Solidarity 248, 6 June 2012

Support Quebec's striking students!

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:41

In Canada, talks between the right-wing Quebec Liberal Party government and student groups resisting tuition fee rises have broken down.

The government representative said after four days of talks that the gap between the two sides was too wide. The students are continuing their protests.

Partly as a legacy of past struggles, particularly around the issue of Francophone Quebec’s status within Canada, tuition fees in Quebec have been much lower than in the rest of the country. Fees are currently $2,168 per year and the government wants to increase them by $1,625 over five years, taking them

Rank-and file teachers organise

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:39

National Union of Teachers activists will meet in Liverpool on Saturday 16 June to found a new network based on local branches (divisions and associations) of the union.

The Local Associations for National Action conference is the product of rank-and-file initiatives at this year’s NUT AGM, where teachers angry at the leadership’s caution and ultimate capitulation over the pensions fight organised together to intervene into the conference debate, holding fringe meetings attended by up to 150 people. The conference will discuss a statement drafted by the steering committee elected at the AGM

Syria crisis deepens

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:35

As the killing-rate in Syria speeds up, the underlying sectarian nature of Syrian society and the decades-old sectarian policy of the Assad dictatorship is increasingly being reflected in the violence on the ground.

The opposition — which, for the first few months of the rising against the dictatorship, was almost exclusively peaceful, and was demanding freedom and democracy — increasingly rests on local, mainly Sunni, militias.

The peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan, which demanded removal of heavy weapons from urban areas, release of detainees and respect for the right of oppositionists to

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:33

RMT and Unite have called off strike ballots of their members working for East Midlands Trains (EMT), leaving drivers-only union ASLEF as the only union in a position to take strike action in the immediate future.

Workers are in dispute over changes to their pension scheme. According to the RMT, EMT bosses have made some concessions over how pensions contributions are calculated. They plan to put management’s new offer to their members with a recommendation to accept.

Unite also called off a ballot of EMT maintenance staff, who were poised to strike over the Jubilee weekend. Until Unite and

Council pensions: who decides?

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:25

Trade unions in local government have accepted a “deal” on pensions not very different from what we went on strike against on 30 November.

The only actual “improvement” is on the increase in members’ contributions. Contribution rates will, for now, be unchanged for many workers, and lower for some part-time workers, though higher for workers on over £43,00 a year.

Among other things, public sector unions have conceded that the retirement age will go up in line with state pension age (so if you're under 37 now that's likely to be 70), as well as the switch to a career average scheme, as

PCS votes to wait for others

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:17

Delegates gathered in Brighton from 23-25 May for the annual conference of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS).

The main debate facing the conference was the future of the national pensions, jobs and pay dispute.

The debate focused on an emergency motion from the National Executive Committee (NEC) and an amended emergency motion from the Independent Left grouping. The NEC’s motion argued that there must be other unions prepared to take action on pensions before the PCS could act. The Independent Left motion argued that, while we should seek the widest possible unity in action

Tube workers get no-strings bonus

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:12

Tube union RMT has reached a deal with London Underground bosses that secures an Olympics working bonus for Tube staff whilst defending collective agreements.

All operational staff will receive £100 dependant on meeting targets and up to £400 attendance bonus. On top of this, most workers will receive a £350 lump sum, which will not be conditional on working outside of existing agreements. Drivers will receive a higher bonus (£500). While the disparity is unfortunate, it stems largely from the eagerness of drivers-only union ASLEF to rush into a unilateral deal that traded drivers’ working

The Third Camp: “Neither victims, nor executioners”

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:09

We continue our symposium of recollections and reflections from activists involved in the “third camp” left in the United States with a piece by David McReynolds.

Although not from the Trotskyist third camp tradition, David worked closely with many who were, including Max Shachtman.

He joined the Socialist Party of America in 1951, and in 1958 was involved in negotiating the merger of the Independent Socialist League into the SP. In 1980, he became the first openly gay man to run for the US Presidency.

My first contact with the term “Third Camp” was probably in 1950, at a joint conference of

The long slump and the global working class

Published on: Wed, 06/06/2012 - 10:02

There is no definitive Marxist assessment of the current economic crisis or of the period leading up to it, but there is a vibrant debate among Marxists trying to grapple with the underlying causes of the world we’re in. David McNally’s book provides one of the most panoramic and provocative accounts with many insights.

He argues that the crisis of 2008 represents the terminus of a quarter-century wave of economic growth — neoliberal expansion — and the transition to a protracted period of slump. He defends three broad arguments:

1. From 1982 an era of severe capitalist restructuring took

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