Firefighters take action in Coventry – pictures and report from Radford and Foleshill

Firefighters take action in Coventry – pictures and report from Radford and Foleshill

Picket line in Foleshill

Picket line in Foleshill

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) started industrial action at 6pm this evening, the beginning of 4 days of national  industrial action against attacks on their pensions, privatisation and in defence of one of the most vital of public services. Firefighters mounted strong and visible pickets with members of the Socialist Party and Socialist Students attending pickets at Radford and Foleshill fire stations to show our support. There is much public support for the FBU, as could be witnessed by the constant tooting of horns as cars passed the pickets.

Socialist Party and Communication Workers Union member Glen visited the Foleshill picket he said

Spent some time with the firefighters at Foleshill, as they continue strike action to save the service we take for granted. I thought I was up to speed on the issues of the dispute. I thought I had a good idea of how the cuts are affecting them and their ability to do their job safely. Which is to save our lives, while protecting their own. Well I had another think coming. It’s one thing reading about inadequate equipment, lack of breathing apps, privatisation, cuts to the pension etc. But to hear stories of people being saved in fires and accidents, only through the goodwill of the people in the service… While paying more in pension contributions, to work longer and get less. Well. All I’ll say is pop down to your local station. Have a chat and show that we support them. Because you never know when you’ll need them. Solidarity.

Here is a selection of pictures from the picket lines at Radford and Foleshill.

Radford picket

Radford picket

FBU flags in Foleshill

FBU flags in Foleshill

 

Members of Socialist Students from Coventry University show support

Members of Socialist Students from Coventry University show support

 

 

 

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Dave Nellist calls for solidarity with firefighters’ strike action

 Dave Nellist calls for solidarity with firefighters’ strike action

Dave Nellist of TUSC and the Socialist Party

Dave Nellist of TUSC and the Socialist Party

We are pleased to carry below comments from Dave Nellist, national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and the Socialist Party in Coventry in support of the action being taken by members of the FBU starting on Friday at 6pm. For more information about the strike visit the website of the FBU here

“TUSC supporters will be visiting FBU picket lines over the next four days, taking messages of solidarity with firefighters’ strike action in defence of their pensions and our public services.

Only one party standing in the general and local elections next year would reverse all the 20% funding cuts to the fire service implemented by the coalition government over the last four years.

 Only one party would reinstate the 5000 jobs lost and discuss with the FBU not only the reopening of closed stations, but the best places for stations to be to ensure rapid response times.

And only one party would reverse the privatisation across the service, not least in equipment, which all 4 establishment parties would maintain.

That party is TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) – and I heartily invite any firefighters reading this, indeed any trade unionist, to consider standing as a TUSC candidate in next year’s general and local elections, where we will be the only working class anti-austerity candidates opposing the big 4.”

Dave Nellist National Chair, TUSC

AGREE WITH DAVE? WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TUSC? FILL IN THE FORM BELOW

(to visit the website of TUSC click here)

UK withdraws from Afghanistan – the socialist view

UK withdraws from Afghanistan – the socialist view

Anti-war protest

Anti-war protest

The media today has been reporting how UK military operations have formally come to an end in Afghanistan. The news will be greeted with relief by people across the UK due to the price paid in casualties and the huge financial cost which ran in to billions of pounds. Members of the Socialist Party in Coventry, as well as across the country and internationally through our sister parties in the Committee for a Workers’ International took part from the beginning in anti-war actions and protests putting forward a socialist opposition to military action. We warned that ordinary people both here in the UK and in Afghanistan itself would pay the price.

We reproduce an article below from our newspaper The Socialist in 2012 which puts forward a socialist perspective on events.

Afghanistan war: end this ‘pointless waste of life’

The Afghanistan war has been a “pointless waste of lives and not worth the billions of pounds it has cost since it started eleven years ago” think 78% of the people in a new poll by the Mirror.

Only 30% thought that the prime minister should stick with his plan to bring home the British troops by the end of 2014 rather than earlier.

This poll follows the 14 September Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand and the 15 September killing of two British soldiers by an Afghan policeman, also in Helmand.

Camp Bastion is Nato’s main base in Afghanistan, considered one of the most impregnable military bases in the world, containing 30,000 troops and civilians.

Yet just 15 Taliban fighters, dressed in US army uniforms, humiliated Nato by moving through radar, CCTV, an anti-blast wall and other defences to enter the camp, kill two personnel, wound nine and destroy £123 million worth of military aircraft.

As for the two ‘insider’ killings by the Afghan policeman, these were the latest in a steady stream of ‘green on blue’ attacks, now causing one in six Nato deaths.

They are jeopardising Nato’s entire strategy – to train Afghan forces to take over security when most of the foreign combat troops are withdrawn by 2015.

Many joint training operations were suspended this month following the two insider killings.

432 UK troops have now been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 and a total of 3,187 across all the countries involved in Nato’s International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf).

For Afghan people the tragic death toll is much higher, tens of thousands of civilians and ‘insurgents’ are estimated to have died at the hands of the Isaf forces or from other consequences of the war.

At least eight civilian women were slaughtered on 16 September by a Nato air strike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Laghman when they were simply collecting wood and nuts in a forest.

In Logar province on 6 June, a Nato air attack killed up to 18 civilians who were celebrating a wedding.

On that same day in June, two suicide bombers struck a market near the gates of a large military airbase in Kandahar killing 22 civilians and injuring dozens more.

Nato failure

Clearly, the Taliban are not being defeated. The large Nato force (presently 130,000-strong), over more than a decade – with the US alone spending $100 billion a year on high-tech military weaponry and other Afghanistan war costs – has been unable to defeat a vastly poorer force of Taliban-led fighters estimated at less than 25,000.

The Taliban-led militias have a steady influx of new recruits outraged by Nato’s destruction and the devastating US drone strikes that rain down over the border in Pakistan.

They also gain from widespread condemnation from ordinary people of the weak, corrupt Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai.

Recently the wave of anger among Muslims globally, fuelled by the provocative anti-Islam film made in the US, has also in Afghanistan added to the desire to fight the occupation.

The Guardian reported that a British officer in Helmand has expressed surprise at the Taliban’s resilience: “I am constantly amazed by them”, he said. “They are completely over-matched by us and the Afghan army. We keep killing them, but they keep coming back for more”.

Realising that they’re in an unwinnable war, last year the intervening imperialist powers felt compelled to lose some face by seeking negotiations with the Taliban.

The Taliban leaders suspended the talks in March this year, demanding the release of five Afghan men held in Guantanamo Bay.

But US representatives have recently met with counterparts from the Afghan and Pakistan governments to look at how to resume the talks.

Nominally, 75% of the Afghan population now lives in areas under Afghan government ‘control’. But the fledgling Afghan army lacks equipment, resources and training.

Furthermore, it is potentially unstable, as it is drawn from different ethnic sections of the population which are headed by rival tribal leaders and warlords.

The Taliban already control some areas, so given the weakness of the Kabul government, they are likely to expand on this when Nato withdraws – their main base being among Pashtuns who are 40% of the Afghan population.

The British commander of Task Force Helmand, Doug Chalmers, recognised this when he said that the local security forces were ‘already reaching out to the insurgents’ and ‘local accommodations and agreements could follow’. “Our job is to enable the Afghans to enter the conversation from a position of strength”, said Chalmers, indicating the extent of the failure of Nato’s mission.

Imperialism’s war aims

Many anti-war figureheads have pointed out that at no time since Tony Blair sent British troops into Helmand in 2006 have government ministers given a ‘coherent explanation’ of why they were sent.

Britain’s intelligence agencies had by then said there was no danger to Britain from any al-Qaida presence there.

As the Socialist has always argued, much of the answer lies in Afghanistan’s geo-strategic importance for the imperialist powers, as it links the surrounding blocks of countries.

Also, Afghanistan has untapped natural resources, estimated by the US government to be worth over $1 trillion.

A number of western oil and mining companies are presently hovering in anticipation of the Afghan government passing legislation allowing them to exploit the oil, iron, copper and other resources.

The western powers viewed the reactionary Taliban regime then in power as an obstacle to their interests in the region, ironically, as its very existence was a product of US imperialism’s sponsoring of Afghan mujahedeen groups in the 1980s that were fighting Soviet forces.

Brutality

Having gone in and imposed their brutality for eleven years, it’s now near impossible for the Nato powers to withdraw while at the same time safeguarding their interests.

The Guardian reported “senior Tory MPs” as openly predicting that “British withdrawal will be followed by a civil war”.

A civil war could quickly escalate, involving the neighbouring countries as well. But the government knows that keeping the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan is not preventing the present war and is increasingly untenable because of the level of opposition from ordinary people in Britain. The US government faces the same dilemma.

The recent shenanigans in parliament reflect the blind alley for British imperialism in this war. Defence secretary Philip Hammond struggled to explain changes in policy in response to the ‘green on blue’ attacks by Afghan forces.

Dennis Skinner taunted him with: “Now that it has been revealed that the allies are unreliable, Karzai is useless and the Afghan forces are treacherous, it is time to get out!” Paul Flynn was suspended from parliament for a few days for declaring that ministers were lying about Afghanistan; “Lives have been lost to protect politicians’ reputations”, he justifiably asserted.

Cameron has felt compelled to promise a “review”, but only after the US presidential election in November.

The troops should be withdrawn immediately! Workers in Britain need investment into jobs and decent services, not war and occupation and the terrible loss of life it brings.

For the Afghan people, the interventions of the imperialist powers have been a very long nightmare. They must be allowed to determine their own future! Getting rid of foreign occupation is an urgent step for them, and then so is the task of building workers’ organisations that can demand democratic rights, women’s rights and an end to bloodshed and poverty.

This would mean rejecting all the pro-capitalist leaders, whether Pashtun, Hazara, Tajik, Uzbek, Turkman or other, in order to build unity around a socialist programme that calls for a workers’ and peasants’ government.

Such a government could take the country’s natural resources and the major industries into public ownership for the benefit of all.

Former Labour councillor in Cheylesmore defects to UKIP

Former Labour councillor in Cheylesmore defects to UKIP

Former Labour councillor with his new UKIP colleagues. Picture from website of Coventry Telegraph

Former Labour councillor with his new UKIP colleagues. Picture from website of Coventry Telegraph

News came out today that Harjinder Singh Sehmi a former Labour Party councillor in Cheylesmore ward has joined Ukip. Whilst hardly on the scale of recent defections from the Tory Party, it once again raises the question of how best to combat Ukip. Below we reproduce an article from a recent issue of ‘The Socialist’ newspaper including comment from Dave Nellist, that outlines what we believe to be the best way to not only fight Ukip, but all of the austerity parties. If you agree, why not join us? Click here

Tories and Labour in crisis after Ukip win

By Claire Laker-Mansfield

Cameron and Miliband woke up on 10 October with a common sense of dread. Both their parties have been left reeling at the results of byelections in which Ukip has dealt them a hefty blow to the face. Both party leaders are now facing calls from some of their MPs to stand down before the 2015 general election.

For the Tory party, a landslide victory for their defector, Douglas Carswell (who won 60% of the vote), has no doubt left more backbenchers tempted to jump ship. But it’s perhaps Labour that has been the most visibly shocked. Ukip can no longer be written off as a ‘Tory problem’.

In Heywood and Middleton, a former Labour stronghold, Ukip came within inches of taking a seat. Just over 600 votes separated Farage’s party from a second (and potentially even more significant) victory.

These results have sent shivers down spines – including those of many ordinary workers and young people. But the three main parties all bear responsibility for the rising tide of the populist right. The trade union leaders who have held back from acting to build a new party have actually furthered this process. Five years of austerity have devastated the lives of already hard-pressed communities in Clacton and Heywood alike.

The cowardly ‘opposition’ of Miliband’s Labour offers nothing close to a coherent alternative, while competing with the Con-Dems over spending cuts.

Ukip enjoys playing on the fears of working class people – particularly those about immigration, while diverting blame over collapsing living standards from the bankers, big business and the super-rich. But underlying these fears is a deep sense of insecurity. It’s insecurity about jobs, stretched services, a race-to-the-bottom in pay and working conditions, and a dearth of (actually) affordable housing.

There is an overwhelming need for a new, mass party for the working class – a party which could offer people genuine hope.

Pro-cuts

This would be a party which, like 72% of Ukip’s voters, supports measures such as re-nationalising Britain’s railways. A party which, rather than aping the reactionary sentiments of ex-city slickers like Carswell, would offer an end to cuts and a minimum wage of £10 an hour; a party that would stand with workers as they fight to resist the onslaught and secure better wages and conditions.

The anti-establishment image that Ukip has worked so hard to adopt needs to be shattered. This is the same Ukip that helped organise a minuscule ‘pro-cuts’ rally designed to counter 2011’s trade union anti-austerity march, which attracted more than 500,000 people.

It’s the same Ukip whose deputy leader – Paul Nuttall – wrote in comments now deleted from his website that “the very existence of the NHS stifles competition”.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage may enjoy the odd pint but, as a privately educated ex-banker, his ordinary bloke act is pretty superficial. Ukip is a pro-cuts party for ‘the 1%’.

In the week following this humiliating by-election result for Labour, millions of workers were on strike against low pay. If Miliband had any backbone, he would respond to this electoral setback with bold support for the strikes, announce measures that would take some of the enormous wealth concentrated in the hands of the 0.1% super-rich and use it to fund wage increases, job creation and investment in our public services.

Instead of fighting for socialist policies to solve the economic and social crisis facing workers, Miliband and Labour continue to shift to the right and echo Ukip’s divide and rule, anti-immigrant agenda – the politics of despair.

Those who prefer the politics of hope should get involved with Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC – see below), and help build a vibrant, democratic, mass party based on struggle and the organisations of the working class – a real alternative.

‘We need a new party’

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

By Dave Nellist

In losing thousands of votes in the Heywood and Middleton byelection, Labour has nobody to blame but itself.

Labour has spent the last 20 years assuming working class voters had nowhere else to go, so their problems, and they themselves, could be safely ignored. That attitude lost Labour four million working class voters between 1997 and 2010.

Now Ukip is harnessing the anger of those who feel you can’t get a fag paper between the establishment parties, and that specifically Labour is part of the problem, not the solution.

But Ukip itself is not the answer. It’s run by a public school educated ex-banker, staffed by people who worship Mrs Thatcher, and funded by multimillionaires who think the Tories have gone soft.

We urgently need a new party, but one that is rooted in the communities and organisations of the working class, with a programme of socialist demands to answer working people’s problems.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is helping to build such a new party. Visit http://www.tusc.org.uk

150 March Against ISIS in Coventry

150 March Against ISIS in Coventry

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Photo from the Coventry Telegraph

Around 150 people marched through Coventry on Saturday to protest against the terrorist group “Islamic State” (ISIS). The demonstration, organised by the Kurdish community, was also in solidarity with the forces fighting ISIS in Kobane, and against the actions of the Turkish government which stands accused of collusion with IS against the Kurds. For more photos see the bottom of this report.

Socialist Party members attended the demonstration to show our support for those fighting ISIS, and to oppose the role of Western imperialism in the region. Please see below for the leaflet that was distributed. Our party members in the UK, and elsewhere through our sister organisations worldwide in the Committee for a Workers’ International will continue to show solidarity with the people of Kobane.

We also encourage you to read the following articles for more in depth analysis regarding the Kurdish struggle and ISIS.

The battle for Kobane. New challenges in the struggle for Kurdish self determination click here

Middle East: Repel IS and Western imperialism click here

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BBC Reveals #PriceOfFootball – Reclaim The Game!

BBC Reveals #PriceOfFootball – Reclaim The Game!

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The BBC released its “Price of Football” survey this week, which revealed the price of following 207 football clubs across the UK. Since last year ticket prices have risen by 4.4% – more than treble the rate of inflation, and above the increase in the cost of living.

Coventry City fans have suffered a lot in recent seasons, spending a year playing 35 miles away in Northampton – now we’re back at the Ricoh, and matchday tickets usually cost at least £20! If you want to get a cup of tea and a pie, that’s another £5.50, and £3 for a programme. At least we’re not Chelsea fans though – their cheapest matchday ticket is a ridiculous £50!

It costs more to watch some non-league games in the UK than to watch 3 of the best teams in Europe – Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich! This is partly because many European teams, particularly in the German Bundesliga, are owned by their fans and the community, so prices are kept low.

Football clubs think they can get away with ripping us off, because we love our teams and we’re not going to shop around and watch a cheaper or “better value” side – but the more they increase prices and rip off fans, the more we’re priced out of the game working people invented.

We need to kick big business out of football so supporters and local communities can democratically run clubs, stadiums and football as a whole – reclaim the game!

Reject the pay proposal!

Reject the pay proposal!

An appeal to all members of GMB, UNISON and UNITE….Reject the pay proposal! Restart the industrial action to win fair pay!

Reject the pay proposal!

Reject the pay proposal!

The following is the text of the Issue 20 of The Cov Council Socialist – a bulletin produced by and for local authority workers in Coventry

By a union steward at Coventry City Council

Tuesday 14th October should have seen over 1 million council workers take industrial action in the campaign to win a fair pay deal. This was due to be part of a 3 day programme of industrial action, with colleagues in the NHS taking action on the Monday, UCU members in Further Education (UCU also stopped their strike) as well council workers on Tuesday and PCS in the Civil Service on Wednesday.

Just a few days before our action started, the leaderships of GMB, UNISON and UN ITE agreed to suspend the action because the Labour controlled Local Government Association (LGA), our employers, had made a new proposal.

The new ‘offer’ is an ‘indecent proposal’

We believe that to suspend the action was a mistake for a number of reasons. The proposal does not go anywhere near solving the chronic problem of low pay in local government. Years of real term pay cuts have seen us get worse and worse off. The proposal is still not a formal offer, and they want to give us 2.2 per cent over two years. This actually leaves us worse off this pay year (2014-15) than the “derisory” 1% offer from the employer we took action over in July and costs the employer less. In January 2015, 2.2% will be added to all pay spines to last until 31 March 2016. It’s a cunningly presented two year response to a one year pay claim attempt to buy off and shut up low paid council workers in the run up to a general election.

A 2 year deal designed to avoid any pay disputes in the first year of a potential Labour government? Pay cuts hurt whether they are from a Tory or Labour government / LGA!

It would be a big mistake for us to accept a 2 year pay deal, particularly one that is so sub-standard. The proposal appears to want to put the issue of pay well and truly off the agenda until 2016. The rate of inflation could easily go up, but our pay would be stuck. This means we would continue to experience a fall in our standard of living, and keep things ‘nice and quiet’ for Ed Miliband in the first year of a Labour government. This is wrong firstly because it is by no means certain Labour will get elected, and secondly they have already stated they will be signing up Tory spending plans. Union members need to come before the interests of a Labour Party which supports Tory austerity. Once again this shows the need for the unions to break the link with Labour.

Reject the proposal and restart the action

We all know that although the strike on 10th July was about pay, in reality it was also about the attacks on our jobs, terms and condition and the defence of public services.  It is always a difficult decision to strike however we were left with no alternative and in most areas the strike was well supported. Preparations had been made for 14th October and by suspending the strike the union leaderships have shown weakness and we risk losing momentum and the chance of co-ordinated action with other public sector unions.

Socialists in the council unions will be campaigning for the maximum possible rejection of the proposal and for the restarting of the action. Linked to this, we need to campaign to transform our unions in to democratic, combative organisations that are prepared to lead a concerted and bold fight against pay cuts and austerity.

If you agree with the above, we urge you to get in contact with us to help campaign to get the proposal rejected and to help build the voice of socialism in the unions. Please fill in the form below