Thursday, 24 May 2012

Next huge demonstration against the Tories will be on 20 October

The TUC has called a mass demonstration on Saturday 20 October as a follow up to last year’s huge protest on 26 March. Its “March for the Alternative” last year was the biggest trade union demonstration in Britain’s history. Well over half a million marched. The sheer scale of it played a role in building pressure to call the mass strikes.

The TUC is organising another central London demonstration against the policies of austerity. It has the potential to be massive. Coaches will come from across Britain to join the march to a monster rally in Hyde Park. The protest has been called under the banner of “A Future That Works”.

As well as cuts the TUC wants to highlight the issue of unemployment.

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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Find out how you can help the fight against cuts in Penwith in Cornwall

Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance have launched their all-new, redesigned, four page newsletter for Summer 2012. Campaigners are out right now delivering them through doors in Penzance.

This issue focuses on the fightback against the Tory assault on our living standards, particularly the campaign to stop the closure of the Remploy factory and recent developments in the campaign against the downgrading of services and the piecemeal closure of West Cornwall Hospital. The newsletter also contains an account of what it is like to live at the sharp end of the cuts, an article warning against taking out payday loans and a book review.

If you would like to receive a copy of the full newsletter, either in hard copy or in electronic form, or if you would like to join or help to distribute the newsletter, you can contact the group at pzanticuts@hotmail.co.uk or by phoning 07817397756.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Tony Blair discusses stopping 'the worst excesses of the free market'... in 1987

Tony Blair was the leader of the Labour Party from 1994 and Prime Minister in Britain from 1997 until he was forced out of office in 2007. The government, that prior to the election had promised a “more caring Britain” and an “ethical foreign policy”, actually increased the inequality between the rich and poor, plunged Iraq and Afghanistan into bloody chaos, and Blair become the darling of the extreme right wing cabal in the US.

During his time in office, Tony Blair oversaw the beginning of the privatisation of the NHS, a law and order agenda that punished the poor and in his first six years in office Blair ordered British troops into battle five times, more than any other prime minister in British history. This included Iraq in both 1998 and 2003; Kosovo (1999); Sierra Leone (2000) and Afghanistan (2001). This, and the lies he told over Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction will forever be his bloody legacy.

But Tony Blair, along with his chancellor Gordon Brown, also continued Thatcher’s policy of closely aligning the British economy to the US and mimicking its free market policies. This has meant the continued decline of manufacturing industry, and growing dependence on financial markets. The City of London has flourished under Blair and Brown. Many believe it has now overtaken New York as the world’s biggest financial centre, as the City’s lax regulatory regime has attracted vast amounts of speculative money held by hedge funds and private equity firms. This made the entire British economy highly vulnerable to the financial crash, which happened shortly after Blair's departure in 2007.

Given this, it is incredible to discover an interview Blair gave to Michael Buerk for the BBC's One O'Clock News shortly after Black Monday, the stock market crash in 1987. At the time, Tony Blair was the Labour Party's spokesman on 'City Affairs' and he said this:
"We now have an economy that is so locked-in to international trading, so dependent on what happens in America, that anything that happens in Wall Street then reverberates right round the world. Now the key lesson that we've got to take out of this is a necessity for governments, of any political colour, to work together in order to stop the excesses of the free market".
Indeed. Its a pity he didn't take his own advice.

Watch the clip here.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Support the strikes in Cornwall and beyond

Tomorrow (Thursday 10 May), hospital workers in the Unite union, civil servants in the PCS union and college and university lecturers in the UCU union are going on strike. The dispute is primarily about the Tory-led government’s attack on their pensions. The government wants them to work longer, pay more into their pensions and get less at the end.

But the strike is also about the attacks this government is making on all of us – the cuts to our benefits, the job losses, the pasty tax, pay cuts for us and tax cuts for the richest 1%. If the government is defeated over pensions it will be easier to defeat them over everything else. We must all support the strikes!

Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance have organised a 'Strikers' Cavalcade', a sort of mobile solidarity with various picket lines and demonstrations across West and Mid-Cornwall. The itinerary involves supporting the PCS picket at Pydar House and the Disabled People Against Cuts protest at the ATOS premises at around 9am, supporting the PCS picket at HMRC in Redruth around 10am, on to Penzance at around 11am for a meet-up with Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance to leaflet by the Wharfside shopping centre in Market Jew Street and to offer solidarity at the threatened Remploy factory in Long Rock, before arriving at Treliske Hospital in Truro for a demonstration with Unite and PCS members. Trade unionists that are on strike should try to meet with the cavalcade at some point but this is not just for those on strike. Everyone should support the strikes because a victory for one is a victory for all.

The government says we must pay off the debt that has resulted from giving £850 billion pounds of our money to the banks, in five years. Yet our national debt was proportionally greater in 1948 when the NHS was created.

Even if we do agree that we need to pay off the deficit, £120 billion in tax is either evaded, avoided or not collected each year. This equates to three-quarters of the deficit. If Corporation Tax was returned to the level it was at in the 1980s that would cover the rest of it. There would be no need to make one single cut.
The government wants ordinary people to pay for an economic crisis created by the bankers, multinational companies and politicians. Yet they are on the back foot after it was revealed anyone can buy Tory policy for £250,000, their bungled budget, the scandal of their links to Rupert Murdoch and their disastrous results in the recent local elections. The government needs to be stopped and it can be.

Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance meet every Tuesday at 7.30pm at the British Rail Club at Truro Railway Station.

Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance meets every other Monday at 7pm in the snug at the Crown pub at the bottom of Bread Street in Penzance. The next meeting is on Monday 21 May.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Election results across Europe point to a massive rejection of austerity

A whole raft of election results across Europe over the last few days have proved to be an important bellwether in calculating how ordinary people feel about the consenus among the political elite for savage cuts, privatisation, public sector job losses and austerity.

In Greece, the incumbent New Democracy, similar to Britain's Conservatives, slumped from 33.5% to under 19%. Pasok, who are similar to New Labour, collapsed to 13%, a long way to fall from almost 44% at the last elections. This disenchantment with parties that support the bailout with strings attached that have meant savage austerity has led to a polarisation both left and right. The fascist Golden Dawn received 7% of the vote giving them 21 representatives in parliament. This is clearly very worrying. However the gains for the far left have been much bigger. Syriza, a coalition of far-left parties which was only formed in 2004 and which received 1% of the vote in its first election and just 5% in 2007, is now the second biggest party in Greek politics, securing a very impressive 16.8%. Syriza campaigned on a specifically anti-austerity and anti-cuts programme and their growth is a clear rejection of the consensus of the major parties. The Stalinist Communist Party also received 8.5% of the vote. New Democracy now has the extremely difficult task of piecing together a pro-cuts government but if they fail it will fall to Syriza to form an anti-cuts one. This will not be easy either and could lead to further elections but there is clearly an opportunity for a radically different vision to come to the fore in Greece, perhaps leading to Greece's exit from the Euro.

In France, the french people have elected Francois Hollande, the first 'socialist' president for 17 years. It is unclear precisely how Hollande will proceed; his Socialist Party is similar to New Labour in Britain and indeed he travelled to London to reassure City financiers, “I am not dangerous.” However it is undoubtedly the case that he was elected because of his clear anti-austerity rhetoric. The scale of the defeat for Sarkozy (he is the first french president for 30 years to fail to win a second term) is a clear rejection of his reactionary politics. Here too there was a polarisation away from the main parties to both left and right. Melenchon, the radical left politician of the Left Front, who campaigned to reverse cuts, strengthen workers’ rights and impose a 100% tax rate for the rich received 11% in the first round. In contrast to Hollande, Mellenchon proudly proclaims, “I am dangerous.” The vote for Marine Le Pen's fascist Front National is clearly a cause for great concern and was boosted by Sarkozy's tacking to the right by adopting openly racist policies, but in the end this was rejected by the french people.

In Britain, there has been a similar rejection of austerity. The Tories lost over 400 council seats and the Lib Dems lost over 300. If the Lib Dems results of the last two years are repeated for the next two, they will be virtually wiped out in one parliament. The Labour Party gained over 800 seats despite putting forward a very weak opposition to the cuts. Labour have said they will not reverse any of the cuts and it must be asked what might have happened had Labour given a clear lead in resisting the government's attacks on ordinary people. In many places, those that did were successful. Following George Galloway's incredible election victory in a by-election in Bradford last month, Respect have had five candidates elected to the council. In Preston, despite only deciding to stand at the last minute, Socialist Workers Party member Michael Lavalette regained the seat he lost last year. The fascist British National Party lost all the seats they were contesting, including their seat on the London Assembly. Similarly UKIP only managed to gain one council seat.

In London, the election of Tory Boris Johnson as London Mayor may be seen as an aberration. However, the polls showed that he didn't have an overall lead, but led among people who said they were certain to vote. His Labour rival Ken Livingstone suffered from his failure to mount a radical campaign that could have motivated people angry about austerity to back him, while Johnson benefited from being seen as somewhat independent from his party. The result does not reflect Londoners being right-wing or endorsing Johnson's policies. In 2000, standing as an independent, Livingstone won support by focusing on issues like opposing tube privatisation. This time, as the official Labour Party candidate, he campaigned against high public transport fares, but he lined up with the Tories over crime, criticising them only by saying he would put more resources into the police than Johnson. He also talked about the need to make London "business-friendly". A more radical vision could have won.

The lesson from all these results is that ordinary people across Europe have had enough of austerity, cuts and privatisation. All the major parties that support this position have taken a hammering in elections, including Angela Merkel's party in German local elections. This has lead to a polarisation to both left and right. In many countries there has been a worrying rise of more or less openly fascist parties, most notably Jobbik in Hungary, and this must be tackled by workers' movements and ordinary people more generally. However, the main winners, so far, have been the left. We need to take this opportunity to realign European politics and fight both austerity and fascism. We must keep up the momentum of resistance to the cuts and the bosses offensive until we have driven back those governments that are trying to make us pay for their crisis. We need to make the rich, who are getting increasingly richer, pay for their crisis. We need to demonstrate, strike and occupy until we have won.