Corbyn’s victory: Labour Party in crisis

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By the end of the campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party, it was no surprise, even for his most stubborn and malevolent critics, that Jeremy Corbyn would win the election. But the scale of his victory, 59.5% in the first round, was a resounding shock. Despite the dire warnings of a string of Labour Party pro-imperialist grandees, 49.6% of party members supported Corbyn, as did 83.8% of registered supporters and 57.6% of affiliated union voters. The Blairite and openly ruling class candidate Liz Kendall was utterly trounced, obtaining a miserable 4.5% of the vote. Together, the other two establishment, pro-austerity candidates, Yvette Cooper and the one-time favourite to win, Andy Burnham, shared 36%.

The reactions were immediate. Within hours, the Conservative Party was presenting Corbyn’s politics as a threat to national security. The ruling class was outraged. Eleven shadow front bench members resigned, refusing to work with Corbyn. Their passing will not be mourned: among their number were Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, the openly reactionary shadow Works and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt and shadow business secretary Chuku Umunna, who had been a leadership candidate for 24 hours before passing the Blairite baton to Kendall. Good riddance to them. Most Labour MPs, an unprincipled bunch of frauds and self-serving careerists intent only on feathering their nests, were horrified at Corbyn’s success. 178 of them abstained in a parliamentary vote on the vicious benefit cuts announced in the July budget – they have only contempt for the plight of the poorest sections of the working class, despising them as scroungers and shirkers.

 

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New anti-trade union law: more shackles on the unions

May 2014: FRFI supporters demonstrating against benefit sanctions at Peckham Jobcentre

The government’s proposed new and draconian anti-trade union law has horrified the Labour Party as, apart from further limiting rights to strike, the bill contains proposals which will choke off union funding for the party. The aim of the legislation is to place even more shackles on the trade union movement before further savage cuts in public spending and consequent job losses take place. The Tories also aim to take advantage of the total lack of resistance trade unions have offered over the last five years of austerity and leave nothing to chance. Taking advantage of Labour’s disarray and threatening it with bankruptcy is a bonus. Robert Clough reports.

 

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Labour leadership contest - Jeremy Corbyn: social democracy’s last gasp

http://www.revolutionarycommunist.org/images/britain/jeremy_corbyn.jpg

It is impossible not to feel satisfaction at the extreme discomfort of Labour Party leaders as they look at the scale of Corbyn’s lead in the race for the leadership. A YouGov poll published on 22 July predicts Corbyn winning 43% of first preference votes and picking up sufficient preferences for an easy win in the fourth round. This has left those MPs from the right who nominated him hoping to discredit an anti-austerity standpoint looking very silly.

One thing needs to be clear: a victory for Jeremy Corbyn would not change Labour from what it is: a racist, imperialist, warmongering anti-working class party. Corbyn would be hostage to a parliamentary party which showed its true ruling class colours in the vote over the welfare bill. Nevertheless, already the knives are out, and there are threats of a coup in the unlikely eventuality of his victory and fresh leadership elections. None of the other three candidates – Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper – want anything to do with him as they polish their ruling class credentials and show themselves to be even more pro-business than the Tories and as hostile to those forced to survive on inadequate welfare benefits.

 

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People's Assembly rally for Corbyn

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On Saturday 20 June, Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) supporters attended the 'End Austerity Now' demonstration in London, called by the People's Assembly. Up to 150,000 people marched.

Following the addition of Jeremy Corbyn to the ballot for leader of the Labour Party, the People's Assembly attempted to turn the march into an election rally. Sam Fairbarn, General Secretary of the People's Assembly, was reported in The Guardian on 16 June as backing Corbyn and complaining that Burnham, Cooper and Kendall had refused to attend the march. Of Corbyn, he said ‘Jeremy is the only candidate who takes a principled anti-austerity, anti-war stance consistently’. This was followed by an article on 17 June by Chris Nineham, national officer of the Stop the War Coalition and a leading member of the People's Assembly, under the headline 'Corbyn is in the leadership race – don't just celebrate, organise!':

‘Getting Jeremy Corbyn onto the Labour leadership ballot was a breakthrough which opens up a big opportunity for the left in Britain...An ambitious, high profile campaign for Jeremy which draws on the movements against austerity, war and racism, can project radical ideas to a huge audience and build the forces of the left in every area.’

Yet Corbyn's 'principled stance' has not prevented him remaining a member of a Labour Party that in government has implemented savage austerity policies, murdered hundreds of thousands in imperialist wars, and when last in office boasted of deporting one person every eight minutes – all of this while he has been an MP. There is no chance Corbyn will win the leadership contest: he is simply a left cover its evermore reactionary character.

 

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Labour Party facing disintegration?

The outcome of the General Election may have been in doubt until the final moments, but the victory of the Conservatives following five years of punishing austerity for the working class demonstrates that the Labour Party presented no real opposition. It could not credibly reconcile its pro-austerity position with satisfying the needs of the working class and sections of the middle class. While it increased its support by one million votes across England and Wales, this was far short of the five million it had lost since 1997. With the trouncing it received in Scotland, losing 40 seats to the Scottish National Party (SNP), Labour ended up with 232 seats, 26 fewer than it had in the previous parliament. The Conservatives, with 331 seats, now have an unexpected overall majority of 12. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.

 

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Owen Jones: cheerleading for Labour racists

Owen Jones

In a Guardian Comment article on 21 April, Owen Jones openly called for a Labour vote to stop the cruel society being built by the Tories. The extremes of austerity, he said, would be challenged by Labour's £50bn spending promise. Never mind Labour supporting benefits sanctions, anti-immigration laws and refusing to meet the £8bn gap in NHS funding. Never mind that the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a dramatic fall in schools funding under both main parties. We can have austerity-lite. Pepsi instead of Coke. But Jones went further than that and credited Labour with following the demands of a mass movement by pledging to abolish the bedroom tax. He paints a picture of trade union 'activists' and 'dogged NHS campaigners' forcing Labour into progressive campaign promises, making struggles under a Miliband government more winnable. Under the Tories, he argues, resistance has 'no chance' of success. The reality is very different: Labour has consistently failed to respond to the needs of working class people who have been at the receiving end of the ConDem government’s austerity programme. On the contrary, it has promised to continue the attack. All that Jones does is offer a feeble excuse for spineless trade unions and covers up for the reactionary role of Labour councils while ignoring the victories of the Focus E15 Mothers and other housing campaigners in winning the right to stay in London because they don't fit his opportunist model.

 

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Labour: fighting for imperialism

The last Labour government waged war against Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq. It remains just as bellicose:

  • The assault on Libya, 2011. Only nine Labour MPs opposed Ed Miliband when he supported the NATO ‘no-fly zone’ amidst a hysterical climate demonising Colonel Gaddafi.
  • Intervention in Syria, August 2013. Although Labour voted against a motion to join the US in launching airstrikes on Syria, it did not oppose military action provided it had UN blessing.
  • Airstrikes on Iraq, September 2014. Labour supported airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq with just 23 of its MPs opposing a return to war. Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said Labour’s support for extending operations into Syria would not be conditional on UN authorisation, declaring that ‘the UK’s moral compass is not set in Moscow and Beijing’.
  • Sanctions against Russia in 2014: Alexander has been equally belligerent over the Ukraine crisis, stating in July that ‘Labour has called for further economic and diplomatic measures to ensure that Russia feels both the costs and consequences of its continued aggression towards Ukraine’. He has urged Russia’s expulsion from the G8, the suspension of military and civilian co-operation, and questioned whether Russia should host the 2018 World Cup. In February 2015 he supported the despatch of 75 British military advisers to the Ukrainian army.

Joey Simons

 

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Labour: one tweet away from a crisis

The reaction to a tweet sent on 19 November by the former shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry on the day before the Rochester and Strood by-election demonstrates the crisis facing the Labour Party. Committed to austerity and the interests of the City of London, Labour is as much a ruling class party as either the Tories or the LibDems. It cannot represent the mass of the working class: the abject implementation by Labour councils of a fifth round of local council service cuts proves that its loyalties lie with the maintenance of a decaying and rotten capitalist system. Its fear of upsetting the ruling class is so great that it will not commit to undoing these cuts if it wins the 2015 general election, nor will it restore lost NHS funding or end the PFI contracts that ruin its finances, or even take the very elementary and massively popular step of renationalising the railways.

 

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How to support Labour and hope to get away with it

• Owen Jones, The Establishmentand how they get away with it, Allen Lane, hardback, 358pp, £16.99

Owen Jones has become a celebrity on the left with his newspaper columns, first in The Independent and more recently in The Guardian. He is a major figure in the People’s Assembly, and can command substantial audiences when he speaks on its platforms across the country. His new book is a polemic against what he calls the Establishment, and it reads like an extended newspaper column in that it contains myriad useful facts and sharp observations for those wanting to fight back against austerity, but ultimately lacks real substance. His method is idealist: he cannot tie his Establishment down to the realities of British imperialism. As a result his conclusion, that Britain needs a democratic revolution to undermine the power of the Establishment, not only underestimates the scale of the struggle that this would require, but also fails to point to the agency for such a change. Furthermore, his failure to deal with the reactionary Labour Party leads the reader to conclude that however radical his politics seem, he will join those calling on us to vote Labour at next year’s general election.

 

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Building solidarity with Palestine –despite Labour attacks

Recent protests for Palestine have produced new forces that are keeping up the pressure against support for Israel in Britain. These new forces have been forced to organise outside the structures of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) because its leadership will not organise the mass direct action that is needed. The PSC values its friends in the Labour Party above all else.

Round up of protests

In Newcastle, FRFI supporters have consolidated Palestine Action Group (PAG) and are working alongside a new organisation, Response North East. On 16 August activists from PAG, FRFI and Response staged an all day picket of the local branch of HSBC, which underwrites the Israeli state budget. Despite a violent counter-protest by the EDL, the picket forced the bank to close its doors two hours early. FRFI, PAG, and Response have collaborated in other actions, including pickets of Marks and Spencer (M&S).

 

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The Labour Party: a ruling class party

The Labour Party is a racist, imperialist, anti-working class party. It always has been, and always will be.* Its purpose is to defend the interests of the British ruling class, an entirely parasitic layer whose enormous wealth is obtained through the ruthless robbery of the rest of the world engineered by the City of London. Labour represents the interests not only of the ruling class but also of better-off sections of the working class, a labour aristocracy which in the past was made up of skilled manual workers but now consists predominantly of degree-educated public sector workers, as well as the trade union bureaucracy.

 

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Miners’ strike 1984–1985

Thirty years ago at the beginning of March 1984 the majority of miners in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) began a historic year-long strike against pit closures and job losses. They were eventually forced back to work by a combination of the draconian and brutal actions of the Thatcher government allied with the treachery of the official Labour and trade union movement. The defeat of the miners was not just a defeat for the workers involved but also a major defeat for the whole working class, and its effects are still being felt today. Bob Shepherd reports.

The strike affected working class communities across the country as organisations and individuals were forced to take sides. What quickly became clear to the miners and their supporters was that for the strike to have any chance of success they had to organise beyond the trade union and labour movement as the Labour Party and TUC did all in their power to undermine it. The role of miners’ wives and other women in their communities became crucial firstly in organising food supplies and then in building broader political support for the strike. The strikers also received support from miners’ support groups that sprang up across the country.

 

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Tony Benn: airbrushed by the left

'Debate of the Decade' - March 1980

Tony Benn: airbrushed by the left

The death of Tony Benn on 14 March 2014 led to an outpouring of grief from both bourgeois politicians and socialist organisations across Britain. To the British left, Benn was the Labour Party MP-turned-socialist who, so the story goes, took a sharp left turn after serving as a member of government in the 1960s and 1970s. Little is said of his time in government, where he served as a cabinet member while Labour waged a dirty war in Ireland and defended Britain's economic and political ties to apartheid South Africa; of his undercover dealings with the apartheid regime; or of his role in driving down wages and conditions in Britain. The myth of ‘Tony Benn – socialist’ was manufactured by the opportunist left at a time when sections of the black and Irish working class were breaking with the Labour Party. The truth is that Benn never did a socialist thing or led a serious movement in his life, but he talked and wrote about it.

 

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Bob Crow 13 June 1961 - 11 March 2014

 Bob Crow

The Revolutionary Communist Group and its campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba, Rock Around the Blockade (RATB), send their condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Bob Crow, who died this morning. Bob Crow was the militant and vociferous General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, one of only two major British trade unions to have disaffiliated from the Labour Party.

Bob Crow took a principled stand in solidarity with socialist Cuba and RATB was pleased to host him at the launch event of our 2008 speaking tour with Che Guevara’s deputy Orlando Borrego and two other Cuban representatives. The RMT sponsored the speaking tour and Bob Crow publicly condemned the sectarianism of those who opposed the RMT’s support, as the video of his speech shows. He defended Cuba’s right to self-determination and supported its struggle for socialism.

 

The war on the miners, 1984-5

It is thirty years on from the beginning of the 1984-5 miners strike, and only now are the British public beginning to hear the truth about how the struggle was attacked by the ruling class. On 1 January 2014, almost 500 cabinet papers from 1984 were made public by the National Archives. Amongst these are the minutes of a secret meeting held on 15 September 1983 at 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Chancellor, Energy and Employment Secretaries,attended to discuss the National Coal Board's (NCB) ongoing pit closure programme. These minutes, confirm what has long been understood by the striking miners and their supporters: that there was a carefully-planned strategy led by the Thatcher government and NCB to destroy the coal industry, eradicate militant workers organised in the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and in particular, to smash working class communities.

 

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Lessons from Grangemouth

The capitulation of Unite the Union at the Grangemouth petrochemical refinery demonstrates how unable even a powerful and wealthy union it to defend workers’ conditions. After a two-day lock-out, workers at the refinery accepted a plan to savagely reduce their conditions. Justifying what happened, General Secretary Len McCluskey wrote in the Guardian that ‘Unite has reached an agreement with the owner, Ineos, which will guarantee the future of skilled and well-paid work at Grangemouth well into the future…That is what trade unions do’. Well-paid work at Grangemouth meant an average salary double the average wage. The fact is, however, that it was a major defeat, and will open the door to even more attacks on trade union rights.

 

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Syria, British imperialism and the Labour Party: wilful delusions of the British left

The government’s defeat in Parliament over intervention in Syria has led to a predictable increase in delusions amongst the British left. Leaders of Stop the War coalition (STW) at the national demonstration on 31 August in Trafalgar Square, attempted to take full credit for the House of Commons vote. Speaker after speaker, from Tariq Ali to Jeremy Corbyn MP, declared the outcome a victory for the anti-war movement. The defeat of the government is welcome, but we must not be deluded by STW either that the imperialist campaign against Syria has been averted, or that some mass movement is behind the defeat. The Labour Party has been widely held up as an anti-war force. Across the left there have been celebrations and calls to bring down the government. At the heart of these reactions is a wilful misunderstanding of British imperialism and its role in the world. Toby Harbertson reports.

 

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North East People’s Assembly platform for Labour traitors

On 14 September, the North East People’s Assembly Against Austerity gave centre stage to Labour Party councillors and their supporters. The organisers attempted to present the event as an alternative to the savage austerity of the coalition government. However, Labour in the northeast has been implementing the government’s cuts, with £100m of council cuts in Newcastle last year alone. James Bell reports.

In a session on the bedroom tax, David Stockdale, Labour councillor for Newcastle’s Blakelaw ward, stated: ‘I wake up every morning believing I have done all I can to oppose the bedroom tax.’ In reality he has done nothing. When challenged on his role in passing the £100m cuts budget, Stockdale had only excuses: ‘Yes, I voted for the cuts, and as a cabinet member I had to oversee library closures, but we are in a tough position. Sometimes you have to make compromises when you’re a member of a party. If we voted against the cuts what do you think would happen?’

 

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Marching against the Tories in Manchester

On 29 September around 50,000 people joined the TUC march through Manchester as the Conservative Party began their conference at the Gmex centre. Beforehand, the TUC had colluded with police to make sure we ended up a mile away from the Tory conference in Whitworth Park. The march passed by without so much as a short sit-in outside the Tory conference. There were thousands of 'save our NHS' placards, union banners, balloons and whistles but militancy was in short supply. A young man from Italy remarked about how quiet the march was. It felt very much like a 'nice day out' on a Sunday for union members. A Greek comrade asked why there were no political slogans.

From the platform at the end, the intentions of the TUC and its supporters in the People's Assembly Against Austerity became clear. Cherry-picked celebrity and union speakers queued up to issue barely disguised calls for a vote for the Labour Party – in a city where the Labour-controlled council has just announced another £52 million in cuts, on top of the £250 million it has slashed from childcare, homeless support, mental health services, drug and dependency groups, libraries, youth clubs and other public services since 2010.

 

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Defend the Newcastle 14!

On 25 May, 14 anti-racist protesters, including FRFI supporters, were arrested while leafleting for a counter-demonstration against the English Defence League (EDL) organised by Newcastle Unites. a coalition of Labour Party members, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Newcastle TUC. Newcastle Unites had told FRFI supporters we would be prevented from attending the demonstration because of our opposition to the Labour Party, and then worked hand-in-glove with the police to ensure this happened. Those arrested had their houses raided, and their computers and mobile phones seized. Since then the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign (N14DC) has been active in mobilising support for the comrades, going from door to door with petitions, hosting speak-outs, and on 20 July, marching to the city’s central police station.

 

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Trade unions - whose interests do they represent?

The public row between Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Unite the Union general secretary Len McCluskey over the selection of a parliamentary candidate for the Falkirk constituency has been presented as a battle for the working class soul of the Party. The Blairite Progress group wants to end the union link; in contrast, Unite has a programme to ‘promote a new generation of Unite activists towards public office’. Miliband says he wants to ‘mend, not end’ the relationship with the unions – in other words, to further limit their influence. Robert Clough reports.

 

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Assembling for Labour

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Across Britain, Labour councils are collaborating with the ConDem government to bring in massive cuts, attacking the living standards of millions. With a general election due in less than two years, the Labour Party leadership is stating clearly that it will retain all the existing cuts and will add a few more for good measure. Labour leaders Ed Miliband and Ed Balls say that if elected, a Labour government will maintain 'iron discipline' over state expenditure to continue the 'hard reality' for working class people. They will not commit to ending the bedroom tax or Universal Credit, and they will continue privatising the NHS and education system. They are in favour of workfare for young people without a job more than a year. They want to means test more universal benefits such as the winter fuel allowance for pensioners and cap state welfare expenditure. The message is clear: a Labour government will be as reactionary as the ConDem coalition it might replace.

 

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Newcastle unites – police agents

Below we publish two articles: a statement by Newcastle Unites issued on 3 June in response to reports posted on our website since 7 May, and our reply. Our reports expose Newcastle Unites’ policy of sectarianism, threats and violence and police collusion in response to a political challenge. Its statement is a concoction of abuse and lies. However, we publish it because we are opposed to censorship. Our reply, which follows the statement, provides clear evidence of the extent to which Newcastle Unites collaborated with the police and ensured the arrests of 14 anti-fascists on 25 May

 

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Police agents set up FRFI supporters for arrest in Newcastle

On 25 May, as the racist English Defence League (EDL) marched through Newcastle, police arrested 14 anti-fascists, detained them for up to 10 hours, and raided their homes, seizing computers and mobile phones. Seven FRFI supporters were among the detainees. They were seized half-an-hour before the counter-demonstration organised by Newcastle Unites was due to assemble. In the weeks before the EDL march, Newcastle Unites, a coalition of Labour councillors, local trade union officials and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), was determined to exclude FRFI and other militant anti-fascists from its march. Its planning meetings were held in secret and its members physically assaulted FRFI supporters to exclude them. On the day of the march, Newcastle Unites stewards colluded openly with Northumbria police to identify our comrades for arrest.

 

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Newcastle TUC secretary threatens FRFI

FRFI received the following email from Jim Simpkin, Newcastle TUC Secretary on 21 May 2013:

Dear Sir

It is with deep regret that I have to raise this matter at a national level but your members in Newcastle upon Tyne are using your website to continual attack local trade Unionist in the days prior to an EDL march in the City.

If you do not remove these offensive articles submitted by Newcastle FRFI by close of business today, then further action will have to be taken.

Articles dated: 7th, 15th & 19th May 2013

 

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Newcastle Unites: Labour threats escalate

FRFI supporters in Newcastle have been attempting for weeks to participate in the mobilisation against the EDL on 25 May, but have been met with violent and sectarian hostility from the organisers of Newcastle Unites. The figurehead of Newcastle Unites, Labour councillor Dipu Ahad, has now threatened to set the police on FRFI and other anti-fascists.

On 15 May Unite Against Fascism (UAF) North East sent a message inviting FRFI North East to support the demonstration. We replied confirming that we would attend and support the demonstration, and would encourage others to do so. Within an hour of accepting the invitation, Newcastle Unites emailed us:

Dear FRFI,

UAF has forwarded us your recent email in which you say you will be attending Newcastle Unites demonstration against the EDL on the 25th May.  It is really quite astounding that after your recent actions in exposing our meeting venue and placing our members at risk (an act for which you have shown no contrition) you consider that we would allow you on this demonstration.  The organising group of Newcastle Unites discussed your behaviour at last night's meeting and agreed unanimously not to allow you to attend either the demonstration or the public meeting.  If you choose to ignore our decision and do turn up you will not be welcome and we shall take all necessary steps to ensure that you play no part of these activities.

 

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Response to Newcastle Unites 14 May 2013

On 10 May, FRFI published a report of a sexist attack by SWP and TUC officials on FRFI supporters who attempted to attend a meeting of Newcastle Unites against the EDL on 7 May (SWP and Newcastle TUC: sexist thugs defend Labour, 7 May 2013).

On 13 May, Newcastle Unites responded – not on the issue of its violence towards us, but instead claiming that we had endangered their organisation by naming the venue in which they were secretly meeting. Let us be clear: this is hogwash. The TUC centre has been used for all sorts of left-wing, anti-racist and anti-fascist meetings. The TUC itself has taken a public stand against the EDL. There has been no EDL attack on the premises. Meetings of Tyneside Community Action against Racism (TCAR) have been publicly advertised at the same venue and have not been attacked.

 

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SWP and Newcastle TUC: sexist thugs defend Labour, 7 May 2013

FRFI in Newcastle has a record of fighting fascism in unity with other forces, including standing with Newcastle Occupy when it was attacked by drunken EDL thugs in 2011. Yet on 7 May, Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) District Organiser Yunus Bakhsh launched a vicious, sexist attack on Newcastle FRFI supporters when they attempted to join a planning meeting of Newcastle Unites against the EDL. Focusing his vitriol on a female comrade, Dionne, Bakhsh did what the SWP does more and more often today: defend Labour Party officials no matter how appalling their anti-working class record.

 

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The dead end politics of Owen Jones

Following the publication of his book Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class in 2011, Owen Jones emerged onto the political stage with a call for a new ‘movement on the left to counter capitalism’s crisis’. Jones describes how ‘In the past two years of traipsing around the country, speaking to students, workers, unemployed and disabled people, I’ve met thousands who want to do something with their anger’. He is currently involved in a bit more traipsing around, addressing anti-cuts meetings and standing shoulder to shoulder on platforms with Labour MPs and trade unionists. Susan Davidson analyses the results.

 

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Public sector unions buckle as attacks on working class intensify

Public sector unions buckle as attacks on working class intensify

Ruling Class Rampant

The first three months of 2012 have seen the assault on working class conditions reach unprecedented levels. Cuts in Local Housing Allowance are making thousands of families and young single people homeless. The punitive Welfare Reform Bill has become law: its main aim is to cut the disability payments budget by 20%. The Health and Social Care Bill has also been passed, enabling the break-up and privatisation of the NHS. More than a third of people claiming incapacity benefit have been deemed fit for work under the vindictive assessments administered to date by Atos, and forced onto Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and deeper into poverty. The April rise in the family tax credit threshold will plunge nearly half a million children into poverty. A further round of drastic cuts in local council service provision: adult and children’s social care services are being slashed across the country, libraries and day centres are being closed, services for the homeless cut. Life for working class people dependent on these services will become immeasurably harder. Robert Clough reports.

 

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All eyes on Unite: no BESNA through the back door

On 17 February Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) withdrew the controversial Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) that proposed to cut the wages of electricians by up to 35%. This followed nearly seven months of unofficial protests, site shut downs and walkouts by electricians across the country. Under pressure from the rank and file, Unite had called two ballots against BBES. The first was in November 2011 which despite the 81.6% turn out in favour of strike action, Unite called off due to legal pressure from BBES. Continued unofficial protests forced another ballot at the beginning of February 2012 which returned 66% in favour of strike action and 70% in favour of action short of a strike. BBES again moved to take legal action. However on 16 February, the High Court ruled in favour of Unite, legalising the strike. The following day BBES entered negotiations with Unite and a joint statement was released announcing the withdrawal of the BESNA ‘on the basis that wide ranging talks will now take place on modernising the industry’. Unite then immediately called off all industrial action and protest.

 

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