As council workers make a stand, make August 6 a date for your diary

The Communication Workers of America once produced a t-shirt featuring a rising cobra and bearing the legend “When Provoked Will Strike”. A fitting motto maybe for the Unison members who took strike action on 16-17 July over a pitiful pay offer which capped off years of relentless attack on public sector workers.

The massive wave of strikes demonstrated once again that when capitalism enters into crisis, those who can least afford it will be first to be called on to make sacrifices. But it also demonstrates that, no matter how many defeats and sellouts, workers will still be prepared to fight.

However, the heartening stories of vibrant picket lines, successful action and union recruitment have to be balanced against the continuing problems the labour movement faces: workforces divided between different unions, and the lack of solidarity from the GMB in particular; widespread fatalism as to the likelihood the struggle will be sold out by highly-paid union leaders and come to nothing; Thatcher’s anti-union laws, upheld by Labour, holding the threat of sequestration over the kind of action required to win.

In the light of this attempts to rebuild a militant rank-and-file movement in the unions is crucial. This will be the main subject of the third meeting of the Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum on Weds August 6th (7.30, Model Inn). Introducing the session will be NUT activist Jason Travis, who will report on recent strike action in the Manchester area and progress building the grassroots national shop stewards movement. Jason was also chair of the renowned Sukula family anti-deportation campaign, a campaign in which trade unions played a key role in securing a landmark victory.

There is no hidden agenda to the socialist forum. Cardiff PR initiated it in order to maximise left unity around those actions upon which we can agree, while debating the issues which matter most to socialists in an open-ended, constructive and informed manner. Already a range of socialists and anarchists from different groups and no group at all have been involved, and our intention is that CRSF, once established, will become the property of all its participants with its own website.

We welcome everyone concerned with the trade union question to the August 6th meeting, the last but one forum before the Convention of the Left in September, which hopefully will launch many more unity initiatives across the UK.

Stop press (6 Aug) Unfortunately Jason Travis has had to cancel at the last minute due to unforseen circumstances – many apologies but the forum will go ahead as planned.

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Metrix up the PR as project goes down toilet

On April 11 we wrote the following in relation to the proposed St Athan military academy: “The loss of Package 2 means that the project is now calculated at £11 billion – but bear in mind the escalating costs of other privatisations and the potential fallout from the growing economic crisis.”

We also said of PFIs: “PFIs offer the illusion that governments are spending less money when in fact they are spending more, since they have to subsidise the profits of the privateers”

Since then the air has been thick with rumours that the project is in trouble. Having got their hands on a leaked MoD document, Private Eye have belatedly taken up the issue, exposing the doubts that exist in the minds of some of the top military over the false claims the project will save the MoD money, the unwillingness of trainers to relocate, and the possibility that the private training consortium will not be up to the job of training the military for the front line. The fact that spending on St Athan may not be kept off the governments’ books – a key appeal of PFIs – is a further reason why the MoD are getting cold feet.

Now the government have finally admitted that the contract with Metrix remains unsigned. Yesterday armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth, in a Commons reply, said “cost growth and the implications of the credit crunch on borrowing have been a significant factor.”

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Metrix are currently involved in a huge PR campaign, including an invitation-only “stakeholder” meeting in St Athan village this Monday and exhibitions in other local towns. The campaign is described as a ‘consultation’, but it is a strange type of consultation that involves “the distribution of newsletters, a regularly updated web-site, workshops and a series of public exhibitions”. Perhaps “propaganda offensive” would be a better term.

Anti-St Athan activists are already finding ways of intervening into this “consultation” to make it rather more of a dialogue. If you want to know more, why not bombard enquiries@st-athanconsultation.co.uk with your questions? A good healthy protest movement can do no harm in further discouraging investors from this egregious scheme.

Farewell to Cameron Richards

Gwent crematorium was packed on Friday as friends, family, work colleagues and comrades said farewell to South Wales activist Cameron Richards.

The sheer number of mourners and the heartfelt trubutes to Cameron bore witness to the love and respect inspired by this throroughly decent and committed teacher and revolutionary socialist.

The number of young socialists present also bore witness to Cameron’s success in bringing Marxist ideas to a new generation.

Cardiff PR, and previously Cardiff Workers Power, worked alongside Cameron in numerous campaigns, and as we have already written, he was unfailingly courteous and honest. Though we have political differences with Cameron’s organisation, the CPGB, we were all genuinely committed to left unity and a principled way of conducting our political activities.

Cameron was commendably loyal to his own organisation, but open about the differences he sometimes had with the majority line. In the case of these differences we believed Cameron was generally on the right side of the divide: for example, he was against the Respect project once its cross-class nature became evident.

Quite by chance, Cardiff PR comrades bumped into Cameron at Paddington Station on the day of our founding conference. He already had his copy of our magazine and was pleased to hear that PR, in contrast to Workers Power, were redefining democratic centralism to allow the public expression of differences, while maintaining the greatest possible unity in action.

Cameron, like us, knew what it was like to be in the minority, not only within society, but also on the left. Hostility from others did not stop him expressing his views patiently and clearly. He will be sadly missed, but his loss will only inspire his comrades, and us, to fight all the harder to bring about the vision of a fair and equal society we all share.

No2ID – with friends like these, who needs enemies?

All leftists of a certain age will remember Grunwicks. In 1977, 90 Asian women working for this photo processing plant joined a union and went on strike against appalling pay and conditions. For this they were sacked. A bitter dispute followed, in which Grunwicks’ management were aided and abetted by a shady organisation called the National Association for Freedom. This far right bosses’ club had been founded two years before by the ultra-reactionary McWhirter brothers (of Guinness Book of Records fame); besides its strike-busting activities, the NAFF were wholehearted supporters of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Indeed, one of the NAFF’s founders, Alec Bedser, was the man who left mixed-race cricketer Basil D’Oliveira out of the England team to appease the South Africans.

In 1980 the National Association for Freedom became the Freedom Association. With Thatcher doing the NAFF’s work in crushing trade union rights, they could afford to keep a lower profile. After the Tories lost power, however, the Freedom Association was back on the march, defending the right of fascists to free speech and parents to hit children; opposing immigration, climate campaigns, ‘political correctness’, EU membership and atheism.

It’s a general rule of thumb in politics that anyone who includes the word ‘freedom’ in their name is an enemy of it. The Freedom Association, a capitalist organisation with strong links to the Conservative party, care only about their freedom to exploit; when they defend civil liberties, it is their own right to conduct their own affairs in secrecy with which they are concerned.

Which brings us to the campaign against ID cards, No2ID: a campaign uniting Respect, the Green Party, Liberty, the SWP front Globalise Resistance, the Scottish Labour party, a wide variety of socialists and anarchists and. . .the Freedom Association.

It is a fair bet that many of those involved in the campaign against ID cards are unaware of their far right allies. That’s not surprising when No2ID has no national events and exists as little more that a lobbying organisation. But then, when a campaign is trying to hold together totally incompatible political forces, how else could it operate?

Nor are the Freedom Association the only far-right bigots involved in No2ID. UKIP are on board, as are the so-called ‘English Democrats’, featuring one Gary Bushell, who believe every town hall should be forced to fly the flag of St George and that asylum seekers should effectively be banned from the UK.

Only the most myopic single-issue campaigner could believe the fight against ID cards justifies unity with such forces.

While the introduction of ID cards would undoubtedly be a significant erosion of our freedoms, they have to be seen in the context of a generalised attack on civil liberties which is a universal feature of modern capitalism. In order to prosecute neo-liberal policies, the capitalist class had first and foremost to shackle the ability of workers to fight back. Partly thanks to the intervention of the NAFF, UK workers lost the right to call immediate walkouts, to mass picket, to secondary picket, to call solidarity action, or to hold on to their funds if they defied the law. The loss of these rights have fundamentally shaped the world we live in today and paved the way for further attacks.

It is essential that anyone concerned with defending civil liberties recognises the enemy: not just the Brown government, but the capitalist class it serves. If Labour are trounced at the next election, Cemeron’s nice-guy image will vanish overnight, and the David Davises of this world will happily take up the baton to whip up the fear of terrorists and hatred of asylum-seekers in order to justify greater state surveillance of its potential enemies. The Tories may well decide ID cards can be sacrificed – but the database state will march on, the Forward Intelligence Teams will continue to video demonstrators, and the anti-union laws will if necessary be strengthened.

Apologists for the involvement of the far right in No2ID might also cast a glance at the situation in Italy, where the far-right Northern League and National Alliance are coalition partners in Berlusconi’s government. Their commitment to the civil liberties of Romanies currently involves fingerprinting every one of them.

This Friday in Cardiff a number of artists and bands are playing a gig in support of No2ID. PR are unequivocally opposed to ID cards and believe in effective action in stopping their introduction. That will not occur while the campaign lends credibility to the class enemy and is hamstrung in the process. We have contacted all those involved in the No2ID gig to ask if they are willing to make a statement against the FA, EDP etc. We have also contacted the organisers who have defended the links with the far right. We need to cause them to think again.

Socialist forum: onwards and upwards

The Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum met for the second time last night to discuss the united front tactic, specifically as it relates to the fight against fascism. Numbers were up from the first meeting, with activists coming from Swansea and Newport to join a variety of Cardiff socialists and anarchists in a constructive and informative discussion entirely free of wooden sectarian posturing.

Part of the remit of the forum, in a period of increasing disorientation of the left, is to revisit the ABC of Marxist theory and practice as developed by the Third and Fourth internationals in their healthy earlier periods.

A second aim is to facilitate unity in action around those issues where agreement can be reached as to what action is necessary. Clearly, in the current period, the fight against fascism is a priority, and yesterday’s discussion made real progress in establishing what is needed in that area.

Closely related to this is the fight against deportations and the elimination of border controls. This is an area where revolutionary socialists and class struggle anarchists can unite to draw in wider forces; despite the overwhelming demonisation of refugees and asylum seekers, victorious campaigns such as that around the Sukula family in Bolton show how the labour movement and local community can be moblised against the inhumane policies of the British state.

It is a sad reflection on the state of the socialist left today that the basic concept of the united front has by and large been abandoned. The idea of the united front was that revolutionaries could work alongside much wider forces around specific issues without compromising their own ability to put forward socialist arguments. By working with trade union leaders, reformist politicians etc, revolutionaries could show themselves as willing to go further than those misleaders to forward the interests of the working class. For example, in a trade union dispute we would not hesitate to call for the militant defence of picket lines where necessary, something even the most left Labour MP would baulk at.

Such a demand is but one example of how a revolutionary socialist programme should not be something to be stowed away for a great day in the future, but is relevant to the immediate struggle. Today, however, there is a widespread perception on the left that workers can only be addressed with arguments which do not challenge the fundamental tenets of the capitalist system – reformism.

The workers united front, meanwhile, has been replaced by the simplistic concept that we build as big a campaign as possible, allow left liberal ideas to dominate it, then content ourselves with selling papers on the sidelines to the few who will listen. Instead of challenging trade union barons, exposing Labour MPs and proving in practice the superiority of revolutionary socialism, the aim has become to keep everyone on board by avoiding anything which threatens the reformists, and even to big them up in front of workers and hope to grow by clinging to their coattails.

In the case of Unite Against Fascism, even Tories have been pulled on board for public meetings. How can workers be convinced that socialists, not fascists, represent their interests when they see us in league with the class enemy, whose attacks on the working class and promotion of racism have sown the seeds for fascist success in the first place?

PR will continue to fight via socialist forums in Cardiff and elsewhere for the maximum possible unity – but unity which promotes, not cripples, our ability to fight.

Our aim with the Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum is that, once established, it will become the property of all its participants, and as such a step towards wider socialist unity, both within united front campaigns and, if sufficient agreement on organisation and programme can be reached, a revolutionary socialist party. Meetings will be on the first Wednesday of each month – the next (proposed by comrades of the CPGB and agreed at the forum), will be on Iran (details to follow).

There is also a CRSF e-group which all open-minded leftists are welcome to join.

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