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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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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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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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.

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“Pasokification” of the Labour Party: A Workers’ Party is Needed

“Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.” This certainly seems to ring true when looking at the current state of the Labour Party. When analysing the comments and actions exuding from Labour representatives and thereby extrapolating its current direction or lack thereof it is clear that it is reaching a political cul-de-sac.

Recently, Sadiq Khan expressed that cuts to legal aid cannot be reversed:

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/mar/02/labour-cannot-reverse-tory-legal-aid-cuts-sadiq-khan-says

This might have come as a shock if it were not for the fact that this is only the latest statement in a mounting list of evidence for the Party’s complete degeneration. No matter which area of policy is looked at, the Labour Party seems to barely go beyond apologism for the last 5 years of Con-Dem austerity in a political manifesto that is as anaemic as it is sophistic.

This is to be expected of a party which long ago did away with even giving lip service to the ideas of Socialism with the purging of Clause 4 under Blair. This, coupled with the effective neutering of the Trade Union voice through the Collins Review is very telling of the Party’s gradual but inevitable bourgeoisification. As the leadership continue to break away from the party’s historical roots they will only hasten their demise; a fate which is evident in that their entire existence has become that of simply putting the brakes on Conservative austerity and privatisation rather than seeing any reversals.

The significance of this is crucial because it is evidence that the Labour Party’s leadership is ailing from the fact that it has no alternative to offer and so spends its entire time reacting to Conservative policies rather than offering up anything that goes beyond being the lesser of two evils. If the Labour leadership were to listen to the diminishing number who still cling to the Labour Party in the hope that it will shift direction, or better yet listen to those who have been completely disillusioned it would easily be able to put together a bold programme.

Rather than simply increasing spending on the NHS why not reverse the privatisation which has opened up the funding gap? Rather than promising to freeze energy bills, why not renationalise the utilities? Rather than reducing fees from £9,000 a year to £6,000 a year why not scrap fees altogether? It’s insulting enough that the Labour Party are dressing up a reduction of fees as a step forward when students graduating as late as September 2014 will have only had to pay £3,000 a year. How much angrier will the firefighters, teachers, NHS workers, local government workers and many others be when Labour offers up nothing but excuses for why Conservative policies that have led to the degeneration of pay, terms and conditions to all these workers cannot be undone?

The point that needs to be stressed is that it simply is not true that the damage done by the Con-Dems cannot be undone. What is clear is that the Labour Party is not the vehicle through which to effect this change. The very fact that Labour members are floating the idea of a grand coalition of Tories and Labour in the result of a hung parliament is evidence that Labour is reaching a political cul-de-sac:

http://labourlist.org/2015/03/labour-mp-says-party-shouldnt-rule-out-a-grand-coalition-with-the-tories/

Such a move will only bear the same result as their disastrous coalition with the Tories and Lib Dems on the issue of Scottish Independence.

The Pasokification of the Labour Party appears to be a question of when rather than a question of if as it is following the same course of action as Greece’s Pasok party. Pasok continued to implement austerity when it was voted into power in 2009 and has now completely collapsed as Syriza’s anti-austerity message propelled them to take the most seats, largely at the expense of Pasok.

The troika’s (European Central Bank, IMF and EC) strangulation of the hopes of Greek the working-class cannot last as anti-austerity parties gain traction in countries like Spain and spread across Europe. Moreover, unless Syriza stops retreating from its pre-election promises, the working-class could potentially sweep away the current leadership to secure the relief from austerity it was promised, so long as disillusionment does not set in. However, for this to take hold there is a need for the development of a socialist leadership which has the confidence to take on the Troika even if doing so means Grexit.

The feeling around for a vehicle through which to oppose austerity resonates with the current picture in Britain. It seems that even some of the trade union leadership, in anticipating backlash from its rank and file membership which have been at the receiving end of cuts made by Labour led councils, are cautious about putting forward Labour as a solution to the problem of the Tories. A pamphlet recently sent to Unite members urging them to register to vote so that their voices can be heard in the elections clearly gives tacit support to the Labour Party but dares not mention them by name.

Instead, the pamphlet talks about tuition fee hikes, the bedroom tax and the NHS and pushes union members to vote for a party which can protect these things. It seems that the trade union officialdom are just as embarrassed of putting forward their alleged political voice as the Labour Party leadership are embarrassed of strikes and its party’s historic working-class roots.

There is a desperate need for a political alternative that has a programme that reflects the growing feelings of anger at the relentlessness of cuts that have been passed by a rainbow coalition. Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems are committed to continuation of current spending plans and the likes of UKIP and the Greens have posed as an alternative but have shown themselves to be more of the same. Whether it is UKIP Councillors in Plymouth voting against an implementation of the living wage for agency workers employed by the council or Greens in Bristol attempting to close down 7 libraries, it is clear that actions speak far louder than words.

This is where the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) enters, stage left. TUSC mounted a mammoth 560 candidates in the local elections last May and is set to mount over 130 parliamentary candidates this year as well as 640 candidates in local elections taking place at the same time. TUSC has a growing number of Councillors up and down the country putting forward a principled stance of refusing to administer cuts as a means to protecting jobs and public services.

Having now achieved the threshold to qualify for a political broadcast, the national media blackout on TUSC can finally be lifted meaning that millions of people up and down the country can finally hear about TUSC and embrace the only party that will offer a genuine alternative to austerity and misery this May. A vote for TUSC is a vote against cuts but moreover the growing support for building local TUSC groups and steering committees means that the foundations of a new workers’ party are firmly being laid down. TUSC has a comprehensive programme and can only build on its accumulating success to replicate the anti-austerity mood which is starting to sweep across Europe. Capitalism offers no way out of this protracted crisis, Socialism is the only way forward for working-class people and the future of the planet.

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