Speakers and workshops drawing on local and national campaigns.
Speakers include Owen Jones, Josie Long, John McDonell MP, Billy Hayes, Francesca Martinez, Aditya Chakrabortty, Zita Holbourne, Ellie Mae O'Hagan, Lee Jasper, Lindsey German, Kevin Courtney, Save Lewisham Hospital's Dr Louise Irvine and many more.
9:30am to 4:30pm Saturday December 7th
Congress House, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LS
Every socialist and progressive person will mourn today for the loss of Nelson Mandela.
The struggle he waged was against the greatest inhumanity to afflict the post-war world: the existence of a state where black people were treated as little more than cattle, racially segregated in every aspect of life, confined by pass laws, forcibly removed from traditional homelands, imprisoned, beaten and often killed, denied any democratic voice, banned from protest, forbidden to marry as they chose, under-educated through the ‘Bantu education’ system, subject to discriminatory taxes and denied South African citizenship including the right to a passport.
By Bridget Robertson
Rising energy bills mean that a quarter of the population of Britain now has to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on energy, at the same time as energy company profits have increased by 77 per cent in one year alone.
This has meant thousands of households are being forced to choose between heating and eating as the Tory assault on living standards takes its toll. However, for the vulnerable the consequences are even more serious. Last winter 31 000 people died prematurely, with around a third of those deaths attributable to living in a cold home.
By Christina Prentice
Anyone keeping one eye on the UN climate negotiations in Warsaw could be forgiven for concluding that the, now routine, spectacle of international bickering is messy but, on the whole, is guiding the world to hold back climate change. Politicians attend, they tell the world's media that there have been difficult negotiations – even staying up all night. And at the last minute a deal is struck and we are told there has been great progress. It's all a sham of course.
By Nicky Dempsey
The battle over austerity is moving into a new phase. Encouraged by talk of recovery a number of disputes have broken out across a wide variety of sectors, on pay, jobs, pensions and against privatisation.
By Jane West
The decision of the United States to fly two B-52 bombers unannounced through Chinese strategic airspace was nothing less than a calculated, and extremely dangerous, act of aggression against China, further whipping up tensions in the East China Sea.
The B-52 fly-through was directly aimed at toughening up Japan’s stance vis-a-vis China. Two Japanese airlines that had previously agreed to inform China of flights over the disputed Diaoyu islands withdrew this agreement following the US action.
By Paul Roberts
Since using Party conference to shift the campaign agenda to defending ordinary peoples’ living standards, Labour’s support has risen in the polls, party activists have been invigorated and within sections of Labour’s ranks a discussion on alternatives to austerity has opened up.
The remarks by former Labour Home Secretary, David Blunkett, alleging that the ‘behaviour’ of incoming Roma migrants in Sheffield could lead to violent inter-community clashes and even riots have been seized on to whip up a further round of racism and anti-immigrant scape-goating.
In the wake of the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines last week the US is moving to re-establish its military presence in its former colony.
By Andrew Williams
Photo: Walt Jabsco
The direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) that began in early September will go nowhere. Presented by the US as negotiations to create a Palestinian state, in fact the objectives of the US and other participants are not this at all. For the US and Israel the current framework of talks allows them to set an agenda that reinforces the occupation – as happened in the Oslo talks (1992-3) and subsequent negotiation processes – simultaneously settlements expand, more Palestinians are displaced, and Israeli missiles are fired on Gaza, whilst Palestinians are told they must not resist. The objectives are to weaken Palestinian resolve, deepen the internal Palestinian divisions, enhance the US’s image in the region and rehabilitate Israel’s battered international reputation. For Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s chosen negotiating partner, it is hoped the international stage can bolster his reduced standing. Amongst Palestinians there is widespread understanding of, and consequently little support for, this framework.
Last week Ed Balls made a speech on the economy, entitled 'There is an alternative', which saw the first break in the political consensus in support of cuts and a framework of 'paying down the deficit', and puts forward a strong case for investment rather than cuts.
Not surprisingly, the speech was a leading item on the news the day after it was made and was widely covered in the print media, as Balls is the first senior politician – apart from Ken Livingstone in setting out his case as Labour candidate for London Mayor – to advocate an alternative strategy to that of the Coalition.
The new coalition government in Britain has begun a process of attacking working class living standards through public spending cuts, slashing public services and reducing public sector pay, jobs and pensions. Meanwhile one of the dominant themes of the Labour leadership campaign is not an attack on this reactionary economic policy but a wholly ill-informed debate on immigration.
By blaming immigrants for the consequences of New Labour’s own economic failures, and completely distorting the real reasons for its defeat, two purposes are served. One is to forestall any proper debate about that defeat; the other is to set up immigrants in general, but especially poorer Eastern European and black and Asian immigrants, as the culprits within the widespread discontent about economic policy. For now, this is a narrative being created almost entirely by some of Labour’s leaders. But, as unrest grows at the consequences of the new government’s policies, it will no doubt be gratefully seized on to further channel working class anger towards reactionary rather than progressive solutions.
By Stephen MacAvoy
The formation of the Conservative-led coalition represents a sharp rightwards shift in the British political situation. Working class living standards are set to face an onslaught with the deepest public service cuts since the Second World War and the weakening of pay and working conditions of millions of people. The coming assault on the public sector far out shadows that undertaken by Thatcher.
Whilst all the mainstream parties fought the general election on the basis of cuts – a blatant attempt to restore capitalist profitability by making the working class pay for the economic crisis – the balance of forces for the working class under a Conservative led government, with a large majority provided by the Liberal Democrats, is clearly much worse than it would have been under a Labour government or Labour-led coalition.
The forthcoming election is being fought with all three main parties committed to unprecedented cuts in public spending. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies has recently described, the Conservatives’ plans for public spending from this year onwards would make it the “tightest five-year period since (at least) World War Two” whilst Liberal Democrat and Labour plans would see the “tightest four-year period since April 1976”. The Financial Times has outlined various scenarios of what this will mean for the population here. This consensus on cutting spending needs to be opposed by the widest possible coalition. Not only will these cuts unleash serious attacks on living standards of the population but they will undermine the restoring of economic growth, as the TUC has recently noted. Given that the recession has been driven by a collapse in investment and the government budget deficit is overwhelmingly a product of the falling tax receipts caused by the recession, the priority should be to increase investment.
By Stephen MacAvoyFollowing the Liberal Democrats’ rise in the polls, the Blairites have launched an offensive to secure their long held goal of a Lib-Lab coalition. The BBC’s Nick Robinson has reported that senior Labour figures see the prospect of a Lib-Lab post election deal as the “the ultimate fulfilment of the New Labour mission.”It is now less than two weeks till election day and postal voting is commencing, so one would expect Labour’s campaign to be focussed on maximising its vote. But this is not happening. Instead in the official campaign, run by Peter Mandelson, the formation of a coalition is being promoted. Mandelson’s memo to Labour Party members on 18 April, in which he said he was “not against coalition government in principle”, was flagged up by The Independent as “the first time a senior Labour figure has spoken about a Lib-Lab coalition” in this election. To help secure this outcome the Lib Dems are being defended, with Mandelson criticising media attacks on them. Simultaneously, Labour and its Leader’s prospects have been deliberately run down, with the FT titling an article “Mandelson admits voters tired of Labour”.
By Marie Dupont The second round of the French regional elections confirmed the defeat of the right wing parties. Indeed it was a historic scale of defeat. With 35 per cent the right received its lowest share of the vote since 1958. The left received its highest share, 54 per cent, in the same fifty two year period with the sole exception of the presidential elections in 1988. The left won 21 regions and the right only one - Alsace. But the analysis of the results is more complex than that of a simple shift of votes from right to left. At the presidential elections Sarkozy received 53 per cent so where did all his votes go? In the constituencies where he had achieved a high vote, abstention was high and/or the National Front made a good score. It is also important to note that in 2007, 84 per cent of the population participated in the ballot, that is there was a 16 per cent abstention rate, whereas in these elections the rate of abstention was 54 per cent at the first round and 49 per cent in the second. This shows big disillusion with Sarkozy and particularly his policies. A recent opinion poll found that 71 per cent wanted him to change his policies. But the damage is more serious than that: some traditional strongholds of the right were won by the left, for example in West Paris.
by James Norton
All the opinion polls which have come out since the budget confirm the politically damaging character of the budget and the consequent deliberate decision by Alistair Darling to declare that public spending cuts would be ‘tougher and deeper’ than under Thatcher.
Three new polls were published on 29/30 March. Opinium registered the Tories lead increasing from 7% on 22 March to 10% on 29 March. ComRes, which had give a Tory lead of 5% on 28 February, by 28 March recorded a Tory lead of 7%. YouGov, which prior to the budget had seen the Tories lead fall as low as 2%, on 29 March recorded the Conservatives having opened up a 7% gap over Labour.
In short the period prior to the budget, when Labour had been emphasising the difference between its position and Tory cuts, saw the Conservatives lead shrink dramatically. The moment that Alistair Darling delivered the budget, and deliberately talked about cuts worse than Thatcher, Labour’s position worsened significantly.
The leading countries of the European Union, led by France and Germany have insisted that the Greek government must respond to the financial crisis by a series of ferocious attacks on working class living standards. Job losses have mounted rapidly as pay has been cut, welfare and pension entitlements slashed and the retirement age suddenly increased. Yet one area of spending is exempt from this otherwise absolute requirement to reduce government spending, the military budget.
In what the Reuters news agency describes as “a bizarre twist to the Greek debt crisis, France and Germany are pressing Greece to buy their gunboats and warplanes, even as they urge it to cut public spending and curb the deficit.” France is looking to sell frigates, helicopters and fighter aircraft for €3.5bn while Germany is looking for back payments of €520mn plus €300mn for a submarine which failed sea-worthiness tests. It is reported that the deficit negotiations were used to strong-arm the Greek government into making the purchases.
By Frances Davis
This Saturday the fascist English Defence League (EDL) will be demonstrating yet again, this time in Dudley in the West Midlands, to whip up racist hatred against Muslims. (See leaflet for UAF protest)
This follows a series of similar mobilisations by the EDL in the recent period, in Harrow, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester , Stoke upon Trent and most recently in Bolton. On every occasion the EDL has sought confrontation, often violent – a flavour of what fascism represents, and what will happen if they get even the tiniest foothold in any part of society. As the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) has pointed out, despite its attempts to present itself as a legitimate expression of so-called 'English patriotism' and making the ludicrous allegation there is a need to oppose 'creeping Islamification', the EDL is in fact a violent, street fighting fascist organisation. The majority of the EDL’s so-called demonstrations have resulted in physical attacks, most recently in Bolton , where its demonstration was followed by a stabbing allegedly involving the EDL.
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Revolution and Counter-revolution in the Middle East by Socialist_Action
Colour leaflet, PDF 350KB
Investment not cuts, colour leaflet, PDF 1.75MB
Drop cuts not bombs, colour leaflet, PDF 1.32MB