Archive for May, 2010

Israeli Forces Storm Aid Flotilla: A Socialist Response

May 31, 2010

Israeli Forces Storm Aid Flotilla: A Socialist Response

In the early hours of Monday morning Israeli commandos stormed the flotilla of aid ships which was attempting to break the naval blockade of Gaza. While details are continuing to emerge it is believed that at least 19 of the activists on board the ships have been killed, with at least 20 more injured. 10 Israeli soldiers are also thought to have been injured.

While any socialist must condemn this violence and express solidarity for the family of those killed, this action raises urgent questions about how the Palestinian solidarity movement, including socialists, should express that support and solidarity.

The eight ships, which carried over 600 activists made up mostly of peace campaigners, including politicians, children and the elderly, was intercepted in international waters, at least 65km from Gaza. Israeli commandos stormed the lead ship Mavi Marmara, which sailed under a Turkish flag. It is unclear if the Israelis faced resistance, IDF sources have claimed some activists attempted to fight with ‘sharp objects and knives.’ (Update: Footage on the BBC and Al Jazerra reveals individual acts of resistance on board the ships, with organisers on board appealing for calm.)

Each of the eight ships were boarded, injured activists were flown to a hospital outside Tel Aviv for urgent treatment, while the fleet is being sailed to the northern Israeli port of Haifa where it will be impounded, and the activists will be immediately deported.

A Tragedy Exploited?

As soon as news of this tragedy broke it became inevitable that the airwaves would be filled with propaganda and spin from all sides as attempts are made to exploit the tragedy for political advantage.

From the Israeli side from the apparently omnipresent government spokesman Mark Regev was swift to state that the flotilla was an “armada of hate and violence”, while claiming the organisation has links to jihad movements with a history of terrorism and conducting smuggling operations.

While sources from the government, the IDF and Israeli media have differed in their details the theme has been the same: Israel was upholding the blockade against the terrorist organisation Hamas. The flotilla aimed to break the blockade, which therefore supports Hamas and therefore the IDF were within their legal rights to take action. The fact this violence happened in International waters has been ignored.

In contrast Hamas have also been quick to exploit the situation calling for all ‘Muslims to rise up against Israel’, while issuing similar inflammatory statements to heighten tensions. Clearly all socialists and progressives do not identify with such calls.  

Who is to Blame?

While the Israeli authorities should be condemned for the violence and should be held accountable it is clear that the organisers of the flotilla must also face stark questions about their role in this tragedy.

The naval blockade of Gaza is a military operation in an extremely dangerous area, so should the fleet of aid ships have included hundreds of activists, children, politicians and elderly campaigners? What constructive role could such people have played on this fleet? 

The question must be asked: Did the organisation want aid to reach Gaza, or did they want the aid to be seen to reach Gaza? Organisation spokesmen have already stated that the 10,000 tonnes of aid on board the flotilla was ‘a drop in the ocean’ of the aid needed in this humanitarian crisis zone, acknowledging that the fleet was a largely symbolic operation, an act of solidarity and defiance.

While such action is clearly well intended and commendable, it meant the project was either inevitably going to either fail, or result in violence. The Israeli authorities stated clearly, from the moment the flotilla left Turkey, that the naval forces would not allow the ships to pass and if they did attempt to break the blockade they would be intercepted. This warning was so clear that Turkish politicians, NGOs and humanitarian organisations, acknowledging this threat, urged the Israelis to show restraint.

If the organisation wished to truly break the blockade, then a hugely publicised effort with 8 ships filled with 600 peace activists was clearly not the way to achieve this. If the aim of the organisation was the get aid, no matter the quantity, into the Gaza strip, a clandestine smuggling operation, with no direct publicity, would have been a more sensible, if illegal, approach. Indeed groups of Egyptians and Palestinians, illegal and not, have been smuggling material into the strip through tunnels from the Egyptian border since the blockade began. 

If, as is more likely, the aim was to be a symbolic gesture of defiance, the organisation should have learnt from its previous efforts. The first three attempts to break the blockade, using one small boat, were successful. While the last three, using larger well publicised, convoys or fleets, had been turned back.

While the Israeli authorities are ultimately to blame for the deaths and injuries through their disproportionately violent response, the organisation must accept that sailing 600 peace activists, including children and the elderly, through a naval blockade in an active war zone was either reckless, negligent or naïve.

How should Socialists Show Solidarity? 

 For Socialists the position is clear, the working class, in both Palestine and Israel, is the only section of society able to end the blockade of Gaza, the occupation of the West Bank and the Israel-Palestine crisis as a whole.

Firstly the crisis must be approached from the clear class perspective that a socialist should approach any other scenario. The Israeli – Palestine question can not, and must not, be seen as a conflict between “aggressor Israelis and victim Palestinians”, or “Terrorist Palestinians and Victim Israelis” and it certainly must not be seen as “Muslims against Jews”. The crisis is not as clear cut as that, it is a crisis where both the Israeli and Palestinian people are made to suffer due to a right-wing ruling class in Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the corrupt Palestinian leadership of Fatah in the West Bank and the reactionary and violent extremists of Hamas in Gaza.

The Israeli leadership are responsible for grave war crimes, as seen during last years invasion of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead and the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. During both conflicts the Israeli army (IDF) attacked civilian targets causing huge loss of life.

The blockade of Gaza has created a humanitarian crisis, as has the partition wall built through the West Bank. Both actions must be recognised as war crimes, yet both are crimes of the leadership, not the Israeli people. In the United Kingdom we know that governments act against the wishes of the people, in 2003 2 million people marched against the invasion of Iraq, yet the Blair government took the country to war. In Israel there is an anti-war movement, the people are not war hungry, the IDF is a conscript army, and yet the war continues.

In the West Bank Fatah, the founders of the PLO, have become a corrupt clique of a party, which is why they lost their mandate to govern in the Gaza strip. In Gaza the Islamist Hamas government is an ultra-right wing militia group who openly target Israeli civilians and actively suppress genuine Palestinian democracy in the Gaza strip.

Clearly Socialists can not support any of these groups, but must support the Israeli and Palestinian working class, union movements and Socialist organisations. Israel is one of the only nations in the Middle East where workers can organise trade unions and political parties openly without police brutality and suppression. Indeed the Mavak socialist party has organised anti-war campaigns linking up Israeli and Palestinian workers, and it is only initiatives such as these which can end the crisis.

For a Socialist Middle East

Socialists, and the Palestinian solidarity movement as a whole, must reject the rhetoric of either leadership and must not be duped into supporting a ‘national side’, but must support the people in both countries. We must support the building of a strong Israeli and Palestinian trade union movement, and call for the creation of a genuine mass workers party, which will unite the people of both Israel and Palestine to replace the corrupt, aggressive leaderships with a genuinely democratic socialist state.

In the short term the call for two states, with the working class at the helm, is the only solution. As the right to self determination is a key right for socialists the long term solution can be two states – a Socialist Israel and a Socialist Palestine, in a wider Socialist Federation of the Middle East. 

As this latest tragedy, and its political ramifications, are watched around the world, it is imperative that Socialists and progressives are not drawn in by the propaganda of either side, but maintain a principled socialist position, pointing to a genuine alternative and a real solution to this sixty year crisis.

Crisis in Korea: For a Socialist Solution

May 27, 2010

 “We will immediately deliver a physical strike at anyone intruding across our maritime demarcation line,” proclaimed the North Korean news agency KCNA as tensions continue to escalate following the sinking of a southern warship by a northern submarine in March. Yet this latest ratcheting up of warlike rhetoric is a continuation of a sixty year long crisis which will never be solved under capitalism.

Since 1953, when the Korean war came to an unofficial end, a series of similar incidents have left both North and South on the verge of conflict as each develop into extreme forms, both economically and ideologically, of the competing cold war systems.

The Korean peninsula has been divided since the Japanese occupying army surrendered to an invading American force in the South and the advancing Soviet Red Army from the North at the end of the Second World War.  As the uneasy allies became embittered rivals each new occupying power developed their half of Korea to mirror their own systems. In the North the failed resistance leader Kim Il-sung was installed to lead a pro-soviet puppet government, while in the South the American backed ‘strongman’ Syngman Rhee was installed to lead a vehemently ‘anti-communist’ government, ruled by a small clique of capitalist families.

Under Kim Il-sung the North became a stalinist style dictatorship, proclaiming itself to be a socialist society while crushing all genuine forms of worker’s democracy by military force in favour of a bureaucratic caste. While the role of Stalinism and Stalin himself was crucial in the early years of the state, Stalin himself edited the North Korean constitution, the two states differed in a crucial aspect.

The Soviet Union was a ‘degenerated worker’s state’ meaning that following the 1917 revolution, led by Lenin and Trotsky, a genuine worker’s state was formed, with worker’s democracy expressed through the Soviets, or worker’s councils. While events such as the civil war hindered the development of a fully socialist society the rise of Stalin, who took power following Lenin’s death and represented a bureaucratic layer of society, transformed the fledging socialist state into a militaristic dictatorship. This meant that while the apparatus of a socialist state, such as the nationalisation of industry, existed in the USSR; the system was commandeered and degenerated under Stalinism.

Trotsky, writing following his exile from the Soviet Union, argued that such a bureaucratic system would not be able to sustain itself, or the suppression of the people and would eventually collapse. However, he warned that the system would need to be overthrown by a new revolution of the working class, with a genuinely socialist program for worker’s democracy – otherwise the system would collapse, inviting the return of capitalism.

North Korea experienced no revolution like that seen in Russia; rather the system of Stalinism was imposed upon the Korea workers by the advancing Red army in 1945. This meant that Korea had not ‘degenerated’ from a worker’s state into Stalinism, but rather this ‘deformed’ system had been imposed from the top. While Red Army troops officially left North Korea n 1948 the system they had imposed continued and the bureaucracy increased its hold, creating the Junche ideology. Junche not only made the cult of personality around ‘the great leader ‘Kim Il-sung, the national ideology but also placed the principles of ‘Korea self-reliance’ and ‘Military first’ firmly in the heart of the official ideology.

In 1950 North Korea invaded the South, leading to a three year war involving the United States and it’s European allies, as well as the Chinese forces of Mao Zedong, had come to power in 1949. After three years of bloodshed the waring powers reached an armistice and drew a border across the 38th parallel. This not only drew the fault line of conflict for the next 60 years, but replaced the Soviet Union with China as the superpower on which North Korea economically and politically depended.

Since this time North Korea has continued to develop as a one-party, militaristic dictatorship, using repression and starvation as its methods of keeping the working class subjected to the rule of the bureaucracy. Today Kim Il-sung’s son Kim Jong ill, who has led the dictatorship since 1994, has increasingly turned to more repressive measures and warlike gestures to maintain power, most recently the creation and detonation of a Nuclear weapon, built at huge cost while the population starves.

A Hermit Nation?

 It is easy to see North Korea as being a hermit nation, completely isolated from from its neighbours. While the dictatorship of Kim Jong-il has made the state a political pariah this hasn’t prevented the North Korean working class from being further exploited by their neighbouring states.

Aside from China, North Korea also shares a border with Russia and it was in the Amur region, almost 1,000 miles from the border, that BBC journalist Simon Ostrovsky visited a camp of North Korean workers ‘employed’ in the timber industry. Each worker earned a mere $1 for each truck he loaded with timber, often around nine per day, but workers that Ostrovsky spoke to said he had not been paid since May. Sergey Sarnavsky, the director of the firm which has a contract said: “The Koreans work year round with two days off per year. All the other days are working days no matter what the weather conditions, they always work.

The company is part of the Russian Timber Group, founded by British businessman, Peter Hambro and a Russian business partner, who bought up a number of forestry rights across Russia covering an area roughly the size of Belgium.

Cold War That Caught Fire

The Korean War of 1950 has been called the ‘Cold War that caught fire’, and in many ways the global conflict between Stalinism and Capitalism can be found, in microcosm, on the Korean Peninsula. In isolation since the collapse of the Soviet Union the North has become an increasingly extreme and warped version of the worst aspects of Stalinism, complete with gulags and mass starvation. The demarcation lines across the 38th parallel serves as a modern Berlin wall, while the South, built up as a showcase for neo-liberial capitalism, resembles the reconstructed economic power house of West Germany.

If the ongoing conflict resembles the Cold War then the lesson to be drawn must be that if the North were to collapse, and become annexed by the South, the North Korean working class will share the fate of their Polish, Ukrainian and former Eastern Bloc cousins. Following the collapse of Stalinism in 1989 the triumphant capitalists, with Yeltsin’s blessing, began to ruthlessly exploit the cheap labour that Eastern European workers represented, imposing the ‘gangster capitalism’ that still holds sway over Russia and the former Soviet states today.

 As the 20 year ‘celebrations’ for the fall of the wall took place in Berlin last year the financial times asked Polish workers how life differed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they replied: “We have simply replaced once set of masters with another.” Today working and living conditions in Eastern Europe continue to be lower then the West, while unemployment remains higher as Western Europe uses the former Soviet states as a source of cheap labour.

It is unlikely that the North Korean leadership directly ordered the sinking of the South’s warship in March. More likely it was the result of disputed naval borders in the Chinese Sea which has led to similar incidents in 1999 and 2002.  It is however clear that the North Korean leadership is consumed with its own internal divisions as the question of Kim Jung-ill’s successor becomes paramount, resulting in the state resorting to increasingly wild gestures to maintain its grip on society, however it is also clear that unless it is the North Korean working class who bring about the down fall of the dictatorship they too will become a source of cheap labour for South Korean capitalism.

As Trotsky wrote about the USSR, only a genuine movement of the working class will topple the North Korean dictatorship, replacing it with true worker’s democracy. Even were this to be achieved it alone would not solve the question of Korean unification. While the south is not a militaristic dictatorship it is a capitalist society, dogmatically run under a ideology of neo-liberal, with increasing attacks on the wages and living standards of the working class. The solution is for a mass worker’s party of South Korea which would unite the working class together to demand an end to the rule of market capitalism and for a planned, socialist society, run in the interests of working people.

 As socialists, and therefore as internationalists, we would then call for the reunification of the peninsula as one, united worker’s state. However, the right to self determination is a right enshrined in the principles of the 1917 Russia revolution, so a second solution would be two worker’s states within the framework of a Socialist Federation of Korea.

While the rhetoric may continue to rise, with trade and communications links between the two states severed, the North will retreat further into international isolation and deeper into total dependency upon China. Yet in the unlikely case of a war, the people of North Korea may find themselves replacing one set of masters for another.

On 22nd June: Defend Jobs and Services from Con-Dem-Nation!

May 21, 2010

On the 22nd June George Osbourne will announce the Con-Dem coalition emergency budget, a savage program of cuts on jobs and services.

Trade Unionists across the city are uniting to say we will not stand by and watch a single job be cut to pay for the banker’s crisis!

At midday, as the budget is announced, we must make a stand, we must come together to stand alongside the public sector workers and say:

No to Cuts!
Defend Jobs and Services!
Defend our Post Office!
Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws!

12.00pm Guildhall Square, Portsmouth

Speakers to be announced.

Further details coming soon.

This event is supported by the Portsmouth ‘Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.’

Britain: Con-Dem-ed By New Coalition

May 20, 2010

 The following is an article by national TUSC organiser Hannah Sell. Deputy General Secretary of the Socialist Party

“BRITAIN HAS been ‘Con Dem-ned’ to a future of savage attacks on public services, pay, pensions and benefits combined with tax increases for working and middle-class people.

The Tory/Liberal coalition has been cobbled together in a desperate attempt to create a government strong enough to launch an all-out onslaught on the living standards of the working class.

Two thirds of the new cabinet went to public school. This is a government of the elite, for the elite, and it is going to set out to hammer the rest of us.

Mervyn King, unelected governor of the Bank of England, spoke on behalf of the majority of Britain’s capitalist class when he welcomed the government’s cuts plans and egged it on to go further in its emergency budget.

It should not be forgotten that it was Gordon Brown, in 1997, who first gave the Bank of England independence from the government, freeing it to campaign blatantly on behalf of the capitalist class.

However, Cameron and Clegg do not need egging on. The £6 billion worth of cuts that has been declared is the tip of an enormous iceberg. It is not certain how quickly the rest of the iceberg will be revealed but there is no doubt that it will be.

The cuts that will be announced in the emergency budget will only be the beginning. According to the Financial Times (13 May 2010):

“Mr Osborne will have to announce public spending cuts of £57 billion a year from a non-protected budget of about £260 billion – cuts of about 22%. It goes without saying that this will prove a sharp test of political will… Britain’s public sector will face similar austerity measures to those seen in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain.”

It will and, like in those countries, we will see mass movements of the working class in opposition to the cuts.

Movements

Such movements can force even strong governments to retreat. In Britain the profound weakness and division of this ‘government of losers’ will be revealed.

Almost seven million people voted Liberal Democrat. The vast majority did so believing that the Liberal Democrats were a radical, anti-Tory party. Now their illusions have been brutally shattered as the Liberal Democrats have gaily burned their election manifesto in return for a taste of power.

The only establishment party that made a claim to be against the war in Afghanistan, the Liberal Democrats’ negotiators have accepted the continuation of the occupation without a moment’s hesitation.

They signed up just as eagerly for the Tories’ plans to slash public spending. The Tories, determined to make sure that the coalition partner takes its share of the blame have surrounded the chancellor, George Osborne, with a Liberal Democrat guard of axemen.

Vince Cable has become business secretary. David Laws, a millionaire and ex-managing director of JP Morgan, has taken on the job of chief secretary of the treasury, a job which the Tory, Philip Hammond, who held the shadow post, predicted would result in its occupant’s face being stuck on dartboards in workplaces up and down the country.

Thatcherism

The Liberal Democrats have also taken on the job of Scottish secretary. The memories of Thatcherism run so deep in Scotland that the Tories remain virtually unelectable – with only one seat! The Lib Dems currently have seven but, by tying their wagon to the Tories, they too will now face oblivion in Scotland.

Millions of Lib Dem voters, and many – perhaps even a majority – of the party’s activists will abandon the Liberal Democrats because of what they see as a terrible betrayal.

At parliamentary level, however, it seems for now that the coalition has been reluctantly accepted even by more radical Liberal Democrat MPs.

This is only possible because the Liberal Democrats – although always a capitalist party – have suffered their own equivalent to Blairism.

Clegg and his allies around the ‘Orange Book’ successfully fought to move the party to the right on a whole number of issues; particularly on economic questions.

So much in common

The result is a situation where the Tory negotiators can describe, probably genuinely, their happiness in discovering they had so much in common with their Lib Dem counterparts – both ‘socially liberal and economically conservative’, as William Hague put it.

Cameron and co were forced into this coalition by their failure to win a majority. But now it exists they are trying to use it for their own ends, including leaning on the Liberal Democrats against the Tories’ own ultra-conservative wing.

The leadership of the Tories has been prepared to contemplate allowing the possibility of joining the rest of the world and allowing a referendum on moving the voting system away from ‘first past the post’, in order to attempt to create a stable government together with the Liberal Democrats.

The Tories have also been prepared to promise fixed-term parliaments and, in an anti-democratic measure which has an element of parliamentary bonapartism, to promise that the support of 55% of MPs will be required in order to dissolve parliament.

Even if this measure makes it onto the statute books, which is far from certain, it will not be workable in reality.

If 51% of MPs vote to dissolve parliament no government is going to be able to refuse to call a general election on the grounds that 55% is required constitutionally!

Shatter

Despite all the efforts of Clegg and Cameron to create a stable government, this weak and rickety coalition is likely to shatter under the pressure of events at a certain point, probably in response to mass movements of the working class.

Radical Lib Dem MPs may be reluctantly acquiescing to the situation now, but the pressure on them will be enormous when their ministers are proposing 22% cuts in public spending.

The Lib Dems won many young people’s votes by claiming that they would abolish university tuition fees – although, in reality, Clegg had already used the economic crisis as an excuse to postpone this pledge into the distant future.

Now Lib Dem MPs are likely to be sitting on their hands while their government lifts the cap on tuition fees and slaughters university spending.

Explosive

Combined with growing mass youth unemployment – already the highest in twenty years – this will lead to an explosive situation amongst young people in Britain.

Youth Fight for Jobs will have a crucial role to play in organising that anger, including by initiating school student and student strikes.

The measures planned by the government are very likely, as we have warned, to lead to a ‘double-dip’ recession.

As David Blanchflower, ex-member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, put it on 12 May:

“Anybody who is going to start cutting in [the current economic position] is basically going to push us into that death spiral. That’s what we’ve avoided until this date. We need to be stimulating growth, not withdrawing multiple billions out of the system.”

This is accurate, but it is not preventing the representatives of capitalism worldwide bowing to the will of the market – that is to the views of a handful of billionaire gamblers – and demanding speedy cuts in public spending.

In Spain the prime minister, Zapatero, has announced a new ‘surprise’ cut of 5% in civil service pay after he received a phone call from Obama pleading with him to take “resolute action”.

Spain

The Spanish working class has given a ‘resolute response’ by calling a public sector general strike.

We are at the beginning, Europe-wide, of what will be the mother of all battles to defend workers from the onslaught of capital.

Twenty years ago in Britain our party, (then the Militant) led the 18 million-strong movement that brought down Thatcher – the Iron Lady – and her hated poll tax.

Clegg and Cameron are more like Chihuahuas (as Boris Johnson suggested) than iron men, but we are going to need a similar movement to defeat them and their cuts.

With the poll tax, even without the intervention of organised socialists, there would have been a mass outpouring of rage against the iniquity of the tax.

Our role was to channel the anger into an organised movement.

The scale of the cuts coming in Britain means we will face the same situation, but more so. It is true that the political understanding of the working class has not yet caught up with the changed economic situation, and that the confusion that exists can be prolonged by the lack of a mass workers’ party.

But, despite these complications, the working class will be forced to fight back to defend itself and over time will draw political conclusions out of its experience in those struggles.

Nonetheless, socialists have a vital task in campaigning for a programme that will take the movement forward at each stage.

There is no doubt that the right-wing trade union leaders will want to try to compromise with the government – accepting some cuts to try to prevent others.

But only a militant, determined struggle against all cuts will be successful.

First step

The first step needs to be a campaign for a massive national trade union led demonstration against all cuts in public services.

This needs to be linked to the development of local anti-cuts committees to bring together the different campaigns in preparation for the mass movement that will be necessary.

In Britain, as in other countries, the need for general strike action, probably initially across the public sector, will be posed at a certain stage.

This needs to be linked to arguing the case for a socialist alternative to capitalism. Unlike the governments of Europe, we do not accept the diktats of the markets. Rather than bending the knee to these billionaire blackmailers, the power to hold governments and whole peoples to ransom should be taken away from them.

Not only should the banks be nationalised under democratic workers’ control and management, but a state monopoly of foreign trade should be introduced.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

It was to put the case for a socialist alternative that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood in the general election.

As The Socialist explained (issue 624), TUSC’s excellent campaigns were not fully reflected in the votes we received.

This was partly because TUSC had not had time to establish a national profile but also, as we expected, because many workers who agreed with us felt that they had no choice but to vote for New Labour in order to try to stop the Tories.

This did not represent support for New Labour, which, unlike the Labour Party of the past, is a capitalist party, but rather the hope that the cuts would be a little gentler under a New Labour government.

Ironically, Margaret Hodge, the millionaire New Labour MP for Barking, accurately described the reality when she pleaded with a voter on London TV, “just hold your nose and vote for me”; in that case to stop both the BNP and the Tories.

In fact, although New Labour said that it would not fully wield the axe this year, there would have been no fundamental difference between the cuts of a New Labour government and those of the current coalition.

As Alistair Darling explained, New Labour’s cuts would have been “deeper and tougher than those of Thatcher”.

Cuts “Deeper and tougher than those of Thatcher” – New Labour

Since the election, some have argued that there is a possibility of shifting New Labour back to the left now that it is out of power.

We do not think this is on the agenda. After the election, a trickle of people joining the Labour Party has been reported, about 12 per constituency, partly disillusioned Lib Dems.

However, to stand a chance of reclaiming capitalist New Labour for the working class it would take a mass influx into the party – of trade unionists and young people – determined to rebuild the democratic structures which have long been destroyed.

To put it mildly, this has not been the experience of the other ex-social democratic parties in Europe, which have not altered their capitalist character when out of power and have largely remained empty shells.

What is more, new left formations – in particular Syriza in Greece – have come into being while the ex-workers’ parties have been out of power.

TUSC represents an important preparatory step towards such a formation – which could come into being very quickly under the impact of the stormy events that are coming.

In response to our calls for a new mass workers’ party, Len McCluskey, general secretary candidate for Unite the union, has said that Unite would launch a major campaign to reclaim the Labour Party under his leadership.

We think this is a mistaken strategy. We argue for Unite to stop funding New Labour and to begin to build a new party.

Nonetheless, a serious campaign to reclaim New Labour by affiliated trade unions would be a huge step forward on the current policy of the majority of the union leaders of clinging to the coat-tails of the Brownites and the Blairites.

A serious campaign would have to demand that Labour adopts a socialist programme. Key demands would include the repeal of all the anti-trade union laws and opposition to all cuts in public services, not just in words but in action.

Up and down the country Labour councils are going to be implementing the government’s massive cuts in public spending ‘under protest’.

Take the Liverpool road

It would be necessary to demand that they ‘take the Liverpool road’ and, following the example of Liverpool city council in the 1980s, refuse to implement cuts, mobilising the workforce and population in a mass campaign in their support.

Such a campaign of defiance could quickly bring down the Tory/Liberal government.

It would also be necessary to demand that the pro-capitalist and pro-war Blairites and Brownites be expelled from the party.

Linked to this would be the rebuilding of democracy within the Labour Party, which is currently non-existent at national level.

The trade unions, the main funders of New Labour, no longer even have the right to move motions at the toothless annual conference.

We do not think that a campaign to reclaim New Labour could succeed. However, were it to do so we would turn towards such a development. Equally, if we are proved correct, the affiliated trade unions would need to draw the conclusion that New Labour could not be reclaimed and take the road of building a new mass party of the working class.

The first issue which will test the strength of the left in New Labour is the debate over its next leader.

Heir to Blair

The character of New Labour is summed up by David Miliband, the current favourite to take the leadership.

Seumas Milne described him accurately (Guardian, 13 May 2010): “The heir to Blair who voted to invade Iraq, outhawked the Bush administration during the 2008 Georgia crisis and has continued to hanker after the marketisation of public services.”

The two Eds – Miliband and Balls – are no better. There are no political differences between these candidates. Were they in power the policies that they would be implementing would be almost indistinguishable from those of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

However, Socialist Campaign Group MP, John McDonnell, has indicated he will stand again. Last time he could not get the 48 MPs required to even get on the ballot paper, demonstrating the weakness of the Labour left.

This time the threshold is lower, at 33 MPs, but there are now only 18 Labour Representation Committee-backed MPs in parliament.

McDonnell is almost certain to be the only candidate that stands in defence of workers’ interests. Therefore, as Socialist Party members will argue, all affiliated trade unions, if they are serious about fighting to reclaim New Labour, should mandate their sponsored MPs to back him.

The general election campaign was the worst in living memory. Nonetheless, it marked an important turning point in Britain’s history. Cameron and Clegg have not created a ‘new’ kind of politics. Their coalition is one more government for the billionaires and the bankers – but the profound crisis of the capitalist profit system means that it will be a more brutal, vicious, anti-working class government than anything we have seen in our lifetimes.

As in Greece, Spain and other countries the working class will respond with mass resistance. We will have opportunities to build mass support for socialism, as the only real alternative to the appalling brutality of the market.”

TUSC Support Continues to Grow Across Portsmouth

May 13, 2010

TUSC Support Continues to Grow Across Portsmouth

Support for Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition parliamentary candidate Mick Tosh continues to grow across Portsmouth North as the election campaign gathers momentum.

The TUSC campaign team, featuring activists from UNITE, CWU, UNISON, PCS, the RMT, the Socialist Worker’s Party and the Socialist Party have been organising successful action days, campaign stalls and canvassing sessions at key locations across the city as the campaign draws the cities left together.

At Fratton Park Mick and the team distributed leaflets and manifestos while speaking to fans ahead of the home game with Blackburn, reiterating that he is the only candidate supporting the staff currently losing their jobs. Mick is also the only candidate calling for a full public investigation into the club’s finances and the only candidate to propose ‘Supporter and Community Directors’ as part of a ‘reclaim the game’ campaign.

In Cosham, at the north of the city, campaigners spoke to local hospital workers and many residents who simply felt betrayed by their current politicians. “We’re losing our jobs today,” said Linda, a shop worker on the high street.  “We were promised that this area would be re-generated by a Labour government and the Lib-Dem council, but that was clearly a lie. We’ll be voting for TUSC, it’s time that an ordinary guy like Mick was representing ordinary people like us.”

Similar stories have been repeated in North End, Stamshaw, Copnor and other areas of the city where Mick and the campaign team have been met with enthusiasm and encouragement.

There may only be a few short weeks of campaigning time left before the election, but the ‘TUSC: Portsmouth North’ campaign isn’t going to lose momentum after May 6th.

“We all know that May 6th isn’t the end of this, It’s the beginning,” said Socialist Party member Stuart Thompson. “What’s important is that after the election, when the government comes for our jobs and our services, we will be ready to face them. TUSC has brought us together and the coming fight is going to keep us together. We are calling for the current campaign team to become a branch of a new worker’s party. That’s what’s needed to continue, and win, this fight!”

A final election rally will be taking place on the 4th May at 7.30pm at Cosham Community Centre.

TUSC – The Next Step ….

May 9, 2010

Dear All,

Firstly, many thanks go to all who voted and campaigned for Mick Tosh and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Portsmouth North. Do not underestimate the historic step we have taken towards building a new political alternative and the important role we have played in proving that working people will not accept the big three party’s agenda of cuts.

As anyone who gave their time to this campaign can testify, we received nothing but a positive reaction and warm support from people we met on stalls, while the reaction from trade union branches across the country, who donated financial support to our campaign, has been phenomenal. Of course our share of vote, in this marginal Labour/Tory seat, was always going to be squeezed by a overwhelming fear of a Tory victory, but we have made a positive start and we have a concrete base to build upon.

The election campaign may be over, but it is not the end of TUSC, indeed it isn’t even the beginning of the end; rather it is the end of the beginning as we look towards the next stage of building a true working class alternative. In this election we have raised our banner and now we must continue to build on the contacts and links we have made to strengthen the Trade Union and working class movement across the city so we can continue to stand together against the savage cuts to come.

 To begin this next stage we will be holding an open meeting of TUSC candidates and supporters:

Tomorrow 7:30 pm, Fratton Railway Club

When the big three finish their behind-closed-doors talks and decide which of them will take the lead in cutting our jobs and services we will be ready.

Yours Fraternally,

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: Portsmouth North Tuscportsmouth.press@gmail.com

Election Night

May 7, 2010

Election Night

At 07.00am on thr 7th of May Penny Mordaunt the Tory candidate was elected MP for Portsmouth North.  The full election result is posted on the Portsmouth News website.

Speaking following the result New Labour candidate, and now ex-MP, Sarah Mcarthy-Fry wished Mordaut well.

In his post-election speech TUSC candidate Mick Tosh said that trade unionists across the city would come together to fight the cuts on jobs and services that a Conservative government would bring.

At the time of writing the a government is yet to be formed.