May’s government facing Brexit endgame

May’s government facing Brexit endgame

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With the Tory government in crisis we republish below the editorial from the latest issue of The Socialist newspaper.


With just ten days until the date of departure from the EU at the time of writing, there is unprecedented daily turmoil in parliament on what will happen. The government’s position has become so intractable that a complete government collapse is possible in the coming days or weeks, with a general election becoming the only solution.

Alternatively, prime minister Theresa May is now so discredited and ineffectual for the Tories that a no-confidence vote in her government might again be moved, with enough Tory MPs voting for it this time to bring about success. Then parliament would have 14 days to come up with another government, or a general election would be called.

Either way, a trade union-headed workers’ movement – with a plan of action – needs to be launched to help sweep the Tories out of power. It’s also needed to prepare a massive campaign to get Jeremy Corbyn in as prime minister, with socialist policies.

This outcome is greatly feared by the capitalist class. “The top 0.1% in Britain are doing very well”, wrote the economics editor of the Sunday Times. They want no obstacles to their hoarding of vast wealth, which could be created by the election of a government proposing to take measures in workers’ interests.
But the capitalists’ political representatives in Westminster are mired in such an acute and protracted civil war over Brexit that now is the time to turn the tables on them. Now is the time to take full advantage of their weakness, kick out the Tories, and inside Labour turn seriously to the task of deselecting the Blairites.

From crisis to crisis

On 12 March, Theresa May had her withdrawal plan decisively defeated in parliament for the second time. The week included Brexit minister, Stephen Barclay, summing up a debate in parliament in which he called – on behalf of the government – for a short extension to the withdrawal deadline.

He straightaway bare-facedly defied May by voting against the extension himself. Seven other cabinet ministers also voted against it and Tory chief whip Julian Smith abstained.

They had allowed their MPs a ‘free vote’ on that motion, but on one which ruled out a no-deal Brexit, the government whipped Tories to reject it after it was amended to apply indefinitely. The government lost that vote, with 13 ministers abstaining and one voting against. Cabinet members were among them, but the government is so powerless and fragile that May felt unable to take any action against them.

These votes were not binding, but no plan has yet been passed and May’s government has been sinking more and more deeply into crisis. When Attorney General Geoffrey Cox didn’t assist May’s deal by giving a legal assurance against the UK becoming stuck in the EU Customs Union, there were frantic attempts to get his ‘opinion’ altered.

Faced with threats that Brexit might not otherwise happen – or could be softened further or long delayed – there is a small possibility that May could end up getting a variant of her deal voted through.

But the parliamentary arithmetic doesn’t yet add up for that and many different scenarios are possible over the coming weeks. A new factor is a ruling by the Speaker of the Commons John Bercow that May can’t have a third vote on her deal if it remains the same.

Pressure is escalating in Tory and establishment circles for May to be removed. Although she won a confidence vote in December, an attempt to force her to resign could come.

Who would replace her? Numerous Tory ministers and MPs are flaunting themselves as leadership candidates and canvassing for support, but none have a position or strategy that could bridge the chasm over Europe in their party.

Extent of division

Certainly, there’s sharp division on the EU among MPs, in many cases reflecting their careerist ambitions. But the Socialist Party strongly counters the idea – repeated ad nauseam in the capitalist media – that working people are fundamentally divided on this issue.

A dangerous and inciting example of this was shown in Will Hutton’s 17 March column in the Observer. He argued that on the one side in society are pro-EU Remainers who recognise the “interdependencies” between European countries, realise the need for EU institutions that can tackle climate change, want a strong public

sector, effective trade unions, and are not hostile to other cultures, languages and people. On the other side, are those who support Brexit, who want “a world of closure, intolerance and suspicion of the other”, according to Hutton.

The idea that useful and desirable cooperation between people across Europe is only possible by supporting membership of the EU is complete fiction and pro-capitalist propaganda. The EU is, in essence, an alliance of the ruling classes across Europe, to serve the interests of big business, not those of working-class and middle-class people across the continent.

A socialist confederation of European states would be able to achieve levels of cooperation and mutual benefit for ordinary people way beyond what is possible on a capitalist basis.

Public ownership of the top companies that dominate the economies, together with democratic socialist planning, would mean the raising of living standards for all working people. This, and the removal of profit-making and market competition as over-riding forces, would also lay the basis for resources and cooperation to stop environmental disaster and enable rapid progress in useful technology and medicines.

It would be the very opposite of a Europe of ‘intolerance and suspicion’. Rather, it would be one where the removal of poverty and austerity would cut the ground from beneath distrust and racism.

Working-class people, whether they presently identify with the Remain or Leave side, have the same class interests. Corbyn recognises this. For instance, he said in Wakefield in January: “The real divide in our country is not between those who voted to Remain in the EU and those who voted to Leave. It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes”.
He must cut across the confusion and scepticism arising from the manoeuvrings in parliament and get out this message loud and clear, along with a promise of pro-working-class measures both regarding Brexit and irrespective of it.
This also means standing firm against the Labour Blairites who want to reverse the EU referendum result. Corbyn needs to stick to the demand for a general election, and help to mobilise the labour and trade union movement to urgently bring it about.

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PCS union rep urges YES vote in ballot for action

PCS union rep urges YES vote in ballot for action

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As the national ballot opens in the PCS civil service trade union, we have received the following comments from a union rep in Coventry, urging a YES vote.


Ballot papers for the PCS union’s national strike ballot over pay are going out to members starting this week.

Among the most shocking of the facts about civil service pay is that it has fallen by 11.4% – more than other groups across the public sector.

Almost 40% of workers in the DWP – one of the largest groups covered by PCS – are forced to claim benefits to top up their abysmally low pay.

PCS is calling for an increase of 10% with a minimum underpin of £2,400 and a Living Wage of £10 an hour nationally and £11.55 in London.

The ballot papers will go out from March 18th, and it is vital to get as many members to vote. The draconian anti-union laws from the Tories mean that a 50% threshold is needed; although on the ballot last year we didn’t meet the threshold, the anger over pay will not have disappeared.

Alongside the national ballot are smaller groups taking action over working conditions, such as the 2 days of action recently at Wolverhampton and Walsall Universal Credit sites.

This Tory government is weak and divided, and civil service pay has remained dismally low since 2010. A victory in the ballot would not only see members taking action on pay, but give them the confidence to fight against the Tories. I urge all my fellow union members in Coventry and across the country to ensure they vote, and help us build up a strong, militant, democratic and fighting union in our workplaces.

 

Coventry and Nuneaton join global protests against climate change

Coventry and Nuneaton join global protests against climate change

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Outside Coventry City Council

Friday 15th March saw students across the world take part in a strike to protest against environmental damage and climate change. This follows the recent release of a report by the UN which claims that we have 12 years to cut down on carbon emissions before we reach the planets carbon limit, the point of no return.

Global protests involving young people have started to take place in reaction to this. Young people today look forward to a bleak future and will face the harshest consequences of the capitalist systems systemic exploitation of the earth. Capitalism is a profit-driven system. The logic of profit that drives big business and the system as a whole has led to the exploitation of the earths natural resources, such as oil, gas and rare minerals, to return a quick buck for the capitalist class whilst the rest of us have to deal with the consequences. This is evident by the fact that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions (Guardian, 2017: Just 100 Companies Responsible for 71% of Global Emissions, Study Says).

Students locally, in Coventry and Nuneaton, have been protesting to raise awareness of this and the long-term effects this profit driven environmental race to the bottom will have on future generations. Chants such as ‘Say no to climate change, we need system change’ reflect the anger faced by many young people at the planets future prospect. This also points towards the solution.

As environmental destruction and capitalism are completely entwined, we will not be able to tackle climate change without a systemic change in the way society is organised. We need to take the power out of the hands of big business and the Trumps of the world, who their balance sheets over the environment. Instead we need a socialist society, one where ordinary people have control over their communities and how society is run.

Take housing for example, we are in dire need of more affordable housing, especially here in Coventry. A democratically controlled house-building programme would allow our community to have a say in how we build the homes for those who need them now and future generations. We could ensure that all houses built were energy efficient and not reliant on fossil fuels but instead utilised renewable energy and the technology we have available to build a green economy. This however won’t be done by private business or business friendly politicians, we have seen with the Grenfell tragedy that for them only profit talks.

To do this we need to build effective organisations rooted in the working class, who have the power to change society. Students should seek to organise effective student unions in their schools and on their campuses, which can link with the wider trade union movement. The power to change society lies within our hands, but only if we use the tools at our disposal to make that change happen by building a socialist society.

If you agree with this then contact the Socialist Party to learn how you can join the fight against climate change, capitalism and for a socialist future.

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UCU hold Alternative Open Day Protest at Coventry University

UCU hold Alternative Open Day Protest at Coventry University

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Members of UCU at the rally

The Coventry University branch of the University and College Union (UCU) held a rally today calling for “Education Not Marketisation”. The Alternative Open Day protest drew support from not only UCU members, but trade unionists from UNITE, UNISON, NEU, NUJ and Coventry TUC, as well as students. The Socialist Party were proud to support this rally and bring our solidarity.

Staff had called a protest on the official Open Day of the university where prospective students were due to attend to highlight a number of serious issues. As the UCU leaflet pointed out

“The week before last two of Coventry University’s outstanding research centres were closed putting 53 staff at risk of redundancy and leaving their students without proper supervisors. Staff recently balloted for strike action over the Performance Management System they are trying to impose on us. Our Recruitment and Admissions was recently outsourced to a subsidiary where staff have hugely inferior conditions. The staff at Coventry University who will teach you or you son or daughter are people who really care about your education. We just wish we could say the same about the University’s Senior Management.”

Speakers pointed how the university, and education in general, is not run in the interests of learning and development, but about profit. Marketisation and commercialisation are inherent in the proft driven capitalist system. The fight for free, high quality education where the interests of staff, students and the local community are put first, goes hand in hand with the struggle for a socialist planned economy, where the needs of the majority are put before that of the profiteers.