Category Archives: Politics

FREEDOM FOR THE ALTSASU EIGHT! UPDATE

The international campaign in solidarity with the ALTSASU Eight has spread far and wide. As well as hundreds of signatures on the petition in Euskal Herria and the Spanish State, socialists, trade unionists and young people around the world are also showing solidarity.

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Solidarity with Altsasu 8 from CWI in China, Hong Kong & Taiwan

On February 4th Dublin City council passed a resolution calling for the release of the Altsasu 8. The motion was proposed by Solidarity Councillor and Socialist Party member Michael O’Brien who received support and advice from Dublin and Brussels based Basque solidarity activists as well as from his comrades in the Socialist Party’s sister group in the Committee for a Workers International Euskal Herria Sozialista.

The resolution deplored the continuing policy of the Spanish State of dispersing Basque prisoners to the farthest extremities of the Spanish State and:

  • Furthermore, along with Amnesty International and 50 MEPs, notes with alarm the case of the Altsasu eight young people who following an altercation with two off duty Guardia Civil in a bar in 2016 have been found guilty of ‘disobeying authority’ charges (under appeal) resulting in severe jail sentences
  • joins the calls of others internationally for their immediate release and the withdrawal of the charges
  • resolves to communicate the terms of this motion to the Spanish Ambassador and the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Chief Executive of the Dublin City Council is now obliged to write to the Spanish Ambassador in Dublin and the Oireachtas (Parliamentary) Committee for Foreign Affairs which we hope will generate further publicity and embarrassment for the Spanish State Establishment and provide a boost for the prisoners, the Altsasu 8 and their respective families. We hope similar motions are passed by other local government bodies internationally as well as in trade union organisations to add to the pressure for a settlement of the prisoner dispersal scandal and the release of the Altsasu 8.

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Do clothes maketh the man?

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Major, Blair and Brown playing the establishment part

Jeremy Corbyn was predictably attacked by the Daily Heil for looking ‘scruffy and disrespectful’ at the Cenotaph this year.  When the ruling class fear the possibility of a Left Labour government any line of attack is legitimate.

Thirty seven years ago the MSM carried out an almost identical attack on the then Labour leader Michael Foot.

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Thatcher, praying for a war in 1981 to go up in the polls

Foot was accused of wearing a donkey jacket to the Remembrance Day service in 1981. A right wing Labour MP said he was, “disgusted to see that the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition looked more like an Irish navvy than a party leader”.

Years later the Telegraph admitted that the attack on Foot had been unfair. According to  Foot’s official biographer, Lord Morgan, the coat was not a donkey jacket – which would have leather shoulders – but a “a short, blue-green overcoat” bought for Mr Foot by his wife, Jill at considerable expense.

It was no accident the Tories and the Labour Right-wing through their kept press accused Foot of wearing a donkey jacket and looking like an Irish navvy. Thatcher was low in the polls and they needed to undermine Foot, so any means was necessary. It was also significant that they tried to link Foot to the way working class people dressed at the time, as a couple of years previously thousands of local authority workers, many in donkey jackets had been striking for decent pay. The Tories hated Foot’s opposition to nuclear weapons but they hate the working class more.

Ex-political editor of the Guardian Michael White first attacked Corbyn’s sartorial choices in 2015 when he asked the question, Jeremy Corbyn: is the world ready for his socks and sandals? In a bizarre article White mused: “I woke this morning after a good night’s sleep to face a nagging question in my head. Did Jeremy Corbyn use to wear open-toed sandals around Westminster in hot weather? Does he still? They’re comfy (I wear them myself), but ridiculous. If memory serves, he wore them with socks, white socks even”.

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Corbyn showing he is unfit to be PM by wearing socks with sandals

What is this obsession with the clothing of Left-wing Labour politicians? As Michael Rosen wrote in his poem, The War of Corbyn’s Coat

It’s not his coat they hate.

That’s not really their cause

What gets up all their noses?

He opposes all their wars.

The photo of Corbyn next to Theresa May is telling. Behind them are three former PMs in almost identical coats. Being members of the establishment like Major, Blair and Brown certainly are, brings a certain responsibility to ‘look the part, be the part’ as Proposition Joe said to Avon in The Wire.

The expensive clothes and formal, almost identical way most UK politicians dress expresses their consensus on the big issues of supporting capitalism and keeping the working class down. The look is meant to covey the power and uniformity of the elite. Jeremy Corbyn does not conform politically and is certainly not part of the political elite, so why would he turn up at the Cenotaph looking exactly like Major, Blair and Brown?

The ruling class have a long history of using clothes to differentiate themselves from the great unwashed. Look at the uniforms in the armed services and the rows of undeserved medals on the chests of Charles Windsor and his family.

Over one hundred years ago, Keir Hardie, the first Labour MP caused outrage when he turned up to the Gasworks (as he called Parliament) without a Top Hat! Hardie was clear that a Labour representative should not ape ruling class dress rules.

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Top hats to be worn by all MPs is an official Rees-Mogg policy.

But it is not only the UK where clothes play a part in politics. When PODEMOS made their electoral breakthrough the young deputies turned up to parliament without ties and some of the men even had pony tails!

The establishment parties were outraged. The morning TV magazine  programmes spewed out attacks on the PODEMOS ‘hippies’. A conservative PP deputy Villalobos even expressed a fear she could catch fleas from a PODEMOS deputy who had rastas!

When it comes to clothes socialists and the Left can never please the establishment. A couple of years after Michael Foot was unfairly criticised for what he wore at the Cenotaph, a majority of socialist councillors were elected in Liverpool. The struggle of the City that Dared to Fight Thatcher is still a reference for those who want to implement Left-wing policies at a local level.

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Militant leaders of Liverpool Council like Derek Hatton and Tony Mulhearn were accused of being ‘too flashy’ and wearing sharp suits. So, Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn are too scruffy and Derek Hatton and Tony Mulhearn were too smart…..

Maybe it is not really about the clothes and it is all about the socialist ideas…..

 

 

 

UN POVERTY REPORT a damning condemnation of UK capitalism

Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty, travelled across the country to examine the impact of austerity and also came to Newcastle…

This report is a damning condemnation of UK capitalism.

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According to his research, 14 million people – a fifth of the population – live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basics essentials.
Alston interviewed council leaders: “On the local authority budget cuts, Mr Alston told a press conference: “The leader of Newcastle told me ‘we have been reduced to emergency service provision, we don’t have the money to do anything more.
“Yet when I meet the Treasury they say it’s fine, these councils have a lot of money. It is totally an economic analysis that ignores the damage being done to society.”

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, says he hopes the UN report will result in major changes.

He added: “Earlier this month I shared our city’s painful experiences of being a pilot for Universal credit, amid the wider impact of Government-ordered austerity.”

What is missing from the report is the lamentable role of ‘Labour’ councils, in passing on Tory cuts over many years to the people of the North East.

Nick Forbes can can condemn central government all he likes but what has he and the vast majority of ‘Labour’ councils done to fight back against the cuts?

In my home-town 57% voted to leave the EU. Gateshead is a borough where 27% of children are born into and live their lives in poverty.

Liberals, Tories, Blairites and #FBPE fanatics look down their noses at working class people who voted to leave the EU.

The campaign for a so-called #PeoplesVote is merely a continuation of the status quo which has put 14 million in poverty.

What is needed is a GENERAL ELECTION NOW to put a Jeremy Corbyn​ government In power which will implement policies which will benefit the people whose poverty is outlined in this devastating UN report.

PODEMOS IMPLEMENT THEIR OWN ARTICLE 155

#CataloniaIndependence

LATEST….

Pablo Iglesias tonight enacted his own version on the Spanish State’s Article 155 and condemned and withdrew the declaration of PODEM (Podemos in Catalonia) ‘s support for the Catalan Republic by leader Albano Dante Fachin and called elections.

Pablo Iglesias returns to his Stalinist roots.

The struggle for a genuine mass party of the working class continues in the Spanish State.

El Militante & CWI – Retying the Red Knot of our Common History

A political highlight for me of 2016 was the re-encounter and developing cooperation between Izquierda Revolucionaria (Formerly El Militante) and the Committee for a Workers International (CWI)

Original report published in Spanish in La Brecha here

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Representatives of Socialismo Revolucionario, Socialist Party and the CWI attended the XVIII Congress of the Sindicato de Estudiantes (SE) in Madrid. Delegates from schools and universities from all over Spain reported on the massive mobilisation in the General Strike of students on October 24th in the face of pressure from education authorities and the right wing Popular Party.

The SE is growing everywhere because young people want to struggle against brutal education cuts and for a future. The SE consider the changes made to the Education Law, LOMCE are purely cosmetic and so have called another strike in education on November 24th.* But SE is not just a union but an important political instrument which gives young people a platform to discuss and fight for socialist ideas.

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The SE was set up 30 years ago by El Militante which at the time was part of the CWI. In 1980s the SE led a mass movement with millions on the streets when they struggled for the right of university education for the children of the working class.

The Congress included a rally in which ex-leaders of the SE spoke on the lessons of 30 years of struggle of the youth movement for today, along with founders of El Militante, historic union leaders, workers in struggle today and comrades who had been imprisoned during the Franco dictatorship and during the Transition.

It was mentioned that the leaders of the the SE negotiated directly with the PSOE government of Felipe Gonzales at the time. The government actually tried to buy off the SE leaders during the negotiations by offering them money for offices if the SE became a tame union of course!

30 years later some of those same SE leaders are now leading Izquierda Revolucionaria. A former general secretary of the SE Bárbara Areal said that young people in Spain and workers have wanted to fight during the crisis but they have been met by the alliance union leaders and the old political parties repeating “NO SE PUEDE” – (No you can’t). That is why the SE strike of October was so important. IR and SE have shown we can struggle and win.

Bárbara reminded comrades that the SE had kept fighting during the difficult and hard 1990s when the ideas of socialism and struggle seemed to be in retreat. Now the bourgeois hate the youth. They insult the youth by calling them lazy and pretend they do not want to do anything to improve their lives. “They hate what they fear” ended Bárbara to thunderous applause and chants of “Si se puede.”

Coca Cola workers who are striking paid tribute to the support of SE and IR in their struggle and called for a boycott of Coca Cola products. A comrade who had been imprisoned by Franco over 40 years ago called on the youth to continue the task of regaining the historic memory of the working class.

There was a revolutionary situation in Spain in the 1970s after the death of Franco but capitalism managed to stay in power only with the help of the leaders of PSOE and the CP.

Today young people are told it was the Monarchy and the ‘responsibility’ of the leaders of the working class who managed to bring about the peaceful ‘transition’ from fascism to democracy. The comrade reminded everyone that thousands were jailed and during the transition workers were shot by the police. ”There was no transition, it was a transfer of power.” His advice to the youth was: “Always tell the truth to the working class and always take the struggle forward.

Xaquín García Sinde, trade unionist at Navantia Shipyards and spokesperson of GanemosCCOO, the rank and file union organisation set up to by IR which campaigns for fighting, combative unions commented that during the crisis union leaders are nowhere to be seen. “They are not lost in combat but rather in the offices of the Government & PP.” This has to change!

There was an electric mood at the rally. Numerous speakers were interrupted with chants and they may have been a world record for standing ovations!

Juan Ignacio Ramos, the General Secretary of Izquierda Revolucionaria / El Militante was the GS of SE in the 1980s when they led hundreds of thousands in strikes and demonstrations.

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He recounted an episode when the SE led a march of 100,000 to the education Minister’s office in 1986. They were invited up to negotiate with a Minister, Rubalcaba, who would later become PSOE leader. He asked the young people facing him, “Who the hell are you people? How have you organised this demo?” Juan Ignacio and the other SE leaders opened their folders which were covered in ‘I SUPPORT LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL STICKERS’ and answered, “We’re from the Militant!” Rubalcaba replied incredulously: “I thought we’d expelled you lot!”

Young members from various sections of the CWI came to the platform and a representative from Ireland also addressed the conference. Watch YouTube video here.

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Peter Taaffe, General Secretary of the Socialist Party (England & Wales) was introduced as one of the founders of Militant, ‘the most successful Marxist organisation in the UK.’ Peter assured everyone that he had nothing to do with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) or Felipe Gonzales – “they want to prop up capitalism, we want to destroy it!”

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Peter gave a brief history of Militant, the forerunner of the Socialist Party. He underlined that the victories of Militant in Liverpool and in the Poll Tax battle were not achieved by reformist measures but through revolutionary struggle.

An important lesson for today is that only through determined revolutionary struggle will we even get reforms. “Say what needs to be done and do it!” Peter summed up with a warning to Donald Trump “the working class is coming” He ended by saying: “This generation has learned the lessons of the 20th century. This time we’re going to struggle. This time we’re going to win.”

Peter Taaffe’s speech here.

The weekend was inspiring as veterans of the struggle and new, young working class leaders of the SE saluted and learnt from past struggles, analysed the present tasks and dedicated themselves to future battles. A timely reminder of the common militant past of SE / Izquierda Revolucionaria and the CWI and the retying of the historical red knot of our common history.

*Students’ union beats PP government
Just days after the last general strike that was called by the Sindicato de Estudiantes against the “Revalidas Fanquistas” (introduction of matriculation), we have been proved correct in what we always said – struggle works.
Following a meeting between the Ministry of Education and the representatives of the Autonomous regions, the revalidas – proposed by Wert, the former education minister – have been abandoned. These reactionary matriculation exams were weighted to exclude working class students progressing to university.

#USElections2016 “Don’t Mourn – ORGANISE!”

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The reaction to Trump’s victory by some on the Left reminds me of Bertolt Brecht’s words:

“Some party hack decreed that the people
had lost the government’s confidence
and could only regain it with redoubled effort.
If that is the case, would it not be simpler,
If the government simply dissolved the people
And elected another?”

Blaming Americans and the electorate is a superficial knee-jerk reaction which we heard after the BREXIT vote in the UK.

Liberals weep and wail that Americans dared to revolt against the US establishment and rejected corporate candidate Hillary Clinton who spent $500,000 million on the election campaign.

Trump articulates the policies of corporate America in a blunt way and for sure in a less articulate manner than professional politicians like Clinton but what are the real policy differences? Did Clinton represent a radical alternative to Trump? Obviously not.

Marx commented on this phenomena:
“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.”

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To people in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan being bombed by Obama, Trump or the first woman US President makes little difference.

Many young people will be shocked by the victory of Trump and fear conflict and war. Let us be clear – the privately owned right wing media have unleashed their own monster. Decades of propaganda from Fox News and shock jocks scapegoating the poor, blacks, Latinos, immigrants and minorities have had consequences.

However, corporate America will seek to rein in Trump and chip-off his rougher edges.

Every process has an opposite. The anti-establishment mood and anger in the US has had its expression on the Left. Don’t forget the mass movement behind openly Socialist Bernie Saunders who was stopped from gaining the Democratic nomination by Clinton’s shenanigans and gerrymandering.

Clearly Bernie made a massive political mistake by not standing as an independent as all the indications show that he would have beaten the false and pretend anti-establishment Trump.

The US election results cannot be characterised crudely and simply as a shift to the right. An election is a snapshot of a moment in time but the movie is more complicated and nuanced and full of opportunities for the Left.

As Trostky pointed out in 1934 in “If America Should Go Communist” the road to Socialist change is not straight but the material conditions do exist:

“Today, quite unprepared, you are being forced to face those social contradictions that grow up unsuspected in every society. You have conquered nature by means of the tools that your inventive genius has created, only to find that your tools have all but destroyed you. Contrary to all your hopes and desires, your unheard-of wealth has produced unheard-of misfortunes. You have discovered that social development does not follow a simple formula. Hence you have been thrust into the school of the dialectic – to stay.

It is clear that today in the 21st century millions of Americans are looking for a radical alternative and that the ‘Tweedledum & Tweedledummer’ corporate politics of the Republicans and Democrats is a dead end for the working class.

Perhaps this whip of reaction will serve to speed up the process of the great American working class finally breaking with the ‘lesser evil-ism’ which has brought Trump to the Presidency and finally get to grips with setting up their own party of and for the 99%. A campaign being led by SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE in the USA

As the great Swedish/US trade unionist and Socialist Joe Hill said: “Don’t mourn, organize!”

 

And so farewell then (again) #DodgyDave Words on Cameron’s 2nd resignation

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“And so farewell then (again) #DodgyDave …….
Born to rule, red faced toff,
Carried on where Blair left off
Bomber, cutter, lying prig
More time at least to spend with your pig.”

Leon Thribbsky Aged 13 3/4