Fighting back against London’s Labour councils

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• Newham

In the run-up to the general election, comrades from East London RCG and Focus E15 campaigners took the opportunity of exposing the shocking record of Newham Labour council on housing, and its embroilment in a raft of financial scandals.

We attended the Annual Council Meeting on 14 May to heckle Labour Mayor Robin Wales as he boasted that over the last 25 years he had brought Newham from an ‘incompetent backwater’ to a place where there are ‘real Labour values that create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’. He boasted that Newham is ‘showing the way for others to follow’. Yet behind the shiny towers of luxury accommodation, the swathes of shopping outlets and the new cultural ‘mega-hub’, the reality for Newham’s working class is grim: the second-highest poverty rate in London, the second-highest proportion of homeless residents in the country and more people living in slum-like temporary accommodation than ever before. Meanwhile, council housing estates like the Carpenters Estate remain largely boarded up, facing demolition and replacement by unaffordable private flats.

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Victory to the LSE cleaners!

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Striking cleaners at the London School of Economics (LSE) – all from migrant or minority backgrounds – have won a significant victory in a fight to improve their terms and conditions.

Like most universities, LSE outsourced cleaning services years ago to save costs for its multimillion-pound budget; cleaners could be employed with worse terms and conditions than in-house staff, who are entitled to up to 41 days’ paid leave, six months’ full sick pay, and good maternity pay and pension rights. Outsourced cleaners, in this case with the company Noonan, are only entitled to the statutory minimum. That means no pay for the first three days off sick, and then just £17.87 a day. For a cleaner paid £9.75 an hour in London, that is untenable.

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Imperialist Labour

Jeremy Corbyn’s record as an anti-imperialist has been sacrificed to his priority of maintaining the unity of the Labour Party. Since becoming leader, Corbyn has conceded to its reactionary members: allowing MPs free votes on bombing Syria and renewing Trident nuclear missiles; succumbing to the Israeli embassy and Zionist campaign to brand support for Palestine as anti-Semitic.

In 2003, 254 Labour MPs voted for the invasion of Iraq, 84 voted against and 69 abstained. This was a defining moment in British politics when the Labour government disregarded public opposition to pursue an illegal and bloody war. Responding to the July 2016 Chilcot report into the war, Corbyn said the Labour Party had been misled by a ‘small number of leading figures in the government’ who were ‘none too scrupulous’ about how they had made the case for war. An offended backbench Labour MP shouted ‘Sit down and shut up, you’re a disgrace.’ His was the voice of many of the 254.

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Lenin and Labour: a gross distortion

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The ascendency of Labour left veteran Jeremy Corbyn from backbench rebel to unlikely leader has raised the question as to whether socialists should support Labour in the General Election on 8 June. The fact remains that the vast majority of Labour MPs are right-wing reactionaries opposed to Corbyn, who has made a series of concessions to sustain the unity of the party above all else. As our Don't vote - fight for socialism! General Election statement explains, he has sacrificed his anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist principles. He has also authorised Labour councils to implement devastating cuts to local services. Corbyn has ensured that Labour remains a racist, pro-austerity, imperialist and warmongering party.

Yet the majority of British left organisations argue – as they always have done regardless of who the leader is – that socialists should support Labour. They claim this is the tactically correct position. It is usually justified by citing Lenin’s advice in 1920 that the British Communist Party should affiliate to the Labour Party. But as explained in the following passage from the Revolutionary Communist Group’s 1984 manifesto, The Revolutionary Road to Communism in Britain, such justification ‘depends on a gross and ignorant distortion of Lenin’s position':

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Labour councils: devastating services

Glasgow Stand Up Demo photo

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 257 May/June 2017 Election Special

Following the local elections on 4 May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stated: ‘Labour councils and Labour mayors are putting families and pensioners first. Those who need help most can rely on us.’ This was a lie: Corbyn was covering up for the Labour councils which have slashed services and jobs while refusing to lead a fight against austerity. Labour bears responsibility for the devastation of local services all over Britain.

Between 2010 and 2015, central government funding to local authorities was cut by 37% in real terms and by 2020 the only sources of council income will be council tax and local business rates.

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Labour’s toxic housing policy

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 257 May/June 2017 Election Special

On 9 May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to put housing at the forefront of his party’s general election campaign, guaranteeing to build a million homes, with half of them council houses. But in the Labour manifesto this radical promise has been watered down to ‘at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year’ – by the end of the parliamentary term – ‘for genuinely affordable rent or sale’. Corbyn has embraced Labour’s new definition of ‘council’ housing, which can be any kind of tenure and where the idea of a regulated council rent is a thing of the past, with ‘affordable’ meaning anything up to 80% of market rent. There is no mention of social rent.

The last government’s Housing and Planning Act ushered in a massive fire-sale of public land and housing stock, fuelled by the City of London, giant construction companies, international developers and estate agents eager to profit from soaring land prices. But far from challenging this sustained attack on working class housing, Labour councils have leapt onto the gravy train.

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Don’t vote - Fight for socialism

Homes for Londoners

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 257 May/June 2017 Election Special

Don’t vote - Fight for socialism

In the run-up to the general election on 8 June, socialists will have to decide whether to support the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party, or to oppose it because it remains a racist, imperialist and warmongering party. The Revolutionary Communist Group is clear: we are facing a global crisis of the capitalist system that threatens humanity with war and destruction. This means that there is only one choice: we have to build a working class movement that can challenge the ruthless, predatory British ruling class. We have to fight for socialism. Corbyn and his supporters are actively preventing this development. They and the trade unions have blocked the emergence of any resistance to austerity while spreading the illusion that, in the midst of a deepening economic crisis, a future Labour government can ‘deliver a fairer, more prosperous society for the many, not just the few’. The reality is that it cannot and it will not.

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General election: Don’t vote – fight for socialism!

Parliamentary road to socialism

In the run-up to the general election on 8 June, socialists will have to decide either to campaign in support of the Corbyn-led Labour Party, or to oppose it because it remains a racist, imperialist and war-mongering party. The Revolutionary Communist Group is clear: we are facing a global crisis of the capitalist system that is threatening humanity with war and destruction. It means that there is only one choice: we have to build a working class movement that can challenge the ruthless, predatory British ruling class. We have to fight for socialism. Corbyn and his supporters are actively preventing this development. They spread the illusion that a Labour government can make radical and progressive changes while in practice they divert or block resistance where it emerges.

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Copeland and Stoke by-elections: another nail in Labour’s coffin

The results of the Copeland and Stoke by-elections which took place on 23 February mark a further step in the steady break-up of the Labour Party as a significant electoral force, with opposing wings of the Party trading excuses for the poor results. Although Labour retained Stoke by 7,853 votes to UKIP’s 5,233, it was a result that should never have been in doubt: UKIP leader Paul Nuttall was exposed time and again as a liar. To lose Copeland on a 6.7% swing to the Tories after seven years of austerity and with NHS services under threat from the local Sustainability and Transformation Plan is even worse: the result shows how little the working class believes Labour is committed to representing its interests.

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Opposing austerity, challenging racism and fighting for socialism means destroying the Labour Party

The central question we face is how can we build a movement to turn back the tide of reaction epitomised by the victory of a populist and nationalist Brexit campaign, the election of Trump as US President, and the possibility that the racist populist Marine le Pen wins the French presidential election in May? Such a movement has to challenge imperialism, and make both the possibility and the necessity of socialism central to its political message. It must break with, and oppose, the forces of opportunism whose purpose is to isolate and destroy any independent movement of the working class. In Britain that means a relentless struggle against the Labour Party and its apologists on the left. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s leader led some to argue that the Party could now become a progressive force and lead the fight against austerity. The evidence shows the opposite: Corbyn is absolutely determined to maintain the unity of the Labour Party and make any concession necessary to that end. Robert Clough reports.

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Sacked for fighting poverty pay

In FRFI 137, NIGEL COOK described the barbaric conditions of employment and slave wages forced upon him and other workers at M&S Packaging in Blackburn, who package CDs for PolyGram, through the implementation of the Jobseeker's Allowance. In this issue, he reports on developments in the campaign against poverty pay.

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Victory against victimisation of union organiser by Deliveroo

Following a publicity campaign by the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), Deliveroo have dropped their investigation against IWGB union organiser and FRFI supporter Ben, and have invited him back to work. On Monday 11 December, the IWGB Couriers and Logistics Branch made public the fact that Ben, a key organiser of the ongoing struggle for improvements in pay and conditions, had been told that he was under investigation for the crime of ‘riding a cargo bike’ and would not be able to work whilst this was carried out. Alongside this, the IWGB revealed a leaked image of Ben’s employment profile from the Deliveroo internal system, making clear that his employment was ‘terminated’ and that before speaking to him, any members of staff should contact Sebastian Gilbert, the Head of Driver Operations in Britain and Ireland. On the same day the Financial TimesAlphaville blog included a comment piece by Ben, exposing this to a wider audience and making clear that  Deliveroo workers would not be intimidated by such clear political victimisation. This campaign has forced Deliveroo to back down. Ben has now received an email from Deliveroo's Director of Operations, David Scott stating:

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Deliveroo drivers fighting back against exploitation

Deliveroo drivers across London have united – with the help of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union – to organise in the ‘unorganisable’ gig economy. The aim? To achieve union recognition for the drivers in Camden and to change employment status for Deliveroo riders nationally. Deliveroo riders are currently classified as ‘self-employed independent contractors’, meaning they are not entitled to basic workers’ rights. Deliveroo riders are seeking to change their employment status to ‘worker’ – a form of self employment which grants rights such as the national minimum wage, the right to paid holiday and the right to protection against discrimination; none of which drivers currently have.

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Bourgeois Labour Party – no change with Corbyn at the top

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Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour Friends of Israel event

A year ago, in the summer of 2015, the Labour Party was in complete disarray and facing a deep crisis. It had lost two successive general elections in 2010 and 2015. Its defeat in 2015 was especially abject: after five years of punishing austerity for the working class at the hands of the ConDem coalition, Labour failed to prevent a Tory victory, was wiped out in Scotland and lost 24 seats overall. There had to be the semblance of change if the Party was to avoid disintegration. Corbyn’s victories in the subsequent leadership elections have enabled the social democratic left to begin a new project; sowing expectations that the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership can now fight austerity and transform itself into a socialist party capable of winning working class votes. Robert Clough argues that this is an illusion.

Corbyn’s success, announced on 24 September, came with a substantial margin over his challenger, Owen Smith, to the delight of his supporters. Overall, Corbyn won 61.8% of 506,000 votes cast, compared to 59.5% of 422,664 votes cast in 2015. While support from trade union voters increased slightly, from 57.6% in 2015 to 60.2%, votes from Party members increased substantially (49.6% to 59%). Corbyn’s second victory was never in real doubt: his ability to attract thousands to his rallies contrasted with the efforts of Smith, whose meetings sometimes struggled to get into double figures. The Labour Party machine tried its best to exclude Corbyn supporters both by preventing those who had joined the party after February 2016 from voting in the election, and by disqualifying large numbers of registered supporters, those who had paid £25 to vote in the election. Given that Labour Party figures showed that 180,000 supporters had signed up in the two-day period for registration over 19-20 July, and that 121,517 actually voted, claims that 40,000 Corbyn supporters had been prevented from voting seem justified.

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Deliveroo drivers lead the way in fighting casualisation and low pay

Deliveroo

Deliveroo food delivery drivers in London are showing the way in the fight against increasingly casualised working conditions and pay cuts. On 16 August, after a week of spontaneous strikes and protests, Deliveroo management backed down from its plans to force drivers onto a new contract that would mean a huge pay cut for many. The workers’ action, carried out by predominantly migrant labourers, organised with the International Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) radical trade union and supported by the RCG, attracted huge public and media attention to the casualised labour conditions in the food delivery industry.

The British food delivery industry is valued at £9bn. Smartphone app-based companies such as tech start-ups Deliveroo and UberEATS are dominating the market through the raw exploitation of their workforces. 2016 has been a lucrative year for Deliveroo, with projected revenues of £130m on top of £200m investment from venture capital funds, including Index Ventures, Bridgepoint Capital, Accel and DST Global – a firm headed by Time magazine’s ‘Titan list’ billionaire Yuri Milner. This most recent round of funding brings Deliveroo’s total investment to $472.7m (£355m). Deliveroo has now made it onto the ‘Unicorn list’ of start-ups valued at over $1bn. UberEATS – launched in London in June this year – is a delivery start-up owned by multinational transport firm Uber; a company with a total valuation of $66bn (£49.6bn).

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Haringey care workers fight low pay and poor conditions

Seventeen support workers from the London Borough of Haringey have, with the support of their union Unison, launched a court case against several care agencies and Haringey Labour Council. The workers, mainly black women, were previously employed by the agency Sevacre but are now employed by smaller agencies who took over the council contract. They are employed on zero-hours contracts and complain that their travel time between visits goes unpaid, and that the block wage they are paid for 24-hour ‘live-in’ support in their clients’ homes works out at just £3.72 per hour spent in work – less than half the minimum wage.

Across the British care sector 82% of the workforce are women. Low pay across care services has long been justified by the idea that the joy of providing care is a reward in itself, and compensates for pitifully low wages. This is seen in recruitment adverts with the question ‘Do you care?’ Beyond the obvious sexism of such a theory, it goes completely against facts, which tell us that of those who leave care jobs, 56% do not get recruited into other care roles.

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