Solidarity 058, 23 September 2004

TUC Congress: Big Four batten down hatches

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 22 September, 2004 - 12:00

By a delegate

OVERALL this year’s TUC congress (13-16 September, in Brighton) was reasonably militant – Blair was not given a warm reception, delegates voted in favour of repealing all anti-union laws. But is there really a willingness to fight?

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Putin uses Beslan to increase his power

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 22 September, 2004 - 12:00

By Dale Street

The series of “reforms” announced by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the aftermath of the Beslan school massacre have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. They are another stage in the evolution of Putin’s authoritarian and semi-dictatorial regime.

The Washington Post summed up the ‘reforms’ as: “An unambiguous step towards tyranny in Russia. There is no complexity or fuzziness about the significance of Putin’s actions.

Putin is imposing dictatorship the old-fashioned way. …Russia needs to fight terrorism.

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March for Zanon

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 22 September, 2004 - 12:00

On 14 September a delegation of Zanon workers and participants in the Unemployed Workers’ Movement (MTD) travelled to Buenos Aires in Argentina to organise a national campaign to defend the factory.

Since March 2002 Zanon’s workers have run the factory under workers’ self-management without owners, bosses or foremen.

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A necessary retreat on the Tube

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 21 September, 2004 - 12:00

The pamphlet Tunnel Vision is well produced and thought-out. It will be a useful tool in future actions. This said, there is one part that needs to be looked at again: pages 43 and 44.

The pamphlet glosses over an issue central to why the improved offer was accepted. The main problem was that the track workers and maintenance workers were facing privatisation within weeks. There was nothing that could be done at that stage to stop this, except all-out revolution!


Submitted by TB on Tue, 10/05/2004 - 12:47

With the benefit of hindsight Rick’s statement that “If the dispute had continued, those workers would have been transferred with no agreements…” can been seen to have been premature at best. The first group of track and maintenance workers were privatised in December 2002, 18 months after the strikes in question were called off and that dispute settled. Who knows what we could have achieved in those intervening 18 months?

So the question needs to be asked: where did the idea that “…track workers and maintenance workers were facing privatisation within weeks.” come from? It was certainly a strong argument in favour of accepting the deal; no union member wants to be held responsible for workers losing any protections they can achieve but why hadn’t we heard this argument at the previous meeting which after all had only been 4 weeks before?

This didn’t occur to me then (it has taken 3 years and this discussion) but perhaps if I’d been given time to reflect on the deal it might have helped but that was the one thing we weren’t given. The hastily convened meeting was called one day after the deal itself appeared, most people hadn’t seen it and any consultation on it would have been meaningless. In the heat of debate we didn’t see this possible line of argument.

So why the rush? Well there was a general election coming up so the RMT leadership didn’t want to embarrass Blair and the TUC had also urged them to accept.
One month earlier, the executive of the union and the AGS tried to sell us an inferior deal. I think they were feeling the pressure and desperately wanted to seal a better one. Having got some improvements they needed the membership’s approval for the new deal but didn’t want to take any chances. What was needed was a big threat to cow us and thus was born the idea that workers “… were facing privatisation within weeks.”

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Will the IRA dissolve?

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 21 September, 2004 - 12:00

By John O’Mahony

Tony Blair’s high-powered negotiations at Leeds Castle, Kent, on the future of Northern Ireland, have broken up in failure.
The Paisley Unionists and Sinn Fein (SF), the polar opposites in Northern Ireland politics, now have the support of most Protestants and most Catholics respectively, and agreement on a new Catholic-Protestant power-sharing Belfast government depends on them.

Yet the failure to reach agreement on that should not be allowed to obscure the most important event in Irish politics since the IRA declared a ceasefire in August 1994.

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Against Bush, but US workers need their own party

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 21 September, 2004 - 12:00

The voice of the militant class struggle left in America may seem too quiet and abstract to bother with. But the future of American working-class politics, and of the world, lies with them.

There is just over a month to go before the US Presidential election. As someone said recently: this is an election in which everyone in the world would like a vote, but only the American people actually have a vote.

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Speak up for Iraqi workers

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 20 September, 2004 - 12:00

Seventy-one per cent of people in Britain now want the government to set a date to withdraw British troops from Iraq.

Tony Blair replied on 19 September: “Whatever the disagreements about the first conflict in Iraq to remove Saddam… this conflict now taking place in Iraq… is the crucible in which the future of this global terrorism will be decided.”

True, the Islamist militias in Iraq are terrorist, against civilian foreigners taken hostage and then ceremonially beheaded, and against the civilian population of Iraq too.

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Cut the roots of fascism

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 19 September, 2004 - 12:00

Note: this article includes details of the forthcoming by-election in Dagenham where the BNP threaten to win another seat.

Far right wins in E. London and soars in Germany.
Cut the roots of fascism - fight for a workers' government!

On 16 September, the fascist British National Party won a council by-election in Barking, East London, with over 50% of the vote.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/08/2004 - 00:53

PA News:
Thu 7 Oct 2004

11:38pm (UK)
Labour Holds on to Seat

By PA News Reporter

The Labour Party successfully defended a local authority seat tonight against a strong challenge from the British National Party.

Philip Waker was elected to the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham with 1,085 votes, BNP candidate Lawrence Rustem came second with 935, while Conservative Kerry Smith finished third with 410. The turnout was 35%.

The by-election was triggered after Darrin Best, the former Labour councillor for the Village Ward, moved out of the area earlier this year.

(There were only the three candidates. Both the Labour and Tory campaigns talked a lot about the importance of serving "local" people and not "outsiders".)

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Left unity for general election?

Submitted by AWL on 11 September, 2004 - 12:00

The Socialist Party, which of all the socialist groupings in England has the largest electoral profile, has added its support to the call for an alliance of socialists at the next General Election.


Submitted by AWL on Tue, 09/21/2004 - 17:16

20th September 2004

To: Alliance for Green Socialism

Alliance for Workers Liberty

Socialist Alliance Democracy Platform

Dear comrades,

I am writing on behalf of the Socialist Party executive committee in response to the various communications we have received on the possibilities for united action between our organisations and others around the likely 2005 general election and more generally.

After considering the proposals presented to us we believe that the best way to proceed is that outlined by the Alliance for Green Socialism (AGS) in their letter of September 4th, namely, for a joint delegate meeting sponsored by our four organisations for a date sometime in late October, with a calling notice along the lines drafted by the AGS.

In accepting this proposal, however, we would like to briefly restate our position not just on the possibilities but also the limits to collaboration between our organisation and others at this stage of political developments in England and Wales.

This is particularly so given the common argument amongst some on the left, which is repeated in the September 1st letter from the Socialist Alliance Democracy Platform (SADP), that “an electoral alliance of autonomous socialist organisations and individuals does not measure up to the needs of the situation” and that what should be formed “in order to advance the interests of the working class” is a party organisation “exemplified by the Scottish Socialist Party and Rifondazione Comunista in Italy”. We do not agree with this approach and, moreover, believe that it was the insistence on moving beyond the initial ‘federal’ approach of the Socialist Alliance, combined with the undemocratic approach of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which was responsible for the ultimate failure of the original Socialist Alliance project.

Of course, the existence in England and Wales of a party with a comparable level of parliamentary representation, media profile etc to the SSP or RC would, if it could be achieved, be an important step forward in the current situation – although, as we have explained elsewhere in our material, we do not uncritically endorse the programme of either of these parties, in particular their failure to link a generally fighting stance with a programme for the socialist transformation of society. But there were particular historical and political factors that enabled the SSP and the RC to develop the positions that they have achieved – the national question (Scotland), the previous existence of a mass Communist Party (Italy), more favourable electoral systems etc – which would not be replicated in England and Wales even if our four organisations and others were to declare in favour of an ‘SSP/RC-type party’.

We are sure that conditions will develop in the future for the development of a new mass workers party. At this stage, however, although a vacuum to the left of the Labour Party undoubtedly exists and is growing, the still small forces of the socialist left can do no more than partially fill it, by consistent campaigning for the trade unions to move onto the electoral plane, by a preparedness to engage in community struggles, the anti-war movement, environmental campaigns etc as well as by targeted electoral activity.

In this situation, an ‘electoral alliance of autonomous socialist organisations and individuals’ would be an important achievement and, we believe, one that is not necessarily easy to accomplish. We have clear political differences with the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) for example, such as that over our support for trade union disaffiliation from the Labour Party, which has significant implications for how a campaign for union political representation could be conducted.

Nevertheless, we believe it should be possible to reach agreement about the forthcoming election as well as seriously discuss what possibilities there may be for longer term cooperation, and it is in this light that we would add our support to the proposal for a late October meeting.

Yours comradely,

Clive Heemskerk,

on behalf of the Socialist Party executive committee

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