Friday, 1 October 2010

Fightback Against Cuts Strengthens

Brent Fightback met again this week to plan against against council and government cuts. The meeting was strengthened by attendance from the local branch of the NUT.  Plans were made to circulate the Brent Fightback Newsletter via local trade unions as well as posting it as widely as possible via e-mail lists and blogs.

Fightback supporters will be joining a number of events organised around the Autumn Spending Review including a TUC rally on October 19th and a March and Rally on 20th October organised by Camden Trades Council and supported by a wide range of organisations including Brent Trades Council and Brent Fightback. Assemble at 4.30pm at Lincoln's Inn Field (Holborn Tube) to march to the rally in Whitehall. On Saturday 23rd October the NUT, PCS, RMT, NSSN and FBU are having a march and rally against the cuts. Assemble 11am outside the RMT's Unity House in Charlton Street (Euston or Estoin Square tubes) to march to Bedford Square.

Meanwhile Green Party member Derek Wall has published the following article on the cuts in the Morning Star (edited extract)

Politics is about power. Not the power of swapping one party for another but the art of making fundamental change.  Effective political leaders do not simply win an election but uses electoral power to shape society. In 1945 - while I of course don't defend its pro-US foreign policy - the Labour government of Clement Attlee changed Britain for the better. The creation of the NHS, the expansion of the welfare state and the building of hundreds of thousands of council houses were just some of its many achievements. 

Now fast forward to 1979. Margaret Thatcher won the general election and ushered in a right-wing revolution. She destroyed the trade unions outside of the public sector, started a trend towards privatisation and outsourcing, dramatically weakened local government and freed finance capital so it could profit from esoteric and exploitative practices. 

There should be no doubt that the present government has similar ambitions to fundamentally change Britain. While its liberal politics rejects the shrill homophobia and other petty prejudices of Thatcher, David Cameron and Nick Clegg want to create a more market-based Britain just as Thatcher did.  The deficit provides an excuse for massively rolling back the state and outsourcing the entire British economy. The effects will be brutal but neoliberals Cameron and Clegg worship the market and are closely allied to the City of London. 

Forget the mock outrage of the Daily Mail in response to Vince Cable's attacks on the banks - he was the court jester put in place to keep a nervous party on board. While the government would like a stable banking sector the bigger goal is an assault on public-sector spending. Above all, cuts are being justified by the deficit. On the face of it this is economically illiterate. Britain has had far greater debt in the past - one thinks again of the 1940s when Attlee's government spent more money to create a more just society. Likewise, cuts will slow or reverse economic activity reducing tax revenues and making things worse. 

Economic insanity is trumped by more fundamental considerations - utter stupidity is not an obvious feature of the British right in government. The deficit is a means to legitimise policies based on the desire to dismantle what little is left of the Atlee legacy. 

Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine could read as a manifesto for Cameron and Clegg. Klein starts with the overthrow of the socialist government of Allende in Chile in 1973 to describe how a crisis is used to justify intensified capitalism - in the 1970s, as Pinochet's government killed and tortured opponents, the "Chicago Boys" such as monetarist guru Milton Friedman flew into Santiago with their neoliberal blueprints. 

Britain's current deficit was created by the billions of pounds needed to bail out the banks that had crashed because of the fundamental contradictions in global capitalism, triggered by regulatory failure. The deficit is now being used to cut, privatise and outsource on a massive scale - a failure of capitalism is being used to strategically extend the rule of capital. 

The Con-Dem's ambition is to take five years to cut so fundamentally that they cannot be reversed. Massive public-sector cuts are intended to destroy public-sector trade unions so that politics can be permanently shifted right.
It is hoped that if the pain can be introduced swiftly, "reform" of the electoral system together with a continuing partnership with the Liberal Democrats can be used to cement a permanent rightwing, neoliberal politics. From "free schools" to the "decentralisation" of the NHS to an assault on the BBC, Cameron and Clegg believe clever tactics can be used to shove society in their desired direction. 

The fight against the cuts is a life or death struggle for the left in Britain. I would urge all readers of the Morning Star to support the Coalition of Resistance and to build a fight for the survival of the NHS, free education, pensions and the other services under threat. We need to build solidarity for unions taking action against the cuts like many of us did for the miners' strike in the 1980s. We need to create and sustain local anti-cuts networks. We need to build for the Coalition of Resistance national conference on November 27 in Camden, London ( 

There is going to be a fight within and across different political parties too. The very fact that the hardcore neoliberals mounted a coup against the social liberals within the Liberal Democrats enabling the neoliberal coalition to rule shows that while we may be in a particular political party contests within other political parties are crucially important....

There will also be a battle in Labour - I am not a Labour supporter and I am broadly hostile to Ed Miliband given his failure to fight for climate action at Copenhagen, including trying to lean on the left Latin American countries which in contrast to Britain and the US, are at the forefront of action to save our planet. Nonetheless the defeat of his Blairite brother and Ken Livingstone's double victory - once again topping the NEC poll and winning the mayoral nomination - are to be applauded. Labour Party members must push their party towards real opposition to the cuts. There are some tiny straws in the wind indicating that with focused effort this might just be possible.
Socialist parties must be assessed by their ability to learn from Marx, link up with others and fight the cuts in a non-sectarian way, and I am confident that this will be the approach of Morning Star readers. 

Within my own party, the Greens, I have been impressed by the leadership Caroline Lucas has shown in supporting the Coalition of Resistance. The newly elected Green Party campaigns co-ordinator Romayne Phoenix stood on a platform of making the anti-cuts campaign a priority for the Greens. The cuts cannot be justified economically and, as Lucas has argued, the deficit can be tamed by cutting nuclear weapons, war and taxing those with cash. 

The deficit is a weapon which will be wielded to smash the left and transform Britain into a society ruled by and for the hyper-rich. If the cuts agenda succeeds we can forget demands for social justice and progressive policies for a generation at least. 

A viciously neoliberal but intelligent enemy has thrown down the gauntlet and failure to respond will lead to long-term marginalisation of all those who want a fair, humane and green Britain. 

See you on November 27th.

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