Solidarity 240, 28 March 2012

Help the AWL raise £20,000

The six Tory donors whom David Cameron hosted at Downing Street and Chequers donated £23 million to the Conservative Party, their party.

Their vast wealth is what secures them influence in society – not just through donations, dodgy or legit, but through the sheer power that the very possession of such wealth constitutes under capitalism.

An update on our fund drive.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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Force Cameron out of office!

On Monday afternoon, 26 March, David Cameron’s office said that they could not say who had come to private dinners with Cameron, as prime minister, because the office kept lists only of guests at official dinners paid for by the Government.

Within half an hour they had been forced to “find” the list they evidently had of guests at “meals for donors... paid for by the Conservative Party”.

The “cash for dinners” scandals highlights the need to fight to win a democratic regime in the Labour Party, one where policy is decided by democratic conferences and elected committees and not by “The Leader”.

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General strikes in Spain and Portugal

Spain’s two main union confederations, UGT and CCOO, called a one-day general strike on 29 March over issues similar to those sparking the strike wave in Italy.

In a country with 23% unemployment, the new conservative government wants to change the law to make it easier for employers to sack workers.

The executives of UGT and CCOO met jointly, for the first time in history, on 9 March, to decide to call the strike.

Spain’s two main union confederations have called a one-day general strike on 29 March; in Portugal, workers staged a general strike on 22 March.

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Strike wave sweeps Italy

Since the news on 20 March that the leadership of Italy’s largest union confederation, CGIL, had voted down acceptance of the proposed abolition by Mario Monti’s government of the job-security provision in Article 18 of the Labour Code, a wave of spontaneous strikes, occupations, mass assemblies and road blocks has burst forth across the whole country.

Attempts to abolish job security provisions in Italy's Labour Code have sparked a wave of spontaneous strikes, occupations, mass assemblies and road blocks across the whole country.

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Deeside picket next in Bootle lock-out fight

Four of the 149 workers locked out of the Mayr Melnhof Packaging plant in Bootle near Liverpool have been sacked following sham disciplinary procedures.

A further 48 have been issued with redundancy notices, in addition to the initial 49 redundancy against which workers were taking official action when they were first locked out over a month ago.

The Bootle workers are now organising a flying “community picket” to visit the company’s plant in Deeside, Mobilising the solidarity of the Deeside workers could be crucial to the Bootle workers’ dispute.

Four of the 149 workers locked out of the Mayr Melnhof Packaging plant in Bootle near Liverpool have been sacked following sham disciplinary procedures

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Tories set out railway cuts plan

On 8 March, the Tories published “Reforming our Railways: Putting the Customer First”, a “command paper” with recommendations based on Sir Roy McNulty’s 2011 review and report into the railway industry.

It stated that the railway “remains unacceptably inefficient.”

As rail industry analyst and commentator Christian Wolmar says: “Given that Britain has experimented with the most radical change in structure of the railways of any country in Europe [where costs have gone down], is it not the case that [structure] … is the root of the problem?”

The Tories have outlined a cuts plan for the rail industry which will improve the opportunity for their business friends to make money at the expense of the rest of us.

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War of attrition in Southampton

Local government unions at Southampton City Council have settled into a low-level war of attrition with council bosses after an impressive campaign of creative, rank-and-file-driven industrial action in 2011 failed to prevent the imposition of new contracts.

Local government unions at Southampton City Council have settled into a low-level war of attrition with council bosses after an impressive campaign of creative, rank-and-file-driven industrial action in 2011 failed to prevent the imposition of new contracts.

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Cops to demand right to strike?

The Police Federation will ballot its 135,000 members on whether to demand the right to take official industrial action.

The move comes in response to what the Federation call “an unprecedented attack on policing” by the government.

When cops took part in a similar ballot in 2008, 87% of those voting demanded full industrial rights for police.

The police are not “workers in uniform”. The current Police Federation ballot over the right to strike is all about fighting police cuts; a police strike which demanded more cops on the street is not something socialists could support.

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New sell-off threat for Royal Mail

Royal Mail could be sold off (entirely or in part) by 2013 if the government’s latest scheme goes ahead.

In what the Financial Times calls the “most ambitious privatisation scheme since rail”, the coalition plans either to float Royal Mail on the stock market or seek an industry or private equity buyer.

In a move that could be seen as an early warning of privatisation, communications regulator Ofcom is expected to ease regulations on Royal Mail pricing, and potentially introduce increases of 50% on second-class stamps and limitless increases on first-class.

Royal Mail could be sold off by 2013 if the government’s latest scheme goes ahead.

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Tories will use army to break oil strike

Over 60% of oil tanker drivers working for seven major firms have voted to take strike action in a national ballot organised by Unite.

Drivers at Turners (94% in favour on a turnout of 82%), Norbert Dentressangle (75%, 71%), Wincanton (68%, 72%), BP (60%, 86%), and Hoyer (60%, 80%) will all strike. DHL drivers voted to take action short of a strike, and drivers at Suckling voted against any industrial action.

Oil tanker drivers working for seven major firms have voted to take strike action.

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Sri Lanka: why war crimes went unchecked

This film is the follow-up to Channel 4’s 2011 documentary cataloguing the final year of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

This latest documentary recaps the investigations and describes the world’s response — or lack of it. Macrae interviewed David Miliband, then UK Foreign Secretary, and John Holmes, a British diplomat who was UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

A review of Callum Macrae’s film Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished.

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Demonstrations after Toulouse

The Toulouse killer who shot dead three Jewish children, a Jewish teacher and three soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin, was Mohammed Merah, a Toulouse mechanic, who was inspired by far-right Islamist ideas.

In a stand-off with the police which ended in his death, Merah claimed to be a supporter of Al-Qaeda and said that he was acting to avenge “Palestinian children”.

The Toulouse killer who shot dead three Jewish children, a Jewish teacher and three soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin was inspired by far-right Islamist ideas.

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Will the far left learn from the Toulouse murders?

The reaction of the far left to the Toulouse murders.

On 19 March, Mohammed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent and a self-described member of al Qaeda, killed three Jewish children and an adult at a Jewish school in Toulouse; the previous week he had shot dead three French soldiers of North African origin. At first the killer’s identity was not known. On 22 March Merah was tracked down by French police and shot dead. Yves Coleman, of the journal Ni patrie, ni frontières, discusses and criticises the reaction of the left to Merah’s killings.


Anti-semitism and anti-Judaism have a long history in France.

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Coal miner's daughter fights the Empire

A review of The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross.

The Hunger Games looks like being the next huge teenage film franchise based on a book series to follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter and Twilight.

There is also something in it for adults.

The Hunger Games is set in an apocalyptic future where 12 districts are ruled over by the imperial Capitol following a crushed uprising. As punishment for the rebellion, each district is forced, each year, to offer two teenagers, chosen by lot, as tributes to fight to the death in the Hunger Games in front of an avid television audience in the Capitol.

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Sites of struggle: organising in construction

On 4 March 2012, the long-held suspicions of hundreds of trade union activists in the construction industry were confirmed when it was revealed that the British state had been colluding with construction contractors to prevent union activists from getting work.

The “Consulting Association” (CA), a shadowy body funded by most major construction contractors, held data on numerous individuals which included information that could not have come from anywhere except police records.

Building workers, inclusing those victimised by employers, talk about organising in the construction industry.

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Save the NHS! Block the sell-off law!

More than 80 NHS campaigners met on 21 March at the Unite union offices in London, on the initiative of Health Alarm, to discuss coordination for the defence of the NHS after the Health and Social Care Bill passed through Parliament on 20 March.

Speakers included Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) and Helen McFarlane from Unite.

Doctors who oppose the Health and Social Care Act have drafted a statement of principle that GPs and local campaigners can press Clinical Commissioning Groups to adopt.

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Vote Labour, expel Livingstone

Two bottom lines: vote Labour. And expel Livingstone from the Labour Party.

If poor Eric Joyce can be expelled simply for getting pissed and punching a few Tories, then surely Livingstone’s blatant anti-semitism should be sufficient to get him booted out.

I’ve campaigned and voted for candidates as bad as Livingstone before: Liam Byrne for one. Voting Labour is a class duty, not a petty bourgeois choice. But that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate whatever the Party machine serves up. Miliband’s defence of Livingstone is disgraceful. Livingstone must be expelled.

Why Ken Livingstone should be expelled from the Labour Party.

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PCS verbiage

The PCS union Executive’s statement on why it was overruling the 73% vote from PCS members for a further strike on 28 March against the Government’s pension changes promised instead a hope of “industrial action... before the end of April”.

Leave aside, for now, the substance of the matter, and consider only the language. We know that the PCS leaders are promising, or suggesting, that PCS members will strike for one day in late April.

The PCS civil service union's statement on the pensions dispute reveals its leadership's slow-moving attitude.

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“Ethnic” block-voters?

In his letter giving his recollections of the debate around the (successful) attempt to ban the Sunderland Polytechnic Jewish Society in the 1980s (Solidarity 238), Brian Plainer highlights the “natural bias” of “500-600 mostly overseas Arab/Islamic students”, which he believes represented “a significant block vote in favour of banning the Jewish Society”.

Arab students and the ban on Sunderland Polytechnic's Jewish Society in the 1980's.

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When Rustin went abject

The political fate of civil rights leader Bayard Rustin.

In his younger years Bayard Rustin was a fearless fighter for peace and social justice. That is what should be memorialised. (“Remember Bayard Rustin”, Eric Lee, Solidarity 239).

The SP, later the SDUSA, of which Rustin became a prominent personality opened another, sadder chapter. The SP melded their concept of coalitionism — of driving the racist Dixiecrat wing from the Democratic party — into an abject apologia for accommodationism.

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Ken Livingstone and anti-semitism

A letter from prominent Jewish Labour Party supporters to party leader Ed Miliband, leaked to the press around 21 March, has expressed some profound concerns following a 1 March meeting between party activists and London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.

Most of the criticisms made by Jewish Labour Party supporters following a meeting with Ken Livingstone about his attitudes on Jews and anti-semitism ring true.

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Workers' Power split?

Rumour has it that the minority on the outgoing committee (i.e. the “old” leadership) won the votes at the conference on 24-25 March of the Workers Power group.

Two people were apparently expelled at the recent Workers' Power conference and younger leading figures in WP who lost out in votes are likely to break away.

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The RMT and the “People's Pledge”

London’s Tory mayor Boris Johnson has become the latest signatory to the “People’s Pledge”, a campaign which attempts to get politicians to commit to backing a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The campaign’s initiators are right-wing Eurosceptics who think a referendum is the most likely way to achieve British withdrawal from the EU. Their main media outlet is the right-wing Daily Express. They dress themselves up by boasting of cross-party, and cross-class, support.

The RMT rail union is backing a right-wing campaign to end Britain's membership of the EU.

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Oppose elected mayors

In May, there will be referenda in 10 cities, alongside the local government elections, over whether they should have elected mayors.

Socialists should advocate a No vote. The elected mayoral positions remove accountability to either the labour movement or the electorate on anything but a four or five yearly basis, and give the mayors power to override councils in that period.

Socialists should advocate a No vote in referenda over whether cities should have elected mayors.

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Zimbabwe: “Solidarity works”

Six Zimbabwean socialists have just been convicted of “inciting public violence” for organising a meeting about the Egyptian revolution, but to general surprise were given fines and community service instead of prison sentences. Mike Sambo, National Treasurer of the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe, and the defendant in another trial related to that of the six, spoke to Solidarity.


From the outset it seemed that the state wanted to send the comrades to jail.

Six Zimbabwean socialists convicted of “inciting public violence” for organising a meeting about the Egyptian revolution have been fined and given community service instead of prison sentences.

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Greece: 25 March clampdown fails to stifle protests

Fearing a repetition of the revolt during the parades last year on 28 October (anniversary of Greek rejection of Italy’s ultimatum in World War 2), Greece’s political establishment left nothing to chance with the celebrations of 24-25 March (anniversary of the start of the Greek revolution of 1821).

The right to protest was banned for the day. From the morning of 24 March, Athens resembled a war zone, with its citizens being excluding from all areas around the parade route and public transport halted for whole areas.

Greece’s political establishment left nothing to chance on the anniversary of the Greek revolution of 1821.

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My life at work: How dare they call us “unskilled”?

Catherine Miller works in refuse collection for a major local authority in southern England.


Tell us a little bit about the work you do.

I work for a local council. My department is responsible for the refuse and recycling collections, and the street cleaning for the City. I work in the office as an administrator; I pay invoices, do the filing, provide admin support to the Project Officers...

Do you and your workmates get the pay and conditions you deserve?

Catherine Miller works in refuse collection for a major local authority in southern England.

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Teachers' pensions fight: next steps

Activists of the National Union of Teachers and the UCU in London have worked hard to get a good turn-out for the regional one-day strike on 28 March over the Government’s pension changes called by their union leaders after those leaders had overruled member surveys showing big majorities for a national strike.

It will be difficult to restart the pensions campaign now even with the best policy. But it is possible.

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