Friday, 23 September 2011

The true story of the riot in Tottenham

'Reel News', who describe themselves as 'an activist video collective' have produced a fantastic film explaining what really happened on the day the riots began in Tottenham. By interviewing the residents of the area, the group has produced a film that tells the real story without any of the mainstream media's bias, omissions, distortions or outright lies. We do not hear the pious words of politicians or the police repeated as fact, but eyewitness accounts from the residents of the area. We do not hear condemnation, but explanation.

This is an excellent example of independent media telling the true story sadly missing from mainstream reportage. Everyone should watch it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

TUC call mass strikes for Wednesday 30 November

The TUC today saw union leader after union leader declare that they are calling on their members to strike over pensions on 30 November. These include Unison, Unite, GMB, FBU, NUT, NASUWT, PCS, UCU, EIS, UCAC, NIPSA, Prospect and FDA. There was a unanimous vote for resistance. A strike by three million workers is now on the cards - which would be the biggest single day of action since the 1926 General Strike. Coming after the student revolt last year, the 26 March demonstration, and the 30 June strikes, there is a real momentum about the fightback.

Confrontation on a grand scale is coming much more quickly with David Cameron than it did with Margaret Thatcher, and this will be a critical struggle. It is a titanic clash between organised workers and a government hell-bent on ramming through a massive assault on workers’ living standards and public services. This is a battle over pensions, but also over every aspect of the Tory assault. And we can win if workers use all their strength against this rotten government.

This changes everything. Every socialist, trade unionist and anti-cuts activists must be part of making sure the strikes happen, that they are built as broadly as possible, and that they are fought through to victory. Everyone should celebrate the calling of this tremendous action, and work with those union leaders who want to fight. However, there must also be a push to strengthen the rank and file of the trade unions for the future, to win the idea of “all out, stay out” and to win.

The co-ordinated strikes must be item 1, 2 and 3 on the agenda of every anti-cuts group, and everyone must throw themselves into winning the ballots that will now take place, to mobilise trade unionists on a broad basis, and to argue for unity against the Tories. This will include mass propaganda, and distributing leafets both inside and from the outside of workplaces. There must be a push to involve students to be part of the day. There must be a renewed effort to build the Manchester demonstration at the Tory conference on 2 October.

In Cornwall, the re-formation of a Trades Council could not have come at a better time. There is a meeting to re-launch a Cornwall Trades Council. It is in a room at the Brittannia pub in the corner of Truro Bus depot on Lemon Quay in Truro on Monday 3 October from 6.30 - 7.30pm. All trade union stewards, reps and activists should come to the meeting to discuss the fightback. There may also need to be other joint meetings of stewards and reps from the striking unions to discuss mobilisation for the strikes and demonstrations in each area on the day. These meetings can then set up a coordinating committee to build the action.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

November mass strikes could involve millions

The November strikes against the government’s attacks could now involve up to four million workers. There have not been strikes on this scale for decades. Next week’s TUC conference promises to be the most important for many years. It opens as the number of trade unions joining the call for a mass coordinated strike in November grows by the day.

Mark Serwotka of the PCS civil service workers’ union said, "We are moving to a strike potentially involving millions." The PCS, along with the NUT and ATL teachers unions and the UCU lecturers’ union, all have live ballots and are committed to strikes in the autumn.

Friday’s announcement that the NASUWT teachers’ union will now also ballot for a national strike this term means that another 250,000 teachers could join the battle. This is first time in a decade the union has balloted for national action. The Scottish teachers’ union, the EIS, is now set to ballot for an autumn strike, as are the head teachers in the NAHT and Welsh teachers in the UCAC.

The FBU firefighters’ union looks set to ballot. Prospect, the specialist civil service workers’ union, and the FDA senior civil servants union, both announced this week that they will ballot members unless the government backs off from its attack on pensions. It is thought the GMB will announce a ballot for three days of strikes in November, with one as a national strike to coordinate with other unions.

Unison the public sector union has put senior union activists on alert. The union is putting together the necessary meetings to approve going to ballot in local government and health sectors to join the autumn strikes. The government has pushed the trade union leaders who were willing to negotiate to the edge. When Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, spoke to the Financial Times on Friday he talked of "when" the talks fail, not "if". "We are now planning for industrial action for when these talks break down," he said. When this happens, he added, "you’ll see strikes throughout all of the public sector, it will include strikes in our schools, our civil service, our fire brigade, our local government service, our health service".

The anger and bitterness that brought 750,000 workers out on the magnificent strike on 30 June this year has not gone away. Every trade unionist and activist faces a challenge. If the government’s attacks are going to be beaten, then workers need to be organised, to win the ballots and spread the fightback. With millions of workers joining the struggle there is the potential for the sort of mass workers’ resistance that can stop the Tories’ attacks.


Friday, 9 September 2011

The NHS is not for sale

The vote on the third reading of the Health and Social Care Bill resulted in a resounding 'yes'. Now the bill will go to the House of Lords. Rumours of the Liberal Democrat backbench rebellion were obviously hugely exaggerated. In the end only four Lib Dem MPs voted against the bill (Julian Huppert, Greg Mulholland, Andrew George and Adrian Sanders) with ten abstentions.

One of the those Lib Dem MPs that voted against the bill, Andrew George, held a meeting in Penzance in his constituency last week which attracted over two hundred people. The meeting was hosted by George himself and the platform also contained Dr Mark McCartney, on behalf of the British Medical Association and also a GP at Pensilva in South East Cornwall; Stuart Bonar, Parliamentary Officer of the Royal College of Midwives; and Dr Colin Philip, GP lead for the proposed Clinical Commissioning Group (Kernow Clinical Commissioning) which will take over from the local Primary Care Trust (PCT) when the Government’s policy is enacted. He is also a GP at the Stennack Surgery in St Ives.

Despite being dominated by the top table, with little opportunity for members of the public to speak, the meeting was encouraging given the turnout and the mood of the meeting. However, all the speakers were white men and all were riven with pessimism and political naivety. When asked if this was the end of the NHS, all speakers said it was not and one speaker laughed and said there is no way the Conservatives would privatise the NHS. Oh really?

Colin Leys, academic and co-author of The Plot Against the NHS, wrote an article for the Guardian yesterday. In it he explains how the government's ultimate aim is indeed to privatise the NHS. He says,
"The bill will end the NHS as a comprehensive service equally available to all. People with limited means will have a narrowing range of free services of declining quality, and will once again face long waits for elective care. Everyone else will go back to trying to find money for private insurance and private care. More and more NHS hospital beds will be occupied by private patients."
He goes on to say "What we are witnessing is the completion of a project begun some 25 years ago to restore healthcare to private enterprise. The key players have not been MPs but private healthcare companies and consultancies like McKinsey and KPMG." Indeed Lord Howe, a junior health minister in the Lords, told an independent sector conference that the NHS reforms present 'huge opportunities' for private companies. This echoes comments made by Mark Britnell, a senior adviser to David Cameron, back in May that there would be a chance to make huge profits from the NHS and that it will be transformed into a "state insurance provider, not a state deliverer" of care. According to the Guardian,
"Britnell, a former director of commissioning for the NHS, who is now head of health at the accountancy giant KPMG, was invited to join a group of senior health policy experts, described by the respected Health Service Journal as a "kitchen cabinet", in Downing Street earlier this month... In unguarded comments at a conference in New York organised by the private equity company Apax, Britnell claimed that the next two years in the UK would provide a "big opportunity" for the for-profit sector, and that the NHS would ultimately end up as a financier of care similar to an insurance company rather than a provider of hospitals and staff."
On Monday of this week Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance showed Michael Moore's film 'SiCKO' at the Ritz, Penzance. The film demonstrates the horror of the privatised healthcare system in America. It also contrasts it with the NHS and shows what a great system we have by comparison. Of course the film was made a few years ago and is now a demonstration of what we stand to lose. Thirty-two people watched the film and the discussion afterwards shows the level of bitterness and anger but also the level of awareness that exists amongst the public.

This is a battle that is not yet over. With the general level of anger that exists within society, once people realise just what these 'reforms' really mean there will be an explosion of anger once more. The next stop for the campaign against all the government's cuts and privatisation is the protest at the Tory Party Conference in October.