Jul 292017
 

The outcome of the enquiry into the causes of the Grenfell fire won’t be out for some time but many involved in fire safety are debating the adequacy of the current regulatory regime, in particular ‘The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005’ (RRFSO) and part B of the Building Regulations.

Before the RRFSO the regulation of fire safety in buildings used by the public was the responsibility of the Fire and Rescue Service. Landlords and premises owners had to have a Fire Certificate which was issued by the Fire Service after a thorough examination of the building plans and inspections on site of the building. Regular inspections followed which ensured maintenance was up to date, no un-authorized alterations had been made and fire hydrants were working. The visits also familiarized the local crews with the situation they would face in a fire.

The Blair government introduced the RRFSO, removing the need for Fire Certificates and the direct control of fire safety from the Fire Service. Instead it has become the duty of landlords and premises owners to obtain a ‘Fire Risk Assessment’ from an expert, but the required qualifications and experience of the experts are not defined. Enforcement of the regulation has become the responsibility of the Fire and Rescue Service who check that the Fire Risk Assessments have been done and kept up to date and that the control measures and maintenance are being carried out.

The system could work well if the Fire Service kept the required resources to make the necessary checks. Until 2010 the resources were maintained but since they have been reduced. There has been a 17% reduction in finances between 2010 and 2016 according to the National Audit Office. This has affected the checking but also public education and fire awareness visits to schools and other groups. Fires and fire fatalities have halved in the UK in the last ten years and this may have led to complacency and cuts by government.

Many interested parties would like to see the mandatory publication online of the Fire Risk Assessments. This would bring transparency of the fire safety regime in a building to tenants and users. So far, the government has not implemented this. Meanwhile the capacity of the Fire Service has been reduced and needs to be re-built.

Discussion on the fire safety part of the Building regulations has concentrated on its clarity and on the fact that the data on fire tests is not transparent as it is commercially sensitive but there are other fundamental issues.

Until 1985 when Thatcher’s minister Michael Heseltine changed the regime, all Building regulation checking was done by Local Authorities for set fees which depended on the cost of construction of a project and were the same in the whole of England and Wales with similar regimes in the rest of Britain. There was no competition in the provision of this service. The Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 1985 allowed private sector ‘Approved Inspectors’ to check and approve building construction for Building Regulation compliance. These AIs had to be competent and be independent of the project developer. There are no longer set fees for the work. They now depend on competition among providers of the service which include the local councils.

There are now several concerns:

  • When the time allowed for checking a project in the tender is reached the pressure to complete the check is high and more thorough considerations and discussions are at times avoided.
  • Inspectors now need they feel that they need to be popular with large developers so they are selected as checker for future projects. This may influence decisions on controversial matters.
  • Is the investment in training and professional development being sustained? Initially the AIs employed many ex-local authority inspectors but as many of them retire there may be a loss of expertise.
  • There are the delays in updating the regulations at a time when the pace of technological development and changes in materials and methods of construction is greater than ever before. The fire safety part of the regulations was updated in 2006, 2010 and 2013.

A good regulatory regime must keep up with societal and technological change and provide flexibility in the way its requirements are met, so it is rightly subject to frequent debate. When it works well it protects society and assists industry with clarity on requirements. The government’s mantra of ‘deregulation’ is misconceived and  undermines safety and industry.

 

 

Jul 252017
 

Monsieur Macron’s recent ‘enthronement’ at the Palace of Versailles, a la Napoleon before his adoring En Marche! (Let’s Go!) supporters, signals a new autocratic rule.

Over a quarter of voters abstained in the election.  Macron only won the first round with 24% of the vote, against Le Pen’s 21%.  In the run-off he got 66% with the highest number of abstentions since 1969.  More people rejected the candidates than voted for Le Pen. The turn-out was the worst in modern times, with a total of just 48.7%.

Macron, a wealthy banker and ex-civil servant, saw his opportunity lay in leaving a discredited ‘socialist’ party. He is a leader elected without any political mandate, who wants government to function just like any other capitalist enterprise – notice any similarities here? On Trump’s visit to France, Macron did little to suggest he was any different from the US President.

Macron sees himself as a Thatcher figure who will radicalise French politics. The claim that his new party En Marche! is above the old two party system is spurious, as it is made up of powerful figures from both ‘old’ parties and their supporters who remain in the shadows. For example ‘les Gracques’, are a secretive pressure group staffed by influential chief executives and civil service bosses, who decided that the old ‘socialist’ party no longer served the needs of a neoliberal establishment.

One of Macron’s first announcements was £10 billion of tax cuts. Alongside these are overtures (bribes) attractive enough to lure City firms to Paris. The government also says it will bring France’s public deficit below the EU target of 3% of GDP this year for the first time since 2007.  France, however, has a shortfall of more than £7 billion in this year’s budget.

Another crucial announcement is his intention to destroy France’s hard-won labour laws, to make it easier to hire and fire staff and reduce redundancy payments.  Street protests have taken place.  It will be a test of France’s trade union solidarity.

At the G20 Macron showed himself to be a neo-colonial racist, referring to Africans as being uncivilised. There are still strong trade links with former colonies, especially focused on the extraction industries. The vast amount of trade is one way, to the benefit of France. The West African CFA franc and the Central Africa CFA franc are two currencies used in Africa, guaranteed by the French Treasury, which legalise dubious currency manipulation. ‘Francafrique’ means that the CFA zone countries must deposit 50% of their currency reserves into a fictitious operations account managed by the French Treasury.

Despite the cuts to the French military, which sparked the resignation/sacking of military leader, General de Villiers, Macron has vowed to expand France’s influence over former colonies.  He and Merkel have also agreed to develop a joint fighter plane, putting defence at the heart of Franco – German relations.

Macron is ambitious for himself, which could be a threat to Merkel and Germany’s domination of Europe.  EU austerity persists.  Macron’s election is a threat to French workers and peace in Europe.

 

 

Jul 012017
 

What is the link between the Grenfell tower fire and the EU? The Blair government was keen on Britain joining the Euro and to do so Britain had to adopt the Maastricht stability criteria. These require that the countries deficit should not exceed 3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and that the total debt must not exceed 60% of GDP.

To try and achieve this the government adopted ‘creative’ accounting so that government debt did not appear in the public sector accounts.  One way to do this was through Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) which allowed the private sector to invest in public services such as building new hospitals or school buildings, which are then paid for by the public sector over many years. This of course requires paying higher interest than the government would pay if it borrowed directly or increased the public debt.

The second method was the creation of ‘Arms Length Management Organisations’ (ALMOs) such as the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), which could then receive the finance for housing improvements but not appear in the council’s accounts. Of course, both devices allow increased power and profits for the private sector. A PFI was used to deliver the dangerous and flawed refurbishment Grenfell cladding while the housing was managed by the KCTMO. The consequences are now tragically clear.

Jun 282017
 

The horror of the Grenfell tower block fire recalls the Piper Alpha Oil platform fire in 1988 in which 167 oil workers died after a preventable gas explosion. This followed years of deregulation by the then Thatcher government and drastic cuts in maintenance and safety procedures by Occidental Petroleum when the oil price fell. The oil extraction platform had been adapted to extract gas and the living quarters were located next to pressure units against safety practice.

The gas explosion had tragic consequences, including the highest death toll ever in an oil platform and a £1 billion insurance pay-out, of which only £66 million (just 6.6%) was paid to the families of the workers who died in the fire. The subsequent investigation report had over 100 recommendations about improving safety in the North Sea. (Source: The Guardian July 4th 2013)

The Grenfell tower fire follows decades of policies by governments undermining council housing and cuts to Local Government, which reached an extreme logic at Kensington and Chelsea.  Following the Thatcher government’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy whereby council houses could be bought at discount prices the Blair government came up with the idea of creating housing organisations separate from councils. They made this re organisation a condition for the receipt of finance to repair and modernise council houses.

Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) is one of these ‘arms length’ organisations. It now manages 10,000 social houses and flats. The policy intentionally created a break in accountability between the elected councillors and tenants in council housing. It also resulted in organisations like KCTMO no longer having access to expertise from the council’s technical departments, which have since been greatly reduced in size and capacity. The KCTMO was therefore reliant on the private sector for the design and implementation of refurbishment schemes such as the over cladding which has turned out fatally flawed, as are many more around the country.

Some councils such as Sandwell did provide expertise to their arms length organisation and used private consultants and three contractors to implement a refurbishment programme for 40 blocks. As a result, the over cladding system used the non-flammable mineral fibre, ‘Rockwool,’ for the insulation layer and aluminium in the outer rain screen panels. The system also contains fire barriers in the cavities at each floor. But, an essential feature was that engineers and clerks of works regularly checked the installation on site.

Today, many local councils no longer have the technical expertise and resource capacity to properly control such schemes. Paradoxically this situation does not even benefit the private sector, as the lack of proper control means that there are shortcuts taken and good consultants and contractors are not given the opportunity to tender on a fair basis to implement safe quality schemes.

The inadequacies of Kensington and Chelsea Council were all too apparent in its lack of organisation in response to the emergency caused by the fire.  Under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, councils, which are defined as category 1 responders, have a duty to have in place ‘Emergency Plans’ and arrangements to make information available to the public. Such plans name officers, operatives and organisations, who must make themselves available and act. Indeed, ‘Resilience officers’ should continuously update the plan and organise emergency exercises to test the plans, in cooperation with the police, Fire and Rescue Service and others. The plans list the evacuation centres, means of transport and arrangements with hotels which might accommodate people. Quite obviously no such plan went into action during or after the Grenfell fire and curiously this matter has not been questioned or highlighted by the media.

The aftermath of the Piper Alpha Oil Platform fire resulted in much greater safety in the North Sea oil industry, a great upsurge in trades union organisation among oil workers and public questioning of the Thatcher mantra of deregulation.

Out of respect for the victims of the Grenfell fire and the thousands of tenants now at risk throughout our country a major reversal of current policies on public housing and the role and resourcing of Local Government is now required.

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 Posted by at 11:01 am
Jun 012017
 

In the next seven days a lot of ground has to be won by Labour, so we can have a government committed to support the many not the few and to avoid the disaster of another five years of Tory austerity. It is correct to say that austerity policy is a choice, but so is voting for the SNP and to do so will help cement the Tories’ lead.

For Britain the present polls, show a narrowing of the Conservative lead over Labour (from over 25% to five or six percent). Also in in a recent Ipsos Mori Poll on the 31st May, Labour in Scotland showed a slight improvement in the popular vote from 20 % in the local elections to 25%. There has been a decline from 50% in intentions to vote SNP since the general election, the figure is now 43%. However the same poll shows 53% of Scots are against “independence”.

In the election debate on Wednesday 31st, Corbyn asked Angus Robertson of the Scottish Nationalists whether he had heard the results of the referendum to leave the EU. The SNP choose to ignore the democratic mandate of the 2016 vote just as they ignore the 2014 “once in a generation” referendum for Scotland to stay together, united in Britain. The SNP disregard democratic votes.

The SNP could be responsible for Britain being run by Tories. They want to see Scotland remain in the EU or the Single Market, in thrall to the European Commission and the European Central Bank. On their web site, they say without irony that the single market was supported by the Tories and ask why this has changed. Indeed Thatcher fostered the idea and signed the Single European Act; need we have any more proof that the SNP are the tartan neo-liberals.

 Posted by at 9:50 pm
May 232017
 

The British people are presented with two great opportunities for progress, Brexit and the election of a Labour government.  Indeed both are related; the Labour Manifesto proposes many progressive measures, which can only be implemented outside the European Union and its single market with its ‘Four Freedoms’. These allow the worst employers to move workers and even replace whole workforces through agencies using EU workers with lower wages and conditions. They can also move capital from places where the workforce is well organised and the political environment not to their liking and move goods and firms without regard to local standards or the social and economic consequences. Additionally, EU restrictions on public spending and investment prevent governments from supporting their industries.

Being free from EU controls and restrictions provides great opportunities for Britain but these cannot be limited to the ability to have trade agreements with many more countries than just the EU. It must be based on a vision of investment in the British people, our communities, public services, industry, agriculture, fisheries and culture. The Labour Party Manifesto provides such a vision and a detailed and affordable cost plan to implement it. It gives the lie to the policy of ‘Austerity,’ which pretended that privatisation and public service cuts were needed, as the country could not afford the services or investment and also to the idea we need to transfer our resources to transnational corporations.

The measures to rebuild the public services, improve wages and the right to Trade Union organisation, to stop university fees and invest in our schools including art provision recognise that our future depends on investment in our youth. At the same time they protect the NHS, the old and the disabled, recognise their contribution and stop the invidious attempts to divide our people.

The recognition of the need for investment in infrastructure throughout Britain, not just in London, promotes a vision of the whole of the country, its economy and people as one with a great future if we all join in this great endeavour.

We had the courage to leave the EU. Now we must show that courage by voting Labour on June the 8th.

Mar 072017
 

Sturgeon and the Tartan Tories are again talking of having a second independence referendum, just as the Westminster British government moves to invoke Article 50. The SNP hope Scotland would be independent from the UK and remain in the EU; or an alternative raised at the end of last year is the differentiated Brexit. This idea means that Scotland remains in Britain, but stays within the single market or has a special relationship within European Free Trade Area. The Scottish government sees itself competent to negotiate these deals.

In a poll last month carried out in Scotland by Panelbase for the Sunday Times, 51% of those polled did not support a second referendum. In fact support for a second independence referendum has gone down from 43% in last June to 27% this January. As workers we must get ready to oppose both of the second referenda that that opponents of British working class democracy would foist on us.

 Posted by at 9:43 pm
Mar 072017
 

The “parcel of rogues” in Holyrood are pleading for an odd sort of independence. Being in the EU is no independence. Often we have heard the Europhile comment that the nation state is out-dated. This is a key concept in neoliberal thinking; that globalised corporations alone should have any independence. Neoliberals work to replace national sovereignty with the corporate sovereignty of massive multi-national corporations.

For neoliberals and the proponents of transnationalism the basis of democracy is to be the boardrooms of the largest companies and financial institutions, of unelected transnational bodies such as the EU commission and the European Central Bank and trade agreements such as Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The basis of legality is to be those shadowy Investor State Disputes Procedures exposed by the protesters against The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), CETA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Security and policing is to be done through mercenary private security organisations.

Finance capital nowadays has no country and it is the workers who live in these islands who must defend the gains made in the centuries long struggle of working people, whether in Scotland, Wales or England.

 Posted by at 9:23 pm
Feb 082017
 

Theresa May is the latest example of a British Prime Minister who is desperate to renew the illusory ‘special relationship’ between Britain and America. Any trade deal with the US and Britain might entail swapping the tyranny of the EU for the tyranny of US companies who want to devour our public services such as the NHS and Education for private profit. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would still be alive and well for Britain.

In contrast to May’s obsequiousness in the US, her speech to EU foreign ministers at Lancaster Gate a week earlier, gave a clear outline of what leaving the EU would mean for Britain and the EU. Sadly, MPs in all parties continue to peddle the same myths about what we in Britain voted for in the Referendum. We voted to leave the Single Market, the Customs Union and against the ‘Free Movement’ of workers, goods, services and finance.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party continues to write a succession of suicide notes addressed to the labour movement, on whom it has turned its back. Corbyn may be the party leader but he is not in full control.

Similarly, outside of Parliament many ‘remoaners’ still deny that the British people knew what they were voting for. Some trade unionists and ‘leftists’ prefer to shout slogans to each other demonising Trump. Have they forgotten how murderous other US presidents were, as indeed were some British Prime ministers such as Blair and Cameron? It is always safe and cosy to take the moral high ground about a foreign leader and congratulate each other in the conviction that protesting is actually political work; it most certainly is not.

Workers in Britain face many problems that we are still failing to address. The American people must deal with Trump. We in Britain must deal with our own employers, government and parliament, not least to ensure there is no backsliding on our exit from the EU. As trade unionists we have to be in the forefront of rebuilding Britain, not waiting for a politician to make another speech.

We do not have the luxury for ‘displacement politics’. Our country’s future is too important.

Nov 302016
 

The Chancellor’s Autumn statement clearly demonstrated that the Tories can only offer more misery and despair for Britain. It was a perfect opportunity to ditch the failed ideological policy of austerity. But the Chancellor reaffirmed that the Tories are the party of austerity, despite the Prime Ministers supposed concern about those who are just about managing.

The economic outlook was full of doom and gloom, based on the belief that tax receipts will fall, inflation will rise, wages will stagnate and growth will decline. Working people have still not seen any rise in real pay. It is predicted that average earnings at the end of this decade will, after inflation, still be below their level before the recession of 2008. All this designed to frighten us into submission and accept the inevitable. Workers need to take up the challenge and fight for their wages against these attacks.

The key to Britain’s current economic situation is not austerity but investment for growth. Key industries such as nuclear, defence and energy are struggling from a lack of skilled workers. Research and development and science and technology require additional funding and future funding guarantees. None of this was present in the autumn statement to a level that will have a significant impact on the prosperity or productivity of the economy.

However the Tories can find £240m for grammar schools and £7.6m to restore a crumbling country house, whilst ignoring calls for social care and NHS funding.

It is obvious that the political parties have been shaken by the huge Leave vote, and this was reflected in all the talk about the so-called Jams, and some small concessions. However, the underlying push is still for austerity and to combat this we will need to set out and demand our own agenda for a post-EU Britain.

Hammond made a joke about this being his last autumn statement, but it will be no laughing matter for the people of Britain while the Tories remain in power.

Nov 262016
 

We might ask why the US hated Fidel Castro so much, given Cuba is a little island, made poor by years of blockade. The truth is that Castro’s Cuba provided inspiration for revolutionaries across the world, both in its defiance in the face of attacks and the US inspired blockade and for its achievements in providing its citizens with excellent welfare and social equality.

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez brought together South American and Caribbean countries in ALBA, an intergovernmental organisation designed to set socialist principles and mutual economic support against the neoliberalism of the USA and West. Cuba has spread both its message and practical aid to developing countries across the world.

In his later years Castro played a significant role in peace negotiations, most notably in Colombia between the government and the rebel FARC organisation, but also in trying to bring about a better relationship between Cuba and the US.

He passed the baton to us all this year at a Congress of the Cuban Communist Party:

‘I am nearing 90. I will soon pass away like everyone else. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of Cuban communists are an evidence that, in case if we work with pathos and dignity, we can produce material and cultural values people need.’

Nov 222016
 

The merger between NUT and ATL is to be welcomed. It comes after years of hard work by campaigners in both unions, especially Hank Roberts who has worked tirelessly for the cause for decades. A united teaching force of nearly half a million teachers, support staff and lecturers is the last thing the government wants. Hopefully it will engender more confidence in teachers to speak out, especially in academies, where there can be major obstacles put in the way of unions and many teachers have become scared to speak out.

It is to be regretted that the NAS/UWT leadership does not yet subscribe to the view that they should do this for the greater good of the profession, given that now around 60% of their members support such a move. In the meantime the NUT and ATL must try to remain focused on the battle for education while working out the finer points of the merger.

There are many such battles ahead, apart from the introduction of selection, meaning a secondary modern system which the government will have to push through in the teeth of huge opposition from just about everybody, including many Tory MPs.

Funding is becoming a huge issue. It’s estimated that schools are facing the worst funding cuts since the 1970s – an average of 8% per pupil according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. This can mean budget cuts of tens of thousands of pound in some schools. The National Association of Head Teachers has written to chancellor Phillip Hammond, ahead of the Autumn Statement, calling for more money after a poll found that 69 per cent of school leaders believe their deficits will be untenable by 2020.

There is a major recruitment crisis. For example there is an estimated shortage of 10,000 teachers in the nursery sector. There are many reasons for this, including cuts in funding, which are also hitting teaching assistant numbers. Excessive workload and salary rises held down for so long have led to teachers leaving the profession. Government attacks on teacher training have diluted its quality and fewer teachers have been recruited to courses.

With all this going on it will be important to be focused about which battles to fight. At the same time, the merger process could be used as an opportunity to re-energise organisation at a school and local branch level.

The unions should take the best of their policies and manifestos to make demands of government – it would be excellent if the first major document to emerge from the new union was a vision for education.

Nov 132016
 

According to the King’s Fund the Brexit vote could have implications for health and social care in Britain. They pointed to: staffing, access to treatment when abroad, certain areas of EU regulation, (for instance the working time directive, procurement and competition law, regulations of medicines and medical devices and professional standards), cross border co-operation in public health and funding and finance of health care.

With regard to the foreign workers working for the NHS and social services, the document indicates that 135,000 workers of EU origin make up 5% of the 2.6 million working in the health and social care sector.  However the NHS has a 25% yearly staffing turnover; better terms and conditions of service should reduce this, as could a properly funded training system.

The trade union perspective on Brexit is that workers should not lose out which implies that the working time regulations should stay in place. Long before the 1973 accession to the Common Market, British trade unionists fought hard for a shorter working week and day, for breaks and longer holidays. These rights existed in agreements and were also enshrined in law. Also in place were the regulation of medicines, medical devices and healthcare professions. These aspects existed before Britain was part of the EU and can continue after we leave. Reciprocal arrangements can be made with other countries over the health care of our citizens abroad and of course countries can co-operate on issues of public health.

Two areas pointed to by the King’s Fund that we can readily dispense with, are those of procurement and competition rules, and of rules on finance and funding of Health Services. While a member of the EU, new projects in healthcare, whether buildings or services, have had to be put out to tender. Since the 1980s this has led to wave after wave of privatisation to the benefit of private multi-nationals.

First in the mid 80s, there was an assault on ancillary services such as cleaning, catering, partnering etc, and since the nineties clinical services been fair game too. In 1989 GP surgeries and some specialist mental health services were almost alone in being in private hands yet paid for by the NHS. Now GP out of hours and walk in services, minor injuries and A&E units and even whole hospitals are privately run; ambulance, mental health and prison health, diagnostic and pathology services and a whole host of community services have been given over to a small number of multi-national corporations.

For example Virgin Care gains profit from various community services in the Southeast and Southwest, elderly care in East Staffordshire and a number of smaller contracts around England. SERCO is one of the world’s largest privatisers in health care and its out of hour contract in Cornwall ran into problems when it replaced clinicians with call handlers, leading to a massive increase in ambulance call outs. The company was also found to have falsified records. Care UK was exposed in 2015 for making use of tax havens along with nine other companies including Virgin Care.

A review of TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) will show the continued haemorrhaging of health and social care jobs and services bleeding into the private sector. Delays in leaving the EU are jeopardising our publically provided NHS. By being out of the EU we no longer have to follow competition rules or restrict public spending in line with Stability Pacts: our services no longer have to be privatised, health services can have a policy of buying from British companies and hospitals no longer have to be built with private finance.

Nov 122016
 

Trump’s victory is a massive defeat for the forces of neoliberalism in the US and abroad. It is particularly significant in relation to our recent victory against neoliberalism in Britain. This could be one more nail in the EU’s coffin.

Professional pundits in the US, Britain and elsewhere, have spoken and written endlessly about the result. Many refuse to understand or accept exactly why the working class voted for Trump. Workers wanted real productive jobs, serious investment in manufacturing, and capital spending on infrastructure, such as housing, schools, hospitals and roads.

Their real concerns have been trivialised by dismissive terms such as ‘populism’, not used in its real sense, but as a criticism of the working class per se. We are ignorant and stupid, incapable of serious thought. Many commentators accuse those who voted to leave or for Trump, as being racist, which exemplifies their lazy thinking and patronising attitude towards our class. Race is the excuse given to deny the fact that there is an uprising against the political establishment, not just in Britain and America but in Europe and elsewhere.

Naomi Wolf, a feminist, said the election wasn’t so much about Trump’s well publicised misogyny and racism; it was more about giving the neoliberal elite, of which Hillary Clinton is a good example, a good kicking. While Trump has an unsavoury personality and reputation the voters only had the Clinton as an alternative. Many democrats could not vote for Clinton after the manipulation of the process to become the presidential candidate, which prevented Bernie Sanders, the more popular choice, from being chosen.

Corruption follows her political career. She has had an unacceptably close relationship with Wall Street, particularly Goldman Sachs, with corrupt payments to the Clinton Foundation by lobbyists from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Clinton’s arrogance leads her to act with impunity. She was instrumental in coordinating the US and EU’s attack on Libya, destroying the country. If elected she would have bombed Syria. She is an enthusiastic cold war warrior and played a leading role in the coup in Ukraine. Her hatred of Putin and Russia would have endangered world peace.

Contrast this with Trump’s claim that he desires peaceful and good relations with most countries. He has little time for the EU and seeks to renegotiate trade deals such as NAFTA. TTIP could finally be binned. No wonder the EU is worried. His attitude towards Israel and Iran is very disturbing, but it is not so different from Clinton’s hawkish views on both countries. Trump is sceptical of NATO, which will force all other 27 member states to take stock of their position, as he will not want America to continue to sustain 75% of its cost.

Can there be any more proof needed that Britain, America and the EU are entering a different era, where what they thought were certainties are now open to question? Here in Britain we need to re-evaluate how we rule ourselves. Terms such as ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are increasingly meaningless. The only thing we need to concern ourselves with, is what is right for our class.

Sep 252016
 

Barts Health NHS Trust which is already £135 million in debt (the biggest in NHS history) has just contracted out its hospital facilities to Serco in a £600 deal. The Trust runs 5 sites across London.

Serco already has a shocking reputation due to a series of scandals, including its inability to manage an NHS out-of-hours primary care service in Cornwall. The Unite Union has expressed concern and called for staff to be paid at least the London living wage.

Now we have voted to get out of Europe, fights against this sort of outsourcing and privatisation should be made easier. Once out we will no longer have to abide by EU policies. The privatisation of public services and assets has been enforced by the European Commission and European Central Bank, especially on those countries which have faced crises, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. There has been a great ‘fire sale’ of public services and assets across Europe, coupled with deregulation and austerity measures. This has resulted in job cuts, lower wages and conditions, and massive bills for taxpayers, as huge loans for private finance initiatives have to be paid back at high rates of interest.

It is time for those who voted to remain in the EU to understand how leaving takes away policies that our politicians can use as excuses for issues such as privatisation. That won’t stop it happening, unless we take action, but it is a first, vital step forward.

Sep 252016
 

The latest government Green Paper continues the attack on education, started many decades ago and yet to be halted by a united opposition.

If passed into law the Green Paper will allow for selection, faith schools to select up to 100% of pupils based on their faith, independent schools to ‘support’ state schools and universities to commit to sponsoring or setting up schools in return for the freedom to charge higher fees.

The key element is to reintroduce the secondary modern system as it should be called, as that is what it will be for up to 80% of children in areas where there is a grammar school. This is a political, not educational move and a clear indication that the right cares nothing for equality. They should beware – hatred of selection helped to bring them down in 1964.

The attack has always been political. It has involved the centralisation of education, the attack on the role of local councils to plan and support schools and the promotion of academies and free schools. The aim of this is to put schools in the hands of chains run in many cases by businesses – in other words the increasing privatisation of provision.

As a recent Dispatches revealed, plenty of money is being made by these chains to pay their top people and friends and relations who they employ to run services or do ‘consultancy’. The role of local authorities is to be reduced still further and councils have been cutting support services such as music centres, outdoor education, youth services and child protection, as a response to cuts in government grants.

The ultimate aim of successive governments has been to break down the unity of pay and conditions for teachers and with that the power of the teaching unions, long hated by the right. This will make schools more attractive to potential academy chains and subsequent privatisation. This is a similar tactic to the attacks on other public services including the NHS; make a system unworkable and privatise.

The onslaught has several facets. One is the old-fashioned way – making cuts. With schools currently facing 8% cuts to funding per pupil in real terms by 2020 the impact on staffing (including Teaching Assistants), resources, buildings and training will mean a substandard education for children. Funding for the 16 to 19 sector has already been massively slashed with real term cuts estimated at 14% and 1 in 3 colleges now believing they won’t be a going concern by 2020.

Another attack is on the training of teachers. The Conservative loathing of the so-called lefties in Universities has led to more and more school based training, such as School Direct, which in many cases is inferior, denigrates theory and puts a strain on staff who have to mentor students. Some schools have used students to cover timetable gaps. There has been a failure to recruit sufficient trainees, and this will lead to staff shortages for years to come. ‘The Department for Education,’ reported the Public Accounts Committee, ‘does not understand and shows little curiosity about the size and extent of teacher shortages … shows no sense of leadership or urgency’ and ‘is reactive and lacks coherence’.

At the same time we are losing teachers. In July 2016, the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) told the Government that an increase in teachers’ pay ‘significantly higher than 1%’ is required in order to recruit and retain enough teachers over the coming years. Despite this, the increase to the pay ranges for 2016-17 will remain capped at 1%. A survey published in October 2015 by the NUT and YouGov found that over half of all teachers were thinking of leaving teaching in the next two years citing ‘volume of workload’ (61%) and ‘seeking better work/life balance’ (57%) as the two top issues causing them to consider this.

Now we have plans to reintroduce the secondary modern system as it should be called, as that is what it will be for up to 80% of children in areas where there is a grammar school. This is a political, not educational move and a clear indication that the right cares nothing for equality. They should beware – hatred of selection helped to bring them down in 1964. Teachers will not want to work in secondary modern schools, or schools without sixth forms.

Unions, parents and governors have not yet been able to mount a sufficient and unified response to this attack. The unions have been hampered by their divisions, more at the top than in schools, where reps often work together. At last we have seen some progress as the NUT and ATL members discuss a merger this autumn. It will be important that this complex process does not impede urgent action to defend education.

Opposition can work, especially when it is partly from potential Tory voters. It is interesting that Justine Greening, the new Secretary of State for Education has had to back down on plans to remove parent governors from governing bodies of academies. The Tories know where trouble can lie – they don’t want parents to be privy to the discussions of academy heads and chains. Governance in academies is already less democratic than in state schools, but this was a step too far.

Unfortunately the culture of competition has led to a reluctance of heads to speak out for fear of damaging their reputation. A recent article in the Guardian on the cut to grants for free school meals described how one head was raising money by doing a bike ride and another was making her teachers and TAs supervise lunch, a battle once won and now to be fought again. This is doing the government’s work for them.

Parents and governors need to work with teachers and heads against this Tory agenda. The grammar school issue will cause plenty of opposition. The NUT has produced a list of demands that all education campaigners can work around in their document Stand Up For Education – A Manifesto. This needs to be used as a campaigning tool. However, it is necessary to see the wider political reasons for the attack on education in schools to devise an effective strategy against it.

Link

Stand Up For Education

Aug 112016
 

History does not repeat itself, but some periods have similarities to the present. The period in Britain just before WW2, through the war itself shows how workers can take advantage of great changes.

When the British elite’s appeasement policy failed, Hitler attacked Britain’s Western European allies instead of the Soviet Union, as had been hoped. He quickly defeated the allies and the threat of an imminent invasion by the Nazis was all too real.

Toovercome this great danger all the people had to be mobilized and reliance on the trusted elites and social structures was no longer an option. Trades Union leaders were called upon to lead ministries such as energy which then relied on coal mining.

Women entered the workforce and factories and the land were transformed to speed production and become self reliant in food. In science and engineering there was a boom in innovation and experimentation. The different social classes mixed and worked together, as ability not class background became the criterion for leadership.

Ideas changed radically as the whole population experienced these changes and made huge sacrifices. The expectation of a new society for the period after the war was no longer a hope but a demand. The defeat of the Tories and Churchill at the elections just after the war was followed by the creation of the NHS, the welfare state, the nationalisation of key industries, the building of millions of council houses and thousands of schools and with the great public investment came nearly full employment. Much more was possible but a huge step forward was made.

Now, though to a lesser extent, the ‘Brexit’ vote has created a huge opportunity for change throughout society. This time though workers have been at war with the forces of capitalism across Europe. They have said, ‘Enough!’ While some Remainers moan and plot how to undo or dilute the people’s verdict, workers must take the lead, embrace change and shape Britain in their interests and the requirements of a changed world.

Jun 242016
 

British workers have rejected the EU. We must now seize the opportunity to make another Britain and another Europe. We must channel the rejection of the EU into a rejection of austerity and our appalling government and push for our own alternative vision of what we want for our country.

We have given heart to those in other countries who wish to leave – those whose rights were increasingly under attack. The question of what the EU was doing in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and now France was overlooked in the referendum, because it inconveniently exposed the real nature of the EU.

Out of the EU we can get on with rebuilding our manufacturing, nationalising our railways, postal services etc, and reinvesting in the public sector. We can protect our country from TTIP. Over the years the EU became more remote, more centralised, more in the pocket of the banks and corporations, and less democratic. But we have to take control of the leave agenda. This is only the beginning. Putting a vote on a piece of paper is not enough.

We can expect a massive fightback from the forces of capital. Everything will be blamed on those who voted leave. The banks, and the speculators, who are gambling with our money right now, will put up obstacles.

But we have a lot of potential power – we just need to find it again in the unions and our other organisations. We must reject the right wing Leave politicians, who are also anti-workers. We must take advantage of the disarray in the Tory party.

We have a proud history of organisation and fought hard for our rights in times past. We have to rebuild our union movement to do this again. We need to unite, not spend our time in recriminations. The British people are not ignorant racists, who all support Farage and Johnson. We need to harness their anger at what has been done to us over the years. We have given a major signal that neoliberalism can be defeated – now we need to act.

Jun 242016
 

Britain has voted to leave. We have stepped forward towards sovereignty and independence, although there will be battles with the EU in order to get them to accept the will of the people. We can now save billions from not having to contribute to the EU; more importantly we can have national control over how our those billions are spent. British governments will no longer have to follow the EU competition law which dictates the privatisation of services or the stability pact restrictions on public spending.

As a result of leaving, Britain will not be part of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); the country can be free to trade with who ever it pleases and will not have multinational private corporations suing the government. Because we will no longer be in the EU, we will not have to accept the European Court of Justice decisions and British courts following British laws will be supreme in legal terms.

We have got rid of Cameron but not yet Osborne We will still have to fight against austerity, whether imposed by Brussels, Westminster, or Holyrood. We will no longer have the privatisation of services forced upon us by the EU, but we must stop our own British government from pursuing these thefts of national assets. British workers must fight against the wealthy 1% who run the global economy: against the Brussels bureaucrats, city slickers and wannabe lairds.

Francis Grady of the TUC says that now the priority is to defend industry and protect jobs, which means defending the pound and stimulating the economy. She goes on to say working people must not pay the price of leaving the EU.

There were a lot of reasons behind this vote. While some espoused a putrid racism, most did not. There was a discontent with the political elite in general and the present government in particular; but also a wish to regain control over our national finances and laws, our industry and borders. This wish to regain control is an expression of the wish for national sovereignty; it must become a demand and struggle for real democratic control by the working people over the economy, government and national life.

 

 

 

Jun 232016
 

Many people are ready to Vote Leave today; the EU and politicians on the Remain side have been scaremongering. Osborne, the chancellor has threatened reprisals on the British people if they votes to leave the EU; if we do, in his next budget he promises NHS cuts and tax rises. Financial markets show instability in the face of a British exit, and this is taken as proof that leaving the EU will be bad for Britain.

Remain MPs are getting ready to delay legislation taking us out of the European Union; they can hold things up in various ways. Firstly by refusing to repeal the European Community’s Act which took us in the first place, secondly by joining the European Economic Area and remaining part of the single market, thirdly refusing or delaying legislation needed to disentangle Britain from the EU. They could also require a second referendum on the terms of an exit.

The EU is sometimes talked about as a club but it is more like a debt agreement with a loan shark. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, provides the mechanism by which member states are “allowed” to leave the EU. A country should give notice of its intention to withdraw; an agreement should be made with the leaving state on terms of exit and on new relationships with the EU; the country will be excluded from the decision-making process; the exiting country can leave when a deal has been made or two years after stating its intentions: this period can be extended by the European Council; the country would be expected to apply the EU law until they have for the left.

Over the years and in line with its undemocratic structure the EU and has shown a singular disregard for the outcome of referendums throughout Europe. In 2001, Ireland was forced to have a second referendum when EU foreign ministers rejected a vote against the Nice treaty. When Dutch and French voters rejected the Euro-Constitution in 2005, an almost identical Treaty of Lisbon was put in its place; the Irish again were forced to have a second referendum. The EU policy on referendum in member states, is only have them if they can win; and if they lose, force the country to have further referendum till the EU gets its way.

Jun 202016
 

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the culmination of neoliberal policies and anti-democratic processes already seen in the EU. In the trade unions there is large scale opposition to TTIP. There is an understanding that it will bring deregulation, privatisation and the infamous Investor State Disputes Settlements mechanism (ISDS). This gives multinational corporations the ability to sue sovereign governments and overrule their democratic mandates.

Furthermore if a British government in the future attempts to renationalise Health Services it will be forbidden in all but a few circumstances and that compensation must be paid. The act of a democratically elected parliament is open to challenge in the shadowy Investment Court System, set up to police the trade agreement on behalf of big business and resolve investment disputes. Such an Investor State Dispute Settlement was used to force Slovakia to overturn its rules that profit should not be made from Health Insurance. Australia was sued by a tobacco company when it tried to introduce smoking cessation legislation in the form of plain cigarette packets; Australia scrapped the ISDS.

TTIP was drawn up in secrecy by the USA and the EU; a central aim is to finalise the privatisation project, and removes from public hands such areas as the NHS in Britain, the railways in France and the German telecommunications system, as well as public service broadcasting across Europe. The EU will force TTIP on the countries of Europe and of Britain if we do not Leave.

Jun 202016
 

On Thursday, when you vote, remember that much of the NHS has been privatised, competed over, marketised, fragmented and slashed to the core. If we Vote Leave, we have a chance of reversing this, whereas staying in the EU means that even a government with a large electoral mandate to re-socialise the NHS will be acting illegally in EU terms.

TTIP brings deregulation, privatisation and allows multinationals the ability to sue sovereign states and overrule democratic mandates of elected governments. It is the culmination of neoliberal policies and anti-democratic processes already seen in the EU. Under the EU rules public services must be provided in a “transparent and non discriminatory” manner, have to be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union and opened to private businesses throughout the EU and beyond. EU competition laws must be applied. Privatisation is demanded by the EU.

A previous attempt to clean those stubborn public sector areas was the the Bolkenstein Directive of 2006. It committed countries to establish a single market in services within the EU. The commercial director of the NHS, Ken Anderson said in January 2007, ‘My personal conviction is that once you open up NHS services to competition, the ability to shut that down or call it back passes out of your hands. At some point European law will take over and prevail.’

Spending cuts in the NHS are tied into the 1997 EU Fiscal Pact, which orders fines of countries that have government deficits of more than 3% or public spending that is over 60% of the national Gross Domestic Product. Some rather complicated calculations are now in place to determine the actual levels of deficit and public spending. Never-the-less the principle remains, that EU bureaucrats and business interests can dictate to even a progressive government with a large mandate – a lesson learned in Greece.

As far back as 1975 Barbara Castle pointed out that the Common Market would bring about a market in the NHS; she had bothered to read and make an honest assessment of the treaty of Rome and regulations and decisions emanating from Brussels.

May 042016
 

Everyone watching the unravelling of the cover up of the Hillsborough tragedy cannot fail to be moved by the stoic resolve of the grieving families. The tragedy, which touched the nation, especially those who love and watch the beautiful game, was preventable and the Liverpool fans were innocent. Football supporters who were at games during the 1980s know it could have easily been them.

The tragedy exemplifies all that is good and bad within Britain, not only in the 1980s but here and now in 2016. The lies, smears, and cover up by the establishment are about protecting their own whilst attempting to lay blame on working class people who only went to watch a football match.

In stark contrast the dignified resistance of the bereaved families, their refusal to accept defeat and their determination to fight for truth and justice for 26 years illustrates all that is good in Britain.

Those officers who were serving in the South Yorkshire Police have to face criminal charges; the passage of time cannot be used as an excuse not to do so. Likewise there has to be an investigation into the involvement of the government at time. It is evident that Thatcher questioned the outcome of the 1989 Taylor interim report, saying “What do we (the government) mean by ‘welcoming the broad thrust of the report’? The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome? Surely we welcome the thoroughness of the report and its recommendations – M.T.”

Undoubtedly the Eton club in the cabinet will seek to prevent an investigation; after all, the establishment will want to look after its own once more.

The steel workers are currently fighting for their livelihoods and workers at BHS are doing likewise after Green legally siphoned off £400 million. The NHS is being dismantled before our very eyes; only the junior doctor’s struggle is preventing the government from achieving its aims.

They and the bereaved Liverpool families are an example for us all. Their determination to fight is a lesson that has to be learnt by many workers and trade unions if they are to resist the destruction of their industries and communities.

 

Apr 252016
 

Report of a speech made at a TUAEU meeting.

Labour and the TUC have been arguing that the EU protects TU rights. The truth is that the requirements of capitalism, entrenched in the EU treaties, will always trump TU rights. The forward plan for the EU ‘Europe 2020’ will make matters even worse, especially for young people.

It is worth looking at why the labour movement moved from hostility to the EU to supporting it.

Thatcher was not in the best position to sell Europe to a labour movement which did not trust her. Delors was sent for and he promised the TUC a ‘Social Europe’ and the protection of TU rights. He offered money and lavish training events and the TU establishment was generally won over.

There were dissident voices, most notably Tony Benn and Bob Crow who exposed the EU’s anti-democratic nature and its clear capitalist ideology and constitution.

But superficially ‘Social Europe’ appeared to have some substance. The problem was capital’s insatiable demand for cheap labour. Although the ‘free movement of labour’ was providing cheaper labour, existing bargaining agreements still protected wages and conditions for many.

So a few firms acted. The existing workforce was sacked and replaced by a new workforce on lower wages and conditions. In the Viking case, in Scandinavia, the existing workforce was replaced by Lithuanian workers. It was followed by a massive strike and then the case went to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) who found in favour of the employers.

Its judgement stated that the right of the firm to operate was higher than TU rights since it was one of the ‘four fundamental freedoms of the EU’. It was therefore established that the rights of capital trump TU rights in the EU. This was reinforced by similar rulings in the Laval Case, the Ruffurt case, Luxembourg v the Commission and others.

In the UNISON v Parkwood Leisure case the ECJ ruled in favour of the employers when they refused to implement a TUPE transfer right which entitled employees to a nationally negotiated annual pay rise.

It is important to note that when Eastern European countries joined the EU, one of the conditions imposed on them was the withdrawal of TU bargaining rights. That was also one of the conditions imposed on Greece as part of the ‘bailout’ imposed on them under the threat of the destruction of their economy.

This was followed by the ‘Posted Workers Directive’, which allows firms to take workers from one EU country to another and circumvent existing agreements by paying the workers at rates from their country of origin. In large infrastructure projects in Holland for example, contractors have sacked almost all their Dutch workers and replaced them with agency Portuguese workers on much lower wages. These workers also have ‘accommodation and transport’ charges deducted from their pay. The profits of the agencies are actually higher than the workers’ total wages. Yet the ‘Truck Act’ in the UK had made such practices illegal in the early 20th century, through TU campaigning.

Unemployment in the EU is high, averaging 10% and 20% for the youth. In the southern countries of the EU unemployment is higher; for example in Greece youth unemployment is 50%.

‘Europe 2020’ has been put forward as the EU solution. The plan is subtitled ‘ A European Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’. Its main concept is ‘flexicurity’, changing permanent jobs into insecure, temporary and zero hour contracts. Britain’s higher employment rate is given as an example of how to do this. The message to youth from the EU is clear – if you want a job you must accept ‘flexicurity’. No wonder Cameron is in favour of remaining in the EU.

Privatisation is a key strategy of the EU. This is why they have been negotiating with the US in secret to impose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on us. It will remove current protective standards in areas such as food and the environment and lower them to US standards to help transnational corporate interests. A key aim of TTIP will be to facilitate access to the privatisation of the NHS and education.

Most of these issues are well known in the TU movement, particularly by the leadership, who, because they can’t defend themselves, say: ‘ Stay in and change it, reform it.’

So is it possible to reform the EU? Firstly that would require treaty change agreed by all 28 governments. Secondly what reforms would we want and are they compatible with EU capitalist principles? Suppose the reform said, ‘The freedom of a firm to operate in a country must respect existing bargaining agreements including posted workers and jobs will be advertised to local workers. Firms cannot sack existing employees and then use posted workers to do the work on lower wages and conditions. Nor can we accept TTIP.’ Can anyone believe EU and the corporations behind it will accept this? Most importantly, why have TU leaders, the ETUC and MEPs not campaigned to reform it before?

A vote to leave is hugely important for a progressive future in Britain and in Europe. Britain leaving will be an important step. The Trade Unions and the left must be seen to oppose the EU. In Europe the disappearance of ‘Social Europe’ and the attack on workers is all too apparent. Support for the EU by Social Democrats has resulted in the main opposition to it being taken up by right wing forces. Unless the left leads this fight, the campaign will move in the wrong direction.

Latin America has shown that internationalist cooperation can be combined with national sovereignty and democracy. ALBA is an example; Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela are successfully cooperating for mutual benefit and have even created a clever trading currency for their mutual interchange called the Sucre, which saves them all a lot in international trade.

The key question is recovering our democracy. Join Trade Unions Against the EU (TUAEU), vote leave and join the movement to rebuild Britain.

Apr 072016
 

The massive demonstrationFrance1s by trade unionists and young people in several French cities against their government’s ‘labour reforms’ is in fact a fight against the European Union’s strategic programme ‘Europe 2020’. This programme subtitled ‘A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ is in fact a plan to decrease wages (both personal and social), pensions and the job security of the bulk of society.

According to the EU, employment will only increase in the EU, particularly for the youth, if it is cheaper for employers and easier for them to sack workers. They take much inspiration from the British Tories and see the growth of ‘zero hours contracts’ as a great success. The programme’s aim would for countries ‘to implement their national pathways for flexicurity, as agreed by the European council, to reduce labour market segmentation and facilitate transitions as well as facilitating the reconciliation of work and family life’.

France3The current government ‘labour reforms’ which reduce overtime payments and job security are only the beginning. It is not surprising therefore that Cameron and his government want to keep Britain in the EU. His ideology and backing from the big corporations reinforced and backed by EU programmes help the Tories and their backers, the transnational monopolies. To fight our governments in France or Britain we need to recognise the true nature of the EU!

 

Apr 062016
 

Steel2 Britain’s autocratic government refuses to acknowledge the importance of core industries and infrastructure in Britain, which explains their disingenuous behaviour towards British workers and those in the steel industry in particular.

Our steel workers are highly skilled and produce some of the best steel in the world, never mind Europe. This strategic industry is, however, in foreign ownership, for them to do with as they please, while the government cries crocodile tears. Britain’s private industries were supposedly encouraged to buy British steel, but in reality they were importing a lot of EU steel made principally in Germany. At this late stage of the crisis government has belatedly suggested local councils and the public sector should buy British steel.

The Tories and previous governments have done nothing to support our steel industry and many of their actions have been positively damaging. They have been at the forefront of the EU in a fight against tariffs on importing foreign steel. The US has trade tariffs of over 200% on some of their products and China imposes its own 46% tariffs to protect vital industries. Annual Chinese steel exports to EU countries have increased from 1.3 million tons in 2009 to 7.7 million tons in 2015. High energy costs for the British steel industry, in comparison with other producers, have not helped. While Britain has cut production by 10%, Germany has only cut it by 1%.

Steel3Tata Steel already produces steel in Germany and can easily divert production, as it has no further interest in its British operation or in finding a buyer. Germany would stop any government intervention to support British steel. Italy’s attempts to fund its industry were vetoed by the EU. But nationalisation is the only answer. China protects its industries, unlike Britain, where ministers and politicians are positively treacherous when it comes to ours. British ministers have long known that Tata intended to end steel production in Britain and did nothing to find a buyer.

Stephen Kinnock, local Labour MP for Port Talbot can justifiably call for Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s resignation, but Kinnock’s own stance does not bear scrutiny given he is a leading campaigner for Britain to remain in the EU. EU policy is to concentrate different industries in larger European regions, disregarding the needs of nation states.

Steel1The government remains quiet about the continuity of the blast furnace at Port Talbot, crucial to the production process and also to the threat to the workers’ pension fund. If Gupta’s Liberty House corporation is given Tata steel what will the government offer them? Either way, the government and EU wash their hands of our strategic industry and workers are sold down the river. The EU offers nothing but low wages and unemployment.

Apr 052016
 

More and more workers in their unions have begun to see TTIP as a creation of finance capitalism, and something to oppose. In Britain several unions have policy of opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These include the  GMB, NUT, PCS, Unison and Unite as well as the TUC. Also many demonstrations have taken place against these trade agreements and the multinational corporations and transnational bodies which will benefit. These demonstrators have included Occupy and Anonymous activists and organisations such as Friends of the Earth and War on Want. In both Europe and North America workers are against TTIP and  it should now be our internationalist duty to oppose it.

TTIP is a trade agreement concocted in secret between the EU and the USA, similar to an agreement with Canada called CETA. Its aim is to fix the policy of privatisation in all countries for all time; it takes the warped anti-democratic doctrine of shared sovereignty to its conclusion. The treaty takes power away from democratically elected governments, and it is those governments along with politicians, financiers and assorted billionaires who have approved it. Any legislation is subject to scrutiny by a transtlantic authority, which can stop that which is deemed to hurt the interests of business.

The Trade Agreement sets up secret courts under the investor – state disputes mechanism, that allows huge corporations to sue nation states. A main aim of TTIP is to create new markets by opening up public services including health and education, and all government procurement. It will also do away with regulations that protect workers’ rights, safety rules, social and environmental standards, consumer protection, privacy laws and even the banking safeguards introduced after the financial crisis of 2008.

We have the chance to torpedo these undemocratic agreements that will cause so much damage, by comprehensively opposing the EU and campaigning for a No vote in the forthcoming referendum on the 23 June.

For more information view the following:

The Workers’ Forum – use TTIP link on our cloud (right of page)

Trade Unionists Against the EU

#noTTip

Stop TTIP 

War on Want

Feb 222016
 

It feels as though the Labour Party has left the political stage. Over the last few days since the EU referendum announcement, the battle about winning the next general election has begun with the Conservatives so far organising around Vote Leave and UKIP and an array of anti EU campaigners including Labour Leave, organising around Grassroots Out. Independent workers’ organisation against the EU are also steaming ahead.

Compared to all this the Parliamentary Labour Party’s pro EU position and the Labour Party General Secretary’s attempt to close down any debate on the EU within the Party as a whole, looks as though that party is not just consigned to a defeat in the referendum, but the next general election too. Labour is migrating to Brussels where TTIP and the special relationship with the US can be nurtured.

The Labour Party along with elements of the posh ‘left’ like Left Unity, and the TUC hierarchy are arguing that the EU can be reformed from within and we will all lose our holiday entitlement and jobs if we leave. Every time they do so they retreat further and further from the interests of workers and the nation.

It is almost as if a second bourgeois revolution is taking place. Those representatives of the domestic bourgeoisie in the Tory Party, miffed at their lack of influence and control under the terms of the EU and eager to penetrate more overseas markets outside the continent, want to take back control of the British Parliament and are gerrymandering seats to make sure a Labour victory is far less likely in the future. UKIP would like to win the next general election also so they can run Britain with a combination  of Hyacinth Bouquet, Alf Garnett, Basil Fawlty and Tommy Cooper might.

Workers need to show some leadership and sense on this issue, get out of the EU and run Britain in our interests for a change and with a renewed sense of internationalism.

 Posted by at 9:32 am
Feb 152016
 

According to the Office for National Statistics, George Osborne’s economic plans are not delivering. The ONS identified that the trade deficit had widened even further to £10.35 billion in the last quarter of 2015 up from £8.7 billion in the previous quarter. It is evident that despite the rhetoric of Osborne, the vacuous faith in an export led economic recovery has evaporated.

The answer to all this is straightforward. We need an industrial policy that promotes British trade on a global basis, one that supports manufacturing and one that supports all businesses to export across all continents. We need to grasp the fact that the European Union will not provide the answer; trade with the EU is already in decline and Britain needs to target new and expanding markets if it is to provide an economy that is robust and prosperous.

Our underlying reliance on services remains, something that has meant Britain is continually susceptible to economic slowdowns. The destruction of wealth creating industries and manufacturing since the late 1970s has created an economy where Britain can no longer trade its way out of any downturn.

In recent months Britain has seen its steel industry massacred. Billions were poured into propping up the corrupt banking system but there has been nothing more than hand wringing for the thousands thrown out of work.

Neoliberalist free market ideology is not working – it is failing Britain. Osborne hails the tax dodging payments of Google as a good deal for the country. No doubt he views the thousands now thrown on to the dole queues in a similar vein. It is evident that he should also join the queue of unemployed.

Feb 152016
 

Osborne’s economic incompetence is becoming clearer by the day, as economists have warned that if he is to achieve his general election pledge to reduce taxes for middle and low income earners he will either have to make even deeper austerity cuts or impose tax increases elsewhere. Perhaps this is, in fact, a deliberate political move to justify cuts and keep pay down?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that if tax revenues rise by just 1% less than forecast by 2019/20 then the Exchequer would lose around £5 billion in income tax and national insurance. In addition the fall in share prices could cost a further £2 billion by 2020.

Osborne’s election bribe of raising the personal allowance for the 40 pence threshold has always been unfunded and is estimated to cost £8 billion per annum and is now in tatters. In other words he lied to the electorate when he claimed to be competent and made promises that he knew he had little chance of keeping.

Much of Osborne’s spending plans are based on restricting pay in the public sector which are at 25 year low when compared to workers in the private sector – an unsustainable position.

As trade unionists we need to mount an all-out campaign to ensure workers in the public sector do not suffer any longer at Osborne’s hands. The policy of austerity has to stop and it has to stop now. We need an economic plan that brings prosperity to all workers not simply the 1%; we need Osborne to go and for his rag bag neoliberalist ideology to become a thing of the past.

Feb 082016
 

Every so often an exceptional film comes out of the Hollywood dream factory, which rises above the usual dross of dumb and crude teen movies, all-action revenge films with attendant car chases or rom/coms, most of which are too stereotypical of their genre.

The ‘Big Short’ does something different. Instead of the director becoming side-tracked with too much character development and lengthy back-stories it presents the insanity of capitalism as the centre of the drama; a compelling set of arguments that dramatically examines the essence of the 2007/8 world-wide financial crash. The characters are certainly interesting in the unfolding narrative, but it is the insanity of free-market economics that holds our attention.

Director Andy McKay has adapted Michael Lewis’s non-fiction book ‘The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine’. McKay has achieved the blackest of black comedies. Christian Bale gives a stunning performance as Michael Burry, who is obsessed with crunching numbers. He and Mark Baum, a hedge fund manager played by Steve Carell, become convinced of the imminent financial crash.

Burry realises that creating credit default swaps will allow him to ‘short’ the housing market. They understand numbers more than people. Their bosses and wider community of traders and assorted financial lowlifes are convinced of the infallibility of money markets. The crash proved that these very same people did not really understand what they were doing; they merely did as they were told, dealing in collaterized debt obligations (CDOs), without understanding the havoc this would cause.

The end of the film presents the audience with chilling information. It raises some interesting questions about capitalism, not least the fact that amidst crashes there will always be individuals who will make money. It is only we the audience who can provide the answers; if we don’t we are condemned to repeat the past.

Jan 182016
 

Junior Doctors-Blog2The opportunist Tory promise to make the NHS provide weekend cover at the same level as the rest of the week, without extra funding, is an attack on all health workers and the public. For health workers it means more hours worked for the same pay. The extra hours of work will undermine the health of NHS workers and is a threat to patients’ safety and care.

The BMA has seen clearly that it is also a long-term threat to the NHS. A destabilised NHS with more problems provides a good excuse for the Tories to privatise it and bring in private health firms, particularly from the US.

junior Doctors-Blog1

Junior doctors have shown great clarity, unity and courage in taking up the fight to defend their contract and warn the public. It is time the other health unions joined the fight rather than waiting to be picked off one group at a time? The public has shown understanding and support for junior doctors, with 66% backing them. It is indeed everyone’s fight.

Jan 082016
 

The ex-Liberal Democrat Vince Cable’s pleas for New Labour and the Lib Dems to work together in creating an effective opposition is a throwback to the 1980s. The ignominy of the defeat for the SDP/Liberal Alliance left them in the political wilderness until they jumped on the austerity bandwagon with the Tory Government in 2010.

Cable claims that Britain risks becoming a “one party state” under the Conservatives. What Cable has failed to grasp is that Britain essentially is all that but in name. All the major parties have the same neoliberalist ideology, and sign up to organisations such as NATO, the EU and the WTO.

What is required is fresh thinking; a new start for Britain to build a just and equal society. This however can only begin by removing the nation from the shackles of the EU by voting for an exit in the planned referendum.

Simply removing Britain from the EU should only be viewed as the first step. We need to reform Britain from bottom to top, abolish the House of Lords, create a new constitution, establish a new voting system, while developing a new ideology.

We need to rebuild and invest in the wealth creating industries of Britain and develop cutting edge technology for the future. We need to need an economy and politics for the 99% not the 1%. We need to build from the grass roots and establish a democracy for working people; a democracy built upon the three nations of Britain with an end to the separatist agenda.

The time is ripe to do so while the political parties are tired and divided. An exit from the EU will not solve all our problems but it will be the first step in building a new Britain.

Dec 222015
 

In May 2014 the WPB highlighted the fact that the wealthiest people in Britain were getting even wealthier and guess what – they are still piling on the cash. Millionaires are now 875 times richer than the poorest 10% within British society.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have found that the assets of the richest 10% leapt by 21% between 2012-14, but that the poorest 10% only saw their incomes grow by 7%. The top 10% owned at least £1,048,500 in assets while the bottom 10% owned £12,600 or less.

The ONS released their findings at the same time as the Confederation of British Industry made the outrageous claim that the new living wage would damage the economy. Who are they trying to kid? £7.20 per hour allows people to survive, nothing more. No doubt they are more concerned with lining the pockets of the millionaires than helping the poor to survive.

Now Ian Duncan Smith’s Xmas message to the poor is that they should work an extra 200 hours a year to make up for benefit cuts. In fact this disgraceful suggestion wouldn’t even compensate for their losses.

If Britain is to prosper we need to have a high wage-high skill economy. Higher wages mean more taxes can be raised to fund services and fewer benefits need to be paid out. Wealth needs to spread amongst those who generate real wealth, working people. Poverty is a blight on society and needs to be eradicated.

ONS Report

Dec 212015
 

Cameron’s attempt at seeking reform and holding a referendum on remaining in the EU is doomed to failure. It is becoming increasingly clear, even though it was evident in the first place, that Merkel, Hollande, et al would not bow to his wishes.

At The Heads of State dinner in Brussels last week, they listened intently but declined to act. Vague promises of treaty change at some point in the future will be insufficient. The aim of cutting welfare benefits for migrants, left in tatters, has been deemed discriminatory and the only way it can happen is if benefits are cut at the same time for Britain’s young people!

As Chamberlain in 1938, waving his white flag to fascism, Cameron will be repeating the exercise and waving his white flag to the EU, claiming victory and a reformed EU in our time. But underneath nothing will have changed; the monolithic bureaucracy of the EU will trundle on, grasping ever more power in its aim of building a corporate super state.

Whenever the referendum and whatever the deal the answer remains the same. Britain needs to leave the EU, regain control and rebuild our nation. Rebuild it for the many not the few, rebuild our industries and develop new, rebuild Britain out of the EU.

Dec 192015
 

This week marks the end of an era in British industry and history. Miners at Kellingley mine in North Yorkshire colliery have worked their final shifts as the closure of the pit brings an end to centuries of deep coal mining in Britain. The mine, known by the community as the as the “Big K”, was the largest deep pit in Europe and could mine up to 900 tonnes an hour. At its height, Kellingley employed more than 2,000 workers, but today the remaining 450 miners will be thrown on the scrap heap.

The NUM Branch Secretary Keith Poulson said it was a “very sad day” for the country as well as the industry. It is more than a sad day – it is the abandonment of a heritage and the industrial future of Britain. Nations such as Germany are continuing to build coal fired plants; with the appropriate technology they can make a real impact on reducing contributions to greenhouse gases.

Instead of using British coal to fire British coal fired plants we will transport foreign imports, simply because it is cheaper. This is regardless of the working conditions of those miners, regardless of the environmental impact of transportation and regardless of the damaging effects on the communities of Britain. In Colombia, there are still child miners. In two rural municipalities of Colombia, the percentage of working children between 7 and 14 years old rises up to 24% (1 out of 4 children works). Most of these children work in coal mines. So our country could effectively be burning coal produced in conditions not unlike those in Victorian England.

Kellingley played a prominent role in the industrial action of 1984/85 when the Thatcher Government set about destroying the industry and the NUM. The destruction of the mining industry typifies the warped ideology of neoliberalism which cares nothing about the nation  and only about lining pockets of the few.

 

An example of the struggles of Colombian miners:

http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2015/may/1/not-just-transition-coal-and-colombian-miners-union

Dec 172015
 

And the rain comes tumbling down.

The floods in Cumbria show once again the impact climate change is having on the world’s weather. It has always been evident that the rain will come once more, the waters will rise and people’s lives will be devastated. It has been estimated that 6,425 homes were impacted upon by the flood waters, leaving 1400 people homeless, with costs being estimated to be between £400m and £500m.

The Tory Government’s woeful spending on flood defences came under severe criticism when it emerged that a prevention scheme for the Cumbrian town of Kendal has been postponed on numerous occasions. Kendal was submerged by up to 1.5 metres of water after the storm.

The National Audit Office concluded that funding fell 10% in real terms during the coalition and the government’s own climate change advisers have warned of a £500m hole in spending. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, has highlighted a £115m fall in spending on flood risk management this year alone.

This leaves the Environment Agency in the unenviable position of re-appraising schemes, undertaking a cost/benefit analysis and having to decide on who gets the protection first. In reality they have to set a higher bar, cutting out hundreds of schemes not based on any logic apart from the lack of funds.

Liz Truss, the environment secretary may claim that the Tories are not cutting spending on flood defences. But in fact that is what they are doing – placing lives and homes at risk on the basis of their warped ideology of neoliberalist austerity cuts.

Also, what Truss doesn’t acknowledge it is that government is reliant on the private sector to fill the £350m funding gap in the budget. This situation will worsen as the Department for Rural Affairs is having to cut its budget by a further 15% by 2020. It is time to end austerity and it is time to end risking peoples lives and communities on an ideological dogma.

 

Dec 012015
 

Have we seen the opening shots of World War III with the shooting down of a Russian bomber by the Turkish Air Force? Make no mistake, this was not pilot error, but a calculated premeditated action by President Erdogan in Ankara. The Russian plane was in Turkish airspace for 17 seconds and when it was shot down it was already back over Syria.

In theory Russia and Turkey are on the same side in the grand coalition to defeat ISIS but this could all fall apart if there is another incident. Russia is now planning to fly fighter escorts with their bombers, so what happens then if another incident takes place and a dog-fight erupts over the Turkish/Syrian Border?

Putin has claimed that last week’s downing of the Russian war plane was intended to protect oil deliveries from ISIS and has said that Moscow intelligence confirmed that oil from fields controlled by the terrorist organization is transported to Turkey.

“At the moment we have received additional information confirming that oil from the deposits controlled by Islamic State militants enters Turkish territory on industrial scale,” Putin said. “We have every reason to believe that the decision to shoot down our aircraft was dictated by the desire to ensure the safety of supply routes of oil to Turkey, to the ports where they are shipped in tankers.

However, Turkey is a part of NATO and is under the cold war obligation that: “an attack on Turkey is an attack on us all.” Other NATO countries, therefore, could be obliged to engage, resulting in open hostilities. Sounds implausible? Don’t forget WW1 began with a single shot in Sarajevo.

Erdogan is playing a dangerous game, already attempting to become the sole dictatorial ruler of Turkey, modelling himself on Sultan from the empire of the Ottomans, gambling that the threat of NATO involvement will prevent retaliation by Russia. Given that Putin has outmanoeuvred the West in Crimea, Ukraine and in Syria, this is a huge risk.

The conflict in Syria could easily escalate; Russia supports Assad and opposes ISIS and “moderate” Syrians, Turkey opposes Assad and the Kurds but in the past has supported elements of ISIS, Britain, France and the US oppose Assad and ISIS and support “moderate” Syrians and the Kurds. Hezbollah supports Assad but opposes the West. Saudi Arabia opposes Assad and ISIS whilst Iran supports Assad and opposes ISIS.

In this heady mix of alliances with no clear political direction, a spiral of decline into an even greater conflict is always possible. Western intervention will not solve the situation. There have been around 9000 sorties by Western aircraft, but if ISIS was to be defeated it should have happened by now. In reality air strikes are a failure, which makes Cameron’s recent rantings even more disheartening. It is for these reasons that a political solution is required, and not a military one. A settlement that accounts for all parties, and if needs be establishes new nation states, is the only way that ISIS will be defeated. A solution and peace found by the people of the region, and not one imposed by Western bombs.

Nov 282015
 

images-1The recent terrorist attacks on the Russian passenger plane and on Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Northern Nigeria, and Paris have revealed the danger of global terrorism and exposed the duplicity and absurdity of the US and its Western Allies, including France and Britain and its regional allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey.

Western hypocrisy

For the US and its allies the main enemy has been the Syrian government and the aim was the destruction of Syria as a unitary state. Their main tool to achieve this was the financing, arming and training of jihadist terrorist groups, mainly composed of foreign mercenaries based on Al Qaida with some participation by Sunni Iraqis and Syrians of sectarian disposition opposed to Shia, Christian and other non-Wahhabi Muslims.

With all the support, training and finance their expectation was for the quick defeat of the Syrian government and army, followed by the partition of Syria into regions to be distributed among its  neighbours leaving a small weak Syria ruled by Western puppets and intimidated by Israel in the west. Much of the north with its oil would go to Turkey to create a ‘Buffer Zone’, and the South would be controlled by Jordan. Another objective of the policy was the reduction of the influence in the region of Iran and its allies – the Iraqi government, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Unintended consequences

Ironically this alliance is one of the ‘unintended consequences’ of the US war on Iraq and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The defeat of Saddam Hussain and the dismantling of the Iraqi state has resulted in a mainly Shia Iraqi government allied to Iran, while the officers of the Iraqi army now form the core of the Daesh (ISIS) armed capability. The invasion and occupation of Lebanon gave rise to ‘Hezbollah’, the resistance movement there, which actually defeated the ‘invincible Israeli army’ and forced it to leave Lebanon.

Syrian resilience

Much to the surprise and disappointment of Syria’s enemies, the Syrian government and army has proved too strong and resilient and after five years under constant attack shows no sign of the expected collapse. With the strong resistance of the Syrian army and people, the US and its allies poured huge resources into the terrorists under the cover of training and financing the ‘Free Syrian Army’ a supposedly moderate force of Syrians. They knew very well that the trained forces joined and passed their weapons to terrorist groups and in particular the largest, ISIS and Jabat Al-Nusra but also many others. At least 500 Jihadist terrorist groups are known to exist, though most have been absorbed by ISIS and Al-Nusra. In addition easy entry for mercenaries and weapons through the borders of Turkey and Jordan and the sale of oil by ISIS to Turkey has provided ample finance to supplement funds raised by the extortion of controlled populations and financial and ideological support (Wahadism) from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

Terrorists have their own objectives

Not surprisingly the largest of the groups, known in the West as ‘ISIS’, has acquired its own objectives and formed a ‘Caliphate’ in the territory of North Iraq and North and East Syria. This terrorist quasi-state is now an international threat to countries in Africa, Asia and Europe including Russia, but much less so to the US due to its distance. Russia therefore has come to the assistance of Syria and its army, which is composed of Sunni, Shia and Christians and reflects the shared history of united life in a nation for decades. In doing so legally at the invitation of the Syrian government Russia are upholding international law and opposition to ‘regime change’, the principle of the imperialists.

Syria’s army and Russian air power effective against terrorimages

Importantly the alliance of Russian air power with the Syrian army has proved very effective against the terrorist groups, not just ISIS but also Al-Nusra and many others. It has also forced the US to assist the Kurds against ISIS, making Turkey’s help to the terrorists much more difficult. Russian bombing of the oil convoys has also hit Turkey and ISIS finance and this explains the attack by the Turkish air force on the Russian plane inside Syria and also the bombing of Kurdish forces fighting ISIS. Downing the plane was a clear provocation to draw NATO against Syria and Russia.

Terrorism must be eliminated

Russia and the Syrian and Kurdish armies fighting the terrorists must be supported. The claim that Russia is attacking ‘moderates’ to save Assad is code for shifting Western support from ISIS to other less discredited terrorist groups. There are no ‘moderates’ in Syria as the report to the US Congress acknowledged. Cameron’s policy of getting Britain to bomb ISIS in Syria is his way of having a voice in the negotiations for ‘transition’ from Assad to support other armed anti-Syrian groups, which NATO hopes to control. The only way Britain can help is by recognising the Syrian Government and joining a real alliance with it and its allies, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Nov 282015
 

The storm clouds are once more building as the dogs of war prepare for air strikes on Syria. Cameron was in full throat in the Commons, arguing why it is right to bomb another country, that this is the only way to defeat ISIS and we will make Britain safe by doing so. The rhetoric and sound-bites are the 2731133 31.10.2015 Многофункциональный истребитель-бомбардировщик Воздушно-космических сил РФ Су-34 взлетает с авиабазы "Хмеймим" в Сирии. Дмитрий Виноградов/РИА Новостиeasy option; the difficult option is finding a peace.

No one can feel anything but deep shock at the downing of the Russian passenger jet, killing all 224 people on board; no one will forget the slaughter of 130 human beings enjoying a night out in Paris. But if Cameron believes that bombing yet another country will solve the problem of terrorism then he is delusional. Revenge may be sweet but it is only a pretext used to cover up an absence of any genuine solution.

From the first Iraq war in 1990 western foreign policy has been to bomb a region first and seek a political solution second. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya were all bombed back to the dark ages and now it is the turn of Syria, on the pretext of eradicating ISIS.

None of the campaigns have achieved any stability; in fact they have only made the situation worse. The current refugee crisis is, on the whole, the creation of western foreign policy and yet they keep making the same mistakes.

Look at the contrast with Iran, long viewed as a rogue “terrorist” state, yet agreement was sought and gained on the vexatious issue of nuclear proliferation. They were not bombed to the table – agreement was gained through negotiation and compromise.

The lies of Cameron hark back to those of Blair. Cameron claimed in Parliament that there were 70,000 members of the Syrian free army who could be called upon to defeat ISIS. This is ludicrous and fails to stand up to scrutiny. The only forces capable of defeating ISIS on the ground are the Syrian Army who support Assad and/or Hezbollah, while the Kurds could have an impact if only Turkey would stop bombing them.

Whether Cameron and his fellow travellers in the Labour Party like it or not, British foreign policy over the last three decades has failed the region. It is time for a new approach, that of diplomacy, that of dialogue. If not, then many more innocents across the world will die needlessly.

Nov 192015
 

98% of Junior Doctors voted for strike action in their resistance to the imposition of a new contract of employment.

The Tories formed a government with the support of only 24.4% of the electorate but in their Trade Union Bill they will mandate that in “important public services” at least 40% of the membership vote in favour of action. They say this will “boost democracy”. 74.5% of BMA members eligible to vote did so, for strike action.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary of State, calls the vote for action “very disappointing”, yet he refuses talks at ACAS.

Doctors have shown support for their union the BMA, which is a boost for their democracy. The government will assert their dictatorship; we will see them bully, we will see them try to break the strike, guardians of “freedom” will no doubt complain and court action may be taken against the BMA.

Workers as patients and in our unions have to support our Junior Doctors who are acting for a safe Health Service and continuation of high quality medical education. They have found themselves on the front line of the battle against the Trade Union Bill.

Don’t let them fight alone! Protect the right to strike!

See The Workers Vision for Health

Nov 092015
 

Junior Doctors are being balloted by their union, the BMA over vote strike and other forms of industrial action. This takes place after negotiations on contract changes have dragged on for three years. The government has shown itself unwilling to take account of patient safety or of the doctors’ welfare. Secretary of State Hunt seems intent on provoking a conflict in which the government will use major force in an attempt to eliminate union organisation among doctors. The BMA deserves and requires the support of the public and the trade union movement. Don’t let them fight alone!

The government “has stripped of its halo any occupation hitherto honored and looked up to” (The Communist Manifesto). Trades and professions have come under attack in order to create a climate in which it may seem acceptable to close industries and cut services, and also, just as importantly for the ruling class, to undermine trades union organisation.

The Department of Health is trying to force a new contract on the doctors which affects pay, unsociable hours work and increments. The employers wish to remove payments for unsociable working on Saturdays and before ten in the evening; institute a system of performance related pay; reduce on-call pay and make doctors available on standby for longer periods. Junior doctors have said the new hours will discourage new entrants into emergency services as routine hours of work will go up from 60 to 90 a week. The new contract will adversely affect specialist training, including that for general practitioners.

The Junior Doctors pulled out of talks last year over the issues of patient safety and doctor’s welfare. The government called on the remuneration body to carry out a review. However NHS England did not provide adequate data to the body, so when the report was issued, Junior Doctors did not re-enter negotiations.

In September, employers in England announced they would impose the new contract, on conditions that are worse than those rejected by doctors last year. The BMA have said they cannot return to negotiations with an employer that is threatening to impose conditions on them. In Wales and Scotland there has been no such decision to impose a new contract on medical staff.

Another factor in this dispute is that the Tories, in their 2015 election manifesto, trumpeted their plan to have a 7 day-a-week Health Service by 2020, for patients “wherever they are and whenever they need it”. This flawed policy is part of the government’s PsyOps. Doctors’ leaders have pointed out that the recruitment crisis would make a seven-day plan unworkable, and pursuit of it will destabilise the NHS. By insisting on their populist goal the government have made enemies of the junior doctors, hospital consultants and GPs; but then their aim is to hit at union organisation among doctors.

Support our Junior Doctors!

See The Workers Vision for Health

Nov 022015
 

Ecuador Tops the List For Social Justice

The renowned Latinbarometer annual survey of Latin America has once again underlined strong support for the policies of the government of Rafael Correa. The poll surveys 20,000 people in 18 countries, with Ecuador coming top or near top in a number of key measures including:

  • Ecuadorians are the most likely to think that its government acts on behalf of all the people.  In 2006, the year before President Correa came to office, just 11% of Ecuadorians believed their government did so. By 2015, this has reached 56%, almost double the average for Latin America.
  • Ecuador came first in the percentage of people believing that their nation’s distribution of wealth is fair. In 2007, only 22% of Ecuadorians believed wealth distribution was fair. By 2015, it has more than double to 49%. Though a huge improvement and the highest in the continent, President  Correa said this shows the need to continue laws to make the wealthiest pay more taxes to create a more just country.

Ecuador has the third highest levels of support for democracy in the region. Before Correa was elected just 22% expressed support for their democracy but this has now soared to 71%. Ecuador came has the second highest levels of electoral participation, due to large increases that have occurred under the Correa government and its citizens are the second most satisfied with their democracy in the continent.

 Posted by at 1:59 am
Oct 272015
 

Portugal, in a move to satisfy Brussels and appease foreign financial markets, has become the first country to prohibit anti EU political parties from taking office on the grounds of “national interest”. The President of Portugal, Anibal Cavaco Silva, has rejected the appointment of a left-wing coalition government even though it secured an absolute majority in the Portuguese parliament on a mandate to smash the austerity regime imposed by the EC/ECB/IMF Committee known as the Troika.

The combined parties of the Left, led by the Socialists and Communists won 50.7pc of the vote, and became the majority in the Portuguese Parliament. The Left Bloc had forged their coalition on a compromise deal and had dropped their demands for a euro exit, a withdrawal from NATO and nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy such as energy, transport and heavy industry.

Silva stated, “It is my duty, within my constitutional powers, to do everything possible to prevent false signals being sent to financial institutions, investors and markets.” While he claims that the great majority of the Portuguese people did not vote for parties opposed to the EU, in reality Silva is imposing a reactionary regime, against the wishes of the people – all to prop up the discredited neoliberalism of the EU.

We need to ask whether this could be the beginning of a trend that spreads to other nations across the EU, whereby as support for left anti EU parties rises, reactionary forces seek to impose their will against the expressed wishes of the people.

It does not take much of a stretch of the imagination to foresee a scenario in which the British people vote to exit the EU and Cameron refuses to accept the result, employing the EU’s preferred methodology of simply holding another ballot until the right result is achieved.

Or even further ahead, would the EU and British establishment allow Corbyn to become Prime Minister, even if he commanded the support of the majority? Workers have to be mindful of the challenges ahead and the forces opposed to democracy and ensure they never win in Britain.

Oct 272015
 

The growing number of steel plant closures around Britain underlines the continued attack on manufacturing, which is barely 10% of Britain’s GDP. Other production industries like mining, quarrying, gas, electricity, water and sewerage make up another 5%. The service sector is 79% of GDP, with construction making up the final 6%. Government is obsessed by a consumer economy to the exclusion of investment in basic infrastructure industries.

Steel is a strategic industry, as is energy, which is why we should be justifiably concerned that such industries are in foreign hands. Government (and Labour) opposition to real support for Britain’s industry through investment is criminal. Contrast their inactivity in manufacturing with their willingness to bail out banks, nationalising the debt and privatising the profit for the 1%. Government regards the finance sector as far more important than manufacturing, giving the lie to powerhouses in the North or anywhere else for that matter.

Falling demand at home for British steel is indicative of the continuing decline in British manufacturing industry. Osborne has deliberately stopped Government investment in the industry. He went to China last month advertising £11.8 billion worth of contracts for the construction of the HS2 high speed rail link, while Britain’s steel industry is closing down. Thai-owned firm SSI’s plant closure in Redcar means the loss of 2200 jobs. The shutting-down of Europe’s second biggest coke-blast furnace makes future steel production very unlikely. Tata steel is cutting 1200 jobs in Scunthorpe and two plants in Scotland, on top of previous cuts in production and a loss of 1000 jobs at Newport, Port Talbot and Rotherham.

China has been blamed for dumping steel on world markets. Over the last two years China’s steel imports have risen to supply 8% of demand, up from 2% in previous years, but though this is important is it hardly the most important factor in the failure of Britain’s steel industry. Our energy costs are much higher than in other parts of Europe. Britain’s energy is controlled by foreign companies, most of them nationalised for their countries’ industrial and domestic consumption at our expense. Electricity prices in the UK were 82% higher than the EU average in the first half of this year, a gap that has doubled in two years. In the meantime, Cameron’s promise of a fixed price for electricity of £92.50 per megawatt hour to EDF, the builders of the new Hinkley Point power station, is around double the rate for electricity on wholesale markets, so we will be paying for that subsidy to a foreign supplier for decades. Cameron and Osborne can dispense state aid to other European states, but not to us in Britain.

Sustainable steel in Britain is recycled which saves on energy and CO2 emissions, compared to the cost of importing iron ore. Manufacturing steel in Britain saves on transport costs. Most importantly, British steel is of high quality and critically reliable in structures. Some imported steels have not been of the highest quality claimed by their foreign producers. Yet Caparo steelworks, based in Oldbury in the West Midlands, which uses recycled steel has gone into administration with the expected loss of 2000 jobs.

When 6500 jobs go in important production industries like steel (which may be only the beginning) then many other jobs near and far are at risk, as are the communities which are reliant on them. The loss of steel as an infrastructure industry also represents a loss of vital skills which will be hard to regain without a progressive view of industry and education in the future. Workers in all sectors of our economy have a responsibility to all our class. The Government ignores the needs of Britain and its people. Nationalisation of vital industries and services is clearly a first step if we are to stop the destruction of our country. Who stands up for Britain if we do not?

Oct 162015
 
This is a report from the PCS website about their victory to stop the privatisation of the National Compliance and Enforcement Service. Their action deserves to be widely shared to other unions fighting similar battles. No doubt their next battle will be against ‘modernisation’ plans, which will probably involve ‘efficiency savings’ (cuts), targets etc, but for now a major battle has been won.

From the PCS website

‘The National Compliance and Enforcement Service will remain within HMCTS and retain responsibility for collecting court fines. The announcement that the sale of the service was no longer the “best option” for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), comes after a five year campaign by PCS against the privatisation plans.In a letter sent to all NCES staff, the department’s chief executive, Natalie Ceeney, acknowledges that staff have been working with “uncertainty and a lack of future direction for some time.”  She goes on to say that instead of out-sourcing, the government has decided that “in-house modernisation is the best option for HMCTS at this time.”

Successful campaigning

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Finally, our years of campaigning have produced the result we fought for. We are delighted for our members who will remain civil servants and have the opportunity to continue to prove how well they do this work, including their success in collecting £550 million in fines and other financial impositions in the last year, though it should not have taken so long for their voices to be heard.

“While PCS welcomes the realisation by HMCTS that a private provider will not meet ‘completely’ their needs and will not provide best value for the tax payer, it is disappointing that our members were put through years of uncertainty, when this is what we were repeatedly telling ministers from the outset. The MoJ squandered in excess of £7 million of taxpayers’ money during the abandoned privatisation process, while PCS maintained that these services should continue to be carried out by public servants and that the proposals were routed in Tory ideology.”‘

Oct 122015
 

Facebook, the social network colossus, paid only £4,327 in corporation tax in 2014. That’s less than the amount paid by a British worker who, on the average salary of £26,500, would be liable for £5,392.80 in income tax and national insurance contributions.

Facebook made a staggering profit of $2.9bn – this is at a time when more than one in three NHS trusts in England have deficits with a combined total of £241m.

It is not only Facebook who is failing to pay its fair share. Starbucks have paid a miserly £8.6m in corporation tax in the 14 years between 1998-2012, despite making more than £3bn in profit during the same period.

Being ripped off by multinationals is all too commonplace. The car maker giant Volkswagen has cheated on its emissions levels, tricking millions of customers into believing they were driving environmentally friendly diesels. The Big Six energy companies have been overcharging us for years. Rail companies’ profits continue to rise but the increased costs in rail travel fail to result in improved services for workers.

But who is responsible for ensuring that multinationals play by the rules? None other than George Osborne. For all his recent rhetoric about clamping down on tax dodging, ensuring multinationals play by the rules and do not rip Britain off, this is the Chancellor who abandoned the 50p tax rate and introduced huge cuts in corporation tax. According to the treasury’s own estimates £20bn has been lost in tax receipts since he took office. Osborne’s cuts to corporation tax – from 28% in 2010 to 23% in 2015 on their own resulted in losses of more than £5bn a year to the country.

The Facebook revelations will now doubt reignite the debate about how much corporation tax companies pay but the time for debate has long since passed – now is the time for action. Instead of ruling for the 1% we need to have a country that looks after the 99%.

Oct 122015
 

As war continues to rage over Syria and thousands are killed, injured, left homeless or forced to flee for their lives, western foreign policy continues to repeat the mistakes of history.

During World War One Britain promised the King of Syria, Emir Faisal that if he assisted in the defeat of the Turks, he could have his own kingdom with its natural boundaries from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey to the Sinai desert in Egypt. Britain and France soon revealed their treachery and at the San Remo conference in1920 Faisal’s newly-created Arab kingdom was split, placing Syria-Lebanon under a French mandate and Palestine under British control.

It is evident that today’s western policy is as flawed as that as back in 1920. The Tory government together with the support of up to 50 Labour MPs will back military intervention in Syria, a move that could bring British forces into direct confrontation with those of Russia.

Cameron will soon ask Parliament for permission to authorise air strikes on Syria, despite no tangible benefit. The rhetoric of “safe havens” is once more being peddled around the bazaars. Cameron insists we would be attacking the Isis, while in fact it is still the policy of the west to remove President Assad and this would remain the underlying strategy.

Western powers have learnt nothing from the past whether it be the duplicity of the 1920s or more recent military interventions. The bombing campaign by western air forces of Libya simply brought misery and chaos, allowing Jihadists to come to the fore and taking the once stable country into anarchy and the dark ages.

Western policy is a shambles and ill thought out. Military action is ineffective and there have been no coherent attempts at diplomacy. The west prefers to support a motley range of Islamic militants in Syria and regal despotic regimes across the wider region, turning a blind eye to human rights. As long as they can sell their arms and have access to oil then nothing else matters.

The only answer to the crisis in the middle-east is a diplomatic one. Negotiations need to take place, beginning with a ceasefire. It has to be recognised by the western powers that however unpalatable, Assad is and has to be part of the solution. The answer has to come from within and the Arab League needs to be at the forefront of any initiative as any solution imposed by the west will simply fail.

Oct 032015
 

The US Air Force has bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. This town fell to Taliban forces last week and heavy fighting continues in its vicinity. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have condemned the US action, reporting that 12 of its staff and seven patients were killed by US bombs: three of the dead were children. A further 19 MSF staff and 18 other people have been seriously injured

The co-ordinates of the hospital, operated by MSF, were made known to all combatants in the country, including US forces. The hospital which continued to operate during the hostilities, was subjected to an hour of bombing, despite messages being sent to US and NATO officials early in the attack.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross’ website, present international humanitarian law of war (IHL) are codified in the Geneva Conventions; they can be traced to the 1864. Various changes and additions have been made subsequently and after the second world war regulations on the protection of civilians were adopted. Some changes were made in 1977 and 2005; these discussed chemical, laser and cluster weapons and land mines, as well as the protection of children.

This body of international law includes legal obligations and humanitarian principles. Some of its key points are that:
captured combatants are entitled to respect for their lives and their moral and physical integrity, and must be protected against all acts of violence and reprisal;
the wounded and sick must be cared for and medical personnel, establishments, transports and equipment must be protected;
parties to the conflict must spare civilian population and property, and civilians are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, and rights.

These laws of wars must be followed by governments, who must make sure they are carried out and ensure that “grave breaches”, which constitute war crimes, do not go unpunished.

We know that the USA tortures captured combatants or allows them to be so, either in their prison camp at Guantanamo or by client states around the world. We now have a clear cut grave breach of international law in this murderous attack on a hospital. The war-criminal culprits must be brought to justice and tried at the Hague.

Oct 012015
 

Schools are in a bad place at the moment. Two of the key reasons for this are budget cuts and a shortage of teachers.

The Coalition government’s policies have meant that funding has already suffered cuts. For example capital funding has been cut back a third in real terms. The Conservatives have said they will maintain school funding in cash terms. However inflation is cutting into the real value of funding and higher Employer National Insurance and pension contributions will add 5% to costs. Schools are already cutting back on staff such as teaching assistants and technicians.

At the same time, rising pupil numbers are putting the whole school system under strain. The government needs to provide more money for the estimated 1 million growth in numbers over the next 10 years. Unfortunately councils are unable to plan properly as all new schools must be free schools and academies which are not under their control and can be set up as and how they like.

Cuts to local authority services are also affecting schools, especially as poverty rises. Absolute child poverty has risen by half a million since 2010. This affects attainment much more than most other factors. Schools are increasingly having to tackle problems such as hungry or homeless children.

The second major problem is a recruitment and retention crisis, caused by attacks on teachers and the failure of the new teacher training scheme. Under the Coalition Government, the real value of teacher pay fell by some 15 per cent and teachers also had to pay higher pension contributions. Unfair performance-related pay has been used to block pay progression for teachers. The government plans to extend the 1 per cent pay cap to 2020.

We now have a growing recruitment and retention crisis as teachers leave the profession and fewer teachers are trained. The Coalition introduced a new school based training path called School Direct, whereby schools recruit their own trainees.This has already damaged university providers of training and some have pulled out of teacher education entirely.

Research by Professor John Howson has led him to conclude that the number of new teachers will be insufficient to make up the shortfall, especially in some key subject areas, which include design technology (57% shortfall) and physics – the Dfe wanted to recruit 1,055 physics teachers this year, but only managed 730. Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, has been forced to admit there is a shortage of maths teachers. Howson says that if this pattern is repeated this year it will ‘lead to a teacher supply crisis of a magnitude not seen since the early 2000s.’ These shortages are leading to a rise in class sizes, a growing use of supply teachers and unqualified teachers, as well as schools dropping some subjects altogether.

The NUT is calling for excessive workload to be tackled, additional funding to cope with rising school numbers and a rise in teachers’ pay to attract trainees and retain the workforce. We don’t have many details yet on Labour’s new education policies, but a good step forward will be the possible commitment to return academies and free schools to local government control.

Any nation that wishes to succeed needs a well educated workforce. It is short sighted in the extreme not to invest in future workers and to lay the foundations of a successful economy.

Links

A Vision For Education

NUT Manifesto Vote For Education – excellent pamphlet

NUT National Lobby of Parliament for Education Funding 18th November form

Sep 182015
 

Alex Salmond’s smug victory speech was never delivered. On the 16th September, just before the anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, its contents were printed in the newspapers.

He would have talked about;
1. shaping the future of One Scottish nation together, where many voices would be heard and the dispossessed would be empowered, a time of equality and the reclamation of democracy;
2. businesses continuing exactly as before and an ancient Scotland being fully engaged in the EU.
3. the new independence as an unbreakable relationship.

Put another way Salmond would have issued platitudes, matched by Thatcher in 1979 with her Prayer of St Francis about love, pardon, hope, and joy, whereas we know this vindictive, hateful woman brought misery and despair for millions of British workers. Then, when telling the truth about his allegiance to capitalism, Salmond followed Blair’s example in his speech of 1997, pledging a partnership with business in a competitive economy and of leadership in the EU while we know in fact that this war-mongering man supported financial interests that bring poverty and death to millions. Do neoliberals have a template for election victory speeches?

The third point would have been that independence is irreversible. Initially it seemed the Scottish nationalists would accept the outcome of last September’s vote for a generation. Yet we know that Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s replacement as leader of the SNP, has taken many opportunities to state conditions under which that party would call a second referendum. She intends to spell these out in the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections next year. According to Alistair Darling, the only point at which the SNP would call such a vote is if they thought it could win independence; a point also made by Salmond.

Many voters felt that the Labour Party was the same as the Tories and so supported calls for independence, voting for the SNP in the general election. A major reason for this was that they hated the austerity that the tartan Tories claimed came solely from Westminster. Now there is opposition to aspects of neoliberal policy in the Labour Party, people are returning to class based politics and the unions are pushing their own political agenda. Why vote for and support the SNP which aims at dividing not only Britain, but the British working class?

For all British workers it is time for us to declare independence from the Scottish, Welsh and English capitalists which are all part of the British ruling class. In pursuit of this, our task next year is to declare independence from the EU.

Sep 142015
 

Corbyn-2The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party is a great opportunity for all those involved in progressive politics. It is an outstanding example of grass roots democracy, attracting young and old alike and demonstrating what can be built in a short time if people are inspired to take part. The extent of the victory, the manner of its accomplishment and the content and vision of the campaign are a big blow to neoliberalism.

The size of the victory is important. There was a 60% majority in the first ballot but also majorities in all voting sections. Also significant was the election of Sadiq Khan as the Labour Party candidate for London mayor and of Tom Watson as Labour’s deputy leader, both of whom received the support of the Trades Unions. It turned out that it was the Trade Unions who were in touch with the public mood and not the pundits or the Blairite prophets of doom.

The manner in which the victory was achieved showed that personal contact with the voters was key, with 35 hustings and 99 mass meetings all packed. Participation has characterized the Corbyn campaign as well as the use of Facebook and other social media, particularly among the young. The reactionary media was rendered useless.

The result is an indication of the change that has come over the British people. The Tories may be in power, but only a minority voted for them. The SNP and UKIP are dangerous parties that threaten the unity of Britain, but their populist programmes attracted millions of voters who saw were caught between a rock and a hard place.

British people are interested in politics, but are deeply cynical about politicians offering more of the same. Many, many Britons are sick of the status quo, the established Westminster parties, who only offer austerity, cronyism and fear. Hope, aspiration and security are denied to the majority of British people, as the rich get richer whilst the majority fall behind, or by the wayside.

Tories, Blairites and the like assume that it is neither possible nor desirable to challenge the dominance of either finance capital or NATO’s imperialism. All that is achievable in their version of democracy, is toned down Tory rhetoric. It is telling that calling for peace, jobs and less inequality was seen by Corbyn’s opponents as radical, old fashioned and unachievable.

Everyone wishes to have secure jobs, decent healthcare, an affordable home and a pension that keeps them out of poverty. At a time when millions of our people are crushed by unaffordable rents and lack of council housing, when social cleansing in London to benefit the rentiers and speculators is rife and the construction industry is in recession, reactionaries claim that a real plan for housing is obsolete old policy. This victory now opens up all these issues and more to real debate among the people, especially about the role of finance capital and the need for real jobs. The real nature of ‘austerity’ will be examined in detail, exposing the government policy of robbing the poor to give to the rich.

Britons want to live in peace in the world, free from the fear of terrorism and conflict. The establishment created the migrant problem, but now they blame the migrants. Their answer is to bomb Syria, as if that will solve the problem. A demand to end the war on Syria and defeat ISIS and Al-Nustra through a regional conference which includes the Syrian government, Russia, Iran and China and all the regional countries is not seen as an essential strategy to help refugees fleeing into Europe. To the reactionaries it would be a dangerous foreign policy step as it does not defer to the US, Israel and Saudi-Arabia.

Corbyn-1The election of Jeremy Corbyn will not solve all the issues but it is a start. It will enable a renewed movement to be built, to attract the disillusioned, first time voters, young, old, trade unionists, workers, women and men. We need to mobilise, to challenge austerity and the European Union and to build a free, independent and prosperous Britain. Opposition to the EU will be a test of the people’s opposition to austerity. 

The battle to win the British people to a new progressive vision for which they are willing to vote and fight for is far from won but this victory shows such a prize is achievable.A light has been lit.

Sep 032015
 

No one can be left unmoved by the sight of the body bags being filled on the beaches of the Mediterranean, children suffocating in the backs of lorries, humans desperate to reach the promised land of Europe, where there is peace, safety and democracy.

Even if the streets are not paved in gold, at least you are not being shot at, your village or town bombed, your head removed or your antiquities destroyed. The Home Secretary Theresa May has claimed that the migrant crisis had been “exacerbated by the European system of no borders”. May is always trying to divert attention from the failings of the government and refuses to acknowledge that it is her administration, and that of previous governments, that have created today’s migrant crisis.

The neo imperialism of Britain, the EU and the USA has created today’s human tragedies. They have sought to control the Middle East, attempting to guarantee cheap oil, arming and supporting despotic regimes across the region, undertaking regime change when it suited, all leading to the situation today.

This is not to excuse the murdering fundamentalists, or to place Saddam or Gaddafi on some sort of pedestal but we do need to acknowledge that our foreign policy has contributed to the turmoil in the region and without changes in diplomacy then chaos will persist for generations.

The concept of open borders and free movement of labour do need to be abandoned. But to try and claim that these concepts are the root cause of the refugee problem demonstrates a lack of thought and honesty. We require real change in our foreign policy, with political, not military solutions, as well as an exit from the EU and a recognition that human life is priceless.

 

Aug 312015
 

If Jeremy Corbyn is Alice in Wonderland then Tony Blair would surely be the Queen of Hearts in the pantomime, insanely ordering executions whenever it takes her fancy or when anyone has the temerity to disagree with her.

Blair claims that Corbyn’s supporters are operating in a “parallel reality” rejecting evidence and reason, but the stench of hypocrisy is rife. This is the same person that fails to recognise that his lies to the British people, and his illegal war in Iraq have contributed to the turmoil which has spread across the Middle East and beyond.

Blair has admitted that he does not “fully understand” the support that Corbyn is receiving and arrogantly insists that if his views are dismissed then people are making a tragic mistake. Evidently Blair cannot simply comprehend that his New Labour project, based on the new liberalist ideology of privatisation, imperialism and sycophancy, dripping with the blood of many thousands of innocents across the world, has been rejected by great swathes of the British people.

Cameron may have been elected but only by a minority of the population. Britain is sick of austerity, sick of war, sick of the EU; that is why many are flocking to Corbyn, looking for something new. Jeremy Corbyn may not have all the answers but he does have the willingness to debate, explore ideas and provide an alternative to the narrow reactionary agenda of Cameron and his neoliberalist adherents.

The King in Alice of Wonderland, pardoned many of the victims of the Queen. Let’s hope the war criminal Blair does not get off so lightly.

 

Aug 312015
 

The Tories have long claimed that austerity impacts on us all on a fair and equitable basis. Osborne and Cameron believe that the wealthy pay their fair share of tax and contribute to society because of the value they bring. However, scanning through the High Pay Centre’s briefing on executive pay, “The State of Pay”, demonstrates that we are not all in it together and that executives are reaping far higher rewards than they deserve or that of the workers they employ.

The report established that the average pay for a FTSE 100 CEO rose to £4.964 million in 2014, an increase from £4.923 million in 2013. Furthermore the average pay ratio between FTSE 100 CEOs and the average wage of their employees was 148:1. In 2013, the ratio was 146:1. The ratio of FTSE 100 CEO pay to the median full-time worker across the whole UK economy was 183:1 in 2014, up from 182:1 in 2013 and 160:1 in 2010. In contrast only 25% of the 100 FTSE 100 companies are accredited by the Living Wage Foundation for paying the living wage to all employees.

The High Pay Centre concluded that pay increases over the past two decades have not been complemented by increases in company performance. Whilst the government imposes performance pay on public servants and the private sector is wedded to the same ideology, the rationale does not apply to those at the top of the pay league.

Public sector workers are capped at 1% and will not see any increase in their standard of living regardless of the efforts they put in through their work. Inequality, exploitation and low pay will continue. Britain doesn’t just need a pay rise – it requires a complete overhaul of its class relations, which only workers can do.

Aug 172015
 

Three useful pamphlets which should be required reading and can be used as ammunition against attacks on workers.

Workers Say No issued by Trade Unions Against the EU (TUAEU) – outlines why workers should vote NO at the referendum and debunks myths about the EU.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – by John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, shows how TTIP is a charter for deregulation, an attack on jobs and an end to democracy.

Union Advantage contains useful facts about why workers should belong to a union – and these could be used in leaflets and petitions about the government attack on unions.

Aug 152015
 

The increasingly hysterical pronouncements by Blair and his supporters about the ‘non-electability’ of the Labour Party if Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader, shows that their real worry is the threat to their cosy relationship with the Tories. Many in the press have also been shaken from their complacent belief that neoliberal thinking cannot be changed in Britain.join-the-team2

‘Experts’ in the political thinking of the British people, who have been so certain about what will happen in the 2020 elections in are completely surprised and aghast that about 400,000 people have joined the Labour Party in the last few months, particularly since Corbyn entered the leadership contest. This influx has trebled the membership. Those who moaned about the political apathy of the young are now appalled that enthusiastic young people have responded positively to a candidate who proposes, with conviction and clarity, measures which will improve their lives and prospects.

images6That they are joined by many from other age groups, also alarms the neoliberals. Having talked vaguely about staying in the centre of the political spectrum, they are now having to expose their actual policies and values, undermining further the neoliberal consensus. On getting rid of Trident for example they deem it sufficient to say that it is ‘impossible in the age of ISIS’!

Using insults to cover a lack of argument, Jack Straw attacked the proposal for ‘a quantitative easing for the people’ (ie investment in infrastructure and public services) as ‘economic illiteracy’. Showing his own ignorance, Straw compared the policy to the disastrous inflation during the Weimar Republic. At that time money was printed by the banks without accompanying it with a policy of state investment. As Marx showed, to preserve value, the amount of money printed has to reflect the active economic assets in an economy. Employment, training and investment are therefore key, which requires state intervention in our time of speculative, parasitic capitalism.images4

However, according to Straw, quantitative easing for the banks is ok because that is ‘restoring bank balances’. So now we know, giving free money to banks to cover their losses on wild speculation is fine with New Labour. The speculators can now be even more reckless in the knowledge that they cannot lose, as the Conservatives or New Labour will be there to pass the burden to the people and in particular the young

A youth that acts for its future is a great sign for Britain. Young people must be encouraged to join trades unions too. We can rid Britain of its parasites, Tories or Blairites. The struggle will have many twists and turns but the will to change and seize opportunities, especially by the young, is a great hope for our future.

Aug 082015
 

The Labour Party is in greater disarray than ever, since its disastrous general election result. Quite apart from the corruption endemic in parliament, as exemplified by the Lord Sewel case, the Labour Party wheels out its own collection of corrupt grandees such as Blair, Mandelson and Straw, to bolster the Blairite faction and bad-mouth other factions, most notably the one led by Corbyn.

All thoughts of opposing government are forgotten while Labour goes into a trance about which personality should lead the party. Parliamentary parties excel at putting on side-shows to entertain the public. In the meantime, this government’s destruction of the state and public services continues.

Workers in trade unions have the capacity to bring about progressive change, irrespective of who leads the Labour Party. Since the 1945 government no Labour leader has had the right to speak on behalf of the working class. By its actions we should have no doubt that Labour has no intention of managing capitalism in the interests of the working class – quite the opposite; they despise us. We are the majority and create all wealth. Our class is 99% of the population and no party in parliament represents our interests.

The Labour Party itself perpetuates the illusion that it is simply a matter of arguments between ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ factions which magically transform the party and ultimately bring about socialism without the working class having to lift a finger. Leftists in the Labour Party are really talking about changing the party, not about transforming society. Labour has always played its part in the destruction of wages over the years through wage restraint, privatisation and now austerity. It is only trade unions that fought against them. Both parties stand for the private ownership of land, means of production and utilities, resources and industries. Both agree that there can be no alternative to a market economy.

It is only when our class decides to take state power over the economy, under a new constitution of our making, that socialism may be achieved. Whatever the outcome of Labour’s leadership election it will not alter the fact that Labour is a party of capitalism. The Labour Party will continue its internal battles, and socialism through Labour will remain what it has always been, a dream. Real politics is conducted where we work. First, we need to settle matters between ourselves and our employers. It is only then that we can start to build socialism.

Click for an in-depth analysis of the Labour Party.

Aug 042015
 

Further Education has always been the Cinderella within the education sector, but now there will be no fairytale ending if the government has its way.

£770m of adult skills funding in 2015-16 is be set aside for apprenticeships. This means that the bulk of the overall 11% cut to the Adult Skills Budget will fall on non-apprenticeship provision. The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has estimated that this could amount to cuts of up to 24% for non-apprenticeship learning in 2015-16.

The outcry would be enormous if the same cut was applied to schools or universities. Yet cuts to a sector which provides key workers in the economy and helps those who need to develop skills goes almost unnoticed by those who aren’t lecturers or students.

Professor Alison Wolf, author of the Wolf review of vocational education, and a report backed by the Gatsby Foundation has said that we should be very alarmed. The sector that provides the bulk of the UK’s post-secondary training faces possible collapse and the loss of a valuable source of technicians and mechanics.

“It damages and affects the nature of the industrial structure of this country. If you create a system in which vocational training can’t be funded, that is going to have a knock-on effect on which parts of the economy flourish and which don’t.”

Hardest hit are likely to be small companies in manufacturing areas such as the West Midlands, which will be unable to compete with larger companies that can fund their own in-house training.

The attack has recently gone further. The SFA has now announced the complete withdrawal of funding for Esol Plus Mandation funding (English for speakers of other languages). Forty-seven colleges in England offered the course in 2014-15 helping around 16,000 learners and helped to provide a useful route into work, especially for women.

But the Times Educational Supplement has found out that despite the funding being removed, colleges will still have a duty to provide the courses out of their general adult skills allocation. Given the cuts already being made colleges have said they will not be able to meet demand. This will especially hit ethnic minority learners and almost certainly cause redundancies.

There have been petitions about the funding of FE, but all the stakeholders – colleges, students and industry – need to be taking stronger action to prevent the destruction of our skills base.

Click to see our Vision for Education

 

Jul 172015
 

A budget for hard-working families from a Tory government that is now the party of the working class; that was how Osborne described his budget. This is a budget that does nothing to discourage private debt, which far outstrips public debt; in fact it encourages it. It is not a budget for industrial investment and development. It is a budget to fuel another boom in consumption at a time when Britain imports far more than it exports – in the region of £1 billion a day. It is a budget for the 1%; the bankers, hedge fund managers and other assorted spivs of finance.

A derisory 1% wage increase for public sector workers means continued cuts to wages for the next 4 years. Limiting tax credits and universal credits to two children is another piece of cynicism and social engineering from the party of ‘small government’. Osborne’s much vaunted compulsory national living wage is nothing of the sort. It will not compensate for the massive cuts to tax credits. A couple in low paid work with 2 children will not get any extra child tax credit after 2017. If they were each on £9.35 an hour the credit changes would make them £850 a year worse off.

Youngsters on low incomes will no longer get a maintenance grant if they go to university after 2016/17. The Resolution Foundation says the cuts to universal credit and other changes will lower the number of hours it is worth working, from 16 hours a week to 7. The Tory version of the ‘living wage’ disguises what is really happening to the poor. The ‘new living wage’ only applies to the over 25s. This government wears its attacks on the young and vulnerable as a badge of honour. Welfare cuts are expected to raise £35bn. £8bn of cuts will come from other areas, including funding for the BBC. Pension contributions from public sector workers are expected to rise. Over the next 2 years there will be deeper cuts in welfare, more tax rises and more borrowing.

Osborne is trying to outdo Thatcher’s £21bn sell-offs in 1987 by raising £31bn this year through privatisations such as the piecemeal sell-off of RBS, Lloyds Banking Group shares, Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley assets, the remaining 14% of Royal Mail, prime land in North London, the student loan book and a third share in nuclear fuel company Urenco.

Despite Osborne’s self-congratulatory budget, the British economy is structurally very weak and dangerously unbalanced. Another global financial crisis will wreak havoc and it would be the working class that would suffer the most – again.

Jul 132015
 

Durham_11aThose celebrating the Durham Miners’ Gala this year will have experienced an uplift to their spirit and morale. Over 120,000 trades unionists and their families, representing up to four generations, marched through Durham full of optimism, good humour and determination to build a Britain with a future for workers.

Beautiful banners from many unions, and particularly from numerous lodges of the National Union of Mineworkers, were on display. The marching was done to the rhythm of over 50 brass bands playing the traditional music of workers, expressing the optimism and fight of those present. Marchers were joined by representatives from Cuba and Venezuela.

Not for them the ‘no option but subservience to the bankers and their aspirations’. Instead their vision of a productive society for the common good is becoming the aim of workers everywhere. The speakers reflected this outlook with passion and spirit. Jeremy Corbyn, the only Labour Party Leadership candidate to speak, rejected ‘austerity–lite and New Labour. The General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, quoted a Spanish fireman, who was sent to break the door into the flat of a pensioner who had fallen behind on the rent and was about to be thrown out, so the banks could re-possess the flat. He refused saying: ‘We save people not banks’.

Durham_1aASLEF president Tosh McDonald denounced the closure of British pits using the excuse of ‘green policy’, pointing out that 50,000 tons of coal are being imported to increase profits for the now foreign utilities.

Most importantly for the coming battles Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UNITE, announced the decision of their union ‘rules revision’ conference to delete from their rule book the words engage in ‘only lawful’ industrial action. This change has been made in anticipation of the declared intention of the Tories to make lawful industrial action close to impossible.

Nazis were condemned for carrying out orders that were legal under the Nazi regime. Trades unionists are now saying clearly we will not cooperate with immoral undemocratic laws, which deprive us of our hard won rights.

Jul 122015
 

The Greek Referendum on July 5th failed to change anything. Voting both Yes and No meant accepting the dictate of the Troika (EC/IMF/ECB), meaning the referendum was a complete waste of time. It raised the expectations of the Greek people but did not provide the mechanism to deliver for the nation.

Alexis Tsipras at a recent rally cried, “I call on you to say a big ‘no’ to ultimatums, ‘no’ to blackmail, turn your back on those who would terrorise you.” This could not have been further from the truth, as a rejection in the referendum did not give the independence the Greeks require to build their own economy, which can only be accomplished outside the constraints of the European Union.

The referendum did not allow the Greek people to turn their backs on the EU, nor did it provide the means for the Greek workers to build their own future. All it offered was the same medicine, although possibly in different doses. The referendum will be treated with the same contempt by politicians and the EU as all other referenda – keep voting until you vote the way we require. The voice of the Greek people will never be heard in the corridors of EU.

The working class of Greece have shown courage and fortitude in voting against the austerity programme tabled by unelected EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. His proposals call for the privatisation of ports, ferries, electricity transmission, regional airports and most other state assets including, ultimately, the public-sector railway system. This is not about building the economy of Greece for the Greek people but the wholesale sell-off of the assets of Greece on the ideological mantra on neoliberalism, stripping the nation of its ability to prosper, to control its future and to build prosperity.

The Greek people have to say OXI, not only to austerity but to the European Union and take their destiny in their own hands, building an independent nation for all Greeks.

Jul 112015
 

The Tory government, free from the shackles of coalition are hell bent on attacking the values and work of civil servants. In his recent speech “Making the civil service work for modern Britain”, http://www.civilserviceworld.com/articles/briefing/full-matt-hancock-speech-civil-service-reform, Matt Hancock, the recently appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office, firmly set his sights on a further round of attacks on the values and employees of the civil service.

Using the camouflage of “reform and improvement” he candidly stated that the Tory government are seeking a further £15-20B worth of savings over the lifetime of the next parliament. He went on to say, “This can only be achieved if we change the way we work.” In other words further privatisation, job cuts and performance related pay.

The ethos of the civil service is being destroyed before our very eyes. Private not public is the order of the day and if it has to be publicly retained, then setting up quasi-markets which pit workers against each other, is the alternative. The prevailing ideology is that there are the only ways that public servants can be trusted to deliver.

The reforms have nothing to do with value for money or improving public services; it is about a few getting rich whilst those working in or requiring public services are made to suffer.

As a class we have to refute these arguments, and fight for our services like never before. Not by simply using the ultra-leftist clarion call of a general strike but rather through engagement at a local, regional and national level, forming alliances between workers and users to defeat this reactionary ideology and government.

Jul 052015
 

The new Tory government did not waste any time in introducing plans for new anti-democratic legislation aimed at undermining the right by workers to take industrial action. They will enact legislation that will require a threshold of a 50% turnout and be backed by at least 40% of those eligible to vote.

This would have the consequence of making “legal” strikes virtually impossible. For example the Royal College of Midwives ballot on action over pay was 82%-18% in favour of strike action on a 49% turnout, which would be illegal under the new rules. But if 1000 more RCM members had voted AGAINST strike action, then this would have taken the figure over the 50% threshold and so would have passed the test – absurd or what?

However the new rules will not apply to everyone. Consider the following;

  • 274 Tory MPs failed to win 40% of their electorates in the recent election,
  • Boris Johnson failed to win 40% of support in his London Mayoral election,
  • Sajid Javid, the minister responsible for this legislation, only achieved 36% of eligible votes in his Bromsgrove constituency,
  • Winston Churchill failed to achieve 40% and as a result he would not have been the wartime Prime Minister,
  • Half of the Cabinet would not have been elected as they failed the 40% threshold,
  • The Tory party as a whole secured less than 37% of the vote and only 24% of the whole electorate.

As trade unionists we need to resist and ignore the anti-democratic legislation. The battles of yesteryear were won not because the law was on the workers side, but despite of it.

The law is an ass and so it needs to be firmly kicked in it.

Jul 042015
 

Grrek Protest 3aThe ultimatum to the Greek government by the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF) shows their intent to impose dictatorship and suppress dissent.

Those in support of the Troika include the leaders of governments who had previously accepted Troika conditions, regardless of their national interests. Government leaders in Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal now feel exposed in their betrayal, and fear growing internal dissent.

Most experts agree that the Troika proposals make no economic sense and would deepen recession and increase the debt and deficit, but the Troika cannot be seen to yield. They even hint that if Greeks vote yes to their proposals they would amend them. The reality for the Greek people is that the Troika caused their problems.

Bailout Money Goes to German and French Banks

Grrek Protest 1Ninety percent of the bailout money ‘received ‘ by the Greek government has mainly gone to German and French banks and only 10% was used for the Greek people. The debt that did exist in Greece was mainly in the private sector.

The ‘help’ from the EU was to ‘persuade’ the Greek government to take on that debt, which was then sold to the German and French banks as bonds. This way, the bankers, with the help of the Troika, could transfer the debt burden to the Greek state and ordinary citizens. With this leverage they could then apply the well-tried, neoliberal strategy of forcing privatisation, reducing pay, pensions and public services.

This strategy has been widely applied in Africa, Asia and Latin America and was now to be introduced in Europe. To ensure control the Troika had to get Greece into the Eurozone and therefore an elaborate accountancy fraud was required to show that Greece met the ‘Maastricht’ criteria.

Goldman Sachs was hired to produce the false report. Unfortunately for them the Papandreou government exposed the figures as shown below:

 Public Debt as % GDPDeficit as % GDP
True Figures11312
False Figures 13 3

Papandreou also called for a plebiscite but the Troika organised his removal and replacement in 2011 by the right wing Samaras government.

Debt in Greece increased as the government borrowed at lower interest in the Eurozone to finance the Athens Olympics. The 2008 crisis caused by the US, UK and EU banks made the situation worse by increasing the debt and the leverage and demands of the Troika under the name of ‘austerity’.

Syriza was thus elected on its rejection of austerity while staying in the Eurozone. This position is economically contradictory but allowed politically (it is actually very difficult to expel a Eurozone member). Their stance that austerity is bad for the whole of Europe is correct, but their belief that the Troika could be persuaded into rationality by economic logic is at best naïve.

A former IMF official Ashoka Mody has shown that at least 50% of Greek Greek Protest 6debt must be cancelled and repayments extended over 40 years to allow economic growth and repayment. The problem is not economic but political. The Troika is vulnerable and brittle, its power is being challenged and it sees suppression of dissent as paramount.

Freedom and dignity are at stake for the Greek people and to gain it they must vote NO this Sunday. They deserve solidarity from people throughout the world. For Britons the lesson is clear – we must vote NO to remaining in the EU.

Jul 022015
 

Press Release from National Union of Mineworkers:

The devastating decision announced yesterday that Hatfield Colliery is to cease production with immediate effect is a direct result of the Government’s actions to double the Carbon Floor Price (Carbon Tax) from 1 April 2015. This calculated decision resulted in the Coal Generators stockpiling coal prior to the increase with the inevitable result that there is no market for coal produced by Hatfield Colliery.

The NUM has campaigned for investment in Carbon Capture and Storage as a means to de-carbonise electricity generated from coal ensuring a market for British mined coal and safeguarding coal mining jobs in the UK. This technology will now inevitably be developed for gas power stations if the UK is to meet its 2050 carbon reduction target of 80%.

The NUM is for a balanced energy policy the Government is not. The levels of subsidy to other forms of energy grossly distort the market. Compare the level of subsidy with Wind not to mention Nuclear. The cost to the British Tax Payer is £billions. The next question is who stands to gain from such a deliberately distorted market?

The Deep Mined Coal industry in the UK has been under a sustained and relentless attack for years, if given a level playing field the industry would have been able to continue to provide meaningful quality jobs and play its part in a balanced energy policy to ensure a secure and affordable supply of electricity in the future.

The NUM has continually voiced concern that a short term view of energy will result in the Government being responsible for failing to ensure that the UK has a secure and affordable supply of energy.

Coal will need to be burned for many years to come and the question is once we lose the ability to mine our own coal what price will be paid and by who?

The first people to pay the price are the hard working miners’ at Britain’s coal mines the fact that a skilled and diligent workforce are discarded so easily clearly demonstrates the contempt in which the Government has for the coal industry.

The NUM will continue to do it’s best to represent members at Hatfield as it always has and will continue to press for a balanced energy policy that includes coal produced in Britain.

Links: http://www.theworker.org.uk/index_htm_files/A%20Vision%20for%20Energy.pdf and our pamphlet http://www.theworker.org.uk/party%20-%20energy%20and%20power%20-%20a%20future%20for%20britain.htm

Jul 022015
 

The success of the marches against Austerity that took place in London and Glasgow could be measured in the number of people who took part in them. In London it was not only trades unionists represented, nor the usual suspects from various leftist groups, but also a wide cross-section of young and old involved in activist organisations who are finding common cause with unionised workers.

The Labour Party was notable for its absence. It took the likes of Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Church to address some salient facts such as: “It wasn’t people on job seekers’ allowance who brought down the banks. It wasn’t nurses and teachers who were recklessly gambling on international markets,” yet it is they and poorer workers whose rights and benefits are being slashed. The disabled are being terrorised by existing regulations and those to come. Labour, meanwhile, was referred to as “cowering in unlit corners;” more concerned about their next leader than any constructive opposition.

Trade union leaders gave their usual well rehearsed speeches and some, like others, called for civil disobedience. Calls for General Strikes are a reflex action among some of our class. Meanwhile, Osborne’s budget on 8th July will herald a new attack on workers. Tax credits and housing benefits are likely to be the most affected.

The government has its own agenda well mapped out. We, in comparison, have not. We can shout all we like about solidarity and action, but without a thorough-going debate within our unions as to the next steps to turn inertia into defence and then to attack, we will always be the victim and not the victor. Trade unions have an opportunity to build resistance but our organisations are becoming weaker. If our unions are not opposed to the EU then how can we have the will to win? Let us not condemn ourselves to fighting old battles, thinking no further than the election of a discredited Labour Party. How many more times do we repeat the past?

Jun 182015
 

……. when there’s a profit to be made and accountability is destroyed. The eventual conclusion of the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the US and EU will accelerate the privatisation of public services.

Discredited multinational corporations such as Capita relish the prospect of making millions or billions out of acquiring contracts to deliver services previously provided by workers employed directly by the local authorities. Tories say they are saving public money, but there is very little evidence of this, especially when these large multinationals are in the business of making profit out of public money. Companies like this will charge premium amounts for every tiny detail of provision.

Tory controlled Barnet is leading the charge to destroy local public services. They reduced the staff from 3,200 to 332. Northamptonshire is pursuing a similar course. Those of us unfortunate enough to live in Tory controlled areas can expect more of the same if there is no effective opposition.

In Barnet Capita were given the contract to run local services for the next ten years ,denying Barnet residents the opportunity to complain. Capita now maintain that information about public services is ‘commercially sensitive’. So much for government’s ‘localism’ – so much for local democracy.

Jun 172015
 

Orgreave 1The decision by the Independent Police Commission (IPC) not to investigate police actions at Orgreave Coal Depot during the miners’ strike in 1984 came as no surprise to miners’ families, trades unionists and many others among the public.

A police force gathered from all over the country was used as an army to defeat the striking NUM miners throughout the strike instead of acting as a neutral force keeping order. At Orgreave it was used to physically attack miners and provoke disorder to aid the government.

One of the arguments used by the IPC is the fact that none of the hundreds of arrested miners were convicted by the courts. The police evidence was found to be highly suspect. The IPC therefore states that there was no ‘loss’ suffered by any miner. They also use the length of time which has elapsed since then as a reason to reject an enquiry. But of course the IPC could have investigated the matter before, as there have been many complaints by miners on the issue.

Orgreave 3Films and photographic exhibitions are showing the truth throughout the country. Trades Union Councils and others must ensure these are shown in their communities as part of the campaign to force the government into a public enquiry.

The IPC argument that no ‘loss’ was suffered by any miner is a clear message to all workers not to defend your industry against attacks from the state.
Jun 092015
 

The systematic dismantling of final salary pension schemes was planned by the Roundtable of Industrialists who put pressure on the European Union to lead the charge throughout the continent. The EU started as the European Steel and Coal Community with the plan of running down steel and coal production in most European countries. This led to the demise and privatisation of British Steel. Now one of the largely foreign owned remaining steel companies, Tata, has threatened the final salary pension scheme of steel workers. The unions have responded by a successful vote for strike action.

Tata _steel

Unions announce Tata Steel strike date

On 8 June 2015 steel unions agreed Monday 22 June as the date for strike action at Tata Steel in their ongoing pensions dispute.  The strike action will be preceded by action short of a strike involving an overtime ban and a work to rule. This will begin as soon as legally practical around the middle of next week. Unions must give seven days’ notice of any industrial action.

Roy Rickhuss, Chair of the National Trade Union Steel Co-ordinating Committee, and General Secretary of the Community trade union, said: “Tata have given us no option but to take industrial action. The company has not shown any willingness to return to meaningful negotiations to find an end to this dispute. Our members are determined to stand up for their pensions. They delivered a massive vote in favour of industrial action, so that is what will happen. An overtime ban and work-to-rule will cause massive disruption to Tata’s operations and severely limit production. The company could avoid this by returning to the table. But in the meantime all the unions will also be making preparations for a national day of strike action on 22 June.”

Paul Reuter, National Officer at Unite, said: “We are still open to talks if Tata are prepared for meaningful discussions. We have offered Tata the savings it says it needs. But the company wants to close the scheme altogether. This is not acceptable to workers, which is why industrial action will start next week.”

Dave Hulse, GMB National Officer, said: “It’s time Tata got back round the table and looked for a way to resolve this dispute. Our members are ready for industrial action and the company should heed the message that their workforce is delivering.” Nick Blundell, Regional Secretary for UCATT said: “Tata should listen to its workforce and recognise that to resolve this dispute it needs to get back round the table with the unions for meaningful discussions. Industrial action is a last resort for any union but Tata has given us no choice.”

Jun 032015
 

The government is moving fast on all fronts to attack democratic processes. It has been announced that a new Bill will be put before Parliament to force all schools rated inadequate by Ofsted to become academies. The government is quite open about its intent to remove accountability and consultation by law.

The Government says that the Education and Adoption Bill will seek to “remove bureaucratic and legal loopholes” that slow up the process of turning failing schools into academies. They have in fact admitted they are fed up with schools, unions and parents contesting the process, saying that campaigners do this for ideological reasons. Their agenda is of course completely ideological and in no way has the interests of children at its heart. The requirement for potential academy sponsors to consult with the local community would be scrapped.

This is everything to do with centralisation and privatisation and nothing to do with improving schools.  The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan wouldn’t give a number for academies which are currently failing, but the process of handing over schools to private sponsors in no way guarantees improvement and nor does changing headteachers, which is also suggested.

NAHT leader Russell Hobby summarises the issue accurately when he says that government had once again resorted to“sanctions and threats when our education system desperately needs investment and support”.

“Parents who have campaigned against the opaque and centralised process of academisation will be dismayed to see themselves dismissed as obstacles to be eliminated.”

Unions, parents and schools will need to work together and demand the return of local accountability and control via Local Authorities.

Jun 032015
 

In the recent Spanish regional and municipal elections the anti-austerity party Podemos, as polls predicted, came third in terms of votes on 24th May. They hold the balance of power in several towns and cities.

There has been an upsurge in activity of the working class in the countries of southern Europe since the 2008 economic crash. In Spain this was manifested in mass demonstration, neighbourhood activity against evictions and the formation of a movement against the effects of finance capital and government corruption, known as the Indignant movement. Out of this Podemos (translation “we can”) came into being last January; it has emerged as an electoral force.

In Madrid and Barcelona anti-austerity candidates could be forming administrations. In Madrid the question is whether to work with the Socialist PSOE and at present talks are under way. However the leadership of the PSOE have said that they would not involve themselves in radicalism and will remain a social democratic party. Even so certain local socialist politicians have broken ranks with their leaders; such is the case in Granada where Podemos and the PSOE are working together on proposals for local administrations to break links with any Banks which are responsible for evicting citizens from their homes. In Barcelona, Catalan nationalists have expressed fears that the anti-austerity victory aims a blow at their independence plans.

Meanwhile the right-wing People’s Party PP, which lost votes and seats heavily in the elections has refused to criticise itself over these losses. It has stated that there is a communication problem between the party and the electorate; this is taken to imply criticism of the Spanish people. A letter allegedly from a Civil Guard police colonel has been exposed by the communist United Left IU which indicates intentions on the part of extreme right wingers to disregard a vote for any Podemos/Communist government and to take action against such a regime, even armed insurrection.

Difficult times are ahead for Spaniards and for working-class parties there. Podemos has to decide whether to be an anti-austerity protest vote, modify its radicalism or continue its resistance to the effects of neoliberalism by working and struggling alongside unions and community organisations. Round the country Podemos is talking of the need to avoid trade offs and calling for a discussions between parties and in government to be made public.

May 302015
 

It’s been a strange time since the election. As one would expect there has been general outrage from many and some floundering around while people get to grips with the massive implications of electing a Tory government. The Queen’s speech has launched a huge and swift attack on workers and our unions, though we can’t say we weren’t warned. Meanwhile the media focus is on Fifa, as if corruption in football was more important than the destruction of welfare and unions.

The Labour party continues to self destruct and distance itself from those it should represent, while putting up Blairites as prospective leaders and supporting welfare cuts. Do they want to represent the 1% or the 99%? All workers have aspirations and it is an insult to say otherwise – playing into the Tory myth of strivers and skivers.

However, the RMT presses ahead with strike action, we are standing on the verge of the first national steel strike for 30 years by Tata workers and housing activists continue to do good work. But while employers may be damaged, the government will use strike action to divide workers and claim it proves the need for legislation against trade union ‘barons’.

There is an understanding that discussing the way forward is of vital and urgent importance. It is not an option to wait for 5 years. But where to go?

Fighting anti-TU laws will not be easy – nor will legislation be halted by demonstrations. Alternative types of disruptive action may have to be developed by workers. An essential part will be basic union rebuilding work – recruitment and discussions with workers in their workplaces about the key issues that affect them.

Working with other organisations will also be essential – workers and users of services together can be powerful.

It is ever more essential that we base our struggles around our own agenda – what we want for the future – OUR aspirations. This idea has been gradually adopted in some areas, but needs to be more widely discussed. The need for a constitution which enshrines the rights and responsibilities of workers can be set directly against the neoliberal, individualist agenda.

We must remember that there are and will be serious divisions in the capitalist class – Europe being a major area of discord. Since the industrial revolution capitalism has feared organised labour. Fear of labour has driven our history and brought us our biggest gains, such as the welfare state. We need to remember that history and act on it.

May 092015
 

Democracy means the power of the people.

The political system in Britain does not reflect the power of the people.

Elected representatives are drawn from political parties presenting their manifestos to a geographically based electorate largely via an all pervasive media machine.

Democracy is confined to the issue of what promises politicians will keep if their party is first past the post and able to implement its policies.

Opposition in Parliament is mainly limited to opposing everything the party opposite does.

About one in four of the voters voted for the Tories.

Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act they can now dominate for four or five years until they decide to leave, not when the people have had enough of them.

A new authoritarianism has therefore crept into democracy – the media pundits confine the debate, the politicians promise the earth, and Parliament enshrines the victor without regard for the majority who did not vote for them.

Britain’s politics and economy are dominated in an extraordinarily undemocratic way by the finance capitalists. They call the shots in a new way and the effect of their actions easily outmanoeuvre parliaments. The combined private wealth of the richest capitalists in Britain far outweighs the revenue raised by governments in taxes. Since the election results, shares have rocketed and the bosses have rubbed their hands in glee.

In addition, membership of the European Union puts unelected EU Commissioners in charge of key and fundamental areas of life and coupled with a slavish special relationship with the United States, means that Britain’s economy, much of which, including basic utilities, is owned by overseas capital, and our foreign policy can all too quickly coat tail the United States.

Add to this plans by the EU and the US to put the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in place to give the giant corporations control over sovereign nations, and a new and frightening picture of rule by diktat is emerging.

The response of some is to disunite the nation of England and Scotland and Wales and turn them into competing regions. The reality is that all parts of Britain require an integrated plan of growth and development, a plan for rebuilding and removing the power of the 1% and dedicating the wealth of the nation to the good of the majority of the public who form the nation.

The lying liberals have gone. The ruthless Tories saw them off and repaid them with the customary knife. Labour, so keen to distance itself from the trade unions and to propose more if slower, austerity, paid a very costly price.

To restore democracy and engagement in government we need an independent Britain. Separatist plans for Scotland play perfectly into the hands of the EU and finance capital. We have had a hint at this already with the English Tory bruisers saying that financial autonomy for Scotland might be the best way of sorting them out. This would save the Exchequer some £8 billion a year and fit perfectly with the cuts agenda. It would also enable the Tories to get on with the boundary changes they want, to make it impossible under the existing system for any other party to govern – their vision of a thousand year Reich.

The neoliberal agenda of slash and burn will now gather pace.

Organised labour in the trade unions will be targeted unmercifully. Who knows what new laws or actions could be unleashed against trade unions as the main obstacle to the neoliberal onslaught.

Politics is too important to be left to the politicians and pundits. Endless, ineffectual opposition for five years will be useless, as the Labour Party licks its wounds, tears itself into left and Blairite factions and plans to do better next time. Endless protest will mean endless subjection.

Those who produce the wealth of the country in their unions, professional associations, community and civil organisations will have to plan a vision for a new united Britain, free and socialist.It is time to raise our aspirations, not fall through the floor in despair or wait for wind and tide to rise again in five years’ time.

May 062015
 

This Tory regime has more in common with the Scottish Separatists (SNP) than the latter have with Labour, because both want the break-up of Britain for their own purposes. Cameron, hours after the Scottish referendum result, chose to undermine the decision of the Scottish people by calling for the greater fragmentation of Britain into devolved areas, open for increased exploitation. The Tory call for an English Parliament provided the biggest injection of support for the SNP and proves they have no allegiance to a united Britain.

Conservative assertions about the influence of the SNP over a future Labour administration conveniently neglect to mention that if they were elected as a minority government they would welcome UKIP (Tory Party Mk 2) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) into their ranks.

The Tories and UKIP welcome the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) because of their close relationship with finance capital and multi-national corporations. Cameron has called it a “once-in-a-generation prize”. Both parties will do the bidding of their financial masters. They regard the British people as irrelevant, except that is at election time.

Sturgeon has no real concern over which party wins the election so long as the SNP can keep returning to their separatist agenda. The more seats that fall to SNP the harder it is for Labour to win the election. Both Tories and SNP don’t give a damn about the British people and the British trade union movement in particular. In this election there is no alternative; vote Labour.

Apr 242015
 

We are faced with a key task, the removal of the Tories and their collaborators from government. To do so we must vote and campaign for Labour.

Continuation of Tory rule with whoever collaborates with them will result in further destruction of democracy, sovereignty, the economy, public services and civil and Trades Union Rights. A Tory government would continue serving the multinationals, the banks, the neoliberal elites and their agents, the US government and the EU.

Tory economic fraud

The Tory platform, a claim to economic competence, has no substance. Their ‘Economic Plan’ has no details other than a commitment to further huge cuts in public expenditure with another promise to eliminate the deficit, while actually increasing the overall national debt. It is dishonest and treacherous. Their misleading dogma is based on blaming the previous government for the economic collapse of 2008 caused by the banks’ speculation. The crash was aided by poor government regulation in the US, EU and here by the Blairites, egged on by the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Austerity, presented as necessary savings in public expenditure to save the economy, is in fact a policy to transfer control and assets from public authorities to multinationals and banks. The latest example was the sale of the nation’s stake in Eurostar, a revenue-earning asset. This was the very opposite of investment; it was yet more theft. The attack on benefits is aimed at reducing government responsibility for citizens and their families stigmatising anyone in receipt of the benefits, which they or their families paid for, as ‘scroungers’.

The small increases in GDP last year, after the longest period of recession, was produced by encouraging private debt instead of increases in wages. It was another transfer of power from citizens to banks. Such a tiny upturn is fragile and depends on the maintenance of record low interest rates. Capitalist ‘recovery’ with a consequent increase in interest rates will result in hardship, bankruptcies, house and asset re-possessions by banks and another deeper recession. We can predict this by considering the huge scale of the trade deficit and lack of investment in manufacturing.

Public money for the banks

While cutting public expenditure the Bank of England has handed hundreds of billions to the banks through ‘Quantitative Easing’. The Tory ‘economic plan’ consists of nationalising the debts of the banks and privatising public services and assets.

Their commitment to Finance Capital and to a foreign policy at the service of US Imperialism threatens our security and will accelerate the breakup of Britain.

Tories EU Referendum – an elaborate lie

The promised ‘In-Out’ referendum on EU membership’ is also deceitful. They support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is being negotiated in secret by the US and EU. Tories therefore will continue the erosion of real democracy and its replacement by rule by multinationals and banks. This will be either through the EU or, if the referendum results in an ‘Out’ vote, by adopting the TTIP treaty. Either way they seek to extend the control of unaccountable corporations through the EU and TTIP. UKIP also supports TTIP so belying their claim to believe in a ‘self-governing’ Britain.

Labour’s break with Blair

While Labour is far from socialist (see below), its break with the neoliberalism of Blair is important and the real reason for the demonising of Ed Miliband. Its platform of control of the utilities, banning zero hours contracts, developing bank regulation, taxing of non-doms and multinationals, student fee reductions, rent regulation, council house building, and stopping NHS privatisation is a break with the neoliberal trend. The opposition to war on Syria contrasts with Blair’s lies designed to side with the US in the war on Iraq. A Labour victory is far from what is needed to restore democracy, Civil and Trades Union Rights, sovereignty, and control of our finances, resources and economy. It will, however, break the current destruction giving us a basis for progress. Saying ‘there is no difference between them’ is to hide the nature of the treacherous Tories.

Emergence of small parties

Disillusion with the current Westminster two party system has led to the emergence of smaller parties. This a positive trend as it shows the change in thinking by the British from the previous consensus. It does not however, offer the chance of defeating the Tories. For example the Scottish National Party (SNP) could win many seats due to its apparent progressive anti-Tory stance, but ultimately it has no stake in a progressive Britain.

The change required

In this election we cannot achieve the change Britain needs. We require a much deeper change including a written constitution (see below) to protect the interests of the nation and its people. A Labour election will end Tory destruction and that is much needed.

Vote Labour and continue to prepare for a new stage of struggle and to remove the 1%.

 

Articles on Labour and the constitution

http://www.theworker.org.uk/party%20-%20labour%20party%20illusion.htm

http://www.theworker.org.uk/constitution%20-%20background.htm

 

Apr 102015
 

Anger is building against TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), a comprehensive free trade deal being negotiated in secret between the US and the EU.

Planned actions

London

Day of Dissent: Democracy vs TTIP
12.00pm, Shepherd’s Bush Green.
Link

Manchester
TTIP Flashmob
12.00pm briefing at Greenfish.  Action at 1.00pm
Link

TTIP will be the biggest transfer of power from people to corporations in a generation.  Under the guise of “free trade”, TTIP is threatening our most prized social, health and environmental protections. It seeks to bring in deregulation, privatisation and a huge increase in investor rights through the highly controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which will establish corporate courts for US companies to sue European states for loss of future profits.

On 18 April, actions will be taking place against TTIP across the UK as part of a global day of action against free trade agreements. Look for actions in your area here.

In London, War on Want is supporting ‘Day of Dissent: Democracy vs TTIP‘, a participatory assembly on TTIP, followed by a series of creative actions to highlight the threat TTIP poses to the NHS, food and environmental protection. Speakers at the assembly will include John Hilary (Executive Director, War on Want), Jenny Jones (Green Party) and Gay Lee (Keep Our NHS Public). For more information, please visit the Facebook event.

In Manchester, StopTTIP Manchester is coordinating a ‘flashmob’ (a sudden, unexpected public assembly with an action, like this) focused on the threat of food contamination from TTIP. There will be a briefing immediately before the action. If you would like to join the flashmob, please visit this link.

If you want to organise an event in your area, please register it on the global map, and if you’re in need of any free materials for your event, please request them with our online request form. Join the global day of action and say no to free trade deals for  corporations and the 1%!

 

 Posted by at 6:11 pm
Mar 292015
 

Delegates at a packed conference in Manchester’s Methodist Central Hall, organised by War on Want, entered into lively discussions and workshops with the sole purpose of building the fight against the secretive negotiations between the US and EU to bring the Transatlantic Treaty and Investment Partnership (TTIP) into existence.

Speaker after speaker referred to the economic and political devastation facing workers in Europe and the US if these talks, held in the utmost secrecy, actually result in a signed agreement. Numerous references were made to the attack on democracy, the threat to public services like health and education when new markets are opened up by privatisation and threats to food safety, the environment and the climate.

TTIP would remove most financial regulations, allowing global banking interests the freedom to extend their parasitic speculation in debt transfers. Workers’ rights would be reduced to US levels and corporations could relocate to the US states and EU countries with the lowest labour standards. Conference agreed that TTIP cannot be merely amended, but must be rejected as a whole.

The TUC has already passed a motion rejecting TTIP, but the resolve in our unions must be strengthened and we should use all avenues including MPs and MEPs to raise awareness of what is at stake. The run-up to the General Election provides a context for trade unionists, political activists and campaigners to call to account those who wish us to vote for them.

Mar 212015
 

Press ReleaseTUFB-1

One of the many achievements of women world-wide, which was celebrated on International Women’s Day this year is that of the women of Bolivia who now hold more than half the seats in their countries newly elected legislative assembly. They won 53.1% in the lower house and 47.2% in the Senate giving 50.15% overall. This places Bolivia second in the world rankings for women’s representation after Rwanda, which has 51.15%. In the UK women hold only 22.8% of seats in the Commons and 24.16 in the Lords. Also all of the three parties in the Bolivian assembly are led by women in the lower house and men in the Senate.

The election, which returned President Evo Morales Ayma and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera with 61.4% of the vote for their party MAS (Movement Towards Socialism), had a turnout of 95%. At least half of the candidates selected by each party had to be women because of the new constitution adopted by the previous assembly. This Constitution was the result of political and economic struggle by the Bolivian people, which resulted in the inclusion of the indigenous majority in the political life of the country.

The indigenous culture hasTUFB-2 the concept of balance between men and women. This was demonstrated in the past by the important role women played in the struggle against the Spanish colonists, including that of Bartolina Sisa and Juana Azurduy who led armies.

More recently the trade union “Bartolina Sisa National Confederation of Farm Workers, Indigenous and Native Women of Bolivia” which has the largest membership in the country, has played a prominent role in the struggle for equality.

 

Ends:

Notes for Editor:

For further information please contact Manuel Bueno on 07786 027564 or tradeunionfriendsofbolivia@gmail.com. Manuel was born in Bolivia and is a founding member of Trade Union Friends of Bolivia.

Mar 132015
 

This article by VN Gelis is from http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.co.uk/, along with other discussion on the situation in Greece.

A couple of years back the EU, under the guise of its alleged attempt at rooting out corruption and financial mismanagement, imposed a coup on the Cypriot banking system rendering the economy worthless. Now it has gone another step further rendering the recent Greek elections pointless.

Despite the massive swing to parties of the fake Left in Greece with around 2.5m votes and despite the minimal reformist programme trying to arrest the downward spiral of austerity it was not meant to be.

After less than one month in power Syriza was forced to succumb to the 4th Reich. Its pre-electoral propaganda about debt writedown, increasing the minimum wage to 751 euros, increasing state pensions by a month up to E700, bringing in a minimum tax threshold of 12k euros and removing the hated ‘haratsi’ property tax appear to all have gone out of the window. The difficult task will be how to manage the expectations of the voters who have been crushed by the economic genocide programme adopted by the Troika (the IMF, ECB and EU).

The unrelenting capitalist crisis which has become exacerbated by the creation of the Eurozone whereby economic giants like Germany are in the same bed as semi-industrialised Greece has led to the creation of the EUs first debt colony. Under the guise of saving the Greeks from debt the Germans have reduced them to penury. In this they have form. In the 19th century their colonial invasions of Africa were made to end black slavery in order to inaugurate colonial slavery for their geopolitical interests, primarily resources which Germany didn’t produce but required for their industrial giants.

Despite four large demonstrations (1) in many cities of Greece against the EU’s dictats the wishes of the Greek population have no place within the EU. They cannot have any alternative programme that attempts to resolve the glaring contradictions of collapsing capitalism. Schauble’s line in a nutshell is that there is no humanitarian crisis, there aren’t millions of unemployed who are sent tax demands or 4 million people who are in debt to Inland Revenue threatened by forced repossessions, 8,000 Greeks haven’t committed suicide and children don’t go to school and faint from hunger.

In the last five years Greek banks have received E233 billion in bailouts and these costs have been born by the massive reduction in wages and pensions (between 30-50%). Continuing along this path means that the widening budget deficit has to have inbuilt cuts according to the Memorandum of Understanding agreements signed with the Troika. It was these agreements Syriza was allegedly going to rip up and destroy once in power. (2)

According to the Wall Street Journal Greece (3) has E29billion of commitments this year and without new loans they can’t service them. Greeks own around E70bn to the state and that represents around 3.8m people and 400,000 businesses. That does not include mortgage debt and bank loans. In total Greece’s foreign debts are around E325bn and other debts around E300-350bn, totaling around E650bn. The debt write off has gone through the stage whereby an opposition came to power expressing what is actually going on the ground but now has to collect the debts despute wearing a left lapel. The issue though remains that changing a label from hard right (ND) to radical left (Syriza) does not debts collect. Blood cannot come out of a stone.

With 2m unemployed and probably another 1m underemployed and underpaid (out of an official 4.5m workers) the economy for the majority of people has been destroyed and no longer services the needs of the Greek nation. Tourism and agriculture still provide the main source of income with exports being reduced since last year, whilst tourism saw growth, but the nature of the globalised economy means that any gains in those areas aren’t translated into jobs for the domestic market. A large proportion of the labour force in both these industries are non-unionised immigrants who are paid in cash and after exporting a minimum of E50 a month to their families in Asia their pay amounts to very little.

Unable to truly negotiate, Syriza thought they could convince the Euro Group on a wing and a prayer, (or was it the Greek electorate?), talk about the Debt in general and then drop it in two days like Varoufakis did. Why would the EU write off Greek debts when the total EU debts are more than E13 trillion? What makes Greek debts special or different? Any agreement on Greek debts would immediately open the floodgates for everyone else, Italy, Spain, Portugal etc.

Even if the debts were zeroed the same debts would accrue again if the nature of the economic relationships remained the same. When you have an open market in services, trade, capital and labour, lilliputian Greece cannot compete with heavy industrial goods from Germany, cheap goods from China or agricultural goods from Africa. The economy becomes absolutely dependent on debt servicing when exports cannot be produced to be sold as each industry has been successfully shut down (cloth making, shoe making, ship repairs etc). In other words there can be no national economic policy and by extension, national elections. Brussels decides.

For Syriza to survive it has to go Left if it does not want to go the way of its previous four predecessors in the IMF period (LAOS, Dimar, PASOK, ND). Trade with Russia direct. Offer a naval base to them to guard the country from neighbours attacks. Agree to the Russian pipeline to be stationed on the Greek-Turkish border. Ensure strategic industries are still in the control of the state: ports, electricity, water, transport etc. Abolish the Dublin agreements whereby illegal immigrants are dumped in Greece as it is a border country of the EU although it clearly does not have the capacity to cope with hundreds of thousands of new arrivals. Enforce a policy of ‘less work but work for all’ with no loss of pay. Seriously argue for Default of Debts which have been paid back at least three time over and if that does not occur exit the Eurozone and go for the Drachma with an exit from the EU.

Without taking these measures there will be no economic policy that isn’t dictated directly by Brussels. The Brussels agenda is to create a tax free export processing zone that can compete directly with Asia in the region formally known as Greece with E300 wages and non-existent pensions or (just private) healthcare. That agenda remains intact despite the provisional time out by the election of Syriza.

Notes

  1. Eyewitness Reports from the Demos against the Eurogroup: http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.gr/2015/02/eyewitness-reports-sindagma-sq-war-of.html
  2. The Economics of Genocide by the IMF/EU/ECB http://imfoccupationgreece.blogspot.gr/2015/01/the-economics-of-genocide-made-in.html
  3. WSJ-Greek Debt Commitments 2015 http://www.enikonomia.gr/economy/15002,WSJ:_Ti_prepei_na_plhrwnei_ka8e_mhnah_E.html

 

Mar 122015
 

Government plans to transfer the NHS in Manchester to the Local Authority will lead to spending decisions being handed over to the mayor and local politicians, not to local people and certainly not to clinicians who actually know what is going on and what is needed. Between them the hospital trusts in Greater Manchester are likely to have a deficit of over £40 million this year, “cunningly” transferred from central to local government. Social Care has been widely privatised and services opened up to means testing and charges; the transfer to a local-authority is likely to increase this process. http://nhap.org/manchester-nhs-devolution-another-milestone-denationalisation-break-nhs/

Northamptonshire county council intends to out-source all its services and to privatise them as “Social Enterprises” and to massively reduce council spending. In this case all of social services are being handed over. In Barnet the council has also been undergoing the same process. Unions are fighting both sets of proposals. http://www.theworker.org.uk/blog/?p=1832

Last autumn’s budget statement for English councils announced 2.1% or £1.1 billion worth of financial cuts for this year. Manchester is to lose £28 million (5.1%), Lambeth £18 million (5.0%) and Newcastle on Tyne £15 million (4.9%). The figures go on and on and will in lead to reduction of services, workers losing their jobs and increased hardship. http://www.theworker.org.uk/blog/?p=1842

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is set to make privatisation of health and social services easier and a lot more lucrative for the private contractors. http://www.theworker.org.uk/blog/?p=1896

The government has absurdly spoken of providing new freedoms to Manchester in transferring health services to local government. Large multinational corporations will have their pound of flesh and there will be freedom for them, whether by Trojan horse manoeuvres as in Manchester, massive transfer of public services to the private sector as in Northants and Barnet, financial cuts throughout the country or Trade Agreements legally enforceable by transnational organisations. Neoliberals will claim that TTIP rules are mandatory, just as Conservative, Liberal and Labour politicians have done for decades with respect to the EU. They will also claim that privatisation is freedom and cuts are inevitable.

Workers of Britain should, on the other hand, be saying No to TTIP, No to EU and preparing ourselves to reconstruct Britain and to regain independence so that we can decide what services we need and what we will produce. http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-health%20-%20copy.htm

Mar 082015
 

The European Union needs its own army to help address the problem that it is not “taken entirely seriously” as an international force, the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in an interview published on Sunday.

He said such a move would help the EU to persuade Russia that it was serious about defending its values in the face of the threat posed by Moscow.

“You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in Germany.

“But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”

“Such an army would help us design a common foreign and security policy,”

“Europe’s image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously.”

Juncker also said he did not want a new force to challenge the role of Nato.

A UK government spokesman said: “Our position is crystal clear that defence is a national – not an EU – responsibility and that there is no prospect of that position changing and no prospect of a European army.”

 

Mar 062015
 

The ‘Cold War’ and the potential for a shooting war launched by western interests have never really disappeared since the fall of the Soviet Union. What the West cannot bring itself to recognise just yet is that since the US backed coup a year ago, Ukraine has become a failed state and reflects a wider failure of foreign policy by the US, EU and NATO. Ukraine has been defeated on the battlefield, despite its attempts to wreck the Minsk ceasefire by not removing heavy artillery on the agreed timetable.

The Ukrainian government is weak, run by plutocrats and beset with factions, some of which are murderous neo-fascists. There is little organised state control over aspects of civil life. Armed militias contend with each other for power, which weakens leader Porischenko still further. Already a million Ukrainians have left for Russia. The Ukraine economy has a £21 billion black hole. The EU is willing to support Ukraine up to a point but it does not want it as another member state. Meanwhile, Cameron sends 75 British troops to train a demoralised Ukrainian army.

While Germany and France brokered the Minsk agreement, the US has failed so far to convince the EU (with the glaring exception of Britain) to intervene militarily. There is, therefore, a widening division between the US and EU. The US and NATO would clearly like to arm Ukraine while there is a growing hesitancy among EU states, despite the bellicose rhetoric from British politicians. The British government has used the crisis to ratchet up anti-Russian feeling and prepare the British people for greater spending on ‘defence’.

Britain’s record of military intervention over decades has been devastating for the countries concerned. The failed state of Libya is a case in point, where the country is now split geographically and along religious sectarian lines. Britain’s handiwork produced mass destruction and a country largely run by warlords. Any attack on Russia would produce many more far-reaching problems, including the safety of the whole world.
Some western nations are even starting to recognise the fact that the influence of the US is in decline. It is the US that is becoming isolated.

Progressive nations are questioning what was accepted as the US sphere of influence. Many Balkan countries have large Russian populations. Russia has every right to exercise its influence over areas where it is directly affected. Why should Russia tolerate NATO bases all along its borders? More EU nations are reluctant to commit troops to Ukraine. Although the US and EU propaganda machines are as vitriolic as ever the Minsk agreement allows East Ukraine to trade with Russia, which was already a fait accompli. The cracks in US/EU policy towards Russia are widening. Putin has out-manoeuvred the West. We have to oppose all warmongering proposals made in our name. The Russian and Ukrainian people have a right to self-determination and peace, as do we.

Mar 032015
 

15 Powerful Quotes From the World’s Most Humble President  who recently stepped down.

“Modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving.”

President José “Pepe” Mujica.

Known for his unusual frankness, fiery oration and bold leadership to turn ideas into action, the 78-year-old leader possesses and practices the very characteristics that many world leaders fail to emulate. He has also garnered international acclaim for his progressive policies, down-to-earth personality and simple presentation, which has earned him a reputation as “the world’s poorest president.” He said anyone who called him poor was themselves poor of intellect, and that he was merely frugal.

He was also of course one of the bravest having spent 13 gruelling years in jail for his revolutionary activities many in solitary confinement and two at the bottom of a horse trough.

Living in a small, one-bedroom farm with his wife, Sen. Lucia Toplansky, also a great revolutionary, and a number of dogs (including three-legged Manuela), Mujica donates 90% of his salary to charity and his party, leads by example in an age of austerity and has gained international acclaim for pushing ahead with policies on cannabis legalisation, same-sex marriage and abortion, while decrying excessive consumption.

  1. On revolutions and revolts

“I’ve seen some springs that ended up being terrible winters. We human beings are gregarious. We can’t live alone. For our lives to be possible, we depend on society. It’s one thing to overturn a government or block the streets. But it’s a different matter altogether to create and build a better society, one that needs organization, discipline and long-term work. Let’s not confuse the two of them. I want to make it clear: I feel sympathetic with that youthful energy, but I think it’s not going anywhere if it doesn’t become more mature.”

  1. On legalizing marijuana

When asked about opposition to legalizing marijuana, he said:

“It has always been like that with changes. In 1913, we established divorce as a right for women in Uruguay. You know what they were saying back then? That families would dissolve. That it was the end of good manners and society. There has always been a conservative and traditional opinion out there that’s afraid of change. When I was young and would go dancing at balls, we’d have to wear suits and ties. Otherwise they wouldn’t let us in. I don’t think anyone dresses up for dancing parties nowadays.”

3.On materialism

“We have sacrificed the old immaterial gods, and now we are occupying the temple of the Market-God. He organizes our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives, and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness.

“It seems that we have been born only to consume and to consume, and when we can no longer consume, we have a feeling of frustration, and we suffer from poverty, and we are auto-marginalized.”

  1. On global consumption

“We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means, by being prudent, the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.” (Source)

  1. On abortion and same-sex marriage

In an interview with Brazilian news agency O Globo, Mujica said:

“We applied a very simple principle: Recognize the facts. Abortion is old as the world. Gay marriage, please — it’s older than the world. We had Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, please. To say it’s modern, come on, it’s older than we are. It’s an objective reality that it exists. For us, not legalizing it would be to torture people needlessly.”

  1. On ending conflict

When asked about Uruguay offering its services to try and end the 50-year-old conflict in Colombia between the government and the ELN rebel group:

“From afar, it seems like a war without a solution and like a long sacrifice for the entire country. So when a president appears who tries to open a path to peace, I think that deserves support, because there is a lot of pain, and if they try to settle scores, the war will never end. But there is an opportunity. I would feel selfish if I did not help in any way.

“Help does not mean to intervene. I will not meddle if I am not invited to do so. But if I can serve as a go-between with my experience, I will support the government’s call for dialogue with the rebel forces who also have their problems, who also have their fears. I think all us Latin Americans have to help.”

  1. On staying humble in office

“As soon as politicians start climbing up the ladder, they suddenly become kings. I don’t know how it works, but what I do know is that republics came to the world to make sure that no one is more than anyone else.” The pomp of office, he said, is like something left over from a feudal past: “You need a palace, red carpet, a lot of people behind you saying, ‘Yes, sir.’ I think all of that is awful.”

  1. On redistribution of wealth

“Businesses just want to increase their profits; it’s up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so workers have the money to buy the goods they produce,” Mujica told businessmen at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It’s no mystery — the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources.”

  1. On age

“What’s sad is that an 80-year-old grandpa has to be the open-minded one. Old people aren’t old because of their age, but because of what’s in their heads. They are horrified at this, but they aren’t horrified at what’s happening in the streets?”

10. On addiction

“Worse that drugs is drug trafficking. Much worse. Drugs are a disease, and I don’t think that there are good drugs or that marijuana is good. Nor cigarettes. No addiction is good. I include alcohol. The only good addiction is love. Forget everything else.”

11.On being called the world’s poorest president

“I’m not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live. My lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. I’m the son of my history. There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress.”

12.On donating 90% of his salary to charity

“I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it’s not enough for others. For me, it is no sacrifice, it’s a duty.

13.On his goals for Uruguay

“My goal is to achieve a little less injustice in Uruguay, to help the most vulnerable and to leave behind a political way of thinking, a way of looking at the future that will be passed on and used to move forward. There’s nothing short-term, no victory around the corner. I will not achieve paradise or anything like that. What I want is to fight for the common good to progress. Life slips by. The way to prolong it is for others to continue your work.

14. On being a president

A president is a high-level official who is elected to carry out a function. He is not a king, not a god. He is not the witch doctor of a tribe who knows everything. He is a civil servant. I think the ideal way of living is to live like the vast majority of people whom we attempt to serve and represent.”

115. On the secret to happiness

“To live in accordance with how one thinks. Be yourself and don’t try to impose your criteria on the rest. I don’t expect others to live like me. I want to respect people’s freedom, but I defend my freedom. And that comes with the courage to say what you think, even if sometimes others don’t share those views.”

 Posted by at 10:03 pm
Mar 032015
 

Today’s Guardian carries an analysis of the Greek situation by Costas Lapavitsas, whose ideas and questions pre-agreement were published on this Forum on 24th Feb. In this article he argues that ‘the Syriza government has paid a high price to remain alive’ and concludes only radical action will save the Party.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/02/austerity-greece-euro-currency-syriza

Mar 032015
 

A leaked draft of what the European Union wants excluded from a new trade deal with the United States has been obtained by the BBC. The document describes itself as the EU’s “initial offer” in negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

It includes the wording that UK ministers have said will protect the NHS from privatisation. Anti-TTIP campaigners say a specific exemption for the NHS is still needed.

The 103-page document is headed “Trade In Services And Investment: Schedule Of Specific Commitments And Reservations”.

It was produced before the most recent round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels were held at the beginning of this month.

Document outlining health matters

 

On health, the document states: “The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form”. The wording is the same as that used in a similar free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA).

The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, said last week that this text ensured “publicly funded health services are excluded”. The European Commission has also previously said TTIP would not affect how NHS services are provided, whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK.

But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for the NHS to be specifically excluded from the deal. She said: “I think this issue has to be put beyond any doubt. Our NHS is not for sale and TTIP must have a clear and explicit exclusion for the National Health Service.”

Real risks

The trade union Unite said “real risks” remained because of the dispute resolution mechanism TTIP is expected to include. The union’s Scottish regional secretary, Pat Rafferty said: “Last week Lord Livingston tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the Scottish people. Now this leaked document has confirmed Unite’s expert legal advice, that NHS services in Scotland and the rest of the UK do fall within the scope of the TTIP. This means that American investors in NHS services that are privatised now or in the future will be able to use TTIP to sue the government if it tries to bring them back into public hands”.

Anti-TTIP protest
Protests were held outside the most recent round of TTIP talks in Brussels earlier this month.

Labour and the Scottish Greens have also endorsed Unite’s campaign. Ian Murray, who is Labour’s Shadow Trade Minister, said: “The EU Commission and Conservative government have been dragged kicking and screaming by the public to exclude the NHS and public services from TTIP. If they are so confident that the NHS is protected then why don’t they specifically add it to the list of exclusions? By not doing so Scots will be suspicious that TTIP could threaten our NHS and other public services.”

Political football

BMA council chairman Dr Mark Porter said: “Both the UK government and the European Commission need to ensure that sufficient safeguards will be in place to protect the NHS from further commercialisation arising from the EU/US trade partnership.” In response, European Commission spokesman, Daniel Rosario said: “No existing free trade agreement would prevent any government from renationalising any public services on national or local level. Alternatively, negotiations do not force governments to privatise or deregulate. This situation will not change with TTIP or any other trade agreement. The EU is currently negotiating and the countries that sign up to free trade agreements can keep public monopolies and regulate public services as they see fit.”

Appearing before a Scottish Parliament committee last week, Lord Livingston said he was worried the NHS was being used as a “political football”. He said: “Some people are getting fearful, largely because there are people going around saying ‘the Tories are going to sell off the health service to Americans. We are saying ‘no, it is not true’. The operation of the health services will not be affected by TTIP. The decisions about how they are operated will continue to be that for the democratically elected government of the individual area.”

Member states

Lord Livingston also highlighted a letter from EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, which offers similar assurances. She said: “There is no reason to fear either for the NHS as it stands today or for changes to the NHS in future, as a result of TTIP.”

The EU document lists reservations from TTIP proposed by the EU as a whole and by individual member states. It makes clear that “where appropriate” member states can seek opt-outs on behalf of parts of their territory. In the EU-Canada agreement, Belgium did this in relation to the issuing of taxi licences in the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels capital regions.

That could prompt calls for the UK government to seek a specific exemption for NHS Scotland, even if it chooses not to do so for the NHS more generally.

Mar 022015
 

 

The excellent imperialist watch organisation German Foreign Policy reports:

In the midst of a phase of the expansion of the EU’s military policy relations with several East and Southeast Asian countries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Japan. Merkel will arrive on March 8 in the Japanese capital, reciprocating Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Germany last year. Tokyo seeks to intensify its cooperation with EU countries – also militarily – to enhance its position in territorial conflicts with Beijing. At the same time, the United States is focusing, to a growing extent, its global policy efforts on eastern Asia and the Pacific Basin. Shortly before Merkel is to visit Japan, a study published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) points out that the interests of several EU countries would be “massively affected should conflicts escalate in this region.” These conflicts are mostly about territorial sovereignty over islands and groups of islands, which recently have become accentuated. SWP proposed that the EU “discuss” what position to take “in case of conflict.”

 

Feb 272015
 

An exhibition at Modern Art Oxford Gallery shows the work of William Morris and Andy Warhol until March 8th. The exhibition looks at the similarities between the two artists and differences are clearly discernible too. Both artists were prolific in their output, used various media and techniques and sought to popularise art – their own and in general. They both drew on images common to their times, either in the tales of King Arthur or the much photographed actors, entertainers and politicians of the mid 20th century. In the work of both there is repetition, Morris in his wallpaper designs and Warhol in multiple images of Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy or even of Mao Tsetung.

We have on the one hand the developer of Pop Art and accumulator of ephemera, on the other the proponent of the Arts and Craft Movement and designer of useful, beautiful things. Both had long and varied careers, collaborating with other artists and setting up businesses to produce their work on a near industrial scale; for Warhol in New York at The Factory and for Morris at the workshops of the Firm and Morris & Co.

The differences arise from the differing social, economic and political circumstances of the day more than from the technologies they used. Mid 19th century Britain was still the workshop of the world with all its contingent poverty and environmental degradation. Morris was founder of The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (1877). In the 1880s capitalism’s crises propelled Morris into accepting and advocating socialism. He emphasized the importance of the productive process and said that those who work should benefit from their own labour and engage in meaningful useful work rather than be involved in useless toil.

In the USA of the 1950s and 60s, there was unemployment, poverty, discrimination and war; even so the ideas of the American Dream and that the Consumer is King were pushed in the media. Philosophers attempted to deny or trivialise the reality of the world. Sometimes Warhol made political comments in his art, for example ‘American Race Riot’ (1964) and ‘Map of Eastern USSR Missile Bases’ (1985 – 6). However this hedonistic party-goer took the position of a bystander who seemed more comfortable exposing and extolling celebrity.

Morris, although a well to do businessman, became committed to socialism after reading works of Karl Marx. He became an active member of the Social Democratic Federation and later the Socialist League, writing many political works and speaking clearly of problems that workers faced at the end of the 19th century and still face us in Britain today.

For the writings of William Morris https://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/index.htm

Feb 242015
 

Greek MP and great Marxist analyst of finance capital Costas Lapavitsas has posed some pertinent questions about the current position in Greece.

 

Five questions that demand an answer (by Costas Lapavitsas)

The Eurogroup agreement has not been concluded, in part because we do not yet know what ‘reforms’ will be proposed by the Greek government today (Monday 23 February) and which ones of those will eventually be accepted. However, those of us that have been elected based on the program of Syriza, and see the announcements made at Thessaloniki [i.e. the ‘Thessaloniki Program’] as pledges that we have promised to the Greek people, we have deep concerns. It is our duty to write them down.

The general program of the agreement has as follows:

  1. Greece asks for the extension of the current loan support agreement, which is based on a series of commitments.
  2. The goal of this extension is to allow for the conclusion of the assessment of the current agreement and to give time for a possible new agreement.
  3. Greece will immediately submit a list of ‘reforms,’ which will be assessed by the ‘institutions’ and which will eventually be agreed on April. If the assessment is positive, then money that have not yet been given by the current agreement will be released, together with the returns from the earnings of the ECB.
  4. The current funds of the HFSF will be used exclusively for the needs of the banks and will be out of Greek control.
  5. Greece commits to fulfill fully and swiftly all of its financial obligations towards its partners.
  6. Greece commits to ensure ‘adequate’ primary surpluses in order to guarantee the sustainability of the debt on the basis of the Eurogroup decisions in November 2012. The surplus for 2015 will take into consideration the economic circumstances of 2015.
  7. Greece will not withdraw measures, will not commit any unilateral changes that may have a negative effect on the fiscal targets, the economic recovery, or the financial stability, as they will be assessed by the ‘institutions.’

On this basis, Eurogroup will begin the national procedures for the 4-month extension of the current agreement and it asks from the Greek government to begin quickly the procedure for the successful completion of its evaluation. 

It is difficult for anyone to see how the announcements made in Thessaloniki – which include the write-off of the biggest part of the debt and the direct replacement of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) – can be implemented through this agreement. Those of us who got elected with Syriza pledged that we would continue with the implementation of the National Plan regardless of the negotiations for the debt, because we deem it necessary for the restart of the economy and the relief of the society. It is necessary, therefore, to explain how these will be implemented and how the new government will be able to change the tragic situation that it inherited.

In order to be more specific, the National Plan included four pillars with the following costs for the first year:

  1. Addressing the humanitarian crisis (1.9bn euros)
  2. Restarting of the economy with tax breaks, adjustment of “red loans,” creation of a Growth Bank, increase of the minimum wage to 751 euros (total of 6.5bn euros).
  3. Program of Public Employment for 300,000 new jobs (3bn euros for the first year, and 2bn euros for the second).
  4. Transformation of the political system with interventions in the local government and in the parliament.

 The sources of funding, again, for the first year had been calculated as follows:

  1. Clearing outstanding debts towards the tax authority (3bn euros)
  2. Combatting tax-evasion and smuggling (3bn euros)
  3. HFSF (3bn euros)
  4. ESPA and other European programs (3bn euros)

Given now the Eurogroup announcement, I ask: 

National Plan for Reconstruction

How will the National Plan for Reconstruction be funded, when the 3bn euros of the HFSF are now out of the control of the Greek government? Taking away these funds makes the collection of large sums of money from tax evasion and debt-clearing even more necessary, in a very short period of time. How realistic is such a prospect?

Debt Write-off

How will the debt cut-off proceed, when Greece pledges to complete fully and swiftly all of its financial obligations towards its partners?

End of Austerity

How will the end of austerity come about, when Greece pledges to succeed in achieving ‘appropriate’ primary surpluses in order for the current humongous debt to be made ‘sustainable’? The ‘sustainability’ of the debt – as it used to be estimated by the TROIKA – was exactly the cause for this unreasonable hunt of primary surpluses. Since the debt will not be lowered substantially how will there stop being primary surpluses that are catastrophic for the Greek economy and constitute the essence of austerity? 

Monitoring and fiscal cost

How will any progressive change proceed in the country, when the ‘institutions’ will be exercising a harsh monitoring and will forbid unilateral moves? Will the ‘institutions’ allow for the implementation of the ‘Thessaloniki’ pillars, given that they have an direct, or indirect budgetary cost? 

The future negotiation

What exactly will change in the next four months of this ‘extension,’ such that the new negotiation with our partners will happen under a better position? What will put a stop in the worsening of the political, economic, and social situation in our country?

These moments are absolutely crucial for the society, the nation, and of course the Left. The democratic legitimization of the government is based on Syriza’s program. The least that is needed is for us to have an open discussion within the party and in the Parliamentary Group. It is necessary to give substantial answers immediately to these questions, in order to retain the large support and the dynamism given to us by the Greek people. The answers that will be given in the upcoming time period will decide the future of the country and of the society.

Feb 242015
 

In a craven and humiliating letter, Greek Finance Minister kneels in awe of the power of the Troika and takes Greece back to worsening problems.

Unless you are outside the eruo and the EU you cannot escape the icy blasts of neoliberalism.

Here is the full text of the Finance Minister’s letter to his bosses.

“Dear President of the Eurogroup,

In the Eurogroup of 20 February 2015 the Greek government was invited to present to the institutions, by Monday 23rd February 2015, a first comprehensive list of reform measures it is envisaging, to be further specified and agreed by the end of April 2015.

In addition to codifying its reform agenda, in accordance with PM Tsipras’ programmatic statement to Greece’s Parliament, the Greek government also committed to working in close agreement with European partners and institutions, as well as with the International Monetary Fund, and take actions that strengthen fiscal sustainability, guarantee financial stability and promote economic recovery.

The first comprehensive list of reform measures follows below, as envisaged by the Greek government. It is our intention to implement them while drawing upon available technical assistance and financing from the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Truly

Yanis Varoufakis

Minister of Finance

Hellenic Republic

Fiscal structural policies

Tax policies – Greece commits to:

• Reform VAT policy, administration and enforcement. Robust efforts will be made to improve collection and fight evasion making full use of electronic means and other technological innovations. VAT policy will be rationalised in relation to rates that will be streamlined in a manner that maximises actual revenues without a negative impact on social justice, and with a view to limiting exemptions while eliminating unreasonable discounts.

• Modify the taxation of collective investment and income tax expenditures which will be integrated in the income tax code.

• Broaden definition of tax fraud and evasion while disbanding tax immunity.

• Modernising the income tax code and eliminating from it tax code exemptions and replacing them, when necessary, with social justice enhancing measures.

• Resolutely enforce and improve legislation on transfer pricing.

• Work toward creating a new culture of tax compliance to ensure that all sections of society, and especially the well-off, contribute fairly to the financing of public policies. In this context, establish with the assistance of European and international partners, a wealth database that assists the tax authorities in gauging the veracity of previous income tax returns.

Public Finance Management – Greece will:

• Adopt amendments to the Organic Budget Law and take steps to improve public finance management. Budget implementation will be improved and clarified as will control and reporting responsibilities. Payment procedures will be modernised and accelerated while providing a higher degree of financial and budgetary flexibility and accountability for independent and/or regulatory entities.

• Devise and implement a strategy on the clearance of arrears, tax refunds and pension claims.

• Turn the already established (though hitherto dormant) Fiscal Council into a fully operational entity.

Revenue administration – Greece will modernise the tax and custom administrations benefiting from available technical assistance. To this end Greece will:

• Enhance the openness, transparency and international reach of the process by which the General Secretary of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues is appointed, monitored in terms of performance, and replaced.

• Strengthen the independence of the General Secretariat of Public Revenues (GSPR), if necessary through further legislation, from all sorts of interference (political or otherwise) while guaranteeing full accountability and transparency of its operations. To this end, the government and the GSPR will make full use of available technical assistance.

• Staff adequately, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the GSPR and in particular the high wealth and large debtors units of the revenue administration and ensure that it has strong investigative/prosecution powers, and resources building on SDOE’s capacities, so as to target effectively tax fraud by, and tax arrears of, high income social groups. Consider the merits of integrating SDOE into GSPR.

• Augment inspections, risk-based audits, and collection capacities while seeking to integrate the functions of revenue and social security collection across the general government.

Public spending – The Greek authorities will:

• Review and control spending in every area of government spending (e.g. education, defence, transport, local government, social benefits)

• Work toward drastically improving the efficiency of central and local government administered departments and units by targeting budgetary processes, management restructuring, and reallocation of poorly deployed resources.

• Identify cost saving measures through a thorough spending review of every Ministry and rationalisation of non-salary and non-pension expenditures which, at present, account for an astounding 56% of total public expenditure.

• Implement legislation (currently in draft form at the General Accounts Office – GAO) to review non-wage benefits expenditure across the public sector.

• Validate benefits through cross checks within the relevant authorities and registries (e.g. Tax Number Registry, AMKA registry) that will help identify non-eligible beneficiaries.

• Control health expenditure and improve the provision and quality of medical services, while granting universal access. In this context, the government intends to table specific proposals in collaboration with European and international institutions, including the OECD.

Social security reform – Greece is committed to continue modernising the pension system. The authorities will:

• Continue to work on administrative measures to unify and streamline pension policies and eliminate loopholes and incentives that give rise to an excessive rate of early retirements throughout the economy and, more specifically, in the banking and public sectors.

• Consolidate pension funds to achieve savings.

• Phase out charges on behalf of ‘third parties’ (nuisance charges) in a fiscally neutral manner.

• Establish a closer link between pension contributions and income, streamline benefits, strengthen incentives to declare paid work, and provide targeted assistance to employees between 50 and 65, including through a Guaranteed Basic Income scheme, so as to eliminate the social and political pressure for early retirement which over-burdens the pension funds.

Public administration & corruption – Greece wants a modern public administration. It will:

• Turn the fight against corruption into a national priority and operationalize fully the National Plan Against Corruption.

• Target fuel and tobacco products’ smuggling, monitor prices of imported goods (to prevent revenue losses during the importation process), and tackle money laundering. The government intends immediately to set itself ambitious revenue targets, in these areas, to be pursued under the coordination of the newly established position of Minister of State.

• Reduce (a) the number of Ministries (from 16 to 10), (b) the number of ‘special advisors’ in general government; and (c) fringe benefits of ministers, Members of Parliament and top officials (e.g. cars, travel expenses, allowances)

• Tighten the legislation concerning the funding of political parties and include maximum levels of borrowing from financial and other institutions.

• Activate immediately the current (though dormant) legislation that regulates the revenues of media (press and electronic), ensuring (through appropriately designed auctions) that they pay the state market prices for frequencies used, and prohibits the continued operation of permanently loss-making media outlets (without a transparent process of recapitalisation)

• Establish a transparent, electronic, real time institutional framework for public tenders/procurement – re-establishing DIAVGEIA (a side-lined online public registry of activities relating to public procurement)

• Reform the public sector wage grid with a view to decompressing the wage distribution through productivity gains and appropriate recruitment policies without reducing the current wage floors but safeguarding that the public sector’s wage bill will not increase

• Rationalise non-wage benefits, to reduce overall expenditure, without imperilling the functioning of the public sector and in accordance with EU good practices

• Promote measures to: improve recruitment mechanisms, encourage merit-based managerial appointments, base staff appraisals on genuine evaluation, and establish fair processes for maximising mobility of human and other resources within the public sector

II. Financial stability

Instalment schemes – Greece commits to

• Improve swiftly, in agreement with the institutions, the legislation for repayments of tax and social security arrears

• Calibrate instalment schemes in a manner that helps discriminate efficiently between: (a) strategic default/non-payment and (b) inability to pay; targeting case (a) individuals/firms by means of civil and criminal procedures (especially amongst high income groups) while offering case (b) individuals/firms repayment terms in a manner that enables potentially solvent enterprises to survive, averts free-riding, annuls moral hazard, and reinforces social responsibility as well as a proper re-payment culture.

• De-criminalise lower income debtors with small liabilities

• Step up enforcement methods and procedures, including the legal framework for collecting unpaid taxes and effectively implement collection tools

Banking and Non-Performing loans. Greece is committed to:

• Banks that are run on sound commercial/banking principles

• Utilise fully the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund and ensure, in collaboration with the SSM, the ECB and the European Commission, that it plays well its key role of securing the banking sector’s stability and its lending on commercial basis while complying with EU competition rules.

• Dealing with non-performing loans in a manner that considers fully the banks’ capitalisation (taking into account the adopted Code of Conduct for Banks), the functioning of the judiciary system, the state of the real estate market, social justice issues, and any adverse impact on the government’s fiscal position.

• Collaborating with the banks’ management and the institutions to avoid, in the forthcoming period, auctions of the main residence of households below a certain income threshold, while punishing strategic defaulters, with a view to: (a) maintaining society’s support for the government’s broad reform program, (b) preventing a further fall in real estate asset prices (that would have an adverse effect on the banks’ own portfolio), (c) minimising the fiscal impact of greater homelessness, and (d) promoting a strong payment culture. Measures will be taken to support the most vulnerable households who are unable to service their loans

• Align the out-of-court workout law with the instalment schemes after their amendment, to limit risks to public finances and the payment culture, while facilitating private debt restructuring.

• Modernise bankruptcy law and address the backlog of cases

III. Policies to promote growth

Privatisation and public asset management – To attract investment in key sectors and utilise the state’s assets efficiently, the Greek authorities will:

• Commit not to roll back privatisations that have been completed. Where the tender process has been launched the government will respect the process, according to the law.

• Safeguard the provision of basic public goods and services by privatised firms/industries in line with national policy goals and in compliance with EU legislation.

• Review privatisations that have not yet been launched, with a view to improving the terms so as to maximise the state’s long term benefits, generate revenues, enhance competition in the local economies, promote national economic recovery, and stimulate long term growth prospects.

• Adopt, henceforth, an approach whereby each new case will be examined separately and on its merits, with an emphasis on long leases, joint ventures (private-public collaboration) and contracts that maximise not only government revenues but also prospective levels of private investment.

• Unify (HRDAF) with various public asset management agencies (which are currently scattered across the public sector) with a view to developing state assets and enhancing their value through microeconomic and property rights’ reforms.

Labor market reforms – Greece commits to:

• Achieve EU best practice across the range of labour market legislation through a process of consultation with the social partners while benefitting from the expertise and existing input of the ILO, the OECD and the available technical assistance.

• Expand and develop the existing scheme that provides temporary employment for the unemployed, in agreement with partners and when fiscal space permits and improve the active labour market policy programmes with the aim to updating the skills of the long term unemployed.

• Phasing in a new ‘smart’ approach to collective wage bargaining that balances the needs for flexibility with fairness. This includes the ambition to streamline and over time raise minimum wages in a manner that safeguards competiveness and employment prospects. The scope and timing of changes to the minimum wage will be made in consultation with social partners and the European and international institutions, including the ILO, and take full account of advice from a new independent body on whether changes in wages are in line with productivity developments and competitiveness.

Product market reforms and a better business environment – As part of a new reform agenda, Greece remains committed to:

• Removing barriers to competition based on input from the OECD.

• Strengthen the Hellenic Competition Commission.

• Introduce actions to reduce the burdens of administrative burden of bureaucracy in line with the OECD’s input, including legislation that bans public sector units from requesting (from citizens and business) documents certifying information that the state already possesses (within the same or some other unit).

• Better land use management, including policies related to spatial planning, land use, and the finalisation of a proper Land Registry

• Pursue efforts to lift disproportionate and unjustified restrictions in regulated professions as part of the overall strategy to tackle vested interests.

• Align gas and electricity market regulation with EU good practices and legislation

Reform of the judicial system – The Greek government will:

• Improve the organisation of courts through greater specialisation and, in this context, adopt a new Code of Civil Procedure.

• Promote the digitisation of legal codes and the electronic submission system, and governance, of the judicial system.

Statistics – The Greek government reaffirms its readiness to:

• Honour fully the Commitment on Confidence in Statistics, and in particular the institutional independence of ELSTAT, ensuring that ELSTAT has the necessary resources to implement its work programme.

• Guarantee the transparency and propriety of the process of appointment of the ELSTAT President in September 2015, in cooperation with EUROSTAT.

IV. Humanitarian Crisis – The Greek government affirms its plan to:

• Address needs arising from the recent rise in absolute poverty (inadequate access to nourishment, shelter, health services and basic energy provision) by means of highly targeted non-pecuniary measures (e.g. food stamps).

• Do so in a manner that is helpful to the reforming of public administration and the fight against bureaucracy/corruption (e.g. the issuance of a Citizen Smart Card that can be used as an ID card, in the Health System, as well as for gaining access to the food stamp program etc.).

• Evaluate the pilot Minimum Guaranteed Income scheme with a view to extending it nationwide.

• Ensure that its fight against the humanitarian crisis has no negative fiscal effect.”

 

Feb 242015
 

One reason why the bankers are laughing all the way to the bank as their fortunes and political power increase is because some opposition to the new ways of their world focuses on the question of austerity, almost in isolation from anything else.

This misses the point. It shows a superficial opposition to what is really happening and is therefore easily dismissed.

Properly speaking austerity means doing without a luxury.

At certain times in history working class movements have consciously accepted some sacrifice in order to build up necessities for life. One such time in Britain was the post war period. Stockings and cigarettes were forfeited for a while in return for a national health service. But the so called austerity of the recent years has demanded that the necessities of life including the NHS itself be sacrificed on the altar of profit.

In particular state power is used to roll back state expenditure on necessities while lining the pockets of the banks with tax payers money through the vicious cycle of bailing them out, putting them in charge of the debt and deficit and ratings agencies and then paying them back as a priority.

Opposing cuts to public spending is not opposing austerity. It is opposing a restructuring of government to destroy democracy and marketise public needs.

Opposing austerity is not necessarily opposing the heart of capitalism in this decrepit stage called neoliberalism.

The Greek people have just found this out painfully. Wedded to the euro, the key prop of ailing capitalisms in Europe, the Greeks sent their negotiating team off to get a little less austerity.

But the rules of the euro club do not permit this. In fact if you ask for a relaxation of the rules or oppose their central plans you are likely, as is the case for Greece now, to get a double dose of control by overseas banks and countries. Notably of course Germany which runs the euro. Austerity is integral to the objectives of the EU, the euro and of course the finance capitalist class which rules the political roost.

To make a fetish of austerity is to miss the point, it is to tilt at windmills like Don Quixote.

Will the Spanish party Podemos make the same mistake?

The curious rise throughout Europe of Left sounding parties that are supportive of the main planks of neoliberalism is just one of the curious signs of our difficult times.

Feb 222015
 
The Press Office of the Central Committee of KKE has issued an announcement on the government’s agreement at the Eurogroup.
The announcement is as follows:
“Independently of how it will be called, the government agreement is in both form and substance an extension of the Memorandum, involving strict monitoring, the evaluation of the economy by the institutions (the Troika), and, most importantly, the continuation of anti-popular reforms. Whatever revision to the program, e.g, lower primary surpluses, will not be implemented to relieve the people, but to reinforce the recovery of capitalin other words, capitalist profit, while for the people, the anti-popular measures adopted in previous year remain active. This is why even the breadcrumbs promised by the government through its program will depend on agreement with European partners and on the condition that fiscal austerity and economic recovery will not be jeopardized.
The people, who have been bled dry all these years, and were hoping for something better, must not give in to disappointment. They must not give up on the goal of the real abolition of Memoranda, implementation laws, the goal of recovering their losses. They can achieve that by moving on the path of struggle, aimed at disengagement from the EU, the unilateral cancellation of debt, the socialization of the wealth of the country.”
Feb 172015
 

CND has condemned NATOs ‘aggressive expansion’ into eastern Europe as a ‘destabilising and provocative manoeuvre’. NATO has announced that it will establish six new military bases: in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, as part of what NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has described as the ‘biggest reinforcement’ since the end of the Cold War. The military alliance has also revealed plans to open a training facility in Georgia, as well as doubling the size of its rapid reaction force from 13,000 to 30,000 – led by a “spearhead” force of 5,000 troops (including UK forces) which would be able to deploy within 48 hours.

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: ‘If Russia opened up a military facility in Mexico, it would be quite rightly decried as an aggressive act. Yet this is precisely the equivalent of what NATO is doing. The BBC’s Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus points out that the opening of a training centre in Georgia is ‘ringing alarm bells’ in Russia, and that while ‘NATO sees its actions as entirely defensive – this is not the way they will be seen in Moscow’. ‘Is this any surprise?

This aggressive expansion, with troop build-ups and new military bases flanking Russian territory, is a destabilising and provocative manoeuvre – precisely at a time when what is needed is cool-headed diplomacy and a thawing of relations. ‘The situation in Ukraine is deplorable – and neither Western nor Russian intervention there holds any solution for the people of Ukraine – but ratcheting up tensions through military build-ups the scale of which haven’t been seen since the Cold War is nothing short of inflammatory and destabilising – with very dangerous global implications.’

Feb 072015
 

The state of the NHS has become a major election issue; unions, patient groups, campaigning organisations and numerous other bodies have been joined in opposition to government health policies by NHS Providers, the body that represents hospital trusts.

The Kings Fund new report, “The NHS Under the Coalition”, says that historians will not look favourably on the coalition and how they dealt with the NHS. In the Health and Social Care Act competition has been extended and decision making supposedly devolved. The Kings Fund view is that the Act is damaging and distracting.

The government has been unable to keep up with even its own health care or financial targets. Those for A&E, cancer treatment and routine operations were reported to have been missed at the half year point in October. In 2013-14 there was a £100 million deficit causing massive problems. This year the deficit has already increased to over six times that amount.

Under the ConDem coalition NHS funding has gone up by a yearly average of 0.7% “in real terms”, a fact which has been often made by government apologists. They were, after all, carrying out the neoliberal and EU policies of reducing public spending which were pursued by the previous New Labour government. In the decade to 2013, although the health service operated at a surplus, there were too few staff and the quality of services deteriorated in many hospitals across the land. The insistence on keeping to budgets which were inadequate, led to hundreds of deaths and grave distress to so many patients, as exposed at the Mid Staffs Trust and numerous other hospitals.

The 2011 decision to make 20 billion of “efficiency savings” by 2015, has also led to the financial crisis in Health. The Nuffield Trust found in 2012 “that financial pressure on hospitals is associated with improvements in ‘crude’ productivity”; they also found that competition on price has led to a worsening of quality. This latter point was made strongly by many people and organisations before the 2010 election, when it became apparent that the Tories would allow price to be an element in determining who won contracts in the Health Service.

There was a great public and professional outcry over the deaths and poor quality reported by the Francis and Keogh Reports. The government did not see fit to increase budgets, despite saying there should be more staff, that they should be better educated and that safety and quality should be a priority. Inn his autumn statement the Chancellor said £2 billion will be added to the NHS budget, but £700 million of this ‘winter pressure’ money is to be taken from other parts of the NHS.

In November the Kings Fund called for a further £2 billion for NHS Budget for 2015-16. They referred to the financial crisis in the NHS as unprecedented and endemic. This has reached such proportions that hospital chief managers have rejected plans for funding the NHS. Chris Hopson of the NHS Providers stated that 80% of hospitals are in deficit and so safe care can no longer be guaranteed. NHS Providers have blocked agreement on the funding formula.

To see our Vision for Health go to: http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-health%20-%20copy.htm

Feb 072015
 

Negotiations on the dreaded Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have been suspended following overwhelming opposition in the online consultation and intense campaigning particularly from Britain.

The public don’t want it. The European Commission has been forced on this occasion to pause and listen.

The tradition of the EU is to retreat when it is overwhelmingly opposed, then start again.

Keep an eye on this one. It may not have gone away. But in the meantime an excellent victory for clever and informed campaigning.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 9:15 am
Jan 112015
 

A massive increase in the attack on public services and local authorities is in progress. Huge cuts have already been made but it is likely that local authorities as we have known them will all but disappear in the next few years.

Northampton County Council has announced it will outsource nearly all its services and reduce its workforce from 4000 to 150 people to take £148 million from its budget over the next 5 years. The 150 remaining staff would work in so-called ‘business intelligence’ and market development teams. The council say the move is necessary because government funding is rapidly falling and the cost of services is rising.

Privately operated ‘social enterprises’ will be able to bid for services such as social care and children’s care. Four new separate ‘mutual’ organisations would be created over the next five years which will be employed by the council to deliver for the county. These would include a child protection services mutual; an accountable care organisation – to deliver services to protect vulnerable adults; a “wellbeing community organisation” and the bizarrely named “place shaping company” which would deliver services aimed at improving Northamptonshire as a place.

The council promises few redundancies but workers know that in order to make these sorts of savings there will be job losses and reductions in services.

The same process is ongoing in Barnet where Unison and the GMB have been waging a campaign for some time. Recently it was announced that council staff working in refuse, recycling, street cleansing and parks etc will be outsourced. Other areas to be outsourced are adult social care, education and catering, Early Years centres and the library service. If this all goes through the Council will have outsourced 2878 staff leaving behind a small cohort of 332 staff.

Other towns and cities, many of which are Labour controlled, are making massive cuts. These include Birmingham, which is axing thousands of jobs, including many at the new city library, Manchester, which is facing £60 million in cuts and Newcastle, which is warning of social unrest due to their funding crisis.

John Burgess Secretary of the Unison branch in Barnet clearly sums up what needs to be done:

 “Two weeks ago we submitted a joint Trades Dispute with the GMB in response to the mass outsourcing proposals. Today our branch submitted to our region a request for a formal industrial action ballot as this is the only response possible to the draconian proposals we are now facing. It is untenable not to mount a fight that is directed at our members’ Terms & Conditions, Pay and Pensions.

Some branches may be able fight battle alone but it is obvious this is a national matter which needs a national response and quickly.”

Response to the cuts so far has been piecemeal and muted. Labour Councils have done little to oppose them apart from wittering to the Guardian. If the unions and community organisations do not act soon, local government will come to an end, accountability will disappear and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost. The government’s austerity policy must be defeated and an alternative put forward.

Dec 232014
 

Cuba-2The contrast between the celebrations in Cuba and Latin America and the grudging acknowledgement of the change in US policy among American politicians is stark and instructive. Obama admitted the US policy of isolating Cuba had been defeated. For half a century the US has attacked its economy through the embargo, financed the failed invasion of the ‘Bay of Pigs’ and attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro hundreds of times. Obama said: ‘We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result’.

The Cuban government on the other hand has maintained a consistent policy of offering normal diplomatic relations on the basis of equality and respect for sovereignty. Having defeated the US invasion they were never again intimidated and this led to them to support other anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles.

Cuban support in Africa was key to the defeat of apartheid, when the Cuban air force and army together with Angolan and South African fighters defeated pro-apartheid forces. Mandela acknowledged and thanked Cuba for their help, which greatly annoyed western leaders.

A few weeks ago, having led the aid effort against Ebola in Africa, with the largest contingent of medical workers, Cuba offered to work with US helpers. The American army had sent logistical support to build temporary health centres but not medical personnel. The US government was embarrassed by the American media into responding, saying that they would cooperate, while doing nothing in practice.

US Isolation and Latin American Unity

The US defeat is clearest in its isolation. In the UN the last vote against its embargo was supported by every country except the US and Israel with abstentions by the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

Cuba-1bThe change in Latin America is dramatic; in the 1960s US hegemony was almost total. In 1962, because the US dominated the Organisation of American States (OAS), Cuba was suspended, so it could not send its representatives to meetings. During the debate on the US motion, Che Guevara gave a long speech denouncing US imperialist control and showing clearly the links between US and capitalist control in the Americas and the poverty, state violence and oppression in the continent. Millions of people including school children stopped classes to listen to the speech live on radio. It was one of the greatest educational events in Latin America.

Today all the Latin American and Caribbean nations belong to CELAC, a political alliance which excludes the US and Canada. UNASUR, which unites all the South American States, is hugely influential and active in fighting ultra right and fascist destabilisation activities supported by US organisations, such as those in Venezuela and Ecuador. ‘No more Pinochets in Latin America’ is now a popular slogan.

Ten years after its formation, on the initiative of Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) has expanded from 5 to 11 countries with 75 million people, 10% of the population of Latin America. Its cooperative and progressive policies have provided an ideological leadership, which is highly influential. Many countries, which currently are not members, have friendly relations with the ALBA countries and these include the largest, Argentina and Brazil.

ALBA has now expanded its scope to promote trade and it has changed its name to ALBA-TCP (The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty ) to reflect this. Its membership is: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Santa Lucia, San Vicente and the Grenadines, and Venezuela. Cuba and Latin America now have cooperative and trade relations with China, Japan and Russia, Africa and even the EU.

Isolation is now a problem for the US. To change this it will have to go much further. Opening relations with Cuba while imposing sanctions on Venezuela shows that Obama is still a servant of the most reactionary sections of US capital.

Dec 182014
 

The Cuban patriots and internationalists known as the Miami Five are free at last and can enjoy the festive season with their immediate families knowing that workers’ throughout the world are with them in celebrating this victory for intense campaigning and diplomatic effort.

British campaigners and Cuba Solidarity Campaign can be rightfully proud of their unrelenting and quality work to assist in this process.

 

 

Dec 032014
 

Ellie O’Hagan, Communications officer for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies has summed up a people’s response to the Chancellor’s autumn statement quite well: “According to the OBR, at the end of this decade, public spending will be at its lowest rate for 80 years. To me, that is a remarkable fact in a time of stagnating wages and falling living standards. And even without those conditions, it is a damning indictment of how much the government values the people. What is the point of reducing the deficit (which doesn’t even need to be done with austerity, or done so quickly) if you totally hollow out society in order to achieve it? So much of the Autumn Statement was announced in advance that George’s Osborne’s speech yielded few surprises on the day. In the build-up there was much tut-tutting over the fact that the government’s offering didn’t include any “pre-election bribes.”

Are a few pill sweeteners the best we hope for? In their daily lives, people care about quality of life, relationships, communities, mental and physical health, and freedom from poverty. And yet, it’s almost viewed as weakness to talk about politics in anything other than the most hard line economic terms. Between that disparity and the unedifying jeers from politicians as the Chancellor made his statement, is there any wonder people are disillusioned with mainstream politics?” The people are disillusioned because the parasites are in control. Economic policy is dominated by financial speculators who group together in the banks, fund managers groups, actuaries, central banks, European Union, Wall Street the City of London and all of their global trading organisations.

Tax revenues, not that many of them pay them, are a pittance compared to their private wealth, but government debts and privatisation plans are lucrative for them. Those who profit from government deficits, the debt, private credit and public sector sell offs rob and bleed nations dry. No Parliamentary machination or Chancellor within the existing system can manipulate the tax and spend system in such a way that the exploitation of workers will be relieved and the control of our nation’s wealth will be put at our democratic disposal in the interests of the people. So a capitalist budget statement as usual but as so many since 1979 one that shifts power and wealth further into the hands of the finance capitalists. It is people not profit that matters and the enduring profundity of that perception will drive the new world order.

Nov 212014
 

Hours after the result of the Scottish Referendum, Cameron announced his own recipe for the break-up of Britain in calls for an English Parliament. Meanwhile, Osborne was trying to create an argument for devolution to the regions to satisfy the requirements of finance capital at home and abroad. His rehearsed announcement has had the desired effect of creating a bandwagon among other parties and media in the run-up to the general election.

Regionalism is Separatism by another name and was rejected by the British people years ago when Westminster politicians tried to foist elected mayors on Britain’s larger cities. According to Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, “The country wants to break the stranglehold of Westminster. They want power shifted away from this place on a grand scale.” But Westminster politicians such as Khan have no alternatives to rampant capitalism.

Strategic Authorities, such as the West Midlands, which had some control of roads, transport, police and planning were destroyed by Heath. We are left with a number of unitary authorities without the powers to co-ordinate services and integrate them with other areas. Why should setting up a body for one set of cities here and another there be acceptable, when money and resources are taken away from other areas? Why not a plan for the nation? Capitalism says such planning cannot be allowed as it interferes with market forces.

What would be the point of another tier of local government when it cannot produce coherence and fairness for all people? For example an integrated transport system requires a national plan, as does energy. Of course no plans actually exist because our politicians remove themselves more and more from governing our country; they would rather ‘let the markets decide’.

The only beneficiaries from regionalism/separatism are finance capitalists who feed off a weakened working class. They want us to fight among ourselves for what they decide to give us on a region by region basis.

It seems that the main parties will include plans for English devolution in their election manifestos. Romantic nationalists from places such as Cornwall and Yorkshire seem oblivious to the levels of enduring poverty, which separatism would do nothing to address. What all separatists conveniently forget is that it is only economic activity overseen by a progressive nation state that can solve these deep-rooted problems.

Oct 292014
 

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has sent out a manifesto to its members as part of its ‘Stand Up For Education’ campaign in the lead up to the election. It is a well thought out vision for education with a wide set of demands that include action on child poverty which counters the current government line that schools are responsible for righting inequality.

Key points in the manifesto include:

  • A coherent 14 – 19 framework of qualifications
  • Less testing, getting rid of league tables and local authorities to have a key role in evaluating schools
  • All staff to be qualified and government money for staff training over the course of their careers
  • Targets to end child poverty including the abolition of the bedroom tax, high quality early years education and the restoration of support for post-16 students
  • Restoration of the power of local authorities to plan and provide school places and to be the local democratic organisation responsible for education
  • An end to the free school and forced academy programmes and oversight of all state-funded schools to be returned to the local authorities.
  • No schools to be run for profit and an end to outsourcing and marketisation
  • Education funding to be restored to at least 2010 levels with more support for post-16 provision.
  • A reduction in workload, restoration of a national pay structure and an earlier retirement age.

A supplementary booklet sent out with the manifesto goes into details of how the campaign can be advanced, particularly by working with parents and also by action short of strikes, though there will be consultation on industrial action.

An interesting section says that the problems in Britain are not unique and academics have identified what they call GERM – the Global Education Reform Movement. This imposes a business model on education. The traits of GERM are competition (eg between schools), test based accountability, performance related rewards and attacks on teaching unions. Education becomes a commodity, which can be traded globally.

To read and/or order copies of the manifesto go to http://www.teachers.org.uk/manifesto.

To read our Vision For Education: http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-education.htm

 

 Posted by at 9:05 pm
Oct 292014
 
NHS Outsourcing Means Wage Cuts to Protect Profits

Four months ago 50 low paid carers of vulnerable adults in Doncaster were forced to go on strike. Why? Because their low pay was made lower when Care UK took over an NHS contract. The strikers have of course asked for the earth – they want £7.65 an hour. Care UK claim that such wages are ‘simply unrealistic’.

This attack on public provision of social care is not a one-off. 20 years only 5% of publicly-funded social care that was given to people in their own homes was provided by the private sector. Today that 5% has grown to almost 90% with the public sector struggling to compete with the lower wages of the private sector and their race to the bottom. This shows that in some sectors private capital has already destroyed public provision.

On the other side of this coin sits Care UK with its tax arrangements in the Channel Islands and its sister company in Luxembourg; both great places to find low tax. In 2010 Care UK was taken over by a private equity firm, Bridgepoint Capital. Since then it has paid no corporation tax. Meanwhile, the former chairman of Care UK, John Nash, a venture capitalist has donated thousands to the Conservative party. He was made a Lord and now sponsors academies. No doubt he expects that the government will soon release academies from public control and allow a venture capitalist approach to education.

Support for the strikers has come from many quarters. Trade unionists and others have donated funds to help the strikers win their battle. But, sadly, the MP for Doncaster North, Ed Miliband, is unable to recognise the justice of the fight publicly and come out in support. No doubt this is all an embarrassment for him since it is on his doorstep. But, if he believes that workers are quietly going to accept anything thrown at them and then vote him in, he needs to think again.

Oct 292014
 
Cuban Health Workers

When Cuba sent 165 Health Workers to West Africa on 2nd October 2014 to assist in the fight to combat Ebola, they gave not only great practical help but also exemplary leadership to the world.

The meeting in Havana of the ALBA countries to agree a plan to fight Ebola followed this. The plan included a number of measures to train health workers and build infrastructure in the ALBA countries to protect their own population as well as mobilising world support for the Africans.

The specialist Ebola unit went to Sierra Leone followed by 83 medical professionals who went to Liberia and Guinea. This brought the number of Cuban health workers fighting a range of diseases to 4000, winning praise from the Africans. Bolivia announced a donation of one million dollars and Venezuela sent money and resources.

As the US has concentrated its aid in using their military engineers to build Health Centres, Fidel Castro called on the US to cooperate in the anti- Ebola strategy by joining forces with Cuban doctors and nurses. There was no response initially but press criticism in New York resulted in a statement by Kerry that they would cooperate.

The world waits to see how they act!

Oct 292014
 

In her time Thatcher cut over 170 000 civil service jobs. The attack continues apace with 80 000 more jobs gone, wages pegged and living standards slashed. The future remains bleak for civil servants as Tories, Liberals and Labour are all promising ever more savage reductions.

The political parties all claim that they will not harm front line services. Tell that to both those employed in providing and receiving them and see if you get the same answer.

The Crown Prosecution Service has sacked 1200 employees, amounting to nearly 25% of its barristers and solicitors. Consequently 1210 Crown Court cases have collapsed during the last 12 months. Similarly the Ministry of Justice has faced a 23% reduction in its budget, resulting in cuts to legal aid and the denial of justice except for those who are able to pay.

In 2010 the Passport Office employed 4000 workers, but now it is fewer than 3500. We have all seen the resulting chaos and backlog in applications throughout this year.

Despite the floods of 2014 the Environment Agency has slashed over 1500 jobs. According to the government’s own advisers, cuts in flood defence funding since 2010 have led to £3bn in damage that could have been avoided.

Even the government’s tax raising employees have not been spared the cuts, resulting in workers including the self-employed not receiving the correct tax advice or support they need.

These cuts are ideological and make no economic sense. Government revenue is falling as redundancies, low pay and pay cuts mean lower tax receipts. Fewer tax collectors mean huge amounts of tax are evaded.

We know what has to happen if we are to have the services we deserve and require. Britain’s wealth is being squandered; we need to use the resources of working people to support Britain as a whole not for the few.

Oct 202014
 

While many were shocked at what the Minister for the Disabled, Lord Freud, said recently, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Here are some of the things he has said recently and in the past:

  • About disabled workers: ‘There is a small…there is a group, where actually as you say, they are not worth the full wage’. He would, he said, find if there was a way of paying such a person £2 an hour.
  • About food banks: ‘More people are using food banks now because there are more food banks.’
  • About separated families and the bedroom tax: ‘Children could use a sofa bed when visiting a separated parent.’

More importantly he is a minister in the government that closed the Remploy factories which had employed disabled people for 67 years and which numbered 83 as recently as 2007. At their peak in the late 1980s Remploy factories employed more than 10,000 disabled people in 94 sites, all unionised.

The most galling thing is that Lord Freud spoke about the productivity of disabled workers when he has never produced anything useful to society himself. In his book ‘Freud in the City’ he describes his activities with great pride – selling assets and stocks above their value.

For the Tory government, an ex–city speculator with this outlook made him perfectly qualified for the task of Minister for the Disabled.

That we can allow this should shame us all!

Oct 122014
 

The faces of the African presidents told the story – the expressions of amazement and amusement at the hypocritical call by Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, to African states to invest more on public health to cope better with the Ebola virus. Ironically it is of course the IMF and the World Bank which pressurise Africans and put conditions on loans to ‘encourage’ investment in private health systems.

Neoliberalism and its institutions kill !

Oct 092014
 

Traditional party conferences are part of the virtual world these days. They come and go and no one really cares. Very few delegates actually attend them but millions know about them because of the television and newspapers.

Yet very few take any notice of them. It’s all tax and spend within the restraints of the debt and deficit that benefit the banks.

As the democratic world of the past has been turned upside down, so the relationship between parliamentary representatives and the people has fundamentally changed.

A country should be governed by those the people elected in a great enthusiasm of popular democracy.

This is no longer the case in Britain.

Parliamentary politicians no longer take the will of the people to Parliament to govern the country in the people’s interests. They tout now and then on the dreaded doorstep usually interrupting something more important going on in the house and appeal for votes for their platform.

If they get elected they then pretend to tell us what to do.

They can only pretend because the British state and its Parliament is governed by unelected forces on the boards of companies and banks and in the European Commission and Whitehouse.

Setting the world the right way up is going to be the responsibility of the people electing their own to govern.

 

Sep 302014
 

Now at a time when British capitalism has raise the question of a constitutional settlement British workers should recognise the legitimate claims of the Irish nation to be united and free. We must also declare for a united independent Britain too.

The civil wars of three nations of the 1640s in England, Scotland and Ireland acted as midwife for two nations,one on either side of the Irish Sea. After eight hundred years still two thirds of Ulster (Ireland’s fourth field) is still occupied by a foreign power, even though it is almost a century since the Green Flag was raised in Dublin along with the tricolour.

In the 1790s the United Irishmen led by Wolfe Tone an Ulster protestant outlined for the modern era the basis of Irish nationalism. In the 20th century James Connolly the Socialist trade unionist and Irish rebel showed for Ireland, but also for the world, how socialists should take part in the struggle for national freedom and against imperialism. He explained how this was a question of crucial importance for working class people.

Since the Good Friday Agreement at the end of the 1990s the struggle for unity and independence continues, now in political form. At the present Sinn Fein wish to see a true partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in the European Union.

James Connolly posed the question “what is a free nation?” and indicated that such a country would to have absolute control over: its natural resources and how it orders its economy; its harbours and what commodities its open to or shuts out; its customs and excise and merchant commerce; the industries it nurses to health; its postal and telegraphic services; its coinage; its legislative sovereignty and how it modifies its laws; how it orders its national and social activity; its fighting forces and its relationships with other nations.

For Britain we could well do with taking these points as a basis for a new constitution. However so many of these points bring us into direct conflict with the European Union. The Tory party and many other parliamentarians wish to solve the “West Lothian” questions – the fact that Scotland has a parliament and Wales an assembly. They would solve this by preventing Scottish MPs from voting on “English Matters”, or by devolution of powers to national assemblies including one for England, or some kind of federal solution. Attempts to develop such new governmental structures will undermine Westminster, have questionable legitimacy, have limited powers and be less democratically accountable. Such moves can only serve to weaken Britain and strengthen the EU.

United Britain, out of the EU! Ireland is One Nation!

Sep 282014
 

Labour’s core policy paper written by John Cruddas and John Rutherford – One Nation – emphasises three times in its opening three pages that these are times of financial restraint and difficult financial times. The seek another version of Blair’s Third Way and reject ‘orthodox Marxism’ and ‘neoliberalism’ preferring a rebirth of social democracy as outlined by Polyani.

Their version of the future restricts politics to the notion of parliament, economics to the idea of tax and spend, warning there is little to spend, and fails to address the underlying mechanisms of capitalism.

The bankers and gutter press will welcome this body swerve and encourage a vote for Labour and hope the rocky coalition will fall.

Labour are leaving themselves prey to the populism of UKIP because they have no radical solution for Britain. Neither do UKIP but they appear to be taking up issues of concern for working people while Labour has forgotten them. A mansion tax to fund the NHS is not the answer. reinvestment through nationalised banks of the wealth created in Britain and public ownership of key utilities, transport and so in would be a step in the right direction. removing the power of the establishment and banks through a written constitution would be another.

Sep 262014
 

IS is a gang of around 20,000 thugs with a cult of death and nothing but murder in their hearts. IS  is creating a confederacy of Islamist extremists to attack Westerners both abroad and in their own capitals. It is harboured as primitive guerrilla forces are by a people in fear and people in their support who have seen their country, Iraq, bombed and plundered by Britain and others for a hundred years.

They represent one of the most barbaric forces the world has seen. They were the creation of the US and UK led war on Iraq and provocations against Syria and the puppet regime in Iraq. Iraq rid itself of internal extremist terror and the west sought to rekindle this. IS is the creation of the West every much as it is the creation of crazed fanatics.

They are a guerrilla force not a coherent army,  disparate and hidden within communities and not sitting pretty for  clinical air strikes.  Some of their very tin pot infrastructure however has already been destroyed by highly targeted US attacks. BUt they do control areas that cannot be bombed with further loss of civilian life.

How they are dealt with is what will count.

There’s no doubt that every last one of them should be rounded up and dealt with. Many are fanatical war criminals.

Setting another war alight with the US posse in control and the UK tagging along behind will not provide the answer. Saudia Arabia and Quatar will join in, but will they stop selling arms to IS as well?

Support for the brave forces of Syria who have been fighting these terrorists for three years would be one useful measure. Paying significant war reparations to Iraq to rebuild for its people would be another.

Creating a fully international force to contain and defeat IS through the UN has to be advocated.

About 500 British nationals have joined ISIS overseas and a huge integration and educational programme needs to be waged within British communities of youth of Muslim faith. We are paying the prices for years of alienating our young people and of ghettoising backward religious prejudices under the divisiveness of multiculturalism.

Much more media time could be devoted to the exposure of the perversion of Islam that this group represents could be given throughout he Middle east and in some of our communities in the West.

All countries need to strenuously apply the UN resolution of not permitting terrorist fighters to cross their borders. Turkey has a key role in this.

A more concerted effort could be made to cut off arms supplies and ammunition to Islamic State.

But one thing is also for sure the UK Parliament’s supine obedience yet again to the US special relationship will not solve the problem. It will fan more flames and bitterness.

 

 

Sep 202014
 

 

How does the stiff upper lip in England get unleashed into a vibrant dialogue about our future as the nation of Britain with everyone else chattering and laughing and wondering where on earth a Cameron and Osborne came from?

The Celts can do it. Common sense and an affection for each other prevailed in Scotland and Wales, but in England even stirring a hearty guffaw is difficult. Don’t trust England  with a parliament of its own till it can belly laugh.

England is  a troublesome place full of the likes of Heath, Thatcher and Blair. All were odiously reserved revolutionaries. The brutality of their revolutions pales all previous attempts to turn back the clock to serfdom.

Heath lied about membership of the Common Market knowing all along it was a plot to put the EU in charge over previously independent nations and the creation of a political union which puts EU law over national law.

Thatcher lied by saying the people were the enemy within and that Britain could survive without industry and within the EU. She signed the Single European Act remember.

Blair lied about practically everything, particularly the reasons for following the US into a war for oil and the EU into a binge of privatisation.

It is now time for stability and calm and an inclination towards the truth.

A nation is its people. People work. We create everything. Why not control everything?

Since the adoption of universal suffrage people in Britain have said ‘trust and rely on those we elect’. Before this we could elect no one on our side. We created the Labour Party to say we are on your side but they goofed it.

In 2010 those we elected never got a look in and the banks took advantage running the elected MPs and their coalition ragged.

An unelected coalition with no mandate set about accelerating the work that Thatcher and Blair had begun. That people wanted a change of direction was conveniently forgotten.

Scotland reminded us that this was not right in its debate on a referendum. This turned into a debate on the future for us all. And Miliband is quite right the people not the elite should decide the future direction.

Reactionaries in England responded by saying we want more power like them and no doubt a few constitutional lawyers and professors to help us out of the mess.

But more power for what? The Redwood stiff upper lip and the repulsive Farage? True Englishmen lacking good mongrel pedigree.

Those seeking more power for Wales, Scotland, England, Cornwall, Yorkshire, and the big Cities want it for their own interests not those of others. They forget the EU has all the power, not to mention the finance houses and large corporations.

The overwhelming weight of working class opinion and action is for togetherness and unity. Preachers of division and sectarianism and selfishness hate this. Corporate powers love our confusion on these matters.

Sep 192014
 

Ed Milliband has raised the question of the need for a Constitutional Convention and the question of a written constitution.

He has also indicated that this is a matter for the people to engage with and potentially decide.

This is to be welcomed.

The starting point for the debate has to be a recognition that no form of devolution of powers within Britain has meaning or effect as long as Britain as a whole is governed by the European Union, subsidising it by £1 billion a week in payments and a £1 billion a week trading deficit.

The other key starting point is the recognition that Britain is not a United Kingdom of four nations.

Britain is a whole nation comprising of Wales, Scotland and England. We have in reality two official languages, English, massively the most prevalent, and Welsh, spoken by a significant number. Gaelic is not an official language and is spoken by around 1% of the population in Scotland.

Sep 192014
 

The result of the Scotland referendum was decisive and welcome.

In many ways the option voted on was a false choice. Like the rest of Britain to be independent we need to be out of the EU and remove the control of our economy and banks from foreign powers.

To express the democratic will of the people Parliaments need to be free to decide. Neither Westminster, Holyrood nor Cardiff currently are.

If you want a vision of what socialism feels like then Scotland showed it. People fiercely debating the future of their country every day and feeling a sense of ownership and control in their hands.

This is what socialism is, the majority of the people determining the direction of our country.

We cannot do this across Britain because we have no clear constitution or structures through which to exercise our will.

The challenge ahead is to create a new constitution and new structures of governance that enable the majority to rule in their own interests. The hidden hand of the markets and the shady deals of the board rooms that determine our lives must be rejected.

Ireland must be united. Britain must be united.

Increasingly shrill calls for the break up of Britain into regions or even City states must be rejected. The Scottish vote gave an impetus to further unity, not fragmented separatism

Sep 152014
 

The parasite has nearly killed its host. Nation states which capitalism gave a progressive birth to, are no longer required now it’s in its decrepitude. The answer to this is not to melt down with it, diverted by the illusions either of petty nationalism or wide eyed internationalism. Both lead nowhere and leave capital intact.

Working class opposition to the blitzkrieg of the accumulated effects of neoliberalism have been confined to outdated forms of protest and oppositionism. Social democracy was characterised by a form of listening and large Labour Movement marches and pivotal industrial struggles could not be ignored by Parliament.

Neoliberalism takes no notice of them. It considers them pathetic and irrelevant just as it sees Parliaments as awkward obstacles to its progress.

The universal franchise was always a nuisance to capitalism in Britain, but their way round it has been to supersede it by putting supra national bodies like the EU and a new authoritarianism in government in control.

The will and interests of the majority are structurally kept at bay. Politicians have become advocates of personal or party opinions, not representatives of the people directed by our will. What we believe is needed is a new form of proposition, a new form of government.

We have to move from saying no to saying yes to what we want. This must not be confined to previous forms of economic alternative strategies, though these are essential today, but it is primarily a political question demanding an engaged answer and new machinery of social organisation and government.

The building of a new democracy serving all parts of the country and designed to enact equality, wealth creation and fair distribution of resources, is now an urgent necessity.

Our proposition rests on the ability to make a nation serve the 99% of its people in a new way with the creation of full employment, equality and international solidarity at its heart.

Sep 152014
 

The national question is primary. Britain, an amalgam of Wales, Scotland and England, must be independent and self-determining.

This means withdrawal from the EU and NATO, the World Trade Organisation and the IMF.

It means a cancellation of the national debt.

It means opposition to calls for separatism internally and the development of an integrated national economic policy based on production, nationalised industries and utilities and a reversal of privatisations in public services, transport and utilities.

To achieve these objectives the banks must be nationalised and controls must be placed on the import and export of capital. A nationally integrated industrial and social policy must be developed. The nation must own its own assets in land, production, agriculture, fishing, energy supply and banking.

The ensure these objectives a new constitution must be adopted by the British people. A new form of governance for the country as a whole must be adopted. Neither the Westminster Parliament, the Holyrood Executive nor the Welsh Assembly meet the needs of the people.

Sep 152014
 

In a chilling article in Sunday’s Telegraph, Andrew Gillighan who exposed the lies being told about Iraq to justify a terrible war, has equally warned of the lies about Scottish ‘independence.’ When a lie is worth telling it is worth making it big as all reactionary world leaders throughout history have known. It was a lie that took us into the war against Iraq, lies that took us into the European Union, although there has been no vote on it in Britain since 1975, and it was a pack of lies that underpinned the entire coalition attack on workers since 2010. Lies and theft are the bedrock of the neoliberal agenda and are the norm rather than the exception.

The word ‘independence’ when being applied to the Scottish yes vote campaign is the cleverest lie of all. It puts a word which all progressive freedom loving people agree with over the banner of separatism and dependence.

A Scotland that opts out of the British nation state would be a Scotland even more at the mercy of the employers and finance capital. It would not be independent to control its own borders from the free flow of capital, people, labour, goods and services by the  EU. It would not be free to adopt its own foreign policy outside of NATO and the EU. In the EU it would find over 70% of its laws created by the EU. In another currency whether the pound or EU it would have its interest rates, currency flows and main economic levers determined by others. Out of Britain it would receive less for its public services. Out of Britain it would have to impose higher taxes. The list of disadvantages for Scottish workers in leaving Britain and trying to paddle a separatist canoe within a very hostile world is long.

The attraction of going it alone for some in Scotland wrongly assumes that England will always be a reactionary place dominated by Tories, riddled with weird UKIPers and embarrassed by a Labour Party committed to neoliberalism and distancing themselves from trade unions. It assumes that Scotland can break out and make a socialist oasis that everyone will follow. It assumes that by electing its own government it can avoid the worst excesses of English capitalism. Yet of course it will achieve nothing of the kind unless it deals with capitalist property relations in Scotland.

Neoliberalism has relied in no small measure on fostering petty nationalisms and animosities throughout the world. It plays the race and sectarian cards wherever it can to divide workers and divert attention from the unjust rule of the 1% with stories of the most lurid internecine and sectarian warfare you can imagine and of which ISIS is only one of many recent examples. Where there is national unity if encourages reactionary groups to secede, where there is non sectarian unification, it fosters bloodthirsty sectarianism, where there are no borders, it sets up Apartheid walls, where that has been communal healing it sets about fostering inhuman tribal and religious warfare again.

Already you can feel the tensions and resentments and animosities in Britain where there was previously class unity and common voice.

Whatever the result on the 18th the nationalists and their leftist supporters have fanned dangerous flames of division. They have dealt a bad blow to a previously united and solid working class nation and made people think there are quasi racial solutions to what are economic and social problems.

While certain elements of the capitalist class are proposing to move out of Scotland and encouraging a No Vote, others, more powerful and sinister forces, are welcoming the potential for disunity and disharmony in Britain and workers fighting workers in the way they have not done for generations on the mainland.

Sep 142014
 

Throughout the debate about the potential ‘independence’ of Scotland there has been little or no debate about the role of international capitalism and the EU. In fact broadcast media have either ignored the question of the EU or relegated it to facile questions, such as ‘How long will it take an independent Scotland to get membership?’. It has taken the arrival of Nigel Farage to force it to consider questions about how easily the EU domination over Britain’s economy will be transferred to EU domination over Scotland’s.

But we need to go much further and to recognise that we are faced with a neoliberal agenda that seeks to make all workers in Britain permanent slaves through EU Treaties and one-sided trade agreements with the US. The recent TUC congress reminded us of our proud, collective history fighting capitalism. No wishful thinking that Scottish workers can make a better job of fighting it on their own is going to change the material conditions that require workers in Britain (all of it) to rebuild their organisations and reclaim their industries.

Download From Here  A pamphlet that Discusses and Challenges Scottish Separatism

No to Scottish SepartismThe modern nation of Britain was built in no small part by trade unions and socialists. It is the sum total of the ingenuity, progressive rights and culture of workers and their families who live here. We must not allow it to be pulled apart under the illusion that Scotland could be ‘independent’. The SNP is arguing for a dangerous new form of subservience that will make it more difficult for us to fight back. Trade unions are for human solidarity and oppose false divisions.

Over 35 years of neoliberal rule have made it seem ‘normal’ to accept increasing inequality, poverty, privatisation, de-industrialisation, the dismantling of the welfare state, unemployment and casualisation of work. All parts of Britain are dominated by financial capital and transnational corporations and less than 1% of the population controls the wealth created by the 99%.

Sep 112014
 

Here are two suggestions for those of you who like getting organised for December 25th!

Voice and Vision – songs of resistance, democracy, and peace.

This is a double CD set produced by Topic records and the General Federation of Trade Unions. Some of the best songs from our working class history sung by some of the most famous singers and many new voices of younger performers. There are excellent sleeve notes putting the songs in a social and political context and emphasising their power and significance today. Order through Topic Records the oldest independent record label in the world originally established by the Communist Party.

33 revolutions per minute – a History of Protest Songs. Faber and Faber publishers.

This is a magnificent book by Dorian Lynskey bringing out the resonance, historic moment and ‘biographies’ of world changing songs and their singers.

Someone once said if you wanted to know the real history of Britain and the United States you would look at our songs. This book and the two CDs mentioned are indispensable in understanding our history.

Sep 112014
 

Seamus Milne’s article on the Scottish separatism vote  offers mature consideration of the debate today in The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/11/salmond-scotland-no-escape-tory-britain#start-of-comments

There may be an escape from the Tories by voting other political parties into power, but we don’t get a vote on the nature of the ownership of wealth and production and it is this ownership that shapes the political economy of all parts of Britain.

A totally new constitutional settlement is needed to meet the needs of the 99% of the population in all parts of Britain.

Sep 102014
 

If you looked down from Mars and were asked the question what is the best organisation in Britain, you would have to say it is the trade union movement. No other organisation of workers in Britain is so rooted, so old, so dynamic, so democratic, so informed, so passionate, so organised, so compassionate. It’s the best thing we have got and the TUC Congress always gives a sample of our best values and concerns and our humour and fortitude.

Workers are workers and their unions reflect both our strengths and our weaknesses.

Some of the strengths were seen in those unions like USDAW, Community, GMB, ASLEF, and the NUM who have resolutely opposed separatism for Scotland.

Some of the weaknesses generally were reflected in the absence from the Movement now of a clear understanding of the role of the European Union in the country’s misfortunes. A brilliant pamphlet from the No2EU Trade Union Information Group alone showed how thinking on the EU must be urgently deepened.

There is clarity amongst some on the impending dangers of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP, but little recognition that it is an EU development like so many others.

Consistent calls for public ownership and manufacturing investment and an end to unemployment and so on reflected the aspirations of the working class, yet we keep getting stuck on our main weakness. The view is that a capitalist parliament with a Labour majority will change things. The prevalence of a dated social democracy holds the workers’ movement back from taking charge of production, distribution and exchange and above all control over the wealth of the country. Our wealth is firmly in the hands of finance capital which has found comprehensive ways of dominating the political economy. Britain started under the control of robber barons, but they were nowhere near as successful at smashing and grabbing as this lot.

One of the arch, but soft spoken and deathly boring, proponents of finance capital is the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney. This is one of the many things he did in Canada to boost the profits of the banks at the expense of the people. In order to buy up the bad debt in the housing market he got the government to borrow money from the banks at interest. It was win win for the banks. Whatever way you turned they made a profit as workers became homeless and mortgages became more unaffordable.

Because the dominant political position of trade unionists is that all they can do is elect a government to change things, they condemn themselves to a position of permanent opposition and protest against the owners of production and commanders of the main elements of the economy in utilities, services, land, production and distribution. Until this conundrum is solved the unions will be our best and our worst expression.

This explains too why the Scotland debate remains so vexed all round, with many reluctantly voting yes. Even those  with the firmest and most international and socialist values are voting yes to get rid of unfairness and inequality and neoliberalism. The tragedy is that a separate Scottish Parliament will not be able to deliver this. An integrated organised working class within an integrated British planned economy with the wealth controlled by the people rather than the banks is the only route out of the mess capitalism has created.

Many celebrated the 30th year since the miners strike in a photographic exhibition by two photographers who dedicated their services that year to the struggle. One speaker said that the miners strike could not be forgotten because every time you get a utility bill you are reminded that the miners were right in warning that without coal, private foreign owners using vulnerable overseas energy supplies would put prices up, worsen services, wreck the environment and ensure that more of our pensioners die in the winter and people would have to choose between heating and eating. Another speaker reminded us that the last three coal mines are about to close leaving Britain with no deep mine coal production.

 

Sep 072014
 

Many roads in the centre of Cardiff were blocked to the dismay of local residents, and Newport was heavily guarded by police from across Britain, all to protect the NATO summit from the thousand peace campaigners who gathered at the celtic Manor.

NATO world wide strategy seems chaotic, following the defeat of US led forces in Afghanistan, and the on-going warfare in the Middle East. Support is given to Israel’s genocidal attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. War against Iraq and the destabilisation of Syria have opened the door for the advances of mediaeval practices of Islamic State; Obama admits NATO has no strategy to deal with the situation there.

Instead NATO warmongers have planned the setting up of a rapid reaction force in based in Poland and are to go ahead with manoeuvres in countries bordering Russia. The meetings were full of a provocative statements, blaming Russia for the developments in Ukraine, threatening that Russia should expect no sphere of influence, as an expansionist EU plunges the region into conflict. NATO the EU and the US make increasing threats of economic sanctions against a strong and independent Russia.

The problem with divide and rule is that the divider does not fully control the outcome of the process they have set in motion. This is so in the case of  the German’s fostering of Nazi inspired Ukrainian chauvinism. Germany, the EU and the USA have no wish to go to war with Russia, but politics has a way of being continued a manner that is neither wanted or fully expected.

In the nineties Germany and the EU spearheaded the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the instigation of inter-ethnic violence.

Blair and Bush bent the truth, to start a war in Iraq and we still see the sectarian consequences today. Cameron and his pet Clegg, not to be left out, have set in train the descent of a stable multi-ethnic Syria into internecine warfare. They have turned a secular, religiously tolerant state into a jihadist’s paradise; a hell for all others, except the financiers and multi-national corporations which thrive on the chaos. Islamic State and refugees on mountain tops are a consequence.

The leaders of NATO, transnational bodies, bankers etc. have a record of deliberately creating  shocking conditions, divisions and devastation. One could well ask what is the future for Britain if Scotland ceases to be part of the Union?

 Posted by at 10:35 pm  Tagged with:
Aug 262014
 

 Debate on the use of the pound by an ‘Independent Scotland’ has given the impression that it is a matter for political decision but in fact the management of a currency has strict requirements and deep economic consequences. This is because for a currency to retain its value key principles have to be followed. This was discovered by Karl Marx and explained in ‘Das Capital’.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

The first fundamental is that paper money has real value, it is not just symbolic of value therefore it actually contains an amount of average labour used in the production of commodities in an economy. For this value to be maintained the amount of money in circulation has to be in balance with the amount of actual wealth and potential for wealth creation. This is one reason why the Bank of England not only monitors inflation and unemployment but other measures of ‘slack’ in the economy (that is unused resources which could be used to produce value). To ensure this happens Marx gave the following measures which must operate over a territory and economy on which a currency operates and is the dominant form of tender for exchanges, buying and selling of commodities (goods, services or labour power). These are:

  • One central bank must control the printing and circulation of money in the economy.
  • There must be one economic policy for the whole economy.

Ideally these principles must be applied so that the full economic potential is mobilised and sustained. In effect this determines matters like the basic interest rate for the whole country and influences the exchange rate of the currency compared to other currencies. In a modern economy like Britain the state is a major investor in infrastructure and it funds public services so it influences strongly activity and growth not only of the country as a whole but of each of the regions and economic sectors. However mobilising the full economic potential implies full employment and increased bargaining power for workers and that does not suit capitalism. In Britain the most powerful section of the capitalist class the financial elite and in particular its speculative part are not interested in the economic health of most of the country as they can make as much or more profit out of collapse and bankruptcy or from abroad as from serving productive activity.

The health of the whole British economy therefore requires an economic policy for the whole country that is based on production and need. Separation of any part of Britain would not isolate them or free them from the control of the financial elite. So what Scotland and the rest of Britain needs is not the false ‘independence’ of a shared pound but a united working class asserting the interests of all the people of Britain and removal of the economic levers from the financial and corporatist elites.

 

Aug 072014
 

Capitalism works very well for capitalists, especially the larger variety; but it doesn’t work for workers. Thatcher’s ‘Trickle Down Theory’ remains just that, a discredited theory which hasn’t worked for the last 35 years of neo-liberalism. It was always a lie and we all know what is supposed to happen if you tell the same lie long enough. Her mission was to destroy working class organisation and she largely succeeded.
Poverty is current not only in the unemployed but those labelled as ‘working poor’. In 5 years the number of workers reliant on housing benefit has doubled. In 2009-10 the cost was £2.2 billion, now it is £4.6 billion. It is expected to be £6 billion in 2018-19. The number of claimants was 478,000 in 2009-10 and by 2018-19 it could be 1,238,000. Government uses poverty as a weapon against us whether we are in insecure jobs or out of them.
So where are our unions? The membership has become demoralised, and too many of us have accepted another government lie about preserving jobs by not fighting for proper wages through collective bargaining. In the meantime most of the leadership of unions seems enslaved to the Labour Party in the vain hope that things might change with the election Labour next May.
All 3 parties adhere to the demands of international capital, which means the continued destruction of wages and cyclical unemployment. Only workers themselves exercising power can end this vicious cycle. There is no alternative.

Jul 232014
 

The protests by US politicians and their supporters blaming Russia for the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet have the following objectives:

  • To blame the instability and war in the east of Ukraine on Russia despite having caused it themselves, with an investment of $5 billion in a coup and the use of the fascist parties like the Right Sector.
  • To divert attention from the genocidal Israeli war on the Palestinian people in Gaza.
  • To force the EU countries, particularly Germany and France, to follow a US strategy against Russia instead of their current policy of encouraging peace talks with the east of Ukraine. (The EU not only recognises this is the only long-term solution but also that it will serve their own economic interests because of their trade with Russia.)

While in the short-term the US campaign will have limited success in the West, it will unravel quite quickly. The hypocrisy of the Western leaders is all too apparent, with their obvious double standards claiming regard for the aircraft victims while disregarding Ukrainian civilians shelled by the army on the orders of Kiev and most blatantly the plight of Palestinians from the illegal occupation and expansion of Israeli settlements, bombing of hospitals and civilian areas and cutting of water, electricity and food supplies to impose acceptance of their occupation.

Most importantly the US ambition to see the people of the East of Ukraine submit to the dictates of a Kiev government under the influence of fascist parties, which explicitly hate the Russian speakers in the East of Ukraine, is delusional. Peace in the Ukraine can only be achieved by a settlement which recognises the interests of all Ukrainians in a federation through talks involving all parties.

Whoever fired the missile that downed the passenger jet, it was clearly accidental. In war zones such accidents are all too possible as the US knows, having shot down an Iranian passenger jet. Allowing passenger aircraft in such a war zone was negligent by several bodies and this will become apparent in weeks to come. Respect for the dead from the downed plane, civilians from East Ukraine and from Palestine or Israel demands a fight for peace opposing the US and its followers in their strategy to expand and preserve their power.

Jul 212014
 

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill has now been voted through Parliament and become law, thus providing the security services with unprecedented access to people’s phone and internet records.

The Bill was overwhelmingly supported by the coalition and Labour Party. Only minor objections were raised, centring on procedural matters of timetabling, which ensured that it completed its passage through the commons in one day and with little scrutiny. In fact a majority of MPs failed to attend the debate, yet united to force the Bill through.

All the main parties trotted out the same lines from defending the country to eradicating paedophilia. Yvette Cooper said the bill was needed to “fight crime and keep our country safe” whilst David Cameron believed it was “about maintaining existing capabilities – not introducing new snooping laws.” Theresa May claimed “innocent lives may be lost if MPs did not pass the bill”

It is well known that the intelligence agencies are exploiting modern technology to spy on citizens on an unprecedented scale but this has come about without any serious parliamentary debate. Moreover the British people have not been consulted on the Bill whilst they are the very people affected by its imposition.

Clause five of the Bill provides a new definition of “telecommunications service”, which includes companies offering internet-based services. This drags the most popular services like Gmail and Hotmail, and social media sites such as Facebook, within the scope of the legislation.

It would appear that the scare mongering tactics of the parliamentary class has helped generate panic which was then used to push the legislation through the process within three days.

There has been no debate with the people, no consultation with the people and the secret deal between Cameron, Miliband and Clegg means voters who oppose this legislation will have no way of registering their protest at the general election via any of the main parties.

They said Iraq would make us safe, they said Afghanistan would make us safe and now this. When will we stop believing their lies and realise a fundamental change is required in British Democracy?

Jul 182014
 

At a recent meeting in Birmingham speakers from Britain, Germany and the USA outlined the dangers to workers throughout the world from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

TTIP is described as a free trade and investment treaty between the EU and the USA. The reality is far more sinister. All negotiations take place in secret and started in July 2013 between US officials and the European Commission. It is not about removing tariffs as there aren’t many left. The negotiators want the discussions completed as soon as possible without any points scrutinised by the public; even elected politicians have no right to look at what is being discussed. The main aim is to remove any regulation that inhibits transnational corporations from maximising their profits. Any laws protecting labour rights (the few that remain), regulations on food safety, toxic chemicals, digital privacy and banking are to be scrapped.

The TTIP would act like a supranational state accelerating privatisation in vital areas such as education, health and social services. It enforces the right of foreign corporations to sue sovereign governments for reduced profits as a result of public policy decisions and claim eye-watering amounts of compensation.

The power to take on the nation state is enshrined in the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a bland title that raises transnational capital to the status of any nation state. The US insists on including ISDS in all bilateral investment treaties. Companies may bring claims for damages against a host country even if no contract between them and its government exists. Domestic courts can be ignored with claims heard before international arbitration tribunals. Domestic companies can change themselves into ‘foreign’ investors in order to acquire ISDS protection and sue their own government. The Arbitration Tribunals are above public scrutiny and in a real sense ‘above the law’. Corporate lawyers have a vested interest in ruling in favour of the corporations, and all tribunals sit in secret.

A German speaker talked of the link between TTIP and ‘lobbyism’ by multi-nationals, subverting the role of governments. She spoke of the real barrier to trade being currency speculation to the tune of 5.3 trillion dollars every day – which governments and multi-nationals have no intention of tackling, even though it is so far removed from real economic activity. The result is another inflation of a banking and debt bubble.
Last Saturday over a thousand people marched on the European Commission offices in London to protest against TTIP. More protests took place in Birmingham, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

The secret talks between the EU and US are backed by the 3 main parties. Labour as usual equivocates, but ultimately falls into line, despite some MPs’ discomfort over US healthcare’s intentions to bid for NHS contracts under the terms of the treaty. Opposition against TTIP is growing on both sides of the Atlantic when people see how seriously this can affect their lives. Health, environmental and social justice campaigners are joining with trade unions and consumer groups in the EU and USA to oppose this. Opposition in Britain is growing as more people are given the facts. There is precious little democracy left in our country. Interestingly, UKIP, for all its bluster about British sovereignty, does not oppose TTIP.

Jul 182014
 

Free PalestineVigils were held tonight across the country to show support for the people of Palestine at a time of crisis. Hundreds turned up from cities and towns such as Birmingham, Worcester, and Wolverhampton to show support for the Palestinian people ahead of a national demonstration in London on 19th July.

Palestine is effectively under military occupation and speakers reflected the widespread anger that governments everywhere are failing to recognize and take action to deal with Israel’s continued breaches of international law.

The horrific violence against the Palestinian people by Israel isn’t about rockets from Gaza; it’s about Israel fighting to maintain its control over Palestinian lives, and Palestinian land. It’s about Israel feeling able to commit war crimes with complete impunity.

Speakers at these meetings were quick to condemn the world’s media for colluding and broadcasting a message that Palestinian lives are worth less than Israeli lives. Reference was made to the 45 000 strong petition that was handed into the BBC Director General last weekend criticising BBC reporting and calling for fair treatment for the Palestinian people in broadcasts about the occupation.

The protestors were urged to not stand idly by and watch the continued and systematic undermining of any viable Palestinian state by the increased expansion of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

The solution is to end the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories; to end the siege on Gaza, imprisoning Palestinian people in horrific conditions. These people must be able to travel and interact freely with neighbouring states.

The only solution is a free and independent Palestine.

Jul 122014
 

Seventy-eight biomedical scientists at Northampton General Hospital been locked out of their jobs after a dispute over new contracts. If they want to keep their jobs Unite members will have to sign contracts which could double their night time shifts and slash out of hours payments by 80%, which could mean losses of £6000 pa for some.

The dispute has been going on for a year now but it is now at the ‘sign or be sacked’ stage. Workers had voted to take action short of strikes, but management has put in security guards and is using agency and temporary staff.

Mick Orpin, Unite Regional Official has said, “Patient safety is being put at risk because the trust is trying to force through a new strategy without giving its loyal workforce a chance to voice their concerns. Inexperienced staff, who have never worked in blood transfusion, are being trained in an ad hoc manner to operate complex machines.

“The trust has already axed many posts; there are fears that staff shortages could mean our members are forced to work up to 25 night shifts in 14 weeks – almost doubling the trust’s new proposals. This will cause considerable hardship for those with family commitments and older members – something management has shut its eyes to.”

Recent negotiations have failed to get anywhere. There have been rumours in the past that NGH would like to privatise pathology, so it could be that this will provide management with an excuse.

For full details and a petition please go to http://www.unitetheunion.org/how-we-help/list-of-sectors/healthsector/healthsectorcampaigns/back-the-biomedical-scientists-at-ngh/

Jul 102014
 

After resounding ballot results Local Government workers in England and Wales from UNISON, UNITE amd GMB will today be taking the first day strike  of a campaign of industrial action fighting for pay and rejecting the insulting 1% pay offer from the employers.

They will be joined in this day of action by teachers, fire fighters and Civil Servants who have their own disputes around pay, pensions and conditions with their own employers.

The government reaction is tragicomic. They say ”the action will damage the recovery”. Having ruined the economy and driven millions of working families to food banks while subsidising and protecting their speculator friends, their real worry is the recovery of the people’s will to fight.

Jun 302014
 

Apart from Britain’s strong support for EU and American adventurist expansionism in Ukraine, what is being played out in Iraq and parts of Syria is a heinous crime which America and Britain have brought about through greed and stupidity.

After the illegal invasion of Iraq by America and Britain, in itself an act of terrorism, the major source of terrorism in the Middle East apart from Israel, is Saudi Arabia which spawned the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the 9/11 suicide bombers and now their latest off-spring, the Islamist Sunni Caliphate of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They are all paid for by the Saudi Wahabis and Kuwaiti oligarchs, determined to see a growing Sunni Muslim international army prosecute the bloodiest sectarian war.

The same bloodthirsty rebels in Syria, which Obama and Cameron wanted our countries to support, have joined forces with their ISIS counterparts to continue the destruction of Iraq which Bush and Blair started. America and Britain are now forced with great reluctance to abandon their previous posturing and give at least grudging support to the governments of Iraq, Syria and even Iran, while Saudi Arabia, the ‘great friend ‘ of the West, supplied with weapons from Britain, terrorises its own people, spreads its poison throughout the Middle East, Africa and further afield.

Jun 282014
 

Juan Manuel Santos has recently been re-elected as president, on a platform of strengthening the peace process through the talks with FARC in Havana. His victory was against the Uribist ultra right wing candidate whose plan was to end the talks and escalate the war and repression. This is an important victory and a clear indication of the popular will.

Even more important was the rejection by Congress of a government proposal that Colombia should join NATO. The existence of the proposal shows that NATO wants to convert Colombia to the Israel of Latin America using US bases there to threaten and intimidate all Latin American governments who are breaking away from neoliberalism and asserting their independence from the US, with dramatic benefits to their people.

Jun 172014
 

Tony Blair continues to keep his head firmly in the Iraqi sand with his continual denials that his actions in invading the country have nothing to do with the present day battles with the jihadist ISIS group. He said, “We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that we caused this” and has denied that Iraq would be more stable if Saddam Hussein had remained in power.

Instead he placed the blame for the current crisis firmly on the Maliki government and made the extraordinary claim that the refusal by Britain to intervene in Syria’s civil war had created the conditions for the ISIS movement to flourish.

Blair has lost none of his warmongering ideology claiming that, “We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future,” and “Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force.” This is correct Mr Blair – you do have to be countered with force as your policies have caused the countless blighting of lives, the butchery of women and children. Blood is dripping from your hands!

The removal of Saddam Hussein should only have been done by the people of Iraq. Your instigation of an illegal war based on phoney evidence was a crime. It is a crime that you misled the British people, that so many have been killed and that your actions will destabilize the region for a generation, placing the lives of British people at risk because of your extremist ideology.

Jun 152014
 
Spain 1
Spanish people demonstrate in
Madrid to demand a referendum
on the monarchy.
They hold flags of 2nd Spanish
Republic and Communist flags.

 

 

Spain 2

Demonstrations in 50 cities in Spain on June 7th saw demands for a referendum on the monarchy.

This follows the abdication of King Juan Carlos in favour of his son Felipe, to try to restore the battered reputation of the monarchy. This  followed several corruption scandals and the austerity imposed by the Spanish government who wanted to use public money to save the speculative bankrupt Spanish banks. The king’s son-in-law and his companies are the focus of a fraud investigation involving millions in public money. The governing right-wing Popular party and the centrist Socialist opposition party are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the monarchy. People shouted ‘Dear Felipe, no one has chosen you’ and ‘Referendum now!’

Jun 112014
 

Whether or not there is a coordinated plot by Islamists in schools, one thing is certain – religion should not play a part in the governance of our schools, which should all be secular. Religion has for too long played a part in our education system and Christian denominations are just as pernicious in their control over the curriculum, assemblies, governing bodies and admission policies. This is not to say that religion can’t be taught – understanding the historical developments of world religions and their ideology is important. But they should be the subject of debate and analysis.

The Trojan row has neatly exposed the contradictions of government policy. In fragmenting the education system and undermining the role of local authorities and with it accountability, both Labour and the Coalition have now allowed interests from dodgy businesses to religious propagandists to control schools. Local Authorities have lost their ability to plan and control admissions. Local inspectors and advisers who once had their finger on the pulse of every school have been thrown out of work.

The inadequacies and punitive nature of our inspection service have been revealed – the focus on paperwork, targets and league tables have failed to pick up on potential problems.

Gove and Cameron have bleated on about British values, though there appears to be no definition of these. If they knew anything about the education system in this country they would understand that the Part 2 of the current Teachers’ Standards already require teachers not to undermine fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty etc.

Although Citizenship promoted a largely social democratic view of our institutions, it also encouraged discussions about politics at all levels, as well as a range of topics such as crime and punishment, the environment, the media etc. Now it is no longer a compulsory part of the curriculum. Indeed, the government has allowed free schools and academies the freedom to set their own curriculum and this has apparently led to some dropping subjects such as art and music, either for religious reasons or because there is an unhealthy focus on the core curriculum and league tables for children in their SAT test years.

It is time for teachers, parents and other educational professionals to develop a vision for our education system which encompasses working class values, rather than those of the public school politicians who only want low paid cannon fodder for their business chums.

For some ideas on a vision for education go to http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-education.htm

Jun 112014
 

Presumably the purchase from the German police force of two crowd dispersing water cannons in London is a prediction of a heat wave and a public service ready to cool down Londoners?

This coalition started its illustrious reign by kettling and herding students protesting against tuition fees in a brave struggle that did not attract enough support from the unions and public.

Perhaps they will end their fixed term Parliament by unleashing darker forces on public service workers fighting for pay and against privatisation?

Isn’t the now dead Liberal Party’s concern for civil liberties so sweet?

 

Jun 072014
 

The three main unions organising local government workers are balloting their members on industrial action over the employer’s offer of a 1% pay rise. On the bottom grades the offer is slightly higher to avoid being below the minimum wage.

UNISON, UNITE and GMB have already held consultative ballots on the issue, resulting in substantial majorities to reject the paltry offer and fight for pay. The ballot turnout for GMB members was an unprecedented 83%. Since 2010 pay in Local Government has lost 18% of its value against inflation, with years of pay freezes or 1% increases.

The employer’s argument that pay cuts are necessary to save jobs has no credibility given that 400,000 have been lost since 2010. On the contrary, there is a realisation that the lack of fight on pay has encouraged employers and the government to cut jobs, conditions, pay and services.

So on July the 10th council workers will be on strike and are likely to be joined by teachers, fire fighters and maybe civil servants. Two further days of strike action have been set for September. July 10th could be the start of a much needed fight for pay and jobs!

May 302014
 
Bilderburg Group Meeting in St Moritz

Bilderburg Group Meeting in St Moritz

Where would you find: Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, George Osborne, Christine Lagarde and Henry Kissinger together with the head of NATO, the Former Commander of US Cyber Command, the CEO of the Royal Dutch Shell plc, A Zoellick, who is the Chairman of the Board of International Advisors at Goldman Sachs, Paul Achleider, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at the Deutsche Bank, Coere Benoit, member of the Executive Board at the European Central Bank and many more from the world’s financial and capitalist elite?


The annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group, this time in St Moritz, gathers capitalists with their political, military and academic advisers to discuss challenges to their rule. They set up the EU, so their strategic ability to do harm to humanity to preserve their power and wealth cannot be underestimated.

For a full list of those attending this year go to http://rt.com/news/162128-bilderberg-attendee-list-released/

May 292014
 

So, according to the pollsters and pundits if you are university educated, in a good job and living in the south east of England you are bound to be clever enough to vote for a sane, establishment, social democratic party that is in love with the EU. If, on the other hand, you are not very well educated, poor or unemployed and resident north of  Watford Gap, you will have been daft enough to vote for a party that wants Britain out of the EU or at least a referendum on whether we stay in or not, or you will not have bothered voting.

When the Irish people first voted against the Nice Treaty they were deemed so stupid that the EU had to re run the referendum.

The EU is so intelligent and the pollsters and pundits so frightfully clever that they must save us from ourselves.

The fact that the low turn out in the EU elections reflects people’s disinterest in the entire project and is a conscious act and the fact that most who voted, voted sceptically against the EU and for a say in how our country is run indicates the increasing intelligence of a people that are stirring.

Whether they will stir into a ‘people’s army’ of very British UKIPpers or a People’s Army of a new sort, capable of defending and developing the country through self determination and socialism, is an increasingly big question. The answer will very much be determined by how the trade unions move on this matter. Will they call for a referendum or do capitalism’s bidding and perpetuate the illusion of the EU?

May 272014
 

Anti-EU voters in council and European parliament elections have beaten establishment parties in most of Europe and won elections on anti-EU platforms from the right and left. While in the UK, France, Holland and Denmark right of centre parties won conclusively, in Greece, Spain and Ireland the victories were for left of centre parties and all the victors held anti-EU positions.

Kindly copied from www.sinnfein.ie

Newly-Elected Dublin Sinn Fein Councillors

A common position of Eurosceptic parties has been opposition to the undemocratic nature of the EU. Most oppose the ‘free movement of labour’ although the emphasis differs. Sinn Fein, for example, campaigns strongly against the migration of Irish workers due to mass unemployment. All except UKIP oppose austerity and its consequences: mass unemployment particularly amongst the youth, public service pension and benefit cuts, more taxes for workers but not corporations or banks and cuts in investment.

The most coherent anti-austerity fight has been by Sinn Fein in Ireland. They have consistently opposed the bailout of the speculative Irish banks with public funds by Fianna Fail, which followed orders from the EU to protect the bond holders, or ‘the golden ring’.

This policy was continued by the next government, Fianna Gail and Labour, which resulted in massive public debt (120% of GDP). Sinn Fein have now proposed an anti-austerity programme for Ireland and the EU. It includes:

  • Kindly Copied from www.sinnfein.ie

    Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan

    Breaking the link between sovereign (state or public) debt and banking debt.

  • EU regulations which force on financial institutions their fair share of the cost of the crisis not just in future but from the start of the current crisis.

  • EU wide investment to get Europe’s unemployed back to work.

  • In Ireland a set of taxes on corporations and banks to raise the funds to fight unemployment, cuts and migration.

They Say They Are Listening

In the UK politicians say they are now listening. If so we must demand through our unions and community groups:

  • A commitment from all parties that we assert democracy through an in-out referendum on EU membership

  • Effective measures to stop the use of cheap non-union labour

  • The rebuilding of the real economy throughout the UK and our public services

  • Full regulation of rented housing and building of council houses

  • Ending the privatisation of the NHS

  • Nationalisation of the railways and the utilities

  • Major investment in industry and public services and an end to ‘quantitative easing’.

May 262014
 

In many countries, particularly in Britain, socialists and trade unionists will be concerned at the rise of the right in the EU elections. The twonks in UKIP will be under fire all round.

What should worry us more deeply though is the abject failure of socialists and trade unionists in Britain to be the leading voice in the anti-EU, anti open door immigration struggle.

Trade unionists have lost most from the EU’s neoliberal agenda that has worsened every year since 1975. Yet confusion in the ranks that somehow our executioner can be reformed to be our friend has bedevilled the unions, coupled with confusion over the national question and internationalism.

Trade unionists have lost most from the mass migrations too and from EU directives which have assisted the systematic dismantling of collective bargaining throughout the continent.

The EU is a monster presiding over 30 million unemployed, more than just a reserved army of labour.

The EU has put the banks in charge of whole nations and pressed others like Greece into authoritarian servitude.

The EU has broken up the ability of Britain to be a self-determining nation with regard to energy, steel, food, fishing, utilities and a range of manufactured goods.

The EU has presided over the break up of final salary pension schemes and public services.

The EU Parliament is largely toothless. The EU Commission is the power house alongside the unelected governors of the Central Bank and the unofficial lobby group of main employers, the Roundtable of Industrialists.

The EU set itself up as a bulwark against socialism and the development of independent nations.

The EU has pursued the Nazi generals’ immediate post war plan of one single currency, one European foreign policy and a drive into the east of Europe. Germany and the EU orchestrated the terror against the Ukraine and backed the fascists.

As the elites of the EU have feathered their nests in an ever more costly corrupt and preposterous bureaucracy, the people of European countries in the EU, have now rebelled. Channelling that voice have been sinister extremists like the French National Front and the barmy British right wingers in UKIP. They have wiped the floor with the craven muddle-headedness of old social democratic parties like the Labour Conservative parties. The lying Liberal Party is no more with fewer members than many small trade unions and a completely disproportionate press profile. Most people who voted in the EU elections voted from one sceptical point of view or another.

Twentieth century history was shaped very much by bourgeois nationalist and evil national socialist forces freeing their countries of imperialism and finance capital. Within the European area it was the Soviet people who showed an alternative route led by workers. Within Asia it was the Chinese Communist party and the brave Vietnamese. A socialist commitment to national self-determination was key.

We must not let bourgeois nationalists lead the charge against the EU imperialist empire. Progressive socialist voices must take the lead.

In countries where the socialists have a strong anti-austerity, anti-EU line like Greece and Spain, they have done well and limited the vote of the right.

In this struggle the prevention of separatism in Scotland must be the immediate priority.

 

May 212014
 

According to the Sunday Times Rich List Britain’s wealthiest people have even more cash than ever before, amassing a combined fortune of almost £520bn. In addition the total wealth of the richest 1000 individuals climbed by 15% in a single year.

Compare this to the overwhelming majority of working people whose real wages have been dropping consistently since the recession began. The Office for National Statistics found that real wages have fallen by 2.2% annually since the first three months of 2010.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently produced a report that suggested that the average household’s income between 2013 and 2014 was 6% below its pre-crisis peak and that although the fall in incomes has appeared to have ended, the average household might not see its income recover until at least 2016.

Furthermore the ONS concluded that the drop in wages from 2010, following the financial crisis, was the longest period of fall since 1964.

Yet the Rich List identified 104 billionaires living in Britain who had a combined wealth of more than £301 billion, meaning Britain has more billionaires per head of population than any other country. This highlights the stark fact that Britain’s richest 1% has now accumulated as much wealth as the poorest 55% of the population put together.

The disparities in wealth in Britain are growing ever wider. Wealth for the few and poverty for the many is becoming embedded in our society and none of the political parties have any willingness to seek to address this imbalance. In fact David Cameron jumps to the defence of the tax dodger Gary Barlow, whilst “benefit cheats” are pilloried and criminalised.

Isn’t it time we changed the whole system? We should stop accepting such vast wealth as the norm as it perpetuates a society where poverty is also accepted as an integral part.

 

May 162014
 

Politicians are very fond of talking about ‘the national interest’, but whose national interest is at stake?

Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, is about to take over the notionally British company AstraZeneca. Should we be surprised at their readiness to avoid paying tax in the US and now Britain? Two dozen US companies have already changed their tax residence through cross-border mergers since 2008. AstraZeneca itself has branches worldwide and shows no allegiance to any particular country.

We are witnessing sham politics played out by parliament’s social democrats. The reality is that EU laws prevent our government from protecting what is left of British industry. The cost of foreign ownership of much of British manufacturing, services and finance sectors is that British Governments have no control over British jobs.

Pfizer is more interested in buying up competitors in order to nullify competition. As an experienced asset stripper it will no doubt sell off AstraZeneca piecemeal for profit. Jobs will go. Pfizer’s record is criminal, falsifying evidence in clinical trials and making vast profits out of epidemics across the world. Large global corporations already control much of government’s activity. This take-over makes Pfizer even more powerful in any future safety and cost-effectiveness regulation. There would be little or no control over the cost to the NHS.

Why should any multinational create jobs in Britain when major shareholders’ interests only extend to the bottom line of a balance sheet? They have created another market in jobs. In the national interest of the British people we cannot afford to play by their rules.

May 142014
 

The government’s free school and academies policy has been taking blow after blow over the last few months.

Individuals running or sponsoring academies have been accused of fraud (Glendene Arts Academy and King’s Science Academy for example) and there has been excessive expenditure by senior management and other staff at others such as those at the Education Fellowship Trust where the Education Funding Agency has recently found “highly unusual” financial practices such as governors’ expenses of £45,000, a trip to New York and unadvertised jobs for family members.

The West London Free School, pet project of Toby Young, the media guru of free schools, has just lost its second Headteacher in its short history.

The Swedish Provider Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) of England’s first for-profit free school IES Breckland has admitted it is providing a sub-standard education to its students and has been forced to stage its own inspection of the state-funded independent, and found it is “not representative of our schools”, with concerns over teaching quality.

Now we find money is being siphoned off the state sector to prop up free schools. This at a time when it appears that many free schools have not recruited a full intake and have done little to ease the shortage of school places.

Labour has announced some policies, most recently in Blunkett’s recently released report. These policies are supposed to counter the current situation where the government has central control of an increasingly large number of autonomous academies and free schools.

However, instead of placing all schools back into the hands of the local authorities, which would be the logical step, there would be 40 to 80 directors of school standards on 5 year contracts and located in cities and within groups of local authorities. They would be chosen from a shortlist approved by the government, so not as independent as Labour claim.

Directors could intervene locally in all state schools, including free schools, faith schools and academies and could permit new schools to open, though groups including faith, state, and free schools wishing to open an establishment would have to compete on the basis of quality and cost effectiveness.

This idea is a weak response to the current situation and shows that Labour is not committed to reversing the attack on Local Authorities, many of which are already so weakened that they would almost need reconstituting from scratch. Yet their previous roles in advising, supporting and inspecting schools and planning for the needs of their locality are more necessary now then ever before.

Nor is Labour interested in getting rid of academies (instituted by them in the first place) and free schools, both of which are the precursors to ‘for profit’ education and part of a plan which includes getting rid of teachers’ national pay and conditions and weakening the unions, who have yet to organise a coordinated challenge to government plans.

For an alternative vision of education go to http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-education.htm

May 092014
 

The Institute of Employment Rights and Venezuela Solidarity Campaign yesterday celebrated the publication of their study of the incredible new Labour and trade union laws in Venezuela signed by Hugo Chavez and the unions on May Day 2013.

The laws are extensive and decisively tip the balance from capital to labour and they are enforced strongly.

The Venezuelan laws are an inspiration and reflect the detailed proposals made by thousands of workplace and people’s assembly meetings.

Practically everything we want they have got.

With the US sabre rattling more seriously against Venezuela and actively considering sanctions, our efforts to support Venezuela by not letting them get isolated is even more important.

Apart from ensuring that the truth about Venezuela and the right wing violence being perpetrated against it is understood and widely known, we have to free ourselves from the yoke of anti trade unionism and legislation in Britain and recognise that most of this comes directly from the EU.

No good clapping Venezuela if we are clapped out ourselves.

 

 

 

May 082014
 

Vote No2EU in those regions where candidates are standing in the EU elections.

A vote for UKIP is a vote for even harsher attacks on workers and a double dose of neoliberalism.

A vote for the Tories would be like an illiterate suicide note.

A vote for the Lib Dems would be humiliating.

A vote for Labour would be a vote for the false dream that the rock could be a hard place.

A vote for the Greens despite their sweet election broadcast would be wasted.

A vote for No2EU would take us closer to the position we need to be in when we never vote in another EU election. The EU determines much of our law and politics and economics and social policy, yet as our vote within it means little because the EU is entirely run by the unelected bankers and commissioners, it would be best not to have the false opportunity to cast it at all.

The EU’s latest little bit of fun is to argue alongside the IMF that workers taking strike action in Greece should be locked out and civil service trade unionists should have their facilities withdrawn.

 

 

May 072014
 

Since the sale of Royal Mail pressure on the Government has risen over the botched way the sell-off was handled. The Business Secretary Vince Cable has rigorously defended his handling of privatisation of the Royal Mail but the incompetence is there for all to see. The National Audit Office report concluded that the sale was based on an undervaluation of Royal Mail which resulted in British taxpayers losing out on £750 million. 61% of British adults believe the sale of Royal Mail was a wrong with only 22% backing the deal.

The saga has been compounded by the revelation that the coalition was more eager to ensure their mates in the city were rewarded that the British people. It was finally revealed, after intense pressure on Cable, that the Government’s preferred investors included some of the most aggressive hedge funds in the world as well as investment firms which had close links to the financial institutions paid by the Department for Business to advise them on the sale.

However none of this should come as a surprise as back in 2006 the sale of the defence research organisation QinetiQ produced similar results. The Ministry of Defence were accused by the Public Accounts Committee of pushing through the deal at the “worst possible time” which as a consequence lost the British people £90m.

QinetiQ also denied the Committee’s accusation that its managers had profited at the taxpayer’s expense but QinetiQ’s senior managers received a return of £200 for every pound they invested, while the taxpayer got £9 back for every pound they put in.

Now a leaked document has revealed that the government is moving towards the privatisation of the Land Registry, which will give private firms a say in the granting of land rights, ending any pretence of objectivity in adjudicating between conflicting interests. The government could stand to raise £1.225 billion. Professionals and unions are opposed, not only because, as with the Royal Mail before the sell-off, it is making profits, but because, as Mark Serwotka has said, it is a political move.

Two governments, 3 different parties, but results the same; the rich get richer, British people get poorer.

May 062014
 

Bob Crow’s daughter reminded the May Day crowds in London that there is no chance of socialism within the EU Empire.

No2EU candidates deserve our support wherever they are standing.

Socialists have warned that unless the trade unions, progressive movements and workers generally reclaim the lead on the anti EU position and call for withdrawal, nutty forces of neoliberalism like UKIP will, and they will do it well.

The EU is a vast neoliberal and increasingly war mongering machine, led by German imperialism.

UKIP want out of this club, but also further integration into the international neoliberal machine. Like all of the established parties they are actually led by those close to the City of London. Finance capital enjoys hedging its bets politically and keeps a foot in most camps.

In fact UKIP is quite a godsend for them. It votes for the German led neoliberal policies within the EU and argues against workers’ rights and social progress in Britain. Unlike the Lib Dems, Labour and Conservatives who do the same, UKIP does it in a way which weirdly taps into the genuine concern workers have for self determination in Britain.

Historically this impulse, good at heart, leads to progressive working class nationalism or highly regressive national socialism of a right wing kind.

Workers for Britain, for socialism and for internationalism must seize the moment and overturn those in the unions, even those in high places in the unions who cavort with the Bilderberg Group and Britain in Europe, and replace them with patriotic, socialist, internationalist leaders like Bob Crow and now his daughter.

May 022014
 

The forthcoming EU elections will take place against a backdrop of unemployment, debt, hunger and misery for millions across Europe, including Britain. There is enough subterfuge and hot air expended in the British parliament without adding to it in Europe. In Britain the Coalition’s welfare cuts have seen the descent of 1.75 million of our poorest households into greater poverty. A report by Oxfam and the New Policy Institute shows more families struggling to cover food and energy bills; it emphasises a drop in the overall value of benefits which rose by less than inflation.

Changes to housing benefit and council tax support have forced poor families into paying housing costs they were previously not required to pay. These poorest families have suffered an absolute cut in their income over the last 3 years.

Oxfam Chief Mark Golding said, “We are already seeing people turning to food banks and struggling with rent, council tax, child care and travel costs to job centres……At a time when the 5 richest families in the UK have the same wealth as the bottom 20% of the population it is unacceptable that the poorest are paying such a heavy price.” 300,000 households have had a cut in housing benefit; 920,000 a reduction in council tax support and 480,000 a cut in both. 400,000 households have been pushed further into poverty during the past year. Those affected by both taxes lose an average of £18 a week.

Recent figures show over a million Britons have been helped by food banks in the past year. Britain’s biggest food bank, the Trussell Trust, said that 900,000 people received food parcels in 2013-14, a 163% increase on the previous year, which did not take into account the total number of people likely to go hungry.

Naturally the talking shop at Westminster is busy talking to itself and conforming to the wishes of International Capital; far too busy to look after the essential needs of the British people. When a government refuses to run the country in the interests of the people what should our response be?

May 022014
 

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Comrade Bill Ash, aged 96.

He had an early life full of incident and adventure, including his many escape attempts from the Nazis from Stalag Luft 3. After the war he joined the BBC.

From the 50s he became a Marxist, was a co-founder of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) along with Reg Birch in the late 60s and was editor of the party paper in the 70s.

He wrote novels as well as works of non-fiction, such as ‘Marxist Morality’ and was chair of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain for many years.

A full obituary by Brendan Foley can be found at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/29/bill-ash

 

 

Apr 282014
 

Following the spectacular success of the recent London based International Commission on the Cuban Five pressure is mounting on the US. Even Amnesty International has pitched in as this statement shows:

Amnesty International (AI), the worldwide Human Rights organisation, has accused the US Government of ‘stacking’ the case against the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five are five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998 while attempting to stop terrorist attacks against the Cuban people.

The AI report spotlights US Government intervention in the build up and during the trial of the Five thus ensuring a successful prosecution, but at the same time making a fair trial impossible.

http://www.voicesforthefive.com/downloads/AI-Cuban-5-Presentation-International-Commission-April-2014.pdf

The systematic payment of journalists to write stories affecting the case, the obstructions on the Five to obtain legal counsel and the fact that procedural and other rights were not afforded to both the defence and prosecution in equal measure, mean that in the view of Amnesty International the Five could not receive a ‘fair trial’.

The right to a fair trial is a fundamental principle under international law which makes clear that a trial must not only be fair but must be seen to be fair. It is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the ICCPR, a key human rights treaty to which the United States itself is a signatory. In the same statement AI calls the double life sentence for one of the Five, Gerardo Hernández, a ‘manifest injustice’.

We would encourage all those interested in this case to contact their local national Amnesty Sections to bring this report to their attention and urging them to coordinate campaigning initiatives for the immediate release of the remaining prisoners, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero.

Amnesty International gave the formal presentation to the London International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five in March alongside presentations from almost 20 witnesses including lawyers, academics and Cuban Five family members. Over 2000 people attended the Commission events including the Voices for Cuba concert at the Barbican theatre, and over 300 people from 27 countries participated in the International Commission at the Law Society in the heart of London’s legal district.

Over 6000 people and organisations have already added their messages of support to Voices for the Five. You can add your voice too .

Please help us spread the message.

Thank you.
The Voices for the Five and Cuba Solidarity Campaign UK team

Apr 242014
 
Sergey Lavrov interviewed by RT about the precarious situation in Ukraine 23/04/14

Sergey Lavrov interviewed by RT about the precarious situation in Ukraine 23/04/14

The order by the Kiev coup-appointed Vice President Alexander Turchinov to send the army against the populations in the East and South, clearly breaks the Geneva Agreement on April 17th between Russia, the EU, the US and the Kiev coup government. Kiev wish to silence the people and their demands for a referendum on Federal Status, the release of political prisoners and the disarming of the fascist militia ‘The Right Sector’.

The announcement was done while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Ukraine. Does it indicate further US adventurism to expand NATO to Russia’s border? Is it a US attempt to push the EU into a more actively hostile stance against Russia? Are they now unable to control the situation in the West of Ukraine as well as the East? Is the US incapable of adjusting to their loss of ‘only power in the world’ status?

Hear a very detailed analysis by Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister in the link below:

http://rt.com/news/154212-lavrov-russia-will-defend-itself/

 

Apr 212014
 

The government has claimed that in February real wages caught up with inflation and employment has increased. Here are the facts:

Wages

  • Average wages grew by 1.4%
  • But the government used the figure of 1.7%, which includes bonuses.

Cost of Living

  • The Retail Price Index (RPI), which includes housing costs, rose by 2.5%
  • But the government used the figure of 1.6%, which is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which excludes housing.

So the truth is that in February, on average, a worker was really 1.1% worse off then the previous month. Living standards continue to fall.

foodbank graphThe fastest growth in Britain is in the number of people needing food banks, now 1 million. 60% of food bank users are in employment.

Employment

Unemployment in the UK is now at 6.9%, down from a peak of 8.4% in 2011. Youth unemployment is now at 20% down from 22% in 2012. But analysis of the growth in jobs in fact shows that the real growth is in job insecurity. 44% of the growth since 2010 is in self-employment with pensioners and part-time workers the fastest growing group. Workers of 50 years or older, account for half of the increase. Workers of 65 years or older are the fastest growing group, increasing by 29% since 2010.

Most new jobs are casual jobs to replace permanent, secure jobs. In many sectors including the caring areas previously covered by the public sector many of the ‘self-employed’ do the same work from which they were made redundant, but now without rights. Average income for the ‘self–employed’ dropped by a fifth between 2006 and 2010. The average income for self-employed women is now £10,000 a year. The annual number of people starting new businesses has fallen by 52,000 since 2010. For a detailed analysis see http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/economic-analysis/labour-market/labour-market-and-economic-reports/more-two-five-new

Inequality in Britain

Britain is now the 4th most unequal country in the world, an achievement for the Tories and Liberals. Shame on us all that we let them do it.

Graph: From Left Foot Forward http://www.leftfootforward.org/

Apr 162014
 

Once deemed one of the most moderate of the teaching unions, ATL has gradually become more inclined to attack various aspects of government policy as it doing at its 2014 conference.

One of the most political criticisms relates to the culture of young children spending long days at school while parents are at work. The union laid the blame firmly on the fact that low wages are forcing parents to work longer hours, with children having to be left at breakfast and after school clubs or childminders. Not only are children getting tired, but quality time with their parents is reduced.

The union attacked new government ideas on lengthening the school day – something that 19% of academies have already done or plan to do, with a similar number considering the move. While this was sometimes justified as compulsory ‘enrichment’, in other cases it was to lengthen lesson time.

As Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “It’s really important for children to have to be children, to play with friends and spend time with their families. However, increasing living costs mean that for most families it is now unaffordable for only one parent to work.”

Not only do childen have to be at school for longer hours but so do teachers who now do more unpaid overtime a year than almost all other professions. Primary school teachers average 60 hours a week and secondary school teachers average 58 hours a week. They frequently have no or very short lunchbreaks. Many teachers now have to work with children or supervise them at that time.

ATL has also said the disappearance of staffrooms was a concern especially in new academy builds where they do their own work, socialise and have private conversations with others.

ATL could have gone further on this issue – the lack of lunchbreaks and staffrooms directly attacks the ability of teachers to organise. In many schools it is now very difficult to hold union meetings, either through lack of time at lunch or because there are problems getting a venue for them.

Another key criticism made by ATL of government policy is the “culture of cronyism” with private companies increasingly taking control of schools, and the”thriving on the spoils” of consultancy fees for free schools and academies.

The ATL passed an emergency motion at its annual conference calling for a school funding system in which all schools are funded in a “fair, transparent and accountable way”, with safeguards to prevent “unacceptable” financial practices.

It remains to be seen whether motions and reports can be translated into action. More than ever do teachers need to consider merging into one union which is capable of taking action on key issues. Recent action on pay and pensions by the NUT was not supported by the NAS/UWT or ATL and yet if it had been, the impact would have been enormous and have presented a real challenge to the government.

Apr 152014
 

Venezuela you are not aloneA packed meeting in London on 1st April heard an eyewitness account by Ewan Robertson, a journalist who lives in Merida in Venezuela, where violent protests by opposition activists and hired Colombian mercenaries have taken place.

The violent protests take the form of erecting ‘Guarimbas’ or barricades across roads to deny access to the public areas including health centres. The barricades consist of tyres and vandalised street furniture to which they add rubbish, which is set alight to create smoke. Wires have also been placed across roads, which have decapitated motorcyclists, snipers have shot civilians and police and stones and Molotov cocktails have also been used.

There have also been relatively peaceful protests by students from private universities and by people in wealthier areas of Merida, Caracas and a few other towns, although these are often infiltrated by violent protesters, with the intent to draw repression from the security forces. The numbers are low, in the tens of thousands at most and very much restricted to the wealthier sectors of society.

The protests are ostensibly against the high crime rate and inflation but the purpose is to overthrow the elected government as their slogan ‘La Salida’ meaning ‘the ousting’ demonstrates. The violence and demonstrations started when the opposition to the government divided, as Capriles, the then leader, and his supporters started talking with the government and jointly developing a successful strategy and tactics to fight crime.

It also followed the failure by the opposition to get electoral success. The Chavistas had won 5 elections at all levels with increasing majorities. After the death of Chavez, Maduro was elected with a small majority, 51% of the vote, so the opposition, with US backing and incitement, launched a campaign of economic sabotage, creating food shortages with the plan of winning the municipal elections. The food sabotage was beaten by government control and Chavista candidates won the municipal elections with a 10% increase. It was this that decided a part of the opposition to adopt violence and demonstrations.

While the opposition tactics, particularly the violence, has in fact decreased their support, it has caused 40 deaths, injured many people and has cost $10 billion of economic damage, particularly to public facilities and road furniture. The tactics, which are similar to those that led to the Pinochet coup in Chile, have rallied the Latin Americans in support of the Venezuelan government and people. The Union of South American States (UNASUR) met in Caracas to show solidarity and called on the opposition to cease violence and join with the government’s movement for peace. CELAC, the union of all American and Caribbean States, excluding the US and Canada, have supported the Chavistas as have the ALBA countries.

Even the Organisation of American States have supported the Chavistas, with only the US and Canada voting against, despite being addressed by the opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, acting as the ambassador for Panama. This last stunt, which is against the Venezuelan constitution, resulted in her loss of her position as senator. The Spanish people too have demonstrated in solidarity (see picture) which is valued by the Venezuelan people, their army and government.

To listen to the meeting and find out more see the links:

https://soundcloud.com/venezuela-solidarity/vsc-ewan-robertson-1-april

http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10580

Apr 102014
 

Farage and Clegg have had the first two knock abouts in the televised EU ‘debates’. They offered a superficial warm up act. Farage easily won and reflected part of the increasing hostility to the European Union, not just in Britain but throughout the continent.

His commitment to a sense of national sovereignty and self determination for Britain put most of the ‘Left’ to shame. The ‘Left’ applaud the self determination of Ireland, Cuba, Vietnam, China, Venezuela and any country threatened by imperialism, but steadfastly fail to assert it for Britain, accusing those who espouse patriotism as well as socialism as being ‘chauvinist’. Presumably they believe enslavement to the EU and a ‘special relationship’ with the US is OK. This is why it has been so critical, and perhaps one of the most enduring legacies of Bob Crow, to recognise that the trade unions and socialist movement must lead the anti EU campaign and call for withdrawal from the EU.

It is curiously and dangerously left to vestiges of the national bourgeoisie represented by some domestic manufacturers and sentimentalists, who Farage echoes, to stand up for an independent Britain. The fact that every policy UKIP would then propose for a Britain outside the EU would be a double dose of nuttiness is another matter. Farage’s call for a people’s army to rise up against the Establishment was, in a curiously British way, a populist call that strikes a chord with the dissatisfaction of the 1% with the 99%, a glimmer of our democratic past from Peasant armies to the New Model Army and also a chilling reminder of how the Nazis gained support with a similar call against the trappings of the Weimar republic and worn out German state.

Nevertheless compared to Clegg’s craven obedience to the forces of international finance capital and absolute hatred of all those living in Britain, Farage seems a saint and is one of the most vocal and fearless critics of the preposterous and monstrous EU shebang. This is worrying as it is the anti EU forces within the socialist movement that offer the most comprehensive vision not just for leaving the EU, but for developing our country for its people afterwards. Our voice needs to get louder.

True to his essential form Clegg lied and lied – only 7% of our laws dictated by the European Union, leaving would mean a jobs massacre – his list of whopping fibs is endless. The 26 million unemployed in the European Union equates to the entire working population of Britain. What waste, what a deliberate war on workers. An independent Britain would be able to trade more freely throughout the globe and rebuild its own manufacturing base. A sovereign people’s assembly running the country would administer 100% of our laws and totally control the political economy of our country.

The warm up acts have had their go, the jesters have performed, it’s now time for every worker to seriously engage with the urgent requirement to leave the EU and run our own country in a new way.

 

Apr 012014
 

- One thrust of NATO’s strategy has been defeated now that the Russian parliament has accepted Crimea following the referendum decision of the people there by 96% in an 80% turnout to join Russia. This is important, as depriving the Russian Navy of its naval base in Crimea, Russia’s outlet to the Mediterranean was a key NATO aim.

The clear statement by the Russian government that it will defend Russian speakers in Ukraine has also deterred to some extent the use of armed fascists intimidating and attacking the populations in the East and South who have not supported the Kiev coup or the EU sponsored ‘association agreement’ to control Ukrainian trade and resources. The eastern population of Ukraine is therefore an obstacle to NATO and EU ambitions. But so are the rest of the Ukrainian people who are quickly discovering that the EU and NATO have not brought freedom and prosperity or European ‘values’ but austerity, increased poverty, and abuse and violence by the fascist gangs they recently welcomed as heroes. The fascists still occupy buildings, squares and streets, have not given up the weapons they took from army and police arsenals, and continue to wear masks.

The US invested $5 billion in sponsoring the coup through USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, as Victoria Nuland, a US Assistant Secretary of State has admitted. A leaked conversation also caught her saying the EU should screw themselves,   as she and the US would be the ones to choose the future leaders in Kiev. Germany invested in the coup through the German Marshall Fund to suit the interests of a few German businessmen with ambitions in the Ukraine, while most of the German population and industry want stable trade with Russia.

Now the fascists from the ‘Right Sector’ surround the Kiev parliament demanding the resignation of the security minister after the death of one of their leaders while the security forces tried to arrest him. EU leader Ashton now criticizes the ‘Right Sector’ fascists for pressuring the coup government, but can they now control them? Many of the non-fascist demonstrators against Yanukovich protested against the control of the economy by the oligarchs. The government, far from controlling them, or better still nationalising their assets, has now put them in control of eastern cities. Citizens there cannot even elect who governs them locally. EU/ NATO rule turns out to be chaos, anarchy and tyranny by fascists and oligarchs.

Russia has stated many times that it does not intend to invade Ukraine. The US and EU governments can still join Russia in stabilising Ukraine by an international effort to allow the people the chance to create a constitution that allows a federal state in which the many ethnic groups, Ukrainian, Russian, Czech, Romanian and Hungarian enjoy equal rights and develop independently instead of being NATO/EU cannon fodder, to intimidate Russia into serving US/EU policy. It will disappoint some German and Polish capitalists and NATO and EU strategists but will stop the descent of Ukraine into further anarchy.

Apr 012014
 

The European Commission unveiled proposals in September 2013 to reform the regulatory environment which applies to the Europe’s telecom companies. The plan entitled, “Connected Continent: a single telecom market for growth and jobs” was claimed by the Commission to be the “most ambitious plan in 26 years of telecoms market reform.”

The proposals claimed to seek a restoration of Europe to a position of global leadership in digital markets, emphasising that the market currently consists of 28 different regimes. In the USA four mobile operators are involved in implementing mobile 4G whilst across Europe there are over 100.

The Commission proposals cover a wide spectrum:
•a single authorisation regime to simplify access to other markets
•no incoming call charges while roaming in Europe
•no international call premiums for calls made within the EU
•a ban on blocking of internet content so as to underpin net neutrality
•new harmonised rights for consumers
•operators to be encouraged to develop cross-border investment plans
•greater certainty for investors over regulatory regimes in regard prices.

However what the Commission fails to identify is what the impact will be on workers. almost certainly  jobs and skills will be lost as operators will be forced to merge. No doubt this will benefit someone but not those employed within the industry with job losses and threats to terms and conditions of employment.

Once more the EU interferes within the market place in its aim of creating a European super state and once more workers will be those who suffer from this corporatist ideology.

Mar 242014
 

The No NATO Newport organisation has issued a statement (in English & Welsh) asking people to sign it and to send it on to others.

A statement by No NATO Newport points to the cost of war-mongering. For example the US military budget would wipe out extreme poverty worldwide and do this 18 times over. Also the cost of Britain’s Afghan adventure would pay for 100,000 nurses..

NATO intends to meet in Newport, but the citizens of the town are saying No! So are many Welsh workers and there is a call for a massive protest against the jamboree of death planned for the 4th – 5th September which hopefully British workers will support.

The statement can be found at http://t.co/FZn70cs0Zg
More information can be seen at https://t.co/qFNDEj83rv

Protest the NATO Summit
No to NATO. No to War. No to Austerity.

Protest Uwchgynhadledd NATO
Na i NATO. Na i Rhyfel. Na i Lymder.

Mar 222014
 

The Cooperative Bank and the Cooperative movement have recently been under sustained attack through the media. The inappropriate actions of one individual as chair of the Cooperative Bank are being used by biased and cynical journalists to undermine the important principles of the whole historic cooperative movement.

The democratic principles, structures and accountability underpinning lay involvement in the cooperative movement are ridiculed and ignored whilst ‘expert professional expertise’ is the only necessary qualification being promoted.

It is not difficult to see that the next step will be to criticise and ridicule such principles in the trade union and Labour movement, with the aim of depriving working people of any democratic voice in their organisations and replacing them with so-called expert professionals who will be regarded as the only legitimate option to run them.

Activists in the cooperative movement are struggling hard to safeguard the democratic principles in the governance of the organisation and the recent resignation of the Chief Executive shows they are winning the battle, though the establishment are strongly promoting the view that the governance is out dated and ineffective. At a recent meeting an activist made it clear that a board stuffed full of lords is unacceptable. We should respect and support the struggle that is being fought to protect the cooperative movement and its democratic principles and be on our guard that the next battle site is likely to be in the trade union movement. Democratically elected General Secretaries or professional experts leading our movement???

Mar 212014
 

Ed Miliband recently set out the Labour Party’s position on a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. His belief in the EU is clear – there is an “overwhelming economic case” for membership.

Miliband says Labour will not hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union unless there are proposals to transfer further powers from London to Brussels.

Given that a further transfer of power to this discredited organisation is not just likely but guaranteed, this means Labour should be committed to the holding of a referendum. Federalism is still the main focus within the structures and across the political class of Europe. However even if further powers are transferred it is highly unlikely that the Labour Party will allow Britain an in or out choice.

After all in 2005 Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all promised a referendum on whether to ratify the EU Constitution in their general election manifestos. But when France and the Netherlands both rejected the proposal in their own referendums their positions changed.

In 2007 the European Commission proposed a replacement treaty, which came to be known as the Lisbon Treaty. The Labour government claimed it was a different document, amending rather than overwriting existing treaties, so a referendum was not needed. No doubt when future powers are transferred to the EU, Miliband will claim they are different powers and so again a referendum will be denied.

Once more the British people are being denied a voice in the future of the nation. The political class will ensure that the right to decide is prevented. It is time not only for a referendum on the EU but time for one on the ruling political class also.

Mar 192014
 

As we reflect on the destruction of the coal industry in Britain thirty years ago, we should consider how the EU attempts to break up the Ukraine focus on the need to destroy strong the miners’ organisation there. Consider this interesting article from a French analyst of Ukraine.

The looting of Ukraine has started

By Dominique Ferré

The looting of Ukraine has started“. The man who speaks in this way is a genuine expert in this matter. If he has, for several years, sharply criticised the US foreign policy, Paul Craig nevertheless started his career at the US Congress, then he moved into President Reagan’s administration. He adds: “according to a report published in Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper, the finance minister (in Kyjiv) (.)Š. has prepared an economy austerity programme which includes bringing retirement pensions from 160 down to 80 dollars so Western bankers who lent money to Ukraine can be paid back at the expense of the poor. This is Greece all over again. Western looters are already at work. But this is only the beginning. Western media duly describe the loans as ‘aid money’. But the 11 billion Euros which the European Union offers to Kiev is no aid, it is a loan. This loan has been granted with many strings attached: Kiev is to accept an austerity programme devised by the IMF“.

This is the meaning of the partnership agreement with the European Union which the Kyjiv government – a gang of neo-Nazis, corrupt oligarchs and renegades from the Yanukovych government, who are more or less sponsored by US and European foundations (1) – is about to sign.

But as an “expert” of international financial institutions (2) declared over twenty years ago while the war of dismantlement of Yugoslavia was raging, “when the initial shock therapy of the IMF hit Yugoslavia, the first form of social trouble was not ethnic tensions but massive strikes.‘Ethnic cleansing’ occurred after the IMF’s ‘shock therapy’ had done its job“.

That is why today linguistic and national issues have to be manipulated in Ukraine to pit people against one another, to carve up Ukraine, to fragment its working class so the “shock therapy” can have its way in Ukraine as well a across the whole continent.

(1) On December 13th, on behalf of the US State Department, Victoria Nuland, announced that 5 billion dollars had gone to “help the opposition in Ukraine“, neo-Nazis included.

(2) Criton Soakaos of Polyeconomics

Ukraine: sinister “shock therapy” behind the carving up of the country

All eyes are on Crimea. The Parliament of the autonomous region made up by this peninsula in the Black Sea, which was transferred to the Ukraine in 1954, has convened a referendum on March 16, for deciding on its transfer to Russia. It harbours the Russian military base of Sebastopol and a populations that is Russian-speaking in its great majority, made up of 58% Russians, 27% Ukrainians and 12% Crimean Tatars (1). It is thus a mixture that is propitious to all sorts of manipulation and confrontations between communities.

The American, French, British and German governments, et al., along with the Euoprean Union, have denounced the referendum as “illegal”, accusing the Putin government of having pushed for this decision and of having sent troops into Crimea. NATO military flight manoeuvres have taken place in two countries bordering the Ukraine: Poland and Romania.

The western press has lashed out against the “Russian aggression” and Putin’s threats of annexing Crimea.

In all this flood of propaganda, there is an ounce of truth: “up until the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, the parties working (in Crimea) for being transferred to Russia had but a negligible audience” (Le Monde, March 6th).

So why are crowds of Ukrainian citizens waving the Russian flag, from Simferopol (in Crimea) to Donetsk and Kharkov (in the eastern regions of the Ukraine, where the Ukrainian population is Russian-speaking, in its majority?

Isn’t it because the MPs and the sorcerer’s apprentices of a government that was catapulted into power in Kiev with the full support of Washington and Brussels adopted, at the end of February, laws that are provocative, beginning with the forbidding of the Russian language in the regions where it is the native language of the majority of the Ukrainian population?

Exonerating Nazi groups

 Not to mention the laws that exonerate the Stepan Bandera groups – Stepan Bandera was a Nazi collaborator at the time of the invasion of the USSR in 1941. The Svoboda party, in power in Kiev, claims belonging to these groups.

In a country where tens of atrocities of the type “Oradour-sur-Glane” (2) took place, this exonerating can but push millions of citizens into the arms of the forces, up till now in the ultra-minority, of those advocating secession.

The referendum in Crimea, like the state of near-secession of the eastern regions along the Russian border, are but consequences of the policy that the American government and the European Union have been implementing for months now.

Reducing the budget by 5 to 6.2 billion euros! 

The stakes of the carving up that is underway were announced in the March 6 issue of Kommersant-Oukraina, under the headline “The shock and the bill”:

“The government has prepared a train of measures aiming at settling the budget problems as quickly as possible.”

Amongst them: “Cutting the social spending, for example, reducing the retirement pension of the retired who work by 50%” (in reality, those who are forced to work due to the sum of $150 retirement pension per month).

All this has to be achieved “by the end of May”. “Until the 31st of March, local communities must immediately increase their income by 2% and reduce their spending by 1%” and this, among other things, in order to reduce the budget from now till then by 65 to 80 billion grivnas (i.e., 5 to 6.2 billion euros).

A lowering of the State aid to the mines

 An “expert consultant to the government and the international institutions” adds: “The shock therapy could include a lowering of the State aid to the coal mines that are not profitable”.

The Ukraine would then follow the same path as Romania where, according to mining trade unionist who was present at the Paris European Workers Conference (last March 1st and 2nd), 120,000 jobs have been liquidated over 20 years, at the injunction with the IMF and then of the European Union.

The Miners Strike of 1989-1990

 But everyone remembers that the miners of the Ukraine, like the miners of Russia, went on strike for months and months in 1989-1990, against the bureaucracy and its first measures of “liberalisation” under “perestroika”.

It is in an attempt to break up this force, still present, that everyone – with the American government and the European Union in the lead – is pushing for the carving up of the country.

1 Muslim and Turkish-speaking, Crimean Tatars were collectively deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Stalin, as so-called “enemies of the people” – like whole other peoples of the USSR.

2 In 1944, a Waffen  SS company gathered the entire population (642 men, women and children) of the village Oradour-sur-Glane (in the Haute-Vienne Department of Vichy France) and massacred them.

Mar 192014
 

It may seem odd to quote the Leader of the Opposition’s response to the Tory’s budget on a workers’ blog, but these days anything that expresses with some passion the utter disbelief at the craven theft of the tax dodgers and thieves who form this government is worth recording. While couched in all of the media savvy and Parliamentary decorum of such an utterance, Miliband’s speech nevertheless does in part reflect the shock and horror of 99% of the population as yet another smash and grab is launched against us. Labour’s alternatives are insufficient to say the least, but that is another matter for another day.

“The Chancellor spoke for nearly an hour. But he did not mention one central fact:

The working people of Britain are worse off under the Tories.

 Living standards down: month after month, year after year.
2011 – living standards down.
2012 – living standards down.
2013 – living standards down.
And since the election working people’s living standards £1,600 a year – down.
You’re worse off under the Tories.
Their 2010 manifesto promised:
“An economy where…[people’s] standard of living…rises steadily and sustainably”
But they have delivered exactly the opposite.
Standards of living not rising steadily and sustainably, but falling sharply and steeply.
And today the Chancellor simply reminded people of the gap between the Chancellor’s rhetoric and the reality of peoples’ lives.
Living standards falling for 44 out of 45 months under this Prime Minister.
Unmatched since records began.
No amount of smoke and mirrors today can hide it.
We already know the answer to the question millions of people will be asking in 2015:
“Are they better off now than they were five years ago?”
The answer is no.
Worse off.
Much worse off.
Worse off under the Tories.
And the Chancellor trumpeted the tax allowance today.
But what he didn’t tell you is that it is the same old Tory trick.
He didn’t tell you the rest of the story.
He didn’t mention the 24 tax rises introduced since he became chancellor.
He forgot to mention that he put up VAT.
He taxed away Child Benefit.
He raised insurance tax.
And gave us the ‘Granny Tax’.
It’s a classic Tory con.
Give with one hand and take far more away with another.
Same old Tories.
Now the Chancellor painted a picture of the country today that millions of people simply will not recognise.
Because this is Cameron’s Britain 2014.
350,000 people going to food banks.
400,000 disabled people paying the Bedroom Tax.
1 million more people paying 40p tax.
4.6 million families facing cuts to tax credits.
But there is one group who are better off.
Much better off.
We all know who they are.
The Chancellor’s chums.
The Prime Minister’s friends.
The Prime Minister rolls his eyes, he doesn’t want to talk about the millionaire’s tax cut.
No mention of it in the Budget speech.
The beneficiaries of this year’s millionaire’s tax cut.
Because if you are a City banker earning £5m and you are feeling the squeeze, don’t worry because they feel your pain.
Because this year that city banker was given a tax cut.
Not just any tax cut.
£664 a day.
£20,000 a month.
A tax cut worth more than £200,000 a year.
So the Prime Minister chooses to afford a tax cut of £200,000 for a banker.
But he can’t afford a pay rise of £250 for a nurse.
And these are the people that had the nerve to tell us we’re all in this together.
It’s Tory values.
It’s Tory choices.
It’s the same old Tories.
And of course, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, with them every step of the way.
Day after day he claims he doesn’t support Tory policy.
But day after day he votes for Tory policy.
Now to listen to the Chancellor today, for a recovery that arrived three years later than he promised, he expects the country to be grateful.
Back in 2010, he told us that by the end of 2014, the economy would have grown by nearly 12 per cent.
Today the figures say it has been barely half that. And he wants the country to be grateful.
Back in 2010 he said the Government would clear the deficit in this parliament by 2014/15. Today he wants the country to be grateful because he says he can do it by 2018/19.
Three years ago the Chancellor told us in his 2011 Budget speech he would deliver an economy “carried aloft by the march of the makers”:
But what has actually happened since then to

rebalancing that he promised?

 Manufacturing output has fallen by 1.3 per cent.
Construction output has fallen by 4.2 per cent.
Infrastructure investment down 11 per cent.
Every time he comes to this house he promises a rebalancing.
And every time he fails.
He talked about housing today, but what has he actually delivered?
They’ve overseen the lowest house building since the 1920s.
And rents have risen twice as fast as wages.
At the heart of the argument we will have over the next fourteen months is this question: whose recovery is it?
Under them it’s a recovery for the few not the many.
Bankers pay in London rising five times faster than the pay of the average worker.
This recovery’s not working for working people whose living standards are falling.
It’s not working for millions of women who see the gap between men and women’s pay rising.
It’s not working for low-paid people promised by the Chancellor a £7 minimum wage, but given just 19p more an hour.
Under this Government it’s an economy of the privileged, by the privileged, for the privileged.
And instead of today admitting the truth about what is happening in most people’s lives, they want to tell them the opposite.
They tell people their wages are rising when they’re falling.
Just like they tell people their energy bills are falling when they’re rising.
And they tell people they’re better off but everyone knows the truth.
You can change the shape of the pound.
But it doesn’t matter if the pound is square, round or oval.
If you’re £1,600 pounds worse off, you’re still £1,600 pounds worse off.
You’re worse off under the Tories.
And the reason they can’t deliver is because of what they believe.
His global race is a race to the bottom.
People forced to do 2 or even 3 jobs to make ends meet.
Not knowing how many hours they will get from one week to the next.
And no idea what the future holds for their kids.
Low wages.
Low skills.
Insecure work.
That’s how they think Britain succeeds.
That is why they’re not the solution to the cost of living crisis.
They are the problem.
We needed a Budget today that would make the long-term changes our economy needs in housing, banking and energy.
But they can’t do it.
They won’t stand up to the vested interests.
They won’t tackle developers sitting on land, even though they can’t solve the housing crisis without it.
They won’t force the banks to improve competition, even though small businesses say they need it.
They won’t stand up to the energy companies and freeze energy bills, even though the public support it.
Same old Tories.
We know what their long term plan is: more tax cuts for the richest, while everyone else gets squeezed.
What does the Chancellor say about the people dragged into paying 40p tax?
He says they should be happy.
It’s good news for them.
So this is the new Osborne tax theory:
If you’re in the middle paying 40p you should be pleased to pay more.
But if you’re at the top paying 50p, you should be helped to pay less.
Same old Tories.
It’s no wonder that even their own side think they’re totally out-of-touch.
And even now, even after all the embarrassment of the millionaire’s tax cut, they won’t rule out going further.
Maybe today we can get the straight answer we haven’t had so far?
Will he rule out a further tax cut for millionaires to 40p?
Just nod your head if you’re ruling it out!
There they go again.
They won’t rule it out.
Doesn’t it say everything about them?
They really do believe the way you make the rich work hard is to make them richer, and the way you make everyone else work harder is by making them poorer.
And just like they paint a picture of the country that working people will not recognise, so too themselves.
Now the Prime Minister is an expert in rebranding.
Remember the huskies, the bike, the tree?
That was before they said cut the green crap.
What is the latest rebrand from the Bullingdon club?
It is beyond parody.
Because what does this lot now call themselves?
They call themselves ‘The workers’ party’.
And who is writing the manifesto for this new workers’ party?
We already know the answer and I quote:
“There are six people writing the manifesto, five went to Eton…”
By my count more Etonians writing the manifesto than there are women in the Cabinet.
No girls allowed.
And this week we’ve heard it right from the top.
Here’s what his former best friend, his closest ally, the Education Secretary had to say about the Prime Minister’s inner circle.
He said it was, and I quote:
“Ridiculous.
Preposterous.
Unlike anywhere else in the world.”
You know you’re in trouble when even the Education Secretary calls you a bunch of out of touch elitists.
And where is the Education Secretary? I think he has been banished … He’s hiding! I think he has been consigned to the naughty step by the Prime Minister.
I think it’s time we listened to Baroness Warsi and took the whole Eton mess out of Downing Street.
And what a mess it is.
There are more sides in the Tory briefing war than there are on the new pound coin.
We don’t need a party for the privileged few.
We need a party for the many.
That is why a Labour government will:
Freeze energy bills.
Guarantee jobs for unemployed young people.
Cut business rates.
Reform the banks.
Get 200,000 homes built a year.
And abolish the Bedroom Tax.
This is the Budget that confirms people are worse off under the Tories.
A worse off budget, from an out-of-touch Chancellor.
Britain can do better than them.
Britain needs a Labour government.
Mar 192014
 

The free movement of workers across the EU has been a disaster for the wages and conditions of both migrants and local labour forces, undermining wages and conditions, putting pressure on services and preventing or attacking union organisation in workplaces.

The draft Posted Workers Enforcement Directive (PWED) purports to address problems raised by European unions related to the the 1996 Posting of Workers Directive which was supposed to ensure that, when people moved around the EU to work for their employer (posted workers) they got a fair rate of pay for the country where they worked, and the local labour force wasn’t undercut.

This hasn’t happened and in the UK the minimum wage has offered little protection for both existing workers or immigrants. Decisions of the European Court of Justice in the Viking and Laval line of cases have seriously limited the level of protection afforded by the 1996 Directive and restricted the ability of governments to introduce national legislation, or for trade unions to negotiate collective agreements, to increase the level of protection for posted workers.

The judgements also raised questions about whether national authorities can always require foreign contractors to comply with social standards or collectively agreed terms and conditions set out in a public procurement contracts. For example, some employers seek to rely on these judgements to argue it is not possible for a government or local authority to require contractors to pay the living wage.

The draft PWED is a compromise sop drafted by the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the European Commission over the past few years which will be debated shortly in the Employment Committee of the European Parliament, which will pass the result to the Parliament as a whole (‘the plenary’). It is very technical but basically does not address several key problems, including the issue of employers devising bogus self-employment arrangements to avoid employment protections for posted workers. Also our own government doesn’t want member states to have more control measures to monitor the flow and working conditions of posted workers as they may be regarded as protectionist, which would limit the bosses capacity to exploit workers. The last point relates to whether only the main contractor is liable for the failure to comply with posted worker rights or they can argue a get out via ‘due diligence’ if sub-contractors are responsible, with the unions arguing there should be joint liability.

Recently TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has written to MEPs urging them to put off the adoption of the draft Posted Workers Enforcement Directive because it doesn’t address the problems with the Posting of Workers Directive that it was meant to solve but it is in practice only union action will protect workers’ rights.

A major and looming issue for unions will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which will include provision for the movement of temporary workers across borders. Companies moving workers temporarily across borders for services work is part of the neoliberal international trade agenda. It is called ‘Mode 4’ in ‘tradespeak’. The EU includes Mode 4 provision in all of its ‘trade’ agreements.

Currently an EU/India free trade agreement is in negotiation. The Indian government wants any Indian firm to be able to supply workers into the EU. The UK is probably the main and willing target for this cheap labour supply, and WTO frameworks, which are used generally, do not allow any numerical limits or quotas on Mode 4. David Cameron has confirmed these conditions on his several visas to India as UK Prime Minister and this could be signed any time.

Mode 4 will be a part of the TTIP and it will not just apply to EU and US forms supplying labour across borders, but also subsidiaries from third country firms established in either of those partner states, supplying workers into the other partner state. So, for instance, the many Indian corporations established in the UK would be able to utilise TTIP provision to supply workers into the US, or, if established in the US, to similarly supply workers here.

The TTIP is a massive attack on workers and national sovereignty but as yet has to meet full opposition from the UK, European and US labour movements, who believe they can merely suggest tinkering with provisions and the public is completely unaware of it. We need nothing less than a sustained campaign right now as it could go through by the end of the year.

 

Mar 172014
 

Democratic local goverment – going. National Health Service – going. Nationalised industries and utilities – gone. Schools have become academies, the youth service has disappeared, Private Finance Initiative repayments are draining the public purse, money straight into greedy hands. Our utilities – foreign owned. Our railways privatised. The European Union is having a field day. The neoliberal agenda is rampant.

One great public institution that the sharks have wanted to break up for ages is the BBC. It has been a tough nut for them to crack. As everywhere else in the public sector it has been a war of attrition and disgusting peadophiles who hid in the organisation haven’t helped. But public service broadcasting is deeply popular and the BBC remains, with all its often pro imperialist, pro establishment, pro capitalist political bias, a beacon of quality across a broad range of genres whether it’s folk music, pop, jazz, classical, light entertainment, zany quizzes, madcap comedy programmes like Just a Minute, really in depth interrogation of slippery bourgeois politicians, or its tremendous scope of world news coverage. Not to mention its knowledge packed website and educational functions.

Although many people turn on to Al Jazeera or event Russia Today or Chinese News to get a comprehensive picture of the world, the BBC is at the heart of things in many, many places and From Our Own Correspondent frequently provides real insight into the lives of other countries.

If you don’t want to watch endless adverts for loan sharks or anti-ageing cream, if you don’t want to see countless repeats of cops and robbers, or unreality TV, then you might just find day in day out a breadth of quality broadcasting arts and culture, science and technology on the good old Beeb. Think its a bit posh and elitist? Try wall to wall religious or shopping stations or the drivel of the output of entire companies and channels dedicated to superficiality and the mighty dollar.

The war against the BBC is hotting up and will start with the Bill to decriminalise the failure to pay the licence fee. Bent research into the prospects of people paying a subscription by choice are another side of the drip drip war to kill off public broadcasting.

Progressive people throughout the world actually need a progressive publicly owned broadcasting corporation in Britain. We should not be thinking about breaking up the BBC into a version of The Sun and Fox TV – we should be thinking of creative ways of making it closer to the aspirations and needs of the people who should be proud of their licence fee contribution to this great institution.

Mar 152014
 

A personal statement on the countryside:

I am passionate about the environment and love spending time outdoors, particularly camping and canoeing in wild and rugged places. It never ceases to astound me that Riparian land ownership is still permitted in England. Riparian land is that which abuts a water course such as a river or stream and much of this land can be and is privately owned in England, and cannot be accessed by the public.

In Scotland there is legislation that protects an individual’s freedom to wander in the countryside, providing access to the environment for hobbies as long as people do not damage the natural surroundings.

In 1932, the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in Derbyshire’s Peak District by working people wanting to access the countryside in their limited leisure time and it was regarded as a notable act of illegal trespass by the forces of capitalism. Manchester’s Ramblers forced the issue through mass action, hoping that they would not face prosecution or imprisonment because of the number and cost of such an action through the courts. Two different groups of ramblers were able to reach their destination and meet with the other group. However on their return, five ramblers were arrested, with another detained earlier. Trespass was not, and still is not, a criminal offence in any part of Britain, but some would receive jail sentences of two to six months for offences relating to violence against the gamekeepers employed by the landowners.

Walkers in England and Wales were denied access to desolate areas of open country, which was controlled by landed gentry and other landowners, through the assertions of gamekeepers, who stated that Ramblers were disturbing nesting game birds, that would then be shot during the shooting season in the pursuit of a blood sport.

The mass trespass marked the beginning of sustained lobbying by The Ramblers Association, culminating in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which legislated rights to walk on mapped access land. However this still falls well short of the ‘Freedom to Roam’ legislation in Scotland.

We should question people’s right to private land ownership. We should also develop policies about how we should use our land. Are we merely stewards of the environment for the next generation or should people be able to control natural resources and access to the countryside? What is to become of the environment as we are faced with the threat of global warming?

For another article on land ownership on the main site: http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-land.htm

 

Mar 132014
 

The Labour Party’s basic denial of the opportunity for the British people to vote in a referendum on the European Union is the most serious extension of the authoritarian, undemocratic direction of neoliberalism. No political party has a right to deny the fundamental democratic right of the British people to determine who governs their country.  At the moment it is the EU and the City of London, with the US in charge of foreign policy.

The people cannot be trusted it seems. To say as Ed Milliband did that there would not be a referendum unless sovereignty is ceded denies the reality of the fundamental loss of sovereignty that has already occurred following the cluster of Treaties from Rome to Nice and Lisbon. These have in effect turned a British elected Parliament into a very poor second fiddle player to the diktats of unelected bankers and Commissioners in the EU.

The EU is driven by the needs mainly of Germany and generally in the interests of finance capital. This a form of capital that has no national root, no national interest and no concern for the people. This is why 30 million people are unemployed in the EU and why whole economies like Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal and others have been pulverised against the wishes of the people. German imperialism’s post war drive for power and domination of eastern Europe gave us the destruction of Yugoslavia and now the fascist putsch in the Ukraine. It gave us too the appalling spectacle of financiers running Greece into the ground for the benefit of gangsters.

Capitalists once demanded the creation of nation states. They now use the remains of the national state to destroy national sovereignty.  Some in the past extracted  so much surplus value from their workers at home that they could become international imperialist powers. They clashed and killed millions. They lost powers as national liberation struggles and revolutions swept the world to put an end to war and public sector led,  social democratic organisations and economies grew in countries like Britain.

Capitalists reorganised in desperation and built the neoliberal global economy based on transnational structures like the EU. Such structures merely oiled the import and export of capital, goods, labour and services, the perfect environment for finance capital which is foot loose and fancy free and disinterested in long term manufacturing based economies – it prefers gambling and fast food.

No one had a chance to vote for membership of this modern bloc of capitalists. Some trade unions even thought it might offer a few more crumbs when domestic governments seemed so nasty. The illusion of a social Europe blessing workers and supporting their unions has well and truly crumbled. We are left with rubble. We need at least a chance to vote to get out of the mess and rebuild.

Self determination in Britain is what is urgently needed. This would enable us to fight for a world at peace and with genuine international co operation as in the ALBA structures in Latin America. And this year we must focus on keeping Britain together and opposing the option of fake ‘independence’ for Scotland.

Keep Britain together, rebuild workplace union organisation, get out of the EU, bring all banks and finance houses into public ownership, build new structures of political and economic governance – these are the key demands of our times. The wealth of the country in the hands of the people governing themselves through a new democratic national assembly.

Mar 112014
 

Bob Crow’s untimely death last night is one of those unfair, deeply sad and tragic events that has devastated workers throughout the world. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends. He will be so badly missed.

If you spoke to workers in many other countries about the British trade union movement Bob’s was the name they knew and they loved his constant truthfulness and loyalty to his class.

He had all the qualities of a good class leader: humour, selflessness, hardworking, honesty, toughness, courageousness, modesty, a collective approach. He cultivated a strong media image in the interests of his members and the movement. He hated capitalism and social injustice with a passion. He loved workers and their families and was one of the most effective leaders of organised workers. For many he was a genuine hero fighting for his members and our class despite threats and derision. His union The RMT remains one of the strongest most independent, viable and effective, loved by its members who own and control it in a deeply democratic manner.

The RMT union was one of a handful that has been consistently clear about the class nature of the European Union. It opposed the Treaty of Rome and when in 1988 most other Unions started to pretend that the EU had answers the Thatcherism, the RMT remained strong and in recent years Bob was at the forefront of warning the whole movement that social progress was impossible while Britain remains in the European Union. He was a great patriot, a great socialist and a tremendous internationalist busy this last weekend for example supporting the Miami Five Commission in London.

We should celebrate Bob’s life of struggle and his clarity of thought and political analysis and ability to make socialist ideas appear normal in place of the abnormal and bizarre economy and politics of capitalism.

When we lose a great leader we have every right to mourn and cry and deepen our resolve to fight for a socialist Britain and a socialist world.

 

 

Mar 042014
 

One of the great binding forces of national unity in Britain was the trade union movement. National collective bargaining in most areas once covered England, Wales and Scotland. Companionship and solidarity between organised workers knew no boundaries and borders.

As capitalism sought to be more powerful it had to break this unity. The European Union was the great tool in doing so. The EU envisages a Europe of regions under its highly centralised, undemocratic control. So the drive to euro federalism and to devolution went hand in hand.

As Westminster and the City of London became more aggressive and destructive workers sought means of escape from the chaos. This is reflected in Scotland with the dangerous pseudo drive to independence and now the Silk Commission proposing greater devolution in Wales including energy.

No doubt we will have a renewed drive for the regionalisation of England as London and the political parties jabbering around the House of Parliament become even more detached from reality and the people.

Britain must have national independence and sovereignty as a united nation working in a new partnership with an independent and united Ireland and relating freely and peacefully to the rest of the world.

The leaders who seek to divide Britain and allow the EU to rule over us and the US to determine our foreign policy are those who now rush to back the extreme nationalist and fascist forces seeking to break up the Ukraine and deliver it into the arms of the Deutschmark masquerading as the Euro. Capitalism invents national sovereignty when it suits it and more often seeks to destroy it when it does not – Syria, Libya, Ireland, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran, Cuba… .

Just as Russia is right to protect its interests against the incursions of the EU, so are we in Britain and this is something our defence forces should consider more carefully.

These are dangerous times and the relentless drive of German imperialism must be opposed. This means withdrawal from the EU and assertion of British sovereignty.

Mar 032014
 
Ukranian Fascists Attacking Police in Kiev Photo Courtesy of www.rt.com

Ukranian Fascists Attacking Police in Kiev
Photo Courtesy of www.rt.com

So, the US and EU financed and encouraged fascist parties to create chaos, attack the police, occupy public buildings and squares and finally sign an agreement with the president, which was promptly broken by the opposition to total silence by the signatories, Germany, France and Poland on behalf of the EU.

One of the first ‘reforms’ by the new ‘cabinet’ and ‘parliament’ was to abolish a previous law which made all ethnic languages in the Ukraine official. A key effect of this is that the Russian language, spoken by over half the population of Crimea, has lost its official status.

The fascists threatened to send ‘friendship trains’ to the east of Ukraine to prevent opposition to their rule. Now that the eastern Ukrainians have organised themselves in defence and Russia has shown it will support them, the new government asks for money from the west and aggression against Russia. But do they control the fascists, now fully armed and occupying streets, squares and Orthodox churches in the west?

The situation is akin to that in Libya, where the Government has no control over the country. Even oil is now sold to foreign firms by armed groups who control the assets. Is this the fate for the Ukraine? The sponsors of this coup should be taking responsibility, but they may have decided that chaos suits them better.

Concern that further privatisation and an open market for stronger West European industries would lead to mass unemployment was a key issue that broke the talks between the EU and Yanukovich. The Ukraine, the poorest country in Europe, is about to become poorer.

For a detailed discussion go to: http://rt.com/shows/crosstalk/

Feb 262014
 

A coup has taken place in Ukraine. It has been cynically engineered from within and outside the country. The western media has characterised the protestors in Kiev as pro-democracy campaigners struggling against an authoritarian government. The demonstrators were all supposedly wanting the country to join the EU. Putin is portrayed as the evil Russian ogre.

The facts are somewhat different. President Yanukovych was elected in a legal poll. Far from wanting a western form of democracy, many of the protestors were extreme right nationalists and fascists. One group, the anti-semitic Svoboda, claims that Ukraine is controlled by a “Moscow-Jewish Mafia”; this same group which controls the city of Lviv was at the forefront of a march to commemorate Bandera, a Ukranian fascist whose forces fought with the Nazis. Recently, US senator McCain was pleased to share a platform with the party’s leader. Another fascist group, ‘Right Sector’, wanting to out-do Svoboda, is intent on spreading fear and terror throughout the nation.

Added to the mix is the pernicious influence of the EU in its efforts to force Ukraine to sign an association agreement, which offers loans for austerity as Merkel’s Germany leads the drive to open up Ukraine to western companies; with the IMF all too ready to get involved.

Dangerous divisions between a nationalistic west (the western media would have us believe that the population all want to be in the EU – very far from the truth) and a largely Russian speaking east and south (where a communist party still has some support) have developed. Of course, the EU and US want their hands on Ukraine’s industry, much of which is situated in the east, while trying to force the whole country into NATO. Strategically, Ukraine would be very important for EU/US interests, which is why so many government politicians in the US and Britain, such as John Kerry and William Hague, were very quick to condemn the Ukranian government and police. The West has already destroyed more than half the country’s national income in five years through rapid mass privatisation.

The Ukranian people must exert their own authority, not look to outsiders to provide answers. There is a drift towards civil war which must be stopped. A default position of a Ukraine split in two is not an option for Ukranians. Neither is it an option for Russia and other European states. German led EU and US are playing a very dangerous game with the boundaries and people of Europe.

Feb 202014
 

Make no mistake, the attempts to topple the Ukrainian government which has rejected the embrace of the Deutschmark led European Union are supported by the extreme right doing Germany’s bidding and backed by the EU. This is how the war against Yugoslavia began. Germany recognised Croatia, the EU followed suit and sought to impose its domination. In Britain the EU adopted a slow motion coup d’etat taking control of our Parliament slowly. In Ukraine they are clearly a bit more rushed. Below is an article from German-Foreign-Policy.com, one of the most informed watch dogs on German imperialism:

KIEV/BERLIN
(Own report) – Yesterday, the day after the German Chancellor held deliberations with two leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, protests in Kiev escalated into bloody confrontations. Demonstrators, unconditionally sponsored by Germany and other western countries for months, began, over the past few days, to arm themselves with firearms and ammunition. Two police officers were shot to death during yesterday’s uprising. This escalation into a bloody confrontation followed on the heels of government compliance with a fundamental demand of the demonstrators, just as it seemed that a de-escalation was about to begin – to the tactical disadvantage of the “German’s man” in Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, who has been calling for the president to resign. Klitschko, who flew to Berlin Monday, to discuss the next steps, threatened an even more bloody escalation and declared, that he does not “rule out the use of force in the evacuation of the Maidan.” One of the organizations he is relying on is explicitly named after Nazi collaborators, who had carried out mass-murder of Soviet Jews. Escalation strategies, such as those currently implemented in Kiev, are not alien to German foreign policy.
Firearms and Ammunition
In the course of yesterday’s bloody escalation of the protests, several police officers and demonstrators were killed in Kiev. As was confirmed by news reports, there have been clear indications since some time that some of the demonstrators in Kiev had begun arming themselves. It was reported that for days, a group calling itself the “First Hundred Group in Kiev of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists” were publicly asking for “ammunition or money to buy it.”[1] Just previously, the Berlin-supported leader of the opposition, Vitali Klitschko, called for forming militias. Yesterday, the fascist-interspersed, violence-prone, “Right Block” called on all opponents of the government in the possession of firearms to come to the Maidan. In their attempt to storm the Ukrainian Parliament, government opponents broke through police barricades and set police cars on fire. Heavy clashes erupted between the armed demonstrators and police. Parliamentarians seeking to flee the building were clubbed in their cars; the office of the governing party was set on fire. Whereas demonstrators claim that ambulances were impeded by the police in action, the wounded apparently were not treated because of the barricades set up by the demonstrators.[2] During the night, the situation escalated further.
Collaborators in Nazi Murder
This escalation into a bloody confrontation occurred the day after opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitaly Klitschko had had an audience in Berlin’s Chancellery, where they discussed with Angela Merkel the next steps the government opponents should take. The plea by the “First Hundred Group in Kiev of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists” for ammunition could not have not been known to them at the time of their meeting. The plea had not been made clandestinely, but was publicly displayed on a poster. Apparently, neither the Chancellor nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had insisted that further offensive protest demonstrations be held back, to avoid the worst, until the arms buildup of the opposition could be reversed. On the contrary, as usual, the German Foreign Minister criticized “the violence” in Kiev, generally and specifically that emanating from state forces. The fact that the demonstrators, under the leadership Berlin’s Klitschko, is largely comprised of fascists, is not even mentioned in the German government declaration. The “First Hundred Group in Kiev of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists,” for example, is a historical reference to the “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists,” who, at the side of Nazi Germany’s Wehrmacht, helped invade the Soviet Union and, among other crimes, actively participated in Nazi mass murders of Jews. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3])

Escalation Strategies

The fact that Berlin comes to the defense of the Ukrainian protest demonstrations, even when violence-prone government opponents attack the government security forces with live ammunition, corresponds to a well-worn German government escalation strategy. In the 1990s, for example, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) helped in the arms build-up of Kosovo gangs. These weapons ultimately benefited the infamous KLA guerrillas, who then escalated their struggle against Yugoslavian security forces, until finally Germany and NATO attacked. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) Even earlier, for example in the 1960s, West German politicians, along with extreme right-wing forces from West Germany and Austria, who, by way of access to a militant wing of the Northern Italian (South Tyrol) autonomy movement sponsored and – according to reports – supported violent forces,[5] with the objective of forcing the Italian government to grant wide-ranging political autonomy to South Tyrol. The strategy was a success.
End of a Relaxation of Tensions
The escalation in Kiev came at precisely the point, where the Ukrainian government accepted a central demand of the protestors, declaring an amnesty for the arrested demonstrators. “Signs of a slight relaxation of tensions” were “not to be overlooked,” according to reports in the German media,[6] which then indicated that special units of the police were being pulled back and law enforcement officers had begun dismantling barricades and towing away burned out police cars. However, this also removed the means of leverage for all those who, like “the German’s man” in Kiev, Klitschko – sought to force President Viktor Yanukovych to resign. Out of the escalation into violent confrontation, the German Foreign Minister now concludes that “Europe’s restraint, exercised in its decision to impose personnel sanctions” – on politicians in Kiev – “will certainly now be reconsidered.”[7] Washington recently criticized Berlin and the EU for not having put enough pressure on the Ukrainian government.
A Geopolitical Game
The power struggle over the Ukraine, which is causing a growing number of casualties, revolves around “two fundamental questions,” as the former Head of the German Defense Ministry’s Planning Staff explained already last November: “where are the eastern boundaries of the EU and where the western boundaries of Russia’s sphere of influence?” Germany’s interference in Kiev’s unrest is, therefore, simply “a new and grand geopolitical game.” Experts are pointing out that the Ukraine only has so much importance, because Russia would be defenseless without it – a factor, Moscow cannot ignore. Because of the risk of an incontrollable escalation between Germany and Russia, the above-mentioned former Head of the Defense Ministry’s Planning Staff, the publicist, Theo Sommer (“Die Zeit”), advises that the power struggle, which for now revolves around the relatively expansive EU Association Agreement, should not be overstretched. “Would a free-trade agreement that does not reek of expansive ambitions, not be better than association?”[8] Berlin has decided otherwise and continues to fuel the upheaval in Kiev with its interference to come out the winner – at all costs.
Other reports and background information on the current German policy toward the Ukraine can be found here: Problems of Eastward Expansion, A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance, Expansive Ambitions, Our Man in Kiev, Integration Rivalry with Moscow and On the Offensive.
[1], [2] Reinhard Lauterbach: Randale und Tote in Kiew. www.jungewelt.de 19.02.2014. [3] See A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance and Die Expansion europäischer Interessen. [4] See The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. [5] See Der Zentralstaat als Minusgeschäft and Doppelrezension: Südtirol-Terrorismus. [6] Amnestie-Gesetz tritt in Kraft. www.tagesschau.de 17.02.2014. [7] AM Steinmeier zur aktuellen Lage in Kiew. Pressemitteilung des Auswärtigen Amts 18.02.2014. [8] Theo Sommer: Ein neuer Eiserner Vorhang? www.zeit.de 25.11.2013. See Expansive Ambitions.
Feb 192014
 

Papworth hospital, which is a centre of excellence for heart and lung treatment, is being prevented by the Treasury from moving to a new centre of medical excellence in Cambridge and may instead be forced into a partnership with the NHS’s most loss-making foundation trust at Peterborough.

Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust is losing millions of pounds a month and has had to receive £44m in emergency funding from the DH to continue operating. Last year it was declared “not financially sustainable” by the NHS’s economic regulator Monitor.

Papworth was due to relocate to a new £160m, 310-bed hospital in the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, a huge new medical and science park next to the city’s Addenbrooke’s hospital. The complex will ultimately employ 30,000 people and be one of the world’s biggest centres of research and treatment. The two hospitals together would also become a major transplant centre.

A construction firm has already been appointed and amazingly the DH has already approved the project and had arranged £70m in low-interest loans to help Papworth meet the £160m overall cost. The hospital has to borrow the remaining £90m from banks under the private finance initiative (PFI), with that deal needing the Treasury’s approval. Given the issues at Peterborough this seems to be a nonsensical move, when the whole project could be funded through low cost loans.

But in an unexpected intervention, the Treasury has ordered Monitor to undertake two unnecessary reviews, which will take several months to complete, before it will approve any move by Papworth.

There are worries that Papworth could be targeted under DH plans currently going through parliament to give government-appointed special administrators the power to push through changes at profitable trusts situated near hospitals which have hit major financial problems, such as Peterborough.

It is obvious that this cynical, political decision is not being made for clinical reasons or in the best interests of patients and has much more to do with ‘affordability’ and the failures of PFI.

Feb 192014
 

The latest case of an alleged Academy scandal highlights the lack of democrat accountability that local authority schools would have as a matter of course.

Barnfield College, which is taking over schools in and around Luton and turning them into academies, is being investigated by the Department For Education. The college has appeared to have wrongly claimed nearly £1m for students it could not account for, a government report has found. The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) report says significant failures in the management structure led to improper use of college funds.

Barnfield took took over and changed two local schools into academies in 2007 and since then the Federation has taken over several more. However, in the light of these allegations plans to convert more schools in Luton, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard have been put on hold.The director general Sir Peter Birkett resigned back in July, presumably having seen the writing on the wall.

This is not the first case of financial irregularities seen in academies and free schools.

For example officials from the Education Funding Agency, which oversees the funding of free schools and academies, are seeking to recover at least £162,000 claimed to have been misspent by Glendene Arts Academy, a specialist visual arts academy for pupils with special needs in Easington Colliery, Co Durham.

In January, the founder and principal of the Kings Science Academy in West Yorkshire, one of the first free schools to be opened, was arrested and bailed by police.

Last year one of the biggest academy chains, E-ACT, was criticised for spending on first-class travel, monthly lunches at the prestigious Reform Club in London and £393,000 of “financial irregularities”.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general-secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Once again we have a situation where a lack of accountability and democratic oversight has resulted in a police investigation into what we can only assume to be suspected criminal activities.”

He added: “It is clear beyond doubt that the Secretary of State and his officials cannot do the job of overseeing thousands of schools.”

Teachers, parents and governors must demand the return of schools to the control of Local Authorities and proper democratic accountability.

Feb 182014
 

The continuing ideological cuts by the coalition government are seriously undermining the future of British science. They are impacting in all areas – no institution or organisation has been left untouched.

With last year’s real term budget cut of 10% the executive agencies of the Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are struggling to cope. The Food and Environment Research Agency, whose workers provide key expertise in areas like plant health, food and environmental safety, are being forced to seek commercial funding which will inevitably impact on the independence and direction of the Agency.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency has announced a cost-cutting strategy that involves ending post-mortem examinations at eight of its fourteen sites. Again the vacuum will be filled by the private sector which will negatively impact on the identification and control of disease.

Workers at the Forestry Commission have seen their numbers cut by 30% with a cut of 26% in Forest Research. These cuts pose risks to control of tree diseases and habitat management. Core research work is increasingly undertaken by PhD students who are not receiving appropriate supervisory expertise, which is having an impact both on the quality of the analysis they do and the training they receive.

Within the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council at least one institute has reported that it is unable to replace senior scientists following a redundancy exercise which is now damaging its reputation. This has also resulted in an increased workload for remaining lab scientists and growing pressures on students, who are increasingly being used as cheap labour.

Back in November 2013 the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee published its report into ‘Scientific Infrastructure’, identifying a number of significant areas of concern:

  • Lack of a clear long-term strategy and investment plan: a series of ad hoc announcements has militated against long-term planning.
  • A damaging disconnect between capital investment and funding for operational costs i.e. building important large scale infrastructure has been budgeted for, but the costs to keep it running have not.
  • Insufficient attention to the need to ensure a suitably skilled workforce, including accounting for training costs and facilitation of viable career paths.
  • Erosion of the ability of Public Sector Research Establishments and national laboratories to deliver national objectives due to underfunding and the wide variety of funding and governance models.

None of these have been addressed or look likely to be in the near future. It is of paramount importance to Britain as a nation that there is a continuous commitment to independent science, recognising that adequate public funding is in the interests of the nation.

Science provides skills, expertise, income and well being for the nation; it cannot be left to the whim of ideological, irrational market forces.

Feb 132014
 

As Britain experiences the severest flooding weather since records began, the debate on its management has been reduced to a lack of dredging at the Somerset levels. Government politicians, Pickles in particular, have attempted to blame poor advice and lack of flood expertise from the Environment Agency.

The reality is that it is the cuts imposed by the government which have limited the work on flood prevention including dredging in the rivers Parrott and Tone and the many drainage canals and ditches in the levels. Dredging is required as these rivers are above the level of the surrounding land. However in the present inundation, though dredging would have lessened the extent, it alone would not have prevented widespread flooding. Prevention requires a much greater level of investment to manage the catchment area including changes in land management upstream of the levels to reduce the rate of flow of rainstorm water.

A large cut in the EA budget occurred in 2010 reducing it by £110 million a year. The priorities set by government for work were first to save lives, then save houses and last protect agricultural land. These priorities, though sensible, leave areas like the Somerset levels exposed.

Importantly the danger is that funds will be switched to politically sensitive areas exposing areas with greater risk to life and property. For example a £99 million flood defence scheme in Boston, Lincolnshire, which would protect thousands of homes is still awaiting central government approval as are hundreds of smaller schemes around the country.

Hundreds of billions of pounds have been spent on ‘quantitative-easing’ putting money into banks bonds to reduce their speculative losses, while pretending that the purpose was to encourage lending to businesses and industry. A fraction of that amount invested in flood prevention would have created real jobs and produced a benefit against flood damage of £8 for every £1 spent.

Workers in the EA and numerous local government engineering departments and private sector consultancies have developed a high level of expertise and effectiveness in fighting floods in the UK and have learned and implemented lessons from the floods in 1953 and 2007. The 1953 surge in eastern England caused 300 deaths, many sea wall breaches and 24,000 flooded properties. The comparable surge last year caused no deaths and resulted in 18,00 flooded properties in that area, demonstrating that the weather forecasting and flood warning systems developed since 2007 has proved highly effective. The recent flooding is unusual in that it has included coastal, river, surface water and ground water flooding in various parts of the UK.

The lack of dredging in some rivers is symptomatic of reductions in maintenance by numerous bodies to cut costs. Canal sluices, drains and gullies have less maintenance. Rail infrastructure and essential utilities such as electrical substations have to be made resilient to floods. The challenge of adaptation to climate change is great. We cannot afford to allow politicians to trivialise the problem and attack the real experts and to subsidise the banks whilst cutting down on essential investment.

Feb 072014
 

As workers in the trade union, occupy, anti-cuts and other movements we should regularly be considering the nature of socialism and democracy. Involved as we are in the every day practice of class struggle, we should, to the best of our abilities, base our actions on accurate information, draw coherent conclusions and make use of this knowledge to change social conditions. This necessary scientific approach is the antithesis of religion, superstition or mysticism.

A recent employment tribunal found that in certain circumstances democratic socialism can be considered a religion. Mr Olivier, a Labour Party councillor and activist for over 30 years, brought a case against his employers for unfair dismissal.

In general political and scientific views would not be covered by equalities legislation as the Equality Act 2010 does not view these as philosophical beliefs capable of protection.

Olivier was dismissed from his job as a benefits advisor at Department of Works and Pension supposedly for becoming a local councillor without notifying or seeking approval of his employer. He also wrote letters to the local newspaper criticising government policy on taxes and benefits.

The Olivier verses DWP finding, which may be appealed, is not binding on any future cases and it does not even settle the present case as to whether the dismissal was unfair. The tribunal’s finding is only that “Democratic Socialism” may in certain very limited circumstances be a protected philosophical belief akin to religion.

Explanatory notes to the 2010 Act state that a belief could be protected if it is genuinely held, based on belief rather than information available, have a substantial effect on the person’s life, have a degree of cogency and be worthy of respect in a democratic society. Using these points as guidelines the present case widens the scope of discrimination that can be protected under the Equality Act.

So what has been achieved for working people? This tribunal has acknowledged that “Democratic Socialism” may be a protected belief. But how far would this type of socialism take us if we can’t make accurate observations about the state of society, or draw conclusions on how to solve its numerous problems? And how useful to workers is a belief system that the ruling class is willing to protect, but does not achieve concrete results?

Feb 042014
 

Every privatisation of public services represents theft and a great loss to our nation. Dr. Cable and his mates arrogantly asserted that last year’s privatisation of Royal Mail was good for Britain; the facts speak otherwise.

Cable and co have been very quiet over the past few months. When the shares were first traded they rocketed from 330p each to over 450p. Now, more than three months later they peaked at 650p, a massive rise of 86% on the original price! The loss to us, mere tax payers, is £2.8 billion which is six times what the government expects to get from the iniquitous bedroom tax. The silence from ministers is deafening. Two banks which facilitated the sell-off received £16 million. For Royal Mail customers post privatisation price increases are already taking place and the chief executive wants a pay deal of £1.5 million. Who is the more complacent, government ministers or us for allowing them to steal from us on such a grand scale?

Feb 032014
 

Neoliberals have long argued that countries need to attract foreign investment as the main way of securing growth and development. To do so governments were to ‘liberalise’ their economies, meaning reducing regulation, allowing the free flow of capital in and out and privatizing state industries.

The recession affecting Europe and the US led to the use of very low interest rates to try to revive these economies. This resulted in much investment moving to ‘emerging economies’ such as Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, India, South Africa and Indonesia. But as the US economy has recovered, at least enough for the US Central Bank to reduce quantitative easing and increase interest rates, the ‘international investors’ have moved their money back into the US causing the value of currencies in those countries to fall significantly.

They are now faced with the dilemma of either large increases in interest rates reducing their growth or large devaluations of their currencies which increases import costs and causes inflation. In the case of Argentina this is made worse because the country had a positive balance of trade from the export of soya and other products. Soya production however, is controlled by a few capitalists, who will profit from a devaluation of the peso and so have stopped exporting.

Significantly Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and other ALBA nations, which have not relied on foreign investment but used their own resources and control strategic industries, have retained economic stability. Sovereignty and self-reliance is, in the long term, the real answer to growth, development and equality.

Feb 032014
 

Shale Gas, the natural gas trapped within sedimentary shale rock formations, is found world-wide and advances in technology have now meant that access to this resource is financially viable. It is here that the agreement between those who support and oppose the fracking process radically diverges.

For those who support fracking the processing is the most significant step forward since the discovery of oil in the around Britain’s coasts. They argue it will bring economic benefits, will reduce CO2 emissions by at least 50% and will secure Britain’s energy needs well in to the 21st Century.

Those who object to fracking argue that this technology is a short-term fix which is not infinite. Furthermore they argue, unlike North Sea Oil many hundreds of wells would have to be built to produce as much gas as the North Sea and thousands to produce the amount of gas needed to fuel the 30 -40 new power stations the Coalition Government is currently proposing. Furthermore opponents fear water contamination, air pollution and even greater industrialisation of rural Britain.

What is clear is that the debate is becoming polarised, with positions being drawn that are based more on reactionary positions than the practical reality needed to determine the future of Britain.

It is evident that Britain’s energy needs require urgent attention. Neoliberalism, a failed market approach, foreign ownership, insufficient investment, lack of planning and a short term philosophy have brought the energy sector to crisis point.

Ever increasing costs for consumers, greater fuel poverty, insufficient generation capacity, and potential power cuts do not create an environment for rational debate; however it is rational debate that is required.

To determine whether fracking will produce what the nation requires a number of test wells must be drilled. The benefits of fracking need to be determined and the impact on the environment have to be taken into account. However the energy requirements of Britain also need to be accounted for, as we cannot be in a position where our hospitals, schools homes and workplaces are plunged into darkness.

The current climate in regard to the cost of energy and possible black outs has been created by the failing of successive governments since the privatisation of the energy sector. They have abjectly failed to put the people of Britain first and have favoured filling the pockets of the energy bosses.

If fracking goes ahead, it is clear the resource cannot be wasted as was the case with North Sea Oil and Gas and it will have to be tightly regulated. We need to use the financial resources created to provide for the future needs of Britain. Furthermore we need a balanced energy policy that uses all forms of generation to provide for the needs of the British people. This will only be accomplished when the nation’s energy resources are in the hands of the people and the neoliberalist agenda is rejected.

Jan 272014
 

The workers of Britain, as in other countries of the world, need jobs, education, health, housing, transportation and safe workplaces, decent pay and pensions, looking after when too young, old, infirm or disabled to work; rest, leisure, involvement in and enjoyment of sports and arts, and a healthy environment etc. We need to be able to organise and make decisions, about the manufacturing and infra-structural base, agriculture to feed people, and control over borders, imports, exports and decisions about investments. We also need the ability to defend our country of working people, against those who would seeks to deprive us of what we need. These are some of the basic needs that our visions should be about. There is a need to state these needs, to demand them as rights and to organise to achieve them as a reality.

A blacklisted UCATT safety rep was dismissed several times for organising to achieve a safe work site. The High Court have accepted that this happened and have deemed this to be unjust treatment but said there can be no legal redress because he was an agency worker.

The case is that of engineer Dave Smith who after finding out he was marked for dismissal, went on to be a founder member of the Blacklist Support Group. His name and that of thousands of other construction workers were on the Consulting Association (TCA) blacklist, resulting in a loss of livelihood and the hardship that entails. Files kept by this organisation detailed his attempts to sort out problems of asbestos, poor toilet facilities and contaminated waste on Carillion sites in the South East.

An Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal rejected his claim for compensation because he was not directly employed by Carillion. The High Court has endorsed the position of the lower tribunals, although it agrees Dave was wronged.

Dave Smith stated after the case. “Being a union member is not against the law. Raising concerns about asbestos is not against the law. But despite mountains of documentary evidence proving that construction firms were systematically black-listing union members who questioned safety standards, it seems that big business are above the law.” He went on to argue that black listing was a violation of human rights and said that the fight would be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

More importantly, for the present is that the fight is accepted, supported and joined by workers in their Trades Unions. We need safe and healthy workplaces and to be able to organise to struggle to improve our working conditions. Also we need to be able to organise to prevent the reversal of gains made by working people.

Jan 222014
 

The NHS Support Federation has claimed that almost 70% of contracts for NHS services in England from April to December 2013 have been won by private firms. Thirty-nine out of fifty-seven contracts have gone their way. They include contracts for mental health, GP and out of hours services and diagnostics.

In money terms this has meant £510 million worth of contracts were advertised of which £450 million have gone outside the NHS (2 went to charities and one was shared between a private supplier and the NHS).

Much bigger contracts are coming up. Lord Howe, an Under Secretary of Health, has assured private firms that a procurement exercise to outsource the NHS Choices website, which had to be ‘insourced’ after the Cabinet was forced to veto the Dept of Health’s plans to give it to Capita, will go ahead. Capital IT has been awarded a £2.7 million contract to supply IT networks in the new S. Glasgow Adult and Children’s hospitals.

Privatisation invariably means cuts. When Blue Circle won the contract for the country’s first privatised hospital at Hinchinbrooke they proposed staff cuts of up to 320 full time equivalents over 3 years out of 1,600 staff in total. Blue Circle posted a £4.1 million deficit in 2012.

Now that the NHS Reforms have come in staff in the Commissioning groups are spending a lot of time on tendering. Commissioning often involves enormous sums. Cambridge has invited tenders for end of life care worth £140 to £160 million over 5 years, to replace six separate contracts with NHS organisations – 4 hospital Trusts, a Mental Health Trust and a Community Services Trust.

Organisations not normally involved in healthcare are also leaping on the bandwagon. Arriva, known for its bus and train services, has won a bid to run the amublance service for Greater Manchester. According to Unison this was won on the basis of lowest price rather than best quality.

Some contracts have already gone disasterously wrong. The Commons public accounts committee criticised Serco for providing “short-staffed and substandard” out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall, falsifying data about its performance on 252 occasions and inadequate quality of service. Yet Serco is still able to bid for contracts. This debacle demonstrated how unaccountable private companies are and how difficult to monitor.

Allyson Pollock’s recent excellent article in the Guardian (see link below), demonstrates that many hospitals and A&E departments have had to close because of the high costs of that other privatisation issue – PFI (Private Finance Initiative) This has put pressure on remaining hospitals and A&E departments.

The public expresses worry about privatisation, but does not always understand that the more parts of the NHS are privatised, the less economically viable they become and the more vulnerable to closure. Big US companies are eyeing up the possibility of taking on huge contracts, and the way may well be paved to an American system of charges and insurance.

Allyson Pollock article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/14/emergency-departments-fighting-for-life-nhs-marketisation

 

Jan 052014
 

With so much to be done meaningful new year’s resolutions of a political nature are hard to prioritise.

Let’s try. Our guide should be that everything that finance capitalism wants we oppose with an alternative strategy, so…..

No to Scottish ‘independence’ so called.

Yes to an integrated Britain with consistent collective bargaining throughout the country.

No the membership of the European Union.

Yes to self determination and a parliament of the people.

No to the unelected coalition government.

Yes to a new constitution which gives us a people’s national assembly to represent the real interests of the country.

No to individualism and fatalism.

Yes to vibrant, active workplace trade union organisation in every workplace.

 

 Posted by at 1:22 pm
Jan 052014
 

On 20-12-2013 the Bolivian satellite Tupac Katary was launched from China. Lively and emotional crowds of Bolivian citizens viewed the event on giant TV screens in many towns throughout the country. The launch, 3 years after the formation of the Bolivian Space Agency, is a great practical achievement in implementing the new Bolivian constitution, which commits the country to include all its citizens in social, political and economic participation and to develop the productive base and industrialisation of its natural resources.

The satellite TKSAT-1 iBolivian Satellites geostationary at a height of 36,000km. It weighs 5.5 tons and measures 28m in length with its solar panels fully extended. It is controlled by two stations in Bolivia, one of which is a reserve.

The purpose of the satellite is to deliver telecommunications services such as television, the internet, geographic positioning and mobile and line telephones to the whole population and neighbouring countries who buy the service. Most importantly these services will reach the third of the population who live in rural areas, many remote from urban centres and who therefore have less access to education and economic opportunities.

The satellite was jointly designed by Chinese and Bolivian engineers. 78 Bolivian engineers and technicians have been working and training in China for the last 3 years and will now return to Bolivia and train further personnel to run the Space Agency and develop new programmes making the Bolivian Space Agency fully independent.

This type of contract with China has been typical of recent government investment in high technology projects. Examples of these include the opening of an Aeolian Park where wind turbines are used to generate the energy for irrigation to grow apples, a planned solar electrical generation plant in Pando in the Amazon region, which will replace much of the power from oil generators and a new paper factory which is now producing school exercise books.

In advance of the launch the Space Agency prepared a teaching resource for Bolivian schools which dedicated one day in November for teaching and discussion activities on the satellite so that science and technology education are becoming embedded in the new generations.

The project has become viable because the inclusion of large sectors of previously excluded people accelerated economic growth to 6.8% and increased the number of users of communication services creating a good revenue for the state owned services and many new high value jobs for Bolivians.

Signals to and from the satellite have now been successfully transmitted and TKSAT-1 will be fully operational in March 2014.

Jan 052014
 

The end of 2013 saw key defeats for the Latin American fascist right in both Venezuela and Chile.

The victory of the Chavistas in the Venezuelan municipal elections, should not in itself have been very significant, since the governing socialists had won the presidential, parliamentary and regional elections with large majorities already. It became important because the extreme right, with US support, had made the municipal elections a key part of their campaign of subversion with economic sabotage as its main tactic. Their business supporters hoarded food and goods, creating artificial shortages, which they then blamed on government inefficiency. In the process, they made large profits, by selling these products at the Colombian border as prices there are much higher.

However, determined action by the Venezuelan government and security forces defeated this attempt and proved highly popular among the public, resulting in the defeat of the extreme right in the elections and in their attempt to organise protests against the new anti-sabotage measures.

The government also discovered the organized links between the Venezuelan far right and other Latin American fascists. These include Chilean Pinochet activists, Colombian extreme rightists linked to paramilitaries, the Medellin narco-traffickers and most notably ex- Colombian president Uribe. Uribe has been actively campaigning in the US and Europe against the Colombian peace talks between the current government and FARC which have been taking place in Havana.

In Chile the social democrat Bachelet defeated the Pinochet supporter, winning 62% of the vote on a radical platform which includes the introduction of free education at all levels, tax reform, labour reform and constitutional reform to change the Pinochet authoritarian pro-elite constitution. At the moment Chile is the most unequal society in Latin America.

Faced with an increasingly active and politically conscious civil society, the extreme right is putting its efforts into violence in the hope of creating the conditions needed to justify US military intervention. Their efforts must be exposed and defeated.

Jan 032014
 

The year 2013 ended as it had begun with many homes and businesses across the country experiencing the misery of being flooded out. The heartache and misery caused far outweighs the economic impact.

Flooding will become more commonplace as we move further into the 21st century. Climate change has already had an impact on our weather as warmer air holds more water and therefore the potential for stronger rainfall events has increased. Flooding is caused either by excess rainfall or storm surges, both of which have impacted upon Britain in the last year. Around 1 million properties are at risk of surface and ground water flooding while a further 2.4 million are at risk from river and sea water flooding.

This is at a time when our public services, including those that deal with the impact and consequences of flooding, are more stretched than ever. Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in December of last year was on the same day that Environment Agency (EA) engineers were out in force defending the east coast from the largest tidal surge in 60 years. Osborne’s statement confirmed that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) must save £19 million in 2014/15 and £18 million in 2015/16, much of which is expected to be taken from the EA.

Defra’s revenue funding for operations and maintenance is falling to £230 million next year, down by around £10 million on this year and around £50 million since 2010/11. Both Prospect and Unison have expressed their concerns, warning that the severity of the cuts will impact on the ability of the Agency to deliver, especially in situations of emergency. It is predicted that the cuts will have a negative impact on the Agency’s ability to manage incidents, given that front line staff will be effected.

In 2010 the Environment Agency undertook a review of flood prevention schemes which resulted in many being cancelled and as a consequence hundreds of thousands of homes and livelihoods being left unprotected. The flood defence budget has been cut from an average of £664 million in 2009 to an average of £540 million up to 2015. For example the biggest project to lose funding was the £160 million defence scheme along 12 miles of the River Aire, stretching right into the centre of Leeds.

These cuts in spending should be taken in the context of the Foresight Future Flooding report published in 2004 which identified the need for year on year increases in funding of between £10 and £30 million for England and Wales every year until the 2080s, simply to respond to climate change. Whilst climate change modelling has significantly improved in the last decade the impact still remains uncertain.

The EA’s long term investment strategy identified that a steady increase of investment to around £1040 million per year, excluding inflation, was needed to maintain existing and build new flood management assets. This figure excludes the cost of managing the risk of surface water and groundwater flooding so further resources are required for affected homes.

The challenges laid out above can be set against a backdrop of proposals to cut employees at the agency from 11,250 to 9,700 by October 2014, with the expectation that there will be more redundancies in the future as a result of further cuts.

The Agency have also announced that they will be cutting spending on waste crime, which makes no sense whatsoever as it has been demonstrated by the consultants Eunomia that for every £1 the EA spends on waste crime a further £5-6 is raised in landfill tax. This again shows the incomprehensible logic of the coalition where the mantra of cuts actually damages the economy even further. The same can be demonstrated for flood defence where again for every £1 spent by the Agency a further £8 is saved from repairing flood damage.

Dec 252013
 

A national Defend Council Housing meeting on 11 January in Manchester will build support for campaigns against privatisation, and organise next steps in the fight to defend secure tenancies and low rents, and stop the sell off of council housing.

In 2014 a whole number of councils including Salford, Durham, Gloucester, Northampton, Lewisham and Lambeth will be privatising their housing through stock transfers and Arm’s-Length Management Organisations (ALMOS).

Arms-Length Management Organisations date back to 2000 and are the government’s strategy for two-stage privatisation. Democratic control is lost with the management of homes moved into a separate private company; and tenants’ power is undermined by a board on which tenant reps are outvoted and bound by corporate responsibility. Million of pounds are wasted on consultants, lawyers and other set up costs, new offices and big new salaries for top managers. On the other hand council housing is the only form of housing where tenants elect their landlord, and keeping homes under democratic control.

In the wake of a 15-month review, Northampton Borough Council has recommended that the management of its 12,100 housing stock is transferred to an ALMO supposedly in order to upgrade to decent homes standards in a ‘financially sustainable’ manner.

The review was been carried out by two panels, one of tenants and one of housing staff, which considered six options for the future management of the council’s housing. However, these panels are not representative of the tenants’ views – similar proposals have been fought before. If cabinet and full council agree to set up an ALMO, implementation work would begin in January 2014 and take around 12 months to complete, so any campaigns need to get going quickly.

DCH also reports some disturbing facts about housing in Northampton:

  • Over 800 Northampton council tenants are now in rent arrears of over £680
  • Northampton Council rent arrears are over £1.8 million
  • Northampton Council Homes with no tenants have cost over £700k (loss of rent) since April
  • Eviction notices have surged by over 60% in Northampton

Tenants, trade unions, councillors and campaigners against stock transfer, are asked to come to the DCH national meeting 11-4.30pm Sat 11 January at Manchester Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St M2 5NS. 11am-1pm: How to beat privatisation; 1.30-4.30pm: next steps in the fight for council housing. Local groups campaigning against the Bedroom Tax will meet a week later, Sat 18th January 12 – 4.30pm in Birmingham Paragon Hotel, 145 Alcester Rd Paragon Hotel, 145 Alcester Street, Birmingham B12 0PJ to discuss: Organising to stop evictions, Co-ordinate protests March/April 2014, and ending the Bed Tax in 2014.
Contact benefitjustice@gmail.com for more details.

 Posted by at 6:38 am
Dec 182013
 

Success is in the eye of the beholder.

447 British service men and women needlessly killed.

2,000 US service men and women needlessly killed.

Hundreds of other nationals killed.

Afghanistan’s poppy growing expanded.

Taliban ready to seize power again.

The current President and his acolytes ready to flit to live overseas to live off their immoral earnings in luxury.

Medieval tribalism still intact.

Warmongering politicians of all parties humiliated again.

The British defence forces should be about defending our island nation. In their current depleted state with their abhorrent lack of resistance to foolish postings such as Afghanistan and obedience to seriously weak minded politicians there will have to be a great deal of confidence building to ensure that they can be supported in doing that if ever needed.

 Posted by at 3:40 pm
Dec 142013
 

President of the USA Obama in an apparently unplanned gesture shook hands at Mandela’s funeral with Raul Castro of Cuba.

It remains to be seen whether the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation that capitalist world leaders so admire in Mandela will influence their decisions.

Will the US Cuban blockade be lifted?

Will the Miami Five be freed?

 Posted by at 7:48 pm
Dec 142013
 

Raul Castro’s speech to Mandela’s memorial service

11 December 2013

President Jacob Zuma,
Relatives of Nelson Mandela,
Distinguished dignitaries,
Fraternal people of South Africa.

We pay emotional tribute to Nelson Mandela, the ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle for freedom and justice; a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation.

Alongside his comrades in the struggle, he led his people in the battle against apartheid, to open the way to a new South Africa; a non racial and united South Africa in its quest for happiness, equality and the wellbeing of all its children, a nation bent on overcoming the consequences of colonialism, slavery and racial segregation.

Setting an example of integrity and perseverance, he later headed the effort to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and create opportunities for all.

Mandela offers an insurmountable example to Latin America and the Caribbean, which are currently moving towards unity and integration for the benefit of their peoples, on the basis of respect for diversity, and convinced that it is through dialogue and cooperation that discrepancies can be resolved and a civilized relationship established between those who think differently.

As Mandela’s life teaches us, only the concerted efforts of all nations will empower Humanity to respond to the enormous challenges threatening its very existence.

Cuba, a country born in the struggle for independence and for the abolition of slavery, and whose children have African blood running in their veins, has had the privilege of fighting and building alongside the African nations.

We shall never forget Mandela’s moving homage to our common struggle when on the occasion of his visit to our country on July 26, 1991 he said that “the Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa.”

I remember his bond of affection with Fidel Castro, a symbol of the fraternal relations between Africans and Cubans. Fidel has said: “Nelson Mandela will not go down in history for the 27 consecutive years he spent incarcerated without ever renouncing his ideas. He will go down in history because he was capable of cleaning-up his soul from the poison that such an unfair punishment could have planted there; and for his generosity and wisdom, which at the moment of victory allowed him to lead with great talent his selfless and heroic people, knowing that the new South Africa could not be built on hatred and vengeance.”

Eternal honor and glory to Nelson Mandela and to the heroic people of South Africa!

Thank you.

Dec 122013
 
A city centre which at night resembles parts of Detroit and daily life which resembles Victorian Britain with many beggars and a general feeling of a country in irreversible decline. Schoolchildren have been seen looking in dustbins for food and many people have died burning wood in makeshift stoves in apartments to keep warm.Despite all the official pronouncements that the Troika’s (EU-ECB-IMF) programme will herald growth, there has been a decline of an average 5% fall in GDP annually over the last four years – figures not seen since the 12% annual fall during the civil war of the 1940s. Unemployment has skyrocketed to at least 3m (official numbers 1.5m), roughly between 30-40% of the population.The shock therapy which is killing the patient stone dead has led to a massively reduced govt majority of four and we are in a permanent government crisis with confused orders from the centre. Land and property taxes are destroying the social fabric of society, splintering it apart until there is nothing left and new Orwellian measures of seizing bank accounts electronically to are to be applied as a New Year gift to Greek citizens due to the massive non-payment crisis of all the new taxes. Over 70 billion Euros annually goes to pay parasitic banksters and wage and pension cuts ranging from 20% to 60% (eg. bus drivers) indicate that govt spending is massively reduced. Schools and hospitals are being merged, many schools have no heating and over 25,000 public sector workers have been fired this year.

Wave upon wave of immigration continues to hit Greek shores and immigrants have nowhere to go, so inevitably there is a crime wave in poorer Athenian districts and the prisons are already full. The younger generation, up to and including those in their 40s, will never see a pension as without 40 year contributions they will not be able to get one. Companies don’t employ full time workers to avoid paying tax and insurance. The new norm is jobs at 2.5 Euros an hour with shifts whenever the boss feels like it.

The organised force of the fake left which now has a majority on the public sector union ADEDY held a rally on Saturday and only around 200 people turned up. The leaders of the unions hide behind government strike bans despite massive strike waves that broke out in both February and October of this year. Syriza, the main party of the opposition, does not seek a fight for power despite gaining 27% of the vote and is relegated to asking for Germany’s surpluses as a way to solve the capitalist crisis – ie the old bankrupt economic model.

If the current situation continues – and so far it is the longest depression in a western economy – the state will start to disintegrate. Whether a revolt occurs prior to disintegration or as a consequence of it is what is on everyone’s mind. Time is running out for all concerned.

by V N Gelis
 Posted by at 4:14 pm
Dec 102013
 

Recent research from the New Economic Foundation shows the biggest drop in living standards since Victorian times; with women and part-time workers suffering disproportionately. NEF also draws attention to a low wage public sector, with the worst off being health and social care staff, classroom assistants and council employees. Retail workers come out lowest in the private sector. One in four local authority employees is now on low pay, defined by NEF as less than 60% of the average national income, £7.47 an hour or £13,600 a year.
In another report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 6.7 million “hard-working families” were below the poverty line; whereas 6.3 million of retired families and unemployed are in a similar position. Contrary to government propaganda, “hard-working families” in and out of work are not moving out of poverty. The chief executive of JRF said, ” Hard work is not working. We have a labour market that lacks pay and protection, with jobs offering precious little security and paltry wages that are insufficient to make ends meet.”
Government can only claim that the ‘trickle-down’ effect will come about when growth increases and corporations’ profits grow – the lie that Thatcher spread far and wide. Every worker in this country has a duty to themselves, their families and our class to stop the descent into Victorian destitution.

Dec 082013
 

It is of no surprise that the Autumn Statement continues the austerity attack on workers and there is general cynicism by many about the trumpeting of ‘good’ economic news – an illusion for workers who have seen their income plummet.

However, there is still a patchy response by unions and workers in general to this. Workers are relieved to find themselves still in jobs, even on lower pay and eroded wages and conditions and are reluctant to understand that this process is part and parcel of a wider and longer term attack by capitalism and is massively damaging to both them and the British economy. Much of the attack through austerity measures is still to come and the consequences on, for example, councils and the NHS can already be seen and will have catastrophic in the next few years.

Some unions have still been plugging ahead with action on wages, pensions and conditions. UCU, Unison and Unite have recently held yet another day of action on the University campuses and UCU is working to contract. There is much unreported action by students at various universities. They are being attacked both physically and through arrests and suspensions for protesting about a variety of issues on their campuses, including outsourcing and threats to their union. NAPO has been trying to fight the privatisation of the probation service. The FBU continues to fight on pensions.

But there is much to be done. The new announcements on pensions, though yet to be turned into any law, shows us what is to come – back to a past era when workers worked until they dropped through sickness and poverty. Waiting hopefully for the election and Labour to be our saviour will be disasterous – we need to be setting an agenda for action now.

 Posted by at 8:21 pm
Dec 082013
 

The world has lost a great communist leader. Yet the world’s bourgeois politicians and media are celebrating the loss of a leader who greatly assisted in the destruction of the racist regime they once supported. The anti apartheid struggle became global, but for its endurance and ultimate success depended on many great and key leaders amongst the people of southern Africa, the Communist Party, trade unions and military wing of the ANC. The role of Cuba’s military support will never be forgotten either. Not should we forget the bravery of many British and other international supporters of the struggle who at key times when the forces in South Africa were depleted and imprisoned undertook important clandestine missions, some of which were celebrated recently in the book the London Recruits.

We do not forget either the many concerts which through music reached out to a younger generation to sing “Free, free, Nelson Mandela.” The bourgeois commentary on Nelson Mandela’s passing will over emphasise the role of the individual in history and will seek to forget and neutralise the great collective nature of the bitter armed struggle that alone made the eventual demolition of apartheid possible. We should not forget all those who fell in this, nor the many assassinations of leaders, Ruth First, Chris Hani and countless others.

Unsurprisingly, it is the South African Communist Party that provided one of the most apt obituaries to Mandela, reminding us that at the time of his arrest in 1962 he was not just a member of the Community Party but a member of its central Committee.  They remind us too of the extremely powerful concept of revolutionary love, a politics born out of a humane commitment to the people and their power. We print their words in full below:

“Last night the millions of the people of South Africa, majority of whom the working class and poor, and the billions of the rest of the people the world over, lost a true revolutionary, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Tata Madiba.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) joins the people of South Africa and the world in expressing its most sincere condolences to Ms Graca Machel and the entire Mandela family on the loss of what President Zuma correctly described as South Africa’s greatest son, Comrade Mandela. We also wish to use this opportunity to express our solidarity with the African National Congress, an organisation that produced him and that he also served with distinction, as well as all his colleagues and comrades in our broader liberation movement. As Tata Madiba said: “It is not the kings and generals that make history but the masses of the people, the workers, the peasants…”

The passing away of Cde Mandela marks an end to the life of one of the greatest revolutionaries of the 20th century, who fought for freedom and against all forms of oppression in both their countries and globally. As part of the masses that make history, Cde Mandela’s contribution in the struggle for freedom was located and steeled in the collective membership and leadership of our revolutionary national liberation movement as led by the ANC – for he was not an island. In Cde Mandela we had a brave and courageous soldier, patriot and internationalist who, to borrow from Che Guevara, was a true revolutionary guided by great feelings of love for his people, an outstanding feature of all genuine people’s revolutionaries.

At his arrest in August 1962, Nelson Mandela was not only a member of the then underground South African Communist Party, but was also a member of our Party’s Central Committee. To us as South African communists, Cde Mandela shall forever symbolise the monumental contribution of the SACP in our liberation struggle. The contribution of communists in the struggle to achieve the South African freedom has very few parallels in the history of our country. After his release from prison in 1990, Cde Madiba became a great and close friend of the communists till his last days.

The one major lesson we need to learn from Mandela and his generation of leaders was their commitment to principled unity within each of our Alliance formations as well as the unity of our Alliance as a whole and that of the entire mass democratic movement. Their generation struggled to build and cement the unity of our Alliance, and we therefore owe it to the memory of Cde Madiba to preserve the unity of our Alliance. Let those who do not understand the extent to which blood was spilt in pursuance of Alliance unity be reminded not to throw mud at the legacy and memory of the likes of Madiba by being reckless and gambling with the unity of our Alliance.

The SACP supported Madiba’s championing of national reconciliation. But national reconciliation for him never meant avoiding tackling the class and other social inequalities in our society, as some would like to make us believe today. For Madiba, national reconciliation was a platform to pursue the objective of building a more egalitarian South African society free of the scourge of racism, patriarchy and gross inequalities. And true national reconciliation shall never be achieved in a society still characterized by the yawning gap of inequalities and capitalist exploitation.

In honour of this gallant fighter the SACP will intensify the struggle against all forms of inequality, including intensifying the struggle for socialism, as the only political and economic solution to the problems facing humanity.

For the SACP the passing away of Madiba must give all those South Africans who had not fully embraced a democratic South Africa, and who still in one way or the other hanker to the era of white domination, a second chance to come to terms with a democratic South Africa founded on the principle of majority rule.

We call upon all South Africans to emulate his example of selflessness, sacrifice, commitment and service to his people.”

The SACP says Hamba kahle Mkhonto!

Issued by SACP

Contact:

Alex Mashilo – National Spokesperson
Mobile: 082 9200 308
Office: 011 339 3621
Email: alexmashilo.sacp@gmail.com
– See more at: http://www.sacp.org.za/main.php?ID=4151#sthash.3gERRWw5.dpuf

Dec 022013
 

It is one of those weird paradoxes that only this upside down neoliberal world could create. The Scottish National Party’s divisive and diversionary referendum is not about Scottish independence at all, but about a new form of dependence. It is not about the proud assertion of socialist nationhood, but about breaking up the nation of Britain and the devil take the hindmost.

A truly independent nation controls its own currency, controls its own waters and borders, establishes its own defence and security and foreign policy, mints its own coinage, controls its own sovereign parliament and takes a seat on the world’s key bodies, most notably perhaps the United Nations. Even very tiny genuine countries such as Malta with only about 300,000 inhabitants could achieve these things in the past, where genuine nationhood has a material and viable base.

The SNP in its lengthy referendum document ‘Scotland’s Future’ argues that if free from the nasty clutches of Tory controlled Westminster, Scotland would be free to implement a good Old Labour strategy of public services, progressive taxation, no nukes and progressive social policies.

But to achieve this it argues it must embed itself more deeply into the key bastions of capitalist power – the European Union and NATO. It argues that the Queen must remain the Head of State and the good old pound sterling of the UK must be its currency. In other words rather than being a part of one country interdependent with the other two parts England and Wales, it will become more dependent on the political structures of finance capital. Rather than becoming, as it claims, more democratic and closer to the Scottish people it will become more subservient to the forces of neoliberalism who respect no nation and see a quick buck in everything.

The very idea that the EU would permit Scotland to pursue its own growth and public service based economic policy is an absolute illusion. If it did this Scotland would instantly fall foul of the EU rules of membership. It would be out of the frying pan and into the fire. All of Scotland’s services and resources would be more readily available to the market.

Under the SNP version of dependence masquerading as independence they might get rid of the bedroom tax, but they would end up in the bed with a much bigger devil. They might promise better childcare but youth unemployment under the ravages of EU austerity would shoot up. They might get rid of the repulsive Tories for ever, but the unelected EU Commissioners and their pay masters in the European Roundtable of Industrialists which runs the EU are much much more deadly.

The EU regional policy which underpins its economic strategies has long dreamt of a Europe of competing economic ‘zones’ replacing former democratic nations.

This is precisely what the SNP offers up to European Finance Capital. And in the horrendous new resource wars for oil and gas breaking out between the EU countries, let no one think the oil and gas reserves off British waters in Scotland would fuel a growth of Scotland’s real economy and infrastructure.

Scotland has been a brave part of Britain providing so much of our economy and culture and skill and thought. To see it enslaved by the spivs of the EU would be a tragedy indeed. We cannot let it happen.

Dec 022013
 

The Ukrainian government is to be supported for rejecting the free trade agreement with the EU. Germany, whose economic and foreign policies dominate the EU, has had a long standing and deep seated policy of driving to the east and opening markets and resources to its northern and eastern borders. It steadfastly returns to this underlying policy at every opportunity and consciously uses the EU to achieve this objective. The smashing up of Yugoslavia sparked by that early German-led EU recognition of the Croatian separatists, was one tragic and bloody example of this position. The fostering of civil strife in Ukraine is another worrying example.

The EU would not develop trade with the Ukraine without its usual insistence on social and economic devastation. It would plunder the oil and gas at a snip and without compunction for the Ukrainian people. The Ukraine was a valued part of the Soviet Union, a proud federation.

While gangsters now rule Russia and the EU it may seem that Ukraine has an unpalatable choice, one almost impossible to make. But of course it is not. Falling for the charms of the EU and the selfishness of the pro finance capital hunger strikers would enslave the nation and impoverish it beyond belief. A quick look at how EU membership served Greece would be enough to convince any Ukrainian that its government has got it right and its protestors have got it badly wrong. A grim legacy of Nazi sympathisers are in the crowds calling for the EU and Germany to rule Ukraine instead of its own government. The EU leadership are again attacking an elected government that disagrees with their project using any means necessary.

Nov 282013
 

The great Japanese earthquake of March 2011 was a tragedy of unprecedented scale. It began with the primary damage of the earthquake, which was of magnitude 9 (at the top of the scale). This caused a tsunami with waves 20 to 30m and in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, the run-up height of the waves was 43.3m. The tsunami damaged the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant, resulting in a nuclear meltdown and hydrogen explosions in two reactors.

Although most damage, deaths and casualties were caused directly by the earthquake and tsunami, much media and world attention has been given to the Fukushima 1 nuclear accident. The investigations and reports by the Japanese commission on the whole event is therefore of great importance.

The event as a whole caused 15,882 deaths, with 2,668 people missing. Of these 92.4% died by drowning (tsunami), 4.4% died by crushing (earthquake collapse), 1.1% by fire and 2.1% by unknown causes.

There were no deaths caused by the nuclear accident but 321,000 people were evacuated from their homes – mostly those living up to 30km from the plant many of whom have still not returned. The full radiation clean-up will take several years. The reconstruction will take up to 10 years with costs for the damage to homes, public buildings and infrastructure estimated at £160 billion. Most of the infrastructure, however, had been reconstructed and recovered by November 2012, but housing will take longer.

With a natural disaster of such magnitude the surprising finding is that the Fukushima 1 disaster was avoidable and was caused by neglect by the plant owners and regulators. This conclusion was drawn because none of the other nuclear plants in Japan had similar failures. Indeed the newer Fukushima 2 nuclear power plant, which is located 11km south, did not reach a stage of overheating and meltdown because its design was of a higher standard.

When it started operating in 1982 Tepko, the owners of Fukushima 1, were required to upgrade their systems to meet the new higher design standards. They failed to do so and were not pressed by the regulators. In the words of the Diet Commission ‘the accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepko and the lack of governance by said parties’.

In the UK we are now losing the ability to build our own plants and putting construction in the hands of foreigners such as the French company EDF with additional Chinese help. We need to rebuild this technical base, using nuclear power as part of a mixed energy provision, along with maintaining strong regulating bodies, which have been shown to be so important in the Fukushima 1 disaster.

 

 

 Posted by at 4:13 pm
Nov 272013
 

The failure by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to stop the agreement between the 5 +1 countries and Iran is a very welcome development, which breaks the daily increase in violence in the Middle East.

In practical terms it will not change a lot. Iran’s nuclear programme is for civil nuclear power and medical applications, not for bomb making. This has been verified many times by international nuclear bodies and even the CIA. The significance of this agreement is that it makes it much more difficult for Israel to attack Iran with the excuse of eliminating a nuclear bomb programme. It will also make it far more difficult for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to demonise Iran in their campaign to use Sunni Muslims to fight Shia Muslims. The agreement provides the chance to stop the fratricidal slaughter in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Much credit for the breakthrough must go to Russian and Iranian diplomacy, but the biggest change has been the realisation by people in the US and Europe that their soldiers and finances are being used by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to make war on Iran to defend their own fascist aims.

 

 Posted by at 3:29 pm
Nov 222013
 

Health Secretary Hunt is well used to making reassuring noises during the destruction of the NHS, which his administration drives relentlessly forward. His latest response to the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire Hospital gives ample evidence of this tactic. He hides behind rhetoric about individual medical practitioners being open about errors and failures, and being forced to pay some compensation claims rather than the NHS.

In the meantime, Hunt’s hatchet men are planning to cut 7,000 nursing jobs by 2016 when one of the main thrusts of the Francis Report is the implementation of minimum staffing levels on all wards. Trusts are aiming to employ 3,000 more nurses this year, while planning to cut numbers sharply in the next two years. The cuts would result in the closure of whole wards to avoid breaking new minimum staff-patient ratios.

Various NHS leaders have repeatedly warned government of deteriorating patient care. Outsourcing, another name for privatisation is taking its toll. The danger to A&E departments this winter has been highlighted by Labour, but what is also at stake is the basic delivery of patient services through this winter and beyond. Who will defend the NHS from these dead-end politicians? No one but ourselves.

Nov 222013
 

The government has just announced that £350 million will be used to train 3,500 graduates in science and engineering at 70 university centres, where they will be involved in specific research and development projects.

What could be the problem with that? Nothing, except that it exemplifies the idea that a systemic problem can be solved by chucking some money into a high profile project, rather than addressing the root causes.

The truth is that our country needs a properly planned approach to meeting the needs of the economy, starting with schools and finishing with the ongoing training needs of adults in work.

Recent stories add to this picture.

The old careers service run by Connexions was axed in 2012, with schools told to provide advice with no extra funding, despite a potential cost to each school of £25,000. Not surprisingly in September Ofsted reported that three quarters of schools did not offer adequate careers advice.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank has just claimed that up to 50,000 16 to 18 year olds are in ‘dead-end’ courses which fail to lead to unemployment. There are half a million more with low level qualifications who are not in work. It argues that they would be better off in apprenticeships or in ‘stronger’ courses.

These findings support the findings of a government commissioned review into vocational education which said many courses offered ‘ a diet of low-level qualifications most of which have little or no labour market value’.

At the top end of the process it has just been reported by the Office for National Statistics that the number of graduates working in jobs which don’t require a degree has risen from 39% before the 2008 financial crash to 47% – an appalling waste of the investment and skills with the knock-on effect of pushing the less well qualified unable to compete despite being able to do the work.

The unemployment rate for graduates has risen to 9% (cf 5% early 2008), with graduate salaries falling 3.4% in the year up to Sept 2013 and vacancies falling 19% in the year to October.

Yet at the same time Professor John Perkins Chief Scientific Adviser at the Dept of Business Innovation and Skills has said that any UK economic recovery could be constrained by a lack of engineering skills – backed up by the manufacturers’ organisation, the EEF, who want to see more scientists and engineers.The UK is already lagging behind other countries in the number of 16 to 18 year olds studying maths and only half of 11 to 14s would consider a career in engineering.

The government is supremely indifferent to all of this and is hell bent on continuing with the destruction of jobs, wages and conditions. Not surprisingly it has no interest in planning for the needs of our economy when the chaos of free market economics is in full swing. It is up to us to develop our vision of how we might plan to ensure our education system helps to deliver the skills we need for a thriving economy.

 

 Posted by at 11:30 am
Nov 092013
 

Workers at BAE Systems shipyards across the country face losing their jobs and Britain faces losing a large part of its shipbuilding capacity as bosses at to BAE plan to cut 1,775 jobs from sites across Scotland and England.

As workers reel from the news, trades unions in Portsmouth have organised a protest rally saying they want no job losses and that government and management should alter their plans,

All 940 jobs at Portsmouth are earmarked to go in 2014, ending shipbuilding there after five centuries of construction work in naval shipyards. A further 835 jobs will be lost at Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow, at Rosyth and at the Filton offices near Bristol.

BAE heads a consortium with Babcock and Thales UK that has the contract with the Ministry of Defence for building an aircraft carrier. As present work on the carrier comes to an end, and in an attempt to restrict the inflating costs of military hardware, the workers will suffer with loss of livelihood and Portsmouth yard will be reduced to providing repairs and maintenance. As too often in privatised industry, cost are to be borne by the taxpayer. In this case of the cost of restructuring will be paid by the MoD.

The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions has called the news “devastating…for the UK shipbuilding industry” and will meet with management to discuss the plans.

David Cameron’s official told a news conference that the plans involving the sackings and closures were in the national interest. But his part of the nation is obviously different to the 95% who make the working class.

800 jobs will go in Scotland, and workers there await decisions on where the axe will fall, in areas of already high unemployment. The total closure of Portsmouth shipbuilding will lead to a dispersal of highly skilled workers and an “expertise” that will not “be easy to put back together” as the local MP for Portsmouth has said.

At both ends of the country industry will be damaged and workers thrown into poverty. Although there may be attempts to play national and regional cards in an attempt to divide, workers in Glasgow have expressed a fellow feeling for their Portsmouth comrades.

The problem for Britain is summed up by the Deputy General Secretary of Prospect, “For an island nation and in this time of increased global uncertainty, we should be seeking to maintain our shipbuilding capacity, not reduce it. Job losses of this scale will have a devastating impact upon local communities and economies.”. He added that such skilled jobs were essential for the economy to grow and for the country to come out of recession.

Oct 312013
 

Worries about the new School Direct (SD) scheme for training some teachers are escalating.The scheme is a deliberate ploy by Gove and the government to remove trainees from the centres of excellence in Universities and put them into schools with far less support than under the previous Graduate Training Programme and university based courses.

The School Direct training programme is open to all graduates, and is funded by tuition fees paid by the trainee, who may receive a bursary from the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). There is also a small salaried School Direct training programme for graduates with 3 or more years’ work experience who are employed as an unqualified teacher by a school.

School Direct places are usually given to lead schools on behalf of partnerships of schools. The lead schools arrange for the training and employment of School Direct recruits, and many have organised this with the their local Higher Education providers, recognising that they are unable to do it themselves.

Major criticisms of the scheme were voiced even before the scheme started and new data bears these out.

Nine thousand teacher training places were transferred from universities to schools in 2012-13 with an expectation that schools would recruit trainee teachers starting in September 2013. However, figures reported to an Education Select Committee session this September show that SD has under-recruited by around 3000 places and overall provision is short by just under 6000 places. The shortfall is very serious in subjects such as maths, physics and biology and also comes at a time when the pupil population is rising. Prof John Howson, head of Data for Education, said: “We could be looking at the worst outcome for teacher supply for more than a decade.”

Ministers have lost sight of any sort of planning for future places. Universities now have to take all the risks with no guarantees of numbers.These fears seem to be backed up by a letter sent out from the University of Bath to partner schools, proposing to end its PGCE programme in 2014 – and this may be only be the first of many providers to pull the plug on training.

While there will be schools which try hard to support and train their students, there will be other unscrupulous heads who cut their paid and qualified staff and employ inexperienced students to teach almost fulltime from the word go. Already at least one University has experienced unprofessional behaviour from schools who are reluctant to let students go for training and in one case has used a student to strike break. Parents and staff need to be aware of this and unions must make sure they recruit School Direct students, while governors and PTAs must monitor how their school is using them.

Oct 282013
 

In England, Britain’s health facilities and workforces are up for sale. It is a form of robbery like that of the common land, when gentry turned labouring people away using the infamous Enclosure Acts or akin to the distribution of the land to robber barons, following the Norman Conquest. A large-scale privatisation of health services is taking place, in the form of 84 recent contracts worth £5.6 billion.

These include musculo-skeletal services (including orthopaedics, rheumatology, pain management, physiotherapy and podiatry) in Kent, Lincoln, Manchester, Basildon, Bexley and Bedfordshire together worth £366 million; prison health services in Leicester, Notts, Cheshire, Surrey, Kent and London to the tune of £138 million and transport services in Hampshire, Sheffield and Oxfordshire totalling £96 million. The handover of public assets extends to services for maternity, children, young people, the elderly, cardiovascular care, dermatology, mental health, radiology, wheelchair maintenance, estates, as well as to whole community services and hospitals.

These sell-offs vary in value from a couple of million pounds to over £100 million such as in the cases of London prisons, and muscular skeletal services in Kent and Bedfordshire extending upwards to several hundred million pounds in cases such as the Gloucestershire Community Health (half a billion), George Eliot Hospital in Warwickshire (0.63 billion), Midlands pathology services (0.77 billion), and Cambs and Peterborough elderly services (0.8 billion).

We see in this give away, a spread of the contracts around the country; a variety of size of contract in terms of monetary value and a range of coverage of service, from local specialities to national services. The widespread and comprehensive nature of this can lead us to draw one conclusion; the ConDem government intends to privatise the entire National Health Service.

Oct 282013
 

Stand up comic and self professed revolutionary Russell Brand was interviewed by NUJ member and questionmaster Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. The interview has attracted millions of YouTube viewers and is a hot topic of debate amongst young people.

Brand has recently been a guest editor on the New Statesman.

He argues passionately that the Parliamentary system supports only the corporations and profit and neglects the interests of 99 per cent of the population.

Paxman’s only retort is to attempt to dismiss the views of anyone like Brand who has never voted. Brand demolishes this narrow paradigm in which parliamentary elections are seen as the be all and end all of ‘politics’ brilliantly. In the process he actually becomes the first person to render the usually razor sharp Paxman close to speechless. The millionaire presenter can’t cope with the ebullience, logic and new dynamic of the millionaire entertainer still close to his roots in vandalised communities.

Good job boys, a classic exchange in the daily debate between liberal and socialist democracy. Brand won for the majority.

Oct 262013
 

Shock horror! The United States which is seeking a major new foothold in European markets through the proposed EU/US trade agreement is spying on European parliamentarians and millions of French and Spanish citizens. Tip of the iceberg stuff really. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and all the US based gaming companies intrude into our lives everyday, and could mess us up with carefully placed viruses if we threaten their monopoly positions. They can harvest more information about individuals than any force in human history. Listening to Merkel is deeply dull, and not exactly the real issue. The dominance of mass communications and social media by the world’s most psychotic power is.

Oct 252013
 

A free market capitalist economy always seeks to drive the price of labour down and the price of goods and services up.

The basic job of unions is to keep the price of labour high.

This job hasn’t been done very well particularly in the public sector where key leaders ran a mile from the momentum created in the pensions dispute. This led employers everywhere to continue the offensive on pay and pensions.

Now there is gnashing of teeth that public sector pay is worth about 20 per cent less than it was four years ago and 500,000 public sector workers earn less than the living wage.

In the rubble of collective bargaining structures unions may or may not break the ideological acceptance that somehow being low paid prevents unemployment and actually begin to fight for pay again. Every economist know when pay lags behind prices the economy goes into recession – even the governor of the Bank of England has an inkling of this. Because they have another trick up their sleeve and he controls it. If and when pay levels rise in comparison with inflation of other prices he will raise interest rates and our hard fought for pay rises will end up back in the bankers pockets as they put mortgages up.

But there could be a nasty shock in 2014 as the finance markets remain volatile and by and large as they were before the last crash. Many of the most powerful financiers relish more money market chaos because, as in 2008, it is then when they can make really big quick bucks.

Oct 252013
 

The union has saved production as you would expect at Grangemouth. The two bit employers would have closed it without any regard to the consequences.

There is now an opportunity for workers throughout energy and petro chemicals  to plan how to take the  whole industry into  public ownership for the good of the nation.

Oct 232013
 

Next year we remember 30 years since the miners’ strike of 1984/85. Miners warned that if coal was closed down and if energy supply were placed in foreign and private hands in effect the nation would lose its independence and energy supply would become unaffordable and used against workers rather than for them.

Energy suppliers of all sorts including Ineos which owns Grangemouth know the value of their assets and seek to extract every drop of profit at the expense of their workforces, the environment and social needs.

When the Labour leader says energy prices should be frozen and stabilised the right wing press viciously attack his dead father. This is one small example of the fierce response energy pirates and their press will give to any threat to their profit.

The worst response we see is in Grangemouth. No one can get to the bottom of the company’s books to anlayse accurately their claims of loss making. They off shore so much of thier finances that they don’t want anyone to do an audit trail. Besides Chinese energy giants own 50% of them.

North Sea oil was squandered to pay for mass unemployment under Thatcher.

All energy related supply and refining should be state owned. Ineos have lost the right to play around with Grangemouth and its well organised workforce, one of the last strong, unionised, energy related workforces. No other private company could do any better and no totally foreign owned company should be allowed to take over. Only direct state ownership will work with a complete expropriation of Ineos’s Grangemouth related assets. A public inquiry into Ineos’s finances should be launched immediately.

The ramifications of the closure of Grangemouth will be felt throughout Scotland, the north of England and in Northern Ireland where some of its supply goes. But the impact will be on Britain as a whole, England, Wales and Scotland, these resources belong to the people, the people should take them over. There should be pause for thought too amongst those seeking next year to take Scotalnd out of the British nation, with or without Grangemouth, Scotland is part of us all.

Oct 192013
 

Next year we will celebrate thirty years since the start of the 1984 miners’ strike. This was a decisive battle and followed those of the mid 1970s and the 1974 strike of forty years ago.

In preparation for this celebration the forum will provide some links and materials to set us thinking about the significance of those disputes. Here is the first contribution which is taken from the Welsh website Ymgyrchul.

Miners Strike 1972, 1974 and 1984
——————————————————————————–

On 9 January 1972 the British miners went on strike for the first time since 1926. The strike lasted for seven weeks and 135 pits closed in South Wales. A state of emergency was declared and to economise on electricity Edward Heath’s government had to reduce the working week to three days. As a result of the strike, the miners’ wages were increased, becoming among the highest among the British working class.

N.U.M. leaflet, ‘The Miners’ Strike’. By 4 February 1974 the miners’ situation had deteriorated and a national miners’ strike was called again. This strike lasted four weeks. A state of emergency and a three-day working week were once again declared. The Prime Minister, Edward Heath, called a General Election hoping that the electorate would support the Government’s attempts to deal with the deteriorating industrial situation, but the Conservative Party was defeated. The new Labour government reached a deal with the miners shortly afterwards.

By 1984 the coal industry was in decline and the National Coal Board wished to close 20 pits, a situation that would have led to 20,000 men losing their jobs. The National Coal Board claimed that the contract made with the unions in 1974 was no longer valid because of the changes that had occurred in the British economy.

The Conservative Government, under Margaret Thatcher, was determined to diminish the power and influence of the Unions. The Unions themselves argued that the Government’s policies were having a damaging effect on the coal communities. Arthur Scargill, President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), called on the miners to strike, and on 12 March a strike started which was to last for nearly a year. Miners from 28 South Wales pits played an influential role during the strike through their picketing, protesting and rallying in support of the miners.

The 1926 and 1984 Strikes
Many movements were set up in support of the miners, such as Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC). These women played an important role in the strike by raising money to help support the miners and their families.

Eventually the miners acknowledged defeat and returned to work on 5 March 1985 after calling the strike off two days earlier at a special NUM Conference. The coal industry continued to decline in south Wales with 12 pits closing within a year of the strike coming to an end.

Oct 182013
 

Napo members small in number, highly democratic, synonymous  in their organisation with a public service important for all society, have voted by 84 per cent majority for industrial action and strikes. They deserve total support.  Only one minister and a couple of fly by night private companies stand in their way, the minority view must be set aside and defeated.

Oct 182013
 

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers’ Union pursued a beautifully successful struggle against the Hovis company in Wigan. Plans for redundancies were stopped and so was the use of zero hours contracts and the undermining of collective agreements.

Unity, the former ceramics union based largely around Stoke, conducted elegant negotiations and tactics to force a decent pay rise out of Denby.

Both struggles were pursued by specialist trade unions and both exemplified some sound principles of organisation and struggle along with astute tactics. Some of the features were absolute unity and determination of members and preparedness of members to take strike action, a high level of democratic engagement in the tactics, solid shop floor organisation, effective communications and trust between leaderships and members, as well as iron will.

These are not the struggles of the mass simultaneous movement, nor are they idle rhetorical gestures on platforms; they are much more important, and remind us again in such a time of difficulty that workers determined, organised and united can win against all odds.

Zero hours contracts will not go because a politician wants them to and pay rises cannot be offered by any Labour politician except those in local government (and they have supported government pay restraint). Only organised workers can achieve real change.

Oct 172013
 

These links have been suggested to us as being informative:

1. Tax Avoidance. This article by Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at Essex Business School, University of Essex, is on how Google and ExxonMobil run rings around outdated tax laws and it also outlines a proposal for dealing with corporate tax avoidance. It is available at:

https://theconversation.com/google-and-exxonmobil-run-rings-around-outdated-tax-laws-18845

There is also a link to this satirical programme which features Prem and other guests, ‘Have I got Tax for You?’. Please circulate:http://www.tvapex.com/watch.aspx?i=T8ltceV+Occ=&j=Andrea-Gordon%27s-Talk-show,-filmed-at-TVapex-Studio&k=S

2. This article traces the rise of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Movement, sets it in the context of the attack on Greece through austerity, looks at state and police collusion and asks whether arrests of its leaders will see its end. The general article is interesting, but we also suggest that you read the comment by Van Gelis further down, which looks at the wider issues of party politics, the banning of strikes, the indefinite closure of the state broadcaster ERT, the mass sackings of 25,000 state employees (which is a breach of the Greek constitution) and the unnanounced banning of elected parties.

Today parliament has voted to lift the immunity of six MPs from the far-right Golden Dawn party, paving the way for more investigations into accusations that the movement’s members were involved in criminal offences.

http://leftunity.org/golden-dawn-or-golden-twilight/

Oct 112013
 

Chancellor Osborne has announced another raft of measures in the coalition’s war against their beloved ‘hard working families’ and the unemployed. The idea that this government operates in the interests of the mass of people in this country is risible.

Cuts in benefits if you refuse to take unpaid work or if you fail to visit a job centre every day because you can’t afford to, mark a return to the days of Victorian workhouses and the undeserving poor. It is yet another example of the government demonising the poor and unemployed for their own ends. This propaganda offensive using populist language is calculated to divide worker against worker – ‘workers versus shirkers’. What possible link can there be between the severest of structural capitalist crises and benefit claimants? The present crisis was caused by a corrupt banking and finance system. Government myth-makers deny the fact that the real jobs just aren’t there. In fact government is busy destroying real jobs in public services.

A pool of ‘free’ labour is to be used in communities and could therefore replace properly trained and paid permanent staff. Too many future jobs would be on the minimum wage or given to benefit claimants. We are witnessing the destruction of wages in our country. Not only is this government intent upon creating a low wage economy, but in many sectors they want to move from low wages to no wages.

The coalition has no intention of creating any more jobs; they want to leave it to the vagaries of the market. No government will help workers – we have to help ourselves and take what is ours.

Oct 072013
 

The reaction by the energy companies to the Labour Party policy to freeze price increases for two years while the market is ‘re-set’ has been to threaten blackouts by stopping investment in energy generation.

The implication is that under their current freedom to increase prices at will, they are investing in energy generation. The facts show the opposite. At the time of privatization the then central Electricity Generating Board had a duty to have a minimum of 20% spare generation capacity to ensure security of supply for the UK. Similar requirements were met by the nationalised gas industry.

Since 2001 there have been concerns about an energy gap in the UK generating capacity. A report from the industry in 2005 forecast that without action to fill the gap, there would be a 20% shortfall in electrical generation by 2015. The latest estimate is for only 2% excess capacity. The firms’ dismal performance in energy supply can be seen by comparing the situation in 2004 and 2010.

The changes are:

Population 3.9% increase

Primary energy consumption 13.9% reduction

Energy production 33.9% reduction

Energy imports 420% increase

CO2 emissions 10% reduction

As recently as 2004 the UK was an exporter of energy, but as the easy availability of North Sea oil reduced, the energy companies simply switched to imports. They have not responded to the demand to invest in low carbon technology, where most of the investment is by small companies outside the big six privatized utilities.

After the privatization by Thatcher in the 1970s the damage to UK energy supply was limited, partly by the increased availability of North Sea gas and also because the government retained a measure of control through holding ‘Golden Shares’. In their greed to get public assets and blind belief in the market, the Major government got rid of the Golden Shares in 1995 for electricity.

The result has been a very quick swallowing up of the UK firms by six foreign multinationals who now own most of the capacity for supply and distribution. With the exception of Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern our energy is controlled by EDC (France), EON (Germany) CE Electric and Western Power Distribution (both US). All these are regulated more strongly in their countries of origin and see the UK as an easy profit source.

The Labour Party proposal to freeze prices for two years and re-set the market is therefore ultimately inadequate. We must renationalise the utilities, initially obtaining at least 51% ownership. This will ensure the money from British consumers is invested in our energy supply capacity and development of much needed new technologies and jobs.

See our energy vision: http://www.theworker.org.uk/br-energy.htm

 

Oct 052013
 

The determination, ingenuity, sacrifice, success and bravery of the Vietnamese people is felt throughout the world still. Few political leaders dominate the obituary columns and make the news on the main television stations across the world when they die. General Giap has achieved this because the heroism and victories that he personified changed the world. When future generations survey again the twentieth century it will be communist soldiers like Giap and millions of others in areas like Russia, China, Europe, Latin America, Korea, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa who will be seen to have been pivotal to mankind’s progress.

The Japanese wanted Vietnam as an annexe, the French as a bastion of their imperialism and the US decided that as Vietnam was showing that another world was possible, it should be bombed back to the stone age. The decisive defeat of these plans shapes our world still.

Giap’s writings leave us with an important record of the principles underpinning people’s wars to end imperialist wars. Indeed the success of all such wars depended on the engagement of the majority in the war effort. “People should not be overawed by the power of modern weapons,” he said, “It is the value of human beings that in the end will decide victory.” Also, “‘Surrender’ is not a word in my vocabulary.” In his words, any army fighting for freedom “had the creative energy to achieve things its adversary can never expect or imagine.”

It is this spirit of creative energy and confidence that underpins successful class struggle from the workers’ point of view whether in military or industrial conflict. This is why the tactics in Vietnam in the seventies were being closely watched by workers everywhere to inform their struggle in very different contexts.

Giap, like his people, fought all of his lifetime for self-determination, independence and socialism in Vietnam. This nationalism was decidedly internationalist. He played a key role from boyhood in opposing first the Japanese invaders and then in defeating the French and United States. He assisted greatly in the process of reunifying the county and then rebuilding it after the extreme horror of the US bombing. He was a learned and skilled communist, informed by the legacy of liberation struggle and astute military tactics developed over a thousand years in Vietnam. Giap’s contribution was to be a leading part of the struggle that shaped world history by defeating European colonial powers and dealt the decisive blow to US imperialism from which it has never been able to recover.

He was born into a peasant family, in the central Quang Binh province of what was then French Indochina. He was the son of a rice grower and joined a clandestine nationalist movement at 14 years of age. He attended the Quoc Hoc Academy in Hué, but was expelled following a student strike and later earned a degree in law at the University of Hanoi, which was a French institution at the time. By 1938 he was a member of Ho Chi Minh’s Indochinese Communist party.

Giap’s first command was a group of 34 guerrillas, which he led to some small victories. By the end of his career he commanded the world’s third largest army and was hailed as the architect of Vietnam’s victory. After the French banned the Communist Party, and he was arrested, Giap escaped to China where he became a deputy of Ho Chi Minh. While in he was in exile his sister was captured and executed. His wife was also sent to prison where she died. Ho and Giap formed an army in exile and Giap was then given command over the Viet Minh guerrilla forces fighting the Japanese from 1940 to 1945. The Communists seized control in 1945 and Giap became one of the leading figures in the newly formed provisional government.

After the Second World War France attempted to re-establish control over Vietnam. In January 1946, Britain agreed to remove her troops and later that year, China left Vietnam in exchange for an undertaking from France that she would give up her rights to land in China.

During the war against France, Giap shaped the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) into a strong fighting force. Between 1946 and 1952 90,000 French troops were killed. His historical reputation results from his victory at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. Using siege tactics, Giap defeated the French with an extraordinary logistical build up and effective use of a well-protected artillery. The sacrifice and strength of his 70.000 soldiers was legendary with thousands of tons of artillery having been hauled by hand over rugged mountainous terrain. The French surrendered just days before the Geneva Conference, which would negotiate the French withdrawal from Vietnam, but would leave the country divided.

The US invaded. Vo Nguyen Giap remained commander-in-chief of the Vietminh throughout the Vietnam War. Peace talks between representatives from United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the NLF had been taking place in Paris since January, 1969. By 1972, Richard Nixon, like Lyndon B. Johnson before him, had been gradually convinced that a victory in Vietnam was unobtainable. In October, 1972, the negotiators came close to agreeing to a formula to end the war. The plan was that US troops would withdraw from Vietnam in exchange for a cease-fire and the return of 566 American prisoners held in Hanoi. It was also agreed that the governments in North and South Vietnam would remain in power until new elections could be arranged to unite the whole country.

The main issue in this formula was that whereas the US troops would leave the country, the North Vietnamese troops could remain in their positions in the south. In an effort to put pressure on North Vietnam to withdraw its troops. President Richard Nixon ordered a new series of air-raids on Hanoi and Haiphong. It was the most intense bombing attack in world history. In eleven days, 100,000 bombs were dropped on the two cities. The destructive power was equivalent to five times that of the atom bomb used on Hiroshima. This bombing campaign was condemned throughout the world. Newspaper headlines included: “Genocide”, “Stone-Age Barbarism” and “Savage and Senseless”.The North Vietnamese refused to change the terms of the agreement and so in January, 1973, Nixon agreed to sign the peace plan that had been proposed in October. However, the bombing had proved to be popular with many of the American public as they had the impression that North Vietnam had been “bombed into submission.”

The Tet offensive of 1967 proved to be Giap’s last great military involvement, and he retired in 1973 after the failed Easter Offensive.

The last US combat troops left in March, 1973. It was an uneasy peace and by 1974, serious fighting had broken out between the NLF and the AVRN. Although the US continued to supply the South Vietnamese government with military equipment, their army had great difficulty using it effectively. President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam appealed to President Richard Nixon for more financial aid. Nixon was sympathetic but the United States Congress was not and the move was blocked. At its peak US aid to South Vietnam had reached 30 billion dollars a year. By 1974 it had fallen to 1 billion. Starved of funds, Thieu had difficulty paying the wages of his large army and desertion became a major problem.
The spring of 1975 saw a series of National Liberation Front victories. After important areas such as Danang and Hue were lost in March, panic swept through the AVRN. Senior officers, fearing what would happen after the establishment of an NLF government, abandoned their men and went into hiding.

The NLF arrived in Saigon on April 30, 1975. Soon afterwards the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established. In the new government Vo Nguyen Giap was minister of defence and deputy premier. Rebuilding a devastated country began and the incredible advances since then are not just a credit to the scale of the military victory but to the economic and political stewardship of winning the peace.

In the late 1950’s through to the late 1960’s, Giap remained a key military figure but became embroiled in a fierce debate over the strategy for reunification.  Reportedly suffering from illness, Giap resigned his position as Minister of Defence in 1980 and lost his seat in the politburo in 1982, after which he became chief of the Science and Technology Commission. In July 1992, he was awarded the Gold Star Order, Vietnam’s highest honour.

He is survived by Dang Bich Ha, his wife since 1949, and four children. Giap’s first wife, herself a brave fighter, Quang Thai, died in a French imperialist prison.

25th August 1911 – 4th October 2013

Oct 022013
 

Large numbers of teachers took action this week and others will be doing so later this month in the build up to a national strike. These teachers are taking a stand to defend the future of education. But while teachers recognised the gravity of the current crisis in education, party conferences have been mute. The only comments we heard were from Cameron, popping up to condemn the teachers’ action, and from UKIP, who want to bring back the secondary modern system, by reintroducing grammar schools.

Teachers are the only workers at present that are defending the nation’s education system. Parents who struggle when pupils are off because of a strike have a right to be annoyed but they must see the bigger picture. Parents must defend teachers and attack the government; they must help teachers to prevent the complete dismantling of state education. Protecting teachers’ wages, pensions and working conditions is protecting education.

Academies and free schools are not simply more choice for parents. They are the Trojan Horse of privatising education, both secondary and primary, and removing all accountability from local authorities and parents and placing it in the hands of unelected academy chains. These chains will soon be allowed to make profits, and then access to good education will be subject to market forces. We can all foresee that this government will give the green light for an American buyout of these Academy Chains and our control of our education system will have gone completely.

Universities have already effectively been removed from state education and are being run along commercial lines. This forces academics to shift their research focus away from what benefits the country through growth of knowledge to what benefits the university commercially in the short term. Funding for higher education has become another crisis in the making. Students become customers buying a service while accumulating a vast debt; a debt that so many will not be able to repay because their wages will be too low. The end result will cost the country a fortune in years to come.

There has been little response to all this from Labour who have yet to commit to reversing any of these policies. While they have announced such ideas as Gold Standard Technical Baccalaureate- high esteem vocational qualifications at 18 and a Skills Taskforce – and more support for childcare, there has been no promise to deal with the structural attacks on education itself. This is hardly surprising given Labour’s role in introducing academies and their previous sustained attack on wages and pensions.

Now is the time for the education unions to come together, to stand as one, and to draw up a Vision for Education which can form the basis of demands and action to reclaim our education system.

Sep 212013
 

The Drug Company Eli Lilly is taking the sovereign state of Canada to court under North American Free Trade Agreement rules. They claim that Canadian Courts were wrong to allow the production of generic versions of two medications, Olanzapine and Atomoxetine which were developed by Eli Lilly under the names Zyprexa and Straterra. The former is an anti-psychotic and the latter effective in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In their case against Canada the corporation uses articles of the NAFTA to argue that they are being discriminated against and their investments in intellectual property have suffered. Eli Lilly’s challenge to the Canadian Courts will be via a system of arbitration through secretive tribunals. If successful they will win damages of over half a billion Canadian dollars, force the Canadian Parliament to change the law and ensure that Canadian health services pay more for pharmaceutical products.

This case is a first time that, in order to protect patents, a pharmaceutical company has used investor privileges which exist in the NAFTA agreement. These procedures allow foreign investors to operate outside of national court systems, in effect placing them above the law.

The Public Citizen website recently reported on a survey of 42 investor-state legal cases taken against NAFTA nations. $28 billion is being sought by corporations. Many of these claims would not be allowed to progress in the courts of individual countries. Even in the United States foreign investors have more rights than local US businesses. The US is trying to impose such measures in other agreements such as the