Unite against war, terror and racism

Unite against war, terror and racism

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Photo by Paul Mattsson

The following is a statement from the Socialist Party in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack in London earlier this week. It can also be read on our national website here


A wave of shock has followed yet another horrific terrorist attack. This time in the centre of London, yesterday’s mowing down of people using a vehicle comes after atrocities using vehicles in Berlin and Nice during the last eight months, and other appalling terrorist attacks in France and Brussels.

The Socialist Party has strongly condemned all these attacks, and does so again on this occasion.

The attacker’s choice of Westminster – and the fact that he ran towards Parliament – suggests anger against the establishment and government, but the victims were ordinary people, especially tourists viewing the Houses of Parliament. People of ten different nationalities were indiscriminately hit. Three people plus the attacker died and seven are critically injured.

In any case, whoever is targeted, acts of individual terror should always be opposed. They are not an effective means to struggle against the establishment.

Government hypocrisy

Trying to assure people that the attacker was most likely acting alone and not part of a set of attacks, Theresa May made a sanctimonious speech on ‘resolve’ to ‘never waver’ or be afraid.

Yet she heads a Tory government that is making people far more vulnerable when terrorism occurs.

Huge cuts to London transport are inflicting the axing of many safety-critical staff. In addition fire stations have been closed, the ambulance service is over-stretched due to cuts, hospitals are under-staffed and there are threats to A&E departments.

The government also wants to see the bosses of Southern Rail, Merseyrail and Northern Rail defeat the RMT union’s strikes against the removal of safety-critical guards on trains.

The first doctor on the scene to treat the injured was off-duty junior doctor Jeeves Wijesuriya. Jeeves is a member of the junior doctors’ committee of the BMA (British Medical Association) and was one of the leaders of last year’s strikes against a worse contract being imposed on junior doctors by the government. Just earlier this month – on 4th March – he was a platform speaker against government NHS cuts at the more than 100,000-strong national ‘Save our NHS’ demonstration in London.

The Tories’ hypocrisy knows no bounds. The last thing that the likes of May will acknowledge is any link between the devastation their policies have caused across the Middle East and the threat of terrorism in Britain. Little information has so far been released on the background of the attacker, but May called the attack “Islamist terrorism”, and Islamic State (Isis) has claimed responsibility.

It is unfortunately no surprise that an incident of this nature has again occurred. There have been few terror attacks in Britain since the terrible 7/7 London bombings in 2005, but the intelligence services say they have ‘foiled’ 12 plots in the last three years and they have called the likelihood of the threat “severe” for a long period.

Last November, MI5 head Andrew Parker stated “there will be terrorist attacks in this country” and noted that the ‘tempo’ of terrorist plots and attempts during the previous three years was the highest in his 33 years at MI5.

Sign of weakness

Isis in Syria and Iraq has made it known that it is encouraging the carrying out of attacks in Europe – this is one way it is trying to fight back while being squeezed by military onslaughts against it in Mosul and north Syria.

It is a sign of its weakness, not strength, that it resorts to murderous individual acts. It doesn’t seek to remove capitalism – rather it wants use its fascistic type methods and individual terrorism to attack ordinary people and aid its aim of creating a capitalist or semi-feudal caliphate in the interests of its leaders.

Whether or not the perpetrators of atrocities like yesterday’s are directly motivated by Isis, British imperialism – along with US imperialism and other world powers – has created outrage across the Middle East and globally at its involvement in the slaughter of over 150,000 people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars – and also the foreign interventions in Yemen, Libya, Syria and parts of Pakistan – have generated would-be terrorists and Al-Qaida type groups across the globe.

Much of the worst suffering by ordinary people from terrorist acts has been in those countries, where regular suicide bombings have hit many hundreds of people in cities like Baghdad and Kabul.

Now the media in Britain is again asking how further attacks like yesterday’s in Westminster can be stopped, but there will be no way of stopping them based on a continuation of the government’s policies. The attacker was born in Britain – as were the 7/7 bombers. The police and intelligence services have no way of preventing all such future attackers, through their methods of surveillance and ‘anti-terrorism’ laws.

Defend the right to protest

The Tories have already used past terrorist attacks to justify anti-democratic legislation. But the ‘anti-terrorism’ laws of the year 2000 didn’t stop 7/7, nor will more repressive legislation. The police had plenty of powers to arrest anyone planning or committing a crime before these laws were brought in.

Also, extra police powers of surveillance, restrictions on movement, etc, can also be used against trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners, socialists and others who are opposing the government’s pro-big business policies. They must be opposed.

Fight racism and scapegoating

For years right-wing politicians in the three main parliamentary parties have dangerously used rhetoric that has played into the hands of racists. Anti-immigrant talk came from leaders on both sides of the EU referendum debate. The Socialist Party’s pro-working class standpoint, against division and racism and for Brexit on the basis of socialist internationalism, was not covered in the mainstream media.

Since the referendum, and the election of Trump, there has been an increase in racist attacks. Also it mustn’t be forgotten that racist attacks increased six-fold in the weeks after 7/7; a similar outcome must be fought against by socialists and trade unionists following this new terrorist attack, by calling for workers’ unity against all forms of racism and the far right.

This needs to include countering the far-right Britain First demonstration that has been called for 1st April.

All the racist, anti-democratic, pro-austerity and pro-war measures and policies of May’s Tory government must be fought by the trade union movement with new vigour and a determined plan of action. The building of a mass movement of opposition can remove it from power – and lay the basis for reversing its policies that breed poverty, division and terrorism.

Coventry Socialists to celebrate International Women’s Day and the start of the Russian Revolution at public meeting

Coventry Socialists to celebrate International Women’s Day and the start of the Russian Revolution at public meeting

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Women helped spark the Russian Revolution!

Coventry Socialist Party has organised a public meeting on Wednesday March 8th to mark International Women’s Day. We will be discussing the start of the Russian Revolution, which began in February 1917 and was led by women workers.

Corinthia Ward from Birmingham Socialist Party will speak about the history of International Women’s Day in what should be an excellent meeting. Corinthia is the author of an article in the current issue of The Socialist newspaper and a trade union activist. All interested in learning about what took place and how it relates to the struggles and campaigns of today are welcome. There will be plenty of time for discussion and debate.

Weds 8th March, 7.30pm Methodist Hall, New Union Street, Coventry City Centre

Tories to cut another £3.7bn from disability benefits

Tories to cut another £3.7bn from disability benefits

The below article was written by a member of the PCS union in Coventry, which represents DWP staff.

The Tories plan to make savings of £3.7bn from disability benefits by reducing the number of people eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) by 160,000.

This is their response to two tribunal rulings from late last year, one of which would mean the same number of “points” on the assessment given to a person needing help with medication or monitoring a condition like diabetes, as well as someone needing help with therapy like kidney dialysis. The other ruling would score someone who struggled to travel independently because of a condition like anxiety the same points as someone who was blind, for example.

Under this government, disabled people are facing a relentless attack – alongside the cuts to PIP, from April 2017 the weekly rate for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for the majority of new claimants will be cut by 28% per week to only £73.10, a pittance for those who need the support!

Shockingly, Conservative Party Chair Patrick McLoughlin claims they give “very generous schemes” overall, as well as stating that in terms of supporting disabled people, they do “very proudly” in this country!

In the face of these attacks, as well as the threat of further cuts and privatisation of the NHS, the programme of Jobcentre closures across the country and the massive cuts to local council budgets, what is needed is a joint campaign of struggle involving trade unions, the unemployed and claimants, as well as those involved in groups such as DPAC (Disabled People Against the Cuts).

This was clearly highlighted in a recent well-attended Coventry showing of I, Daniel Blake, followed by a Q&A session with Ken Loach – with representatives from the PCS, UNITE Community, disabled people and others involved in other campaigning groups.

“Labour councillors ought to grow a backbone and stand up to the Tories” – Dave Nellist

“Labour councillors ought to grow a backbone and stand up to the Tories” – Dave Nellist

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Dave Nellist presents petition calling on Council to fight the cuts

We are pleased to share the below letter published by the Coventry Telegraph this week by Dave Nellist, former Militant Labour MP and Socialist Party councillor in Coventry. This week a petition organised by young service users will be presented to the council against youth club closures as part of an ongoing campaign against the “Connecting Communities” scheme.
“Cuts that Coventry Council are planning will radically worsen public services in our city, but in fact are entirely unnecessary.
Saying that governments of both hues over the last 10 years have originated the cuts is not enough.  Local councils do have alternatives to reducing proper library provision, to cutting youth clubs and funding for children’s centres, to reducing bin collections.
Coventry Council has increased its reserves from £41m six years ago to £95m today.  That’s five times the planned cuts for the next financial year!  The Council has lent millions of pounds to private businesses (for example to a hotel and for student accomodation) – that money should be being used to defend the city’s public services that everyone in the city relies on.
Labour council leaders held a national meeting on 17th February at Warwick University.  They could have drawn up a coordinated plan of resistance to pressurise the government to  restore money stolen from our towns and cities.
Unfortunately, it seems that if council leaders have a strategy it’s limited to waiting for the next general election in 2020 for a change of direction.  By then, 70% of council services will be gone, and thousands of local jobs will no longer be available for school leavers.
And anyway, on present form, with Labour councillors cutting service after service, there’s little incentive for people to vote Labour locally, and no guarantee of a general election victory in three years time.
Bluntly, Labour councillors ought to grow a backbone and stand up to the Tories, whilst there are still public services left to defend.”

Coventry meeting to discuss crisis in the NHS on Tuesday 28th Feb

Coventry meeting to discuss crisis in the NHS on Tuesday 28th Feb

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Coventry NHS SOS has organised a meeting to discuss the crisis in the NHS on Tuesday 28th February.  Mike Forster from Health Campaigns Together will be speaking at the meeting, along with student nurse Rachel Jenkins and Petra, a BMA member.

The NHS is under threat from cuts, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and STPs. STP stands for “Sustainability and Transformation Plans”, but in reality what they mean for our NHS is Slashing, Trashing and Privatising our health service. Mike Forster is one of the organisers of the NHS demo on March 4th in London .

The meeting is at 6.30 in the Methodist Central Hall on Tuesday 28th. Everyone welcome – please share!

A UNISON member responds to Dave Prentis over by-election results

A UNISON member responds to Dave Prentis over by-election results

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Prentis looking on as Jeremy Corbyn addresses UNISON conference (RT)

We are pleased to publish the following comments from a UNISON member in Coventry in response to an article by UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis in the aftermath of the Stoke and Copeland by-elections. The original article by Prentis was originally carried on the website of the New Statesman. We welcome comments and discussion on the issues raised here.


The votes in the two by-elections that took place this week in Stoke Central and Copeland had barely finished being counted before UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis had an article published in the New Statesman. This article can hardly be considered helpful from the point of view of Jeremy Corbyn and those hundreds of thousands of people who support his anti-austerity policies and wished for something better than the ‘same old Tory lite’ of New Labour.

The article was quickly and unsurprisingly picked up by the right wing press as another example of how Corbyn’s position is becoming untenable as his ‘friends’ start to lose faith in him.

Let us be clear from the outset. Despite the soothing words of Prentis, the fact that UNISON supported Corbyn in the leadership contests was a result of the massive pressure from ordinary members in the union to do so. Prentis would not have wanted to support Jeremy in a million years.

In fact he would have felt threatened by the mass influx in to the Labour Party and people signing up as supporters to support Jeremy. No doubt Prentis would be thinking – if it could happen in the Labour Party, could a ‘Corbyn moment’ happen in UNISON to get rid of him as general secretary? (We think yes, more on that later)

Prentis rightly points out

‘There will be those who seek to place sole blame for this calamity at the door of Jeremy Corbyn. They would be wrong to do so. 

The problems that Labour has in working-class communities across the country did not start with Corbyn’s leadership’.

However timing counts for a lot in politics. And in this case timing says it all – with the knives inevitably coming out once again for Corbyn’s leadership this article from Prentis only adds to the pressure.

Prentis could and should have turned his fire on the Blairites and in particular Tristam Hunt (who took his ‘dream job’ with the V and A) and Jamie Reed (moving on to a highly paid job in the nuclear industry). He could have said that Copeland would still be a Labour seat if Reed had not resigned to pursue higher wages. He could have attacked Tony Blair for his intervention over Brexit, timed to destabilise Labour in the days running up to the by-elections. But no, we get an attempt to undermine Corbyn disguised as comradely advice from a ‘friend’.

Socialist Party supporters in UNISON have raised comradely criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the role played by sections of Momentum. In particular Jeremy’s willingness to placate the right wing in Labour (for example on the issue of the democratic policy of mandatory re-election), the changing of his traditional position of opposition to the EU (if he had held to his position he would have been in a good place to change the whole debate over Brexit – the left wing, internationalist case against the EU as a bosses club would have been heard by a wider audience which could have undercut UKIP) and the unwillingness to organise and mobilise the hundreds of thousands of people against the Blairites in favour of a ‘broad church’ where the right control the PLP and the party machinery.

Unfortunately Jeremy and John McDonnell have also allowed the right wing to get their way with regards to Labour Councils implementing Tory cuts. These concessions have not consolidated or strengthened Corbyn’s position – they have greatly weakened it.

However we do this from the position of wanting to see the building of a mass, anti-austerity socialist movement and that the election of Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party is a big step forward.

That is not the position of Prentis. The general secretary of UNISON is also on the Board of the Bank of England and receives a 6 figure salary which is far removed (to say the least) from the majority of members he purports to represent. Under the leadership of Prentis, our union has failed to mount any sort of campaign to defend jobs or services – with hundreds of thousands of posts being lost in local government and the Tories declaring open season on the NHS. Where is our union? Where is our leader Prentis? There have also been accusations that Dave and his team in the general secretary elections broke the rules of which more can be read about here

Socialists in UNISON have been involved in building support for the UNISONaction Broad Left in the forthcoming elections to the union’s National Executive Council  – this will be a key opportunity to elect activists who are united in their belief that the leadership of Prentis is not fit for the purpose of building a fighting, democratic UNISON. The intervention of Prentis in the aftermath of the recent by-elections further confirms why we need change in our union.

For more analysis of the elections results and what they mean, click here