Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party

Back the FBU Statement in Support of the Kurds and Why We Don’t Back ‘Labour Solidarity with the Kurds’.

with 2 comments

Defend the Kurds: But How? 

In response to the attack by Isis on Kobane one the most respected trade unions in Britain, the Fire Brigades Union, issued the following appeal a few days ago.

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

This appeal was also issued last Saturday,

WE SAY NEVER AGAIN

Labour Solidarity with Kurds.

“And all of those who’ve been the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. We honour their memory, we remember their persecution and their suffering and we say never again”

Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, Holocaust Memorial, January 2014

An open letter to the Labour Movement

We, non-Kurdish members of the British Labour Party and Trade Unions, are calling for an urgent and significant increase in the support from Britain and other countries to the people defending the world against the onslaught of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The Kurds of Kobani, Rojava and the Kurdistan Region, including Yezidis, Christians and other minorities, are on the front line of a global battle against the vilest fascism of our age. We must help them, we must call on the world to help them, and this help must be given by whatever means necessary. The Labour movement is an internationalist movement which understands deeply the plight of those who suffer at under tyranny. We must now stand united in our efforts to secure changes to current UK government policy in this conflict.

The images of grandmothers and grandfathers fighting, and often dying, alongside their younger families is something almost impossible for us in Britain to comprehend. The tales of beheadings, the abandoned dead bodies of women with their breasts cut off, men with their eyes gouged out, sex slavery, genocides and mass executions, and reports of the burning skin of possible acid attacks are too horrific for the British Left to give a half hearted response, or worse.

These atrocities are real, they are happening right now, and those suffering them are real too. They are real women, real men, and real children. They are workers and trade unionists, they are nurses, doctors, teachers and other public servants. They are farmers, electricians, chefs, politicians, and they are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They are the same as us, they are our international sisters and brothers and they desperately need, and profoundly deserve, our support.

We pay huge respect to those who have fought and continue to fight so courageously against ISIS. The role of Kurdish women fighters and leaders has been widely reported and had added a further poignancy to a battle which, if lost, would be a victory for an ideology which degrades, silences and enslaves women as a matter of principle. Many of the women on the front line are mothers. They are fighting for the lives and futures of their sons and their daughters. We must help them.

We in Britain are privileged to live in a peaceful, liberal, secular and democratic society, and we must never forgot that such a society had to be fought for, won and defended. It did not happen through some passive progressive evolution, but was won and preserved through progressive politics, through agitation, and most recently through war against Nazism. Now, a powerful horror is being unleashed into the world by ISIS, who believe they are carrying out divine work. They will not give up, they will not stop. They have to be taken on, and defeated, and this has to be done intellectually, spiritually, and practically. The Labour Party does not turn away from those in need. We help. And we must do so with great urgency now.

Each year politicians say “never again” as they lay their wreaths of Remembrance and at events marking the Holocaust. “Never Again” is a commitment to the men and women who fought and died in these wars that their sacrifices will be honoured and defended, through words and deeds. This surely means doing everything and anything necessary to help stop these atrocities now. To turn away from those in need at this moment would be an historically unforgivable act of abandonment to the past, the present and the future.

We on the Left have an historic responsibility to turn powerful statements about solidarity into concrete action and to give our full support to the Kurds at this moment of their greatest need. We therefore implore the entire Labour movement, the Leadership of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions and our fellow members to use our collective influence to seek and support the following:

  • The Kurds of Rojava in Syria and of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq are asking for solidarity against ISIS, which is active in both Iraq and Syria and between which there is no longer any border. We are asking that you support the use of British jets in air strikes against ISIS in both countries and urge the British government to change their position on British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
  • British government to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and in the Kurdistan Region.
  • A recognition within the Labour Movement that the Kurds and the Iraqis will play the most decisive role in ground operations to defend their homelands. They are not currently asking for the assistance of British and other western ground troops but a global fight of this kind cannot rule this out in the future.
  • To recognise that there may be future incarnations of ISIS and that this needs to be tackled by a mixture of political, economic and other measures to help increase tolerance, pluralism, and women’s rights to reduce and prevent the radicalisation of young people in the Middle East and more widely.
  • To urge Turkey to recognise the Kurds as allies in the fight against ISIS.
  • To recognise that ISIS barbarism has resulted in the flight of over a million refugees from Syria and internally displaced people from Arab Iraq into temporary sanctuary in the Kurdistan Region. The strain of this humanitarian crisis is enormous and the cold winter will mean many needless deaths unless the international community and Baghdad provide much needed support to the communities on the front line.
  • To call upon the Iraqi Government in Baghdad to end the economic blockade against the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

People are dying every day at the hands of ISIS. They are being enslaved, raped, tortured, mutilated and brutalised and there is no end in sight. Our Labour Party and Labour movement has a duty to do justice to the anti-fascist, internationalist, courageous history of the Left and to do what is so needed now.

Yours in solidarity,

In  reporting on this appeal the Kurdish News Agency site Rudaw added this,

Nick Cohen, a prominent British left-leaning columnist who nevertheless regularly castigates the left for its compromises with Islamic fundamentalism, welcomed what he called “a glimmer of light can pass for a dawn.”Commenting on the open letter in The Spectator magazine, he wrote: “Today’s intervention by the Labour friends of the Kurds is a sign that there is not one ‘left’ but many lefts, and not everyone goes along with the  compromises of the past decade. Call me a trusting fool but perhaps, too, it is a sign that left-wing politics is becoming a little less seedy.”

Are the two appeals different?

Yes and in very important ways.

This is hard to say, and even harder to write, but there are fundamentally distinct objectives in the underlying  approaches.

Nick Cohen in the Spectator  draws out the implications of the Appeal.

Their proposals are both essential and sensible. They want the RAF to join allied air strikes against ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq; and for Labour to call on the British government to send to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and across Kurdistan.  Both are  desperately needed – Iraqi Kurdistan alone must cope with one million refugees and a well-armed force of clerical fascists, which could return to slaughter Kurds at any moment.

The MPs, party activists and trade unionists are too tactful to mention that an alliance between the Labour leadership and Tory right (not quite a Hitler-Stalin pact, but in the same territory) stopped British action against Assad, Cameron dare not allow the RAF to deliver the support to the Syrian Kurds they want for fear that left and right will combine again and destroy his government.

He then makes this observation: explaining why Miliband is unwilling to call for the RAF to attack Isis.

Bush, Iraq, post-colonial guilt, pacifism, parochial stupidity and the appeal of minding your own business and not wasting blood and treasure in other people’s conflicts

It would not be unfair to say that Cohen does not want intervention to stop at the defence of the Kurds.

He  has been consistently explicit in his stand on removing Assad,

As in (1st January 2012)  The west has a duty to intervene in Syria

Cohen cites Michael Weiss from the Henry Jackson Society, so-named after a virulently anti-communist American Democrat  ‘Scoop’ Jackson. He was a Congressman and Senator known for close ties to the Defence Industry and  who supported the Bombing of North Vietnam (1). Weiss had a plan for this intervention,

American, British and French air power might combine with Turkish ground forces to create a safe haven in northern Syria, where mutinous troops from the Syrian army could build a fighting force. Nato officials have studied it, while Burhan Ghalioun, chairman of the Syrian National Council, described the report as a “crucial resource for understanding how a humanitarian intervention in Syria can still be carried out responsibly.

This plan was not adopted.

Most people would not accept that it was ever viable, that interventions were bound to be botched, run up against the opposition of large numbers of Syrians,  and that the Syrian National Council was never a real player in the emerging civil war.

Cohen has not accepted this.

For him the absence of Western intervention (meaning a determined thrust to remove Assad)  in Syria was a betrayal.

He has written earlier this year (Observer).

A great evil has been done to Syria. I cannot see how any western project against Islamic State can prosper until the “conscience of the world” provides redress by saying it will not tolerate the continuation of the Assad regime. At present, however, the world won’t even acknowledge evil’s existence. We must expect evil in return.

The FBU did not back Western intervention in Syria.

It would be unfair to accuse them of ‘tolerating’ Assad: they, like most people on the left, simply did not see Western intervention as a serious means to create a democratic Syria.

No doubt they could point to the fact that there has been intervention (if not on Cohen’s personal terms). That is there was a flow of arms from the West to (initially) a broad swathe of the Syrian opposition, and a blind-eye to the weapons and recruits to the original jihadis, were part of the reason why we now have Isis/Islamic state.

Now the FBU does not call for UK aircraft to bomb Isis .

This is part of a blanket statement.

It “places no confidence” in a US/UK/French bombing campaign.

The FBU does not oppose arming the Kurdish resistance – it simply does not state a position.

Tendance Coatesy argues for arms for the Kurds according to their own wishes.

This is both distinct from the Stop the War Coalition’s view and from the call, without asking the Kurds’ opinion, on the British Government to use air power in Syria.

If it sounds ridiculous to have a dogmatic stand on this, from our real position in the world, we certainly welcome air raids and any means possible to defend Kobane.

We will not go further.

This comment has appeared in Tendance Coatesy’s comment boxes; asking why we do not ‘go further’.

Well, the FBU have said they want the UK Govt to “prevent atrocities” but have “no confidence” in a bombing campaign against Isis. Well, what should the Govt do then?

The Kurds in Kobane, on the other hand, do have confidence in the present airstrikes against Isis and are very happy to receive arms from the Americans.

While, I am sure, the Kurds are happy for the support of Unite and the FBU, I think they would prefer Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to adopt the ideas outlined above by “Labour Solidarity with the Kurds.”

Comments Jonr R.

It is clear that amongst those signing the Labour Solidarity with the Kurds are those who consider, like Cohen, that we should go further.

A lot lot further.

That this should be a bridgehead for much wider intervention in the Syrian Civil War – a demand which was predicted would be raised.

This is so completely off the wall that it is hard to know where to begin.

Perhaps we should say, in Henry Jackson style, that one can’t get use arms in a civil war, getting intimately involved in a life and death struggle, on the basis of all the horror and outrage one can muster at Assad and the Islamist genociders.

We can take sides in a precise case where we know something of the forces pitted against each other: the PKK/PYD against Isis/Islamic State.

We do not need to underline the links between those who’ve signed this appeal to the pro-Tony Blair Progress and the Henry Jackson Society to make further points casting doubt about it.

But one thing stands out: perhaps the most prominent signatory of Labour Solidarity with the Kurds, is Gary Kent  who is intimately involved in the politics of the Middle East. (2). He has just published in Progress an account of their appeal, Taking on ‘the vilest fascism of our age’. He has also spoken at more than one Henry Jackson event (including its launch).

Kent is a classic liberal interventionist.

Well it worked so well in Iraq, why not give it a try in Syria?

(1)  “The Henry Jackson Society is a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote the following principles: that liberal democracy should be spread across the world; that as the world’s most powerful democracies, the United States and the European Union – under British leadership – must shape the world more actively by intervention and example; that such leadership requires political will, a commitment to universal human rights and the maintenance of a strong military with global expeditionary reach; and that too few of our leaders in Britain and the rest of Europe today are ready to play a role in the world that matches our strength and responsibilities.”

(2) Gary Kent, Labour member, Director, of Labour Friends of Iraq, Unite/NUJ/Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (honorary). Labour Friends of Iraq, Founding statement 2004. “Iraq is emerging from its long nightmare of Saddam’s totalitarianism, wars and privation. Iraq now has an opportunity to use its natural and human wealth to build a democratic civil society. An independent and secular labour movement is a key part of civil society and can do much to promote the unity of working people, regardless of creed or gender.”

See also: ROJAVA, IMPERIALISM AND THE ISLAMIC STATES .

And: LES COMMUNISTES-OUVRIERS ET LE « CONFÉDÉRALISME DÉMOCRATIQUE » Camille Boudjak

And: Solidarity with the Kurds, or NATO-bashing?  (Alliance for Workers ‘Liberty).

Chartist AGM: the Pro-European Left.

with 7 comments

“Chartist was a very different animal when I took over as Editor in Spring 1974 .  The banner headline on the tabloid talked of joining a ‘joint command of revolutionary organisations and preparing for dual power’.”

Editor’s Report. 2014.

An exceptional Chartist AGM took place on Saturday the 14th of June.

The meeting began with a session of the Financial Crisis and Worker Democracy.

Prem Sikka from Essex University  gave an overview of the part accountancy, to most people one of the most  boring subjects ever invented, had played in neo-liberalism. He illustrated his case by showing how the rules of accountancy underpinned the banking crises, and the ‘outsourcing’ of state functions. This did not mean that the state, viewed in terms of spending public money, had shrunk. It has been “restructured” – to give ever greater subsidies to the private firms who now carry out many of its functions. The present privatising regime had created widespread poverty, not only for the unemployed, but for those working under ‘flexible’ zero hours contracts.  Sikka set out a list of reforms that would bring the banking and financial sector under greater public control, increase transparency,  and end widespread fraud and short-term profiteering.

Janet Williamson, Senior Policy Officer of the TUC, made the case for looking again at the proposals for worker representation in companies, last brought up by the 1970s the Bullock Report. She argued that having a voice for workers in firms decisions was essential, not just for justice, but for better wealth production and long-term stability.

In the discussion that followed  the issues of socialising the banks, the disciplining of the reserve army of the workless by workfare, and whether ‘voice’ was sufficient for socialists who wish employees to have fuller control over their working lives. The ‘shrinking’ of the state was questioned when the transfer of its functions to private companies living off tax-raised funds  had real effects on accountability and workers’ conditions.

After lunch John Palmer (former European Editor – the Guardian) spoke of What now for the left after the European elections? Palmer began by talking about the rise of the xenophobic right, particularly in the UK (UKIP) and France (the Front National). They were joined by other hard and far-right parties in Greece (Golden Dawn) and Hungary. Social Democracy, above all in france, had done very badly. Their left competitors, the Front de Gauche, had stagnated. The British Labour Party had got solid results, but had lost the lead to UKIP.  Palmer, however, pointed to the good results for the left in Southern Europe, notably Greece (Syriza), Spain (Podemos and the Izquierda Unida). From the floor Italy was added, where the centre-left Democratic Party (Partito Democratico), did well and the further left alliance (L’Altra Europa con Tsiprasre-entered the European Parliament.

Palmer explained very clearly that it was up to the Left to promote a federalist agenda as the only way to unite Europe’s left into an effective force that could shape the European Union in a different, social, direction. We need to change the terms of debate.  He cited Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century as a milestone on this journey.It had brought back inequality onto the agenda, showing how rewards to capital has grown at the expense of wage. The left’s agenda needed to centre on the European Parliament. He finished by pointed out how far Britain was isolated in its opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker. By contrast to the British Labour Party, which shares this hostility with the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, the left should be building alliances to fight austerity across the continent.

Chartist has long stood for a pro-European left. Debate and questions raised the problematic stand of some (including Palmer) who back the break-up of Britain yet want a federalist Europe. It was also noted that Picketty’s book came at a time when France’s centre-left was rediscovering the important of fighting inequality. (see The society of equals: Pierre Rosanvallon 2004.  French Edition: La Société des égaux, Le Seuil, 2011). Whether Europe, and the EU,  had played a negative role in backing US-interference the Ukrainian crisis and interventions in the Middle East and Libya was discussed.

Reports indicated that Chartist has continued to attract a wide-range of democratic socialist contributors. The Editor Mike Davis, stated that the journal is supportive of the Labour Party and progressive forces within it, and the majority do not see the way forward in independent electoral left initiatives. But the publication  also attracts Greens, the Left Unity Party,  and independent socialists. The magazine backs the People’s Assembly and has played a significant role in the Labour Assembly Against Austerity.

There were two resolutions. One called for support for the Yes campaign for Scottish Independence, and the other for Chartist backing for a London rally calling for Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom.

From the audience concern was expressed at moves to separate people on national grounds. It was also pointed out by another Chartist supporter that the mover of the resolution’s own party, Left Unity, did not endorse these views, that Chartist is not a directly campaigning group with a ‘line’ and that it was said that Alex Salmond was so vain that he drank his own bath water. We might guess who made the latter comments.

The resolution fell, supported only by its two movers.

The Chartist Magazine is now fully on-line.

The new site is up and running.You can access it here.

It is seriously worth reading.

There was a great get-together in the pub afterwards and an excellent meal in a Greek Taverna.

British Communist Party Talks Sense on Labour Party Reforms (!)

leave a comment »

Talks Sense on Future of Left.

The Labour Representation Committee (the largest grouping of the grass-roots Labour left) stated before yesterday’s conference,

As Labour’s special conference looks set to vote through the Collins reforms at the behest of Ed Miliband, critics on the left of the party have warned that the proposals set in train a process which could radically undermine the party’s link to the trade unions.

Although the unions have forced Miliband to back down from plans which would have seen an immediate breaking of the link, the transition over five-years to a situation where individual union levy payers will be required to ‘opt in’ as affiliated supporters represents a clear step away from the collective basis of union affiliation. Right wing elements around Progress have already made it clear that they want to re-open the question of the percentage of votes the unions hold at Conference, and their representation on the National Executive Committee in another five years.

Today we learn,

Ed Miliband secured the significant backing – and a cash donation – from former SDP leader David Owen as the Labour leader won his party’s support for reforming its links with the trade unions. Independent.

In the Morning Star on Saturday Robert Griffiths (General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain) makes these very relevant points,

The Communist Party, on the other hand, is clear that the labour movement – and in particular the trade unions – must have its own mass electoral party which is capable of winning general elections, forming a government and enacting reforms in the interests of the working-class majority of the people.

He asks,

Is tomorrow’s Labour Party, in which the trade unions are no longer able or willing to exercise decisive collective influence, likely to perform such a role? That prospect will recede significantly when the Collins proposals are passed at this year’s Labour Party conferences.

From his perspective,

Britain’s Road to Socialism explains that it has been that party’s affiliated federal structure and its trade union and working-class composition that have ensured the existence of a significant socialist trend within it. It is this structure and composition which is now being put in mortal jeopardy.

It should be added that far from creating “one member one vote” the “reforms” will further increase the power of MPs and the circle around the Party leader.

Conferences, already reduced to impotence, a decision-making system worthy of the most Byzantine  Stalinist organisation (with powerless  members’ forms at the base and the wheeler-dealers at the  top) make claims about the changes increasing democracy and participation hollow.

In these conditions,

……the fragmentation of the labour movement’s political unity is likely to continue. New left parties and electoral alliances will proliferate, falter and reappear in new guises. More trade unionists and even some unions will withdraw from active participation in the Labour Party.

What is the alternative?

Clearly not, “Britain hosting a replay of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, or Scotland taking a separate Cuban-style road to socialism.”

Instead, we need trade union bodies at every level – up to and including the Trades Union Congress – to organise discussions, meetings and conferences to consider how many more workers and their families can be drawn into political activity and representation.

Hand in hand with this effort must go the drive to popularise the ideas and concept of socialism. Tony Benn has often pointed out that our problem in Britain is not a shortage of socialist parties but of socialists.

Many are unlikely to respond to the call for a “stronger Communist Party”, preferring a more general wish for a “stronger Left” .

But  forums like the People’s Assembly should be considering these ideas.

Perhaps the Morning Star could open wider, beyond its existing favoured circles, to debate them.

Suffolk People’s Assembly: Defend Our Unions Public Meeting.

with 4 comments

On Tuesday up to 60 people came to Ipswich Library Lecture room to the Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting, “Defend our Unions and Right to Resist Austerity.”

Speakers represented many different aspects of the Trade union and anti-cuts movement.

Dave Smith, a Founder Member of Blacklist Support Group, spoke on employers who witch-hunted activists out of jobs. Drawing on his experience in the building trade he outlined the long-standing campaign against the practice, and the recent actions against Crossrail and private contractors for public services.

Donna Guthrie of Joint Chair Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) talked of their grass-roots campaigning in London’s East End. In Newham they had struck deep roots in the community, from many different ethnic backgrounds. They were campaigning against cuts in social housing, and issues such as the abuse of police powers.

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, said,

I’m Proud that NUT was in at the beginning of People’s Assembly and to share this platform today.

Why is the NUT is involved?

Well firstly because Teachers can’t separate themselves from the rest of working people. But perhaps more importantly because many of the children we teach see the worst effects of the austerity agenda. And it is the most vulnerable hit hardest.

Kevin described the attacks on the education system, spearheaded by Michael Gove.

How do we offer an alternative?

Kevin stated,

The Peoples Assembly shows the characteristics we need for the fight back – unity, broad base, looking for activity, something for everyone to do and contribute to And we do see very successful mobilisations all over the country – against cuts and closures in the health service, against the bedroom tax and evictions, against schools being forced into academy status.

Bill Bowring, the International Secretary of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and Colchester based, congratulated Suffolk People’s Assembly on its work. He listed more reasons to offer an alternative to the Liberal-Conservative government’s policies. He said that reducing legal aid, a pillar of the post-war settlement, was part of the same weakening of social rights as attacks on the NHS and education.

Roy Humphries FBU Secretary Suffolk Fire Brigades Union, spoke on the government’s plans to reduce their pension rights and raise the age of retirement to an unsustainable limit.

He described how their battles were far from over and thanked members of the local labour movement, in particular Ipswich Trades Council, who had supported their protests.

Jim Kelly, Chair of London & Eastern Region Unite the Union, spoke on  his union’s base in the private sector. He outlined the decline in collective bargaining agreements – the UK is now apparently on a par with only one country, Lithuania, for its low level of these agreements. Jim cited how UNITE had successfully fought back against employers and had, for example,  won bonus for London Bus drivers, and had defended their members. UNITE were beginning to tackle the problems created by the anti-union Gateway port employers.  What was needed were changes to the anti-trade union laws that prevented workers form organising and only a Labour government, he suggested, could do that.

On the Grangemouth dispute Jim pointed out that it was the local membership who had decided on an agreement with a ruthless employers.

In the discussion that followed a member of the SWP attacked the Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey.

Others saw the trade unions in a positive light, as reaching out to people to defend social rights and as advocates of a better society.

The People’s Assembly was mentioned as a way people  draw campaigns and unions together. The previous week Suffolk activists had supported the Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) protest against ATOS. A campaign extending our work on the Living Wage, will be launched for  Fast-Food workers.

At the People’s Assembly National Conference (15 March) Suffolk will be presenting two motions. One opposes  the government’s  policies against migrant workers. The other calls for a national campaign against Workfare and for Charities, social sector and local authorities to have nothing to do with forced labour.

Ipswich Postal workers mentioned their fight to defend their conditions, and the effects of the closure of the local sorting office.

In the pub afterwards activists considered that the meeting had been a success and a help in our efforts to campaign for progressive politics.

Sisters, Brothers! There’s a place for you – in the People’s Assembly!

Labour Representation Committee Conference.

with 4 comments

This year’s Labour Representation Committee (LRC) AGM was the first the Tendance has attended.

We joined, because Labour Briefing is now the official journal of the LRC. It seems a good idea to go along to the meeting of  a left paper that has played a significant role on the left for several decades.

The turnout for the event was as Stan Keable in the Weekly Worker describes,

There were slightly more than 100 comrades attending the November 23 annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London’s Conway Hall. That is down by a third compared with last year. Bad news for what is an umbrella organisation of the pro-Labour Party left, but surely reflective of the general state of the left in Britain.

He puts the LRC’s importance in this context,

The LRC also has significant organisational affiliates, including six national trade unions (Aslef, BFAWU, CWU, FBU, NUM and RMT), numerous trade union branches and regions, constituency and branch Labour Parties, Welsh Labour Grassroots, Campaign for Socialism (Scotland), and a variety of communist and socialist organisations.

It is hard to comment on Comrade Keable’s detailed remarks about the functioning of the LRC, and the “office problem”,  since we do not have direct information on this. The Briefing is something we can all judge. Against the Weekly Worker article we would  that Briefing has changed, though perhaps “renewed” – for the better – is a more balanced description.

Of the speeches Owen Jones was uplifting, pointing to the successes of such initiatives as the People’s Assembly. Keable dismisses this as his “usual fare” – ignoring the importance People’s Assemblies have taken on the ground.

John McDonnell MP was excellent. You can take this argument whatever way you wish:  “People are still voting Labour,” he said. “We must nourish struggles within the party by building struggles outside.”

Stan rightly underlines the importance of the contributions made by “two activists from the Boycott Welfare campaign, Clive and Robert, gave a moving contribution from the platform as guest speakers. Unemployed people and benefit claimants are clearly being badly maltreated by the system. Half a million have been already denied benefits under the workfare system, they reported.”

These are issues dear to our heart and the LCR, and associated Labour MPs, are to be congratulated for making the campaigns against  of Workfare, Universal Credit and Sanctions, not to mention ATOS, a priority. We were able to develop our contacts with Boycott Workfare by talking to the activists during the break.

Jeremy Corbyn MP gave a more nuanced  portrait of the 1945 Labour government than has recently appeared (notably in the Ken Loach film, the Spirit of 45). Its record was exceptionally largely positive, but it had been Atlanticist and a far from a consistently principled anti-colonialist government.

Mark Serwotka is patronised by Comrade Keable (whose style is rapidly tiring). “he would not waste time repeating “how bad it is”. We need to talk about “what we’re going to do about it”.

I did not get a chance to speak to guest speaker Philippe Marlière of the Front de Gauche (Left Front) – with whom I have contacts. He  must have felt cheered by the serious speakers listed above, though less encouraged by some of the others.

Of these, Stan does not mention the antics of Graham Durham who seemed eager to hog the limelight at every opportunity. His virulent attacks on Len McCluskey  and the LRC elected Committee (amongst others) and his support for Murdoch’s man in UNITE, Jerry Hicks,  struck a sour note.

Durham’s only accurate observation was on the lines that every meeting he attended got smaller.

We wonder why.

There was also an extraordinary  motion by something called Socialist Fight, on Syria.

This noted that “Negotiation with Russia and Iran disarm Syria of its chemical weapons and Iran from developing nuclear weapons and so prepare for a future attack against weaker enemies.”

It ended, “The defeat of this utterly bogus ‘revolution’ will defend a relatively secular administration, strengthen the Syrian working class against Assad and dent chauvinism  in US, Britain and France.”

This was roundly defeated in favour of a policy of defending democratic movements in Syria against Assad and opposing the Western backed jihadists.

There was a debate on the Labour-Union link.

Andrew Berry from Unison, Maria Exall of the CWU and Ian Hudson of the bakers’ union (BFAWU) all made pertinent speeches – Ian Hudson was particularly rousing.

Labour Party Marxists made an appearance.

Stan Keable led off by citing the phrase, “The Labour Party emerged from the Bowels of the Unions” – a quote he attributed to Ralph Miliband.

Ernest Bevin, who actually made the observation, was hardly a model of democratic practice in his use of the union – T&GWU –  block vote. 

Perhaps next time former members of the CPGB begin talking about the Labour Party they might care to familiarise themselves with its history.

The motion that was passed broadly re-affirmed the importance of keeping unions affiliated to the Labour Party. Keable, this time accurately, mentions that their motion,, which sought “the end of individual ‘opting out’ of trade union political funds”, was voted down by a two-thirds majority. Sadly that majority included the LRC’s political secretary Pete Firmin, though Graham Bash, the de facto editor of Briefing, abstained. “

The motions passed on Europe were, as the Weekly Worker reports, equivocal on the need to defend a perspective of a social, socialist, Europe – a view put forward by both Labour Party Marxists and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. They left space for both this genuine internationalism and a more narrowly focused ‘anti-Brussels’ stand. As the article  states, there was a “refusal to recognise that advocating withdrawal means nationalism.”

The AGM was well worth attending.

I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere during the evening that began in the Dolphin and ended in China Town the most.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2013 at 11:53 am

Suffolk People’s Assembly Against Austerity. A Report.

with 2 comments

https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-prn2/c30.30.376.376/s160x160/1150387_535264619874788_6055145_n.jpg

The Suffolk People’s Assembly held a very successful meeting on Tuesday night.

Around 150 people crammed into the Co-op Education Centre in Fore Street to hear speakers on “It’s Time to Fight Back’.

People came from Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, Saxmundham, and Hadleigh as well as Ipswich and its surroundings.

As  the trade union UNITE noted, “The assembly intends to act as a focal point for a general campaign against the tide of austerity that is hitting the 728,000 people living in this predominately rural county. “

The meeting was organised by trade unionists, and a range of  campaigners from across the county. Many had been active in the Suffolk Coalition for Public Services which had held large demonstrations against the cuts in the region.

The Suffolk People’s Assembly (originally the Ipswich People’s Assembly, formed in April) after the June People’s Assembly Conference in London , attended by 4,000 people.

There were banners from Ipswich and District Trades Council, UNITE, the NUT, the GMB and Disabled People Against Cuts.

Graham White, Suffolk county secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) led off the meeting. he talked of the privatisation of education and the attacks by the Education Minister, Michael Gove, on teachers  Graham called for support for the coming joint NUT/NASUWT strike action.

Teresa McKay, Secretary of Ipswich Trades Council, talked of the way austerity and poverty hit us, particularly women. She backed the Living Wage campaign, and a one-day national protest general strike to oppose government policies.

David Ellesemere, Leader of Ipswich Council Labour Group, began by dissecting  the disaster created by the Liberal-Conservative  Coalition’s economic policies. He cited,  Winston Churchill to back the argument that low wages ended up by making everybody worse off.

David made the Living Wage,calculated as the salary needed for a decent standard of living without tax credits, * the centrepiece of his speech.

He observed that the state was now subsidising bad employers by refusing to introduce this standard. He said that Ipswich Borough Council had brought the Living Wage, and banned zero hour contracts  for their employees. A Suffolk Living Wage Campaign would bring pressure on those companies which refused “A fair day’s pay for a fair day;s work”.

Ipswich Borough Council was proud to announce that it had begun building Council Houses, for the first time in many years.

The Council had, so far, resisted cuts – though the Coalition was now set to introduce centrally imposed  reductions in Ipswich spending.

David’s speech, which took a clear anti-austerity stand,  was well received.

Dianne Holland, Assistant  General Secretary of UNITE, spoke of the broader effects of austerity. We needed an alternative that could grip people’s imaginations and inspire opposition, Unity, People sticking together, was what we need.

Owen Jones, the keynote speaker, made just such an inspiring speech.

He talked of the politics of hope, opposed to the Government’s efforts to create fear and envy, setting the working poor against the unemployed, the healthy against the disabled, and the stigmatising of migrant workers.

Owen slammed the disability ‘testing’ firm, ATOS, one of many of the government’s welfare ‘reforms’, the bedroom tax, and the fact that people now had to be fed by Food Banks.

Many people react to the decline in living standards and policies designed to foment division, with frustration and anger.

Hope, he said, was as essential to life.

In place of the Government’s politics of hatred Owen offered plans for public housing, for decent wages not tax credits, and for welfare. It was a scandal that rents were so high that the Housing Benefits were going into landlords’ pockets, without helping solve the housing crisis. In their place rent controls and a massive programme of public sector housing were needed instead. Banks, bailed out during the financial disasters of the last few years, should be brought under  public control and used to promote investment. tax avoidance should be stemmed.

The movement, he observed, had a knack for division, into rival  Judean Fronts.

But now we were working together towards common goals.

Owen’s speech ended with a standing ovation from the audience.

There was ample time for debate.

There was concern that over the weekend a  ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’ live music charity event at The Steamboat Tavern on the Waterfront had cancelled by organisers after threats from the English Defence League. Around 11 members of the  EDL had turned up. **

Members of the audience raised issues such the cuts in education locally, Labour Party Policy, the NHS’s use of agency workers. Concerns about the Labour Party’s policies in these areas, and over squatting,  were raised. Women from the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) called for people to support their campaign against the service’s sell-off.

One speaker, indicating how the politics of division could be fought,  said that the local UNITE had recently recruited a substantial number of Eastern European Haulage drivers.

Sandy Martin Leader of the Labour Group on Suffolk County Council noted that unlike Ipswich Borough, the Tory-run County employed people on zero-hour contracts. Its privatised services, such as Home-care service exploited workers still further.

After the Assembly people remarked on how heartening they had found the meeting.

Serious follow ups are planned.

The Suffolk Living Wage Campaign will be organised in the coming weeks.

People will be out on the September the 29th NHS demo outside the Tory Conference in Manchester, and the November the 5th Day of Action.

Tuesday was a springboard for a much wider campaign against austerity in Suffolk.

Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting at the Coop Education Centre Ipswich, on September 17th 2003 resolves to:-

* Oppose the Austerity policies being carried out by the Coalition government and develop political and economic  alternatives to them. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Newman Next Labour MP for Chippenham!

with 17 comments

Marxists back Newman in Chippenham!

Andy Newman is the Labour Party prospective candidate for the Chippenham constituency.

Congratulations!

On the excellent Andy Newman For Chippenham blog Labour’s proud record is defended,

We should be very proud of what was achieved by the Labour government between 1997 and 2010.

The Labour government with Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, and Alistair Darling as Chancellor, had introduced a number of specific and targeted measures that boosted the economy.

Comrade Newman spent much of this time backing the Labour Party by supporting candidates of Respect and Socialist Unity.

He was Swindon spokesman for the Respect Party and, amongst other activities,  invited George Galloway to speak at the town.

Newman ran the Socialist Unity site.

We say, phooey! and whatabout?  to this past.

In a gesture of solidarity we announce our intention to campaign for Comrade Newman.

Chippenham Map for Socialist Canvassers. 

Hat-Tip, Facebook.

Update: a bit tardy but worth waiting for, Andy Newman announces his candidacy on his own site.

The Wiltshire Daily Small Pig Breeder and the North Wiltshire Digital DJ, Alan Patridge Jnr, have given this extensive coverage.

The contest looks a close run with Labour scoring 6.9% in Chippenham at the last election.