Solidarity 144, 15 January 2009

Self-determination for the Sahrawi people!

Author: 

Dan Katz

Following the 1884 Berlin conference where the big powers carved up much of Africa and distributed the parts among themselves, the Spanish state claimed a protectorate over a large part of what is now known as the Western Sahara.

The French grabbed most of the rest of Morocco, together with a vast chunk of north West Africa. Later the Spanish extended and amalgamated areas to form the “Spanish Sahara”.

In Western Sahara, Moroccan authorities consider all opposition to their rule of the disputed territory as illegal attacks on Morocco's ‘territorial integrity’...

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William Morris - Towards a socialist ecology

Author: 

Paul Hampton

William Morris made a distinctive contribution to the development of Marxist ideas, for example on the nature of work and on the vision of a classless, communist society. But arguably his most significant contribution — and certainly one with great contemporary relevance - was his conception of a socialist ecology.

In this respect Morris was a pioneer and an innovator – he evolved from conservationism to integrate ecology within a Marxist framework. His views have much to teach us today in our age of climactic convulsion.

Fifth Part of a Series

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The Working Class Self-Education Movement: The League of the "Plebs"

Author: 

Colin Waugh

In October 1908 industrial workers who were union-sponsored students at Ruskin College in Oxford founded what they called the League of the “Plebs”. Former students who had returned to their jobs as miners, railwayworkers, textile workers and engineers, supported them.

From January 1909 they began to organise socialist classes in South Wales, the North East, Lancashire and other working-class areas. Under the umbrella of the National Council of Labour Colleges (NCLC), there were, by 1926-27, 1,201 classes like this across Britain, with 31,635 students.

Between 26 March and 6 April 1909 union-sponsored students at Ruskin College, Oxford, conducted the “Ruskin College strike” (actually a boycott of lectures). In September 1909, they opened the Central Labour College.

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Standing against Harriet Harman

Author: 

Mark Osborn

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty plans to stand against the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, in the next general election. Harman is MP for the working-class constituency of Camberwell and Peckham in south east London.

As Secretary of State for Social Security, Harman fronted-up New Labour’s attacks on the welfare state following the 1997 election. She has slavishly followed Blair and then Brown, and voted for the Iraq war.

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty plans to stand against the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, in the next general election.

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Workers need a political voice today!

Author: 

Vicki Morris

120 people attended the RMT-organised meeting ‘to discuss the crisis in working-class political representation’, held in London on 10 January. The meeting agreed unanimously that workers need a new political voice, but could not agree on when — or, at least, on the next steps to create one.

Debate centred on 1. whether we should stand working-class candidates in elections soon; 2. the role of a charter in organising working-class representation – alternative to standing candidates, or a way to support them?

Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, said he wanted a new working-class party, but could not say when. Many people, he said, himself included, had “got their fingers burnt”...

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The sad fate of Tommy Sheridan

Author: 

Amina Saddiq

Former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan’s appearance on Celebrity Big Brother is a pretty depressing business.

I only had to watch for a few minutes (doubling my total Big Brother viewing history) to feel queasy about a middle-aged man trying hard to sound interesting for the viewers while flirting with much younger women on the show. But that wasn’t the really depressing bit.

Nor was it the large amount of money Sheridan is being paid for his appearance — rumoured at £100,000 — violating his old worker’s wage principle, though he hasn’t disclosed the figure.

Former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan’s appearance on Celebrity Big Brother is a pretty depressing business.

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Crisis: the impact on women. The pressures and the fightback

Author: 

Rebecca Galbraith

Beyond boob jobs — how might the credit crunch affect women? is a recent article on The F-word (a feminist blog) by Carolyn Roberts. The writer makes an observation that I found true when researching this topic — that there is pretty much nothing written on the potential impact of the crisis on women.

At the time of writing the London socialist feminist reading group on this topic came up first on an entire google search — great, but pretty depressing.

We need to prepare for a fight against reactionary politics that may gain popularity, and an increase in reactionary politics could certainly lead to an attack on women’s rights.

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Stop the BNP!

Author: 

Heather Shaw

The financial crisis, offering nothing in the way of hope for working class people in Britain, also gives the British National Party dangerously big opportunities. Predictably the far-right party have been very vocal about what they can gain out of the thousands of job losses and financial insecurity of workers.

The financial crisis, offering nothing in the way of hope for working class people in Britain, also gives the British National Party dangerously big opportunities.

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International student movement: free education for all

Author: 

Gemma Short

Recently I took part in an international webchat conference organised by activists, mainly in continental Europe, under the banner of the “international students movement — emancipating education for all”.

Despite the massive obstacles of organising with students from across the world, the core activists are somehow managing — with students from Australia, USA, Italy, Germany, Spain, Holland and the UK attending the web chat.

The main thrust for co-ordination grew up around the “Bologna declaration” — a document from 29 European education ministers in June 1999 on the higher education system.

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Greece: the revolt of the 700-euros generation

Author: 

Mike Kyriazopoulos

In Greece, the fires of December have burned out, the students returned home for the holidays and, for now, the streets are quiet. But the underlying grievances that propelled thousands of youth and striking workers into clashes with the state remain, so 2009 looks set to be another turbulent year.

The unrest was sparked by the police shooting of a 15 year old boy, Alexis Grigoropoulos, but rapidly mushroomed into a mass movement behind the slogan “Down with this government of thieves and murderers!”

The €700 generation… this is the generation of the young people who have studied to improve their possibilities of getting a decent job with a decent salary, but instead find it extremely difficult to find any kind of job.

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Building the left in Unison

Author: 

Interview with Kate Ahrens

Kate Ahrens has been on the National Executive Council of Unison for two years and is now standing for election again as part of a joint left slate. She represents workers in the union’s health sector and has been in the forefront of the pay battle. Kate is also a Workers’ Liberty member. Solidarity spoke to her about her hopes and plans for the union and the left.

S: Can you tell us about your experience on the NEC in the last two years where the left have been in a minority?

Kate Ahrens speaks about the coming Unison Executive elections and building a rank and file movement in the union.

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Amicus-Unite election

Nominations have closed in the election for general secretary of Amicus/joint general secretary of Unite. The choices are not inspiring:

• Incumbent Derek Simpson, who has been a mainstay of support for New Labour, selling out his members and witch-hunting left activists. But Simpson has received only 40 percent of the nominations from branches and workplace reps.

• The even more right-wing Kevin Coyne, the current North West Region regional secretary, who is second in terms of nominations.

A poor choice in the Amicus general secretary election.

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Tube cleaners victimised: support Mary Oboakye!

Author: 

Bob Sutton and Rebecca Galbraith

At the beginning of the year, RMT London Underground Cleaners’ Secretary, Clara Osagiede was disciplined on trumped up charge of gross misconduct by her employer, the contractor, ISS. Another RMT rep, Mary Oboakye was sacked because, while she waited for the tube-train doors to open, she rested her eyes, injured in an industrial accident two days previously — for which she was unable to take more time off work because she would have received no sick pay.

In the wake of the Tube cleaners' pay strike last year, ISS has victimised two union reps. Charges have been dropped against one of them, but Mary Oboakye remains sacked.

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SWP: "United fronts" turn to ashes

Author: 

Charlie Salmon

One of the most startling experiments in physics, in terms of the results it produces, is the “double split” experiment. Many of us will have carried out this experiment in a school laboratory.

John Rees, Lindsey German and Chris Nineham have all resigned from the SWP Central Committee at the SWP conference on 10-11 January. This will not politically change the SWP; things could get much worse for the SWP.

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Oxford fight for a living wage

Author: 

Dan Rawnsley

In December a group of students, University workers and local trade unionists gathered outside Balliol college to protest against the poverty wages cleaners, porters and other low paid workers receive there.

Oxford demonstration against the poverty wages cleaners, porters and other low paid workers receive in the colleges.

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Heathrow Third Runway: New Labour rides roughshod over democracy

Author: 

Gerry Bates

As Solidarity went to press, there was speculation the Government would delay its expected 15 January announcement on whether it would allow a third runway at Heathrow, amid mounting opposition from a variety of sources.

12 January saw a many-hundred strong invasion of the airport by climate change activists; the next day Gordon Brown faced opposition in the cabinet and a grilling from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The Government has announced a third runway at Heathrow.

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Ireland: resisting pay cuts

Author: 

Sacha Ismail

The last two months of 2008 saw a huge wave of struggles in Ireland, with protests by students, pensioners and teachers against attempts by the Irish government to make the working class pay for budget short falls in the current economic crisis.

Now the government of Taoiseach (prime minister) Brian Cowen, a coalition of his right-wing Fianna Fail party and the Irish Greens, is proposing €20 billion (£18 billion) in spending cuts, and says that a majority will have to come from cuts in public sector pay. There is speculation about pay cuts of five or even 10 percent.

The Dublin government is proposing €20 billion (£18 billion) in spending cuts, and says that a majority will have to come from cuts in public sector pay.

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Solidarity with the Israeli refuseniks

Author: 

Ruben Lomas

National military service, abolished in Britain in 1960, is still compulsory in Israel. From the age of 18, Israeli-Jewish men are legally obliged to serve three years in the Israeli Defense Force, whereas women must serve two.

Although it is possible to apply for exemption on religious, physical or psychological grounds — and while Israelis may apply to perform non-combatant roles within the army — there is still a social stigma attached to not becoming a “warrior” and doing your patriotic duty to protect your country.

The history, and indeed the actuality, of refusenik movements should be studied very closely by those on the left who believe that all Israeli-Jews are scheming colonial-settlers.

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The Promised Land?

Author: 

Daisy and Molly Thomas

Australia may remind you of a lot of other movies – westerns, safari movies, even cartoons, since so much of the characterisation is overblown, even clownish.

There are scowling villains, smirking ones, a damsel in distress - Luhrman has thrown just about everything into this long, sprawling saga. It’s set in Australia but it could be happening anywhere, as the setting, Faraway Downs, implies. Its theme is Good versus Evil, the oldest story in the book. It also takes in romance, the Stolen Generations, and the World War II bombing of Darwin by the Japanese.

Review of Baz Luhrman’s "Australia"

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An appeal: unite for "two states"!

Author: 

Editorial

In the Gaza demonstrations, rational, nuanced, coherent politics has been eclipsed in an eruption of Arab and Islamic chauvinism that is only in part to be accounted for by the horror at Israel's onslaught on Gaza and a possibly healthy gut identification with the Palestinians and their organisations.

It is time to create a coalition of those committed to "Two States", peace, and workers' unity across the borders.

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£20 billion more "socialism for bosses and bankers" shows market breakdown

Author: 

Martin Thomas

First, the Government semi-nationalised the banks. Now, it is quarter-nationalising the everyday process of trade credit, with the announcement on 14 January of Government guarantees for some £20 billion on loans made by banks to firms for "working capital", i.e. the cash they need to be able to pay wages and bills before their sales income comes in.

First, the Government semi-nationalised the banks. Now, it is quarter-nationalising the everyday process of trade credit.

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The reactionary right-wing politics of the Gaza demonstrations

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

[For those who have been directed to this article in reference to why the AWL opposes boycotts of Israel, see 'Why left-wing students should not support boycotting Israel'.]

Israel's offensive in Gaza is in the tradition of the US-British slaughter of Iraqi conscript soldiers retreating from their occupation of Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf war in 1991. An American soldier described that as "like shooting fish in a barrel". So in Gaza now.

The Gaza demonstrations are not in any political sense left wing. They have been fuelled by justified outrage at the human cost to the Palestinians of what Israel is doing. But the politics of the demonstrations have been provided by the Islamic chauvinists.

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Against job cuts: occupy, demand public ownership and shorter hours!

Author: 

Colin Foster

Thousands of jobs are being cut each week. Two recent struggles show that even when bosses are determined to shut down operations, workers can still fight back.

In December, workers at Republic Windows and Doors, in Chicago, occupied their factory for six days. In late November, workers at the Calcast car parts factory in Northern Ireland also occupied after the bosses had said the factory was closing down.

In both cases, the workers won better pay-offs rather than reversal of the closures. But both cases show that workers have bargaining power even in the endgame.

Thousands of jobs are being cut each week. Two recent struggles show that even when bosses are determined to shut down operations, workers can still fight back.

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"Che": Revolution as icon

Author: 

Becky Crocker

Review of "Che: Part One"

This is a war film with a political backdrop. The action follows the revolutionaries’ landing in Cuba in December 1956, their trekking covertly through forests, taking of military bases, gaining support of the locals, street-fighting in Santa Clara to being days from taking Havana in January 1959. (The taking of Havana will come in Part Two).

Review of "Che: Part One"

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While millions take pay cuts, union leaders rake it in

According to the website of the Certification Officer, the government official responsible for registering trade unions and employers' organisations, the payments made to the general secretaries of the ten unions representing the big majority of British trade unionists in 2007 averaged almost £80,000 a year - not counting generous benefits.

The median wage for a full-time worker last year was £24,908, a figure inflated by "high earners" ie non-workers at the top end.

While millions of workers take real-terms pay cuts, our union leaders are 'earning' an average of almost £80,000. Derek Simpson, in particular, is living the high life.

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Israel must withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank!

AWL Gaza poster

Author: 

Editorial

“An individual, a group, a party or a class that is capable of ‘objectively’ picking its nose while it watches men drunk with blood, and incited from above, massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive. On the other hand, a party or a class that rises up against every abominable action wherever it has occurred, as vigorously and unhesitatingly as a living organism reacts to protect its eyes when they are threatened with external injury — such a party or class is sound at heart.”

Israel will not have peace until the Palestinians have peace, with justice — until they have a state of their own alongside Israel.

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Marxist economists comment again on the crisis: 2. Fred Moseley - The bondholders and the taxpayers

Fred Moseley

Author: 

Fred Moseley

The world economic crisis took a sharp turn for the worse in September 2008. Some of the Marxist economists who had discussed the crisis in our first series of interviews, March-July 2008, have commented again. No.2: Fred Moseley.

The world economic crisis took a sharp turn for the worse in September 2008. Some of the Marxist economists who had discussed the crisis in our first series of interviews, March-July 2008, have commented again. No.2: Fred Moseley.

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Israeli elections, 10 February: "Toothache, migraine or backache"?

Author: 

Dan Katz

February's national elections are coming 18 months early. They were set in motion in September when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced he would resign to fight corruption charges.

Before the assault on Gaza opinion polling indicated that Tzipi Livni’s Kadima was closing the gap with Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party.

The survey showed Likud winning 29 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, up from its current 12, followed by Kadima with 25. Kadima currently has 29 seats.

"Those who seek change must start to think anew. Those who long for a democratic, secular, progressive Israel, an Israel at peace with its neighbours and imbued with social justice within, must decide to take matters into their own hands".

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Lessons from three workers' struggles in the USA

Author: 

Adam Fischer

Every now and again, American workers issue a blunt reminder to the bosses, and to themselves, that the steady and moderate tone transmitted by their nation's great public-relations dream-machine can never fully lull them to sleep.

Adam Fischer, an American revolutionary, reports on recent class struggles in the United States: Republic Windows & Doors, Smithfield Foods and Stella D'Oro

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