Tory councils cut services as demand surges

More and more working people are having to use more and more public services as the capitalist economy crumbles. Unemployment is in the millions, underemployment too.

Unlike the bankers and big businessmen, we can’t afford to hire financial advisers and accountants to help us deal with our problems, and if we lose the roof over our heads, we’re out on the street or a friend’s sofa – we can’t swan off to our second, third, or fourth home…

We need advice on housing and benefits, provided by local councils.

Unlike the bankers and big businessmen, we don’t have yachts or our own island to retreat to when we want to relax.

We might take a walk in the park, lend some books from the library, or visit the leisure centre to use the gym or have a swim in the pool – all provided by local councils.

Across England, Tory councils are preparing to slash spending, just when working people need help the most. Instead of boosting employment, Tory councils are ready to add to the dole queues. (But this won’t mean cuts in taxes – in fact, they’ll have to go up to help bailout bankers!)

Rather than expell these wreckers for the chaos they are planning, the Tory leadership in parliament is watching these councils and using their examples to draw up spending cuts top implement if they form the next government.

Yesterday the shadow chancellor, George Osbourne, claimed the Tories were a “progressive” party. Lord Mandelson responded by claiming this was laughable. Truly, this was two bald men fighting over a comb…

Stimulus-pocus

The recession is deeper than we thought, the central bankers say.

No shit? Gee, these guys are at the cutting edge. I wonder how they found out – perhaps they saw the unemployment lines…

Their solution is simple – keep interest rates at a record low and erm, print more money.

How much, you ask?

Oh, say another fifty billion pounds…

Quantitative easing. It sounds clever, but that doesn’t butter parsnips.

Why do I get the feeling that the only thing QE is stimulating is the profits of the banks?

Okay, so the bailed-out banks have reported losses – but things are going great for the remaining banks (their investment arms at least!)

As for the real-world stimulus mesures, like the car scrapage scheme and the reduction of value-added tax, these will not be extended.

Why do I get the feeling quantitative easing will be given another go?

Brave Vestas workers are sacked – but the fight goes on

For over a week now Vestas workers on the Isle of Wight have occupied their employer’s offices in an effort to stop the factory closing and their jobs being shipped overseas.

A workforce that wasn’t unionised, that had no experience of such a campaign, have shown how workers in England can struggle and gain support nationally (from many trade unions and environmental activist groups) and internationally (South Korean workers in the same situation have sent solidarity greetings).

These workers have now been sacked.

We need to show the government and Vestas how much this annoys us.

Our brothers and sisters in Scotland had 20,000 people marching in Kilmarnock last Sunday to protest job losses at profitable Diageo’s Johnnie Walker plants.

We can do the same for the Vestas workers!

Socialist Worker reports:

The workers have released a statement, which was read out at the protest outside the plant this evening. They said, “We all received letters to tell us that we had been sacked with no redundancy money. This has not deterred us in any way. We are now fighting for everyone else. Come to the court tomorrow. Bring your friends and family, and spread the word.”

Steve, one of the occupation’s stewards, read management’s letter to the rally. It stated that the workers had been sacked for “gross misconduct” as a result of their industrial action.

Steve said, “We will fight this all the way. We will not rest until the workers get what is rightfully theirs. They have fought for all of us. We will show the world that they are heroes.

“We have one message for the Vestas management: ‘We are here to stay.’ Please come to the court tomorrow. We will be putting on a show of strength there to show that workers in the Isle of Wight will not roll over.”

Darling begs the banksters, yet again

Bad news for Alistair Darling.

No, not that his cat’s just died, which is sad enough.

But that the banks don’t listen to his pleas to lend.

For months now he’s begged them to do something to help the small and medium enterprises, which are the back-bone of the private sector, get affordable credit.

But no, despite having nationalised much of the banking sector, the banksters aren’t listening. They’re profiteering.

To cap it all, John Kingman, the head of UKFI, the arms-length company which administers UK citizens’ collective stake in the banks, has announced that he’s stepping down to get a bigger pay-packet in the private sector.

If Darling is serious about wanting to help people through the recession – to keep businesses going and keep workers in their jobs so we can get out of it – then he should put representatives on the boards of the nationalised banks and make sure they give small businesses a fair deal.

We need democratic public ownership – with workers’ representatives on the boards of the banks.

In another months’ time there will be thousands of people out of work because the banks are being greedy – and they won’t be begging New Labour to change course…

Vestas occupied!

Socialist Worker reports:

A group of workers have occupied the Vestas plant on the Isle of Wight. Their brave stand is in defence of 600 jobs under threat and to keep production going at almost the only British producer of wind turbines.

The government says it plans to create a million “green jobs”. Meanwhile, in the real world, this wind turbine factory is being closed and Labour does nothing.

All 600 workers at the factory face redundancy.

The factory is the largest employer on the island.

Rush messages of support to 07980 703115 and 07970 739921 and 07733 388888.

E mail Messages to savevestas@gmail.com

Demonstrate Save Vestas, Save the Planet, support the occupation. Friday 24 July, 5.30pm, St Thomas Square, Newport Isle of Wight

Save Vestas!

First a report from Workers Climate Action, who have displayed tremendous solidarity in their efforts to assist the struggle of Vestas’ employees:

On Friday 3 July, Workers’ Climate Action and the Cowes Trades
Council held a public meeting attended by around 100 people, to oppose
the closure of the Vestas plant, Britain’s only wind turbine factory,
on the Isle of Wight.

Two months ago, Vestas announced over 500 job cuts and is seeking to move production to the USA

The room was packed with workers from the factory as well as people
from the wider community. By the end of the meeting, there were people
seriously discussing the tactic of a factory occupation to save jobs
and force much-needed investment in wind energy. How did this come
about?

The Isle of Wight is, for the most part, staunchly Conservative,
with very little history of class struggle or environmentalism. It has
one Labour councillor, no branch of any left group, and an apparently
inactive Green Party branch. The previous campaign to save jobs at
Vestas was very small, based mainly on a Facebook group and a petition
had ground to a halt, lacking direction and the confidence to take
radical action.

A small number of activists from Workers’ Liberty heard the news of
the closure began getting in touch with people on the Island three
weeks ago. We managed to get a hold of the few local trade unionists
from the Trades Council. Most of these turned out to be past retirement
age, but many with militant histories.

As impressed as these old heads of the labour movement were and as
glad as they were to see a bunch of energetic young people having come
down to set up a campaign, no one expected it to go anywhere. The
wisdom was that this was a workplace that had never been unionised, the
closure had been announced, the ball was in motion; we should try by
all means but that we shouldn’t get too disappointed if we got nowhere.

Despite this, we went out and simply stood outside the factory
waiting for people to come out of work, we had no leaflets other than
the basic WCA ‘Climate Change is a Class Issue’ one. As the workers
went past we got chatting, heard stories of people having to move house
as a result of the redundancies and various attempts over the years to
get trade union recognition met with victimisations and sackings.
People felt betrayed, many of them young, many had thought that this
was an industry with a future, many genuinely felt they were doing
their bit to save the planet. All this was down the drain.

People were pissed off, all that was lacking was the sense that
anything could be done to do anything, to fight back, we decided at
that point to try and pull together a meeting. We got the Trade’s
Council to sort the venue, came back to London and knocked up a leaflet.

We then mobilised a small but diverse group of Workers’ Climate
Action activists (environmentalists, socialists, and anarchists) from
across the country to come down.

We spent a week intensively building for a public meeting. We
leafleted the gates of the two factory sites at least twice a day, did
stalls in the main towns, and constantly spoke to people about their
concerns – the impact of the closure on jobs and the local community,
environmental concerns, the poor state of health and safety at the
Vestas plants, and raised the appropriate political questions – who
should determine how jobs are provided and how energy is produced? How
should the transition to a low carbon economy be achieved? What is to
be done about harsh management practices, job losses, and factory
closures?

Working in a political environment not usually best suited to
revolutionary politics, we found that our concern for jobs and the
environment was immediately taken on by the many of the hundreds of
people we spoke to.

Not only are Vestas management cutting jobs, they are also a highly
exploitative employer. In the tradition of post-fordist management,
they sought to generate a high turnover of employees to prevent
unionisation, and to prevent the workers from building up significant
redundancy packages. The air conditioning in the factories is
inadequate, many workers contracted contact dermatitis, an allergic
reaction to the resin used in moulds, and the company operates an
unofficial ‘three strikes and you’re out’ disciplinary procedure, as
well as regularly denying workers days off and sick days for no good
reason. The exploitation of the worker for profit provides us with an
analogy for environmental exploitation and degradation.

We succeeded in talking to the local media, including BBC radio
Solent, the Isle of Wight County press, and Meridian News, and we were
able to voice ideas like the just transition to a low carbon economy,
and democratic workers’ control of industry in forums where they had
not been heard in a long time.

Using contacts made during the Visteon occupation, we persuaded the
former convenor of the Enfield Visteon plant, Ron Clarke, to speak at
the public meeting. Ron spoke about the experience and the tactics of
occupation, telling the gathered crowds that physical control of the
factory was the only way to bargain with the bosses. The experience
gained by the Visteon workers, and their resounding success provided a
galvanising example of what can be achieved if workers take action and
stick together.

We encountered problems and obstructions from all the usual sources.
Just before the public meeting, a police inspector phoned the secretary
of Cowes trades council, informing him that the Workers’ Climate Action
had published a piece exhorting Vestas workers to chain themselves to
machinery. This was, of course, a lie. The police were, nevertheless,
very visible outside the public meeting.

In addition to this, many of the speakers brought to the public
meeting by the local trades council revealed themselves to be
bureaucrats. They told workers to simply join UNITE and get official
recognition, but were disdainful about the idea of occupation. These
business unionists and social partnership bureaucrats brought little to
the campaign, but they certainly alienated a lot of workers with their
elitist talk of letters written to ‘Lord Mandelson’.

Despite the politically questionable character of the meeting, we
managed to get workers and people on-board to expand the campaign
further into the factory and the local community. The Socialist Workers
Party and Socialist Party are already organising public meetings in
Southampton and Portsmouth with speakers from Workers’ Climate Action
and workers themselves. A protest in the centre of Newport is planned,
with the possibility of a happening outside Downing Street in London to
put pressure on the government.

National groups are expressing an interest in getting involved, and
we are following up contacts in Denmark, where Vestas have their
headquarters, with a view to encouraging solidarity actions. Watch this
space, and the Workers’ Climate Action Website (www.workersclimateaction.co.uk) for more information as it comes in.

Our actions to oppose the Vestas closure will demonstrate that,
though energy and enthusiasm are essential to achieve results, we must
also, as Lenin says ‘be able at each particular moment to find the
particular link in the chain which you must grasp with all your might
in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the
transition to the next link; the order of the links, their form, the
manner in which they are linked together, the way they differ from each
other in the historical chain of events, are not as simple and not as
meaningless as those in an ordinary chain made by a smith.’

Already messages of solidarity are pouring in via email
(savevestas@googlemail.com), and a motion will be circulating around
trade unions who wish to offer their support to the Vestas workers. The
campaign is already snowballing, but it must be held in mind that this
situation could be brought into existence anywhere – at Corus, or in
the car industry, or at Nortel where 2,000 redundancies were announced
today. Go to where jobs are being lost, talk to a few workers,
collaborate and draft a leaflet, call a big meeting. Raise the
experience of Visteon. Raise the possibility of direct action: it can
be done.

Workers Climate Action are holding an organising meeting in
Cambridge on Friday 17 July. Come and get involved. The WCA website
should have more details soon.

And this weeks’ The Socialist reports on the situation on the Isle of Wight:

Save jobs at Vestas wind turbine plant

Over 600 workers at the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight are on the brink of losing their jobs after the company announced they intend to move production of wind turbine blades to America. The workers have been offered an insulting redundancy package of less than £1,000 and at a public meeting last week a call for action was raised.

Ben Norman, Portsmouth Socialist Party

The meeting, called by the Isle of Wight trades council and a local campaign group called ‘Workers Climate Action’, was attended by around 150 people, made up of Vestas workers and local residents.

The ideas raised by the seven speakers, none of whom were Vestas workers, varied enormously. Members of ‘Workers Climate Action’ called for immediate direct action and factory occupation. Speakers from the trades council simply urged workers to join their local union.

These demands are not enough, especially as the factory bosses do not recognise the trade unions. Members of the Socialist Party raised the need for a clear programme of demands to accompany coordinated action and urged both the meeting organisers and the workers to learn the lessons of Lindsey, Visteon and Linamar.

The job losses at Vestas are not unique on the Isle of Wight. There has been a 15,000 increase in the number of people forced to claim unemployment benefit since last year.

Currently the island is the lowest wage economy in the UK. Closure of a factory of this size would be a disaster for the entire Island.

The workers of the island will not find allies in the bosses or even in their elected MPs.

Tory MP Andrew Turner effectively turned his back on the workers by saying: “My job is not to solve this problem!”

The representative from SEEDA, the regional development agency, said that although they have a budget in excess of £169 million, there was no will to use it to save Vestas jobs.

One member of the trades council even announced that they had written to Peter Mandelson to petition him to save the plant.

We say that the answer will not be found with Lord Mandelson or an unelected government quango.

We pledge our support to and call for clear demands for the workers of Vestas, including:

  • No to job cuts.
  • Re-invest in the factory – Keep production going.
  • Full trade union recognition.
  • Take the factory into public ownership under democratic workers’ control and management.
  • Form an action committee to take the campaign forward.
  • Organise a demonstration on the Isle of Wight as soon as possible to build solidarity for the Vestas workers.

Guns before butter

From Socialist Appeal, the priorities of our ruling class:

Afghanistan: Guns Before Butter Print E-mail
By Ewan Gibbs
Wednesday, 08 July 2009
As the Pakistani army continued to be bogged down in a ferocious battle against the Taliban inside its own borders and yet another British soldier is killed in Afghanistan, to date the one hundred and seventy-sixth since 2001, it is evident that the British military is engaged in a war it cannot win. Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth has outlined desperate measures which entail a wholesale reform of the Territorial Army. Gone forever will be the image of a glorified Dad’s Army as the TA is to be integrated with the rest of the army and better prepared for wars abroad.afghan_map.gifThe plans will see the TA trained more quickly for deployment abroad, and will come alongside an attempt to bolster the TA’s numbers which have halved to just 330,000 in recent years. Unsurprisingly when presented with the prospect of having to risk their lives in a deployment to either  Iraq or Afghanistan fewer people have signed up to the TA or the military as a whole during the last few years. Under the conditions of the recession this is starting to change. Faced with either the dole queue or the army many young people, in particular male sixteen year old school leaver opt for the latter. The military knows this and in recent months has upped its recruiters’ presence in areas with a high rate of unemployment, disgustingly exploiting the situation that the capitalist crisis has put many working class people in.

False Hopes For The Imperialists

However, even the increasing numbers of economic conscripts that are signing up for the US and British militaries are not enough. The US and its junior partners thought they were on to a winner when they started their predatory wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These imperialist adventures aimed to establish political hegemony and secure control over natural resources, including oil and gas for the Americans and their allies. Initially all seemed to be going well. Who could forget Bush’s  Iraq War victory speech delivered on board an aircraft carrier, complete with his very own presidential action man uniform? The period since has seen the American’s success turn into its opposite. Iraq and Afghanistan have become death traps for the military forces trying to contain the insurgency and suck up billions upon billions of dollars that even the world’s biggest military and economic power cannot sustain indefinitely. Next to no resources, aside from Afghan opium which comes alongside a flight of skilled labour, are being reaped from either country whilst this whole area of the world has been destabilised. The departure from Iraq seems to be well under way following Obama’s inauguration, and an undignified retreat from Afghanistan will have to follow at some point. Yet it is clear we have entered a new period of global instability that will lead to more so called ‘small wars’ as the recent episodes in Georgia and the Gaza strip have demonstrated.

TAs In Trouble

bobainsworthinbasra.jpgAinsworth has said in words that the proposed changes will leave intact the TA’s ability to come to the country’s aid in the event of a national catastrophe, whilst the plans presented suggest otherwise. Actions speak louder than words. Reservists already account for 9% of British troops deployed in Afghanistan and over 17000 TA troops have been deployed abroad since 2003. (BBC News 28/4/09) It is clear the government wishes to see these figures rise. It must be noted that these measures have more than just an immediate military purpose. The expansion of the TA and the increasing presence of the Officer Training Corps and Cadets in universities and schools represent attempts to build an auxiliary state military apparatus outside of the army itself. Perhaps the layer of ‘economic conscripts’ to the regular army, recruited because they had nowhere else to go, are unreliable? Could they be trusted to fire upon working class people in this country? Better perhaps to rely on some gung-ho volunteers who were not forced into the ranks of the military outside of economic necessity alone. The Officer Training Corps and Cadets are invariably dominated by middle-class youth who are much more likely to be sympathetic to the reactionary role they will be asked to play. The same applies to the TA.

Armed Bodies Of Men

Engels famously explained that the capitalist state could ultimately be reduced to armed bodies of men standing in defence of private property. The actions of the police at the G20 protests in London brutally revealed the true nature of the British state. The reservists being trained and sent to oppress and kill workers and peasants in Iraq and Afghanistan today could well be deployed on the streets of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow or London tomorrow if Britain were ever to face a revolutionary situation.

ta.jpgAfter spending so long telling us the money was not available for even the most basic reforms, government found the money to bail out the bankers at the drop of a hat and is continuing to fight and fund their wars. The resources have been found for this whole sale rejuvenation of the TA that will see infrastructure, training and structure renewed, whilst billions are being poured into the Trident nuclear weapons programme. All this leaves working people asking where their bail out is as they face unemployment and repossessions. Clearly the only form of Keynesianism boost to the economy this government is interested in is the same kind Ronny Reagan was: military Keynesianism! That shows where their priorities really lie and who they serve.

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