Archive for the ‘Anti-Cuts’ Category

Anti-Cuts Activists Present Alternative Budget to Portsmouth Council

February 19, 2012

Austerity is not working! That was the message delivered to Portsmouth city council on Tuesday when 100 anti-cuts activists lobbied the annual budget setting meeting, before presenting a Needs Budget as an alternative to a second wave of cuts.

The lobby was organised by Portsmouth Against Cuts Together (PACT), a community group supported by the city’s trades council. PACT brings socialists, trade unionists and community campaigners together to oppose all cuts to jobs and public services.

PACT first presented a Needs Budget in 2011 when the council voted for the first wave of cuts. This year the Lb Dem run council proposed a further £20 million worth of austerity with an intention to cut up to £45 million over three years.

Speaking at the deputation on behalf of PACT, Socialist Party member Ben Norman said: “It is clear austerity is not working. It is a failed strategy, born of a failed ideology and by continuing with it you are failing your communities.”

Deputations were also made by UNISON, to oppose the planned 250 redundancies to local council workers and by the Portsmouth Pensioner’s Association who argued that the cuts are having a disproportionate impact on those who most need support.

PACT called on the council to oppose all cuts, to reverse decades of privatisation and to reject the council tax grant from central government which will result in even more cuts in 2013.

As an alternative to austerity PACT called for a budget to meet the needs of the city, not the ideology of central government. This included investment in homes, creating climate jobs and reinstating the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Through its ownership of a commercial port the council is asset rich and has one of the largest reserve funds in the country. PACT called for these funds to be used to delay cuts while the council worked with unions, community groups and neighbouring councils to campaign for funding from central government.

As neither Labour nor the Tories, considered the official opposition, proposed an alternative budget it is clear that the unions and community groups are now the real opposition to austerity.

To continue to build this opposition PACT will be hosting it’s AGM on March 5th, 7.30pm and Southsea Community Centre.

Anti-Cuts Campaigners to Present Alternative Budgets to Portsmouth & Southampton Councils

February 13, 2012

Anti-cuts campaigners in Portsmouth and Southampton will present alternative ‘needs budgets’ to their respective city councils on Tuesday as councillors vote on the latest wave of cuts to public services.

The campaign groups, Portsmouth Against Cuts Together (PACT) and the Southampton Anti-Cuts Union, present an alternative to austerity, allowing councils to refuse to pass down cuts to the community. The budgets also present a strategy of economic recovery including the reinstatement of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and sustainable job creation projects.

In Portsmouth public sector workers, unions and anti-cuts campaigners will lobby the council at 1:00pm on February 14th 2012, before making a deputation to the council meeting to present their budget. In Southampton campaigners will lobby the city council at 1pm on the 15th February.

Titled Austerity Is Not Working the alternative strategy follows on from the budget presented by PACT to the council in 2011, when campaigners warned of the inevitable results of austerity.

“In the past year unemployment has risen, and young people have been forced out of education. It is clear that austerity is not working,” said Jon Woods, convenor of PACT. “If the council vote to carry out further cuts 250 council workers could lose their jobs while over £20 million will be cut from vital public services.”

PACT call on councillors to:

  • Oppose all cuts to jobs and public services
  • Reject the central government grant on council tax, which will result in even worse cuts in 2013
  • Launch a commission to investigate equality of council pay, in partnership with trade unions
  • Invest in sustainable job creation projects, as outlined in the TUC’s report on Climate Jobs
  • To oppose privatisation and bring services back under public management
  • To utilise reserves to delay carrying out cuts
  • To prepare a budget based on the needs of the city, not the ideology of central government
  • To work with unions, community groups and other councils to campaign against funding reductions from central government

“Budget day in Southampton makes for grim reading as all parties line up to support cuts while council tax bills remain sky high. Anti-cuts campaigns will continue to point to banker’s bonuses, multi-billion pound tax evasion and corporate profits as a source of finance to protect jobs and services. We stand in solidarity with council workers and campaigners fighting the cuts nationwide against the austerity agenda,” said Gavin Marsh from Southampton Anti-Cuts Union.

See footage from last years lobby:

 

Support the YFJ Jarrow March

October 1, 2011

Today marked the day 1 of the Youth Fight for Jobs Jarrow March, a campaign which follows in the footsteps of the famous 1936 crusade for jobs by Jarrow dockworkers.

Below is the post from the official march blog, read the rest and follow the marchers progress here: http://jarrowmarch11.com/

October 1st 2011: Hundreds of people rallied and marched through Jarrow today ahead of setting off to London. Representatives from the PCS & RMT unions joined the marchers and spoke in support of the campaign against youth unemployment. Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror addressed the rally alongside Lizi Gray whose great-grandfather was on the original 1936 march. The march set off with the RMTs brass band and received fantastic support from local people as it passed.

 

London Rioting: The Tabloid Right and the Trendy Left Join Hands to Misrepresent Working People

August 10, 2011

“Only a blinkered left-winger fuelled by Marxist dogma could pretend that looting from a carpet store represents heroic blows against a racist establishment” declared Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry to the ever dwindling number of readers his newspaper manages to either appeal or be given away to. Paltry as his readership may be he’s not entirely wrong. Even the most ardent supporter of the ultra-left would struggle to paint the pinching of some carpet as a classic revolutionary moment of proletarian struggle, without resorting to phrases such as ‘revolutionary moment of proletarian struggle.’  Yet both the ultra-left and the tabloid-right clamour to offer us the polar extremes with their interpretation of the rioting which has brought further misery to some of London’s most deprived boroughs.

Inevitably The Express and the Mail stand up for the largely mythical ‘hang ‘em, flog em’, deport ‘em – but not before cutting their benefits brigade’ while the ultras plumb the depths of the rhetoric they wheeled out for the student protests. Its ‘criminal irresponsibility’ and ‘opportunistic thievery’ here and ‘smash the police’, ‘London’s burning’ there. So familiar, so tired and so irrelevant.

Clearly the rioting was neither A nor B. There were no armed gangs waiting outside Carpet World in the off chance that a riot would grant them the opportunity to fit out their hallway, but neither was the violence a calculated or conscious rejection of capitalism in favour of a socialist alternative. Indeed it is the very lack of socialist consciousness and the very lack of that alternative as a viable option which leads to such scenes of urban violence.   

Through the damnation of the feckless represented by the tabloids and the lionisation of the mob by the ultra-left you can see the two frames through which the middle class view the working class when the mask slips.  On one hand you see the prejudice against working people which spawned the phrase ‘chav’ and the stomach churning impressions of teenage mums by millionaire ‘comedians’.  The disorder and poverty in these communities are a result of feckless irresponsibility we are told. At worst it leads to criminality and at best it leads to a life of sponging from the welfare state.

This is the interpretation which keeps a straight face when blaming rioting on individual criminals or even on Twitter. Brace yourselves, we are warned, the lower orders have the internet and they can now communicate instantly – it’s anarchy in 140 characters! No doubt, the skinny latte sipping blackberry owners feel as their ancestors once felt when the plebs got their hands on the printing press or the vote. Democracy and communication: brilliant tools for the well heeled and responsible, but a dangerous weapon in the hands of angry prols.

The worst offenders for peddling this overt prejudice against the working class are, as always, the professional bile spewers of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, who are of course paid to flout artificial levels of conceit and malice to the least fortunate in society.  We shouldn’t be surprised when they lead the way in calling for water cannon, rubber bullets, martial law or capital punishment. It doesn’t even come as that much of a shock when these commentators start comparing rioters to animals, thereby du-humanising the disenfranchised with the sort of rhetoric reminiscent of the Victorian era.

What does come as a surprise is how quickly variations of these views are repeated by otherwise sane and rational people when events such as the riots unfold. Let’s take two examples from the world of twitter:

  • Hi, i’m British & you see those people rioting out in the streets? Yeah? Well they’re chavs, the most hated people in the UK.
  •  Good idea burning down your country to steal an Adidas tracksuit you stupid brainless chavs.

 Both have been re-tweeted multiple times, but now replace ‘chav’ with Nigger, Paki, Queer, Chink or any one of a hundred deliberately insulting words for a section of society and suddenly most of us would not only refuse to say it, we’d berate someone who would.

The demonization of the working class is truly one of the last acceptable faces of open hatred and prejudice. While such casual hatred has been elevated to the mainstream over the past few years, this lazy stereotyping has now been coupled to a very visible threat through the rioting. Suddenly it is acceptable to say you’re afraid that ‘they’ may come down from the estates and loot your house or that ‘they’ are feral or animalistic. Fall into that mindset and you fall in alongside Max Hasting and Leo McKinstry.

For the ultra and trendy left, a stereotype which also predominantly harks from the middle classes, the riots appear to be a glorious moment of theory made flesh. Smash Vodaphone! Nick from Nike! Punish the Police! To the trendy left the riots are considered some sort of conscious uprising, a raw anger of the masses kicking out against the oppression of the police.  This understanding could not be more wrong.

The rioting is not a rough and raw version of the working class self-organisation that we saw in Egypt when people spontaneously defended their neighbourhoods from the police or linked arms to protect Cairo’s antiquates museum from looters. It’s the very inverse.  Far from a glorious insurrection, rioting demonstrates the very depths that capitalism can push people to. It’s the violent, selfish and angry side of the very system we’re looking to overthrow. Rioting is the worst face of capitalism, something socialists want to abolish, not encourage.

Another justification from this section of the left is that the violence of the riots is tiny in comparison to the greater crimes of the system. “What’s the crime of looting a discount sportswear store compared to the crime of founding one?” the Facebook friends of one sect member were asked.  The other example being wheeled out is that of the bankers. The looting of Debenhams is nothing compared to the looting by the banks! Indeed that’s true, but it’s not the same. Capitalism encourages one but makes the other illegal and therein lies the point. A truly just system, which is what we are looking to build lest we forget, would deem both illegal.

This misunderstanding appears to be a world away from Leo McKinstry’s hatred, but is ignoring the reality of the violence to make it fit a delusional and glorified narrative purely for your own excitement really any better than condemning it with hateful rhetoric in order to flog a few more papers?

The underling social causes behind the violence have already been clearly presented here: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/12498/08-08-2011/tottenham-riots-fatal-police-shooting-sparks-eruption-of-protest-amp-anger

While the only way forward is spelled out here: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/12510/09-08-2011/as-inner-cities-erupt-a-mass-workers-movement-is-needed-to-defeat-the-government

It is clear that just as political and social alienation can lead the politically conscious youth of Madrid and Athens to the camps of the Indignados, that same alienation, coupled with the dire social and material conditions of places like Tottenham make these communities a tinderbox. This time it’s a police shooting which started the fires, but as austerity measures kick in this will not be the last time that we see the depths people can be pushed to by capitalism.

Andrew Lansley Must Resign!

June 9, 2011

 

‘Were I Andrew Lansley I would resign over this issue.” So claimed Mike Hancock, Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South when presented with a ‘Save Our NHS’ petition by local anti-cuts campaigners, health workers and trade unionists.

Hancock, who sat on the committee which scrutinised the government’s bill to cut and privatise the National Health Service, was unable to answer why the Health Secretary of his government had failed to consult the public during the recent ‘listening exercise’, and was presented with evidence that the original consultancy process had been stage managed to avoid dissent from health workers.

The campaigners also demanded a full public enquiry into Andrew Lansley’s connections to the private health companies which stand to profit from the proposed bill.

While Hancock wished to distance himself from the bill, and the policies of his Government, he is no politician of principle; having achieved the rare political hat trick of  having defected from Labour to the SDP to form the Liberal Democrats before being the first MP to appear on national news to praise the coalition agreement with the Conservatives.  

The campaigners are following this event with petitioning of Tory MPs Penny Mordant of Portsmouth North and Caroline Dinenage of Gosport while building up to the launch of a new ‘Save Our NHS Portsmouth’ campaign, which is backed by the City’s Trades Council, to  stand against all cuts and privatisation to the National Health Service.

Campaign Launch Meeting: Thursday 23rd June, Portsmouth Central Library, 7.30pm

More Info: SaveourNHSportsmouth@gmail.com

Picture Credit:  Sarah Standing/Portsmouth News (112021-8056)

People’s Supermarket: Right Problem, Wrong Solution

February 21, 2011

At first Channel Four’s latest crusading documentary The People’s Supermarket seemed to strike the right tones. A community unite to turn their collective backs on the big business supermarkets that dominate the food industry and set up their own shop – groceries for the people by the people. However, as David Cameron swiftly spotted, the idea has more in kin with his ‘Big Society’ then it does with collective ownership.

The series follows the efforts of unknown-celebrity chef Arthur Potts Dawson as he takes a defiant aim at the goliaths of the food industry, which dominate over 80% of the market, leaving independent stores with just 2.2 per cent of food sales in the UK.

In the first episode Potts Dawson meets a dairy farmer who is being forced out of business. His problem is that supermarkets will only pay him 15 pence per litre of milk, yet it costs 29 pence a litre to produce. Both farmer and host lament that the likes of Tesco buy cheap and sell cheap, while smaller shops cannot afford to compete or buy the produce at a fairer cost.

Here Potts Dawson hits upon the central problem, not only for the food industry but for capitalism at large. As a shop manager he cannot afford to pay the farmer the 29 pence a litre if he is to make a profit and pay his staff a decent wage, yet if he pays less for the milk it is the farmer who is out of pocket.

To solve this traditional problem of capitalism Potts Dawson turns to the traditional solution, if he wants to pay the farmer a fairer deal he’s going to have to cut his staff’s wages.

With an epiphany which would make Phillip Green proud he realises that if he can cut labour costs to sell the food cheaper and give the producers a fairer deal, what would happen if he just didn’t pay his staff anything at all?  

The result is for Potts Dawson to proclaim that any member who buys into the project must pay him a £25 entry fee and promise to work for free for at least four hours a month. In return they will get a discount to his – and it remains his – barren shelved corner shop and if they are lucky they may find themselves featured on TV.

Hoping for exactly that David Cameron visited the shop last week to explain that this is a prime example of his ‘Big Society’ idea made reality. Presumably he didn’t explicitly mean people working for nothing for little result to satisfy the crusade of one wealthy cost cutting zealot.

As the series unfolds our hosts decries the waste generated by big business and battles the bureaucracy of his local council, yet by the third episode he discovers that ‘people aren’t getting it’ and his store is failing to attract the membership, and money, it needs to survive.

The reality is that like the ‘Big Society’ people understand and  reject the suggestion that after a full working day they might like to run a supermarket, a care home, a fire station or any other service where the management have discovered Potts Dawson’s magical formula of abolishing pay and promoting volunteerism as a cover to cut costs.

As well intentioned as Potts Dawson may be to encourage community unity or to promote ethical food production his sole achievement, beyond enhancing his TV credentials, is to demonstrate that under capitalism the circle of production, profit and labour costs cannot be squared for a fair deal for all.  It remains to be seen how long the venture will continue and if the support of the Prime Minister will attract new converts. Perhaps if membership begins to nosedive Cameron might chip in his own four hours worth once a month?

Workers and Students Unite to Launch Portsmouth Anti-Cuts Campaign

November 19, 2010

Over 150 Trade Unionists and Community activists packed into a university lecture theatre last night to officially launch the Portsmouth Anti-Cuts Campaign. The meeting, hosted by Portsmouth Trades Council, sought to use the momentum generated by recent local anti-cuts marches and public meetings to build a community wide campaign prepared to take on every single proposed cut.

To open the discussion on the way forward the meeting was addressed by Laurie Heselden South East representative of the Trades Union Congress, who said: ‘These cuts are a massive experiment. No country has ever cut its way out of a recession. These cuts are not being made because they have to be. They are doing this because they want to do it.’

However, after Heselden proceeded to read the charge sheet of cuts which the public sector will be facing he then outlined the limited TUC strategy of training union reps and building for a national demonstration in March.

In contrast Ben Norman, speaking on behalf of ‘Youth Fight for Jobs: South’ challenged Heselden by proposing that the campaign should back the PCS call for a national trade union demonstration before Christmas, a proposal greeted by the first round of applause of the evening.

‘The 50,000 students who marched to defend education were but the tip of the Iceberg, a litmus test for the nation’s anger.” Norman said. “If we wait for four more months before taking national action any march may just become a funeral procession for the jobs which will have been lost and the futures which will have been blighted.’

The Youth Fight for Jobs speaker also called for the campaign to be committed to fighting all cuts and proposed standing Anti-cuts candidates in the upcoming local elections.

Contributions from the floor included discussion on the

The meeting also elected a steering committee including trade union reps, student’s union officers, and school students from the Portsmouth Save Our Schools campaign and delegates from the Pensioners Association.

The campaign will next meet on Monday, November 29 at 6pm at a venue to be decided.

 **More to follow **

Portsmouth Workers Vow: Not One Single Cut!

November 1, 2010

“We will not accept one single cut! We will not accept one single job loss!” That was the rallying cry in Portsmouth city centre on Saturday as over 150 trade unionists and students marched against the cuts.

The rally and march, organised by the PCS union with the support of Portsmouth trades council, brought together activists from across the labour movement, uniting them alongside campaigners from the Students’ Union and community groups including the Pensioners Association and the White Ribbon Campaign against domestic violence.

Socialist Party member Chris Picket spoke on behalf of the Tiny Tots Campaign, a group of parents who are fighting to save a local nursery school from closure.

Chris spoke about the importance of uniting local community led groups with the wider trade union movement and declared, to great applause, that this and other demonstrations around the country proved the need for a national demonstration this year.

Speaking on behalf of Youth Fight For Jobs: South, Ben Norman called for a coordinated campaign between the city’s student movement and the growing trade union led action.

“Students are facing an un-holy trinity of attacks in the form of higher fees, education cuts and rising unemployment,” he said. “Only by uniting students and young workers with their teachers, lecturers and with public sector workers can we defeat these attacks.”

Other speakers included the President of the Students’ Union as well as several local PCS and Unison members from neighbouring local government offices.

This demonstration will be followed by a public meeting to formally launch the Portsmouth anti-cuts campaign on the 18th November. The meeting will take place at 7pm, at Park Building and will be hosted by the Trades Council.

Students Challenge David Willets to Justify his Attacks on Education

November 1, 2010

A delegation of students and trade unionists representing Youth Fight for Jobs: South have lobbied Havant MP and Minister for Universities David Willets at his constituency office to challenge the minister on the findings of the Browne Report, student debt and his government’s plans for savage education cuts.

Accompanied by a journalist from the Portsmouth News the delegation, comprised of members of UNITE, and RMT trade unions, and Portsmouth and Southampton Students’ Unions, picketed Willets’ office, and succeeded in holding an hour long meeting with the minster who  infamously declared students to be ‘a burden on the taxpayer’.

Clare Blackwell, a medical student from Southampton University , challenged Willets on his projections for student debt and his assertion that higher levels of debt wouldn’t restrain working class college students from going to University.

Clare also rejected Willets’ claim that cuts in education would be sparing, revealing that technicians and support staff had already been made redundant and that under staffing in departments meant that in many overfilled lecture theatres students have to sit on the floor or on walkways.  

Andy Waterman, RMT member and former Portsmouth Student, said: “Willets claims that his plans will allow students to pay off this burden of debt when they graduate, but the point he’s ignoring is rising youth unemployment, which is higher across this region then it has been for a generation.”

When asked if he accepted that under a free market system some Universities would ‘go to the wall’ Willets agreed, saying:  ‘You could have private companies taking over universities. It is something we have to think about. There are a range of possibilities. No government has ever been able to offer an unconditional guarantee that universities would carry on under their existing management.”

Aside from publically challenging Willets and gaining valuable press coverage the event also succeeded in building links with teachers and union reps at Havant College  ensuring that Youth Fight for Jobs continues to play a key role in uniting students and workers across the region.