Tendance Coatesy

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100, 000 Demonstrate Against Austerity in Brussels.

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Our Belgian Comrades on the March. 

The United front of Belgian Trades Unions (Christian union ACV (green colour), the socialist union ABVV (red) and the liberal ACLVB (blue)   has announced that 100,000 marchers took part in a national demonstration against Austerity  in Brussels yesterday (the Police estimate 81,000) (reports from Le Soir and  En Belgique, une immense manifestation contre l’austérité. Le Monde.)

They were joined by two leaders of the francophone Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste), Elio Di Rupo  and Laurette A. J. Onkelinx  (of Kabyle origin).

Members of the civil platform ‘Hart Boven Hard’ also participated in the protest.

The principal slogan of the unions was “Que des miettes pour nous ” – only crumbs for us. It symbolised the inequalities in the country.

Other slogans took up, in a humorous vein, this theme, mocking the – admittedly odd looking, – Federal Prime Minister Charles Michel,

©Sylvain Piraux

Washing Powder Michel Guaranteed to shrink your spending power. 

©Dominique Duchesnes

Mr Potato: He Reduces us to Mash. 

The media spoke of the success of the event, which many expected to draw smaller crowds (Le défi de l’après-manif? Inclure la rue). There were some strikes in public bus services to accompany the protests.

There were a few violent clashes between protesters, some said to be anarchists, and the police.

Des manifestants antiaustérité jettent des pierres en direction de la police mercredi 7 octobre à Bruxelles.

Affrontements entre quelques manifestants et forces de l'ordre lors d'une marche contre les mesures d'austérité du gouvernement de Charles Michel.

Austerity for the trade unions means direct attacks on their membership.

Last year a series of “reforms”, ending indexing of salaries to the cost of living pushed back (meaning effectively wage cuts as they drop behind price rises) , pension age put back to 67 years, reform of early retirement plans and savings in public spending without any taxation of capital.


The march  demanded improved purchasing power, a tax shift that includes a fair share of the burden for the rich, and job schemes to get the vulnerable groups in society at work (English language report here).

Little has appeared in the British media on this important protest.




Written by Andrew Coates

October 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Jeremy Corbyn at Burston Rally Calls for Labour to Open up Policy Making to Members.

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Burston Strike Rally.

From SJ Burston Facebook Page

As many as 3000 people have attended the annual Burston Strike Rally in Norfolk – among them Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn.

The rally is held every year to celebrate the longest strike in history which happened in 1914. Then schoolchildren ‘went on strike’ to support their sacked teachers. The strike lasted 25 years. ITN.

Clive Lewis, elected this year as Labour MP for South Norwich, and one of the original Parliamentary backers of Jeremy Corbyn’s bit for leadership, spoke. He called for not let up in our efforts to get Corbyn elected, and the importance of the campaign to bring Labour in line with the mood for changed politics.

Jeremy addressed the rapt crowd. He talked of the need to build on the labour movement’s achievements, of the debt we owe to those who fought for the NHS, for the Welfare State, for legislation like equal pay, health and safety and the human rights act.

The Labour governments of the 1990s had helped with initiatives like Sure Start and more resources for public services. But their achievements had been built on sand: they had accepted the free-market consensus laid down in the Thatcher years.

Unable to confront directly the Conservatories’ call for more austerity, they had not challenged it. Instead of attacking the financial causes of the crisis, the banks, they had accepted the need for cuts, if reluctantly.

Labour had to break with austerity. It had to oppose welfare ‘reform’, from the sanction system to the assault on disabled people’s benefits. It to start backing trade unions and defnding the right to organise, to belong to a union and to strike.

Corbyn outlined plans for a National Investment bank as a pillar of his programme to rid the public sphere of the dead hand of PFI.

One theme of Corbyn’s speech is worth underlining.

He called for opening up Labour’s policy process to the party membership.

This is a subject he frequently focuses on.

I don’t think we can go on having policy made by the leader, shadow cabinet, or parliamentary Labour party. It’s got to go much wider. Party members need to be more enfranchised. Whoever is elected will have a mandate from a large membership.


Those familiar with the present Labour policy process, culminating in the National Policy Forums, will know that it is hard, if not impossible, to influence the Parliamentary leadership’s decisions.

This is how the way they make policy began (Tribune. January 1995. Andrew Coates – ironically encouraged to write this by Peter Hain).

January 1995

The Tendance, who is well acquainted with people who have participated at every stage of the Forum process (and was himself there when it was set up), can give chapter and verse on how the Leader, his office,  and his communications staff have ignored well-thought out proposals on everything from Planning Legislation to Welfare.

It is ironic that it is the very system of rule by the favoured few which introduced the present open election process for the Labour leader.

The right-wing of the party under Blair – the modernisers – have long had the ambition to make Labour into a version of the US Democratic Party.  But it was not just the ingrained cultural cringe of the British political scene towards the US that was the immediate stimulus.

They were impressed by the following changes on European left (the Italian former Communists’ beat them to the change over to ‘Democrats’).

They gained the ear of the party Leader……

Italy 2007:

On 14 October 2007, voters of the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) were called to choose the party leader among a list of six, their representatives to the Constituent Assembly and the local leaders. The primary was a success, involving more than 3,500,000 people across Italy, and gave to the winner Walter Veltroni momentum in a difficult period for the government and the centre-left coalition. Wikipedia.

This system continues.

Progress published an admiring article in April 2013, by Shamik Das:

The Partito Democratico was the only party to organise primaries both for its leader and its parliamentary candidates, and was the only party without the leader’s name on the ballot paper.

During the leadership primaries, both the eventual winner, Pier Luigi Bersani, and his principal challenger, Matteo Renzi, utilised the web, with the party gaining a strategic advantage. Between June and December 2012, it was the only political party with an online presence, dominating cyberspace – and it is a presence that continues to grow and deliver.

The PD’s primaries’ database stands at an impressive three million contacts (out of an electorate of about 50 million, with turnout  at 75 per cent), a small army the party re-energised and mobilised in the general election. Detailed analysis of the database was undertaken, from people’s professions to backgrounds, knowing where to go, what to ask of them, and how many voters each can contact in turn. Many of these three million people (in a democracy of a similar scale to our own) are recently engaged and spreading the message ever further. Imagine such strength in the UK.

There is also this:

France 2011:

This was the first primary to be open to the general public. In order to participate to the open primary, voters had to meet the following conditions:

  • be registered in the French electoral lists before 31 December 2010 (or for French persons under 18: be 18 at the time of the 2012 presidential election, or be a member of Socialist Party (PS), Radical Party of the Left (PRG), Young Socialist Movement (MJS), or Young Radicals of the Left (JRG); foreigners will be able to vote if they are members of PS, PRG, MJS, or JRG);
  • pay a contribution of minimum €1;
  • sign a charter pledging to the values of the Left: “freedom, equality, fraternity, secularism, justice, solidarity and progress”.

The six candidates participated in three televised debates on 15 September, 28 September and 5 October 2011.

In the first round election day, around 2,700,000 voters cast their ballots: Hollande won 39 percent of the vote, followed by Aubry with 30 percent and Montebourg at 17 percent. Former presidential candidate Royal came in fourth place with 7 percent of the vote.[1]

Second round

On 9 October 2011, after the first results of the first round, Manuel Valls called his voters to cast their ballots in favor of François Hollande; on 10 and 12 October 2011, Jean-Michel Baylet and Ségolène Royal respectively announced they would support François Hollande. On 14 October 2011, Arnaud Montebourg did not instruct his voters how to vote, although he explained he would personally cast his ballot for Hollande.[82]

François Hollande and Martine Aubry contested a runoff election on 16 October 2011, after a televised debate held on 12 October 2011. Almost 2,900,000 voters participated to the second round: François Hollande won the primary with around 57 percent of the vote, becoming the official candidate of the Socialist Party and its allies for the 2012 presidential election.

In Progress in 2013 Axel Lemarie lauded the French primaries,

n 2011 the French Socialist party embraced the principle of an ‘open primary’ to select its candidate for the presidential election of 2012. This first experiment was a success in terms of both mobilising supporters and gaining media coverage. All registered voters were given the chance to take part in the selection process. In fact, in order to participate voters needed simply to sign a charter pledging allegiance to the values of the left and to pay a symbolic contribution of at least €1; they did not need to be members of the Socialist party. For the first time in France, a presidential candidate was chosen by the general public through a unique democratic and participative process.

More than 9,000 polling stations were open for the first round of the primary both in France and across the world. To ensure maximum legitimacy, an oversight body, comprising a prominent lawyer, a law professor and a specialist in ethics, was charged with registering the candidates, monitoring the elections and announcing the final results. To be declared the winner, a candidate needed to receive more than 50 per cent of the total votes cast. If no candidate received this, a second round was to be organised between the two leading first-round candidates.

Over 2.5 million people voted in the first round and in the second this number rose to around three million. Moreover, the televised debate between the two second-round candidates was a huge success, attracting an audience of around six million viewers, energising the party and dominating political coverage.

Building on this success, the party organised another open primary process for the local elections next March. It was also deemed a success. For example, in Marseilles, 23,440 voters participated in the second round of the primary, which represents around a quarter of those who voted for the Socialist party  during the last local elections in 2008. And it showed how the open primary process can be full of surprises. In the Marseilles contest, former minister Marie-Arlette Carlotti, the favourite to win the primary, was eliminated after the first round.

Impressed by the evidence from Italy and France, and no doubt the silver tongues of the Progress wordsmiths,  Labour came round to adopting their own version of the’ primary’ (they failed to spot one small cloud on the horizon – in France, the left candidate came from nowhere to 17%).

Against the wishes of many in the party, and almost by stealth, the new election system was set up.

Whatever the final results we can imagine that Progress are already celebrating their achievement.



Belgian General Strike Brings Country to a Halt.

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Socialist Party Leader Elio Di Rupo Backs Strikers.

Today the police in Belgium are observing a work-to-rule (grève du zèle).

The successful General Strike on Monday saw the country’s transport system grind to a halt, almost all public services closed, and workers in the private sector joined the protests.The unions also mobilised road Hauliers to bloc access to major cities.

There were a small number of clashes between strikers and scabs.

The left has described the strike as “historic”.

The International Monetary Fund has, however, just stated that the “reforms” launched the Belgian right-centred Coalition go in the “right direction” (La Libre Belgique).

Hard-right Bart de Weever, of the N-VA (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie)which advocates the Scottish nationalist style  break-up of the state, and who is seen by many as the éminence grise of the government, denounced the strike as “political”.

There were tense moments when Trade Unionists protested outside the Brussels  headquarters of the N-VA shouting, “« N-VA, casse-toi, la Belgique n’est pas à toi », N-VA, Piss off! You don’t own Belgium!”

Further action is planned for mid-January.

At present negotiations are underway. Centre-right  Coalition Minister, Willy Borsus (MR – Mouvement réformateur ) has already dismissed the day of action saying that the turn-out was “modest” ( “La mobilisation fut modeste” ) Le Soir 

The Morning Star carries a good report.

BELGIAN trade unions capped a month of action against government austerity policies with a general strike today that paralysed air and rail traffic and halted businesses across the country.

The strike targeted measures by the nation’s right-of-centre government to cut into employees’ income, extend working hours and restrict social services.

The huge action had an immediate international impact since Brussels airport, a busy hub with connections throughout Europe and beyond, had no traffic whatsoever.

Airport spokeswoman Florence Muls said some 600 flights have been cancelled, affecting more than 50,000 passengers.

Flights to and from Belgium were grounded from late on Sunday as air traffic controllers joined the strike for the second Monday this month.

The series of trade union actions, which have been the toughest in years, started last month with a demonstration in the capital that drew more than 150,000 protesters.

The government led by new Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was sworn in two months ago, plans to cut expenditure by €11bn (£8.7bn) during the next five years.

The unions are opposing a government decision to scrap a cost-of-living wage rise next year. Belgian law currently mandates that wages rise at the same pace as inflation.

The unions are also protesting against public-sector cutbacks and plans to increase the retirement age.

The 24-hour strike was the largest to have taken place in Belgium for many years.

As well as the transport closures, it forced government offices and schools to close and the country’s ports were blockaded.

The Belgian government has claimed that it must operate its cuts strategy in order to stay within EU debt limits.

But the European Transport Workers’ Federation disagreed and welcomed the strike, warning that “the Belgian government is using EU austerity targets to penalise families, both employed and unemployed, students and the poorest people in society.

“It is not targeting the big capital that remains almost untouched by the government’s austerity measures.”

There is talk of extending trade union action into the new year, but concrete measures have yet to be put forward.

See also:« Messieurs De Wever et Michel, la Belgique en grève veut prendre un tout autre chemin que le vôtre »   Parti du travail de Belgique – Partij van de Arbeid van België (PTB – PVDA). Bruxelles. Et après le 15? On continue, bien sûr! Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) et Socialistische arbeiderspartij (SAP)

General Strike in Belgium on Monday.

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Back our Belgian Sisters and Brothers!

BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters)

Belgium’s unions have called for a series of regional strikes culminating in a general strike on December 15 to voice their discontent over government plans to implement austerity measures and hike the pension age.

Belgium’s new federal government, which took office on Saturday, said it would raise the state pension age to 67 from 65, scrap a planned inflation-linked wage rise due next year and find savings in the public sector, including the health and social security budget.

“The government is deaf to the workers and recipients of social benefits but generous to the employers and the rich,” a common statement by the country’s three largest unions said.

The unions plan regional strikes every Monday starting November 24, culminating in a national strike on December 15.

The government said the austerity measures are needed to balance Belgium’s budget by 2018 and tackle the country’s national debt of about 100 percent of economic output, one of the highest in the euro zone. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dominic Evans)

The general strike has been called by the FGTB (socialist), CSC (Christian) et CGSLB (liberal).

The scale of the action promises to be enormous.

Transport will be paralysed, public services will grind to a halt, the Union belge du transport (UBT) has urged lorry drivers to join the movement, and many in the private sector will support the mass protests (more here).


Des piquets de grève temporaires « volants », des cellules qui bloqueront donc différents points capitaux au cours de la journée, seront mis en place ce lundi et des équipes de militants de la FGTB se tiendront prêtes à venir porter renfort aux piquets manquant d’effectifs.

‘Flying pickets’ , that is ‘cells’ of moving strikers, will block different sectors of the Capital during the day. They will be set up by activists from the FGTB (socialist/social democrat union federation) who will help any pickets that need reinforcements.

The day will be marked by demonstrations in the streets.

More details in Le Soir.

Bart de Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist party (N-VA) and part of the ruling ‘Michel Coaltion’ (hard right to centre right),has criticised the strikes.

He said yesterday that the unions had come out with “une véritable désinformation et parfois de vrais mensonges” misinformation and sometimes outright lies. De Wever accsued the trade unions of being the “”bras armé du PS”, the armed wing, of the Socialist Party.

The leader of the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, and former Prime Minister, Di Rupo has backed the strikes – though underlines that the union federations have taken this action independently and on their own initiative.

La  Libre Belgique.

Strike Paralyses Brussels.

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Fight for Public Services in Belgium.

Before next Monday’s general strike Brussels has been brought to a halt by strikes (part of a series of ‘ grèves tournantes’ rotating strikes) today.

Belgian workers striking against government austerity plans have badly snarled rail and air service to and from the capital city of Brussels.

As of Monday morning, 44 percent of flights at Brussels main airport were reported canceled.

Labour union leaders announced they have also shut down Eurostar and Thalys train service to and from London, Paris and other international destinations.

Metro, bus and tram service in Brussels itself has ground to a halt.

The one-day strike, which also affects the French-speaking Brabant region south of Brussels, is the latest in a series of union actions intended to force the government of Prime Minister Charles Michel to backtrack on a programme to reform pensions, cut health and social security budgets and raise the retirement age.

Huffington Post

Le Soir reports on mass picketing and the barricades preventing traffic entry to the Belgium Capital (a map of these is published in the paper). The police have been called to a picket at the Saint-Gilles Prison.

This morning listening to the public radio station, La Première, I was impressed by the sheer number of pickets (over 500 in Brussels alone).

La Libre Belgique also publishes extensive reports.

More information on the site Solidarité Ouvrière.

Trade Union news on the General Strike (of all the 3 major union federations, ACV-CSC (Christian), la ABVV-FGTB (Socialist) et la ACLVB-CGSLB(Liberal)  of the 15th of December: 15/12 grève nationale.

Largest Far left Party: Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB

Video of Socialist Party (social democratic) participation in 6th of November mass demonstration against austerity, here.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

Suffolk Needs a Pay Rise, Ipswich Public Services Demonstration.

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Grandma Gilles on Ipswich Demo. (Thanks Ellie).

Over 300 people  came to the demo in Ipswich called by the Trades Council and local unions, Suffolk Needs a Pay Rise,  yesterday.

In Ipswich there were well attended pickets at the Russell Road Borough and County Council offices, at Crown Pools, the Borough Council Waste depot (dust-carts – the majority of which did not go out), and HMRC offices in Lower Brook Street.

59 Suffolk schools were affected by strike action and 17 closed for the day.

At the march and rally there were members of UNISON, GMB, FBU, UNITE, PCS & NUT, NUJ, DPAC, the Peoples Assembly, other unions and campaigns, as well as members of the public.

The Suffolk People’s Assembly (Facebook)  report notes,

Many speakers at the rally expressed their anger at the wage freeze public sector workers have faced over the past 4 years. This has led to a 20% decline in real wages at the same time as increased workload. One PCS member said that he was now doing 2 peoples’ jobs and facing constant performance reviews, which was destroying his job satisfaction.

A parent talked of her support for the teachers’ strike, to defend her and other people’s education. The Ipswich NUT Secretary, Margaret  Bulaitis, spoke about how the the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, denigrated the work of her profession, and was more interested in promoting academies and privatisation than the needs of school students.

Martin, from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), gave an impassioned speech on the effects cuts and changes to the benefit system were having on those with disabilities.

Support came from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Their representative suggested that Grandma Gilles (above) would not have put up with the attacks on public services by the Liberal-Conservative Coalition.

 Ipswich Tory Attacks Strikes. 

Ipswich Tory MP, Ben Gummer, disagrees.

He said (Ipswich Star) that, “public sector workers had fared better than the private sector during the recession.”

He said striking teachers were damaging the education of the children in their classes.

And he said the government was taking action to clamp down on tax avoidance by the rich and to help the low paid.

“This government has lifted two million people out of paying income tax altogether and the gap between rich and poor is getting smaller for the first time in 20 years.”

Gummer’s figures are certainly creative.

Sky news states (May 2014),

“The gap between rich and poor in Britain has become wider, with 10% of the population now owning almost half of the nation’s household wealth.

Those same one in ten households own assets worth over £1m – that’s almost 1.4 million homes.

Teachers’ Unions argue that it is Michael Gove’s ‘reforms’ are undermining education.

Their dispute about  pay, pensions and working conditions, is linked to the government’s efforts to devalue teaching, and open the way to private companies profiting from the schooling system.

Gove’s changes have created excessive workloads, and let free schools operate without democratic control and public accountability.

On public sector workers’ pay the TUC says,

Public sector workers are £2,245 worse off as a result of the coalition’s austerity policies, according to the Trades Union Congress.

NHS staff, teachers, firefighters and local government workers are among those that have lost out following pay freezes and limited pay rises since the government took office, the TUC said.

The figures, which show the average fall in real terms pay suffered by workers since May 2010, were published a day before a wave of strikes among UK public sector workers over pay, pensions and working conditions. Government policies on public sector pay have had a big impact on the spending power of almost six million UK households, according to the TUC.

The Liberal-Conservative Coalition has one overarching policy for the public sector: turning it into a source of profit for private companies.

As Thomas Picketty has noted,

Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541. Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Thomas Piketty. Harvard University Press. 2014.)

The trade unions, backed by the People’s Assembly, are fighting back!













Update: this how private companies making money out of public services in Suffolk fail to deliver:

Left Unity and its Future.

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Left Unity: Advancing to What?

“If the Labour Party cannot be turned into a socialist party, then the question which confronts us all is, how can we form a socialist party? If we are not ready to answer this question, then we are not ready to dismiss the party that exists.”

Socialists and the Labour Party. Ken Coates. 1973.

“There are many formidable obstacles, which stand in the way of political renewal on the left. Yet such a renewal is necessary if an effective challenge is to be posed to the domination which the Labour Party exercises over the labour movement: nothing much by way of socialist advance will be possible until such a challenge can be effectively posed. This requires the formation of a socialist party free from the manifold shortcomings of existing organisations and able to draw together people from such organisations as well as people who are now politically homeless. By no means the least of its purposes would be to provide a credible and effective rallying point to help in the struggle against the marked and accelerating drift to the right in Britain.”

Moving On. Ralph Miliband. 1976.

“There is a saying on the British left that the only thing more futile than trying to transform the Labour Party into an instrument for radical change is trying to set up a viable party to the left of it”.

Left Unity or Class Unity? Andrew Murray. 2014 (1)

Polls indicate the xenophobic and anti-EU UKIP may get over 30% of the vote in May’s European election. Nigel Farage is not isolated. Marine Le Pen (also leading voting intentions) in France, the Austrian FPÖ, Wilders and the PVV in Holland, and others, many others on the populist extremes, have come to prominence across the continent. They appear on the crest of wave, with a projected electoral score of up to 25% gathered inside the EU. If there is radical shift in the political agenda it looks as if it’s being pushed from the fringes of the right. (2)

Faced with this prospect it may seem of little consequence that in November last year a small section (over 1,200 sub-paying members) of the British left formed a new party, Left Unity (LU). Left Unity’s creation began in March 2013 when Ken Loach, Kate Hudson and Gilbert Achcar, railed against the absence of a left agenda in national politics, “…Labour embraces cuts and privatisation and is dismantling its own great work. Labour has failed us.” (Guardian. 25.3.13) The wanted something paralleling other European radical left-wing parties “to fill the left space, offering an alternative political, social and economic vision..“The anomaly which leaves Britain without a left political alternative – one defending the welfare state, investing for jobs, homes and education, transforming our economy – has to end.” The call received thousands of on-line and other endorsements, 10,000 according to supporters

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