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The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) has spent the last few months helping to build for the TUC demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Belfast.
We lobbied the TUC conference last month for the unions to follow up the 20 October mobilisations with a 24-hour general strike to defeat the Con-Dems' austerity offensive.
The motion from the POA prison officers' union was passed at the TUC conference calling for coordinated action, including the consideration of a general strike.
Since then, we have produced a model motion backing up this decision which has been taken to shop stewards' committees, union branches and trades councils and debated and passed by many of these. Some examples are below. This will continue after the demonstrations.
The government's Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill sits alongside the attack on PCS facility time agreement as a serious turn in the Con-Dems' assault on our unions.
It is further evidence that if they are not stopped, this weak and divided government will stagger on, inflicting ever more hardships on our class.
This Bill merely reinforces the urgency for this and emphasises that whatever happens on Saturday, it's a new stage of the struggle not the end of the campaign against austerity.
On Saturday, the NSSN will be giving out tens of thousands of our leaflets and thousands of our placards calling for this action. We'll also be distributing our new NHS bulletin, the second we've produced.
The NSSN is organising meetings and conferences around the country after Saturday on this theme and others, such as defending the NHS.
Have a great day protesting against this government of the fat cats and their attempt to make us pay for the bankers' crisis.
But please pick up our leaflet. Better still pick up a handful for your work colleagues or trade union branch.
Come to one of our meetings and take the model motion to your next union meeting and keep the pressure up on the union leaders.
March together on 20 October... then strike together to stop the Con-Dem cuts!
Coventry District Unison supports the call for a general strike and calls for the date to be named. A motion discussed and passed unanimously at the latest branch committee meeting welcomes the TUC decision to look at the practicalities of organising a 24-hour general strike, to launch a discussion among our membership and urges our NEC to call on the TUC to name a date for coordinated action.
We also agreed that the motion will be sent to our regional council, NEC members and Coventry TUC.
Our activists, like many others across the country, put huge amounts of work into making the pensions strike on 30 November a success.
Many stewards were disappointed that further action was not called, and that the union pulled out of the pensions fight.
No one should be under any illusions that the TUC, and Unison, will just call a 24-hour general strike.
They will need to be pressured. Unison activists need to discuss how there can be genuine membership control over any future action and how our union can be turned into a democratic, fighting union.
With councils, including Coventry city council, to announce their budgets for 2013/14 in the next few weeks and months, the move of Unison, GMB and Unite in Glasgow to call on councillors to refuse to implement the cuts and to look at ways of resisting, should be discussed widely.
The horrendous situation facing working people in Greece could be our future if we don't stop the Con-Dem attacks...
We urge all members, friends and families to come to the TUC demo on 20 October, and that this day is seen as the beginning of a new stage of action.
We urge all unions participating in the demo to follow up with a further coordinated 24-hour national strike of both public and private sector workers, making direct calls to youth and students, the unemployed, and community campaigns to join in.
We, therefore, agree that the branch committee will send this motion to all stewards and trades councils to organise discussions on the issue and organise a local meeting to discuss how to progress these ideas put forward by the PCS and POA at the TUC conference this year.
We will send this motion for discussion at regional meetings of Unison in the South East.
We request that Unison's national executive discuss this motion and work together with other unions to find the most appropriate way to coordinate the biggest possible joint strike.
This is so that we can defeat these cuts and pose the alternative vision of society we hold.
"We note that the NUT executive has agreed to meet with other unions to explore ways of advancing the practicalities of general strike action and call on Unite executive to use the size and authority of our union to lend maximum support to such initiatives."
The Waltham Forest Health Unison branch committee based at Whipps Cross hospital in east London met on 10 October and considered a motion calling on the TUC to name the date for a 24-hour general strike involving public and private sectors, as soon as possible after the demo on 20 October.
This follows the successful lobby of the TUC conference on 9 September, which 19 Whipps Cross workers attended.
The attacks on NHS workers' national agreements was a major influence in the committee supporting the idea of naming the date for a general strike.
At the last meeting of Stevenage TUC a motion was passed unanimously calling on the general council to name the day for a strike.
Following reports from the NSSN Lobby of the TUC and a meeting where Alex Gordon, RMT president, spoke in Welwyn Garden City, it was clear that the TUC has to act, coordinating all trade unions in both public and private sectors in a one-day strike.
Every delegate at the meeting spoke in favour of such action.
The NSSN model resolution was passed and will be sent to the County Association of Trades Councils and in turn to the South East Region of the TUC (SERTUC) to be put before the general council of the TUC.
Bristol NSSN and Bristol Socialist Party: Tuesday 23 October, 7.30pm, Cheltenham Road Library, Bristol BS6 5OX
South West NSSN public meeting, Saturday 27 October, 12-4pm, Great Western Hotel, Station Road, Swindon
Wednesday 24 October, 7.30pm, Reading International Solidarity Centre, room 1, 35-39 London Street, Reading RG1 4PS
Wales Shop Stewards Network meeting, Wednesday 24 October, 7.30pm, Tower Room, Twyn Community Centre, CF83 1JL
Midlands NSSN conference, Saturday 17 November, 12-4pm, Unite offices, 211 Broad Street B15 1AY.
Speakers (personal capacity): Joe Simpson, POA assistant general secretary, Lee Barron, CWU midlands regional secretary, Kevin Greenway, PCS national executive, Dave Auger, Unison, Nick Harrison, FBU, Linda Taaffe, NSSN national secretary
London NSSN public meeting, Wednesday 24 October, 7pm, ULU, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
Speakers include: Chris Baugh, PCS assistant general secretary, Steve Hedley, RMT assistant general secretary, Suzanne Muna, Unite housing branch secretary
Scotland NSSN conference, Saturday 27 October, 11am-4pm, Glasgow Unison offices, 84 Bell Street.
Yorkshire and Humber NSSN conference, Saturday 24 November, 10am-4pm Cosmopolitan Hotel, 2 Lower Briggate, Leeds LS1 4AE
North West NSSN public meeting, Saturday 27 October, 1-3pm, Town Hall Tavern (upstairs), 20 Tib Lane, Manchester City Centre M2 4JA
Speakers include: Steve Acheson, Unite construction national industrial sector committee and Sparks rank and file and Alex Davidson, PCS North West vice-chair
This [body] welcomes the overwhelming vote at this year's TUC Congress in support of the POA motion. It called for the unions to take "coordinated action where possible with far-reaching campaigns including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike."
We are alarmed that a relentless barrage of even more austerity cuts is coming down the line, and will continue into the foreseeable future.
Millions of workers, young people, the sick and disabled people face a lifetime of severe hardship through cuts to pay, conditions, benefits and services - the horrendous situation facing people in Greece could be our future if we don't stop the Con-Dem attacks.
We believe austerity cuts must be stopped, and that the labour movement has the potential to force a massive U-turn from this Coalition government of the rich, if our trade unions were to organise action decisively together.
We urge all members, friends and families to come to the TUC demo on 20 October. Let's campaign so this day is seen as the beginning of a new stage of action.
We urge all unions participating in the demo to follow up with a further coordinated 24-hour national strike of both public and private sector workers, making direct calls to youth and students, the unemployed, and community campaigns to join in.
We, therefore, agree that this branch will organise a local/regional meeting to discuss how to progress these ideas put forward by the PCS and POA at the TUC.
We also call on the national executive of our union to call on the TUC general council to urgently meet to name the date for the biggest possible coordinated strike.
Coxford ward Labour councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas were suspended from their council Labour group for the crime of opposing the closure of a swimming pool.
Following this, they have decided it is necessary to launch a new council group: 'Labour councillors against the cuts'. Their launch statement is below.
For the crime of honouring the Labour Party's election pledge and opposing the closure of Oaklands Swimming Pool at Lordshill, Coxford Ward Labour Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas have been 'suspended' for three months by their Labour colleagues on Southampton City Council. They are no longer allowed to be part of the Labour Group, are not allowed to attend Group meetings or express a point of view - but they are, on pain of further suspension, required to vote in Council as ordered by the Labour Group!
Despite this attempt to gag them, Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas refuse to be silenced and are determined to continue speaking out on behalf of their constituents and users of the Pool, and are demanding that the City Council finish off the stalled repairs, recall the staff and immediately re-open the Pool.
People voted Labour believing that a Labour Council would stand up for them. The announcement that the Labour Administration is planning to carry out massive cuts in local services and sack hundreds of staff on behalf of the Tory-LibDem government is a betrayal of trust.
The Administration intended that the closure of Oaklands Pool would be only the first of many such attacks and did not expect that the announcement by Coxford Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, that they would fight against the closure, would trigger a magnificent City-wide fight-back by residents, supporters of the Pool and trades unions.
The experience of the Oaklands Pool campaign demonstrated that people are fed up with broken promises and being treated with contempt.
Councillors Keith Morrell and Don Thomas are forming a new Group on the City Council to demonstrate that principles, integrity and accountability are not just words used by politicians during elections.
The new Group, 'Labour Councillors Against The Cuts', will provide a focus of opposition to the claims by the three main political parties that "there is no alternative to cuts", that "we have no choice but to make cuts", and that "tough decisions have to be made".
'Labour Councillors Against The Cuts' demands that the City's Labour Administration immediately announces that it will refuse to do the Government's dirty work of forcing through massive cuts in public services and that the City Council will lead a national campaign to demand that the Government restore the money it has stolen from local authorities.
Councillor Keith Morrell says: "We supported 100% the workforce and Unions in their campaign to win back the pay stolen from them by the Tories. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with them against any further threats to their jobs and to public services"
Councillor Don Thomas added: "We support the Unions' view that council workers and the community should not be made to pay for a crisis they did not create"
Write to: Members' Room, Labour Councillors Against The Cuts, Civic Centre, Southampton SO14 7LY
Rebel Southampton Labour councillors, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, have launched a new council group, Labour Councillors Against Cuts.
They have taken this stand in response to being suspended from the Labour Group for three months and gagged from speaking out while the newly elected Labour council prepare to announce huge cuts of £29 million.
Keith and Don are campaigning against the closure of their local swimming pool and are calling on the Southampton Labour council not to carry out the Con-Dem cuts.
Southampton Socialist Party welcomes their stand and gives our full support to building the fight against all cuts.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
Speaker: Glenn Kelly
More info from 07894 716095, email@example.com
40 years since Clay Cross Council defied the Tory government, this meeting will discuss the lessons for the battle against cuts today
Speakers: A former Clay Cross councillor; Alex Gordon, RMT president; Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary; Becci Heagney, Youth Fight for Jobs
Main speaker: Dave Nellist
For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For information, please ring Mike 07887 668 740
The campaign to save Dewsbury hospital is now in full swing. This meeting is a chance to stand back and look at how the NHS evolved and how we can win this fight.
For information, please ring Mike 07887 668 740
Speakers include: Mike Forster (Socialist Party National Committee) and local students and trade unionists
Ring Rob on 07541145108 for more information.
Speakers include: Chris Baugh - PCS Assistant General Secretary, Steve Hedley - RMT Assistant General Secretary, Suzanne Muna, Unite housing branch secretary
Includes sessions on: 'Lessons of the public sector pensions struggle' and 'Where next for the fight against austerity?'
Main rallies at Friends Meeting House, opposite Euston station with speakers including Bob Crow (general secretary of RMT), Matt Wrack (general secretary of FBU) and Peter Taaffe (general secretary of Socialist Party)
This is a national event, welcoming all, from those who are already a trade union or anti-cuts activist to those who are interested in finding out more about fighting back, or more about socialist ideas.
For tickets and more info go to www.socialism2012.org.uk
Speaker: Bill Reed
Speakers: Helen O'Connor, healthworker, Unison (personal capacity) and Lee Vernon, PCS (personal capacity)
Speakers include: Steve Acheson (Unite construction National Industrial Sector Committee and Sparks rank & file) and Alex Davidson (PCS North West vice-chair)
"The lounge" meeting room in the Methodist Central Hall, Oldham Street, off Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre, Manchester M1 1JQ
Speakers include Dave Nellist, former Coventry socialist MP and councillor and Alex Davidson, TUSC Manchester parliamentary byelection candidate
For more info contact email@example.com
Speakers: Andy Bentley - Socialist Party Organiser plus a rep from the NUT
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 16 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
The cold cruelty of the British ruling class and the Tories, its traditional party, was revealed in all its viciousness at the Conservative conference.
David Cameron tried to claim that the Tories stand, not for the better off, but for the 'want to be better off'. Millions watching on TV will have laughed hollowly.
The big majority of the 'want to be better off' have no chance of becoming so in Cameron's Britain, no matter how hard they work, or look for work.
On the contrary, the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that, if current policies continue, low-income families will be an average of 15% worse off by 2020 - even if pigs fly and the economy grows substantially! New IMF research shows that every £1 of austerity could cost up to £1.70 in lost GDP. Cuts are making the situation far worse.
Throughout Tory conference ministers justified protecting the rich, while proposing ever more ingenious methods of making the rest of us suffer.
George Osborne ruled out a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million - because he didn't like to take money from people who had worked hard for their mansions.
His own Notting Hill pad, paid for as a result of inherited wealth, is worth around £3 million. The rental income from it is estimated at around £200,000 a year - after all he only earns £130,000 a year as chancellor.
The Tories have no problem, however, taking money from those whose hard work doesn't earn them enough to pay the extortionate levels of private sector rents (the average rent for a one-bed London flat is over £1,000 a month).
The delegates whipped themselves into a frenzy of excitement at the prospect of removing housing benefit completely from under-25 year olds.
Never mind that half of the under-25 year olds who claim housing benefit have children. Or that more housing benefit claimants are in work than are unemployed - this was supposed to be about taking money from the lazy, feckless undeserving poor.
For two years the government has pressed the growing ranks of the young unemployed to travel around the country to find work - now they are told that they have to live with their parents or sleep on the streets; both of which are becoming ever more common even before these latest brutal benefits cuts.
Britain's young are facing a desolate future of mass unemployment; further and higher education only for those who can afford to pay, and no prospect of ever having a secure home.
Yet all the misery we have suffered is only the start of what the government has planned for the majority - both young and old.
Just over 20% of the government's existing cuts in public services have been carried out, and the Tory conference pledged to add another £10 billion in welfare cuts.
Already the number relying on food banks to feed their families had doubled, with four new centres a week opening to cope with spiralling demand.
To top it off the NHS faces the worst cuts in its history and local council services are being decimated.
When this crisis began many hoped it would be temporary. But Cameron says austerity will last until at least 2018.
There is no prospect of a return to what used to be 'normal'. Unless we fight back, the misery facing workers in Greece, Spain and Portugal - where youth unemployment is 50% or more - will be our future.
But there is an alternative. Many of the Tory party conference fringe meetings centred on bashing the trade unions, with demands to abolish 'facility' time (the time elected trade unionists can spend representing their members) prominent. This was not accidental.
The Tories understand that the organised trade union movement - involving six and half million workers - is a powerful force capable of mobilising the majority in society behind its banner and stopping the government's programme of endless austerity in its tracks.
On 20 October Britain will again glimpse the potential power of the trade unions, as workers from across the country march through London in their thousands.
Without doubt though, this march could have been bigger - even larger than the 750,000-strong 26 March 2011 demonstration against cuts.
That it is not, results from the failure of some trade union leaders to conduct a serious struggle against austerity.
Last year, on 30 November (N30), 29 unions across the public sector struck against the government's attacks on pensions.
This magnificent action had overwhelming public support, not least because it was widely recognised that it was more than a strike against pensions - it was a strike against austerity.
If the trade union leaders had stood firm and been prepared to call further action the government could have been forced to retreat.
Instead the common front was broken as the leadership of the TUC and of Unison, the biggest public sector union, backed down from the struggle.
Local government workers won some concessions on pensions, but these were incomparable to what could have been won if the battle had continued.
For other workers the deal on offer was virtually identical to the insult that had been on the table before N30.
Unsurprisingly some workers are now unsure if it is worth answering the trade union leaders' call to march on 20 October, fearing they will be betrayed once again.
This is no reflection, however, of the mounting anger at government cuts, as was palpably demonstrated when 80,000 people booed Osborne at the Paralympics.
The Con-Dem coalition government is weak - riven by divisions on many issues. Faced with a mass movement it can be forced to retreat, just as the government in Portugal did when the population took to the streets against austerity.
In Britain, unlike many other European countries, there has never been a 24-hour general strike, and the last general strike took place in 1926.
Even a partial 24-hour general strike would electrify the country - giving enormous confidence to the working class.
Particularly if the leadership of the trade union movement stands firm, making it clear that a further 24- or 48-hour general strike would follow if the government did not retreat, a one-day strike would terrify the government and the capitalists.
The prospect would be raised of the government being forced to call a general election. Ed Miliband and Co would probably find themselves heading a majority government, despite their own aspirations being limited to a coalition with the Cable wing of the Liberal Democrats.
What does it say about the Labour leadership that they consider it a good idea to enter an alliance with Cable, a man who is proud of his pre-election warnings to his party that vicious cuts would be needed? Unfortunately, this desire to form a coalition with a party that has wrecked itself on the altar of austerity sums up the reality of Labour today.
At this year's Labour Party conference Miliband proved he can memorise a speech, but he promised nothing to improve the lives of working class people.
No wonder the director of the CBI bosses' organisation, described it as "a speech that reached out to business".
A picture of a future Labour government was drawn by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. He reiterated that Labour would not reverse the cuts, would continue the public sector pay freeze and would not pledge to renationalise the railways.
If, thanks to Labour's complete failure to offer an alternative, this government was to run its full term and to succeed in implementing even half of its policies, Britain's NHS would have been destroyed, the benefit system smashed - with whole sections of society facing destitution, and mass unemployment will have rocketed. Labour is also unwilling to promise to reverse anything.
Even the pledge, under huge pressure, to repeal the Health and Social Care Act, is not, in reality, a pledge to save the NHS as it would not reverse the cuts or the massive privatisation (much of which began under the previous Labour government).
Five million people need social housing. If Labour was serious about solving the housing crisis it would pledge, not 100,000 affordable homes, but to immediately put the 100,000 unemployed construction workers to work to build a million high quality affordable council houses, as was done in the five years after World War Two.
Housing benefit payments - no longer handed over to greedy landlords - would fall immediately and dramatically.
But Labour is incapable of offering an alternative to austerity because it accepts the logic of capitalism.
Miliband adopting the Tory slogan 'one nation' reflects Labour's belief that the interests of the 1% and those of the 99% are one and the same.
It is only a question, according to Miliband, of encouraging 'responsible' rather than 'predatory' capitalism. But no amount of pleading will create a caring, sharing version of capitalism.
Worldwide the super-rich have £20 trillion stashed away in the world's tax havens, around half of which is owned by a mere 100,000 people.
This is greater than the national debts of all the OECD countries added together. No tax is being paid on this vast wealth.
In Britain alone it is estimated that £120 billion of tax is avoided or evaded by the rich every year.
Nor is this unimaginable wealth being invested in driving society forward by developing industry, science and technique - once capitalism's historical mission.
On the contrary there is £800 billion stashed in the bank vaults of Britain's major FTSE 100 companies - not invested because there is no profit to be made from doing so.
Capitalism is a system which puts the production of profit for the few, the millionaire and billionaire capitalist owners of industry and resources, before the social needs of the majority, the multi-billion poor and working class throughout the world. It is also a system based on crisis and misery.
Any government which bows to the will of the markets will continue to drive working class people into the dirt, just as Francois Hollande, elected as president in France on the basis of opposition to his predecessor's pro-rich policies, is now implementing his own vicious austerity against the French working class.
That doesn't mean we can't win victories. Alongside an industrial fightback workers need a political voice.
We need councillors and MPs who stand for the 99% instead of for the 1%. Around the country Labour councils are obediently implementing Con-Dem cuts, but there are exceptions.
In Southampton two Labour councillors took the unusual step of putting the interests of their constituents before the orders of the Labour Group and voting against cuts in public services.
For this 'crime' they have been expelled from the Labour Group but have won huge public support from the people of Southampton.
Some trade union leaders argue reclaiming the Labour Party is the way to create a mass party which stands in the interests of working class people.
Yet all the evidence indicates this effort will not succeed. While anti-cuts councillors are being suspended from Labour, at this year's Labour Party conference, which in any case no longer has the power to influence Labour's policies, the public sector unions did not even manage to get a resolution passed condemning the public sector pay freeze, instead the conference merely 'noted' it!
The Socialist Party is playing a central role in building the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
TUSC involves the transport workers' union (RMT) and other militant trade unionists. It provides a platform for trade unionists and campaigners to stand as anti-cuts candidates, taking their fight into the electoral field.
We see this as part of a campaign to create a mass workers' party that represents the interests of the majority.
To do this fully means fighting for democratic socialism. A decade ago most people in Britain hoped that their children would grow up to have a secure and pleasant home, a job that pays a living wage, and later on the right to retire on a decent pension. Now those hopes lie in tatters.
Socialism could easily provide these very modest aspirations and far more, by the planned use of all the resources of society for the benefit of all.
By socialism we do not mean the old dictatorial regimes of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, which were dominated by a privileged caste of bureaucrats, albeit with a planned economy.
We stand for international socialism, based on mass participation in the control and running of industry and society.
The last five years have demonstrated what capitalism means for the majority. The fightback against austerity has begun in earnest; in the coming years we will also see millions begin to fight for socialist change.
If, as the Socialist Party demands, the TUC was to use the 20 October demonstration as the launch pad for a 24-hour general strike against austerity - involving workers from both public and private sectors - it would ignite all of that anger below the surface of British society.
By coordinating their ballots much of the trade union movement could participate in the strike - even within the straitjacket of the anti-trade union laws.
With a date set, many workers who had not been balloted, including non-union members, would undoubtedly decide to join in alongside students, the unemployed and small business people.
The very fact that this year's TUC congress, lobbied by up to 1,000 workers under the banner of the National Shop Stewards Network, voted overwhelmingly to "consider the practicalities of a general strike" is a sign of the phenomenal pressure the trade union leaders are under to take part in further coordinated action.
Unfortunately, so far no discussion on the general strike has resulted on the TUC general council. That is why the Socialist Party is organising a major campaign in the trade union movement to organise and add to the growing pressure from rank and file trade unionists to demand that the TUC names the day.
Working people in the UK and across much of the globe are facing horrific attacks on living standards.
These attacks are supported by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Central Bank and a whole plethora of supposed experts on economic matters.
But, far from delivering prosperity, George Osborne has simply managed to deliver a long running double-dip recession.
Debates around austerity and on economic issues have become the central political issues in Britain and internationally.
Working people want economic security and a decent future for the next generation. Increasingly, these issues raise questions about what sort of economy and what sort of society we want.
The trade unions have rightly engaged in this economic debate, challenging the austerity agenda of the Westminster coalition.
There has been some excellent work done on the issue of taxation and the billions of tax unpaid by the ultra rich and by big business.
But, of course, the truth is that the rich will always avoid paying their tax. It is also true that businesses and the rich will tend to move their operations to countries where the tax regime is less rigorous and where tax rates are lower.
So we should be discussing in the labour movement the need for working people to find ways to take control of the economy.
The tax issue is very important but without also starting to address the real levers of economic power it will be left as a utopian dream.
The majority of people know that those at the top are not suffering. Top bankers are still being paid disgusting levels of bonus and billionaires are still avoiding paying their share of tax.
People also know very well that the worldwide economic crisis was sparked by the banks.
So we need a debate on how we can really challenge the power of the banks as part of challenging the austerity agenda and as part of fighting for a different type of economy altogether.
At the Trades Union Congress, the FBU successfully moved a motion calling for the public ownership of the banks.
This was the first time ever that such a motion has been carried at the TUC. We hope it will be debated in other unions and by other workers discussing the case for an alternative to the policies of the coalition government.
We know that others in the movement strongly disagree with us on the issue and the TUC policy as a whole is rather unclear, since it also supports an alternative approach of improving the regulation of the banking system and increasing competition within the sector.
The experience of the privatised gas, electricity and rail industries show that greater competition does not in any way guarantee improved services to consumers.
We are not claiming that public ownership of the banks alone will resolve the crisis or shift economic power into the hands of the majority.
Nor are we suggesting that this (or any single) measure in the UK alone would resolve the challenges we face.
The events of the past few years have demonstrated very clearly how interlinked the world economy is and consequently the need for much greater unity and collaboration between workers internationally.
But we are saying that taking over the major banks has to be central to any realistic strategy to protect jobs, living standards and public services.
It's rumoured that education minister Michael Gove has 'war charts' on the walls of his office plotting the onward march of academy schools.
If true, then Gove must already feel able to label some parts of the country as 'conquered territory'.
Around half of state-funded secondary schools have now broken from their elected local authorities to become privatised academies.
In areas like Bromley, Bexley, Swindon and Darlington, virtually all secondary schools are now academies.
While far fewer primary schools have academised, their future will also be in doubt once a local authority decides it can't 'afford' to run education if it has lost most of its secondaries.
Some schools have chosen to become academies, bribed by dubious promises of better funding and the chance to use their semi-independent status to boost their position in the local pecking order of schools.
Others have been forced to become academies for failing to meet the harsh exam targets imposed by Gove.
Yet there is no evidence that academies perform any better than community schools. Is that any surprise? Since when did privatisation improve public services?
Where some academies have improved results, they have done so by using their control over admissions and exclusions to 'improve' their intake. Who will be left to look after the pupils with the greatest needs in Gove's free-for-all education marketplace?
Of course, like in the NHS, privatisation helps those who help themselves. Academies are being mopped up by growing 'chains' of education businesses.
They can't legally make a profit out of school budgets (yet!), but there are already plenty of lucrative contracts and management salaries to be secured.
While many academy chains have adopted national pay and conditions, some already impose longer working hours.
But if Gove succeeds with his plans to atomise national conditions, many academies will then feel free to do as they please.
Gove also wants to set up thousands of privatised 'free schools' too. The Tories' vision is a future without elected councils running services like schools and housing. Unfortunately, too many Labour councils seem to be following the same path.
It's going to be up to the trade union movement and local communities to defend education from cuts and privatisation.
That will certainly need determined strike action but requires a political battle too - to elect local councillors who are prepared to fight for public services.
The privately owned gas companies are going to hike up the price of gas and electricity...again!
The biggest energy provider, British Gas, is increasing its prices by an average of 6% - adding around £80 a year to our bills. Following this, four of the other 'big 6' energy firms followed suit with similar prices hikes. The only exception is E.ON which has a price freeze for 2012.
Someone on a salary of at least £1 million like Phil Bentley, the managing director of British Gas, will probably not even notice a 6% increase in his bills. But millions of working class people across the UK will be feeling the pinch.
Senior Manager for Age UK Redbridge, James Monger, said: "We are very disappointed by this latest increase. We know that deaths among the elderly increase as the weather gets colder and with people's savings being worth less than they were three or four years ago this is bad news."
Despite the claim of private companies and politicians of a 'free market' creating 'competition', gas and electricity is provided almost exclusively by the 'big 6'. Instead of competition, private ownership of the utilities has produced an 'oligopoly' - a small group of firms that act like a monopoly over a product or industry.
One of the key arguments parroted by energy bosses is that a rising price in wholesale gas has to be passed on. In 2008, when British Gas put up gas prices by a record 35% boss Phil Bentley claimed "we have entered an era of unprecedented high world energy prices."
But when wholesale prices fall, prices aren't dropped, meaning super-profits for top bosses and major shareholders. British Gas Residential announced profits of £345 million in the first half of the year - up 23% year-on-year.
Socialists argue for the utility companies to be nationalised, to be run as a public service for people's needs. Combined with investment in green energy this would lead to cheaper prices, jobs and a more efficient system.
Fancy a few free shares in the company you work for? Well David Cameron's party for the aspirational privileged announced at its conference this week a policy that apparently could make budding capitalists of us all.
However, aside from doubts about the practicalities of the proposal, there is just one not insignificant drawback for workers - we will have to forgo our rights to redundancy payments and unfair dismissal claims. In addition we will have to accept less flexible working and maternity rights.
Basically, millionaire chancellor George Osborne is asking workers to exchange our employment rights, won over decades of struggle, for a few pounds to gamble on the stock exchange.
This is at a time when share prices are yielding few gains. The government plans to bring the new rules into force in April 2013.
So how's it meant to work? Employees can be given between £2,000 and £50,000 of shares exempt from capital gains tax (CGT).
However, the Office for Budget Responsibility recently forecast that austerity measures could continue until 2018.
The percentage of a business allocated to employees through share schemes, particularly during recessions, is traditionally low and so the CGT gain is unlikely to be significant for many.
There's also the small matter of how the shares will be valued and whether workers will acquire voting rights as shareholders.
More likely is workers receiving shares, losing their jobs and then finding any share gains are less than the redundancy payment or unfair dismissal compensation they could have received.
But let's not be fooled here, the government's proposals have nothing to do with giving workers a say in the companies they work for, and everything to do with further eroding the few rights we have at a time of economic crisis, wage cuts and job losses.
This measure is not about creating equality between the bosses and workers, it is intended to strengthen the hand of employers to enable them to sack workers at will. Being a shareholder won't make you a boss, just more vulnerable.
The Tories claim their proposal will remove barriers to small and medium sized businesses taking on new workers.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has acknowledged the fallacy of this argument. They correctly point out that there is little evidence to indicate that employee rights are stopping small businesses from taking on new workers.
The UK already has one of the least regulated labour markets in the world. Even employer organisations such as the CBI and Chambers of Commerce dismissed the proposal as a niche idea that would have no significant impact on growth.
In any event, the claimed employment rights barriers just do not exist in relation to employers taking on new workers.
Shamefully, since 6 April this year, anyone starting work generally cannot make an unfair dismissal claim until they have worked for the same employer for at least two years.
And all workers must be employed by the same employer for two years before they are entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. So why the shares for your rights proposal?
The idea signals an intention to remove key employment rights from all workers, a long cherished aim of sections of the Tory Party and big business.
Under the current proposal the scheme will be voluntary for existing employees, but disgracefully companies will be able to force it on new recruits.
Bosses will be able to compel new workers to either sign away their rights or stay on the dole. Unscrupulous employers could also abuse the scheme by dismissing an entire workforce and imposing new terms and conditions on re-engagement.
Unless stopped by the trade union movement, few rights at work could become the norm for all workers.
If watching Tory conference speeches brings you out in hives, you might have avoided Osborne's speech - a further £10 billion to be cut from the welfare budget, unconvincingly veiled in the language of 'fairness'. The justification: "It is not possible to balance the books on the wallets of the rich alone."
But billions could be raised simply by forcing them to pay what they already owe us. The latest prize for the biggest heist, the perpetrator having allegedly pocketed a cool £570 million, goes to Apple. Their 'wallet', in Britain alone, includes an estimated £2.2 billion profit (hardly scraping by). Exploiting legal loopholes, siphoning money off through a related company in Ireland then to the British Virgin Islands, they manage to pay about 2% of what they owe in tax. It's a shame council tax bills don't come with 'avoid paying 98% of this' as an option.
The European Union was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Nobel committee the award was for the EU's "efforts of peace and democracy in the midst of the union's biggest crisis since its creation in the 50s". Apparently the Union has "helped to turn Europe from a continent of war into a continent of peace".
I think that the people of Greece would beg to differ! The EU, along with the IMF and ECB, have wreaked havoc upon the Greek working class. While the people of Greece and other European countries are facing a struggle for day to day existence the leaders of the European Union are busy slapping themselves on the back.
Penguins are a favourite mascot for a diverse range of organisations, such as American evangelists or food companies selling rubbish chocolate bars. The latest group to use penguins to sell an unpalatable agenda are a group of Tory students who want to revive the practice of lavish white-tie dinners.
Lucky diners receive an exclusive invitation card stamped with a penguin in a top hat and tails. The inaugural dinner of the group will be held at an exclusive London private members club where the menu will include crab and brandy bisque and roast rib of Orkney beef, followed by recitals of 'Rule Britannia' and 'God Save the Queen'.
The organiser of the event, Paul Godziemba-Nizinskyj counts ex-Bullingdon club member Boris Johnson as his political hero. At the time of going to press it was unclear whether drunkenly trashing a restaurant and using your parents' connections to escape prosecution would also be part of the evening entertainment.
About 150 NHS managers were flown to Kansas City for a four-day conference including an 80s themed street party organised by Cerner, which is bidding for IT contacts worth £250 million to £400 million from the NHS. A whole street was shut down for the party, and food and drink provided free by Cerner. Rumours that the 80s theme was Gordon Gekko's "greed is good" are denied by the organisers, though cynics might say that the £150,000 bill for flight and accommodation for the NHS bosses suggests otherwise.
Around a year ago the Occupy movement burst into the media, highlighting the difference in wealth between the 99% of working and middle class people and the 1% of super-rich at the top of society. A recent editorial in the Economist, highlighted just how concentrated wealth has become at the top over the past few decades. In the USA the top 0.01% (around 16,000 families) 'earned' just over 1% of national income in 1980, whereas today it is almost 5%. Capitalism just lets the rich get even richer.
On Saturday 22 September the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition national supporters' conference discussed the vital task of putting forward socialist candidates to fight the austerity cuts.
RMT's executive committee took part in the conference on behalf of our union. This year RMT's 2012 annual general meeting adopted a policy to support the development of a new political force that advances the ideas of trade unionism and socialism, to give confidence to workers and help to create a viable political alternative to austerity.
RMT called for TUSC to develop a trade union forum to take our message to working people in trade union branches, shop stewards' committees and throughout the democratic structures of the trade union movement.
TUSC provides a nucleus of a new political force. While TUSC is not a political party and remains a federation of socialist individuals and organisations (including the Socialist Party) along with an increasing number of trade union bodies, the numbers of activists currently involved in TUSC is a fraction of the number needed to stand candidates in every local authority, district council and national elections.
This, however, must be our aim if we are going to offer working class people an alternative to the diet of cuts, outsourcing, privatisation, wage freezes and anti-trade union laws that is supported by the leaders of all the main political parties in Britain.
RMT was 'disaffiliated' in 2003 by the Labour Party that our predecessors in the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants founded in 1899.
Our expulsion was the outcome of a decision to support socialist candidates standing in Scottish parliamentary elections.
That decision by RMT's special general meeting in Glasgow came about because RMT members were no longer prepared to stomach New Labour's policies of Tube and rail privatisation, labour market flexibility and war.
In the last decade RMT has developed a debate through our democratic structures on the glaring absence of working class political representation in Britain today.
RMT continues to work with socialist MPs in Westminster and our parliamentary group, which has now increased to 24 members.
However, the greatest absence in the political armoury of working people today is the absence of an avowed mass party of socialism, able to intervene in every electoral contest and to argue for a political alternative to austerity and neoliberalism.
Such a mass party would pull Labour's policies to the left. Instead of allowing party leaders such as Ed Balls and Ed Miliband to take working class voters for granted by pitching themselves as 'one nation' conservatives, we should be mobilising the millions of working class voters who want some red-blooded socialist solutions to the global capitalist crisis.
RMT is proud to have played a lead role in developing the arguments for an alternative. In 2009 we created the first nationwide electoral platform backed by any national trade union to stand candidates against official Labour candidates in the European elections with the 'No2EU - Yes to Democracy' coalition.
More recently RMT has supported candidates standing under the TUSC banner in local and national elections.
Our AGM this year unanimously approved a resolution for RMT to continue to support TUSC candidates, subject to our rules and the authority of the union's executive.
We are under no illusions that an electoral mass party of socialism is a difficult and arduous process to build, beset by difficulties, not least the financial resources that are required.
Nevertheless, every tax cut for the rich, every pay cut for workers, every attack on the welfare state from the Tories and their Lib Dem lapdogs and every pathetic apology for continuing austerity policies 'more slowly' from the leaders of the Labour Party, underline the need for a socialist alternative.
We call on trade unions representing the millions of workers and their families in Britain today who have been abandoned by Labour to join us in building TUSC as a nucleus of such an alternative.
Manchester Socialist Party became convinced of the need to run a TUSC candidate in the November byelection after watching the Labour Party candidate Lucy Powell turn in a useless performance in a debate at the trades union council.
Labour's selection of a careerist, ex-adviser to Ed Miliband typified everything about its degeneration into a purely capitalist party.
The Labour held constituency has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. We also have a Labour council cutting and privatising vital services.
The constituency is also home to several major railway stations which will face devastating cuts to jobs if the McNulty report is allowed to be implemented.
TUSC is the only political force with a programme based around putting a real political alternative to the policies of privatisation, wage freezes and endless austerity.
As a PCS union activist I have witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of government spending cuts and wage freezes.
As Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls have made clear, they will continue with the anti-working class policies of the Con-Dems. Labour offers no alternative for our class.
Our campaign in Manchester will be based around workplaces and anti-cuts campaigns and in working class communities.
We will be showing that there is an alternative for working class people to the dead end of Labour.
I am proud to be the TUSC candidate and to be part of rebuilding working class political representation.
It has emerged that Bristol's funding will be cut by an extra £25 million over and above what had been expected.
This should send a shiver down the spine of Bristolians when you consider what cuts have already meant for the city.
They have included the privatisation of home care services and now the closure of eight elderly people's homes and seven daycare centres.
The city's Lib Dem council launched a consultation to try and make ordinary residents take some of the decisions about where cuts should fall.
This was to take some of the heat off themselves for slavishly following the orders of Cameron and Osborne and passing on the government's cuts.
On 15 November people in Bristol will have the chance to have a say on what really matters in the election for the new post of mayor.
Sadly the choice between the main parties is simply about which cuts to make. None of them have opposed the government's austerity agenda or pledged to fight cuts locally.
But there is an alternative. I am standing for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts to give a voice to ordinary working class people.
Prices are rising but our pay isn't and we're expected to pay for a crisis caused by super-rich bankers while they're still rolling in the cash.
Enough is enough. I am standing on a programme of active opposition to all cuts and will only take the average wage of a worker if elected.
'The lounge' meeting room in Methodist Central Hall, Oldham Street, off Piccadilly Gardens, city centre, Manchester M1 1JQ
40 years since Clay Cross council defied the Tory government, this meeting will discuss the lessons for the battle against cuts today
"By any means necessary" - Malcolm X's expression of militant civil rights - is known worldwide by young people fighting against racism.
In the 1950s and 60s, black workers in the US southern states rose up to end their status as second-class citizens, segregation and the vicious enforcement of the vile, racist Jim Crow code.
The struggles of black workers in the 1940s, including winning equal pay in some of the war industries, was allied to the experiences of those who fought during World War Two.
Encouraged to fight for US capitalism under the banner of 'freedom' they returned to find their rights, even to a seat on a bus, severely restricted at home.
Bus company boycotts sprang up in many southern towns and cities, which eventually ended segregated buses in Montgomery.
These struggles, organised by black workers and trade unionists, forced many elements of the black 'establishment' into action - particularly the churches.
A new leadership, particularly around Martin Luther King Junior, based their method of struggle around the principles of non-violent action.
The mass struggle that developed engulfed the south and inspired black workers and youth throughout the north.
The political establishment, both Republican and Democrat, feared the potential for this movement and tried to entangle the leaders with promises of reform in the future.
Malcolm X came to the struggle from a life of poverty as a teenager, petty crime and prison, via the Nation of Islam.
The Nation condemned the objectives of the civil rights movement leaders for integration into US society, posing instead the fight for black separation with a message that whites were 'devils'.
Prior to Malcolm joining, the nation was a small sect. Malcolm's skills and enthusiasm, against the backdrop of racism, poverty and police brutality, led to a huge rise in membership across northern states.
While segregation didn't legally exist in northern states, poverty and discrimination - including police brutality - left the majority of blacks in the worst housing, worst jobs and worst conditions.
Malcolm organised a mass protest against the savage beating of a Nation member in Harlem by the NYPD.
The police were forced to release the Nation member into hospital for treatment. Thousands applied to join the Nation overnight.
The Nation made radical speeches but over time Malcolm became uneasy with their lack of action. Southern mass movements were challenging the power of the state.
Boycotts, mass demonstrations and campaigns for voter registration were met with brutal resistance, including police murders and racist thugs such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Youth were starting to turn away from non-violence and attempting to work out a programme to defeat state violence.
Malcolm came into conflict with the Nation's leader, Elijah Muhammad, when he wanted to organise violent reprisals following the LAPD's murder of a Mosque leader in 1962.
Malcolm was ordered to 'stay where I put you' and not organise a united front campaign with civil rights campaigns.
Malcolm was increasingly involved in organising protests and pickets, supporting workers' struggles in New York, talking less about religion and more about the social questions facing blacks.
The Nation ordered its members not to participate in the 1963 March on Washington, organised by a coalition of civil rights groups.
Hundreds of Nation members defied this edict. Malcolm, while not openly defying it, participated in the lead up and watched the march.
But Malcolm then denounced the march leaders, who relied on possible civil rights legislation, for making the demo a "Farce on Washington".
Black youths, along with Malcolm X, were angry that there was no call for more mass action, in particular strike action.
Malcolm's idea of revolution still came within the framework of black nationalism. But within months he was expelled from the Nation, which by now had millions of dollars invested in real estate and black businesses.
Malcolm's trips to Mecca broke his view that 'the white man is a devil' and brought him into contact with leaders of the colonial revolution in many African states. Malcolm noticed that many of these leaders embraced 'socialist' ideas.
On returning to the US he made clear that he was not anti-white, but anti-exploitation and anti-oppression. He called for black armed self-defence.
Malcolm was drawing conclusions about the nature of capitalism and the integral role racism played within it.
His support for workers' struggles, alliances with black groups combined with links to the white working class posed a serious threat to the state. He was murdered by the state, with the collusion of the Nation, on 21 February 1965.
But a new generation of black youth reached the conclusion that armed self-defence and a socialist programme were essential to the struggle for black liberation.
The Black Panthers' ten-point programme, written in October 1966, included demands for housing, employment and education but also "placing the means of production... in the community".
'Legal rights' against discrimination have not ended economic segregation and state harassment through police brutality.
A black US president, Barack Obama, has presided over the worst fall in living conditions for black workers since the 1930s.
The struggles of the working class, such as those in Wisconsin, and the Occupy Movement, will enthuse a new layer of black youth to look at the life and methods of Malcolm X, especially the anti-capitalist conclusions he drew towards the end of his life.
Only a new society, based on public ownership of the huge wealth and resources and democratic planning, can lay the basis for the eradication of racism once and for all.
The campaign against Thatcher's poll tax is an example of how a mass movement can defeat a government. 18 million people, organised through the All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation, defied the law and refused to pay the tax.
This not only forced the Tories to scrap it but ended Thatcher's career as prime minister.
The campaign also shows the role that can be played by socialists in putting forward a strategy and tactics to win.
The poll tax was a standard charge on rich and poor alike. It was levied on each person over 18, including the unemployed, students and those with no personal income at all, who had been exempt from the poll tax's precursors, the rates. In fact a rich person could end up paying far less that a poor family.
Led by Militant, the Socialist Party's forerunner, mass non-payment was built by community based anti-poll tax unions in cities, towns and villages across the country. These were linked nationally into the Anti-Poll Tax Federation.
Militant predicted the anger the tax would cause, and saw the huge potential to build a mass movement.
The trade union leaders and the Labour Party leadership opposed the tax verbally, but did nothing to fight it, actively opposing the non-payment campaign.
Labour councils ultimately sent bailiffs into working class people's homes to impound their property and jailed people for not being able to pay.
The tax was introduced in Scotland a year earlier than in England and Wales; perhaps because the Tories had so little support there, they felt free to experiment! But it ignited Scottish workers' anger and the method of mass non-payment was tested out.
Militant supporters had to argue against those who said mass non-payment wouldn't work, or would only get working class people in debt.
Some advocated non-payment only for a few prominent individuals who 'could afford it'.
On the contrary, only a mass movement would work. In fact millions would not be able to afford it and we planned to unite the 'can't payers' with the 'won't payers'. That way an organised campaign could defend people.
Mass demonstrations developed around the rate-setting council meetings. On 31 March 1990, the day before the poll tax was introduced in England and Wales, simultaneous mass demonstrations in London and Glasgow involved a quarter of a million people.
When the London demonstration reached Trafalgar Square, police actions provoked a big battle later known as the 'poll tax riots'.
Some claim that these big demos beat the poll tax. They were important, but it was organised mass non-payment which was the real reason for its demise.
We kept the confidence of the movement up by discussing and answering every question, in meetings and in millions of leaflets.
We clogged up the courts by mobilising non-payers to attend their hearings and assisted people by asking questions in court.
Court rooms were unable to cope. We mobilised to stop the bailiffs from seizing property. We organised to stop poll tax jailings - the ultimate sanction.
Hundreds were sent to prison, including many Militant supporters. The late Terry Fields, a Liverpool MP and Militant member, was sent down for standing in solidarity with his constituents.
However, the number of jailings, compared to the millions who refused to pay, was far fewer than would have been if there was no organised campaign.
The government announced in March 1991 that they would be scrapping the tax by 1993. We continued to support people and campaigned for the writing off of the debts. Many were actually secretly dropped by councils at a later date.
This movement showed that working class people can win battles. It also showed the critical role that a party with the right ideas can play in the struggle.
As a lifelong Liverpool football supporter, I was delighted to read recently that Liverpool were top of the league.
I thought I had misunderstood Liverpool's dropped points in their first six games. Then reality hit me: Liverpool was top of the league for the deepest cuts in council expenditure. That explained why Mayor Joe Anderson had received the MBE.
Yet Liverpool's socialist-led council of 1983 to 1987 showed that things could be so different. In the two years before the 49 Labour councillors (reduced to 47 by the death of Bill Lafferty and Peter Lloyd) were elected in May 1983, not a single house for rent had been built by the Liberal/Tory alliance which controlled the council.
Council rents were the highest in the UK outside London. 5,000 council jobs had vanished. Youth unemployment in some areas of the city was in excess of 50%.
The defeated Liberal/Tory alliance had left behind a financial gap of £10 million of unallocated cuts, and £30 million had been slashed from Liverpool's budget by Tory minister Michael Heseltine.
This was the nightmare inherited by the newly elected council in which Militant (predecessor of the Socialist) supporters played a prominent role.
Unlike Liverpool's New Labour neoliberals led by Joe Anderson, we did not use that scenario as an excuse for implementing draconian cuts but as a reason for carrying out the 47's election promises.
Adopting the slogan "better to break the law than to break the poor", we launched a programme of action that included building houses, creating jobs, expanding services and freezing rents.
This was backed up by a mass campaign involving huge protests by public and private sector trade unions, community organisations, youth organisations, party constituencies and party branches, led by the Liverpool District Labour Party and the 47 councillors.
This campaign aimed to resist any further cuts and to claw back the funds that Thatcher had slashed from the city's budget.
The result was a resounding success, and if the other Labour councils had emulated that struggle Thatcher would have been forced to retreat.
This lesson is completely lost on the current Labour crop. They bleat that they have no choice but to cut public services that provide support for those in greatest need, including disabled youngsters and Sure Start facilities for young children.
Anderson cries that if he does not make the cuts, the government will send in commissioners. The reality is that he is the government's de facto commissioner.
He brags that he is in daily touch with Con-Dem ministers, no doubt to receive his instructions. He plays this role while being paid some £60,000 a year by Liverpool's hard-pressed council tax payers.
Liverpool's labour movement - before it was emasculated by the then Labour leader Kinnock's lieutenant Peter Kilfoyle - knew that collaboration with the Tory government, as advocated by both these gentlemen, would lead to disaster.
And with the ascendancy of the neoliberal right, disaster followed disaster. Privatisation, job losses and no more council housing, with local authority trade union leadership ready to comply with every reactionary demand of the council.
When the 47 were undemocratically removed from office by Thatcher's district auditor 30,000 workers were employed by the Liverpool city council.
Today there are less than 10,000. Yet Liverpool council in 2010 was faced with a budget deficit of £120 million, even before the current round of Con-Dem cuts.
The 47 recognised that there was no guarantee of victory when you fight, but if you do not fight defeat is assured.
The Liverpool 47 attracted the highest Labour vote in history; higher than any election since the war, even though the city's population had declined from 700,000 in 1945 to 460,000 in 1983.
While the turnout for local elections in previous years had ranged from 11% to 20%, the turnout between 1983 and 1987 was 45% to 55%.
This was a clear message that if policies which correspond to the needs and aspirations of the working class are implemented, then the support will be forthcoming.
When I finished university and qualified as a social worker I expected to find a post quickly. But like many other young people across the world today I cannot find a job.
The jobcentre tried to put me on the workfare scheme to work for McDonald's for my benefits. I refused to do this and my jobcentre advisor didn't argue much, it was clear that he also thought that workfare was pretty much slave labour.
Then I was asked to do work for a frozen food shop for £2.60 an hour on the basis that after six months I would receive an NVQ Retail level 1. "Hardly a useful qualification for a newly qualified social worker," I told them.
But the most frustrating experience of being unemployed so far is 'work trials'. I have done several shifts without pay for a series of companies.
The trials are based on the idea that if they like me then they'll give me a job at the end of the day.
I worked a shift in a restaurant where every worker was on trial and working for free. I also worked in a bakery factory for a full shift before being told that I wasn't qualified to do the job - a quick look at my CV before the shift would have told them that.
But with nearly three million unemployed people, bosses can do what they want - both to those who are looking for a job and those who have one.
They can use unemployment to drive down wages and conditions for those already in work.
Capitalism is not just a cruel system, it is an illogical one. At a time when all the social ills of capitalism are rife (mental health issues, poverty, addiction, homelessness, etc), 60% of newly qualified social workers, the very people whose job it is to help are unemployed.
From 17 to 20 October, Youth Fight for Jobs Scotland is marching from Stirling to Glasgow on the Scottish March for Jobs and Public Services against Austerity. The march's demands include:
Contact Youth Fight for Jobs Scotland to get involved, for info and to support the march:
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: YFJ Scotland
I started my third year of university in September. My student loan arrived late, and I wasn't the only one.
Some people may ask, what's the problem with it coming in late? The answer is simply that it puts working class students at a disadvantage.
I and many of my friends cannot afford textbooks. Many students can't afford rent, as they have nowhere to borrow it from except Student Finance.
To receive the money, you must register in person at your university. This means that money must be spent on travel to university and rent paid before you can receive any money.
Some students receive loans from parents or family, but for those from a working class background, this is often impossible. Many students have to go a week or more without any money whatsoever.
This issue raises its head at the same time every year, and yet the Student Loan Company and Student Finance England don't rectify it.
This is even after controversy in 2009 when approximately 116,000 students had to start the academic year with no financial aid in place. Even by mid-November around 70,000 applications were still being processed.
Financial aid coming late is, of course, on top of having to pay through the nose to study. We have to fight for free education and for full grants to cover the real cost of living.
These should be administered by a publicly owned body democratically controlled and managed, including by representatives of students and trade unions.
The Rape Is No Joke campaign, initiated by Socialist Students, is gathering support. The campaign aims to draw attention to the issue of rape jokes being used in comedy and the trivialising effect this has on sexual violence.
Several comedians and comedy night organisers have now signed the campaign's pledge, including What the Frock!, Kate Smurthwaite, Jim Smallman, Bianca Arlette, Aidan Goatley, Rory Nolan, Diean Vincent, Ellis James, Jimi Pidd, Luke Smith, Will Hodgson, Hannah Stone.
We're in for the fight of our lives. Fee hikes, EMA scrapped, youth services cut to the bone, housing benefit cuts and attacks on our democratic rights.
This is the record so far of the Con-Dem coalition. And if the Tories aren't stopped, they'll take anything we have left over.
That's why we are getting organised and fighting back. Youth Fight for Jobs and Education is kicking off the 'hot autumn' with a fortnight of protest.
We want to use the protests to build momentum for the TUC demo on 20 October and to build support for the demand for a 24-hour general strike among young people.
This autumn, we are saying we won't be a lost generation, we are fighting their system and demanding a future!
Get involved with the protests, meetings and other campaign activities planned across the country during the fortnight by contacting Youth Fight for Jobs:
Phone: 020 8558 7947 Email: email@example.com
Twitter: follow @youthfight4jobs Facebook: Youth Fight for Jobs
In October 2011 Youth Fight for Jobs activists marched 330 miles campaigning against youth unemployment. This book is the story of the Jarrow March for Jobs.
Order now for £6 plus £1 postage (usual price £9.99) at leftbooks.co.uk or phone 020 8988 8777
This pamphlet outlines what Youth Fight for Jobs campaigns for and how you can get involved.
To order a copy or to get your union branch or campaign group to sponsor the manifesto, contact Youth Fight for Jobs at the details above.
'But the EU is at war on us' exclaimed a number of Greek workers when reacting to the European Union (EU) being awarded a Nobel peace prize.
The EU leaders, along with those of the IMF, are part of the hated 'Troika' of capitalist institutions that is insisting on the austerity measures presently raining down on Greece's population.
In that country 68% of the population now lives at or under the official poverty line, one in four workers are unemployed.
In Spain too, one in four is out of work and youth unemployment in both countries has soared shockingly to over 50%.
Increased emigration from the recession-mired countries Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain - among others - is a graphic indication of the desperation and daily struggle of many people to make ends meet.
The suicide rate has also risen considerably. And now the largest European economies are again weakening, including France and Germany.
No desperate accolades from Nobel or anywhere will stop this present decline or shore up the EU's biggest faultline - the eurozone crisis.
The IMF has recently admitted that the impact of austerity drives on economic growth could be worse than it previously thought.
Greece shows no prospect of avoiding an exit sooner or later from the zone; despite the rounds of bailouts and brutal cuts its public debt is larger today than at the start of the crisis.
An ultimate Greek exit will create further and deeper turmoil in the eurozone and beyond and will increase the pressures on the other struggling economies within it.
Media commentators speculate about who is to blame for this disastrous scenario - why a project that began with great promises of prosperity has sunk into disunity, clashes and unmanageable crisis.
The Socialist Party and Committee for a Workers' International (CWI, to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) predicted from the start though that the eurozone could not stay intact.
The economies across the zone varied significantly in their features, strengths and weaknesses, yet were confined to a straitjacket of a single currency and interest rate.
This was workable to some extent in a period of economic growth but was bound to come under insurmountable pressure in a recession.
Reflecting the depth of the crisis, Europe's ruling classes and governments now have no achievable solutions to the crisis to offer and are deeply divided within and between themselves on what to do.
Some argue in vain for a new EU constitution with more central powers and an end to national vetoes on treaties.
Others want a looser relationship with the EU or to be out of it altogether. All reveal their bankruptcy - they cannot deliver stability and growth.
However, their floundering is not taking place in isolation. Millions of working class and middle class people have participated in strikes and demonstrations against the onslaught on their living standards that is being spearheaded by the EU chiefs.
During the last few weeks alone there has been another general strike in Greece, hundreds of thousands on the streets of Portugal and Spain and tens of thousands demonstrating in France, Germany and elsewhere.
The EU is increasingly being seen as the bosses' club that it is - that has enshrined in its constitution the rule of the market and the attacks that flow from that.
In this situation, the leaders of the trade unions - the organised workers' movement - have a responsibility to lead a challenge to the cuts-making governments that will actually force them to retreat.
Much more is needed than strikes and protests called just to 'let off steam' - impressive though many are - as has happened too many times.
The CWI calls for trade union movements throughout Europe to adopt determined opposition to all the attacks on living standards, escalating action if necessary.
Their strategies must have the serious intention of removing any government that sticks to a path of making ordinary people pay for the economic crisis.
Struggles should be coordinated to have greater impact, when possible, ie mass strikes and demonstrations in different countries taking place on the same day, as will happen across Spain and Portugal on 14 November.
This can prepare the way for the organisation of a powerful one-day Europe-wide general strike.
As well as such action, urgently needed are workers' parties that can offer a socialist political alternative to the capitalist parties across Europe.
There is a warning to be drawn from the rise in support for the far-right Golden Dawn in Greece: dangerous, divisive ideas can be turned to in desperation if a viable progressive path isn't clear.
However, also in Greece the rapid rise in support for the left-wing alliance Syriza shows the scale and speed with which a party opposing austerity can gain an audience.
This can be echoed by new workers' formations elsewhere in Europe in the coming period.
They will be attractive if they put forward socialist ideas that lay bare the failings of capitalism and offer programmes that boldly pose a real alternative in workers' interests.
Such programmes should include increasing taxes on the rich and top companies and banks, and refusing to pay back the massive sums of debt 'owed' to them at home and abroad.
Let big business and their friends in finance pay for the crisis that is of their making, not ordinary people!
Socialist programmes should also include the nationalisation, under democratic workers' control and management, of the major companies that dominate the economy.
These measures would provide the means to massively invest in jobs and services. In Greece, where the crisis is the most acute, support for such a programme is growing.
What about the EU? Opposing the capitalism-serving institutions that make up the EU certainly doesn't mean rejecting international links and cooperation between ordinary people.
The key questions are: What is the character of the institutions, who is controlling them and in whose interests are they acting? The EU is controlled by 27 of the European capitalist ruling classes and flowing from this they act in the interests of big business and the rich.
Socialist societies across Europe would be able to democratically elect representatives to an entirely different type of institution - ones serving workers' interests.
This would be the basis for a European socialist confederation - an alliance of socialist states - that could democratically, and with full accountability, enable economic, environmental, social and cultural cooperation in the interests of the overwhelming majority of people across the continent.
On 16 August the premeditated slaughter of 34 striking Lonmin miners in Marikana by the South African police shocked the world.
It revealed that, despite the ending of apartheid and the historic election of the African National Congress (ANC) government in 1994, a ruthless and brutal regime of capitalism still exists in South Africa.
The Marikana massacre has shaken the foundations of the whole of South African society. It has had an irreversible impact on the ANC ruling government party.
A big question mark has also been placed over the role played by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and its largest affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Among the working class in South Africa social discontent is growing. So are a rejection of the corrupt political and trade union leaders and demands for fundamental change.
These are highlighted - not just by the unofficial miners' strike - but by strikes of hundreds of thousands of other workers across all sectors of industry.
Alec Thraves speaks at Strike Committee meeting in Marikana
The demand of the striking miners for a R12,500 (£900) a month minimum wage is now the rallying call for low-paid workers across the country.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM, affiliated, as is the England and Wales Socialist Party, to the Committee for a Workers' International) is playing a decisive role in the mineworkers' dispute, assisting and leading the unofficial Coordinating Strike Committees and posing a socialist alternative to the corruption, greed and betrayal of the present ANC and NUM leaderships.
Like many activists, most of the Lonmin workers have little confidence in South African President Zuma's 'official inquiry' into the massacre.
Many of those workers have already answered the lies poured out by the lying capitalist media in South Africa and across the globe.
At a DSM meeting in Flagstaff, in the Eastern Cape, a DSM activist and one of the leaders of the Strike Coordinating Committee along with Weizmann Hamilton, a DSM organiser from Johannesburg, explained what really happened on 16 August, from out of the mouths of the mineworkers who were present:
"The precipitating event in the Lonmin strike was management's unilateral decision to grant unilateral increases to selected workers.
"In spite of the fact that this broke an existing two-year agreement signed by the NUM, set to expire in June 2013.
"The NUM's failure to react meant it was once again colluding with management so workers took matters into their own hands forming an independent rank-and-file committee.
"On 9 August the Lonmin strike committee presented their demand for a R12,500 a month minimum wage. The NUM refused to support them, management refused to negotiate, so the miners shut the pit down.
"On Saturday morning NUM officials tried to force the miners back to work so the strike committee sent delegates to the NUM office (which is unbelievably next to the police station in the Lonmin mine 'informal settlement' (squatter camp).
"As they approached the office they were shot at, killing two members of the strike committee. Management reacted in their normal manner by sending in private security and the police to stop the strike by force resulting in the death of four more workers, two private security guards and two policemen.
"The striking mineworkers concluded that for their own safety it was best to move off the mine to a small mountain to continue their protest.
The workers' demand was simple: management should meet with them and respond to their demands. What happened next was premeditated murder and could have only happened with clearance at the highest level of government, police and the employers. It was a decision to crush the strike and drown it in the blood of the strikers.
"The police fenced off the mountain leaving just a five-metre gap in the barbed wire. 3,000 armed police, with helicopter back-up went on the attack from the air and on all sides.
"Starting from the back of the crowd, they shot and forced the strikers to run towards the five-metre gap.
"As they tried to get out they were shot down by the waiting police so they turned around and ran back, hiding under trees and rocks.
"That's where the majority of strikers were killed, with nowhere to run. Some were killed after raising their hands in the air while others were lying injured and then finished off.
"There were only survivors among the injured because police thought they were dead and threw their bodies on a heap. 34 strikers were killed, 79 injured and 234 arrested."
To add insult to injury, the National Prosecuting Authority, revealing the cold callousness of the state, initially attempted to press murder charges against the arrested miners for the death of their own comrades, under the notorious Doctrine of Common Purpose used by the apartheid regime. Marikana is the brutal reality of capitalism in South Africa!
The ANC government presided over this massacre. A corrupt, degenerate government of big business, it is now finished in the eyes of big numbers of the working class.
As well as returning the country back to the dark days of apartheid repression, the disgusting flaunting of wealth and privilege by ANC leaders is exposed in the media every day.
The state-financed, R200-million upgrade of President Zuma's massive private residential complex in his home village is dominating the national press. It reportedly has underground bunkers, a helipad, luxury furnishings and two soccer pitches for his security guards to have a kick about!
With the five-yearly ANC national conference due to take place in December, Zuma is attempting to stand for a second five-year term as president of the ANC which automatically means remaining as state president as well.
His main rival, Kgalema Motlanthe, the deputy president of the ANC, has no real ideological differences with Zuma - but like all the warring factions their main objectives are power and all the wealth and perks that go with it. Whatever faction gains power and whoever becomes president in December it will just mean a new corrupt management running a rotten ANC house of privilege and the South African working class will be picking up the tab!
It's likely that expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's political career is coming to a close following charges of money laundering.
Malema opportunistically tried to gain favour among striking miners by supporting their strike and calling for the nationalisation of the mining industry.
The demand for nationalisation understandably got an echo from a layer of the working class in South Africa but the feeling among striking activists is that Malema is intervening for his own narrow political interests.
With houses and mansions worth millions, sports cars and designer clothes, Malema has moved a long way from his younger days as an ANC militant.
Any serious attempt to portray Malema as a champion of working class interests would be treated with laughter by those activists in South Africa attempting to build a genuine socialist alternative.
The term 'fat cats' could have been invented for the aspiring black bourgeois class of the ANC who arrogantly flaunt their wealth and size, much to the hatred of the struggling working class.
Corruption is endemic at the top of South African society, from the fat cat politicians and big corporation bosses to the media companies and trade union officials at all levels.
Is it any surprise then that the strike-breaking NUM is losing thousands of members when it collaborates with management and attacks its own members? And thanks to his latest increase, NUM general secretary, Baleni, now earns R105,000 a month salary but yelled for the Lonmin bosses, the police and army to put an end to the strike where workers were demanding just R12,500 per month!
The NUM is now blaming the spread of the unofficial strikes on the Lonmin bosses because they gave in to the strikers' demands! You really do have to pinch yourself sometimes when you consider the treacherous role of these trade union leaders.
Compare the capitulation of these cowardly leaders to the determination of the unofficial strike leaders who, when told by the management of one shaft that their national agreement with the NUM didn't run out till June 2013 so they wouldn't negotiate, said: 'ok then, we will stay out and see you next June'!
Even Cosatu has had to recognise the damage its biggest affiliate is doing to its reputation, so after weeks of saying and doing nothing to support the miners it has now slapped the wrists of the NUM leaders and is attempting to claw back some credibility as a trade union federation.
Nevertheless, in the eyes of the most militant and conscious workers, Cosatu has been exposed as ineffective at best and a collaborator of the bosses at worst.
Recognising the weak and vacillating role of Cosatu, the unofficial coordinating strike committees look set to continue and expand their influence across all unions after this present dispute ends.
The miners' strike is not just about wages. It is also a protest about the horrendous conditions that the working class in South Africa are facing under capitalism.
The 'informal settlement' or squatter camps, or 'shack lands' or whatever term you want to give them, are a disgrace to a civilised society in the 21st century.
These 'informal settlements' exist in their thousands across South Africa, not just alongside mine shafts but in the urban areas of Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and other cities.
Tin sheds, where in Britain we wouldn't put animals or gardening tools, let alone human beings! In many of the settlements there is no electricity, no running water, no sanitation, no roads just dirt tracks - nothing, no life, no existence - just misery.
Social conditions such as these provide the breeding ground for alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, prostitution, but also for revolution, especially among the young! That's why DSM has branches in the mining squatter camps of Rustenburg, including Marikana, where several more young miners and sacked miners have now joined it.
The DSM has also recruited incredibly courageous female community activists in the township of Freedom Park, in Johannesburg.
There the 'Golf Club' gang has just been arrested after a violent campaign of attacks in the community which left young women, not robbed, not beaten up, but brutally raped. The youngest gang member was 14.
DSM's female members will also be to the forefront in fighting the horrific homophobic phenomenon sweeping South Africa, disgustingly known as 'corrective rape'.
This term, actually coined in South Africa where it has been prevalent, refers to the raping of lesbians to 'cure' them of their 'disease'.
South Africa remains one of the most violent countries in the world. For the working class and poor 'life is cheap'.
In stark contrast, for example, in the predominantly white Johannesburg suburb of Sandton, tourists take photos of the large Nelson Mandela statue in the plush, European-style shopping complex.
This is a social bubble, far removed from the real South Africa. Such a divide between rich and poor is a recipe for a massive social explosion - which is being glimpsed at the moment with strikes and protests across the country.
The DSM puts forward the socialist alternative to this. Its effective intervention in the mineworkers' strike has raised its profile enormously over the past few months.
Mametlwe Sebei, a DSM member and main spokesperson for the strike coordinating committee, has received massive coverage in the national media for his leadership of the strike movement in Rustenburg and his growing authority among the mineworkers.(See him addressing press in video above.)
Sebei proudly and openly appeals to mineworkers, trade unionists and the working class in general to join the DSM and assist the building of a socialist society.
Dozens of trade unionists, youth and community campaigners have responded to Sebei's appeal and joined the DSM, including several young workers at the recent national coordinating strike committee meeting in Marikana.
The demand for a new mass workers' party is also enthusiastically greeted whenever it is raised and the DSM will be to the fore in establishing such an initiative.
The class struggle in South Africa is far sharper than in many countries across the world. Socialist consciousness and the receptiveness for a socialist alternative are far higher among this powerful, industrial working class.
The DSM is poised to take a huge step in building a socialist movement that can eradicate this brutal capitalist state and introduce a socialist society that can finally offer a future worth living for the poor and oppressed of South Africa.
"We write to appeal to you to support our strike for a decent living wage. The strike that started at Lonmin's platinum mines in Marikana, where on 16 August, 34 workers were shot dead by police, is continuing across South Africa's mines.
We fight for at least R12,500 (about £940 - Eds) basic monthly salary for all workers on the mines, equal pay for equal work - to end subcontracting, for a safe working environment, to have decent houses, with electricity and water, decent education for our children - a better life that will only be won through struggle.
We have been abandoned by our union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which has been more interested in its investment company and its alliance with the ruling party (the African National Congress) which stands for the interests of the bosses as we can see when they send police and soldiers to shoot and arrest us.
Therefore we have formed strike committees in each mine, and also a Rustenburg-wide Joint Strike Coordinating Committee.
We are leading the strike in the various platinum and chrome mines in Rustenburg, and are now trying to link up with other workers on strike by forming a national strike committee.
There are over 100,000 mine workers on strike. We believe the only way our murdered comrades can get some form of justice is through us winning these battles.
We are up against some of the most powerful corporations in the world, backed to the hilt by our government, and unfortunately also supported by our trade union leaders.
The only way our strikes can be successful is if we unite all workers, now largely striking in isolation from one another, into a coordinated struggle.
We are working hard on linking the various strikes, and will hold a first national strike committee meeting this weekend, which will amongst other things organise a joint march to the government buildings in Pretoria to protest against the shooting of workers, the effective state of emergency the government has imposed, and to demand a decent basic salary of R12,500 for all, as well as development for our scandalously poverty-stricken communities.
We appeal to workers across the world, to shop stewards, trade unions and any other working class organisation to support us.
As we march on the South African government on 3 November (provisional date), we appeal for international solidarity protests, pickets or marches, protest statements and solidarity messages. The international solidarity already received has encouraged workers tremendously!
We are in dire need of resources to finance our organising work. We are collecting contributions from the workers on strike, but this is yielding limited results, especially given that we have now been on strike for several weeks without pay.
Any donations for the struggle are welcome. Deposits can be made into the account we have set up."
Bank: Standard Bank, South Africa. Account: Workers Defence Fund. Account Number: 300495986. Branch: East Gate, Branch Code: 018 505. Swift Code: SBZAZAJJ
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 17 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
Though Election Day in the US isn't until 6 November, it is already abundantly clear who the winner of this year's presidential election will be: Wall Street and big business!
The 2012 election cycle is expected to be more awash in corporate cash than any previous election, with a projected $5.8 billion to be spent across all races.
In 2008, Barack Obama was elected to the presidency amidst a whirlwind of enthusiasm for the "hope" and "change" he had promised America, but this sentiment is now long gone.
Three and a half years into his presidency, tens of millions suffer from unemployment, foreclosures and evictions.
High levels of long-term structural unemployment have hardly changed since early 2009. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in February 2012, as many as 42.6% of the 23.5 million unemployed had been out of work more than six months.
According to the US Census Bureau, 49.1 million Americans live below the poverty line, and an additional 97.3 million are classified as 'low income' - ie just barely above the poverty line.
Combined, this amounts to 146.4 million US residents, or nearly half the country's total population. This number has increased by four million over the course of Obama's term in office, and the suffering is being borne disproportionately by blacks, Latinos, and women.
At the same time, the rich have continued to get massively richer under Obama. An analysis of tax returns shows that 93% of the income gains in 2010 were pocketed by the top 1%, and 37% was taken by just the top 0.1%.
Despite his promises to the contrary, Obama has continued to lead the US down the same path of right-wing corporatism, imperialism and environmental devastation as his predecessors.
He supported the Wall Street bailouts while leaving working people and the poor to fend for themselves.
His 2011 bipartisan budget deal represented the largest-ever drop in US domestic spending, with serious impacts on education, health and labour.
Obama's big promise to the labour unions was that he would get the Employee Free Choice Act passed, which would have made union organising easier. This was scrapped and forgotten almost immediately after Obama took office.
Obama promised to end the Bush-era imperialist policies in the Middle East. In reality, he has increased military spending, intensified the war in Afghanistan, bombed and invaded Libya, and carried out more drone strikes than ever before in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia (countries the US is not even at war with).
He promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, yet it remains open today.
Despite Obama's atrocious record so far, the prospect of Republican candidate Mitt Romney winning the election is just terrifying enough to millions that they will vote for Obama anyway to keep Romney out.
However, the only reason that Romney - an out-of-touch millionaire vulture capitalist, right-wing panderer and corporate hack extraordinaire that even Republicans aren't enthusiastic about - has a chance of winning is because Obama has failed so badly at offering any solutions to the problems facing the US.
This has also helped enable the rise of right-wing populism, as embodied by trends like the Tea Party, the libertarians and Ron Paul.
The failure of the Democrats to solve the economic crisis allows for the twisted logic of bigoted scapegoating and capitalist utopianism to fill the void.
Far from preventing the worst of the right wing from gaining strength, the Democrats have opened the door for it.
In the media, however, the relatively superficial differences between the candidates are sensationalised and hyperbolically played up to help maintain the illusion of a real choice in this election.
The reality masked by this illusion is that both candidates fundamentally agree on most substantive issues facing working people.
In the midst of the worst unemployment crisis since the 1930s Great Depression, both parties agree that a real federally funded jobs programme is off the table.
With their pro-capitalist ideology comes an almost moralistic opposition to government job creation, telling workers that they have to wait for the fickle fortunes of the markets and the private sector to swing in their favour.
Obama's education policy takes an anti-union, pro-privatisation agenda to new heights. The Democrats have done such a good job attacking teachers that Romney's running mate, pro-Tea Party Congressman Paul Ryan, crossed party lines to lavish praise on Democratic mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel for his handling of the recent Chicago Teachers Union strike.
Both parties agree on the need to "reform" (read: begin dismantling and privatising) so-called "entitlement" programmes such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in order to lower the budget deficit.
Perhaps the most striking case of agreement between the two parties was on the nature of the bank bailouts.
For all the talk of deficit reduction on both sides, when it came to throwing trillions at the big banks with no relief for homeowners or other indebted Americans, a deal was hammered out and rammed through within days.
On the fundamental issue of protecting the capitalist system at all costs, there is no substantive difference at all between the parties.
Obama has not only renewed without change Bush's Patriot Act, which legalises various forms of government spying on citizens, he has also for the first time provided legalistic justification for things like indefinite detention of anyone in the world, including US citizens, without charge or trial - things which all previous presidents had to do more surreptitiously.
In fact, the biggest difference between Obama and Bush is that Obama has been able to get away with much more right-wing policies than Bush ever could without stirring up mass anger from the social movement organisations, the unions, and left liberals in general.
It is in this sense that Obama cannot even accurately be called the "lesser evil" but, as Glen Ford of Black Agenda report put it, "the more effective evil."
That is why it is so urgently necessary to build a working class alternative to the two-party system; to give working people a political voice in this system where they currently have none.
Not only is there a yearning among voters for a viable third-party choice, as shown in multiple national opinion polls, but also the resources already exist within the labour movement to build an independent working class party.
In 2008, US labour unions gave $400 million to Obama and the Democrats, a figure which they aim to top this year.
What's more, the AFL-CIO (the largest union federation in the US) is unleashing 400,000 volunteers this year to get out the vote for Democratic candidates.
This is easily enough to build a credible third party that represents workers' interests and takes no corporate money.
Breaking through the two-party corporate stranglehold on US politics is therefore not a question of practical feasibility but of political will.
Unfortunately, so far the leaders of the unions and other social movement organisations have failed to muster this will and have remained tied to the Democratic Party with all its disastrous consequences.
While fighting to try and change this, in the meantime Socialist Alternative is calling for a vote for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in the upcoming elections.
Stein supports a "Green New Deal" jobs programme, ending the wars, cancelling student debt, and calling for a single-payer healthcare system, along with many other progressive reforms.
This is not a blanket endorsement of the Green Party, which fails to see capitalism as the central problem or to base itself decisively on the working class.
Nonetheless, Jill Stein's campaign has the most potential to be a strong left campaign in the country and, in this way it points the way forward most clearly in terms of a united left break with the Democrats.
The capitalist two-party vice that the US working class and social movements have been locked into is what has blocked progress and allowed the whole political spectrum to lurch to the right over the past several decades.
It is time to break with the logic of capitalism, imperialism and austerity - and the parties pushing it. There is no better time than the present.
The CWI is organised in 45 countries and works to unite the working class and oppressed peoples against global capitalism and to fight for a socialist world.
For more details including CWI publications write to: CWI, PO Box 3688, London E11 1YE.
email firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.socialistworld.net
In September a garment factory inferno in Karachi's Baldia Town took the lives of at least 275 workers, including a number of women and teenagers. This once again exposed the horrific working conditions in Pakistan.
This incident is not an exception but a norm for the working class and especially for industrial workers in Pakistan.
On the same day, in a shoe factory in Lahore, more than 25 workers were burnt to death and scores maimed.
One of the survivors of the Lahore factory inferno said: "Everyone has to die one day. People like me will die of starvation if they don't work."
At least 90% of factories in Karachi are working illegally, yet no action has been taken against them because of the political support enjoyed by their owners.
According to official estimates, Pakistan's total workforce exceeds 57 million but only 2.1 million of them are registered with provincial social security departments.
The question this harrowing incident poses is can the capitalists sustain the rates of profits they are extracting from the workers by imparting liveable wages, pensions, health benefits and proper safety conditions? The answer is a big no!
To attain their rates of profits the bosses had to exploit labour to the level of drudgery. But even that was not enough, they had to steal the resources, evade taxes and plunder the state to fulfil their insatiable lust for money.
The state in return became a beneficiary of all this extortion and involved itself in business. A subsidiary of the Pakistan army is the largest entrepreneur with an investment of $27 billion in the economy.
The government has turned a blind eye to the repeated demands of the trade unions to upgrade safety and security in the factories while the factory owners and captains of industry live a life of luxury at the expense of their workers' health and lives.
The formation of new trade unions and workers' committees in all the workplaces is the need of the hour.
The struggle for workers' rights, decent wages and better working conditions is linked with the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system and to replace it with socialism.
Tamil Solidarity was set up in 2009 as Tamil-speaking people were being slaughtered by the Sri Lankan armed forces. It's estimated that 75,000 Tamils were massacred.
The north and east of Sri Lanka have become a militarised zone. A massive land grab is taking place while the regime is privatising services, attacking workers' rights and jailing political, trade union and human rights activists.
Tamil Solidarity stands for the right to self-determination of Tamils and the rights of all workers and oppressed people in Sri Lanka.
This year Unison's national conference voted unanimously to affiliate to the campaign, as have many trade union branches.
Building solidarity among trade union members and young people is the priority, here and internationally. A 'join the union' initiative aimed at Tamil workers in Britain is also planned.
Join Tamil Solidarity! Find out more by looking at the website. Get your union branch, college society or community group to affiliate today!
Since its launch last year, Campaign Kazakhstan has succeeded in gaining support from prominent figures and trade unions.
Campaign Kazakhstan has two main roles. The first is to raise the profile of the continuing struggles in Kazakhstan.
Lobbies of embassies, and of companies linked to the Kazakh regime, have a real effect on a regime committing atrocities against its population.
The campaign has been instrumental in the release of Vadim Kuramshin, human rights activist, and Bolat Atabayev, playwright, from trumped up jail charges.
The other role of the campaign is to offer practical solidarity. The campaign recently raised £900 in support of the families of jailed Zhanaozen strikers.
To carry out all of these activities the campaign urgently needs funds; donations from trade unions. Several trade union branches have already donated to the campaign, but more are needed.
The area reserved for members of the public was packed for the Board meeting of NHS Gloucestershire on 15 October. After 18 months hard campaigning and taking the case to the High Court for a judicial review, Gloucestershire's local anti-cuts groups got the decision which they had been told was "impossible", "illegal" and according to NHS manager-speak "unwanted".
Eight community hospitals, community health services and around 3,000 staff will not be taken out of the NHS into a social enterprise, nor will these services be open to tender. The campaign has achieved an NHS stand-alone trust which in about 18 months' time will become an NHS Foundation Trust.
It was a remarkable victory in many respects, but the mood was not jubilant. Everyone is aware that NHS cuts will create huge problems. The wages and conditions of NHS staff are under attack from the recently established South West pay consortium which the new trust will sign up to.
At the start of the campaign the health unions were less than enthusiastic about the challenge to the social enterprise which they, and management, claimed was the best that could be achieved.
This claim, like the argument that the staff and public supported the move to outsource to social enterprise, was blown apart by the legal action, the campaign and the results of the consultation process it engendered: 91% of staff and 96% of the public voted in favour of the NHS option.
A victory can only be achieved by fighting back. We have won a battle - it has shown that gains can be achieved and will strengthen our resolve to keep up the campaign.
Austerity is hitting the NHS. 26,000 nursing posts have already been reduced, with a further 34,000 to be sacrificed, to balance budgets at the expense of patient care.
Nursing staff and healthcare assistants report being so overstretched that patients are being nursed in hospital corridors. Staffing levels are often dangerously low, with nurses having to care for up to 18 patients at once. District and community services are increasingly under strain.
With the pensions attacks, we are being forced to work in physically, mentally and emotionally demanding roles until we are 68. The government is hell-bent on cutting the pay of nurses and other public sector workers serving communities outside of the M25 - although they won't extend this measure to MPs and we all suffer the pay freeze.
This is the state of affairs after just one of four years of planned cuts.
In the latest cabinet reshuffle, David Cameron recognised the unpopularity of his government's bid to privatise the NHS, sacrificing the reform's architect, Andrew Lansley. His replacement, Jeremy Hunt, represents more of the same.
Like a broken record Hunt, like Lansley before him, repeats the mantra that 'cuts have to be made' and that the 'private sector can do it better'.
And the NHS is not alone.
Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are expected to march on London against these measures on 20 October. The march promises to be a great day, but we need more - we need to act on the motion passed at the TUC conference to look into the possibility of a 24-hour general strike. The demand for publicly funded, high quality healthcare should be central to this battle against austerity.
The English Defence League (EDL) is a far-right racist group. Many EDL organisers are not just racists. They are Nazis who oppose rights for women, LGBT people, trade unionists and the left.
It regularly takes to the streets across the country, often violently, to intimidate and spread its racist lies.
It now threatens to return to Waltham Forest, north east London, scene of its recent humiliation.
On 1 September, the EDL was stopped from holding a rally in front of Waltham Forest town hall. Thousands of young people, trade unionists and others joined a counter-demonstration that blocked the EDL's original march route with a sit-down protest that was then surrounded by police.
Hearing that the EDL was being escorted by police though back streets to get around the blockade, hundreds of young people, led by Youth Fight for Jobs and the Day-Mer Turkish-Kurdish youth group, broke through police lines to occupy the EDL rallying point.
EDL leader Tommy Robinson, attempting to muster credibility, has called for a return to Waltham Forest on 27 October - a show of strength to 'unite the far right'.
This must be stopped - but how? Labour-led Waltham Forest council is campaigning for a ban. While this may seem attractive, it is not the answer to stopping the far right.
Where EDL demonstrations have been banned, counter-demos have also been banned and intimidating static protests have taken place, with EDLers often breaking free from police pens to rampage through local communities.
Labour-led Waltham Forest council has voted to do the Con-Dems' dirty work and slash 600 jobs. And Labour councillors have a record of trying to ban anti-cuts protests. It's no wonder working class people feel like no one stands up for them.
The EDL's claims to do so are lies. Disgracefully it attempts to lay the blame for the problems faced by working people on those with different colour skin, different nationalities and different religions.
The blame lies with the bosses and pro-big businesses politicians who caused the economic crisis. They want to make the 99% pay for it.
That is why the fight against the EDL and their racist lies is a dual task. We need to organise mass opposition to stop their vile marches.
Already workers and young people are being mobilised to stop the EDL on 27 October. The RMT union in London has agreed to again block the EDL from London stations, demonstrating clearly the huge potential strength of the organised working class.
But a programme and action against the brutal cuts is also needed. Working class people need a mass party to fight austerity - this would show that the real enemy is those at the top who continue to leech and profit while we suffer.
Around 200 protesters joined the rally and march against the EDL coming to Rotherham on Saturday 13 October.
This mobilisation, at short notice, will now have to be built on as the National Front have announced their intention to march in the town on 27 October.
The far right are trying to whip up racism against the Muslim community.
Socialist Party members have argued that this must be countered by campaigning for jobs, homes and services, against all cuts and against racism.
Two weeks after Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust's financial crisis threatened it could run out of cash by January, it emerged that 120 breast cancer test errors occurred between 2004 and 2010. This is causing great anxiety to the women affected and their families.
Hospital pathology services have been subject to big changes since Lord Carter's 2006 report - under the Labour government.
This private health company boss recommended moving from hospital-based laboratories to regional labs, which private companies could bid to run.
Last month, bids went in to run community pathology services across the Midlands - a contract worth £300 million.
These blood tests are mostly automated and profitable, so hospitals use them to subsidise complex tests, like cancer diagnosis. Without routine high volume work, hospital laboratories become 'uneconomic'.
Sherwood Forest has paid Unipart over £1 million consultancy fees, introducing "lean" work practices, cutting out 'waste'.
But ever-increasing 'productivity' - more work from fewer people - is incompatible with a caring health service.
Health workers face intolerable pressures as patients and treatments become a production-line, with no time to provide individual attention as every patient - or laboratory test - should have.
Add to this, 20% less funding that the Tory/Lib government is providing for pathology services by 2015; £20 billion cuts (given the fancy name 'efficiency savings') across the NHS; the enormous financial pressure of Sherwood Forest Hospitals' unsustainable PFI payments.
Add on also the Modernising Scientific Careers project, changing the way medical laboratory scientists work, of which Kings Mill has been an early adopter - and we can see just some of the pressures building up in the laboratory.
There needs to be a local inquiry by health workers' trade unions, patients and community representatives.
The financial books should be opened so we can see where our money has been spent and where private profit is putting more patient's health at risk.
A recent TUC organised conference, entitled 'Outsourcing and Austerity - Civil Society and the Coalition Government' was attended by over 100 people from the voluntary, charity and third sector as well as union and anti-cuts activists.
The Labour spokespeople made much of the 'one nation' sound bite with Lord Glassman talking about the need to 'restrain capitalism'.
He also specifically commented that we needed to move away from the politics of "irreconcilable class conflict".
This wonderful exercise in spin was interrupted by a questioner who asked: "Can we trust Labour or is 'one nation' just another version of 'big society'?" This drew sustained applause.
I asked what was Labour's message to people under Labour administrations such as in Southampton, where Labour have already declared their intent by closing a local swimming pool and lining up a projected £29 million cuts next year.
Expecting us to endure another two years of cuts and the prospect of business as usual under a Labour government would not be tolerated.
"The gentleman has demanded more leadership from us", replied the Labour MP, followed by much handwringing about "Labour councillors have to make tough choices."
Another panellist interjected angrily: "It may well be tough to make tough decisions, but it's a lot tougher for those who are having their services cut!"
Feeling slightly battered at this point the Labour spokesperson said: "we will repeal the NHS reform bill" anticipating a groundswell of approval. Alas it was not to be. Instead there were shouts of "what are you going to do now?"
Someone added: "you bought the privateers in, how are you going to get them out and when are you going to apologise?"
Conferences like this make the 'job' that Labour is doing clearer. Fortunately there will be an increasingly active challenge to their timidity and, as one person expressed it: "We need a pincer movement against the government, remember the poll tax".
Newcastle United football team has agreed a £24 million sponsorship deal with Wonga.com, the short-term payday loans company.
Wonga, and other legalised loan shark firms, prey on the most down-trodden and vulnerable sections of society.
Wonga's interest rates are 4,214% apr so a 30-day loan from Wonga to buy a £49.99 Newcastle shirt from Mike Ashley's (Newcastle's millionaire owner) Sports Direct, will cost £70.63 - 41% more.
North-east England is under the cosh of unemployment and public sector cuts. Many people, seriously struggling, will now see the name of a company making fortunes from their poverty, splashed across the chests of super-wealthy players.
Wonga also bought the naming rights to the stadium. Using the "spoonful of sugar helps the poison go down" approach, they changed the stadium's name back to the traditional St James' Park.
Some supporters just welcome the £24 million. Others say Wonga shouldn't be touched with a borrowed barge pole.
Others say Wonga are scum but are they that much worse than any other financial institution such as former sponsors Northern Rock and Virgin Money? Look at Barclays, the Libor rate-rigging sponsor of football's top competition, the Premier League.
Local Labour MPs and councillors correctly denounced the deal. However, Wonga was launched under the last Labour government, which did nothing to prevent these vultures setting up. Labour didn't even put in controls to limit their extortionate interest rates.
The finance and banking industry definitely needs to be nationalised under democratic control and management.
And football should be controlled by the fans and their communities and not be the plaything of super-rich individuals or money-grabbing wide boys.
Care arrangements for elderly relatives are now a major issue for families. Here is my experience.
My Dad lived to 84 and by then had memory loss and dementia. I could get him to talk about the distant past but he could not remember what he did yesterday.
When he had a fall and went into hospital he deteriorated fast. The beds on either side were occupied by a woman on an oxygen machine which made a noise every minute, and a man who was so confused he tried to leave his bed at every opportunity and had to be persuaded back.
Eventually the doctors were convinced to discharge him on the promise one of us would stay with him at his flat for a week and care plans would be made.
My sister stayed with him and the council intermediate care team provided help each day. They were excellent and his neighbours looked out for him.
The council only provide care for six weeks and then the job is put out to tender. A private firm took over and a nightmare ensued.
They phoned my sister on each of the first four days they were due to say they could not gain access.
My sister had to leave work to sort it out. After much confusion we found the private firm had been going to the wrong address.
Later my Dad went back into hospital and it was clear he could not live alone again.
He needed to go into a care home but which one? We were advised to consult the Care Quality Commission website.
We went to visit some. None of the ones we visited were purpose-built. There were steps, dark corners and poorly-lit corridors.
All the staff seemed to do their best but in one home there were 20 or so occupants sitting in a lounge looking at a large TV screen. At another I asked to use the loo and found it dirty. None were suitable.
Before this we had been put in touch, I think by a nurse at the hospital, with someone who could help us.
We needed all the help we could get. But we eventually realised the job of the person "helping" us was to fill the beds as quickly as possible to keep the money coming in.
The decision was taken out of our hands. One of my brothers arrived at the hospital to visit my Dad but he had been sent to a care home without us being told. Apparently this is not unusual and the hospital can do this to free up the bed.
When we visited we were pleasantly surprised. It was what we had looked for. Purpose-built with wide corridors, large bedrooms with en-suite showers, adjustable beds and staff who seemed to enjoy their work. We could visit at any time.
This was not enough for some of the residents. On my first visit I went in and two elderly women approached me.
They asked if I could show them the way out. They said they had been to a meeting and now needed to go home.
With my mind on my Dad I did not catch on. Then a member of staff came and assisted them back to the lounge. They were the escape committee.
My Dad stayed at this care home for nine weeks before he died. The fact we were confident he was safe, well-fed, had his medication taken care of and we could visit unannounced was a great help to us.
Half of the care homes visited by the Care Quality Commission failed in their duties to the mentally ill. That forced me to write this article.
There must be a massive investment in the state provision of care, and a thorough overhaul of the way relatives are involved.
This will cost a lot of money but then there is a lot of money about, look at the amount the rich have stashed in tax havens - up to £20 trillion! And we are worth it.
Gateshead College lecturers took further strike action on 10 October in response to an attack on their pay and working conditions.
The picket line at the main campus was lively, and they were getting plenty of support from passing traffic.
College management are pushing through restructuring which could see lecturers working up to 50 hours a week.
Richard Bathgate, UCU branch chair, explained what restructuring has meant: "All members of teaching staff have had to go through the process of re-applying for their own job. Some have spent up to four days on their application form."
Another striker commented that her role has been changed from 'lecturer' to 'learning facilitator'. She went on to say: "My salary is protected, but I will get no cost of living increase until my pay grade matches what I'm frozen on."
Preparation time for lessons will be cut to six minutes per hour. This will include preparing lessons, marking and any individual attention required.
Clearly this will have a huge impact on the standard of lessons students at the college receive.
The mood on the picket line was determined, and lecturers commented that they were being well supported by their students.
"Workers' Rights = Human Rights", read the placards outside the Amnesty International offices in Shoreditch, London. Unite members at Amnesty International UK (AIUK) exercised those rights when striking and picketing all day on 10 October against the threat of a large-scale cost-cutting programme and compulsory redundancies.
By lunchtime around 80 strikers and supporters had assembled. Among the support messages sent to the strikers was one from Wisconsin workers, who noted that Amnesty had supported trade union rights in the Wisconsin struggle.
This second one-day strike - the first was on 12 September - showed management that workers in the office were not prepared to accept an estimated £2.5 million cuts when income to Amnesty UK is rising, which is unusual in the not-for-profit sector during the recession.
However, management is using the excuse of increased costs to Amnesty's International Secretariat - where workers are also believed to be preparing industrial action - to seek job losses amongst the 204 members of staff in AIUK.
Unite regional officer Alan Scott said: "At this rate, Amnesty's management is going to be responsible for the death of AIUK as a campaigning organisation.
"Staff fear that lasting damage will be caused to Amnesty's human rights work because of senior management's headlong rush into this huge cost-cutting exercise, which is being implemented with the misguided blessing of AIUK's board".
Daniela Manske, one of the Unite reps in the AIUK Shoreditch headquarters, said that since the first strike, no meaningful negotiations have taken place and the scale of redundancies will not be known until 25 October.
The strike was well supported, with Unite having about 70% membership in the office, and only senior managers and human resources staff went into work.
Messages of support can be sent to Unite members at email@example.com and donations to the campaign can be made payable to: 'TGWU ACTS 1/524 Central London Branch' with the words 'Amnesty International UK Strike Fund' on the back and sent to the Unite reps at AIUK's offices c/o The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 10 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
As a new driver I remember being asked by the man behind the counter: "Are you resting tomorrow?" I answered "Yes".
I was puzzled when the supervisor responded "Do you want a rest day?" I thought I'd just told him I'd got the day off.
It took me a while to understand that in the Orwellian language of the bus garage "do you want a rest day?" means would I like to work on my rest day! Offering a driver a "rest day" is seen as doing them a favour.
Bus driving is still one of the highest paid regular jobs in the capital that many unskilled manual workers can hope to get.
That is partly because of the unsocial hours we are expected to drive. Early jobs start before 5am, late duties may finish after 1 or 2am. And they call us day drivers!
People of all backgrounds and nationalities are drawn into the job. With debts, young families to support and some struggling with mortgages it's not surprising that most of us work overtime.
Many drivers work six and seven days alternately. The law says bus and coach drivers can't work more than thirteen days in a row.
Usually plenty of "rest days" are available especially over the summer holiday period when some drivers are away.
I have seen drivers pleading with supervisors behind the counter to give them some overtime because they are desperate for the money.
The maximum daily driving time is ten hours and within that no more than five-and-a-half hours without a break.
The minimum break is 30 minutes but in London 40 is the established norm through union pressure.
Once I was expected to do a late job on Tuesday, finishing about 2am the following morning, rest on Wednesday then start a very early one on the Thursday.
Fortunately, I was lucky when I requested a change. Otherwise I could go sick or absent. But many drivers on my rota did those duties. How and if they fitted two nights' sleep into that 27 hour slot, I don't know.
A stronger union and the fight for reasonable hours isn't just an issue for drivers. It's a matter of public safety too! We need shorter hours with no loss of pay.
NHS bosses in North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust are due to sack all 5,500 staff and reemploy them on inferior terms and conditions which is a move away from the national agreement Agenda for Change (AFC).
The Trust runs University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton and the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
It aims to remove enhanced sick pay from those staff entitled to be paid the normal shift rate when on sick leave.
This is part of the national terms and conditions and signals a move away from AFC by the employers that could see the introduction of regional pay and further attacks on terms and conditions.
This proposal is part of a package to make savings of £40 million over three years. Previous plans by the Trust included regular car boot sales in the hospital car parks.
Managers have called this a consultation exercise, yet plan to sack staff, and those who refuse the new terms will have them imposed without any form of negotiation or consultation.
The Trust is hoping to close the two main sites and develop a single centre. Previous plans under PFI have failed and it now looks like NHS staff are being penalised in order to fund new developments.
Nationally AFC is under attack and the employers want to negotiate a range of cuts to terms and conditions attacking holiday entitlement, sick pay, shift allowances and pay progression in return for so called guarantees and no further cuts in the future.
Unfortunately there were signs in the early stages from the unions that they were prepared to negotiate and that the unions should enter into a form of concession bargaining.
This has met with opposition from union branches and members with the call that this agreement should be defended and unions should refuse to negotiate any erosion of our pay and conditions.
So far the unions have not made a clear statement saying they will refuse to negotiate, and further talks are to take place.
We have also seen the developments in the South West where employers have set up a pay cartel to try to break up national bargaining and introduce regional pay.
There have also been rumours of a pay cartel in the Northern region despite a number of Trusts saying they have no intentions of moving away from AFC.
Unison's head of Health has issued a strong statement attacking this proposal and warns of the potential impact of staff coming into work when unwell and the potential threat to vulnerable patients.
Strong words must be matched with action and a campaign to defeat these moves and defend the national agreement.
A local and regional fightback is needed now but unless the unions organise on a national basis and prepare for industrial action we will see similar moves across a range of NHS Trusts as managements try to make workers pay for the crisis in funding and the attacks on the NHS by the Con-Dem coalition government.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 8 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
On 10 October in Bromley, south London, the Unite regional officer Onay Kasab and three Unite reps were due to meet the employers to begin this year's pay discussions.
But prior to entering the building, the employer informed Onay Kasab that one of the negotiating team was to be suspended with immediate effect.
The employer claims to have received a complaint from a member of the public saying that there was an altercation between the worker, who drives a dust lorry, and a motorist.
However Unite is clear that the real reason is about the protest that took place last week. On 4 October, workers walked off the job in protest at four sackings. After the walkout the workers agreed to ballot for strike action.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab stated: "This is victimisation of a trade union representative, plain and simple.
"Veolia, by attacking our rep has ensured that this dispute will be escalated and as a result industrial action looks more likely than ever.
We are clear. We will not stand by and allow Veolia to victimise those who are prepared to stand up on behalf of their colleagues."
Transport union RMT is campaigning for London Mayor Boris Johnson to increase the London living wage to £10 an hour, benefiting cleaners and other low-paid workers.
Campaigners demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Greater London Authority on 17 October, to call for better pay and conditions for transport cleaners.
Cleaning companies on London Underground, DLR, London Overground and the various national rail companies pay wages varying between £6.09 an hour to £8.30 an hour.
A study has just found that one in five workers in London, over half a million people, are paid less than the current 'living wage' of £8.30 an hour.
Nearly 200 Tesco drivers in Doncaster were transferred over to Eddie Stobart's Logistics (ESL) firm in August and immediately lost their pension scheme and other benefits.
That is bad enough, but within one month of the transfer the drivers were all given three months notice, with no promise that they will be re-employed once the 90 days is up.
After the drivers voted by 91.7% to 8.3% for strike action they went on a 48-hour strike, which started on 9 October.
Unite, their union, fully supports the strike and has provided a mobile canteen for its duration.
The pickets were in a very angry but hopeful mood; there were a lot of drivers beeping in support as they passed the site.
The strike will be well supported by the residents of Doncaster, a once proud industrial town.
The 200 drivers who are being treated so shamefully deserve better but the system that is built on the exploitation of workers will continue to grind us down until we make a stand.
Unite has been leafleting rail and tube passengers in London, exposing the fact that Crossrail bosses are doing nothing about contractors who sack workers who raise health and safety concerns.
The union is calling for urgent talks with Crossrail over these claims of victimisation and that there is an anti-union bias across the project.
There is a daily picket at the Westbourne Park site where recently a waste hopper collapsed, underlining the importance of having proper safety reps.
Here Crossrail allowed a contractor to cancel a contract, effectively sacking 28 workers, including a shop steward and safety rep.
Unite is also raising concerns about the tax-dodging antics of contractors on this £18 billion project.
Union busting is alive and well in the UK as the campaign to reinstate Winston Dallen clearly shows. Winston is a Unite rep at UPS Camden, the parcel delivery firm, with 14 years employment at the company's Camden depot in London.
For the last five years he has been an effective and popular Unite rep. In a leaflet handed out to workers on 9 October, Unite explain that Winston has been unfairly suspended for his trade union activity.
UPS is a notoriously anti-union firm in the US. Those methods seem to have been imported wholesale to Britain.
During leafleting by Unite officials and supporters, including Socialist Party members, groups of managers attempted to intimidate workers into refusing to take leaflets.
The chief manager is a spitting image of Sid James but there was nothing funny about his attempts to disrupt leafleting, often standing beside leafleters as they spoke to workers, threatening them with disciplinary action if they displayed 'Reinstate Winston' leaflets on their dashboards of their delivery vans.
Despite these tactics union activists were determined to carry on leafleting. Several drivers were seen to keep the 'Reinstate Winston' leaflets in their windscreens in defiance of management bullying.
On 8 October, over 170 Salford city branch Unison members gathered to discuss pay and grading, car allowances and the anti-cuts campaigns in Salford.
The Labour controlled council is proposing a £15 million reduction in the wages bill over five years.
It has also 'offered' a new car allowance scheme, and further cuts to admin services, mental health services and environmental services.
In an indicative vote, 168 members voted in favour of a motion rejecting the council's proposals. It included support for a ballot for industrial action if the council doesn't remove this proposal from the table.
The meeting also supported an indicative motion to reject the car allowance offer and to campaign for a fair scheme that doesn't amount to a pay cut.
There was overwhelming support for admin staff who are facing cuts, refuse collectors whose terms and conditions are under attack and staff in mental health services where services users and staff have linked up to resist cuts.
Newspapers have been getting bad press lately. And largely deservedly so. The Leveson inquiry shone a light on the putrid relationship between the Murdoch press, pro-big business politicians and some police tops. The recent revelations around Hillsborough added more detail to that picture.
But the Socialist is different. The Socialist is proud that its production is not subject to the drive for profit but the drive to build the workers' movement; to create a place for debate and an exchange of ideas; to provide working class people with a voice, normally denied in the media where anti-working class politicians rant with seeming impunity; and to always try to point a way forward for the struggle. Every article produced has the aim of fulfilling one of those vital social tasks.
Our authors are not typical either. We have thousands of expert contributors - expert because they are the ones leading a strike, or working on the frontline, or fighting for rights and against discrimination, or building the struggle for a socialist alternative.
The Socialist has also been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of the campaign for a 24-hour general strike as the next step in the fight against austerity after the 20 October demo.
Where right-wing trade union leaders betrayed the 30 November strike our writers, Socialist Party members and others, aim to provide a way forward that can help to build the fight against austerity.
If this is your first time to read the Socialist we hope you enjoy it and that you will read it every week.
We hope you will add your experience and ideas to future issues - we invite all our readers to contribute, and do our best to print as much as we can, working with the Socialist Party website too.
But we also invite you to support us. This paper does not rely on any advertising revenue for its production - but we welcome support from the labour movement.
There are two key ways this can be done. Most importantly if you do not have a subscription please avail of our special demo offer. That will ensure you never miss an issue.
To Socialist Party members - and all readers - we also ask that you consider your weekly plans for selling the paper.
We have expanded the Socialist to 20 pages for this special demo issue and have had extra pages to build the campaign for a 24-hour general strike over the last few issues.
That has borne large financial cost. Please think about what you can do to ensure more workers, young people and all suffering the brutal impact of the cuts, have access to the ideas in the Socialist.
We are asking readers to aim and make plans to sell at least 20 copies of this 20 October 20-page special.
Everywhere there are people who are angry about austerity - if you always have copies in your bag you can provide those people with some ideas about how to channel that anger and join the fightback.
The TUC demo, the transport to the demo and the follow-up meetings will bring us into contact with many thousands. Let us know how you get on!
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The Socialist Party is at the heart of the resistance to austerity. Our members are involved in fighting the cuts in community campaigns throughout England and Wales, in the trade unions and in elections, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. You can read reports of these struggles in the pages of this paper.
Socialist Party members are currently standing in elections in Manchester and in Bristol. Our message is that these cuts can be fought and defeated and, far from there being no money for services, the NHS, housing and jobs, there is plenty!
We explain that the £750 billion in the coffers of the big corporations and the banks could pay off the 'deficit' and fund a massive programme of building houses, schools and hospitals. But to make our voice heard we need your help!
We depend solely on the support of ordinary people - the Socialist Party has no rich backers. Our placards, banners and leaflets for the 20 October demo have cost thousands of pounds.
We think this expenditure is well worth it in order to build support for socialist ideas and the fightback against austerity.
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All my life I have felt very strongly about injustice, discrimination and fairness for all. I spent all my life voting for the Labour Party, believing I was doing the right thing for all working class members of our society.
But in the last decade I became more and more disillusioned, as all the major political parties have merged into one, all of them out for themselves. The Labour Party I grew up with in the 1970s is unrecognisable today.
I decided to join the Socialist Party. I felt immediately that I was surrounded by supportive and like-minded comrades who are willing not to just talk and moan about making changes, but to actually stand up and be counted to bring about a workable and better society for us all. A fair alternative for all of us - not just the privileged few.
As a woman, it's important for me to believe that I really do have the chance to make a difference. I would urge any other women who feel like me that we have something to give and that our voices have something to say.
Please join your local party and start to do something positive for us and future generations. Your local meetings are run by some amazing people who really will help in your development.
A friend recently asked me why I joined the Socialist Party. Fighting for socialism seems like the only meaningful position to take if you really want to confront the worrying trends of the 21st century.
My friend suggested that socialism is overly idealistic, to which I responded that for me socialism is not about making the world perfect, but about making it liveable; it is about justice, but it is also about long-term survival (and in many ways the two things go hand in hand).
For me socialism is about cooperation - capitalism by its very definition is antithetical to cooperation - and cooperation is above all else what we need today.
After many years of struggling to cope with demanding and abusive bosses, an employment tribunal claim against my employer, for detriment as a result of trade union activity, failed.
After a year of coping on my own: legal process and aggressive company solicitors, continued harassment by management and increasing poor mental health, I found myself losing all sense of purpose. I also despaired at the thought of my children's future.
As time passed following the tribunal, I looked at the Socialist Party website. For many years, I'd often pondered on the incredible humanity and heroism of Che Guevara, identifying with his own critique of and distaste for capitalism and imperialism.
I sent a text to the Socialist Party for more information and I received a phone call in response. I was informed that a meeting was to take place the following night and was invited to come along.
I met a group of very welcoming and friendly people whose political views were familiar and profoundly similar to those of my own.
Their dedication and knowledge seemed immense but, more importantly, socialism seemed to be an integral part of their lives.
I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting and came away with a real sense of hope. I hope that my part in the Socialist Party will help both the Socialist Party and Committee for a Workers' International to continue to grow in numbers, strength, solidarity and political success.
On 13 October, the first Socialist Party campaiging stall in Kenilworth for many years was held. People were more interested than we expected, as ours is a traditionally right-wing town. Many people were asking questions. We sold about a dozen copies of the Socialist.
Many people were keen to sign our petition against NHS cuts and discuss socialism in today's world with us.
We raised £16.70 in donations. We also found a potential member who should be joining us for the TUC demo on the 20th.