What is taking place in Catalonia?

What is taking place in Catalonia?

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Mass demonstrations in Catalonia

We are pleased to publish the following articles on the current situation in Catalonia outlining the mass movement that is developing in defense of self-determination and democratic rights. These articles give a good background to the crisis, and give details of the activities of the Marxist organisation Esquerra Revolucionària (Revolutionary Left – the Socialist Party’s sister organisation in Catalonia) and the programme that socialists are fighting for to take the movement forward.

The first is a statement from Esquerra Revolucionària written on 18th September that describes the situation following the 1 million strong march that took place on 11th September. A further article has been issued with the latest developments. Today, the Students Union have issued a call for a student strike on the 28th September to resist the state repression that is taking place.

We urge our readers to follow the events that are developing, and to get in touch to discuss and join activities here in the UK. There is no doubt that capitalism is incapable of satisfying the basic national and democratic rights of ordinary people around the world; it is time to fight for socialism.

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Break the pay cap – join the protest on Saturday

Break the pay cap – join the protest in Saturday

TUC protest

Join the Coventry TUC protest

Coventry Trades Union Council have organised a protest for this Saturday to campaign against the Tory government’s 1 per cent pay cap on public sector workers. Speakers will also highlight the plight of workers in the private sector, who also face attacks and insecurity in the form of zero hour contracts and much more.

Read this article from a recent issue of The Socialist newspaper for further background.

Coventry TUC protest – break the pay cap

12-1pm, Broadgate Square, Coventry

Two surveys; one root cause

Two surveys; one root cause

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Thousands march against austerity

By a socialist trade unionist in Coventry

Two recently released surveys have once again illustrated the situation facing working class people in the UK. They are a stark reminder, if anyone needed it, that life is getting worse not better under the Tories. A survey for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that 1 in 8 workers are skipping meals because of pressure on their incomes, whilst nearly half are concerned about meeting the cost of basic household expenses such as food, gas and electricity. The report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) shows similar trends. It states

“Since the 1970s the share of national income which has gone to wages has gradually declined, from 80% to 73%, while the share going to profits has increased. The wage share is now the lowest it has been since the second world war.”

Amongst many other interesting facts and figures, it shows that the UK is experiencing the worst wage stagnation for 150 years and that the country is the most unequal in Europe, with one third of children living in poverty. Shockingly, more of the poor are from households that are in work, rather than out of work.

The report calls for a change in direction in the UK economy including higher taxation, regulation and stronger trade unions. Socialists would support any measures that help narrow the gap between rich and poor and improve the standard of living for ordinary people. However it is also necessary to state clearly that what is needed in the current situation is more than calls for the economy to be nicer and fairer. The cause of the current dire situation for working class people is the capitalist system itself.

Bold socialist policies, including bringing the banks, financial institutions and 150 major corporations in to democratic public ownership are the order of the day. With democratic planning of the vast resources that exist not just in the UK but on a global level, it would be possible for people to be put before profit.

Surveys and reports such as those produced by the TUC and IPPR illustrate the problems we face and are very useful for all those wanting change to provide us with the statistics that help us make our points.

However in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution and the 150th anniversary of Das Kapital, we need to study and learn the lessons of history both in terms of how capitalism works and how the workers took power for the first time, in order to ensure socialism is victorious against this crisis ridden system.

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Dave Nellist speaks at Birmingham bin workers picket line – join the protest this Sunday!

Dave Nellist speaks at Birmingham bin workers picket line – join the protest this Sunday!

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Bin workers attending the National Shop Stewards Network conference

Former Coventry Militant Labour MP Dave Nellist recently spoke on the picket line of the Birmingham bin workers dispute, which has resumed after the Labour council reneged on a deal they had agreed with the union. Watch the video below:

Workers have been issued with redundancy notices after the council withdrew an offer which meant there would be no redundancies. Other workers also face a £4000 a year pay cut.

There is a rally to support the bin workers being held in Birmingham on Sunday 17th September at 11am outside the council officers. Please come along to show solidarity with the workers in this dispute!

16 years on from the 9/11 attacks in the United States

16 years on from the 9/11 attacks in the United States

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It is now 16 years on from the deadly attacks in the US that killed thousands of people. We are reproducing this Socialist Party statement that was issued on 12 September 2001, the day after what took place.

There is no doubt that the increased US/UK interventions in the Middle East have not made the world a safer place for working class people, neither in the region, in Britain or elsewhere. In fact the opposite is true. We are still faced with the choice – Socialism or Barbarism. Capitalism does not offer a decent future for the majority of the world’s population. It is time for socialist change.

After the carnage in the USA: World Crisis Deepens

Socialist Party statement, 12 September 2001

THE KILLING of thousands of innocent civilians in New York, Washington and elsewhere in the US has caused horror and revulsion among ordinary working people worldwide.

The suicide tactics of the attackers are condemned and opposed by socialists. Such tactics can never advance the struggles of oppressed nationalities or working-class people anywhere across the globe. In fact the immediate results of such action could be to weaken working-class solidarity as governments in the West whip up the mood for revenge on those who are blamed for carrying out the attacks.

Inevitably, as on 11 September, it will be the workers, the oppressed and dispossessed who pay the price for what the US leaders and commentators describe as an ‘act of war’.

Whilst no group has claimed responsibility as The Socialist goes to press, and Osama bin-Laden is rumoured to have denied involvement, the US government is certainly preparing to revenge these horrific attacks. With leading politicians correctly pointing out that this is a more devastating attack on US imperialism than Pearl Harbour, a US government (particularly one led by Bush) will inevitably have to be seen to do something in the face of such an assault.

Attacks

The attacks will be seen as huge turning point for world capitalism and will have immense consequences for the world politically and economically, apart from the devastating effect it will have on the lives of tens of thousands of people in the USA and indeed worldwide.

As we go to press share prices have plummeted and the price of oil and gold have increased dramatically – a recognition of the scale of the crisis that international capitalism feels it is facing.

Following Tuesday’s horrendous events there will certainly be an escalation of the Middle East crisis, which is likely to see the US and other imperialist powers more directly involved and could lead to all-out conflict in the region. Unfortunately, it is likely to result in further assassinations and reprisals against the whole Palestinian population on behalf of the imperialist powers.

Israeli premier Ariel Sharon has indicated that he sees this as a green light to intensify action against the Palestinian masses and he will draw on US support – either directly or indirectly – to carry out wider repression in the region.

Inevitably in the immediate aftermath, large sections of US workers will temporarily acquiesce in whatever actions the previously unpopular, reactionary President Bush takes.

Pandemonium

And the pandemonium following the scenes of carnage engulfing New York and Washington after Tuesday’s suicide attacks have led to a wider panic about the implications of the strikes.

Immediately following the aircraft crashes into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon – potent symbols of world capitalism’s financial and military might – share prices, which had been falling dramatically in previous days, fell further. The price of oil rose by $2-$3 a barrel reflecting anxieties about increased instability in the Middle East – the likely source of the ‘terrorist’ attack.

The air strikes led to an immediate state of national and international crisis, which will provoke further questioning of the authority of capitalism’s rulers. Government and financial services were paralysed in the USA and stock markets in other advanced capitalist countries dropped dramatically or were suspended following the attacks. Even if capitalism manages to stabilise matters in the short term the medium and long-term effect will be to deepen the underlying economic crisis.

Imperialism’s “revenge”

No doubt Bush and Western imperialism will step up their drive against Islamic ‘terrorism’ in retribution. The co-ordinated ‘assault on America’ will lead to co-ordinated US state action to hunt down and get ‘revenge’ against Islamic groups, regardless of whether they were involved or not.

It is also possible that a witch-hunting atmosphere could develop in the United States and elsewhere against Arabs, Muslims or others suspected of associations with terrorist states or groups.

This could also be used against any radical groups that challenge the capitalist system.

It is also conceivable that governments will use these attacks to ban anti-globalisation protests or restrict demonstrations against their capitalist system. It is very likely that the anti-globalisation protest in Washington at the end of this month will either not go ahead or be banned.

Blair found the bombings a convenient way of avoiding criticism of his privatisation plans at the TUC and has immediately used the opportunity to step up security. Whilst many workers will initially accept such measures – as was the case in Britain in the early 1970s with the adoption of the Prevention of Terrorism Act after events in Northern Ireland and Britain – such measures do not stop the threat of such attacks and have been used against those on the Left and the labour movement generally.

Bush and Blair

Imperialist politicians like Bush and Blair, however, bear a huge responsibility for the policies which have led to global instability and now bring terror onto the streets of the USA. These imperialist powers have pursued policies which have led to the deaths of thousands in the Middle East and throughout the globe.

President George W Bush’s father, the other President Bush, was the world leader who used a war in the Gulf to assert his ‘New World Order’. That new order ushered in the era of globalisation, which has impoverished and alienated billions.

US imperialism’s dominance of the globe has brought increased instability, tension and turmoil to every corner of the planet. Combined with the absence of a mass movement of the working classes and oppressed, this has led some to pursue extreme and futile methods, such as the suicide tactics which led to the carnage in New York and Washington.

Imperialism’s policies have antagonised millions around the world. US Secretary of State Colin Powell had said in May this year:

“Terrorism is part of the dark side of globalisation. However, sadly, it is part of doing business in the world – business we as Americans are not going to stop doing.”

Oppressed People

US and Western leaders talk sanctimoniously about acts of ‘evil’ terrorism but gloss over their own acts of terrorism – military, politically and economically – against oppressed people around the world.

The attacks show that despite all the armoury of the world’s only superpower they are powerless and unable to protect their own citizens in the face of determined suicide attacks. The inability of the imperialist powers to find a settlement to the crisis in the Middle East, combined with the incapacity of the Palestinian leaders to offer a way forward for the Palestinian struggle, has led to increasing use of suicide attacks as a tactic.

Whilst the suicide bombings have struck terror into the heart of Israel and America, they are not capable of bringing forth a successful resolution of the Palestinian conflict. Nor will they deter US and other world leaders from continuing with their policies of state terror and economic exploitation.

Among the lessons that workers internationally will draw from these terrible events is that the imperialists, like Bush and Blair, cannot offer any resolution to the world’s conflicts. But neither can the tactics of the fundamentalist terrorist groups offer a way forward to the long-suffering peoples of the Middle East.

Workers

Furthermore, as well as adding to the panic on the already jittery world capitalist markets the events will confirm to large numbers of workers worldwide the instability of the global capitalist system.

At some stage these events could be a further trigger to exacerbate the economic woes of world capitalism.

Capitalism, at its most naked is a system of conflict, civil wars, wars, poverty, starvation and insecurity for the mass of people on this planet. It is the oppressed people of the world – whether workers in America or Palestinian youth – who pay the price of capitalism’s inability to resolve the crises their system creates.

It is the oppressed people of the world who can provide a solution to this era of global crisis by uniting to end the rule of the capitalist system and establish a socialist world where the horrors and insecurity of imperialism’s so-called New World Order are abolished once and for all.

 

Coventry Socialists build solidarity for strike at McDonald’s

Coventry Socialists build solidarity for strike at McDonald’s

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Building support for the strike

Coventry Socialist Party members held a campaign stall today in solidarity with the historic strike taking place by workers at McDonald’s. Workers in Crayford and Cambridge took action against their employers in what is both historic and inspirational for all those wanting to fight back against low pay, zero-hour contracts and bullying management. There was warm support for the action today in Coventry- many of the issues faced by McDonald’s workers are experienced by workers across our city.

We are carrying the following article by Richard, a McDonald’s worker in Watford, who explains the background to the current strike and how the movement can grow.


McStrike against low pay

“I have experienced first-hand the insecurity of zero-hour contracts, low pay and abuse by the management, to both me and my fellow workmates”, says Richard, a McDonald’s worker and Socialist Party member.

These grievances will be all too familiar to many workers and are among the reasons McDonald’s staff are striking for the first time on 4 September.

Richard says: “Seeing workers mobilise in two restaurants and balloting in favour of action has inspired me to build the union in my workplace and fight for the same pay and conditions.

“I am 100% behind the union taking strike action and will also be attending the protest outside McDonald’s HQ in East Finchley, London, on 2 September. Solidarity with the McDonald’s workers walking out on the 4 September!”

Historic

The workers, members of bakers’ union BFAWU, balloted at Crayford, south east London, and Cambridge stores have voted by an incredible 95.7% in favour of strikeaction.

Already, by voting for the historic strike, the workers have forced McDonald’s to implement the twice-promised offer of guaranteed hours for every McDonald’s worker in the UK.

McDonald’s workers will join a list including health workers in east Londonbin workers in Birmingham and janitors in Glasgow who have been fighting for better pay and conditions – and in the case of the latter two, winning.

Their action shows we can beat the bosses and their inspiring strike action should be a signal not just to employers, but to other low-paid, exploited workers that we can fight back and organise to get rid of zero-hour contracts, bullying bosses and poverty pay.

On 20 August, as a member of BFAWU, Richard attended a McDonald’s strike committee meeting as a visitor. He reports: “The meeting took place at one of the strike locations in Crayford and a decision was made to walk out on 4 September. The step was a historic decision and will be the first ever McDonald’s strike to take place in the UK.

“At the meeting McDonald’s workers from Crayford and Cambridge spoke of the reasons why they decided to take strike action. These included the failure of the company to roll out fixed-term contracts and the continued utilisation of exploitative zero-hour contracts, low pay, job insecurity and bullying management.”

The strike takes place on 4 September. Workers are also fighting for a £10 an hour minimum wage now, and union recognition.

The Socialist Party fights for these demands for all workers and will be supporting the McDonald’s strikers in their dispute.

You can donate to the strike fund and send messages of support at fastfoodrights.wordpress.com, and join the #McStrike events and picket lines.

What is the Single Market?

What is the Single Market?

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Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn

The announcement over the weekend from Keir Starmer has caused controversy over the position that Labour and the trade union movement should take towards Brexit, the Single Market and the European Union. This is a key question for the left – we are publishing this article from Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party, originally carried in the current issue of The Socialist newspaper. In this article Hannah spells out the socialist analysis of the EU and Brexit, and importantly the policies and programme that we think need to be fought for.


The Single Market: a neo-liberal tool of the bosses 

Fight for a socialist Brexit

Theresa May’s four-week holiday is drawing to a close. She is returning to an autumn of watching her party tear itself apart over the EU. Following her humiliating general election campaign she really is a ‘dead prime minister walking‘; powerless to be more than a passive bystander in the Tories’ civil war.

According to the capitalist media the only Brexit choices on offer are the ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ visions offered by the two wings of the Tory Party. Unfortunately, many leaders of the workers’ movement, including the leadership of the TUC, also paint the issue in the same terms: supporting the ‘soft Brexit’ wing.

None of the variants of Brexit on offer from the Tory Party, however, are in the interests of working and middle class people.

Reactionaries

The right-wing nationalist ‘hard Brexiteers’ represent the view of a small minority of the British capitalist class, if even that. They are full of utopian dreams of a return to the days when Britain was the world’s biggest imperialist power, and of resentment at their nation’s inexorable decline.

Their growing dominance in the Tory party, exacerbated by the collapse of a section of Ukip into their ranks, means that the Tories can no longer be relied on by the capitalist class to act in their interests. The idea, however remote, that the ultra-reactionary toff and ‘MP for the eighteenth century’ Jacob Rees-Mogg could become leader of the Tory Party sums up the dire state it is in.

It is clear that the nationalist ‘little Englander’ Tories offer no way forward, but nor does the ‘George Osborne’ wing. It is criminal to suggest, as Polly Toynbee has in the pages of the Guardian, that we should be looking to the likes of Osborne, responsible as chancellor for inflicting the worst austerity since World War Two, for a Brexit in the interests of the majority.

Osborne and his ilk represent the view of the majority of the capitalist class in Britain, which would prefer no Brexit, and are fighting for as ‘soft’ a Brexit as possible.

They aim to remain within the single market and the customs union, if not in name at least in substance.

They are driven by what is in the best interests of their system. In essence the EU is an agreement between the different capitalist classes of Europe in order to create the largest possible market.

The different national capitalist classes within it remain in competition with each other but cooperate in order to maximise their profits.

For the weaker economies of Europe – above all Greece – it has meant virtual neocolonial exploitation by the stronger powers.

Inevitably, since the start of the global economic crisis in 2009, there has been a rise in national tensions within the EU which will, at a certain stage, lead to a fracturing of the Euro and major crisis within the EU. Nonetheless, the majority of Britain’s capitalists think they can make fatter profits inside the EU than outside.

It is ludicrous to claim, as the Blairite Labour MP Chuka Umunna has, that the single market is, “uniquely, a framework of rules that protects people from the worst excesses of globalisation and unfettered capitalism.” It certainly doesn’t protect those fleeing war in the Middle East and largely kept outside of the borders of ‘Fortress Europe’; horrendously often left to drown in the Mediterranean.

But nor does it protect those already inside the EU’s borders from the ‘worst excesses’ of capitalism. On the contrary, the institutions of the EU have inflicted terrible hardship on the workers of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere.

The pro-EU majority of the capitalist class currently has no party they can rely on to act in their interests. Instead there are politicians in all the major parties, not least the right wing of Labour, collaborating together to try and defend the interests of the capitalist elite.

According to the Financial Times, before parliament shut for the summer they came together in a meeting in the office of Blairite MP Chuka Umunna. Also present were Anna Soubry from the Tories, Stephen Gethins from the SNP, Jonathan Edwards from Plaid Cymru and Jo Swinson from the Liberal Democrats.

This alliance is not only about Brexit. It is also part of a conscious attempt to undermine Corbyn and help to prevent something that the capitalist elite fear even more than a ‘hard Brexit’ – a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government. Also over the summer rumours have abounded of a new supposedly ‘centrist’ party being formed for the same reasons. This may not seem to be posed immediately, but is inherent in the situation.

It is naïve for shadow chancellor John McDonnell to suggest, as he appeared to in the Guardian on 19 August, that it is no longer necessary to push for urgent constitutional changes to democratise the Labour Party because, “the nature of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has changed”.

Measures like mandatory reselectionrestoring trade union rights within Labour and readmittance of expelled socialists are more urgently needed than ever. Unfortunately, the majority of the PLP remain pro-capitalist and opposed to Jeremy Corbyn, even if his popularity means that some of them are currently holding back from saying so openly. Instead they are mobilising against him on the issue of a ‘soft’ Brexit.

It is urgent that Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the workers’ movement launch a major campaign – not for a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit – but for an internationalist Brexit that is in the interests of the working and middle class, both in Britain and across Europe. Otherwise it is inevitable that the different wings of the capitalist class will succeed in confusing and dividing working class people.

Our starting point is the diametrical opposite of the starting point for all sides of the Tory Party: we have to support what benefits working class people and cements their unity, and to implacably oppose that which undermines it.

Capitalist ‘freedom’

What attitude does that mean taking to the single market? The single market finally came into being in 1993, following negotiations that began with the 1986 Single European Act; something that Maggie Thatcher claimed credit for initiating!

From the beginning it has been based on the so-called ‘four freedoms’, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. It is policed by the European Commission (made up of one representative from each EU state), which takes infringements of market rules before the European Court of Justice (ECJ). From its inception it has aimed to drive through neoliberal, anti-working class measures in order to maximise the profits of the capitalist elite.

The single market compels the privatisation of public services, prohibits nationalisation, and makes it easier for employers to exploit workers in numerous ways. For example, the ECJ rulings in the Viking and Laval cases, which put corporations’ ‘rights of establishment’ before the right of workers to strike. Or the EU posted workers’ directive, which does not recognise agreements between unions and employers, and has been systematically used to undermine the rights and conditions of workers. The posted workers’ directive was at the heart of the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike in 2009. Jeremy Corbyn was right, therefore, to say shortly after the June general election that Brexit should not mean remaining part of the single market. Nor should it mean remaining part of the customs union which means handing the right to negotiate trade deals to the European Commission alone.

In his Guardian article John McDonnell expressed it as: “The bottom line for me, is the new relationship we have with Europe should be designed on the basis that we can implement our manifesto.”

This is not a bad starting point. A Corbyn-led government should pledge to enter the negotiations declaring that all EU laws which hindered this would immediately be annulled. This is not a question of fighting for British ‘sovereignty’, as Labour’s shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner unfortunately put it when correctly arguing to leave the single market, but fighting in the interests of the working class not just in Britain but across Europe.

There are, of course, aspects of EU law – such as various environmental and health and safety protections – which the workers’ movement should have no objection to keeping other than a desire to strengthen them.

And no one wants to see what the ‘soft’ Brexiteers paint as inevitable outside the single market – economic crisis, job losses and price increases. On the basis of a Tory ‘hard’ Brexit, all of that would be posed – but nor does continuing as part of the crisis-ridden EU offer a way forward for working class people in Britain.

Socialist measures

A socialist Brexit, by contrast, could be the start of building a society that was able to provide everyone with the prerequisites for a decent life: a high-quality secure home, a good job, free education, a top class NHS, a living pension and more.

In doing so it would act as a beacon for workers’ and young people across Europe to take the same road, opening the path not only to mass opposition to the EU bosses’ club but also to a democratic socialist confederation of Europe.

A starting point for a workers’ Brexit would be to implement the demands at the end of this article, all of which would require a complete break with the single market.

At the same time, doing so would inspire the 450 million workers remaining in the single market to fight for similar demands in their own countries. It would also terrify the capitalist class, not just in Britain but globally, who would see their rotten profit-driven system under threat from a mass movement for a new democratic, socialist society.

Without doubt the world’s ruling elites would do all they could to sabotage the implementation of Jeremy Corbyn’s programme, including attempting to use the rules of the single market if Britain remained inside it.

But, provided a determined mass movement was mobilised in support of the government’s programme, they would not be able to succeed. The reteat of the Syriza government in Greece over fighting austerity was not pre-ordained. If the government had shown the courage of the Greek people and refused to capitulate to the capitalists and their EU institutions, the outcome could have been very different.

However, to effectively prevent the attempted sabotage of the capitalist class – inside or outside the EU – will pose the question of taking socialist measures in order to remove control of the economy and finance system from the tiny unelected minority who currently hold it in their hands. Pleading with the City of London “to stabilise the markets before we get into government”, as John McDonnell suggests to the Guardian, will never prevent the financial markets trying to attack a government which threatens their obscene profits.

Nor will it work to beg multinational corporations to stay in Britain if they think they can make a bigger profit by moving to a country with cheaper labour.

Instead, socialist measures – bringing into democratic public ownership the 125 or so big corporations and banks that control around 80% of Britain’s economy – would be posed. This would provide the possibility of developing a democratic, socialist plan of production that could very quickly transform the lives of millions.

For workers continuing to suffer brutal capitalist austerity in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland – indeed to workers everywhere – it would act to show a way forward to a new, socialist world.


  • Not a penny to be paid in a ‘divorce bill’ to subsidise the capitalist elites of Europe
  • Ban zero-hour contracts. £10 an hour minimum wage for all
  • Abolition of all anti-trade union legislation. For the right of all workers to freely organise and when necessary strike, in defence of their and other workers’ interests
  • No ‘race to the bottom’! The ‘rate for the job’ for all workers. For democratic trade union control over hiring new workers
  • For the right of all EU citizens currently in Britain to remain with full rights, and to demand the same for UK workers in other EU countries
  • Immediate scrapping of all rules demanding ‘competitive tendering’, limiting state aid and opposing nationalisation. This would remove the legal obstacles to councils bringing all local services back ‘in house’. It would enable the immediate renationalisation of all privatised public services such as rail, energy and water. It would remove the obstacles to renationalising the NHS, throwing out the private multinational companies that are bleeding it dry
  • For a socialist society run in the interests of the millions not the billionaires. Bring the 125 major corporations and banks that dominate the economy into democratic public ownership

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