Saturday, 25 May 2013
Following the horrific scenes on Wednesday of the Woolwich terrorist attack which I wasn’t sure was a terrorist attack at first now appears to be one there has been a sharp rise in anti Muslim attacks up and down the country. Police estimate over 1500 EDL demonstrators were organising in Newcastle today and causing havoc. Even I just on a walk about my estate over heard a man moaning about the government having let in too many Muslims and they are now preaching hate against us and the police. It just depresses me we need to stand together and oppose racism and any form of discrimination of any minority group. Quite clearly these terrorists who made the attack on a British Soldier on Wednesday are not true to their religion if at all and I thought it was right and correct for the Muslim council of Britain to come out and condemn the actions of a minority. This for me has a real danger of boiling over into something really ugly on our streets in Britain. Even before all this racist groups and political parties like the BNP and UKIP were starting to make a comeback in the polls this will only fuel the fire even more sadly. A fantastic statement was put out by Greenwich Socialist party a day after the events in Woolwich and I thought I’d republish it here as it hits the nail on the head and puts things all into perspective I feel. Statement from Greenwich Socialist Party on the Woolwich killing No to terrorism! No to racism! No to war! The unprovoked, barbaric and vicious murder of an unarmed soldier in Woolwich on Wednesday of last week is a horrific event which must have been profoundly traumatic for the people who witnessed it, and, of course, an appalling tragedy for the victim, and the victim's family and friends. Local residents showed incredible bravery in intervening to try and assist the victim. The Socialist Party completely condemns this attack just as we condemned 7/7, 9/11, and all similar attacks aimed at indiscriminate slaughter. This latest killing, while of one individual rather than many, appears to have been completely indiscriminate, with the victim selected possibly only because of the 'help for heroes' t-shirt he was wearing. The attackers apparently claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, and in protest at the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the vast majority of Muslims will be as sickened and horrified by this attack as the rest of the population. The brutal imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in the deaths of over one hundred thousand civilians, are not the responsibility of ordinary soldiers, but of the governments that took the decision to invade and then occupy. New Labour went ahead with the invasion of Iraq despite opposition from a majority of the population, including the biggest demonstration in Britain's history, which the Socialist Party helped to organise. Terrorism Terrorism is a completely mistaken and counter-productive method of struggle. It was the mass terrorism of 9/11 which gave George Bush a 'justification' he could use to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq. One of the attackers in Woolwich called on the people of Britain to overthrow the government. It is the same government which continues the occupation of Afghanistan that is carrying out terrible austerity measures on the working class of Britain. However, this brutal killing will be used by Cameron to try and bolster support for this incredibly unpopular, weak and divided government. In the wake of this killing the racist thugs of the EDL have already cynically tried to use the event to whip up racism against all Muslims. Two attacks on mosques took place on the night of the Woolwich killing. The Socialist Party is totally opposed to the scapegoating of Muslims as a result of this tragic killing. From whatever section of society mistaken and damaging methods of struggle arise, the only way to combat them is for all working people - from all backgrounds - to unite to build a movement against racism, against terrorism, but also against the endless austerity of capitalism. Democratic rights We must also resist any attempts by the government to use this as an excuse to attack our democratic rights. Anti-terror legislation has been used to undermine anti austerity protests. Ordinary working class people have fought and died for these rights in the past. This is not the first time working class people in Greenwich have had to stand firm in the face of attempts to divide. Just a two minute walk up the same road is the Kings Arms pub which was bombed by the IRA in 1974. The community in Greenwich resisted those who tried to whip up anti-Irish hysteria at the time. In 1993 Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham just 20 minutes away. A mass campaign against racism was mobilised by members of the Socialist Party (then Militant) and others which resulted in the far-right BNP's headquarters in Welling being shut down. It is important now, more than ever, that working class people in Woolwich and the country as a whole remember that history of solidarity and struggle. We must stand united against any attempts to divide us in the wake of this tragic event.
Friday, 24 May 2013
I often wonder this myself. The socialist party who I’m a member of are committed to TUSC for the foreseeable future and seem to be the one in the driving seat of the project with the RMT union. Yet I’m no more clearer which direction the project is heading. I know we are not a party and are simply an electoral vehicle for the socialist party and anti cuts campaigners who wish to standing election. So far only a minority of anti cuts campaigners have stood for TUSC with other groups staying away for now. I am disillusioned with our strategy with TUSC and what we see it transforming into. In June’s edition of the Socialist party’s monthly journal Socialism Today Clive HEEMSKERK takes a look at TUSC’s development and gives us his thoughts on TUSC’s results and prospects. I thought I’d give a few comments in reply to his points. “May’s local council elections showed, five years into the worst crisis of capitalism since the 1930s, how deep the alienation from Britain’s ‘traditional’ parties has become. The BBC made a projection of the national share of the vote from the 2013 results – the elections covered 24 million people, but did not include Scotland, Wales, or most big English cities. Despite this element of psychological guesswork, their figures were sobering for the establishment parties. Labour was ahead on 29%, the Tories on 25%, and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) third on 23%, with the Liberal Democrats on 14%. For the first time ever no party had reached over 30% of the vote. These trends were confirmed in the first Guardian/ICM series opinion poll taken after the council elections. It found the three main establishment parties all down four points on the previous month, the first time in the 29-year history of these surveys that all three had fallen at the same time (The Guardian, 14 May). Labour’s 34% is its lowest rating since the immediate aftermath of the 2010 general election defeat. The Tories’ 28% is a low point they had not reached since the 1997-98 Blair ‘honeymoon’. The Lib Dems were on 11%, their lowest score since September 1997. While the poll also showed limits to UKIP’s support – at just 2% in Scotland and 6% in Wales – overall it was up by nine points to 18%. The Guardian editorial correctly described these results as “a rejection of British mainstream politics without modern precedent”.” TUSC’s last few national election results have ranged from 10% to less than 1% more towards the 1% than anything else. In last months county council elections TUSC stood 119 candidates across the country gaining about 8000 votes with 17 of those candidates receiving less than 1% so we cannot pretend we’re having a break through in any shape or form. The lack of direction and analysis of such poor low results is skimmed over by many comrades and a sort of shrug and put it down to working class consciousness just hasn’t caught up. If only we had the trade unions more on side and well we’re only small anyway so we shouldn’t expect too much this side of 2015. Clives analysis of the UKIP vote is interesting and I think underestimates their ability to pull in votes in working class areas. This focus on UKIP just going for council and parliament seats is to miss the point. UKIP as I’ve mentioned before is having an influence in the media and having an affect on the other political parties just to do with its presence. Clive writes “A Guardian reporter interviewed one South Shields UKIP voter who explained: “I was very disappointed that Labour made no effort whatsoever to stand up for ordinary working people’s rights… They ought to change their name. But I’ve found a party now that represents some of the views that I would like”. (4 May) Meanwhile, in Yeovil, a 30-year-old pub worker “said he had not voted before but decided to back UKIP this time. ‘I think the party is the only one that speaks up for the ordinary working man. The rest seem to be more interested in keeping rich people happy’.” The real position of UKIP, for even more brutal austerity in the interests of the capitalist elite, is either not known or shrugged off in the urge to grab the most easily available stick to fight back with. Why not to a working-class alternative? So why is the developing anger not finding a mass electoral outlet in a working-class political alternative to the establishment parties? Clive asks” Well UKIP are not just a protest votes I’ve consistently pointed out they are of course picking up a protest vote element but there is more to this rise. UKIP is tapping into a racist vote element which the Tories used to occupy and have moved away from the working class Tory daily mail reader and are seen as out of touch by many of these former voters. UKIP speaks for the common man many feel now without understanding that they are more in favour of austerity than even the Tories yet they see a savvy politician in Nigel Ferrage who goes in the pubs and talks to ordinary people this is something the etonian Tory can no longer do or connect with the petti-bourgeois nationalist vote. This is summed up with genuine support in those voting UKIP as 25% of voters in the last county council elections could not all have been ignorant to what UKIP stand for surely ? Not surprisingly, one South Shields voter, a North Sea oil worker and former Labour voter, was quoted in the Guardian as backing UKIP because “I want a change. I know quite a bit about Nigel Farage. I’ve seen how he handles himself on Question Time” (4 May). This suggests people are quite aware in some regard what UKIP do stand for which we must respond to. As for TUSC Clive lays a bit of blame for not building a working class political alternative by trade union leaders yes those pesky leaders again who refuse to break with new labour he cries. Yes the same trade union leaders we are appealing to to go for a 24 hour general strike. Clive continues in his piece In its three years’ existence, 582 candidates have stood under the TUSC umbrella, in a range of contests from parliamentary elections, to city mayoral polls, to local council elections. In the recent county council elections, TUSC stood more candidates than the BNP – “the first time in recent history”, according to the New Statesman, that a left-wing party “will be better represented than Griffin’s mob”. This did not stop the BBC from carrying items on the BNP while refusing to acknowledge on its website that TUSC was standing any candidates at all, until the day before polling day. More than 100,000 votes have been cast for TUSC candidates in that three-year period – still a modest electoral record but not insignificant. Overall, TUSC is still only a ‘pre-formation’, a precursor of a future mass workers’ party that could impact decisively on the political struggle against austerity. What kind of precursor of a future mass workers party it is still not clear. How will we get from here to there? It’s these sorts of vague phrases which frustrate me how do we see TUSC. Sometimes we say it’s a first step towards a new workers party with no plan given how we get there other time we play it down saying it’s simply an electoral banner and something bigger may or may not come out of it. Clive claims but it is the most promising development, at this stage, and certainly not one to be lightly pushed aside for ‘the next new thing’. I beg to differ I can see TUSC being swept aside if say Len Mckluskey of unite pulls funding on the labour party however unlikely that is I can see TUSC being dropped like a stone in pursuit of another trade union leader on an adventure if unite went of a new workers party I could imagine we would head for that. An interesting part of Clives article states TUSC, as the name says, is a coalition, and has written to Respect, the National Health Action Party (launched in May 2012), the SLP, the Communist Party (CP) – and, most recently, Ken Loach – inviting them to discuss participation in TUSC, or at least electoral collaboration. The National Health Action Party and the SLP have not responded. Respect replied but declined the offer even of exploratory talks. The SLP and Respect, unfortunately, share the ‘dissolve into us’ ultimately stance of the Greens. Two meetings have taken place with CP officers and they provided a guest speaker to a 2012 TUSC conference, but they have not taken up the offer to join TUSC, with the full rights of a participating organisation and a place on the national steering committee. What is the problem here? It is not a question of TUSC being ‘narrow’ and ‘non-inclusive’, or that the Socialist Party allegedly ‘dominates TUSC’. The coalition is based on agreement on a quite limited core programme, although with a clear socialist clause for democratic public ownership of the banks and major monopolies, supplemented by policy statements for particular elections. Every TUSC candidate is asked to endorse these before they are issued with the legally necessary ‘certificate of authorisation’ ( Clive miss’s the point her what if these groups don’t want to just join a steering committee which I’m still not sure is the best way to organise things. Clive claims TUSC isn’t narrow and isn’t controlled by the socialist party but I can confirm to him I’ve heard from other independents that that is indeed the feeling from outside the main TUSC component groups at this stage and this must be addressed in my view. Later on Clive as you would expect launch’s into attack on the recent left unity project which sadly has not been taken seriously enough by the socialist party and TUSC in my view. A sense of arrogance that we’ve been here before and you’re doomed to fail is the sense you get from the SP when it comes to left unity. It’s barely been mentioned in our paper and there was no report on its national conference held on 11th of May sadly. “Unfortunately, this attractive feature of TUSC – unity with equal rights, not the domination of one group over others – has been used by some of the founders of Left Unity to dismiss TUSC as ‘undemocratic’. Counter-posing ‘one member, one vote’ (OMOV) to the democracy of organisations electing accountable representatives, they have often echoed the propaganda of the Blairite right-wing in the 1990s as they sought to transform the Labour Party into New Labour. John Prescott, who pushed through the OMOV constitutional changes – which, for example, abolished the role of local union delegates in selecting parliamentary candidates in favour of an individual membership ballot –, saw this as more significant in changing Labour than the abolition of its socialist ‘Clause Four’. The plebiscitary ‘online democracy’ of Grillo’s Five-Star movement in Italy, or the German Pirates’ Party – a cyber equivalent of US-style party primaries – is not a model for the workers’ movement.” I’m not sure how Clive has come to this decision the RMT themselves operate using this structure is it right we should be telling the RMT not to use this form of organisation either? Clive goes on and incorrectly states In fact, Left Unity itself is not operating on an OMOV basis. Eight thousand people clicked an online declaration supporting ‘Ken Loach’s appeal to discuss the formation of a new party’ following the release of his film, Spirit of 45, a Guardian article and other media publicity, and over 500 have been reported as attending local meetings. Its first national meeting was composed of local group representatives from ‘minuted meetings of no less than five people’ (and ‘volunteers’ from yet to be constituted local groups), which elected a committee. Well maybe Clive they haven’t yet had their founding conference or formally launched a party. Criticising them before this has happened which I’ve seen many SP comrades do is foolish. We can’t and should not write off Left unity just yet whatever we may feel about the people involved. Clive goes on to state that the RMT do indeed use the same structure so if it’s good enough for the RMT but not for left unity? Clive says “But how is that fundamentally structurally different to the RMT, with its national officers, executive committee and annual conference delegates all elected by union members, choosing its representatives on the TUSC national steering committee? Except that the RMT has 80,000 dues-paying members and has proved its ability through collective action – its social weight – to defend working-class interests. If a viable organisation emerges from the Left Unity initiative, why wouldn’t it want to come into the TUSC umbrella?” Well why haven’t we asked them? Maybe they don’t agree that TUSC’s structures are the right way of doing things and the direction is vague of how we get to a new party. TUSC has never stated it wants to become a party whereas Left unity has done that from the outset. “‘But TUSC stops individuals from participating’. No, that’s not true. The TUSC national steering committee agreed in June 2011 that individual members would have an elected place on the committee through a ‘TUSC Independent Socialist Network’, duly filled at its inaugural meeting in October that year. Nobody has been excluded from a local group, or prevented from setting one up.” The key in this bit is participating acting as foot soldiers not gaming voting rights or membership rights to join an organisation. I’ve said before there are many socialists who have no organisation who want to feel part of something so far you cannot join TUSC as it is not a party and doesn’t appear to want to be one. Yes you can maybe join the ISN or set up a branch but this still does not mean you’re a member of TUSC and have a voice in terms of influencing policy. Lastly Clive puts a lot of the frustration with TUSC down to the lack of a break through with elections. Whilst this is one frustration of course I don’t think this is the only one. I am glad Clive is engaging with independents who wish for a new workers party but engaging and being sectarian when it comes to left unity is an old habit of which the socialist party is finding hard to break with sadly. TUSC is still far too small with only a handful of RMT members involved in building TUSC. Clearly we need to be doing more. I’m glad a national branch officer has been appointed in Pete Mclaren I hope he can get something going on a national scale for those wishing to join TUSC. But now with left unity springing up TUSC will be forced in to discussions and vice versa both groups must find a way of discussing co orperation and genuine unity on a socialist basis. Not to water down our programmes or remain a limited organisation but to state our intentions are clear to remove this failing rotten capitalist system and replace it with a genuine democratic socialist order of society. If we keep watering our programme down to not scare off the working class they will never know what we truly stand for. That’s why I support the idea of a mass revolutionary Marxist party which is needed for now and the coming struggles. Marxism is the science of socialism and a party is necessary. I thank Clive for this article which you can read in June’s edition of socialism today I encourage Marxists to read it and respond in the debate for new workers party.
Thursday, 23 May 2013
This may sound all a little depressing but it is a post I’ve wanted to do for a while now. It focus’s on the crisis’s that are not so spoken of that will play out in the future no doubt. These crisis which revolve mainly around vital resources to live including food and water will potentially lead to wars as resources become scarce in big over populated areas of the world. All this is in among the back drop of a global economic crisis which shows no sign of improving despite the reports of green shoots and slow growth and the like. This is the norm now for many now we will never see a return to the post 2008 so called boom years of consistent 3 or 4 percent annual growth with a rising wage economy. Not in my lifetime can I foresee this changing under this current capitalist system. Food and water shortages does sound utterly ridiculous to comprehend in the west today wit our glut of over production and far too much food produced and plenty going to waste yet millions if not billions still go hungry every year due to lack of profitability in selling food to the poorest on the planet. As with water the thought of us not having enough will soon absurd to many reading this that may live near water and certainly in the UK we are surrounded by it yet we are running out of clean, good quality drinking water for life to survive. The fact tat capitalism due to its short termist nature of producing for profit and not for need has resulted in a situation where our population has grown but our infrastructure has not kept pace with the ever growing demand. In fact in a recent Guardian article it is claimed The Yemen is already running out of water Sana'a risks becoming first capital in world to run out of viable water supply as Yemen's streams and natural aquifers run dry Despite plans to focus on rainwater harvesting and on water drilling, Yemen's political uncertainty has pushed sanitation and water access down the list of priorities. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA Under a staircase, clinging to a wall of Sana'a's Grand Mosque, groups of women and children lug plastic canisters to the leaky spigots of a public fountain. Some small children struggle with canisters nearly their size as they weave slowly between the fountain and the pushcarts used to wheel the water back home. Whether in cities or villages, this is how millions of Yemenis secure their day's supply of water. As few can afford to pay for water to be pumped to their building, public urban fountains, which are free, remain the only option for most. Umm Husein, a resident of the capital Sana'a, said she has tap water only once or twice a week. Trips to the communal fountain – taking time out of work or studies – involve her whole family. "The women, the children, every day we go to the fountain to get water," she said. Water and sanitation are chronic problems in Yemen, where, on average, each Yemeni has access to only 140 cubic metres of water per year for all uses – the Middle East average is about 1,000m³ a person annually. In recent years, the government of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh had taken strides to improve water access in Yemen, but the political turbulence that arose from last year's uprising has pushed water down the new government's list of priorities, according to aid workers and a government employee. Changing priorities Two years ago, Yemen's general rural water authority (GRWA) commissioned an assessment of existing water projects and coverage. The organisations that took part came to a collective decision to focus on rainwater harvesting in Yemen's highlands, and on water drilling in the coastal and desert areas. Yet the ensuing political chaos halted progress in implementing solutions, according to Abdulwali el-Shami, an engineer in the government's public works project (PWP) in Sana'a. Beset with crises, the new president, Abd Rabbu Mansoor Hadi, has put little energy towards resolving the water crisis threatening the majority of Yemenis. Ghassan Madieh, a water specialist for UN children's fund Unicef, said he did not "see any serious attention being given to the issue of water scarcity, or the low coverage in water and sanitation". Jerry Farrell, country director of Save the Children in Yemen, echoed this assessment: "[In June], the ministry of planning rolled out its plan for the next 20 months … and water was at the bottom of the list." Though solutions exist, the will and attention necessary to put them into practice remain absent, observers say. Farrell said that without a greater governmental commitment to water issues, international aid organisations dealing with water will not be able to work effectively in the country. The government must also provide water subsidies for the extremely poor while water infrastructure is developed, he added. The spectre of a country run dry looms over Yemen's nearly 25 million inhabitants. With its streams and natural aquifers shallower every day, Sana'a risks becoming the first capital in the world to run out of a viable water supply. The water table in the city has dropped far beyond sustainable levels, Shami said, because of an exploding population, lack of water resource management and, most of all, unregulated drilling. Where Sana'a's water table was 30 metres below the surface in the 1970s, he said, it has now dropped to 1,200 metres in some areas. The water supply in this largely arid country has been the source of decades-long ethnic conflicts, particularly among nomadic groups. In the northern governorate of al-Jawf, a blood feud between two prominent local groups has continued unabated for nearly three decades, largely a result of the contested placement of a well on their territorial border. Abdulwali el-Jilani, a water specialist in Sana'a with the Community Livelihood Project, a programme to improve water access funded by the US aid agency USAid, warned that as water supply diminishes, tensions will rise: "Water is and will be the reason for powerful conflicts in the future."
Following to my blog post on sectarianism which is deeply ingrained on the British left I thought I’d share a few more thoughts. I have a few times recently raised criticisms or perceived criticisms I tend to see them as more suggestions with a critical tone to help move things forward. I’ve been rebuffed by some of my own comrades in the socialist party not by many just a few I must admit sadly. A few private messages had come to me in a quite sharp tone noting I shouldn’t be raising criticisms of the party and its strategy on a public interenet forum instead I should take any disagreement I have to my regional committee or an elusive internal bulletin which has been promised for months and I’ve still not heard anything about it or how I can access it. Being blind doesn’t help as no doubt it will come out in print form forgetting we have comrades who may not be able to read print but tat is by the by. Its my issue that how democratic centralism is interpreted that any disagreement or public criticisms is a crime and must be kept all in house which troubles me. I suppose for most of the left discussing your differences in public is a "cardinal sin". Minorities within the 'party' are either expected to keep their views to themselves or at best limit the airing of their disagreements with the leadership to closed meetings or the pages of internal bulletins. A monolithic facade of 'unity' must always be presented. The public expression of differences supposedly portrays weakness to those outside your ranks and, worse, serves only to 'confuse workers'. That, at least, is how much of the left have chosen to interpret the Leninist organisational principle of democratic centralism it would seem. We’ve seen just this year how the SWP leadership tried to clamp down on public out cry on how the leadership looked to cover up a allegation on rape I do think although slightly better in terms of democracy our party I feel can still be found wanting to shut down debate and to keep our disagreements in house. Is it a lack of confidence I wonder? Facts that we don’t want to let the class see we have those who are not all 100% signed up to the party line or have questions over things. I do wonder sometimes. I mostly agree with what we say in our programme but when there is a issue which comes up like our attitude towards Left unity and the direction or lack of in TUSC I am shot down for daring to ask valid reasonable questions. In reality of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Democratic centralism - genuine Leninist democratic centralism, that is - while imposing on minorities the duty to abide by democratically agreed decisions, provides also for the fullest public criticism. The party should allow access to its public press for dissenting views as a matter of course. If a particular submission is considered unsuitable, then the author must have the right to publish it themselves - even in the capitalist press. Only in this way can we correct our mistakes and arrive at the truth. If you fear answering public criticisms and would prefer to brush them under the carpet comrades doubts and questions will only grow. Instead of other comrades taking a sharp tone with me how about trying to help me understand or to work with me to understand what I’m saying maybe clarify things in a comradely fashion. As sometimes when you are not feeling like you’re listened to or feel valued in an organisation you will start to talk out in anyway you can. Finding an elusive internal bulletin and talking to a regional committee who are far more experienced than myself and in a way make me feel small and less knowledgeable simply for being a member for a shorter period of time I am not sure why they feel my issues must be channelled down a path convenient to them. Surely they are my disagreements or issues should it not be up to me how I express them. I have tried to explain my frustrations to other comrades but have felt like I’m the stupid one for asking questions or daring to give differing points of view. Comrades our arrogance isnt pretty sometimes we sometimes may be wrong a bit of humility sometimes wouldn’t go a miss. We do not have all the answers and a set way to do things. We’re still a very small party if we were 100% correct on everything we would be far bigger it would be good to remember that sometimes and try to bring people with us rather than writing them off so soon. No comrade or political party is politically infallible I don’t think its right to pretend we ever are. We all have our own beliefs and understandings we all come to conclusions at different times not allowing any form of public criticism as it doesn’t present a unified front in action is sad. As long as it doesn’t hamper the overall thrust of what the party is saying a few questioning critical comrades giving constructive suggestions should always be welcome in my view. Who knows they may actually have some useful points to help.
Steven Bottrill, whose disabled mum Stephanie killed herself because of the bedroom tax, said: "Hopefully now someone will listen. Someone will realise what has gone on and change things." Studies by charities, as well as the NHS and the DWP, have shown that suicides and suicidal thoughts have increased among disabled people due to benefit cuts With the governments so called work programme it is failing people badly especially the disabled. According to charities for the blind, not a single blind or visually-impaired person has found sustained employment through the Work Programme. Capitalism always blames its victims. Now, more than ever, claiming benefits is portrayed as scrounging rather than being a right. This adds psychological despair to the harsh reality of scraping by on a pittance. Threatened and attempted suicides, as well as actual deaths, have doubled among 24-35 year old men in the UK since 2008. Last year there were deaths among sick and disabled people who had been subjected to the profit-driven bullying of Atos. Figures published in the Lancet showed UK suicides jumping 8% in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. Suicide rates have risen nearly everywhere except Sweden and Finland. In Algeria, Portugal, Greece, Tunisia and Italy suicide is a growing problem, with deaths three times higher among men than women. Few of these deaths make headline news but the government has the evidence. Richard Colwill, from mental health charity Sane, said: "No one should be surprised that factors such as unemployment and job insecurity can push people who may be already vulnerable to take their own lives. Life events like redundancy, bankruptcy and the relationship breakdowns that often follow can cause bouts of mental illness." Claimants slashing their wrists in jobcentres or setting themselves on fire is not deemed as newsworthy by the right-wing media as sensational headlines about benefits fraud. But government figures state only 0.5% of Disability Living Allowance claims are fraudulent. Before the crisis, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe: 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. Suicides have since doubled and attempted suicides have also increased. Debts, joblessness, job insecurity are the key reasons given, but it is also the sense that the future holds nothing better. In the US, suicide rates rose dramatically in high unemployment areas. Macomb County, Michigan, with 13.7% unemployment, reported almost 40% more suicides compared to before the recession. Researchers at University of Chicago found that mass layoffs in America caused an immediate rise in suicides, followed by a bigger spike six months later when unemployment insurance ran out. In Ireland, suicide rates increased by 25%, while in Japan, a 2008 study found one in five members of the population admitted contemplating suicide as the recession began to bite. Many people are finding themselves in a place where nothing seems certain anymore, as if the world around them has gone mad. Economic crisis is turning into a mental health crisis. The absence of a generalised struggle is a contributing factor that reinforces the idea that 'there is no alternative'. This despair is a product of capitalism - a system that is sick and rotten to the core. It must be replaced, by socialism, through mass struggle, to give people a purpose and sense of worth that this society cannot. The number of US deaths from suicide surpassed the number of deaths from car crashes in 2009 Over five million Americans lost access to health care due to losing their jobs in the recession. 750,000 have turned to binge drinking, while the number of anti-depressant prescriptions have soared Suicides and bad health have increased far more in countries that have slashed health and welfare budgets A University of Cambridge study found that for every 1% increase in unemployment, there is a 0.8% increase in suicides by under-65s With extracts from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/766/16715/22-05-2013/cuts-kill-con-dem-benefit-reforms-mental-health-and-suicide
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Is a very good question since two big demonstrations one a lot smaller and angrier than the last 2013 has been a somewhat quieter year for the students movement. Not being a student myself I look on from outside but the anger on tuition fees, lack of EMA, rental prices for students, cost of studying all haven’t gone away surely and the anger can’t have either. No doubt much of this lack of fight can be laid at the door of the NUS who have failed to mobilise students to defend education and mount a challenge to this rotten government. Socialist students which are affiliated to the socialist party have been doing excellent work on campuses up and down the country having our best year yet in terms of numbers. But our influence is still small. We will be putting pressure and calling on the NUS to organise a national demonstration this autumn very shortly. There have been small victories and incidents Sussex university had a fantastic demonstration with an occupation which was disgracefully evicted a while back now in protest over privatisation of the education system. Again NUS did not show up most students now are starting to fight without their own union of students this is a worry but not unsurprising given the role the NUS places with its pro labour party leadership and timid outlook. Recently a victory at Birmingham university has shown an example how students and workers when they unite can win victories even on a small scale and not totally resolved is a good start and shows we can win. Maintenance & support staff at University of Birmingham are celebrating near-total victory as university management have abandoned restructuring plans. 361 Hospitalist and Accomodation Services (HAS) staff faced compulsory redundancy, pay cuts and being forced to work anti-social hours under plans announced in March; the £407,000-a-year pay packet of the Vice-Chancellor would have been unaffected. The University also planned to force staff to work weekends and holidays for no extra pay. These plans have all been dropped and staff has won extra flexibility in setting their own schedules. Edmund Schluessel - NUS NEC-elect, UCU and Socialist Students Birmingham University Unison worked closely in partnership with the students’ union, Birmingham Guild of Students, to fight back against the cuts and job losses. Staff and students demonstrated together against university management on May Day, and, in a major show of solidarity, the Students’ Union put out a call for a national student mobilisation in support of the Birmingham HAS staff. In a statement, student campaigning group, Birmingham Defend Education, said, “This outcome demonstrates that protest and direct action work. Unions were negotiating on these issues behind the scenes for two months, whilst the University kept announcing further attacks. As soon as they started to sign up large numbers of new members and talk about strike action, and we sent our statement to David Eastwood, the University abandoned the majority of their attacks within two weeks. This also illustrates the power of students and staff when working together. We should remember that staff and students, not management, are what make the University work. If we recognise this, and the power that we have when we stop doing what we’re told, we can claim the conditions of work and study that we want to see.” The problem of low pay remains unresolved. Many maintenance staff at Birmingham and dozens of other universities is paid only the national minimum wage, while the university makes annual profits of nearly £30 million. Lecturers and other uni staff on the national pay spine have received real-terms pay cuts every year since 2009. The five-way consortium of university trade unions, consisting of UCU (lecturers), Unison, Unite, GMB (all support staff) and EIS (teaching trade union), are meeting with employers on the 21st to discuss the latest 0.8% pay offer. The five unions should unanimously reject the offer and prepare for national coordinated action to stop the pay cuts and job losses, and push the TUC (Trade Union Congress) to name the day for a 24-hour general strike against all the cuts. As an incoming Socialist Students member of the National Union of Students’ (NUS) executive I will push for NUS to learn from Birmingham students’ example and to give the fullest possible support to any action in defence of education and against the cuts. Once students come back after the summer there will be new angry students paying higher fees getting charged even more to live and get by. It’s a disgrace that the NUS would rather spend their time doing pointless survey’s and focus on the smaller issues not that they are not important but when our whole education system is at threat surely their priorities could be better placed. With socialist students getting its first member elected on to the NEC of the NUS in Edmund Schluessel we can now begin to gain influence beyond our own ranks. A statement put out by Edmund on socialist students website said that students need a voice and for too long the NUS has not represented the real views of students on the ground. Our aim is to turn the NUS into a fighting union to give students hope and an avenue to fight back in. Socialist student’s basic aims and demands are: What We Stand For Education Abolish tuition fees. Write off student debt. Restore EMA. Campaign for full living grants to cover the living costs of all students in post-16 education – including those at university. No to higher and further education funding cuts. Defend every course, job and service. No to academies and Free Schools. For exam boards and all other privatised services to be taken back into public ownership – no repeat of this year’s exam mistakes fiasco! Stop the marketisation and privatisation of universities in Britain. No to the government’s white paper and a two-tier Higher Education system. No university should be allowed to go to the wall! Lift the cap on places and publicly fund the expansion of high quality higher education. Build local anti-cuts campaigns and ‘Youth Fight for Education’ groups in every school, college and university, linked on both a regional and a national level. Support action taken by education workers to defend their conditions and our education –their fight is our fight. For the transformation of Students’ Unions into fighting organisations, with bottom-up democratic structures. For a fighting NUS. For education that is fully funded, publicly owned, democratically run and universally free at all levels – a socialist education system. Work and Welfare Support the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign. No to mass youth unemployment- for a decent job for all. No to the government’s slave labour ‘workfare’ schemes. For decent training opportunities and apprenticeships for young people which pay at least the minimum wage, with a guaranteed job at the end. No job losses in the public or private sector. When private bosses claim they can’t afford to maintain jobs, we say open the books. Let us see where the money has gone. For nationalisation of companies threatening closure, under democratic control with compensation given on the basis of proven need. Fight for a minimum wage of at least £8 an hour as a step towards a living wage. No cuts to housing or other benefits. End lower benefit rates for young people – for the right to Job Seekers Allowance at 16. No to ‘workfare’ and slave labour internships. For decent jobs paid at least a minimum wage of £8 an hour. Support the National Shop Stewards’ Network anti-cuts campaign which fights all cuts to jobs and services The immediate re-opening of all youth services that have been closed, including reinstating sacked staff. Rights Defend the right to protest. No to the victimisation of student protesters. For the right to organise in every school, college and campus. No to ‘kettling’ and police violence on demonstrations. No to racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination. Fight the far-right racist BNP and EDL. Jobs, homes and services- not racism. Build mass campaigns to defend communities. No platform for fascists in education. Rape is never the victim’s fault. For a mass campaign against sexism. No to reactionary attacks on women’s rights. Defend and extend abortion rights. No to the three main bosses’ parties. For a new mass workers’ party that fights in the interests of ordinary people. For International Solidarity and Socialism For solidarity between working class and young people across the world. Solidarity with the Arab Spring – No to western intervention – it is on behalf of big business and capitalism. No to war and imperialist intervention. For the Immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. End the siege of Gaza. No to Trident nuclear missile replacement Support the Sri Lanka Tamil Solidarity campaign – for the right of all people to self-determination. No to environmental destruction. For a sustainable democratic socialist plan of production that won’t destroy the planet. No to capitalism. For a socialist world, where the big monopolies are taken into public ownership, the economy is democratically planned and resources are used to meet the needs of all humanity. A campaign for students must start here. As terms are drawing to a close exams are being taken work must start now for action in the autumn to defend education and to fight for free education for the many not just the few.
Monday, 20 May 2013
The crisis in the Tory party grows ever deeper with sharper and sharper comments being exchanged from back bencher to back bencher from cabinet ministers now coming out and breaking ranks to support a referendum on the EU David Cameron will have a tough job on his hand to quell descent over his leadership or lack of. Europe has always been a dividing issue for Tories many do not wish to be dictated by some faceless bureaucrats in Brussels and detest the red t ape of the EU and all the laws they have no say over. Yet on the other side the business world the other part of the ruling class are worried and are jumping up and down worried that we may actually end up leaving the EU damaging business and trade. So this issue the ruling class in Britain really are split more so than most other issues it would seem. Even President O’Bama has weighed in saying the UK should remain part of Europe as they find it easier to do business with one block rather than several different nations. No doubt their interests go deeper than this with economic benefits being high on the agenda. But the way the Tories are hammering each other over Europe and pressuring David Cameron to go for a referendum is very interesting to see. For many years it’s been a divided and faction riddled labour party we all remember the famous spats between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and their people who couldn’t work together now its Cameron being marginalised in his own party as minister after minister decries his lack of leadership and support for a referendum for Britain. Let’s be clear though the Tories do not want this for the so called national interest it is all about their own pure class interests all along. The fear of having the city of London dictated to by Brussels over a financial transition tax and more regulation worries their banker friends and there donors as a result. The Tory party is so interwoven within the city of London now that any event that happens in the city and in government affects the other so acutely now. It is to the Tories detriment that they rely so heavily on the city of London for their backing which has backed them into a corner on this issue. Where in the past they would receive backing from more industrial capitalists now they rely solely on the financial sector. This will continue to play out right up until the general election. With a threat that it may tear the coalition apart with the Lib Dems still refusing to back a tin out referendum this will heighten tension between the coalition partners who are drifting further and further apart all the time. Deliberately maybe the closer we get towards the next election they will want to make themselves separate as much as they can but we all know they are tied on the main policies of cuts, privatisation and austerity. The issue of Europe won’t go away and with UKIP gaining more influence this will only grow. How the Tories play their hand now with a declining support now in the polls will be interesting to see. No doubt they will try and tack right play on the immigration card as much as they can and increase the divide and rule they use so effectively. The question for the working class is how we fight back. Labour has clearly shown they are no alternative to cuts and misery so we need a political alternative. TUSC looks to lay down an early marker of a marker for a new workers party with anti cuts candidates standing across the country. This is just a start but is an important start none the less.