Notes from the front – of the week 8/7/2015

Landslide victory for Oxi! Big struggles ahead

On 5 July Greek voters struck a fantastic blow on behalf of all those fighting against austerity in Europe. A brilliant campaign was waged, by Alexis Tsipras and the leadership of Syriza, that united all those who want an end to austerity and an end to the national humiliation of living under the diktat of Brussels/Frankfurt and Washington.

The next battles have started, as Greece’s creditors remain determined to crush this anti-austerity rebellion. So international solidarity with Greece should be stepped up.

Read more here.

Anti-austerity left setting the agenda

Across Europe the left has been encouraged by the Greek referendum, showing that standing up against austerity can be very popular.

In Britain nationwide protests against the Tories’ budget are taking place today (8 July). Plus Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign continues to make progress.

The Tories’ emergency budget today (8 July) is a huge further attack on the poorest sections of society, transferring resources from poor to rich and from workers to big business.

Billions of pounds is being slashed from welfare support, with cuts to tax credits, abolition of housing benefit for 18-21 year olds and the ending of student maintenance grants.

£37bn of public spending cuts are planned for this parliament.

Public sector pay will continue to suffer from real cuts, as pay rises will be restricted to one per cent for the next four years, which is below the OBR’s predicted inflation level.

The Chancellor has resorted to gimmickry by rebranding the National Minimum Wage as a ‘National Living Wage’ set below the level recognised by the Living Wage Foundation. Many of those who gain from this small increase in the minimum wage will lose out overall due to the larger cut to their tax credits.

The Tories are further cutting corporation tax to 18 per cent.

The SNP characterised the emergency budget as a ‘sermon from an austerity cult’ and intends to fight the government’s plans.

Although Labour is criticising the budget, its response is constrained by it acceptance of the Tories’ overall austerity framework. Since the election it has shifted its economic policy rightwards, with the Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie telling the 5 July Sunday Times that Labour now agrees with the Tories’ aim of running a budget surplus.

On Labour’s left the fight against this pro-austerity agenda is gaining momentum, led by Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign.

On 5 July Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, decided to nominate Jeremy for Labour Leader. He has the support of two other Labour affiliated trade unions, ASLEF and BFAWU, plus backing from two unions not affiliated to Labour, the FBU and the RMT. In addition the Socialist Health Association is nominating Jeremy. He is picking up nominations from local Labour Parties. The four candidates had the following numbers of CLP nominations (figures updated  9 July) : Andy Burnham 28, Yvette Cooper 22, Jeremy Corbyn 26 and Liz Kendall 4.

This is a significant advance for Labour’s left. Diane Abbott’s leadership campaign in 2010 was the first time the Labour left had secured a candidate on the ballot paper for Leader since 1988. By campaigning against the Iraq war and the scape-goating of migrants, Diane ensured that Ed, not David, Miliband won that election. Jeremy in this current contest has changed the terrain of the debate and is well ahead of the main Blairite candidate Liz Kendall.

This summer both Jeremy, and Diane with her London campaign, are championing opposition to austerity within Labour. Aside from supporting the People’s Assembly Against Austerity activities they are backing Greece’s struggle against its creditors. They are both campaigning against Labour endorsing air-strikes on Syria.

To support Jeremy’s campaign visit here.
To support Diane’s campaign visit here.

No new war on Syria

On 2 July Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the Commons that the Tory Government was considering military action against ISIS in Syria. The Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker replied on behalf of the Labour leadership ‘ … we stand ready to work with the Government to defeat ISIL and will carefully consider any proposals that the Government decides to bring forward’.

In 2013, the Coalition Government was defeated in its proposal to launch missile strikes against the Syrian government. In 2015, the Tory Government and Labour leadership are preparing to support military action against the other side.

The farcical justification for this was best illustrated by Mary Creagh. In a Progress article she wrote ‘The west’s failure to protect the Syrian people from Assad’s state terror opened the door to ISIS stepping in and offering resistance to the regime’. Not only does this ignore the fact that the Assad government had been waging military action against ISIS prior to the British Parliament considering the matter in 2013. It also ignores the many deaths and casualties suffered by the Syrian people in opposing ISIS, Al-Nusra, etc. And it is scandalous to suggest that ISIS offers some sort of resistance on behalf of the Syrian people.

Fallon and others have suggested that bombing Syria is simply an extension of the current British military operation inside Iraq. This ignores the fact that the Iraqi government has requested the military support of the US, UK and others. The Syrian government has not, so the Tories are proposing an assault upon the sovereignty of the Syrian people.

There are serious divisions inside the major parties about the government proposals. It is unlikely to be put before Parliament before mid-September. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott have stated they will oppose a new war. Stop the War has launched a number of initiatives to bring together a broad anti-war opposition.

White supremacism fights back to stop Black lives matter

Since the 17 June killing of nine black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a new campaign against the use of the Confederate battle flag in the south has made advances.

White supremacists, who are increasingly isolated, have violently lashed out – with a spate of fire attacks on black churches across the south.

In the two weeks following the killings in Charleston, eight black churches in southern US states have all gone up in flames. There have been fires in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and Florida.

One of these attacks, on 30 June, was on the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina. It had previously been set on fire by the Ku Klux Klan in 1995, but on this occasion the South Carolina state authorities are reluctant to accept it is racially motivated arson.

White supremacists are still active across the south and have a long history of attacking black churches. The Ku Klux Klan’s North Carolina chapter has organised a protest outside the South Carolina State Capitol for 18 July, one month after the Charleston killings.

Meanwhile the anti-racist movement is making progress against the use of Confederate battle flag in the south. The flag is widely regarded by black people as a symbol of racial bigotry. Since the Charleston killings large US retail businesses have removed it from their merchandise. On 6 July South Carolina’s Senate voted 37-3 to remove the flag from the State House grounds and the bill now needs approval in the state House. Even Jeb Bush, the leading candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination, says the flag is a ‘racist symbol’.

In Alabama flags bearing Confederate symbols have been taken down outside the state Capitol building and in Mississippi the state Congress is considering removing Confederate emblems from its state flag. Some state governors are calling for the removal of the flag from car license plates.

Despite the backlash, the anti-racist movement continues to advance.

Cuba eliminates mother-to-baby HIV transmission

Cuba has become the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-baby HIV transmission in what the World Heath Organisation has hailed as ‘one of the greatest public health achievements possible’ and a step towards an aids free generation.

Cuba has once again shown that despite huge obstacles, being subject to the US blockade and being a relatively poor country, it still makes ground breaking advances for humanity.

This begs the question of what could be achieved in the global battle against poverty, disease and climate change if the huge resources currently put into warfare and arms were instead directed towards solving the world’s problems.

Cuba’s socialist leadership clearly shows another world is possible!