Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

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Marching against cuts to youth clubs in Coventry

A Coventry Socialist Party member and active trade unionist in the city responds to the letter supported by local Labour MPs and Jeremy Corbyn


Anyone walking through Coventry will see the impact of austerity. Empty shops, a visible increase in people being forced to sleep in doorways and under bridges. Public services stretched almost to breaking point. An NHS in crisis. Students taking on tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt just to get an education.

It seems like a long time since George Osborne said “we’re all in this together”.

It is very welcome that local Labour MPs are supporting the letter to Prime Minister Theresa May highlighting the damage being done by cuts to local government funding. Any and all pressure that can be put on the Tories is a step forward.

At the same time, we need to think about what is the way forward in the fight against austerity, and what our MPs and local councillors can be doing to put the maximum pressure on this weak and divided government to force them out of office at the earliest opportunity.

With the Tories in such a crisis, we think if even a small number of Labour councils said to the government that they would not continue to implement austerity cuts, it would add to the pressure immensely. As we have consistently argued, we think it was mistaken that since the formation of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition in 2010 and then the Tory government of 2015, our Labour council has consistently passed on local government cuts to the people of Coventry. This has seen school transport charges levied on families of children with disabilities, cuts and closures in youth services, thousands of jobs lost at the Council, attacks on the terms and conditions of staff that provide vital services in our city to name but a few.

Our elected representatives should work with the people of Coventry, the trade unions, local communities, anti-cuts campaigns, and all those affected by Tory austerity to demand more money for our city. Letters will not be enough. The Labour council, with the support of the MPs, where possible linking up with other Councils doing the same, should say to the Tories we demand the restoration of all funding stolen from our city. The reserves that the council have built up, more than doubling since 2010 to over £90 million could be used as a temporary measure to set legal no cuts budgets to “hold the line” to allow time for a mass campaign to be built. And with May teetering on the brink, a future Labour government should pledge to restore all funding as soon as it was elected.

It is timely that at both Labour and Tory conferences, the spectre of Liverpool City Council was raised. Labour MP Dawn Butler invoked a frenzied response from the Blairites for remembering in a positive fashion that conference was taking place in the city where in their 1980s battle with Mrs Thatcher, the councillors said it is “better to break the law than break the poor.” Esther McVey of the Tories in her conference speech compared the left-wing group Momentum to Militant.

Liverpool City Council won back the equivalent of £60 million in today’s terms from the Tories. Despite the lies of the right wing, not a single worker was made redundant. Decent housing, leisure facilities and public parks were created.

We need our public representatives to show some of the audacity and determination of the Liverpool councillors.

To build on the letter sent to the Tories, words should be turned to action. Our MPs should call mass public meetings in conjunction with trade unions in the city which would bring together union members, campaigners and all those hit by austerity to hammer out and discuss the tactics and strategy needed for us to win.

The trade union movement also needs to discuss what demands we should be fighting for.

For example the letter that MPs and councillors across the West Midlands signed finishes by demanding “complete reform of local government funding to make councils more sustainable and more accountable to the local electorate. Local authorities should be given the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue, allowing the proceeds of growth to be kept locally“. The letter doesn’t actually specifically call for the cuts of the last eight years (which now amount to over £100 million a year in Coventry) to be refunded, but for “government to reverse the disastrous policy of austerity” which is not quite the same.

Without a restoration of national government funding then “the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue” might be okay for some richer boroughs, but not for poorer.

We think mass meetings organised by our public representatives would take the struggle forward in terms of the fight for public services, but also help build the movement that can drive the Tories from office, and bring Jeremy Corbyn to power. Socialist policies are what are needed to end austerity, which is a direct result of the capitalist crisis triggered by the collapse of the banks. We are still paying for it. Working class people have paid enough. Time to stop all the cuts, get the Tories out and fight for socialism.

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“People’s Vote” or Socialist Brexit?

“People’s Vote” or Socialist Brexit?

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No to EU capitalist austerity

The below letter was sent by a local trade unionist and socialist to the Coventry Telegraph in response to the “People’s Vote Coventry” campaign.

In your article about “People’s Vote Coventry” its’ chair claimed their campaign “appeals to everyone”. I can confirm that it certainly doesn’t appeal to me, and a lot of other people who still oppose the EU.

I voted to Leave the EU and I would vote the same way today. I support the likes of Tony Benn, Bob Crow and Coventry’s own Dave Nellist, who consistently opposed the EU because it’s a bosses club designed to support the interests of big business across Europe.

The EU lets refugees drown in the Mediterranean Sea, the EU enforced brutal austerity measures on Greece, and the EU opposes public ownership of important industries. It’s Thatcherism on a continental scale.

In Ireland when the people voted against the Lisbon Treaty, they were made to have a second referendum so they gave “the right answer”. We already had our “People’s Vote”, and we voted to Leave the bosses EU. I believe it’s time to leave the EU, and build a socialist society here and across the world that puts ordinary people before profit.

To find out more about the Socialist view on Brexit, read this

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Probation staff speak out against privatisation disaster

Probation staff speak out against privatisation disaster

We have recieved the below report from a NAPO member in Coventry about the ongoing privatisation in the probation sector.

Privatising probation services through the Transforming Rehabilitation programme has been an absolute disaster, and an expensive one at £3.7 billion! Trade unions have opposed privatisation throughout this experiment, and the Commons Justice Committee has now agreed that the scheme has been a failure. Yet the Tories are still set to throw hundreds of millions more pounds at it!

The experiment in using private “Community Rehabilitation Companies” [CRCs] for probation services has resulted in a worse service for staff and for prisoners.

The splitting of services between public and private contracts has created a “two-tier system” and created a range of complications in administration and in delivery. Putting unnecessary complications in rehabilitation creates a serious risk to the successful rehabilitation of those leaving prison.

Privatisation often leads to cost-cutting measures to maximise profits. The CRCs often fail to provide anything more than phone calls and signposting to other organisations as their form of “continuous support” for people leaving prison. Reducing rates of re-offending requires a building of trust with prisoners, and weeks of support in housing, finance, education and so on – with CRCs proving they are incapable of delivering this.

The CRCs now owe £110 million in fines due to their failure to meet performance targets; despite this outright failure they’ll be paid £2.2 billion anyway!

Meanwhile, staff morale is at an “all-time low” due to high workloads, redundancies, a nine year pay freeze, and de-professionalisation. These are issues probation unions raise constantly, yet they fall on deaf ears.

The Tories have refused to listen to the clear evidence. Instead, they have cut existing contracts by two years to 2020 – at a cost of £170 million – only so that they can begin re-tendering larger contracts! We see the same issue in the NHS; under the guise of unifying health and social care, health contracts are being put to tender covering far more services than previously, with the aim of making the offers more lucrative to private businesses. This carving up of public services for private contract serves no benefit to the public; its only benefit is to give profits to giant companies and their shareholders, at our expense.

Against the evidence that privatisation in any part of the public sector does not work, the Tories are pushing through their capitalist and neoliberal ideology of ending public ownership wherever they can. Not only have they refused to listen, NAPO suspects that the Tories have pushed through these changes just before parliamentary recess so that they can be brought in with as little scrutiny and challenge as possible in parliament.

Urgent action from the trade union movement and from Labour is needed to fight privatisation and end Tory rule. Unions and campaigners should push to inform more probation staff and take a leading role in rallying support for industrial action and protest. Mass action of workers in the probation sector, supported by the wider trade union movement, can push back Tory plans and put this weak government on the back foot – making them fold to the demands of workers in the probation sector

Obituary: Ged Travers 1957-2018

Obituary: Ged Travers 1957-2018

Socialist Party members in Coventry were amongst those saddened to learn that Ged Travers passed away on Saturday 14th July, after two years of brave and dignified struggle against cancer.

Ged worked in a number of jobs over the years, starting with service in the RAF Regiment in Northern Ireland, “the mob” as he put it, where he learned a healthy disrespect for authority. He first joined our party in the early 1980’s. Years then as a firefighter at Birmingham airport introduced him to trade unionism. As a Coventry bus driver he successfully helped lead a major strike in 2001, where his character and vast knowledge of past strikes were invaluable.

He always had a passion for reading and learning. This included areas like film and photography but mostly he wanted to know about working-class struggle. This took him to study at Ruskin College of Oxford University. He was incredibly well-read and was debating the details of Trotsky’s memoirs with Party members only days before passing away. One Coventry Socialist remarked “Ged inspired me to read, read independently and read critically”.

There was a personal struggle as well, over some years, with alcohol and drugs. We mention this because in 2011 he achieved the rare feat of giving both up completely. The determination and strength of character that took was one of Ged’s most impressive characteristics.

Ged on a demonstration in Greece

Free to resume life, he took a low-cost journey around the Balkans ending up in Greece, a country entering political crisis. He took a liking to that country’s fighters, as they did to him. We can do no better than end with the obituary they wrote:

On July 14, our comrade Ged Travers left our life.

We met Ged in Greece in 2011 when he first came here for a few months to find out what was happening in our country during the crisis. He liked and stayed in Thessalonica, where he photographed scenes in the city, mainly from a political and journalistic perspective.

He stayed in our country for several years, making friends and forming relationships with many people. He actively participated in the political life of Xekinima (the Greek sister organisation of the Socialist Party) despite the language barrier. He took part in many mobilizations of the anti-gold mining movement in Halkidiki, which he recorded with his camera.

His favourite book was “Captains” by Dominique Eudes, which he read and re-read. He was fascinated by the history of the Greek resistance and guerrilla struggle against the Nazis.

Ged was born in England in 1957. He did a lot of jobs, but the turning point that radicalized his conscience was his term as a soldier in Ireland, where the British army functioned as an occupying force. He joined Millitant, our sister organization in Britain, later renamed the Socialist Party. Despite disagreements he had with us at times, he remained a supporter of revolutionary ideas until the end of his life. In addition to the collective struggle he also fought a personal battle, as he suffered for some years from his dependence on alcohol. He was strong and stubborn enough cope with it, free himself, and move on with life.

Laughing and always easy to talk to, he was a very warm presence for all of us. About two years ago, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer. He returned to England where he started treatments. He treated the illness with composure, patience, and even humour. But unfortunately his body was too distressed to endure. Farewell Good Comrade Ged, we will always remember your smile!

Coventry rallies against Trump’s visit

Coventry rallies against Trump’s visit

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The demo begins in Friargate

Donald Trump finally visited the UK on Friday 13th July after months of delays over fears of mass protests. While Theresa May and other Tory ministers welcomed him, the British public turned out in hundreds of thousands in London and other cities across the country to oppose his visit and his politics of hate and division.

In many cities across the country, the Socialist Party and Socialist Students joined protests over Trump’s policies, as well as to stand in solidarity with those whom his administration poses the greatest threat: LGBT+ people, women and ethnic minorities as well as the organised working class more widely.

Here in Coventry we played a significant role in building support for the Friday demo, campaigning for hours at midday in the city centre and explaining to members of the public why this demonstration was important to them. Part of this involved trying to counter the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, right-wing populist agenda he represents and is trying to sell to working class people, though it is clearly against their interests.

The afternoon demo began at Friargate, with chants such as “2,4,6,8, no to Trump and no to hate!” to build up enthusiasm in the crowd and attract interest from passers-by at the train station. We marched through the city centre to Broadgate, where we heard from local activists about the need to fight back against Trump, his politics and his agenda.

Socialist Party members and trade union activists spoke about the Trump administration’s attacks on rights in the US, and the threat they posed to migrants, to women, to LGBT+ people, and to all workers. But speakers also referred to the incredible resistance against Trump in the US, and the great victories by trade unions and socialist campaigners, despite the hostile establishment.

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Socialist Party member and Coventry UNISON Young Members officer (personal capacity) Dan Crowter speaking at the demo

Coventry Socialist Party members were there with leaflets explaining why we had called for national demonstrations against Trump; these were vital to engage with members of the public walking by who took an interest in the protest.

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Socialist Party member and NEU National Executive member (personal capacity) Jane Nellist speaking at the demo

As the march stopped at Broadgate for the main rally, our material helped us reach shoppers, school students, and commuters returning home from work who would otherwise not have taken part. This included a 12-year-old asked by his friends to speak for all of them on why Trump had to be opposed – one of the main highlights of the whole rally!

Theresa May might not be brave enough to call Trump a racist and a sexist, but a 12-year-old attending his first protest certainly was!

They were brave enough to stand and tell the truth about Trump and his policies – it’s a shame that May and her cabinet couldn’t do the same!

There was a clear fighting message from this rally; one very timely given the clear weakness of May’s government following recent events.

Trump’s visit highlighted further divisions in a Tory party already in chaos; trying to both gain a Brexit deal which will serve business interests when it comes to trade, as well as looking to placate the pro-EU wing of the party who oppose Brexit.

With this party in crisis, and with May hand-in-hand with a US president facing huge opposition represented by the protests, the possibility to topple this government and replace them with a Corbyn-led, anti-austerity Labour government clearly exists.

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Coventry Socialists support NHS demo

Coventry Socialists support NHS demo

Last Saturday marked 70 years of the NHS, and Coventry Socialist Party members joined tens of thousands of protestors in London, campaigning against the cuts and privatisation that threaten it under this Tory government.

We see it being starved of vital funding, with devastating cuts leading to one of the worst crises 70 years since it was founded.

Hospitals are understaffed, and bed shortages plague more hospital corridors, as the working conditions and pay of frontline staff continues to be pushed down by the government’s austerity agenda.

The demonstration clearly showed that a large layer of people still care passionately for the core idea of a fully-funded, publicly-owned national health service. Chants of “Whose NHS? Our NHS!”, “Save our NHS!”, and of course “Tories out!” rang through the crowd. They were accompanied by placards and signs broadly demanding more money for the NHS and for its re-nationalisation, as well as getting theTories out.

The demo showed the widespread anger against the damage the Tories have done to healthcare as well as social care nationally, and a lot of energy went into marching and chanting alongside the music, despite the intense heat of the day. The unity of support for our health service was clear.

The 70th anniversary demo showed it is certainly possible that our NHS will see another 70 more years, and many more beyond.

But the fight will not be won with a march every couple of years for a few hours on the streets of London. The fight for the NHS will be won where there already have been victories; in local communities fighting together for their services.

In 2016, the heart centre at Glenfield Hospital was doomed to close, but a full-on campaign linking staff, local residents, and trade unionists forced NHS England to reconsider and keep the unit open. The same passion and drive to win, with an organised campaign bringing together the working class sectors of society, can force back Tory plans to steal £260 million from our NHS in Coventry and Warwickshire too.

If all those who went along to the demonstration in London took up an active role in their own local health campaigns like Keep Our NHS Public, we could ensure the continued existence of our NHS for years to come.

Saturday’s demo, and local campaigns like Glenfield, should remind local residents, staff, and unions that power ultimately lies with the workers, and when that collective power is harnessed properly, it wins!

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“It’s a victory for them all” Coventry Socialist Party members celebrate referendum result in Ireland

“It’s a victory for them all”

Coventry Socialist Party members celebrate referendum result in Ireland

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Women across the world are celebrating what looks set to be a massive victory for the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution. This is a stunning result for the socialist movement, and all those interested in advancing our rights. The Socialist Party in Ireland – with Rosa, the Socialist Feminist Movement, have played a leading role in the campaign. We spoke to two socialist women trade unionists (in a personal capacity) in Coventry to get their reaction.

Nicky, a leading activist for the National Education Union stated

“So proud of our sisters in ROSA and comrades in Socialist Party Ireland. This historic victory will be remembered for changing the lives of women faced with agonising choices. No longer will women have to leave the country in shame for an abortion or have illegal unsafe abortions. The YES campaign has shown how far behind the church and state is from the beliefs of most Irish men and women. It’s a victory for them all.”

Meanwhile Helen, a UNISON shop steward, explained

“The landslide victory for the Yes campaign in Ireland is a huge step forward, not just for those who campaigned and voted, but for future generations of women and girls.

No longer will pregnancy mean that the life of the woman becomes of secondary importance to a foetus that in some case is not even viable.

No longer will women have to go to extraordinary lengths to get the abortion they need.

No longer will women be denied appropriate medical treatment when their health is at risk.

No longer will women have to forgo after care and counselling following an abortion. A future where Ireland’s mothers, grandmothers, wives, partners, sisters and daughters can be properly cared for will be a better Ireland for all. Congratulations to ROSA and the Socialist Party for a very determined and positive campaign.”

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