John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Call to anti-fascists: Oppose the South East Alliance on Saturday 14 June, Cricklewood

Oppose the South East Alliance in Cricklewood

London Anti Fascists are organising to oppose the fascist South East Alliance march in Cricklewood on 14 June. The South East Alliance are a rag tag bunch of racists and fascists who contain ex-BNP and EDL members, and have a history of violent and racist behaviour.

They are coming to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt who have their offices in Cricklewood.

While we in the IS Network are not supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood per se, they are not the ones intending to march down our streets shouting racist abuse at anyone they see as different, be they black, Asian, Muslim or Irish.

We oppose both the racism of these neo-fascist groups trying to divide our community and the institutional racism of the state and police in north west London.

Join us on the streets to show Cricklewood unites against racist bigots.

11AM SAT 14 JUNE / 113 CRICKLEWOOD BROADWAY, NW2

FB Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/575271729256169/

 

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Picket: Justice for the Kryvyi Rih miners

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Where have all the election posters gone? Campaigning for a working class alternative to austerity



by Martin Ralph, member of the International Socialist League and candidate for Old Swan Against the Cuts (Liverpool) in the local elections.


Over 600 socialist candidates across Britain are standing in the 22 May local elections. Anger over the brutal austerity policies that have increased year on year since 2010 has led to an urgent need need for working class representation.

Many different sections of the working class, especially the most vulnerable and poorest, are being hurt by these continuing and deepening cuts. Knowledge that younger generation will be worse off than their parents is a further cause of anger. That is why there is the growing mood for election campaigns of local groups with connections in the working class areas where they are standing.

One such class struggle candidate is Martin Ralph representing Old Swan Against the Cuts (OSAC) in Liverpool. This group has been campaigning consistently against the government and local council cuts for over a year and is standing in the elections in order to deepen that struggle. An absence of political party electoral posters in houses across the ward is unusual, with only four Labour Party and two UKIP (a racist party) posters on display. In the past Labour posters would be seen everywhere, but each year the number has sharply declined. As we write with just days before the election OSAC posters are the most visible (about 40 in 30 streets).

OSAC have produced two leaflets with information about our programme and campaigns, 6,500 residencies have received each. This has been possible with the assistance of a motivated group working with others, 25 people from OSAC, the International Socialist League, Left Unity, Bridge Community Care and Reclaim (the last two campaign against the Bedroom tax and give advice about benefit cuts).

During the campaign OSAC was invited to speak to a meeting of local residents based in a sheltered accommodation centre (aged from 55 years). OSAC agreed to help them with their campaign for a crossing for the busy road outside of their centre. At the end of April OSAC were also invited to speak to a meeting of Merseyside FBU (firefighters) and received £71 from their collection, later the OSAC leaflet was sent to all FBU branches on Merseyside. OSAC held four public meetings during the last 12 months and union and community speakers were always invited to speak about their struggles and strikes — thus forging links with the FBU, PCS, UCU, Unite and CWU unions and Liverpool TUC. OSAC is part of Liverpool and Merseyside Against The Cuts and money from members, sympathisers and collections at union meetings raised over £800.



OSAC has become known in Merseyside as a campaigning group. For example, Beryl and Mitch were campaigning against the council for disabled people’s rights for over three years before they joined OSAC. Mitch is a wheelchair user and someone who was working on building site when he had an accident that led to the loss of his legs. Beryl used to be a cleaner in the local fire station. OSAC offered them a way to keep their struggle going and they have become very active members because it is organised democratically by its membership.

A new member said recently about the group:

Old Swan Against the Cuts is an interesting group of people. They are a group of people, I'd say, who aren't traditionally involved in politics (and are mostly working class) who are being kept involved and feel there is a place where they are being nurtured politically. In truth it does require a couple of clear head politically minded individuals to keep it all steady and productive
Of all the election campaigns (local, general, Scottish and European) I've been involved in over the years I felt today (Saturday 17th May 2014) was one of the most significant. I feel there are a few parallels with the community, political and electoral activism I've been involved with in Liverpool 11 (Croxteth and Norris Green) over the years.

I know people (voters) want to be believe in something and someone better. I think you've established with OSAC a vibrant grassroots, working class group as well as a genuinely earned profile well before these elections and it won't be a case of 'here today and gone tomorrow' and working class voters particularly want to believe that's true.


The election campaign is:

full of positive energy and gained its own external momentum, the group itself has local committed supporters and those of us from beyond are working as a team for the greater good. There's a growing social bond and OSAC is clearly open to anyone who wishes to be active (i.e. leaflet, attend meetings etc), to make connections and earn some smiles and good will in return, plus learn, share and grow our social and political understanding.
The feedback in handing out leaflets person-to-person today especially to young people was extremely uplifting, I gave away all my window posters very easily, the postman (with who I swapped names) took a leaflet and we crossed paths constantly while, he even enabled me to leaflet in a block of flats that we couldn't otherwise. The postman is from Algeria and we even got to talk about the Post Office privatisation, football and revolution (you like Che Guevara?) in between both of us posting the same letter boxes

The comments from workers, perhaps the majority of them women, who we talk to shows the vast majority no longer trust the Labour Party. Sometimes we are mistaken for the Labour Party and typical comments include, “Labour are useless”, “they do nothing” and “they do not listen”. A number have said they voted Labour all their lives but will never vote for them again and a youth said with simplicity and profundity, “no cut is justified”.

During March in Liverpool, as in many towns and cities, the Council agreed, without a single dissenting Labour voice, to cut £1 million a week in services and jobs for the next three years. The Labour mayor said in 2013 that “these cuts will kill”, and recently the deputy mayor of Liverpool said “we have cut all we can – we are now cutting into the bone”. The Labour Party is murdering council services. These services are a lifeline to the homeless, women seeking refuge, the elderly, disabled people, young children, autistic children and many more. The cuts, if they are not stopped, will close libraries, sack staff, outsource and privatise services to other organisations like housing associations (not-for-profit companies). The Labour Party is nothing more than a puppet for the government.

Some people are asking: “With a general election approaching in 2015 why are Labour making these cuts? Why not fight the cuts now and aim for a Labour government to finish austerity?” The answer is if Labour form a government they will continue with austerity cuts. Miliband has already said that the cuts will continue. The working class is beginning to reject Labour (from a beginning to a mass movement can of course take sometime). Workers, women and youth have shown in this election campaign in the Old Swan that belief in the traditional parties is waning because they help exploit and oppress people. But, they want to have a political participation to decide their own destiny democratically, and not to let the old parties and politicians decide for them. That's why members agreed to build Old Swan Against the Cuts, and that's why they want to continue the struggle for a future without austerity.

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Press release: Syrian refugee scheme "disgracefully insufficient", say campaigners



Syria refugee scheme “disgracefully insufficient”, say campaigners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The government is refusing to say how many Syrian refugees it has relocated to Britain in a move campaigners say may mean the number is “embarrassingly low”.

The Home Office has refused a Freedom of Information request to disclose the number of Syrian refugees brought to Britain under its Vulnerable Person Relocation programme.

Luke Cooper, of the Syria Solidarity Movement, said:

There are over 2.5 million refugees who have fled Syria and 6.5 million internally displaced, making Syrians one of the largest refugee populations in the world. The Home Office response to this catastrophe is disgracefully insufficient.

The Vulnerable Person Relocation scheme was announced with much fanfare. But we know from Freedom of Information requests that it intends to take a mere 500 Syrian refugees over two to three years and only 150 this year.

Now the Home Office has refused to say how many people it’s assisted so far. Should we infer the number is embarrassingly low?

Guy Taylor, of the Movement Against Xenophobia, said:

The contempt with which this Government treats potential immigrants is breath-taking. This is designed to keep numbers low and help the Government meet an arbitrary net-migration target. Its a contempt liberally applied to those seeking to work here, reunite families here and, shamefully, as in the Syrian case, try to come here to preserve their very lives.

Refugee rights and Syria campaign groups have joined forces to call a protest at the Home Office on the 16th June to coincide with the start of Refugee Week.

For more information contact syriasolidaritymovement@gmail.com or Luke on 07816327646.


Notes to editors

1. The campaign groups Movement Against Xenophobia, Syria Solidarity Movement, and No One Is Illegal have called the “Syrian Refugees Welcome Here” protest at 18.30 on the 16th June at the Home Office, 2 Marsham St, London SW1P 4DF

2. The Freedom of Information request that the Home Office refused can be read here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/205473/response/510524/attach/html/3/140429%20response%20FOI%2031331.pdf.html

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Little purple lies: UKIP’s racist misinformation

Modified UKIP billboard

 

Like most Brightonians I have recently come home to find a UKIP leaflet on my doormat. Unfortunately UKIP had cancelled their Freepost address before I thought to send it back wrapped around a brick or a week’s worth of other assorted rubbish. In this leaflet, UKIP make a number of very bold claims about immigration, the kind of claims that are – unfortunately – uniform in most political spheres. The problem with these mainstream narratives (and it’s a big problem) is that they are not backed up by any evidence. Depressingly, UKIP are not expected to back up these claims; this is because they are myths that have been repeated again and again by all the mainstream parties. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has been particularly strident in trying to prove that Labour are just as anti-immigrant and anti-immigration as the other parties. Writing after Labour's electoral defeat in 2010 he wrote that, because of eastern European immigration, “there has also been a direct impact on the wages, terms and conditions of too many people across our country”. [1]

The idea that immigration is the cause of low wages and high unemployment is now so widespread that in the public eye, it has moved from the realm of theory to fact. With this in mind, after receiving my UKIP leaflet, rather than thrashing around indignantly on the kitchen floor, ripping it up, shouting ‘LIES! LIES! LIES!’, I went looking for some facts (those elusive things that UKIP seem to consider irrelevant). Surprise, surprise UKIP are lying.

Myth 1, “Unlimited immigration costs British jobs”

Academic studies indicate that immigration is not a key determining factor in levels of unemployment. An Oxford University survey of a range of research found that “Research does not find a significant impact of overall immigration on unemployment in the UK”[2]. As Jonathan Wadsworth, of Royal Holloway College and the government’s independent Migration Advisory Committee, has said: “It is hard to find evidence of much displacement of UK workers or lower wages, on average.”[3] Just as it would be false to claim that the 20% unemployment figure of 1930 was a result of low immigration so too would it be false to claim that the present unemployment figures which stand at 6.9% are a result of high immigration. The assumption cultivated by the political mainstream is that there are a fixed number of jobs in a national economy and the movement of workers from one country to another reduces the number of jobs in that country. Numerous studies refute this including “Card’s (1990) influential case study of the Mariel immigrant flow. On April 20, 1980, Fidel Castro declared that Cuban nationals wishing to move to the United States could leave freely. By September 1980, about 125,000 Cubans had chosen to undertake the journey. Almost overnight, the Mariel “natural experiment” increased Miami’s labor force by 7 percent. Card’s (1990) analysis of the CPS data indicates that labor market trends in Miami between 1980 and 1985 in terms of wage levels and unemployment rates were similar to those experienced by such cities as Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta, cities that did not experience the Mariel supply shock.”[4] The fact is that while immigration may in some cases increase competition for jobs it may also creates jobs by increasing demand for goods and services.

Myth 2 “Cheap labour pushes down British wages”

“Empirical research on the labour market effects of immigration in the UK suggests that immigration has relatively small effects on average wages”[5]. The evidence on this subject is, however, inconclusive. “Dustmann, Frattini and Preston (2008) find that an increase in the number of migrants corresponding to one percent of the UK-born working-age population resulted in an increase in average wages of 0.2 to 0.3 percent. Another study, for the period 2000-2007, found that a one percentage point increase in the share of migrants in the UK’s working-age population lowers the average wage by 0.3 percent (Reed and Latorre 2009). These studies, which relate to different time periods, thus reach opposing conclusions but they agree that the effects of immigration on average wages are relatively small.”[6] So the research indicates immigration can improve wages and also lower them but the effect is minute either way. Inflation rose by 18% from 2007 to 2012 yet wages only rose 10%,[7] this gap of 8% could never be caused by immigration yet you will struggle to find a single voice in parliament that will ask why bosses continually drive down wages below inflation.

Myth 3 “Schools, health, welfare are under pressure”

Strictly speaking not a myth. Schools, health and welfare are all under pressure. This statement however comes under the only referenced claim on the whole page; that 4,000 people a week come to Britain from the EU. The implication is a straightforward one, that immigrants are a ‘drain’ on public services. Aside from the fact that this plays on some of the worst and most xenophobic stereotypes about immigrants it is incorrect. Immigrants actually contribute more in terms of taxes that they receive in terms of services. “In 2008/9 migrants contributed 0.96 per cent of total tax receipts and accounted for only 0.6 per cent of total expenditures”[8] “Another study, carried out by researchers at UCL, found that new migrants were 60 per cent less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, and 58 per cent less likely to live in social housing.”[9]

With this in mind we must accept that UKIP are full of shit and know it or are simply unaware. I think the reality is a mix of the two. The political mainstream through prejudice and Machiavellian logic has been scapegoating immigrants for all manner of problems right back to the aliens act of 1905, designed to keep Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe from entering the UK. So much misinformation has been spread for so long that those who peddle it believe it themselves.

As Daniel Trilling of the New Humanist has said, “The problem – as always – is that the politicians leading the anti-UKIP charge are the ones that created the conditions that gave rise to it”. The conditions that UKIP are preying on are low wages, unemployment, and the pressure on schools, welfare and health. These conditions – although none of the mainstream parties, least of all UKIP, will mention it – are the direct result of 35 years of neoliberalism. Thatcher started the project of undermining unions, slashing workers rights and wages and privatisation. The project was continued by Labour and now the Con-Dems. All the main parties are wedded to neoliberalism, a project which places profits for big business ahead of the freedom and lives of the working class. Anger about unemployment poor wages and squeezes on services is widespread. All the mainstream parties represent the interests of big business and are therefore unwilling to attribute unemployment and poor working conditions to those who employ or dictate the working conditions; big business. These parties however require votes from workers and to get them they blame the problems people face on immigrants, the unemployed and the disabled.

Left Unity are proud to say that we will never pander to the racist scapegoating employed by the right wing media and the political mainstream we state clearly in our policy that “Immigration controls divide and weaken the working class and are therefore against the interests of all workers.”[10] We must keep pointing out the lies and hypocrisy of UKIP and the other mainstream parties but we must also continue fighting for an alternative kind of politics. A socialist politics that puts people before profits and rejects the myths that are spread by the establishment to divide the working class.

 

This article originally appeared on the Brighton & Hove Left Unity site. If you are in that area and would like to find out more about Left Unity, they are holding a public launch meeting on 3 June 2014 at the Friends Meeting House. Facebook event page: ‘Beyond the spirit of ’45: Why we need a new Left party’

 

[1]Balls, Ed. “We were wrong to allow so many eastern Europeans into Britain”. The Observer. London: The Guardian. June 6, 2010. Print.

[2]DR Martin Ruhs DR Carlos Vargas-Silva. “Briefing: The Labour Market Effects of Immigration” . The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. March 2014.

[3] Jonathan Wadsworth. “Immigration and the UK Labour Market: The Evidence from Economic Research”. Centre for economic performance. LSE. London. 2010.

[4] George J. Borjas. “The Economic Analysis Of Immigration”. Handbook of labour economics. Volume 3. Part A. 1999.

[5]DR Martin Ruhs DR Carlos Vargas-Silva. “Briefing: The Labour Market Effects of Immigration” . The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. March 2014.

[6]DR Martin Ruhs DR Carlos Vargas-Silva. “Briefing: The Labour Market Effects of Immigration” . The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. March 2014.

[7] BBC. “Average earnings rise by 1.4% to £26,500, says ONS”. November 2012.

[8]James Bloodworth, “Did immigration really ‘depress the wages and job chances of working class Britons’?”. Left foot forward. April 2013.

[9]James Bloodworth, “Did immigration really ‘depress the wages and job chances of working class Britons’?”. Left foot forward. April 2013.

[10] http://leftunity.org/migration-policy/ 2014.

 

 

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Report: Lambeth College strikes despite injunction


I can honestly say that the Lambeth College dispute to protect the hours, sick pay and holiday of workers at the college has already been one of the most inspiring I have been involved in. There really is a great sense of solidarity and togetherness and a determination to win, as is shown by both UCU and UNISON members unanimously asking for all out strike action at mass meetings. The fact that workers are determined not just to fight for their own rights, but also not to give away the rights of future workers has been extremely moving. The speeches given from union members at the college has had me welling up on a few occasions.

Silverman, the Principal of the Lambeth College has recently said this isn't about bosses and workers and is just about making the college fit for purpose. However the fact that this is a man who wants to take away pay from seriously sick staff, who some cases would sadly be fighting for their lives, and leave them and their families without a penny in wages. He also wants to do this despite admitting that the amount of money that would be saved would be less than what was spent doing up his luxurious office and a fraction of his annual salary. Senior managers also told us in negotiations that they were actually doing staff a favour by cutting their leave and increasing their working week as they'd be able to get more done and be less stressed out! This is the logic of a Victorian mill owner, and couldn't be more about bosses vs staff.

They have even tried to dictate to the unions who they would allow to be their negotiators. The latest from Silverman is that not content with trying to cut sick pay, leave and increase working hours, he now wants to take away the human rights of college workers and their fundamental democratic right to strike. He went to court, at huge expense, to get an injunction. These are cowardly and weaselly methods and someone who has such disdain for the workers' well-being at the college and for fundamental human rights should not be running an educational institution. Whether he still will be at the end of this dispute, well I have my doubts.

However this dispute is about far more than just one college, it is about management trying open the flood gates for colleges around the country to decimate terms and conditions, and as such UCU has it as a "local dispute of national significance". The injunction will only delay the strike action, and given the anger it has provoked among staff, will lead to even more determination among members. UNISON, because of the rules that mean you have to have an "indicative ballot" to ask members if they want a ballot (a ridiculous tool by the UNISON bureaucracy to try and hold up and prevent strike action), could only go out on strike from 15 May. The injunction does have the one benefit of everyone going out together.

There is a more fundamental lesson here that UCU and UNISON should be prepared to break the anti-union laws and call for strike action regardless of the whims of anti-democratic court decisions. Also the unions should be preparing to spread the action beyond Lambeth College, given they recognise themselves that this dispute is of national importance. From that point of view members at the college have to keep a firm eye on the UNISON and UCU unelected regional officials to make sure they carry out what the members want. The message that came from Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, in response to the injunction was:

Dear colleague. Following yesterday’s message I am writing to re-confirm that all members will be required to return and work normally tomorrow. Failure to do so would mean that you are liable to be dismissed and you would have no claim for being unfairly dismissed.

This is a message that might have well come from Human Resources. This dispute has every chance of winning, and I am more confident of that than nearly any other dispute I have been involved in. I am proud to be part of the Lambeth UNISON branch, and proud of the UNISON stewards in the college who have done such fantastic work over the last few months. Members have again and again said they want indefinite strike action and have said to management that they don't want any negotiations without both unions being present. The picket lines have been brilliant, the rally yesterday (I had flu unfortunately!) was, according to the International Officer in my branch, "really militant, I'm very moved and inspired".

The strike has also linked in with the community based initiative to save Brixton College, which the Principal and Department for Education want to sell off to two free schools. The Lambeth College strike is also starting to make links with the Ritzy Cinema strike, which has been another brilliant dispute to make sure that workers get the London Living Wage. All in all, despite my concerns about the union bureaucracies, I have no doubt that this dispute will win. But we need solidarity.

Please send messages of support to:

UCU branch secretary Mandy Brown at mandybrowncow@hotmail.com
UNISON branch secretary Ruth Cashman at ruthycashman@gmail.com

Offers of donations for an urgent strike fund are very welcome.

Dan Jeffery, Lambeth UNISON Vice Chair (PC), International Socialist Network, danj23@yahoo.com

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