Thursday, 26 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
We will be discussing the upcoming SSP Arran Conference.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
The launch of a new socialist party in the Philippines has been hailed by some on the international left as a confident step in creating a united mass electoral organisation in the country. Peter Boyle of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective has described how 920 delegates, representing a number of groups such as trade unions and students organisations with an estimated membership of around 300,000 between them, gathered for the inaugural congress of the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), or Power of the Masses Party. Others, however, including members of political groups active in the Philippines, have been more cautious in their assessment of the PLM.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Scottish Socialist Voice, two members of the Revolutionary Workers' Party of Mindanao (RPM-M), who preferred not to be named, accompanied by Alex de Jong, the editor of Dutch socialist monthly Grenzeloos and an expert on the Filipino left, told of the complex political situation in the Philippines and of their impressions of the new party.
Following the uprising against the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and the subsequent split in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the Filipino left has been fragmented and several groups in different areas and representing different approaches to socialism have competed both at the electoral level and in the day-to-day struggle for equality and democracy. Most of those on the left who chose to split from the CPP in 1992 have been working within the Laban ng Masa (Struggle of the Masses) coalition, but the launch of the PLM marks the abandonment of this project.
In a recent interview, Sonny Malencio, leader of the Filipino Workers' Party (PM) and newly elected chairperson of the PLM, spoke of the failure of Laban ng Masa to reach consensus on major issues. 'There were some problems there which were related to the character of a left coalition, meaning that the different left groups have different interests and different directions. Just recently on the Mindanao question, we couldn't give a sure statement and then we could not undertake a project where we could use all of our resources.'
Mindanao, the easternmost island in the Philippines has been the stage for a four decade old insurgency by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and violent responses on the part of the government. So far thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands internally displaced in Mindanao. Attempts at quelling the insurgency through extending the autonomous Muslim region have so far failed and negotiations continue to prove unfruitful.
For Malencio and those allied around the new PLM, the party presents an opportunity to make gains for socialism in the upcoming elections, scheduled for 2010. 'We want to put power into the hands of the masses,' says Malencio. 'This has to happen from below through the transformation of barangay (neighbourhood) councils into barangay assemblies that can institute alternative structures to replace the congress that is dominated by the trapo (traditional politician) elite.' The programme of the PLM includes in addition proposals for nationalisation of essential services and the provision of basic necessities – education, housing, jobs, health – for the people. But the relevance of the PLM has been questioned.
While the opening congress of the new party boasted support from mass organisations with a combined membership of as much as 300,000, Alex de Jong is suspicious of the veracity of this claim. 'There is a difference between membership of these mass organisations and members of the party proper. I wouldn't be surprised if many of the members of these groups didn't know about the PLM.' There is also the suggestion that the PLM represents a relaunch of Malencio's old party, the PM, which has been oddly silent of late. If the PM were able to take into the new electoral party some of the support of the old Laban ng Masa coalition, it could significantly increase its political potential.
The members of the RPM-M, which has also been engaged in combat with the government, with which it is now in peace negotiations, as well as the CPP guerillas who have been targeting the leadership of those groups who split from it in the early 90s, who spoke to the Voice also warned of the lack of support for the PLM outside of the capital Manila. It is typical, they said, of some political organisations to act only within the Manila area and be completely inactive elsewhere. 'These people from Luzon (the most economically and politically important island in the country) are dominating everything. Even when there is an opportunity for the smaller peoples to speak, they don't give them the chance.'
However, the RPM-M members share the same goals as the new PML in terms of welfare and democracy, citing government corruption as a key obstacle to progressive social change. While concerned about the possibility that the PML will turn out to become a party similar to the social democratic Akbayan, they do see the launch as a welcome development. 'If all the left stands together we could do some good. The Arroyo government is weak, but the left is weaker at the moment.'
De Jong agrees with the analysis presented by the RPM-M members. 'It looks like a step forward. I don't think it's only a front for the elections, because the people involved are people with a lot of experience and a long history in revolutionary socialism.' With the PML in talks with revolutionary elements within the armed forces, and proclaiming their intention to build a mass party based on the experiences of Chavez and others in Latin America, the prospects for a genuine socialist movement arising from among the people of the Philippines may be good. Ultimately, the selection of a candidate for the 2010 elections and the conduct of the PLM in those elections will be the litmus test for the potential of this new grouping to achieve genuine socialist change in the Philippines.
Friday, 20 February 2009
DETAILS OF THE CAMPAIGN HERE
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
A new campaign has been launched to indict Tony Blair in the Hague as a war criminal.
The petition text is below, follow the link to sign it.
To: President of the United Nations General Assembly and the UK Attorney General
BWCF - THE BLAIR WAR CRIMES FOUNDATION
To The President of The United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, and The Attorney General of the United Kingdom, and their successors in office.
RE ANTHONY CHARLES LYNTON BLAIR
We, the citizens of the United Kingdom and other countries listed, wish to uphold The United Nations Charter, The 1998 Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court, The Hague and Geneva Conventions and the Rule of International Law, especially in respect of:-
- 1949 Geneva Convention IV: Article 146
The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention.
- 1907 Hague Convention IV: Article 3
A belligerent party which violates the provisions of the said regulations shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation. It shall be responsible for all the acts committed by persons forming part of its armed forces.
We therefore call on you to indict Anthony Charles Lynton Blair in his capacity as recent Prime Minister of the UK, so long as he is able to answer for his actions and however long it takes, in respect of our sample complaints relating to the 2003 Iraq War waged by the UK as ally to the United States of America.
We are concerned that without justice and respect for the rule of law, the future for us and our progeny in a lawless world is bleak, as revealed by recent US declarations about the use of torture and the events of December 2008 in Gaza show.
The following are our sample complaints relating to the Iraq War 2003-2009:
- Deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war, causing in the order of one million deaths, 4 million refugees, countless maimings and traumas.
- Employing radioactive ammunition causing long-term destruction of the planetary habitat.
- Causing the breakdown of civil administration, with consequent lawlessness, especially looting, kidnapping, and violence, and consequent breakdown of womens’ rights, of religious freedom, and child and adult education.
- Failing to maintain the medical needs of the populace.
- Despoliation of the cultural heritage of the country.
- Supporting an ally that employs ‘waterboarding’ and other tortures.
- Seizing the assets of Iraq.
- Using inhumane restraints on prisoners, including dogs, hoods, and cable ties.
- Using Aggressive Patrolling indiscriminately, traumatising women and children and wrecking homes and property.
- Marking bodies of prisoners with numbers, writing, faeces and other degrading treatment.
- The use of cluster bombs and other indiscriminate weapons including white phosphorous on
shake and bakemissions.
- Supporting indiscriminate rocket attacks from F16 fighter planes on women and children in Fallujah in Nov 2004
- Supporting the shooting up of ambulances and medical personnel in Fallujah in Nov 2004
- Supporting the expulsion of the entire population of Fallujah save for young men of military age, for a reprisal attack on that city in Nov 2004.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Facilitated by the SSP co-convenor,
Speakers—Raphie de Santos, Bill Newman.
The crisis was initiated by those bankers who thought that they could avoid the laws of capitalist economics and procede for ever to enrich themselves at everyone else's expense, and the tacit endorsement of politicians too ignorant, lazy or complacent to control this arrogant greed. It's worth recapping in overall terms the culpable stupidity of senior bankers in recent years:
- The naked greed of bank traders, bank executives and bank boards. This greed rewarded short-term speculative gains with obscene cash rewards. Bank risk analysts, where they had the courage to point out dangers, were ignored or even shown the door. Traders, often with little technical understanding of the instruments with which they were trading, could afford to ignore long-term problems given the massive short-term payments they were receiving. Likewise, chief executives and board chairmen were blinkered enough to believe that they could ignore longer-term risks. It is worth recalling that none of the former chairmen and chief executives of Royal Bank of Scotland and HBoS hauled before the UK Parliamentary Treasury Committeee on 10 February had any banking qualifications. Established politicians overtly claimed that 'greed is good', a mantra now castigated by the media without an acknowledgement that greed is an essential ingredient of capitalism.
-Profligate lending. The progressive loosening of prudential controls on the granting of credit led to the ludicrous self certification of borrowers whereby the word of borrowers as to their financial status was accepted without checks. This was compounded, for example, by the granting of mortgages in excess of 100% of the value of the property in question, presumably on the incredible belief that property prices would rise for ever and interest rates remain at historically low levels.
-Bankers as salespersons. All bank customers know that staff at their local branches were there to sell their products rather than cater for their mundane banking needs. Indeed, as every bank clerk knows, performance assessment and the rewards arising there from depended heavily on their ability to sell products and extend credit to bank customers.
- Weak banking regulation. Tight supervision of banks through inspection and financial parameters has been steadily eroded, through the deliberate embrace of the extension of the free market, an embrace, despite evidence to the contrary, that still controls the philosophy of the UK government. It is instructive that where bank regulation has remained tighter, as in Spain, bank crises have been lesser.
-The extension of derivative trading. Derivatives are in essence merely contracts whose values depend on something else. These can be useful and in their simpler form have been around almost as long as banking. The example which used to be used in basic banking instruction was that of the farmer who sold his crop in advance of harvest to a miller at a fixed price for future delivery, removing the element of future financial uncertainty to farmer and miller. In the last two decades or so different types of derivatives have become much more complex and varied. Many, such as credit derivative contracts, although they look like insurance contracts, provide considerable scope for profit when they are traded, not least when the value of contracts is leveraged. They also provide vast opportunities for loss when economic circumstances deteriorate. An indication of the scale of derivative trading and the overhang of contracts in the market is shown by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) which valued derivatives outstanding on the market in June 2008 at $684 trillion. It is clear that senior executives seem not to have either understood the nature of the complex derivatives which their banks were trading, nor the risks involved.
-The crazy belief that as a result of the miracle-working Gordon Brown there would be no more boom and bust. Such a belief defies all economic laws. You haven't got to understand Karl Marx (though it helps!) to understand the cyclical nature of capitalism. If Gordon Brown had never read Marx, he should at least have known a little of Maynard Keynes, or even Adam Smith.
It is certainly true that the whole world is involved in what is indeed a global recession, compounded by the onward rush towards economic globalisation, but the recession is due to bite harded in the U K than elsewhere. Thus the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast that the U K economy will shrink by 2.8% this year, compared with a deline of 2.0% in the Eurozone and 1.6% in the USA (see appended table 8). Why is the U K performing worse than other developed nations? There is a myth, which seemed to gain credibility in the media and even among opposition MPs that Prudence Brown was a sound, pragmatic chancellor. In practice, he was far from prudent as even a cursory look at his economic stewardeship shows.
Astonishingly, very few in the Westminster Parliament or the media seemed willing or able to expose Brown and the dangerous overheating of the U K economy, though, to be fair, Vince Cable did raise some warnings. Indeed, it seems to have been deemed to be unpatriotic to disclose the deterioration in economic performance.
Just look at performance of the U K's payments balance with the rest of the world (table 1). The U K's trade in goods has moved from a deficet of £12.5 billion in 1995 to a colossal £93.2 billion last year. In the company of astonished European MPs I heard a Goverment economic advisor claim many years ago that the reduction in British goods production and exports was of no consequence as what the U K was good at was the overseas sale of financial services. Well, at the very least, as Table 1 shows, our earnings balance on services by no means compensated for the growing goods trade deficit. And should we expect overseas financial earnings to be sustained this year? How, then, has the U K's growing current account payments deficit been financed? Net investment in the U K has shrunk and in 2007 recorded a substantial net outflow (Table 2) with valatile short-term borrowing meeting the gap.
Moreover, the gains from North Sea oil production have been frittered away and Britain's trade in oil has now moved from a solid surplus a decade ago to a deficit (Table 3). To compound this reverse, coal production, which could have helped meet energy needs, has been deliberately destroyed, first by the Tories, but, as Table 4 shows, New Labour has tamely followed the Tories policy so that the U K now imports more than twice as much coal as it produces, the largest supplier being Russia.
Nor can Gordon Brown claim prudence in managing Government finances. In the early years of New Labour, debt did indeed shrink, but, as Table 7 shows, Government deficits have emerged and grown to pump up economic growth, limiting the Government's room for manoeuvre in the current recession.
It is clear, then, that Gordon Brown's stewardship was far from prudent and was rather associated with a steady deterioration in the U K's economic performance. Nor can it be said that, despite the grandiloquent bluster, that he has shown a grasp of the depth of the financial and economic catastophies facing the U K. Measures such as the pointless reduction in VAT and the reliance on inadequate and inappropriate support for the banking sector hardly augur well for the radical restructuring required. Both he and his tame chancellor, Alastair Darling, seem terrified lest they are accused taking of socialist measures. Even with banks now owned by the state, there is still a reluctance to declare banks nationalised and to take control. It has been explicitly stated that the banks are best left in the hands of those with the necessary expertise, quite regardless of the fact that it is these overpaid "experts" who carry a large amount of the responsibility for getting us into this fine mess.
A totally new and socialist response is urgently needed and none of our established parties will provide this in Scotland or elsewhere. It is more important than ever that people are made aware that capitalism has failed and a different world is possible, and that world must no longer rely on capitalist "solutions".
Click on table for bigger image:
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
This is not the first time the SNP has abandoned opposition to the Council tax and watched hundreds of thousands of pensioners and low paid workers who stood to benefit most from abolition of the Council tax lose out.
SSP national co-spokesperson Colin Fox said today;
“The SNP’ cowardly manifesto u-turn means that the super rich businessmen like Brian Souter who bankroll the SNP with their bonuses will continue to benefit while pensioners, low paid workers and millions of those worst affected by the current economic recession, like the thousands of sacked Woolworths workers who would have at least enjoyed some financial relief with the reduction in their Council tax bills, will continue to be hammered by this unfair Tory tax”
“The SNP has again failed to capitalise on the majority support across Scotland for abolishing the Council tax. They have now given up the idea without a fight or even a vote in Parliament.”
“How different their approach to that of the Scottish Socialist Party on this issue.”
“The SSP, with just 6 MSP's, were able to make far greater headway. Our Bill to abolish the Council tax, a bill which incidentally the SNP voted down [on Feb 1st 2006] attracted considerable support across civic Scotland.”
“The SNP's subsequent local income tax plan with its regressive 3p across the board charge attracted much less enthusiasm. Our local income tax replacement by contrast was graduated to ensure the better off paid more as their income went up and the poorer were exempt.”
Sunday, 8 February 2009
by Richie Venton & Eddie Truman
On Wednesday 28th January 2009 workers for Shaw’s construction contractors at Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire were told by their shop stewards that the new contractor, IREM, an Italian company that a part of the contract on LOR's HDS3 plant had been awarded to, was refusing to employ UK labour.
IREM planned to house hundreds of Italian and Portuguese workers in accommodation barges in Grimsby harbour, bussing them to and from the plant every day. They were explicit in their policy of not hiring any UK workers as contractors.
This was particularly offensive to local skilled workers against the background of Shaw’s having issued 90-day redundancy notices in mid-November, meaning that they would become redundant mid-February, whilst IREM was herding Italian workers like cattle on a boat (rumoured to be a prison ship), keeping them well away from trade-unionised UK workers.
The entire LOR workforce, from all subcontracting companies, met and voted unanimously to take immediate strike action.
The following day over a thousand construction workers from LOR, Conoco and Easington sites descended outside Lindsey Oil Refinery's gate to picket and protest.
Thus began one of the most remarkable episodes of industrial action in the UK since the uprising in the North Sea in the late 1990's.
Workers the length of the UK began a series of unofficial and therefore illegal actions from Grangemouth oil refinery and Longannet power station in Scotland, Sellafield and Heysham nuclear plants, Fiddlers Ferry in Widnes to the Drax power station in Yorkshire.
In just 3 or 4 days the UK's anti-trade union laws, some of the most oppressive in Europe, were swept aside by workers in key industrial facilities; power generation and oil refining.
Workers ignored and defied anti-union laws on balloting procedures, solidarity strikes and mass picketing, exploding the myth - perpetrated by far too many union leaders for decades - that the anti-union laws invented by the Tories and retained by New Labour are insurmountable.
The industrial action was not taking place in isolation. Across Europe workers have started to take action against the impact of the economic recession that threatens their jobs and wages and conditions.
For the left the strikes brought complications in the form of the slogan 'British Jobs For British Workers' which although was never raised officially by the Lindsey workers became prominent from the beginning of the dispute.
Socialists have absolutely no truck with such slogans which promote division and can and have been used by the far right to promote their racist poison.
When Gordon Brown first used this phrase in November 2007 the SSP was unequivocal in condemning him for playing into the hands of the BNP and fuelling racism and xenophobia.
When the strikers used this slogan initially there is no doubt that there was a large element of throwing the slogan back in Gordon Brown's face. Here was a situation in which UK workers were specifically being excluded from UK jobs.
But the slogan very quickly backfired; it was a gift to the BNP who had in fact been using it for a number of years and it allowed the media to deliberately and dishonestly portray the strike as overtly xenophobic and racist.
An interview conducted by Paul Mason which was used on Newsnight showed a striker making the point that "we can't work beside them, they are coming in full companies", referring to the segregated accommodation of the new contractors.
The BBC's 10 o'clock news carried a story about the strike in which Government ministers accuse the strikers of xenophobia, the Newsnight clip is cut to the striker saying "we can't work beside them".
But the strikers themselves agreed demands at their mass meetings which never gained the oxygen of media coverage, but which cut across entirely the vicious distortions of their portrayal in the press. They demanded union rights for all workers, including immigrant labour; for union facilities for the Italian workers to make them an integral part of the trade union movement here; and for the implementation of the national construction and engineering industry agreement on the rate for the job, hours of work, breaks and conditions for all working in the UK – including the Italians.
Numerous first-hand accounts showed pickets giving short shrift to the unwelcome attentions of the fascist BNP – who after all sided with the Tories against the miners’ strike, and didn’t even think firefighters should have the right to strike.
Strikers demonstrated a core internationalism and solidarity with fellow-workers that bodes well for the future of this movement.
Union spokespersons repeatedly stated that this strike was not about race or nationality, not against Italian or Portugese workers, but against the Italian company that was excluding local, skilled workers from even getting an interview for jobs.
Strikers rightly saw this as an attempt by EU companies to exploit EU directives and court rulings on ‘posted workers’ to undermine and break hard-won national agreements and trade union organization.
Far from being instinctively against migrant workers from Italy or Portugal, many of the strikers are themselves ‘migrants’ – forced to uproot themselves to find work in other regions of the UK or even across the EU. So they will have felt particularly bitter towards Labour’s Lord Mandelson who in effect told them to “get on their bikes” and trek across Europe for work – because after all the EU regulations are for the workers’ benefit!!
Seumas Milne in The Guardian called it exactly right when he described the strike as "a fight for jobs in the middle of a deepening recession and a backlash against the deregulated, race-to-the-bottom neoliberal model backed by Brown for more than a decade which produced it."
In the Glasgow Herald Professor Gregor Gall described the strike as essentially being about "the underlying issues of the race to the bottom under capitalism, the drive to neo-liberalism and the European Union's deregulatory preference."
The specific European Union legislation and court rulings that were inevitably going to ignite labour disputes at some point is the EU Posted Workers Directive and the judgements by the European Court in cases including Viking, Laval and Ruffert.
The judgements have had the effect of undermining union negotiated collective agreements which are not recognised as `universally applicable' in the UK.
For trade unionists this strike was waiting to happen and the response of workers across the UK has been inspirational.
Linda Somerville, formerly a member of the Unite National Executive, says that there were three things that stood out;
"Firstly that the strike took place in the first place" she says.
"We have been told repeatedly that workers in the UK are no longer interested in militant trade union action. That clearly is not the case.
"Secondly, the strength and depth of the secondary, solidarity, action was immense.
"Workers in key industrial locations across the UK held mass meetings and took action.
"Thirdly, the strikes were all against UK trade union law which is amongst the most oppressive in Europe. The legal tools were there for employers to launch a major assault on trade unions involved in the action but the sheer size of the strikes, protests and walk outs rendered the laws impotent.
"Workers at Grangemouth refinery who were very quick to come out in support of the strike have been emboldened by recently winning their pension dispute with INEOS which saw them take strike action in April 2008."
For socialists and trade unionists this dispute has been an important test, with many more to come.
The SSP has repeatedly said that the economic recession and world wide crisis of capitalism will inevitably mean that workers will be pushed into struggle.
But these struggles will be complex and contradictory with the enemies of the working class seeking to muddy the waters and cause confusion.
For that reason it is vital that we take a sober and detailed analysis of the situation and in particular understand that in Europe it is the rabidly neo liberal and pro big business measures of the European Union that seeks to drive down wages and terms and conditions across the board that organized workers are now resisting.
We need to see the essence of the issues, even when accidental slogans cloud the image. Instead of ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ the SSP from the outset of this strike wave supported the strikers in demanding the right to work, the right to an equal chance of being employed, and for defence of the wages, conditions and union rights won by hard struggle in this harsh, dangerous industry.
The SSP from day one of this strike movement called on unions in the UK to urgently seek active links with unions in Italy, Portugal and the EU, to unite in action against attempts to divide and conquer, against the use of cheaper labour and worse conditions in the bosses’ race to the bottom.
We also need to raise demands such as trade union registers of unemployed workers in the industry as the pool for employment when jobs are on offer – at least a small step forward to the days when unions had elements of control over hiring and firing in a few of the better-organised industries, such as printing. That would help counter the conscious ‘race to the bottom’ of conditions by companies at home and abroad, by use of cheap, disorganized workers to undermine the rights won by unionised workforces.
This dispute highlights the broader issue of ownership of the power and energy industry, where multi-nationals seize advantage of the de-regulated, cheap-labour EU market – championed by Blair and Brown – to maximize profits – and the SSP’s counter-proposal of public ownership and democratic control of the industry, where workers’ elected representatives would have a direct input to all aspects of employment, production and planning.
The wave of tremendously courageous strike action seems, at time of writing, to have won a major climb-down from IREM, with UK workers to get 50 per cent of the jobs, but with no lay-offs for the Italian workers, and for all to get the nationally agreed wages, hours and conditions.
This example of militant trade unionism, in defiance of the laws, will inspire others to similar defences of their jobs and right to work – starting with others in the same industry.
The job of socialists and good trade unionists is to match the courage of these strikers and seek to influence the slogans and demands of their movement in a fashion that reduces confusion, limits the opportunities for the media and reactionaries to distort workers’ aims, and to consolidate the powerful elements of workers’ unity and internationalism already on show in this current powerful movement.
Copyright Scottish Socialist Party 2009