Coventry protest shows solidarity with Palestine

Coventry protest shows solidarity with Palestine

Palestine protest

Protest in Broadgate

At short notice a protest was called today to show solidarity with Palestinians killed and injured by the Israeli military in Gaza on Friday. You can see more pictures by visiting our Facebook page. The Socialist Party distributed a bulletin which you can download here.

Activists from Palestine, local campaigners, trade unionists and socialists gathered together to ensure that what has taken place did not go unchallenged. Coventry has a long history of showing support for the Palestinian struggle and this will need to be stepped up – the only consistent allies of the Palestinians are ordinary working class people around the world.

The scenes in Gaza have been horrific – at the time of writing at least 16 Palestinians have been killed by bullets fired by the Israeli military, with over 600 injured.

Around 20,000 Palestinians had gathered to commemorate what is known as Land Day, the anniversary of the killing of 6 peaceful Palestinian protestors in 1976 who were taking part in a General Strike against the expropriation of Palestinian land.

Protests are expected to continue for 6 weeks leading up to 15th May – the 70th anniversary of the Naqba (Catastrophe) which saw 750,000 forced to flee from their towns, cities and historic homeland.

The situation in Gaza has continued to deteriorate – 1.9 million Palestinians live in what is in reality the world’s largest open air prison camp – blockaded by land, air and sea by Israel and Egypt. The economy is completely crippled – according to figures from the World Bank, there is 44 per cent unemployment, which rises to 60 per cent for those aged between 15 and 29. Around 80 per cent of people rely on humanitarian aid to survive whilst a staggering 97 per cent of water is not safe for human consumption. Israel controls all movement of goods and people, to and from Gaza. The United Nations has stated that Gaza may not be fit for human habitation within a few years.

In this latest outrage, the Israeli army revealed its deadly intention in dealing with the protest by positioning 100 snipers along the border fence. The Israeli ruling class fear the potential of the mass nature of these protests, hence why they were determined to use such lethal force. They cynically use any Palestinian protest to point to how this allegedly threatens the security of the Israeli population – in reality it is the racist policies of the Israeli government, the occupation and the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians that is the biggest threat to the safety of ordinary Israelis.

Sadly, the latest massacre is not a new occurrence for Palestinians in Gaza. Thousands have been killed and many more wounded by numerous Israeli attacks. Responses to these murderous attacks have ranged from very mild condemnation from the Western powers and institutions, to outright support for the actions of the Israeli government and military.

Further protests around the world  will take place in the coming weeks. The establishment, including the right wing in the Labour Party who discovered their previously never seen before ‘anti-racist’ conscience for about 30 minutes last week, will be silent towards the suffering of the Palestinian masses. It will require the active solidarity of ordinary people, including the hundreds of thousands of Jeremy Corbyn supporters in this country, to ensure the Palestinians are not isolated.

The Socialist Party commits its solidarity to the struggle. At the same time, pointing out with our co-thinkers in the Socialist Struggle Movement in Israel-Palestine, that we need to build a mass movement for socialist change here and in the Middle East; to end the siege of Gaza, the occupation and to build a society that ends all racism and oppression and where national rights and self-determination are guaranteed for all.

If you agree with us, fill in the form below to get active in the struggle for socialism

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

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

jcunison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting austerity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEC elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coventry Socialists start 2018 campaigning to defend the NHS

Coventry Socialists start 2018 campaigning to defend the NHS

NHS stall

Signing the petition calling for Jeremy Hunt to go

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

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

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

2018: more upheavals loom

2018: more upheavals loom

We are pleased to publish the following article by Socialist Party General Secretary Peter Taaffe from the forthcoming issue of The Socialist.

“Biggest fall in living standards for a generation.”

“Sharp rise in child poverty as cuts bite.”

“700,000 young people and pensioners join ranks of Britain’s poor in four years.”

“Stoke proposes £1,000 fine for homeless using tents.”

“Budget signals longest squeeze on living standards since 1950s.”

“OECD: Britain state pension is worst in the developed world.”

“Nursing ‘in peril’ as number of student applications falls below 18%.”

“Food banks stock up as reforms to welfare add to fears of cold winter.”

These are just some of the recent headlines gleaned from the capitalist press, as they regale us daily with a blizzard of facts, which unconsciously indicts their profit-driven system and their callous political representatives, the Tory government of Theresa May.

It is also a fitting testimony to the failures of capitalism in 2017, in Britain and worldwide, as well as a pointer of what is to come unless this system is seriously challenged in 2018, laying the ground for system change to socialism.

Worldwide capitalism is still in the grip of the enduring economic crisis, resulting from the meltdown of 2007-08.

Sure, the capitalist soothsayers seek to reassure us that the ‘worst is over’ that a ‘recovery’ is underway which they claim if not guaranteeing a return of the economic sunny uplands of yesterday, indicates significant improvements in the position of working people.

It is true that some countries have experienced an increase in the number of jobs – such as the US, here in Britain and a few countries in Europe.

But contrary to the propaganda that the future looks rosy, this recovery is not broad-based and certainly has not significantly improved living standards.

They have been largely concentrated in low-paid, part-time and precarious jobs. In Britain this means that the working poor are so low paid, increasing numbers are forced to resort to food banks – a confession of bankruptcy by capitalism.

It is also a criticism of right-wing trade union leaders in particular, who still fail to effectively fight for desperately urgent, substantial increases in wages.

Bank of England strikers marching for a pay rise, 3.8.17, photo Sarah Wrack

Bank of England strikers marching for a pay rise, 3.8.17, photo Sarah Wrack   (Click to enlarge)

It is no accident that retail trade has been flat – spending is therefore down – because of the limited purchasing power of the working class, in turn due to chronically low wages.

In other words, the working class cannot buy back the goods that it produces, one of the inherent contradictions of capitalism that Karl Marx drew attention to 150 years ago.

The capitalist economists and their institutions – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank – are actually bemoaning the lack of ‘demand’.

They are ‘theoretically’ urging the bosses to increase wages and, in some instances, even urging the trade union leaders to fight harder for increases.

But individual and groups of capitalists and governments resist this ‘advice’ and continue to viciously oppose workers fighting even for small increases. Witness the ferocious resistance of Serco, one of the numerous ‘privateers’ who leech off the NHS, to Unite hospital workers in the Barts Health Trust for an increase of 30p an hour!

They are not likely to respond to the demand of the unions in the public sector – including nurses and other hospital workers – for wage increases beyond the 1% ‘limit’ without trade union mobilisation and effective unified action.

So it has always been and will always be under capitalism. Even a wage increase of 2%, given the remorseless rate of increase in the cost of living, will leave most working people with continued reduced living standards.

This requires bold and decisive leadership from the trade unions, which is unlikely to be forthcoming from right-wing trade union leaders.

Their policies amount invariably to ‘compromise’ and endless postponements of struggle, in the hope that the anger of low-paid workers will be dissipated and resignation will set in.

Yet the anger of working people is at boiling point – as the rash of small strikes indicates. These include civil servants in the PCS, RMT rail workers and more.

They have brushed aside the recent anti-union legislation by taking action after record turnouts and majorities in strike ballots.

This can mean that if the union tops are not prepared to lead, then they can be pushed aside to make way for those militant leaders who are prepared in this urgent situation to fight the government and the employers.

Crisis of system

However, this struggle – as with all the other battles on housing, education, etc. – is closely connected with the current crisis of capitalism.

In the past, the capitalists were prepared to give reforms – crumbs off their very rich table – to the working class.

But those days have gone, with boom conditions having been replaced by an organic drawn-out crisis of capitalism.

In order to safeguard their profits and interests they have conducted an offensive against all the gains of the past.

The capitalists and their governments do not resist demands for change just because they are greedy and cruel – which they are.

They see no alternative but to savage living standards in order to safeguard their system. This means endless poverty – disguised by the anodyne word ‘austerity’ – which will be inevitably resisted by the working class.

May herself, in the honeymoon period after she became leader of the Tories, appeared to sympathise with the ‘left behind’ and with poor families, and promised an end to austerity.

But the demands of those she represents, the capitalists, dictate otherwise even if she did ‘sincerely’ want to lessen misery and suffering.

This is a system based upon production for profit not social need. It is founded on inequality by virtue of the fact that, individually and collectively, the capitalists exploit the labour power of the working class to create what Karl Marx called ‘surplus value’ – which is then divided among the different exploiters into rent, interest and profit.

The struggle over the surplus between the capitalists and their governments on the one side and the working class on the other drives the class struggle and is the key to understanding history.

Historically, the capitalists used this surplus value to reinvest in industry, create new means of production – the organisation of labour, science and technique – and drive society forward.

This is largely what happened in the upswing of capitalism, when it was a system which was relatively progressive in laying the economic foundations for a new social system of socialism.

This, Marx wrote, was the historical mission of capitalism – to drive forward the growth of the productive forces.

But today it is betraying this ‘mission’, failing to invest. The capitalists are now more interested in piling up their own personal wealth through the massively inflated salaries of CEOs, stoking up ‘shareholder value’ rather than retooling and investing back into industry.

This also undermines productivity – which is static, if not falling, in Britain and throughout the advanced capitalist countries.

In the US for instance, a colossal total of $2.7 trillion from investments abroad is kept ‘offshore’ – outside of the US and not invested in US industry itself.

Following Trump’s so-called ‘tax reforms’ – a bribe to big business, together with the loosening of some state supervision of the banks – some or all of this could be ‘repatriated’ to the US.

But it is unlikely to be reinvested into industry, thereby rewarding Trump’s base of unemployed industrial workers and others with improved job prospects and living standards.

It will inevitably go into the pockets of the rich, pushing up shareholders’ wealth, the loot of the 1% and, in particular, the fabulously rich 0.001%; the plutocrats who ultimately call the shots under capitalism. Eight individuals control the same wealth as half the world’s population!

This indicates the increasingly parasitic character of modern capitalism in Britain and worldwide. The earlier Panama Papers and now the aptly named Paradise Papers – which means hell for the rest of society and heaven for the super-rich – have revealed this in great detail.

The Financial Times aptly described such tax havens as “getaway cars” for the super-rich.

And capitalism has demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of taking society as a whole forward.

Another economic crisis in the manner of 2007-08 – which only genuine Marxists, like the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International (the international organisation that we are part of), fully anticipated – could take place at a certain stage.

The timing of such a crisis is impossible to predict but the inevitability of an economic breakdown is inherent in capitalism.

Moreover capitalism has not fully recovered from this crisis which, we should recall, resulted in the loss of ten million jobs in the US and Europe alone and the wrecked lives that flowed from this.

As Jeremy Corbyn said at the Labour Party conference – echoing the analysis of the Socialist Party – 2017 was the year when this crisis saw a delayed political expression of the crash.

The political earthquake of the general election, as well as many other recent upheavals such as the Scottish referendum in 2014, Brexit in 2016 and Trump’s accession to the US presidency, were rooted in this.

Developments in the US

Subsequently, Trump has rampaged on the US and the world stages, breaking the crockery of world capitalism in the process.

Rather than the usual ‘official’ role of US presidents as an international ‘stabilising’ force, he has acted as a firebug, fanning the flames of already inflammatory situations.

His ‘recognition’ of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel promises to reap a whirlwind in the Middle East and worldwide among Palestinians and Muslims in particular.

He has proved to be a disaster for the American ruling class as he bypasses the normal channels of capitalist democracy, preferring to rule by tweet in a special expression of US parliamentary bonapartism.

Even the New York Times has used unprecedented language by describing him as the “liar-in-chief”. The growing opposition to Trump has resulted in an open discussion about his removal from the US presidency, similar to that which preceded the overthrow of Nixon in the 1970s.

Even a right-wing commentator like Anne Coulter can write: “Who isn’t in favour of his impeachment?”

The Republican Party is split, which may result in a complete cleavage between Trump and his outriders like Steve Bannon on one side and the Republican establishment on the other.

This could lay the basis for a new right-wing nationalist Trump party and the increasingly alienated ‘moderate’ Republicans organised in their own party.

The Democratic Party may also itself split between the right wing and the supporters of Bernie Sanders – the ‘Berniecrats’ with their ‘Our Revolution’ movement – resulting in a new mass radical left formation.

Socialist Alternative, our cothinkers in the UK, has played the role of a catalyst for the left. This was shown by the electrifying effect of the election and re-election of Kshama Sawant – the first socialist councillor in 100 years in Seattle – and now with the spectacular performance of Ginger Jentzen in Minneapolis, who led among working class voters after the first round of the recent election.

Therefore, the US could be faced with an unprecedented four-party set up, which would have colossal repercussions not just in the US but worldwide.

The ideas of socialism are spreading like a prairie fire among young people in the US in particular, at a faster rate than even in Europe at this stage.

The earlier emergence of Podemos in Spain, the Corbynista surge in Britain, a similar movement around Mélenchon in France, and the Sanders revolution in the US are all part of the political awakening of a new, radical generation.

Corbyn surge

In Britain this is tending to fuse with the reactivation of older layers of the left who were discouraged by the previous move towards the right within the labour movement.

It represents a rejection of sell-out Blairite ‘social democracy’ and is potentially a powerful agent for socialist change.

However, programmatically it has not yet reached the same political awareness, consciousness, as the 1980s Bennite left within the Labour Party – which Militant, now the Socialist Party critically supported – with its demand for the nationalisation of 25 monopolies.

If implemented, Benn’s programme from that time would make serious inroads into the power of big business but would not completely eliminate it.

It would provoke the capitalists to mobilise to bring down a left Labour government, similar to the events in Chile with the Allende government in the 1970s.

We therefore proposed the nationalisation, with minimum compensation on the basis of proven need, of the top 200 monopolies and the implementation of a democratic socialist plan of production.

But Corbyn’s programme does not even go as far as Benn’s proposals for large-scale nationalisation.

Betrayal in Greece

Unless economic and political power is taken out of the hands of the capitalists, they will use this to sabotage any threat to their system.

Is this not the lesson to be drawn today from the experience of Greece, where the Tsipras government raised expectations with the clarion call that “hope is coming”? Instead, all the hopes of the Greek working class were dashed on the rock of the Troika (IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank) and its demands for a further round of savage austerity – cuts in wages and pensions, mass privatisation – which the Tsipras government is presently implementing.

This retreat is comparable to the infamous betrayal of the German social democrats with their support for their own ruling class and the bloody World War One.

The Syriza government had a clear choice. It could bend the knee to capital, or break the hold of big business and move towards a democratic socialist Greece; at the same time appealing to the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and European working class to join Greece in a great socialist confederation of the region, linked to socialism in Europe as a whole.

This same dilemma could be posed before a Corbyn government, maybe as soon as this year, 2018.

Brexit

An immediate collapse of May’s Tory government seems to have been averted through the recent negotiations on Brexit.

There were congratulations on all sides of the Tory party when May returned from Brussels with the latest deal consisting of ‘studied ambiguity’ on key issues like the border between Northern and Southern Ireland and the single market. This represents a colossal fudge.

May has stolen some of the clothes from Jeremy Corbyn, who on all the fundamental issues relating to the EU – the single market, migration, etc. – appeals to both those opposed to the EU and those who wish to remain in it.

The Socialist Party believes that it would still be possible to appeal to both with a class and socialist approach.

This would involve clear opposition to the neoliberal aims of the EU by emphasising trade union rights and opposition to policies like the posted workers directive, which furthers the process of a capitalist race towards the bottom for all workers in all countries.

We stand for a socialist united states of Europe as the only lasting solution to the problems facing working people.

The strategists of capital – such as Lord Heseltine – were seriously considering support for Labour and Corbyn, despite his programme, as an electoral alternative to May and the Tory Party, which seemed wedded to a ‘hard Brexit’.

They were prepared to consider this despite their fears that a Corbyn government, once in power, could be propelled under the pressure of a politically aroused working class to go much further than the mild social democratic programme on which Corbyn successfully fought the the election.

These issues have not been solved by kicking the can down the road, which is what the latest agreement amounts to.

They could return once more and May could yet flounder, with splits within the Tory Party widening and breaking out, resulting in a general election being forced. Labour is eight points ahead in the polls and could be pushed into office this year.

Moreover the radicalisation which we have witnessed internationally will be fuelled further by the underlying continuing crisis of capitalism – more like a series of crises, rather than a sudden collapse, although a repetition of the 2007-08 crisis cannot be completely ruled out.

2017 represented an important stage for the labour movement, for the working class and for the Socialist Party.

In November we had the largest Socialism rally yet – Socialism 2017. We continue to draw some of the best fighters for socialism and the working class into our ranks, particularly of young people and workers.

This has allowed us to forge ahead in all fields, in the trade unions and the daily battles of working class people. 2018 promises to be an equally successful period for the struggle for socialism in Britain and worldwide.

What is the Single Market?

What is the Single Market?

corbyn and starmer

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

If you agree with us, get in touch to find out more! Fill in the form below

Who are the Democratic Unionist Party?

Who are the Democratic Unionist Party?

paisleyred

Ian Paisley

Following the disastrous results for Theresa May in Thursday’s snap general election the Tories are now in negotiations with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Many are rightly asking ‘who are the DUP?’. We are pleased to publish this article from 2014 written by our comrades in the Socialist Party (Northern Ireland) looking at the life of Ian Paisley who is the figure most associated with the DUP. It outlines some of the history of that party and as the article concludes, we believe that ‘A united working class will sweep away all the detritus of the past and all its rotten sectarian representatives’.


Ian Paisley: peacemaker or warmonger?

How will Ian Paisley, who has died at the age of 88, be remembered? As the firebrand preacher who stoked the fires of conflict in Northern Ireland or as a peacemaker and the partner in government of Martin McGuinness?

Many people struggle to make sense of what appear to be entirely contradictory phases in his life. Most of the media, the British and Irish governments, and even Martin McGuinness who describes him as a friend, choose to focus on his 2007 decision to form a coalition with Sinn Fein. The media have made much of Paisley’s nicknames, claiming that for years he was known as “Doctor No” because of his rejection of all attempts at compromise but that at the end of his life he and Martin McGuinness together were known as “the chuckle brothers” because they were seen laughing together so often. The use of both of these nicknames is largely confined to the media. Most simply knew Paisley as Paisley, his creed as Paisleyism, and his followers as Paisleyites. And for decades the name Paisley struck fear into the hearts of not just Catholics but Protestant working class activists. The lauding of Paisley grates with most Catholics, who cannot forget the role he played, but also in the throat of the many Protestants who reject everything he stood for.

So how did a preacher who led his own church (the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster) for six decades, and his own political party (the Democratic Unionist Party or DUP) for nearly as long, become the most prominent politician in Northern Ireland? After all this is a man who defended the most repressive approaches on social issues such as sexuality (in the late 1970s, for example, he launched his odious “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign to oppose even limited rights for gay men).

Paisley’s initial base was not built in industrial working class areas but in the North Antrim area around the large town of Ballymena. His first following was largely rural, conservative and religiously fundamentalist. Even in Ballymena itself it took time before he seized control of the council. When he did in the mid-1970s he imposed his fundamentalist ideas on everyone else, closing the swimming pool and chaining up the park swings on Sundays. It was members of Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party) from a Protestant background who lead the opposition in this largely Protestant town, protesting against the Sunday closure policy and challenging the DUP in council by-elections.

Working class Protestants gave Paisley little support in the 1950s, 1960s and well into the 1970s. In Protestant areas he was a figure of fun and contempt for anyone who was forward looking or left inclined. This changed over time. In the late 1960’s there was a sense that change was in the air, represented politically by the growth of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) but as the Troubles spun out of control “hard men” on both sides came to the fore and the sense of working class solidarity and unity weakened.

There was nothing inevitable about this development however. The leaders of the labour and trade union movement abdicated their responsibility to provide an alternative, and their responsibility to stand up to right-wing and anti-working class demagogues like Paisley. As a direct result the previous NILP stronghold of East Belfast fell to the DUP in the 1979 General Election. The victorious candidate was today’s DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson. The DUP gained its working class base in part by deliberately cultivating an image as the representatives of the Protestant working class, in opposition to the “big house” unionism of the Ulster Unionist Party or UUP (the party which governed Northern Ireland from partition until the imposition of direct rule in 1972).

1979 was a turning point: the DUP now had three MPs and could not be ignored. Its support reached a ceiling over the next twenty or so years however, as many potential supporters could not stomach Paisley’s on-off flirting with paramilitary organisations and paramilitary methods. As far back as 1956 Paisley was one of the founders of Ulster Protestant Action (UPA). From the start violence wasn’t far away. In June 1959, after Paisley addressed a UPA rally in Belfast, some of the crowd attacked Catholic-owned shops and a riot ensued.

During the 1964 general election campaign Paisley fomented the so-called “Tricolour riots”, the worst in Belfast since the 1930s. In April 1966 Paisley and Noel Doherty founded the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) and a paramilitary wing, the Ulster Protestant volunteers (UPV). Around the same time, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) emerged, led by Gusty Spence. Many of its members were also members of the UCDC and UPV, including Noel Doherty. In May 1966 the UVF set fire to a Catholic-owned pub and caused the death of an elderly Protestant widow who lived next door, and shot John Scullion, a Catholic civilian, as he walked home. He died of his wounds on 11 June. On 26 June, the group shot dead a second Catholic man and wounded two others as they left a pub on Malvern Street, Belfast. Following the killings, the UVF was outlawed and Paisley immediately denied any knowledge of its activities. This established a pattern that was to be repeated over the following decades and led to those who became active in Loyalist paramilitary organisations to hate him with a vengeance. One of those convicted for the 1966 killings was explicit in his words: “I am terribly sorry I ever heard of that man Paisley or decided to follow him”.

Paisley spent the rest of his career playing with violence: he enrolled the help of mainstream loyalist paramilitary groups in two work stoppages (in 1974 and 1977) and established several groups of his own, including the “Third Force” in 1981 and “Ulster Resistance” in 1986.
When the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 Paisley and the DUP were opposed. Over the following decade he sniped at the UUP but ensured he and his party had their hands on whatever levers of power were available. In these years the uncertainty and fear felt by most Protestants delivered Paisley want he wanted – majority support amongst the Protestant electorate. This support was built on a clear platform of opposition to Sinn Fein in government. As late as July 2006 Paisley stated that Sinn Fein “are not fit to be in partnership with decent people. They are not fit to be in the government of Northern Ireland and it will be over our dead bodies if they ever get there.”

The lure of power, created its own momentum however. Once the DUP were the dominant and largest party the question of going into government was concretely posed. The rigid structures created by the GFA (the aim being to maintain peace by copper-fastening sectarian division) made it difficult to stand aside. Personal factors may also have played a part-Paisley reportedly had a near death experience in 2004, and younger members of the DUP such as Robinson were keen to do a deal. It was also easier for Paisley to go into government when he could credibly claim victory, pointing to the fact that Sinn Fein agreed to support the police and the IRA to destroy its arms.

On 8 May 2007 Paisley was elected First Minister with Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister. Ironically when he made his decision the fiercest opposition came from his original base in rural areas, especially in North Antrim. He was forced out of his positions as DUP leader and Free Presbyterian moderator and retired to snipe at his successors. Attempts to canonise him as a peace maker were hampered by his own words and actions. As late as 2013 he stated in a television interview that the 33 innocent civilians who died in UVF no-warning car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974 had “brought it on themselves”.

Everything had changed but nothing had changed. Political theorists argue that it was necessary to bring the most extreme representatives of each community together in order to deliver a stable peace. The reality is that the most extreme representatives of each community can only deliver division and conflict, even if for now there is less violence on the streets.

Paisley certainly stood out but it would be a mistake to see him as unique. If Paisley had never lived someone like him would have come to the fore. And whilst the entire generation of politicians who emerged to prominence in the turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s now bask in the “success” of the peace process all played a negative role in that period. One day there will be an historic reckoning. Paisley won’t be around to see it but his ilk and his successors will be. A united working class will sweep away all the detritus of the past and all its rotten sectarian representatives. Remembering Paisley’s real role is one step on the road to that reckoning.

Nick Clegg loses his seat! A debt ridden student celebrates

Nick Clegg loses his seat! A debt ridden student celebrates

nick-clegg-621039

Nick Clegg loses seat

We are extremely pleased to publish this article by Aidan, a leading member of Socialist Students in Coventry. More comment and analysis on the election will follow


I write this as a student who has just finished 3 years of university and now weighed down by tens of thousands pounds worth of debt. Bye bye Nick Clegg! Enjoy the dustbin of history.

Nick Clegg has lost his parliamentary seat of Sheffield Hallam to Labour, a significant loss for the Liberal Democrat party and an overdue reward for his attacks on young people whilst propping up the tories during the 2010-2015 coalition.

Like so many young people in 2010, I was a member of the “I agree with Nick” crew. The promise of free university education, a fundamental right for everyone, along with a manifesto that at the age of 14 I thought was to the left of what Labour was offering was enough for me to support the Lib Dems.

Just as these promises got a younger me to support the Lib Dems, so too did Clegg’s betrayal and the tripling of university fees, plus the propping up of a vicious Tory government, pushed me towards socialist ideas. The Lib Dems showed their true colours, orange on the outside and blue on the inside. Like so many young people, as evidenced by the student protests in 2011 at the increase of tuition fees, I learnt that capitalist politicians cannot be trusted.

Socialist Students have been fighting against the effects of the coalition and the regressive ‘reforms’ that they made to higher education.

Here at Coventry University working class students will be celebrating Nick Clegg’s loss. They will potentially leave university with over £50k worth of debt, having their living conditions squeezed with maintenance loans that in some case only just cover the cost of rent and the prospects of finding a stable post-graduate career is just a dream.

I was fortunate to have a part-time job to help me with the costs, however like so many students who had to do bar or retail work this is a massive time commitment, and when you are stressing about coursework deadlines or an upcoming exam the last thing you want to do is be wasting valuable revision or study time and go to work to be paid a poor wage to afford your education.

As well as these direct effects on students living standards the commodification of education that the Lib Dems supported and made possible has encouraged a business-like nature to Coventry University that again has affected students from working class backgrounds.

Instead of the university seeing itself as providing a public service, it is now run like a for-profit business. Students are treated as piggy-banks to have money squeezed out of them. This is evident in the housing sector where Futurelets, the letting agency that has the university as its sole shareholder, charges extortionate rents and charge admin fees of unheard of levels. They charge hundreds of pounds in some cases, but no one really knows what work they do to justify that!

Staff are treated like in any other business, with an article in the Guardian (27/11/2016) comparing Coventry University’s management to Sports Direct! Finally, and most tellingly, the University is now cutting the Hardship fund, a fund given to those students most in need, to basically non-existence. This is a move that has shocked Student Unions up and down the country as when approached by Coventry University Students Union they can’t believe the callousness of this move. The harm this will cause Coventry students is no-way worth the small amount of money the university will save! Not that with a profit of over £25m Coventry University needs to save money!

Coventry Socialist Students have been on the fore-front of resisting all these issues. Whether it is for free-education, to tackle the housing crisis in Coventry for students and local residents, supporting the lecturers and their union (UCU) or fighting for the protection of the Hardship Fund, we are campaigning against things that can be blamed on Clegg and the Lib Dems propping up the Tories. Students and young people will not shed a tear over him getting the sack from parliament.

This election electrified young people with a youth turnout at unheard of levels. Young people have responded to the socialist policies of Jeremy Corbyn: Free Education, mass house building to tackle the housing crisis and a £10hr minimum wage for all, not just the over 25s!

We will be supporting these demands on our campus and nationally and students haven’t forgotten Clegg’s betrayal. Only socialist ideas have the answers for young and working class people so let’s fight for them!

Get involved, fill in the form below!