Building Among Young Workers

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Above: CWI Summer School

My contribution to the Youth discussion at the CWI summer school in Barcelona:

In England and Wales, one of the areas of youth work we’ve focussed on is our orientation to and development of young workers. One of the challenges of this work is getting access to young workers.

Unlike students who can be found in large numbers on campuses, there is no one place where young workers come together. This is particularly true as trade union consciousness among youth is generally low. This means that we have to go directly into workplaces to engage with and attract new layers of young workers.

One of the ways we have done this is by organising campaigns around fast food rights, £10Now and days of action exposing retail outlets that use exploitative zero hours contracts. To try and engage young workers in workplaces known to be hostile to workplace organising we have organised actions where we go into a workplace and leaflet as many workers as we can before management ask us to leave.

As well as attracting new layers we have taken steps to develop our young worker comrades. Alongside student bureaus we have had a number of meetings for young workers to discuss how we can intervene in the workplace. This has been important as young workers face more insecure and unstable conditions which can be very different to conditions experienced by older comrades.

More often than not, young workers are in workplaces that have no trade union recognition. Management can get away with more bullying and intimidation and attempts to even discuss organising can be met with extreme hostility. In drawing out these perspectives this has guided our work and allowed us to better equip our young comrades in the workplace.

By having discussions on a day in the life of a care worker, a shop worker, a waiter etc. older workers are exposed to the conditions faced by the younger counterparts and can better advise younger comrades how to recruit other workers to trade unions and get organised.

It’s also important that time is made in branch meetings to discuss the conditions of the trade unions. As trade unions will often be held in the grip of bureaucratic officials and young comrades will need guidance to give them the confidence to transform unions into militant fighting trade unions.

One of our successful areas of work in this area is in relation to Usdaw (the shopworkers’ union) which is Britain’s 4th largest trade union with over 430,000 members. We have been developing a caucus and had our biggest intervention so far at this year’s national conference. Our young comrades have been at the forefront of regenerating the broad left within the union.

Likewise, our young members put forward and spoke on a number of important motions which resonated and got some of the best responses from delegates. In time this will no doubt lead to contacts and new recruits.

The steps we are taking are currently small and the tasks ahead great but comrades, by investing time and energy into preparing young workers today, we will be developing the cadre who will have the confidence and understanding to inspire and lead the workers’ struggles of tomorrow.

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Theresa May Resigned to Triggering Article 50

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Photo by Paul Mattsson
Theresa Maybe looked visibly uncomfortable as she signed the letter triggering article 50. Anyone would have thought she was signing her own letter of resignation. As a remainer faithful to her big business chums this is a resignation to the fact that her and her class have been dealt a blow.
In a show of arrogance she had to slip in the line about restoring national self-determination. I’m sure she’ll forget her passion for self-determination when the Scottish working-class dare to demand a second independence referendum.
Theresa May, her pro-remain friends in the Tory party and their Blairite hangers-on speak for themselves when they say they want the EU to prosper as they look on wistfully from outside.
They do not speak for the working-class of Britain which voted decisively to leave and they certainly won’t resonate with the working-class of Greece for instance, which has been robbed of €50 billion worth of public assets and left to rot as it’s capitalists are bailed out and the workers subject to more eye-watering austerity.
There was plenty of talk of the need to cooperate on security. This is no doubt a reference to keep the walls of Fortress Europe up to keep out refugees who are simply fleeing the bombs being dropped on them from “Our Right Honourable Friend” Theresa May and her warmongering Government.
Finally, her call to “work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible” is nothing more than an enfeebled plea from the leader of an increasingly waning force. The fragmentation of the European capitalist class will ensure that they sell each other out for their own narrow minded self-interests ensuring the very opposite of certainty.
The capitalists have been dealt a huge blow with Brexit. The Tories will no doubt want to punish working-class people for daring to leave their bosses’ EU; using Brexit as an excuse to continue slashing services and beating us into submission with greater austerity measures. We will firmly oppose this and any attempts they make to try and persecute other European workers settled in Britain.
The Conservatives will peddle their falsehoods about being “internationalist” and European. Meanwhile, we will continue to oppose austerity, to oppose the divisive politics of the right-wing and to oppose capitalism as we build with true working-class internationalists across Europe towards socialism.
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Should Socialists Support Scottish Independence?

Tensions are running high for British capitalists in the aftermath of the crisis caused by the Brexit body-blow dealt to them by a frustrated working-class vote for leave. As a means of trying to claw their way back into the bosses’ EU the Scottish National Party on behalf of the Scottish bourgeois are now pushing for a rerun of the 2014 Independence Referendum. As socialists should we support Scottish Independence?

In short, the answer is yes, however it comes with some important caveats.

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Photo taken from the Socialist Party Scotland website

Should Scottish Socialists band together with the SNP?

Absolutely not. Scottish socialists will be mounting an independent campaign to reject the reactionary nationalism put forward by the SNP. It is important to campaign independently for the right to self-determination whilst campaigning for a voluntary confederation of socialist states. In this way, we can rebuff Scottish Nationalism and the oppressive yoke of Westminster, acting largely on behalf of English capitalism without in any way limiting the rights of Scottish people to identify and govern themselves freely as a people.

Should voters outside of Scotland have a say in this referendum?

No. If the Scottish working class wishes to identify and govern itself independently we should not put up barriers to working class unity by interfering in their right to self-determination. If the Scottish working-class wishes to govern itself independently, it is incumbent upon socialists in the rest of the United Kingdom to build working-class unity by ensuring that the Scottish working-class is empowered to decide its own fate. If an exploiting nation is given the opportunity to vote on whether to carry on exploiting another nation it will opt to continue doing so. By ensuring that there is no interference from Westminster, we disarm our own capitalist exploiters whilst drawing closer links with the Scottish working-class as they continue their struggle against their own class of capitalist exploiters.

Surely independence only encourages nationalism and division?

By trying to force unity by siding with our own bourgeois we are inadvertently working in the interests of our own capitalist exploiters, i.e. the Conservatives and their Blairite acolytes in their oppression of Scottish people. It is this which will stoke nationalist tensions which will be used to divide the working-class. We should support Scottish independence as part of a voluntary confederation of socialist states whilst rejecting the petty nationalism of the SNP and the exploitative nationalism of the Conservatives and Blairites in the Labour Party.

Should we not also support calls being made for a border poll in Northern Ireland?

The peculiarities and unique features surrounding the national question in Northern Ireland mean that a direct comparison cannot be drawn between Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is a divide which largely, though not entirely, falls down religious lines with the Catholic population wanting to be part of a united Ireland and the Protestants wishing to remain part of the United Kingdom. The attempts by Sinn Fein to whip up sectarian conflict by demanding a border poll only seeks to divide the Northern Irish working-class. Such attempts to inflame sectarian conflict should be rejected in favour of independent working-class organisations voluntarily deciding their own fate on the question of governance in Northern Ireland whilst building towards a wider voluntary confederation of socialist states.

What can we do to build support for Scottish Independence independent of the capitalist classes of both Scotland and Westminster?

Join with other socialists and build towards a true internationalism rather than a so-called “internationalism” based on exploitation and division such as that put forward by the EU free market capitalists, the Conservatives, their Blairite acolytes or the Scottish National Party.

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Photo taken from the Socialist Party Scotland website

You can be put in touch with your respective Socialist Party, whether it be Socialist Party Scotland, the Socialist Party of England and Wales or indeed further afield by registering your interest here:

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/9

You can make a donation to the Committee for a Workers’ International (which Socialist Party Scotland and the Socialist Party of England and Wales are both affiliated to) by following this link:

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/2

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On Young and Precariat Workers

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Above photo taken by Mary Finch

Below is an editted version of my contribution to the discussion on British Perspectives at the Socialist Party’s March 2017 National Congress:

Ryan Aldred, Plymouth and South West

Comrade chair, comrades.

For many youths growing up in the 90’s, those putting forward a so called “alternative” to the Tories would have been Tony Blair, promising a university education for everybody and a life of prosperity thereafter. And how prosperous we are now! This was followed by Nick Clegg, promising to end tuition fees and put a brake on Tory austerity; well done there Cleggy!

It should therefore come as no surprise that in some of the most deprived areas, that young and precariat workers take a very jaded approach to Corbyn. There is some mileage in more boldly putting forward our programme among these layers. It is mainly a layer of older workers returning to the Labour Party and more politically engaged students who identify with Corbyn and recognise that he is qualitatively different from his neo-liberal predecessors.

There is a backwardness in class consciousness and particularly combativity compared to previous periods. This, coupled with the atomisation of young and precariat workers especially along with their abhorrent living conditions which can explain the increasing prevalence of mental health issues working class people are struggling to overcome. With poverty contributing to isolation and social exclusion leading to depression and the constant worry of living hand to mouth resulting in greater levels of anxiety.

It is these same material conditions which give rise to an often inchoate and elemental anger which can quickly rise to the surface and potentially spill over. Thus in this volatile period there is a danger that we could see a return of the riots which took place in 2011 as the conditions are still there which caused the riots to erupt.

Likewise, we could see a new occupy style movement albeit one on a higher political level due to the increased pace at which processes and events are taking place compared to the original occupy movement. Moreover, we’re likely to see the explosive injection of youth on demonstrations such as we have seen with the anti-Trump protests for instance.

With the lack of generalised industrial struggle in this period compared to some of the heroic struggles that took place in the Thatcher years, combined with the lack of organised opposition from Corbyn and general lack of momentum in Momentum, we could see the frustrations of youth finding expression in a resurgance of ultra-left and anarchist ideas. We have already seen this in embryo in the anti-party mood in the indignados and occupy movements and this will no doubt increase if we see further betrayals by left populist parties such as Syriza in Greece.

With all this unpredictability and volatility, one thing remains glaringly obvious, we will continue to see the accumulation of capitalist contradictions, agitating and radicalising the working class and especially the youth and more precariat layers. Improving technology is exacerbating this, self-service machines replacing shop workers and, as reported in the Financial Times this week, electronic lecturing displacing even this once secure profession.

We’ve seen the opportunities for super exploitation with apps such as deliveroo and uber eats, this has been compounded by Phillip Hammond’s budget, targetting the self-employed which will hit those in the rising gig economy hardest.

There is a desperate need for a bold and audacious alternative and in the absence of a serious fightback from the Corbynistas, TUSC is well placed to build towards that, even with the disappointing withdrawal of the SWP from TUSC. By showing confidence in our ideas and our programme, as evidenced by our strong intervention in the March 4th NHS demo, we can win new layers to our ranks and capture and hopefully harness some of that anger.

By being patient, flexible and resilient when building amongst casualised and particularly young workers, accommodating for comrades’ daily struggles, we can build confidence in these layers to take their first steps organising in the harsh conditions of zero-hours living.

This can help us to sink deeper roots into the class to ensure workers don’t internalise feelings of failure for not being productive members of a capitalist society which sees fit to discard them. By agitating among these workers to express their rightful indignation at a system that is failing them, whilst linking their struggles into the wider struggles of the working class by helping to organise these layers, we can prepare the ground for the revolutionary idea that we can instead discard this capitalist system and build with our class towards a socialist alternative.

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All Circus and No Bread: Plymouth City Council Cuts Budget and Democracy

Councillors sat today (Monday 27th February) to move the annual budget and yet again it’s the people of Plymouth that are being made to suffer.

With Labour having lost control of the council after the 2016 elections ending four years of Blairite Labour branded austerity the Conservatives and their allies in UKIP are now wielding the axe and they are certainly wasting no time.

It’s difficult to fathom how UKIP can in any way claim to be an “alternative” when they are lining up with the Tories to dish out more misery for ordinary Plymothians. Moreover, we hear once again about the need to be prudent and fiscally responsible from the Conservatives, yet they are continuing to slash services whilst having the gall to increase council tax for every household in Plymouth by 4.49%. This effectively means that the people of Plymouth will have to pay out even more despite the fact that the Tories and their friends in UKIP are further reducing the services which Plymouth City Council is offering. In short people will have to pay more for less.

The Tories have pinned the council tax rise on the need to raise funds to ensure the council is able to meet its requirements for providing adult social care. Rather than lumping the bill on the poorest and most vulnerable in Plymouth why hasn’t Ian Bowyer (Conservative leader of Plymouth City Council) demanded more funding from central government? If they can find extra money for Surrey, why not Plymouth? The people of Plymouth are being expected to pay out more in taxes whilst simultaneously having to put up with reduced bin collections as well as the potential closure of over half of Plymouth’s libraries to name but some of the cuts.

The Labour Councillors were ridiculing the Tories for making cuts and raising council tax but this is exactly what they themselves did over the four years that they had control of the council. However, their remarks were cut short when the Conservatives and UKIP decided to use their majority to end the debate early and go straight to the vote. It seems that the Conservatives are taking a leaf out of Trump’s book by stifling debate which UKIP fully supported.

Despite being cut short the Labour group could have used what time they had to table an alternative no cuts budget as I have suggested to them year after year before budget setting meetings. Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party have been much more open to discuss such an alternative but so far not a single one of Plymouth’s Labour Councillors has been open to even discussing a legal no cuts budget.

Plymouth is in desperate need of an alternative to austerity. We need Councillors who are going to stand up for public services rather than wield the axe. Whether that fight comes from Corbyn supporting Labour candidates prepared to unseat Blairites and oppose the cuts or whether that fight has to continue to come from TUSC, what matters is that fight needs to be had.

TUSC are prepared to continue in that fight and we are always happy to have fraternal discussions with any and all individuals and parties that are also willing to take up that struggle. Let’s build the alternative.

Ryan Aldred

Socialist Party Secretary and TUSC Election Agent

Library Closures: If it’s not about money, what is it about?

Below is a letter I’ve sent into the Plymouth Herald:

“Conservative Councillor Glenn Jordan claimed at a library consultation meeting on Tuesday 21st February that the ridiculous plans to close 10 libraries across the city was not about saving money. If the money is there to keep the libraries open then why not keep those libraries open? How will culling jobs and destroying community spaces help to benefit the city?

The Conservatives are seriously suggesting that library services can reach the people of Plymouth better by closing ten of the city’s libraries, which, when coupled with the expensive public transport system is going to leave people isolated and less able to reach these services.

Likewise, we heard that North Prospect Library is planned for closure because it doesn’t have meeting space. When it was challenged that there are indeed meeting rooms in the library building the retort by Councillor Jordan was that the meeting space needed to be in the library space itself. Forgive me for my ignorance but I would have thought that a library is meant to be just that, a library and not a library/meeting space! The fact that there are meeting spaces available in the North Prospect library building which are being ruled out on the utterly spurious grounds that they are not “in the library” suggests to me that there is more than meets the eye going on here.

If it’s not about money, why don’t they try to increase engagement with these wonderful public spaces rather than simply trying to close their doors for good? Councillor Jordan has put forward these plans “so we are not constrained by bricks and mortar”. I have to wonder aloud, is there a more lucrative business venture that these shameless Conservatives are eyeing up which they are happy to turf out community groups and public sector workers for?

Don’t get me wrong, I do support more being invested to offer a digital service but that shouldn’t be at the expense of jobs and excellent public spaces. If the Conservatives want to see more engagement with libraries why don’t they invest more into ensuring that libraries are well-maintained and remain accessible by keeping them open? Or is it as I suspect that this is indeed not about money but about the continued destruction of our public services?

If these Conservatives and their chums in UKIP can’t look after our public services I’ll be more than willing to show them how it’s done.

Ryan Aldred

Plymouth TUSC Campaign Organiser”

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From 1905-2017: Echoes of the Abortive Russian Revolution

 

Below is the manifesto produced by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies at the height of the revolutionary storm which bubbled over in Russia in 1905. It is striking how many similarities there are between the autocratic tsarist regime of 1905 and the towering heights of predatory capitalism today.

The working-class shook Tsarism to the core when they felt their collective strength in 1905 and in 1917 the working-class swept Tsarism into the dustbin of history. The shaky ground which capitalism currently rests on can once again be shaken as the working-class move into action. Capitalism itself can be swept into the dustbin of history as the working-class reject the poverty, exploitation and misery that is becoming all too familiar.

As working-class people start to feel our collective strength in the face of the bourgeoisie’s fracturing system, socialism can once again be placed firmly on the order of today’s business and with the collective effort of billions of workers across the world we can achieve a society from each according to ability, to each according to need. All we need do is demand it and through collective action, strive for it.

1905

“The government is on the brink of bankruptcy. It has reduced the country to ruins and scattered it with corpses. The peasants, worn out by suffering and hunger, are incapable of paying taxes. The government gave credits to the landowners out of the people’s money. Now it is at a loss as to what to do with the landowners’ mortgaged estates. Factories and plants are at a standstill. There is unemployment and a general stagnation of trade. The government has used the capital obtained by foreign loans to build railways, warships, and fortresses and to store up arms. Foreign sources have now been exhausted and state orders have also come to an end. The merchant, the supplier, the contractor, the factory owner, accustomed to enriching themselves at the treasury’s expense, find themselves without new profits and are closing down their offices and plants. One bankruptcy follows another. Banks are failing. All trade exchanges have been reduced to the barest minimum. The government’s struggle against revolution is causing daily unrest. No one is any longer sure what the morrow will bring.

Foreign capital is going back home, ‘Purely Russian’ capital is also seeping away into foreign banks. The rich are selling their property and going abroad in search of safety. The birds of prey are fleeing the country and taking the people’s property with them.

For many years the government has spent all its state revenue on the army and navy. There is a shortage of schools. Roads have been neglected. In spite of this, there is not enough money even to keep the troops supplied with food. The war was lost partly because military supplies were inadequate. Mutinies of poverty-stricken, hungry troops are flaring up all over the country.

The railways are economically sick through the government’s fault. Many millions of roubles are needed to restore the railway economy.

The government has pilfered the savings banks, and handed out deposits to support private banks and industrial enterprises, often entirely fictitious ones. It is using the small saver’s capital to play the stock exchange, where that capital is exposed to risk daily.

The gold reserves of the state bank are negligible compared with the existing claims of government loans and the demands of trade turnover. It will be reduced to nothing if gold coin is demanded for every transaction.

Taking advantage of the absence of any control of the state finances, the government has long been issuing loans which far exceed the country’s means of payment. With these new loans it is covering the interest on old ones.

Year after year the government issues false accounts of expenditure and revenue, showing both to be less than they are in reality and robbing indiscriminately to show a surplus instead of an annual deficit. Officials are free to rob the treasury which in any case is already exhausted.

Only the Constituent Assembly, after the overthrow of autocracy, can halt this financial ruin. It will carry out a close investigation of the state finances and will draw up a detailed, clear, accurate, and certified balance sheet of state revenue and expenditure (budget).

Fear of popular control which would reveal to all the world the government’s financial insolvency is forcing it to keep putting off the convening of the people’s representative assembly.

In order to safeguard its rapacious activities the government forces the people to fight unto death. Hundreds of thousands of citizens perish and are ruined in this fight, and industry, trade, and means of communication are destroyed at their very foundations.

There is only one way out: to overthrow the government, to deprive it of its last strength. It is necessary to cut the government off from the last source of its existence: financial revenue. This is necessary not only for the country’s political and economic liberation, but also, more particularly, in order to restore the financial equilibrium of the state.

We have therefore decided:

To refuse to make land redemption payments and all other payments to the treasury. In all transactions and in the payment of wages and salaries, to demand gold, and in the case of sums of less than five roubles, full-weight hard cash (coinage).

To withdraw deposits from savings banks and from the state bank, demanding payment of the entire sum in gold.

The autocracy has never enjoyed the people’s confidence and has never received any authority from the people.

At the present time the government is behaving within the frontiers of its own country as though it were ruling conquered territory.

We have therefore decided not to allow the repayment of loans which the government contracted while it was clearly and openly waging ware against the entire people.

Signed: The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

The Main Committee of the All-Russian Peasants’ Union.

The Central Committee and the Organization Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ party.

The Central Committee of the party of Socialist Revolutionaries.

The Central Committee of the Polish Socialist party.”

To read more about the events which surrounded this document, check out 1905 written by Leon Trotsky.

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