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Anti-austerity, socialist policies can be a winning formula

As the parliamentary Brexit crisis drags on, the already deep distrust of capitalist politicians is being further undermined. Johnson is straining every nerve in order to get a general election. In the process he is revealing how the capitalist class are prepared to bend, break or change their own rules whenever it suits them.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act was an undemocratic device cooked up by a previous Tory prime minister, David Cameron, in order to try and strengthen his weak coalition government. Now, heading a government so weak it cannot govern, Johnson has no hesitation in changing the law introduced by his predecessor in order to suit his interests.

Contrast that with the treatment meted out by the courts to groups of workers who, despite having an overwhelming majority for strike action, are banned from striking if the numbers who voted in the ballot are even one below the legal threshold.

As the Socialist goes to press it seems as if Johnson could succeed in getting an election before Christmas. The task of the workers' movement is to fight to ensure he doesn't succeed in winning it.

Johnson's risk

Johnson's strategy is very high-risk. Despite his spurious claims to have ended austerity, millions of working-class people can only see a continuation of the misery imposed by successive Tory governments for almost a decade. And despite his attempt to mobilise Brexit supporters by promising 'to get Brexit done' or 'die in a ditch', he has done neither!

In a general election the Tories are likely to lose both Remain votes to the Lib Dems (19 of their 20 target seats are Tory) and pro-Brexit votes to the Brexit Party. The election result is therefore very unpredictable. But the most important factor will be the kind of campaign that Jeremy Corbyn runs.

Corbyn is being attacked from all sides. Not least from the pro-capitalist wing of his own party. Even the arch-Blairite Peter Mandelson was forced to recognise, however, that Corbyn's policies are popular.

Right now those policies are being largely drowned out by the noise of the Westminster bubble. Corbyn and the Labour lefts bear a big share of the responsibility for this. Their endless attempts to compromise with the pro-capitalist Labour MPs have - as we warned - done nothing to stop the Blairities trying to undermine Corbyn. Instead, it has resulted in his anti-austerity message becoming almost inaudible.

As the 2017 snap election showed, a general election is an opportunity to change all this. If Corbyn comes out fighting with a socialist programme he can mobilise massive popular support. Calling for the immediate nationalisation of Royal Mail, for example, will be extremely popular with the postal workers who have just voted in big numbers to strike.

A pledge to kick all the profiteers out of the NHS - in contrast to Johnson's willingness to open it up to US capitalism - would be popular with the vast majority of the population.

In the last election, Labour's manifesto pledged to abolish tuition fees; if this was repeated and expanded on - with a promise to write off all student debt - it would enthuse millions of students and graduates. Mass council house building, nationalisation of the energy companies, an immediate minimum wage of £10 an hour for all, along with abolition of zero-hour contracts - a programme of these demands and more could electrify Britain.

On Brexit, Corbyn needs to pledge to renegotiate it in the interests of the working class - refusing to accept the EU's pro-privatisation, pro-austerity laws. He would then be able to argue clearly in favour of his deal in any confirmatory referendum.

This programme should be combined with nationalisation of the major corporations and banks, to really take the levers of power out of the hands of the capitalist saboteurs that would otherwise do all in their power to prevent the implementation of pro-working class policies.

In the run up to the 2017 election, the Socialist Party argued that Corbyn could win if he fought on a socialist programme. At the start of the election campaign few believed us. While Corbyn didn't win, however, he gained 3.5 million extra votes - the biggest increase for any party in a general election since 1945. This clearly demonstrated that it was possible to kick the Tories out, provided Labour did not stand on an 'austerity-lite' Blairite manifesto but put forward policies in the interests of the working class.

In the coming weeks, or at most months, the workers' movement will have another chance to get the Tories - who have driven millions into dire poverty - out of office.


Mass protests rock the globe

Angry mass revolts have been erupting in many countries across the globe. On Friday 25 October, up to two million people demonstrated on the streets of Chile's capital Santiago. That was the eve of a weekend that saw up to 500,000 demonstrating in Barcelona for the release of political prisoners, anti-government protests across Iraq and a 105-mile long human protest chain in Lebanon.

In recent weeks, explosions of protest have also broken out or been ongoing in Hong Kong, Ecuador, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Bolivia, and Haiti - among others. Prior to these there was the 'gilets jaunes' flare up in France and the beginning of a revolution in Sudan which has already ousted President Omar al-Bashir.

These movements draw inspiration from each other, sometimes echoing a tactic or symbol seen elsewhere.

The triggers and demands vary from country to country. But common to most has been fury at austerity, inequality and corruption. "Across continents, it seems, we inhabit an age of anger", said a Times editorial. The authors of an article in the New York Times called the protest wave: "A louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by".

In Lebanon, protesters have insisted on having a united struggle of Shia, Sunni, Druze and Christians, opposing divisive separation. Also in Iraq, sectarian divisions are being overcome through protest. The demands gaining an echo in Lebanon include the removal of the corrupt political elite and changing the entire political system. A fifth of the population - 1.3 million people - has participated in that movement so far. A tax on data services like WhatsApp was an initial trigger. But the BBC reported a protester as saying: "We are not here over WhatsApp, we are here over everything".

In Chile, the movement is also demanding political change, with mass support coming behind the demand for a constituent assembly to 'restructure society'.

The hundreds of thousands who have protested in Ecuador were enraged by a savage austerity package. A general strike took place, led by the General Union of Ecuadorian Workers. The National Assembly was stormed, and the government of Lenin Moreno forced to relocate away from the capital, Quito (see 'Uprising in Ecuador forces government climbdown' at socialistparty.org.uk)

In alarm and desperation, ruling elites have been trying both the carrot and the stick. Demonstrators in a number of countries have faced brutal state repression, yet have been determined to continue. Over 15 have been shot dead in Chile. In Iraq, 42 were killed in protests on 25 October alone.

On the other hand, concessions have been hastily announced to try to quell the ferment. Iraq's cabinet is being reshuffled, Chilean president Pinera cancelled transport fare increases and is dismissing his cabinet; in Hong Kong the extradition bill has been withdrawn; in Lebanon the government rapidly scrapped the WhatsApp levy, and announced some reforms. And now the prime minister has announced his resignation. But in all these countries, among others, such measures have rightly been dismissed by protesters as far too little.

'Leaderless'

Commentators in the capitalist media have bemoaned the difficulties governments have in trying to counter protests which in many recent cases have been 'leaderless', spontaneous outbursts, mobilising on social media. 'Who can be negotiated with?' they ask. While socialists have little sympathy on that score, we strongly call for workers and youth to have their own committees and organisations, to be able to democratically discuss and decide the steps needed to both defend the protests and escalate them towards victory.

Suspicion towards political organisations is understandable given the past experiences of workers internationally - of being betrayed by formerly left leaders who moved to the right and accommodated to the interests of capitalist big business. But genuine workers' parties - with leaders elected and subject to recall - will be indispensable for maintaining unity of purpose in the movements and formulating programmes that firmly express working-class interests.

Organised workers in the trade unions need to be the backbone of those parties, bringing in their experience of workers' struggles and their potential power to bring society to a halt through strike action.

Due to their common class interests they can also take a lead in building and arming the movements with the ideas necessary to counter the capitalist class. In practice, this can only be through developing socialist programmes for removing capitalism, opposing coalitions and pro-capitalists and forming governments of representatives of working people that can build societies in the interests of the overwhelming majority. No trust can be placed in any of the political representatives of capitalism!

While these vital organisations are still to be built, the period since the 2011 mass uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa hasn't passed without lessons being noted. For instance, the demands now being raised by protesters for 'complete change at the top' show recognition that removing single presidents or prime ministers is not enough; other capitalist representatives can step into their place.

Journalist Simon Tisdall mentioned in the Observer on 27 October that over 40% of the global population is aged 24 or under, and referring to the present revolts, aptly wrote: "This global phenomenon of unfulfilled youthful aspirations is producing political timebombs".

While struggles will ebb and flow, the overall trend is that they will widen and escalate. Along with that, development of consciousness on the political and organisational tasks needed will inevitably speed up, providing the other vital element, along with the will to struggle, for achieving lasting victories.


Tories out now

Bin Boris

Corbyn can win with socialist policies!

Johnson and his bosses' Brexit deal remain suspended in mid-air.

Unable to govern, Johnson's only way out has been a high-risk gamble on a general election, hoping against hope that it will win him a working majority.

The result of the election - planned for 12 December - is uncertain. Right now the polls show a lead for the Tories of around 10%. But that could melt away during the election campaign.

Johnson - like May and Cameron before him - heads a viciously anti-working class, pro-super-rich government. His bosses' Brexit deal is not designed to 'give back control' to working-class people, but to give even greater control to big business to super-exploit workers and sell off public services.

The Socialist Party has been campaigning for a general election because it gives an opportunity to throw this rotten government of the super-rich out of office. This has not been the approach of the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, however.

The pro-big business 'Tories in disguise' who make up the right wing of the Labour Party are openly campaigning against Corbyn winning a general election. Even figures on the left of Labour - like Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell - have prioritised campaigning for a second EU referendum before a general election.

Mistakes

At the same time, under pressure from the pro-capitalist majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Corbyn has focused on manoeuvres in Westminster rather than mobilising the working class to get the Tories out and to bring a socialist government to power. The result is that workers have heard no clear voice fighting for their interests in parliament.

The mistakes of the Labour left have made more difficult the terrain on which the pre-Christmas election will be fought. Nonetheless, if Corbyn comes out with a fighting, socialist manifesto he could transform the situation and win the general election.

The 2017 anti-austerity manifesto could be a starting point. But the 2019 manifesto should go further.

It should also include, as part of a socialist programme, reversing all cuts to council services, scrapping Universal Credit, and a pledge to nationalise under democratic working-class control, the banks and major companies, along with those which carry out closures and job cuts in the name of Brexit or otherwise.


The above is a slightly updated version of the front page of the Socialist, issue 1062, to take into account the vote in parliament for a general election on 12 December, which happened while the Socialist was being printed.
Click here for the editorial of issue 1062 (also written just before the vote for an election).

39 migrants found dead in Essex lorry container

Tom Baldwin, Socialist Party national committee

There has been widespread shock and revulsion at the deaths of 39 people on 21 October. Their bodies were found in the back of a refrigerated lorry in the Essex town of Grays on 23 October.

The container had come over from Zeebrugge in Belgium and its occupants appear to have been seeking to enter the UK. The driver of the lorry which picked up the container has been charged with their manslaughter and other offences, including conspiracy to traffic people, and there have been other arrests.

The victims are believed to be from Vietnam where families now face an agonising wait for news of their loved ones, as the process of identifying the bodies gets underway. 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra My is feared to be among the dead.

She sent messages to her family the evening before the tragedy was uncovered saying: "I am dying, I can't breathe." They have not heard from her since.

Families describe having paid up to £30,000 to people traffickers to try and ensure passage to Europe. This is an enormous sum of money, often meaning they took on large debts to pay for it. However, it was done in the hope that those travelling abroad could send money back to support the family. It is estimated that around 18,000 people a year are smuggled to Europe from Vietnam, mainly from poorer rural areas.

Sadly, these are not the first recorded deaths of people trying to enter the UK. In 2000, 58 Chinese people were found suffocated in the back of a lorry in Dover, and since then others have perished attempting the journey. However, these are just the tip of the iceberg for migrant deaths.

The United Nations estimates that 18,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean since 2014. Search and rescue attempts have been scaled down in that time, and the EU parliament recently voted against increasing such life-saving efforts.

That people are willing to spend huge sums, and undergo arduous and risky journeys in the search of a better life shows the desperation to escape the war, terror or extreme poverty that capitalism brings to much of the world's population.

Among those signing the book of condolences for the dead in Essex was Boris Johnson. However, the policies of his government have helped create the conditions that led to the migrant crisis.

Capitalist politicians are mired in hypocrisy on the question of migration. While ordinary people are faced with desperate choices, entry to the UK is an entirely different matter for the super-rich. Those 'investing' at least £2 million in the country can get a 'tier-one' visa, allowing them to settle here for five years. The numbers buying a 'golden visa' in this way have hit a five-year high.

The bosses and their political representatives are happy to use migrant workers as a source of cheaper labour when they can. Giving some people 'illegal' status makes them easier to exploit.

Capitalism

At the same time migrants are used as a scapegoat. Capitalist politicians attempt to divide the working class, blaming immigration for the low pay and lack of jobs, housing and services that actually stem from austerity and the capitalist system they defend.

Some of the vitriol this division creates has been seen in disgusting and callous comments on stories about the 39 deaths on right-wing tabloid websites. The workers' movement must counter this division which serves the bosses and weakens us all, regardless of where we're from. All workers should be brought together in the unions to fight for equal and improved rights, terms and conditions at work.

The Socialist Party fights for the rights of migrant workers and links it to the fight for decent jobs and housing for all.

The capitalists' racist immigration laws must be opposed. Instead, decisions should be based on solidarity, not division, which can only be achieved through democratic workers' oversight. As part of the Committee for a Workers' International, we organise across the world to end the capitalist system and the horrors that drive people to undertake desperate journeys.


Argos Christmas bonus cut

Millionaire retail boss Mike Coupe, who was caught on camera singing "we're in the money" on TV before an interview about a possible Sainsbury's-Argos merger, has halved Argos workers' Christmas bonus to just £5.

Argos' 16,000 shop staff earn a typical £11,931 a year, which contrasts with the £3.9 million Coupe pockets after his bonus soared to £593,000.

Coupe's excuse for cutting the bonus was to bring it in line with Sainsbury's workers who already only get a fiver. Sainsbury's bought Argos for £1.4 billion in 2016.

Sainsbury's has already made moves to cut paid breaks, special rates for Sundays and annual bonuses.

It's only October but Coupe is already auditioning for the role of Scrooge.


The 1929 Wall Street Crash: When the capitalist system was on its knees

Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland general secretary

Ninety years ago the world was tipped into the 'Great Depression'. The Wall Street Crash saw stock markets descend into free-fall while banks failed. The capitalist economy slumped and the nightmare of mass unemployment for the working class became a reality.

The Dow Jones stock market index of leading companies in New York collapsed by 25% in the five days following 'Black Thursday', 24 October 1929. By 1932 the market had lost 89% of its pre-crash level. The economist JK Galbraith described it as "the most devastating day in the history of the New York stock market... maybe in the history of markets."

The 1929 crash, like the banking collapse in 2007-08, marked a definitive end to a credit-based boom, which had seen the growth of a huge bubble in the value of stocks and assets. The 'roaring twenties' had been a bonanza for the elite Wall Street speculators, with stocks rising between 400% and 500% in a decade.

But this was a boom for the rich and the speculators that completely bypassed the vast majority of the US working and middle class.

The collapse in share prices and the bursting of the speculative bubble exposed individuals, corporate America and the banking system to huge losses. Even economist JM Keynes, who predicted the crash, lost 80% of his investments when the collapse came.

Drunk on seeming success, the capitalist class and their economists were generally no more able to anticipate the 1929 crash than they were in 2007-08.

Galbraith - in his book The Great Crash 1929 - quotes US President Calvin Coolidge in December 1928 confidently declaring: "In the domestic field there is tranquillity and contentment... and the highest record of years of prosperity... [We] can regard the present with satisfaction and anticipate the future with optimism."

Similarly, in the run up to the banking crash of the last decade, New Labour's Chancellor Gordon Brown claimed to have abolished "boom and bust".

The dominant ideology of the capitalist class was to let market forces 'self-correct' the 'imbalances' of the market. "Liquidate labour, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system", was the brutal remedy prescribed by Andrew Mellon, the then US Treasury secretary to the Herbert Hoover administration.

Banks were allowed to collapse. In contrast, and learning from the Great Depression, after the banking crisis of 2007-08 trillions of dollars were thrown about in a desperate financial bailout by capitalist governments around the world. Large parts of the banking system were nationalised.

Quantitative Easing - 'socialism for the rich' - was introduced. However, these measures have not created a sustainable recovery (see 'New recession fear stalks the world economy' at socialistparty.org.uk).

Great Depression

But after 1929 it was capitalism that was almost liquidated. Between 1930 and 1932, one-third of the US economy was wiped out.

9,000 US banks collapsed and billions of dollars were lost in savings. For the working class it was a disaster. Unemployment rose from 3.2% in 1929 to 24% by 1932, creating a social crisis.

By 1931 wages in the US were half the value of 1925. To make matters worse there was no social security or government safety net and as a result there was mass destitution and impoverishment of the poor and the unemployed.

Some of the great works of American literature were written against the backdrop of the 1930s, including John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath that depicted the horrendous conditions that faced the farmers and agricultural workers in the 'Dust Bowl' of the US.

Hundreds of Hoovervilles - shanty towns built by the homeless and destitute, named after the US president - sprung up across the US.

A breakdown of trade took place. Banking failures, devaluations and mass unemployment scarred Europe in the 1930s. Unemployment in Britain increased from one million to almost three million by 1931.

Workers fight back

The election of US president Franklin D Roosevelt in 1932, however, saw a change in policy by the US ruling class in response to the depression. There was a growing fear that the economic catastrophe was bringing into question the legitimacy of the capitalist system.

1933-34 saw a wave of strikes, factory occupations, mass demonstrations and protests against the pauperisation of big sections of the population by the crisis.

A new radicalised and more militant generation of workers, including many who looked to the ideas of Trotskyism, led a number of important strikes and factory occupations as workers moved to try and win back some of what had been lost.

Hundreds of thousands of US workers moved into the new CIO trade union federation during this period.

Roosevelt's New Deal was aimed at stabilising capitalism. He had no choice but to use US capitalism's vast accumulated wealth to make concessions to the working class and the workers' movement in order to stave off revolution.

A social security system was introduced as well as investment in public works to provide employment and a new set of rules and regulations for the banking system. In effect, it was an attempt to rebuild the largely damaged capitalist system through Keynesian measures ie massive state funding to boost economic growth.

However, these steps had a limited impact. Unemployment remained stubbornly high, between 10% and 15%, throughout the 1930s. It was only the shift of the US economy to a war footing that mopped up unemployment.

For the ruling classes the experience of that decade was a disaster. It had produced a massive economic collapse, the disruption of trade, collapsing profits. The rise of fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain followed the crash and the defeat of the workers' movement. The end of World War Two saw a huge loss of capitalist influence globally as a result of the spreading and strengthening of the Stalinist planned economies.

Capitalist governments across the world, including the US, turned to Keynesian economic ideas in an effort to rebuild the shattered capitalist system. This helped to stabilise capitalism, for a period, and laid the basis for the post-war economic upswing that lasted until 1973.

Today, capitalism has been unable to fully recover from the crisis of 2007-08 and a new crisis is being prepared. On the basis of the profit system there is no way out of these periodic destructive cycles, with the majority of humanity and the planet paying the price.

Capitalism, however, will always cling on unless it is overthrown by a politically conscious movement of the working class. But the ideas of socialism and Marxism and the building of a mass workers' movement to end rotting capitalism once and for all, will increasingly be seen as the only viable solution.


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PCS union election: For a fighting democratic general secretary

The election for the next general secretary of the 180,000-strong trade union runs from 7 November until 12 December.

Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd won 39 PCS branch nominations, the incumbent Mark Serwotka got 62, and Bev Laidlaw 17.

We call upon activists to unite behind Marion's candidacy for a union democratically controlled through its elected lay structures, and a leadership which will actively coordinate across the union the fight on pay, jobs, pensions and office closures.

Marion has spent many years building the left and fighting the right wing in the union. She has a record of success in winning for members, including a successful fight which stopped the closure of her office.

Recently, low-paid PCS members, employed by private contractors ISS and Aramark at the BEIS government offices in London, won the London Living Wage after taking indefinite strike action.

Marion - currently PCS BEIS Group President and on the national executive committee, and who has been on the BEIS picket lines - said: "I'm immensely proud of my members and the branch reps. Two victories in a few weeks after these low-paid workers took indefinite strike action shows what can be achieved. It confirms that we can attract outsourced workers into PCS and link them with members who are directly employed, with the demand that these workers are brought in-house."

Marion stands on a programme of union democracy, breaking down barriers to win equality for all and a fresh, winning approach on pay, jobs and office closures.

Speaking to the Socialist, Marion says: "Unlike Mark Serwotka, who pledged to not take the full general secretary salary but does, I will stay on my civil service wage and publish details of the money I give back to PCS."

We call upon activists to unite behind her campaign and elect her as the next PCS general secretary.


PCS: Support Marion Lloyd - a history of workers' struggle and a programme for the future

The election for the next general secretary of the PCS civil and public services trade union runs from 7 November until 12 December.

Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd (pictured right) won 39 branch nominations for general secretary. She is currently PCS BEIS (government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) Group President and on the union's national executive committee, and is in the best position to challenge the incumbent, Mark Serwotka. Marion spoke to the Socialist and explained why she believes PCS members should vote for her.

Why are you standing for general secretary?

Because the current leadership is out of touch and doesn't understand, let alone tackle, the day-to-day issues we all face at work.

The insistence by Mark Serwotka and his supporters that we can only have a national campaign on pay, and only pay, is wrong. Their failure to win two national pay ballots has not only weakened us but ignored pensions, jobs and office closures!

Members feel isolated - and left to fight alone.

Surely the most sensible thing to do is to link everything together, to develop a campaign that everyone can get behind and have confidence in. I would build that, working with reps, and go out to the heart of our membership.

That's why I'm standing - to work with members and reps to build that campaign. One which inspires confidence and gets members involved.

What are the key challenges facing the union and its members?

The above, together with equality and building membership.

Poverty pay levels within our membership are appalling. 10% of civil servants earn below the living wage.

In our privatised areas members barely scrape the minimum wage. This is scandalous. We need an almighty campaign to improve our pay so that people can makes ends meet.

We cannot repeat the failed pay strategy of Mark Serwotka. He insisted we should have another single ballot even after losing the first. Rather than listen, he insisted we did it again. What happened? We lost again. Not only has this made members furious, it also means that we're left without any strategy on pay.

21 employer areas met the ballot threshold - including HMRC (revenue and customs department). This means if we had adopted the approach that I suggested - a ballot counted employer by employer - then things could be very different now.

Just imagine 21 areas used to pressure the employer, 21 areas campaigning and striking, 21 areas helping us build the campaign across the union. Just imagine a pay campaign pressuring an employer and a government in complete chaos.

The challenge to solve the problems caused by austerity is key. We must particularly take up the struggle of those most affected - women, BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic), disabled, LGBT+, younger and older workers.

As a working mother, these issues remain close to my heart and I am determined to root equality properly into our bargaining and campaigning.

Challenge number three is to build our membership. 60,000 members lost under the current general secretary's tenure. Staff will join a union winning for them. This will strengthen the union in our workplaces and at the table. That's why we must give resources to our reps on the ground.

What's your position on the possible general election?

I want one, and as soon as possible. I am desperate, like many of our members, to get a Corbyn government elected on a programme to reverse pay decline and job cuts.

But I do not believe that we should affiliate to the Labour Party.We remember the Blair and Brown governments that cut 100,000 civil service jobs; privatised jobs and gave our members away to rotten companies which ruthlessly attacked our members' terms and conditions.

Many of the MPs who supported these policies are still around and are trying to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn - why would we support them? We are a trade union - not an extension of the Labour Party - and both my opponents in this election would do well to remember that.

We should be using our influence to influence politicians to benefit us, not just throw money at them and let them off the hook. This is not what members want.

How will you be different from the current general secretary?

I will actively build a campaign to tackle the issues I have already highlighted. I will ensure that no group of members is left isolated and develop an approach which inspires confidence and a belief we can do something.

I am a working mother on a civil service salary. I know the daily challenges our members face because I too have faced redundancy in recent years and experience the pressure at work.

Unlike Mark Serwotka, who pledged to not take the full general secretary's salary but does, I will stay on my civil service wage and publish details of the money I give back to PCS.

I remain, as I have done all my working life, completely committed to building our union and solving the problems we face at work. I know what to do and how to do it. I will work with reps and members to build the confidence we need so that members will join together to fight the employer.


Endorsements of Marion by PCS activists and members

"If you want to save your office, Marion has done that. Marion has a serious strategy for pay. Action not words"

Dave Semple, NEC and DWP Glasgow branch Assistant Secretary (personal capacity)

"I'm supporting Marion because she is committed to delivering a programme of action that puts lay reps, PCS members, and the working class front and centre."

Fiona Brittle, PCS Scottish Government dept and NEC (personal capacity)

"Marion Lloyd has set out an excellent programme to build PCS's strength from the shopfloor up, ensuring that PCS's bargaining agenda can be delivered, winning a significant pay rise for all PCS members"

Bobby Young, PCS R&C Assistant Group Secretary (personal capacity)

"I have known Marion for over 25 years. She is one of the most hard-working and dedicated lay activists I have come across. She is the longest-serving current group president and has been a constant support to me (in HM Land Registry) as we fought two successful campaigns against privatisation.I'm backing Marion Lloyd to become PCS general secretary because I believe a fundamental change has become necessary at the very top of our union.

"Having lost two national ballots on pay, we need a fresh look at tactics and campaigning. I believe that Marion provides this, as has been evidenced by her leadership in the latest successful BEIS dispute."

Michael Kavanagh, president PCS Land Registry Group (personal capacity)

"I am proud to be supporting Marion Lloyd as I believe that we need to go back to a member and activist-led democratic union. Marion has a proven record campaigning for members, saving jobs and preventing office closures, and is a life-long activist."

Sarah Brown, president PCS Met Police Group (personal capacity)

"Marion Lloyd has set out an excellent programme to build PCS's strength from the shopfloor up, ensuring that the union's bargaining agenda can be delivered, and winning a significant pay rise for all PCS members."

Bobby Young, PCS HMRC assistant group secretary (personal capacity)

"I believe that Marion's record as a campaigner has demonstrated great tenacity and strategic awareness. If deployed across the union, her joined-up approach to organising, campaigning and bargaining is capable of taking members with us across all departments."

Dave Lunn, vice-president PCS HM Land Registry Group (personal capacity)

McDonald's - Striking to end low pay

Scott Jones, East London Socialist Party

Workers at six McDonald's stores in south London will go on strike on 12 November. The members of the BFAWU bakers' union are demanding a £15-an-hour wage, an end to youth rates, the choice of guaranteed hours of up to 40 a week, notice of shifts four weeks in advance, union recognition and respect and dignity at work.

Melissa Evans, who works at McDonald's in Wandsworth Town says: "I need £15 an hour so I can show my son that poverty is not the only option. Me and my colleagues are coming together in a union to tackle poverty pay, insecurity of hours and lack of respect which has gone on at McDonald's for too long."

McDonald's workers know full well that they are only paid a fraction of the value of the meals they produce and serve up. Lewis Baker, a McStriker from Crayford, who has walked out before says: "We are growing bigger with every strike."

The action will take place the same time as action in other countries. BFAWU has organised previous McDonald's strikes. The first in January 2018 in Crayford and Cambridge won the biggest McDonald's UK pay rise for a decade. The second was a joint walkout with low-paid workers at TGI Friday's, Wetherspoon and Uber Eats on 4 October 2018. The stores involved this time are Wandsworth Town, Downham, Balham, Deptford, Catford and Crayford.

Springboard

The Bakers' union and the other unions involved in last October's action should use the upcoming McDonald's strikes as a starting point to coordinate a further round of walkouts in the hospitality and fast food sector, where worker exploitation and low levels of unionisation is rife.

The Socialist Party - which sends the strikers solidarity greetings - fights not only for everyday improvements in living and working conditions but links this fight through the organised working class to the struggle for socialism: the organisation of society where the main levers of the economy are nationalised under democratic workers' control and management, so that production is democratically planned in the interests of the majority of people.

Long term, this is the only way that workers can be guaranteed a real living wage, decent jobs, affordable housing and transport, and much more besides.


London - 'autumn of discontent' against low pay and outsourcing

Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network, chair

Independent union United Voices of the World (UVW) has launched an 'autumn of discontent' with strikes by outsourced, low-paid, mainly migrant workers.

There are strikes at five London employers - playground attendants at the Royal Parks, cafe workers in Greenwich University, hundreds of cleaners, caterers and porters from St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, and workers at the Ministry of Justice and the headquarters of ITV and Channel 4.

They are coordinating their strikes on 31 October. Two others are balloting for action too - St. George's University and the University of East London. UVW has previously won important victories, including at the London School of Economics.

A central demand is for all outsourced workers to be brought in-house. This is the policy of Jeremy Corbyn and should be shouted from the rooftops as we inch towards a general election. This would draw a real class division between him and Boris Johnson, who wants to open the NHS and other public services to even more parasites, such as US private health companies.

Civil servants' union PCS won an important victory for outsourced workers in the government's business department BEIS, by securing the London Living Wage. (See 'BEIS: Outsourced caterers' indefinite strike victory').

Members of public sector union Unison in the North West have been on strike at NHS private contractor Compass. And food workers' union BFAWU are striking for £15 an hour at McDonalds.

This shows that established unions can also take action among precarious and contracted-out workers, providing they give a lead.

The planned national strike by 110,000 Communication Workers' Union (CWU) members in Royal Mail could highlight to a new generation of workers the role of fighting trade unions. It can be an attractive force to all those facing the bosses' offensive.


RMT national executive election: Fight the cuts, vote for Jared Wood

Jared Wood opposes the £1 billion worth of cuts by Transport for London. He rejects shift patterns that are killing tube workers, fights for a four-day week, and also campaigns for the policy of transport union RMT - a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government with socialist policies.

Can you give your backing to Socialist Party member Jared in the RMT national executive committee elections? He's standing to represent the London Transport Region on the union's national executive committee.

Paul Schindler, RMT Stations and Revenue, said: "During our fit-for-the-future dispute... Jared was instrumental in delivering effective industrial action that won back over 500 jobs."


Uni workers' pay and pension strike ballot

We are waiting for the result of the University and College Union (UCU) strike ballot. The union is asking its members in universities two questions. Will you strike for your pay? Will you strike for your pension?

The ballots closed on 30 October. The employers have broken their pension promise. They want to jack staff contributions up from 8.8% of pay to 9.6%.

Real-term pay has shrunk by 21% in a decade. Workers already voted to strike over pay earlier this year. But in that ballot, they didn't meet the threshold in the Tories' anti-union laws.

Bea Gardner is the Postgraduate Research rep for the UCU at Southampton University. She spoke to the Socialist, in a personal capacity, and praised the support the union has had from Socialist Students.

"Socialist Students interviewed staff and plastered what they have said on posters around campus. They have also been collecting signatures from students pledging to support the strike."


Three years since victory: Butterfields didn't budge

How working-class tenants beat Gentrification

Linda Taaffe, Secretary, Waltham Forest Trade Union Council

Every time I drive up Lea Bridge Road in Walthamstow, east London, I pass the Butterfields estate. I look with pride to the 'Butterfields won't budge' poster still displayed in the window of one of the tenants.

On closer inspection you can just about discern a smiley-face sticker, added to mark the wonderful victory scored by dozens of tenant families.

Their landlord wanted to drive them out to make more profits, a phenomenon repeated all across London. First they suffered rent hikes. Then, in January 2016, notices to quit by Easter started dropping through letterboxes.

But they didn't quit. The slogan 'Butterfields won't budge' was coined by Ade, one of the tenants. They campaigned. They defied the landlords. They won massive support.

Nine months later, we in Waltham Forest Socialist Party received a phone call from the landlord's frontman. The tenants had won. He wanted us to be the first to know - because, he said: "You did this. You made this happen."

As a way to mark this remarkable struggle, and highlight the need for a collective tenants' fightback against rising rents, we have asked some of the Butterfields tenants to share their memories with us.


Lessons for renters now: collective action works

Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

One of the main lessons of the Butterfields struggle is that if a sizeable group of people are all facing the same injustice, if you group together, arm yourself with a programme of what needs to be done, and apply the methods of struggle advocated by the Socialist Party, you can win.

The collective refusal to move was a resolute assertion of the right to stay in your own home, indicating to supporters and enemies alike that this was a fight to the finish.

Butterfields showed it is crucial for tenants to get organised - across your estate, housing association, geographical area or sector, in residents' associations and renters' unions.

Setting up a tenants' association, with an elected committee and officers, was essential - no matter how rudimentary it was, how stuttering and difficult for those taking on these roles for the first time. It meant tactics and organisation were discussed and agreed by those facing eviction.

Outsiders advised and supported, but it was made clear from the start that while people from outside can help, they can't do it on behalf of the tenants.

This fight also had the potential to escalate if the threat of mass evictions was carried through. We didn't want to have to go there, but if the authorities and the bailiffs did go house to house, we in the Socialist Party and the wider campaign would have organised physical defence against eviction.

We would have appealed to the community and trade unions to come to tenants' defence and block the bailiffs, as we did successfully during the campaign of mass non-payment of Margaret Thatcher's hated 'poll tax'.

So turning outwards - making links with the local community and workers' movement - was also key. Our local trade unions helped finance much of the campaigning, and provided many of the bodies on the activities.

Finally, it's important to raise the political issues - that the only way to end endemic housing misery is through socialist policies. Mass building of council housing, democratic rent caps, rent tribunals; nationalising the land, the big builders and developers, and the banks.

Selling the Socialist newspaper on the street every week helped us explain that bigger forces are at work. As well as fighting to stay, the struggle is to end the housing crisis, and the system of capitalism that thrives on it.

Once the Butterfields struggle was won, Ade, one of the tenants, joined the Socialist Party. She had drawn political conclusions from the campaign. Ade now leads the fight to save the Harmony Hall community centre in Waltham Forest, reinforcing the old workers' movement adage: each one teach one.


Butterfields won't budge!

Ade Wallace, Butterfields tenant and Waltham Forest Socialist Party

There is a surprise on my doormat. A notice to quit the flat I have called my home for the past 16 years from the new landlord. It's January 2016 and I have two months to leave.

I'm resigned to it. At the age of 46 what can I do? I am powerless. The rental market is out of all proportion, the coined phrase of 'affordable housing' is in reality unaffordable to the masses. No council housing stock - well, only if you want to relocate far away from family and places of work.

A note is put through my door. A meeting of residents. It's not just me...

Momentum builds, a tenants' association is formed. We need a clear message. A cup of tea and biscuits gets us thinking, and we have it! It is simple but strong: "Butterfields won't budge"

The posters go up in our windows. We are organised and begin to peel back the layers of our situation. Unbeknown to us, Glasspool, a charity and our previous landlord, sold the flats without any notice to two brothers who received a loan from the publicly owned bank RBS.

Ironically, the rental income from the flats had been used by Glasspool to help disadvantaged people who would apply for help. They had now put 63 households in a perilous situation.

Our local MP was sympathetic but merely suggested that we push for compensation, as at least that would help us to put down a deposit on another privately rented property. But we made it clear that was not good enough...

The campaign has been running for ten long months. We have been through highs and lows, people working away behind the scenes. It's Saturday and there is a knock at the door. Smiling faces, cheering, we have done it, Dolphin Living agrees to purchase all our flats. We have done the seemingly impossible.

How did we pull it off? We had experienced, encouraging forces behind us, who believed and educated us to believe. Who made us realise that together we are a force and can bring about change. Through pressure, and that belief, we changed the position we were in.

I've learnt the process. You organise, and you build. Together we can fight capitalism. You cannot sit back and just take it. You alone may feel powerless, but the collective can have strength and bring about change in the face of adversity.

Three years on, I am now involved in other campaigns, and a member of the Socialist Party. I will be forever thankful for their involvement and belief.


Margaret, Butterfields tenant

I was there from the start. When we received letters from the new landlords in January to be out by Easter, I was so frightened.

My neighbour suggested getting in touch with Nancy Taaffe from Waltham Forest Socialist Party. I phoned Nancy and she invited us to a meeting of the Waltham Forest Housing Network, part of the local trade union council. About six or seven of us went along. That was the start.

I never thought we had a chance of defeating landlords, but these campaigners were all so positive! And it was the same throughout. I would go to meetings at the lamppost, often feeling uncertain. Then we would talk about what to do. It was great.

We did loads of things. First the media turned up. I thought ITV was good; the BBC was not very positive, but at least our story got out there.

I think the first action was lobbying the auction at a posh hotel in Park Lane, where one of the flats - where a tenant was still living - was a number on the auction sheet. Our campaigners got thrown out!

We did so much. I remember walking along our high street in a noisy demo. Also picketing a restaurant which was owned by the landlord...

Even though we have new landlords, Dolphin, which have done some repairs, they also increase the rent every year (although keeping to the percentage promised). They have sold off more flats than we expected; nevertheless, we are still here.

We know victories don't last forever. Although the tenants association is still there, I think we probably need to revitalise it...

I have been with Socialist Party campaigners to Newham to tell renters there about the Butterfields experience. They were One Housing tenants given notice of a huge rent hike, and they too eventually won.

I've also been to Rochester to talk with tenants facing eviction. And of course, I have been to the Socialist Party's annual Socialism event (see front page) ever since - and to many Socialist Party social occasions - where we've enjoyed the talk, and the dancing. Yes, 2016 was a year to remember!


Nicole, Butterfields tenant

I haven't reflected on the Butterfields events in some time. I had to move not long before the end of the campaign, as my flat-share friend had moved out and it was impossible to pay the rent on my own.

However, even after three years, I still feel so angry at the people who were prepared to evict a street full of families. The arrogant capitalists who I never got to speak to; the callous estate agents cashing in on the misfortunes of ordinary people. I just think they're beyond words - even though they all eventually gave in to us...


Sylvie, Butterfields tenant

I was out campaigning from the start! I got interviewed by the radio. I petitioned, lobbied and spoke on several occasions about our predicament, and soon became chair of the tenants and residents association.

I always give praise where praise is due, but one thing's for sure - we couldn't have achieved what we did without the Socialist Party. They were always fighting for us. They never gave up. They were so dedicated.


Karen

Karen sadly passed away one year ago, but we still remember her with great affection.

Karen and her family had lived in her flat for so long that she was protected from a no-fault eviction by previous legislation. However, this didn't stop her getting involved in all the campaign activities...

She will be remembered for her bravery in confronting estate agents who tried to sell the empty flat above her. She would turn up the TV as loud as possible when there was a viewing. Unsurprisingly, no offers came in for that flat!


Debbie, Butterfields tenant

I have lived on the estate for over 50 years with my mum, on part of the estate which had been sold off to a different landlord - but that didn't stop me joining in. I would be there under the lamppost at the meetings as often as anyone, offering to do this and that.

I had been involved in the campaign to save our cinema, so knew how important it was for everyone to stick together and fight, and also knew that 'people power' can win the battles as we did with the iconic Walthamstow cinema.

Sadly, I lost my mum a few weeks before the Butterfields victory, but I think she would have been very proud of the outcome. I later found myself in a difficult position, as although I had lived in the flat with my mum for over 50 years, the tenancy was in my mum's name and only she was classed as the protected tenant under the Rent Act of 1977.

My mum did try to get my name officially put on the rent card in my teens, which was about the time the Rent Act came into force. But that was refused even though it was known I had always lived there.

After losing my mum, the landlord wanted to hike up my rent big time. It was going to be a struggle to pay the rent as it stood, now finding myself on my own and working for a local company that did not pay well. I was still grieving for my mum and knew I needed help and support, so got in touch with Socialist Party members, and they helped me enormously, for which I will always be truly grateful...


Black Liberation... Only possible through socialist struggle

To mark Black History Month, Hugo Pierre, Socialist Party black and Asian group, looks at the historic struggle for black liberation and the lessons we can draw from it for today.

Before they were assassinated, the two foremost civil rights leaders in the US began to draw the conclusion that 'black unity' alone would not end the horrors of racism. They concluded that they would have to engage in a war against exploiters, or a class war, to win a society free from racism.

Malcolm X increasingly spoke against capitalism - "you can't have capitalism without racism". Martin Luther King explained, "what good is the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can't afford to buy a hamburger".

Both leaders took part in galvanising support for strikes and attending picket lines, especially in their later years. King explained in an interview to the New York Times in 1968 his work was "engaged in the class struggle".

Rooted in capitalism

The ideas of racism are firmly rooted in capitalist ideology. The idea that a group of people could be enslaved, used as products and sold on the open market on the basis of their skin colour was the justification for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was justified on the theory that black Africans were sub-human.

It is true that slavery existed prior to this - in Africa. But the opening up of colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean demanded a huge amount of labour to grow and harvest crops such as cotton, coffee, tobacco and, above all, sugar. Against this background, slavery developed from being mainly part of the bounty of war to an industrial and commercial activity.

This activity accumulated enormous wealth for both the slave traders and the slave owners. Much of this wealth gave rise to the accumulation of capital that developed the industrial revolution.

The struggle against racism, initially the anti-slavery movement, has been portrayed in many ways. The impression portrayed in the UK is that the struggle was primarily a parliamentary fight by the abolitionist movement against the interests of the colonies - reform from the top. But that could not be further from the truth.

There were many slave revolts that took place across the Americas and the Caribbean.

Haitian revolution

The most successful was the revolt that took place in Haiti - described in vivid detail by CLR James in his book the Black Jacobins. This revolt, led by black slaves took place in one of the largest and most profitable islands in the Caribbean.

The French revolution of 1789 prepared the ground for an epic battle that would eventually lead to France being the first colonial power to abolish slavery (although Napoleon would later reintroduce it).

The slaves fought against French, British and American armies attempting to take the island as their colony. Colonial rivalry and the beginning of the end of slavery as a profitable system of production saw the ending of slavery in 1804, and the complete independence of the island from French colonial rule.

In Britain the abolition movement was a mass movement with support in many early working-class communities. Pitt, the prime minister at the time, wanted to use the movement both as a way to undermine his foreign enemies - France in particular - and also to have a 'safe leader' at the head of the movement.

Pan-Africanism

The development of 'African Unity' or 'Pan-Africanism' was also presented as the best way to fight racism, especially post slavery. The theory that displaced Africans in the colonies could unite with their brothers and sisters in the motherland was popularised particularly in the 1910s and 20s by Marcus Garvey.

Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) numbered 100,000s of members at its height. This movement's aims were to unite black people across the African diaspora to improve their condition. Garvey developed the 'back to Africa' movement, even purchasing two liners to that end.

This movement was the forerunner of other organisations such as the Nation of Islam. They argued that capitalism could be made to work for black people, and Africans in particular, if there was unity among them.

This cross-class movement eventually collapsed when Garvey himself, hounded by the US state forces, was eventually jailed and extradited back to Jamaica.

Russian revolution

The idea that black capitalism, a separate nation even, could liberate blacks from the horrors of racism and segregation did not die with the collapse of the UNIA. But at the same time, the powerful impact of the Russian revolution was also taking hold in the minds of many young black radicals.

Some, such as George Padmore, joined the Communist Party. They developed further the ideas of Pan-Africanism.

However, during the late 20s and 30s, the early workers' state in Russia became bureaucratised under the leadership of Stalin. By the 1930s his foreign policy was one of 'Popular Fronts' - the working class should make alliances with 'progressive' capitalist forces.

This impacted on the tactics for both the struggle against racism and the anti-colonial struggle in places like Africa. Rather than uniting the exploited in common cause against the exploiting ruling class, there was a call to unite with nationalist movements against imperialist powers and set aside the programme for socialism until that battle was won.

In speaking to black and leading socialists in the US, Trotsky (one of the leaders of the Russian revolution) argued firmly against this policy. When discussing the actions they should take to oppose racism he said, "to tie our hands in advance - to say that we will not introduce the question of socialism because it is an abstract matter - that is not -possible".

The struggles against imperial domination in the colonial world were fought out against the situation following World War Two.

The influence that the Soviet Union had on the communist parties in the post-war period, and the weakened position of the main European imperial nations, determined the military struggles that gained independence. Some of the leaders were more radical than any of those of today.

Held to ransom by capitalism

Black leaders have come to power, particularly in Africa. However, without a genuine socialist plan of production, and the organisation of a socialist state federated with others in the region, these leaders are increasingly being held to ransom by the big companies and capitalist powers, or amassing huge wealth through corrupt regimes.

The plight of the mass of black workers, poor peasants and even the middle classes has become worse throughout the globe. In the US, even a black president did not make any difference to the material conditions facing blacks.

One in three black children live in poverty, black males are more likely to be in prison than in college and black people continue to be murdered.

In many African nations, the idea that 'black unity' can bring about 'black liberation' will be incomprehensible.

The ideas of reform from the top, black capitalism and black unity have all been tried but still not delivered for the overwhelming majority of blacks. Yes there are now a few who have joined the wealth club - Oprah, Jay-Z, Beyoncé. But on the ground the situation is worse.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were both assassinated before they further developed their methods for struggle. They were both clear that militant black organisations were necessary to fight racism. But they were also seeking alliances with workers' organisations for struggles against capitalism.

A socialist struggle to transform society must overcome the divisions and racism which capitalism fosters and unite workers if it is to be successful.

A new society based on public ownership, democratic planning and co-operation would release the resources to guarantee a decent life for everyone and lay the basis for ending racism once and for all.


Obituary - Bob Lee: 26 February 1954 - 20 September 2019

It was with great sadness and shock that I learnt of the death of Bob Lee, a former black member of the Militant Tendency (forerunner of the Socialist Party).

Bob was an outstanding fighter against racism and fascism and an unswerving fighter for socialism.

I first met Bob in the 1980s when I joined Militant. He stood implacably against the division of the labour movement in the fight for socialism.

But he was always in the forefront of the fight against racism and fascism. Bob played a leading role in the setting up of the Peoples National Party (PNP) Youth organisation UK with Ronnie Sookhdeo and became its national secretary.

The PNP was the Jamaican equivalent of the Labour Party which had a branch in the UK. From then on he was battling the 'Sus' laws, through which police were harassing black youth; the labelling of black children as educationally subnormal, which was the practice in the 1970s; and mass black youth unemployment, which rose 410% in the 1970s as the post war capitalist boom came to its end.

PNP youth declared: "We stand for the unity of all workers, black and white, to fight ruthlessly against any attempt to divide the working class or to divert from the struggle for socialism."

Bob also played a leading role in setting up Panther UK, an independent black organisation founded by Militant Labour (which then became the Socialist Party) in the early 1990s.

Panther UK organised the biggest indoor meeting of black and Asian youth in Britain. Over 2,000 black youth came to a public meeting to hear Bobby Seale, co-founder of the US Black Panthers who called us a "group of black revolutionaries."

Liverpool council

Bob worked in Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Council campaign against the vicious Thatcher cuts. In order to undermine the workers' struggle there, we were accused by some organisations in the 'race relations industry' of not supporting black people and of indirect racism.

Bob Lee worked effectively to help counter this smear campaign and to ensure the unity of the working class against the Tory government enemy. Bob also worked tirelessly in the 1987 general election in support of Militant supporter Johnny Bryan against the sitting Bermondsey MP Simon Hughes, in which he came within 3,000 votes of winning the seat. This gave Simon Hughes an unpleasant shock!

Although Bob Lee left Militant some time ago, he was still very active in the struggle against racism and discrimination as well as supporting black workers generally, latterly through black arts I understand.

The last time I met Bob was on anti-austerity demonstration in 2016. Although I was aware he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer he said, "the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!"

He had a great sense of humour, with a deep booming voice which once heard can never be forgotten.

Unfortunately, a few years later the cancer had spread and it was a shock that I learnt he was in a hospice in which he died.

Deepest sympathy and condolences to his wife Jo and their children Manu and Olivia, and all of Bob's family and friends.

April Ashley, Black members' rep, Unison union national executive committee (personal capacity)

Chile in revolt

Tony Saunois, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) general secretary

A human sea of Chilean workers, youth, students and others flooded onto the streets of central Santiago on 25 October. It was the largest demonstration in Chilean history. Up to two million demanded the end of Sebastian Piñera's government and the convening of a constituent assembly.

This monster march followed two days of mass protests and strikes. This revolt is taking place in face of the deployment of the army onto the streets and brutal repression not seen since the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship.

In the face of this mass revolt by the population, Piñera - who initially proclaiming the country was "at war" - has been compelled to offer concessions, ask for the resignation of his cabinet, and lift the curfew.

He pathetically apologised to the Chilean people. In an act of gross hypocrisy he said how "happy" he was at the protest on Friday because it was "peaceful". "We have learned and we have changed" he declared before scurrying back into the sanctuary of La Moneda presidential palace.

Appetite comes with eating. None of the concessions so far made by Piñera are enough to satisfy the Chilean masses who want him, his government and the ruling elite he represents gone.

Reflecting the collapse of credibility of the government the Mapuche (indigenous) people have declared that they no longer recognise it and will establish a government in their own territories. They also declared support for a constituent assembly involving Mapuches and non-Mapuches.

This social revolt in Chile has not dropped from the sky. It is a revolt against more than 30 years of vicious anti-working class, neoliberal policies (deep public spending cuts, privatisations and deregulated markets, etc) being applied in Chile.

Since the end of the dictatorship in 1989 the neoliberal politics of Pinochet's junta (1973-89) have been continued by all governments. It has resulted in an ever growing gap and inequalities between the rich and the poor.

Yet a relatively high growth rate in the economy resulted in Chile being regarded as one of the most stable Latin American countries.

Piñera and his government have been forced into a humiliating retreat, lifting the state of emergency and the curfew. However, they are not yet driven from power and capitalism still remains. The state machine is riddled with laws and supporters of the former regime.

Constituent assembly

The demand for a constituent assembly as a means of achieving democratic rights and ending the abusive exploitation of workers and their families, has won mass support.

To achieve this, a revolutionary constituent assembly is needed. No trust can be placed in Piñera or any capitalist government to convene a democratic constituent assembly. Democratically elected committees in all workplaces and districts, linked up on a citywide and national basis, is the way to ensure a genuinely democratic revolutionary constituent assembly is convened.

Despite the brutal repression, the sweep of the movement and the issues involved have begun to have an effect on sections of the state machine. Numerous incidents of soldiers joining protesters or refusing to carry out repression have taken place.

This massive movement has been a spontaneous uprising, not initiated or led by any party or social organisation at this stage. The betrayal of the Chilean workers and masses by all of the political parties which have defended the existing system is understandably reflected in a deep suspicion and even hostility to the idea of a political party and organisation.

At the same time the absence of a mass party of the working class with a revolutionary socialist programme to take the movement forward is also the weakness of this movement.

It is urgent that this struggle be channelled into a revolutionary movement to bring down Piñera and the Chilean ruling class and establish a government of the working class and poor with a socialist programme to break with capitalism.

A revolutionary socialist programme and organisation is urgently needed. Such a programme needs to include:

Read this article in full on socialistworld.net

Enfield North socialists lobby candidate stitch-up

Local Socialist Party members joined the lobby of the Enfield North Labour Party meeting to select the constituency's prospective parliamentary candidate on 26 October. Labour's national executive committee had undemocratically imposed a list which excluded all local left and socialist candidates.

46 delegates spoiled their ballot papers in protest. Having campaigned to get rid of the previous right-wing MP, Joan Ryan, who went on to join Change UK, local members have been denied the right to democratically replace her with a local socialist. Instead they have been saddled with another right-wing candidate.


Selling the Socialist

Just some of the events where the Socialist newspaper was sold in the past days...

A week selling the Socialist in Cornwall

With time on my hands, when the depression allows, I am able to spend some time five days a week selling the Socialist newspaper. This is a week in my life on the streets.

Friday: I go into the centre of Truro. When I'm successful selling the Socialist, I encourage people to give their details to join the fight for socialism. Quiet day. Heavy showers don't help, and I only manage to sell two.

Saturday: Back in Truro. The weather is the same, so no one wants to chat. I do manage to sell five.

Monday: I catch the train to Falmouth. Standing outside a well-known store, between showers, I manage to sell four. Despite the weather, those who bought wanted to talk. The talk was about Brexit and the need for a general election.

Tuesday: Train to Penzance. This is my favourite place, with some wonderful characters.

There also seems such a high rate of wasted youth - and adulthood. An epidemic of people with drink and drug problems, and homelessness. Although it might just be that the problems are more open in Penzance.

Some of the homeless stop and talk. Their stories are quite moving. In all, I sell six papers. Penzance leaves me drained but determined.

Wednesday: Back in Truro, the last day of my week. Fine weather, so people are stopping and talking. The main topic is again Brexit.

We agree that under the Tories, no matter what the Brexit deal, the working class will suffer; we will pay the price of capitalism. I sell six papers and collect details from two people.

All in, it's been a good week - 23 papers and £19.27 for the Socialist Party's fighting fund. With the stories I've heard, no matter what abuse I may get, I will be determined to do my bit for the fight to rid us of the evil that is capitalism, and fight for a socialist society everywhere.

Trevor Hall, Cornwall Socialist Party

Leicester NHS film

We sold 19 papers at a showing of 'Under the Knife' organised by Save Our NHS Leicestershire on 14 October. There were about 90 people there. Many bought a copy of the Socialist newspaper.

It helped having Steve Score's article on front page, especially as he is a well-known local working-class fighter. We also were able to speak in the discussion at the end of the film, raising the need for a trade union and community mobilisation to back Corbyn's anti-austerity policies.

Heather Rawling, Leicester Socialist Party

Hull Kurds demo

We sold 26 copies of the Socialist at the Hull Trade Union Council solidarity rally against Turkey's military intervention in Kurdish Syria. Around 150 to 200 local Kurds and trade unionists marched from Spring Bank into the city centre Victoria Square.

Philip Culshaw, Hull Socialist Party

Donate to fund the fightback at Socialism 2019

Ken Douglas, Socialist Party national treasurer

We are asking all our members and supporters to donate to the Socialism 2019 financial appeal.

This year we have managed to purchase new premises and to move our national headquarters and print shop. We were only able to do so due to the magnificent response to our Building Fund appeal over the last two years, which has raised over £241,000.

But this Socialism appeal is also vitally important. Smashing our annual fighting fund target of £120,000 will enable us to maintain our finances for the next year, particularly with a possible general election looming.

The fighting fund underpins all our campaigning material. It enables us to get our ideas out to as wide an audience as possible.

The Socialist Party virtually stands alone in putting a clear, class position in the fog of Brexit, calling for a general election now to kick the Tories out and for a Corbyn government with socialist policies.

We have always argued for a determined campaign to kick the Blairites out of the Labour Party and for Labour councils to stop doing the Tories' dirty work: sacking workers, attacking trade union rights and selling off council assets and land to spiv property developers.

Our members play a key role in the trade unions, supporting workers in struggle such as the postal workers. In the communities we fight austerity and privatisation. And we fight alongside young people on the climate change protests.

In the pages of the Socialist and Socialism Today, in our podcasts and videos, we link our analysis of the current situation to the need to build support for socialist ideas, for a mass working-class party, and for the socialist transformation of society.

A proportion of the money raised at Socialism 2019 will also go to assist the Committee for a Workers' International, the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated.

Can you give £5, £50 or £500? Can you ask other members and supporters to donate? Every donation, no matter how small, will make a difference, and all of it will go to building support for socialist ideas.


Chile protests - London solidarity rally

On 26 October, more than 500 Chilean people from around Britain congregated in London to show their enthusiastic support for the mass struggle against the Piñera regime taking place in Chile. It was part of a week-long solidarity protests.

For more than three hours beside the London Eye and opposite parliament, in the blustery rain, they sang and danced, banged their pots and pans, shouted their demands for an end to the Piñera regime and listened to speeches.

Leaflets given out in Spanish and English, with a declaration from Socialismo Revolucionario, the Socialist Party's sister organisation in Chile, were snapped up. It expressed full support for the Chilean working and poor people, and called for general strike action, a revolutionary constituent assembly, and a government of workers.

Clare Doyle addressed the rally on behalf of the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers International.

Applause

Clare was interrupted by loud applause when she mentioned the need for a revolutionary constituent assembly and spoke of how committees in the workplaces and the neighbourhoods could be linked up on a regional and national basis to get rid of the regime of the rich and the constitution of former dictator general Pinochet.

"Fuera Piñera!" (Piñera out!) was on placards produced by the Socialist Party, with other demands in English. Some demonstrators took them home as souvenirs of international solidarity with their momentous struggle.

The Socialist was also enthusiastically received, as was news of the big Socialism 2019 event in London this weekend, where the Chilean events will no doubt feature in a number of discussions.

Chris Newby, Hackney Socialist Party

See also: Chile in Revolt


Minimum wage debate: what should we be demanding?

Life in the gig economy

In recent issues of the Socialist, we have run a debate about how we can end low pay and what level of minimum wage we should be fighting for. In this issue Chris Parry, a taxi driver in Bristol, shares his thoughts. If you've got a view, email editors@socialistparty.org.uk

Reading the articles about low pay, I am glad we've raised our figure around the minimum wage. We certainly don't want to be gazumped by the Tories, although they have no intention of implementing an increase.

The main thing that I think was missing from the article 'Minimum wage debate: how can we end the scandal of low pay?' is how to address the dire situation facing millions of workers in the gig economy and those like me who have been pushed into the self-employment con trick.

As a taxi driver working a minimum 65-hour week, my net earnings a couple of weeks ago worked out at just £4.50 an hour, after paying fixed expenses which are £600 weekly. People like me get no overtime rate for night-time work, no unsocial hours increment and no bank holiday pay or annual leave.

Most of my expenses have to be paid whether I'm on the road or not. So, no holidays or even days off. Most weeks I have to work over the full seven days and try and fit my political work in! It's true that I get some better weeks (not a lot), but I constantly hear from the firm that hires me, that if I'm not available, then there's no guarantee of future work.

Recently I was called at 3.15am and told to get to Exeter airport to pick up passengers who'd had their flight diverted from Bristol. The sting in the tail was that if I wasn't quick, I'd lose the potential fare as another poor sod like me might get there first and collect it.

So I believe we need to seriously develop our programme for the millions of self-employed, gig economy and casual workers. We need to get out and unionise these workers. I was annoyed to hear John McDonnell talking about a 32-hour week so abstractly, as though everybody is already in a protected workplace having already been enjoying 35 hours. This is far, far from reality.

In Bristol property prices are ten times what they were 20 years ago and wages have fallen. McDonnell has to propose measures that tackle long hours and low pay in a manner that ordinary workers will relate to.

The demands sound great, but I know from bitter experience that in this period, unless we organise collectively to fight back, sweet politician promises will simply stay sweet soundbites.


Film reviews: Sorry We Missed You by Ken Loach

"A stark reminder of the inhumane lengths bosses will go to under capitalism to increase their profits"

"Let's get one thing straight, you don't work for us, you work with us". Those words from the boss's mouth in the opening scene of Sorry We Missed You get turned into a sick joke over the course of Ken Loach and Paul Laverty's latest film.

The hard-hitting drama follows Ricky, a jobbing builder who signs up as a supposedly self-employed delivery driver with a large parcel firm. The audience is taken on a vivid and darkly humorous journey on his rounds through Newcastle as he struggles to make sure that the parcels reach the customers on time, come what may.

Far from providing a route to his far-off dream of buying a house (scuppered for the first time when Northern Rock collapsed in 2008), Ricky instead ends up further and further in debt to the delivery company. As his teenage son goes off the rails, wife Abby tries to hold the family together while working morning, noon and night as a carer on a zero-hour contract.

As much as the impossible situation the characters find themselves in, what makes the film pack a real emotional punch is the believable way it's focused through the lens of an ordinary family, played convincingly by working-class actors with no formal training. Watching it brings to mind stories of friends, family members and personal experiences of trying to make a living in the super-casualised 'gig economy'.

Though a stark reminder of the inhumane lengths employers will go to under capitalism to increase their profits, the real life Rickys and Abbys aren't powerless to resist.

Earlier this year, delivery drivers for Hermes won the right to holiday pay and guaranteed earnings, while homecare workers in Birmingham defeated the Blairite council's attempts to impose the kind of anti-social hours shown in the film.

This must-watch film shows the urgent need for the trade union movement to turn our energy to organising these super-exploited workers, and campaigning to end zero-hour contracts and bogus self-employment, alongside a living wage for all.

Nick Hart, Wolverhampton Socialist Party

"See the film, join a union and join the fight against a rotten system"

After a decade of Tory attacks on working rights and austerity Ken Loach's Sorry We Missed You is a film that lays bare the reality of working families in Britain in 2019. It doesn't pull any punches and many of the scenes will be heartbreaking for audiences.

Whereas even Ken Loach's previous film 'I, Daniel Blake' even presented some optimism, Sorry We Missed You can only be described as devastatingly real right until the very end.

In the film, being self-employed is presented as a favourable choice for Ricky when it in fact completely reduces his ability to make meaningful decisions.

He has the choice to pay £65 a day to rent a van or to buy one outright which would only be £400 a month, far cheaper, but requires £1,000 deposit. Ricky can only make this money by selling his wife's car. In reality his choice is between suffering now or suffering later.

What is even more heartbreaking to see is the effects this has on Ricky's family. His wife, usually calm and composed as a carer, loses it with Ricky's employer. She asks him over the phone: "How does your company get away with this?" And that is the question to take away from the film. How do they get away with this? They have no respite. Even a family dinner is interrupted by Abby getting called to work due to her zero-hour contract and cuts to caring services.

The working class must mobilise to end this misery and fight back. The weekend, holiday pay and sick pay are all rights that the gig economy takes from workers - trade unions won these rights for workers before and they can win them again. See the film, join a union and join the fight against a rotten system that has reduced workers' lives to this state.

Michael Morgan, Coventry Socialist Party

TV: The Accident - Will capitalism be exposed in upsetting, true-to-life drama?

Pete Mason, Barking Reach Residents Association chair and East London Socialist Party

There's a huge explosion on a building site. Children playing on the poorly guarded site are caught in the blast - dead, injured or trapped in an unsafe building that's collapsing.

In the plush city offices of Kallbridge Developments panic begins. Moments ago the close-knit community was cheering its mayor as he praised the new development. It was his project.

Now they rush to the scene of the accident.

How many times have similar 'accidents' happened? The bosses attempt to deny responsibility. Their greatest advantage is that the victims are unknown to each other. In those circumstances, the most difficult and vital first step is to bring the victims and the local community together.

But here everyone knows each other.

The mayor

Will the affected be brought together in a democratically run campaign around commonly agreed demands? Not if the mayor has anything to do with it!

He leaves the scene before the dead are brought out. In the absence of genuine leadership, the town spontaneously holds a silent vigil.

This reflects the Grenfell silent vigils, but this is not the best expression of those caught up in that struggle - it was collective anger and a determination to get answers.

The working-class characters are sympathetically drawn. They stand at the barbed-wire fence of the new development, meant to bring 1,000 new jobs to the town, covered in ashes and tears. Some may find this viewing upsetting.

In the fictional Welsh town of Glyngolau, moving scenes capture what so many working-class families have experienced over centuries - and Welsh mining towns perhaps more than anywhere else - family members killed, trapped and devastated by loss, as a result of cost-cutting, profit-driven big corporations putting lives at risk.

I felt the well-drawn collapse of the building very close to home. I live on the Barking Riverside estate in east London. In June, fire ripped through Samuel Garside House there. (See 'Fire tears through Barking flats - cladding off now').

It's now fully reoccupied, but many residents fear it might collapse at any time. Cracks have spread across the building, painted and plastered over by the managing agents.

Our residents' association has a fighting leadership, which is doing what it can to aid the residents' struggle for justice. It will be interesting to see the mayor's pro-capitalist leadership tested under pressure from the company and the rest of the establishment, during the investigation into the causes of the deaths.

Polly Bevan, a local hairdresser and wife of the mayor, angrily confronts a Kallbridge executive who has rushed to the scene. She accuses the company of using shoddy building materials: "And what do you know - that this was done cheap as chips - is that what you know?"

It was true to life. The building manager arriving at the site of our fire had personally assured me that all fire-safety precautions had been put in place.

"I know you!" Polly accuses. Spot on. And it's caught on local TV. Polly's husband responds by violently attacking her at home.

Their toxic relationship will be one focus of the struggle for justice. Will Polly break free as she exposes her husband's role in life-threatening cost-cutting at the development?

Well made, worth watching.


Opinion: Labour Party is structured to block left councillors

Peter Redfarn, Deptford Labour Party

Blairite councillors are doing everything they can to prevent councils standing up to the Tories and defending their communities like Tony Mulhearn and the 'Liverpool 47' councillors did from 1983 to 1987.

Democratic 'district Labour parties' were replaced by 'local government committees', then by 'local campaign forums'. Each change has made them less democratic and enhanced the power of right-wingers to block the left from becoming councillors.

According to the otherwise good Labour Party conference, we now have local government committees again. Under the latest rule change, a third of members must be existing councillors - in contrast to the district Labour parties, where overwhelmingly delegates were elected by local trade unions, Labour branches, and affiliated organisations.

My sister had to support the infamous 'private finance initiative' to become a Labour councillor. In my ward, a local activist won a by-election, but the local campaign forum prevented her from standing as a Labour candidate a few months later without any explanation.

The vast majority of Labour councillors are determined to stop Jeremy Corbyn. They put the profits of property developers before the needs of the people. Council housing is being demolished and tenants forced to pay greatly increased rents to stay in the area.

As well as restoring the money cut from local authorities, the following steps should be taken.

People expelled from the Labour Party for opposing cuts should have the right to return, and all Labour Party members should have the right to stand as candidates.

There should be annual local government conferences in each council area with participation by trade unions and local community groups as well as Labour Party members. End the mayor and cabinet system and make all council meetings open to the public.

Out with the Blairites! Housing for all on the basis of need! Reverse all cuts and privatisation!


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Youth clubs cuts are a mistake

The Thornhill Youth Centre in Southampton is being bulldozed to make way for unaffordable flats. Council-funded youth services ceased in the city in 2013. Since then, the Thornhill building leaser has struggled to cover rent.

The council, who own the building, have stepped in and sold the land to housing developers.

My mum, now in her late 50s, grew up in the area. She told me: "The youth club has always been a place for young people to hang out. We used to play badminton and table tennis there. It's sad to see all the facilities, which build community, being literally destroyed."

Josh, who was part of the 'save our youth services' campaign in 2012, told me: "When the council first voted to stop all funding for youth services, they said the services would be run by volunteers and stay open."

"We warned that volunteers and charities would be unable to maintain the services and the council would wait for them to be run down and sell the land for profit - which is exactly what has happened!"

A few weeks ago, city leaders initiated controversial Section 60 stop-and-search powers following a serious knife incident less than a mile from the youth club. It's no surprise to residents that the lack of youth facilities is making communities less safe, particularly for young people.

Bea Gardner, Southampton

Publicly owned public transport is solution

Claire Wilkins' article in issue 1061 was spot on and showed graphically how out of touch with reality the leaders of Extinction Rebellion (XR) are. (See 'Extinction Rebellion action opens up divisions on how to stop climate change' at socialistparty.org.uk).

Public transport is part of the solution to climate change. But XR take the position that because buses or trains produce some carbon emissions, then they are as bad as cars.

The private ownership of public transport and the 'pro-car' policies of both central and local governments, blunt the effectiveness of public transport.

Huge cuts in subsidies have caused routes to be axed. This means that workers in rural areas must own a car or become a prisoner in their own community.

Extinction Rebellion should campaign for policies such as massive public investment and public ownership of transport. Socialists are correct to campaign for these polices in the environmental movement.

Clive Walder, Birmingham

Homeless problem is an abomination

A tent encampment is just across the road from the Stratford Westfield shopping centre, east London, and adjacent to new high rise block flats for the super-rich. An abomination!

We need a mass council house building programme and rent control in Newham and everywhere. Not fake 'affordable', but genuinely, for the working class and poor.

And no more of Labour-run councils putting humans in containers or converted tiny office space in soulless buildings. Or shipping the homeless out of London, as Newham council did.

There are plenty of empty homes and buildings that can be refurbished in Newham and elsewhere that councils should turn into quality homes.

Niall Mulholland, Newham, east London

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What the Socialist Party stands for

The Socialist Party fights for socialism – a democratic society run for the needs of all and not the profits of a few. We also oppose every cut, fighting in our day-to-day campaigning for every possible improvement for working class people.
The organised working class has the potential power to stop the cuts and transform society.

As capitalism dominates the globe, the struggle for genuine socialism must be international.

The Socialist Party is part of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), a socialist international that organises in many countries.

Our demands include:

Public services

Work and income

Environment

Rights


Mass workers' party


Socialism and internationalism


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http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/29797