the people’s assembly: the fight-back begins?

24 06 2013

The gathering of over 4,000 people at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in London on Saturday 22nd June was truly inspirational. To be together with so many who regard profit as a dirty word & who want a world based upon more humane values, such as equality, solidarity & dignity, it’s hard not to believe that there will be a fight-back. But as useful as it is to raise spirits, John Keeley attempts a more objective analysis of what the People’s Assembly potentially offers.

People's Assembly Photo

Will the People’s Assembly stop austerity? To do this it would need to bring down the Con-Dem coalition & reclaim the Labour Party as a party fighting for the class interest of the workers. The first part is relatively easy compared to the second. Indeed, the fact that Labour haven’t stood up for the workers is the main reason why the coalition has had a relatively easy time of it to date. Although there are still many good people in Labour, the leadership & the vast majority of MP’s care first & foremost about their careers. They want power & from their rationale this means not upsetting corporate interests. Hence on the same day as the People’s Assembly, Miliband gives a speech saying he won’t reverse the cuts. How much more evidence do you need of the pro-business nature of the Labour Party?

Read the rest of this entry »





what can the people’s assembly do for the people?

20 06 2013

This Saturday more than 3,000 people are expected to attend the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in London. John Keeley examines what it offers the people.

Launched in February 2013 with a letter to The Guardian signed by Tony Benn, President of the Coalition of Resistance (CoR), & many trade union leaders, it stated its aim as being to “bring together campaigns against cuts and privatisation with trade unionists in a movement for social justice”.

People's Assembly

The CoR is largely a Counterfire (John Ress, Lindsey German, Chris Nineham) initiative. As such it conforms to the united-front tactic of enabling revolutionaries to engage & shape things working alongside non-revolutionary workers. By bringing together those who are essentially social democrats, wanting to defend the welfare state but not challenge capitalism, with trade unionists who have the power to lead strike action, & those who are already clear that capitalism is the problem, there is the possibility of reforms that benefit the working class leading to demands for more reforms & the eventual overthrow of capitalism.

Read the rest of this entry »





20th october

14 10 2012





serwotka sellout sets seal on olympic exploitation

28 07 2012

By Adam Ford

As women footballers were getting ready to unofficially kick off the London Olympics, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union general secretary was preparing to bow to ruling class pressure, and call off a strike of workers in the Border Agency, Criminal Records Bureau, and the Identity and Passport Service. In doing so, darling of the fake left Mark Serwotka was setting the seal on years of collaboration between union officialdom and the London Olympics authorities.

Brendan Barber (TUC), Sebastian Coe (Olympics) and Ed Sweeney (ACAS)

Tomorrow’s aborted strike was originally called as part of a dispute over 8,500 Home Office jobs the PCS say are at risk as a result of government cuts. Had the walkout gone ahead, it would have caused some disruption to last minute Olympics preparations, particularly with spectators, athletes and others in their entourages still arriving in the country.

Serwotka faced a storm of pressure from the right wing abuse over the strike, with the usual papers seizing on the opportunity to bash the supposed “arrogance” of workers choosing to withdraw their labour at a time when it might have most impact. As could be anticipated, the media ‘debate’ weighed heavily on the ‘national pride’ side of the Olympics, and against working class consciousness. Read the rest of this entry »





london busworkers: olympic 500 – phoney war or wages battle?

9 06 2012

First published in Solidarity Forever, paper of London Regional Committee IWW(IWGB), which comprises the London Busworkers Branch (IU IU530)

The union Unite has raised the profile of the campaign to secure a £500 bonus payment for the 28,000 bus workers in London. Leaflets, posters and even executive members have appeared in some garages. The demand for the bonus is just. The increased revenue the bus companies will make during the Olympics will more than cover the cost of a bonus in recognition of the even more stress and demands placed on bus workers. However, this issue raises far wider questions. The campaign has placed on the agenda the more important issue of the steady deterioration of bus workers wages and working conditions. Read the rest of this entry »





why the phony war?

6 06 2012

London based college worker Siobhan Breathnach writes about the top down nature of the UK public sector pensions dispute

We got notice of the 10th of May strike on a Friday afternoon ten days before, in the middle of an emergency meeting about redundancies. The first response was “They have got to be fucking kidding.” There was a general expression of dismay and disbelief. So what is the problem? Why weren’t we pleased about being called out? Read the rest of this entry »





strikes and solidarity

3 02 2012

If this year’s strikes are to have power, we must take our lead from the electricians, bypassing union attempts at defusion by offering each other solidarity in new ways and across artificial divides, writes Deb Harris.

Solidarity is illegal. Thatcher said so. She only permits us to strike if we have a specific and identifiable common complaint – we are not allowed to strike together in recognition of the general horror. In 2011, submissive as ever, the unions found the only thing that the public sector can legally unite around – pensions – and conveniently forgot that everyone is angry about a lot more than that. Their speeches, placards and leaflets were all about pensions. As if we had given up on anything but retirement. Read the rest of this entry »





taking control of our struggle

12 01 2012

A college worker recently on strike describes how the  mood in her workplace has developed throughout the pensions dispute, in tandem with a local fight over redundancy and restructuring

In my workplace both the admin staff and the teaching staff were out on strike together for the first time in years, which made the strike a very different experience. Normally, although we talk to each other every day in the course of work, we don’t organise together or support each other much in the face of redundancy, restructuring, disciplinaries etc. The teaching staff are better organised than the admin staff and usually have better working conditions, and haven’t tended to pay much attention to the problems faced by the other workers.

Unions struck on the same day, but they aren’t necessarily well linked up with each other, still less the non-unionised majority

In the buildup to the strike we had some joint meetings, both informal canteen meetings and one formal union meeting, and we did some activities together, such as leafleting. It bought it home how separated we are in the two unions, UCU and Unison, and how unnecessary it is – I had never even met most of the Unison people, and yet we work in the same building. This is not only because of the union bureaucracies. We could easily talk informally to each other but we don’t, due to inertia and inward looking attitudes. Read the rest of this entry »





faith in the government or unity on strike?

28 12 2011

Clifford Biddulph comments on the GMB union’s announcement on the Government’s pensions deal

The GMB’s national secretary for public services, Brian Strutton, has signed up to the TUC-approved Government pensions offer, which surrenders to the government on all the core issues of the pensions fight: working far longer, paying far more and getting far less. There has been no change in the offer in the key areas. Final-salary schemes will be replaced by a career average which will result in huge losses, particularly for women with irregular employment history. Unison leader, Dave Prentis, long seen by Cameron as someone he could do business with, recommended the  deal which breaks with the momentum of strike action and solidarity against the Coalition.

the November 30th public-sector strike over pensions was an advance in the battle against the Coalition: but now union tops have called off the pensions fight

Brian Strutton failed to inform GMB members that he had capitulated to the Government’s threat to impose a worse settlement than the one on offer. In an email to members he presented the deal, which undermines future action against the Government, as some kind of victory. What has been agreed is a ‘process’, he explained. What will be negotiated in this process? Well, he was unable to say. The details would be determined in the process. In other words, in return for suspending  strike action, the Government has agreed to talks on their terms. Read the rest of this entry »





thoughts for a militant autumn…

11 09 2011

Steve Ryan shares his ideas for another wave of struggle.

Many Communists would traditionally have ignored the TUC congress this week.

However this one may prove of more interest. Debates will be had about pensions and jobs against a background of escalating industrial unrest as PCS, FBU, Teaching unions etc move to ballot for coordinated action. McCluskey for UNITE calls for civil disobedience. The TUC is actually backing the march at the Tory and Lib Dem conferences – even Barber is talking.

we can do so much more ourselves

This is a real challenge to the libertarian-left.

This IS the biggest wave of strike action for decades, building on the March demo and June strike. Student activists are back and angry with the possibility of further action. The riots demonstrated that there is anger growing – albeit unfocused in many urban communities. Read the rest of this entry »





civil servants on strike: we can’t let the floodgates open

7 06 2011

Ahead of civil servants’ walkouts this week and the June 30th strike day, Steve Ryan writes on the Con-Dem offensive against the whole working class

Members of the PCS civil servants’ union throughout a number of departments are taking industrial action over a range of issues, all of which have one theme, and that is government cuts. Department for Work and Pensions and Equality and Human Rights Commission workers are to walk out over office closures, and HMRC tax workers over attacks on sick leave.

con-dems want to crush the possibility of resistance

Also of course it is PCS that has been instrumental in pushing for co-ordinated action on June 30th.

Many on the left see this as something to be fully supported, and of course it is,. However the issues at stake are more complex and even more important than may at first appear. Read the rest of this entry »





“our time is coming again”

11 05 2011

Sheila Cohen reviews New Trade Union Activism: Class Consciousness or Social Identity? Sian Moore, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.


Yet another pricey, “academic” book – but one with an interesting message. In New Trade Union Activism Sian Moore, who teaches trade unionists at London Metropolitan University’s Working Lives Research Institute, examines the increasing – and, to some of us, questionable – phenomenon of new forms of worker representation. By contrast to the staunch shop steward of the past, who simply took on whatever problems the daily toll of workplace exploitation threw up, the last ten years or so have seen the growth of specific “reps” for apparently every conceivable contingency – learning reps, equality reps, environmental reps, etc., etc. Read the rest of this entry »





we don’t need the TUC!

10 03 2011

editorial of The Commune

The 26th March demonstration called by the Trades Union Congress is likely to be the largest anti-cuts march yet. Since all cuts in public services are part of the same ruling-class offensive against our living standards, it makes sense that all working people should respond with a united fightback.

the TUC don't want a repeat of Millbank

Of course, a single demonstration through the streets of London does not embody such a fightback. The protest strategy as planned by the TUC will not exert real pressure on the government. Union leaders hope a show of strength will force more consultation and negotiation over the manner and timing of the cuts. They are no champions of class struggle or meaningful defiance of the Tories. Read the rest of this entry »





what it says on the tin? memories of the NSSN

10 03 2011

In January the National Shop Stewards’ Network fell apart when the Socialist Party declared the foundation of yet another national anti-cuts campaign. Sheila Cohen reflects on the deeper roots of NSSN’s failure

What follows will have to be taken as a personal account, given the fierce antagonisms and uncertain alliances involved in the split which took place at the National Shop Stewards’ Network (NSSN) conference on 22nd January. Since that time, the comments of the NSSN majority have focused largely on the “democracy” of the debate, which saw a large vote for the proposal that the NSSN launch an “anti-cuts campaign, bringing trade unions and communities together to save all jobs and services”.

There is no point commenting here on the methods available for securing such large majorities. That would be to detract from the central issue which saw up to 100 people leave the conference – and the NSSN. Our spirited discussion at a nearby pub was not based on any lack of formal “democracy”, but on the fundamental irrelevance of the debate, if such it can be called, on the future of working-class politics in Britain. Read the rest of this entry »








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,853 other followers