Corbyn’s Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

Corbyn’s Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

jcunison

We are pleased to republish this week’s editorial from The Socialist newspaper.

How can we save our local leisure centre? What can be done to halt gentrification and meet housing need? How can the deepening crisis in social care be addressed? What must be done to protect local jobs and halt attacks on pay and conditions?

These are just a few of the questions which working class people are asking, especially as we approach council budget setting and May’s local elections.

They are questions which demand concrete answers in the here and now. Rhetoric, handwringing, and semi-pious exhortations to ‘hold on for a general election’ are all utterly insufficient.

Yet at present, it is this that is on offer, not just from Labour’s Blairite right (many who are actually brazen with their anti-working class policies and sentiments) but even from the leadership of Momentum.

Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North and former shadow fire minister, appears to have been pushed to resign from the front bench after making comments about an alternative to local government cuts.

Acknowledging that the austerity which has been dutifully doled out by councils over the last seven years is in fact intolerable, he argued that Labour-run local authorities could consider increasing council tax for those living in properties which fall within the highest tax bands.

This, he said, could be used to help raise the funds needed to stop cuts and protect services.

Fighting austerity

Socialists must always oppose any increases in taxation which have the potential to fall on people with low or middle incomes.

Council tax, which is calculated based on the estimated value of properties in which people live (whether as tenants or owners) and which does not properly take account of people’s ability to pay, could certainly not be described as progressive.

Chris Williamson’s proposals did acknowledge this, and included ideas for ways for those on lower incomes to ‘claw back’ increases in the tax on higher bands – to protect cash-poor pensioners, for example.

This complex schema, to be approved in each council area in a local referendum, would be open to ferocious attacks and distortions by the Tory media.

Nonetheless, he was grappling with vital questions: how can Labour councils act to protect working class people from the ravages of austerity? How can they play their part in fighting to ensure that the burden of paying for capitalist crisis does not fall on workers, pensioners and youth?

For Labour’s right, this is a crime which cannot be tolerated. Since the beginning of Corbyn’s leadership the Blairites have sought to use their base in local government – where they have the vast majority of Labour councillors – in order to undermine him.

In particular, they have ferociously opposed any suggestion that Labour councils might have options other than those of cuts, privatisation and redundancies.

In one indicator revealing the extent to which many Labour councillors have accepted the ‘logic’ of neoliberalism, it has been revealed that Leeds City council was on the verge of offering a £100 million contract to the parasitic company Carillion just before its collapse.

But councillors do have a choice. Around Britain, Labour councils currently hold over £9.2 billion in general fund reserves.

They administer combined budgets of almost £75 billion. They have substantial borrowing powers, as well as the ability to work together to ‘pool’ funds and collaborate with other local authorities.

In other words, far from being powerless ‘technocrats’, bound by the logic of austerity or the chaos of the market, Labour councils are in fact a potential alternative power in Britain.

Indeed, even if just one Labour council was to take a stand, using reserves and borrowing powers and refusing to lay more hardship on working class people, it could mobilise behind it a mass campaign and have a profound effect on the political situation.

It could hasten the demise of May’s weak, divided government and bring about an early general election.

Any hint that councillors could take such a road is anathema to the Blairites. That is why it was disappointing that Corbyn and McDonnell appear to have bowed to their pressure by encouraging Williamson’s resignation.

Unfortunately, this has not been their first retreat on the issue. As part of their mistaken strategy of attempting to ‘keep on board’ the Blairite rump that remains dominant in Labour’s parliamentary party, local government and machinery, they have made a number of concessions to the demands of the right on this issue.

NEC elections

But far from placating the right and buying their loyalty, concessions like these have only encouraged the Blairites to press Corbyn to back down on other issues.

In particular, these have included questions of party democracy and the selection and reselection of candidates.

Labour’s recent national executive committee (NEC) elections saw Momentum-backed candidates win all three of the available seats.

This means that for the first time since Corbyn’s election as leader, his supporters (all-be-it of varying shades of politics and loyalty) will have a narrow but clear majority. Momentum’s self-appointed leader Jon Lansman was among those elected.

This is potentially a step forward. The question is: how will this position be used? To fight for mandatory reselection that will allow Labour members and trade unions the chance to democratically decide candidates and kick out the Blairites? To help take on cuts-making Labour councillors and support any and all who are prepared to resist austerity and refuse to implement cuts?

In recent weeks, Momentum’s leadership has begun to push an alternative strategy for ‘fighting’ local government cuts, which is based on a model put forward by Bristol’s Labour mayor, Marvin Rees.

The essence of it is to support and call for protests against cuts, and to use these as a platform to ask the government to provide more funding – hoping that the pressure of large demonstrations will bear down on May’s government.

Borrowing from the strategy put forward by the Socialist Party, they even suggest drawing up ‘needs-based’ budgets.

But unlike us, they see this as merely an exercise in propaganda, not as something to be acted upon and implemented. It is here that the strategy ends.

Should the Tories refuse to provide funding, councils should, according to Momentum’s leaders, make the cuts as required.

Those who have joined protests to demand an alternative should be asked to simply accept that the council ‘has no other option’.

They should be asked to continue to cast their votes for Labour councillors, even while they make themselves busy destroying local jobs and services.

Demonstrations are not a bad place to start. But they must be linked to a strategy which includes councils refusing to implement cuts.

So far, the ‘Rees model’ has singularly failed to extract further funds from the Tories. Indeed, when the Bristol mayor came to London to meet the communities’ secretary he was snubbed – not even offered a meeting!

Socialist and left-wing politics means little if it is unable to provide a way forward in the real struggles faced by working class people in the here and now.

In the June election, Corbyn’s anti-austerity manifesto generated a surge of enthusiasm because it began to offer answers to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people.

But this manifesto provides a sharp contrast with the programme on which the majority of Labour’s right-wing councillors will be standing at this year’s local elections.

As Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett put it at this year’s TUC congress “if Labour councillors act like Tories we should treat them like Tories”.

In the view of the Socialist Party, this should include being prepared to provide an electoral challenge to cuts-making councillors – whatever colour rosette they wear.

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Campaigners lobby Coventry council against cuts to disability transport

Campaigners lobby Coventry council against cuts to disability transport

Members of Coventry Socialist Party were supporting parents on Tuesday, 16th January, who lobbied Coventry Council for three hours against charges of up to £600 for school transport for children with special educational needs.

John Boadle and Isla Windsor explain: “The Council has previously provided free transport to school or college for severely disabled children. Now they are charging parents for each child 16 or over. The amount is £600 a year, or £300 if the family is on means-tested benefits. Almost 1000 children use the school transport, with those aged 16 and over facing the charges immediately, though as each child gets older their families will face the same problem.“

“The impact on families is severe – they are being asked for money they haven’t got.  Parents of children with severe disabilities have their whole lives dominated by that situation. Day and night, for the rest of their lives. And then they worry what will happen to their children when they are gone. If Coventry Labour council can’t provide help for people like that then what are they playing at?“

“There was a lot of public sympathy for the parents. And a lot of determination on the parents’ part. You can see that through the sharp irony of the slogan on their banner: Coventry, City of Cruelty!”

The Tories and UKIP may join protests such as these, but they should remember that they support the austerity that is behind these cuts.

Former Socialist Party councillor, Dave Nellist, who also attended the lobby, said: “If Labour’s national anti-austerity stance is to mean anything, then local councils such as Coventry should refuse to make these cuts.  Instead, they should be using money from reserves whilst building a fight against the Tory government for the restoration of the necessary funds for essential services.”

Support protest against cuts to disabled children’s transport

Support protest against cuts to disabled children’s transport

Parents and campaigners will be lobbying Coventry Council on Tuesday 16th January against council plans to charge up to £600 for disabled children’s travel to school. The lobby is from 11am-2pm.

It is not right that ordinary people in Coventry are still paying the price for the financial crisis. Coventry Socialist Party supports this protest and urges the maximum possible attendance.

6 years on from the passing of Rob Windsor

6 years on from the passing of Rob Windsor

rob-windsor-349246747

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the sad and untimely death of our comrade Rob Windsor. Rob was well known throughout Coventry and further afield for his involvement in innumerable campaigns; from against cuts to local council services to helping to organise solidarity with Palestinians living in Gaza under attack from the Israeli military. He was also for many years an outstanding Socialist Party Councillor representing St Michaels ward with Dave Nellist and Karen McKay. However, his major role in the movement against the Poll Tax, which helped to bring down Thatcher was no doubt one which he will be remembered the most for.

The current political situation would no doubt have seen Rob throwing himself into action, helping to build resistance to austerity and popularising the ideas of revolutionary socialism and Marxism. Rob was a long time supporter of Militant, and member of Militant Labour and the Socialist Party, and an internationalist to his very core. The best thing we can do in Rob’s honour is to continue and step up the work of building a mass socialist movement, armed with Marxist ideas that Rob knew was necessary to defeat capitalism once and for all.

We are happy to post this video of Rob speaking at a demonstration in 2011 organised by Socialist Party youth members against the Coalition cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance. As ever, his comments were warmly received by this audience of young students. Rob’s speech begins at around 2 mins 18 seconds in.

Coventry Socialists start 2018 campaigning to defend the NHS

Coventry Socialists start 2018 campaigning to defend the NHS

NHS stall

Signing the petition calling for Jeremy Hunt to go

Coventry Socialist Party kicked off 2018 in the city centre with the continuation of the campaign to defend the NHS against cuts and privatisation.

People were understandably angry with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who was forced to apologise over Christmas for the latest crisis in the NHS, with around 55,000 operations cancelled. SP members spoke to a number of NHS workers as well as patients and their relatives who are having to pay high sums of money to use the car park at Walsgrave – another result of the Private Finance Initiative rip off.

With a campaign stall also taking place in Radford’s Jubilee Crescent, Coventry Socialist Party are looking forward to building the movement to save the NHS during 2018.

“Their real aim is to run down the NHS and sell it off so they can make a profit from it at our expense”

“Their real aim is to run down the NHS and sell it off so they can make a profit from it at our expense”

jeremy hunt

Photograph by Paul Mattsson

The news headlines tonight have led with the NHS crisis and an apology from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. But as this letter from a reader of coventrysocialists.com points out, it is not enough


Well that didn’t take long did it?

3 days in and it’s New Year and new crisis in the health service. Crisis for NHS staff and patients that is.

Up and down the country appointments for long awaited operations are being cancelled because the service cannot cope. Emergency admissions wait for hours on trolleys or are even asked to make their own way to hospital rather than use an ambulance.

So has a bomb dropped? Has there been a massive terror attack? Has there been a nuclear accident?

No it’s winter.  Maybe you think the job of Government and the Health Secretary in particular is to prepare for this?

Well Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been forced to apologise, but that is not enough.This crisis affecting ordinary working people us a direct result of Tory government cuts.

Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly warned the Prime Minister in the House of Commons of the effects Tory cuts to health are having. Junior doctors and health service workers have repeatedly sounded the alarm.

But the Tories claim to be surprised! Their real aim is to run down the NHS and sell it off so they can make a profit from it at our expense. This totally ineffective Tory Government have proved themselves incompetent and incapable of delivering basic services.

We must demand that Hunt resigns, that May resigns and that an immediate General Election is called. Every day this Tory Government remains in office the more damage they cause. Let’s make it our New Year resolution to force them out!

 

The disgusting appointment of Toby Young

The disgusting appointment of Toby Young

Toby Young – photo from New Statesman

A young socialist and trade union member who works in a Coventry school in gives his views on the controversial appointment of Toby Young.

There are plenty of repulsive individuals who haunt the corridors of power, but some seem unable to maintain the pretence of competence for long enough to become a right-wing MP. One of these individuals is “The Honourable” Toby Young, who has inexplicably been appointed to the board of the newly-created “Office for Students”.

Young’s odious nature is obvious to anyone unfortunate enough to have come across him, and a brief scan of his Twitter history might have sufficed to demonstrate it to those who hadn’t – however, for some reason Young has decided to delete around 50,000 of his tweets. We can’t possibly think why this might be – but The Independent has helpfully listed some of his now departed online musings here.

Some notable comments he’s made include commenting on the “cleavage” of female Labour MP’s – on at least two occasions! -, claiming that he had his “d**k up the a**e” of a woman standing next to him in a picture, commenting on director Danny Boyle’s underage daughter’s breasts, and referring to disabled students as “illiterate troglodytes” in an article in The Spectator.

These comments would very likely be enough to get a public sector worker sacked for gross misconduct. As the son of a Baron, presumably Young’s only punishment for these “errors of judgement” is that he isn’t a Government minister yet. Ironically Young’s father, Baron Young, coined the term “meritocracy” – Young Jr.’s persistent presence in public life is perhaps the ultimate proof that meritocracy does not exist. Unsurprisingly, the Government’s court jester Boris Johnson is one of the few people to spring to Young’s defence, referring to his “caustic wit” – presumably Boris agrees that “caustic wit” is required to mock people who may struggle with reading when writing in a national magazine.

Young’s bizarre appointment has drawn attention to the Office for Students (OFS) as a whole. Looking at the 15 board members, not one represents an educational union, such as the UCU. Not one represents a students union, such as the NUS – in fact only one of the board members is a student! This begs the question, what exactly is the point of the OFS and whose interests will it be serving?

Young wrote a memoir called “How To Lose Friends And Alienate People”, believing the title to be a self-deprecating joke. Unfortunately for him, it’s a fairly accurate description of what much of the political class thinks of him – but what most ordinary people think of him is far more damning. Toby Young must go – and the OFS can’t be trusted to represent the interests of students and lecturers. Only students and lecturers organising against university fees, dodgy landlords and casualisation will result in any serious gains for ordinary people in higher education.