Socialist Party | Print
The Trades Union Congress (TUC), meeting this year in Manchester, needs to hear clearly from ordinary trade unionists and activists that the time has come to get off its knees and organise a fightback against the government's programme of cuts.
Never has a government been so crude in its attacks. They couldn't wait to wield the axe against the workers who supply public services, from the NHS to council social services departments - to the cleaners and refuse workers who work to maintain our streets and environment.
Public sector workers are being demonised every day in the press by an unholy alliance of big business and capitalist politicians.
The main defence that the workers have is their trade unions. RMT transport union leader Bob Crow has called for "generalised strike action and community resistance" on the scale of the anti- poll tax movement. Yet, with the exception of unions like the RMT and the PCS civil servants' union and a few others, there is a deafening silence from the leading councils of the union movement.
The mass lobby of the TUC conference is an attempt to break this silence and demonstrate that an increasingly large section of ordinary trade union activists and members will fight back. The TUC needs to show real resistance.
The general council of the TUC has met twice since the special budget day on 22 June. At both meetings Left unions have attempted to move the TUC into adopting a fighting programme against the cuts. Both the PCS and the RMT unions have separate resolutions on the TUC conference agenda demanding that the TUC call a national demo on 23 October (PCS) and an "immediate summit" of affiliates to "coordinate industrial action" (RMT).
So far the response of the TUC leadership has been muted, restricting itself to vague talk of "regional activities".
The lobby of the conference will have the clear aim of supporting the call by the Left unions for a national demo in the autumn as a prelude to a one day public sector strike.
It is almost as if there are two trade union movements in Britain. One where the right-wing union leaders mutter amongst themselves that there is no support for mass action. The other consists of a growing body of activists and ordinary trade union members who are desperate for a lead at national level.
The battle has already started at local level with anti-cuts campaigns springing up. The NSSN will do its best to organise this growing struggle nationally and at the same time organise to put the maximum pressure on the union leaders to act now.
There is very little time. Get your union to put on transport for the lobby. Distribute leaflets in work and among local groups.
If anti-cuts campaigns are developing in your area, inform everyone about this lobby Put it in your diary and make sure you are there! Your class needs you!
Sunday 12 September 12noon,
Central Convention Centre, Manchester.
Contact the NSSN for more details and report what is happening in your area in support of the lobby.
"Some people will be hit much harder by the VAT rise," cried the impassioned Tory councillor in Waltham Forest town hall. "Think of those who have to buy Bentleys," she continued!
Con-Dem cuts are definitely not hitting everyone equally. In fact we have never been so far from 'all in it together'. British Gas nearly doubled its profits this year. Almost 3,000 City workers 'earned' over £1 million last year. And us? If the government succeeds in its plans we face the loss of much of what makes life liveable.
'What can we do?' is the question on everyone's lips. But the Tory/Liberal government, and councils that carry through its cuts, should be warned that this questioning will soon give way to mass action.
Workers see reports of mass demonstrations and general strikes taking place across Europe, but in Britain the date for national action has not yet been called.
The civil servants' PCS union has a motion at the TUC congress demanding that the TUC call a national demo on Saturday 23 October.
The RMT transport union has also tabled a motion for the TUC congress calling for a coordinated trade union and community fightback.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Our defence must be built on generalised strike action and community resistance in the biggest public mobilisation since the anti-poll tax movement."
That we face an assassination attempt on all the gains of the working class since the Second World War is blindingly obvious.
But the TUC has, as yet, not called a national demonstration. No wonder PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh, speaking at a recent National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) event in London in a personal capacity, asked if members of the TUC general council had suffered childhood traumas on a demo to make them so averse to the idea.
Leading members of the Unison public sector workers' union have claimed that there is no mood among ordinary members for a demo.
They are wrong. If they made a serious call and organised a determined campaign of meetings, local and regional rallies, using every method of communication possible to spread the word, hundreds of thousands, if not more, could be mobilised.
A national trade union-led demonstration would do more than give people a chance to express their anger and opposition to the cuts, important though that is.
Hundreds of thousands of trade union members, young people, workers, service users and community campaigners marching together through London would build the confidence that the government's plans can be defeated.
Such an event would make tangible the idea of organising a one-day public sector strike, a crucial next stage of the campaign.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, outlined how far the TUC leadership is prepared to go. At the last general council meeting he called for a 'week of action' to coincide with the government's comprehensive spending review on Wednesday 20 October, with regional rallies and days of action.
But this will not suffice. The National Shop Stewards Network has called for a lobby of the TUC congress on Sunday 12 September with the aim of applying pressure so the TUC names a date for a national demo.
This is our opportunity to answer the naysayers and to show the real anger that exists and requires an organised outlet.
In every area, despite the holidays, plans must be put in place, transport booked and trade unionists and campaigners mobilised for the lobby.
Even if the TUC refuses to respond to our pressure in September there is potential for the regional rallies during the week of action in October, with the active and determined intervention of trade unionists and socialists, to be turned into major events which step up the campaign for a national demo.
However, if the TUC continues to postpone calling a national demo to spring 2011, at a certain stage the task must be taken on by a 'coalition of the willing' trade unions such as the PCS and RMT.
But the trade union leaders must be warned: their inertia will not contain the growing rage indefinitely.
The working class will move with or without them. However, without a positive lead being given there is potential for the anger to be misdirected. Rioting could be seized upon by a layer of young people if a strategy based on mass organised action is not forthcoming.
National, coordinated action is the only antidote to attempts to create divisions among workers that will then be played on in an attempt to weaken our movement - divisions such as between the public and the private sector, between young and older workers, divisions based on race, gender, sexuality and ability.
To defeat the cuts requires the mass participation of the working class. National demonstrations and events will be crucial. However, action on the ground in every town and city, building solidarity and support networks that can respond to both council cuts and the local implementation of national cuts, is also essential.
The campaign that was organised through the anti-poll tax unions, successfully defeating the hated tax and bringing down Thatcher, is a useful model.
This was a campaign that, just over 20 years ago, started out with small meetings of activists. But, through a clear strategy based on mass involvement of the working class, it grew to an 18 million-strong movement of mass non-payment.
The boiling anger and frustration that many now feel makes such united and bold action necessary.
In a number of areas, trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists are already coming together to provide a lead locally.
This is in the form of initiating anti-cuts unions and alliances.
Some of these new bodies have been initiated by trade union branches, or by trades councils, NSSN activists or Socialist Party groups.
They are open forums that provide a vehicle through which public sector workers, service users, benefit claimants, young people, campaigners and all who oppose the cuts can come together, and they are based on taking action to halt the cuts.
In the course of the battle there may be defeats, but our starting point has to be that we oppose all cuts to the jobs and services of working and middle class people.
Any other approach implies that some cuts are acceptable. There is a call from some on the left, such as the Socialist Workers Party, to involve Labour Party councillors and members in these campaigns.
The Socialist Party's approach is that we must work with anyone and everyone who is serious about defeating the cuts.
However, we also call on Labour councillors to vote 'no' to cuts. We pledge our support to those who take this difficult but essential route, the route of the socialists in Liverpool council in the 1980s.
We also call on left Labour MPs to give their support to councils who defy the millionaire government cabinet and set 'needs' budgets to defend jobs and public services.
Labour, or even Liberal politicians, who do this will be welcomed with open arms into anti-cuts unions.
But if they wish to only condemn the Con-Dem cuts while carrying them through or arguing for them to be merely postponed until the economy is in a better state, they will not be welcome.
For example, housing workers and tenants will not happily sit side by side with those responsible for their redundancy or eviction.
The present absence of a mass workers' party, with elected representatives, means that, in the main, the argument against cuts in jobs and public services is not made in the capitalist media.
This is a crisis caused by the banks' and the bosses' greed - but it is fundamentally a crisis of the capitalist system.
Our struggle must involve discussion about alternative ways of running society, about socialist ideas.
On a lovely summer's evening a very dirty deed was done, and probably only the first of many. At a full council meeting in Waltham Forest town hall, all 31 Labour councillors present slavishly raised their hands to vote through the first round of cuts.
Unbelievably this was an overwhelming victory over the handful of Liberals and Tories in the council meeting who voted 'no'.
An initial £2.6 million was lopped off, mainly from social services. But a total of £37.2 million is likely to be cut over the next 2.5 years. Social services will be further underfunded, giving rise to fears of more 'baby P' tragedies. This was highlighted by Nancy Taaffe, Socialist Party member and trade unionist, who was allowed to address the councillors.
She appealed to Labour councillors to stand by workers and not to be the henchmen and women for the millionaire government.
Library workers watched the proceedings, outraged at the arrogance of some councillors. One young graduate, unable to find work, said he was almost embarrassed at the level of debate. It would have been sub-standard in a secondary school.
On election day Labour councillors couldn't believe their luck. Workers who lined up to vote in the general election had some inkling that they would need protection at local level if a Tory government was to get in, so they chose to vote Labour in the council elections.
Now Labour councillors are turning into axe-carriers for the coalition government. We lobbied these councillors as they went in. Not one had a decent argument to defend their position.
Most had absolutely nothing to say, apart from "blame the Tories and Liberals", even those from active trade union backgrounds.
But they haven't reckoned on us. Over 40 campaigners and leading local trade unionists have since met to found Waltham Forest Anti-Cuts Union as an inclusive network of activists.
We are determined not to let these cuts proceed without a fight.
In Coventry, it appears that there will be a budget in the next few weeks where there will be a vote over cuts reaching a staggering £140 million.
But the newly formed Coventry Against the Cuts campaign hit the streets for the first time on Saturday 24 July.
Over a dozen campaigners from several different trade unions and organisations received a very warm response, with shoppers signing the petition and all leaflets being taken by passers by.
The leaflet makes clear that working class people did not cause this crisis and we refuse to pay for it.
Initiated by Coventry TUC, this campaign has already organised a 100-strong protest on the day of the emergency budget, and three meetings.
The most recent protest saw around 40 people hear Janice Godrich, president of the PCS civil servants' union, give an update on the situation facing working class people and importantly outline a strategy that can beat the Tory/Liberal onslaught.
No one is under any illusions about the scale of the challenges ahead, but as we made clear, we beat Thatcher and her poll tax, and we can beat these cuts.
Coventry Socialist Party branches will do all we can to build the campaign, winning union support and linking this up with the local communities who will also be hit by the cuts.
Already, Charterhouse Residents Association, a very active group, has affiliated to the campaign.
A major rally is being planned for September. Join the Facebook group: 'Coventry Against the Cuts'!
"Everybody uses public services and the fight to retain these services is a fight for all trade unionists and for the entire community."
Rob Williams, Linamar Unite convenor and Swansea trades council assistant secretary, was among the delegates to Swansea trades council who decided to launch aan anti cuts campaign.
Ronnie Job, Swansea trades council secretary said: "Supporters of the Swansea Anti Cuts Campaign will be offering our support to all public sector workers facing threats to their jobs and all users of threatened services.
We ask everyone who cares about the services we all use to join with us."
Delegates to the trades council already include representatives from most of the main unions representing public sector workers in the area, including: Unison, PCS, Unite, CWU.
The campaign will aim to bring together public sector trade unionists with workers in the private sector and everybody interested in fighting to retain important services in their community.
To assist in planning and building this campaign the next monthly meeting on 18 August will be open to all.
The official public launch will be at a rally on Wednesday 15 September at 7.30pm at the Unitarian Church on High Street, but the campaign starts now.
Over 100 community campaigners and activists from across the trade union movement attended the Bristol anti-cuts alliance launch meeting.
The first event which the alliance supported was a lobby of Bristol City Council, called by the Unison local government branch for 26 July.
Andrew Stunell, a Lib Dem minister in the Department of Communities and Local Government, was in town to attend a meeting with staff and council officials over the 'Big Budget Conversation' - basically cuts!
All the speakers who addressed the over 50 protesters attacked the idea that cuts are the only way to pay off the national debt caused by the bankers' bailout.
It is understood that the staff Stunell had met at an earlier meeting told him that the jobs they do are very important and that they are finding it increasingly hard to give a 'frontline' service after the cuts of the last few years.
New cuts of between 25% and 50% will devastate our local authorities. Many speakers called this a full attack on our public services, with privatisation on the agenda as well.
The anti-cuts alliance is now planning a lobby of the full council meeting on 7 September.
The NHS constitution tells us that care should be available to all based on clinical need. But watching the budget is now the primary concern. Patient care will be sacrificed. NHS services, particularly mental health services, are being viewed as though they are a privilege and not a right.
In Southwark, south London, two specialist community services - dual diagnosis (service for substance misuse) and assertive outreach service (for clients who are particularly vulnerable and cannot articulate their needs) have already been closed down.
And with very little advance notice the staff and their patients have been speedily dispatched to other teams.
Support services for the carers and families of the mentally ill in Southwark are also being centralised and cut to the bare minimum.
Families will find that they are having to face very challenging situations alone and unsupported. If community mental health teams are not completely deleted they will be centralised and merged. This will lead directly to frontline medical and nursing posts being permanently lost. Existing staff will have a much larger workload and this will further limit the time they have available to support each patient.
Frontline clinical staff (doctors, occupational therapists, nurses) already find that too much of their time is tied up with form-filling and dealing with 'over bureaucracy'.
Specialist services, such as occupational therapy, vocational officers, community engagement officers, are also at risk of being axed.
Cuts to funding mean patients will find it even harder to get the support they need from the overstretched community mental health teams.
This will lead to increased stress for the patient and the possibility of more frequent relapses and hospital admissions.
Community mental health teams will end up 'fire fighting' and dealing with mental health emergencies.
People with mental health problems will become trapped within the in-patient mental health system as the community options become eroded and many will become 'revolving door' patients.
The repeated admission of a patient, apart from being extremely costly, is demoralising for the patient and the in-patient staff who will end up feeling that their efforts make no positive difference to the patient or his/her life.
As mental health services get cut to ribbons, the patient will end up merely being contained, with little else on offer, while they get over the acute stage of their condition.
Ward teams will feel far less confident to take a 'therapeutic risk' and discharge their patients in a timely fashion if there is evidence that the patient will not be well supported in the community by well-trained and well-resourced community teams offering a range of specialist services.
Cutting mental health services and community services in particular is a retrograde step for psychiatry.
It is in everyone's interest that people with mental health problems (one in four of us according to statistics) are adequately supported, preferably within their home environments and integrated into the wider community.
If people shouldering the burden of severe and enduring mental illness, are left isolated and unsupported by mental health services their risk to themselves and others will escalate.
The mainstream media will latch onto and publicise any violent act committed by someone who has mental health problems.
What should be known and acknowledged is that there are many people with diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder etc who are leading full, happy lives within their communities but who are also receiving consistent, high quality support from community mental health teams.
Lack of financial investment in community mental health services is a false economy and this will only lead to other more personally devastating costs being borne by the patient, their carers and the wider community.
EIGHTY PEOPLE from at least ten trade unions met on 26 July to discuss the statement agreed by the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference on fighting the government initiated cuts in public sector jobs and services.
The top table, including Steve Hedley, a London organiser for the RMT transport union, and Chris Baugh (PCS assistant general secretary - the main civil service union) put forward the need for a fighting strategy against the Con-Dem government's vicious policies.
Speakers from the floor described the anger at the 'emergency' cuts packages that are being pushed through by Labour councils in London.
The meeting supported the NSSN steering committee's decision to lobby the TUC conference in Manchester on 12 September in support of a national demonstration against the cuts and Steve agreed to organise transport, as have others.
The meeting also urged the South-East region of the TUC to call a demo on 23 October as part of the campaign of action.
THE LEAKING of 75,000 secret US military documents on the Afghanistan war 'endangers lives', screamed the US Pentagon.
British foreign secretary William Hague complained that the leaked documents could "poison the atmosphere in Afghanistan".
This highly hypocritical talk has come from representatives of governments that have been inflicting carnage on Afghan towns and villages, using the latest high-tech deadly weaponry, without even bothering to count the civilian casualties - likely to number tens of thousands.
These governments have also been presiding over the deaths of US, British and other coalition troops every week.
Nearly 2,000 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan over the last nine years.
The leaked reports have made a huge impact, as they are sweeping in their scope and reflect the divisions and despair existing within the US state machine.
As the media pointed out, they contain nothing substantially surprising or new. They are 'low level' intelligence reports rather than being policy documents from the top military officials, as the leaked Pentagon Papers were in 1971, and some of the content is unreliable.
But being able to read these reports in their uncensored state has shed more light on the horror of the war, particularly on the incidences of slaughter of Afghan children and adult civilians - much of which was kept secret.
This information was brought home forcefully as it came just shortly after news of the killing of over 50 civilians by a Nato rocket in Helmand on 23 July.
It is no surprise that these atrocities are driving more and more Afghan youth into fighting alongside the Taliban and are leading the occupying forces further into a quagmire.
Nearly twice as many UK troops have now died in Afghanistan as died in Iraq. At the present death rate, 2010 will be the worst year for coalition troop deaths in Afghanistan. The US plan of ousting the Taliban from areas it controls and handing these areas over to newly trained Afghan forces is not succeeding.
And ongoing terror is being inflicted on the populations of towns and villages in the process. Military operation after operation, with altered tactics each time, have only led further down the pathway of failure and bloodshed.
From increased air power, to more troops on the ground; from 'winning' hearts and minds, to destroying them.
When the Taliban are cleared from one area, they can regroup elsewhere and later return, with many of their forces being drawn from the communities that the commanders of the occupying troops claim to be defending.
The British troops should be brought home immediately and all other foreign troops removed from Afghanistan too.
Then the Afghan people can begin to determine their own future. In particular, the task of building independent organisations of workers and the poor is urgent. Such bodies can act to stop future bloodshed and prepare the way for a socialist society with democratic rights and decent living standards for everyone.
The concerted might of the strongest and largest military force in the world, that of the US, is failing to defeat the disparate and crudely equipped Taliban militias in one of the poorest countries of the world.
This is despite the US leading a force of nearly 120,000 troops fighting an estimated 28,000 Taliban, and having spent a phenomenal £190 billion over the nine years of the war so far.
The US-led coalition forces have also failed to remove al Qaeda, despite the fact that al Qaeda was said by a US national security advisor to have only around 100 members operating in Afghanistan.
US president Obama reviewed US policy in Afghanistan last December and decided on a surge of 30,000 extra troops.
During 2010, Helmand and Kandahar provinces were to be 'pacified', newly trained Afghan troops would take over, and US troops would start withdrawing next summer.
But since this plan was concocted, overall levels of violence have increased and the plan's objectives are increasingly seen as impossible.
The disarray in US strategy was indicated by the recent sacking of the US military General in command in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, for criticising Obama's course of action.
Now the former US commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, has been given the poisoned chalice, yet he also has differences with Obama over the war strategy.
The Karzai-led Afghan government continues to be weak and corrupt, with its influence limited mainly to Kabul.
Far from bringing promised improvements to the lives of the Afghan people, the intervention of US imperialism has mainly brought violence and destruction, in a country that was once rich in culture and heritage.
Not only is the US-led coalition failing in Afghanistan, it has also been destabilising Pakistan, a country of 170 million people, having spread the conflict over the dividing border.
Aerial bombardment of the tribal areas in Pakistan has killed thousands of civilians, creating massive anger and desire for revenge in those areas and beyond.
Public exposure of the 75,000 leaked US military papers led to accusations that Pakistan is playing a 'double game', even assisting the Taliban against Nato troops.
US personnel have accused the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of sponsoring suicide attacks by Haqqani fighters on the Indian embassy in Kabul; and former ISI head, General Hamid Gul, is described in some of the leaked files as an active Taliban organiser.
British Tory prime minister David Cameron joined this chorus when he accused Pakistan of 'looking both ways' during his recent visit to India, and US White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, had already declared that the US "will not and cannot provide a blank cheque to Pakistan" if it fails to toe the US line (ie threatening to reduce the large sums of money given to Pakistan by the US).
In the 1980s, the American CIA and Pakistani ISI funded and trained Islamist guerrilla organisations to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
The Taliban were a product of this, and of Pakistani and Saudi funded Madrassas (religious schools).
But now that US imperialism is at war with the Taliban, the Pakistani military has moved, under US pressure, against Taliban safe havens in Pakistan.
However, a wing of the ISI, at least, is covertly maintaining links with the Taliban and certain other Afghan military networks and factions, supporting some groups when it suits them, while opposing others.
This is to aid the trade and investment interests of a layer of Pakistan's military leaders and capitalists, and to preserve some influence for the time when the Nato troops largely withdraw from Afghanistan.
British journalist Patrick Cockburn recently described Pakistan's military intelligence as having "a strong influence, but not quite full control, over the Taliban.
The Taliban safe havens in Pakistan are never quite safe and the Taliban say privately that while they can generally operate in Pakistan, they never know when they might be arrested".
Pressure from within the US population for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is increasing, but for the US ruling class and government it is proving impossible without harming their prestige and their interests in the region.
Afghanistan has long been a country of strategic geographical importance for the imperialist powers of the world, being in a location that links together different blocks of countries.
Also it is rich in natural resources, with recent reports reaffirming that it has abundant gas, oil, gold, copper, iron ore and other minerals.
However, unable to stem the recovery of the Taliban, talk of fighting 'until victory' is no longer part of the vocabulary of Nato spokespeople; rather there has been furtive mention of 'talks'.
It has dawned on the coalition military leaders and governments that they will not be able to withdraw their troops and leave in place an Afghan army that can hold the Taliban in check.
The Taliban, until a movement of Afghan workers and peasants is built that can counter its forces, will most likely retain or regain control over many areas, and co-exist in a country divided into spheres of influence between the various tribal and ethnic warlords.
This in any case is the current reality. All the Taliban have to do is sit tight, continue resisting, and they will receive a continual stream of young people - many of whom have lost friends and relatives in the war - to renew their ranks.
When in power, the Taliban enforced a highly repressive, right-wing Islamist regime, that prevented women from working and being educated and that banned opposition parties and trade unions.
For Afghan workers and peasants, a choice between the reactionary Taliban, the other tribal and ethnic based warlords (who dominate the Afghan puppet government) or the US-led occupation, is a nightmare choice.
The foreign troops must be withdrawn immediately. But the competing Afghan political and military elites, backed by different foreign capitalists, will continue to cream off the wealth gained from exploitation of Afghanistan's natural resources and will bring no improvements in living standards to the impoverished majority in the country.
For socialists therefore, calling for an immediate end to the war and occupation goes hand in hand with advocating the end of capitalism in Afghanistan and the wider region.
In particular, the Pakistani working class is numerous and potentially very strong. It will at some stage move to renovate and build its own organisations to be fit for challenging the existing regime in Pakistan.
The ruling class in India, which like that of Pakistan, wants to protect and extend its sphere of influence, must also be countered by a workers' movement from below.
The building of a strong workers' movement in any country of the region, armed with socialist ideas, under today's conditions would quickly lead to similar movements in neighbouring countries.
In Afghanistan also, aided by solidarity from workers internationally, the only way to develop security and decent living standards of the majority of people, will be through the building of democratic mass-based organisations of working-class people and the poor.
Such a movement will need to include in its programme the aim of establishing a workers' and peasants' government that can take public ownership and control of the mineral, gas, agriculture and other industries, and democratically plan the economy along socialist lines.
BLUNDERING EDUCATION minister, Michael Gove, is finding that the realities of life do not match his free market fantasies.
Having claimed that over a thousand schools wanted to become academies, it turns out the actual number is 153.
Academies are able to take control of their own admissions policy and ignore trade unions and nationally agreed pay scales.
It turns out that far from straining to be released from the bureaucratic shackles of local government, most headteachers and school governors are happy to continue running schools that work together with other schools in their area to provide a good education system for all children.
Ed Balls, the New Labour education spokesman and leadership candidate, has criticised Gove's academy expansion policy but his arguments are undermined by the fact that Gove is merely rolling out a New Labour policy.
It was Blair's government that launched academies and persisted with the policy despite any evidence that academies improved children's education.
All the pro-business parties are keen to create opportunities for big business to profit from a publicly funded education system as happens in Sweden and the USA.
Another reason for the Tories' and New Labour's fixation with the academies model is they hate to see a centrally coordinated, publicly accountable system working.
After years of setting up academies, there is no evidence of broad support for them from parents, teachers or students.
Some communities have accepted academies as the price they have had to pay for having new school buildings.
Often, they have tried to find ways of keeping academies linked into the local authority school network.
Socialists will continue to support parents, teachers and students in opposing academies. The education system does not need artificial forms of competition foisted on it. It needs resources to reduce class sizes, give teachers more time to plan better lessons and provide support for students' individual needs.
Negotiations between BA management and Unite cabin crew representatives resumed on 2 August and are continuing at the time of writing.
These are negotiations that the arrogant Willie Walsh was not expecting to have, as he seemed confident of pushing through a shoddy deal. This was decisively rejected by 67%, in a ballot of Unite members.
That a solid majority were willing to vote to reject this deal, after 22 days of strike action and without a clear recommendation from the national leadership of Unite, shows the determination of cabin crew to see this struggle through to a successful conclusion.
It also shows the deep-seated anger at Walsh's bullying, ultimatumist managing style.
The deal offered gave no commitments on the issues that triggered the dispute and included linking travel allowances to a 'no-strike' clause.
The Socialist Party was clear in calling for a 'No' vote on this deal; this was also the attitude of the majority of cabin crew.
But in another provocative move, Willie Walsh has proceeded to roll out the rejected offer amongst the 10% of cabin crew who are non-unionised.
This is a further attempt to divide cabin crew and undermine the union's collective bargaining agreement, which has been key in winning the pay and conditions that cabin crew have attained over the years.
Much has been made in the press of BA's financial situation, with first quarter losses of £164 million, due to a combination of the impact of the Icelandic volcano, strike action and the state of the wider economy.
Walsh has attempted to paint strikers as 'turkeys voting for Christmas'. In reality, his hard-man posturing is costing BA millions.
Unite estimates it would cost £10 million to settle the dispute, a mere fraction of what the union estimates BA has lost so far as a direct result of members' action.
Yet Walsh has gone into the current round of negotiations insisting that the deal which has just been rejected lays the basis for a resolution of the dispute!
There is nothing wrong with negotiating, but some cabin crew will be concerned that talks which do not seem to promise much are delaying a further strike ballot.
Socialist Party members in Unite feel that a fresh strike ballot should be called now and take place whilst negotiations are on-going.
The threat of further action would help exert pressure on Walsh during talks. It would also stop management from using negotiations which lead nowhere to attempt to scupper the momentum of the dispute.
Elsewhere in the aviation industry, 6,185 Unite members organised in BAA, including security staff, engineers, firefighters and support staff, are currently balloting for strike action over pay.
This ballot closes on 12 August. Action here would affect flights at Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
It seems common sense that if further strike action amongst cabin crew was coordinated with this, then the impact of both strikes would be increased.
At the same time, the attacks that cabin crew face are specifically designed to break the strongest and most densely unionised section of the BA workforce in preparation for rolling out attacks across the company.
Socialist Party members in Unite, the GMB and other unions organised at BA feel that while negotiations between cabin crew and BA management continue, hopefully alongside a fresh strike ballot, the leadership of BASSA (Unite's BA cabin crew branch) should use their fighting authority to call a cross-union meeting and begin to practically discuss how action can be coordinated throughout the BA unions.
We feel that coordinating action, including strike action, is the best way to bring a resolution to the cabin crew dispute and protect other sections of the BA workforce from further attack.
On 27 July, for the second time in less than a week, workers at Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems based in Coventry went out on a 24-hour strike as well as imposing a continuous ban on overtime.
A shop steward at the factory commented: "I've worked here 30 years and this is the first time I've been on strike, I wasn't really sure what to do! But when you're pushed, you react.
They have already started regrading our jobs, which is basically a pay cut through the back door."
Despite the company making £494.2 million in gross profits in 2009, bosses have attempted to impose a pay freeze on the workforce in Coventry.
The workforce made Meggitt's profit, yet bosses are awarding themselves huge bonuses on top of their massive salaries.
Meggitt chief executive was awarded a bonus of £770,000 plus shares, on top of his salary of £600,000.
Two other senior managers with salaries of £360,000 and £272,000 got bonuses of £463,000 and £353,000 plus shares.
Unite's regional officer, Alan Lewis said: "Our members are justifiably furious. The scale of greed is nothing short of scandalous. Workers' pay is being frozen while three senior managers are awarded £1.5 million in bonuses. A fair pay increase of 4% for the staff in Coventry would cost the company less than a quarter of the cost of the bonuses given to just three men.
"Some workers have even had their pay cut by £17,000. Unite will not tolerate this behaviour and will back its members until the company takes hold of its senses and rewards its staff fairly."
Such was the anger and determination to force management back, workers picketed the factory for nearly the whole of the two 24-hour strikes with 20-25 workers always at the gates.
One worker had missed shifts at his second job so he could take his turn on the picket and was pleased to see the level of support from outside with fellow Unite members and a postman joining the picket.
Thirty local residents and trade unionists attended the Socialist Party's public meeting in Penarth, south Wales which was called about 15 jobs threatened from three fire stations as part of the misnamed 'risk reduction plan'.
Katrine Williams, president of Cardiff trades council and Socialist Party member, explained that the cuts were not inevitable and an effective campaign could be mounted to oppose the cuts.
Local firefighters outlined the extent to which the proposals would impact on the community and the firefighters' personal lives, with the proposed introduction of 96-hour shifts.
The normally quiet seaside town of Penarth is outraged by the announcement that 18 jobs could go. In less than one week Socialist Party members collected over 500 signatures opposing the cuts and sold over 120 copies of The Socialist.
At the meeting there was an enthusiastic response to the setting up of a local fire service support group, supporting the FBU's fight to save jobs and services.
There were suggestions to immediately lobby both local councillors and councillors on South Wales fire authority as the first steps in the community's opposition to the proposed cuts. For further info contact Rob on 07541 145108
Over 200 firefighters and people from towns in Warwickshire gathered outside Warwickshire County Council's meeting on 22 July to protest at their plans to close three local fire stations.
The Tory run council had previously wanted to close seven stations and on the day they reduced their closure programme to three which shows that vigorous campaigning, as seen across this county, can have an effect.
But firefighters are still angry. In common with people in Warwickshire they see the council as endangering people. Mark Rattray, brigade secretary of the FBU said that David "Cameron promised he wouldn't cut frontline services, but what's more frontline than firefighters and fire engines?"
The decision was preceded by a political farce. Three local Tory MPs said they were against cuts, yet their Tory council voted for them - but not all Tory councillors did!
So fire stations in Warwick, Studley and Brinklow are set for closure.
The FBU will now move to ballot for industrial action to continue their opposition to closures and a council risking the lives of both the public and firefighters. The campaign across Warwickshire must continue.
It is unusual for an Employment Tribunal ruling against an employer to represent at the same time a blow against a trade union, but that is what has happened recently at the tribunal in Newcastle.
Former Unison branch secretary Yunus Bakhsh was found by the tribunal to have been unfairly dismissed by the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, to have been treated detrimentally by the employer as a result of his trade union activities, and to have been discriminated against on the grounds of disability.
This damning indictment of the employer follows a long hearing, at which senior managers showed how devious and untrustworthy they could be.
The tribunal ruling says of one such witness: "He had acted during his dealings with the Claimant.... in an arrogant and hostile fashion and that came across to the Tribunal in the manner in which this witness gave evidence"; and of another: "The Tribunal was not impressed with the evidence from his witness as to the thoroughness or open mindedness of her investigation."
The impact upon Unison of this ruling arises out of the fact that Yunus Bakhsh has been expelled as part of the witch-hunt of left activists in the union.
Initially the union proceeded against him on similar charges to those for which he was dismissed, phoney allegations of bullying and harassment.
However, when he was able to demonstrate that his accusers had links with the British National Party, (Yunus is from an Asian background), these charges were quietly dropped, and others were pursued instead.
However, on the day of the employer's disciplinary hearing the Unison full-time official advised him to plead guilty.
When Yunus refused to do this the officer withdrew Unison support! This tactic was also employed against witch-hunted Socialist Party member Suzanne Muna in London.
Both of these witch-hunted activists are now better off for having ignored the advice of Unison officers when their jobs were at risk, which calls into question both the reliability and bona fides of such advice!
The allegations for which Yunus was expelled relate to financial irregularity, which asserts he needed access to his Unison office to gather evidence for his defence.
He was denied access as a result of his suspension by the employer, which the tribunal ruled was a detrimental act in light of his Unison position!
Throughout much of the witch-hunt proceedings Yunus was unwell, but requests for adjournments were usually ignored by the union.
Now that the tribunal has ruled that his condition was covered by the Disability Discrimination Act, there is a clear implication that this aspect of his treatment at the hands of Unison could also be discriminatory.
So the record of Unison in this case is a disgraceful list, including colluding with racist sympathisers against an Asian union activist, giving advice that would have resulted in his being unable to challenge unjust treatment by the employer at the Employment Tribunal, taking advantage of his victimisation by the employer on the basis of trade union activities to expel him from the union, and failing to recognise and act upon a situation covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.
What a dirty business this witch-hunt is!
In an article in issue 632 of The Socialist, Kevin Parslow outlined reasons why Socialist Party members in the Unite trade union are supporting Len McCluskey in the general secretary (GS) election.
We have since received a response from Jerry Hicks, who is also standing for the GS, challenging our decision and contesting certain points in the article.
Here we print Jerry's response and below a reply from Rob Williams, a Unite activist and convenor at the Linamar car parts plant in Swansea.
We hope this debate will help to clarify the left's approach to this vital election to replace Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, the current joint general secretaries for the 1.6 million members of Unite.
I am disappointed that the Socialist Party is not backing me in the election for general secretary of Unite.
As you say in The Socialist on 7 June, we share many policies: "Jerry is in favour of the repeal of anti union laws and confronting them when necessary, the election of all officials, and the general secretary on an average member's wage.
He would prioritise public ownership and pensions and puts forward the need for a public works programme."
Indeed, when offered an official's job I turned it down. I believe in elections not appointments.
So I question your judgement in backing Len McCluskey and the reasons you give.
The main case against me is that I "made a crucial mistake" in not participating in the United Left hustings meeting in September 2009.
Your account of this meeting is misleading because it fails to mention crucial details about exclusions and my response to them.
Three days before the hustings I spoke to the national secretary of the United Left about rumours regarding possible exclusions.
He said he hoped "sense would prevail." I left him with no doubt that I would not participate if there were any exclusions.
Several supporters phoned me saying they would not travel all the way to Manchester to be refused entry.
A phone conversation with a Socialist Party member revealed that he was discouraging people from attending because of possible exclusions.
Disgracefully there were exclusions, about 30. None were right wingers but people with a record of struggle. Immediately prior to the meeting starting I asked Len McCluskey to support my request to allow everyone in.
He had the chance to intervene and resolve this but failed to do so. So I informed everyone there that I could no longer take part, the exclusions were to me a 'picket line'.
After this, the meeting decided those excluded could now come in. But once in, the chair ruled in favour of a challenge and announced that, although those who had been excluded could attend, they could not speak or vote.
This made the readmission a nonsense, which is why we walked out again and refused to participate. You argue that we need to stay within the United Left and support Len McCluskey. I say that effective leadership will not be brought about by relying on a bureaucratic machine, by fear and favour.
In contrast, our campaign is building in the union and beyond, a network of activists, in workplaces, branches and communities.
Networks needed for the resistance. At Unite's policy conference in Manchester (June), the United Left produced not a single leaflet on the business of the conference.
Instead they distributed freebies and literature promoting Len McCluskey with no mention of the United Left.
The United Left-controlled executive council voted to oppose a conference motion that would have made it easier for John McDonnell to get on the ballot paper for the Labour Party leadership.
Thankfully conference overturned them. Your argument in the article that: "Voting for Jerry Hicks will let the right wing in" is the oldest and most discredited of all.
It echoes the disingenuous line in last year's Amicus election, of "Vote Hicks, Get Coyne". Kevin Coyne was the right winger whom we soundly beat when I came second to Derek Simpson. Many told me afterwards that they regretted being taken in by that falsehood.
Kevin Coyne who is still a right winger, now supports Len McCluskey. Another reason for not supporting me is that I am not calling for disaffiliation from the Labour Party.
True I don't, but I do say we should only back those MPs and councillors who support our union's policies, ending the close and cosy relationship between Unite and the Labour Party.
More to the point, Len McCluskey whom the Socialist Party supports, is a longstanding, committed member of the Labour Party.
He has a ten-year plan to "reclaim" it. Any talk of him reviewing this position, I frankly don't believe.
As part of the national leadership of the union for the last 20 years, he shares the heavy responsibility of letting the Labour government off the hook over privatisation, PFI and the repeal of anti union legislation.
I offer a real fighting viable left alternative but you choose to give your backing instead to Len McCluskey, ignoring his failings as a national officer for the past 20 years and his appalling handling of the BA dispute.
There's no question there will be struggle and in these circumstances leadership is crucial. If action is "illegal" will he support or will he continue to keep his distance and repudiate?
Walkouts and strikes at Lindsey oil refinery saved jobs and conditions, occupations at Visteon secured pension and redundancy rights, and with Unite backing, the Vestas occupation could have kept the factory open.
But because they were "illegal" I was the only one of the four candidates to show solidarity. As general secretary I would continue to give support to all such actions. You have a responsibility to the class and you will be held accountable in the future for the choices you make today and the excuses you use to justify them.
We understand the genuine reasons which led to Jerry Hicks's decision to stand in the election and we also share with him many of the frustrations with the present leadership.
Further, there is no doubt that a victory for Jerry would be a victory for the left, not just in Unite, but in the whole of the trade union movement.
As we said in the previous article, Jerry's programme is to the left of Len McCluskey and closer to ours.
We believe, however, that on the Labour Party he has an incorrect position in not calling for disaffiliation and standing for a new workers' party.
We are not convinced that Len's strategy to launch a renewed campaign to 'reclaim' Labour is likely to succeed; however, we don't believe that Jerry's position is essentially different in practice.
In Unite we believe that this election comes at a critical stage as it is the first GS election since the union was created out of the merger between the TGWU and Amicus.
Many Unite members and activists have been disappointed with the outcome of the merger and fear a victory for the 'Simpsonite' candidate Les Bayliss.
We, like them, see a Bayliss victory as a defeat for the left.
Hicks has raised the idea that there is no real difference between a McCluskey or a Bayliss election win, stating they are both bureaucrats etc.
We think this is a mistake.
A victory for the Simpson wing would push the union further to the right and would make it far more difficult for the rank and file to organise in the official structures of the union.
Of course, this would not mean that activists would be helpless as we have shown in Unison. But surely all those on the left in Unison accept that the Prentis leadership has proved a major obstacle in the many battles in the public sector over the last few years.
We believe that there is a real danger that by standing, Hicks could split the left vote, enabling Bayliss to win.
This is our major reason for supporting McCluskey.
We also believe it is wrong to write off the newly formed left organisation in the union, United Left (UL).
By supporting Hicks's decision to stand against the UL's candidate McCluskey, we would, in effect, be calling for a new broad left to be formed.
While the UL has many imperfections, it is premature to draw this conclusion. We participate in the UL and, with Jerry, took part in the UL hustings meeting in Manchester last autumn.
We believe that he made a mistake in walking out of the hustings meeting, not once, but twice. Despite what he says, he created the perception that he didn't want to take part in a meeting where he expected he would lose the vote and would therefore be obligated to follow the democratic decision to support Len.
This was only exaggerated when it became clear that he had already booked a side room. We don't doubt Jerry's concerns about anyone being prevented from attending.
Actually it was Socialist Party members who were to the forefront in successfully getting the exclusions of the chair reversed.
As a result, Jerry and those who were barred were allowed back into the meeting.
We agree with Jerry that the subsequent decision of the chair not to allow the original 15 or so to vote was totally wrong.
Instead of following Jerry out of the meeting, we took the decision to stay in the meeting and argue our programme in front of the over 200 members who attended.
We made it clear that, because of the chair's decision, we couldn't commit to accepting the decision of the hustings.
It says something about the character of the meeting that this was understood by the vast majority.
Afterwards we agreed that, with some obvious flaws, those who were barred or walked out in support would not have affected the overwhelming vote for McCluskey.
In fact, there were always going to be issues about who could attend as the UL isn't, at this stage, a strictly membership-based organisation, but has a vaguer list of supporters.
We have to consider if this materially affects the vote or the character of the organisation.
The UL is still a new organisation and is still to be tested. Just because you call something 'United Left' doesn't make it so. What is important is the UL having its own internal democracy, with full-timers having the right to attend meetings and speak, but not to vote.
We continue to fight for this programme within UL.
For this and the reasons above we subsequently agreed to support Len McCluskey.
The statistics range wildly but one thing is obvious - young people's plans for the future are being dashed.
Tens of thousands of college leavers are having the university door slammed in their faces. Not because they can't perform in exams. Not even because they're not prepared to get into the huge amounts of debt demanded by the fees system.
But because the politicians accept the logic of the market and choose to cut public services, while the bosses and bankers are encouraged to award themselves fat pay cheques.
At a time of record applications to university, the Con-Dem government is slashing the planned increase in student places.
This is the second year running that this has happened.
In fact, the previous Labour government fined universities tens of thousands of pounds for over recruiting! Two things are clear.
One is that the government is happy to smash young people's dreams to save money. The second is that this is going to become a permanent feature of the present recession - everybody currently in school or college is likely to face the same university access lottery.
No doubt a factor in the increase in university applications is that people are worried about finding a job and hope things will improve after three years and with the aid of a degree.
The fact is that one in five young people are already unemployed, with more likely to follow after the number of disappointed university applicants is revealed.
One way to ease the pressure on universities would be to provide a wide-ranging programme of apprenticeships and socially useful job creation.
But this government remains unmoved by the plight of young people and ploughs ahead with cuts.
Young people will not put up with this. Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) is calling a protest on 21 August to demand full funding and access to university for all.
We oppose students being charged to resit A-level exams. And we're calling for a programme of job creation to help those college leavers who don't want to go on to university.
At the start of the new term, YFJ will launch a campaign in the colleges for the right to a future; a job or place in education for every college leaver.
As well as huge cuts, the Con-Dem government's agenda for higher education includes throwing open the doors to the creation of private universities.
Private company, BPP which already has sites across the country running business and law degrees, has now been awarded university college status.
Private universities will be a law unto themselves running education for profit and pursuing cost-saving measures such as two-year and online degrees.
They will be able to charge any level of course fees they choose. Combined with moves to lift the cap on tuition fees in public universities, the existence of private providers will drive prices up faster.
Their practices, courses and facilities will not be accountable to public and academic scrutiny. For example they will be exempt from Freedom of Information requests.
As the University and College Union (UCU) has pointed out, they will begin a race to the bottom for education workers.
As employers they will not be subject to national agreements on pay and conditions or even union recognition.
BPP is modelled on US institutions; exclusive business training schools for the super wealthy that charge extortionate fees.
It appears that BPP's success reflects its links to the murky world of big business politicians.
BPP is a part of Apollo Global, a joint venture between private equity firms including the Carlyle Group, made infamous by the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11.
The Carlyle Group, with a board resembling a retirement home for right-wing politicians such as ex-Tory prime minister John Major and George Bush Senior, was awarded lucrative defence contracts by the US military.
BPP students will be taught the lessons of the causes of the economic crisis from tutors with first hand experience.
In 2006 Carlyle set up Carlyle Capital Corporation to invest in mortgage backed securities.
Following the sub prime crisis in the US property market in 2008 the company, despite its short existence, was reported by Reuters in March 2008 to have defaulted on debts worth $16.6 billion.
Carlyle Capital was quickly wound up.
These governments claim there is no more money for higher education and that large scale cuts must be made.
But private vultures like BPP are now allowed to profit from the sector.
Along with fees and cuts, privatisation in higher education must be opposed with a mass campaign to kick out the fat cats.
Socialist Students fights for free, fully funded, publicly owned and democratically controlled education at all levels.
The Tories' new youth service plan is the latest attempt to use young people as free labour. Billed as "non-military national service", it will offer 16 year olds an eight week programme of volunteering and community work immediately after finishing school.
Rather than help young people, this scheme simply encourages them to do unpaid jobs without even the suggestion of it leading to employment at the end of the eight weeks.
The scheme will not initially be compulsory but David Cameron has made it clear that is the direction he sees it going in.
The scheme will effectively create a slave labour force of young people who can be used to do work that was previously done by paid temporary workers.
What better way to plug gaps left in public services by massive cuts than with tens of thousands of young "volunteers"?
This will affect everyone as it will drive down wages and conditions. Why employ someone on a decent wage with guaranteed rights when businesses can simply draft in a young person for free with no contract?
Ironically, Labour has criticised the programme even though it introduced similar programmes for young people only six months ago.
Its Community Task Force (which has been kept on by the Con-Dem government) forces under 25s on benefits to do volunteer work or face their benefits being cut.
This is all part of the Tories' ideological drive towards the so called "big society". Cameron claims young people "feel their lives lack shape and direction" but these volunteer schemes are not the answer.
He doesn't accept that his government's cuts will destroy communities and condemn a whole generation of young people to long-term unemployment and poverty.
We need to demand investment into public services alongside more funding for free education and to create real jobs and opportunities for young people.
AN OIL trading company has been fined £840,000 after being convicted for concealing the dangerous nature of toxic waste which was subsequently dumped in the Ivory Coast in 2006, causing thousands of people to fall ill.
The company, Swiss-based Trafigura, one of the world's biggest commodities traders, made £651 million profits last year.
The fine represents just 0.12% of its annual earnings. The judge in the Amsterdam trial found that Trafigura had done what European regulations on hazardous waste were designed to prevent - "namely the export of waste to the third world and harming the environment".
Prosecutors argued that Trafigura had put "self-interest above people's health and environment". It would have cost £626 a tonne to dispose of the 500 tonnes of the foul-smelling sludge, an oil refining by-product, in Amsterdam, but only £22 a tonne in the Ivory Coast, saving the company £334,000.
The Ivorian operator, Compagnie Tommy, used a fleet of trucks to dump the slops under cover of darkness in the open air at over a dozen sites around the city of Abidjan.
The slops contained mercaptans,sulphur-based chemicals. The boss of Tommy was jailed and the Ivorian government was forced to resign. Last year, Trafigura had agreed to a £30 million settlement to 31,000 Ivorian claimants. That court case cost over £100 million in legal fees, more than three times that which the claimants had won.
In exchange Trafigura accepts no legal liability. They also paid £126 million to Ivory Coast to help clean up the waste. Part of that agreement was the release of two jailed company executives and that Trafigura would not face a prosecution in Ivory Coast.
Trafigura's legal firm, attempted to use a 'super injunction' to prevent the Guardian from reporting a parliamentary question by Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle-Under-Lyme, about the case.
A super injunction is where the party bringing the injunction, the reason for the injunction and even the existence of the injunction is secret on pain of imprisonment.
The attempt was dropped after the details of the question were plastered all over the internet. Sue that!
These callous, rich and powerful companies, when caught, only suffer a pin prick of a fine. It appears that people's health and the environment are just so many obstacles to be overcome. Clearly, as long as big business continues to dominate society it will continue to wreck the environment.
Nearly 100 local residents and campaigners turned out at the end of July to lobby the Environment Agency (EA) against granting environmental permission to waste management company Viridor's proposed Cardiff incinerator.
Cardiff Stop the Incinerator (CSI) lobbied the Environment Agency for five hours, asking probing questions which showed deep flaws in their draft decision.
The EA has requested additional written comments on at least four of CSI's points: air quality management, health effects of incineration, handling of leftover ash, and consultation with the area's parents and children.
The EA was forced to admit that their information on Cardiff's air quality was at least three years out of date and missed the emergence of an "Air Quality Management Area" covering the Cardiff Royal Infirmary and directly in the path of any output from the incinerator.
Campaigners have also found that the EA's position on the cancer link with incinerators is based on a single study from 2000, ignoring the decade of intervening research which shows a clear connection between living near an incinerator and developing liver cancer, kidney cancer or non-Hodgkins' lymphoma.
Dr Max Wallis explained how Viridor had provided no real plan for handling ash from the incinerator.
The fly ash and bottom ash produced by incineration contain concentrated toxic chemicals such as cadmium and dioxins, and the 18 tonnes a day the incinerator would produce would either be stored in Cardiff or transported miles overland, risking spills and accidents, and landfilled.
CSI opposes incinerators, not just in Cardiff, but everywhere; we say no to the Cardiff incinerator, no to the Merthyr incinerator, and no to the Barry Dock pyrolisis plant, another form of incinerator.
The Metropolitan Police intend to have a police station on Wanstead Flats, a large area of common land touching three east London boroughs.
Use of the flats was fought for and won by working-class people and is enshrined in the Epping Forest Act of 1878.
Campaigns by local residents have maintained its status. Now the Met plans what it calls a 'temporary' police base for around four months during the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
The strength of local opposition was demonstrated at a recent public meeting. Largely promoted by word of mouth, over 250 people packed the community hall to voice anger at the plan.
The area occupies an important place in local history. One resident recollected that the flats were known as the 'playground of the East End'. Busloads of people from choked up industrial areas and cramped streets would escape to the flats to eat some bread and jam and relax when they had a day off.
Today, local youth play cricket, families picnic, kites are flown, ducks are fed. The flats host local football games on weekends, involving hundreds of people of all ages. There has been a total lack of consultation - the first time we heard about the plan was when it was reported in the London Evening Standard.
Why, just two years away from the games, is this only being raised now? And, if the police need more room - there are several large police stations in east London - why is there no provision on the vast Olympics site itself?
To build on the flats, the Epping Forest Act must be amended. That would make it easier for future encroachments onto this common land - a right fought for and won more than a century ago would have been seriously eroded.
But now the campaign to save Wanstead Flats has begun. Leaflets and a petition are being drawn up. A website is being designed. September will see the campaign get moving with a mass community picnic at the site of the proposed police station on Sunday 5 September.
This will be followed by a public meeting towards the end of the month - with many other initiatives to follow.
THE DAILY Mail headline read: "Hunger Striker's £7 million Big Mac". This outrageous attack, printed on 9 October 2009, accused Subramanyam Parameswaran of eating a Big Mac while 'pretending' to be on hunger strike in Parliament Square, London.
A court found the Mail's allegation, repeated in the Sun and London Evening Standard, to be completely false.
The paper claimed that policing the Tamil community protests in central London against the brutal slaughter of Tamil people by the Sri Lankan government, which the hunger strike was part of, produced a £7 million bill for the Metropolitan Police.
We in Tamil Solidarity immediately opposed this racist attack on the hunger striker and the demonstrators.
In order to highlight this slander Parameswaran was invited to address a Tamil Solidarity meeting held in Queen Mary University on 17 October 2009.
By smearing Parameswaran's courageous action the false media reports were undermining the protests and trying to divide the Tamil diaspora.
A video of the meeting was made available on the Tamil Solidarity website to help him circulate his answer to his attackers.
Unfortunately, and unforgivably, the leaders of some Tamil organisations joined the Mail in spreading its slander.
Their rotten politics also include support for the right-wing British government. In fact some still support the UK government's cooperation with the Rajapakse government in Sri Lanka!
This flawed perspective is constantly challenged by Tamil Solidarity which instead aimed to organise uncompromising fighters against all kind of oppression in every country where they are present.
We repeatedly pointed out that we cannot appeal to those forces who are in the business of oppressing and exploiting minorities in the UK and who are engaged in brutal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now the Mail has accepted that it lied. It is clear that the Mail's attack was not just aimed at Parameswaran, but was an attack on all Tamil protesters.
Instead of allowing protesters to be attacked, if we are serious about building the fightback against the oppressors, we must unite those forces that are fighting against oppression.
Tamil Solidarity was set up to do just this.
Leeds Socialist Party members formed a very visible and vocal contingent on the Leeds LGBT Pride march around Leeds city centre on 1 August, handing out leaflets calling for a united fight against homophobia and transphobia as part of the wider struggle for socialism.
Following the march a public meeting was held on the topic of sexuality and socialism. We discussed our response to the rise in homophobic violence locally, nationally and internationally and the fact that legal reforms for LGBT rights within the context of capitalist society have not prevented such homophobia.
"I had a great weekend," said Stuart Thompson, who joined the Socialist Party last year. "The camp happened right after the Vestas campaign and after focusing our energy on the Isle of Wight it was really useful to swap ideas and experiences with comrades from around the country who had been involved in their own campaigns."
The Socialist Party Summer Camp 2010, taking place from Friday 27 August to Monday 30 August, is the ideal opportunity for activists to come together to share ideas and experiences while enjoying a weekend of sports, singing and maybe even some sun.
Last year Socialist Party members and supporters were joined by activists from the Lindsey and Vestas industrial disputes.
This year sessions will focus on the struggles and opportunities ahead, with key discussions on how to organise and fight the Con-Dem government's attacks on working people.
Other sessions will focus on the struggles across Europe, giving special attention to events in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland to ask what lessons we can learn as events swiftly unfold.
The camp is also a chance for the adventurous to enjoy summer sports such as archery and assault courses, complete with aerial runways and a climbing wall.
For those of us keener to keep our feet on the ground, football and rounders matches will also be organised, as well as the now famous evening quiz and bonfire singing.
The camp is based at Danbury Outdoor Centre near Chelmsford in Essex. Tickets are priced £40 (or £25 low/unwaged) per adult, £12 for a child and £95 for a family. A crèche is provided during the political discussions. For more information visit: www.socialistparty.org.uk/summercamp.htm
Cindy came to prominence in 2005 when she set up a protest camp outside president Bush's ranch. She simply wanted to ask Bush why he sent her son to die in Iraq.
In 2008 she ran for Congress as an Independent against the top Democrat Nancy Pelosi, winning an impressive 16% of the vote, beating the Republican, and coming in second place.
In recent months Cindy has clearly stated that capitalism is the root cause of the world's problems and that democratic socialism is the alternative.
Cindy will be speaking at the Socialism 2010 rally, joined by the Socialist Party's general secretary, Peter Taaffe, and Andros Payiatsos of Xekinima (CWI Greece).
ON 24 July, 21 people died in the horrific stampede at the Love Parade festival in the German city of Duisburg.
500 were injured and, for a time, over 1,000 people were officially listed as missing. The revellers panicked at a tunnel entrance. But local people expected the chaos in advance.
On 7 June someone wrote on the internet site of the local Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) newspaper: "Is it true that they try to lead one million people through a single lane street (!) - through a TUNNEL! - Through the Karl Lehr street with two dirt tracks to the festival area? In my eyes this is a trap.
This will never work. Those who were [at the previous Parades] in Essen and Dortmund know how crowded the larger streets were.
Even that was a catastrophe. And now they are leading it through a single track tunnel? I'll be damned!!!! People will be dying when they try to leave the festival area on this mingy street."
Experts warned the organisers that no more than 250,000 people could fit into the planned festival area, knowing that the annual Love Parades were regularly attended by over a million.
But with the help of the city administration and the Mayor Adolf Sauerland (Christian Democrat) the organisers held a Love Parade that attracted 1.4 million visitors who had to pass though this 120 metre-long tunnel to reach the festival's only entry and exit point.
Police experts from all over North Rhine-Westphalia referred to it as "a death trap". The fire brigade had also warned the organisers.
Dr Motte, who organised the first Love Parades in Berlin said: "The organisers made gross mistakes in the management.
How could they lead the people through only one access to the festival area? It is a scandal. The organisers should be blamed. They knew how many people would come". He told the Berlin Kurier newspaper that this Parade was "all about making money. The organisers did not show the slightest sense of responsibility to people".
Since 2006 Dr Motte has dissociated himself from the Love Parade as he felt it had become apolitical and commercial.
The first Love Parade, held in Berlin in 1989, was a free peace and music festival that in subsequent years developed into a huge annual youth and music event.
This year's Love Parade was held as part of the 'Ruhr 2010 European Capital of Culture', an attempt to develop the prestige of the Ruhr area.
Sponsors like RWE, a large energy company, pushed the 'Ruhr 2010', while normal people are hit hard by social cuts.
Schools, theatres and cultural centres have been closed.
The boss of the fitness company McFit and Love Parade business manager Rainer Schaller wanted to push through the festival at any cost.
One of Schaller's companies had taken over and relocated the Love Parade in 2006 after a dispute with the Berlin city authorities, which meant that it could no longer continue there.
Last year Schaller told the Handelsblatt newspaper that his commercial interest in the Love Parade was to "use a relatively small budget to gain a high recognition factor".
The organisers even let the party go on after the deaths without announcing what had happened.
Hundreds of thousands of participants didn't even know anything about the catastrophe until they went home.
The officials were completely overwhelmed with the situation.
Duisburg's mayor said: "In the run-up to the event, we worked out a solid security plan with the organisers and everyone involved." But revellers, who tried to tell police officers about the mass panic, were sent away with comments like: "Do you want to organise this? You have to leave this to us!"
The revellers cannot be blamed for losing control and for stampeding out of fear. The deadly catastrophe is the fault of Love Parade management and the city administration.
The greed of the capitalists often ruins people's enjoyment. This applies to the Christopher Street Day parades, where political material is often forbidden while the participants are bombarded with advertisements of the official sponsors.
Similarly the discos and music festivals are overpriced. Big music labels talk about 'culture' but only think of their profits.
The initial sadness over the loss of life in Duisburg is now turning into anger. Even the right wing tabloid Bild wrote: "Seldom have so many experts warned so clearly of the risks of holding such a mass event on a site that was completely unsuitable.
Why didn't someone do something? Did those responsible for the organisation think that a couple of positive headlines were more important than the safety of the participants?"
On Sunday (25 July) Duisburg's Mayor was attacked on the street, pelted with litter and abused as a "greedy avaricious pig".
Demands are growing, even in his own party, for his resignation. And on 29 July hundreds demonstrated outside the Duisburg Town Hall with the slogan: "We fight your greed for profits and prestige!"
Thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh took to the streets of Dhaka to dismiss the recently announced increase in the minimum wage as completely inadequate.
The increase proposed by the government's National Wage Board - from $23 a month to $43 a month - follows a period of intense struggle by garment workers who are demanding $75 a month in wages.
The new minimum wage is the maximum wage factory owners have said they are prepared to pay. Labour unions say that the cost of living has soared by 200% since the last increase in the minimum wage in 2006 which affects 2.5 million, mainly women, workers.
They say a wage of $150 a month is necessary as a living wage. Last month, police attacked striking garment workers with bamboo staves, tear gas and water cannon. Children, many of whom work illegally in the myriad of textile factories in and around Dhaka, were also beaten by police.
One estimate records 72 incidents of industrial action in the first half of 2010 with nearly 1,000 workers injured by police and 45 arrested.
Bangladesh employers, who make clothing for big western brands such as Marks and Spencer, Wal-Mart and H&M, have also hired goons to intimidate textile workers.
Bangladesh's garment exports have increased to around $12 billion a year (80% of Bangladesh's export earnings) from just $5 billion in 2002, fuelled by low labour costs that have attracted top western brands.
Nine female workers were left injured. Workers were incensed over the sacking by management of a union rep and had demonstrated by blocking roads in the capital city, Phnom Penh.
Police with a court order tried to clear roads and force the workers back to work.
The garment industry is notorious for low wages and poor working conditions. In 2009 employers laid off 30,000 textile workers, blaming the recession in the US and Europe cutting demand for goods.
A DAMNING report was issued recently by the charity ActionAid on the "deplorable" pay and working conditions of Bangladeshi factory workers employed by British supermarket Asda - a subsidiary of US conglomerate Wal-Mart which makes £45 million a day in profit.
Wal-Mart/Asda pays on average less than one pound a day in wages to its garment workers in Bangladeshi factories, who are mostly women with children, and who have to work long hours.
ActionAid says that this rate of pay is equal to just 25% of the basic cost of living of the average Bangladeshi mother, and as a result many over-worked women are struggling to feed their children.
This means that the company's profits are directly taken out of the pockets of the poorest people on the planet, and out of the mouths of the world's poorest children.
The reason why companies like Asda can provide clothes so cheaply is because its costs are low due to garment workers' wages being below the poverty line.
"Asda claims to be a family friendly supermarket but there's a dark side to its operations. Families are being kept in poverty because Asda's wages are so low," said ActionAid's policy advisor.
In response Asda claims that it has been trying to improve the poor treatment of its workers in the Indian subcontinent, which begs the question: Why are they so disgracefully exploited in the first place? The answer, as usual with capitalist corporations, is profit.
ONE PART of Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley's brutal scheme to privatise the NHS allows NHS foundation trusts to abolish what he called an 'arbitrary, ill thought out' cap.
The cap is on how much income the trusts could gain from selling services to sick people who can afford to buy them.
The Guardian reports that the ten most 'successful' trusts in attracting private income have all got plans for new hospital wings and wards for private patients.
Will cash be able to buy you health? That's what the coalition government wants - a clear choice between public waiting lists and private care - again for those who can afford it.
HCA, one of the world's largest private health care groups, already runs six hospitals in London. It will soon pay £14 million for a new private cancer centre at the NHS Christie hospital in Manchester.
Other NHS trusts are shopping round the world for rich private patients. Moorfields eye hospital plans to open another private hospital in Abu Dhabi.
Royal Brompton and Harefield, Britain's largest cardio-respiratory centre, runs a worldwide service offering patients a city guide and suggesting trips to nearby "high-end shopping facilities" such as Harrods.
If you (or your NHS Trust) don't live a Harrods lifestyle, however, things will be very hard.
We must fight to ensure there is no return to the pre-NHS situation where money determined whether a person could get treated or not.
Letting profit rule puts at risk everything the NHS was set up to achieve.
MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS in HSBC will look forward to big dividends as Britain's biggest bank saw its profits almost double to £7.2 billion over the six months up to June.
Meanwhile small businesses, hopeful home owners and workers say that the banks, despite huge government bailouts, will still not lend any money. Other banks display their wealth later in the week.
BP, THE energy giant responsible for the US's worst environmental disaster, finally got around to jettisoning its gaffe prone chief, Tony Hayward.
BP's board of directors is hoping that Hayward's departure and the expected completion of an oil relief well will draw a line under the Gulf of Mexico disaster, which has resulted in the company losing 40% of its market value.
But while laid-off fishermen and tourist workers in the affected US coastal states are struggling to get by, Hayward will have no such difficulties.
Hayward's pay-off amounts to a staggering £1 million in salary plus a pension pot of over £10 million, the equivalent of more than £500,000 a year after retiring at just 55 years old.
A BP spokesperson blithely commented that Hayward's golden handshake was what any BP employee with an equivalent length of service could expect!
A NEW study has revealed higher cancer rates in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, flattened by US artillery in 2004, than in survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
US marines surrounded Fallujah and pounded it with artillery shells tipped with depleted uranium after four security guards in the Blackwater firm were killed by insurgents.
The medical survey showed that infant mortality was 80 per 1,000 births in Fallujah compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait.
The researchers also found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer and higher rates of other cancers in adults.
TORY BUSINESS minister Mark Prisk MP has become embroiled in sleaze allegations after it emerged that a millionaire Tory party donor, Andrew Cook, had successfully lobbied the minister to get the government to withdraw a £80 million loan made by the previous Labour administration to the engineering company, Sheffield Forgemasters.
Cook, who owns a rival company, sent an email to Prisk reminding the minister that he is "the largest donor to the Conservative party in Yorkshire".
The minister subsequently denied that the decision to cancel the Forgemasters' loan had anything to do with Cook's £500,000 donation to the party coffers, plus £54,000-worth of plane fights to David Cameron.
'THE BATTLE of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton'. Presumably, this is why the public is having to stump-up £15 million a year in school fees to send the sons and daughters of top military brass and senior diplomats to private schools.
While the MoD was keeping schtum over the numbers of children it subsidises to send to Fettes, Winchester, Roedean and Marlborough, the Foreign Office revealed that 521 children of diplomats were being subsidised to the tune of £22,000 each, a year.
Perhaps this is what the Tories mean by 'free schools'!
THE LACUNA is written as the diary of a solitary young man, Harrison Shepherd, who ends up working as a cook for the Mexican artist Diego Rivera and then the exiled Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the 1917 Russian revolution.
This novel won Barbara Kingsolver the 2010 Orange Fiction Prize. Kingsolver has previously written about workers' struggle, in particular in her non-fiction book Holding the Line, about women in the Arizona mine strike in the 1980s.
The Lacuna covers an era with many parallels with today.
Shepherd is an observer and reluctant participant in great events. He is a schoolboy in the US during the Great Depression, and witnesses the massacre of the starving Bonus Army (marching in 1932 to demand that the Hoover government pays them what they were promised for fighting in the first world war).
Shepherd experienced first hand the activities of the Committee on Un-American Activities, a proto-McCarthyite body.
The Lacuna features real people, but it is fiction not history. Nor does the book deal with Trotsky's ideas. Nonetheless, it would give the uninitiated a better glimpse of the kind of man Trotsky was than most of the non-fiction dealing with him currently on the best-seller lists, such as Robert Service's scurrilous attacks on every aspect of Trotsky's life and ideas.
This attempt to bury Trotsky's ideas under an avalanche of slander is understood by Barbara Kingsolver.
The book deals with the way in which 'the howlers' - the capitalist media - lied about this revolutionary leader in his lifetime, even claiming that Stalin's assassins' attempts to murder him are an elaborate hoax by Trotsky to gain publicity.
Later on, when he is back in the US and a successful novelist, Harrison Shepherd is hounded by the press for supposedly being a communist.
Looking back, he remembers what Trotsky told him about there being "two kinds of papers, the ones that lie every day and the ones that save it for special campaigns, for greater impact."
This is not just a historical novel. It makes points on how Kingsolver sees art being used in the US. At one stage Shepherd's friend and assistant, Violet Brown, argues that his historical Mexican potboilers can deal with themes of injustice and remain acceptable because they are set in a dim and distant past and a foreign land.
At the end of the book she has Shepherd's diaries locked away for 50 years, with the idea that they be published on their release and, presumably, in the hope that the story they tell will have become something that can find an audience by then.
The Lacuna is written as those diaries. No doubt Barbara Kingsolver hopes readers will draw comparisons with today - with the propaganda surrounding the 'war on terror' and the gulf between rich and poor in the US, now once again approaching the level it was in the 1930s.
CON-DEM Business Secretary Vince Cable told journalists he thinks banks are "ripping off" taxpaying customers with unfair charges and cynically using massive bail-out packages to pay their top speculators ridiculous bonuses out of the public purse.
The BBC considers this news. The rest of us are already painfully aware that the banks have had the taxpaying public, and successive pro-capitalist governments, over a barrel for some considerable time.
As a low-paid, taxpaying worker employed by one of the big bailed-out banks currently ripping off the country, I speak to customers daily who are being saddled with spiralling debt that pushes them further and further into poverty.
The bank is very well aware that its irresponsible speculation and near-collapse has contributed to this.
This corporation pays me £7 an hour to enforce its exploitative charges system, threatening me with disciplinary action if I refuse to do so.
The bank is clawing back credit from financially struggling customers to whom it previously lent with extreme irresponsibility.
It is levying impossible charges on them to raise enough capital to buy back the shares it sold to the government, so it can speculate further.
It knows it can do this because it has the backing of the courts. They previously ruled that such unethical charges are in fact legal and above board, and because this pro-capitalist government is so in thrall to the financial markets, it is powerless to do anything to stop it.
The only answer to this sorry state of affairs is the genuine nationalisation of the banks, democratically controlled by the workers, as part of a planned socialist economy based on the needs of the masses and not the profits of greed-driven capitalists.