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Capitalism IS crisis. These are the words sewn on a huge green banner stretching over the tents outside St Paul's Cathedral in London.
Hundreds of people visit the Occupy LSX (London Stock Exchange) tent city each day to show support and to enable this anti-capitalist protest to continue. The huge anger against the 'banksters' is palpable.
The overwhelmingly positive response they get from visitors is because they touch on that core feeling shared by thousands upon thousands of people - that we are very far from 'all being in this crisis together' as the government says - that the rich are laughing all the way to the bank while we're expected to lose our jobs and our services and our homes and just take it lying down.
The Occupy movement has spread across the world, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, the 'indignados' in Spain and the 'enraged' in Greece.
While world leaders quake and quarrel in the face of an economic abyss, an almighty explosion is rumbling beneath their feet. Even more Greek workers joined the latest general strike action, while here in Britain millions of public sector workers prepare for a historic day of strike action on 30 November to protect pensions and fight the cuts.
Meanwhile a band of young people are making their way down the country in the footsteps of the 1936 Jarrow unemployed workers march, demanding jobs and education and fighting for a future.
The Youth Fight for Jobs Jarrow to London march has gathered a humbling amount of support from all the communities it has passed through. Because, like Occupy LSX and Wall Street, it strikes a chord, it taps into that basic feeling that something must be done - and these young people are standing up and doing it.
That is why everyone should come to London on 5 November. The final steps of the Jarrow marchers, before their epic journey is concluded, will be from the Embankment to Trafalgar Square. They will be met by thousands of other young people and older workers, not just to applaud their achievement, but to add their voices to that demand: we want a future!
And 'what kind of future?' is the question on many lips. The Jarrow marchers will go from Trafalgar Square to Socialism 2011 to debate that question. Socialism 2011 is a weekend of discussion and debate about all the essential issues young people, workers, trade unionists and LSX occupiers are wrestling with.
How can we organise to fight back, what strategies are needed, what lessons can we learn from historic events, what can we draw from the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East?
Most crucially, if capitalism is crisis, what's the alternative - what should we fight for?
The Rally for Socialism on the night of 5 November will be where the real fireworks are: it will hear from fighting leaders from different countries that put the case for a movement to change society, the case for socialism.
The strike to defend public sector pensions on 30 November (N30) represents the biggest and broadest coordinated industrial action since the 1926 general strike 85 years ago. In terms of numbers of workers involved, up to three million, it is likely to exceed the initial days of that great strike.
But that was in the context of a period of far greater militancy and workers' radicalism. The strike on N30, coming, as it does, after decades of relative industrial 'quiet', in reality a management counter-revolution in both private and public sectors, can transform the consciousness of millions of workers within the unions on strike and the anti-cuts movement generally. The huge potential power of the working class will be demonstrated for the first time in decades.
Crucially this power will also be displayed; firstly to the working class, including those who currently stand outside of the unions, but are being crushed by the Con-Dems' vicious cuts programme and the economic crisis. Every public sector union should be balloting to take part in the strike.
It is also essential that, as with the 30 June coordinated strike, the impact of the N30 strike is publicly displayed in mass demonstrations in cities around the country. This also provides an opportunity for those not on strike, such as the unemployed, students, pensioners etc, to publicly show their support for this action, the next big step in the 'fight of our lives'.
Of course, the meaning of these events will also be imprinted in the collective minds of the bosses and their political representatives, particularly the Con-Dem government.
Therefore, any judgement about what the political and industrial world will look like after the strike day has to be carefully weighed up. Similarly, the precise way in which the strike is followed up has to be estimated and tactics and strategy tested by the changing mood and consciousness.
The Socialist Party calls for an escalation of the action after N30, in the main by continuing to coordinate this on a national basis. This could mean calling a 48-hour strike as the next action or possibly another 24-hour strike.
This doesn't preclude sectional, regional or local action, as a supplement for coordinated strikes.
We do not support, for example, the current attempts of the Unison leadership to prevent local ballots for action against savage cuts on the basis that everything is put aside to build for the 30th.
However, after 30 November, it is likely that right-wing union leaders will argue for local or sectional action rather than to escalate the national coordinated action. This must be opposed by all trade union activists.
A campaign should also be launched to reach out to workers in the private sector to encourage them to coordinate any current disputes.
What is primary is to combat any attempt by the more conservative union leaders to see N30 as the end of the campaign rather than the beginning and look to dissipate the mood of members.
On N30 millions of workers will feel their collective strength for the first time, that must be built on to create a movement powerful enough to bring down the government.
The turnout of 1,000 at the 'Hardest Hit' march and rally in Cardiff on 22nd October showed both the huge anger developing against the Tories' proposals and potential to build a mass campaign against the attacks on the disabled.
Disabled campaigners, trade unionists and the wider anti-cuts movement got a great reception in the city centre as they marched through, chanting "no ifs, no buts, no disability cuts".
But it also showed the weaknesses of the cross party, cross class approach taken by many charities and politicians who claim to be the official leadership of the disability rights movement.
The march was inspiring in that a thousand disabled people, carers, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners turned out to march through Cardiff.
The overwhelming majority of those that turned out would have been looking for a lead in the fight to defeat attacks on disability benefits and a plan of action to defend vital public services including the NHS and local authority services.
They would have been sadly disappointed listening to the official platform of speakers which consisted of directors and executives of charities and three Welsh Assembly Members.
The Assembly Members included, unbelievably, Mohammad Ashgar, Tory AM for South Wales East. When large parts of the rally booed and heckled this representative of the party of the ruling class they were told to be quiet by the chair because the "support of all parties" is needed.
This representative of the Tory originators of these cuts was allowed to speak, while Les Woodward, the national trade union convenor for Remploy - employing around 2,800 disabled workers and threatened with closure by the same Tory party of which Mr Ashgar is a Welsh representative - was refused on the grounds that he was "too political".
It was only actor and writer, Boyd Clack (Satellite City/High Hopes), who introduced some sense to the platform, telling marchers that the lesson taught to him as a boy by his dad - "you can never trust a Tory"- is as true today as it has ever been.
But he warned that his father would be turning in his grave to see what the Labour Party he had supported, has become.
He warned disabled fighters to rely only on their own strength and not the support of politicians. He could have added that we should not rely on the support of charities which rely on government funding and will do all they can to argue for their own slice of a shrinking pie, while doing everything in their power to prevent political discussion.
Fortunately, disabled campaigners do have allies they can rely on to fight all the way with them - public sector trade unionists, their families and the working class in general.
This was the theme of the 'alternative' rally that Socialist Party members staged - that the struggle against the Welfare Reform Bill and other attacks on the disabled can be defeated, as part of a campaign to oppose all public sector cuts.
Thanks to the Socialist Party, Les did get to address the crowd on the importance of fighting for Remploy and the thousands of disabled workers that it provides with the dignity of training, learning skills and earning a wage.
He also exposed the shameful way that charities, including some of those participating in the 'hardest hit' campaigns, have colluded with the Con-Dem government's plans to destroy Remploy.
He was joined by other Socialist Party members, including Andrew Price from Cardiff Trades Council, whose message that the opposition to attacks on disability benefits and services needs to be linked to the strike action of public sector workers in November, was well received.
Around 400 people gathered in Leeds city centre to protest against the vicious government cuts which will harm the most vulnerable members of our society.
The Hardest Hit campaign, organised by the Disability Benefits Consortium and the UK Disabled Peoples Council, brought together disabled people from across Yorkshire and Humber to give a clear message to the Con-Dems: "No more cuts".
The combined effects of cuts to benefits and public services will be particularly disastrous for disabled people, as many different types of support which enable them to get about, to look for and stay in work, to study and to live independent and dignified lives, are coming under fire.
As Robyn Brockie, Women's Officer for the NUS Disabled Students' Campaign, explained: "We are affected by every single cut".
Not only are cuts being made to Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit, the scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance disproportionately affects disabled students, 50% of whom relied on EMA. "We are not looking for handouts.
"We can't find work or stay in work without the support. We want to be in society, but the cuts will isolate us".
There are many additional costs to being disabled that people don't see. Participation in higher education is difficult; many disabled students find that their choice of university is limited by having to live with, or close to, their family, with many having to return to their parents after graduating.
Robyn felt that higher education was essential to her and others being able to find meaningful and stable employment.
But the government seems determined to kick away the support which allows people with disabilities to participate in society.
It has also been quick to throw people off benefits, awarding a lucrative contract to ATOS to assess whether people are fit to work.
This highly flawed process sets targets for declaring people fit to work, even when it runs contrary to medical opinion.
As Val Buxton of Parkinson's UK explained: "Parkinson's sufferers might be assessed as not needing benefits because of a lack of understanding of the condition".
This cabinet of millionaires is using deficit reduction as cover for an ideological attack on our society's neediest.
Tim Mcsharry of the Access Committee Leeds spoke of the "devastating impact [which] could take disabled rights back several decades".
In the media we have seen hysteria and stigmatisation of people on benefits, an unintended consequence of which has been a sharp increase in hate crime directed against disabled people, for which, says Mcsharry, the government must bear responsibility.
Local MP Hilary Benn said the government's actions were unfair, that its economic policy isn't working, and spoke of the need to boost demand in the economy. "We need to persuade the government they've got it wrong and that they need to change their minds."
Though Labour's lobbying against the Welfare Reform Bill is welcome, their message of slower, gentler cuts is not providing a real alternative, and their leader's comments that working people should be given priority for social housing only serves to further stigmatise those who cannot work.
It was left to speakers like Sheila Banks, from Leeds Trades Council, to point out the need to oppose all cuts, and Socialist Party member Andy Smith got huge cheers when he demanded that the council stop making cuts to our services, including the termination earlier in the year of the Leeds Crisis Centre.
That we should refer to the extra support which people with disabilities rely upon as "benefits" is rather disingenuous.
As Paul Williams of Mencap put it: "I don't see many benefits of being disabled". Paul and his wife Janet both have a learning disability.
He was her main carer for five years, until she was taken into residential care. They are trying to find a place where they can live together again and he can look after her.
In his work for Mencap, he is fighting the misperception that disabled people are well off. Most of his £150 Disability Living Allowance goes on paying the gas bill.
He doesn't drink, smoke, gamble, go abroad or buy new things. But his allowance is now under threat, and he has been told he should be working full time.
The government's ruthless, dogmatic attacks on the welfare state have no consideration for the impact upon real people who already have to fight hard to be included in society. "We are not scroungers", says Paul. "We don't want everything.
"We just need enough. We want a society where disabled people are valued and respected".
A smaller protest also took place in Bradford with around 60 people attending.
The Hardest Hit demo in Nottingham took place on the council house steps where 200 people gathered and listened to speakers who had been hit by some of the government's cuts.
It gained a lot of support from passers-by who were angered by the attacks on the services disabled people and many others rely on.
A local choir sang and read poetry and members of occupy Nottingham who are occupying the square outside the council house took part in a silent protest.
The protest was really successful and we sold over 40 copies of the Socialist.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 October 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
Join the Jarrow march as it comes into London from Hatfield to Barnet, where there will be a rally on arrival
Live music, comedy, meet the marchers at the Bread & Roses pub - 68 Clapham Manor Street London SW4 6DZ
3pm march from Conel (College of North East London) in Tottenham to lobby work and pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith's surgery in Chingford.
You can also join the march at Waltham Forest town hall at 4pm
There will be a reception hosted by Waltham Forest trades council at 6.30pm at the social club, beside the town hall
Whether you have been a socialist for many years or are new to socialist ideas, Socialism 2011 has something for you! The sessions are designed for beginners, those who have been around sometime, and anyone in-between - everyone will get something out of this event.
Following the Youth Fight for Jobs Jarrow March's finishing rally in Trafalgar Square, Socialism 2011 starts on Saturday 5 November. It is the opportunity to find the answer to today's big question: Capitalism has failed - but what do we replace it with?
After the first set of discussion sessions, the rally at Friends Meeting House in the evening will put into context the fight we have in Britain and around the world, in an upbeat and uplifting way. We can also party hard into the night at the Camden Centre, with a bar, live music and food at prices you can afford.
Sunday 6 November sees two more sessions for each of the courses, but it is up to you to choose, you can mix and match any of the topics that appeal to you - see the timetable below. Finally the closing rally will send off everyone with a determination to fight for a real future for younger and older people alike.
Tickets: Weekend £30 (£15 concession), one day £15 (£8 concession), Rally for Socialism £5. Saturday accommodation and full crèche available. www.socialism2011.net 020 8988 8777
Registration starts 2.30pm Saturday and 9am Sunday in Room 101 ULU, and 6pm Saturday at Friends Meeting House. All venues are fully wheelchair accessible and have hearing aid loops.
Socialist Books will have a huge range of titles on sale throughout the Socialism weekend, with many special offers. Don't miss a bargain! www.socialistbooks.org.uk
Can you donate to the Socialism 2011 appeal? It is vital that as much money as possible is collected by the Socialist Party to finance work not just in England and Wales but also internationally.
A proportion of the money raised will go to the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI - the socialist international to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) to assist the often difficult and ground-breaking work that our members are engaged in across the world.
In Greece unemployment has reached 25%. CWI members there, as with the rest of the working class, have been hit very hard by the austerity measures. But they are determinedly intervening with a programme to develop the struggles, bring down the government and end the cuts.
In Kazakhstan CWI members, leading the struggle against a barbaric regime which stoops to any method to crush dissent, are daily risking imprisonment and torture (see page 8).
A recent occupation of the tallest building in Taiwan, the Taipei tower, in protest at rising house prices and multinational companies like Carrefour, involved CWI members who attracted great interest in socialist ideas.
These are just three examples of work which would not be possible without the financial sacrifices of CWI members and supporters.
By making a donation to the Socialism 2011 appeal you can help the work of the CWI.
Can you give £5, £50 or £500? Can you ask other people to donate? Every donation will make a difference and all of it will go to building support for socialist ideas.
World in crisis - fight for socialism
Hosted by the Socialist
Speakers include: Peter Taaffe Socialist Party general secretary, Clare Daly Socialist Party MP in Irish parliament, Tunisian trade union activist, US occupy Wall Street activist and a Jarrow marcher
Build a movement to bring down the Con-Dems
Coventry was once a city famed for the prosperity of its working class people. It was said you could leave one job in the morning and have another by the evening. Today there are over 10,000 people looking for work, including 3,000 youth.
Over 100 young people, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners joined the Jarrow marchers on a demonstration in Coventry on Saturday 22 October.
Assembling on the cathedral steps, the marchers met hundreds of potential Coventry University students on the campus grounds opposite for an open day.
These young people will be the first to face £7,500-£9,000 a year fees at the university.
Ian Pattison, an unemployed marcher from Leeds, sent the demo on its way with a rousing speech on the need for young people to fight for a future.
The demo made its way through the city centre, gathering passers-by and shoppers in support of the marchers' demands and slogans.
These included the chant: "Decent jobs on decent pay - the Jarrow March is on its way".
An impromptu stop and short rally at the central fountain brought the city centre and shoppers to a standstill.
I appealed for support for the march. Coventry Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist gave an inspiring speech to the hundreds who gathered to listen.
He highlighted the fight of the heroes of the original Jarrow Crusade 75 years ago. But he also explained the plight so many people in Coventry currently face in terms of poor housing, education cuts and fees, and lack of jobs and services, urging people to support and join the fightback.
Dave pointed out that the main three parties want to put the cost of the economic crisis on the heads of working people.
He finished by appealing for people to come to London on 5 November as the Jarrow march finishes.
The demo continued and finished with a packed and bouncing indoor rally with activists from Warwick and Coventry Universities and from the PCS, UCU, Unison, TSSA, Unite, NUT, FBU and CWU trade unions.
Ben Sprung, London FBU firefighters' union regional organiser gave support and solidarity, mentioning the scrapping of EMA and tripling of student fees.
Raul Lagunas, a local DWP rep gave support from the PCS and highlighted the importance and significance of 30 November.
Jane Nellist, joint secretary of Coventry NUT and secretary of Coventry TUC, said it was a privilege to join with the Jarrow marchers and spoke of the importance of young people joining and getting active in trade unions.
She finished by saying: "Don't make public sector workers work until they drop - give young people a job and a future!"
Rob Windsor, former Socialist Party councillor, and a local Unison member and Coventry council housing worker gave their solidarity and support for the march's demands for a house building and renovating programme to create jobs and homes.
Sarah Wrack, national press officer for Youth Fight for Jobs, ended the rally with a stirring speech.
She explained that YFJ stands in solidarity with all those fighting back including those on the Hardest Hit demos and the OccupyLSX campaign and other movements against cuts across the world.
The marchers ended the day with fantastic hospitality and food at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Coventry, arranged by local TSSA rail union rep Manjit Gill.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 24 October 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
"I completely agree - these bankers getting bonuses, while they say EMA is unaffordable." These were the words of an enthusiastic student who met Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) campaigners in Swansea on Saturday 15 October.
In the week that saw youth unemployment hit 991,000, the highest level since records began, YFJ supporters in Swansea campaigned at a local FE college. This was followed up by campaigning as part of an all-Wales day of action in the city centre.
15 YFJ members, supported by two Remploy workers, leafleted and petitioned in the city centre, collecting about 150 signatures.
The mood was very sympathetic. One student told us about how she is only paid £3.60 an hour because she is under 18, which shows why YFJ's demand for a living minimum wage with no youth exemptions is so important.
As a result of the action we have potential new YFJ members and several more were keen to join the Jarrow March for Jobs. We also did an interview with the South Wales Evening Post, who printed an excellent report with photos.
Students from across Wales gathered at the steps of the Senedd on Saturday 22 October in protest against cutbacks to the Welsh higher and further education systems.
Edmund Schluessel, who convened the event, said: "It's wrong that the Wales Assembly is cutting the NHS Wales budget. It's just as wrong the Assembly is cutting back on investing in Wales' future by cutting back education.
"If the Welsh government is serious about fighting for the interests of the people it says it represents, it should set a needs budget based on the cost of the public services that working and unemployed Welsh people depend on to get by in life, and hand the bill to Westminster.
"George Osborne can afford it - he just found £75 billion for the banks, after all."
The students met at Cardiff University to discuss a new, united front against education cutbacks with support from universities and colleges across Wales.
Contact: Edmund Schluessel, 07947 214169 and Ross Saunders, 07766 460366
Big business and the wealthy manipulate loopholes in the system to avoid and evade paying an estimated £120 billion a year in tax. The PCS union's alternative to the cuts demands investment in jobs and services to pay the UK's debt and aid economic recovery, rather than allowing parasitic tax dodgers to avoid paying their fair share.
Despite this, the government is ploughing ahead with up to 10,000 job cuts in the revenue and customs department (HMRC) by 2015, including closing a number of offices across the UK and bringing the private sector into its call centre network.
PCS members in HMRC are angry about the number of attacks facing them. New policies introduced to reduce sickness levels are being abused by local managers to discipline staff, raising alarming concerns about the treatment of disabled staff and those with underlying health problems.
Cuts to the civil service compensation scheme, which determines the level of redundancy/early release payouts, will force many out the door early. It is now more attractive financially to take voluntary redundancy. Management hope this will make it easier to close offices.
PCS has a good record in fighting office closures and will oppose and campaign against losing a vital service. PCS national policy states that if one member is made compulsorily redundant then that would trigger a ballot for national action.
PCS in HMRC are also fighting back in call centres. A ballot for industrial action in call centres is underway.
HMRC are inviting private companies to run a 12 month 'trial' in January to help reduce call handling waiting times. Scandalously, they will allow private companies the use of HMRC premises and equipment to carry this out - they will also employ around 100 of their 'own' staff, no doubt on the minimum wage and on bad conditions. It's likely these private companies will be non-unionised, giving the department the opportunity to pose a race to the bottom between civil servants and private sector colleagues.
Not to mention the data security implications on giving private companies access to personal tax information.
HMRC has no need to bring in the private sector. Over 1,000 temporary workers who have been employed and fully trained up by experienced staff over the past 12 months could be given permanent jobs to help increase customer service in the long term.
Our ballot for industrial action and action short of strike began on 27 October. Members will be involved in organising two hour walkouts every fortnight during busy periods and will work to rule. This will begin at the end of November following the ballot result, due 17 November. This will hit the business hard while reducing the financial impact on members' pockets in the run up to further national action.
Messages of support and complaints to management have flooded in following the shock announcement last week that Vik Chechi, the Unison branch secretary of Queen Mary University in east London, was suspended by his employer.
In the few months Vik has been Unison branch secretary, he and other Unison members have re-invigorated the union branch. Union membership has increased, members have turned to Vik for support and representation, and the branch is campaigning against cuts.
Over 100 staff are threatened with redundancy, including 26 in libraries and 43 in medicine and dentistry. The Unison branch has played a leading part in the anti-cuts campaign on campus, uniting students and staff.
Individual Unison members have been horrified at this attack, believing that this is an attempt to prevent the union from fighting effectively against the cuts. If management is successful it will leave staff and students open to bigger attacks in the future. The QM UCU (lecturers' union) branch has pledged full support and many students have come forward to offer to help in any way they can.
The Unison branch committee is holding a meeting of all members to make sure there is maximum involvement of members in any campaign.
This week's protest at Blackfriars Balfour Beatty site in London began in full darkness at 6:30am this morning (19.10.11).
Along with the cold weather it was a sign winter is just around the corner. Despite the chilly weather though, the struggle between construction workers and the 'big seven' electrical contractors rages on as hot as ever.
These companies want to withdraw from the JIB national agreement. Balfour Beatty has been targeted because over 1,600 of their electricians have been given notice that the new inferior BESNA contracts will be imposed on them. This could mean a 35% pay cut.
Pickets arrived in a determined mood and a blockade of the site was launched. This led to scuffles with police throughout the protest.
It appears that a number of workers refused to go into work, while many who did, took leaflets in with them.
A group of about 60 protesters blocked a supplier's entrance for a few hours, ensuring that some deliveries were missed.
A number of speakers addressed the protest including Chris Baugh, deputy general secretary of the PCS union who brought solidarity from his union and emphasised the need for public and private sector workers to take action together on 30th November and in the future.
Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), Clare Laker-Mansfield from Youth Fight for Jobs and UCATT General Secretary candidate Mick Dooley were also among the speakers.
The confidence of workers had been boosted prior to the protest by a meeting the previous day in Leeds.
At that meeting were Unite construction officials, shop stewards from across the country and representatives of the London rank and file body. The meeting agreed to ballot workers at Balfour Beatty sites for strike action.
This is a big step forward in the fight to defend construction workers' terms and conditions. The workers can build on the huge success of their weekly protests as a platform to launch action that will shut down all sites operated by Balfour Beatty.
They now have the task of getting the biggest possible yes vote for a strike. This can be done firstly by getting as many workers as possible 'on site' into the union and at the same time convincing them to vote yes to strike action.
Those workers who joined the protest today can go back into work tomorrow and begin arguing the case for action.
Many workers who did go into work at Blackfriars today said they would vote for strike action if a ballot paper was put in front of them.
If a friendly, patient attitude is taken by pickets to workers who have not yet joined the struggle then there is every reason to be confident that they can be won over to the idea of taking action.
As Rob Williams pointed out in his speech, the worker who crosses the picket line today could well be the worker who comes out on strike tomorrow.
This point was echoed by a Unite official in the final speech to pickets when he said that the main enemy was not the workers still on the sites but Balfour Beatty itself.
It is vital that Unite the union backs up its promises with swift action. Electricians and others will return to Blackfriars next week to protest.
Unite official Harry Cowap will be meeting with workers on site that day to encourage them to attend the national day of protest in London on 9th November.
That meeting could be more important if it becomes part of a campaign to secure a yes vote for industrial action and begin planning for the shutdown of the site.
Similar meetings on every single Balfour Beatty site across the country would be a big step towards defeating the attacks of the employers.
Dozens of electricians protested again in Manchester this morning at the NG Baileys town hall site.
The protest was buoyed by news of the 9th November day of action, and that Unite will be balloting specific Balfour Beatty sites.
Even a limited ballot can give enormous impetus to this struggle from below against all the Dirty Seven.
Next week the north-west protest returns to the Balfour's Carrington paper mill site, where last week all electrical work was halted for a day.
Since then, we've heard that three workers have been dismissed. Rank & File activists will take a strong line against employers who victimise.
But this is a chance for Unite to demonstrate its role as a massive private sector union capable of defending workers against brutal employers.
Unite should give full support to next week's Carrington protest, mobilise across the north-west for the biggest possible turnout and provide union campaign resources on the day.
The employers on the site are disunited. The workforce on site is supportive and there is great scope to build on last week's protest and as well as halting work, escalate the numbers on the demonstration.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 19 October 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
Unite members are now being balloted for strike action on 30 November. They will be joining one of the biggest strikes in modern British history.
On 25 October, Unite went to the High Court with five other public sector unions with a judicial review challenging the government's 15% cut in existing public sector pensions. This is because of their decision to move from using the Retail Price Index to the lower Consumer Price Index when calculating the annual increase in pension rates.
As we go to press, a new pay offer has been made by Southampton city council. Following the latest strike of Southampton council workers, talks with the council have produced an offer which will be put to a ballot of Unison and Unite members. A mass meeting has been organised to discuss the latest proposal. In the meantime strike action has been suspended.
Southampton council workers have shown tremendous determination to sustain a prolonged battle to defend their contracts. It has served notice on Southampton councillors, Tory, Lib Dem and New Labour, as well as all local authorities around the country about what they can expect if attacks are made on pay, terms and conditions.
Enormous anger remains at the savage cuts to pay and the prospects of massive job cuts in the next council budget. It remains to be seen whether this latest concession will be sufficient to settle the dispute.
As national strike action looms on pensions, this could be a significant opportunity to intensify the pressure on the council and give confidence to all Southampton council workers that these pay cuts can be defeated.
Workers at Coventry City Council lobbied councillors on 18 October to demand a £250 payment that had been promised to all public sector employees earning under £21,000. The council have budgeted for this increase, but are refusing to pay.
Unions have collected hundreds of signatures demanding the council pays its staff. Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist presented the petition.
The response from other councillors was disgraceful. When quizzed by council workers, the majority of our public representatives claimed they had no idea what we were talking about.
Unions now need to continue the campaign for the £250 payment - continued lobbying of councillors, linking up with the wider public and trade union movement to pile the pressure on. There should also be discussion about how this links in to the fight for decent pay, pensions and the defence of jobs.
Occupy London Stock Exchange (Occupy LSX) completed its first full week on Saturday. With rumours of impending eviction from St Paul's courtyard flying about a large crowd turned out to support the occupation.
At the general assembly in the afternoon Paul Callanan from Youth Fight for Jobs was among a number of speakers. Paul brought greetings from the Jarrow March. He pointed out that the marchers and the occupiers shared similar aims.
The Jarrow marchers were determined not to become a lost generation. The march itself was just the beginning of their campaign to restore the EMA, put an end to unpaid internships and fight for jobs and a decent future for young people.
A big cheer went up when he put forward YFJ's total opposition to any university fees.
The Occupy movement itself seems to be spreading. A new encampment has sprung up at Finsbury Square, round the corner from Liverpool Street station in the heart of London's finance district.
New figures show the biggest drop in university applications for 30 years as school leavers show how they feel about the prospect of £50,000 debt. City University in London saw applications drop by 40%. The Sunday Times reported that "teenagers from poorer families are proving more hesitant about applying". YFJ demands free education for all.
Bring bring, bring bring,
Bring bring, BRING BRING
Tories on the phone,
Tell them to leave our services alone!
Clegg at the door,
Tell him we won't take the cuts no more!
There's a message on twitter,
The poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer!
You got mail!
The NHS is not for sale!
Just updated my Facebook status!
'Why are the government always at us?'
No one stands for you! No one stands for me!
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Order online at www.jarrowmarch11.com or send your order with a cheque made out to 'Youth Fight for Jobs' to PO Box 858, London E11 1YG
75 years ago 200 unemployed men from Jarrow marched from their home in the North East to London to demand jobs and an end to their poverty conditions.
At their Blackfriars protest last week several electricians put their names to the appeal for anti-cuts, trade unionist candidates in the Greater London Assembly elections next year.
They are nearly all members of Unite, which provides the Labour Party with a quarter of its union funding. But the workers I spoke to had had enough of Labour pledging to continue with Tory cuts, and with the last Labour government's failure to repeal the trade union laws. "It's about time" was a common refrain.
"We, the undersigned, support the call for trade unionist and socialist candidates to stand in the Greater London Assembly elections in 2012, committed to opposing all cuts, privatisation and PFI."
Unite signatories include, in a personal capacity: M Bunyan; E Daniels; S Russell; A Morre; R Charman; P O'Rourke; P Parankerat; E Parris; Andy Gordon; Kevin Fergusson; Howard Hailey; Arti Dillon assistant branch secretary Unite le1111; Suzanne Muna vice-chair Unite housing workers branch
Other new signatories this week include, in a personal capacity: Hugo Pierre Camden Unison CSF co-convenor; John Dolan vice-chair Haringey Unison LG; Fidel McClean PCS DWP local office rep in Peckham and regional young members officer
Anti-cuts council elections initiative, led by public sector trade unionists, agreed in Scotland: see www.socialistpartyscotland.org.uk
Over 10,000 public sector jobs have been lost in Wales in the last year according to accountants PwC.
And it will get a whole lot worse according to the Wales Audit Office (WAO) who expects 21,000 jobs to be lost by 2015.
So far the cutbacks have been less severe in Wales than the rest of the UK, but the worst of the cutbacks have merely been delayed.
The Welsh government delayed the cuts until after the Assembly elections in May this year, but fully intend to make them bite now.
Already 1,000 jobs have been lost in the Welsh government. The NHS, education and councils are currently shedding jobs like leaves from the trees outside the Assembly offices.
The Con-Dem government claims that job losses in the public sector will be made up by job gains in the private sector.
There has been a small growth in the number of employees, although not enough to stop a sharp rise in unemployment.
But this is only because of a rise in part-time and temporary jobs. PwC estimates that over 50,000 jobs will go in Wales in the public and private sectors.
Health spending is due to be cut by 6.2% in three years in real terms. At the moment health spending per head is slightly higher in Wales than the UK average.
However, compared to other areas with similar socio-economic characteristics like the North East of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland it is the lowest.
The Welsh government proposes to cut it even further so that it falls even below the UK average. It pretends to stand in the tradition of the NHS's socialist founder, Aneurin Bevan and plans the deepest NHS cuts in the UK.
The response of people in Wales to the cuts has already been angry. The Welsh Labour government has been able to shift the blame onto the shoulders of the Con-Dem government which controls the purse strings.
It has shrugged its shoulders and said "what can we do?" before cutting services to the bone.
The WAO points out that spending on public services has never been cut for more than two consecutive years.
It will now be cut in real terms for five consecutive years. Real term funding will be cut by a massive 12.4% over that period.
Revenue from the Welsh government to the councils will fall by £283 million by 2013, a 7% cut. Many council workers are being hit by a double whammy.
Staffing levels are being cut and the extra workload heaped on the remaining workforce - and a substantial number are having their pay frozen and even cut by 'job evaluation'.
In Rhondda Cynon Taff and Neath Port Talbot councils the workers have been hit with a triple whammy as these Labour-run councils have threatened their workers with wage cuts or get the sack.
Some councils are attacking union organisation, withdrawing union facilities to try and prevent the unions from defending their members.
The WAO has exposed the fact that it would have been just as bad if Labour was in power in Westminster.
It calculated £1.5 billion cuts to the year 2013-14, based on the estimates of the outgoing Brown government's planned cuts.
The actual figure was virtually the same at £1.6 billion. In other words Labour's cut to Welsh funding would have been as bad as the Con-Dems.
But while jobs are being massacred in Wales, young people are showing that a fightback is on the way.
A delegation from Youth Fight For Jobs is following up the hugely successful Merthyr to Cardiff march by joining the Youth Fight For Jobs Jarrow march to London.
A dozen Youth Fight For Jobs activists from Wales will join the march as it moves towards its arrival in London on 5 November.
This will bring home the burning issue of youth unemployment, running at over 30% in Wales. It will up the ante as we prepare for the one-day public sector strike planned for 30 November.
The sovereign debt and eurozone crises, the Great Recession, etc, have all focussed attention on the failings of the banking sector and the greedy giant capitalist corporations. But exactly how powerful is finance capital in the world?
Posing and answering this question is not new. Lenin's famous booklet - Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism - did just that at the turn of the 20th century.
But of course the capitalist world economy has grown immeasurably since then and the tentacles of finance capital appear to grasp every corner of the globe more tightly.
And, indeed, this is the case according to a study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, reported in New Scientist.
The Swiss number crunchers used a 2007 database listing 37 million companies and investors internationally from which they extracted 43,060 'transnational companies' and the share ownerships linking them. "Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company's operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power." (New Scientist 22/10/11)
What this exercise showed is that a core of just 1,318 corporations effectively controlled the majority of economic activity on the planet. "The 1,318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's blue chip and manufacturing firms - the 'real' economy - representing 60% of global revenues."
But the researchers revealed another fact: "A 'super-entity' of 147 even more tightly knit companies - that controlled 40% of the total wealth in the network."
In other words just 1% of the giant corporations effectively control the world economy! "Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase & Co and The Goldman Sachs Group."
Brian Coleman, Tory councillor and London fire authority boss, is notorious for threatening Fire Brigades Union members with mass sackings and claiming vast expenses on top of his reported £120,000 a year earnings. Coleman's latest outrage has been to contemptuously dismiss an unemployed single mother's plea for help.
Sharada Osman, whose son has learning difficulties, is facing eviction after the landlord increased her rent by £150 a month to £1,100. She wrote to councillor Coleman asking for some help and guidance. Coleman's 'helpful' advice, which arrived nine days later, was to tell Sharada that her only option was to turn to the private sector. Presumably, the same private sector that had just racked up her rent!
When she complained about his lack of empathy Coleman simply reiterated his Tory callousness: "Lack of empathy?????..." he wrote, "I am afraid you have to live in the real world where the country has no money and residents will have to deal with their own issues rather than expect the system to sort out their lives."
What Coleman had, hypocritically, failed to tell Sharada was that he was living in a subsidised housing association flat, where his rent is £546 a month - half that of Sherada's rent.
A university opinion poll found two-thirds of voters in New York City agree with the Occupy Wall Street protesters' views. And asked about regulating the financial system 73% agreed laws should be tougher.
Moreover, a Time magazine poll found that public support for the anti-capitalist protest is running higher than that for the right-wing Tea Party Republicans.
In the UK, a Guardian opinion poll found that 88.2% supported the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest with only 11.8% opposed.
The Tax Justice Network (TJN) says that a newly agreed tax deal between the UK and Switzerland is flawed. TJN says that there are several loopholes that might enable UK tax evaders to maintain their anonymity without paying back taxes by: Moving cash out of Switzerland by May 2013; if money is held in a trading, manufacturing or commercial company; moving assets to another branch of a Swiss bank; if money is held in a discretionary trust where it is not known if there is a British beneficiary.
BP - a byword for environmental pollution and mega-profits - hit the jackpot last week with a new licence to resume oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and third quarter profits of £3.2 billion. Profits for the first nine months of 2011 were £9.9 billion.
The energy giant's reversal in fortunes - following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico 18 months ago when eleven oil rig workers were killed, causing the biggest oil spillage in US history - was helped by Brent crude oil hitting $110 a barrel.
BP has also been given the green light by the Con-Dem government for potentially hazardous deep water drilling operations in the North Sea.
While the defeat of the last major forces defending Gaddafi's dictatorial and increasingly megalomaniac regime was widely welcomed, the way in which it fell means that clouds now hang over the future of the Libyan revolution.
The combination of the absence of an independent workers' movement, the bitterness resulting from an increasingly brutalised civil war and particularly Nato's intervention, have combined with Libya's own history and characteristics to produce a complicated political and social situation.
Western leaders celebrated the death of their recent friend and ally Gaddafi with a combination of hypocrisy and profit seeking.
But while some Nato leaders have used this to attempt to rehabilitate the doctrine of 'liberal intervention' after the disaster of the Iraq invasion, others are more careful as they are not confident of Libya's future.
Western governments' questioning over the manner of Gaddafi's death gives themselves some space to distance themselves from future developments in Libya should it not go the way they hope.
The Obama administration is being completely hypocritical when it asks questions about Gaddafi's killing; after all, instead of taking him prisoner, it killed Bin Laden and has recently ordered the summary execution without trial of US citizens in Yemen by remote controlled drone attack.
Socialists would have wanted Gaddafi to stand trial, before a popular court for his crimes, something which would have exposed the corruption of his oppressive regime and his links with imperialism. But it is precisely because of these links that imperialism is openly happy that Gaddafi was killed.
Multinationals have started looking on how they can profit from rebuilding Libya. The British government has calculated that £200 billion worth of contracts will be "up for grabs" in Libya (London Evening Standard, 21/10/11).
So, the day after Gaddafi's death, the UK defence minister told British companies to "pack their suitcases" to go to Libya and get contracts. It was not reported whether he said what should be in the suitcases, but it's a fair guess that bribes will be offered.
Just two days after this it was reported his own ministry was taking legal steps to prevent a retired British lieutenant-colonel, Ian Foxley, publishing in a book details of the alleged payment of £11.5 million in bribes to a Saudi prince in connection with a defence contract.
Initially Gaddafi, learning from the overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak, launched a counter-offensive against Benghazi and other centres of the February revolution. These were certainly threatened but could have been defended by mass popular defence of the city alongside a revolutionary appeal to workers, youth and the poor in the rest of Libya that could have led to an earlier victory.
In Benghazi at the start of the revolution English language posters were put up declaring "No to foreign intervention - Libyans can do it by themselves". But the self-appointed leadership of the uprising would not do this.
Dominated by a combination of defectors from the regime and openly pro-imperialist elements, the Transitional National Council (TNC), pushing aside the initial popular mood against any foreign intervention, looked to the imperialist powers and semi-feudal Arab states for support.
The main imperialist powers seized this opportunity to step in, justifying their intervention on 'humanitarian' grounds. Their aim was to try to contain the revolution, rebuild their points of support in the region and increase their exploitation of Libya's natural resources.
The same imperialist powers that shouted about defending Benghazi did nothing to halt the Israeli government's 2008/9 offensive in Gaza and, this year, maintained a virtual silence on the brutality of their close allies, the Bahraini regime and Saudi autocracy when they moved to violently crush opposition.
In a manner reminiscent of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes 20 years ago, imperialism took advantage of a spontaneous movement that knew what it was against but had no clear programme of its own. Imperialism has not only accommodated itself to the revolution and but has, in a certain sense, benefited from it.
This is why principled socialists opposed Nato's intervention and consistently warned against any illusions in Nato, stressing that Libyan working people and youth had to build their own independent, democratic movement if the revolution was really going to transform their lives.
The TNC is still in many ways largely a fictional national force, its power base being largely in the east around Benghazi which is where they proclaimed on 23 October the end of the civil war.
The TNC leaders have not been able to appoint a new 'cabinet' to replace the one that resigned after last July's still unexplained killing of the TNC's military commander, General Younes, by some of his erstwhile rebel allies.
The TNC's first 'prime minister', the deeply unpopular Jibril, has now been replaced by Ali Tarhouni. Tarhouni, until the revolution, was a university economics lecturer in Seattle, USA. His wife is a lawyer who works for the Washington state attorney general.
The tragedy of the first stage of the Libyan revolution is that the largely spontaneous initial uprising did not really result in the development of the democratic, self-organisation of the working masses and youth.
Despite the involvement of large numbers of Libyans in the fighting and the mass arming of the population, there are not, so far, any signs of Libyan workers, youth and poor striving to establish their own collective, democratic independent rule over society.
With no strong democratic, independent organisations in communities and workplaces etc, militias and mosques are taking the lead in maintain security and getting services restarted.
But these militias are not democratically run or controlled, they are divided by geographical, tribal or ethnic origin differences as well as viewpoints and their leaders have their own agendas.
In the absence, so far, of a developing workers' movement and Left forces, Islamist groups have started to attempt to build wider support. The autocratic Gulf oil state of Qatar, which owns the Al Jazeera TV network, has been playing a key role in this by backing individual leaders and militias.
The NTC president, and Gaddafi's former justice minister, Jalil proclaimed that "as an Islamic country, we have adopted Sharia as our principal law". Just who decided this was not clear, but it reflected the growing strength of Islamist forces.
Imperialism, while hoping that the TNC will be able to incorporate the different elements to stabilise the situation, also has fears about how the situation could unfold.
Stabilisation will not be easy. Many Libyans, particularly the youth, now feel that they have a chance, and the power, to decide their own future. It will be difficult to immediately establish the authority of the TNC or any other government.
Additionally there are fault lines between the different militias, for example those of Misrata and Zintan from the west and those from Benghazi in the east. The Berber minority, who played a key role in the fighting in the west have their own demands while there are tensions between the various militias in Tripoli.
Currently imperialism hopes that Libya's oil wealth will keep the country together. But it can also lead to struggles, particularly between competing elites, over how the loot is doled out.
However, these are still early days; Libyan workers and youth have still not put their demands on the table. A key factor in the revolution was the tremendous revolt of the youth against the Gaddafi regime's suffocating corruption and nepotism.
Oil and gas have made Libya a rich country. The World Bank estimates it has a $160 billion foreign currency reserve. But all this depends on the oil price and a renewed world economic crisis would fundamentally change the situation and threaten to plunge the country into disaster. When oil prices fell in the 1980s, Libya's GDP collapsed by over 40%.
Now, more than ever, the creation of independent, democratic workers' organisations, including a workers' party, are vital, if working people, the oppressed and youth are to achieve a real revolutionary transformation of the country and thwart the imperialists' plans, end dictatorship and transform the lives of the mass of the people.
Without this other forces will step into the gap. To limit this and to achieve these goals, a workers' movement would need to defend all democratic rights, involve and defend the rights of migrant workers, oppose the privatisation of Libya's assets, demand the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and oppose all foreign military intervention, demand the democratic election of a Constituent Assembly and, above all, reject participation in any government with pro-capitalist forces.
Instead, it would strive for a government of representatives of the workers and poor, based upon democratic structures in the workplaces and communities, which would use Libya's resources for its population. This would be the real victory for the Libyan revolution and set an international example of ending both dictatorial rule and the miseries of capitalism.
"The Euro should not exist (like this)... Under the current structure and with the current membership, the euro does not work. Either the current structure will have to change, or the current membership will have to change," said a statement in September by leading Swiss bank UBS.
This blunt statement brutally summed up the deepening crisis in the eurozone.that threatens not only the European economy but could even help trigger a dreaded "double-dip" recession worldwide. European governments face a potentially massive crisis with no easy way out, as long as capitalism remains.
At the recent G20 meeting, one minister warned of a "world of pain" if no solution was found. Desperate attempts are being made to patch up such a 'solution', however temporary. Governments and EU institutions, seen as helpless and incapable of putting forward a solution, increase popular fears of what lies ahead.
This is not an abstract crisis. The eurozone disarray is adding to the misery facing many workers and youth across Europe. Living standards are falling, inflation is rising, and unemployment increasing in many countries.
Cuts in services and wages are widespread. In Greece, currently the worst hit country, the vast bulk of the population is suffering "planned tax increases and spending cuts for 2011 ... equivalent to about 14% of average Greek take-home income" according to the Financial Times. Europe faces a possible banking and financial meltdown that could paralyse much of the 'real' economy.
Governments, inside and outside the eurozone, now see the devastating impact that a sudden Greek default could have throughout the international financial system. This made the main eurozone countries attempt again to defuse the situation.
Many banks face a critical situation and the European Central Bank (ECB) again tried to prop some up. In October, the Belgian-French Dexia bank collapsed and was nationalised. One reason for Dexia's collapse was its exposure to Greek government debt, estimated at 39% of its equity capital. But this was not unique. This summer the comparable figure at Germany's second biggest bank, Commerzbank, was 27%.
Dexia's collapse was a wake-up call. It would be very expensive to maintain a financial firewall around Greece should it suddenly default. For now, discussion of forcing Greece to leave the euro has stopped.
If Greece or other weaker countries were kicked out of the single currency massive collateral damage could follow across the international banking system. Other governments tried to stem the crisis by making Greece's creditors accept that they will actually get less of their loans back. The banks, of course, would attempt to offload the cost onto taxpayers and customers.
Andreas Schmitz, head of German banking federation BdB warned politicians not to declare "war" against banks. He said that the 15 October anti-bank protests were "a diversion from the fundamental problem: that we can no longer finance our welfare states".
Any capitalist solution that Europe's ruling classes attempt would run up against growing popular opposition in all countries to the idea of underwriting other countries' banking debts. Falling living standards in most countries and the bitter understanding since 2007/8 that much of the bailout will actually end up in the hands of the banks and finance markets also fuel the opposition.
The tensions inherent within the eurozone will increase, especially when there is no immediate prospect of sustained economic growth. There is rising anger among workers, youth and the middle class as the crisis bites deeper. This is the reason for the unpopularity of most European governments and the mass demonstrations and strikes in many countries.
Determined struggle, or a very serious economic or social crisis may force governments to make temporary concessions, but generally the ruling classes will be forced by their system's crisis, at best, to hold down living standards.
The CWI - the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated -warned before the euro's launch that it would not lead to unity. It would break down as a result of clashes between the rival national capitalisms and, in the absence of a workers' alternative, strengthen nationalism. What develops will depend on the character and policy of the opposition movements, particularly what the workers' movement does.
In some countries, right-wing populists have, in the absence or weakness of left parties, made electoral gains by combining taking up some social issues with nationalist based anti-EU and anti-migrant slogans.
In Greece overwhelming opposition to the cuts and the country's downward spiral created a potentially revolutionary situation but, so far, there is no mass-based genuinely socialist force that can give concrete direction to the movement.
Unfortunately the response of the workers' movement's official leadership has been limited, with most of the pro-capitalist trade union leaders only organising action when they are pushed from below. Even when actions are organised, the trade union leaders try to restrict them to symbolic actions and strive to avoid them becoming steps in a serious struggle.
The trade unions and many left parties seem reluctant to challenge the EU or euro itself, a position sometimes justified by pointing to the EU's right-wing nationalist opponents. Socialists explain that the EU is not a step towards socialist internationalism but a club of capitalist nations run in the interests of big business and the big powers.
The largest grouping of European left parties, the European Left Party (ELP), talks of "refoundation" of the EU without mentioning any break with capitalism and, by implication, supports the continuation of the euro. But the EU, a complete capitalist institution effectively run by the major powers, is not a vehicle for either socialist change or democratic socialist planning.
The ELP's strongest parties, Die Linke in Germany, the Parti Communiste in France, Left Bloc in Portugal and Izquierda Unida in Spain, put forward some policies that socialists support, although often these are vague, loose formulations. However it does not link these together into an overall anti-capitalist, socialist programme.
Die Linke's demands on what the German government should argue at the October G20 finance ministers' meeting included worldwide strict regulation of "finance casinos" and a tax on financial transactions. However, these proposals cannot be fully implemented under capitalism. Die Linke also mentioned its call for public ownership of the banks, but simply demanded measures that could be taken within capitalism.
Naturally, socialists argue for individual measures to immediately improve the conditions of working people and the poor. But such campaigns have to be accompanied by an explanation that such demands can only provide temporary improvement. Especially in this time of crisis, a socialist transformation of society is required. Without this explanation they are attempts to run this system in a 'better', 'fairer' way, and will ultimately fail.
For 40 years there has been a huge explosion of the finance markets. The figures are mind-blowing. In 2010 finance transactions in the EU were 115 times the EU's 12,300 billion euro GDP. All the political leaders bow to these markets, and often direct their official statements simply to them.
It cannot be ruled out that different capitalist nations, or groups of nations, may attempt to isolate themselves or place some controls on these markets, in effect clipping the speculators' wings in the wider interests of capitalism. But this would be no long-term solution. An attempt to go back to a system of fixed exchange rates would not, in the medium or longer term, prevent currency crises or forced devaluations.
There is now growing support for a tax on financial transactions (a 'Robin Hood' or 'Tobin' tax). Socialists would not oppose such a tax, but it would leave untouched the power of the huge financial and trading institutions that run these markets.
Similarly simply leaving the euro would not solve the problems of Greece or other countries. Socialists opposed the introduction of the euro and today support breaking its grip and that of the "Troika" - the EU, ECB and IMF - that effectively dictates what the Greek government should do. The key question in Greece is breaking with the capitalist system. Without this, living standards will fall for some time whether or not it stays with the euro.
Socialists would not oppose leaving the euro but would firmly link it to a socialist policy of bank nationalisation. In the case of a single country breaking from capitalism, a state monopoly of foreign trade and exchange controls would be necessary as a defence from the international markets until a similar movement spreads to other countries.
These steps, as part of a policy to bring the commanding heights of the economy into democratically run public control and ownership, would allow a start to be made in planning the use of economic resources for the benefit of all.
Much opposition to the EU centres on the privileges of its bureaucratic elite and the way it is run in the interests of the big countries and companies. Existing EU institutions, the EC, the ECB etc, are clearly agencies of the capitalist ruling class, incapable of surmounting capitalist limitations.
The task facing socialists is to argue for a socialist internationalist alternative to the pro-business EU, a voluntary socialist confederation of European states. Without this there is the danger that opposition will take a nationalist direction.
This new period of sharper struggles will provide an opportunity to rebuild the workers' and socialist movement, and to build the forces that can fundamentally change society, end the chaos and instability of capitalism and make poverty a thing of the past.
A protest against state brutality and imprisonment of trade unionists and their representatives in Kazakhstan was held outside the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall Place, London, this morning.
The protest was timed to coincide with the opening of a two day conference of the Kazakhstan Business Forum.
Representatives of the wealthy Kazakh elite around president Nursultan Nazarbayev are seeking business deals at events like this to help nurture and add to the $100 billion that is invested by big businesses internationally in Kazakhstan to exploit the country's natural resources, including oil, gas and uranium.
Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of the population lives in poverty and working people in Kazakhstan are denied basic democratic rights, including the right to organise in independent trade unions.
The protest (including speeches and chants through a megaphone) caused a welcome stir of shock and consternation among Kazakh business and government representatives going into the plush hotel.
Some tried to photograph and film the protesters but weren't so happy when photographs were taken in return by protesters of them! People passing by took an interest in the protest, taking leaflets on their way.
In western Kazakhstan, over 2,500 oil workers have been sacked for taking strike action to win a wage they can live on and reasonable working conditions.
During four months of strike action, the workers have endured great brutality from the state forces, including houses being burnt down, a trade union shop steward being killed and the daughter of a union leader being raped and killed.
The lawyer for the oil workers' independent trade union, Natalya Sokolova, was sentenced to six years in prison in August for 'incitement of social hatred' and 'illegally organising trade unions'.
Other workers' representatives are facing similar accusations and harsh punishments. These include Ainur Kurmanov, deputy chairman of the Vozrozhdeniye (Rebirth) trade union and Esenbek Ukteshbayev, president of the all-Kazakhstan independent trade union federation, Zhentau.
Both are also leaders of the 'Socialist Movement Kazakhstan' and have been involved in a tremendous struggle against brutal housing evictions of residents who can't afford their monthly payments.
These outstanding and courageous workers' leaders have been imprisoned many times for the 'crime' of resisting poverty and repression.
Now, once again, criminal charges have been fabricated against them, as the corrupt, profiteering regime tries to destroy all opposition.
But workers in Kazakhstan are losing their fear of fighting back, and the independent unions have broad support.
Gathered today at the Kazakhstan Business Forum are representatives of Kazmunaigaz, the oil company largely controlled by the dictatorial president and his clique, which is currently engaged in trying to crush the fightback of its workers' trade union activists and legal representatives.
Also here are top officials of the BT Bank which is constantly trying to evict mortgagees from their homes after it has pushed them to borrow sums it has become impossible for them to repay.
Instead of foreign investments that are lining the pockets of Nazarbayev and his clique, these authoritarian and parasitic leaders should be boycotted internationally!
1: Head of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan - Alina Bulatovna Rakhimbekova
Email: Rahimbekova@supcourt.kz with copies to: Kulumbetova@supcourt.kz; firstname.lastname@example.org
or Tel ++7 7172 747570
2: Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan
3: The Head of the President's Administration
Tel: ++7 (7172) 74 55 24
Please send copies of all protests to KazakhstanSolidarity@gmail.com
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 20 October 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
What are free schools?
Free schools are a new kind of academy school. Like academies, they receive state funding directly from Westminster but are independent of an elected local authority. Instead, they will be run by unaccountable sponsors, predominantly big businesses.
Rather than being converted from existing schools, free schools will typically rely on available accommodation such as empty office blocks. As a result, in Sweden, where free schools were first tested out, many lacked facilities such as libraries and play space.
Government legislation presumes that where new schools are opened, they will be free schools, not local authority community schools. This is a real threat in areas like London where there is a growing shortage of pupil places.
Freedom to make profits out of tax-payers' money
We know that when Tories talk about 'freedom,' they really mean freedom for big business to make profits at our expense. Free schools will be no different.
Five of the 24 initial free schools will be run by existing academy chains from the start. As Sweden has also shown, eventually most free schools will end up being taken over by these big 'edu-businesses'.
Academies have not been allowed to be run for a profit but free schools will be different. Under pressure, Gove has stated that free schools are not going to be able to make profit - but only 'at the moment'. But, as in health and other public services, that won't be good enough for the private sector vultures.
Freedom to cut costs and quality
The privateers plan to cut costs by attacking pay and conditions and employing cheaper staff. That's why free school legislation means they won't have to employ qualified teachers. Nor, like all academies, will they have to abide by national terms and conditions.
Claims that free schools will offer 'smaller class sizes' are inevitably an illusion. Swedish free schools have worse pupil-teacher ratios than municipal schools. They also employ a far lower proportion of qualified teaching staff.
Even if the government throws some additional bribes at free schools and academies in the first place, that money is at the expense of other schools as the Con-Dems cut overall expenditure. The £130 million start-up costs for the first free schools have been found by the money saved by cutting the Building Schools for the Future funds that were desperately needed to rebuild underfunded local authority schools.
Freedom from democratic control
Free schools are part and parcel of the government's agenda to cut and privatise public services. They hope to remove so many schools and services from local council control that local authorities effectively cease to exist.
When all the main parties in our town halls are voting for cuts, some parents may ask why we should bother to defend elected councils. However, local councillors are still accountable to voters, even if most try to ignore our wishes between elections. Councils are also able to plan for provision for all pupils across a local area.
Free schools and academies will create a chaotic 'free-for-all' where unaccountable businesses put their interests first. Vital local authority support services will be lost. The academy and free school education 'marketplace' may create a few lucky winners - but most families will lose out.
Freedom over how schools are run?
Parents and teachers are rightly angry at the way both Labour and Con-Dem governments have used tests and league tables to put schools into an educational strait-jacket. But free schools are no solution.
Some are offering extended opening hours, an attractive option for parents working long hours and unable to afford childcare. But many community schools also try to offer breakfast clubs and after-school activities. Free schools however want to do it on the cheap by making teachers work longer hours instead of paying for additional staff to run the extended provision.
Parents, staff and students should have more say in how schools are run. But 'free schools' will hand real control to big business sponsors, not local parents. Where free schools are offering curriculum changes, these are mainly designed to help them attract a more privileged clientele - for example Latin classes.
Freedom to select
Despite underfunding and all the pressures on families and young people, most schools are successfully supporting their students. But the Tories and the right-wing press are deliberately trying to undermine comprehensive schools, whipping up parents' fears to get their support for free schools as a 'safe haven' for their children.
Gove has even tried to steal the NUT's own slogan by claiming that free schools are about offering every parent 'a good local school' for their child. In reality, his policy will achieve the opposite, widening division between schools. Their 'business plan' aims to enrol middle-class pupils that can secure the highest exam results at the lowest costs. Local authority schools will be left to support the youth with the greatest needs.
Analysis for the Guardian confirms that the first wave of free schools have predominantly middle class catchment areas, even those sited in poorer authorities. The dangers of segregation are increased by the numbers of faith groups that have already - or are proposing to - set up free schools. Again, Sweden's experience shows that free schools have led to a widening class divide between schools. Instead of 'freedom', they promise more inequality.
In 1992 the Swedish conservative government launched the "right to choose" reform in the Swedish school system. That meant that all children got a price tag, a set sum of money that they (or their parents) could use to shop around among different schools to get the best possible education that 'suited their needs'. That was one of the explanations for the new education system that was introduced.
Another explanation was that teachers that felt 'stifled' by the oppressive monopoly system must be freed to use the teaching methods that they preferred. That all sounded good. Now, after almost 20 years, we have begun to see the result of the 'reform'.
More and more schools, especially sixth form colleges, have been started, or taken over, by profit-making companies, some with their headquarters abroad.
These companies have realised there is easy money to be made. They get a set sum of money for each student. That sum is the same for each student irrespective of his or her needs. The free schools have the right to say 'no' to a child whereas the council schools can't do that.
In order to get students, the schools must try to prove that they are a "good" school. Each year the newspapers show tables listing the 'best' schools, ie the schools where the students have got the highest grades.
So an easy way to show that you are a good school is to give high grades to your students. There are set criteria for each grade, but these are free to interpretation. Karl Ågerup, an ex-free school teacher has written in his book Barnens Marknad (the Children's Market) about a maths teacher in his school who showed the results in maths in one class to the headteacher. "There are too many 'not passed'. You have to increase the grades," he responded.
It is not just by giving high grades that you can attract students. Many free sixth form colleges also offer laptops for their students. They also offer popular courses that don't cost much money to run, for example song and dance or sports.
How do the free schools make money? One way is of course not to accept students that require more resources, like children with disabilities or whose first language is not Swedish.
Another way is to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio. Last summer I read a statement from the managing director of one of the biggest free school companies. He explained their lower pupil-teacher ratio by saying that their teachers could spend more time with their students as the company had set computer-based lessons. For me, computer-based lessons would mean that teachers can't adapt the lessons to the needs of their students or to the composition of the different classes.
Another managing director, Johan G-tefeldt for Pysslingen AB, told the magazine Skolledaren (for headteachers): "We have more efficient premises and are working more efficiently with costs, less caretaking, less bureaucracy and fewer secretarial posts for instance." That company last year handed out more than four million Swedish crowns (£400,000) to their five shareholders.
The free schools can reduce other costs as well. Many free schools don't have a school library or a school nurse. If the students are in need of transport, because of distance, the free school has no obligation to provide this because the parents have chosen not to use the nearest council school. Yet the council schools have to fund taxi or bus journeys.
The working conditions for the staff in the profit-making free schools are worse than in the council schools. More time with the students can mean less time to do a good job with lesson preparation.
The teachers don't have school holidays, but only five weeks holiday. Is it any wonder that profit-making schools have a higher rate of unqualified teachers, pay lower rates and have a high turnover of staff? Karl Ågerup describes the first question he got asked as he walked into a class: "How long are you staying? We don't want to change teacher again."
With the 'freedom of choice' the Swedish schools have become more segregated, with free schools having more unqualified teachers.
The working conditions of all teachers have deteriorated over the last 20 years, with more work and pay that has fallen behind other professions. The number of students applying for teacher training is now, in some subjects, lower than the number of spaces at college.
The official theory was that competition is good and that the horrible state monopoly schools would improve if they met competition. That should benefit all. What is the outcome after nearly 20 years?
PISA is an OECD measure of the educational attainment of 15 year-olds in the main industrialised countries. The latest report shows that the educational standard of Swedish students has dropped considerably.
It now worries even the traditional free market proponents. SNS, a business-funded think tank in a report on 7 September dismissed the free school system. The author Jonas Vlachos, has found that students who entered sixth form from free schools performed worse than students from council schools with the same grades.
The reasons behind the failure of Swedish students are many. PISA 2009 had some interesting things to say:
School systems that offer parents more school choices are less effective in raising the performance of all children.
Segregation leads to lower quality results.
The quality of teaching is key to educational outcomes.
Every politician has over the last 15 years promised better schools, but the result is the opposite. The reason is that no one wants to address the real problem, lack of funding and the spurious 'freedom of choice'.
Even an ex-minister of the Social Democratic party has been on the board of Pysslingen AB. In spite of all evidence about the drawbacks it will take a lot to make the established parties reverse the situation. They are too anxious about losing the votes of middle class voters in the big cities.
The companies renting their school buildings and so not being responsible for long term wear and tear;
Buildings such as disused offices and factories being utilised;
Lack of overheads on for example sports facilities, dining halls etc.
A lack of investment in special needs/language facilities and support; and
The employment of young and inexperienced staff and larger numbers of unqualified teachers.