Revolutionary Women and the fight against austerity – Part Two

Revolutionary Women and the fight against austerity – Part Two

Ellen White speaking at the meeting

Ellen White speaking at the meeting

We are pleased to publish the second and final speech from our meeting to mark International Women’s Day. Below is the speech from Ellen White, a member of Coventry Socialist Party. It has been slightly edited for publication. Part one can be viewed here

Women and the fight for socialism

By Ellen White

When I got offered the opportunity to speak today I found it quite daunting. Not because I couldn’t think of anything to say but because I could think of so many revolutionary women to talk about. The sad thing remains that most people have never even heard of these women and don’t fully appreciate what they have done for all of us.

Women have played an important revolutionary role throughout history. Well, Obviously some of you may say, after all we do make up 50% of the population and we have been here the whole time!

I suppose that the best example of revolutionary women was in the Russia Revolution. However historically women have largely been ignored in politics. Society managed to create the image of “woman” as timid, weak and even insincere. We have been subjugated and oppressed, associated with the home and the private sphere too much. Capitalism has doubtless benefitted form this is in varying degrees. While men worked we raised children and kept capitalism ticking along. For a long time women essentially provided free labour. We were even excluded from education.

So when women begin to openly revolt it is often for the simplest things, which can signify the most in so many ways. In 1917 the loudest cry that could be heard from the crowd in St Petersburg was for bread, and this cry was begun by women. Later people demanded freedom, democracy and revolution but arguably this was the beginning of one of history’s most important events.

This wasn’t the first time women had initiated movements and revolutions. The march on Versailles in October 1789, which now accepted to be the earliest and most significant event of the French Revolution was started by women in the marketplace who were near rioting over the price and scarcity of bread.

This developed into angry mobs, teaming with the poor and the oppressed who then marched to the palace of Versailles and by the next morning the Royal family and the entire French assembly were compelled to return with the mob to Parisand we all know what happened next! This was also the first open threat to the king’s authority.

Women today are now largely expected not only to take care of the family needs but also to work. The abilty to juggle all these things has been drastically affected by the government’s austerity measures.It is women who are suffering the most. Not now because of the need for bread, but because of the need for childcare, for benefit support in order to even go to work, to get enough money to buy the bread. Single mothers more than any other group are the people who rely on state benefits in order to merely provide food for their families. These are the state benefits that are being cut. This is why in one of the richest countries in the world families are going to food banks while others sit on riches. There is definitely something wrong with this system and we know from history that it’s not the women.

Sadly it has often been women that have suffered the hardest; countless studies will tell you that women will go without so her family can eat a full meal. Under this government the working classes are being attacked left, right and daycare centre.

If you are working class and women this is not just austerity, this is enforced poverty and we will not take it with solemnity. We should and will revolt.

I will leave you with children poem that I think most of you will know, that will illustrate my final point.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

History’s nail was bread. It was the peoples want for bread that led them to question and revolt. Had the rich just appeased them perhaps they would have accepted the rest as they done. Today’s nail is austerity. When the rich have lost their kingdom, through their own greed, they will look back on this day and regret that they hadn’t just given us what we rightly deserve now, because now, the only way is revolution.

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Socialist Campaign Team step up Election Campaigning across Coventry

Socialists step up Election Campaign

Socialist campaigners have been hitting the streets to build for the Coventry Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) election launch meeting.

lealfleting despite the rain

lealfleting despite the rain

Dave Nellist will be among the 18 candidates standing for the local council, in every ward in Coventry. Socialists will be standing as part of the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition on May 22nd, on a fighting programme to defeat austerity and cuts, for thousands of new jobs and affordable homes, for a £10 an hour minimum wage, for an immediate scrapping of the Bedroom Tax and for free parking at Walsgrave – kicking PFI & Privatisation out of the NHS.

Already 10,000 leaflets have been delivered to homes and across the city, announcing the election challenge and inviting people to our launch meeting at 7:30pm on Wednesday March 26th at the Methodist Central Hall.

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Canvassing in St Michaels

This has been the result of Socialist Campaign Teams leafleting whole swathes of the city alongside people doing streets in the local area in their own time. We are dropping off dozens of bundles of leaflets every day to people who have signed up to the campaign team and want to spread the word in their local communities.

Campaigning for a £10 an hour Minimum Wage

Campaigning for a £10 an hour Minimum Wage

Could you help the campaign?

Could you deliver some leaflets round your area, make a donation to fund for leaflets and other campaign material (unlike establishment parties, We get no financial support from big business. Our party and campaigns rely entirely on donations from ordinary people), or sign a candidate nomination form?

Whatever you can do to help challenge the pro-austerity agenda of all establishment parties and campaign for fighting Socialist Councillors, willing to stand up for ordinary people will make a difference.

So do your bit for a Socialist Coventry and sign up to the Socialist Campaign Team today:

07530429441                    votesocialist2014@gmail.com

Trade Union & Socialist Coalition Election Challenge Launch Meeting 

Get behind the VOTE SOCIALIST 2014 campaign!
Speakers include former Coventry Socialist Councillor Dave Nellist
Wednesday 26th March, 7.30pm
Coventry Methodist Central Hall
Warwick Lane, Coventry City Centre, CV1 2HA

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Scrap Parking Charges at Walsgrave Hospital!

Scrap Parking Charges at Walsgrave Hospital!

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Parking charges at Walsgrave Hospital have been increased again, despite thousands of people signing a petition calling for them to be scrapped.

This means it will now cost £2.30 to park for just an hour, while stays of 7 hours or over will be a massive £8.50!

The charges were brought in as a result of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), which was brought in by Labour and was the first step towards the attempted privatisation of the NHS which is now being pushed by the ConDem Government. The charges had previously been reduced in 2011 as a result of a mass campaign led by the Socialist Party.

Rob McArdle, the prospective Socialist candidate for Lower Stoke, said “Socialists in Coventry have fought many years against NHS parking charges. We call for all PFI to be scrapped, millions of pounds of taxpayers money is being wasted on these projects. This diverts money away from our NHS and results in a poorer service for patients. We call for a properly funded PUBLIC NHS, end PFI now!”

For free parking at Walsgrave – kick PFI and privatisation out of the NHS!

Dave Nellist letter of reply to Owen Jones in Guardian

The letter below from Coventry Socialist Party member and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist was published in todays Guardian (Monday 17th March) in reply to a recent article in the paper by Owen Jones.

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Dave Nellist with Bob Crow on a lobby of the TUC

It’s a shame that in an article of over 1,600 words Owen Jones couldn’t bring himself to seriously discuss the political projects that Bob Crow was actually involved in (‘Don’t mourn. Organise’, 15 March). But perhaps that fits a narrative Owen wishes to promote, that there is no future for any electoral politics outside Labour. Bob, however, saw the creation of a new political voice for working people, rooted in the organisations and communities of the working class, as an essential aspect of the struggle against austerity.

For the past four years we had worked together building the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), in a project officially backed by the RMT itself. TUSC will stand hundreds of anti-austerity candidates in this May’s local elections in the biggest left-of-Labour challenge since the second world war.

Despite a number of approaches, Tony Benn didn’t agree with an electoral challenge to Labour (though he did appear in the 2009 electoral broadcast for No2EU).

I think he should have left the Labour party, which had so clearly left him, but unfortunately he disagreed. In his latter years Tony was more a prisoner in New Labour, reduced to smuggling out notes through the bars. The socialist policies he stood for were killed off by successive Labour leaders from Neil Kinnock onwards, but they still exist in new projects, like TUSC and No2EU, co-founded by Bob Crow.
Dave Nellist
National chair, TUSC

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/16/crow-benn-defend-working-people

Dave Nellist -Thoughts on passing of Tony Benn

It is enormously saddening to mark the passing today of Tony Benn, a friend of 40 years. He was a towering socialist.

I first worked with Tony on the 1975 Common Market referendum; hundreds filled the Police Assembly Hall in Coventry to hear him speak, with hundreds more outside.  He spoke for me at a 1987 General Election rally, and hundreds came again to hear him in Coventry’s Methodist Central Hall; as they did 5 years ago when he came back to do one of his “fireside chats”.

Tony Benn at the Meriden motor cycle workers' co-operative in 1975 (Photo from Coventry Telegraph)

Tony Benn at the Meriden motor cycle workers’ co-operative in 1975 (Photo from Coventry Telegraph)

In between we worked closely in the 1980s, especially supporting the miners’ strike and challenging the attacks of the Thatcher government on working people. 11 years ago we worked together on the Stop the War Coalition national committee, preparing the massive February 2003 anti-war demonstration.

There will be dozens of quotes by him remembered today. One of my favourites is a definition of his often aimed in speeches at Rupert Murdoch:

“What power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you?”

The Tony of the 1970s and 1980s, arguing for public ownership and supporting workers in struggle, could still be held in genuine affection and support 30 years later, more perhaps than any other figure on the Left.

But everything Tony said and stood for during that period should have led him to the conclusion that Labour from the 1990s onwards had fundamentally changed. It was now a prison, and he’d been reduced to smuggling out notes through the bars.  He should have left the Labour Party which had so clearly left him.

If he’d broken with right wing New Labour and joined those of us, like Bob Crow, seeking to start anew, politics in Britain would be so different today. A call by Tony to found a new independent political voice for working people would have gained an echo from tens perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people.

The consensus politics of today, the overlapping agenda promoting austerity, needs an organised political alternative.  Tony often said ‘politics should be about policies not personalities’. The socialist policies he stood for were killed off by successive Labour leaders from Neil Kinnock onwards; but they still exist today in new projects like TUSC.”

RIP Tony Benn 1925-2014

Tony Benn 1925-2014

Tony Benn 1925-2014

Many will be waking up to the news that at the age of 88 Tony Benn has sadly passed away.

The Socialist Party salutes his contribution to the struggles of working class people and the fight for socialism.

We will be posting a full obituary shortly.

Dave Nellist pays tribute to Bob Crow – an uncompromising fighter for the working class

Bob Crow – an uncompromising fighter for the working class

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Coventry Socialist Party member and national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Dave Nellist today paid tribute to RMT general secretary Bob Crow, who has sadly passed away:

“Bob Crow was an inspirational union leader who tenaciously defended his members’ jobs, pay and conditions – head and shoulders above most other union leaders.

“Bob also recognised, well before most other union leaders, that the overlapping austerity agenda of the big parties meant working people have to start again and build anew.

“His union, as the Society of Railway Servants, founded the Labour Party 114 years ago and for the last 5 years in particular he and I had worked together to start to create a new voice for workers rooted in the organisations and communities of working class people.

“As part of his legacy on May 22nd, TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) will stand the largest number of left of Labour candidates seen in this country for over 60 years. And on that same day, N02EU – Yes To Workers’ Rights will field a complete list of anti-austerity, anti-EU, internationalist workers candidates in the European elections.

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Bob and Dave on a NSSN lobby of the TUC

“Our sadness is that Bob won’t be with us on that day, leading the EU list in London, and inspiring hundreds of TUSC candidates around the country. “In his union, and in the new working class politics he championed, he will never be forgotten.”

Socialist Party Obituary

 The Socialist Party is shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the death of Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT). The response to his death already once again confirms the major impact he had as a trade union leader – undoubtedly one of the best known, for his steadfast approach to standing up for his members. Our thoughts are with his family. We also send solidarity to the RMT. Bob Crow was a constant fighter for the working class and a champion of many important causes.

The right-wing press tried to present him as a ‘dinosaur’ and a ‘union baron’ – but workers saw him as a hero because he frightened the bosses and under his leadership, as deputy general secretary and then general secretary, the RMT showed many times that the employers could be beaten.

The most recent example was the RMT’s February strike on London Underground. It was a beacon for workers suffering under Con-Dem austerity and fearing a precarious future. Every attempt was made to undermine the union and to ridicule Bob – but the public support proved that a determined approach to defending jobs and workers’ rights is hugely popular. The RMT took the battle to London Tory mayor Boris Johnson. Even the capitalist press acknowledged that the union forced an utterly arrogant and intransigent Johnson to the negotiating table against his will. That battle must be continued to a victory for the RMT against ticket office closures and job losses.

Bob’s approach to building resistance was reflected in the RMT’s founding of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) to give trade unionists a body to fight for action against all the attacks raining down from pro-capitalist governments. Under his leadership the RMT was a tireless and almost peerless defender of trade unions rights alongside unions such as the PCS and the POA prison officers’ union.

Political representation

As well as being a leader on the industrial plane, Bob Crow gave unremitting support to the battle for a political voice for the working class. The leading position the RMT plays in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and in ‘No2EU – Yes to workers’ rights’ is a very important step in that campaign. Socialist Party members have worked with Bob in the RMT, in TUSC, and in the NSSN, especially around the demand for the TUC to call a 24-hour general strike against austerity. For his role in all of this and more, his death represents a huge loss.

Bob Crow always defended socialism as the necessary alternative to the rotten capitalist system. We often shared a platform with him, and he spoke at our Socialist Party annual ‘Socialism’ events on a number of occasions – including last November – receiving many ovations for his tenacious stance.

Bob’s passing will be a major blow to RMT members, among whom he had enormous respect and support for his uncompromising position to fight in their interests. When they come to the democratic process of electing a new leader we hope they choose someone who will honour Bob’s memory by being a fighter for the working class, for socialism and for international solidarity, as Bob was.

Bob Crow’s death will be a shock also to the wider working class. It is fair to say that if the trade union leadership was made up of fighters like Bob, or like Mark Serwotka and the left socialist leadership in the PCS, the battle to stop the cuts and kick out the Con-Dems would be in a much advanced state. But in his passing, Bob Crow also reminds us of the strength of the British working class to produce such fighters. He will be greatly missed, but we will fight on.