Socialist Party | Print
Millionaire Tory leaders George Osborne and David Cameron are going to write to every public sector worker in the country to ask where the billions of pounds of public spending cuts should be made. They are asking workers to nominate each other or themselves for the axe!
Meanwhile it was reported in the press last month that the fortunes of the richest people in Britain have soared by 30%. Many finance houses, hedge funds and banks have actually recouped their 2008 losses as a result of the huge bank bailout packages. No tough decisions for the City wolf packs then.
But in Osborne's phoney consultation we will not be given the opportunity to tick a box which says 'Would you like your local nursery to remain fully staffed?' nor one saying 'Should we restore corporation tax to the much higher level of the pre-Thatcher days?'
We will not be asked to express a preference for wages that pay our bills or to scrap Trident or to end the war in Afghanistan. We will not be given the choice of cancelling all PFI debt instead of cutting benefits for the sick and unemployed.
And we will not be able to express a preference for a health service that benefits from the nationalisation of the pharmaceutical firms and using the profits to care for people.
No, the reality is, we are given no choice at all by this bloc of all three main political parties in parliament and in local councils who say the working class must pay.
But another choice is available to the working class of this country. And that is the choice being made by the Greek and Spanish workers.
They were also told 'there is no alternative', that 'lazy workers' would have to pay for the debts. Initially some of those workers may have swallowed the lies and propaganda being fed to them by big business and its friends in the media.
But, as the realisation of what these cuts meant set in, hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets in protest.
Greek workers unfurled a banner around the Acropolis urging "Workers of Europe resist". Spanish workers carried placards through the streets of Madrid with a huge '5%' on them, representing the pay cut they were expected to take. Such images are not lost on us.
The Trades Union Congress here in Britain must call a national demonstration now.
Also the call by the European TUC for a European-wide day of action on 29 September, which could potentially involve 24-hour general strikes in a number of European countries, is something that could develop across the summer and have a significant impact by the time the date arrives.
We must make sure these ideas become a reality, because to fight back is really the only option. On that we have no choice.
ANOTHER GRISLY milestone has been reached in Afghanistan: over 300 British soldiers have now died, since the war began in 2001. The average age of those killed is 22.
No such records are kept of civilian deaths in Afghanistan. It is estimated that thousands of Afghan civilians have been directly killed due to military action, including use of air strikes by the US forces. As well as this, possibly tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have died indirectly from the war, as a consequence of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment and violent crime.
The fact that the British forces' death rate this year is twice that of 2006 shows the UK and US's war plans are going awry in this unwinnable and unjustified war. This strategic failure lies behind David Cameron's comment at the recent G20 summit that British forces "can't be there for another five years."
US-led forces occupied Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, supposedly to end al-Qa'ida terror but in reality to further the geo-strategic interests of western imperialism. The puppet, corrupt Karzai regime, propped up by 100,000 western troops, presides over mass joblessness and poverty which fuels the Taliban opposition.
President Obama's dramatic sacking of the US and Nato commander in Kabul, General Stanley McChrystal, brings into the open the US's military crisis in Afghanistan. The Rolling Stone magazine article that prompted Mc-Chrystal's dismissal indicated the serious divisions within the military and political establishment.
It is becoming clear that McChrystal's much vaunted 'counter-insurgency' strategy is failing. The Afghan conflict is now America's longest war - increasingly called 'Obama's War' - and has no end in sight. This is not lost on the troops on the ground. A soldier quoted in Rolling Stone comments to McChrystal: "Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we're losing, sir."
Already the 'international mission' in Afghanistan has fallen back from "defeating" to "degrading" the Taliban. US and British strategists now talk of "scaling back objectives" and of trying to make deals with the reactionary Taliban.
This could see de-facto Taliban control over many of the southern provinces, with former Mujahideen leaders controlling the north. Or a Yemen-style 'solution', where a western backed government holds only part of the country. So much for the occupiers' stated aims of bringing peace, security and women's and children's rights to Afghanistan!
While the British coalition government carries out draconian austerity attacks on working people, billions are wasted on this war. Since 2001, over £12 billion has been spent, which could have built new hospitals and schools and funded grants for students.
Due to growing domestic opposition to the war in the US and Britain, Obama said July 2011 would see the start of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. But he has also said that US forces could remain in "significant numbers" - following the pattern in Iraq.
'Wars without end' are the only guarantees under the rule of imperialism and crisis-ridden capitalism. Working people and youth in Britain, the US, Afghanistan and internationally can only rely on their own forces and solidarity to successfully oppose wars and imperialism and to fundamentally change society.
The Socialist Party demands:
What we think
The G20 meeting in Toronto of the leaders of the main capitalist governments of the world demonstrated a complete incapacity to solve the huge problems that confront us, particularly those hardest-hit - the poor and the working class - by the economic crisis.
This was supposed to be the economic summit that would 'celebrate' the so-called economic stimulus packages introduced by capitalist governments throughout the world, which 'saved' capitalism from a 'depression'. Instead, in a dizzying switch over a matter of months, the prevailing view at this meeting was in favour of those governments such as Britain's 'ConDem' coalition, led by David Cameron, that are savagely cutting public expenditure.
The summit papered over the cracks - in effect glaring divisions - between the Barack Obama government in the US and its supporters on one side and the European capitalists on the other.
Thirty million people are unemployed in the US and whole states are collapsing under the burden of debt; Obama requires not cuts but a new stimulus package to prevent defeat in the mid-term elections in November. But the US Congress is against this and has turned down further stimulus.
The budget-slashers of Europe threaten to compound the problems of the US and world capitalism by their actions. Foremost, of course, amongst this group is the British government.
The full horror of the proposed cuts and their implications are only just dawning on commentators. William Keegan wrote in the Observer (27 June): "The old Soviets used to indulge in five-year production plans; the Cameron/Osborne Tories believe in five-year reduction plans".
The miserly growth rate of Britain, Europe and indeed world capitalism, if it can be called 'growth', threatens to lengthen the queues of unemployed. It will not make up for the damage which has been inflicted already. Growth in Britain is expected to be just 1.25% this year after a fall of almost 5% in 2009.
When the government and capitalist economists talk about recovery', they are only talking about a 'technical' recovery. There is no new 'growth phase' for either British or world capitalism.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been forced once more to scale down their forecasts for growth in the world economy this year. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director, has pointed out that growth at 2.5% below what was first predicted as 'possible', means that '60 million jobs' will not be created this year.
Keynesian capitalist economists are in despair. Their views seemed to be in the ascendant in the immediate aftermath of the crisis breaking in 2007-08. Now, terrified by the implications of huge deficits, European capitalism, at least, has moved in the opposite direction towards 'austerity' stretching into the indefinite future.
Keynesianism means, in effect, priming the pump, boosting economic expenditure through the state as a means of preventing further economic collapse. The dilemma arising from this is 'who pays?' If it is the working class through increased taxes, it cuts the market. If it is the capitalists through increased taxes or other measures, it would threaten a strike of capital, the withdrawal of investment, closure of factories and a big rise in unemployment. If there is a resort to the printing press not backed up by production of goods and services, it will ultimately result in inflation.
But the method now of savage cuts is a case of the 'cure being worse than the disease'. The economist Joseph Stiglitz is scathing about the new 'age of austerity': "It's not just pre-Keynesian, it's Hooverite" (the Independent, 27.6.10).
Herbert Hoover was the president of the US at the time of the 1929 Wall Street Crash. "Hoover had this idea that, whenever you go into recession, deficits grow, so he decided to go for cuts". The result was the 1930s' Great Depression. Hoover received this advice from his Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon: "Liquidate labour, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate ... purge the rottenness out of the system".
This has been underlined by the brutal austerity measures of Chancellor George Osborne, backed up by the rapidly discredited Liberal Democrats. This government, in its callous attacks, shows all that historic cold cruelty of the British capitalists. The Observer estimates that there has been a halving of support for the Lib Dems in less than two months.
Indeed, throughout Europe, from Angela Merkel in Germany to George Papandreou in Greece, where they have engaged on the road of austerity, capitalist governments have seen their popularity crash. In the case of Merkel, she has almost been reduced to a figure of fun in the German capitalist press.
The British government's austerity programme promises, in effect, a one-third reduction in all government departments with the exception of international development and health, which the government claims are 'ring-fenced' from cuts, and education and defence which are cut less. This means a cut in state expenditure on the scale of the Geddes report of 1922, whose implementation led directly to the general strike in 1926. However, before it reaches the target of one-third cuts, the government will be overwhelmed by a tsunami of opposition.
The idea that the private sector can take up the slack of these cuts is totally wrong. The day after the end of the G20, the Independent reported: "British manufacturing will slide to a woeful 20th position in the world competitiveness rankings over the next five years". Even US manufacturing is set to fall from fourth to fifth as it is overtaken by Brazil. In fact, Obama's failure to impose his agenda on the G20 is a sign of US capitalism's weakness - although its economy is still the most powerful in the world.
At the moment, the UK is the seventh largest manufacturing sector in the world, led by the pharmaceuticals, food and the aerospace and defence sectors. It still accounts for 14% of UK gross domestic product (GDP) compared to just 7% for financial services. But the share of manufacturing in total GDP has dropped from 20% a decade ago. Nothing the government has done can restore this position. Indeed, millions of jobs in the private sector are dependent on the public sector and they will be hit as the cuts bite.
The situation is so serious now the budget-slashers are installed in power that most capitalist economists predict a 'double-dip' recession. In effect, the world economy stands on the edge of deflation because of the measures taken.
China will not show a way out of the crisis, as hoped for by Obama and the European capitalists. Obama has been pressing China for a revaluation of its currency to make Chinese exports more expensive, providing opportunities for the US and other economists to 'grow' their exports.
But following China's decision to allow some flexibility in its exchange rate, its currency has 'appreciated' by just 0.4% against the dollar in the last week!
To add insult to injury, all these cuts will not improve the position of the economies on which they will be inflicted. The governor of the Bank of England in the 1920s and 1930s, Montagu Norman, imposed the Gold Standard on the economy.
Later on he acknowledged: "As I look back, it now seems that, with all the thought and work and good intentions, which we provided, we achieved absolutely nothing... Nothing that I did, and very little that [others] did, internationally produced any good effect - or ¬indeed any effect at all except that we collected money from a lot of poor devils and gave it over to the four winds".
The working class are the 'poor devils' who will suffer. What this demonstrates is that capitalism is a blind system with the likes of Osborne 'flying blind'. Their sole purpose is to 'satisfy the markets', a handful of bond traders, speculators and capitalists who have no other interest than to increase their share of the loot.
The demonstration of bankruptcy at the G20 in Toronto must be taken by the working class in the US, Europe and worldwide as a signal to begin an offensive to confront the capitalists and their system now.
We must start in Britain with a mass campaign to resist every single cut - what is at stake here is the very existence of the welfare state whose gains were conquered by successive generations of the working class. If the national trade union leaders are not prepared to lead, then a movement must come from below.
This was the call from the tremendous National Shop Stewards Network conference held in London last Saturday. We must implement the call made there for the trade unions to organise a national demonstration at the TUC conference in September and if this does not move the summits of the movement then action must be organised from below.
Capitalism shows no way out; a fighting, militant, combative approach is necessary in day-to-day struggles of the working class, above all on the cuts, linked to the idea of the socialist transformation of society.
GOVERNMENT EDUCATION minister Michael Gove is determined to push through the Tory agenda of putting 'rocket-boosters' under the academies programme. He has written to every school encouraging head teachers to go on the department for education (DFE) website to register interest in becoming an academy - schools that are publicly funded, but run independently of Local Authorities.
Under pressure from Freedom of Information requests, the DFE has been forced to publish the list of schools that have responded so far.
While some of the 1,500 or so schools listed are complaining that they simply visited the website to see what Gove had to say, many are definitely pursuing Academy status.
Around 800 of the schools have been given an 'outstanding' grade by the schools' inspectorate Ofsted. According to Gove, this entitles them to be fast-tracked out of their local authorities in a matter of just months.
Even if only a few hundred of these schools become academies, this will already be a significant increase on the 200 or so previously set up under New Labour.
Gove hopes that a 'domino effect' will see other schools jumping aboard to bring about a complete break-up of local authority schooling. It would create a privatised, selective system where cash-starved councils would be left to support the 'sink schools' which would include children with the greatest needs.
It would also be used to rip apart national and local agreements on pay and conditions that have been won by school staff.
It is an urgent task for local anti-academy campaigns to alert parents and staff at the wannabe academy schools - but also to warn all schools in every local authority of the disastrous implications of these changes.
It now seems unlikely that the government will get the Academies Bill through parliament before the summer holidays. However, that is no reason to sit back. Instead we must make the most out of any temporary delay and step up the campaign.
Some of the listed schools may not have strong trade union groups. Therefore campaigners opposed to academies need to be at school gates leafleting parents, students and staff. We have to explain that these plans are part of this government's agenda to privatise and cut public services and must be opposed.
Scandalously, the Academies Bill seeks to remove any element of public consultation and leaves the decision about becoming an academy entirely in the hands of each school's governing body.
Staff and parents must demand, at the very least, that governors organise a proper consultation of the local community instead of rushing into a quick decision as Gove hopes. Campaigns must explain that schools belong to the community and governors have no right to give them away.
Each local campaign must be just part of a bold national campaign to defend comprehensive state education from the joint threats of cuts and privatisation. Public sector unions must urgently set a date for a joint national demonstration in the autumn as a preparation for united strike action to defend public services.
Up to 200 socialists and trade unionists from a range of city workplaces united to vent their anger at the Con-Dem budget on Tuesday 22 June at a Brighton, Hove and District trades union council organised demonstration outside Hove town hall.
Union representatives from Unison, GMB, PCS, UCU and NUT trade unions, along with representatives from Brighton Benefits Campaign, all rounded on chancellor George Osborne's repressive plans to attack public services and welfare rights. These plans will see the poorest workers and the unemployed paying the price for the bankers' failure that underlies the current economic crisis.
With an initial £3.5 million already set to be cut locally, the axe that threatens public services across Brighton and Hove is in the hands of the city's 54 councillors.
All 54 were invited to attend the demonstration to publicly agree to the trades council's demands to vote down any budget presented to the city council that will result in: redundancies in the council workforce; cuts to the council's public spending budget; the privatisation of any part of the public sector; attacks on pay, pensions and working conditions of the council workforce; and increases in council tax.
A handful of Labour Party councillors attended and hypocritically spoke of their anger at the Con-Dem cuts. Before the May general election, Labour chancellor Alistair Darling was prepared to cut "deeper and tougher" than Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
Socialist Party speakers at the rally were supported by loud applause when they condemned New Labour's record of privatisation, wars, job cuts, school closures and attacks on trade union rights and living conditions for millions of working people during their 13 years in power.
Over 120 people rallied in front of the Coventry Council House on Tuesday 22 June in protest against what has been termed 'the harshest budget for decades'.
The protest was initiated by Coventry trades union council, and had been called in anticipation of the budget, but was also a response to cutbacks that had already taken place under the previous Labour government and Tory council. Now, the roles have been reversed, with the Tories in power nationally and Labour running the council.
The rally, which was covered by the local press, drew support from workers and unions across the city. Unison, NUT, UCU, TSSA, PCS, CWU and Unite unions were all represented. The Socialist Party and Youth Fight for Jobs also supported the rally.
The rally heard from a range of speakers, including those involved in current disputes. The overarching message was 'we will not pay for the crisis, and we fight these attacks all the way'. At the same time, several speakers also pointed out that this is a systemic crisis, a capitalist crisis, and that a socialist alternative is needed.
Following the rally, a 55 person meeting discussed the call for a Coventry Against the Cuts campaign, again initiated by the trades council.
Around 200 people joined a rally on College Green in Bristol to protest against the savage attacks announced in the budget. With a VAT hike and cuts of 25% across most government departments this will unleash a whirlwind of cuts and closures, job losses and privatisations. But the mood of the protest rally was less one of fear and more one of anger and a preparedness to fight back against these attacks. There were banners representing many trade union branches in the city and most of the speakers were union activists from the public sector or privatised services who will be at the sharp end of fighting the cuts.
Robin Clapp, a Socialist Party member, spoke as one of the leaders of the early 1990s anti-poll tax campaign in Bristol. He explained that the cuts are not inevitable and can be stopped with a strong campaign.
The meeting ended with calls to build the anti-cuts movement and for a demonstration in October around the government spending review when it will be revealed in more depth where the axe is to fall.
"This is just the start," declared Katrine Williams, president of Cardiff trades union council, at the protest organised by the trades council against the Con-Dem budget. "The cuts haven't been implemented yet and we are already ready for action."
Over 100 trade unionists turned out at the Senedd at the National Assembly for Wales to protest against the Con-Dem budget just hours after Osborne sat down in the House of Commons.
Speakers including representatives of the Wales regional council of the Communication Workers Union, PCS Wales, Unison, UCU, NASUWT, Swansea trades council and Youth Fight for Jobs all condemned the savage assault on working people by this new government.
Rob Williams, Unite convenor at Linamar, reminded the rally that Margaret Thatcher had seemed invincible when she implemented the poll tax. "But Thatcher was defeated by our movement and the poll tax was gone and Thatcher was gone," he said, "and we can do the same again to stop these terrible attacks."
"We will not accept the cutting of a single job or a single welfare service to pay for the bankers' crisis." That was the message from over 200 local trade unionists who came together to rally in central Portsmouth as George Osborne commended his savage cuts budget to parliament.
The rally was called by the Portsmouth Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and organised through Portsmouth trades council, whose chair, Mick Tosh, stood as the TUSC candidate in Portsmouth North.
The event brought together local RMT, CWU, PCS, Unison and Unite union members, as well as supporters of TUSC and activists from the Socialist Party.
Speakers, including Mick and trades council delegates from both Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, were clear that their union members were prepared to take a stand against the severest programme of cuts in a generation and pledged to support public sector workers who will be the first to feel the force of those attacks.
PCS members in Durham held an emergency budget day demonstration on Millburngate Bridge, outside the Identity and Passport Service building.
The demonstration was arranged as part of the national PCS and Public Service Alliance campaigns against public service cuts and public sector job losses.
Several hundred Myth Buster leaflets were distributed to the general public, and received massive support from passers-by and from the traffic over the bridge.
The demo was covered extensively by local and national media, with stories and interviews on ITV Tyne Tees News, BBC Radio Newcastle, Metro Radio, and various local newspapers printed stories the next day.
PCS reps also attended the Public Sector Rally in Newcastle during the afternoon of the same day.
Bolton trades council held a budget day rally on Tuesday 22 June to oppose the coalition government cuts.
Up to 200 people attended for all or part of the lunchtime protest. The protest received a great deal of positive coverage on various radio stations and in the local press.
There were banners from Bolton trades council, Bolton Metro Unison and Bolton Socialist Club.
There were numerous placards as well as around one hundred red cards saying "give cuts the red card". The feeling of the rally was that this was only the start of what needs to be a much bigger campaign.
A successful protest was jointly organised by North Staffordshire Shop Stewards Network, Youth Fight for Jobs and Stoke Socialist Party against the government's cuts on budget day, 22 June, which got coverage in the local paper and a live interview on BBC Radio Stoke.
Trade union members from Unison, CWU and UCU took part and hundreds of people signed our petition against the cuts.
Eighty three copies of The Socialist were sold and hundreds of leaflets were given out, including CWU leaflets explaining why telecoms workers are balloting for strike action.
About 200 trade unionists attended the Birmingham demonstration against the Con-Dem government's budget, outside the government office for the West Midlands.
The protest was lively with much chanting going on. Speakers included people from the local trade union movement and people involved in groups that will be directly affected by the budget cuts. I spoke as a Socialist Party member and a BT worker.
The demonstration was shown live by both BBC and ITV regional television news programmes.
CHANCELLOR GEORGE Osborne claims that his budget cuts mean "everyone will pay something but the people at the bottom of the income scale will pay proportionately less than those at the top."
However, according to a study from Oxford University published in the British Medical Journal, spending cuts will mean real pain being inflicted on the unemployed and the poorest people. The study shows that cuts in social spending actually costs lives; with a clear link between cuts and risks of death from heart attacks and alcohol-related illnesses.
Data on social welfare spending from 15 European countries between 1980 and 2005 showed that when social spending was relatively high, mortality rates declined but when spending was low mortality rates increased substantially. The researchers calculate that each £70 reduction in welfare spending per person increased alcohol-related deaths by 2.8% and cardiovascular mortality by 1.2%.
If only £70 worth of spending cuts in welfare has a significant impact on the public health of the poorest, what will Osborne's tax rises and spending cuts (estimated at £4,300 per household) mean?
The report concludes "that ordinary people may be paying the ultimate price for budget cuts - potentially costing them their lives. If we want to promote a sustainable recovery in Britain, we must first ensure that we have taken care of people's most basic health needs."
THE BRITISH Medical Association (BMA) - the doctors' professional body - says that frontline health services are already being cut despite the government's assurance that such services would be protected.
The BMA quizzed 361 doctors (who between them represent committees at all of the country's hospital trusts and some larger primary care trusts), on the NHS chiefs' demand to plan for £20 billion of cuts in NHS spending over the next five years. 43% responded by saying that there was a recruitment freeze on replacing doctors and nurses, while 25% said that their trust was planning to make health workers redundant.
On average, the BMA poll found that trusts were aiming to shave 6% off their annual budgets. The BMA has called the cuts "devastating" in terms of maintaining "comprehensive and universal care in the future."
The poll findings coincide with senior Tories Lord Lawson and parliamentary health committee member Nadine Dorries MP saying that the NHS has to take a spending cuts hit like all other government departments.
AT THE height of the 1981 recession Tory cabinet minister Norman Tebbit infamously demanded that the unemployed 'get on their bikes' and move to areas where, supposedly, there were jobs.
Last week, the current Tory work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, also told unemployed council tenants to move to areas where there are jobs. The Tory MP hinted that he wanted powers to force them to move.
IDS says millions are trapped in "ghettos of poverty" with high unemployment, unable to move for fear of losing their homes. But his strategy of turning the unemployed into industrial nomads wandering the Home Counties in search of work is deeply flawed.
Even if jobs in areas of low unemployment were readily available, there clearly is not enough social housing in these places to enable council tenants from unemployment hotspots to swap their council houses and move.
And in areas like the south east the high cost of housing means that workers would need to be earning over £50,000 a year to think about applying for a mortgage on a modest-sized house in the cheapest London borough.
It is already the case that due to the lack of social housing many essential workers such as health workers, firefighters, teachers, etc, cannot afford to live in high cost areas in the south east but are forced to commute long distances.
Rising unemployment is not the result of uncooperative council tenants refusing to travel but the result of a deep capitalist recession made worse through government spending cuts.
WITH BP's oil spill disaster continuing to pollute the Gulf of Mexico, executives of the big five oil companies - BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell - recently appeared in front of a US Congressional hearing to defend their oil spill response plans.
BP's plan for the Gulf, dated June 2009, looks to have been cut and pasted from a plan to deal with oil spills in the Arctic.
The report was rubber-stamped by the US government's compromised and much criticised regulatory body - the Minerals Management Service (see The Socialist, issue 627).
The big five oil companies amassed nearly $289 billion in profits over the last three years. They spent $39 billion to explore for new oil and gas. Yet the average investment in research and development for safety, accident prevention, and spill response was a paltry $20 million a year, less than 0.1% of their profits.
According to Ed Markey, the Democrat senator for Massachusetts, oil companies are drilling for free in the Gulf of Mexico on leases that equate to more than $50 billion in lost government royalties.
THE ARGUMENTS for further reducing the time limit on abortions were discredited by a report published last week. It conclusively showed that connections in the brain are not fully formed until 24 weeks' gestation, meaning that no pain can be felt before then. The study also found that even after this stage the foetus is kept in an unconscious state in the womb.
A separate report on abortion concluded that it would be impossible to compile a list of conditions which count as 'serious handicap' because the long term effects on the child and family cannot be predicted. This report was commissioned in response to the claim that women regularly abort foetuses with only minor conditions.
Reports like these show that the scientific evidence clearly supports those who fight for the universal right to free and safe abortion on demand.
As reported in last week's Socialist, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis was re-elected to his position in the recent ballot, but with fewer votes than when he last stood in 2005.
The drop in votes for Dave Prentis was in the region of 21%, disproportionate to the fall in the turn-out in the election, from 16% to 14.6%, and is despite the fact that the election took place after the general election, when the threat of the Con-Dem attacks on public sector workers might have been expected to rally Unison members behind the union and its leadership.
Prentis feared a drop in his vote, which would indicate that he was 'on the wane', particularly after presiding over a period of below-inflation pay settlements, higher pension contributions and pay cuts for thousands of local government members through the Single Status Agreement. So an unprecedented campaign was mounted for him, relying on a machine of supporters mainly in the union's full time bureaucracy, but including some right wing activists.
His reliance on this machine was demonstrated by the fact that his election address was written in the third person, "Dave has shown real leadership..." as opposed to "I have shown real leadership..." Unison members and activists complained about the barrage of 'official' literature emanating from Unison head office, which seemed to be doing little more than getting his name and picture around the union.
Seizing the opportunity presented by the formation of the Con-Dem coalition Prentis toured regions speaking against cuts and grabbing media sound bites. Many activists also complained at a pressure from the union bureaucracy seeking to deter them from nominating opposition candidates in the election.
Once again the misnamed Unison United Left (UL) split the left vote in the face of the right wing, and whilst Paul Holmes got a higher vote than Jon Rogers had in 2005, it is again made clear that their programme is incapable of attracting support from a majority of left-looking Unison members.
Prior to the election, the United Left called for Socialist Party member Roger Bannister to stand down on the basis that Paul Holmes had more branch nominations than him, but Roger pointed out that this had happened when Jon Rogers stood in 2005, and when Socialist Workers Party member Yunus Bakhsh stood in 1995.
On each occasion Roger's vote was significantly higher than either of theirs. This situation reflects the inability of the United Left to distinguish adequately between the consciousness of a narrow activist layer and that of the members as a whole, since the nomination process is dominated by activists, whereas the election itself is open to the general membership. On this basis Paul Holmes' lower vote was predicted by Roger in advance of the election.
A key difference between the United Left programme and Roger's was that the UL fails to make a clear call for disaffiliation from the Labour Party. Paul Holmes' election address merely called for the matter to be determined by a ballot of the entire membership, which lacks clarity compared to the disaffiliation call. What Paul Holmes omitted to mention was that if such a ballot were held, he would be campaigning to maintain the link with Labour!
In last year's National Executive Council elections the UL lost seats, whilst Socialist Party members gained seats. If the UL fail to learn the lessons of this election, they will run the risk of losing more seats to the right wing in next year's elections.
Sadly the signs are that they are still ignoring the reality of their poor election results. A silence descended on them when the votes were published, and an email letter from Roger Bannister seeking to provoke discussion on the subject was initially ignored by the UL, before being circulated at Roger's insistence.
Forced to offer some kind of explanation, UL members scraped the bottom of the barrel, pointing to the increase in Paul Holmes' vote over Jon Rogers', and then coming out with the astounding explanation that Roger's vote was bigger as a result of Tory and Liberal supporters voting for him because of his anti-Labour Party stance!
The truth is much more simple: after years of attacks by the New Labour government, thousands of Unison members see no reason why millions of pounds of their money should be given to Labour, a fact reflected in the continuing decline of members paying into the Affiliated as opposed to the General political fund.
|Dave Prentis||184,769 (75.6%)||145,351 (67.26%)|
|Roger Bannister||41,406 (16.9%)||42,651 (19.74%)|
|Jon Rogers||18,306 (7.5%)|
|Paul Holmes||28,114 (13.01%)|
This election has taken place on the eve of titanic struggles against the attacks of the Con-Dem government. Such movements will lead to a radicalisation of the membership, that will eventually undermine the vote that Dave Prentis got for his 'more of the same' policies. On that basis the programme of militant trade unionism and socialist policies advocated by Roger, that already has a base within the union, will attract even broader support, opening the way to a transformation of Unison into a fighting, left-led union.
Rail union RMT members on London Underground will be receiving ballot papers in the next few days and will be asked to vote 'yes' for strike action to defend jobs. Around 800 jobs are under threat. A resounding 'yes' vote will be a blow to our managers who are hellbent on further attacking jobs, conditions, pay and pensions, to destroy our hard won conditions.
Our union and our members have won reasonably good conditions on pay, pensions and annual leave by boldly standing up for our rights. If we cower in the present climate then management will come for more jobs, attack our annual leave and our pensions and will freeze our pay. There are even rumours that they will introduce driverless trains, presumably to go through unstaffed stations.
In their budget, the Con-Dem government are saying that we have to pay for the recession that was made by their friends and backers in the City of London and in the banking system. We are now being asked to bail out this system, by accepting job cuts, VAT tax increases, a reduction in our pensions and benefits and on top of this a two year pay freeze.
The government have also announced that people are having the temerity to live too long and if we persist we will be forced to work until we are 70.
If we allow the government to get away with these policies, we will see our wages and 'social wage' reduced by between 10% and 15% over the next two years. At the same time the payment of grotesque bonuses continues, Network Rail recently paid out £2.25 million, mainly to their already overpaid directors.
RMT leader Bob Crow has put forward that the TUC should call an emergency meeting. This meeting should set a date for a mass national demonstration in London in the autumn. This should be a step to a public sector general strike in October to coincide with the announcement of specific cuts in public spending.
The workers' movement has two arms, the industrial and the political. Our political wing has turned into the gangrenous Labour Party. We must build a new workers' party armed with a socialist programme.
This will provide the growing industrial movement with a socialist alternative to the capitalist profit system. In the last general election, the RMT sponsored candidates from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and this kind of initiative must be built upon through the anti cuts movement and the forthcoming industrial struggles.
Jobcentre workers are reeling this week. Having been told how valuable they have been in getting the country out of recession, this week they were told that 4,000 of them are to be sacked within the next few months. This is even though unemployment has started to rise again and, with over 2.5 million unemployed, the recovery is still a long way off.
The previous Chancellor, Alistair Darling was forced to acknowledge in his budget in March that jobcentre workers had helped to reduce the budget deficit by a whopping additional £4 billion by getting people back into work quicker than anticipated. Since then the new Con-Dem government has announced these savage job cuts aiming to save £30 million.
Jane Aitchison, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) group president for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "For my union members, this is not just a question of fairness and them not wanting to accept cuts to pay for a crisis they did not create. Cutting their jobs is economic madness. Their hard work is saving the economy far more than they are paid in wages. What sense is there in adding my members to the growing dole queues when they could help to shorten those dole queues and speed up the economic recovery this country needs?
"This callous action puts paid to the lie that this is about money - if the government goes ahead with this cut it will show all too clearly that this is about attacking the public sector not paying off debt".
A further cut in the number of jobcentres has also been signalled - it seems that not only will people be forced to go further to look for work, they may also be forced to travel further just to sign on for the dole. Clearly the service jobseekers are set to receive under the new government is about to deteriorate.
Jane Aitchison said: "We have launched a massive staffing campaign to save these members' jobs and to keep the department fully staffed and working well for the people of this country. My members aren't waste, they provide a vital public service and a financial return. We are lobbying MPs and getting the public on board too. We will fight against these disgraceful cuts."
Members of the PCS union will fight to defend jobs and the services they deliver and they must be supported in that aim.
The BA dispute is still continuing but Unite has postponed the latest strike ballot for members to consider an offer from BA.
The company has revamped its offer on pay but it is still refusing to reinstate the strikers' rights to discounted travel.
This affects at least 5,000 workers. The union is not recommending acceptance of the offer. It may take some time for all 11,000 members to be consulted, so any future strike ballot could be some weeks off.
On 21 June, there was a definite victory for the Save Crowlin House campaign, when the Hampshire NHS trust met with families of residents about the future of the house.
This important facility has been granted another reprieve, thanks to the dedicated hard work of the Southampton branch of the Socialist Party, and in particular to Anne Kahn.
Anne's daughter Soraya has learning difficulties and is a long term resident of Crowlin House.
In the year since the campaign started, we've encountered a union (Unison) leadership whose approach has silenced the entire staff, so that it's been like fighting with one hand tied behind our back.
But we've done very well, keeping up the pressure on the Trust board, holding regular stalls, leafleting, etc.
When we heard the good news, we stood with our banner saying 'Save Crowlin House' in the grounds, and received a lot of support from passing motorists.
So celebrations are in order.
It seems quite certain that Crowlin House would now be closed if it had not be for the Socialist Party's intervention.
But we can't relax our guard, and will continued to put the Trust board under pressure for as long as they treat vulnerable people with anything less than complete respect.
Over 300 workers at Pilkington Tiles, Salford, may lose their jobs as the company has gone into administration, despite workers taking a 5% pay cut last year.
The prolonged crisis in the housing market has hit the demand for domestic tiles. KPMG have taken over Pilkington Tiles and have offered a third of the labour force a couple of weeks' work to finish orders while they seek a buyer - or maybe an asset-stripper.
It is unclear at the time of writing whether production will continue on site.
On 25 June, a packed meeting of Pilkington's workers voted unanimously for a demonstration at the factory gates on 28 June.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition members leafleted the meeting with details of their activities and the meeting warmly received a speaker from TUSC who gave support.
50 workers joined the demonstration on Monday morning and six copies of The Socialist were sold despite workers not being paid for several weeks.
A meeting was held by UCU members at Bradford College to celebrate management being forced by strike action to backtrack from 18 compulsory redundancies.
Laura Miles, a Bradford College rep and NEC member for UCU said that although it was a victory for the union, the battle isn't over because there is still the threat of course cuts and changes to contracts.
At nearby Bradford University UCU, Unison and Unite members organised a joint protest of around 30.
A group of prospective students visiting the university for the day joined the protest and increased numbers.
In Leeds, around 75 campus trade unionists marched from Leeds University and other institutions to a rally outside Leeds Art Gallery addressed by members of UCU, Unite, Unison, and NUT as well as a supporter of the student led campaign 'Leeds University Against Cuts'.
The speakers made it clear they will reject the Con-Dem cuts. A speaker from Leeds Metropolitan University Unison commented that the government might claim that public sector workers have gold plated pensions but if they went after them they would find out they're armour plated!
Staff from North Warwickshire and Hinckley College held a 'handshake march' of over 20 people between the two sites. Union members pointed out that more people would see the need for action when the effect of the cuts is clearer.
At the University of Manchester day of action, Hugh Caffrey spoke to Dave Beale, Communications' Officer of the local UCU branch.
The cuts would bring about a fundamental change to the university sector in Britain - they will be a real shock wave to the big elitist universities that form the leading Russell Group of employers in the sector.
The rest of the sector will be left to sink or swim and if the cuts are fully implemented, I can't see some universities surviving.
Working class students are essentially excluded from the elite Russell Group universities as it is, and with tuition fee increases and a protracted recovery or double dip recession, they will face the choice between massive student debts and poverty or long-term unemployment and poverty.
Yes I do. I am sick and tired of us being told by the mainstream media, primed by the main political parties, that this is all inevitable.
We are being told that those who use and work in public services have to pay for the crisis, when the problem is with the free market.
There is potential in Britain and elsewhere in Europe for a massive union campaign that can actually prevent these cuts.
If the national leadership of the union is prepared to focus on these cuts above all else, are very serious about the use of industrial action, and fundamentally link the campaign to defend higher education with the broader struggle to defend the public sector as a whole, then the UCU can play an important role in this battle.
The PCS union has called on the TUC to organise a national demonstration of all public sector workers in the autumn to oppose the cuts. This would be a good start and I would like to see UCU support this.
While Socialist Students at Huddersfield University set up a protest against graduation ceremony charges on a busy open day on 17 June, we were informed by the president of the student union that the vice chancellor and his deputy wanted to speak to us.
This was despite the university ignoring students' complaints that to charge guests £15 to attend their graduation ceremonies and £10 to watch via a video link was a kick in the teeth to students already paying excessive tuition fees.
Obviously the threat of negative publicity spoke more clearly to university management than the views of students in the first place.
We both attended the meeting as representatives of the protesters while others carried on the protest outside the library.
We expressed our disgust at the charges and demanded a free graduation ceremony. After all, the university is more than happy to host hospitality events for dignitaries without charging the guests to attend.
We also used the discussion to appeal for more transparency with regards to where the money from fees and charges goes and to appeal to the chancellor to resist the government's potential plans to raise tuition fees. The campaign sends out a message to university management that students will not take cuts and increased tuition fees lying down.
Meanwhile, outside the meeting, students continued to show their support for the campaign and added their names to the petition. Third year student, Samuel Bell, summed up the mood of students by declaring, "we are university students, not customers".
When presented with a petition signed by more than 500 people, the chancellor seemed a little alarmed by the support for the campaign.
He was clearly also rattled by the spate of publicity the campaign had received. The Huddersfield Examiner, Pulse Radio and BBC Radio Leeds all publicised the campaign.
The chancellor was adamant that nothing could be done about this year's graduation ceremonies. However, he conceded that he would have to take on board the views of students in restructuring the pricing system next year.
We accepted this concession but remain wary that it could have been just bureaucratic lip-service to halt the protest and limit negative publicity. If so, the campaign will be ready to fight again next year.
One place where the Con-Dem axe looks set to fall is on the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) scheme.
Despite the failings, underfunding and unreliability of this privatised service, EMA is essential for allowing many people from low income families to access further education.
The new Con-Dem government has said it "will be difficult to commit" to even Labour's pathetic funding of education, and they haven't promised to fully fund the EMA scheme.
The effect of a cut to EMA funding can be seen in Scotland where the SNP has been chiselling away at funds since the beginning of the economic meltdown. NUS Scotland predicts that this is forcing over 8,000 young people a year to drop out of education.
But the cut of 20% in Scotland is likely to seem relatively small compared to what the Con-Dems have in mind. There are already rumours that they will axe the bonuses received at the end of term.
EMA is already grossly inadequate and many students are forced to take on part-time work in addition to it. EMA is funded by the government giving money to private contractors to do the administration and take any profits it may make. This is just an incentive for these companies to do the job on the cheap. Many simply do not employ enough people to cope with the amount of work.
It is now the rule rather than the exception for EMA payments to arrive late and many applications have been lost within the bureaucracy for months.
Despite these failings, the scheme has had some successes. Over 70% of students who receive it live up to the academic expectations of their teachers and maintain regular attendance throughout the year.
Cuts to EMA and young people being forced into part-time work would leave them unable to focus on their studies and substantially decrease this figure.
Instead of cuts, funding for the EMA scheme should be increased. Then the means-testing could be abolished so that every college student could receive it.
The administration of the scheme should also be taken into public ownership to stop private businesses making money from driving down conditions for young people.
The bosses can afford to give themselves multi million pound pensions and billions of pounds in bonuses. The money is there and we should use it to support young people not the super rich.
Video: Above, five minute video of NSSN conference. Below, more videos of speaches
Video: Above, Steve Hedley, London Regional Secretary, RMT addresses the National Shop Stewards Network national conference 2010
The morning rally of the NSSN conference was opened by the chair Dave Chapple condemning an invitation issued by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to Tory prime minister David Cameron to address the TUC in September. Dave commented that we can't wait for the TUC to organise workers' solidarity, so the NSSN has responsibility to start rebuilding the working class movement to prepare for the battles ahead.
The first platform speaker was Steve Hedley, London regional secretary of the RMT transport union. Steve drew attention to the new government's aim of cutting 25% from the transport budget, and went on to inform the audience on the current disputes in London Underground. He strongly condemned the anti-trade union laws and gave examples of the way employers have turned to the courts in recent disputes of rail signallers and maintenance workers.
Video: Above, Matt Wrack's speech to NSSN conference 2010
The next speaker was Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union. Inviting David Cameron to the TUC "is like talking to the hangman before he puts the noose round your neck", which was why Matt opposed the invitation. He referred to all the attacks being made on health, education, pensions etc, and said: "Our people did not cause this crisis and our people should not have to pay the price of this crisis".
In the fire service, the number of firefighters has been reduced, while chief fire officers have had pay increases at twice the percentage rate of rank and file workers. Attacks are ongoing, with the example given by Matt of plans to reduce the night time fire cover in London. Backdoor privatisation was also mentioned; AssetCo now owns all the fire engines in London and has a contract to provide an 'emergency fire service' - which fire service managers may try to use in the event of a FBU strike.
Matt ended by saying: "The crisis isn't one of a few bad apples in the City of London, it's one of the system", and if it can't deliver decent welfare and services, then "we'll find an alternative system". He said that the TUC should call a major national demonstration, "I don't mean one where we get the leaflet at the last minute, but one that is prepared for and built properly".
The conference then particularly applauded the next speaker, a British Airways cabin crew trade union rep, who reported on the 22 days of industrial action taken by the crew so far. He said that BA boss Willie Walsh has an agenda of breaking the union and removing it from BA. But, "he doesn't have the choice" pointed out this Unite trade unionist, "our members have the choice of who they want to represent them". He described some of the dirty tactics of Walsh, but went on to say that the cabin crew have been highly organised and politicised by their struggle and that he has never been prouder to represent his members.
Linda Taaffe, on behalf of the NSSN officers, presented a NSSN written statement (see right). She stressed that the NSSN has to react to the most vicious ever government budget, "a budget by the rich and for the rich, and against the working class". We need a national fightback to stop the proposals becoming a reality, urged Linda. To start with, a union-led national demonstration would be a beacon to workers who are unsure of what to do in the face of the attacks, including those approaching pension age, and also to youth and students.
The rally was then opened up for contributions from the floor, with no shortage of trade union activists stepping forward to relate experiences of disputes and campaigns. Two PCS activists condemned the plan to close 158 courts around the country, a CWU rep reminded everyone about the latest privatisation attack on Royal Mail and there were many other informative contributions, including from workers in the RMT and Unison.
The final speaker from the floor, Nancy Taaffe, said that the NSSN must have a dual strategy of both organising at workplace level and of mobilising the unions and TUC at national level. We need to unite the whole working class, and not allow young workers to be used against older workers, migrants against local workers, and so on, she declared.
Every government in Europe is attempting to viciously gouge the cost of the recession and bank bailouts out of the living conditions of the working class. While there is variation in the speed of the responses, growing anger and opposition are also universal.
In response to the call by Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin and other left MEPs for a week of coordinated protest and solidarity from 21 to 27 June the final session was a European rally.
Rob Williams, Unite convenor at the Linamar plant in Swansea, listed the actions that have taken place, including strikes in Italy and France and protests in Sweden, Denmark, Austria and many more countries.
Video Above, Marianthi Kypridou, POE/YPPOT public sector union, Greece, speaking at NSSN conference.
Marianthi Kypridou from the POE/YPPOT public sector union in Greece summed up the united call for further cooperation when she said: "this is a common struggle against a common enemy and therefore we need to develop links between us, we need to coordinate our struggles, we need to fight together".
Graphic descriptions of the rapid deteriorations in living standards were provided. Pedro Higuera from the Workers' Commissions and the Izquierda Unida (United Left) in Spain described the horrific situation for the working class in Spain. Unemployment is at 20% and there are one million people who receive no benefits whatsoever! Simultaneous with this growth in desperate poverty was an increase in bank profits of over €12 billion in 2009.
Pedro described the opposition to the latest raft of attacks, in particular the so-called labour reform legislation. The government argues this will aid recovery by making it easier for bosses to fire workers. A two-fold response is needed - distributing information to answer the lies of the bosses and their media and government - and mobilisations such as the tremendous public sector strike on 8 June.
Terry Kelleher, from the NEC of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) in Ireland, brought fraternal greetings from the newly formed rank and file association in his union. He explained that this organisation was needed because, after the years of 'partnership' between the government and the unions, and the Celtic Tiger economic boom, the trade union leaderships were incapable of leading struggle.
Public sector workers in Ireland have seen a 13% pay cut while 217,000 private sector jobs have simply disappeared. €84 billion has been found to bail out the banks and the crooked property developers while schools, hospitals and vital services are left to rot.
Following a successful day of public sector strike action the trade union leaders chose to 'negotiate' with the bosses rather than to step up the pressure. Unbelievably, with no alternatives to the so-called demands of the 'markets' for cuts, the trade union leaders have offered a no-strike deal to the employers!
The leadership is now losing its authority and workers are drawing the conclusion that "there is only one alternative and that is a return to the idea of struggle". CPSU membership is up 11% with new forces joining and demanding action. The new rank and file body already has 13,000 members and is preparing to challenge for seats on the national executive.
Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of one of the most militant unions in Britain, the PCS, was the final speaker. He made it clear that the budget is a declaration of class war by the government which must be answered decisively.
Chris outlined the need for a programme of taxing the rich to pay for the deficit, of nationalising the banks and utilities under democratic public control and of planning production to meet the needs of both people and the environment.
Although in Britain we have not yet seen movements like those in Greece and Spain, or even Ireland, Chris explained that the budget cuts will not be tolerated. A Mori poll found that almost half of those polled wanted to see more spent on public services, not less. He described how the PCS saw "an upsurge in membership every time it launches action".
Chris underlined the calls in the NSSN statement for the building of trade union alliances at every level, of building solidarity, of building links between the public and private sectors and of building confidence in the idea that trade unions can make a difference. He reiterated the call to put pressure on the TUC for a national demo as a show of support for a 24-hour public sector strike.
Chris finished by calling on trade union activists at the conference to "show in practice that the slogan: 'workers of the world, unite' is more relevant than any other time in history".
Good afternoon from fighting Greece! I know that in Britain your government has announced huge cuts. Just like Greece. This happened to us and at the beginning it was very quiet. But, believe me, this was the quiet before the storm.
Why do they launch this vicious attack against us? Because, supposedly, we have been living "beyond our means", this is what they say. We have created, they say, a huge national debt and great deficits.
But we, the workers, have never seen any of this money which we have supposedly spent. On the contrary, for the past 25 years we have received one austerity pack after another. In the mid-80s an austerity plan was applied in order for Greece to enter the EU. In the 90s another austerity plan was applied to enter the euro zone. After 2000 another austerity plan was applied to pay for the Olympic Games. After 2004 another austerity plan was applied to pay for the deficits of the Olympics. For 25 years, the Greek working class was attacked, attacked, and attacked in order, supposedly, to put the economy on the right course, to make it efficient, to increase its competitiveness and its productivity.
After 25 years of austerity policies comes the worst attack experienced by three generations - savage, brutal, inhuman, barbaric.
The representatives of big capital in Europe, the rich European states, the EU commission and the European Central Bank say that the Greeks "live beyond their means" and that therefore, now, they have to pay.
Why don't they come and check? Why don't they visit a Greek supermarket to have a look at the prices which are more expensive than here in London? Why don't they have a look at the electricity bills in Athens to find out that they are more expensive than in most German cities? And then, why don't they go to the Greek young workers, the new working class who live on €400-€500 every month and tell them that "they live beyond their means"?
Therefore we say no, we refuse to pay. We refuse to pay for their corruption, for their scandals, for their profits, for their deficits and for their debts. We demand that the banks should be owned by society! Nationalise the banks!
One third of the debt is owed to Greek bankers. These are the same people who would have collapsed had they not had the assistance of the Greek state!
These Greek banks borrowed money from the European Central Bank at 1% interest rate and they lent it over to the Greek government at 7%, just like the French banks did, the German banks did, and all of the other European and international banks.
Their role is that of parasites, their role is an absolute scandal, because not only have they been at the root of the crisis globally but they continued to make profits while the crises developed, and still continue to make profits.
Our government and your government have spent fortunes to save the banks and to save bankrupt industry and the big corporations. They made us pay in order to bail them out.
We say these corporations should be taken over by society, be nationalised, under the control, management and direction of the workers' movement and society.
Then, production can be planned for the benefit of society, massive investments can be made, in infrastructure, in housing, education and health, productive investments and not speculation.
We must struggle to overthrow the profit system, to overthrow capitalism. We have no other choice. We must build a socialist society in the service of the people. There is no other way forward. If we don't do that, we will pay a very expensive price. The next generation would be the only generation for decades who will be living in worse conditions than their parents.
Comrades, this is not a Greek drama. It's also an Irish drama, and a Portuguese drama and a Spanish and a British one. We must fight together.
This Conference takes place just a few days after the millionaire Tory/Liberal Democrat government has announced in a special budget the biggest cuts in public expenditure since the 1930s.
800,000 public sector jobs to go; Child benefits frozen and housing benefit cut; Pay frozen for three years; Increase in VAT to 20%.
No matter how they try to dress it up as "fair" and "progressive" this is a massive attack on the working class by the rich.
These cuts will axe jobs and reduce services. Cuts will impact upon the lives of millions of ordinary people in every community and workplace up and down the country.
We say the working class should not accept these cuts, and we the NSSN will organise to assist in the fightback.
The working class should not and will not pay for a crisis caused by the bankers and the capitalist system.
We appeal for the maximum unity of the trade union movement in defence of the public sector and the welfare state, and support the call by the PCS and others for the TUC to name the day for a national demonstration, preferably before the TUC conference in September 2010.
As soon as a date for a demonstration is announced our central priority will be to build for the maximum possible turnout.
If a demo is not called the NSSN will call a lobby of the TUC Conference in Manchester (day, date and time to be decided) urging the TUC to call a united national demonstration with a view to further organising a one-day public sector strike, as the beginning of a serious fightback against these vicious cuts.
We call on NSSN in the regions to:
ON THURSDAY 24 June, nearly two million workers took to the streets in about 200 cities and towns of France.
It was a national day of action called by the main trade union organisations against the government's pensions counter-reform (which includes the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62, and forcing employees to work longer to qualify for their state pension).
This attack is a central piece of the wave of attacks concocted by the Sarkozy-Fillon government, aiming to slash up to 100 billion euros in public spending by 2013.
The turnout in last Thursday's protests sharply exceeded the previous national day of action held on 27 May. In a lot of cities, the number of demonstrators was considerably bigger.
The level of strikes was greater as well, especially in education and in public transport, but also in the private sector, which was much more represented in the different workers demonstrations than in May.
The marchers' mood was very militant. Leila, a member of Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France) who was on the demonstration in Rouen, commented: "The march was bigger, younger, with more women involved and more dynamic than on 27 May. The workers showed they were there to prepare the comeback in September. The slogans calling for developing the struggle were numerous."
A clear majority of French people oppose the so-called pension 'reform'. An opinion poll published on the day of the protest shows that 68% of the French population either supported or sympathised with the strike. Everybody understands that this pension reform is only the opening shot towards a more general offensive from the capitalists to reduce once again the working class's share of society's wealth.
AFTER ITALIAN prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had insisted for weeks that Italy did not face the same kind of deficit and debt problems of its neighbouring Southern European countries, the government finally adopted an austerity programme of about 25 billion euros, targeting healthcare, schools, universities, funding for local governments, public sector pay and pensions.
Just the day after their French counterparts, Italian working people responded massively to the call for a general strike made by the CGIL, the country's biggest trade union federation.
Tens of thousands of workers, from the public and private sectors, young people, the unemployed and pensioners, filled the streets of the main Italian cities in a sea of red flags and banners against the deeply anti-social budget cuts.
The demos were particularly impressive in Bologna (100,000) and in Milan, where many expressed their solidarity with the workers from the Fiat Pomigliano factory, in which atrocious conditions of work are being imposed as an alternative to job losses. Several banners read "We are all Pomigliano".
Yet, in both countries, the union leaders' strategy is holding back the potential for developing the struggle. Most of the time, they are not questioning the attacks but only the way they are implemented.
Their short-sighted outlook sees the mobilisations of workers not as part of a coherent strategy to defeat the governments, but mainly as a release valve to allow the pressure coming from their own union ranks to escape.
This attitude is an obstacle on the road of building a powerful movement to efficiently resist the new offensive from the capitalist class, not only on a national level, but also on an international scale.
In France, the top of the unions are demanding a 're-writing' of the reform, waiting for some concessions from the government in order to scale down the protests and avoid a general strike movement. But a majority of people (67% in a recent opinion poll) have expressed a desire for a general strike.
In Italy, the union leadership has been trying consciously to divide the resistance by calling for different types of actions at different times, in different areas. Last Friday (25 June), three regions of Italy were thus not part of the movement, going on a general strike only on 2 July.
The recent mobilisations in France and Italy are only a foretaste of what is possible and needed. Trade union and political activists must stress the need to build on these successes.
In the autumn, new important social battles will also take place in other European countries where the working class and the poor are facing similar attacks.
Clear initiatives must be taken to link up all these struggles. In this respect, the day of action called by the European Trade Union Congress on 29 September, which coincides with a call for a general strike in Spain, could be the springboard to prepare a powerful transnational response from the working class, for example in the form of a European 24-hour general strike.
KEVIN RUDD was dramatically ousted as prime minister last week. After a period of sinking popularity and public discontent, Rudd became the first Labour prime minister ousted before completing a first term of office.
Initially Rudd had said that he would stare down any threat to his leadership. But with right-wing Labour Party power brokers working frantically to secure support for a challenge from deputy leader Julia Gillard, Rudd lost the numbers needed to maintain leadership.
In the end Rudd chose to stand down, leaving the way for Julia Gillard to become Australia's first female PM.
The 'leadership spill' [ie declaring that the leadership of a parliamentary party was open for re-election] was brought on by two significant factors. The first was economic concerns within the ruling class. Despite the rhetoric in the mainstream press, most bosses are very aware of the dangers that face the Australian economy.
While many were happy with the stimulus measures Rudd initially introduced, the situation has now moved on. The massive amounts of debt now have to be paid back. Employers are not prepared to sacrifice their profits, and as such want working people to carry the burden. The ruling class wants a leader that can successfully introduce harsh austerity measures.
In the opinion of many bosses Rudd was not moving quickly enough to rein in spending and implement cuts. At the same time opposition leader Tony Abbott is considered too unskilful and too crude to implement austerity measures without sparking resistance from workers and their unions.
Gillard, on the other hand, has a record of being a steely operator. Since becoming deputy PM she has stared down teachers who were threatening strike action and told construction workers to expect no changes to the draconian laws that affect their industry. For the bosses, Gillard is best suited to represent their interests.
The second significant factor that led to the spill was that many ordinary people had lost faith in Labour after a series of policy back flips. In opposition Rudd said that he would act on climate change. While his emissions trading scheme would have been inadequate, he ditched this proposal and replaced it with nothing. This disappointed millions of people who want to see real action to stop global warming.
More recently Rudd had pushed the 'resources super-profits' tax. This tax angered many mining companies and they responded with a mass propaganda campaign.
The campaign, which has been backed by the parliamentary opposition, claimed the tax would do damage to the economy. Many workers and even some Labour MPs started to question Rudd's economic credentials.
The mining companies (perhaps more than the government) understand that many workers are concerned about job security. In a dishonest fashion, they tried to confuse workers and have exploited the mood of insecurity in order to undermine Rudd and push their own profit-making agenda.
Rudd was clearly losing the public debate on the mining tax. Despite his claims that Australia's resources should be shared by everyone, he was unable to explain how the tax will benefit ordinary people.
The reality is that the tax will not benefit workers. It will mainly be used to reduce the level of corporate tax paid across all industries and to finance infrastructure for the mining companies themselves. Gillard has now 'opened the door' to the mining bosses, indicating that she may make concessions to their companies.
In general terms, Rudd lost the confidence of the ruling class and disappointed those who voted him in. With the federal election due to be called in the coming months the Labour Party are hoping a new leader will give them a much needed boost.
The problem for workers is that while Gillard has replaced Rudd, there has been no replacing of Labour's right wing policies.
Since Labour was elected to office in 2007 the Socialist Party has explained that Labour would carry out a similar programme to its conservative Liberal predecessors. Just like the Liberals, Labour is a party that puts the interests of big business first. This will be the case regardless of who leads the party.
The lead up to the federal election is bound to be filled with many more twists and turns, but regardless of whether Labour or the Liberals win, both will have the same plan. Like all capitalist governments around the world they will be looking to make ordinary people pay for the economic crisis.
The challenge for workers and young people will be to campaign against this plan and to build a new party that is not wedded to big business and that puts the interests of ordinary people first.
"ONE, TWO, three, four, five, we deserve to unionise!' sing the red pom-pommed cheerleaders outside the warehouse. This is the first scene in director Jacob Tierney's 'The Trotsky', a Canadian comedy which shows the life of a high school teenager called Leon Bronstein who believes he is the reincarnation of Trotsky.
You could be forgiven for being wary of a film that comes out at a time when Trotsky's ideas are coming under increasing attack from capitalist academics. However 'The Trotsky' is a comedy fusion of Tierney's views on Trotsky: "I really liked Trotsky as a teenager... I was enamoured by Trotsky" and his wanting "to make a movie about young people who are engaged and involved politically".
At the start of the film you could conclude that Leon Bronstein is portrayed as a well meaning, idealistic idiot. However as the film goes on, it grows more sympathetic, as do his peers, to him and his ideals.
Leon Bronstein is a private schooled warehouse owner's son who leads a strike for longer breaks and better conditions for the workers in his dad's company. He is sent to state school, like Trotsky, so he can really live like his hero. As the reincarnation of Trotsky he set himself a list of tasks to achieve - '1. Start the foundation for revolution, 2. Marry an older woman - hopefully named Alexandra,' and so the list goes on. We see him attempt to fulfil the tasks based on the events and timescale of Trotsky's life.
The main story focuses on the defunct students union whose main purpose is organising dances. Leon's first intervention into his new school comes when he proposes a 'Social Justice' dance where above the entrance a banner with the slogan 'Peace, Bread and Land' hangs.
But this isn't enough. Leon wants to launch a real students union that represents students' interests like the teachers' unions do. With a small group who believe in him he leads a strike of school students with the demand of the right to set up a real union.
However his strike fails to ignite the students who treat the strike like a day off - "recess? This is supposed to be fucking revolution!" exclaims Leon.
"Are they bored or apathetic?", the principal (who believes that the strike's failure proves that students are apathetic) challenges Leon. Leon, however, believes that the students have been bored into not caring and grapples with how to awaken them out of this temporary state. In an amusing scene his friends find the way to articulate his ideas to the wider student population; 'school sucks', 'yeah', 'but should school suck?'
The film pokes fun at the irony of one of its main concepts; reincarnation - "for a Marxist you make a great Hindu". Even at its most cheesy you can't help but laugh. And where else will you find a high school comedy which references Trotsky's book My Life, Ken Loach's film Land and Freedom, Orwell's book Animal Farm, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the film Battleship Potemkin? The film ends with him going into exile to find Lenin. Brilliant.
The film is not yet on release in Britain.
"The majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans", the Guardian reported on 22 June. In a certain sense, the majority are right - global warming is not caused by humans as a whole, but by big business, like BP.
If polling companies asked, "Do you think that big business pollutes the planet?" or "Are big business companies like BP putting short term profit before the long term interests of the planet?", most people are likely to answer "yes", particularly since the BP oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
If BP can be forced to set up a $20 billion fund to pay compensation claims for the Gulf of Mexico disaster, why can't all the big oil and energy companies set up a fund to convert the world to carbon free energy sources, such as wind, solar, and wave power? They could, but they won't.
People become sceptical of government claims - and scientific claims - when the real perpetrators of the carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution which is threatening our planet try to pass the blame on to the hard working, under-paid and over-taxed population.
"Some people [were] saying politicians were not doing enough to tackle the problem, even though they were cynical about government attempts to impose regulations or raise taxes" the Guardian's environment editor, Juliette Jowit, has written. She finds this contradictory, but why should the working class pay for capitalist pollution? And when have government regulations imposed on big business been effective?
Lying behind the recent upsurge in cynicism in the science of global warming are the ferocious attempts by global warming sceptics, often funded by big business, to undermine the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And it is true that their microscopic analysis of every claim has turned up a few errors:
The glaciers are not disappearing as rapidly as was reported by the IPCC. This is good news for the billions of people who rely on the melt waters of the Himalayas for their water.
The Pacific islands are not being overrun with rising tides (yet) because their islands are growing (Shape-shifting islands defy sea-level rise, New Scientist, 2 June 2010). However the growth of the islands, caused by an effect of global warming, is not necessarily taking place where the populations are. Towns are still being inundated and people are forced to move.
Sunspots have a greater warming effect on the earth's climate than previously thought, as some climate sceptics had argued, and over the last two or three years the sun has gone unusually quiet (What's Up Sunshine, New Scientist, 12 June 2010).
This may continue, having a cooling effect on the earth's climate, but no one yet knows whether it will overcome global warming, or for how long. Recently, sunspots have begun to reappear, and may return with renewed vigour, threatening to disrupt satellite communication systems.
But the evidence of environmentally damaging global warming continues to outweigh that of the sceptics:
2009 was "only a fraction of a degree cooler than 2005, the warmest year on record, and tied with a cluster of other years - 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007 - as the second warmest year since recordkeeping began" according to NASA.
In the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year since modern records began in 1880.
The last decade (2000 to 2009) was far and away the hottest on record, with six record-breaking years.
In the summer of 2009, the volume of ice in the arctic sea shrunk to the lowest on record, dropping precipitously (see chart). The winter arctic ice extended further than the record year of 2007, so climate sceptics claimed it was "returning to normal", but it was much thinner than usual.
The thin winter arctic sea ice is now melting at record rates. May 2010 saw the fastest decline in the satellite record. Whether the arctic sea ice cap will shrink below the 2007 record for the whole summer is unknown but throughout June 2010 to date, the ice extent has been significantly lower than previous record lows.
The 'tipping point' in the arctic has been reached and has tipped. It has entered what the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center called a "death spiral". The north pole could be ice free in the summer months by 2020.
With the disappearing ice cap no longer reflecting the sun's light, the planet warms quicker and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet accelerates. Sea levels rise faster than predicted by the IPCC, bringing further flooding disasters to Bangladesh and other low lying countries, raising the stakes for the Pacific islanders once again, and melting the glaciers in the Himalayas at a faster rate.
It is more important than ever that socialists expose the link between capitalism and global warming, and build a movement to force governments to act, or to replace them if they will not, with socialist governments that put oil and other energy companies under democratic public ownership and control, and use their resources to develop renewable energy.