, while in prison.
With such intimidation tactics, the election resulted in a major 'victory' for the incumbent United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The UPFA won 117 seats, while the main opposition, the United National Party (UNP), only won 46 seats. The main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), won only 12 seats. In the last election in 2004 the TNA, backed by the Tamil separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), had won 22 seats. (These figures will change after the re-elections and re-allocation of votes).
Significantly, the Sinhala chauvinist party, the People's Liberation Front (JVP), won just five seats, a massive reduction from the 39 seats they had previously.
This victory for the UPFA is seen as a victory for Sinhala, Buddhist chauvinism and its proponent President Rajapaksa. That outcome has seen the surging Colombo stock exchange make further gains.
The post-war victory mania, whipped up by the Rajapaksa 'clan', consolidated the chauvinist support after his re-election when he forcefully removed his opponent and ex-Sri Lankan army general Sarath Fonseka, imprisoning him for the duration of the general election.
Fonseka, who collaborated in the brutal war with the government, was viewed as a threat and potentially could have split the Sinhala majority vote.
The UPFA manifesto claimed that: "Sri Lanka is an emerging wonder of Asia". But with public debt at over 80% of GDP and a massive budget deficit, the economy had to be rescued by an IMF loan of $2.6 billion in 2009.
The ruling elite refuse to talk about the increase in poverty and the massive price increases on essential items. The promised 'peace dividend' has not materialised for the majority of the working and poor population.
But the boast of being an 'emerging wonder' and the war mania continue to help the ruling party to mobilise support. Using this opportunity the Rajapaksa clan aims to strengthen its power by changing the constitution.
The proposed constitutional changes if the ruling party gains a two-thirds majority will be a disaster. As part of the change the government is proposing a 'senate' which will include unelected 'religious leaders'. The Buddhist monks' party, Jathika Hela Urumaya or national heritage party (JHU), is one of the most right-wing racist, communal parties in the country. It is part of the UPFA and its candidates won a significant victory in this election.
There is no mention of the rights of the Tamil-speaking minorities in the proposed constitutional changes. There will not be a genuine attempt to reconcile or respond to the national aspirations of Tamil-speaking and Muslim minorities.
As in the last presidential election, a large number of Tamil-speaking people did not participate in this election. Those who voted showed courage by rejecting the warmongering ruling party and paramilitary forces.
The United Socialist Party (USP, the Socialist Party's counterpart in Sri Lanka) which stood in the north and south in this election, despite a media blackout, had a very good campaign in the north exposing the hypocrisy of the leading parties. However, its impact, given the intimidation and fraud, was not reflected in the vote.
The foreseeable future of the working and poor people in Sri Lanka seems more bleak now than ever. Rajapaksa increasingly behaves like a dictator. It seems his clan is preparing for long-term family rule. With ever increasing defence expenditure there will be cuts in public services and more attacks on workers' rights.
The USP is attempting to build a mass opposition against the capitalist ruling class; that will free the thousands of internally displaced people still kept in detention centres; that will defend democratic rights, freedom of speech and the Tamil-speaking people's right to self-determination.
MOST RESEARCH suggests that the general population is living longer. Advances in science and healthcare mean that more conditions are treatable and many people with previously life-threatening conditions can now live well into old age. Socialists welcome these advances, but we also have to explain that people living in poverty or on low incomes still live much shorter lives than their rich counterparts.
One of the results of longer life-expectancy is the need for better and more widely available social care for elderly people and disabled adults. The New Labour government has published a White Paper (discussion paper) called Building the National Care Service. On the face of it, the proposals sound progressive. The new National Care Service will apparently:
But just weeks before the general election and Labour is already backtracking and now says the new service will not come into being until 2016.
Cuts are already being made in care services in local authorities across the country and Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems all clearly state that more cuts are on the agenda.
The government says that efficiency savings (read cuts) of around £4 billion will have to be found in social care from 2014. All the three parties agree that the level of cuts after the election will be 'even worse than under Margaret Thatcher'.
Read between the lines and it is clear that this White Paper will do nothing to enhance the lives of vulnerable adults in our communities. It is also likely that the bill will not be passed by an incoming Tory government or hung parliament.
Eligibility criteria are now so high in many councils that only those who are at death's door or who cannot care for themselves at all are receiving services. The level of services when you do meet the criteria is a scandal in many areas - a ten minute visit from a private homecare agency to check you are still breathing, then the company charges the council for a half-hour personal care service!
Increased 'Choice and Control' has become synonymous with closing day centres and residential homes, whilst repeating the mantra that 'people should stay in their own homes'.
Direct Payments (cash for care) and Self-Directed Support (individual budgets) are just other ways of 'saving' money while hiding behind a cloak of progressive, disability-friendly policies.
The truth is that many more vulnerable adults, elderly and disabled people will become isolated and neglected over the coming months as social care budgets are cut and day and residential options closed.
It may well be nicer to remain in your own home rather than go into residential care, but if the services are not in place to support you at home then you are actually in a very dangerous place. Every week the media shows another vulnerable adult who has been abused or killed when living in their own home.
For independent living to be truly safe and to be a real choice then billions of pounds of real investment needs to go into home care, social work and outreach services.
What does the government mean when it talks about 'partnerships'? On past experience this means working with the private sector - selling off our social care services (such as home care which is now 85% privately run) and siphoning public money into the private purse.
Partnership working with families actually means asking family members (usually women) to give up their time to provide extra unpaid care to loved ones. Working in partnership can also mean passing the buck to the poorly-funded and ill-equipped voluntary sector and local charities who have already stated that they are facing a funding crisis.
The 'comprehensive' element of the new National Care Service, if it was treated in the same way as the National Health Service is meant to be, ie fully funded by government and free to all at the point of need, would be welcomed by socialists. But New Labour will not deliver this.
A socialist government would though and could pay for it by re-nationalising the gas, electricity, telecommunications, transport and water companies under workers' and users' control - providing compensation to shareholders only on the basis of proven need. The top 150 companies should also be nationalised.
The massive wealth and productive potential of these national and multinational companies could then be ploughed back into the NHS and also fully fund and provide for a truly universal care service, education and other public services.
ROUND THE corner from the London 2012 Olympics site, the play "1936" opened at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston. It looks back to the 1936 Olympic games, hosted by Germany under Hitler and how Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis' chief propaganda minister used it to raise the international profile of Nazi Germany and the 'morale' of its citizens.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had awarded Germany the games in 1931 two years before Hitler was handed the reigns of power by the German capitalist class. And despite the Nazi regime executing and expelling Jewish people, socialists, communists, and gypsies, a fascist sympathising IOC allowed Berlin to continue to host the games.
The newly elected (January 1936) left-wing popular front government in Spain boycotted the Berlin games and organised a parallel People's Olympiad in Barcelona, only for the event to be cancelled with the outbreak of civil war in the country.
Through the play it's well argued that Goebbels used the games for Nazi propaganda. With one of the largest government investments into the games (an estimated $30 million in 1936 prices), Goebbels knew the value of using a variety of tools and events to raise and maintain the Nazis' profile.
The US Olympic Committee authority narrowly voted to attend the games, despite widespread calls for a boycott, including from the Amateur Athletic Union. The US government of the day didn't overrule the committee but in 1980 US president Jimmy Carter ordered a boycott of the Moscow games because of the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979.
With a layered approach to the story, "1936" exposes the role of the IOC in bribing key figures into accepting and lobbying for attendance to the games.
It also expresses the segregation faced by black people in the US through Jesse Owens' character. (Black US athlete Owens won four gold medals in Berlin. One biography of Owens quotes the athlete as saying afterwards: "The president [Franklin D Roosevelt] didn't even send me a telegram.")
The play with its simple set, includes two key items which are powerfully used. The first is a three tier podium for 'winners' made up of shoes and items, remnants of those killed by the Nazis (similar to the holocaust exhibition at the imperial war museum). It shows that it was over the bones and blood of ordinary people that these games had gone on.
The second well-used set piece uses two flags, one in the forefront of the Olympic rings and one of a swastika at the back.
By the end of the play, as the Olympics are held and provide Hitler with a worldwide gaze and profile, the swastika becomes dominant.
The journalist who narrates, intermittently throughout, asks, looking back now, 'what else could I or should I have done?' A reflection for the audience to join in with.
It's quite a powerful piece that is occasionally overplayed but still worth a watch, written by former Olympic coach Tom McNab and directed by Jenny Lee.
In the questions after the show, Mcnab noted that the 1936 Berlin games would not have happened if governments had intervened, but also if there had not been a civil war in Spain that stopped the plan to put on a workers' olympics.
The two main unions representing primary headteachers have both returned clear majorities in support of a boycott of this May's English and maths Key Stage 2 SATs tests for eleven year-olds.
Worried by recent legal threats against other unions, the NUT followed advice that it should only ballot members of the 'leadership group' who have the direct responsibility for administering SATs. The NAHT only represents these staff. So these results show the strength of opposition to the damage that SATs have inflicted on primary education even among school 'managers'.
Many heads and deputies, as well as classroom teachers, have seen their schools unfairly condemned as 'failing' through crude league tables of SATS results that take no account of the many different challenges facing schools. This bullying testing regime has enforced a narrowing of the curriculum. Many year six students have to spend much of their final year of primary education preparing for SATs. The administration of the tests also wastes £23 million a year.
NUT and NAHT members now have the opportunity to send a clear message to an incoming government that this wasteful and unreliable system has to be replaced with an assessment system that properly supports teaching and learning. Heads and classroom teachers must work together to build as widespread a boycott as possible.
Some parents, and perhaps some staff, may feel that it would be wrong to boycott now that so much of the 'drilling' in preparation for the SATs has already been done. They are mistaken. If even a partial boycott is launched this year, then teachers will feel more confident to stop 'teaching to the test' with a new year six from September.
The decision on whether to use the ballot results to launch a boycott rests with the NAHT national council meeting on 20 April and the NUT national executive meeting the following day. They must take the bold step of sanctioning the action that can start to get rid of these useless tests that have been imposed on schools for far too long.
Labour ministers who think that PCS's campaign against the government's attempt to rip up our Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) is over because the general election has been called are wrong - the campaign goes on until there is a negotiated settlement.
The three days of strike action during March piled pressure on the government, as did other campaign initiatives, including taking the PCS battle bus to Tessa Jowell's constituency surgery. 176 MPs have now signed the Early Day Motion supporting the union's campaign.
PCS is targeting ministerial and marginal constituencies during the election and this will be linked with our Make Your Vote Count (MYVC) campaign. We will be demanding not just support for PCS's five pledges to defend the public services but also for a fair settlement to the CSCS dispute.
Industrial action continues with the national overtime ban. A judicial review is to be held on 22 and 23 April. Although success there would not mean a settlement, it would force the government back to negotiations.
Whoever forms the new government will receive a letter from PCS reminding them there is an unresolved dispute that must be settled if they are to avoid further industrial action.
Workers in street cleansing and grounds maintenance at Coventry City council have voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action.
Union members are angry about the imposition of changes through a 'Fundamental Service Review' that will see people worse off in pay and shift arrangements.
The new merged service is the brainchild of new chief executive Martin 'Slasher' Reeves, and forms part of the cuts agenda that will see £72 million of 'savings' over the next three years.
This is the same Reeves who recently criticised Coventry people for lacking 'ambition'. Easy to say when you are on £175,000 per year, when many council workers are on around £15,000!
This review has already been lodged as an official dispute by the union but the council panel, unsurprisingly, found in favour of the employers.
Rob Windsor, Socialist Party councillor for St Michael's said: "We fully support the street cleaners and grounds maintenance workers... Myself and Dave Nellist were the only councillors to vote against the cuts of £72 million and will continue to do all we can to organise and support any campaign against attacks on the council workforce."
The three main council unions, Unison, Unite and GMB, along with other unions such as the teachers' union, the NUT, need to organise across the council in defence of our members. Meetings should be held to build up networks of stewards and new activists.
Regionally and nationally we need a coordinated campaign, linking up with other public service unions to prepare for action to demand proper funding of our services and to stop the attacks on our public sector.
Workers at Manchester Metropolitan University are continuing to fight 127 job losses, with their union Unison restarting the process of balloting for strike action. The ballot closes on 6 May with action likely to start one week later.
Following a 3:1 vote in favour of being balloted for strike, Unison began to carry this out. Then management threatened to get the ballot ruled illegal. This same management have refused to seriously negotiate, harassed union members, denied the union reasonable rights, banned it from discussing the strike on university premises, and rather than negotiate a sensible solution threatened to spend up to £100,000 challenging the strike ballot. Unison therefore decided to reballot.
Delegates to Unison's Higher Education conference in February roundly criticised the union's links with New Labour and overwhelmingly demanded a serious national industrial action strategy. Members are right to demand it but will have real doubts that, based on past performance, this leadership is capable of delivering.
We need leaders prepared to stand up to the employers and break the Labour link. We can make a start by voting for Socialist Party members in the current service group executive elections, and for Roger Bannister in the general secretary election from 17 May.
The first day of Unison health conference rattled through over a day and a half's worth of business in one day.
This was partly down to the guest international speakers having to cancel but primarily it was because contentious motions had been ruled out of order. But there was one from Wakefield and Pontefract, committing Unison health to campaign for the nationalisation of all PFI projects, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need. As the mover explained: "There's no need for expensive compensation when we own the banks anyway".
The executive recommended to accept the resolution with the point on compensation removed claiming "any form of ending PFI other than buying out contracts would be unlawful". But the resolution being carried as amended is still an important commitment.
Dave Prentis in his opening address was clearly in election mode and did his best to put on a left face. But after years of sell outs and witch hunts this won't wash! Prentis claimed that Unison would look to "alliances with other unions such as the PCS". This will be news to those in the PCS who have been trying for years to get Prentis to sign an agreement on joint action and campaign work.
Prentis claimed the Labour Party "can't take Unison members' votes for granted" but it seems Labour can take massive cheques from Unison for granted!
The Labour link is something Unison's current leadership don't want debated but an issue that Socialist Party member Roger Bannister's general secretary election campaign will push to the fore, with a clear call to break the link with Labour and fight for a genuine working class political voice.
In the afternoon conference was subjected to a painfully stage managed question and answer session with health minister Andy Burnham. One delegate gave Burnham a piece of her mind. When her microphone was cut off there was uproar in the conference hall and it had to be turned on again to avoid a riot.
Her attack gave an indication of the real anger that exists amongst health workers that unfortunately has not been given much of an airing at Unison health conference so far.
Laundry workers were joined by nurses, porters and other hospital staff in a protest outside Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, against the planned closure of the hospital's laundry.
Margaret Johnson, one of the laundry workers whose job is threatened, said: "They told us it would be cheaper to divert laundry to Leicester, a 300 mile trip, than to do the laundry at the QE hospital."
Another laundry worker, Wendy Cowie, said: "This is going to have a big impact on the wards. Now they phone up and ask for sheets, gowns etc and they have them in minutes. All the travel between this hospital and Leicester isn't going to be very environmentally friendly. What happens if we have another bad winter?"
Laundry workers had been sent letters telling them their jobs would be safe until 2015. Now they are being told their contract will end on 31 May. Also, they are being told they must apply for jobs in Newcastle hospitals - if they don't they will lose their redundancy money.
One of the workers said that the jobs they are offering in Newcastle are for only a few hours a week. If you take the job you hardly have any pay and lose your redundancy, if you don't apply for it you also lose your redundancy.
The recently reformed Dover and District Trades Union Council recently held its first major public meeting against the threat of privatisation of the port of Dover.
The meeting was attended by around 40 people, bringing together rail, maritime and port workers as well as members of the Prison Officers Association (POA), immigration and Jobcentre workers and members of the Socialist Party.
Gwyn Prosser, the Labour MP for Dover, spoke from the platform. He is a passionate opponent of port privatisation, but it is Prosser's government that has wholeheartedly embraced cuts, closures and sell-offs.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT trade union also addressed the meeting, as did Brian Caton, POA general secretary.
The final speaker was Mike Sargent, the secretary of Dover trades council. He spoke passionately about the capacity of ordinary working people to see off the privateers once and for all. He also made the point that working people need a political alternative to the current pro-employer parties. This was echoed by contributions from the floor.
By taking industrial action, port workers can fight back and win. But without a genuine workers' alternative to the establishment parties - the spectre of privatisation will always haunt communities like Dover.