Support the PCS Strike on Budget Day

PCS-union

The PCS has voted to take strike action over pensions and pay this Wednesday.

At the same time, George Osborne will be announcing another round of austerity measures in the annual Budget.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is not a one-day protest, this is the start of a rolling programme of walkouts and disruptive action to put pressure on a government that is refusing to talk to us.”

Protests and rallies are taking place across the country. In addition to early morning picketing outside local job centres, tax offices, etc, in the North West these will be at:

Liverpool – 11am, Liner Hotel, Liverpool

Manchester – 11.30am, Piccadilly Gardens Manchester, M60 1HX (Contact Alex Davidson 07842 829 309)

Preston – 11am, Flag Market, (Market Square), PR1 2PP. (Contact Lynn Wallace 07909 524 260)

Members, who include customs, immigration, benefits and Jobcentre staff, want a 5% pay rise, or £1,200.

A campaign against tax avoidance and evasion is also at the heart of the action.

Lost faith

Mark Serwotka confirmed members would “quickly follow up our Budget day strike” with another walkout in a bid to “step up our campaigning for the government to take serious action against wealthy tax dodgers”.

“With polls showing people are less likely to support government policies if George Osborne’s name is attached, it is clear the public have lost faith in austerity and want an alternative.”

The union also accuses the Treasury of urging ministers to scrap decades-old civil service pay arrangements that enable staff to progress from minimum starting levels up a series of pay bands within their grade.

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When Are They Gonna Learn? (Fracking Hell!)

A story by REAF (Ribble Estuary Against Fracking) as told by Southport Band The End.

We also hope The End will be performing at Camp Frack 2 on the weeknd of the 10th, 11th & 12th May at Mere Brow, nr Tarleton, Lancashire.

https://www.facebook.com/events/124894184355311/

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Posted in Campaigns & Events, Climate Change, News, Programme & Policies, Trade Unions | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

We Don’t Want Your Fracking Well!

Here’s an excellent anti-fracking song by Grass.

We hope songwriter Jeff White and crew will be performing at Camp Frack 2.

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More details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/124894184355311/

Camp Frack 2 is now supported by the NW TUC.

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Let’s Get the Party Started!

The current TUSC model has failed, argues Nick Wrack

NickWrack

The 62 votes obtained by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the March 1 Eastleigh by-election should cause everyone to reflect. It is not just a matter for supporters of TUSC. It raises important questions for all who want an alternative to the anti-working class policies supported by all the established political parties.

I want to make it clear that what follows is not a criticism of the hard work that is put into TUSC election campaigns. I know that supporters in Eastleigh will have worked extremely hard over the two or three weeks of the campaign. Daz Procter, the TUSC candidate, is an elected member of the RMT national executive and was an excellent candidate. I am not attacking any one person or group. I am criticising the strategy that underpins TUSC’s electoral interventions.

In this article I argue that the current model is inadequate and ultimately counterproductive. All the hard work put in during elections produces smaller and smaller returns. Such a low vote leads to embarrassment and demoralisation, and reinforces the idea that the left is incapable of mounting any sort of serious electoral challenge. Getting such a low vote makes it harder to win the argument with those not yet convinced that something can be done.

That is not to say that a new left party would be immune from such poor results. That is part of the risk of standing in elections. But if there is a perspective for growth, for improvement and for building the project, such setbacks can be absorbed, the lessons learned and things can move on. When the low vote is set against a reluctance or refusal by some parts of TUSC to allow new forces to join and is combined with the absence of an individual membership structure, it can only convey the impression that, as presently constructed, TUSC is going nowhere.

MODEL CURRENTLY ADOPTED BY TUSC MAKES IT ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO OBTAIN THE BEST POSSIBLE RESULT!

It is true that Eastleigh was not favourable terrain. It is a Liberal Democrat stronghold – the Lib Dems held onto the seat notwithstanding the scandal surrounding Chris Huhne’s departure and the party’s involvement in the coalition government. But the model currently adopted by TUSC makes it almost impossible to obtain the best possible result, even in a more favourable constituency.

No organisation, whether it is TUSC or a new socialist party, can turn up two or three weeks before an election and expect to obtain anything but a derisory result. It will certainly not win the sort of vote that could be obtained if the whole of the preceding period has seen that organisation campaigning, agitating and arguing for its programme, involving itself in all aspects of working class struggle.

I have no doubt that members of the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party are involved in all sorts of working class struggles. But they participate in those as SP or SWP activists with SP or SWP literature, promoting and recruiting to their own parties. This is indisputable. Their members justify this with various arguments that boil down essentially to the simple proposition that only their party has the answers.

There are consequences arising from that approach for any broader coalition or new party. It means that the work to build the bigger formation always takes second place. That is not to say that the SP or SWP do not put in time, effort and money into building TUSC. They do. But it is undermined by the fact that once an election is finished they will turn their attention once again to their own party-building, and the TUSC profile will be relegated until the next election. You cannot build a successful electoral coalition or a new party on that basis.

BEGIN THE PROCESS

There is little point in those of us who want a party formation bemoaning the attitude of the SP or SWP. Their political priorities are their prerogative. We should continue to work with them where possible, but we should not allow their agenda to set ours.

Building a new socialist party would in fact strengthen the whole of the left by bringing together all those who want a party that challenges Labour from the left, but do not feel inclined to join any on offer at present. No-one should underestimate the difficulties. Over the last 20 years a large scrapyard has been filled with the wreckage of previous failed attempts – the Socialist Labour Party, Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Respect.

These projects have failed for a combination of reasons. First is the massive pull of Labour, which persuades lots of working class activists that there is no alternative. Labour must be supported to keep out the Tories. This is a political argument that must be confronted. Voting for the ‘lesser evil’ may keep out the Tories, but will not deliver any prospect of change that benefits Labour voters. Second is the background of 30 years of defeat for the working class in Britain and abroad and the retreat of socialist ideas.

But the more immediate cause of the failure has been down more to the sectarianism of the various socialist groups, who all think they know the path through the woods: a refusal to work together for the greater cause of building a viable party; a lack of democracy and the unaccountability of prominent leaders; a failure to understand that there is no easy way to build such a new party. It will take patience and hard work. All involved will have to have a sense of proportion and perspective. No party can be built without disagreement, argument and dissent. It will take time to establish its own inner life.

Notwithstanding all the obstacles, the objective need for a new party is there for everyone to see. Everything that working class people came to expect in the half-century following the end of World War II is being smashed to pieces – living standards, pensions, access to affordable homes, education and health. In short, the reforms of the welfare state are being wrenched away. And all the main political parties, including Labour, support this. Alongside this savagery comes attack after attack on the most vulnerable in society – the young, the old, the poor, the sick, the disabled, those out of work, those in overcrowded accommodation. All of this is prosecuted with the argument that there is no alternative; that the market dictates and that capitalism is the only possible way of organising the economy.

THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE!

Socialists argue that there is an alternative. It is to eradicate capitalism and to construct a new society based on need, not profit. Here and now, resistance to austerity is vital, but it is only half of the answer. We need a political response to the economic and social attacks on us. The recent call for a People’s Assembly is to be welcomed, but there is a real danger that it simply becomes a way to drive the anti-austerity vote towards Labour at the next election.

What we need is a political party that not only seeks to resist the attacks now, but also argues for a change in the way that society is organised. Such a political party would have to seek support for its ideas within society. This means standing in elections must be a part of its work. Undoubtedly, the votes it received initially would be generally low. But, as its profile increased and its arguments and policies became better understood, it could begin to make headway. Particularly if Labour forms the government in 2015 and implements austerity policies, such a new party could make significant strides forward. But it is important to try to lay the basis for that now. That is why the self-imposed limitations to growth set by TUSC are disappointing.

There are many socialists active in the Labour Party who argue that it can be won to the ideas of socialism. Whilst I do not agree with them, I wish them well. Socialists inside and outside Labour should collaborate whenever possible on practical issues and to argue for socialist ideas.

The Labour Party has never been a socialist party, but rather an uncomfortable marriage of liberalism and socialism. Ultimately liberalism triumphed completely. But it retains its mass working class support and its trade union links. It is a capitalist party with a working class base and that base has to be won to the ideas of socialism. That is no easy task. And it certainly will not be accomplished in a short time. But the process has to begin.

STEP FORWARD

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition was an attempt to address some of these issues. It was formed as an electoral coalition to present an alternative at the ballot box. This, in my opinion, was a step in the right direction. The involvement of the RMT transport union in the coalition gave it a greater authority within the trade union movement and beyond.

It should be remembered that it has obtained some good results for a new formation – in 2012 it received 4,792 votes (4.7%) in the Liverpool mayoral election, over 10% in 14 local council elections and more than 5% in a further 39. These have been obtained with few resources and little name recognition, and indicate the possibilities of building an alternative on a much bigger scale.

However, the current model is preventing it from matching up to the possibilities. There is a problem in the fact that TUSC is a coalition created solely for the purpose of standing in elections. This means that it does not participate in its own name in any of the many working class struggles that are taking place in every town and city. It does not participate in the strikes and demonstrations against pension reforms or austerity generally, nor in the campaigns against the bedroom tax, against attacks on the disabled and a hundred other issues.

If TUSC were seen as a stepping stone or a transition towards a new party, then it would have some purpose. But it is increasingly obvious that this is not the case. There have been no developments in that direction. Individual supporters cannot join it. Supporting organisations cannot join it. This leaves the coalition comprising the RMT, the SWP, the SP and a small group of independent socialists organised in the Independent Socialist Network.

It means that the coalition can never significantly increase or expand. The Socialist Party has opposed the participation of Socialist Resistance on the national steering committee and suggested that it reapply when it has 1,000 members.

NO NEW PARTNERS ON THE HORIZON

There are no new partners on the horizon. TUSC is therefore condemned to remain at its present size. The consequence of this approach will be that it stagnates and ultimately goes the way of previous projects.

TUSC has no national apparatus and hence no national profile. Some comrades have complained about the lack of media coverage, but this is only to be expected. A small electoral organisation that does not even take itself seriously enough to appoint a press officer cannot really expect to be taken seriously by the media.

The only way that any new alternative organisation or party could force its way into the media is by developing a national profile. That would mean serious interventions in every national and local demonstration, strike, picket line, protest and meeting with leaflets, pamphlets and recruitment literature; a media strategy to promote spokespersons, putting out regular national and local press releases and a serious presence on social media. But primarily the media will only pay attention when this organisation achieves something or does something of significance. They are not going to give us free publicity without good reason.

MISCONCEIVED PROJECT

The current model is based on a misconceived project – certainly as seen by the Socialist Party, which calls for the trade unions to form a new mass workers’ party. This is basically a replication of the formation of the Labour Party at the beginning of the 20th century. The concept is of a workers’ party in which the SP constitutes the socialist wing. Where that leaves all the other socialists is anyone’s guess.

The problem with this concept is, firstly, that we do not need a modern version of the old Labour Party. We need a socialist party. Secondly, the argument that we cannot move to any party formation until the trade union leaders so decide means that we will be waiting a very long time. No such step is going to be taken by any union this side of the 2015 general election and probably not for a long time afterwards. In the meantime, the strategy of sitting tight in TUSC and waiting for another union to break ranks with Labour is simply not good enough.

BOTTOM UP

What we need is those socialists who see the necessity for a new socialist party to come together and to build it from the bottom up. This will be hard, but it is the only way. On the March 1 edition of the BBC’s Question time film director Ken Loach argued that we need a new party of the left – a UKIP of the left, if you like. He has also argued this in a recent interview. We should rally to that call and help make it a reality.

Such a new party should commit itself to ‘defend, extend and transform’. By that I mean that it should be with all struggles to defend past gains, such as the welfare state, the NHS, decent wages and safe working conditions. It should seek to extend those gains wherever possible. In the present economic conditions that would mean mobilising mass, militant action to obtain further concessions. But these campaigns should not be limited to economic issues alone. It should also take up the issues of democracy, civil liberties, war and peace, the media. Thirdly, it should explicitly proclaim that it seeks power in order to fundamentally transform society from the present capitalist system, that benefits only a tiny few, to one based on the democratic common ownership of the resources of society for the benefit of all. That is, it must be a socialist party.

This means the party must have an internationalist outlook and look to work with others, primarily across Europe, to bring about this change. There is no nationalist answer to the crisis we are experiencing.

This party must be completely democratic. There is no prospect of inspiring people to give their time, energy and money to an organisation that only exists at election time, which they cannot join and in which they have no democratic input on questions of policy and activity. It must have members who can democratically participate in the discussion on programme and practice. The members should elect the leadership, who should be accountable to the members.

All of this should be ABC and there is now an urgency to starting the process.

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Temperature Rises in Greater Manchester Campaign to Save OUR NHS!

save-bolton-aeHere’s a report and some video footage from the Greater Manchester Health Emergency Summit which took place on Saturday 16th February at the Friends’ Meeting House in central Manchester.

There is an excellent report of the Conference by Bernadatte Hyland on her Lipstick Socialist Blog @ http://lipsticksocialist.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/temperature-rises-in-greater-manchester-campaign-to-save-nhs/

The following contains  extracts from her report, plus additional video footage from the event:

More than a hundred activists gathered at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester to discuss the crisis facing the NHS. Although organised by the Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils, it was much broader than the trade union movement in terms of the individuals and groups who turned up to the meeting. In her opening speech one of conference organisers, Pia Feig, outlined the scale of the health emergency; It is a wholesale assault on the welfare state. We need to organise a fightback against the cuts, at a local, regional and national level.

Dr. John Lister of the Health Emergency Campaign stressed the importance of a united campaign and told the meeting about how thousands of people had demonstrated in Lewisham against the closure of their A&E. The campaign in London was broad-based including councils such as Ealing, as well as the trade unions. John said that; the priority is to keep services alive and to push every button to mobilise individuals and groups. He believed that the Tory Government was worse than Thatcher in its determination to tear up the legislation that had set up the NHS in 1946. He said: We have to defend services and make them fit for purpose.

The above clip is of the first part of the contribution made by Dr. John Lister in the opening session of the Conference. John is well respected and longstanding campaigner for the NHS and a Director of Health Emergency.

Here is a video of the second part of John’s speech:

Karen Reissman, of the Save Bolton A&E Campaign, explained how the cuts were affecting her hospital. Five hundred staff are at risk of losing their jobs. …… five hundred people less working in our hospital will seriously compromise the health of local people. In Bolton 30,000 people have signed a petition to oppose the cuts and had joined the healthworkers in the campaign to save the A&E. Karen told the meeting that in Mid-Yorkshire the healthworkers have gone on strike over the cuts and she encouraged people to send messages of support to the strikers.

In the workshops a variety of individuals and groups spoke about their own local activity. Jo Harding, of the Save Trafford General Campaign, told participants how their campaign started with just two people and that regular street stalls and petitioning had galvanised the local community in a high profile and positive campaign.

She said that the petition was the most powerful tool in raising public awareness and it was the first time that people found out about what was really happening. Every week campaign members went out to towns across the borough to do street stalls and challenge the blatant lies that the officials were putting out. They had put the petition on the internet and, whilst recognising that this was a good way of contacting some people, it did not have the impact that talking to people face to face had.

save trafford a&E

Some people had become organised through the internet based lobby group 38 Degrees. Speakers from Stockport, Bury and Salford explained how they had become active by signing petitions through 38 Degrees and were now involved in work on the local Clinical Commissioning Groups. Khalil Secker the Campaigns Officer of the University of Manchester Students’ Union told the meeting how he had taken a one year sabbatical from his medical degree to run their campaign to Save the NHS.

Several members of Unison who attended the Conference spoke about the atmosphere within their own hospitals and the difficulties of union activity when £20 billion worth of cuts were being demanded by the Tory government. They felt it was important to join with the public in order to build up a campaign to challenge both the cuts in jobs and defend the service.

Dr. David Wrigley spoke in the second full Conference session. David is a North West based GP and an active member of Keep Our NHS Public. He is also a member of the British Medical Association General Practitioners’ Committee.

This clip is of the contribution made by David, a Trafford resident and a member of the Save Trafford General campaign, in the second full Conference session.

The conference ended with a variety of activities being planned, including linking up with other campaigns for a week of action in May, helping other people to organise local campaigns across Greater Manchester, and building up contacts with other campaigns that are facing cuts, including the Fire Brigades Union.

Pia Feig summed up the day: I think the best thing that came out of the conference and it was timely, was that it brought together people who are organising in a small way and they could meet with people from their area and share resources, and create informal networks where people can decide what is the best thing to do in their locality. For the Unison members who attended I think it showed them that there are people outside the NHS who want to work with them and it will boost their confidence in defending the service from the inside.

Next meeting:
Thursday 28 Feb, 7pm,
room G1 at the Friends Meeting House,
6 Mount St., Manchester city centre
Room booked as “GMATUC / Keep Our NHS Public”.

Andy Burnham has agreed to speak at a public meeting on
Friday 8th March 6pm Bolton Town Hall.
The Staff Side Committee of Bolton Royal Infirmary have agreed to host the meeting (after meeting local MPs, who are all on board).

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United Response from the Left required to the Crisis We are Facing!

Video footage of Nick Wrack of the Independent Socialist Network speaking at the recent “Socialist Organisation & Democracy Today” meeting in Manchester organised by the Anticapitalist Initiative, Socialist Resistance and the Independent Socialist Network.

The meeting brought together activists from a range of backgrounds, who recognise the need for both a united response from the anti-Capitalist Left, as well as a more democratic and pluralist conception of organisation, which encourages free thinking, participation and autonomy, so that after decades of sectarian division, defeats and confusion, all those who claim the mantle of standing for the interests of the working class might begin at long last, to seriously meet the huge political challenges the majority of people are faced with arising from the deepening global crisis of the Capitalist system.

Further video footage of the meeting which also included contributions from Cat Rylance of the Anti-Capitalist Initiative and Terry Conway of Socialist Resistance can be viewed at: http://anticapitalists.org/2013/02/14/videos-socialist-organisation-and-democracy-manchester/

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Camp Frack 2 – No to Fracking – Yes to One Million Climate Jobs – 10th/11th/12th May

Confirmed on Friday, Camp Frack 2 will take place on the weekend of the 10th/11th & 12th May at a ten acre site adjacent to the Leisure Lakes Complex at Mere Brow near Tarleton, Lancashire (between Preston & Southport). PLEASE PUT THESE DATES IN YOUR DIARY NOW.

A weekend of activity in opposition to fracking and other forms of extreme energy, as well as in support of the fight for One Million Climate Jobs. Event to include live music, presentations, film showings, discussions on campaign strategy, poetry, a protest action, and a beer tent. Camping optional but enough space for many hundreds of tents.

Organised by a broad coalition of anti-fracking and environmental groups in the North West including members of Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, Residents’ Action Against Fylde Fracking, Frack Free Fylde, Merseyside Against Fracking, Friends of the Earth and Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils.

Supported by the Campaign Against Climate Change TU Group who are behind the One Million Climate Jobs Report and hopefully a raft of other pro-environmental, anti-climate change and anti-austerity groups by the time it takes place. Further info to follow, including the details of bands and other performers, national speakers and celebrity guests, also concerning the precise location of the site and how to get there.

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/124894184355311/

Interim Artwork for Camp Frack 2

Interim Artwork for Camp Frack 2

SITE LOCATION
LL NW Location Sat

 

Blown up satellite view of the site

Leisure Lakes Site Sat

1 = Field 1 (Possible Main Event Field)
2 = Field 2 (Possible Camping Field)
3 = Field 3 (Car Parking)
4 = Overflow Car Park (if required)

The light green lines are access points to each of the fields and overflow car park.

Posted in Campaigns & Events, Climate Change, Programme & Policies, Trade Unions, Viewpoint, Youth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment