UNISON backs Corbyn – comments from a member in the West Midlands

UNISON backs Corbyn – comments from a member in the West Midlands

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Jeremy Corbyn addressing UNISON conference – photo by Paul Mattson

The following article was written by a UNISON member in the West Midlands following the union’s decision to support Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership. The comments were published in The Socialist newspaper several weeks ago. Although the ballot has now closed we are reproducing them here to further the debate within UNISON and the wider trade union movement on how Jeremy’s likely victory can be consolidated and the policies that we believe are needed to change society. There are also strong warning signs from some parts of UNISON who would rather see Jeremy defeated – and see the movement around him as a threat to their positions.


Many Unison members will be pleased that our union has officially backed Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. Jeremy is the only candidate, as was the case with the leadership election in 2015, who is fully supportive of the trade union movement and who is in line with the union’s anti-austerity policies.

The immense support and enthusiasm that he receives from activists was witnessed at our annual conference in Brighton in June. When Jeremy spoke he got a huge standing ovation and was mobbed by supporters when he finished speaking – the fact that we have a Labour leader who is unashamedly pro-trade union is a big step forward!

However make no bones about it, there are plenty in our union who would have liked to have ‘done a GMB’ and supported Owen Smith. General secretary Dave Prentis made a statement on 12 August which talks of Labour becoming the ‘nasty party’ with many veiled attacks on the Corbyn campaign.

Prentis fears a Corbyn-type movement in UNISON that could transform our union from top to bottom. Unison members would do well to remember that Prentis and his bureaucracy spent hundreds of thousands of pounds witch-hunting Socialist Party members in UNISON in an unsuccessful attempt to ‘get the Trots’ – sound familiar to the Labour Party today?

The key issues for UNISON members are first of all ensuring a Corbyn victory but then making sure we properly finish the job – no more compromise with right-wing Labour councillors cutting our jobs or Labour MPs who are happy to take our union donations but don’t support union policies.

Importantly we need to discuss how exactly we can get the fairer society that Corbyn supports and many UNISON members want to see – Socialist Party supporters in UNISON believe that means breaking with the failed system of capitalism and introducing widespread public ownership of the banks and major industry.

Then we can truly put people before profit!

Unison member in the West Midlands

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Barclays redundancies in Coventry show the brutal face of capitalism

Barclays redundancies in Coventry show the brutal face of capitalism

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Barclays Bank

Barely two years after Barclays Bank closed its call centre at Walsgrave with the loss of hundreds of jobs, around 200 permanent staff and many more agency staff working at the Westwood Business Park centre were told this week that their jobs have moved to contact centres in Liverpool, Sunderland and India. As of the 31st December, staff won’t have jobs – to use Barclays’ terminology, they’ll “fall away”.

Unite, the union representing Barclays staff, says staff are “entitled to feel badly let down”. That is correct – they have been misled and treated as disposable. And any permanent staff who’ve been with Barclays for less than two years are being let go without redundancy pay, just 3 months “gardening leave”. Barclays didn’t even want to give staff that – Unite had to fight for it. Temporary staff are being let go at the end of the year with nothing.

The pack given out by senior management to staff, explains very matter-of-factly how much consideration has gone into his plans – as if staff care about that now they’ve sacked them.

This reflects the brutal reality of capitalism – workers can be discarded with the bare minimum of a payout.  Barclays employed staff who rigged the Libor rates and caused the financial crash – they’ve just laid off over 200 workers who do the difficult job of speaking to customers affected by fraud.

Barclays should be nationalised and brought in to public ownership – the banks and financial instituions that wreaked havoc on the working class of the UK and across the world and continue to act with callous disregard for their workers can’t be left in the hands of profit hungry capitalists. We need an economy that puts working class people first, that means breaking with capitalism.

Solidarity to all staff who are affected.

 

Libraries campaigners hand in petition

Libraries campaigners hand in petition

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Campaigners just before handing the petition in to Coventry City Council

Campaigners from Save Coventry Libraries have today handed in a petition signed by nearly 2000 people against the plans by Coventry City Council to reduce and close library services around the city and replace fully trained paid staff with volunteers.

Campaign organiser Sarah Smith of Save Coventry Libraries handed over the 1,886 strong petition, with another 456 having signed online. This was just the first batch of signatures, with further protests and petitions planned against not only the library cuts, but also other parts of the Connecting Communities programme that will see massive attacks on children’s and youth services throughout the city.

We repeat what we have stated many times before – the Council do have a choice. They should not be passing on the Tory cuts to the people of Coventry. Labour Councillors should be organising a fightback against central government, linking up with other Labour Councils to say ‘enough is enough’, and demanding more resources for the services we need.

Coventry Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) look forward to helping to build the anti cuts campaigns in Coventry.

Support the junior doctors! New strikes announced

Support the junior doctors! New strikes announced

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Picket line at Walsgrave

The union representing junior doctors has just announced a new plan of industrial action. The British Medical Association (BMA) will go on strike against the imposition of the new contract initially for 5 days, beginning on Monday 12th September to Friday 16th September between 8am and 5pm.

The Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition fully supports the junior doctors in their campaign to defend their terms and conditions and the NHS itself.

It is now a critical task that they receive the maximum support of the entire trade union movement. The TUC will hold it’s annual conference in Brighton and it needs to be turned in to a council of war with the aim of building co-ordinated industrial action linking up the many different disputes in the public and private sector to defeat the capitalist austerity agenda of the Tories.

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) will be holding a public rally at TUC conference where the speakers will include Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Ronnie Draper of the BFAWU and many more and will be discussing how we build support for the junior doctors and the opposition to the Tories.

Lobby the Council Cabinet on Tuesday!

Lobby the Council Cabinet on Tuesday!

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City of Culture – or City of Cuts?

Coventry City Council’s Cabinet will meet on Tuesday 30th August to approve the beginning of the consultation that will see further cuts and closures to the tune of £4 million to libraries, the youth service and children’s centres.

Under the programme called “Connecting Communities” the plans from the Labour Council will further reduce vital public services in our city hitting ordinary people the hardest. Read this report for what we think the Council should be doing instead of passing on the Tory cuts to the people of Coventry.

The campaign group Save Coventry Libraries have called a lobby of the Cabinet meeting. The lobby will begin at 1pm, outside the Council House, Earl Street.

Packed meeting discusses Trotskyism, Corbyn and socialist change

Packed meeting discusses Trotskyism, Corbyn and socialist change

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It was “standing room only” at a packed Coventry Socialist Party public meeting on Thursday 25th August.

People came from all over Coventry to hear Socialist Party General Secretary Peter Taaffe speak on “Trotskyism, the Militant tendency,  the Corbyn insurgency and the struggle for socialist change.

Introducing the meeting former Coventry  Labour MP Dave Nellist put the current attacks on the Socialist Party, formerly Militant, in their historial context.

Peter Taaffe outlined the role of Trotskyism in the 21st century, the role of Militant and its successes in Liverpool and Coventry, how Militant led the campaign against the poll tax which brought down the Thatcher Government, while also discussing the current Corbyn insurgency and the Socialist Party’s role now and in the future.

Peter discussed the role of the Militant leadership in Liverpool City Council in the 1980’s who refused to make cuts, redundancies and closures, instead setting a needs budget with the support of a mass movement of local trade unions and communities against the Tories to fight for the money the city needed. The  council won, with the Thatcher Government providing millions more to Liverpool council, allowing them to build 5000 more houses and created thousands of jobs, with not one job lost!

Compare the fighting stand taken by Liverpool Council who took on Thatcher, building homes and community facilities with Coventry City Council who are closing libraries, public toilets and children’s centres. Quite a contrast!

On the issue of the Poll Tax Peter outlined how it was the Militant that mobilised the mass non-payment which eventually led to the downfall of Thatcher.

Both Dave Nellist in his introduction and Peter in his speech made clear that it was these huge victories of the working class, aided by the leadership of the Militant, that have fuelled the attempts of the establishment and right wing of Labour to whitewash history and attempt to discredit Trotskyism and the history of the Socialist Party.

He also discussed the success of Dave Nellist and the precedent he set as Coventry MP in only taking the average wage of skilled workers within his constituency, with Peter highlighting that you can only represent working people if you’re going through the same struggles they are, which came up within the contributions with many commending him for doing so.

Talking about the role of the Socialist Party after being expelled from the Labour Party, Peter set out how we have been the only 100% anti austerity alternative within politics. While many would agree that the election of Corbyn was a massive victory for the labour movement, this is undermined when the likes of Sadiq Khan aren’t helping those being evicted in Walthamstow by rip off landlords and it is the Socialist Party that is organising occupations and protests to help these people.

However, Peter argued that the Socialist Party would welcome affiliation to the Labour Party similar to that of the Co-operative Party, if the Labour Party was to open up its structures to a more democratic and federal structure and was to become a truly anti-austerity party as Corbyn and the Socialist Party both want.

Following Peter’s remarks there were many interesting contributions from the floor, from Labour voters arguing for deselection of right-wing MP’s and their disgust at Labour councillors passing on Tory cuts to working people. With another attendee stating that “if [he] hadn’t have joined [the SP] last week, [he] definitely would have tonight!”

The discussion brought forward many good contributions and questions for example the campaign for a £10/hr minimum wage and whether this was “idealistic”, to which Peter argued that in reality tax credits are used to subsidize big companies who, whilst making massive profits, say they can’t afford a proper wage for their workers.

The key question for socialists is the question of the system itself, capitalism. We are a very rich country (and world), the problem is the wealth is concentrated at the top. We support all reforms and campaigns that fight for greater equality and for a better life for working class people. At the same time, we point out that we need to get rid of the capitalist system and replace it with socialism.

As well as this there was resounding support for the demand that Coventry City Council should set a no cuts budget and stop the cuts being passed on to working people, and instead building a movement much like the Liverpool council and taking on the Tories instead of doing their job for them, with this tying in to how to further build the movement against austerity.

The meeting highlighted that the attacks on Trotskyism and the Militant have not deterred people, but have increased the interest in our ideas and organisation with the meeting filled with many young people and also people of all ages. They were not put off by the term ‘Trot’ or ‘entryist’ and instead wanted to learn more about it. One union rep from the railways commented afterwards “I have learnt so much today and am definitely looking forward to Socialism 2016 in November!”

Owen Jones is wrong to oppose mandatory reselection

Owen Jones is wrong to oppose mandatory reselection

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Owen Jones

Owen Jones has released a new video where he gives his latest thoughts on the Labour leadership election contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

Jones has caused considerable controversy in recent weeks with his less than full support for Jeremy Corbyn and is willingness to seek a compromise with the Blairite wing of the Party.

Unfortunately his latest video lives up to his recent form, whilst offering no way forward in the fight for a democratic and socialist Labour Party.

The right wing of the Labour Party, working hand in glove with the establishment media and behind it the capitalist class, is using every trick in the book to try and discredit Corbyn and the movement around him. They are doing this because they fear, quite rightly as it happens, that their domination is being threatened, that their pro neo-liberal (i.e. pro capitalist) orthodoxy is being threatened by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions who are being enthused by the Corbyn campaign.

The very latest attack has come today from Richard Branson in #traingate and whether Corbyn sitting in the gangway of a train was a stunt or not. As many have pointed out, Branson has a material interest in ensuring that Corbyn loses the leadership election – he fears that the renationalisation of the railways and healthcare threatens his enormous wealth and profit. This is just a small example of what Corbyn and any movement that threatens the establishment will face.

We have a situation where Labour MPs have consistently worked to undermine the elected leader, from the staged resignations from the Shadow Cabinet in the wake of Brexit to the heckling in Parliament whilst Corbyn was attacking the Tories. As an aside Jones states that Labour is doing badly in the polls – has he considered that Labour may be down in the polls due to the possible appearance of ‘chaos’ causes by the right wing sabotage of Corbyn’s leadership?

It is truly astounding that in the current context Jones opposes the mandatory reselection of MPs. This should be a basic democratic process in any working class organisation – its representatives should truly represent the views of the membership and be able to be held to account. Significantly UNITE, the largest union in the country voted at is recent conference to support reselection.

Furthermore Jones suggests that there needs to compromise with deputy leader Tom Watson who has been actively opposing Corbyn and leading a McCarthyite Red Scare campaign against current and former members of the Labour Party. Occasionally Jones acknowledges the fact that there is a civil war taking place in the Labour Party, so what is his advice? Bring these enemies of Corbyn back in to the fold! The likes of Watson and the many MPs who support Owen Smith are firmly committed to keeping Labour safe for the establishment, i.e. committed to trying to keep out any progressive, socialist policies and getting rid of Jeremy.  That Jones wants to compromise with these people is a strategy for not ending the civil war, but losing the fight for the direction of the Labour Party.

Jones raises what he thinks are suitable economic policies and slogans. He states that Labour needs to be ‘The party of investment. The party of growth. The party of opportunity.’ Are these enough though to solve the crisis that working class people face?

The Socialist Party believes that we do not need platitudes but firm and bold socialist policies. We do think that Jeremy and John McDonnell need to go further. It is a great step forward that Jeremy today talked about bringing the whole NHS in to public ownership. But let’s not stop there. There needs to be widespread public ownership including of the banks, financial houses and major industries so we can start to plan the economy in the interests of ordinary people, so we can truly get the fair society that everyone in the Corbyn movement wants to see. That means breaking with capitalism and fighting for socialism. We outlined our position in this article.

A fighting, socialist Labour Party could play a key role in that but it won’t be achieved with the strategy put forward by Owen Jones. The time is not for compromise with the representatives of the establishment in the Labour Party, the time is for mandatory reselection and bold socialist policies.

If you agree with us or want to discuss further, please fill in the form below!