UNISON and UNITE in local government must co-ordinate action with the teachers and junior doctors!

UNISON and UNITE in local government must co-ordinate industrial action with the teachers and junior doctors!

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Strike together

By a local government worker in Coventry

The 3 local government unions – UNISON, UNITE and GMB have concluded their consultations on the pay claim. The offer from the employer was just 2 per cent over 2 years.

UNISON and UNITE returned big majorities for rejection, 64 per cent and 87 per cent respectively. GMB  members voted by a margin of 9-1 to accept the offer.  The GMB result is disappointing for anyone wanting to fight for decent pay. Certainly the scandalous bulletin being distributed by GMB national officers, in which UNISON and UNITE are attacked for delaying members’ pay increase is particularly unhelpful.

The fact that the GMB have departed before the battle has begun is a certain blow. It is always preferable for the maximum possible unity to exist, but that unity can’t be based around sub-standard pay deals and surrendering without a fight.

What has since become clear is that UNISON and UNITE put to the employer that instead of the pay deal being over 2 years, it should be for 1 year. This was rejected by the employers side and both unions appear to be seeking full industrial action ballots.

Activists in UNITE and UNISON should push for the building of ‘the spirit of N30’, when over 1 million public sector workers  from a whole host of unions came out on strike together in defence of pensions in November 2011

We should urgently look to co-ordinate our action with those of the teachers who are likely to strike over the academisation of our schools, and the junior doctors who are fighting against the imposition of changes to their contracts.

With the allegations of serial tax evasion from David Cameron, the steel crisis, and open splits over the EU referendum, the government is far weaker now than in 2011.

What is more, the billions squirreled away in tax havens show once and for all that the money is there for council workers to have decent pay. The money is also there for play centres, libraries and other vital public services that we all rely on.

This government can not only be defeated on pay. By piling on the pressure we can force the Tories out and defend working class people against austerity and build a movement that puts a new type of society on the agenda.

Newspaper and radio coverage for Socialist response to Tata steel crisis

Newspaper and radio coverage for Socialist response to steel crisis

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Coverage in the Coventry Telegraph

The response of the Socialist Party and Dave Nellist to the crisis of the steel industry has received coverage in the local media.

The Coventry Telegraph carried an article that included the press release issued by Coventry Socialist Party (see below)

Dave Nellist was also interviewed live on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire on the Phil Upton show (Gagan Grewal was standing in)

It can be listened to here – go to 2:04:45 to hear Dave outline the case for public ownership and a fighting response from the trade unions.

 


 

‘Governments have bailed out banks – why not steelworkers?’ Dave Nellist urges Jeremy Corbyn to call for Tata Steel nationalisation

BY SIMON GILBERT (writing in the Coventry Telegraph)

Former Coventry MP wants the UK steel industry to be publicly owned following recent crisis in the industry.

Former Coventry MP Dave Nellist has called for the government to take over troubled firm Tata Steel as fears of plant closures loom after the firm announced it wanted to sell its UK business.

He also called on Jeremy Corbyn to adopt the same stance after the Labour Party leader urged the prime minister, David Cameron, to recall parliament to debate the situation in the UK steel industry.

Tata Steel’s parent company Tata owns Coventry-based Jaguar Land Rover and the metal firm is one of the luxury car manufacturer’s suppliers.

The steel company recently opened a research and development centre at the University of Warwick and aims to completely relocate its R&D to Coventry.

Mr Nellist said: “Most of my family were steelworkers. The sale or closure of the remaining steel works would be a disaster for the areas concerned.

“The Tories were forced to nationalise Rolls Royce in 1971, and completed the job in just 24 hours. If we had a serious public sector led house-building programme there would be plenty of need for steel. I support the call to nationalise steel.

“Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely right to urge the prime minister to recall parliament to debate the issue. But I urge Jeremy to add his name to the call for nationalisation to save jobs and to defend the communities that rely on the industry.

“Governments have been quick to bail out the banks. Why not the same for the steelworkers and their families?

“The situation with Tata once again shows why the capitalist system, that puts profit before everything, can’t be trusted to provide jobs and security for ordinary people.”

But Sajid Javid, the government’s business secretary, appeared to play down any suggestion of nationalisation ahead of a meeting of key ministers today.

Mr Javid said: “I’m deeply concerned about the situation. I think it’s absolutely clear that the UK steel industry is absolutely vital for the country.”

He added: “At this stage, given the announcement from Tata has just come out, it’s important I think we talk to them properly and understand the exact situation and we look at all viable options.

“I don’t think nationalisation is going to be the solution because I think everyone would want a long-term viable solution.

“And if you look around Europe and elsewhere I think nationalisation is rarely the answer, particularly if you take into account the big challenges the industry faces.”

Tata says it is being forced to sell its UK steel business after trading conditions “rapidly deteriorated” in the UK and Europe. It pointed the finger at a global oversupply of steel, cheap steel imports, high costs and currency volatility.

Tata was founded in 1868 and has an annual turnover of £77billion and made a profit of £4.7bn in 2015. It owns more than 100 companies and employs 600,000 people worldwide, including 80,000 steel workers in 26 countries.


 

Dave Nellist backs call to nationalise Tata

Dave Nellist backs call to nationalise Tata

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and the National Chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has today backed a petition calling for the nationalisation of Tata.

Dave stated that

Most of my family were steelworkers. The sale or closure of the remaining steel works would be a disaster for the areas concerned. The Tories were forced to nationalise Rolls Royce in 1971, and completed the job in just 24 hours. If we had a serious public sector led house-building programme there’d be plenty of need for steel. I support the call to renationalise steel.

The petition has been initiated by the National Shop Stewards Network, and can be signed here

See this article by a Socialist Party member in Wales for further background

Five years ago – when 750,000 people marched against the cuts

Five years ago  – when 750,000 people marched against the cuts

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Enormous show of strength against the cuts

Saturday 26th March is the 5th anniversary of the mass TUC march through Central London that saw up to 750,000 people protest against the cuts of the ConDem coalition government. It showed clearly that people were up for the fight against austerity. Unfortunately since then the leaders of the TUC and many of the trade unions have squandered opportunity after opportunity for a co-ordinated, sustained fightback.

We are pleased to republish two key articles below. The first is from the issue of our newspaper The Socialist printed a week after the demo. As you will see from the headline on our paper we fought for the next step being a 24 hour public sector general strike.

The second article was published in June of 2011, and looks back at the months following the mass demo, examining the role of the trade union leaders whilst posing the need for a political alternative – in our view socialist policies to break with capitalism.

With major battles looming, being headed by the courageous junior doctors, the need for a militant and combative response from the unions combined with the fight for socialism assumes even greater importance.


 

We said: NO CUTS!

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Front page of The Socialist

From every direction they poured onto London’s Embankment, from up and down the country, a magnificent surge of workers, their banners and placards, transforming London for a day.

Previously the governor of the Bank of England expressed surprise that there has not been greater anger against the cuts from those affected. Even some trade union leaders, the very organisers of the demonstration, had estimated that ‘up to 100,000’ would march.

But the number on the day was six or seven times that as the opposition to the government’s cuts was made clear. This was a reflection of the rage that has been building up, not having found a national expression until 26 March.

Not only was it huge, but this was unquestionably the working class on the march.

Firefighters, nurses, teachers, civil servants, transport workers, carers, young people, and their families surged through the city.

Trade unions

Union t-shirts, bibs and flags made blocs of purple, of green, of blue, orange, yellow, red and white. They marched against job cuts, against library closures, for a future for young people, for decent pensions, against the whole spectrum of suffering that the Con-Dem government intends to rain down on us.

But marchers drew confidence from their sheer number and also knew that more has to be done to stem the flow of cuts. Only days before the march the budget had granted further tax breaks to the richest and spelt greater suffering for the most vulnerable, such as the cuts in the winter fuel allowance.

Vince Cable has made the government’s position clear. “Certainly we’re listening, and I talk regularly to the trade union movement. I think [it’s] important we have a dialogue with them, but we’re not going to change the basic economic strategy.” But that’s what they think! Leaders of two of Britain’s biggest trade unions called for coordinated strike action to follow the demo.

They are absolutely correct: this demo must form the platform for an almighty and powerful campaign of action, of occupations of threatened services and, especially, of coordinated strike action, so the cuts can be defeated.


 
TUC demonstration biggest in decades
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General Strike!

On 26 March 2011 the British working class rose like lions and took to the streets in an immense show of strength. The massive TUC demonstration against public spending cuts was well over half a million strong, possibly 700,000 or more.
 By Hannah Sell

The capitalist media has attempted to completely downplay the importance of the demonstration, concentrating overwhelmingly on the clashes with the police at far smaller protests on the same day.

And the turnout on the main demo was far bigger than has been reported. The BBC, for example, claims there were just 250,000 attending.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the TUC itself has also underplayed the turnout as between a quarter and half a million.

This was the biggest trade union organised demonstration in decades.

It had widespread support from the working class and from wide sections of the middle class.

As a TUC-commissioned poll showed, a majority of the population – 52% – support the aims of the demonstration, with only 31% opposing them. Several Socialist Party members got free or reduced price taxi rides to catch early trains from sympathetic cabbies.

On the journey to London even first class passengers bought copies of the Socialist out of sympathy with the demonstration.

The potential power of the trade union movement was graphically demonstrated as a tidal wave of humanity flooded the streets of London. Among the protesters were pensioners, community campaigners and students, the latter veterans of their own movement before Christmas.

The overwhelming majority of marchers, however, were trade unionists, many taking part in their first ever demonstration. The Unison contingent alone took an hour to pass and it seemed as if every trade union – from the largest to the smallest – had its own lively and colourful contingent.

All of those capitalist commentators that have written off the trade union movement today as a spent force were decisively answered by this demonstration. The power of the trade unions was undisputedly established.

But the question on demonstrators’ lips was ‘what next?’ How can the trade union movement use its power to stop the cuts?

Clearly rattled by the size of the demonstration, Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable has declared that marching will not stop the government, which he laughably described as “one of the strongest the country has ever had”.

In reality this is a weak coalition government, far weaker than the Tory governments of Maggie Thatcher – the Iron Lady. Yet the Iron Lady was reduced to iron filings by a mass movement of 18 million people refusing to pay the flat rate tax (poll tax) that her government had introduced.

That movement ended the tax and brought down Thatcher. Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, was right when in his speech he called the anti-cuts movement the Con-Dem’s poll tax.

This government is already rattled and can be decisively beaten by the huge power of the organised working class. Nonetheless, few demonstrators imagined that this savage government of millionaires will be stopped in its tracks by one demonstration, no matter how big.

Correctly, it was widely understood that the demonstration needed to be a springboard for further action.

What alternative?

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight   (Click to enlarge)

Alongside the vital question of how to stop the cuts, the other issue of the day was what the alternative to cuts is. The march was officially called the ‘march for the alternative’.

For some right wing trade union leaders ‘the alternative’ is code for New Labour.

Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke at the demonstration. A small minority booed him, but in the main he was politely received.

He was very careful, however, not to put Labour’s real programme, of supporting massive cuts in public services albeit carried out at a slightly slower pace than that of the Con-Dem government. Instead he made an empty speech.

He made no concrete promises that a Labour government would reverse cuts. He compared the anti-cuts movement to the struggle of the suffragettes, anti-apartheid and civil rights movements without once mentioning the history of trade union struggle in Britain, or for that matter the anti-war movement against the New Labour government.

Unsurprisingly, the man who has said he “opposes irresponsible strikes” did not say a word about what action workers should take to defend their jobs and services from attack.

Many workers on the demonstration will undoubtedly vote Labour in the elections on 5 May in the hope that Labour will, at least, cut more slowly. A significant minority, however, are too angry at New Labour’s record in government and the way Labour councils have willingly implemented government cuts at local level to vote Labour again.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – which is standing anti-cuts candidates across the country in the May elections – received a good response.

And those that will vote Labour understand that doing so will not stop the cuts and that therefore further strikes and demonstrations are essential.

All the platform speakers were in the main greeted warmly by the crowd, but the loudest cheers came for those who called for the demonstration to be followed up by strike action.

Len McCluskey declared that the demonstration would have to be followed by coordinated industrial action. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, summed up the mood of many demonstrators when he said: “Today we’ve marched together; next we’ve got to strike together”.

The Socialist Party’s call for a 24-hour public sector general strike as the next step in the battle to stop the cuts received wide support from the crowd.

At the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) stage many hundreds of workers stopped to hear speeches about how such a strike could be made a reality. If the TUC was now to start seriously building for a one-day public sector general strike it would receive enormous support from trade unionists.

It would also attract millions of non-unionised workers and sections of the middle class towards the trade union movement, as the force in society with the power to stop the cuts.

Such a strike would terrify the Con-Dems and give enormous confidence to the working class. Unfortunately, other trade union leaders speaking from the main platform did not put forward a strategy for strike action to defeat the government.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, put forward local demonstrations against cuts. While such demonstrations can be an important part of the movement they are not a substitute for strike action – both locally and sectorally and coordinated on a national basis.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, rightly declared that the trade unions would not allow public services to be destroyed but did not make any concrete proposals on what the next step should be.

Before the demonstration he had emphasised the role of “peaceful civil disobedience”. As the Socialist Party warned at the time, we agree, but not if community campaigns and civil disobedience are used as an excuse to avoid strike action, rather than as an addition.

Civil disobedience

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight   (Click to enlarge)

It should be added that Barber’s call for civil disobedience does not seem to have translated into supporting it when it took place on Saturday. It was only a small minority of Saturday’s demonstration, mainly young people, who organised sit-ins in shops and other civil disobedience.

Such actions were secondary to the huge power shown by the main demonstration, despite the capitalist media’s inevitable concentration on them.

However, unfortunately the TUC has been reported in the media as just giving a blanket condemnation of ‘violent protesters’, without a word about the role of the police.

We do not support the smashing up of shops as a method of protest, and unfortunately it gives the government, the media and others a way of trying to detract from the magnificence and size of the main demonstration.

But in the main it was the police, not the demonstrators who were violent on Saturday. It seems that the majority of civil disobedience which took place around the demonstration was peaceful, but faced kettling and arrests.

The Guardian website shows film of young people – many singing the international revolutionary workers’ song ‘the Internationale’ – being kettled and manhandled by the police for taking part in an entirely peaceful protest.

Len McCluskey was right when he supported the student protests and demanded “the police keep their grubby paws off our kids”. The fact that so many students attended the TUC demonstration shows that they are rightly looking to the trade union movement to take the lead in the fight against the cuts.

If that is to remain the case it is essential that the trade unions support the youth’s struggle, including against police repression, but also take decisive action against the cuts.

Opposition to cuts in pensions is one issue around which there is a clear prospect of coordinated strike action. The UCU have already taken strike action and is considering more, and the civil servants union, PCS, is discussing balloting for strike action on pensions to take place in May or June.

The NUT is also discussing action before the summer. To have these three unions – one million workers – strike together over pensions would be an important step forward in the battle against cuts.

However, we need more. Unison has also promised national action over pensions, but unfortunately Prentis made no mention of it in his speech.

Unison members, however, want to see action on this issue. There was support among Unison members and others on the demonstration for the Socialist Party’s call for a national midweek demonstration on the day of the next national strike against cuts and attacks on pensions in order that workers from across the public sector can show their support for strike action and to increase the pressure on other public sector unions to build for a one-day public sector strike.

The political alternative

From the platform there was little explanation of the economic alternative to cuts. Much emphasis was put on the need for job creation but without explanation of how that can be achieved.

Almost every speaker criticised the bankers although from the most right wing, like Usdaw general secretary John Hannett, this was no more than a plea for the bankers to “lead by example”.

This is like asking Dracula to lead by example in refraining from drinking blood!

Several speakers called for a Robin Hood tax on the finance sector which is estimated would raise around £20 billion a year. Mark Serwotka rightly opposed all cuts and very effectively pointed out that tax avoidance by the rich is equal to £120 billion a year, which is almost as much as the total government budget deficit, £143 billion, to be eliminated over four years.

Therefore, at one fell swoop, it should be possible to cut the deficit!

The problem that was not addressed is how to collect the money. As the unpaid £120 billion indicates, the capitalist class is not prepared to pay even the puny levels they are currently taxed.

To collect the money is virtually impossible unless the government uses wide economic powers. This poses the question of the complete nationalisation of the banks and finance houses under workers’ control and management.

Even this would need the cooperation of workers throughout workplaces and industry with the powers – workers’ control – to really open the books, discover the scale of tax avoidance taking place and bring offenders to book.

In other words, socialist measures are needed even to eliminate tax avoidance and evasion, which the overwhelming majority of ordinary working people would support.

Unfortunately, speakers at the main platform did not raise the case for socialism; for a society run in the interests of the millions rather than the billionaires.

However, more than 50 Socialist Party campaign stalls put the case for socialism to the demonstrators. For many of them, on their first demonstration, socialism was a completely new and very interesting idea.

Hundreds wanted to join the Socialist Party, several thousand went away with a copy of the Socialist and many tens of thousands went away determined to struggle, alongside the socialists, to go in the coming months from a massive demonstration to a massive public sector general strike.

Nellist and left wing trade unionists oppose the EU and say no public money should go to UKIP and Tory campaigns

Nellist and left wing union leaders oppose the EU and say no public money should go to UKIP and Tory campaigns

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

The following letter from Dave Nellist and leading left wing trade unionists appeared in The Guardian newspaper today. The original can be read here

‘Now the referendum has been called , the Electoral Commission has the power to designate who shall be the “official” Remain and Leave campaigns, giving these organisations both political authority and millions of pounds of public resources. We call on the commission not to give taxpayers’ money to the Tory and Ukip-dominated Vote Leave, Leave.EU or Grassroots Out campaigns, or any amalgam of them, in the forthcoming EU referendum. The commission does not have to choose an official campaign at all, if there is not one organisation that adequately represents those supporting a particular outcome to the referendum.

We believe there are millions of trade unionists, young people, anti-austerity campaigners and working-class voters, whose opposition to the big business-dominated EU would not be represented by these organisations.

We condemn the mainstream media for promoting Ukip, Tory and other pro-austerity and racist establishment politicians and organisations as the only exit voices. We call on the Electoral Commission to recognise that a significant proportion of those who will vote against the EU do so because they support basic socialist policies of workers’ rights, public ownership, and opposition to austerity and racism.’
Dave Nellist Ex-Labour MP and chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Janice Godrich President, PCS civil servants union
Sean Hoyle President, RMT transport workers union
John McInally National vice-president, PCS
Peter Pinkney RMT President 2013-2015
Paul McDonnell RMT national executive committee
John Reid RMT NEC
Dave Auger Unison public sector workers union NEC
April Ashley Unison NEC
Roger Bannister Unison NEC
Hugo Pierre Unison NEC
Karen Reissman Unison NEC
Polly Smith Unison NEC
Pete Glover National Union of Teachers NEC
Jane Nellist NUT NEC
Stefan Simms NUT NEC
Chas Berry Napo national vice-chair
Alan Gibson National Union of Journalists NEC
Elenor Haven PCS NEC
Marianne Owens PCS NEC
Paul Williams PCS NEC
Carlo Morelli University and College Union NEC
Richard McEwan UCU NEC
Sean Wallis UCU NEC
Saira Weiner UCU NEC
Mike Forster Unison local government service group executive (SGE)
Huw Williams Unison local government SGE
Gary Freeman Unison health SGE

 

Council workers – reject the pay offer

Council workers – reject the pay offer

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Reject!

By a council worker in Coventry

Local government unions have just started consulting hundreds of thousands of members who work in Councils across the country over the latest pay award.

Paltry offer – sick pay and annual leave not protected

The headline is that the employers are offering a paltry 2 per cent pay deal over two years (1 per cent per year to cover 2016 – 2018). Significantly they have also refused to protect our current sick pay and annual leave.

We are getting worse and worse off. A Midlands TUC report released this week shows that wages in the West Midlands are on average £38 less in real terms compared to 2008. Our day to day experience shows that we are under more pressure at work – being subjected to sometimes oppressive performance management regimes, unrealistic expectations where management want us to provide the same vital service but with far less staff, all of which leads to more and more stress.

The position of UNISON, UNITE and GMB

UNISON and UNITE are both recommending that the offer is rejected and this is welcome. The GMB have made no recommendation. Why not? Surely it is either a good offer or bad offer? This is all the more strange since the GMB congress in 2014 voted to campaign for a £10 per hour minimum wage. This offer does not provide for that so it makes no sense to not recommend rejection. GMB members who want to see a fightback over pay should be asking these questions.

How can we win our pay award?

We need a massive rejection of the pay offer in this consultation. We need to tell the employers we mean business, and also the leaderships of our unions that we need to resist.

In a welcome development, the UNISON ballot paper has three options for those choosing to reject. They are – all out strike action, selective strike action and action short of strike action. Members can mark up to 3 of these options and we would encourage all 3 to be ticked.

What kind of action?

Some activists will see selective action as a way of winning our campaign – of bringing out groups of workers who in their eyes have more clout to really hit home. However selective action has certain dangers. It should not be seen as a panacea, as a short cut to winning our just demands. There is a danger that bringing out small groups of workers can mean the mass of members are bystanders and gives the impression that campaigns can be won by proxy.

This is being looked to (in many ways, understandably) by some activists due to the previous campaigns from the local government unions, particularly on pay and pensions (2014 and 2011 being the latest), where there have been highly successful and well supported days of strike action involving huge numbers of members. The union leadership has then sold us short – however the problem wasn’t the mass strike action which was highly successful but the fact that the leadership had little strategy and no plan of action, ultimately selling us short.

Selective action (or regional action) can be a useful auxiliary to mass national action but it is no substitute for it, likewise action short of strike action. However, as part of an overall strategy all three options should be supported in the ballot, with selective action and action short of a strike used to back up a programme of all out action.

What is at stake?

We need to not only reject this offer but to have a plan of how we fight for pay justice and also the wider austerity agenda. Much is at stake, yes our pay but also our jobs, terms and conditions and indeed the future of public services. The employer certainly recognises this – every time the unions have made way without a fight or have squandered powerful positions as in the disputes over pensions in 2011 and pay in 2014, the bosses in central and local government have been emboldened.

We need to challenge austerity strongly at a national and local level. We need to rebuild our trade unions recruiting more shop stewards and strengthening basic union organisation on the shopfloor. With Britain being the 6th richest country in the world and it being revealed that the 62 richest people in the world have as much wealth as half of the world’s population, we know the money is there for decent pay. The trouble is the system. We need to fight for socialism. Socialist Party members in the council trade unions are fighting for a programme of action and change – join us!

Junior Doctors on strike – report from Coventry picket line

Junior Doctors on strike – report from Coventry picket line

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Picket line at Walsgrave

Jane Nellist writes

Junior Doctors marched out of work at University Hospital Coventry at 8am on Tuesday to form a very well supported picket line.

Trade unionists from NUT,  Unite, UNISON, PCS and Coventry TUC as well as other hospital workers gave solidarity support for the Junior Doctors campaign which, although their strike was about attacks on their pay and working conditions, they made clear that they need people to understand that what is ultimately at stake under the Tory govt is the NHS itself.

There was a clear determination to win this battle. The young doctors understand that if this government get away with imposing this contract then, as Petra who has recently returned to work following the birth of her child told me (and as seen on Local TV), she will find it difficult to work a contract that means longer hours and less pay.

It was clear from the enthusiasm of drivers beeping their horns and waving that the junior doctors have the public support.  Their victory will be a victory for all of us.
Send messages of support to gerard.millen@gmail.com

Read reports from around the country here

Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies welcome – now Coventry Labour councillors must fight cuts

Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies welcome – now Coventry Labour councillors must fight cuts

Dave Nellist and Jeremy Corbyn marching

Jeremy marching with Dave Nellist against the expulsion of socialists from the Labour Party. Photo credit Dave Sinclair

Jeremy Corbyn’s emergence as the front-runner in the Labour leadership election has shown the appetite that exists across the country for anti-austerity policies. Polls indicate that Jeremy is on course for a landslide win, with some bookies already paying out on the prospect!

Coventry Socialist Party would welcome a Corbyn victory, and hope Labour adopts his anti-austerity programme. A Labour Party committed to opposing cuts and backing that up in its actions could inspire the support of millions of working class people across the country.

There are over 7000 Labour councillors in the country and, at time of writing, only 450 have publicly endorsed Jeremy’s campaign. That includes just 3 in Nuneaton and Bedworth Council, two on Warwick Council but none from Coventry. When George Osborne demands even more cuts in council services this autumn, it sadly doesn’t sound like Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity call is going to have many supporters amongst Coventry’s 41 Labour councillors.

We’ve stood anti-cuts election candidates across Coventry, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, against Labour councillors who have voted to pass on Tory cuts. Coventry’s Labour council has voted to close down libraries, attack trade union facilities, sack lollipop men and women and decimate public services in our city. We don’t think that’s what a Labour council should be doing – that’s why we’ve lobbied them along with anti-cuts campaigners and trade unions and demanded that they fight cuts, and that’s why we stood candidates against them when they refused to do so.

If Jeremy wins, he won’t just have to make changes to the Parliamentary Labour Party, and to the undemocratic party machinery – he’ll need to change how Labour councils respond to Tory cuts. Instead of spinelessly voting for more and more austerity measures, they should be fighting back. Instead of cutting facility time for trade unions, they should work with them to build an anti-cuts movement. Instead of letting dodgy landlords run riot, they should cap rents and build houses.

Coventry’s Labour councillors should pledge to use some of the £81million they have in reserves to fund services, while building a campaign to get back the money that central Government has cut.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership could inspire an anti-austerity fightback in our workplaces and our communities. Councils should be part of this fightback – but if, next May, Coventry’s Labour councillors go into the election promising more “reluctant” cuts, we will stand against them offering a socialist, anti-cuts alternative.

Corbyn challenge: A very welcome upheaval in British politics

 As the Labour Party prepares to send out ballot papers to the over 610,000 people registered to vote in its leadership contest,  Socialist Party executive committee member Judy Beishon answered some questions on the Socialist Party’s view of Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge so far.
Jeremy Corbyn addressing UCU strikers and supporters

Jeremy Corbyn addressing UCU strikers and supporters

Why has Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge in the Labour leadership contest been so popular?

 The Labour Party’s right-wing leaders have been astonished and horrified at the over-flowing rallies for Jeremy Corbyn around the UK over the last few weeks. Those careerist, staunch defenders of austerity can only dream about attracting such large, enthusiastic and young audiences.

Jeremy Corbyn, with his rejection of austerity, has become a lightning rod for an impressive display of mass anger at declining living standards and the plight of young people faced with poverty wages and the lack of affordable housing. His bold stand rapidly became an outlet for the pent up anger and frustration at the years of cuts, privatisation and wage restraint that have been suffered.

The more venom and dire warnings that “Anyone But Corbyn” politicians and the capitalist media have flung towards Corbyn’s campaign – including the prospect of Labour’s “oblivion” and “electoral annihilation”, the more his support has risen, such is the level of disillusionment in capitalist politics and desire for an alternative.

It also graphically reflects the point that the Socialist Party has long argued – that the population is significantly to the left of the present Labour leaders, as indicated by the polls that have showed majority support for public ownership of rail, energy and post.

John Cruddas MP used his own ‘research’ to try to argue the opposite: that the electorate rejects an anti-austerity position and the Corbynites are out of touch with reality. But the survey responses he received didn’t back this up. According to his polling, 58% of voters think “we must live within our means, so cutting the deficit is the top priority”. This doesn’t mean, however, that they think the 99% should have to pay to reduce the deficit, while the richest 1% become ever richer!

Labour didn’t lose the general election in May because Ed Miliband was ‘too left-wing’ as the right-wing media chorused, but because he was barely distinguishable from the Tories in policy. He was fully signed up to the pro-austerity mantra. Many voters in the Labour leadership contest are clearly drawing that conclusion – a YouGov poll for the Times put the most right-wing candidate, Liz Kendall, on just 8%.

Corbyn’s detractors are also repeatedly arguing that the 1983 general election defeat of then Labour leader Michael Foot was due to a left manifesto. But in reality other factors were to blame, including the political sabotage of right-wing leaders like Denis Healey and Jim Callaghan, the 1981 split from Labour to form the SDP and the aftermath of the Falklands war which enabled Margaret Thatcher to create a patriotic wave.

As well as his condemnation of austerity, Jeremy Corbyn is attracting support on a range of other issues, including his call for free education, for trade union rights, and his anti-war and anti-nuclear positions. Also, he has awakened hopes in a different type of parliamentary politics, not being a ‘career politician’ full of spin, soundbites and deception, but willing to debate ideas in an honest fashion and refusing to make personal attacks on opponents.

As he himself pointed out, it’s the mood of Greece, Spain and the US coming to Britain, following the surge of support in those countries for Syriza, Podemus and Bernie Sanders respectively. It is also the anti-austerity mood that surfaced during the independence referendum in Scotland.

Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected entry into the Labour contest has become a very welcome upheaval in British politics, but there are still a number of different possible eventual outcomes. A straight-line process from it towards genuine political representation for working class people is unfortunately not at all assured, as the experiences so far in Greece, Spain and the US also demonstrate.

To fund his policies of ending austerity, free education, council house-building, etc, Jeremy calls for tax justice, Quantitative Easing for public services rather than the banks and the establishment of a National Investment Bank to support infrastructure projects. What does the Socialist Party think of these ideas?

Firstly, the Corbyn-backing Labour MP Michael Meacher rightly said: “the Blairites have made the absolutely fundamental error of demanding that the way to reduce the deficit was by harsh and persistent cuts in benefits and public expenditure … And it’s not as though their policy, the same as the Tories’ policy, is actually working … the deficit today is still stuck at a massive £90 billion and has hardly reduced at all after five years of Osborne austerity”.

Meacher went on to say that Jeremy Corbyn “uniquely stands for making a clean break with Tory policies, above all by advocating growth as the way to pay down the deficit, not austerity”.

Left-wing MP John McDonnell elaborated in a Guardian article that a Corbyn-led government wouldn’t make cuts to “middle-and low-income earners and certainly not to the poor” but would target tax avoidance and “the subsidies paid to landlords milking the housing benefit system, to the £93 billion in subsidies to corporations, and to employers exploiting workers with low wages and leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab”.

These policies and measures, including those mentioned in the question above, would all significantly help in a left government’s programme to improve the living standards of the majority of people and would be hugely popular – bailing out public services rather than banks!

The Socialist Party believes that in addition it will be necessary for the workers’ movement to pursue the path that Jeremy Corbyn has touched on in his welcome comments on re-nationalising rail and energy companies and bringing back some form of Clause 4, part 4 of the Labour Party constitution, which was abolished by Tony Blair. That clause called for the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

It would be necessary to take into public ownership the main corporations and banks that dominate the economy and place them under democratic workers’ control and management, to begin to transform society along socialist lines. The capitalist system, due to its inbuilt contradictions and today’s level of crisis, is incapable of delivering a sustained increase in living standards for all. Nor can it end the environmental degradation it is inflicting.

How can Jeremy’s campaign help defeat austerity?

His campaign is already aiding the fight against austerity by prominently putting forward an anti-austerity position – rarely seen before now in the big-business owned media. It is also very significant that the two largest trade unions in the country, Unison and Unite, along with other unions, have backed Corbyn’s position, indicating the powerful forces that could be mobilised in national anti-austerity industrial action.

And action is precisely what’s needed! Vital services are being slashed and privatised, Working Tax Credits will be drastically reduced, along with a myriad of other attacks on working class and middle class people, who can’t sit back for another five years while the Tories push on with their brutal onslaught.

In the surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn, the union leaders have a glimpse of the wide layer in society – especially in this case young people – who would enthusiastically support coordinated trade union action against austerity if it were called.

The Tory government is in reality very weak, elected by less than a quarter of the electorate. Many workers’ disputes have already broken out around the country since the general election, including by the London tube workers. A one-day general strike, with further action if necessary, would attract massive support which could bring about a halt to the cuts agenda and an early general election.

This action would be taking place with the certainty that there are developments on the political front leading in the direction of the creation of a new mass workers’ party.

450 councillors have signed up to support Jeremy – what does the Socialist Party say to them?

There are 7,087 Labour councillors in Britain, so only 6% of them – 450 – have backed Jeremy Corbyn. The number of Labour councillors in Labour-led councils who have refused to vote to pass on the government’s savage cuts is still barely more than a handful. So the 450 backing Jeremy Corbyn are mainly Labour councillors in councils led by other parties and those in Labour-led councils who ‘oppose’ cuts but argue they have ‘no choice’ but to pass them on.

Some of the platform speakers at ‘Jeremy for Leader’ rallies have been councillors who are in that latter category. For example, during the London rally on 3 August, Haringey councillor Emine Ibrahim said that councillors like herself “didn’t want to be … dragged into council chambers across the country to implement the cuts that we are forced to by the Tory government”.

But no one is forcing councillors to impose cuts and they can’t be fined for doing so. The Socialist Party calls on them to take a real stand of resistance to austerity by refusing to vote for cuts and by helping to build a mass campaign in their area in defence of jobs and services. Notwithstanding the change of Labour’s leader, TUSC will still need to stand candidates in next May’s local elections against Labour councillors who are making cuts.

What should Jeremy do as Labour’s leader?

The number of people registered to vote in the Labour leadership contest reached over 610,000, with polls indicating that Corbyn could win decisively. Over a quarter of those voting signed up to the list in the final 24 hours before the registration deadline, in a dramatic end surge.

It appears that the right-wing dominated Labour Party machine will try to weight the result against Corbyn by voiding the votes of anyone they deem as ‘infiltrators’, but this is unlikely to alter the outcome decisively. Even the Electoral Reform Society waded in and called for a delay in the ballots being issued.

The media is also making last-ditch attempts to influence the result, including the Daily Mirror urging a first preference vote for Andy Burnham and second for Yvette Cooper.

A Corbyn victory would be very welcome. He will face immediate testing challenges, as he’ll be surrounded in Labour’s parliamentary party and HQ by hostile, pro-big business politicians – only a small minority of them are left-wing. They will put up strong opposition; a number of Labour MPs and leaders are already plotting how they could remove him from office.

For example, Simon Danczuk MP declared: “Am I going to put up with some crazy left-wing policies that he is putting forward and traipse through the voting lobby to support him? It’s not going to happen, is it? So I would give him about 12 months if he does become leader”.

Tony Blair, whose latest desperate plea was to say that even those who hate him (ie Blair) should not vote for Corbyn, gave a glimpse of the underhand methods the right will go to against the left when he said: “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched over the cliff’s edge …. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk …. It is a moment for a rugby tackle, if that were possible.”

However, Labour’s right may feel forced to tolerate Corbyn for a period of time if he wins the leadership ballot by a very high margin – while plotting a hundred ways to undermine him and manoeuvre towards a new leadership election and a “moderate” leader.

Jeremy Corbyn rightly would like to head a party that acts on the basis of rank and file democracy and involvement in decision-making; he has stated that party policy should be decided on that basis.

But the Labour Party has had much of its democratic structure destroyed; for instance the annual conference was turned into a showpiece for the media and big business rather than being maintained as a forum for genuine discussion and democratic decision-making. The character of the party as a political voice of the organised working class in the trade union movement was also stripped away.

So Corbyn would face massive obstacles in trying to lead the party for any length of time in a left-wing direction, not just from within the party but also from the senior ranks of the civil service, the pro-capitalist media and from virtually the entire ruling class of Britain.

To counter these pressures he would need organised back-up from the working class in the trade union movement, anti-cuts campaigns and left organisations. He would need to call an open conference of this support base – including of those who voted for him – to discuss how his left programme can be delivered and developed further.

Could a Corbyn-led Labour Party be transformed back into a party that stands primarily for workers’ interests? It’s not impossible that the right-wing could decide to leave to form a new party and the Labour Party could then as a whole turn leftwards. It would effectively need to become a new party itself in many ways, as a result of the changes that would be needed to democratise it and attract new young people and trade unionists into activity in its ranks.

Corbyn has adopted an open approach by ‘welcoming back’ members who have returned to the party and he has spoken of the need to welcome back unions that have disaffiliated from Labour.

However, if the road to such a transformation is blocked by those in the party hierarchy who are not willing to be part of a turn to the left, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters shouldn’t return to being prisoners of that situation but should help build a new mass workers’ party outside of Labour. They could draw on the support of the many thousands who have been enthused by the Jeremy for Leader campaign and come together with the thousands of socialist and trade union activists outside Labour, including those in TUSC.

Meanwhile Labour would continue to implement Tory policies and the process of it being increasingly dismissed by working class people would continue.

Learning from the experiences and lessons of the new left formations in countries like Greece, Spain, Brazil and Germany, a new party in Britain could quickly take on flesh as a combative force acting in workers’ interests, both electorally and in campaigns and struggles. In whatever way the scenario inside Labour develops, great opportunities will open up in this country for the development of workers’ political representation.

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“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist

“No council cuts are necessary” – Dave Nellist 

Dave speaking at Coventry's May Day rally

Dave speaking at Coventry’s May Day rally

This letter about council cuts from former Labour MP and TUSC national chair Dave Nellist was printed in yesterday’s Coventry Telegraph. Read this article if you want more background on the council’s planned cuts and what the Socialist Party would do differently.

“There’s been little coverage, so far, of the 18 contests for city council seats also taking place on May 7. So allow me raise one issue that I think could define those elections.

On April 22 the Telegraph carried the welcome story of a stay of execution for a City Council jobs service which helps some of the most vulnerable people in the city, at least until the end of the year.

This follows earlier decisions to delay for consultation the imminent closure of libraries, and cuts to disabled children’s transport. None of those decisions will now be taken before the election.

But in fact none of those decisions need to be taken at all.

None of the planned cuts to libraries, children’s and family centres, community centres, adult education centres, lollipop men and women, street cleaners and park maintenance are necessary.

Because when the City Council made its decision in February to set a budget including £15 million worth of cuts to the services mentioned above (and another thousand secure jobs lost to young people in the city) it did so on the money it knew at that time it had as income.

But since then we have learned that Wasps RFC is going to re-pay this summer the balance of the £14.4 million council loan, given to the Ricoh management company which Wasps now own. In other words the City Council will have for this year’s budget £14 million more than 3 months ago it thought it would have.

So here’s a question we could ask to every aspiring councillor in the last few days of the campaign: do you agree that the repayment of that £14 million Ricoh loan should be used to save our libraries, lollipop men and women, disabled children’s transport, jobs service for the most vulnerable and the other services under threat?

Yours sincerely,

Dave Nellist
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition”

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