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

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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.

An election day message from Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party

An election day message from Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

The last time I voted Labour in a general election was thirty years ago, in 1987.  I was expelled by the party just before the 1992 election for refusing to back down in my opposition to the Poll Tax and for refusing to disassociate myself from those in the Militant who were the main (and successful) organisers against it.

Seven years ago I helped co-found, with Bob Crow, the late elected leader of the transport union the RMT, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition because you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between the any of main political parties.  All stood for making ordinary people pay for the recession of 2008 triggered by the gambling and speculation of the banks.

Well now, in this election, you can tell the difference between the Labour and the Tory leaders.

Putting my old backbench colleague Jeremy Corbyn into No. 10 Downing Street today would make a major change to so many people’s lives in Coventry.

If Jeremy wins today thousands of 17 and 18 year olds in our city could wake up tomorrow morning knowing they could go to university in September without the fear of a £50,000 debt at the end of three years – and with an acceleration of housebuilding, they could look with more confidence at having their own home in the future.

People in low-paid work could look forward to a 50% pay rise, as the national minimum wage is raised to a more decent level of £10 an hour.

Health workers, teachers, police and council workers – in fact all in the public sector – could look forward to an actual pay rise as Labour has promised to scrap the 1% cap on public sector pay increases, which has been in place for the last five years whilst inflation has eroded the real value of that pay.

And some workers at Walsgrave Hospital, paying hundreds of pounds a year to park at work, could benefit by another pay rise when hospital car parking charges are scrapped –and many thousands of familes would be freed from a charge to visit sick relatives or friends.

Those and many other changes – for example ending the cuts in education and health, giving the public ownership again of rail, mail, water and parts of the energy industries –  could give a glimpse of a different way of running society, the first steps in a socialist direction.

And it wouldn’t be ordinary people paying the price, rich corporations and the richest 5% in the country would have to shoulder more of the burden they’ve escaped in recent years – their taxes would go up, but not for the 95% majority.

So voting Labour in Coventry could make a huge difference today; and I’ve not been able to say that for thirty years.

Now that’s not to say I agree with everything Labour’s doing.  I think they were wrong not to support Scottish independence linked to a socialist programme (and they have lost 50 seats because of it); they were wrong not to stand in the traditions of Tony Benn and Bob Crow and argue for a socialist Brexit last June; they should be promising an end to all council cuts for example in libraries, youth clubs and community centres; and I certainly don’t support spending £200 billion over the next 30 years on a replacement to the Trident nuclear missile system.

But Teresa May and the Tories stand for more austerity – Jeremy Corbyn would challenge that.

Teresa May and the Tories stand for low pay, student debts, housing shortages and worsening health and education – Jeremy Corbyn would challenge that.

Teresa May and the Tories would let rich individuals like Richard Branson and wealthy corporations own our essential public services, such as rail, mail, water and energy – Jeremy Corbyn would challenge that.

But for Jeremy’s challenges to succeed – when the whole of the press, media and Establishment would try to undermine his efforts – he’s going to need more help even than your vote today.

Just like we’ve marched on the streets to defend the NHS or oppose the war in Iraq, we’re going to have to organise to defend Jeremy if he gets into No. 10 from the powerful rich vested interests that don’t want you to have free health and education, higher wages and more secure employment, decent homes and a future to look forward to – if it means their profits and rich lifestyles have to pay for it.

We need to build a powerful socialist organisation in Britain that can take the fight for a new socialist society forward, whoever wins on June 8th. The Socialist Party is trying to do that.

So, vote Labour in Coventry today, and let’s get Jeremy into No. 10.  And join us in the Socialist Party to fight for a socialist future. Fill in the form below!

We are holding a public meeting to do discuss the election results and how we can continue the fight on Tuesday 13th June, 7.30pm at Methodist Hall, Coventry City Centre, CV1 2HA. The Facebook event is here. 

 

 

 

Sixth form student in Coventry explains why she is supporting Jeremy Corbyn

Sixth form student in Coventry explains why she is supporting Jeremy Corbyn

Young people protesting against Academies

We are pleased to publish this piece by Sophie, a sixth form student in Coventry, who will be supporting and voting for Jeremy Corbyn. If you support Corbyn and want to help build the fight for socialism, fill in the form at the bottom!


At any Labour rally with Jeremy speaking, it’s clear to see, young people dominate the crowd, more young people are interesting in and following politics than I’ve personally ever seen before.

Whether it Corbyn’s political agenda or his dashing good looks; I’m yet to decide. To me it’s the fact he seems different than other politicians. He’s passionate for polices that will benefit the many and honest with his promises and how he’ll achieve them. Whilst others vote for Conservative out of fear of what’s to come, I vote for Labour out of hope.

Hope that kids will stop being disadvantaged purely because of the situation they are born into.

Hope that there’s no longer such a divide between rich and poor that people are choosing whether to feed themselves or their children, whilst food banks continue to be relied on. I’m under no illusions that voting Labour will save the country but I at least hope it’ll make it better

Corbyn has appealed to the young voters with polices which prioritise them in areas such as education and employment rights. More young people are expected to vote due to campaigns urging under 25’s to use their voice, and it’s worked. A quarter of a million registered to vote on the final day, like most of us do procrastinating to the final deadline. Teresa May was banking on the fact that young people didn’t care, but we’ve showed her that we do. I just hope it’s enough.

Let June be the END of May, Vote Labour and Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday!

If you need any more convincing, go and watch this!

Corbyn surge leaves May weak and wobbly

Corbyn surge leaves May weak and wobbly

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Theresa May

A late surge in the polls for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has left the Tories and their friends in the mainstream media panicking about the prospect of a hung parliament – or even a Labour government. Theresa May has compounded the damage by refusing to debate Jeremy Corbyn and sending her hapless Home Secretary Amber Rudd instead.

Many polls are currently predicting a hung parliament, a far cry from the landslide majority May was anticipating when she gambled and called the election. David Cameron gambled on a referendum twice, and when it came to the EU referendum he was defeated by a working class rebellion – the same could happen to May.

Like rats leaving a sinking ship, one of the mouthpieces of the capitalist class, The Economist, has dropped support for May and switched to the Lib Dems – the “second eleven” of big business. Corbyn has rightly ruled out a deal with them or any other party.

With just days until the election, it’s “all to play for”. Socialists in Coventry have been out campaigning hard for Jeremy and his socialist policies, we have met many people enthused by this election and who want to join the fight for socialist change. In the next few days lets do everything we can to get the Tories out, and build a strong, combative movement for socialism.

The Socialist Party are holding a public meeting on Tuesday 13th June to discuss the outcome of the election, and how we can continue support for Jeremy Corbyn and build the campaign for socialist change.

It will take place at 7.30pm, Methodist Central Hall in the city centre

Fill in the form below for more information and to get involved!

Nakba Day – solidarity with Palestinian hunger strike

Palestinian hunger strikes

Demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners, East Jerusalem. Photo from Activestills

Today, 15th May, is known as Nakba Day. The Nakba, or catastrophe, refers to the forced displacement and exile of the Palestinian people in 1948 from their land following the creation of the state of Israel.  We are pleased to carry the article below written by a member of the Socialist Struggle Movement, the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Israel-Palestine regarding the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners taking place currently. We would also direct readers to a previous post on this site which has further background information.


Palestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

By Shahar Ben-Horin, Socialist Struggle Movement (Israel-Palestine)

The “Strike of Freedom and Honour” is the name given to a mass hunger strike of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which started indefinitely on the Palestinian Prisoner Day, 17 April. The prisoners are demanding the ending of discrimination on national grounds in prison and arbitrary detention without charge or trial (‘administrative arrests’). Among other things, the prisoners protest against medical neglect, incarceration in isolation, violation of rights to visits, prohibition of telephone calls and denial of the right to academic studies.

Every week sees dozens of military raids on homes of residents throughout the West Bank. Residents are removed from their beds in the middle of the night as a matter of routine. According to Israeli Prison Service (IPS) figures, at the end of April more than 6,100 Palestinian prisoners classified as ‘security prisoners’, including nearly 500 administrative detainees, were held in Israeli jails. Three hundred of the prisoners are minors, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights association A-Dameer (‘The Conscience’). Aside from the Security Prisoners held by IPS, further hundreds of Palestinians are held after being criminalised by the occupation authorities as ‘illegal stayers’, usually after seeking work in Israel, and a further dozens of Palestinians are held in facilities of the military and police before being transferred to the hands of the IPS.

In a special statement issued prior to Prisoner’s Day on behalf of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoners Association and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, it was noted that since 1948, about a million Palestinians have been incarcerated in Israeli detention facilities. Since October 2015, at the beginning of the  ‘eruption’ of protest and escalation in violence, some 10,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel, about a third of them teenagers under 18.

Discrimination in incarceration conditions

Israeli regime propaganda, generously assisted by enlisted media, seeks to systematically mark all Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ as murderers. Even if this was true, and it is not, criminal murderers get definitely better incarceration conditions. However, the sweeping incitement is intended to silence public criticism and torpedo discussion on the reality of the occupation. Many of the prisoners were imprisoned for the sole fact of their involvement in a political struggle against the occupation and the national oppression of the Palestinians.

In this context, the State of Israel does not differentiate between those who were imprisoned after taking part in demonstrations or military activity against the military occupation forces in the territories of 1967, and those convicted of killing innocent civilians out of motives connected with the national conflict. In any case, the Palestinian ‘security prisoners’, whether Israeli citizens or residents of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are sweepingly discriminated against in legal procedures and conditions of imprisonment.

Ami Popper, a Jewish ‘security prisoner’, who slaughtered seven Palestinian workers on nationalist grounds, is entitled to holidays from prison, regular phone calls with relatives and even a place of work outside the prison. However, Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ are not entitled to any of these. Since 2011, they have been deprived of the right to study at the Open University, because they are not Jewish, and that is following a cynical measure of collective punishment that was implemented with the pretext of serving as a means of exerting pressure on Hamas to release the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The policy remained in place even after the prisoner exchange deal that was eventually conducted in the same year.

The prisoners’ main demand is for public telephones to be installed in their prison wings so that they can talk to their relatives. Not only does such an arrangement exist in the criminal wings, but also the most famous Jewish security prisoner, Yigal Amir (who assassinated Israeli prime minister Rabin in 1995), is allowed to talk to his family by telephone. Palestinians are forbidden from doing so. The prisoners are dependent on the smuggling of mobile phones. For allegedly assisting in such smuggling, former Palestinian MK (member of the Israeli parliament, Knesset) Bassel Ghattas (National Democratic Alliance party) was sentenced earlier this year to two years in prison.

Hunger strikes threaten Establishment

During half a century of occupation in the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian prisoners succeeded in improving their conditions of imprisonment through collective and individual hunger strikes, and obtained recognition by the prison authorities of their elected representatives. The current action is the largest hunger strike since 2012, when about 1,500 prisoners went on hunger strike for nearly a month and achieved some improvement in conditions, including partial renewal of family visits from the Gaza Strip. A series of hunger strikes by administrative detainees managed to bring about the release of detainees without an indictment, which only proved the claim that they were arbitrarily detained and refuted the claim of their alleged danger.

In 2014, an extended hunger strike, which at its height involved around 250 administrative detainees, was isolated and eventually collapsed against the background of the military offensive in the West Bank (operation Shuvu Ahim – ‘Come Back Brothers’) and the mass arrests that accompanied it. But the Israeli establishment continues to view hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners as a threat. In addition to international criticism of Israel, the hunger strikes could ignite military confrontations – Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has already threatened to take action if the demands of the prisoners are not met – and much more significantly also mass protests on the ground, the more so as the lives of the prisoners and strike leaders become endangered.

The forced-feeding law approved by the Knesset in 2015 is designed to help the state to subdue hunger strikes by restoring the practice of de-facto torture conducted in Israel in the past, and which ironically has led to the only deaths of hunger strikers, so far.

The Israeli Medical Association (doctors’ trade union), as part of the policy of the World Medical Association, issued a vocal criticism against the law and ordered doctors not to cooperate with it. Doctors in hospitals in Ashkelon and Beersheba, for example, refused in 2015 to forcibly feed administrative detainee Muhammad ‘Allan, and last year, doctors in a hospital in `Afula refused to forcibly feed the journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who was also held as an administrative detainee. The lack of collaborationist doctors who would agree to break the hunger strike has now led Netanyahu’s officials to consider flying doctors from abroad to do so. In the meantime, the Health Ministry is briefing hospital managers to prepare for the possibility of forced feeding, and at the same time, IPS, MDA (emergency medical service) and the military are preparing to set up designated clinics in the prisons.

The IPS claims that the number of hunger strikers has dropped to 850 within the first two weeks of the strike, but prisoners’ rights organisations estimate that the number actually climbed to 1,500. In any case, the prison authorities do not hide their concern that the strike will expand, especially if the movement of solidarity with it accelerates. So far, most of the hunger strikers are identified with Fatah. About 3,000 prisoners support Fatah, and despite political divisions between them, there is a possibility that many of them will be convinced to join the protest later on. Additionally, hundreds more prisoners identified with Hamas and PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) are taking part, and the hunger strike may expand among the supporters of these political movements, as well. On 4 May, a number of prisoners who had served as senior commanders in the Hamas militia joined in, and additionally the secretary-general of the PFLP, Ahmad Sa`adat, joined the hunger strike, as well.

“Israel transformed basic rights into privileges”

The most prominent leader of the current strike is Marwan Barghouti, one of 13 Palestinian MPs (members of the Palestinian Legislative Council) imprisoned by Israel, and considered the most popular Palestinian leader today, who is sometimes called the ‘Palestinian Nelson Mandela’. In all the polls, he consistently appears to be the candidate who can draw the most support if in the future he runs – as he plans – for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority.

In an article he succeeded in getting to the New York Times at the start of the strike, Barghouti wrote that the State of Israel has “turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.” He added that “Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalising Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation”. He concluded, “Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace”.

Barghouti, who was one of the leaders of the militias affiliated with Fatah – the Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – survived an assassination attempt in 2001 (“targeted prevention”) by the Israeli military. He was arrested during a military raid on Ramallah the following year and convicted in a civil court for responsibility for approving terrorist actions against civilians on both sides of the Green Line, in which five people were murdered. Barghouti denied the allegations, gave up legal defence as a protest against the trial and claimed he was opposed to harming innocent people.

It should be emphasised that the socialist left opposes the use of terrorist methods in struggles. As opposed to the propaganda of the Israeli establishment, not every person who wages an armed struggle against the occupation is a terrorist. The militias of Fatah, for example, have conducted military actions against the military occupation. Nevertheless, they did not refrain over the years from killing civilians – which has, in fact, not harmed at all the occupation regime and even played into its hands politically, with more brutal attacks being carried out against Palestinian civilians. It is reasonable to assume that as one of the militia commanders, Barghouti has also been responsible for the killing of civilians. But what about former Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin, who as the commander of the Irgun, was directly responsible, among other things, for the massive terrorist attack on the King David Hotel in 1946, in which 91 Britons, Arabs and Jews were killed? And is not present Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responsible for issuing instructions for actions, such as the bombing of highly populated areas in the Gaza Strip, in which many Palestinian civilians died? In the war in 2014 alone, the number of Palestinians killed was twice that of Israelis killed in all the years of the second intifada.

Barghouti’s popularity is a cause for concern for the Israeli establishment. While Palestinian Authority President Abbas hastened to lavish praise on Trump and met with him on 3 May, and continues to work to maintain full arrangements with the occupation regime, Barghouti corresponds with the public rage against the Palestinian president who is reaching the end of his road. As he explained in an article he leaked to the Palestinian daily al-Quds last year, Barghouti attacks Abbas’s authoritarian rule, explains that the negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic campaign on the international level have failed, and demands that the PA ends the “security coordination”.  In recent years he has called for a new popular intifada. His challenge to Abbas’ leadership is also the reason why, despite coming first in the election in December to the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas refused to appoint him to the position of deputy chairman of the Fatah movement. Abbas has paid lip service in support of the hunger strike, but has no interest in it. He does not want Barghouti to profit politically from the hunger strike or the development of a popular protest movement around it – at the time when he puts his trust in Trump and wants to show he has control on the ground in the Palestinian Authority enclaves.

Barghouti was sent to solitary confinement at the start of the strike. The IPS, using secret video camera surveillance, claims that Barghouti ate on two occasions since the beginning of the hunger strike. In 2004, during another hunger strike involving around 2,200 prisoners, in which Barghouti was amongst the leaders, the IPS also claimed Barghouti was secretly filmed eating a meal in solitary confinement. These claims are angrily denied by Palestinian prisoners’ campaigners, who say the IPS are deliberately spreading black propaganda by using old video footage that was made when there was no prisoners’ hunger strike and that the face of the man eating food in the latest footage is obscured.

If Barghouti is evacuated for medical treatment or forced feeding, or if his life becomes in danger, an escalation in the solidarity protests outside the prisons can be expected. It is not inconceivable that if one of the hunger strikers – and certainly one of the leaders of the hunger strike – pays with his life over the next few weeks, it will ignite a mass protest similar to the response to the deaths of hunger strikers in Northern Ireland in 1981, led by republican prisoner, Bobby Sands, who was elected to Westminster during his protest. Already, now, the hunger strike serves as a mobilising and uniting factor for significant layers among the Palestinian public, on both sides of the Green Line.

Solidarity protests

Many thousands took part in protest marches held on Prisoner Day throughout the West Bank, particularly in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem. In towns and villages, solidarity protest tents were set up in solidarity with the hunger strike. On 27 April, a protest shut-down of public services and small businesses was held in the Palestinian Authority territories and in East Jerusalem. On the following day there were demonstrations and confrontations with the military and the Border Police in at least 15 locations in the West Bank as part of a ‘Day of Rage’ called for by the Fatah.

The protests in the West Bank are facing military repression, which could worsen later. During the first two weeks of the hunger strike, the highest number of Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank was recorded since the beginning of 2017, with 191 injured, including 45 minors (OCHA figures). The vast majority of them were injured during solidarity protests with the hunger strike, and about a tenth were injured from live bullets.

Within the Green Line, as well, a number of protest vigils were organised locally and a solidarity tent was set up in Umm al-Fahm. Solidarity demonstrations have been held in several countries around the world, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which the Histadrut (Israeli trade union organisation) is affiliated, published a solidarity statement.

As usual, the Israeli government and the tops of IPS declare that they allegedly are not moved by the protests and have no intention to negotiate with the prisoners. In a number of cases in recent years, the state, under the Netanyahu governments, was prepared to bring hunger striking prisoners to the brink of death before reaching an agreement. In the meantime, the IPS is working to punish the prisoners by psychological pressure, isolation, transfers between prisons, confiscation of clothing and personal equipment, and even the confiscation of salt used by the hunger strikers to improve their physical condition during the strike.

According to reports, negotiations between the prisoners and the IPS, nevertheless, took place during the weeks leading up to the strike, and if the strike intensifies, they will probably be renewed. It is possible that the Netanyahu government may be willing to try to push the line a bit further this time to demonstrate toughness against the demands of the prisoners, but they are playing with fire and may lose control over developments.

More protest actions, of Palestinians and Israelis, to support the hunger strike, represent a potential threat to Netanyahu’s fanatical right-wing government. Israeli demonstrators must stand alongside Palestinian demonstrators. And the Israel Medical Association is, on this issue, an example to other trade unions: it is necessary to rebel against draconian legislation and attacks by the right-wing government. The protests against forced feeding, discrimination in incarceration conditions and administrative detentions should help to build a stronger movement against the occupation and perpetuation of the national conflict, against the war on workers and poor, and for peace, equality and a socialist change.

Socialist Struggle Movement says:

  • Support solidarity protests with the prisoners’ hunger strike. The Histadrut should back the solidarity statement of the ITUC, of which it is a member.
  • No to torture of hunger strikers – no to forced-feeding! Repeal the Forced-Feeding Law. Workers’ organisations should back the Israeli Medical Association’s opposition to force feeding.
  • End discrimination on the basis of nationality in conditions of imprisonment! Yes to supporting the basic demands of the prisoners to improve their conditions, including the right to telephone calls.
  • End administrative detention! End arbitrary arrests and incarceration without trial. Protect the right of every prisoner to know the charges against him/her, to be represented by a lawyer and to have a fair trial.
  • Get the military out of the territories! Abolish the military courts in the West Bank and end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the settlements.
  • Release all Palestinian political prisoners. Conduct fair trials, through a designated procedure, under the supervision of workers’ and independent human rights organisations, from both sides of the conflict, for Israelis and Palestinians suspected of responsibility for atrocities related to the conflict.
  • For an independent, democratic and socialist Palestinian state alongside a democratic and socialist Israel, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East and regional peace.

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Jeremy Corbyn supports a “Robin Hood Tax” – what do Socialists say?

Jeremy Corbyn supports a “Robin Hood Tax” – what do Socialists say? 

robin hood tax

The Robin Hood Tax – Getty Images

Labour have today pledged that they will introduce a “Robin Hood Tax” on financial transactions in the City that could bring in billions of pounds that could be used for public services. The Socialist Party supports increased taxation on the rich and welcomes this move. At the same time we argue that we need to go much further if we are to create the fair society that so many want to see. We are republishing this article below which was first carried in The Socialist newspaper in 2016. To create a truly fair society, we will need to break with capitalism in order to democratically plan the vast resources that exist in the interests of the majority of people, i.e. bring about socialist change. We hope this article is a contribution to the debate about how we can get the change that so many people need.


Fighting the great tax robbery: taxes and regulation or socialist nationalisation?

Tax avoidance has been in the headlines lately, provoking renewed call to tax the rich and big business. The Socialist Party campaigns for closing loopholes and increasing wealth and corporation taxes. But you can’t control what you don’t own: only socialist nationalisation can end the great tax robbery.

It is a time of seemingly never-ending austerity. Workers across the UK and the world are being forced to pick up the tab for a crisis caused by the capitalist system.

So the news that massive corporations are engaged in massive tax avoidance is a source of understandable bitterness and anger.

As previously reported in the Socialist, huge multinationals such as drugs firm AstraZeneca and telecom company Vodafone pay zero corporation tax in the UK. After a ‘sweetheart’ deal with the Tory cabinet, internet giant Google agreed to pay £130 million – just 2.8% of its profit.

Little wonder people are up in arms when the government says there is no money for libraries, play centres, vital public services or pay rises.

HMRC

With government credibility already shot to pieces regarding its ‘all in it together’ slogan, the Tories have continued to make swingeing cuts to HM Revenue and Customs. The ability to collect tax has been weakened further.

In an illustration of how the balance has shifted towards giving big business an easy ride, the rate of corporation tax in the UK in 1981 was over 50%. It is 20% in 2016!

It is no surprise that demands for the rich to pay their share are gaining ground. People see the increase in the gap between rich and poor in their everyday experience. This has been a large part of the rise of the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the United States. People are looking for answers to the crisis that they see around them.

For example, the website of the Sanders campaign states that, if elected, he would start by “demanding that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes. As president, Senator Sanders will stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying US income taxes.

“He will create a progressive estate tax on the top 0.3% of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million. He will also enact a tax on Wall Street speculators who caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, and life savings.”

Here in the UK, the fact that we have a Labour leader prepared even to talk about rising inequality, and say ordinary people shouldn’t foot the bill for the crisis, is an important step forward. Arch-Blairite Peter Mandelson, architect of New Labour, famously declared his party was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.”

In his campaign for the Labour leadership last year, Jeremy Corbyn set out his economic vision in the document ‘The Economy in 2020’. He sets out some laudable aims. These include collecting £120 billion of avoided and evaded tax, creating a system where the rich pay more (the rate is not specified), and creating a “level playing field” between small and big businesses.

Demands for the rich to pay their taxes, and proposals like a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on big finance institutions’ transactions, are not new. In fact, for most of Labour’s history – not including the Blair-Brown New Labour years – they were common currency. These ideas have recently made a partial comeback through the publicity work of groups like 38 Degrees and the Tax Justice Network, as well as being raised by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Socialist Party supports many of the measures he proposes, but are they enough to solve the crisis for working class people?

Recent events in France show once again that, whatever the intentions, taxing the super-rich is not a straightforward question.

François Hollande of the Parti Socialiste (equivalent of the Labour Party) promised higher taxes on the super-rich during his 2012 election campaign. He pledged to tax incomes over €1 million at 75%.

Under pressure from the capitalist class, in practice he reduced this to 50%, before dropping the policy altogether. High earners were threatening to leave the country – and take their wealth with them.

According to reports from the French finance ministry, Hollande’s increase only brought in the relatively small sums of €260 million in 2013 and €160 million in 2014. This was in relation to a budget deficit at that time of €84.7 billion!

ENFORCING

No doubt a firmer stand on the rate, closing loopholes and enforcing collection could have improved these figures. Certainly they in no way mean we oppose higher income taxes on the super-rich.

A genuine socialist government would combine such measures with taking democratic control of all imports and exports. This means enforcing a state monopoly of foreign trade and exchange, including movements of capital, with democratic control of all imports and exports. That would prevent the tiny super-rich elite from trying to flee the country with their plunder.

What about the corporations? In Britain, around 150 big companies control the majority of economic activity. Surely, you might say, we can tax them further?

Yes, is the answer. Substantially increasing both income tax for the rich and corporation tax for big business could, if actually implemented, provide enough money to reverse all cuts to public services, increase public sector workers’ pay, and a lot more. However, as long as we live in a capitalist society, where wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of the 1%, they will use all means at their disposal to avoid handing over even a penny of what they’ve got.

The experience of Syriza in Greece shows that half-measures – or more accurately, quarter-measures – can lead to a situation where a left party ends up implementing brutal capitalist austerity.

Even if such governments succeed in redistributing some of the wealth controlled by big business, that is not the end of the story. Britain’s 1945 Labour government created the welfare state and operated far greater taxation and regulation than today’s establishment parties. But over the following decades, the capitalists took every opportunity to claw those gains back.

In Chile and Venezuela in the 20th century, left governments even faced mass sabotage by capitalists. ‘Why supply goods and services,’ they reasoned, ‘for countries that won’t even let us keep most of the profits?’

The clear answer to companies that threaten closures, job losses or sabotage is to take them into public ownership.

As Karl Marx, scientific socialism’s founding thinker, put it in his ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’:

“The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non-workers in the form of property in capital and land…. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically.

“If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one.”

Marx’s words, despite being written in 1875, are totally relevant today. You can’t plan what you don’t control, and you can’t control what you don’t own.

The mass inequality we see is a logical consequence of the capitalist system, whereby wealth production is owned and controlled by a tiny minority in its own interests. Year on year the wealth gap is widening further as the capitalists react to economic stagnation and crises by making the working class pay.

NEOLIBERAL

Neoliberal economic commentators suggest that taxes should be cut to entice more wealth into the country and encourage businesses activity. But the so-called ‘trickle down’ approach has only ever achieved the opposite, as is clearly the case today.

What is needed is a genuine, full, socialist programme. This means breaking the power of the capitalists – by nationalising not only the banks, financial institutions, plus companies threatening job losses and so on – but all the big corporations which control the majority of economic activity.

A publicly owned economy, under the democratic control and management of workers, could actually start to plan production in the interests of the 99%.

FIGHT FOR BOLD SOCIALIST POLICIES: TAKE THE WEALTH OFF THE 1%!

  • Reverse all cuts to HM Revenue and Customs – collect the uncollected tax, and increase taxes on the super-rich and big business
  • Nationalise the banks, top 150 corporations and tax avoiders under the democratic control and management of workers and service users. Compensation only to be paid on the basis of proven need
  • For a socialist, democratically planned economy to meet the needs of all, not make obscene profits for a few

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