Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Just back from chairing superb, lively, passionate Trade Unionists For Independence public meeting in Glasgow

Text message I sent to TUFI and SSP volunteers...

Members of huge breadth of unions - GMB, USDAW, UNITE, PCS, CWU, UNISON, RMT, ASLEF, FBU, NUJ, EIS - and several branches of many. Ranged from young shop stewards in charge of their union website and conveners & reps for workers in front line of assaults by todays government of and for the millionaires - to an ex-miner and a veteran of victorious 1971 UCS shipyards occupation. Passionate speeches.

Clear, hardhitting arguments on the workers' case for independence, and determined plans to go back to workplaces to shape our future.

People left more equipped to convince fellow workers, more confident to challenge those union leaders who've imposed a NO position on their unions, more united across party boundaries in favour of a Scotland for the millions, not the millionaires.

Richie Venton, TUFI & SSP

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Peaceful protest over local Labour Party failure to turn up for Bedroom Tax vote

PRESS RELEASE - for IMMEDIATE use

Scottish Socialist Party initiate Peaceful Protest at Labour Deputy Leader's Shameful Failure to vote for Bedroom Tax Abolition

Friday 15th November 3pm onwards At Anas Sarwar's Office, 9 Scotland St, Glasgow

The Scottish Socialist Party is appealing to all those who detest the Bedroom Tax to join a peaceful protest outside Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar's office, to express their disgust at his failure to attend the debate in Westminster on Tuesday and vote for the abolition of the tax.

The protest has been initiated by SSP candidate in the Glasgow Shettleston Council by-election, TOMMY BALL - a constituent of Mr Sarwar's.

Tommy said:" Anas Sarwar recently made great play of how Labour would abolish the Bedroom Tax if they were elected in two year's time.

But he couldn't even bother to turn up at his extremely well-paid work on Tuesday to vote for the Motion to abolish this vicious attack on the poorest - even though the Motion was proposed by his own Labour party! Since then he has blocked all attempts by constituents - including myself - to contact him for an explanation of why he and 46 other Labour MPs boycotted such a critical vote, whether by phone calls, Twitter or Facebook. So we feel we have no other choice but to demand a face-to-face explanation at his office. And that is even more important after a woman was evicted today in Glasgow - where the Labour council has refused to declare a ban on evictions in the city they rule."

SSP regional organiser, and prominent anti-bedroom tax campaigner RICHIE VENTON added:

"For a year Labour has done absolutely nothing to resist and defeat this obnoxious theft of incomes from the poorest, and in fact said they would retain it under a Labour government. Belatedly, in mid-September, Ed Miliband declared they would scrap it if elected in 2015. I immediately initiated an ePetition demanding Miliband act now, not some time after 2015, and the SSP warmly welcomed the subsequent Motion put by Labour on Tuesday. That makes it all the more shameful that 47 Labour MPs didn't think it important enough to attend and vote for their own Motion - including 10 out of 40 Scottish Labour MPs. We expect spineless treachery and obedience to their Tory masters from the LibDem MPs, who ignored their own party conference wishes and voted to keep the Bedroom Tax. But if anything, the absence of the Treacherous Ten from Scottish Labour was even more reprehensible, since they 'represent' the very people hammered by this vicious measure - as today's Citizens Advice Scotland Report confirms, the poorest, chronically sick, disabled, low-paid workers, single parents. Their treachery cannot pass in silence."

END

For more info Tweet Tommy Ball on @tommy_ball or @the_ssp_

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

NATIONALISE AND DIVERSIFY TO SAVE OUR SHIPYARDS

Within minutes of BAE Systems announcing the savage loss of nearly 1,800 shipyard jobs on 6 November - 800 in Govan, Scotstoun and Rosyth, plus 940 with the complete end to shipbuilding in Portsmouth in 2014 - I was asked to text a reaction for the SSP website. My extremely condensed message was:
"Tories shut Portsmouth to stop us voting Yes. Labour's Ian Davidson wants work switched south if we vote Yes! Both holding workers hostage. UK capitalist rule equals devastation for 1800 shipyard workers. Need nationalisation and diversification of work b4 it's too late, to save ALL jobs."


Despite all the constraints of a text message, I still stand by that message today.

CATASTROPHE


Since the announcement, some commentators talk as if the loss of 800 jobs in unemployment-scarred Glasgow and Fife is some kind of success story - because the Scottish yards avoided closure, unlike Portsmouth. These columnists and politicians presumably have never lived through the devastating turmoil for families facing redundancy - especially against a background of compulsory unpaid work or insecure low-paid and part-time jobs being all that's on offer to most of the unemployed.
This announcement is catastrophic for working class communities, who for several generations sweated profits for shipbuilding and shipping magnates.

Down in Portsmouth, bitter fury was vented at the closure - although the town will remain the centre of BAE's maritime services, equipment, and combat systems business, with the 11,000 remaining workers servicing the bulk of the Royal Navy fleet. Some of the fury was directed northwards, with the accusation that Portsmouth was 'sold down the river' to sweeten Scotland against voting for independence next year.

CASH & CONSTITUTION



As subsequent comments from BAE bosses, government and the naval high command have revealed, this was a devastating cocktail of naked cash calculation mixed in with a dose of cynical political calculation.
The detailed allocation of the jobs massacre was designed not only to divide and conquer workers, but also help hold what remains of the British state together. It was meant to make Scottish shipbuilders and surrounding communities feel relieved it wasn't their yards that are to close - allegedly the benefit of staying in the UK, when in fact almost equal numbers of jobs are to be slaughtered north and south of the border.
BAE bosses, since privatization of the yards, have grabbed a virtual monopoly over the remnants of an industry that has been starved of investment and modernization for several decades, as successive Tory and Labour capitalist governments bowed to the demands of the banking class of parasites, rather than develop an industrial strategy, making the yards uncompetitive in the global war for markets and profits. 




Both the BAE butchers and military top brass have openly stated their decisions are based on where they stand to get the best profit! As Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton put it, "We go and get our ships in the place where it makes most sense for the British taxpayer in terms of getting the right capability for the armed forces."

He added, "The UK government and BAE Systems made clear its decision this week was based on the fact Glasgow is the most effective location for the manufacture of the future [13] Type 26 frigates."

BETTER TOGETHER TAKE HOSTAGES

But in case anyone falls for the brutal line of blackmail - punted both by Labour MP Ian Davidson and new LibDem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael - that provided Scotland votes NO to self-government and remains hitched to Westminster then jobs on the Clyde will remain safe, ponder the fact Westminster is currently in high level talks with the Indian government about the possibility of them building the same Type 26s. Physically in India, purely because it would provide dirt-cheap labour. 

Gone is all the guff about having to build military vessels within the UK itself (or in the rUK if we vote for Scottish independence) for protection of British military secrets - one of the several lies these same people have peddled as a scare story against independence.

And what an affront to democracy and to the livelihoods of workers: Labour politicians and Labour loyalists in the likes of the GMB union are arguing for a 'break-clause' that means the work on the T-26s would be taken off Govan and Scotstoun and transferred to English yards if we dare to assert our right to rule ourselves by voting YES. 




An unholy alliance of Tory Ministers, the MoD and BAE bosses massacred workers in Portsmouth partly to try and crush the demand for Scottish independence - and now they are aided and abetted by Labour MPs like Davidson and the GMB convener in Scotstoun with their blackmailing threats of 'vote NO or lose your job'. Shipyard workers truly have been taken as hostages, and the ransom demanded is that the rest of Scotland votes NO or thousands of jobs will die.

WESTMINSTER BUTCHERY

It is complete nonsense on several counts. Even the Tories, BAE bosses and military chiefs have to admit they are attracted by the skills levels and costs on offer on the Clyde. But if we all cave in to the blackmail and vote NO, supposedly to save Clydeside jobs, there is nothing to stop the government placing orders in India, or elsewhere. 

As to closing the Clyde yards and moving work south in the event of a Yes vote, which particular English yards will they take out of 'mothballs', and at what exorbitant cost?

On the other hand, what is to stop BAE (or a government of the rUK) placing orders with yards in an independent Scotland, when for instance they're already cooperating with Australia to design these T-26s?!
It's a bit rich, to put it mildly, for Ian Davidson, Better Together and their Mini Me offshoot 'United with Labour' to spout scaremongering doomsday warnings that unless we keep Westminster rule we face the loss of shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde, when the same Westminster Ministry of Defence - BAE's only customer for building warships - is slashing 800 jobs on the Clyde!

UNITY

Workers across all shipyards need to develop a united strategy to save ALL jobs, not falling for blackmail, lies and threats designed to divide them and turn their gaze away from the root causes of this latest in a long line of devastating crises.



The root causes include decades of underinvestment and utter failure to build or retain a manufacturing base. Cheap labour in developing capitalist nations like South Korea or China might attract capitalist shareholders as a source of a fast buck, but countries with far higher wages than the UK have far stronger shipbuilding industries, simply because they've invested in them. Norway, similar in size to Scotland, has 42 shipyards, and built 100 ships last year - with far better wages than here.

DIVERSIFY PRODUCTION

To seriously fight for every job, unions also need to challenge the toxic dependence of the industry on the war machine - the military industrial complex. The drop in orders for warships, in part due to changes in the modes of modern warfare, inevitably threatens jobs and livelihoods if that's all the yards depend on. But there's plenty of scope for other use of the skills of shipyard workers, and indeed expansion of jobs, apprenticeships and skills. 

Thirty years ago, back in 1987, when the Barrow-on-Furness Vickers shipyard faced devastation on not getting the contract to build Trident nuclear submarines, the shop stewards combined with other local trade unionists to form the Barrow Alternative Employment Committee. They produced an expert Report, entitled 'Oceans of Work', showing how the workers' skills and the available existing technology could be diversified away from weapons-construction to exciting new work to harness tidal and offshore wind power energy systems. And that was long before today's widespread acceptance of the need for investment in renewables to combat fuel poverty, pollution and the havoc of climate change.

PUBLIC OWNERSHIP

But just as with the scandalous holding of Scotland to ransom by gangster capitalist Jim Ratcliffe, one-man dictator at Grangemouth, so too the shipyard crisis confirms the old socialist adage that 'you can't control what you don't own'. Rather than squabble and divide over the jobs that remain, courtesy the capitalist shareholders of BAE Systems, the shipyard unions need to mount a serious fight for re-nationalisation of the yards, and the wider shipping industry too. 

But not the old bureaucratic form of nationalisation: one where committees of workers' elected representatives and appropriate specialists are tasked with devising an alternative plan of production, building on existing skills and technology, but shifting production from destroyers to constructive, socially useful and peaceful purposes - including building equipment for a publicly owned renewable energy sector. Building for the merchant navy, and ferries for an integrated free public transport system, would seem other likely means of retaining jobs and producing for social need.

So this is not just a constitutional issue. The future of jobs north and south of the border depends on workers' unions uniting in action, but also rising to the challenge to fight for new forms of democratic public ownership, with massive investment in the likes of renewable energy. We can't rely on capitalist firms nor pro-capitalist governments to meet that challenge. For instance, for every £1 of government funding for research and development on green energy, £34 is squandered on the equivalent R&D for military work.

SOCIALIST CHALLENGE

The abominable role of the Tory/LibDem Coalition is entirely predictable. The role of Labour on this has been even more treacherous, given the £millions poured into their coffers by shipyard workers' unions. They've combined spineless failure to raise any coherent alternative to savage job losses, with shameful blackmail, using shipyard workers and their communities as hostages to save their beloved United Kingdom, ignoring the brutal fact that the same UK and its profit-crazed military-industrial overlords are the ones plunging the knife.

The SNP's attachment to capitalism, to the interests of multinational profiteering over people and planet, hamstrings them from advocating public ownership and diversification of the industry.
That political task is left to the socialists of the SSP; we will not shirk in our duty to argue this case in the trade unions and beyond, as the only realistic foundations for saving jobs, skills, young people's futures, and indeed as a contribution to the health of the planet itself.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

URGENT: The Bedroom Tax Could be Abolished Next Week!

- pile on the pressure on your local MPs.

How often have you faced the comments "Do you think it will do any good?" or "What's the point in protesting, it never changes anything?", as you organise a street petition, or hold a street protest, or march for a cause?

Those in power rely on the corrosive acid of pessimism and defeatism, the despair that too many people have been driven into by corrupt, self-serving politicians who do their damnedest not to listen when the voices raised are inconvenient.

And for the past year, you'd be forgiven for sliding into defeatism when it comes to the vile Bedroom Tax.

This punitive assault on the sick, disabled and poor was in reality invented by Labour in government, when they introduced a diluted version called Local Housing Allowance in the private rented sector.

Don't forget that when you read the later news in this article.Then the unelected millionaires' bootboys - the Tory-LibDem Coalition - devised an even more devilish version for social sector housing tenants in receipt of housing benefit: the Bedroom Tax.

Labour MPs did little or nothing to oppose it, and literally nothing to mount a serious challenge to it in the communities, on the streets or through housing workers' trade unions (who all fill Labour's coffers with members' money through their Labour affiliation!).

For all the months of 2013, up to and including September, Labour leaders fobbed off questions about their intentions if elected in 2015 with guff about 'needing to cost its abolition before making a commitment to a future manifesto' - except when they openly admitted they would keep the Bedroom Tax under a Laour government! Don't forget that as you read on.Labour councillors voted down motions to outlaw evictions. Labour-run councils like North Lanarkshire issued real eviction notices to a severely disabled mother of three kids. Last week, Labour councillors in South Ayrshire joined in coalition with the Tories and not only issued letters with threats of eviction, but also with threats of taking the children off parents who've fallen into arrears! These vicious would-be child-snatchers give concrete meaning to the expression 'a return to Victorian times'.

Don't forget that's part of Labour's living track record as you read the rest of this account.But Labour politicians are shameless in their opportunism, as I've previously extensively described in the blog 'Signposts and Weathervanes'. They spin round under the gales of public opinion if they think it will win votes, provided it doesn't to totally challenge the rule of the capitalist system they are married to. 

At Labour's annual vote-fest, aka national conference, Ed Miliband didn't even draw breath as he spun round on his own axis to pledge a future Labour government would abolish the bedroom tax. What a mighty collective sigh of relief followed from the 660,000 households hammered by this vicious theft of benefits. Until they realized that it depended on Labour being elected - and that it meant at least 25 consecutive, torturous months of being expected to fork out money they don't have before the next Westminster elections occur, plus however long it took Labour to keep their promise (always assuming they did).

So a few days after his speech promising future salvation, I lodged an online Petition demanding Miliband move NOW - not some time after 2015 - by putting an Emergency Motion to the Westminster parliament for IMMEDIATE abolition of the Bedroom Tax. We did this on the basis also that the UK LibDem conference in Glasgow, pounded by protesters, had savaged the tax their MPs imposed in unison with their Tory partners.

The ePetition unleashed the fury of 3,000 people within a short time, many of them posting comments that would make your blood boil in anger at the impact of this measure.Now, under this pressure, Labour has lodged a Motion to abolish the Bedroom Tax for debate this Tuesday 12th November!

So I appeal to you to act swiftly - with another push we might even get this brutal measure abolished next week!

If you've not already signed the ePetition please do so NOW;

go to change.org and in the search box type 'bedroom tax Miliband'.

Urgently contact a few family members or friends, explain, and ask them to sign it TODAY.

And send an email to local MPs, no matter which party they're in, demanding they vote for Abolition of the Bedroom Tax on 12th November.

You can find the link to them either through TheyWorkForYou.com or WriteToThem.com.

Organised pressure works!

Don't relent - NOW is the time to pile on the pressure. The potential prize is massive. And it doesn't mean you have to stop seeing through the opportunist chancers; just remember their track record as well as demanding they listen for once.

Keep up the #bedroomtax pressure!

Congratulations! But please keep piling on the pressure!

All of you who signed my Petition demanding Ed Miliband move an immediate Motion to Abolish the vile Bedroom Tax NOW have had an impact. Labour is proposing a similar Motion in parliament this coming Tuesday 12th November! 

But don't give up applying the pressure - NOW is the time to pile it on, to try and persuade enough MPs of various parties to vote to end this punishment of the poorest, including disabled people.

- PLEASE ask a few friends or acquaintances to sign it TODAY - before the vote on Tuesday - it could make all the difference. Tell them how we forced this vote to happen in the first place!

- PLEASE send another email to your local MPs spelling out why they must vote to scrap it on Tuesday - you can contact them via either TheyWorkForYou.com or WriteToThem.com

Keep up the pressure - we can win! 

Yours in unity, 

Richie Venton 

Sign the petition "Ed Miliband, leader of UK Labour Party: Present Emergency Motion in Parliament to Abolish the Bedroom Tax - NOW, not after 2015!"