Solidarity 166, 4 February 2010

Britain 2010: social attitudes

The latest figures from the British Social Attitudes Survey show that while people have become more liberal on social issues such as gay rights, there has been a rightward drift on economic questions.

• Whereas, in 2002, 63% of people surveyed thought that governments should increase taxes to fund greater public spending, that figure is now down to 39%. The majority believing that both taxation and spending levels should be kept as they are (which will make neither the Tories nor New Labour, both of whom have extensive cuts projects, particularly confident).

The latest figures from the British Social Attitudes Survey show that while people have become more liberal on social issues such as gay rights, there has been a rightward drift on economic questions.

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Higher Education cuts: the fightback begins

Author: 

Ed Maltby

On Monday 1 February the higher education funding body, the HEFCE have announced the details of how the budget cuts imposed by Peter Mandelson back in December 2009 will fall. The headline cuts is one in the universities' teaching budgets — £215m in the acedemic year 2010-11. This cut will lead to a the loss of 6,000 student places. Up to 300,000 university applicants will be turned away this summer. The lecturer's union UCU is warning of over 6,000 teaching job cuts although this number is almost certain to rise. New Labour's higher education cuts amount to £950 million over three years.

Students have responded to the cuts in education with demonstrations and occupations. Staff are balloting to strike. Student demonstrations at campuses in Birmingham, Leeds, Sussex and London have drawn in hundreds of student, with more action being planned at dozens of campuses.

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Zionism, anti-semitism and the left

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Moishe Postone is a Marxist academic based at the University of Chicago. As well as writing extensively on Marx’s political economy, he has also been central to the development of theories of “left anti-semitism”, which look at ways in which positions taken by left groups, particularly on Israel/Palestine, can feed into, or be based on, hostility to Jews. Martin Thomas spoke to him.

An interview with Moishe Postone, a Marxist academic based at the University of Chicago, who has been central to the development of theories of “left anti-semitism”, which look at ways in which positions taken by left groups, particularly on Israel/Palestine, can feed into, or be based on, hostility to Jews.

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Socialist Workers Party: leading dissidents expelled

Author: 

Clarke Benitez

At the conference of the Socialist Workers' Party which took place on 9-10 January, the expulsions of dissident members Clare Solomon and Alex Snowdon were confirmed.

Both members were expelled for "factional behaviour" — a charge which was backed up with evidence provided by emails that the SWP Central Committee got hold of by hacking into their accounts. Solomon and Snowdon were members of the minority “Left Platform” within the SWP.

At the conference of the Socialist Workers' Party which took place on 9-10 January, the expulsions of dissident members Clare Solomon and Alex Snowdon were confirmed. Both were members of the minority “Left Platform” within the SWP.

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Election coalition launched

Author: 

Gareth Munro

The Socialist Party has launched a “Trade Union and Socialist Coalition” (TUSC) for the general election. Seeing itself as a successor organisation to the “No2EU” slate, TUSC has so far failed to achieve significant trade union backing: Bob Crow is involved in a personal capacity, but the RMT Executive decided to concentrate on re-electing its sponsored MPs. Although the SWP have said they want to participate, the SP remains the only significant force formally involved.

The Socialist Party has launched a “Trade Union and Socialist Coalition” for the general election with a platform made up of unobjectionable and largely worthwhile reformist demands, but notable for the absence of anything positive on migrant workers’ and asylum seekers’ rights or European workers’ unity. Whether it will have any real, independent, democratic life on the ground also remains to be seen.

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Sussex students against Israel boycott

Author: 

Patrick Rolfe

As we reported in Solidarity 3/164, the University of Sussex Students’ Union recently passed a policy committing it to a boycott of Israeli goods. Workers’ Liberty opposes such boycotts because we believe they cut against what is objectively necessary — international working-class solidarity to help Palestinian and Israeli workers build unity around a programme of mutual respect and equal rights — and create the potential for an anti-semitic backlash by exceptionalising Israel.

An interview with a student at Sussex University involved in the campaign to overturn the student union's policy of boycotting israeli goods.

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French burqa ban: socialists defend women’s rights and fight racism

Following a law passed in 2004 banning the hijab (Muslim headscarf) and other symbols of “religious affiliation” in state schools, the French government is now discussing a proposal to ban the wearing of the burqa (the full body veil) in various public spaces, including on public transport. It takes place as part of a concerted government campaign to assert a secular French “national identity”.

An article from the journal of France's New Anti-capitalist Party on government proposals to ban the wearing of the burqa in public.

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Urgent need for rape crisis centres

Author: 

Becky Crocker

The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into the case of rapist black cab driver John Worboys has highlighted again the criminal justice system’s appalling handling of rape allegations. It does nothing to inspire confidence in an already mistrusted system, which contributes to the low rape conviction rate, currently 6%. Small comfort too was the IPCC’s advice to contact “third parties” i.e. Rape Crisis Centres if nervous about the police, as underfunded centres continue to fold and funding is increasingly dependent on partnership with police.

As the voluntary sector has professionalised and charities compete, organisations with larger resources are better placed to win funding bids. Small volunteer organisations, without professional fundraisers, are left behind: nine Rape Crisis Centres have closed in the last five years due to lack of funding and resources.

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Britain 2010: the sick pay

A Labour Party plan to scrap prescription charges for people with long-term health conditions has been shelved, and is now expected to reappear as a manifesto pledge in this year's general election.

The move, which was first announced at the Labour Party's 2008 conference, would have affected up to 15 million people and has provoked anger from health service campaign groups and charities.

A Labour Party plan to scrap prescription charges for people with long-term health conditions has been shelved, and is now expected to reappear as a manifesto pledge in this year's general election.

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Temporary and agency workers: defend and extend new rights

Author: 

Daniel Angell

New legislation giving rights to Britain’s 1.8 million temporary workers should be in place by April this year, but will not be enforced until 2011.

New legislation giving rights to Britain’s 1.8 million temporary workers should be in place by April this year, but will not be enforced until 2011. Labour could, and should, have introduced the legislation a long time ago.

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Buckfast: Scotland's major problem?

Author: 

David McDonald

Violence, religious conspiracy, boozy teenagers. The Buckfast Code certainly provided low-brow entertainment. Unfortunately, it also missed an opportunity to explore poverty in one of Europe’s most deprived “prosperous nations”.

Buckfast remains relatively unknown to the majority of Britain, perhaps because 60% of sales are concentrated in Scotland. A low quality wine costing the same as the average supermarket red; at 15% it is also similar in alcohol volume. What separates it is the 281 micrograms of caffeine per bottle.

A review of 'The Buckfast Code' (BBC Scotland, 18 January) about the cheap, strong wine produced by Benedictine monks, 60% of which is sold in Scotland.

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Sex worker exhibition: what's shocking about this?

Author: 

Sofie Buckland

Created between 1983 and 1988, The Hoerengracht is a reproduction of Amsterdam’s red light district, a series of small buildings housing models of sex workers, framed by the familiar red neon lights. The viewer is invited to peer in through windows, taking on the role of voyeur. It’s a small installation, which takes maybe 15 minutes to get a reasonably detailed view of, and for an exhibition in a major gallery on the topic of sex work, it’s disappointing and devoid of content.

A review of the The Hoerengracht, a reproduction of Amsterdam’s red light district at the National Gallery.

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Only the Goddess and the UN...

Author: 

Patrick Rolfe

These two recent films provide conflicting visions of the future. They are both set on mining outposts, a century or two in the future, but the conclusions of both films are rubbish. Neither film does what science fiction is supposed to do — tell a story of a possible future, whilst providing ideas that are relevant and useful to our current situation.

A review of two new science fiction films, 'Avatar' and 'Moon'.

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New Labour, inequality and class

Author: 

Sacha Ismail

“Harriet Harman puts class at heart of election battle,” shouted the Guardian front page on 20 January, while the 21 January Telegraph proclaimed “Harriet Harman reopens class war with speech on inequality”. What prompted all this?

Harman had given a speech to the left-Blairite pressure group Compass, in which she said:

All the Labour leadership candidates have talked about the need for greater equality, yet New Labour presided over an increasing in inequality. What should socialists say?

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Standing up for socialism in Camberwell and Peckham

Author: 

Daniel Randall

Although in most constituencies, working-class socialists will vote for the Labour Party because of its structural and
historic links to the trade unions, Workers’ Liberty’s election campaign in Camberwell and Peckham — where we are standing Jill Mountford — shows what might be possible at election time with a healthier left.

Although in most constituencies, working-class socialists will vote for the Labour Party because of its structural and historic links to the trade unions, Workers’ Liberty’s election campaign in Camberwell and Peckham — where we are standing Jill Mountford — shows what might be possible at election time with a healthier left.

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The left and the labour movement in the General Election

Faced with the prospect of a Tory government and little or no left-of-Labour presence at the polls, how should the working-class left respond to the general election and the cuts that will inevitably follow, whichever party wins? Solidarity spoke to a range of activists from across the left. We will continue the discussion in future issues.

Working-class political representation means a socialist voice

Nadine Houghton is an organiser for Battersea & Wandsworth Trades Council and a member of the Socialist Party.

Faced with the prospect of a Tory government and little or no left-of-Labour presence at the polls, how should the working-class left respond to the general election and the cuts that will inevitably follow, whichever party wins?

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Iran: "Huge struggles expected"

The “cold war” between the US and Iran took an icy turn on Monday 1 February when the US announced plans to station missile defences in states bordering Iran. So now Obama’s diplomatic “offensive” against Iran, ostensibly over the country’s uranium enrichment programme has ground to a halt. Just as those segments of Iran’s opposition movement that are more regime insiders were reportedly negotiating with the “hardliners”.

An interview with Homayoun Pourzad of the Network of Iranian Labor Unions from the US journal Labor Notes.

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Haitian workers call for solidarity

Author: 

Ira Berkovic

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti, some sections of the British labour movement are stepping up to deliver the solidarity that Haiti’s workers and poor so desperately need.

With aid being delivered predominantly by various US or UN military bodies, or by unaccountable NGOs, there is (as ever) no guarantee that aid can be delivered on the basis of need or without strings.

With aid being delivered predominantly by various US or UN military bodies, or by unaccountable NGOs, there is (as ever) no guarantee that aid can be delivered on the basis of need or without strings. For this and other reasons it is vital for the left and the workers’ movement to organise direct material support and solidarity for our counterparts in Haiti who have experience in self-organisation and fighting on behalf of the most oppressed.

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Strikes promised to fight civil service cuts

Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) leader Mark Serwotka has promised a strike campaign in the run-up to the general election aimed at causing “the most disruption possible” to the government.

PCS is balloting its entire membership on rolling action to oppose moves by the government to reduce civil servants'
redundancy payments by up to a third. For some low-paid workers, this could mean losing out on up to £20,000, and
the union argues that the move is the thin end of a wedge that will lead to massive job cuts.

The Public and Commercial Services Union is balloting its entire membership on rolling action to oppose moves by the government to reduce civil servants'redundancy payments by up to a third. For some low-paid workers, this could mean losing out on up to £20,000, which PCS argues is the thin end of a wedge that will lead to massive job cuts.

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Pay freeze in Local Government: the shape of Tory attacks to come

Author: 

Ed Whitby

The Tory led Local Government Association (LGA) has said there will be no increase in pay in 2010-2011. They say there is not enough money available to fund an increase and this is the only way they have to protect jobs and services in the economic crisis. The Labour minority group on the LGA have suggested a 1% increase for the lowest paid — a small crumb of comfort.

This is Tories practising for national power and adopting a hard line stance on pay. It is only a prelude for what a Cameron government will attempt.

The Tory led Local Government Association (LGA) has said there will be no increase in pay in 2010-2011. This is Tories practising for national power and adopting a hard line stance on pay. It is only a prelude for what a Cameron government will attempt.

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UNISON General Secretary election: a chance to build the union we need

Author: 

Mike Fenwick

The snap election for General Secretary of Unison, called on 20 January, has caught many by surprise. Dave Prentis, the incumbent, got the National Executive to nod through his personal timetable for the ballot. Normally there would be months of notice before nominations are opened but his schedule starts the nominating period on 4 February. Prentis has already put out publicity to branches and set up a website appealing for nominations and donations.

The major opportunity provided to the left in the UNISON General Secretary election campaign will be to make propaganda for the kind of union we want. It should not just be an appeal for votes from the members but an invitation to actively participate in the structures and campaigns of the union. It should aim to mobilise members to build a rank and file democracy movement much broader than the current isolated left.

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National Union of Teachers: left win, now build the rank-and-file campaign

Author: 

Pat Murphy

The three-way contest for Deputy General Secretary of the largest teachers union, the NUT, resulted in a major victory for the left. Kevin Courtney, the Camden NUT secretary and leading light in the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance (STA), was elected after an impressive campaign which maximised his support amongst activists and local branch officers of the union.

The three-way contest for Deputy General Secretary of the largest teachers union, the NUT, resulted in a major victory for the left. Kevin Courtney, the Camden NUT secretary and leading light in the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance (STA), was elected after an impressive campaign which maximised his support amongst activists and local branch officers of the union.

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British Airways: fighting to save their jobs

Author: 

Darren Bedford

Members of the BASSA branch of the Unite union, which represents cabin crew working for British Airways, began re-balloting for strike action over pay freezes and job cuts on 25 January, with results due back on 22 February.

Members of the BASSA branch of the Unite union, which represents cabin crew working for British Airways, began re-balloting for strike action over pay freezes and job cuts on 25 January, with results due back on 22 February.

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New struggles and old issues in construction engineering

Author: 

Dave Kirk

An audit demanded by Unite and GMB unions into the pay of workers building a new gas turbine power station at Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire has showed that a sub-contractor (Somi) is paying its Italian workers less than UK rates for the job —by an average of 1,300 euros a month.

These workers are “posted workers” — sent by their employer to work in a different country on a temporary basis. Unions believe these workers are being used to undercut wages and conditions in the industry.

The GMB called a demonstration in London on 3 February. It was promoted by the noxious, union-busting, right-wing Daily Star as a “British Jobs For British Workers” demo. But what are the industrial issues?

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Wirral libraries: Government report slams council

Author: 

Elaine Jones

A long-awaited report from the Government inquiry into Wirral Council's plans to close 11 libraries was finally made public just before Christmas.

The report was due to be published in September but Wirral chose to sit on it while they announced their decision to keep all the 11 libraries open. We now know why they did not publish. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport inquiry found that the council were in breach of their statutory duties, had failed to assess the needs of local people and displayed a lack of logic when making their plans.

The long-awaited report from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport inquiry into Wirral Council's plans to close 11 libraries has found that the council were in breach of their statutory duties, had failed to assess the needs of local people and displayed a lack of logic when making their plans.

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Barnet sheltered housing wardens, a temporary reprieve

Author: 

Vicki Morris

Barnet Tory council’s decision to axe its sheltered housing wardens and replace them with a roving support service with far fewer staff was ruled illegal by the High Court in December 2009. The court ruled that in its consultation Barnet had not met its duties under disability discrimination legislation.

Barnet Tory council’s decision to axe its sheltered housing wardens and replace them with a roving support service with far fewer staff was ruled illegal by the High Court in December 2009 because in its consultation Barnet had not met its duties under disability discrimination legislation. But it is likely that, once the elections are out of the way, they will try again, this time making sure they comply with legislation.

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Glasgow: unions and activists unite

Author: 

Dale Street

Around a hundred trade union and community activists attended an anti-cuts meeting organised on Saturday 23 January by Glasgow City Unison branch. Trade unions and community organisations have come together into a single campaign against council cuts in jobs and services.

Glasgow City Council is making major cuts in jobs and services over the next three years, involving not just the council but also its “Arms Length Organisations” — supposedly set up to safeguard jobs and services!

Around a hundred trade union and community activists attended an anti-cuts meeting organised on Saturday 23 January by Glasgow City Unison branch. Trade unions and community organisations have come together into a single campaign against council cuts in jobs and services.

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Iraq inquiry: glossing over the war

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Want to know the reasons for the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Better read the testimony by Paul Wolfowitz — US deputy Defense Secretary at the time of the invasion — to a US Congress committee on 25 February 1998 than Tony Blair’s words to the UK Iraq Inquiry on 29 January 2010.

Blair gave, as the Financial Times reported, a “typically smooth” and “lawyerly” story. Wolfowitz was arguing a case, not trying to gloss things over after the event.

Blair gave, as the Financial Times reported, a “typically smooth” and “lawyerly” story. Everything in his evidence besides the admission that he had told Bush in mid-2002 that he would support him come what may was largely beside the point.

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General Election: why we need a socialist campaign to stop the Tories and fascists

Author: 

Editorial

“We are not getting excited about the election.” (Duncan Hallas, a central leader of the Socialist Workers Party, in Socialist Worker, on the eve of the 1979 general election which gave power to Thatcher’s Tories.)

We need not an indolent, passive "vote Labour" posture, but an active socialist campaign that combines stopping the Tories and fascists now with a simultaneous fight against Brown and New Labour — now, and after the election, whether Brown loses or wins.

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