Solidarity 197, 16 March 2011

Fight these pension cuts!

John Hutton has produced his final report on the future of public sector pensions. But even before the report, according to the TUC, the value of these pensions had been reduced by 25 per cent due to a mix of negotiated changes and the government’s arbitrary switch to the Consumer Price Index as a measure of inflation.

But other Hutton recommendations will worsen the situation.

The recommendation to end final salary schemes and increase the Normal Pension Age (NPA) for all staff to 65 will impact badly on existing and future public servants.

Activists from PCS and NUT on why the unions must fight the attacks on public sector pensions.

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Libyan rebels in retreat

The initial successes of the uprising in the east of Libya gave comfort to those who were looking for the complete elimination of the Qaddafi regime. The taking of cities close to Tripoli gave some grounds for optimism that the uprising, backed by the defection of large parts of the military, would soon move on to take Tripoli.

Reports suggest that Colonel Gaddafi's forces have retaken some areas of Libya from the rebels.

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24 March: strike across post-16 education

University and College Union members in both higher and further will be on strike over the next ten days over pensions, pay and jobs.

University strikes over pensions will take place in Scotland on 17 March, Wales on 18 March, Northern Ireland on 21 March and England on 22 March. Then on 24 March university lecturers across the UK will strike over pensions, jobs and pay, alongside members in further education striking over pay.

The 24th is also the national day of action in defence of ESOL provision.

UCU members across the country are preparing to take action over pensions, pay and jobs.

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We can beat cuts!

Wirral TUC relaunched Wirral Against the Cuts in order to campaign against closures of care homes.

We leafleted care homes, organised meetings, and a lobby of the budget meeting, and one of the users of the Fernleigh centre who we met put in for a legal injuction.

The Fernleigh centre is the only centre providing support and respite for those with mental health problems.

Now Wirral council have backed down and Fernleigh is to stay open for at least 12 months.

A campaign by Wirral TUC has stopped the local council shutting the borough's only centre providing support and respite for those with mental health problems.

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RMT young members get organised

RMT Young Members held their largest ever conference on 25-26 February.

Fifty delegates might not sound a lot for a union of 80,000 members, 11,000 of whom are under 30. But four years ago there were just nine delegates. Young RMT activists have worked hard to build the conference over recent years; this reflects increasing participation of young RMT members.

The recent RMT Young Members conference inspired delegates to go back to their workplaces and fight, as well as showing that union leaders can be questioned by their members.

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Rape services X Factor and "petition wars"

Cambridgeshire’s ruling Tories are running a “Participatory Budgeting Project” for Violence Against Women and Girls projects in Cambridgeshire. Residents can vote for which VAWG projects get funding of up to £3,000 — and which get nothing.

Cambridge Rape Crisis is the only specialist VAWG organisation who has gone in for the vote (to avoid similar organisations competing). The service is a lifeline to women and girls who have experienced rape and sexual abuse. Funding will enable them to start running face-to-face counselling again.

How Tory councils are attempting to divide public service users in order to make cuts.

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Public health cuts mean shorter lives

Oxfordshire’s Heath Scrutiny Committee is being lobbied by unions and service users to order the Primary Care Trust to launch a full public consultation on public health cuts.

Oxford is a city of extremes: men and women living in the working class estates of the city die seven and six years earlier than those a few miles away in affluent areas of Oxford.

Oxford is a city of extremes: men and women living in the working class estates of the city die seven and six years earlier than those a few miles away in affluent areas.

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Lib Dem protest: build a political campaign!

The Liberal Democrats at their Spring Conference in Sheffield (11-14 March) were safe enough — both politically and physically — behind the security barriers.

The police presence was enormous at the demonstration on Saturday 12 March with around 1,000 cops and horses manning fences, a mobile metal riot wall-barrier.

All this — a largely passive protest of 3-5,000 — cost £2 million to local people. An outrage to a city slashed by cuts.

“Sending the Government a message” is useless unless it is backed up by a movement that compels the unions to mobilise their members and use the Labour-link to actually defeat Tory/Lib Dem attacks.

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Bolshevism and democracy

The following report by Irving Howe of a debate on the record of Bolshevism is taken from the US Trotskyist Labor Action, the paper of the Workers’ Party. The debate between Max Shachtman of the Workers’ Party and Liston Oak, managing editor of the New Leader, took place in New York on 8 November 1946. The New Leader was a right-wing social-democratic journal. Liston Oak had been a member of the Communist Party of America.

In November 1946, Max Shachtman of the US Workers' Party debated Liston Oak, a right-wing social democrat, on the Bolsheviks and democracy.

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Grim route to Iraq

Route Irish is Ken Loach’s take on the Iraq disaster.

Fergus, played by Mark Womack, is a hired killer (or “contractor” as they prefer to be called), seduced by easy money (£10,000 a month) and working for a smooth ex-army outfit fond of status objects and weekend golf.

He enlists a friend of his but this friend is killed after objecting to the murder of a family of Iraqis, a massacre of the innocents.

A review of 'Route Irish', a film by Ken Loach about Iraq.

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Defend May Day!

The Tories are scrapping our jobs, benefits and public services. Now they plan to scrap May Day bank holiday and replace it with a “UK Day”.

For socialists May Day is more than maypoles and Morris dancing — it is International Workers’ Day.

Socialists have celebrated May Day as International Workers’ Day since 1890. Now the Tories are planning to scrap the May Day bank holiday.

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"Storming heaven", the Paris Commune of 1871

The Paris Commune came out of the Franco-Prussian war (July 1870-January 1871).

After the defeat of the French forces by the Prussian army at Sedan on 1 September 1870 the French Emperor, Napoleon III resigned and a Republic was set up after mass demonstrations in Paris, calling for the Third Republic.

With the Prussians marching upon Paris, a newly established “Government of National Defence” was organised.

On the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune, we reprint eye-witness accounts and documents written by the revolutionary workers who, as Marx put it, were "storming heaven".

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Fight now or lose the NHS

“Stealth privatisation.” A “plan to dismantle the health service”. That is what Lib Dem peer and long ago Labour minister Shirley Williams calls Tory Minister Lansley’s Bill to reorganise the National Health Service.

The Chairman of the British Medical Association has publicly denounced Tory plans for the NHS. On 15 March a 600-strong emergency conference of doctors voted to reject it and called on the Coalition government to withdraw it.

Unless the labour movement mobilises itself to stop them, the Tories and Lib Dems will proceed with their dismantling of the NHS.

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Morning Star poisons the labour movement

The Morning Star newspaper should be consigned to the museum of human barbarity, not promoted by a rag-bag of MPs, greens, nationalists and Stalinists.

The idea that the Morning Star is some sort of “paper of the left” is wretched; its apologia for Chinese, North Korean, Vietnamese and Cuban Stalinism is pure poison, a running sore that infects the British labour movement.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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No to AV

We are entirely at the mercy of a gang of Bushites and finance capitalists so it is absolutely essential, under the present circumstances, to reject the AV system.

A “yes” vote is Clegg’s last opportunity to salvage any honour from propping up this dangerous state of affairs. We have the duty to deprive Clegg of that honour. A “no” would mean a good chance of splitting the Liberals. Vote NO to AV and build the extra-parliamentary opposition.

Why socialists should vote No in the upcoming AV referendum.

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How Twitter is like a horse

Later this month I’ve been invited to debate some of the leading online campaigners in Britain on the role of new media in the revolutions taking place in Middle East.

The organisers are calling it “Activism vs Slacktivism” and no, I don’t understand what that means either. But I do know the organisations that will be up on the podium with me — including Amnesty International and Oxfam.

The web, email, social networks, text messages and blogging are all great tools but they are only tools. Revolutions can succeed without them, and revolutions can fail even when these tools are widely available.

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Wisconsin anti-union bill rammed through

When our last issue went to press, there was speculation about a compromise in the battle over union rights taking place in the US state of Wisconsin, allowing Republican governor Scott Walker to push through cuts in exchange for abandoning his attack on collective bargaining.

This would have been logical for the ruling class: “remove organised labour from the fight in order to consquer the rest of the working class”, as the US socialist group Solidarity’s Wisconsin blogger put it.

On 10 March, Republican legislators in Wisconsin passed the union-busting sections of the “Budget Repair Bill”.

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Continuing turmoil in Yemen

Last weekend, in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, police attacked opposition demonstrators with gas and live rounds, killing several and bringing the total number of deaths during the recent round of protests to more than 30.

Islamists seem to be increasingly visible in the previously non-party and mainly secular opposition movement in the capital. A radical cleric — once an ally of the president — Abdul Majid al-Zindani, has joined the protests. He is calling for an Islamic caliphate.

Police in the Yemeni capital Sana’a have opened fire on opposition demonstrators with gas and live rounds, bringing the total number of deaths during the recent round of protests to more than thirty.

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Saudi troops out of Bahrain!

The unstable stand-off between the Sunni Muslim monarchy and mainly Shia opposition demonstrators in Bahrain broke down over last weekend.

The mass protest movement demanding democratic reforms erupted over a month ago. Alarmed, the state backed off — temporarily — following the killing of seven protesters in a failed clampdown.

On Sunday thousands of protesters attempted to enter the financial area of the capital, Manama. The police reacted with great violence, shooting with rubber bullets, tear gas and live rounds.

The unstable stand-off between the Sunni Muslim monarchy and mainly Shia opposition in Bahrain has broken down.

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New social protests in Iraq

Martin Thomas spoke to Falah Alwan ( FWCUI), Toma Hamid (WCPI in Australia), and Mansour Razaghi (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in Australia who has been in close touch with the Iraqi unions) about recent protests in Iraq.

Interviews with Iraqi socialists and trade unionists about the recent wave of protests in the country.

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Student election battles

Student union elections are currently taking place at universities across the country. Following the wave of student action last winter, there have been many more left slates of candidates, organised by anti-cuts activists, though the cooling of the political temperature has meant relatively few victories.

Left candidates are standing in student elections at university campuses across the country.

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Egyptian women right to protest

On 8 March, International Women’s Day, a few hundred women and their male supporters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demonstrate for women’s rights.

The demo had been well publicised. Billing it as a Million Women March was over-optimistic, but the organisers wanted to echo the calls for a million man (person?) march during the campaign to oust Hosni Mubarak.

And there certainly should be a million person march for women’s rights in Egypt.

On International Women’s Day, a few hundred women and their male supporters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demonstrate for women’s rights.

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Defend Dale Farm

Tories in Essex have voted to spend up to £8 million evicting more than ninety Traveller families from a site at Dale Farm in Crays Hill.

The decision was made by Basildon Council on 14 March at a packed meeting, despite opposition from Labour and Lib Dem councillors.

There have been legal battles over the site since the first families occupied the area in 2001.

Opponents said the decision, which commits a third of the council's annual budget, could lead to more job cuts and make children and elderly people homeless.

Tory-controlled Basildon council in Essex is attempting to evict more than ninety Traveller families from a site they have lived on for ten years. This is a vicious attack fueled by prejudice.

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George Galloway, Gaddafi and other Arab dictators

In a recent episode of his weekly radio programme – broadcast from Dubai, where he was holidaying in the “One and Only Royal Mirage Hotel” – Galloway explained his dilemma.

“Somebody said to me in the hotel breakfast room this morning, here in Dubai: ‘Well, your friend’s getting a hard time in Libya.’ I asked him just exactly what he meant by that. And it seems that he’d confused his Arab dictators. Either that or he’d confused me with Tony Blair, who is of course Gaddafi’s new best friend.” (1)

Galloway tells the same anecdote on the “Respect” website:

Galloway's comments on the former Libyan and Iraqi regimes, and the current Syrian one, tell you a lot about his politics.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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Scottish left hook up with George Galloway

And so, after weeks of negotiations behind closed doors the dirty deed has now been done.

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Socialist Party Scotland (SPS) have thrown in their lot with George "I welcome the imminent victory of the Islamic movements in Egypt and Tunisia" Galloway in a new electoral bloc.

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Jean-René Chauvin, 1918-2011

Jean-René
French Trotskyist Jean-René Chauvin has died. Thus the number 201627 tattooed on his forearm by the Nazis when he was deported in 1943 will no longer testify to the barbarism of the twentieth century.

Jean-René Chauvin died on 27 February 2011. Thus the number 201627, tattooed by the Nazis on his forearm when he was deported in 1943, will no longer testify to the barbarism of the past century.

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