Friday, 26 August 2016

AN APPEAL TO SCOTLAND'S 'CORBYNISTAS': join with Scotland's already-existing socialist party




The SSP welcomes the massive boost to public debate around left-wing, anti-austerity, anti-war, socialist ideas that Jeremy Corbyn's leadership challenge and current re-election campaign has triggered. 
We welcome the emergence of those new activists motivated to defend Jeremy from the vitriolic attacks of the capitalists, their media and their treacherous cabal of supporters in Labour's right wing. 

Since our formation in 1998, the SSP has fearlessly defended socialism - whilst Scottish Labour has acted as barely-disguised Tories, abandoning the aims of Keir Hardie and countless other pioneers, slashing council jobs and services, threatening to jail workers who dared to strike against their municipal butchery, and spurning numerous opportunities to extend public ownership or reduce inequality.

Labour v. SSP: the Track Records
The SSP pioneered the battle to abolish NHS prescription charges - only to be voted down by Labour MSPs.

The SSP has campaigned for No Cuts budgets, in defiance of Tory cuts, and frequently led fellow-workers in strike action and communities in protests and sit-ins against Labour councils' closure of schools, community facilities and the slaughter of jobs and services.

The SSP has persistently campaigned for abolition of the Council Tax and for a replacement Scottish Service Tax based on income, which would make over 75% better off, make the rich cough up, and DOUBLE income for local jobs and services.
Scottish  Labour has defended the Council Tax, opposed its replacement - and recently proposed HIGHER taxes on ordinary workers to compensate for Westminster and Holyrood funding cuts.

                                                   Scottish Socialist Voice July 2014

In the Scottish Referendum, Scottish Labour alienated hundreds of thousands of workers and young people by their shameless collaboration with the reviled Tories in Better Together - the Tory-funded, Labour-fronted lie machine that confused enough people to make sure we now suffer years more of ruthless Tory dictatorship from Westminster.
In stark contrast, the SSP championed the aim of an independent socialist Scotland - a different vision entirely from the pro-capitalist aims of the SNP.

Alienated by Labour/Tory Collaboration 
Labour in Scotland will never be forgiven by swathes of working class people for helping the Tories to hold onto Scotland, cursing us with their blitz on benefits, war on workers' rights and slaughter of services and salaries.
That remains the case if Labour continues to deny the Scottish people the right to self-determination - or even a timely second referendum! - which unfortunately not only Kezia Dugdale and the Blairities do, but also Jeremy Corbyn and his most prominent allies in Scotland.
Failure to call for independence for Scotland - but giving it a distinctive socialist content, for an independent SOCIALIST Scotland that stands up for the millions, not the millionaires - is the Achilles heel of Scottish Labour, even if (as we hope) Jeremy is re-elected.

Unite in struggle 
The SSP offers the hand of friendship and solidarity in action to those - in the unions, Momentum, etc - who are fighting in defense of Corbyn.
We appeal to Corbyn supporters to arrange meetings with the SSP to discuss serious battle plans around our common aims and policies - such as the demand for a legally enforced £10 living minimum wage; renationalisation of our railways; a massive plan of public sector house-building; for scrapping Trident.

But we also appeal to the 'Corbynistas' to look beyond Jeremy's re-election, to the harsh choices that loom ahead for Scottish Labour. 

Not the Same Surge in Scotland
The social democratic face presented by the SNP has attracted 80,000 new members. But it's only one face of the pro-capitalist SNP, whose appalling role on CalMac ferries, ScotRail, privatization of Edinburgh hospitals and the business arm of Scottish Water, gives us glimpses of whose side they're really on. 

The SNP is not, and has never claimed to be, a socialist party.
However, for years the SNP has been to the left of Scottish Labour on most issues. That's why there's nothing like the same space, nor the same mass surge of new left activists behind Corbyn in Scotland as has occurred in England. 
For instance, whilst there's been a modest rise in Scottish Labour membership in this second wave - the #KeepCorbyn movement of recent months - the phenomenal surge to half a million members at UK level has left its Scottish branch marooned: Scottish Labour's share of the total British Labour Party membership has plummeted to its lowest ever level in history, below 4%. 



Labour's Capitalist Wing Won't Relent 
Scottish Labour faces an existential crisis that spells prolonged strife, civil war, and subsequent diminished electoral prospects.
The Scottish leadership around Kezia Dugdale and its sole remaining MP have set their face against Corbyn.
Labour's right wing, in Scotland as well as the Parliamentary Labour Party, will not cease to wage civil war against Corbyn and the left ideals he represents. 
They will be backed and boosted in their treacherous sabotage by a capitalist class and media which is terrified at the thought of a left-leaning Prime Minister and the expectations and demands for radical change which that would unleash amongst workers and young people.
These forces of capitalist backwardness have no intention of reversing the transformation of Labour into the reliable agency for the billionaires and bankers - the bastion against socialism - which it was moulded into under Blair and Brown.

Brutal Choices 
So Corbyn supporters face brutal choices, including:
- purge Labour of its capitalist wing (including through deselection of MPs, MSPs and councillors) to begin to construct the embryo of a socialist party, OR
- continue the road of retreat after retreat in a vain attempt to appease the right - as unfortunately Jeremy has tried over the last year.

Welcome Pledges - Unwelcome Retreats
The SSP welcomes the many relatively radical pledges in the #KeepCorbyn campaign, including building 500,000 new council houses over 5 years; rent controls; an end to NHS privatization; universal public childcare; an end to exploitative Zero Hours Contracts; collective bargaining for unions in workplaces over 250, with full rights from day one; "shrinking the gap between incomes"; re-nationalisation of railways. 
Less welcome is the retreat on Jeremy's manifesto of a year ago. For example, dropping immediate free education, abolition of tuition fees, with a living grant in favour of the vague "progressive restoration of free education";  and abandonment of public ownership of the energy giants. That's a worrying retreat in the face of right-wing vitriol.  

Challenging Capitalism 
Historic experiences prove that a strong, determined socialist party, rooted in the working class and undiluted socialist principles, is necessary to challenge and remove the dictatorship of capital - whose fangs have been bared at even the modest policies of Jeremy Corbyn. 
The past year's Niagara of bullying abuse and vilification is nothing compared to what a Corbyn-led Labour government would face - with strikes of investment amongst the capitalists' weapons of choice, as Labour governments in the 1960s and 1970s experienced. 

So dilution of policy pledges - in a vain attempt to appease the Blairites and their media chorus-line - is an ominous warning that unless a more resolute, unbending socialist leadership is forged, working people's hopes would be once more dashed on the rocks of retreat under enemy fire. 




For an Independent Socialist Scotland 
The most critical choice of all confronting the 'Corbynistas' is:
- continue to alienate huge swathes of the Scottish people by refusing to support a timely second referendum, let alone call for Scottish self-government (as Jeremy and his leading backers still insist on opposing), OR
- join with the SSP in a massive campaign for an independent socialist Scotland, as part of an alliance of socialist democracies across Europe. Thereby not only uphold democratic and socialist principles, but also win over radicalized workers and youth to the socialist banner, instead of them being fooled by the fake radicalism of the SNP leadership.

Scottish Labour a Million Miles from being Socialist 
At the heart of the problem facing those mobilized by the laudable, left-wing ideas expounded by Jeremy is this: Scottish Labour as it exists is a million miles removed from being a socialist party.
To begin to transform it into one would require naked civil war in the party, thereby reducing its chances of election, prolonging the Tory agony.

Why devote time and talent to what may well be a fruitless attempt to oust Labour's pro-capitalist right wing, or spend years trying to fashion genuine socialist policies in a Labour party which in any case, historically, has never used its positions in government to pursue comprehensive socialist measures?
Labour's history is littered with unfulfilled promises, anti-working class measures - and expulsions of socialists for being socialists, including many of us now in the leadership of the SSP!


Join With the SSP - Join the SSP 
Our appeal to those defending Jeremy's reelection is two-fold:
- combine with Scotland's existing socialist party, the SSP, in joint campaigns on immediate priority issues such as a £10 minimum now; democratic public ownership of rail and transport; opposition to all cuts at council or national level; and for an independent socialist Scotland, AND
- join Scotland's already existing socialist party, the SSP, with already existing socialist policies (which you can also influence and shape at our annual conferences), and an annually elected socialist leadership.








Wednesday, 10 August 2016

CLOSE THE OBSCENE GAP: for a £10 minimum and a maximum wage



The gaping chasm between the incomes of millions of workers and handfuls of millionaire company chief executives is opening up ever wider, like the blades of a giant pair of scissors.

The case I expounded in my book, Break the Chains, for an immediate national minimum wage of £10-an-hour for all workers - regardless of age - and a maximum wage initially based on an overly generous 10:1 differential with the minimum (i.e. £100-an-hour maximum) screams out from every page of every recent report on workers' wages and bosses' incomes. 

The top dogs of the FTSE 100 biggest companies have just had yet another 10% pay rise - and that's before they rake in untold bonuses, shares portfolios, and bottomless pension pots. Since the 2010 recession, these capitalist overlords have had their salaries increase by a third! They now wallow like pigs in the proverbial, on average incomes of £5.5million!

Back on Planet Earth!
Meantime in the same country, but on a different planet, UK workers' wages have plunged by 10.4% in the same five years since the 2010 recession. As the Bank of England expressed it, most families have suffered "a lost decade of income". Mass unemployment has been replaced by mass poverty pay.

Again, as I spelt out in Break the Chains:
"Poverty pay impoverishes not only its direct victims - the growing horde of workers denied access to society on a par with their neighbours and contemporaries - but also impoverishes the whole of society. The lack of spending power that low wages curses affected families with, in turn depresses the wider economy."

That's one of the reasons even the Tories - those privileged mouthpieces for the moneyed class of parasites - felt obliged to superficially increase wages in April, through their obscenely mis-named £7.20 National Living Wage. 
Of course they also sought to divide workers, by excluding the under-25s, who are increasingly hired in preference to 'older', more expensive workers in the likes of retail and hospitality. 
And the other factor that drove the obnoxious George Osborne to do this was the fear of his class at a pay revolt, as workers become increasingly infuriated at the obscene contrast between their grinding poverty and capitalist chiefs' shameless opulence. 

Capitalism has no Solutions 
Poverty pay wrecks lives. It wrecks the economy. It shreds social solidarity. And its accompanying inequality demotivates millions of workers who observe company bosses on 183 times as much as 'their' workers' average wage. 
But that's where the lunacy of capitalism prevents a solution that would keep the rich in the wealth they're accustomed to, whilst paying the wealth-creating working class decent wages that boosts spending power. 
It's alright for Theresa May - or Cameron before her - to spout platitudes about "the irrational, unhealthy and growing gap", but what will they do about it? They promised to 'aim' at the National Living Wage (only for those past their 25th) reaching £9 by 2020. That's pathetic, totally inadequate here and now, let alone four years hence. But it's also provoked uproar amongst business sections, who scream blue murder about "having to make difficult choices". 
Employers in hospitality, the care sector and nurseries recently joined with the Federation of Small Businesses, Association of Convenience Stores and National Farmers Union in a letter to the new Tory Business Minister demanding he abandon such giddy extravagance as £9-an-hour for the over-25s in 2020.

Profit versus Pay
So here's the rub: it's to the advantage of the capitalist class as a whole to have reasonably paid workers who can therefore spend more and thereby boost overall profits for the ruling capitalist class. But in the jungle warfare of capitalism as a system, with each profiteering outfit vying with its competitors, every penny pay increase is a penny lost to their individual company profits. 

As I put it in the book
"David Cameron telling a room of capitalist bosses that 'Britain needs a pay rise' is like Dracula appealing to a conference of vampires for volunteers to donate blood. These bloodsuckers have moved mountains for the past 30-40 years to slash the real wages of workers, boosting their profits by driving down the share of wealth that goes to wages."

Organise For £10 Now and a Maximum Wage 
We clearly can't rely on the benevolence - nor even the naked self-interest - of either the capitalist employers or their political representatives to tackle poverty pay nor the opening scissors of inequality. That requires an entirely different approach: workers becoming conscious of how they're exploited by this system, confident of their own power to challenge that set-up when organised.
And a struggle for the likes of a guaranteed minimum wage of £10 now, in 2016 - alongside a legally enforced £100-an-hour maximum income - as the first, modest steps towards the eradication of poverty, inequality and all the social ills they create.  

Monday, 1 August 2016

TAKE SIDES WITH SCOTRAIL SAFETY STRIKERS




After 13 days of rock-solid strike action, Scotrail guards/conductors continue to display tremendous courage and self-sacrifice in defence of public safety. These RMT union members are increasingly winning public support for their stance, as they suffer the loss of wages in opposition to the profit-driven Abellio bosses' reckless gamble with passenger safety, trying to impose Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains across the Central Belt and beyond. But behind a smokescreen of lies from the Abellio Scotrail spin machine - plus a lashing out with legal threats to the RMT - there are sure signs that these arrogant bosses are beginning to retreat, with a new proposal emerging from talks with both the RMT and drivers' union Aslef, literally as we post this article. Details of Abellio's offer are still hazy, but both unions would be wise to adopt the motto 'keep chasing them, they're on the run'. 

This Strike is About Safety 
The Scotrail guards' strike is about safety, not salaries. It's about keeping the safety-critical guards on the train, instead of dumping added responsibilities on the drivers. It's about retaining the highly-trained guards instead of - at best - replacing them with lesser-trained Ticket Examiners, whose overwhelming role is revenue collection, not safety; in reality, with no other staff on many trains except the driver. 

Scotrail has pumped out a stream of lies, claiming they have no intention of making trains Driver Only Operated (DOO) during Abellio's franchise. But that's precisely the aim that's embedded in the franchise issued to them by the SNP government in October 2014. DOO is what they proposed in a letter to all staff in March. Even more explicitly, that's the aim spelt out in the accidentally leaked documents from Abellio bosses last month, which they only then apologized for - with utterly unbelievable excuses that they were 'purely discussion documents' - after Aslef threatened to ballot Scotrail drivers for action, thereby opening up a second front.


It's Not About Buttons! 
Abellio bosses want to extend DOO trains on the backs of the new fleet of Hitachi electrified trains (EMUs) as a way of cutting costs and boosting their profits even further. They say it's to speed up train dispatches from stations by 15 seconds - but at what cost to safety? That's where their lie machine seeks to smother the safety-critical role of guards from public view, and insult these skilled workers with one-liners about the RMT "indulging in unnecessary strikes over who presses a button". Who in their right minds would sacrifice three weeks' pay (so far) over who presses a button?! 

The Safety-Critical Role of Guards 
The guards are intensively and regularly trained in at least 35 different skills that can make the difference between life and death, and certainly guarantees a level of safety and security otherwise missing for the rising number of passengers. Their skills include track safety; risks with electrified lines; dealing with fires, suspicious packages, and on-train incidents; dealing with train accidents and evacuations; signaling systems and regulations; station duties; safe train dispatches - as well as a host of customer services for disabled passengers, elderly people, on-train illnesses, and those most vulnerable to harassment and even assault by the anti-social minority, especially later at night. 
The guards' role includes ensuring the train is correctly positioned at the platform, avoiding passengers spilling out onto the track if it pulls up short (as happens). They get off the train to ensure safety at the 'Platform Train Interface' - looking out for passengers falling, getting trapped in doors, getting stuck between the train and platform, alert to late runners especially - as well as helping disabled or frail passengers on and off. They only close the doors and signal the driver to drive off after all these safety checks. 

In the case of accidents, where the driver is incapacitated or even killed, the guards are trained to take over communication with signal staff and carry out a range of procedures to prevent a multiple pile-up of trains, as well as safe evacuation procedures. 
In contrast, Ticket Examiners primarily sell and check tickets, with only very limited customer services duties. And they are substantially lower paid than conductors/guards - which is why dilution or downright abolition of the guards' role is attractive to money-grabbing Abellio bosses - and indeed the Westminster Tory government, who commissioned the 2011 McNulty Report, which pushed for imposition of DOO trains across the UK.


Literally Driver Only! 
Abellio Scotrail bosses have fired off a double-barreled lie with their protestations that they will 'always schedule a second member of staff on all trains'. What they don't mention is that they mean Ticket Examiners, instead of guards. What they desperately try to hide is the fact that on already-existing DOO trains, at least 20% run without even a Ticket Examiner on board; literally driver only! For instance, a driver I know has had an average of two trains a day with no TE in the past fortnight. At least 300 DOO trains per fortnight in recent months have run with only the driver on board. That's especially the pattern at night - precisely when anti-social behaviour and the dangers at unstaffed stations are most prevalent. 
Understaffing means Ticket Examiners are frequently asked to change from a back shift to morning, when the highest ticket revenue is available, leaving drivers to be the sole staff member on later trains. An added pressure towards that trend is that safety monitoring through 'SQUIRES' is effectively only a 9 to 5 operation, leaving later trains to carry on regardless of safety risks. 

Rising Risks - Demand Guards on ALL trains
Two other devastating factors underline the critical importance of keeping the guards on our trains - and indeed of not only defending the jobs and roles of the existing 600 guards, but of demanding the SNP government stand up for safety by re-introducing guards on ALL Scotrail trains. 
Even the Rail Standards and Safety Board - funded by the train companies! - has newly reported a rise in assaults on platforms and trains, and a devastating 48% rise in accidents at the Platform Train Interface - the likes of 'grab and drag', falls onto the track, etc. 
And the Scottish government Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf recently admitted an astonishing 70% of Scotland's stations - 214 out of 346 - are entirely unstaffed! 

It's Time to go Dutch! 
Abellio bosses are trying to impose DOO trains despite the proven risks to safety because their prime aim is profit maximization. And their attempts to hoodwink the public morph into obnoxious hypocrisy when we consider who owns Abellio, and what their parent company practices regarding train conductors.
Abellio was awarded the franchise by the SNP government in October 2014 - in itself a disgraceful decision, when they could have taken Scotrail into public ownership, as favored by a sweeping majority of the Scottish people. So the Scottish government spurned the opportunity for Scottish state ownership in favour of Dutch state ownership; Abellio is part of the Dutch state-owned railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen. The latter reported "revenue from passenger transport increased by £644.8million (in 2015) primarily due to the start of the Scotrail franchise". 
And the profits siphoned off Scotrail workers and passengers have then contributed to their policy of having not just one, but TWO guards on most Dutch trains!! 

Abellio Bosses' Methods Stink 
Abellio's methods, in pursuit of profit, stink. For months they've planned to impose DOO across the Central Belt, bypassing the unions by use of Yammer, social media and letters to workers' home addresses. Never have they consulted with the recognized unions on their proposals. They conscripted an army of strikebreaking scabs, mostly managers, to try and break the back of the RMT. They sought to enlist a new batch from Merseyrail. They tried to divide and conquer workers by offering 'guarantees' to a minority of the guards on High Speed Trains and diesels - whilst refusing to even discuss their DOO plans with the RMT or Aslef. They rarely even agreed to talks, including ones brokered by ACAS, and consistently failed to make any meaningful proposals when they did turn up. 

Abellio in Retreat 
They hoped they could browbeat workers into submission. But they reckoned without the courage and tenacity of RMT strikers, and the growing opposition of drivers in Aslef to DOO. 
So now Abellio has switched to a combination of repression and concession to try and break the opposition they encounter. They've just announced legal action against the RMT for 'inducing an overtime ban'. This accusation is utter rubbish; it treats workers as cattle with no minds of their own. But it's meant to scare the unions into submission. 

And now they have floated a new proposal that allegedly guarantees a guard on every one of the new trains (EMUs), but would give drivers control over the train doors. That's a very significant retreat compared to their stance over recent months. 
But it still begs several questions, still unanswered at least as we post this blog: Will the guard still deal with platform and train dispatches safety? If so, why not also control of the doors? What if guards go onto the platform but the driver doesn't see them and moves off? Why add to the burdens of responsibility already faced by drivers? What guarantee is there for the full duration of the Abellio franchise, and indeed after it finishes? What's to stop Abellio or their successors from phasing out guards in favour of cheaper labour - Ticket Examiners - if the roles they play are blurred, with dilution of the safety roles of the guards? 

How Concessions Won
The reality is this concession has been wrung out of Abellio by the courageous, solid strike action of RMT members, the growing demand from Aslef branches for a strike ballot against DOO, and events which continued strikes will hugely impact on. Glasgow's Queen Street station is opening earlier than planned after a major overhaul, and additional services for the Edinburgh Fringe are planned, tapping into the holiday season, including the school holidays in England.
It's the first offer Abellio has made to the unions! Which, depending on details, doesn't necessarily mean the unions should accept, as it shows bosses in retreat.

SSP Acts in Solidarity 
SSP members and supporters have played an important part in stepping up the pressure on Abellio - and not just through building public support for the strikers, important as that is. They were the first to demand and organise emergency branch meetings of Aslef members, which have been attended by about a third of the members - a tremendous turnout considering the number of drivers on shift at the time of meetings - where Motions demanding a strike ballot have been unanimously passed, as well as donations to the RMT strike fund. 
It's no accident that subsequent to these meetings, and public announcement of their decisions, Abellio immediately agreed to talks with Aslef on DOO - after months of refusing to - and then met with the RMT and floated their new proposal. They're frightened of united action by the two unions - which is precisely why the SSP has persistently argued for Aslef to join with the RMT in action for the policy they jointly declared as recently as 27 November 2015:

"We are completely opposed to Driver Only Operation and its forms, including Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) and Driver Door Operation (DDO), throughout the network. We firmly believe this method of operation is less safe for passengers and the workforce and our unions will not agree to the extension of DOO or DCO/DDO under any circumstances. 
The responsibility of the driver of the train is to drive, which requires100% focus. It is less safe for both the driver and passengers if the driver is distracted by additional duties such as protecting the platform train interface. The guard/conductor should retain responsibility for door operation."

You Can Help Win
Anyone reading this can add their weight to the strikers' courageous battle for public safety. Organise workplace collections and union donations to the RMT strike fund. Visit your nearest picket line. Write letters in support to local media. Send solidarity messages to m.hogg@rmt.org.uk 
Bombard your local MSPs and the Scottish government with demands to 'Keep the Guards'. 
The stance of the SNP government on this issue shows up their leadership as pro-big business, not friends of the unions as they'd like us believe. They awarded Abellio a franchise that aims to extend DOO. They've failed to condemn Abellio's union-bashing, safety-slashing mission. Nicola Sturgeon last month trotted out the company line that this was all about 'who presses a button'. 

SNP Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf tweeted, on 23 July, "Strikes should be suspended and passengers put first while dialogue ongoing". What dialogue?! Abellio had at that stage refused any meaningful negotiations. Far from suspending strikes, it was only after sustained RMT strikes and Aslef branch votes for action that they've even started talking to the unions about DOO. 
The SNP government should be pounded with demands to fine Abellio for provoking disruption to services, strip them of the franchise, and to take Scotrail into public ownership - with a guard on every train.

It's time to take sides! The SSP stands squarely with the Scotrail strikers for safety - join us. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

FOR A GUARANTEED 16-HOUR MINIMUM WORKING WEEK



I am immensely proud that the Scottish Socialist Party conference passed another pioneering new policy which could transform the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers. We agreed to campaign within the trade union movement for the idea of a guaranteed minimum working week of 16 hours, to tackle the criminal insecurity and poverty that blights vast armies of workers on zero-hours and short-hours contracts.


Crazy capitalist contradictions
As I pointed out in proposing this new addition to the SSP's comprehensive package of workplace and trade union policies, capitalism curses working class people with the crazy contradiction of mass unemployment, mass underemployment and masses of overworked people on long, unhealthy hours of work. 
For instance, 260,000 workers in Scotland last year toiled for more than 48 hours a week. That's nearly one in eight of all those in work. And 54,000 worked a mind-boggling 60 hours or more each week! That's a threat to health, adding to the mountain of stress and mental health problems already all too common, a threat to workplace health and safety, and undermines family and social life. 
And although we all know the one greedy bandit in our workplace who treats overtime as an incurable drug addiction, grabbing every hour on offer, the fundamental reason people put themselves through this prolonged drudgery isn't greed, it's dire necessity: rotten hourly rates of pay. In fact a survey showed that 57% of these long-hours workers wanted to cut their hours at work.



Cut Hours - not Pay or Jobs
So the longstanding SSP policy of a guaranteed living minimum wage set at two-thirds male median earnings - £10-an-hour now in 2016 - is crucial alongside our campaign for a shorter working week, but with no loss of earnings. For cutting hours, not pay or jobs; for an immediate maximum working week of 35 hours across the board, rapidly moving to a 4-day week, and soon far lesser hours of work - harnessing the potential of new technology to slash the hours taken to produce life's necessities and thereby give workers time to live, not just work.

Famine of Guaranteed Work
That's one side of the battle to be fought. But at the other end of the nightmare contradictions in capitalism stands a vast army of workers stressed out by a famine of guaranteed hours of work - those on zero hours contracts and 4, 8, or 12-hours a week contracts.
Not everyone wants a full time job - not even the 35-hour week maximum we advocate, let alone the current average 42.7 hours worked in this country. But hordes of part-time workers want more work than they can get under the present system of insecure, casualised labour. For example, surveys show 1.4 million part-timers want more hours of work but can't get them. 
Why? Because employers prefer workers to be at their beck and call, according to 'business needs', hiring them on very low contracted hours - zero, 4,8,12, etc - and then dragging them in for extra hours during peak periods, of course with no premium payments for overtime. This also makes it cheaper for the employers in terms of sick pay, National Insurance Contributions, and (at least until recent rulings) holiday pay. 

16 Hours Guarantee 
So the demand for a guaranteed minimum weekly contract of 16 hours would tackle some of these problems head on. As well as abolishing all zero hours contracts, it would eradicate the terrible insecurity and absolute poverty of only being guaranteed a handful of hours a week, with the stress and upheaval of trying to claim benefits some weeks, not the others when the employer needs extra hours worked. 

Opt-out - With Union Protection 
But what if someone wants less than 16 hours a week? The policy statement carried at SSP conference deals with that. 
We want the unions to crusade for government legislation that obliges all employers to offer nothing less than 16 hours a week. We want the unions to negotiate for that demand where they are already recognized, and use this and associated policies to help recruit new members to win union recognition in new areas. 
But we also agreed the rider that if a worker wants less than 16, they should be entitled to negotiate lesser hours with the help of their union, with guarantees against bullying into such an arrangement by management. In other words, the right to opt out of a guaranteed 16-hour minimum working week, strictly on the proviso they have union representation when doing so.

Pioneering Proposal 
This new proposal - which I first raised in my book Break the Chain- not only tries to eradicate the cruel poverty of pay and job insecurity that blights millions of workers in Scotland and the UK, but also seeks to give an element of workers' control to working life, a challenge to the dictatorship by senior management on behalf of the owners that is the norm in 21st century capitalism. It runs in tandem with the fight for powerful, free and campaigning trade unions. 
We will now proceed to organize to win support for this pioneering policy in our trade unions, as part of the SSP's ongoing struggle for a society founded on human need not capitalist greed, where the fabulous wealth and inventions available are used to liberate workers from poverty, insecurity and drudgery. 


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

WHOLESALE ROBBERY BY RETAIL BOSSES




"Some people have been in this building for 45 years, and they are not people who can just walk on to yachts. They are people who have mortgages and shop in ASDA."

So said one of the BHS staff as liquidation of the chain - which has been a fixture on the High Streets since 1928 - was brutally announced.
All 164 stores will shut. 11,000 workers have been tossed to the wolves after years of loyal service - 8,000 direct BHS employees, plus another 3,000 employed by other in-store retailers, cleaning, catering and security companies. This is the biggest retail collapse since Woolworths shut in 2008.

Yachts v. Job Losses
This woman's quiet anger references the news that the very same week as 11,000 workers and their families face devastation, former BHS owner Sir Philip Green has had another new yacht delivered. A 300-foot vessel valued at £100million, to add to his existing fleet of three luxury superyachts. All so he can cavort with celebs round the world's fleshpots this summer, while 11,000 families wonder if they can still take that holiday they'd booked, now they don't have a job, and now their pensions will be slashed by a minimum of 10%.

BHS Lost the Plot?
Much has been written about BHS losing its purpose and place, outstripped in the mid-market by more stylish products in Marks & Spencer, undercut by fast-fashion rivals like Primark. Younger people rarely shopped in BhS in recent years. It's also true that the shift from bricks-and-mortar shopping to the online version is a challenge, with another 13% increase in online shopping over the past year. But did it have to turn out this way? Are fickle shoppers to blame, as has been the subtext of some of the media commentary?

Biggest employer
Retail is a huge chunk of the overall economy; about 10% of it, with retail sales (excluding forecourt fuel sales) of £340billion in 2015. In turn, retail workers make up the single biggest group in the country, with over 3 million of us in the UK, nearly a third of them aged under-25. Tesco, for instance, hires 310,000 workers, making it the biggest private sector employer in the UK (and likewise in Ireland).
Like all sectors of capitalism, retail is run for maximum profit for the owners and a handful of giant shareholders, regardless of the cost to workers and 'consumers'. People are bombarded daily by commercial advertising to mould them into deciding what they 'must have', with the competition between rival retail capitalists absolutely cut-throat in this vast market. The sharks who infest these waters will stoop to anything to engorge their profit margins, either by exploiting laws they helped write through their places on government committees, or by ignoring any inconvenient legislation that might restrict their rapacious appetites for profit.

Retail Robbers
The successive owners of BHS are typical of this class of ruthless profiteers. The Observer paper's editorial expressed the opinion that BHS doesn't represent a failure of capitalism but a failure of morality on the part of the owners. But the morality of capitalism is rooted in worship of the great God Profit, at whatever cost to the working class they can get away with.
Phillip Green bought BHS for £200m in 2000. When he bought it, the BHS pension fund had a surplus of £5m, rising to £12m in 2001. Now the same pension fund is suffering a black hole of £571m, and BHS as a whole owes debts of £1.3billion.

Green used its initial success to finance his takeover of the Arcadia group (which includes Top Shop) in 2002. He then proceeded to essentially rob it of a fortune, using BHS assets to back loans for other businesses in his Arcadia empire; handing out £422m in dividends (mostly to himself) over two years; above all, dodging Corporation Tax by gifting his Monaco-based wife, Tina, a mind-boggling £1.2billion in 2005. All this helped Philip and Tina amass a personal fortune currently standing at £3.22billion.

Green shamelessly indulged in all this perfectly legal daylight robbery - instead of sustained investment, modernization and adjustments to keep BHS in tune with shifting shopping habits.
Having used and abused it for his own bounty hunt, Green then dumped the ailing BHS (and its pension fund) on a three-times bankrupt, Dominic Chappell, whose Retail Acquisitions Ltd had barely been heard of previously - for a derisory £1, in March 2015.

Three Times a Bankrupt!
Chappell invested nothing; took a salary of £540,000; moved his family into a rented mansion; bought a new Bentley; loaned £1.5m from BHS to his father; and then his Retail Acquisitions took £25m off BHS ahead of it going into liquidation!
The shameless plundering doesn't even end with actual closure of BHS. On one side of the class divide, 11,000 workers don't even know what redundancy packages they will get, and the pensions of 20,000 past and present BHS workers will be slashed by at least 10% - because the taxpayer-funded Pensions Protection Fund only guarantees a maximum of 90% of the pension value to workers. On the other side, billionaire plunderer Sir Philip Green is a secured creditor, and therefore stands to gain £35m from the BHS liquidation process!



Wholesale Slaughter in Retail
The devastation facing BHS workers is neither the first nor last that the vast battalions of retail workers will encounter. As capitalist owners - and the government that upholds their profit interests - seek to slash workers' collective share of the wealth they create, a vicious circle of job losses and real-life pay cuts sweeps the sector.
The Retail Consortium has warned of a bloodcurdling loss of 900,000 retail jobs. 
For decades, this was one of the worst-paid sectors of the whole economy - and still is, despite several headline-grabbing increases on the hourly rates of pay over the past 12 months. Several retail giants have gained warm plaudits in the press for raising the hourly rates from last summer onwards - including all the big supermarkets, discounters Aldi and Lidl, IKEA...
For some of them it's to comply with the Tories' obscenely misnamed 'National Living Wage' of £7.20 for workers over 25; for a few, to gain the kudos of the Living Wage Foundation's £8.25-an-hour; for all of them, a partial recognition that low pay not only means low morale but also low spending power - in a consumer-driven 'recovery'. Derisory pay levels and job insecurity across society undermine the ability of working people to spend, thereby making retail jobs precarious, and so the cycle goes on.

Premium Payments Plundered 
But behind the headlines, brutal attacks on workers' premium payments and work/life balance are being imposed to pay the price of modest hourly pay rises. So much so that in many cases the very same retail workers are worse off - not only in having to do far more anti-social shift patterns, but in actual, absolute weekly wages too.
Premium payments of double-time or time-and-a-half have been wiped out for most workers for Sundays, Bank Holidays and nightshifts. Workers juggling and struggling to balance work with family life are being robbed of far more of their weekends, especially in the wake of premium payments being scrapped, making it cheaper for the employers.

Thousands of workers have each lost hundreds of pounds in wages through this systematic cheapening of pay in favour of profit. In justifying the abolition of premiums for working ungodly hours for 'business needs', retail bosses on unimaginable salaries and perks trot out deceitful phrases like 'fairness', 'harmonization', 'equalization'. One of them, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, had the brass neck to coo these soothing excuses on TV - whilst he got £4.6m last year! No wonder a petition demanding reversal of the assault on Tesco workers' premium payments and allowances has already gained 78,000 signatures.

Organise!
Retail workers have been notoriously difficult to organise into unions in their own self-defense. High levels of turnover, large proportions being on part-time hours, a substantial number being students - these and other factors have meant only about 12% on average were unionized. But growing numbers are seeing the need to get organized. And where there's a strong lead given, retail workers join up to defend and improve their conditions. For instance, in my own large workplace, we've increased USDAW membership from 15% five years ago to over 55% now.

Independent Unions
Usdaw boasts the fastest-growing membership of any union in the UK in recent years. But numbers in the union are only the starting point. Unless a clear, determined lead is given by the national union in the face of the wholesale assault by retail capitalism, members will become resentful and resign again. Feeble words about closures and cuts to pay and conditions from USDAW HQ won't pay the bills. Action, pulling together first the shop stewards and activists, then convincing the broad mass of members, is what's needed - but sadly lacking so far.

Partnership?!
Many of the companies cutting workers' throats preach the virtues of 'partnership'. Many of them consciously try to bypass the union with variously-named 'employee forums' - comprising hand-picked individuals, moulded to be in awe of the senior managers who dominate these bodies, encouraged to see involvement in these committees as a stepping stone to their own career advancement. They then act as messengers for top management, with the pretence of being workers' representatives.
That makes it all the more urgent and critical that Usdaw stands up for its membership as an independent, collective body of workers, separate and distinct from the top management who execute the erosion of payments and conditions in the interests of the owners.



Action!
At the recent Usdaw national conference (Annual Delegate Meeting) in Blackpool, we overwhelmingly passed Motions calling for a £10 minimum wage, abolition of lower youth rates, and for defence of premium payments. That needs to be central to all the union does this year, with action, not idle words.
Instead of negotiating and recommending packages of cuts to pay rates for overtime, nightshifts, Sundays and Bank Holidays in Morrisons and Tescos, the Usdaw leadership should be mobilizing members in resistance. When they say there's no tradition of industrial action in retail, they should be reminded that the same applied to Junior Doctors until recently - and to the Mandate union members in Ireland's Tescos, who voted by 99% to strike against similar attacks - with an 88% supportive ballot amongst the Tesco workers not directly affected.
When closures and job losses are declared, Usdaw should apply the methods deployed by union members in Game and Senza in Ireland last year, when they occupied their workplaces.

Ownership and Control
The whole obscene debacle of predatory capitalist plunder of BHS and workers' pension funds raises point blank the issue of ownership. Instead of working- and middle-class taxpayers bailing out pension schemes that have been plundered by the likes of billionaire Philip Green, and propping up dirt-cheap wages through publicly-funded Tax Credits, Usdaw should highlight the demand that a £10 minimum wage - plus a reinstated system of premium payments - should be funded from the huge profits made by the retail giants, not stolen out of the pockets of workers.
If the choices offered by capitalist retail ownership is basement level hourly pay rates, or slashing of premium payments to compensate for a modest hourly pay rise, plus rampant job insecurity, then they are no choices worth having.

Democratic public ownership of distribution is just as logical as for production. That way, retail profits could be invested in decent wages and anti-social hours premiums; training and upskilling staff; a shorter working week with no pay losses; job security alongside full deployment of robotics and other labour-saving technology; and pursuit of healthy food and environmental protection, rather than short-term profits regardless of cost to people and planet.
Usdaw and other unions have a duty to raise workers' sights to such a vision, but above all need to organise swift, determined action to block the wrecking ball of retail capitalism, which is smashing jobs, livelihoods and the health of workers' lives.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

WORKERS' MILITANT ACTION KEEPS CALMAC FERRIES PUBLIC




Thursday 19th May 2016 will become what has been all too rare in the calendar in recent years - a day when organised trade unionists fought and won an outright victory.
After nearly two-and-a-half years of uncertainty and threatened privatization, the Scottish government has awarded the 8-year contract for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services to the public sector CalMac.
This is a victory for united, militant and determined action by the unions - in particular the RMT - without which the shareholders of private sector bidder Serco would have been rubbing their hands in glee, drooling at the prospect of guaranteed profits from this lifeline service.

A purely commercial decision? Aye, right!
The SNP government might try to palm us off with claims that their award to CalMac is purely a commercial decision. Aye, right!
The clutch of Labour MSPs who joined us - as they charged eagerly towards the cameras - at the celebration organised by the RMT outside parliament today, might try to claim it a success for Labour's stance on the issue. Aye right, again!
The original decision to put the west coast ferries out to tender happened in 2006 - when the Labour/LibDem coalition ruled at Holyrood. They peddled the same excuses that their SNP successors have repeated for the past two years: that EU regulations forced them to do so. That has been proven to be nonsense, under EU clauses and legal rulings that allow continued public ownership for social and economic reasons, with no obligation to conduct competive tendering - the Teckel Exemption.

In denial about privatization
For at least the past 12 months the SNP, including Nicola Sturgeon, have denied that an award to Serco would be privatization. They poured out press releases claiming that if the contract went to Serco it "would remain a public service".
Serco is in business to make profit, end of story. In this instance, as the ferry routes don't make a profit, economists have shown it would rely on government subsidies of £110m to £120m for each of the next 8 years. Tha would be a £1billion handout from taxpayers to the profit margins of a company that has been investigated by to the Fraud Squad over their prison tagging contract; made catastrophic errors leading to withdrawal from all clinical health contracts; lost the Woolwich Ferry contract in 2012 after being found guilty and fined for causing the death of a teenage deckhand through lack of health and safety; and who have cut terms and conditions for ferry workers on the northern isles service.
The SNP awarded Serco the Northlink ferries contract in 2012. Was that not privatization? And it took strike action by the RMT to halt assaults by Serco on members' conditions in Serco Northlink.

It took strikes to keep it public
On the current case of the Clyde and Hebrides ferries, it took a series of RMT strikes a year ago against threats to jobs, wages and pensions rights to make the SNP government waken up to the consequences of going ahead with privatization. They still publicly denied it would be actual privatization, and still refused to announce the outcome of the tendering process prior to the recent Scottish elections - despite demands for this by the RMT and their allies, including the SSP - thereby disenfranchising the Scottish people on this vital decision.

It was the relentless public campaigning by the RMT and their supporters which won this victory for public ownership, public service provision and workers' conditions. It was the strikes; lobbies of parliament; RMT-commissioned documentary research on the economic and social advantages of public ownership; the silent protest by RMT delegates with their luminous yellow T-shirts demanding 'Keep CalMac public - and carry on', when Nicola Sturgeon addressed the recent STUC congress; the vigorous street campaigning with postcards to MSPs... all these actions and more by the RMT and their allies have forced the Scottish government into this welcome decision.
To do otherwise would have meant the SNP relying on the new batch of Tory MSPs to force through privatization - because after doing the very same thing themselves in 2006, Labour decided it was politically opportune to recently oppose the SNP's potential privatization.

Keep on fighting - after the celebrations!
As Dan, one of the RMT leaders, said to me at the celebratory protest today, "Make no mistake, this is a victory for the solidarity of workers and our supporters, like yourselves. Without that Serco shareholders would today be celebrating. We should celebrate this victory today, and then move on to the next big battles, which includes the process for the 2018 Northlink ferries contract."
The SSP can honestly join in on the RMT's celebrations, having made at least a modest contribution, giving public platforms and publicity to the RMT's case when the other parties ignored them, and joined in their protests on the streets, on their picket lines, and in their postcards campaign aimed at MSPs - especially through the Ayrshire SSP branch.
We will do the same in the looming battle to stop driver only trains being imposed, whilst persevering with our common cause of democratic public ownership of all forms of transport.



Wednesday, 11 May 2016

THE STATE IS ROTTEN: Hillsborough, Orgreave, Shrewsbury, blacklisting...



There is something rotten at the heart of capitalism.
Not just a few bad apples, but a whole stinking barrel of cover-ups, collusion in lies, corruption and cruel, class injustice that goes to the very top of society.
But the priceless courage and tenacity of a group of mostly working class people has exposed the corrupt state, and put the Establishment perpetrators on the run.
The jury's verdicts on the Hillsborough Disaster provide devastating confirmation of the cruel deceits, shameless lies and corruption at the tops of the police, the media and successive governments. 
The revelations of details and footage of 96 fans being crushed to death - at the inquests and subsequent TV documentaries - are heartbreaking. Try to imagine what it was like for friends and relatives of the 96, as they sat in the hearings for two long years, listening to police chiefs still trying to blame the fans for this slaughter of the innocents, 27 years on, right up until the jury's verdicts, as they dragged out proceedings in a callous attempt to cover up their own culpability.

Weep in Anger and Admiration
I am far from being alone in weeping every time the issue is mentioned on TV, for the unimaginable suffering of the 96 innocent victims and their families, and survivors (some of whom I knew) whose lives were irreparably damaged after being on the brink of death. Tragedies caused by negligence by police chiefs, owners of the clapped out Sheffield Wednesday stadium, the FA, and a Tory government that vilified working class football fans as sub-human hooligans, herding them into pens like cattle, surrounded by high fences that turned these prisons into a death trap at Hillsborough. 
But grief merges with anger at the systematic campaign to smear and frame the dead, and all Liverpool fans. At the collusion in the Establishment's cover-up between South Yorkshire Police chiefs and the heartless, vindictive Maggie Thatcher and her Tory government. At the disgusting, unforvigeable lies of Rupert Murdoch's gutter press. 
And tears flood too in admiration for the superhuman tenacity of the Hillsborough families and their allies, as they refused to be defeated over 27 years' pursuit of Justice for the 96, their persistence vindicated by the jury's 14 decisions - including that the fans bore no responsibility for the worst sporting disaster in UK history, and that the 96 were "unlawfully killed". 

The detailed sequence of events - the real truth, known to most of us since that fateful day in April 1989, but now officially confirmed by the longest legal hearings in UK history - have been spelt out elsewhere (including in my 2012 blog article). 

From Orgreave to Hillsborough 
To fully grasp the explanation for police attitudes and actions at Hillsborough, and the enormity of the subsequent collusion between police chiefs, government figures, members of the judiciary and a major part of the capitalist media, we have to look back at 1984, and especially to the Battle of Orgreave on 18 June 1984. 

Secret Cabinet papers, released in January 2014 under the 30-year rule, confirmed what trade unionists and socialists knew and argued 30 years earlier. They exposed how the Tories consciously planned to shut 75 pits, wipe out over 75,000 miners jobs, smash the NUM union, and impose destitution on entire communities. They targeted Yorkshire for their opening salvo in a class-based civil war without bullets. And they prepared well, beefing up police pay, police powers and national coordination of police actions - stripping away elements of local control, effectively turning the police into a paramilitary wing of the government and Coal Board bosses. And nowhere more so than in South Yorkshire.



Police trap laid
Three months into the 1984-5 miners' strike to defend jobs, communities and the future, the NUM got word of the British Steel coking plant at Orgreave, near Rotherham (8 miles from Hillsborough) being on the brink of running out of supplies. Temporary closure would have been a mighty boost to the strike, so they called a mass picket to stop lorries carrying coke supplies. 
Up to 10,000 pickets came from far and wide, in magnificent solidarity. To their amazement, buses and cars full of pickets didn't face the usual police roadblocks that had turned Britain's coalfields into a diluted version of apartheid South Africa's pass laws. Instead, police politely invited and ushered them onto the piece of land near the coking plant. Too late, the pickets found themselves surrounded on three sides by massed ranks of about 5,000 police, drafted in from all over the country. 

Police carnage 
As pickets in tee-shirts and trainers - some of them stripped to the waist in the glorious sunshine - peacefully milled around on the hill, unable to get near the lorries, the police unleashed an unprovoked assault. 
Riot police, with helmets, shields and batons, smashed into the front lines of pickets. With military precision, they periodically opened up to let through heavily-clad cavalrymen, mounted police, who charged with long truncheons flying, their horses trampling people underfoot, whacking fleeing pickets' heads as they tried to escape. 
The cavalry charged through the village. An eyewitness recalled seeing a Derbyshire lad sitting on a bridge eating an ice cream, only to have a police truncheon smash through the cone and into his face. Others saw two coppers pin down a Nottinghamshire picket while a third battered him senseless, until an inspector said 'That's enough, you're going to kill him', whereupon they dragged him off and wiped away the blood before photographing the half-dead picket. 
This was unprovoked carnage, a pre-planned display of naked state violence by overpaid thugs in uniform, hired by a frightened ruling class who were out to teach the miners and wider working class a lesson in who rules whom. 

Decades of lies
The physical violence was rapidly followed by shameless violence against the truth. The BBC was as brazen in pumping out lies as the Sun and most of the press. Footage of the police carnage against defenceless pickets was literally reversed, to make millions watching TV bulletins think South Yorkshire Police were acting in self defence from picket violence. Many of the victims of police attacks were arrested and 95 charged with riotous assembly, which at the time potentially carried a sentence of life imprisonment. 
Here's the link with the police action at Hillsborough, five years later: the charges were dropped when documents showed police statements were fabricated, often identical, dictated to junior officers by detectives who weren't even at Orgreave. 
Quietly, in 1991, when pickets sued them for assault, unlawful arrest and false imprisonment, South Yorkshire Police settled out of court, awarding 39 pickets £500,000, which also gagged the miners from exposing the truth. 

Fabrication by police chiefs 
Documents from the Hillsborough case have now exposed not only that the same fabrication of police evidence occurred at Orgreave as at Hillsborough, but that several of the same senior police officers and the same SYP solicitor (identified as 'Mr H') were involved at both! Junior police officers testified that at Orgreave they were told not to write up their reports in their notebooks [which are like sacred documents and are used as gospel by the Courts] - just as happened at Hillsborough. Their statements were often written up months afterwards. 

The Snowman was here!
One of the police top brass active at both events was John Nesbitt, former Chief Superintendent of SYP. He was the stuff of legend during the miners' strike, having ordered coppers in a Range Rover to ram a snowman built by pickets as a petty show of power, only to discover the miners had built the snowman round a concrete bollard, which wrecked the police vehicle, and earned Nesbitt the nickname 'Snowman'! 
He was the one who arrested miners' leader Arthur Scargill at Orgreave, and then tried to claim his head injuries were the result of Arthur falling over before the events that day! But in January this year, at the Hillsborough inquest, a policemen (David Frost) who was there when the 96 died, testified how Snowman Nesbitt - a Chief Superintendent of SYP by then - had met a group of junior officers and told them to alter their initial statements, stating: 
"We have all got to get our stories straight or a lot of senior officers' heads will roll."

Acting with Impunity
The top brass in SYP orchestrated the state thuggery on behalf of Thatcher's thuggish Tory government at Orgreave, to cow miners - dubbed 'the enemy within' by Thatcher - and the wider working class. They unleashed state terrorism that day, and were then encouraged and aided by the Thatcher regime in covering up the truth, slandering and trying to jail their victims. No police officer was ever charged or even reprimanded for assault, let alone perjury and perversion of the course of justice.
Orgreave taught them to think they could act with impunity, an outlook that seeped down the police ranks. And that outlook towards working class people, and arrogant assurance they could get away with lies and fabrications, was sustained by the very same SYP and some of the very same top brass and solicitor five years later. If the state - up to and including Thatcher's Cabinet - hadn't got away with these monstrously corrupt practices at Orgreave, some or all of the 96 might never have died at Hillsborough. 



Orgreave Inquiry 
Top civil servants briefed Tory Home Office Ministers admitting 'mistakes or worse' in the Orgreave policing, but arguing against a public Inquiry for political reasons, and Tory Home Secretary Kenneth Baker publicly declared he was "glad to express my sincere admiration for the work of the police"
Successive governments - Tory AND Labour! - denied demands for an inquiry into the role of the police and government at Orgreave, to cover up who gave the orders for this display of unbridled state terrorism against its own working class. 
It was only after a BBC documentary in October 2012 that South Yorkshire Police referred themselves to the (ludicrously misnamed) Independent Police Complaints Commission. At one stage, in 2014, the IPCC had to threaten legal action to force SYP to hand over five boxes of documents, which SYP had refused to relinquish for five months, subsequently claiming they were in the hands of their insurers!
The IPCC proceeded to delay and prevaricate over whether a scoping exercise on the evidence merited a public investigation - only to declare 2.5 years later, in June 2015, that "due to the length of time that has elapsed" an Inquiry into Orgreave wasn't appropriate! You couldn't make it up - but they did.
It was also the cataclysmic revelations of the Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012 that encouraged the birth of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, which was further boosted in its demands for a full-blown public inquiry by the recent victory of the Hillsborough Justice campaigners. 

Breaking down the barriers 
Now the barriers erected for over 40 years by a venal ruling class - their police chiefs, judiciary, press and governments included - have begun to crumble and collapse in the face of relentless campaigns by ordinary working class people with extraordinary dedication, based on burning anger at injustice. A public Inquiry into Orgreave is about to be granted. 
The new Chief Constable of SYP, Dave Jones, last week tried to distance himself from the stinking corruption of his predecessors by declaring his support for an Orgreave Inquiry. 
In a very telling declaration from an incredible source - former Manchester Police chief Sir Peter Fahey - the wider guilt of the entire system was hinted at. Describing Orgreave accurately as "a police army of occupation", Fahey went on to call for an Inquiry...
"...into policing of the miners' strike, not just Orgreave, and the role of the police, but also the role of politicians. We need to look at the wider context of the way the police were used and the agenda set for them by government. Clearly it was about national control of the police in pursuit of a political agenda."

Prosecute ALL the Perpetrators!
The truth confirmed about Hillsborough should now lead to prosecution of those who caused the cruel carnage at a football match, at a day's entertainment, but also those up to their necks in decades of systematic lies and fabrications designed to shift the blame from the perpetrators to the victims, in an exercise dripping with class hatred. 
And not just David Duckenfield, but other SYP bosses; the West Midlands Police chiefs who staged a bogus inquiry in full knowledge of the cover-up; the football bosses who ignored safety for short-term profit; the media who smeared and demonized the dead and the city of Liverpool; and indeed the government figures who colluded in the decades of corrupt cover-ups. 

Labour's shame 
And whilst Labour's Andy Burnham is currently basking in the praise heaped on him for ordering, in 2009, the Hillsborough Independent Panel, whose revelations in 2012 blew this tower of lies asunder, there are some stubborn facts we shouldn't forget. In common with the rest of his Labour Cabinet of the time, he'd done nothing to challenge the lie machine until he met a torrent of angry chants from the terraces of "Justice for the 96", when he spoke at Anfield at the 20th anniversary event in April 2009. Worse still, his predecessor Jack Straw cynically deceived the Hillsborough families when Labour won office in 1997, promising them a full-blown Inquiry, then setting up a one-man legal 'investigation' that was stage-managed to conclude there was no justification in holding any Public Inquiry [see my 2012 blog for detailed documentary evidence of this episode].



Systemic corruption 
The Orgreave and Hillsborough scandals are interwoven by a thousand threads, but they are also part of a bigger fabric of state corruption and class injustice. Back in 1972 the Shrewsbury pickets were framed for daring to strike in defence of pay and jobs, with six of them jailed under obscure laws like the 1875 Conspiracy Act, and then drugged and tortured in jail. 
Nor did these practices stop at Orgreave or Hillsborough. Decades of blacklisting in the construction and other industries has ruined thousands of families' livelihoods and lives. Undercover secret service infiltration of protest groups - stooping to sexual relationships and having children with protestors as a cover for spying - are not just the stuff of the excellent recent TV drama, Undercover, but frightenly common in real-life Britain. Recent Tory legislation makes such methods, and state snooping on people's communications, all the easier - and legal!  

System change 
Capitalism is a system of rule and exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. It wouldn't succeed in holding onto power for the ultra-privileged few without a complex web of propaganda, deceit, lies, anti-working class laws, an upper-class judiciary steeped in the same class ideology and interests as the owners of economic wealth - and ultimately the naked brute force of state forces like the police, deployed in times of conflict between working people and those exploiting them.
So we need to press on with demands for full exposure of the methods of all these forces - including their hired politicians - demanding justice for Hillsborough, Orgreave, the miners as a whole, the Shrewsbury pickets, blacklisted workers... 
But to prevent constant repetition of these crimes against the majority working class population by those with power, we need to strive for a socialist democracy, a society where the wealth producers own and control the wealth, and where forces like the police are democratically controlled citizens' forces, not weapons in the hands of a tiny minority class of exploiters and their corrupt politicians.