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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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

Don’t forget to like, follow and share to help expand the readership of this blog.

Reflections On The TUSC Campaign Trail…

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With just over 3 weeks to go until the General and Local Elections take place I have found it useful to take 5 minutes between putting letters and statements together, preparing for hustings and leaflet drops as well as canvassing, to reflect on the changed mood from last year.

One of the first things that I have noticed this year is the diminished support for UKIP when speaking to people on doorsteps. It was to be expected that UKIP would be prominent in last year’s elections as the local elections ran concurrently with the European Elections but one thing that has been striking this year has been the lack of vocal support this year compared to last year for UKIP. I have had conversations with a number of people who have expressed support for UKIP, more as a protest vote than anything else, but there has been a marked drop in self-proclaimed UKIP supporters or voters.

This seems at odds with the giant billboards, masses of leaflets going out as well as the seemingly full-time commenting on local news websites of some UKIP supporters. However, this will all have been paid for by millions which have been provided by rich donors that were once loyal to the Conservatives.

Something else I have noticed is a lack of canvassing and grass roots campaigning by the other parties. I have spoken to plenty of people who almost seem surprised that a rosette wielding Socialist is knocking at their door of an evening until I point out that there’s only 3 weeks to go until polling day. Again, there are plenty of billboards from all of the Capitalist parties being erected across the city in an almost clandestine turf war but this seems to be the extent of it. The battle for hearts, minds and political ideas seems to have been reduced to an almost clinical advertising campaign.

One other very encouraging difference I have noticed in this election compared to last year is that these elections are much more political than in previous years. It is clear now more than ever before, at least in the course of my political experience, that people are searching much more deeply for a political outlet which best represents their increasingly irked voice. There is a clear rejection of the tired swing from Labour to Conservative and back again as more and more people are looking to parties that can offer a way out of the protracted crisis caused by the current rut Capitalism finds itself in.

Some have been pulled in by the simplistic and mistaken view that immigration is the cause of every societal woe, whether it’s overcrowded schools, the stagnant wages or the alleged influx of health tourists “burdening our NHS” offered by a rightwards lurching UKIP. Others are turning to the seemingly refreshing views of the Greens, who have lurched leftwards in their rhetoric with promises to end austerity and promise of a minimum wage of ₤10 an hour by 2020. Yet when the Greens have been in a position to end austerity, such as in Brighton and Hove or Bristol, they have capitulated and joined an increasing rainbow coalition of austerity wielding parties. Not to mention that ₤10 an hour is needed now, not some time in the distant future.

There is a dwindling rump of support for the Conservatives and Labour, mainly made up of stalwarts and party faithfuls that have not yet come to terms with the fast changing political landscape. Things cannot go back to the way they used to be. Labour seem to be desperately trying to shed its working-class base as it has spent more and more of its time marketing itself to big business with continued austerity whilst opportunistically also offering rhetoric about communities and helping the most vulnerable. This flies in the face of the reality of Labour councils which have dutifully implemented austerity passed down to them by the Con-Dems.

Likewise, the Conservatives have not managed to attract voters beyond its core support as most people are under no illusions about us all being in this together after 5 years of wages, terms, conditions and public services being hammered.

It’s hugely encouraging to be out canvassing on the streets and being greeted, on the whole, with a barrage of questions as it is clear that the working-class are really starting to explore the potential avenues for them to venture down on the political plain. Fed up with more of the same or petty compromises working-class people are looking for a way out of the sustained poverty and misery being unnecessarily inflicted upon them.

As a Socialist Party member and TUSC candidate in the local elections this May I am glad to be there offering a genuine alternative to austerity through the striving for a socialist transformation of society. The ground is fertile for our ideas, having spent just an hour canvassing we were able to pick up 6 contacts as well as a much larger number of people who said they would seriously consider casting a vote for us this May.

Even more inspiring was the presence of a Norwegian student in attendance at our latest branch meeting, directly as a result of our sustained campaigning efforts. Keen to learn more about what the Socialist Party, and indeed the Committee for a Workers’ International, has to offer, I am confident that this can be replicated many times. We are turning more and more heads in this election and more importantly gaining new members and organisers. This will really accelerate the process of building a strong workers’ movement hungry from poverty, hungry for change… hungry for socialism.

I would like to dedicate this post to Declan Clune, a faithful reader of my blog since its inception.

If you like what you read, feel free to like, comment, follow this blog and let’s not forget join the Socialist Party.

Building the Revolutionary Party – CWI Speech

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For those of my readers who don’t already know, I’m a member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales. This is part of an International known as the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) made up different sections of the Socialist Party from around the world. Recently I attended the CWI school in Leuven, Belgium and had one of the most intense but enjoyable experiences of my political life so far. Here is the speech I gave during a commission on building the revolutionary party:

“Comrades,

In the England and Wales section we are growing slowly at the moment but in Plymouth where I am based we have grown very quickly from about 8 to around 30 in less than 6 months and I have identified four things which I would posit help to build our respective revolutionary parties

Firstly, a healthy perspective is needed. Lenin once said that Capitalism will always reform itself over the bones of the working classes and I personally think this can be interpreted in two ways. Looking at the poverty, austerity, repression and wars going on around the world today the truth of that statement is revealing itself frighteningly quickly.

However, I also see this statement as a challenge; after seeing and hearing some of the grotesque horrors that Capitalism can bring I say that Capitalism can only be allowed to reform over my dead body! I see that same passion and determination driving the CWI forward particularly in sections with only a handful of comrades who stand defiant nonetheless.

It is this passion and determination that serves as our most powerful tool of recruitment. It is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we ourselves do not first believe that revolution is possible and it is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we do not believe that we can recruit. But when we do believe, others will see our conviction and will want to join us and that is simply changed by a change in perspective.

I would next say that organisation is key. We have a giant task ahead of us with the implementation of socialism across the globe. It requires us to be ambitious and dream of a better future for all. However, as a part of that we cannot allow ourselves to forget the small things which will make the big changes.

We should set realistic targets for recruitment, we should organise so that we never lose a contact that we’ve met by misplacing their contact details and make sure we follow them up, not just once but regularly until it is clear that they have lost interest or are ready to join. We should always prepare in advance to ensure that we have the relevant papers and flyers with us for each situation or action, overall we need to be efficient and organised.

Next ,I would say we can recruit through persistent action. By remaining at the heart of struggle and showing solidarity with workers as they take action they come to identify with us. They may not join us at first, but unlike bourgeois parties we are not out only for ourselves and we are not like sectarian left-wing parties or ultra-left elements.

We do not arrogantly believe we are the leaders of the revolution and expect to drag working-class people kicking and screaming through the revolution. When people see that we stand in solidarity with workers time and time again and do this not just for ourselves but for all sections of working class people across the world, which they will see for themselves through our cooperation and discussions with them, and we should always try to engage in discussions with people by the way, they will join us.

Finally, I would say that the endless opportunities Socialism has to offer will inspire and encourage people to join not just after the revolution, but even right now. I, like many people and particularly youth across the world have suffered from depression as austerity has killed any prospect of a prosperous future.

With youth unemployment rates in some countries reaching up to 60% many people have, in their despair turned to suicide as they feel constrained, worthless and without hope caused by the failing capitalist system. On the other hand, the party offers hope, productivity, worth and eventually liberty for all working-class people. In the short time I have been with the party I have been a leading organiser, a budding young journalist, a public speaker, even a tourist to Leuven! As well as many more things and that is just me, I’m by no means alone in experiencing these opportunities.

I have seen comrades use their creativity to both build the party and express themselves in original and inspiring ways. I have seen this creativity snuffed out far too often by the tyranny of Capitalism but by conveying the opportunities that people can seize through the party, people see their potential and their power. By learning about and building for socialism through struggle and solidarity they grow in themselves and transform, rejecting the worthlessness and failure felt by many and realising that it is in fact the system that has failed them.

By helping to change people’s perception from hopelessness, despair and no opportunity to a world full of hope, solidarity and limitless potential, people will be inspired and encouraged to make the revolution their own and by doing so comrades will want to contribute more, whether it be by helping to recruit, contributing to campaigns or increasing their subs when they can afford it.

To sum up, my contribution is to say that building the revolutionary party is all a matter of changing people’s perceptions from crushing despair to limitless, defiant hope and acting on that hope with:

Healthy perspective

Organisation

Persistent action

Endless opportunity

Now onwards to our collective proletarian revolution!”

If you would like to know more about the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) you can find us online at:

http://www.socialistworld.net/

or on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/5593681554/10151528030381555/

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