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Last weekend the streets of Britain erupted in anger and frustration across 15 cities and 41 places in London.
The spark for this began in Tottenham when the police arrogantly and disrespectfully failed respond to serious concerns about the shooting dead by police of a 29 year old father of four Mark Duggan. Initially lying, they said that there had been a shoot out in order to legitimate murder and went on to try and create the illusion that Mark was a ‘gangster’. Of course it all turned out to be a lie. What has happened to those police who murdered Mark and those who lied? Nothing.
The subsequent media and political response to the uprisings across Britain has been to depoliticise and criminalise the events and the young people. Those young people had had enough and out of frustration, lack of opportunity and lack of voice took to the streets. The daily experience of being criminalised, marginalised and disconnected, the abuse of stop and search powers and dispersal powers, cuts to youth services, the dereliction of their communities, mass unemployment, with nothing on offer to young people they took to the streets in their thousands and voiced their anger.
At the same a riot shattered the stock markets creating an escalation of the economic crisis in the USA and Europe. The shockwaves that spread though the financial markets following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008 created a financial maelstrom which continues to sweep across the world causing chaos and resulting directly in attacks on the working class. That is why we are seeing our services being cut and privatised and this is the backdrop to and the cause of the youth uprisings which the politicians are too afraid to admit.
However politicians, bankers, police, and media all remain unaccountable and unpunished – we see their wealth increase and their powers extended. At the same time we are seeing a despicable response to the riots with outrageous sentences and penalties, and an increase in militarised powers of the police. This must be fought against and those subject to penalties must be defended. We will discuss how we can respond to the powerful and how we can defend those sentenced or penalised, the powerless.
The Socialist Voice is now available in News From Nowhere in Liverpool, Housmans and BookMarks in London
Or send £9 for six issues. ISL c/o News from Nowhere, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool L1 4HY
Struggle For Socialism Series
The Fight Against Cut Backs
and the Economic Offensive.
7.30pm Tuesday 7th June
Since we met last we have seen the explosion of Spanish youth on the streets of Madrid and marches in 50 other cities. In Spain unemployment amongst the youth is now 45 per cent. At the same time the capitalist European Union is going deeper into crisis as they are facing at least three countries Greece, Ireland and Portugal that will never be able to repay the debt which is being put on the backs of workers through deregulation, cuts in public services etc. That is not meant to imply that Britain is out of crisis either.
On the 4th June the Liverpool TUC is organising a People’s Assembly Against the Cuts and on the same weekend in Cairo there is a 3 day conference ‘Long Live the Arab Revolution’. That conference is called to “ discuss a number of key issues including: dilemmas and achievements of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, the future and contradictions of the current wave of Arab revolutions, the relation between the Arab revolution and imperialism and Zionism.” Out International will be participating in that conference.
Behind all these events and developments is the question who rules the planet and on what basis? Behind all the speeches and actions by Cameron, Obama and others are the interests of imperialism. What that is, how it functions today, what drives it and where it is going and how to fight it we will discuss on 7 June.
Working people across the world are facing the brunt of the capitalist economic crisis. Across the world unemployment, food and fuel prices are increasing and services are being devastated. Workers of the world are facing attacks on health, education, welfare and democratic rights. Thus the question of internationalism is the context of the rising workers’ struggles today and is the most important question we have to face.
It is the very ‘prosperity’ of capitalism, the ‘technological revolution’ and ‘prosperity’ of the 1990s that has now wrought panic and crisis to the capitalist system. This has forced the ruling classes and their governments into a determined attack to take back the conquests of the working class.
On the one hand transnationals exploit the globe and on the other western governments try to impose control and wars across the world. Ruthlessly the US, Europe and others endeavour to control the world because of capitalisms’ need to expand and seize resources; its necessity to accumulate ever greater riches; its drive to monopolise production and exchange. This is what is at the heart of the world’s problems.
One useful reading is Lenin’s Imperialism http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ If time is limited then his summary in chapter 7 is useful to read as it gives the 5 main points that Lenin said characterised Imperialism. One of the big changes since 1916, when Lenin wrote the book, is that Britain is no longer the power it was and no longer one of the three leading world powers along with Germany and the USA. The year it was written is significant because of the need to explain why the 1st world War had started and the catastrophe humanity faced in such wars. Since 1914 there has hardly been a year that imperialism has not waged wars either with each other (such as the second world war) or against smaller nations such as the Ireland, the Arab nations, India, Vietnam, Africa, Latin America. In fact the list is very long. The purpose of Lenin’s book was to explain what it was in order to assist millions of people to fight it and in the end defeat it.
For more information contact
The Arab revolution keeps expanding. Even in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, where dictatorial regimes have been abolished the processes keep developing. Its roots are in the 30 or 50 year-old struggle against dictatorships; the tremendous social contradictions between the wealth of the natural resources that contrasts to the poverty of most of the population; and the corruption of the regimes and governments. The effects of the international economic crisis triggered rising unemployment especially among the youth, and an increase in prices of basic products. In the Arab world there is not a single country that remained immune to revolutionary processes: Tunisia was the first, there was an ascent with Egypt, and then it expanded to Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and the entire region of North Africa and Middle East, including Syria. But today, all these processes face counterattack by the counterrevolution that is characterised by a great virulence even if its shape and main characters differ.
Syria is part of the Arab revolution
The Arab revolution as a whole expresses the struggle against imperialist looting and Israel. Libya and Syria are no exception to this rule. The explanation coming from their governments (who say that the popular struggle is a “conspiracy” against the regimes that “oppose imperialism”) is an absolute lie. In spite of all his speeches the president of Syria is the guardian of regional order and stability: the border between that country and Israel is the most peaceful in the entire region. Gaddafi, on the other hand, did not even try to maintain his anti-imperialist posture when the Libyan revolution broke out. Continue reading
The Struggle For Socialism Series
The Fight Against Cut Backs
the Relevance of the
Communist Manifesto Today
7.30pm Tuesday 10th May
upstairs CALEDONIAN PUB
Working people across the world are facing the brunt of the capitalist economic crisis. Unemployment, food price increases and the slashing of services are devastating the lives of the most vulnerable.
However today we are facing a new situation – international working class struggles are developing. Working people are fighting back – from occupations in Wisconsin USA, student protests, mass demonstrations and strikes in England and uprisings across the Arab world.
One hundred and fifty three years ago, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto. It became on one hand, the world’s most repressed and banned; and on the other, its most quoted, most loved, and most respected. Repeatedly, the Marxist outlook that inspired it has been declared dead and buried. Repeatedly, it has sprung renewed from the earth.
In the twentieth century, imperialism did not just develop the regular economic cycles as outlined in the Communist Manifesto, but also it went through a historical development which brought the slaughter of millions, racial and ethnic cleansing and the barbarity of fascism. The 21st century has continued its brutality without pause.
There has been the development of great productive powers with the ability to satisfy all humanity’s expanding wants. However, “Bourgeois society”, said the Manifesto, “has conjured up such gigantic means of production and exchange” that it was “like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world that he has called up by his spells”. These words live more truly today than they did 150 years ago.
The struggles of the working class proceed unevenly and most importantly, unevenly between various countries. More than ever is the need for an international organisation devoted to working class struggle. The Manifesto outlined in 1848, declared that:
“In the national struggles of the proletarians of different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.”
The Communist Manifesto contains much that is relevant for the struggles of the working class today. Discuss those ideas with us 10th May.
For more information contact ISL: email firstname.lastname@example.org http://internationalsocialistleague.org.uk
International Workers League – Fourth International http://www.litci.org/en/1st May 2011
Margaret McAdam and Martin Ralph
3 April 2011
It was clear in the build up to 26th March that the demonstration was going to be huge. Trade unions across the country had mobilised and chartered trains and coaches for their members and families.
The atmosphere on the day was carnival like but it was also powerful and of something historic with a wide sector of workers from public service workers, actors, midwives, cabin crews to taxi drivers who came together in a show of strength against the cuts. It was amazing to see, there were over 1,000 banners, there were placards, bands balloons and all demanding the same – No Cuts. People displayed their anger and disgust with the bankers and the billionaires, the rich and the financial institutions who created the crisis and see the cuts as an unadulterated attack on the working class while the rich continuing to get rich and richer. Continue reading
When the Labour administration took control in Liverpool last May people voted against the previous Lib Dem policies. Now we have a Labour led council savagely slashing services and jobs.
In order to carry out the cuts the Labour group have cobbled together a coalition of Lib Dems, Liberals and Greens but have not held a single meeting with the people of Liverpool, who they should represent, to discuss a strategy on how to fight back against the ConDem coalition government’s policies which will devastate the lives of millions in this country. The reason for the cuts is that their system is in decay, capitalism is in a deep crisis and that is why capitalists need to maintain their profits at our expense. It is their crisis not ours.
The message of consolation they give is, “There is no alternative!” and unfortunately most councillors in Liverpool are singing the same tune, Sarah Jennings of the, Green Party says, ‘We realise the cuts are necessary’.
A FAIR DEAL OR A WHITE FLAG?
A rally held on 20 February was organised by the council leadership and the majority that day were marching in opposition to the cuts. However the council leaders merely begged the government for a “fair deal”. Council leader Joe Anderson gave a fiery speech roaring, “The fight back starts now!”, to enthusiastic support. But what followed was less fiery, he has asked people to sign a petition! Is this the fight back? Like the Grande old Duke of York, he marched us up to the top of the hill, and he marched us down again!! In reality Anderson’s ‘fair deal’ means asking the government to, “… reduce Liverpool’s cuts from the biggest cuts in the country to the average cuts … And we’re calling on the Government to give us four years, and not two years … ” So that means a little less spread over a little longer time, they are flying the white instead of the red flag.
Today the plan is being agreed to proceed with cuts of £90 million in Liverpool this year
which will be followed by a further £50 in cuts next year. Fair deal? They are supinely bowing down to the rich as they proceed to decimate and privatise our services.
Councillors are wringing their hands and shedding crocodile tears as they prepare to take Liverpool back to a pre-war situation. But never mind wringing their hands, they should be calling meetings across Liverpool to organise the fight back against all cuts.
When Anderson announced the 1,500 job cuts, he promised that there’d be no compulsory redundancies, but that is a lie because jobs in the voluntary sector have already been cut. Many organisations lost 100% of their funding and compulsory redundancy notices have already been issued.
FIGHTBACK HAS BEGUN
Workers throughout Britain are expressing their anger against councils. In Lambeth Town Hall before the vote to implement the cuts took place, hundreds occupied the building. The Lambeth Save Our Services campaign group joined union members and service users to denounce the planned £37.5 million reduction to Lambeth services, and they are organising independent marches against the Lambeth Labour led council plans to devastate services.
Similar actions have taken place against Oxfordshire County Council, Haringey, Leeds, York and many other councils as front-line services are slashed. Youth centres, adventure playgrounds, care homes are amongst the hundreds of services that will be decimated and it is the most vulnerable and poorest in society who are going to suffer the most.
Workers across Merseyside must fight together. As services are threatened with closure we must occupy them. Defence committees should be built in every community. And across the country workers must link and come together in struggle with students and the unions.
WORKERS WIN BETTER CONDITIONS
The working class have fought for everything we have. It was not a generous Labour government that gave us health, education and other services after World War II, it was fear of the strength of the working class that forced through those gains. Workers were determined not to return to the inequality and despair of the 1930s with mass unemployment, the hated means test, work houses and very few public health services.
Unless we fight today and have confidence in our strength we face losing those hard won gains in the post-war period.
We are being told “There is no alternative … We have no choice”, but the Arabs and our history tells us differently.
The Arab people show us there is always an alternative that can win. They are overthrowing dictators fighting for jobs, food and independence. We must learn from them and support them. The US and Europe threaten to invade Libya. In defending our services we also say defend the Arab and Libyan uprising. No to foreign intervention. For our victory and the victory of their revolution.
LEARN FROM HISTORY
The working class of this country has a proud tradition of fighting for services and we must not forget it.
Poplar in the East End of London, was one of the poorest areas in London in the 1920s. This was a time when poor relief was paid out of a borough’s rates, no matter how rich or poor that borough was. So rich boroughs such as Westminster, one of the richest, paid nothing towards the relief of the poor and unemployed just a few miles away.
In 1921, 30 Labour councillors stood up to central government, without the backing of the national Labour Party, and refused to impose the unfair and unjust rate system. They fought every inch of the way and as a consequence they were sent to prison. But the struggle intensified rapidly and working class people gave massive support to the councillors. The pressure from the workers and fear of it spreading to other areas resulted in a huge victory and the rates system changed.
1970s RENT STRIKES
In 1972 the Tory government led by Ted Heath forced through the Housing Finance Act – ‘fair (increased) rents’ on council tenants. This resulted in a national fight by council tenants because rents were planned to rise by £1. Some council leaders, such as those in Clay Cross, fought back and a rent strike in Kirkby Liverpool was organised by women which resulted in many tenants being imprisoned. But there was a mobilisation of massive support including a one-day strike by dockworkers.
This Anderson led coalition ‘pleads’ with the government as they slash services but this is a council without an ounce of fight in them.
They bemoan lack of support from the national Labour party and say, ‘there is nothing we can do’, when they should defend the interests of those who voted for them, not bow to the interests of the rich.
FIGHT FOR SERVICES
Liverpool has some of the poorest areas in this country with some of the lowest life expectancies and some of the highest rates of unemployment. We must pressure this council to set a Needs budget and withdraw their support for government plans to cut and intensify the privatisation of services
We demand that the Labour led council assist the organisation of our communities with unions and students in a fight against all cuts.
We call on the unions to lead the fight with communities and students to save services and jobs. Do not negotiate cuts and job losses, to do so undermines and betrays the fight to save jobs and services.
We have to build a national movement uniting everyone against the cuts. We refuse to pay for the bankers’ crisis – force them to pay for it.
March in London on 26 March. Build the Fightback Now
The mass movement begins as the war continues
Unions mobilised students and education workers to support a joint national demonstration in London in protest against the tripling of tuition fees and massive cuts to colleges and university education on Wednesday 10th November. They are also stopping EMA (a grant up to £30 per week) which will affect hundreds of thousands of students between 16-18 years in Further Education. The Tories and Liberal Democrats proposals will make public universities the most expensive in Europe. This means that many students will leave university with a student finance debt of £30,000-£50,000 which they will be burdened with for decades, many more will be unable to afford the ‘luxury’ of further or higher education.
The overall budget for Higher Education, excluding research funding, is to be cut from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion. This amounts to a 40% cut by 2014-15 and it will be achieved by withdrawing all teaching funding from the arts, humanities and social science subjects. The science research budget will be cut by £1 billion and one in ten universities will see public funds wiped out! Institutions will be forced to reduce costs by sacking staff and cutting the quality of education and some will close as public institutions.
The aim of the proposed system is to privatise higher education and it will allow the elite institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge to charge extortionate fees. The proposed fee of up to £9,000 per year for tuition alone will end access to higher and further education to all but the well off. It has to said that these coalition proposals are building on the Labour government policies which was to open up all universities and further education colleges to privatisation. Students and workers have no choice, they are compelled to take action to defeat these policies and protect public education and they are angry that education, a right that has been fought for and won, is being put in the hands of businesses whose motivation is primarily profit driven.
The 50,000 demonstration was a reflection of the rising anger. The demonstration saw a significantly bigger turnout than was expected and this has “given heart” to trade unionists campaigning against the wider cuts. The protest is being seen as the first stage towards building a national movement against the cuts. The 10 November is the day that students began to see their own strength.
Those on the demonstration have described the atmosphere as relaxed and good tempered, but underneath there is deep anger. During the demonstration students found the doors of the Tory party headquarters at Millbank Tower open, 200 occupied the Tory headquarters, its courtyard and roof, with 1000s in support.
The police began arresting students and subsequently the media and politicians have skewed reports by focusing hostility on what they describe as a ‘mini riot’ to distract from the issues of the demonstration. 53 have been arrested so and our movement must defend those arrested and all students, we must focus attention on the horror at the cuts and the destruction of our public education system. We must contest the lie that cuts in public services are unavoidable the real violence is being orchestrated by the government.
The attacks on education are an attack on the rights and the futures of the working class. The poorest and most vulnerable will suffer the harshest blows of whom the greatest number are youth, women and the black communities. And what is happening in education is happening to the National Health Service and across all public services and welfare benefits. We urge unions not to hesitate, for example other unions involved in support roles in education such as Unison and Unite (the two biggest unions in Britain) did not participate officially in the demonstration in London. Yet their jobs and conditions will also go.
The government has just announced the aim of removing school education from local authority control. Which means the urgent need for action in the schools as well as the colleges and universities.
Further protests are being planned by students and the grassroots of all unions must ensure they are supported and joined while demanding an end to cuts in jobs and benefits and privatisation to all public services.
Growing Opposition against the cuts
Resentment and anger is rising across the country. However the trade union leadership are stalling. They stopped a national demonstration this year on the basis that the union members were not yet ready. The universities and colleges demonstration proved this to be totally wrong, in fact the trade union members, students and workers are ahead of the union leaders. Now the trade union leaderships are saying they plan to link with the students to launch a wider campaign against the cuts. It is our responsibility to ensure that they do not use this to control and hold back the anger felt by many. Action is necessary now and the demand for occupations, demonstrations and industrial action is increasingly being voiced.
The growing resistance by other sectors of workers has already begun. In London the RMT (railway workers) tube workers stroke over jobs, pay and conditions; the NUJ (journalists) came out in protest at plans to devalue their pensions by imposing a new ‘pay more – get less’ pension scheme; and the FBU (fire-fighters) struck against compulsory ‘reforms’ to their contracts and the loss of appliances. Other unions are now balloting for strike action against attacks to pensions, job, services and conditions.
In acts of mass civil disobedience across the country hundreds of incensed protestors occupied Vodafone stores, which closed the stores for the day. They were protesting against and highlighting to the wider public £6 billion in unpaid tax by Vodafone that the Coalition government has let them off with. The contradiction and hypocrisy of ‘legal’ tax evasion of corporate tax by big business and the rich is not escaping the consciousness of protestors and workers. On the one hand the government scapegoats and criminalises those on welfare benefit as ‘scroungers and workshy’ while they slash welfare benefits by £7 billion, on the other hand they say nothing about Vodafone’s tax dodge and the estimated £12 billion plus of unpaid corporate tax each year. Nationwide demonstrations are planned to continue.
The occupations and protests are developing with a critical view of how the anti-war leadership organised protests which saw mass demonstration after mass demonstration but no real drive to mobilise the unions or to fight for blockades, occupations or strike action.
Supine Local Councils
The war that is being waged by the coalition Government is supported by local councils, including Labour councils, who have obediently set budgets to implement the government’s proposals. Jobs and services will go and children’s centres, youth services, pensioner services and many other essential services will close or be severely cut. This will lead to a downward spiral of joblessness with terrible consequences.
At the same time there are local protests taking place in towns and cities across the country and there are a range of anti-cuts committees and campaigns being established. In Liverpool on the same day as the London demonstration, over 200 trade unionists, young people and workers joined organisers from the Liverpool Trades Council to demand that the Labour controlled local authority do not implement the cuts and that they set an illegal budget in order to protect services. Demonstrators surged onto the road in front of the town hall halting all traffic resulting in major city centre roads being closed. Passing cars and buses caught up in the traffic honked their horns in support when they realised it was a demonstration against the cuts policies.
The leadership of the Labour council invited Liverpool Trades Union Council to address the meeting. A delegation went in to the ornate chamber and the LTUC Secretary spoke to the full council meeting at Liverpool Town Hall, saying, ”Take a stand, set an illegal budget and tell the Con-Dem coalition that you are not prepared to engage in economic vandalism against the public sector that will set our city and the country back years. If you don’t we will do all we can to rally the labour movement and the communities of this city to mobilise in campaigns, in protests, in strikes and blockades to make sure that the cuts you are considering are fought every inch of the way.”
However the councillors ignored the impact this will have and the feelings of their communities and voted to endorse and enact the cuts.
Government and Media Prepare as Welfare is Slashed
The government and media have already begun a campaign to demonise and bully welfare recipients as being responsible for their own unemployment, of suffering from a ‘habit of worklessness’ in order to justify the vile workfare scheme and drastic cuts to welfare benefits. The rationale they use are lies and obfuscation, intentionally they ignore that there are already 2.5 million unemployed, which is forecast to rise by at least another million, and that there are less than half a million vacancies. They ignore the incapacitated and the many who care for infirm relatives or children and receive only paltry amounts of benefit. At the same time in order to create division between workers and welfare recipients they are returning to the language and moralising of Victorian era between the so called ‘deserving and undeserving poor’. The days of the workhouse and poor laws are also upon us and we are returning the 1930 style method of controlling the masses, a time when unemployment benefit and housing was slashed with far-reaching impacts on the lives of many resulting in misery and starvation.
Since the spending review cuts were announced in parliament on the 20 October new details are emerging daily. This week the government announced that unemployment benefit (£65 per week for over aged 25+) would be cut from those “who refuse to play by the rules”, that includes doing community work, applying for a job or not accepting a job offer. A first ‘offence’ will result in a 3 month cut in benefits, a second ‘offence’ will result in a 6 month cut and a third offence will result in a three year ban from claiming benefit. This is how the government plans to cut the welfare bill.
The cuts in welfare benefit are stark. Cuts and caps have already been announced on housing benefit that will see many workers forced out of cities and into cheaper areas, in a policy that has been described by many as social cleansing. Many others, in particular the unemployed, low-paid and pensioners will be pushed into poverty, debt and homelessness.
Workers did not create the deficit, it belongs to the banks and the rIch
The government claims that oppression of the working class is necessary to “get rid of the deficit” which is creating problems for capitalism, and workers are being ‘convinced’ by the institutions of the state that they have no alternative, and that “we are all in it together”. The ‘deficit’ which is presented as the justification for the ‘austerity’ measures came from the pumping of billions of pounds of public money into the banking system in order to keep the banks afloat. Those banks are now raking in profits and handing out mega bonuses courtesy of the ‘deficit’. But it will not end there because the conditions are being created for another slump because the main contradictions of this rapidly decaying system cannot be overcome.
The speculation and gambling with hedge funds and derivatives that led to the financial crisis in 2008 have not been curbed but continues unrestrained – the stock exchange frenzy, the buyouts and the bad debts. The world antagonism are growing and more wars will develop.
The Fightback Begins
The anger, passion and resistance of the workers and the youth in France and Greece has provided inspiration to many. What is needed is to develop a European force of opposition to the cuts by making direct, permanent and organic links with the different sectors who are facing these sharp cuts across Europe.
The working classes will experience a severe deterioration in their living standards unless a mass movement of demonstrations, strikes, occupations and blockades develops to defeat the governments. There will be clashes with the trade union bureaucracies which are one of the greatest obstacles in holding back workers. Workers must develop a programme that will nationalise banks and open the books of the main banks under the democratic control of the masses. There must be a public works programme to urgently rebuild public housing and for full employment with a sliding scale of hours and no loss of pay, and workers must have the right to strike when they need to. The government is a government of the rich and only a socialist programme and the building of a revolutionary leadership in the working class will defeat the cuts and stop the attack on workers.