Solidarity 212, 20 July 2011

Southampton battle enters third month

The dispute dubbed “the UK’s Wisconsin” has entered its third month as Southampton local government workers extended their strike against mass redundancies and pay cuts.

Workers including parking attendants, toll collectors and port workers began a week-long stoppage on Monday 11 July as the council’s deadline for accepting the new terms came and went. While most workers have accepted the new contracts, those who haven’t have not yet been sacked.

The dispute dubbed “the UK’s Wisconsin” has entered its third month as Southampton local government workers extended their strike against mass redundancies and pay cuts.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

News from Egypt and Libya

In Egypt, exasperation with the military council which has ruled the country since the revolution pushed out former dictator Hosni Mubarak on 11 February has spilled out onto the streets.

People have been camping out in Cairo's Tahrir Square since 8 July, and there have also been big protests in Suez.

The military and the government have responded with some concessions:

• Fired more than 600 senior police officers;

In Egypt, exasperation with the military council which has ruled the country since the revolution which pushed out dictator Hosni Mubarak has spilled out onto the streets; in Libya rebel forces are reported to have taken the important oil centre of Brega.

Around the world: 

Publications: 

Syrian rebels gain confidence

The heroic uprising of the Syrian people against brutality and despotism continues to grow despite intimidation, mass arrests, torture, extreme violence and murder.

The biggest street protests since the movement erupted in March took place on Friday 15 July.

The marchers were demanding the release of political prisoners. It is estimated that 10,000 have been detained since March.

Rami Abdel Rahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said one million people turned out in just two cities: Hama and the eastern Kurdish town of Deir al-Zour.

The heroic uprising of the Syrian people against brutality and despotism continues to grow despite intimidation, mass arrests, torture, extreme violence and murder.

Around the world: 

Publications: 

Strike to stop pension cuts: name the date

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) Executive is talking about the idea of second strike against pension cuts in the week beginning 7 November, to follow on from the one on 30 June.

NUT is in talks with the other “J30” unions, as well as the National Association of Headteachers.

NUT is also discussing the prospect of a mass lobby of parliament in October, for which it hopes to mobilise at least one teacher from each school in the country. A special executive meeting on 9 September, the first week of the new academic year, will discuss the issue further.

It looks as if education unions and PCS plan to strike again against pension cuts in the week starting 7 November. Unison leaders are dragging their feet.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

Aviation workers reject pay deals

On 27 June, NATS, the UK’s main provider of air traffic services, received notification of rejection of the pay deals offered to two sections of its workforce.

Prospect ATSS, which represents engineers, and PCS, the union for operational assistants and administrative grades, returned ballots rejecting their offers by 88% and 79% majorities respectively, on turnouts of over 75%. The offers made consisted of 4% for year one (Jan 2011), followed by RPI capped at 4.5% in year 2, with significant strings attached for both groups.

Workers at NATS, the UK’s main provider of air traffic services, have rejected pay deals offered by the company.

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

How to protect the freedom of the press

Does the News International scandal imply a need for public intervention in the media? Or would that lead to restrictions on the ability of journalists to investigate corruption within powerful institutions in society? Ian Overton, award-winning documentary maker and Director of the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, gave his views to Solidarity.

An interview with award-winning documentary maker Ian Overton about the News International scandal and freedom of the press.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

When Murdoch smashed the unions

A review of "Bad News: The Wapping Dispute", by John Lang and Graham Dodkins.

In 1986-7 5,500 print production workers were sacked for striking against an attempt to impose new draconian terms and conditions at Rupert Murdoch’s new, then state-of-the-art, printing plant.

The story is beautifully told — with first-hand accounts recorded shortly after the dispute ended — by former Times librarians John Lang and Graham Dodkins. This “warts and all” account, describing the humour, commitment and comradeship of the printworkers, is a great source of political lessons.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

Why the British press is the worst in the world

Britain’s newspapers are probably the worst in the world, aside from the state-controlled newspapers under dictatorships, which are bad for different reasons.

Some British newspapers, such as the Financial Times or the Guardian, are no worse than their equivalents in other countries; but Britain’s redtops are foul in a way rare elsewhere, even in countries where Rupert Murdoch owns many newspapers.

This result is a triumph of capitalist market forces. It happens because Britain’s redtops have an unusually favorable marketplace.

The driven-to-the-bottom newspaper market debases public discourse by “drowning out” intelligent public debate.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

Self-regulation of the press?

In October 1992 the Independent on Sunday (IoS) published a smear article by its then political editor Stephen Castle suggesting without evidence that sympathisers of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and other leftists had tried to rig ballots (in Sheffield) for the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.

We wrote a letter stating that the claim was nonsense; we oppose rigging elections. Our letter was printed, but edited in such a way that it made little sense.

The cheating charge was taken up by other papers, including the local Sheffield Star.

Capitalist “self-regulation” of the press is a joke. It allows a veneer of “responsibility” to cloak all sorts of nonsense and bad behaviour by the press bosses.

Issues and Campaigns: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Publications: 

The right to get distributed

One factor in the domination of the British newspaper industry by billionaires is that it is difficult for smaller newspapers — such as Solidarity — to get distributed.

In Britain, newspaper and magazine distribution is dominated by two big corporations, Smiths News and Menzies Distribution. They are reluctant to distribute anything unorthodox or radical. Smiths refused to distribute Private Eye until well into the 1970s, and does not distribute any left-wing publication.

One factor in the domination of the British newspaper industry by billionaires is that it is difficult for smaller newspapers to get distributed.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

Take the media from the billionaires!

The scandals now unfolding are like a hidden network of wires behind plaster which, exposed by the Milly Dowler case to vigorous investigation, are being pulled on, shattering the plaster. Hidden connections are being exposed, showing the links of the Murdoch press (but surely not only the Murdoch press) to career criminals, politicians, and corrupt policemen.

What the Murdoch scandal does is bring under public scrutiny the nature of bourgeois power, the relations of such power to bourgeois politics and their evisceration of bourgeois democracy.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

Murdoch's power

By Dave Osler

If there is a qualitative difference between having a dominant interest in BSkyB and outright ownership of the satellite broadcaster, it pretty much escapes me. But Rupert Murdoch has decided that outright ownership is what he wants, and, until a few days ago, that was exactly what it looked like he was going to get.

This is a man who has for decades played a role in British politics that illustrates perfectly the radical left critique of parliamentary democracy. To rewrite an old anarchist slogan: whoever you vote for, News International gets in.

The real challenge is not to put a temporary check on Murdoch’s avarice but to cut down his power so that it is no longer an absolute check on political vision.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

Hacking: the press view

The more liberal and broadsheet press have, understandably, and in the case of the Guardian deservedly, had a good time with the unfolding crisis around News International.

It was Nick Davies of the Guardian who originally painstakingly uncovered the hacking phenomenon. The Independent too saw its more high-minded approach to journalism vindicated. But the more interesting aspect of press coverage of the affair has been the response of the remaining Murdoch papers and the right-wing press in general.

The more liberal and broadsheet press have understandably had a good time with the unfolding crisis around News International.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

Debating the Histradrut

Recently I have become involved in a debate on the Morning Star letters page about Israel and the Israeli trade union federation Histadrut. I thought readers would like to read some snippets.

On 17 June I took issue with a Morning Star review:

“Roger Fletcher’s review of Michael Riordon’s new book equates holocaust denial with a failure to speak out against the ‘fascistic policy and actions of the Israeli state.’

Histadrut is not what it was in 1920, or 1948 or even 1995 — a big employer, running health and pensions, etc, for the state. It is a trade union, albeit, like our own unions, heavily bureaucratised. It has many Arab members, and has not been Jewish-only since 1959.

Around the world: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Publications: 

Stop the local government fire sale!

A new government White Paper proposes to allow almost all public services to be opened up to competition from the private and voluntary sector. Vicki Morris reports on the reality of the Tory council in Barnet, north London.


Barnet council is inviting bidders for a contract worth £275 million over 10 years. The successful bidder will take over the council’s regulatory and development functions which includes things such as planning, environmental health and transport.

A new government White Paper proposes to allow almost all public services to be opened up to competition from the private and voluntary sector.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

Agribusiness booms, millions starve

In Europe, the capitalist crisis means discomfort, stress, and humiliation for millions. In many parts of the world, it means outright starvation.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, “countries in the [Horn of Africa] are confronted with the failure of the short rains in late 2010 and negative trends that threaten the long rainy season in 2011...

The world produces enough food for everyone. The poor could buy enough food if they weren’t so poor; and they wouldn’t be so poor if the rich weren’t so rich.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Around the world: 

Publications: 

Northern Ireland "rejectionism"

Serious street fighting in Northern Ireland between police, Catholic youths, and dissident Republicans, on one side, and Protestants, Catholics and police on the other, is becoming all too reminiscent of the clashes that led to the breakdown of the old Six Counties Protestant-ruled state in mid-1969, and the beginning of British army intervention on the streets.

People on both sides of the Catholic/Protestant sectarian divide are working to push things as far as they can in order to smash up the power-sharing system established by the Good Friday Agreement.

Around the world: 

Publications: 

US debt: into the abyss?

“An August panic similar to those in 2007 and 2008 no longer appears far-fetched. Only this time, the global economy is far less well-equipped to cope...

“Another leg of the economic crisis which started in 2007 is a distinct possibility – and exchequers simply do not have the fire-power to offset another private sector panic”.

That is how the Financial Times summed it up (18 July), under the headline: “The abyss that awaits”.

A collapse of the dollar would mean chaos in international trade.

Around the world: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

"Euro periphery" needs investment

George Irvin is a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and author of Super rich: the rise of inequality in Britain and the United States. He spoke to Solidarity about the new stage of the eurozone crisis created by the jump, from 8 July, in the interest rates that Italy has to pay to sell bonds (IOUs) on world markets.


Eurozone politicians have been so slow to react that the bond markets are rightly worried about the poor and inadequate nature of the response.

An interview with George Irvin, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, about the new stage of the eurozone crisis.

Around the world: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

Save jobs at Bombardier!

Workers will rally in Derby on 23 July to protest the loss of 1,400 jobs at the Bombardier train manufacturing plant.

The losses come as a result of the government’s decision on 16 June to award the £1.5 billion contract for new carriages for the Thameslink rail line to German manufacturer Siemens.

Workers will rally in Derby on 23 July to protest the loss of 1,400 jobs at the Bombardier train manufacturing plant.

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

From the boy who lived to the man who died

Daisy Thomas reviews the final Harry Potter film “The Deathly Hallows — Part 2”


As I joined countless others at midnight in packed cinemas for the final instalment of Harry Potter, excitement was in the air.

After all, this would be the last time there’d be a midnight screening of Harry Potter, the last time people could dress up like the characters, and the last time there’d be a new Harry Potter movie.

Daisy Thomas reviews the final Harry Potter film, "The Deathly Hallows, part 2"

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Tommy Sheridan: not the only sinner

Peter Burton reviews Downfall by Alan McCombes


Alan McCombes describes Tommy Sheridan as his “closest political companion for 20 years”.

He met Sheridan as a young recruit to Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party) in the mid-1980s, and worked with him in the poll tax agitation in Scotland (1989-90) which made Sheridan famous.

Peter Burton reviews "Downfall" by Alan McCombes

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Publications: 

What is the socialist alternative to the "free press" that produced Murdoch?

The News of the World has abused its powers, but fundamentally we have a free press, don’t we?

Is there an alternative to both a millionaire-dominated, free market media, and authoritarian state control? Yes there is!

Issues and Campaigns: 

Publications: 

Lenin on press freedom, November 1917

Lenin
Lenin on how the revolutionary workers' government in Russia approached the question of press freedom in 1917.

Draft decree on the press, November 1917

For the bourgeoisie, freedom of the press meant freedom for the rich to publish and for the capitalists to control the newspapers, a practice which in all countries, including even the freest, produced a corrupt press.

Publications: 

Issues and Campaigns: 

Two hundred at Ideas for Freedom 2011

Further reports, notes, transcripts etc will be posted here shortly. For pictures of the event, click here.


(RMT and AWL activist Becky Crocker opens Ideas for Freedom by relating the themes of Eisenstein's Strike to the class struggle now. Chair: Daniel Lemberger Cooper)

Ideas for Freedom, Workers' Liberty's annual "summerschool" of socialist discussion and debate, was attended by just over 200 people.

Ideas for Freedom is the AWL's "summerschool", an annual weekend of socialist discussion and debate. We think IFF 2011, which was attended by over 200 people, was a real success.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Publications: 

Subscribe to RSS - Solidarity 212, 20 July 2011