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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