Time to wage war on the system that brings us foodbanks

Time to wage war on the system that brings us foodbanks

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Foodbank use is on the up

News has emerged that the use of foodbanks in the United Kingdom has continued to rise. The Trussell Trust has reported that in “between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017 (they) provided 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 1,109,309 in 2015-16. Of this number, 436,938 went to children.”

This has been blamed on a number of factors, not least the introduction of Universal Credit as well as the continued use of Benefit sanctions as a way of punishing those most in need. It is also true that due to poverty wages and zero hour contracts, that people who are in work can also be forced to foodbanks in order to survive.

How can this be right in the 6th richest country in the world? A country where there is no shortage of money and wealth. Why is it that working class families have to suffer the sheer indignity of going to foodbanks, whilst the rich corporations manage to avoid paying their taxes?

The answer is simple – it is the capitalist system to blame. A system that sees the majority of the world’s population suffer, even in supposedly advanced countries like the UK.

We need to be able to control the vast wealth and resources that exist on our planet, so we can plan the economy in the interests of ordinary people. That means getting rid of capitalism, fighting for public ownership and workers control of the key sectors of the economy, so we can truly put people before profit. In short, we need to fight for socialism. Join us!

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France prepares to go to the polls with race wide open

France prepares to go to the polls with race wide open

melanchom mass rally april 9

Mass rally of 70,000 in Marseille for Jean-Luc Melenchon

France will go to the polls on Sunday 23rd April in the first round of the presidential elections. In a reflection of the political and economic instability that exists around the world, the race is wide open with 4 of the 7 candidates vying to reach the top two and go forward to the run off on 7th May.

This election has been highly significant from the point of view of the rise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon of ‘France Unbowed’, who in railing against the rich, austerity policies and the political establishment has drawn enormous crowds across France who are enthused by his message. This also provides useful lessons for the campaign of Jeremy Corbyn here in the UK.

We are pleased to reproduce two articles as background reading for those interested in these elections, critical not just for France but people across Europe and indeed the world.

The first is by Clare Doyle of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), the worldwide socialist organisation that the Socialist Party is part of. It was written on 8th April and provides useful background information about the context of the election

The second is from the comrades of Gauche Révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Left), our sister organisation in France. Members of GR have been actively supporting and intervening in the movement developing around Mélenchon, whilst at the same time putting forward a programme to take the movement forward. You can read what they are saying, including the text of the leaflet being distributed, by clicking here.

If you are interested in the issues raised here and want to link up with socialists in Coventry looking to change society and fight for socialism, then fill in the form below and we will be in touch!

Scrap the Tory ‘rape clause’ and all benefit attacks

Scrap the Tory ‘rape clause’ and all benefit attacks

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The form

 

The following article about the disgraceful latest attacks on benefit claimants was written by a DWP worker and member of the PCS trade union. A version was published in The Socialist newspaper. The full article is reproduced below.


Changes to Child Tax Credits and the ‘Universal Credit’ benefit system mean that people making a new claim from 6 April will have the number of children they can claim for capped at two. One exception to this is if the third child was born as a result of what the government calls “non-consensual conception.”

However, in order to prove this was the case, there is an eight-page mandatory form that the victim will need to fill out.

Dubbed the “rape clause,” it will require the claimant not only to name the child the exception will apply to, but also have a “third-party professional” fill out part of the form.

This represents a new low for the government.

Disgracefully, the exemption will not apply to claimants who still live with their rapist – despite a British Crime Survey finding that 45% of rapes happen within current relationships. Attacks can be extremely difficult for victims to disclose, let alone prove.

In evidence presented to the House of Lords, the manager of the Glasgow Rape Crisis Centre said: “We have more than 30 years’ worth of empirical evidence that tells us that the most dangerous time for a woman and her children is at the point of leaving an abuser. In the UK a woman is murdered every three days by a partner or ex-partner.”

This latest attack on women compounds the threat to women posed by the Housing Benefit cap, which could close two-thirds of the already insufficient number of women’s refuges.

Women and children need material support to escape abusive relationships and live stable, independent lives. The Tories’ rape clause punishes victims and will endanger lives for the sake of reducing the bosses’ tax burden. 

This vile Tory government has shown time and time again that there is no limit to how low it will stoop to in its attacks on the working class and the most vulnerable in society.

Our previous article reported on the callous measures to remove eligibility to Personal Independence Payment – a benefit designed to help with the extra costs of living with care or a disability – from 160,000 people, saving £3.5 billion.

Cuts to the weekly rate of Employment and Support Allowance for those in the ‘Work-Related Activity Group’ will see claimants losing almost £30 from their payments – measures the government claim are beneficial as they will incentivise people to find work!

The heavy-handed nature of the sanctions and conditionality regimes in the benefit system have really been brought to the forefront with the release of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake, which showcases the miserable living conditions faced by so many in Britain today.

A recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on living with a disability in Britain today says:

“It is a badge of shame on our society that millions of disabled people in Britain are still  not being treated as equal citizens and continue to be denied the everyday rights non-disabled people take for granted, such as being able to access transport, appropriate health services and housing, or benefit from education and employment.  The disability pay gap is persistent and widening, access to justice has deteriorated, and welfare reforms have significantly affected the already low living standards of disabled people.”

It is clear that capitalism isn’t working – we need to fight for the transformation of society along socialist lines, to ensure it is run in the interests of the majority, not the minority.

Under a socialist programme, everyone would be guaranteed a decent job, housing, and education, with the full support there for those who need it most.

Under capitalism, not even these basic demands are possible for so many people. If the system cannot afford these, then we cannot afford the system.

The Socialist Party says: scrap the rape clause. Reverse all benefit cuts and fund secure, genuinely affordable housing for all. You can’t fight domestic violence without also fighting the cuts.

Coventry postal worker responds to closure of Royal Mail pension scheme

Coventry postal worker responds to closure of Royal Mail pension scheme

Striking postal workers in Coventry

Royal Mail have announced plans to close the current Defined Benefit pension scheme in March 2018. The following response was written by a postal worker and Communication Workers Union (CWU) member in Coventry.

Their plan is to put members into an inferior alternative, with no certainty of what members would earn – workers could lose up to a third of their future pensions.
The consultation with the CWU and postal workers have been swept aside as Royal Mail seems determined to undermine terms and conditions, pay and pensions since privatisation in October 2013.

The CWU have rightly spoken out condemning the possible imposition of these pension changes without agreement, but words need to be turned into action very quickly or postal workers like me will stand to face a future of poverty in retirement.

Royal Mail claim they cannot afford to keep paying the current pension, even though it has found £650m to pay shareholders dividends over the last three years.

For workers like me, retirement is fast becoming an elusive dream as the Tory government move the retirement age higher and higher. What chance have I got to live out the rest of my years with some kind of comfort if the government and my employer ‘robs’ the very pension I have worked for?

Royal Mail have not listened to the thousands who voiced their concerns during the consultation and so the CWU need to gather the workforce behind an all-out battle to defend our rights for a decent pension.

It is pretty clear that Royal Mail have no intention of changing their objective of rewarding shareholders while punishing the workforce, so only a clear call to strike action is the only course of action that will get Royal Mail to change course.

Working class families have been paying the price since the banking crisis of 2007/08 and we are all living with the effects of cuts to services every day.

The need for co-ordinated action across all unions against the attack on our pensions and pay is stronger than ever – we have had enough of seeing the top 1% getting richer from hammering us into the ground.

Why I joined: “I joined the Socialist Party to campaign to save the NHS”



Why I joined: “I joined the Socialist Party to campaign to save the NHS”

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Socialist Party members are active across the country campaigning to defend the NHS

We are pleased to publish this short article by Walter, a new member of the Socialist Party in Coventry. The piece originated from the current issue of The Socialist, the weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party. We encourage people to consider joining our organisation – fill in the form at the end of the article and we will get in touch!


I was first attracted to the Socialist Party by the ongoing campaign to save the NHS. In my opinion the Socialist Party is the only party currently mounting an ongoing campaign to prevent the NHS from being privatised.

The idea of NHS privatisation is not a far-removed idea, but one that is gradually becoming a reality. I recently had to visit a Coventry walk-in centre, due to the fact that I was unable to secure an appointment at my local GP practice.

While completing the necessary paperwork at the walk-in centre, in very small print, obscurely at the bottom of the form, it became apparent the facility was being managed by a private provider.

I am passionate about the NHS and do not want to see it privatised. I want to make a difference and my route to this is with the Socialist Party.

We all have a choice between watching and doing, between moaning and complaining or doing something about it. My doing something about it has been to join the Socialist Party.

Agree with Walter? Fill in the form below!

Socialist receives over 300 votes for President of Students’ Union

Socialist receives over 300 votes for President of Students’ Union

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Aidan O’Toole (right) campaigning in solidarity with South African students

Socialist Student members received good results in this year’s Coventry University Students’ Union executive elections, with Aidan O’Toole receiving 307 votes for President (14 per cent). Another Socialist, Sam Kempster, scored a very respectable 102 votes for the position of Vice President of Education.

These results reflect the hard work that Socialist Students have carried out over the year, campaigning on many issues and also it shows the appeal of socialist policies to students who have seen attacks to their rights and living conditions. Tuition fees are set to increase year on year, grants have been cut for the poorest students who now have to take out additional loans and are facing exploitation in the housing sector.

Our campaign was focused on these issues, building on our campaigning work and raising the banner of socialism to a wider audience of students. At the heart of it, we argued that CUSU should take a lead in standing up for students, standing up to the university management when they attack student welfare and taking part in national campaigns for free education.

Students and Workers Unite!

Vital to the work of Socialist Students has been to work with the local University and College Union (UCU) branch, something CUSU consistently fails to do. Instead of working with the lecturers to ensure that both students and lecturers can work together to tackle joint issues. CUSU is seen by some students as the puppet of the university as it time and time again refuses to show solidarity with the UCU in times such as those reported in the Guardian when the university tries its hand at union busting and attacks the rights of its employees (27/09/2016).

Socialist Students, despite receiving little support from within the student council, worked with and supported the UCU and have been consistent in attending UCU picket lines and have organised joint events to foster links between students and staff. We said that if we were elected we would have worked with the UCU to fight back and university cuts, which will become more vital when the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) threatens more attacks on both students and staff.

Housing

Coventry Socialist Students are well known for campaigning on housing issues in Coventry. We have successfully shifted CUSU policy towards housing via grass-roots organisation. This has led to the establishment of a Tenant’s Union which, although in its early days, has the potential to lead campaigns to tackle the exploitation students face in the private sector.

Despite CUSU’s support of this, not enough has been done to ensure its success. Socialist union officers would get involved in things like the tenant’s union and get stuck into any campaigns it leads on. Unfortunately this cannot be said for the vast majority of the CUSU leadership. However, we will continue to work on this issue and stay involved in the struggle against dodgy landlords and rogue letting agencies.

Defending Student Welfare

The university has decided to make vicious cuts to welfare schemes, such as the hardship fund, which will stop many students from being able to finish their education. This cut back is so severe that, despite increasing student numbers, the fund is to be halved year on year until it is only just a fraction of what one of the university CEOs make! This saving is unnecessary and shows naked profiteering which will primarily affect people with caring responsibilities or are survivors of domestic abuse and other unforeseen circumstances.

Socialist Students passed a motion calling for the Students’ Union to organise a campaign against this cut, and a vote of no confidence in the university management if they continue down this line. However, this Students’ Union campaign is nowhere to be seen. We stood to defend this scheme and students were shocked when we told them about these attacks! The

The election is over, but our work doesn’t stop

As a Socialist Students society, we don’t stay quiet all year and pretend to be the saviour around election time. We stand up for students by putting forward a socialist agenda in all our campaigns, all year round. This track record is unmatched on campus and is only partially reflected in our votes.

Despite not teaming up with other candidates just to get votes, or taking part in other tricks that are rife in student politics; we pulled a respectable vote. This is because our socialist agenda connected to those students we spoke to who are facing the hard edge of the recent attacks to their rights.

Aidan, Sam and all Socialist Students would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of those hundreds of students who voted for us.

We encourage all those who agreed with our manifesto to get involved and continue the fight for socialism. With the Tories in power, the attacks on students’ rights will continue and it will become more important than ever that students organise against these attacks. The only way to do that is by putting forward socialist ideas, and the best way to do that is to join the Socialist Students!

Join Socialist Students, fill in the form below!

Unite against war, terror and racism

Unite against war, terror and racism

warterror

Photo by Paul Mattsson

The following is a statement from the Socialist Party in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack in London earlier this week. It can also be read on our national website here


A wave of shock has followed yet another horrific terrorist attack. This time in the centre of London, yesterday’s mowing down of people using a vehicle comes after atrocities using vehicles in Berlin and Nice during the last eight months, and other appalling terrorist attacks in France and Brussels.

The Socialist Party has strongly condemned all these attacks, and does so again on this occasion.

The attacker’s choice of Westminster – and the fact that he ran towards Parliament – suggests anger against the establishment and government, but the victims were ordinary people, especially tourists viewing the Houses of Parliament. People of ten different nationalities were indiscriminately hit. Three people plus the attacker died and seven are critically injured.

In any case, whoever is targeted, acts of individual terror should always be opposed. They are not an effective means to struggle against the establishment.

Government hypocrisy

Trying to assure people that the attacker was most likely acting alone and not part of a set of attacks, Theresa May made a sanctimonious speech on ‘resolve’ to ‘never waver’ or be afraid.

Yet she heads a Tory government that is making people far more vulnerable when terrorism occurs.

Huge cuts to London transport are inflicting the axing of many safety-critical staff. In addition fire stations have been closed, the ambulance service is over-stretched due to cuts, hospitals are under-staffed and there are threats to A&E departments.

The government also wants to see the bosses of Southern Rail, Merseyrail and Northern Rail defeat the RMT union’s strikes against the removal of safety-critical guards on trains.

The first doctor on the scene to treat the injured was off-duty junior doctor Jeeves Wijesuriya. Jeeves is a member of the junior doctors’ committee of the BMA (British Medical Association) and was one of the leaders of last year’s strikes against a worse contract being imposed on junior doctors by the government. Just earlier this month – on 4th March – he was a platform speaker against government NHS cuts at the more than 100,000-strong national ‘Save our NHS’ demonstration in London.

The Tories’ hypocrisy knows no bounds. The last thing that the likes of May will acknowledge is any link between the devastation their policies have caused across the Middle East and the threat of terrorism in Britain. Little information has so far been released on the background of the attacker, but May called the attack “Islamist terrorism”, and Islamic State (Isis) has claimed responsibility.

It is unfortunately no surprise that an incident of this nature has again occurred. There have been few terror attacks in Britain since the terrible 7/7 London bombings in 2005, but the intelligence services say they have ‘foiled’ 12 plots in the last three years and they have called the likelihood of the threat “severe” for a long period.

Last November, MI5 head Andrew Parker stated “there will be terrorist attacks in this country” and noted that the ‘tempo’ of terrorist plots and attempts during the previous three years was the highest in his 33 years at MI5.

Sign of weakness

Isis in Syria and Iraq has made it known that it is encouraging the carrying out of attacks in Europe – this is one way it is trying to fight back while being squeezed by military onslaughts against it in Mosul and north Syria.

It is a sign of its weakness, not strength, that it resorts to murderous individual acts. It doesn’t seek to remove capitalism – rather it wants use its fascistic type methods and individual terrorism to attack ordinary people and aid its aim of creating a capitalist or semi-feudal caliphate in the interests of its leaders.

Whether or not the perpetrators of atrocities like yesterday’s are directly motivated by Isis, British imperialism – along with US imperialism and other world powers – has created outrage across the Middle East and globally at its involvement in the slaughter of over 150,000 people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars – and also the foreign interventions in Yemen, Libya, Syria and parts of Pakistan – have generated would-be terrorists and Al-Qaida type groups across the globe.

Much of the worst suffering by ordinary people from terrorist acts has been in those countries, where regular suicide bombings have hit many hundreds of people in cities like Baghdad and Kabul.

Now the media in Britain is again asking how further attacks like yesterday’s in Westminster can be stopped, but there will be no way of stopping them based on a continuation of the government’s policies. The attacker was born in Britain – as were the 7/7 bombers. The police and intelligence services have no way of preventing all such future attackers, through their methods of surveillance and ‘anti-terrorism’ laws.

Defend the right to protest

The Tories have already used past terrorist attacks to justify anti-democratic legislation. But the ‘anti-terrorism’ laws of the year 2000 didn’t stop 7/7, nor will more repressive legislation. The police had plenty of powers to arrest anyone planning or committing a crime before these laws were brought in.

Also, extra police powers of surveillance, restrictions on movement, etc, can also be used against trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners, socialists and others who are opposing the government’s pro-big business policies. They must be opposed.

Fight racism and scapegoating

For years right-wing politicians in the three main parliamentary parties have dangerously used rhetoric that has played into the hands of racists. Anti-immigrant talk came from leaders on both sides of the EU referendum debate. The Socialist Party’s pro-working class standpoint, against division and racism and for Brexit on the basis of socialist internationalism, was not covered in the mainstream media.

Since the referendum, and the election of Trump, there has been an increase in racist attacks. Also it mustn’t be forgotten that racist attacks increased six-fold in the weeks after 7/7; a similar outcome must be fought against by socialists and trade unionists following this new terrorist attack, by calling for workers’ unity against all forms of racism and the far right.

This needs to include countering the far-right Britain First demonstration that has been called for 1st April.

All the racist, anti-democratic, pro-austerity and pro-war measures and policies of May’s Tory government must be fought by the trade union movement with new vigour and a determined plan of action. The building of a mass movement of opposition can remove it from power – and lay the basis for reversing its policies that breed poverty, division and terrorism.