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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Save Our NHS: Junior Doctors Speak Out

17616Socialist Party, RMT, PCS, Unite, UNISON, NUT and Momentum members were all out supporting junior doctors as they took to strike action on February 10th earlier this year.

Ryan Aldred interviewed Kim, Daniel and Rebecca about the reasons why they were on strike:

RA: Why are junior doctors on strike?

K: Nothing has changed since the last strike action and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has vetoed an agreement between the British Medical Association (BMA) and NHS Employers.

RA: What are the effects of the proposed changes?

K: If the changes go through then the safeguards which prevent doctors from working dangerously long hours will be removed. “Lower hours” would be nice but this is going to be less likely without the safeguards in place. You certainly wouldn’t want to see me after a 30 hour shift (the maximum length of time a doctor could be expected to work before the safeguards were removed)! We don’t want to make mistakes and if we are working longer and longer hours mistakes will be more likely which will put patients at risk which is something we won’t risk.

D: It is likely that there will be more walkouts if the government refuses to listen.

R: I see an end of the NHS coming. In 13 years it’s never been this bad. The NHS has the monopoly so there’s nowhere else to go. I know 6 people who have already taken contracts in Australia or New Zealand.

RA: What is the pay for a newly qualified junior doctor?

For someone who has just qualified they will be on around £24,000 a year. However, we also have to fund a lot of our training ourselves with no external support. The General Medical Council (GMC) fees are £500 and I have to pay in order to progress. For example, I’ve got to pay for two lots of exams which cost £500 each this year alone.

RA: Will patient care suffer if these changes are brought in?

K: Definitely. The new rotas aren’t compatible with life let alone working life.

D: If safeguards are removed doctors will be exhausted and will be more likely to make mistakes. A demoralised workforce is an unproductive one. A standard working week is 48 hours. I have even had to do 39 hour weekends.

RA: What has public support been like?

K and D: Amazing.

K: One patient said “if you’re here tomorrow, I’ll be cross.” It’s such an important cause.

D: It was nice to know that I had the support of my patients, with one of my patients saying “We’re all behind you!”

RA: What do you hope to achieve with the strike?

K: We hope that this will convince the government to listen to the BMA. Safe contracts should be the real goal.

D: No more lies from Jeremy Hunt and no more false statistics. Actual negotiations without threat of imposing contracts.

Since this interview, Jeremy Hunt has imposed the new contract terms and has refused to negotiate with the BMA. In response the BMA has called for 3 lots of 48 hour strike action, determined to get the government to listen. The first 48 hour stoppage took place from Wednesday 9th March-Friday 11th March with doctors still receiving overwhelming public support.

The National Shop Stewards Network has been in contact with a number of junior doctors and many of our supporters have invited them to speak at their union meetings to help build solidarity. In consultation with them, we have drawn up a model motion that can be discussed and hopefully passed throughout the union movement.

It calls on the TUC and the unions to “urgently convene a special TUC general council with an invitation to the BMA and the other health unions.

This meeting should discuss organising an emergency Saturday national demonstration on the theme of ‘Defending the NHS, supporting the junior doctors’ and coordinating industrial action against Tory health service cuts and their effect on health workers, such as the attack on NHS bursaries.”

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For more reports on the junior doctors strike click the link below:

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/22355/10-03-2016/doctors-out-in-force-for-third-phase-of-action

 

Corbyn Supporters Gain Momentum: Now to Reject Austerity and Build the Socialist Movement

Momentum Taking Shape

The development of Momentum has the potential to be an important step in the process of organising Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. This is important for mobilising the swelling support for Corbyn as a means to challenging the ideas of austerity and firmly putting the ideas and policies of Socialism back on the mainstream agenda. It is clear that the right-wing Blairites that currently have control of the Labour Party machine are organising a very open coup against Corbyn as evidenced daily in the press attacks by the likes of Ben Bradshaw, Simon Danczuk and John Cruddas. Momentum has the potential to effectively counter the Blairite opposition to Corbyn but it will only realise that potential if it remains open and does not shy away from taking on those who have polluted the Labour Party over the last 30 years.

Momentum has raised the interests of many, whether old Labour members who have been disillusioned in the past by Labour’s lack of opposition to the Tories who are now coming back or new layers, inspired to get involved by Corbyn’s anti-austerity message. It has also attracted those from outside the ranks of the Labour Party to play a part in building the movement. Trade unionists, community campaigners, those not willing to throw their lot in with a particular party at this point and those in various other political parties are currently engaging with Momentum. If it remains open and broad in this way the Socialist Party will continue to support and be a part of this process.

However, Momentum is still finding its feet nationally and because of this it is fulfilling a number of different roles in different areas. In some places it is very open, democratic and welcoming of those from the wider labour movement. Yet, in other areas it is closed off to anybody outside of the Labour Party. This is a mistake as it limits the scope of debate and leaves Momentum being very insular rather than aiming to appeal to broader layers to build a mass working-class movement.

On Debate and Dealing With the “Moderates”

It is clear that there is another group which is very interested in Momentum and that group is the so-called “moderates”. The same group of “moderates” that have a stranglehold on the Parliamentary Labour Party and the majority of councils. The same group of “moderates” who are doing all they can to stop the loss of their free ride on the gravy train by trying to shut out and isolate Corbyn’s supporters. Whether it be making members feel unwelcome at meetings, duping the public by speaking socialist rhetoric one minute then putting through swingeing cuts the next or manipulating Momentum meetings to cut out any views that contradict their own, these “moderates” will stop at nothing to keep their grubby mitts firmly at the reins of a party which is steering in another direction.

Corbyn’s election promises struck a chord; a single compromise on austerity would be a betrayal of all those who have engaged and are willing to support a position of Councils coming together to oppose the cuts. Trying to compromise between the tens of thousands taking their first tentative steps into the field of politics who outright reject austerity and the thousands of Labour Councillors who have, up until now, put through austerity without any resistance but “with a heavy heart” would be an impossibility.

It is disappointing that Jon Lansman, one of the directors of Momentum, pulled out of a planned debate at the Socialist Party’s annual Socialism 2015 event recently due to the Sun releasing a “reds under the bed” article:

http://www.sunnation.co.uk/corbyn-aide-to-join-ex-militant-leaders-to-plot-battle-for-labours-soul/

The terms of the debate cannot be allowed to be set by the likes of Murdoch’s gutter press. Likewise, trying to appeal or placate the right-wing in the Labour Party by compromising on policy or on the purpose of Momentum would be a huge error on the part of the Corbynistas. Furthermore, Momentum meetings should not shy away from political debates and discussions. It’s important to build and organise campaigns which people can get behind but at the same time the reasons for why those campaigns are being pursued and focussed on should be up for discussion.

Thus, anybody trying to dampen the call for political discussion or calling for unity above all in the Labour Party has to be seriously questioned on what basis that unity should or even could be achieved. There have, of course, been notable exceptions where Labour Councillors have opposed the cuts such as Keith Morrell, Don Thomas and Kevin Bennett to name but a few but they were expelled from the Labour Party for their efforts. These Councillors all did so whilst the Labour Party was under Miliband’s control but the Labour Party has not been forthcoming in welcoming these Councillors back into their ranks yet and all have found a home in TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition). Those calling for unity without question were deafeningly silent about unity in these cases and yet these Councillors have enjoyed the popular support of ordinary working-class people for daring to actually carry through their promises of opposing austerity in deed as well as in word.

Local Elections

Corbyn’s supporters have come into the Labour Party with the Blairites rushing through the selection process for next year’s local elections in order to ensure they can exclude the new layers, many of whom won’t yet be eligible to vote in these selection meetings. It is clear to the likes of right-wing Labour MP Frank Field that if Blairite candidates were to be deselected then he would be prepared to support them as independent candidates over the legitimately selected Labour candidate. With Corbyn’s supporters effectively barred from influencing who will potentially be representing them in council chambers up and down the country in the 2016 local elections will they be prepared to support independent candidates who genuinely support Corbyn if they are stuck with Labour candidates who don’t support Corbyn?

TUSC and the Socialist Party is in the process of writing to all Labour candidates running in the local elections next year to find out where they stand on opposing the cuts. If Councillors up for reelection are willing to move no-cuts budgets at the annual budget setting meetings and if new candidates are willing to pledge to openly support Corbyn’s call for councils to come together against the cuts then the Socialist Party will be happy to not stand candidates against them. Indeed we will do all we can to help be a part of the campaign to get these people elected. However, would it be right to allow Blairite candidates a free rein to stand unopposed when they will be undermining Corbyn’s policies and doing the Tories dirty work for them by implementing the cuts which are opposed by Labour’s leadership and a quickly growing layer of working-class people?

There are many challenges ahead but unity has to be forged on the basis of a programme which rejects austerity in word and deed and emphatically rejects the ideologically driven cuts which have hammered the poor and vulnerable whilst the rich have been showered with tax breaks, bailouts and massive profits. Workers have a world to win.

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Labour and Tories Enter Grand Cuts Coalition

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Since the General Election, Labour have been increasingly inward looking as they come to terms with falling horrendously short of shutting the Tories out. Drawing all of the wrong conclusions, the leadership are moving rightwards as they view their defeat in the polls as a sign that they were too left-wing. In reality, the lack of an alternative on offer is really the issue which has seen them falling short of forming the next Government. Labour promised to continue on with the austerity onslaught started by the Conservatives and their now collapsed Liberal Democrat partners and in doing so have been snubbed at the polls.

Despite the similarities in their economic strategy, Labour had nevertheless been posing themselves as an alternative to the Conservatives in their rhetoric. This will have undoubtedly swayed many voters who have seen Labour move further and further rightwards but would hold their nose and remain faithful to Labour to “stop the Tories getting in”. It will therefore come as a shock to many of these people to see Labour reveal how far they have degenerated as they have now formally agreed to share power with the Conservatives in Plymouth’s hung council.

http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Labour-strikes-power-sharing-deal-Conservatives/story-26553401-detail/story.html

Labour will no doubt justify this arrangement as a means of shutting the 3 UKIP Councillors out from becoming kingmakers with the Tories now that Labour have lost their majority on the council. If that is the case then Labour will quickly fall to pieces as it is simply siding with what it considers to be the least worst of two bad options. If Labour were willing to take more of a lead and not implement the eye-watering cuts passed down from national level they would probably never have lost their majority on the council but this latest move will only alienate those who will have voted Labour to keep the Tories out.

In light of this move, Plymouth’s 3 UKIP Councillors will most likely portray themselves as the rebellious anti-establishment underdogs but only a cursory glance at their voting patterns shows that they are just as much a part of the problem. Having offered no resistance to the cuts by not tabling an alternative budget and even voting against implementing a living wage for all Council staff, it is clear that UKIP in Plymouth are just another brand of establishment offering another brand of austerity.

With no illusions in Labour as the reality of this grand cuts coalition will start going about its business of butchering public services, people will very quickly start looking for alternatives. The trade union leaders will now have a very difficult time arguing that Labour are an alternative when the evidence is clearly showing otherwise. The attacks on jobs, conditions and public services will now come thick and fast and people will be looking for a means of organising to fight back and resist the compounding of an already desperate situation.

People will not need to look far as the Socialist Party and TUSC continue to campaign for an end to the cuts and the immediate implementation of a £10 an hour minimum wage, standing shoulder to shoulder with workers as they take to strike action. Labour’s collaboration with the Tories shows that they are not in any way an alternative. We can either mourn at the loss of a Party that is no longer ours or we can be part of the building of an alternative that effectively counters what the Tories have in store for us. Now is the time to get involved with TUSC, join the Socialist Party and build a movement to end austerity.

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Cuts, Contradictions and Outright Lies

Plymouth City Council yesterday passed its annual budget and the entire spectacle was almost comical in its presentation but the trouble is that underneath all the blustering and posturing there was a very serious and all too familiar outcome.

Labour were happy to point out how damaging the cuts from central government have been when wagging their fingers at the Conservative opposition as they bragged about how much the Labour Council has achieved despite the cuts. Yet, Labour have obediently implemented another cuts budget and offered no real opposition in Plymouth to the attacks levied by central government.

Even a cursory glance at some of the figures showed some of the “achievements” Labour were less keen to boast about, such as the 16,911 people dragged through the courts for non-payment of Council Tax since slashing Council Tax Support by 20%. Moreover, Labour talked about the increasing pressure on adult social care and mental health services, undoubtedly a result of increasing poverty, which they responded to by cutting the funding for both adult and child social care.

This will inevitably put extra strain on the NHS which will have to pick up the slack. Thus, an extra £2.6 billion promised by Labour will be nothing more than tokenism when stacked against the cuts in pay, stretching of services and the privatisation which has already been introduced into the NHS, opening up a funding black hole. But I digress.

The Con-Dem inspired austerity budget, which cuts deeper and looks increasingly at outsourcing public services to the private sector, was pushed through by Labour’s majority of 1. However, the contradictions didn’t end there. UKIP broke their seeming vow of silence speaking for the first time at a full council meeting since being elected last May. Maddi Bridgman argued that people in her ward have not seen wage rises and that people are struggling but when given the opportunity to vote for a living wage she, and her two UKIP colleagues both voted against the motion. This demonstrates again that whilst UKIP posture about being for the people, when given the opportunity they vote against the interests of ordinary working-class people.

Worst of all, Labour resorted to outright lies as a means to sling mud at the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), determined to taint a party which is exposing Labour for its lack of opposition to austerity. Councillor Bill Stevens alleged that “TUSC Councillor Alison Casey voted against the living wage” despite Alison Casey having no affiliation to TUSC and never being endorsed by the TUSC national steering committee as a representative of TUSC. The fact that Labour have to resort to such disgraceful and wholly dishonest tactics as a means to justifying its shambolic commitment to austerity is a disgrace and it will only hasten the “Pasokification” of the Labour Party.

TUSC remains committed to opposing all cuts and will be raising another full slate of candidates in Plymouth this May to firmly keep opposition of austerity on the agenda. If Labour will not oppose austerity then step aside because Plymothians cannot be subjected to further eye-watering cuts. This is the case whether it be at their “brilliant and co-operative” hands or the hands of the Con-Dems, UKIP or even the Greens, as exhibited in both Bristol and Brighton and Hove. Cuts are still cuts and they sting no matter who wields the axe; the solution is to vote for, and get involved with TUSC.

http://www.tusc.org.uk/support.php

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