Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 45 Number 29, October 10, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Mass Demonstration across Manchester
Demands an End to Austerity

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Mass Demonstration across Manchester Demands an End to Austerity

Closure of Redcar Steel Blast Furnace:
Stand with the People on Teesside Fighting for their Jobs, their Industry and their Community

David Cameron’s Visit to the Caribbean – A Defence of British Colonialism and Reaction

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Mass Demonstration across Manchester Demands an End to Austerity

Actions took place in Manchester over several days during the Conservative Party conference to demand an end to austerity and the implementation of the alternative.

The mass demonstration on Sunday, October 4, brought 100,000 onto the streets of Manchester. The demonstration stretched further than the eye could see, and it was impossible to walk from one end of the demonstration to the other before the front had reached its destination. The march was remarkable for the broadest possible sections of the people involved, in line with the surge in the anti-austerity movement since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader. It proved that, far from this movement living in a “bubble” divorced from society, it is those in the government and the rich they represent who are the outcasts from the mainstream of society, attempting to impose an anti-social agenda on the people that is causing immense suffering, but also resistance, from working people and the vulnerable. Participants did literally come from all sections of society and from innumerable social movements, and included the very young to seniors, with a wealth of variety of home-made placards. Large contingents from across the trade union movement also took part.

The representatives of the Conservative government were left in no doubt from the whole range of protests and demonstrations that the people as a whole will not sit by and let the anti-social agenda pass. The irony is that it was Cameron himself in the immediate aftermath of the election who declared that passive tolerance was at an end.

The anti-austerity activities ran right throughout the Tory conference, encompassing activists from disabled people, health workers, students, those fighting for the rights of refugees, and campaigners against neo-liberal globalisation, including against TTIP and the EU of the monopolies. The activities had begun on Friday, October 2 and continued until Wednesday, October 7, and included a huge range of cultural and political events, as well as the “No to Austerity, Yes to Workers' Rights” demonstration.

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, in summing up the mood of the demonstration, spoke of the “joy of working class people standing up for their rights in a working class city that the Tories have come to; a city that's proud of its traditions and proud of the people who stood at Peterloo to defend working people”. Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison, as the demonstration was marching through Manchester, also reiterated the message of the organised workers' movement that “now is our time”.

Other speakers, including Natalie Bennett, Charlotte Church, Owen Jones and Mark Steel, underlined the point at the Castlefield Arena at the conclusion of the demonstration.

Monday saw a huge protest by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) with multi-coloured balls of all descriptions being pelted at Tory delegates. A giant Trojan Horse was erected outside Manchester Town Hall to draw attention to the secret negotiations of TTIP which enshrines monopoly right over public right. In the evening, around 8,000 gathered at Manchester Cathedral to hear Jeremy Corbyn and the CWU oppose the privatisation of Royal Mail. This was a gathering which needed no “ring of steel” to protect it, as did the Tory Party conference!

On Tuesday there was the “wall of noise” protest, as hundreds of people marched through the city centre before deafening delegates with drumming, sirens, whistles and chanting to demand that they wake up to the wrecking and privatisation of the NHS under the Conservative government. In the evening there was a lively Refugees Welcome Here rally, following Theresa May's scandalously Hitlerite speech at the conference.

On Wednesday, as David Cameron was due to make his main speech to the Conference, the VIP car entrance to the Conference Centre was blocked by Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts supporters chaining their wheelchairs together. “We're bearing the brunt of what his government is doing” explained Ric from MDPAC. “People are dying because of their policies.”

A vigorous contingent of RCPB(ML) participated in the October 4 demonstration, as well as distributing hundreds of the special edition of Workers' Weekly printed for the occasion, which was very warmly received as addressing the crucial questions of the hour.

As the lead article declared: “The times are calling for a new direction for society in which the working class and people are empowered to make the decisions. The opportunity has opened up for the working class and people to make headway in turning things around, with unbounded potential to challenge and defeat the austerity agenda.” The article ended with the calls: “For an End to Austerity! Build the Movement against the Anti-Social Offensive! For a Pro-social Economy and the Empowerment of the Working Class and People!”

Jeremy Corbyn addresses anti-austerity rally

The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) and the People's Assembly hosted a “People's Post” rally in Manchester Cathedral, addressed by Jeremy Corbyn. The Cathedral was full two hours before the meeting, and 7,000 or more gathered outside for the overflow rally. Speaker after speaker called for a break with the old politics.

“Our party is committed to opposing austerity, committed to opposing the privatisation of Royal Mail, committed to public control of Royal Mail and other services,” Corbyn said. “Our party is committed to doing things in a very different way.”

The event came hours after George Osborne announced the sale of another £2bn of Lloyds shares. “[It is] the most crass disposal of public assets I’ve ever heard of since Margaret Thatcher was privatising BT and other companies in the 1980s,” Jeremy Corbyn said. “This year alone, the government is selling off £30bn worth of state assets. We know where those assets go, we know who benefits and, above all, we know who loses from those kinds of sales.”

The Labour leader urged his supporters to take the anti-austerity message out to the country immediately. “The election victory of 2020 won’t be won in the three or four weeks leading up to that election day itself; it will be won by winning the ideas, the imagination, the hopes, the optimism, the brains, the hearts and minds of every ordinary person in this country.”

(with files from the Salford Star and PoliticsHome)

Film extracts compiled by the media group of RCPB(ML)

Article Index


For a New Direction for Society

Closure of Redcar Steel Blast Furnace:

Stand with the People on Teesside Fighting for
their Jobs, their Industry and their Community

The north-east of England has been shocked by the collapse of Sahaviriya Steel Industries UK (SSI UK) and Redcar steel plant, on Teesside, with a loss of 1,700 jobs. Redcar is the second biggest steel blast furnace in Europe.

The Malaysian company bought the plant from Tata Steel in 2011 after a long fight by the steel workers and the community to save the steel works at that time. But work at the Redcar plant was paused on September 18, as SSI UK told workers that it was struggling to make it profitable. The closure comes in the face of government propaganda that “austerity is working” and that there is an “economic recovery” and had also trumpeted its claim for a “northern powerhouse.” In fact, the government has not made the slightest attempt to save such a vital industry for the social economy and the social wealth and well-being of the people. On the contrary. It claims, as with all these closures, that it can only “support” redundant workers with schemes, to relocate, to help “set up” small businesses and so on, as if thousands of workers engaged in specialised social production can turn to fending for themselves when their communities and related companies based on this social production are no longer able to provide any employment.

Even going into the details of the collapse of the company, a declared £800 million deficit of SSI UK is hardly an obstacle to government when it loans to and pays the rich many times these sums to save banking and finance capital from collapse. Also, the government claimed as an excuse that nothing can be done because British steel industries are competing against “cheap imports” of Chinese steel. This is completely suspect when it has just announced a £2 billion guarantee to Chinese and French foreign state firms for investment in the proposed £25 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. The idea that there is some kind of “free market” to which all must submit to bring about prosperity is one of the biggest illusions that the government creates about a neo-liberalism that is dominated by monopoly interests and where the government places the whole assets of the state at the disposal of these monopolies. Shutting down industries where it suits the interests of one global monopoly, or another, or investing vast sums where it doesn't suit them as with the nuclear industry is the way this “free market” works.

A new direction for the economy was pointed to by Jeremy Corbyn last week when he spoke about the closure of the Redcar Steel works at the Labour Party Conference. He opposed the illusion of “recovery” that the government promotes and spoke about the reality of the government's economic failure. In particular he criticised the government's failure to intervene to support the steel industry and “stand with the people on Teesside fighting for their jobs, their industry and their community”.

Monopoly right must not be permitted to triumph over public right. Redcar steel works is an asset that serves the social economy, and the government in refusing to preserve it and instead collaborate in wrecking such an asset is a monstrous crime against society and the workers who create and produce the social wealth. WWIE calls on the working class to fight for an alternative direction for the economy and for a society that will begin to remedy the vagaries of the present global economy dominated by the monopolies. As part of this movement to turn things around and to rally round the demand to end austerity, we call on workers to consciously participate in building the Workers' Opposition, charting a way out of the crisis and building a modern socialised economy.

Article Index


David Cameron’s Visit to the Caribbean
– A Defence of British Colonialism and Reaction

Workers' Weekly correspondent in the Caribbean –

Sugar cane cutters, Jamaica, 1891
David Cameron arrived in Jamaica on September 29 on a visit to the Caribbean which also took him to Grenada on October 2. Downing Street stated that the aim of the visit was to “reinvigorate the relationship between the UK and the Caribbean countries” and “open up new market opportunities for British businesses”. Observers noted that the visit also had an aim to counter the growing relationship between Caribbean countries and both Venezuela and China.

However, before Cameron could land in Jamaica and begin his work on behalf of Britain’s financial oligarchy, he was confronted with the demand from wide sections of Caribbean society that he, as the political representative of the British state, make a full acknowledgement of the criminal role of this state in the history of the Caribbean people, including the commission of genocide against the indigenous people; ethnic cleansing, such as the forced removal of the Garifuna people from their homeland of St Vincent, and for being the leading organiser of the African holocaust, also known as slavery. Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, in an open letter, called on Cameron to acknowledge responsibility for Britain’s legacies in the Caribbean “of slavery that continue to derail, undermine and haunt our best efforts at sustainable economic development and the psychological and cultural rehabilitation of our people from the ravishes of the crimes against humanity committed by your British State and its citizens in the form of chattel slavery and native genocide”. He also noted that Cameron’s family were direct financial beneficiaries of these crimes and called on him to take a lead in contributing to overcoming the consequences of Britain’s crimes in the region.

David Cameron at the memorial to the
men of Jamaica who were killed in the
inter-imperialist World War I
It was in this context that Cameron delivered his speech to the Jamaican Parliament on September 30. He declared that he had arrived in the Caribbean to “celebrate the extraordinary ties” between the UK and the Caribbean, while passing over in silence the fact that these ties were the racist ties between the slave master and slave, between the coloniser and colonised, in which Britain used and abused the Caribbean people and their territories to amass wealth, while the producers of this wealth remained mired in poverty, a poverty which still haunts the region today. Continuing on his track of falsifying history, Cameron described the use of Caribbean people as cannon fodder in Britain’s imperial wars with its rivals as “British and Caribbean soldiers serving and dying together in the cause of freedom”. This was at a time when under British colonial rule most Caribbean people did not have the right to vote, when their lives were completely controlled by Britain’s racist colonial administrators and any opposition to colonial rule could land you in prison. Turning to the post-war migration of Caribbean people to Britain, Cameron paid lip service to the contribution of these migrants to Britain’s public services, while remaining silent about the racism they faced, the British state’s total failure to meet its responsibilities towards them and in fact its incitement and organisation of racism against them through its numerous racist anti-immigration laws and the organisation of racist and fascist gangs.

Jamaica's Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller,
with David Cameron in the capital
Kingston, September 29, 2015
With regard to slavery, for which the British state remains guilty as charged, Cameron made not a single mention of Britain’s criminal role in this enterprise, but attempted to turn history on its head by declaring that “…Britain is proud to have eventually led the way in its abolition…”. In Cameron’s version of history, there is no Haitian revolution in which the revolutionary slaves abolished slavery in 1804, a full 29 years before its formal abolition in the British Empire. In any event, Britain’s abolition was more word than deed since for the next five years slaves remained locked in the apprenticeship system which was another form of slavery. For Cameron, there were no slave revolts such as those led by Bussa in Barbados in 1816 or Sam Sharpe in Jamaica in 1831 which made it impossible for Britain to continue its slave system in the Caribbean. Britain no more took the lead in abolishing slavery in the Caribbean in the 19th century than it took the lead in abolishing apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s.

Having attempted to distort history to serve his own imperialist aims, Cameron then turned his attention to the principal purpose of his visit. He declared that UK exports to the Caribbean region totalled £1 billion in the previous year, and that his government had set a target of achieving £1 trillion in exports by 2020. He stated, “…to achieve this, we need to build markets worldwide. And that must include here, in the Caribbean”. He continued, “…. I’m delighted to announce today that UK Export Finance, our export credit agency, is boosting its support for the region. This will help British exporters to sell to the Caribbean with confidence…”. Turning his attention to Britain’s economic competitors in the Caribbean region, Cameron declared, “I passionately believe that the UK should remain the partner of choice for the Commonwealth Caribbean – now and into the future. Why? Above all because of our shared values….You believe in these things. We believe in these things. Not everyone who beats a path to your door takes the same view.” The values that Cameron puts forward are the old discredited ones of neo-liberal globalisation, of representative democracy which is neither representative nor democratic, austerity for the people presented as making “difficult but correct choices”, and cut-throat capitalist competition which he describes as the “the global race to see success”. These values even extended to defending Britain’s colonial occupation of Argentine territory under the banner of “standing up for the rights of small islands, including the Falklands, to enjoy the self-determination that has been so hard won here in the Caribbean”.

David Cameron’s trip to the Caribbean is part of the growing big power rivalry to secure markets and spheres of influence. In his struggle to reinforce Britain’s position in the Caribbean, he is left with no option but to resort to distortion of history and current reality. His visit stands out as a repugnant defence of Britain’s colonial crimes and a reactionary call for reinforcing the neo-liberal onslaught not only in Britain but on a global scale. It highlights the urgent need for people to get organised to bring about a human-centred alternative.

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