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Year 2010 No. 51, October 21, 2010 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Stop This Attack on Society! Fight for the Alternative!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Stop This Attack on Society! Fight for the Alternative!

Protests against the Anti-Social Offensive

Demonstrations and Rallies against the “Comprehensive Spending Review”

All Together for Public Services

Shock and Awe Finances

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Stop This Attack on Society! Fight for the Alternative!

The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is nothing but a vicious escalation of the anti-social offensive on behalf of the rich. It is an intensification of the class struggle by the global monopolies and the financial oligarchy against the working class and people. Its aim is to guarantee the pay-the-rich society is protected against the claims and demands of the working people for the public good.

The fight by the working class and people is intensifying against this all-out assault on the fabric of society in terms of benefits, pensions and public services. The demand that there is an alternative to this wrecking of society, to the further destruction of manufacturing and public services in the name of the “Big Society” and “eliminating the deficit” is being voiced by all sections of society, led by the working class.

With the CSR, the government is declaring that the rich do not recognise the social responsibility of a modern state towards its citizens. They do not recognise that this responsibility requires comprehensive funding in social programmes, which cannot be called a cost by the government, cannot be called reckless public spending, but is an investment in society. It is not just that a way must be found to curb government public spending to bring it in line with its income through taxes, or that taxation on the other hand must be increased to bring it in line with spending on social programmes and benefits. It is that the working class and people are fed up with this fraudulent equation which is based on outdated thinking of the owners of capital, and are voicing an alternative outlook. This alternative outlook recognises that the working class are the producers of wealth through the application of their labour to Mother Nature and that added value created by the working people is that asset which is being fought over by the competing claims on society. The rich say that their claims must come first, otherwise society will come to an end. The claim, for example, of the financial oligarchy in the form of a huge amount of interest on the public debt is considered sacrosanct. Innumerable financial experts are wheeled out to put this as a received truth, to say that society is living beyond its means, that of course the contention is only about where the cuts should come. In other words, various versions of “we are all in this together” and all that remains is to make sure that the “cuts are fair”.

The working class points out that this is a dysfunctional society, that the governments of the rich are not addressing their responsibility of how to remedy this dysfunctionalism, that the consensus in Westminster about where cuts should come and how quickly should be smashed. This can be done by building a Workers’ Opposition which upholds that if the crisis is addressed by first examining that the pay-the-rich society is causing the problems, and that investments in social programmes is a step towards the solution, then a way out of the crisis can be found. In the course of this, the working class and people must themselves participate in discussing the solutions, in discussing their forms of resistance, in elaborating what kind of society must be brought into being which will guarantee the people’s rights and well-being as sacrosanct, that will put the public good above the claims of the rich for their fabulous killings, that will build an economy which serves the needs of society not the greed of the owners of capital.

That the working people are up in arms against the assault on society, the poor, the vulnerable and on working people as a whole, is a pointer that the time is opportune to develop the new social consciousness required to put an end to this headlong wrecking of society that the government is implementing.

Stop this Attack on Society!
Fight for the Alternative!

Article Index

Protests against the Anti-Social Offensive

Saturday, October 23, 2010

London march against the cuts, assemble outside the RMT head office, 39 Chalton Street, London NW1 1JD at 11am. 12.30pm rally—Organising to defeat cuts in public services. Congress House, Great Russell Street. Go to http:/www.tuc.org.uk/sertucevents

Scotland-wide STUC protest in Edinburgh: There is a Better Way march and rally. Assemble East Market Street, Edinburgh, 11am for rally at Ross Bandstand at 12.30pm. Coaches from across Scotland—for details go to www.thereisabetterway.org

Birmingham protest at 12.30pm, Victoria Square

Bristol demonstration and rally, Castle Park, Broadmead, assemble 11.00am for march through Bristol centre. Rally: College Green, 12 noon

Cambridge assemble 12 noon at Parkside Fire Station, rally at 1.30pm at Cambridge Guildhall

Cardiff march against cuts, assemble Cardiff City Hall, 12 noon

Leeds assemble Victoria Gardens (outside the art gallery), Headrow, Leeds, 12 noon

Lincoln assemble Castle Square, march to rally in the Cornhill, 12 noon

Manchester protest outside the BBC from 12 noon

Norwich protest against austerity, meet Hay Hill 12.30pm

Plymouth petitioning and campaigning with charities, campaign groups and trade unions. Meet at the Sundial in the city centre from 12 noon

Portsmouth “There is an Alternative” demonstration, 11.30am Guildhall Square

Yorkshire Humber regional protest in Sheffield city centre, meet outside the Town Hall, 12.30pm. Sheffield Right to Work feeder march, meet outside Sheffield University student union on the concourse at 11am

York march and rally in the city centre, assemble 1pm in Parliament Street

Article Index

Demonstrations and Rallies against the “Comprehensive Spending Review”

Demonstrations took place around the country on October 20 against the brutal escalation of the anti-social offensive outlined in George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

Around 3,000 people gathered at the entrance to Downing Street. Some 2,500 people had marched from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to join several hundred already at Downing Street for a rally. People joined the march as it went along. Banners on the march included Waltham Forest Unison, Islington Trades Council, Holborn St Pancras Labour Party, Camden Keep Our NHS Public, the Defend Whittington Hospital Campaign, Tower Hamlets Unison, Greenwich NUT, Burslem CWU, GMB Ealing, Defend Council Housing and Goldsmiths UCU.

Demonstrators heard from speakers including Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, George Binette, secretary of Camden trades council, and Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU.

Matt Wrack spoke of the impending strikes in London, as firefighters prepare to walk out this Saturday. He said that firefighters in London are on the frontline. They are being told, “toe the line or we’ll sack you”. He gave a call for everyone to join the firefighters on the picket lines on Saturday.

The demo from Lincoln’s Inn Fields was called by Camden trades council and supported by Holborn St Pancras Constituency Labour Party, Right to Work Campaign, Keep Our NHS Public, Coalition of Resistance, Islington Hands Off Our Public Services and around 20 union branches, trades councils and student groups. The Downing Street rally was called by Coalition of Resistance.

In other parts of the country, actions were held in city centres and outside workplaces and hospitals to protest against the Con-Dem “spending review”. Placards such as “Our workplace, Our Hospital, Our NHS!”, “Pensions Are Vital, Paying The Rich is Not! No to Cuts! No to Privatisation!” were displayed.

The Northern TUC, Northern Public Services Alliance, unions, stakeholders and hundreds of public service workers and users from across the region came together in a mass rally at Ceremonial Way, Newcastle Civic Centre at 5.00pm. Around 1,000 took part in this rally.

Since the election the Con Dem government has already cut public spending by £6.2 billion; £50 million of which has come from the North East, with nine of the region's authorities in the higher bracket for cuts. This is only the tip of the iceberg as the CSR will deliver the bulk of the £80 billion devastating cuts which will affect the North East disproportionately. Unemployment in the region currently stands at 9.1% - the highest in the country and with 1 in 3 jobs in the North East in the public sector this figure is set to sky-rocket as the impending cuts are translated into job losses. There are also thousands of private sector jobs which also depend on public spending that will also be lost.

Kevin Rowan, Northern TUC Regional Secretary said: “These cuts are divisive and destructive, and worst of all unnecessary. There is an alternative. The government appears to be following a reckless ambition to cut public spending that will see jobs go, that will reduce much needed public services and that will severely harm any chance of economic recovery.”

Clare Williams, Unison Regional Convenor and Chair of the Northern Public Services Alliance said: “Public sector cuts on the scale being proposed are not only economically dangerous, but also unnecessary and unfair. For a government that talks about fairness how is it fair to attack the most vulnerable people in our communities by putting thousands of public sector workers out of work, and reducing essential public services at a time when they will be needed more than ever. Slashing public spending also impacts on the ability for private sector jobs to be created as money is being taken out of the regional economy. The government does not have a democratic mandate for these economic policies, and the Northern Public Services Alliance will continue to grow in strength and numbers to challenge this slash and burn approach to our public services."

Speakers at the rally included Fran Heathcote, PCS, Clare Williams, Unison Regional Convenor and Chair of the Northern Public Services Alliance, Veronica Killen, UCU, and Kevin Rowan, Northern TUC Regional Secretary

The day prior to the Comprehensive Spending Review, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber told a protest rally that the government's cuts programme is a political choice, not an economic necessity, and a deliberate policy that will make Britain “a more unequal, more squalid and nastier country”. The All Together for Public Services rally in Central Hall, Westminster brought together a broad coalition of union members, community leaders, campaign groups and users of public services, and was followed by a lobby of MPs inside Parliament. The All Together for Public Services rally is one of the first events of this major TUC campaign which was launched in Manchester last month. Using an ongoing programme of events over the coming months, the campaign aims to build a broad-based, grassroots coalition of employees, union members, service users and communities, working together to challenge the cuts and expose the devastation they will cause. This will mean many local events over the coming months and a major national demonstration in London next March. The TUC report of the rally is given below.

For further details check out the All Together for Public Services campaign website www.tuc.org.uk/alltogether. More analysis of the CSR is available at www.touchstoneblog.org.uk.

Article Index

All Together for Public Services

TUC report prior to the Rally in Central Hall, Westminster, October 19, 2010

Speakers at the rally included:

•Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, President of the Methodist Conference, Reverend Alison Tomlin and Duncan Shrubsole from Crisis will speak about how the cuts are hitting the poorest and the most vulnerable the hardest.

•Actors Benedict Cumberbatch, who hosted last week's Have I Got News for You? and who recently played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC mini series Sherlock, and Joe Kloska, who appears as a civil servant in Made in Dagenham, will speak about cuts to arts funding and the closure of the UK Film Council.

•Unite Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley will warn of the impact spending cuts will have on private sector jobs, and Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary and Chair of the TUC's Public Services Liaison Group will talk about the effect on workers in the public sector and the services they provide. Patricia King from the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union will recount her experience of cuts to public sector spending, pay and jobs when the Irish Government began to tackle its deficit, and Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners Convention will speak about the impact of the cuts on older people.

•Tax expert Richard Murphy will set out how a fairer tax system, including the introduction of a Robin Hood Tax on the banks, could help tackle the deficit without the need for huge spending cuts, and Friends of the Earth's Director Andy Atkins will warn that cuts to green projects will hit attempts to build a low-carbon economy and create new jobs.

•Holly Dustin from the End Violence Against Women Campaign will talk about how Government plans to tackle the deficit will hurt women, Alison Lyddon, a physiotherapist, will speak of how the NHS helped her when she suffered a serious injury, Kaytie McFadden from Coventry Youth Council will warn of her fears for what the cuts mean for younger people, and Joe Baden from the Open Book project, an access programme at Goldsmiths University for ex-offenders, will talk about social inequality and the cuts to higher education.

Opening the rally Brendan Barber will say:

“Tomorrow the Government will announce unprecedented cuts in public spending - deeper than any of us can remember. They will bite deep into our social fabric - and hit some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.

“They want us to believe that they have no choice and that this is economic necessity. Yet economic experts across the spectrum warn us that the cuts are too deep and too rapid. The warnings come from the White House, the US Treasury department, Nobel prize winners like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, key members of the Bank of England monetary policy committee, the chief economics commentator on the Financial Times, and yes, even the Mayor of London.

“At worst the cuts will plunge us back into recession. And at best they will condemn us to lost years of high unemployment and growth so weak that the deficit may well stay high.

“This is not economic necessity, but a political choice. Bad economics is serving a political project that has never been put to the British people at an election.

“This event brings together a huge range of people who say that ministers must think again. You will hear from people whose jobs and livelihoods are directly threatened, from those who depend on quality public services, and from those in the private sector whose jobs are as vulnerable to the cuts as anyone working for a local council.

“Above all, you will hear from a new and much broader coalition than that which makes up the Government. A coalition of the concerned, a gathering of those who say that these cuts offend our deep British sense of fairness.

“However you tweak or spin such massive cuts they will inevitably hit the poor and those on middle incomes the hardest. Those at the top who can easily afford to plug any gaps will hardly notice them.

“The truth is that there are alternatives. At every point in the development of its policies, the Government had choices.

“The Government deliberately chose to meet 80 per cent of its target by spending cuts, and not by tax. And that means making Britain a more unequal, more squalid and nastier country, as a deliberate policy.

“Instead we should back fair taxes - because those who did best from the boom should help pay for the bust they created. Whether it's a Robin Hood Tax on the banks, a crackdown on the £25 billion of tax avoidance by the City and the super rich, or measures to close the corporate tax gap, there are positive choices a Government committed to fairness could make.

“Ministers deliberately chose a timetable for deficit reduction that is so tight they probably won't meet it. Because the great myth in this debate is the more that you cut, the quicker you reduce the deficit.

“The biggest contribution to reducing the deficit in any conceivable plan comes from economic growth. It's a hard-working country that can generate the tax that can fill the deficit gap, that can create the jobs that a lost generation of young people need, and that can meet the challenges that we face as a society - from moving to a low-carbon economy to eliminating child poverty.

“Not everyone you will hear from today will agree about everything. There are different priorities, different emphases - but we are all here today because we fear for our country's future if the deep, rapid cuts go ahead.

“What ministers plan is not inevitable. It's their political choice and it's our democratic duty to wage the strongest political campaign of our lifetimes for a change of course. And it starts today.”

•Actor Joe Kloska said: “I am strongly supporting the TUC rally because we have to unite together to challenge the pernicious logic of this Government and to defeat the cuts. These cuts will damage all of us, and while I realise the arts are not a matter of life and death, I believe they are important in peoples' lives. They empower us and liberate our imaginations, they promote unity, and they challenge us to explore our human natures and the world around us. We have a fantastic, vibrant and diverse culture in Britain and we should be very proud of it. We demand that any Government gives it financial support.”

•Actor Benedict Cumberbatch said: “War Horse is a great example of the value of subsidised theatre. It opened at the National in 2007 and went on to become one of the most successful productions in the theatre's history. The idea of a play based on the wanderings of a horse in the first world war would not scream 'smash hit' to a private investor, but now it is a West End hit and being made into a massive children's film directed by Steven Spielberg, which I am lucky enough to be a part of. All this has been possible only because of the subsidy the theatre receives.”

•Co-ordinator of the Open Book project at Goldsmiths University Joe Baden said: “I'm attending the rally today because I see higher education as having the potential to become the greatest vehicle for achieving social equality in this country. I'm concerned that the cuts this Government is making will return us to the days when the higher education system was one of the most effective tools for maintaining privilege.”

•Tax Research UK Director Richard Murphy said: “Before any cuts are made in spending the Government has a duty to collect that tax that's owing to it. HM Revenue and Customs estimate there's almost £70 billion of unpaid tax in the economy. I think it's more like £120 billion. It's easy to imagine at least £20 billion of this being recovered each year but the Government is intent on cutting spending at HMRC instead. Theirs is the economics of the mad house - cutting spending when there is no need to do so.”

•Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins said: “Friends of the Earth believes that a healthy environment and peoples' wellbeing go hand in hand - and investing in a green recovery can help prevent savage spending cuts that will hit poorest households hardest. Green investment is needed to unlock the massive jobs potential of new industries and slash energy waste - saving businesses, local authorities and taxpayers billions of pounds a year. Without strong Government support the UK will miss the opportunity to develop a thriving low-carbon economy - along with the new jobs, industries and tax revenue we so desperately need.”

•End Violence Against Women Coalition Director Holly Dustin said: “It is vital that we challenge funding cuts to frontline services such as rape crisis centres and specialist domestic violence projects which provide a lifeline to women at a time when they need it most. The cuts are threatening an already fragile sector. Women's wellbeing and safety is not a luxury that can only be afforded when times are good. It is a basic human right at all times.”

•Kaytie McFadden from Coventry Youth Council said: “The cuts will affect young people massively and will result in a huge change in all our lives. My fear is that the cuts will mean that young people in future will only be able to access sub-standard services because it's simply not possible to run things to the same efficiency and with the same levels of support with little or no money. Worse still I fear that some of the services will disappear entirely, leaving young people with either little or no support.”

•Crisis Director of Policy and External Affairs Duncan Shrubsole said: “Why are those who rely on benefits being made to pay for the mistakes of the bankers? The Government pledged that the poor and vulnerable would be protected from the spending cuts. Yet in the cuts to housing benefit announced in June's budget we have already seen nearly a million of the poorest households will lose an average of £624 a year - leaving them facing serious hardship and potentially homelessness, with further cuts on the way. We must still invest in the long-term solutions to social problems, such as building significantly more social housing and having the right services to help the most vulnerable rebuild their lives.”

•Reverend Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference, said: “We will be judging the Government on how it chooses to treat the most vulnerable people in our society. The decisions made in the Comprehensive Spending Review will show us where its priorities lie. The initial signs are not promising and we fear most for those projects that serve the needs of our local communities. On Wednesday we will find out what 'Big Society' really means.”

•Physiotherapist Alison Lyddon suffered a serious neck injury while cycling and will speak about the services she received - and continues to receive - to help her recover: “As I have experienced the resources of the NHS - notably its staff and their expertise - I have realised afresh their role in patient care. Without them I would not be here standing, walking, and even working towards running again.”

Article Index

Shock and Awe Finances

Mark Serwotka, guardian.co.uk, October 17, 2010

When George Osborne sits down in the Commons on Wednesday after announcing the comprehensive spending review, he will have set out a package of cuts that will fundamentally undermine the welfare state. Yet there does not need to be a single penny cut from public services – or a single job lost.

These cuts are unavoidable, we are constantly told. Our economy is in a mess. Public spending has been running out of control. The country has "record debts". In what amounts to the political equivalent of shock and awe, the government has drilled this narrative into us so we simply accept our fate. But none of this is true. Our situation has nothing to do with public spending. The collapse in the finance sector, due to greed, caused a sharp recession and higher unemployment, tax revenues shrank dramatically, and the welfare bill increased.

In making cuts, the government is making a political choice, not responding to "record" debt. Research by my union shows that, between 1918 and 1961, the debt was more than 100% of GDP. Osborne's budget papers put the current debt at 53%. Between 1918 and 1961 different choices were made. We established the NHS and welfare services, built council houses, developed state education and pensions, and invested in industry.

Instead, Osborne is choosing to realise a long-held ambition to rid the rich and powerful of the burden of the welfare state. The way we pay benefits to those in need, how we get people back to work, our ability to collect the tax that funds healthcare, education and other vital services for millions of people – no corner of government will be spared the axe.

The cuts threaten to reintroduce Victorian levels of poverty and inequality. The coalition has used the notion of "fairness" as cover for a new division of people into the deserving and undeserving poor, and a demonisation of those receiving welfare. Osborne quotes figures of some families receiving six-figure sums in housing benefit, claiming this is unfair on the taxpayer. But these families are not the ones benefiting, it is private landlords. Instead of a fair solution to cap rents, the government is capping benefits, a move that London councils estimate will force 82,000 families out of their homes. Similarly, it's not fair to end the universal provision of child benefit, it's not fair to transfer the cost of university education on to individuals, and it's not fair to hike rail fares.

Our pamphlet, There Is an Alternative: The Case Against Cuts in Public Spending, sets out what could be done instead. We outline a strategy to deal with the deficit by investing to create jobs, raise revenues and generate economic growth. We can also tackle the £120bn a year in tax that is evaded, avoided or not collected, and use the £850bn we hold in nationalised banking assets to work in our interests.

The government is attempting to make us choose who should suffer the most as it tries to generate a sense of inevitability about its draconian cuts. We must not allow ourselves to be divided: the public from the private sector; those in work from those out of work; British nationals from migrants. Unity can be built if we grasp that there does not need to be a single cut in anyone's public services, jobs or benefits.

Trade unions have often worked alone to defend their members from cuts. Now we are building new alliances – nationally and locally – with other unions, pensioners, charities and others to defend jobs and the services our members take pride in delivering. We are planning the most widespread popular movement for many years. If the Tories want to see a "big society" in action, they won't have to wait long – it will be protesting on their doorstep on Wednesday evening.

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