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

Breakthrough in Ukrainian miners struggle

Chris Ford of the Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity campaign reports on the struggle for wages by the Kryvyi Rih miners in Ukraine.


We are pleased to announce a major breakthrough in the struggle of the miners of Kryvyi Rih which has been a beacon of hope in crisis ridden Ukraine.

After being ignored for months the miners of the Ukrainian industrial metropolis of Kryvyi Rih have had a breakthrough in their dispute with the corporate giant EVRAZ, securing a nearly 20% increase in their wages.

The local leaders the Independent Union of Mineworkers of Ukraine (NGPU) Oleksandr Bondar and Yuri Samoilov, pointed out that attention has been drawn away from the extreme deterioration in the social-economic situation, which is one of the main causes of the crisis in Ukraine. With currency devaluation, a rise in prices of consumer goods, transport and basic services, “all this has led to a sharp fall in workers’ real wages. By our estimates there has been a 30-50% fall in real wages.”

As Bondar and Samoilov write: “We are deeply convinced that the main cause of the destabilised situation in the country is the greed of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who pay a beggar’s wage to workers, send all their profits off-shore and don’t pay taxes in Ukraine.”

The miners employed by EVRAZ at Suha Balka mine submitted a claim for a 50% pay rise and improvements to their conditions. NGPU began organising strike action, which is a convoluted process due to Ukraine’s restrictive Labour Code. This activity was accompanied by a direct appeal for international solidarity, specifically calling “upon the workers of Britain for solidarity”.

The Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity campaign played an important role in publicising widely the appeal of the Kryvyi Rih miners to the workers of Europe.

On 23rd May the United Steelworkers Union in Canada picketed the EVRAZ plant in Regina in solidarity with the Ukrainian miners, prompting the Vice President of Human Capital to fly directly from the North American HQ in Chicago. This was joined by a protest at the EVRAZ London HQ by socialists and trade unionists of the Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity campaign on the same day.

The demands for Justice for the Kryvyi Rih miners were also raised in the House of Commons in an Early Day Motion (137) by John McDonnell MP and in a the National Assembly of Wales tabled by Mick Antoniw.

When an official notice of dispute was served bringing the miners’ strike action nearer, a picket headed by John McDonnell MP was held at the EVRAZ AGM on 12th June at Abramovich’s Chelsea FC.

The top share-holder of EVRAZ is Roman Abramovich worth $14.2 billion, next in line Alexander Abramov is worth $7.5 billion. The average monthly salary at Evraz’s Sukha Balka mine is 5290 Hryvnia, a mere £262.85.

This combination of international solidarity and the miner’s campaign brought the oligarchs to the negotiating table the very next day. The campaign forcing a concession from the EVRAZ Corporation providing for a salary increase for all workers of 15 - 20%. There is now ongoing negotiations between the NGPU and the EVRAZ management.

Whilst recognising this as a small concession, its achievement in its self was a big step forward. The local union newsletter Slovo summed up: “Together we are a force to be reckoned with!”

Oleksandr Bondar, Head of the branch of the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine at the EVRAZ Sukha Balka declared: “We pass on our gratitude to everyone for the workers solidarity in the struggle. We stood and acted together. Together we are strong!"

The campaign is not over and these are gain to build on. It is important however to note that the success of the Kryvyi Rih miners.

Zakhar Popovych of the Ukrainian socialist organisation Left Opposition has been in the forefront of the campaign for the miners and arguing the importance of an independent labour movement in Ukraine. Zakhar declared to those active in solidarity: “Thank you very very much! It is real proof that international workers solidarity really works!” He say that “workers felt now more confidently and it is important not only for Suha Balka but also for all Kryvyi Rih miners. It is also very good example for all workers of Ukraine.”

Links

Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity
"The miners of Kryvbas pay twice" - march in Kryviy Rih
Justice for the Ukrainian miners of Kryviy Rih - Early Day Motion 137
Appeal of the Kryviy Rih Basin miners to the workers of Europe
Protest held in London showing solidarity with Ukrainian miners
Justice for the Ukrainian miners of Kryviy Rih - Welsh Assembly Statement of Opinion

Add a comment

Tottenham solidarity demonstration against neo-Nazi attack

 

Kat:

A group of about 200 anti-fascists gathered in Markfield Park in Tottenham, on Saturday, in response to an attack on a free music festival by a group of about 40 Polish neo Nazis called Zjednoczeni Emigranci (which supposedly *ironically* translates to United Emigrants) the previous week in the same spot. A young Polish man was stabbed by a neo-Nazi and had to go to hospital. The protest was called for by UAF, to reclaim the park for the local multi-cultural community of Tottenham.

The gathering was mostly made up of the usual crowd on the left. Some people were put off attending the protest, because it was rumoured that a group of neo-Nazis were going to show up and mingle in the crowd. The groups in attendance were London Black Revolutionaries, London Antifascists / Anti-Fascist Network (AFN), SWP, SP, rs21, Workers Power, IS Network and a group of Polish anti-fascists called Dywizjon 161, whose presence was clearly of particular importance.

AFN mobilised well and there were a number of young women amongst them. We all used the wet and dreary event to catch up with each other and I used it as an excuse to get to know our London comrades, and quickly lost interest in the speakers pouring in to the megaphone, which was really difficult to hear in our spacious gatherings.

After a fairly quiet and uneventful period of chatter and leaflet distribution, a group of young anarchist men shot past us and headed for the corner of the park, where a small group of police were gathered and another smaller number of police tried to prevent them from reaching the other side of the park by tackling them, or at least trying to, on route. We never heard whether any neo Nazis turned up but the group returned soon after. However, it has been reported that a lone fascist turned up to take photos of the protest.

In the playground nearby, a local man in traditional Jewish dress was pushing his children on the swings and there were a diverse mix of people from different backgrounds going about their daily routine on the high street and it would have been great if we could have got the local community and local campaign groups involved, but with very little in the way of building anti-fascist mobilisations within communities, it is to be expected that small leftie gatherings will fill that void for now.

The anti-fascist flyer for the IS Network meeting, at ULU on the 2nd August, was distributed by a few comrades on the day and went down pretty well and I also managed to convince a few comrades to come along on the day.

Matt:

It was at least two-thirds black bloc type people which to be honest was a weakness that was typified by one dude being chased across a park by a hundred people, most of whom didn't know why they were chasing him. It seemed to portray a lack of purpose and lack of discipline. The march, which took around two thirds of the demo out of the park and down the road to Seven Sisters, seemed pointless at best and counter-productive at worst. UAF seemed to have done a big postering job in the run-up, promising a sort of family festival which they were completely unable to deliver. All they had were a marquee and a speaker with an iPod attached. To be fair to them though, they were playing catch-up and only had a couple of days to pull it together, as I understand the original call out for Saturday was from Dywisjon 161, London Antifascists et al.

In terms of community turn out, it’s worth mentioning the fact that the police had set up cordons at all the entrances to the park asking everyone going in if they were going to be violent and, seemingly, turning park users away. They were also hassling people on the demo, mostly the crusties and punks, which wouldn’t have looked inviting to anyone. I don't think many local families would have heard of fascist threats against the demo, as it didn't seem many had heard about the demo at all.

I worry that the political questions will be completely lost in what could become the escalating logic of a turf war that the anarchists are entirely unable to wage. How can we help bring about a political response which unites community groups and links them with antifascists?

I think coming to a family demo in a park in black bloc gear is dumb and counter-productive to the interests of these individuals and the movement. I mean I understand that black bloc had a strategic origin that made a kind of sense in the context of the anti-capitalist movement but I really can't understand how it made any sense on Saturday other than as a reflex response or a subcultural statement. It's true that if there was effective, rooted local organisation they should have been a small minority rather than a clear majority but counter-factuals aren't going to help us now.

Add a comment

Sponsor a Lambeth College striker!

This appeal to 'sponsor a Lambeth College striker' is being circulated by Lambeth UNISON. UNISON are only offering their striking members a £15 daily strike fund despite the Lambeth College strike being of potential national significance to the Further Education sector and beyond.


For £35 you can sponsor a Lambeth College UNISON striker for a day of strike action and be part of their important fight against a two-tier workforce. 

Your sponsorship pack:

A sponsorship certificate
A photograph of your striker's picket line, signed by a striker
A letter from your striker, updating you on the strike

You can sponsor a striker yourself, club together to sponsor a striker or sponsor a striker as a gift for a friend or relative.

SPONSORSHIP FORM

Your name ___________________________________

Email/phone __________________________________

UNISON branch________________________________

Amount of sponsorship_________________________

Cheques payable to Lambeth UNISON, 6a Acre Lane, London SW2 5SG. Contact email: j.rogers@unison.co.uk


Background to the dispute at Lambeth College

Teaching staff at Lambeth College are on all-out strike action. The workers are fighting new contracts that attack pay and conditions and would effect all new workers and create a two-tier workforce at the college. The changes include:

  • An increase in working hours, and a lower hourly rate of pay.
  • Reduced holiday.
  • An attack on sick pay entitlement for those on long term sick leave.

In a second ballot UCU members backed the indefinite strike action with 89% yes vote on a 72% turnout after the first was the subject to an injunction under the anti-trade union laws. UNISON members at the college have taken 2 days of action, alongside UCU and are planning further action, including 3 days next week. The UCU have agreed £50 strike pay for their members, UNISON's rate of strike pay is £15. UNISON members are worried about the financial impact of the strike, so we are calling for donations so we can make hardship payments so no member who wants to fight this disgusting attack is forced back to work because they cannot afford to stay out.

This is a local dispute of national significance to workers in Further Education. If this package of terms and conditions are pushed through at Lambeth College they will be rolled out across the sector. This is a local dispute, of national significance to trade unionists everywhere. Mangement at the College have tried to use the anti trade union laws to stop the democratic decision of UCU members to take strike action, they have used intimidatory tactics against strikers threatening trade union reps with spurious disciplinary charges for their role in the dispute.

The Lambeth College strikers' fight is everybody's fight. Make sure you play your part!

Add a comment

Ukraine: the alternative road ahead

Register your attendance here.

For more on Ukraine see the IS Network Ukraine crisis reader for news, campaigns, media and analysis.

Add a comment

Protesters say 'Syrian refugees welcome here'

Luke Cooper reports on the day of protests in solidarity with refugees from Syria. This article first appeared on the website of Left Unity, many thanks to the author for permission to republish.


Protesters demonstrated in London, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Oxford on the 16th June over the government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The protests coincided with the beginning of Refugee Week – a series of events first initiated back in 1998 to tackle the hostility to asylum seekers that we are still living with to this day – and brought together migrant rights and Syria solidarity campaign groups.

Under pressure to make a commitment to support Syrian refugees by both UN High Commissioner on Refugees, which is seeking to resettle 30,000 in the next year and up to 100,000 in 2015-2016 in richer nations, and signatories to an Early Day Motion on the crisis last autumn, the government announced in January a ‘Vulnerable Persons Relocation’ scheme for Syria. The commitment was extremely low in comparison to other Western nations, with the government promising to take ‘several hundred’ of the ‘most destitute’ over two to three years and refusing to actively participate in the UN programme but set up a smaller scheme in parallel.

Six months later, however, and only 24 refugees have been brought to Britain under the much vaunted assistance programme. As campaigners, we labelled this for what it evidently is: a disgraceful reneging on Britain’s nominal commitment to provide humanitarian support and relief to the Syrian people.

In launching the day of action, we brought together Syrian activists, organised under the auspices of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and refugee rights campaigns, the Movement Against Xenophobia and No One Is Illegal.

As we developed links with Syrian asylum claimants, it became clear that the protest could not remain restricted to simply the issues of resettlement through the government programme, but also had to raise and publicise the terrible treatment of those Syrians who had made it to Britain by their own means, and were now experiencing the imposed poverty and bureaucracy of our asylum process.

Like all asylum claimants, they are not allowed to work with adult asylum living in abject poverty on just £36.62 per week in cash for living expenses, and were facing long delays in the processing of their claims, with some case taking up to six months.

In London, around 50 people joined our protest at the Home Office. Speeches were kicked off by a former Syrian asylum seeker who has now won leave to remain in Britain – a fact naturally greeted with loud cheers from protesters. The Labour MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, and Fabian Hamilton (pictured above) all came down to show their support for the protest, and are committed to keep raising the issue in parliament.

Fabian Hamilton is the MP for Leeds North East, and has spoken out on behalf of asylum seekers facing delays in the processing of their claims at Waterside House, the Home Office’s immigration processing centre in West Yorkshire. Addressing the rally, he also spoke about his visit to refugee camps surrounding Syria, and the terrible hardship those who made it to these camps were experiencing. Indeed, as in nearly all refugee crises, the burden is overwhelmingly carried by the poorest states – a fact that led us to chant, ‘You let in only 24, Lebanon has a million more’.

Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, also addressed the protest, putting the refusal to make a serious commitment to Syrian refugees in the context of wider public attitudes to immigration and refugees we had to challenge unequivocally.

Left Unity was also proud to be represented at the protest. National spokesperson Pete Green supported a comment earlier made by No One Is Illegal activist Dave Landau attacking all immigration controls, and said, ‘our position is very clear that we are for no borders – that all migrants and refugees should be welcome here’. He also added, that if “the British values being touted by the Tories mean taking just 24 Syrian refugees from the current crisis – then they certainly aren’t my values”.

Clara Connolly, an immigration lawyer and activist with the Syria Solidarity Movement, made a powerful speech on behalf of the campaign arguing that we must never forget that it is the Assad’s regimes on-going war on its own people, supported by foreign powers such as Russia and Iran, that has caused the current refugee crisis, which has led to some 6.5 million Syrians being internally displaced.

Movement Against Xenophobia activist Zoe Gardiner, spoke of the capitalist logic of the government’s commitment to Syria, For while it is a significant source of humanitarian aid this ‘effectively amounted to paying other states’ still insufficient sums to deal with a refugee crisis that Britain was refusing to seriously respond to.

All the campaigners present were determined to make this the beginning of a long-term campaign to raise Syrian refugee rights and challenge the public debate on Syria more generally. Please like and keep checking the Syria Solidarity Movement Facebook page for more information about upcoming protests and events.


Further Reports

Leeds


"Over 40 were in attendance at Waterside House, the Home Office centre in Leeds, to protest against the treatment of Syrian refugees. It was a lively demonstration, calling for greater rights for the few that have made it over to the UK, and for greater provision for more refugees to come into the country. Several organisations supported the demonstration, and were invited to speak, including Leeds No Borders, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Awareness, Leeds Friends of Syria, Syrian Community of Leeds, Syrian Association of Yorkshire and Leeds Revolutionary Socialists. The action followed other solidarity actions and events in the city, and will hopefully be built up for future events."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See the Leeds Friends of Syria group for more information.


Liverpool

"Around 20 people marched through the centre of Liverpool for a protest outside the UK Border Agency offices to highlight the situation of Syrian refugees. Dr. Haytham Alhamwi, director of the Manchester-based Syrian 'Rethink Rebuild Society', spoke of the drawn-out process that Syrians who do make it to the UK face, often waiting up to 6 months in poverty and destitution simply for a substantive interview. Martin Ralph brought solidarity from Liverpool TUC and invited Syrians to address trade union meetings after Liverpool University UCU recently passed a motion supporting Syrian students and popular committees such as the Union of Syrian Free Students. The newly formed Merseyside Syria Solidarity Movement - UK plans to continue political and practical solidarity over the coming year."

 

Oxford

 

See Oxford Solidarity for Syria for more information and updates.


Glasgow

See Glasgow Free Syrians and Unity Centre for more information.

Add a comment

The People’s March: 999 call for the NHS

A group of working mothers from Darlington in the north east of England are organising a 300-mile march for the NHS following in the footsteps of the historic Jarrow March of the 1930s.

999 call for the NHS

The People’s March, launched on Mother’s Day 2014, which already has more than 500 participants signed up, will cover about 300 miles from Jarrow to Westminster. It is a grassroots, non-party-affiliated initiative, and the organisers hope that it will be one of the biggest mobilisations of people across England in defence of the NHS. From modest beginnings, the #darlomums have won the support of the GMB union and NHS campaigning groups nationally, such as Keep Our NHS Public.

They are planning the march to start on 16 August and arrive in London on 6 September.

People's March

For more information, or to join the march, visit www.999callfornhs.org.uk

Add a comment