the socialist case for exit

Dave Nellist exit pic

As we go to the polls to vote in the EU referendum most of the debate has been dominated by the civil war in the Tory party and the barrage of statistics on both sides that has confused and turned off most voters.

We believe that if the real issues had had more airtime the whole debate could have been much clearer (and less poisonous). Here are a few glimpses of what the debate could have been, where TUSC supporters managed to briefly get onto the mainstream media:
http://www.tusc.org.uk/17288/21-06-2016/the-eu-referendum-discussions-we-should-have-had

Workers’ rights
The EU has been leading the race to the bottom in wages and living standards with the posted workers directive (making it legal for foreign workers to be employed across the EU on the same pay, terms and conditions they would have had in their home country instead of, for example, being paid the minimum wage).

Most of the rights we are told were given to us by the EU were in fact won by trade union struggle — and are under threat from the Tory onslaught whether we leave or stay. The only people that we can depend on to defend workers’ rights are workers, and our organisations the trade unions!

The sight of Mayor Sadiq Khan sharing a Remain platform with David “Trade Union Bill” Cameron with five pledges including “protect workers rights” sums up the hypocrisy of the leaders of Remain.

Ryanair, one of the big business supporters of Remain, is one of the prime movers behind trying to get the EU to support scabbing for a traffic controllers:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/03/airlines-eu-air-traffic-control-french-strike-disruption

The EU already supports most of the worst attacks on workers’ rights carried out by right-wing governments at the moment. As French workers strike and demonstrate to stop the government forcing through a new labour law which would allow employers to disregard all the workers rights won by struggle in the past, EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis welcomed the labour law which he said responds directly to the analysis of the EU in Brussels that the French labour market is too “rigid”!

“Thatcherism on a continental scale”
The EU has forced austerity on Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and has encouraged governments in other countries to force it on their citizens. If a left Labour government led by Corbyn was elected and tried to renationalise the railways, the utilities and the Royal mail, the EU would forbid it.

Obviously any government determined to reverse austerity would launch a campaign against these undemocratic rules and refuse to abide by them, but why vote to keep these barriers to any left government putting its programme into practice?

Migrants rights? Fortress Europe!

The EU has a terrible record on migrants rights. Just look at the way the EU has treated refugees from Syria and the other wars our government (Tony Blair, David Cameron) played a big part in creating across the Middle East and North Africa. Many many thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean; many others are forced into huge camps in the poorest countries in Europe while the heads of the EU try to deport them all back to Turkey, taking no notice of the fact that this breaks their own laws.

The horrific racist propaganda pushed by Nigel Farage and the right-wing of the leave campaign has fed fears that migrants from across the EU and others could be immediately expelled on 24 June or shortly after.

This is entirely understandable given the extreme languages and images used, however there is absolutely no way they could get away with anything approaching this. Even if they were so politically shortsighted that they thought that wouldn’t provoke a mass movement which could drive them out of power, their big business supporters, many of whom rely on migrants from the EU and other countries as workers, would not allow them to wreck their profits.

The reality is migrants’ rights are under attack from the EU on a massive scale, and what is needed to stop this is a movement built from the ground up, not relying on the politicians or bureaucrats who see it as their job to implement austerity to defend rights they are trying to destroy by the back door.

Bring down the Tories!
Whatever the result the Tories have been tearing each other apart and will be massively weakened and divided. However the stronger the Leave vote, the deeper these divisions are likely to go.

Already we have been told to Cameron will be gone in 30 seconds if Leave has a majority. Just last week when Osborne threatened a massive emergency austerity budget if we voted to leave, around 60 Tory backbenchers said they would vote against and that Osborne’s position as Chancellor would be untenable. Tory backbenchers are also calling for a general election as soon as possible.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Labour is ready to fight a snap election if there is a vote for Brexit tomorrow:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-braced-snap-election-britain-8244538

A Corbyn led Labour party could win a majority – especially if it stood on the policies he was elected on as Labour leader rather than the watered down Tory policies they stood on that lost them the 2015 election.
This would be a major victory for all the victims of austerity in Britain, the working class and the 99%. Even if we will still have to fight to hold a Corbyn led government to any anti-austerity policies, that would be easier than campaigning against Cameron and Osborne.

The TUSC response to the horrific murder of Jo Cox MP can be read here: http://www.tusc.org.uk/17287/20-06-2016/tusc-press-statement-asks-who-is-responsible-for-the-climate-of-hate

Invite to Jeremy Corbyn: please support the lobby against cuts in Tower Hamlets Council

voting to invite Jeremy Corbyn to lobby

th lobby 4 fb

Dear Jeremy,
We very much welcomed your call for councils to fight back against the government’s austerity agenda. As a result we have organised a campaign in Tower Hamlets to oppose the £15m cuts that are being proposed by Mayor John Biggs. We have examined the council finances very closely and have shown how the council could set a legal, balanced budget which could also avoid the proposed cuts and avoid putting an extra burden on the poorest in Tower Hamlets by increasing the council tax by 4%.
Consequently, at the budget setting meeting on 24th February we will be moving an amendment and petitions to cancel the proposed axing of the incontinence laundry service, free homecare for the elderly, cuts to children’s and youth services and against the proposed 4% increase in the council tax.
We would welcome your support for our position and invite you to support our lobby of the council budget setting meeting at 6pm on 24th February at the LBTH Town Hall Mulberry Place, London E14 2BG, and come to a future meeting in the borough as well, organised with TH Momentum.
In solidarity,
Cllr Oli Rahman, leader of Tower Hamlets Independent Group of councillors
Cllr Mahbub Alam, Tower Hamlets independent group
Hugo Pierre, Unison NEC Mohshin Ahmed, Unite branch secretary
Naomi Byron, Unite Equalities Rep Neil Cafferky, Unite
Michael Wrack, Unison Pete Dickenson, UCU
Rob Williams, Unite LE1228 branch May Ayres, local resident
Catherine Byron, local resident Jane Gwynn, RMT Jubilee South
(all trade unionists are in personal capacity)

Support the No Cuts Budget amendment to Tower Hamlets Council

Tower Hamlets General Revenue Budget 2016-17 amendment
If you support this please sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/tower-hamlets-council-no-cuts-budget-amendment-to-tower-hamlets-council?recruiter=28074547&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

The main Budget report identifies the financial position facing Tower hamlets Council and the politically motivated attack on council funding by the Tory Government. The Chancellor’s plan to reduce central government grants to Local Authorities will have the effect of reducing the Government’s financial responsibility to Tower Hamlets Council by 50%. By 2018/19 this would be a total of £153 million cuts since 2010.

Tower Hamlets residents are still on average amongst the poorest in the country. However the average income for those coming to work in the borough is the second highest in the country, just behind those who work in the City of London. These facts highlight the enormous inequality facing the borough which has increased because of the Tory pursuit of austerity.

The overall political strategy of ‘austerity’ is to secure the wealth of the richest in society regardless of the insecurity and hardship caused particularly to the poorest but in reality to the vast majority of people. For this reason we are opposed to ‘austerity’ and the attacks on the budget of this council.

The Government announced the grant for Tower Hamlets in December although there could still be some small adjustments to this figure. On top of this the Mayor has agreed the Council needs to spend £23 million on new responsibilities or to meet needs that have not been properly funded in the past. The real funding gap facing the Council for 2016/17 is £44 million.

This poses a political crisis for the Mayor in his first full year in office. This crisis is a direct result of Tory austerity cuts facing Local Authorities across the country and not a unique situation facing Tower Hamlets Council. The Mayor may choose to blame the previous administration for financial mis-management but nothing could be further from the truth.

The Council’s General Reserves, monies the Council has saved up, have increased since 2011 to £71.5 million as published in the Draft Statement of Accounts for 2014/5. This financial year 2015/16 it is planned to use £7.8 million from the General Reserves and £1.8 million from the earmarked reserves, money saved for specific projects, to bridge some of the funding gap in the Council’s budget.

These healthy savings mean that the Mayor is proposing to spend £25 million from these funds to help him balance the budget for 2016/17. On top of this he is now planning to cut £17 million of cuts to services on top of £4 million that he has already signed off.

However the situation will get worse if the Mayor chooses not to make a clear stand and fight for the full resources needed to run our borough’s services. His strategy (MTFS) predicts the Council will face a fresh funding crisis of £30 million in 2017/18 followed by £18 million in 2018/19 and £10 million in 19/20.

The cuts identified for 2016-17 fall into the following broad categories:
• Reducing or ending the provision of services
• Transferring financial responsibility from the general fund to other specific areas of council funding
• Transferring financial responsibility to other public sector organisations
• Increasing contract income from the contracts with the commercial sector
• Savings achieved because of reduction in use of services

This amendment opposes all cuts to services provided by Tower Hamlets Council. We are opposed to transferring financial responsibility to other specific areas of council funding such as the DSG. This transfers the decision for providing these services from the Council to other managers of Council services, for example schools in the case of transfers to DSG e.g. the cuts to school crossing patrol service and the Gorsefield study centre.

We are opposed to reducing the level of the Council’s expenditure to meet the Governnment’s expenditure targets. However, if service levels and jobs can be guaranteed by finding funding from other public sector bodies, without forcing those bodies to make cuts elsewhere, we would not oppose these measures. Likewise there are some proposals, for example the reduction in provision for the London Taxi Card that could bring genuine savings for the Council without job losses or cuts in services.

All of these items should be explored in detail and any real savings that accrue from these measures should be offset against the use of reserves required to fund the budget gap, or used for growth of council services in priority areas to be agreed by the full council.
There are areas of the savings proposal that involve the commercial sector or private sector partners. We are opposed to any further privatisation of the Council services and want to see the Council move to bring all privatised services back in house.

There are others for example the income generation from CCTV that could bring new income into the Council. We agree where these can be achieved that they reduce the use of reserves required to fund the budget gap.

Reserves
The Council’s General reserves stand at £71.5 million and after the potential use of £7.8 million could fall to £63.6 million. We propose using £40 million from the General reserves to fund the Council’s budget gap for 2016/17. This would still leave the General Reserves at £23.6 million which is above the £20 million estimated by the Chief Finance Officer to cover for risks to the budget.

Campaign to Fund Our Services
We accept that the use of reserves is not a long-term solution to the financial problems imposed on the Council by the government. However it gives breathing space for the Councillors to develop a mass political campaign throughout the borough for resources to meet the needs of residents in Tower Hamlets and link up with other councils and anti-austerity campaigns.

The Mayor is faced with a stark choice: Defend Council services now or start down the road to cut Tower Hamlets spending by £75 million by 2020. If the Mayor’s budget is passed and £17 million cuts are made this year there will be opposition from service users and the workforce in this borough. The Mayor will be setting himself and his party in opposition to the needs of the borough. In doing so, he will create division in our communities to push these cuts through: He will justify cuts to some services whilst justifying that others should remain, for the time being!

The Mayor will no doubt claim he has autonomy to carry out local wishes and not those of his political leader, Jeremy Corbyn the leader of the Labour Party. But Corbyn’s landslide victory to become leader of that party was on the basis of a commitment to fight the Tories’ austerity measures. That has already brought about the successful defeat of cuts to tax credits – a major attack on the poor. He has written to Council leaders to implore them to defend Council services, in a letter at the end of last year. Tower Hamlets Mayor should start by refusing to cut services now whilst he can still balance the budget.

Discretionary Earmarked Reserves
The Council has an earmarked reserve for Employment and Corporate Initiatives. Officers are tasked with exploring a £10 an hour minimum wage policy across the Council and Council contractors, and report on any drawing on reserves that would be required from 1st April 2016.

Capital Budget
The Council must take urgent action to solve the housing crisis, including building council homes. The Council should both raise capital and use money from the capital reserves and discretionary earmarked reserves, to match fund the £29.9 million from receipts of sales of Council houses that the government are due to release to the borough. This should be used to begin to build the new council housing needed to house those in most urgent need on the housing waiting list.

The Tories have imposed restrictions on the housebuilding programmes Councils can fund from the sale of their own housing stock! This is the equivalent of forcing an individual to sell their own home and then forcing them to use that money to pay to build a house for someone else. We propose that the Mayor leads a campaign to change these rules to allow Councils to build council housing from the sale of council housing receipts.

We would want the Council to protect this money until this campaign is successful and not allow, In effect the Government to steal this money from. With match funding these receipts could mean a council house building programme in this borough worth £100 million. That could start to have a significant impact on the lives of 20,000 people on the Housing Waiting list in this borough.

People’s Budget meeting success

 

At a buzzing ‘people’s budget’ meeting in Tower Hamlets on 14 January 2016, 70 people voted to oppose the proposed cuts to Tower Hamlets council services. The meeting had been called by Tower Hamlets Independent councillors and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

crowd 14-1-16TUSC representatives and local trade unionists argued for councillors to move a no-cuts alternative budget. If passed by the council, this would stave off cuts this year and give time to build a mass campaign and link up with other councils in a national movement to defeat Tory austerity. The meeting voted unanimously to continue to discuss this possibility.Hugo Maium 14-1-16
Hugo Pierre, local resident and Socialist Party member, pointed out that the Alpha Grove community centre, where the meeting took place, was scheduled for closure 21 years ago. It was saved by a campaign which included a conference of community organisations that drew up a ‘People’s Budget for the Isle of Dogs’ (the area of the borough where the meeting took place) to present to the council.
Oli w banner 14-1-16

Local residents and service users were joined by trade unionists. We heard from a local resident and carer who has launched a petition against the cuts, including the particularly heartless closure of the incontinence laundry service. How outrageous it is that people will now be expected to take heavily soiled items down to the laundrette.
Kathy McTasney 14-1-16

Amanda Bentham, a local teacher and NUT member, described how cuts to children’s sAmanda crowd 14-1-16ervices and youth services, including the child and adolescent mental health services, will place a massive burden on schools. And schools themselves are facing big cuts.
The meeting was encouraged by the news that Tower Hamlets Labour mayor John Biggs has decided that several planned cuts now won’t go ahead.

Councillor Oliur Rahman, leader of the Tower Hamlets Independent Group, said:Oli 14-1-16
“Tower Hamlets Independent Group is pleased that we have already forced the mayor into a U-turn on the closure of libraries on Sundays and his proposed dismantling of Mayfield House which supports the Somali women and the elderly in the community.

“The first budget proposals by mayor John Biggs, under his Blairite-dominated administration, will not only hurt residents and their loved ones but will hit them hard in their pockets with a 4% increase in council tax. We will continue to fight hard and stand up for the residents of Tower Hamlets.”arriving 2 14-1-16

Pete Dickenson from TUSC said that after the mass support for Corbyn both inside and outside the Labour Party, people might have expected Labour councillors to stand up against Tory cuts. Yet to the shame of those Labour councillors it is Tory councillors who are making more noise about cuts to local government!
Pete 14-1-16
The idea of running our own public consultation on what should go in a people’s budget went down really well. We handed round the Southampton TUSC people’s budget consultation leaflet as an example of what we could do. Several residents liked it so much that they filled them in then and there. Written comments included: “no cuts!!”, “£10/hour living wage”, “affordable elderly care”, and “affordable housing”.
Helen 14-1-16

 

 

Solidarity with strike by DLR staff.

Interserve Security Staff and Cleaners working on the DLR ran a lively and determined picket line on the first day of their 48-hour strike for a decent pay offer and improvements in conditions. As the Queen’s speech announced plans for further restrictions on trade union rights, strikers cheered as cars and vans beeped their support. Attacks from the government only seemed to make them more determined to fight.

As the planned strike by RMT and TSSA members in Network Rail showed earlier this week, militant action can force concessions. The RMT, who organise the Interserve Security Staff and Cleaners, called management’s response totally inadequate.

Strikers were confident and determined to keep the fight going until management make a decent offer on pay and conditions. Management seem to have totally underestimated how solid the strike would be, and the importance of the work the Security Staff and Cleaners do. Pickets described how management had brought agency staff into a classroom, given them a quick training and a hi-vis vest and expected them to do the job to the high standard of the regular Security Staff and Cleaners. Between 5.30am when the strike started and 9.30am, the trains and platforms were in such a state that had incurred fines from Transport for London totalling in excess of £3000 – who knows what it’ll be by the end of the strike.

Vote no to cuts and the establishment parties on 7 May: Vote TUSC!

Tower Hamlets TUSC candidates respond to court judgement and Eric Pickles’ announcement of direct rule of Tower Hamlets Council.

Hugo Pierre, TUSC candidate for Poplar and Limehouse:

‘The Tories, backed by a cowardly Labour Party (publicly slammed by Mawrey, the electoral commission judge), have organised a coup against Tower Hamlets Council. Not in a million years would they ever win control of our council through democracy (without Lady Porter style gentrification on the most corrupt scale), so without guns but with a senior police officer and commissioners, they have placed us under a dictatorship.

‘As with any dictatorship, the interests of working class families – white, Bangladeshi and black – will be trampled on. This dictatorship will move to implement £25 million cuts to the Council’s budget in the most brutal style. They will attempt to move against our nurseries, our mental health services, our children’s homes, our youth services and our schools with a plan of privatisation and cuts.

‘And let’s be clear – if the election on June 11th for Mayor doesn’t produce the election result the establishment, pro-austerity parties want – that dictatorship will attempt to remain in place.

‘Workers in Tower Hamlets now have to organise the fightback to bring democracy back into our borough. To win that campaign we need stand now on opposition to all cuts! We need elected representatives that will do what they say: fight against cuts, vote against cuts and fight tooth and nail against austerity. And we can offer hope: our campaign must pledge to build Council housing to end the waiting list crisis; introduce rent controls and a licensing scheme for private landlords who make millions in Tower Hamlets, and bring together a movement in the borough for £10 an hour minimum wage with the trade unions.

‘I appeal to trade unions and all ‘rebel’ councillors nationally to come together to discuss a national strategy to defeat the cuts. Pickles’ coup against Tower Hamlets Council is a warning to any council that might think of raising its head and fighting the cuts. We need all those prepared to stand up against the cuts to link up nationally, in a movement that unites working-class people and the trade unions.’

‘On 7th May the establishment parties want Poplar & Limehouse to back a dictatorship – Vote to defend democracy in Tower Hamlets, vote against cuts, vote to defend our services, vote TUSC!’

Glyn Robbins, TUSC/Left Unity candidate Bethnal Green and Bow on the court judgement:

Today’s outcome was a judicial political assassination.  I sat and listened to the judgment with a growing sense of the British State stamping down on uppity natives.  Someone said to me as we left the court ‘nice day for a show trial’.  That’s probably an overstatement for a case that took six weeks to hear and arrived at a 200-page judgment, but this was a verdict of the establishment, by the establishment, for the establishment.  The one point made by the judge that I do agree with is that the real losers are the people of Tower Hamlets. 

This is clearly a personal disaster for Lutfur Rahman and others, but we must make sure it doesn’t become a political disaster for Tower Hamlets.  Under-pinning the judgment is a caricature of our community that I reject.  The impression created is of Bangladeshi people (and by implication Muslims) as political zombies.  The judgment was full of references to ‘insular’, ‘isolated’ and ‘traditional’ communities easily manipulated, like children, by unscrupulous authority figures.  This is precisely the narrative of Islamophobia exploited by the establishment and media to explain everything from child sexual abuse to Isis. 

Another proposition implicit in the judgment is that Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets will only vote for other Bangladeshis and that this, in itself, disadvantages the Labour Party.  This is clearly nonsense.  The local Bangladeshi community has been firmly established for over 40 years, during which time there have been several MPs, most of them Labour, two of them Jewish and only one Bangladeshi-Muslim.  The town hall has mostly been controlled by Labour and before them, the Liberals.  But this is just one of several examples of gross double-standards and hypocrisy on display at the Courts of Justice today.

The judge says Lutfur Rahman used grants, patronage and communal links to win votes. I don’t know how true this is, but would this be the first politician to ever have done so?  Of course not.  Such practices have been used by politicians in all places, of all parties, religions and ethnicities.  This was as true for the many years that the Labour and Liberal Parties ran our borough as it has been since their grip was broken.  But in the end, this is the real message today’s judgment sends: the political establishment demands the restoration of compliant politics in Tower Hamlets.


The judge made great play of what he interpreted as the false allegation that John Biggs is a racist, but such attacks are hardly exceptional.  There are many people, including me, saying that Nigel Farage – someone who blames foreigners for traffic jams – is a racist and people shouldn’t vote for him.  Am I now breaking the law?

Tower Hamlets First stand convicted of using ‘undue practices’ to win votes, at a time when establishment politicians and their big business supporters are in a frenzy whipping up ‘project fear’ against the Scottish National Party.  Is this undue influence?

Or is it only illegal if you challenge the establishment, especially if you’re Asian and Muslim?

I’m not prepared to be an apologist for Lutfur Rahman, but I’m not prepared to join a lynch mob either.  The portrayal of him in court is not one I recognise from my limited personal experience of him.  The suggestion that he is, in effect, only interested in serving one section of our community is false.  He has used his administration to reinstate EMAs, maintain Council Tax Benefits and celebrate St Patrick’s Day and LGBT culture.  In stark contrast to the Labour council leader who preceded him, Lutfur Rahman took a courageous and principled position to oppose the EDL.  If he and his associates have done things they shouldn’t, they should be held accountable, but so should all the other politicians who are guilty of similar things i.e. nearly all of them!

Finally, while all this is going on, there is a concerted attempt to destroy our Welfare State and drive through cuts that will severely affect people living and working in Tower Hamlets. Lutfur Rahman has not done enough to oppose this Tory onslaught.  The Labour Party is actively conniving in it.  We need a united, determined campaign to defend our community against cuts and direct rule by Westminster in the form of Eric Pickles’ Government commissioners and to demand a better future for Tower Hamlets.

 

Good luck message to TUSC candidates from Bob Crow’s cousin

Dave Wallis at TUSC election 2015 launchDavid Wallis, Bob Crow’s cousin and also a union rep in the RMT’s London Taxi branch, has sent the following message of support to all those standing for TUSC:

“I would just like to wish all the TUSC candidates good luck in your campaigns over the next two weeks.

“I have had lots of conversations in my London taxi discussing TUSC and it’s been very reassuring that people have listened and taken away what we stand for. I hope that I have been able to turn some heads.

“Bob Crow would be proud to know that you are all fighting for a democratic socialist society run in the interests of working class people. In his words, if we don’t fight we will lose every time, but if we fight we might not lose.

“The TUSC party election broadcast was fantastic and just like Bob it was to the point and touched the hearts of people living in austerity.

“I have a picture at my front door of Bob. It’s a copy of a portrait that was present at his funeral. I look at this when leaving the house every day which inspires me to be strong and fight for what we believe in. I hope the memory of Bob has the same affect for you all. I would like to wish you all the best and hope to meet some of you in the future. Let’s have one last hard push for the late great Bob Crow”.