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Volume 45 Number 21, July 13, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Working Class Festival Which
Is the Durham Miners Gala

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The Working Class Festival Which Is the Durham Miners Gala

EU Institutions Impose Dictate after Greek People Decisively Vote No to Austerity

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The Working Class Festival Which Is the Durham Miners Gala


In the wake of the May 7 Conservative electoral coup, the 131st Durham Miners Gala and Big Meeting on July 11 affirmed the role of the working class as being at the centre of modern developments. The Gala was massive – an estimated 150,000 people – and with an optimistic and independent spirit.

As Dave Hopper, the General Secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, wrote in the Gala's souvenir brochure, “Despite all the attempts by the Tory press and media to write us out of history, we are still here in massive numbers to celebrate our community spirit and carry our socialist message on behalf of the working class.”

Dave Hopper's message continued, “Capitalism has failed the people.

“The banking system was brought to its knees by the relentless drive to extort profit from the efforts of working people and now the bankers continue their parasitic activity while the poorest are made to pay.

“Politicians of all parties are all talking about aspirations as if aspirations are exclusive to the middle class. The subtext, of course, is the daft idea that the lower classes have no aspirations and are content to live off benefits. But we all have aspirations. Aspirations to live in an equal society where there is adequate social housing, schools and healthcare for everyone and where the sick and disabled are looked after and those who are unemployed are treated with dignity.


“Capitalism has proved incapable of providing such a society, so surely we must start with the aspiration to create a socialist society and demonstrate to the 15 million who did not vote in this election that there is an alternative to the career politicians.

“It is not going to be easy but they have drawn the battle lines. We have to resist these attacks on the weakest in our society and give our youth an opportunity in life. So let's start the fight back at today's Gala.”

The characteristic of the Gala is that working people take over the city of Durham for the day. The culture of the workers, upholding the spirit of the miners decades after the neo-liberal anti-social offensive wiped out the mining industry, is represented by brass and silver bands, as well as pipe bands. Every tune that is played is transformed into something positive by these bands. And the miners lodge banners are carried with pride and verve to add to the excitement. Other trade union banners are present in numbers. It is clear that there is no despondency after May 7, but a determination to affirm the dignity of what it means to be human and be a worker, and to fight for the rights of all.

Speakers on the platform at the large open space of the Racecourse included Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leadership candidate, Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union, Tosh McDonald, president of ASLEF, Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, and Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite. The meeting was chaired by the general secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, Dave Hopper. Delegations from Cuba and Venezuela also spoke to the meeting from the platform.

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Dave Hopper general secretary DMA        Tosh McDonald President ASLEF

Matt Wrack general secretary FBU        Trade Union delegation from Cuba
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Chris Keates general secretary NASUWT        Len McCluskey general secretary UNITE

In his closing speech to the gathering, Len McCluskey said of Unite's support for Jeremy Corbyn: “Anyone who thinks that Jeremy’s policies are too left, or could not win popular support in our country. Watch this space.

“People call Jeremy and Unite the extreme left. Is it extreme to oppose austerity, wrecking the lives of millions? Is it extreme to stand for higher taxes on the wealthy to help tackle the inequality? Extreme to support our NHS? Extreme to oppose criminal wars like Iraq? And is it is extreme to support proper rights for trade unionism? No, comrades, it isn’t. We stand for the common sense of our age. We stand for the values of equality, decency, fairness and social justice.”

The Workers' Weekly issue of July 11, distributed in its hundreds at the Gala, had the title “No to Austerity! For a New Direction for Society!” It concluded: “In summary, the need is to build the Workers' Opposition in the fight to end austerity, bring about a new direction for society that stands up for public right over monopoly right and takes up the challenge to effect democratic renewal and empower the people to make the decisions. The Gala embodies accepting this challenge that the working class must get further organised and build the Workers' Opposition around which all forces can rally to defeat austerity, defend the rights of all and at the same time fight for an anti-war government. Truly the role of the working class is that of 'the hewer of society'!”

Long may the Durham Miners Gala continue and flourish!


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Commentary

EU Institutions Impose Dictate after Greek
People Decisively Vote No to Austerity


The courageous stand of the people of Greece in the July 5 referendum on the creditors' demands for further austerity, in the face of widespread scaremongering and brutal financial intervention, was an inspiration to and of significance for all in Europe.

The decisiveness of the result, 61% voting No, drew a line in the sand. It was both a decisive No to austerity and a No to the dictate of the institutions of the Europe of the Monopolies and their associates the IMF. The stand taken by the Greek people has changed the political situation.

The role of the European Union in its attempt to usurp monopoly right over public right by force, with no regard for people's basic human rights, and to orchestrate a coup to carry out its aims, lies exposed for all to see. The fact that the Greek people stood up to blackmail is therefore highly significant and has inspired the anti-austerity movement far beyond Greece.

It was therefore key for the EU and IMF to retaliate, to limit this victory and present it as empty. The financial siege, combined with scaremongering and disinformation, continued after the vote in an attempt to steal back the initiative from the Greek people. The troika has remained on the offensive, declaring that it will not back down, that exercising economic sovereignty means disaster and that Greeks must accept their fate lies in the hands of these institutions.

Faced with immanent financial collapse, Athens put forward a proposal last week making many concessions to the institutions' demands. Various commentators immediately labelled this as a capitulation by the Greek government, while much of the media helped create an image of an incompetent government taking its people through a pointless exercise to arrive back where they started.

However, it is important to understand that there has been no possibility of negotiation. The demand has simply been for submission. Following the referendum, the European Central Bank (ECB) would not even assist in keeping the Greek banking system afloat for a week while negotiations took place. Instead, they intensified the siege. On Tuesday, the ECB actually ordered
Greek banks to provide even more collateral for their existing emergency loans, further squeezing them of money and shortening the timescale to their collapse so as to force the hand of the Greek government.

In such conditions of dictate, it is no small thing that the Greeks asserted their right to say No. The right to say No is connected with the right to be. The EU of the Monopolies is set on denying this right of the Greek people to be, both through denying the right to say No and by denying the basic necessities of life. By opening up the front over rights, the Greeks have opened up a front that, in the end, the institutions of the monopolies cannot win. It is not for nothing that, overnight, OXI became the battle cry of the anti-austerity movement across Europe.

It has changed the conditions and terms of the debate. The institutions that represent monopoly right can no longer have it all their own way. They can only get their way by enforcing dictate, which is itself not to have it their way; ruling through such overt force can only weaken them. The perception of the EU has been changed irrevocably.

So even the Greek proposal was deemed unacceptable. On Sunday night, the leaders of the Eurozone presented Greece with an ultimatum. In the deal eventually made, Greece is to receive a loan package in the region of €84bn over three years, mainly from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) with a contribution from the IMF. This will be combined with a bridging loan of €12bn separate from the ESM to prevent the country's immediate bankruptcy. Emergency loans from the ECB will resume, allowing the banks to reopen. In addition, the European Commission will attempt to raise €35bn.


The attached conditions are truly draconian, tying the hands of the entire Greek decision-making process and leaving the economy of the country at the whims of the EU institutions. The Greek government must push legislation through the parliament in just 48 hours for further austerity measures including pension cuts and tax increases. They also include an asset privatisation fund to service its bailout loan, into which Greece is to place €50bn of its national assets to be privatised or managed under European supervision. There is no provision for the hard-fought request for debt reduction, though it keeps open the possibility of payment rescheduling.

In short, the plan is for nation-wrecking and annexation and is a blatant violation of sovereignty. It insists on commitments for further labour liberalisation and privatisation, such as of the electricity network. In other words, it is enforcing that the elected government roll back all of the main content of its legislation enacted since it came to power. It even deals with the detailed operation of national life such as extending shop opening hours.

The institutions' plan, as far as it can be called such, is to humiliate the Greek government as part of the continued aim for regime change. The attempt is to throw the population into disarray and confusion, to create political havoc alongside the economic destruction. It is to either force the government to submit or to take the country back to the status quo through a regroupment of the old forces, possibly through imposing a technocratic government, with the threat of overt reaction seizing power if that were to fail. It seeks to achieve this by dividing the population, splitting and discrediting the government, to bring down the government.


Yet the No vote has also split the EU powers, with divisions apparent between Paris and Berlin. Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, Chair of France's governing party, stated in the wake of the referendum result that it was directed “against the austerity that has shrivelled Greece's GDP and driven a large number of Greeks into poverty”.

Further, it is reported that Gianni Pittella, the Italian who chairs the Social Democratic Group of the European Parliament, condemned the “unacceptable rigidity” and “selfishness” of certain member states and called for new negotiations with Greece “in a new atmosphere of solidarity and cooperation”.

Thus the situation is not the same. The EU has made abundantly clear what are the consequences of such a stand as taken by the Greek people, and this has consequences for the opposition to austerity. All issues and contradictions have now sharpened. We have not seen the end of this, and indeed, the EU may yet force Greek exit from the eurozone.

This historic battle continues. The No vote was an assertion of a people who are fighting for the right to govern themselves, for a new, sovereign and pro-social direction for their economy. Ultimately, it is for the Greek people to decide whether they are ready and prepared to take things further or whether to accept concessions at this point. They are in a very difficult position and will not accept lectures from outside. For the moment, they have made their stand known. The issue for the working class is to stand as one with the Greek people, condemn the dictate of the troika, build the resistance to austerity and elaborate and organise for an alternative to the Europe of the Monopolies.

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