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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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.”

Help support Junior Doctors by sharing this post so that their message can spread further.

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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

 

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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The April Theses

Lenin wrote the April Theses upon his return to Russia in April 1917 and it marked an important shift in the direction of the Bolshevik Party. The main shift was a rejection of the idea that a socialist revolution could only be sought after a successful bourgeois revolution took place, paving the way for capitalism.

Essentially, Lenin recognised the idea that Two-Stage theory was flawed and Trotsky’s notion of permanent revolution should be adopted. This would mean that rather than waiting for the establishment of a bourgeois democracy and the development of a capitalist class in Russia, Lenin recognised the need for workers to take control and make demands in their interests directly; to prevent the formation of counter-revolution.

In the April Theses, Lenin called for the immediate end to its involvement in World War One due to it being an Imperialist war rather than a war which was necessary for “revolutionary defencism”. Lenin also made it clear that there were many sections of the proletariat who honestly believed that the war was being fought for the purposes of revolutionary defencism. He made it clear that the Bolsheviks should take the time to explain to the masses why they were mistaken in this belief by pointing out their error.

This is, in my view, a perfect example of how a vanguard party of the working-classes should conduct themselves. Rather than making a decision on behalf of working-class people and assuming that they will follow, Lenin highlights the importance of engaging with working-class people and bringing them round to our ideas through discussion. It is by doing so that we can remain at the heart of the working-class struggle and not an ultra-left or sectarian faction.

With the demand for an end to Russia’s involvement in the war Lenin made it clear that all annexations should be renounced in deed not just in word. This highlights a tactic used by bourgeois parties and bourgeois apologists which can still be seen in mainstream politics today.

Labour have said that they are opposed to the privatisation of the NHS, the bedroom tax and anti-union laws and yet they have made no pledges to reverse the changes. The Conservatives pledged all manner of things before the election, one of the most memorable being no top-down reorganisation of the NHS which is now on the road to privatisation. Even the Lib-Dems have betrayed working-class people with similar lies and in doing so have lost a generation of youth voters. Students will not soon forget that not only did the Lib-Dems go against their pledge to end fees for students, instead they have compounded their betrayal by being a part of seeing fees triple.

Lenin also called for no support for the provisional government precisely because of “the utter falsity of all its promises”. By exposing the vast chasm between the word and deed of bourgeois parties and juxtaposing it with the conviction of those within the Socialist Party, we will hopefully be able to win over much of the disillusioned working-class masses and encourage them to draw the revolutionary conclusions that are necessary to affect the changes needed rather than putting their faith in the hollow words of political charlatans.

Lenin also demonstrated the need to be aware of the objective situation and to act accordingly. He identified that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies were to form the basis of a revolutionary government but also that the Bolshevik Party were a small minority against “a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, from the Popular Socialists and the Socialist Revolutionaries down to the Organising Committee”. Lenin pointed out that these groups had all yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie which has the effect of spreading the influence of the bourgeoisie amongst the proletariat.

Lenin stated that it is important that these elements need to be exposed at every avenue while expressing the necessity for power to be transferred into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. It is thus from experience and the critical analysis of revolutionary elements that workers can learn from their mistakes and proceed in a manner that looks out for their interests and not those of bourgeois apologists. This is one of the reasons why we, as the Socialist Party, engage in Trades Councils today.

Lenin stressed that to organise as a parliamentary republic would be a retrograde step as the soviets are where the voice of the proletariat resides, not in bourgeois democratic structures. This emphasises, even today, the vast shortcomings of bourgeois political structures in catering for the interests of the proletariat; many leading trade union activists will attend Trades Councils but will rarely, if ever, be seen in the council chambers. This clearly demonstrates where the voice of the proletariat is best expressed in contemporary society.

Lenin called for the abolition of the police and a standing army as these are institutions used by the bourgeoisie to repress and restrict the proletariat. Lenin argues that the people as a whole should be armed to protect themselves against invasion rather than relying on a standing army.

This may seem like a shocking measure to those of you who are new to revolutionary politics but if you see the way the state has been mobilised to quash protests internationally you will understand the necessity for this call. Even here in Britain, there are plenty of well-documented cases of police using agent provocateurs to stir up violence only to use it as justification to come down hard on protesters.

Lenin also called for all elected officials to be limited to the average wage of the worker in order to be able to adequately represent the people they are meant to be speaking on behalf of. This requires little justification and one need only look at the state of the trade union movement to see why this demand is raised.

Many high paid trade union officials form a bureaucratic layer who slow down the movement as they are effectively on a boss’s pay and it is in their interest not to be leading an active union as it means more work for them. By pledging to take an average wage leading trade unionists remain firmly in the class of people they are elected to represent and are more likely (though by no means is this assured) to fight for working-class rights.

Lenin calls for the nationalisation of all landed estates and the consolidation of all banks into a national bank which is to be governed under the democratic control of workers. This shift of economic control from the hands of the bourgeoisie into the hands of the proletariat would mark one of the most important shifts in the transition from Capitalism to Socialism. This is because it would mean that democracy would no longer be constricted by economic factors imposed by the bourgeoisie. Thus, with democratic control of the economy, society would become much more equal in economic terms as wealth is collectivised rather than hoarded by a minority to levy power over the majority.

Lenin draws attention to the need for a new international which would have the function of bringing together working-class people from all over the world. The reason for this is that Capitalism is global in its exploitation and Socialism needs to be global if it is to truly emancipate working-class people. Without the international spread of Socialism, countries will be isolated as Russia was after the Bolshevik Revolution as it is in the class-interests of the bourgeoisie to prevent the spread of Socialism.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that Lenin’s rebuttal of Plekhanov at the end of the April Theses is admirable in that Lenin takes the time to scrutinise each and every point that Plekhanov raises and then counter these points on an intellectual basis by pointing out the error of his ways.

If you would like to read the April Theses yourself and simultaneously help to fund the Socialist Party in our struggle for Socialism you can do so by ordering the pamphlet from here for the modest price of £2:

http://leftbooks.co.uk/epages/950002679.sf/en_GB/?ObjectID=5190769

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