My friend and comrade Alf Filer has been tragically killed in a car accident last Thursday evening.
Alf had only moved to Sussex in the last year or so and had made his home in Worthing having previously lived in London. Alf was meant to be (semi) retiring to the south coast but, characteristically, that was never going to happen.
Alf was a committed socialist, anti-fascist and anti-Zionist. He campaigned locally and nationally against cuts (he was a prime mover in the formation of the Coalition of Resistance) and he organised against the EDL and the BNP, both here and in Brent and Harrow where he spent the greater part of his life.
Others have written tributes and appreciations from a perspective of having known him for a long time, but you did not need to know Alf for long to appreciate his passion for politics and campaigining. This is shown in the tributes which have been paid from activists in Sussex.
Alf was a member of Socialist Resistance, and he played an incredible part in revitalising us locally. He started a local blog and his main activity was to try to bring together the forces of the left in Worthing. Not, you might think, the most fertile of ground, but that sort of thing never deterred Alf. He was passionate about left unity, and was possible the most non-sectarian socialist I have ever known. He worked with and helped to bring together the different parts of the Worthing left into regular meetings. A meeting which he organised, on Ecosocialism, is happening this Tuesday. Everyone involved is of the view that this meeting must go ahead as a tribute to Alf.
Alf was serious about his politics - but he was also a joker. I shall miss, as much as anything, his wisecracks and his wind-ups.
A truly brilliant, dedicated and lovable man.
Below, Holly Smith, President of Brighton and Hove Trades Council, gives her own memories of Alf, and below that are links to other tributes from people who knew Alf longer for me.
I, along with many, many others, am saddened to hear of the death of Alf Filer. It feels like those of us in Brighton and the South East were only just getting to know him. After retiring as a lecturer he moved down to Worthing last year from London, and didn’t hesitate in getting involved in political activity down here.
The first time I met him was at a public meeting to oppose a local school becoming an academy. He had only just moved to the area and was keen to know about all the events and groups that existed down here so he could get stuck in.
The next time I met him was at an anti-cuts day school that we had organised. I chaired a workshop on cuts in Local Government and Alf spoke at length from the floor. I remember being impressed with his wide-ranging knowledge on a great variety of topics, and how articulate he was. This was also demonstrated in his blog, of which I was an avid reader - always looking forward to his intelligent analysis of local, national, and international events.
When I was challenging my trade union leadership over an issue a while ago, I was touched when Alf got in touch with me to offer his advice and support. We then got to talking about other issues, and how we could help each other. Alf and I were both outraged at the recent treatment by local Councils of Travellers and Gypsies in the region, finding it representative of the wider persecution they have been facing across Europe, and we had been in discussion about setting up a local support group for these communities, and together we started letter writing to the EU to ask them for an inquiry around the persecution that these communities faced, especially in Italian cities.
The last time I spoke to him he was incredibly enthusiastic about the recent re-launch of Worthing Trades Council, and he was urging me to attend the public meeting on eco-socialism he was arranging for next week.
Alf was Jewish, and committed to building solidarity between anti-Zionist Jews and Palestinians, and was also well known for his anti-fascist work. He was an intelligent, outspoken, driven, passionate, and warm man, and I very much regret that I only knew him for such a short time.
To borrow some words from another comrade who has written about him, “The best tribute we can pay to you is to keep the flame alight and the struggle for justice undimmed.”
Even an old cynic like me finds it hard not to be very enthused by Dave Prentis's speech at Unison Conference today - and I've never voted for him!
There is no doubt that, with 750,000 workers striking on 30th June without Unison, Prentis had to do something to get the union back in the game, and some of his "awkward squad" credentials back as well! And Prentis did not win three Gen Sec elections by good majorities without knowing what buttons to press and when. But what we got was one of the most militant speeches from a trade union leader for many a year
Prentis set out the prospect of sustained industrial action to stop Cameron's pensions robbery, and made it clear that he was ready to lead a campaign to win the endorsement of the members for that action.
"To the people who say to me 'name the day', I say a day won't be enough!"
In offering support to the workers taking action on June 30th, Prentis said
"If the government fails to listen, to heed our warnings, to negotiate in good faith, I say, David Cameron, you ain't seen nothing yet. We will strike to defend our pensions. A campaign of strike action without precedent."
And his contempt for the leadership of the Labour Party could not have been more withering. The message was "get behind us or get out of the way". He directly addressed Ed Balls...."when we want your advice Ed, we'll ask for it". He went on to say that Unison money would only go to Labour candidates who were prepared to back the union.
But it was the less-reported stuff which was also important (thanks to Jon Rogers for the info). Prentis made a point of praising two named branch secretaries, Mike Tucker of Southampton and John Burgess of Barnet, both United Left supporters, for their work in their branches defending jobs and conditions. He also said (and the reference seemed clear) "there are no enemies in this hall". If that means an end to the use of punitive measures by bureaucrats to deal with political difference and dissent, which has plagued Unison for years, then that will be a major step forward.
I should not end without thanking the members of NUT, PCS, ATL and UCU. It is they who have administered the wake-up call which led to today's speech.
Unison members now need to turn Prentis's words into a reality.....and to make sure he doesn't go back on any of them.
This was just one of the fascinating revelations at a packed meeting of Varndean School Against Academies on Friday evening. It came from David Richards, who resigned as a governor in order to fight the proposal to turn Varndean School into an academy.
He also told us that the proposal was never pre-announced on an agenda.
Judging by the massive turnout of parents, it will not be easy for the Head and a few Governors to force this through.
Other speakers included Nick Childs of NUT, Alisdair Smith of the Anti-Academies Alliance and Denise Knutsen of Unison, who expressed concerns about what academy status would do to the ethos of the school, and how it would affect other schools in the area and the services provided by the local education authority. Also there is the concern of a small group of governors being able to set the pay and conditions of the school workforce.
We also heard from students and the NUT rep at the school who told us that, incredibly, all discussion of the academy proposal is "banned"! I suspect that this is going to be strongly challenged at every opportunity!
Local MP Caroline Lucas pointed out that the ConDems were bent on the privatisation of education.
Gove thinks academies are popular with parents. Not on last nights evidence!
The June 15 General Strike in Athens. Sintagma Square (Constitution Square, where the Parliament Building is). From Dave Hill on the Strike/ Demonstration in Athens, 11.30-4pm, 15 June 2011 (Dave Hill was living and working in Greece, at the University of Athens, and speaking at various meetings such as Antarsia, (far-left coalition) between March- June 2011).
12.01 pm Apergia means `Strike’ The official general strike is against IMF and EU demands for a further austerity budget, more actual pay cuts, privatisation, cuts in benefits.
12.21 pm Today's Greek General Strike 15 June 2011
Dave Hill with Kostas Skordoulis and other Antarsia comrades. Dave is a member of Socialist Resistance, Kostas is a member of OKDE. SR and OKDE are sister parties in the Fourth International, a Trotskyist international (known to some as the USFI, United Secretariat of the Fourth International). In Greece, OKDE is part of a far left coalition, Antarsia. Antarsia gains around 1 or 2% of the vote at elections. A slightly more moderate left organisation is Syriza, which gets between 5 and 10% of the vote. The largest socialist/ Marxist group in Greece is the KKE, the Greek Communist Party, which gains between 8% and 15% at elections.
The KKE had a separate rally/ meeting in Sintagma Square in the morning- and then dispersed. They have a strong base, in part related to their second world war role in the Resistance against the Nazis, and also their role in the Greek Civil War 1944-1949 between the Royalists (backed by Britain, the USA and the West) and the Communists 9backed by neighbouring Communist governments).
The KKE in its present phase are known by some Trotskyists as `Stalinist Reformists’.
12.33pm The (Greek) Socialist Workers Party (SWP) works closely with immigrant workers. `It's not immigrants who take our jobs it's the capitalist class’
The Antarsia and OKDE banners.
The government of PASOK are proposing a further cut in public sector salaries, and further pension cuts. Public sector workers have already had a pay cut of 20percent. Fears are that the threatened austerity measures will mean a further 30 per cent pay cut- actual pay cuts! Plus privatisation of electricity, water, telecommunications, ports, and increased taxes for example on tobacco, refreshments. Parliament is now surrounded, protected by the police of course. Also compulsory redundancies, there are threats to reduce the public sector workforce by 50 percent over three years.
13.51 Tear Gassed. Stings the eyes, makes you want to sneeze.. Dave Hill reporting live from Sintagma Square .. The IMF and EU are saying if you want the fifth instalment of the loan you have to carry out more austerity measures. The government of PASOK are proposing a further cut in public sector salaries, and further pension cuts.. Public sector workers have already had a pay cut of 20percent.. Fears are that the threatened austerity measures will mean further 30 per cent pay cut- actual pay cuts!..... Plus privatisation of electricity, water, telecommunications, ports,, and increased taxes for example on tobacco, refreshments.....
Parliament is now surrounded, protected by the police of course.
Protestors wear face cream to protect against effects of tear gas.
Jeezus, this teargas gets everywhere, eyes, nose, throat....this poster. In Sintagma Square, Parliament behind the poster. `All for All’ in Spanish and in Greek.. Solidarity with the Spanish anticapitalist protesters.
Heard that the Greek PM is meeting the President this midday/ early afternoon. The Greek PM , Andreas Papandreaou, offered to resign to have a national unity government, to push through the austerity cuts. These cuts are the most savage threatened cuts against any working class in any advanced capitalist country. If the capitalist transnational class succeeds in Greece- if working class resistance is defeated, then governments throughout Europe will try to do the same. In Britain for example.
14.54 Sintagma Square. Police retreating. Both sides throwing missiles, some fires burning Missiles, stones, cartons being thrown at the police after the crowd was tear gassed. In Greece it is often the first response of the police when faced with an angry crowd- to fire off tear gas. I saw police picking up missiles and hurling them back at the crowd.
Strike poster TAXING THE RICH AND CUTTING THE WAGE AND THE SOCIAL WAGE (BENEFITS AND PUBLIC SERVICES) OF THE WORKING CLASS
Recent changes in taxation of the Rich in Britain
The super rich are subject to three main taxes other than income tax. These are corporation tax, a tax on company profits, capital gains tax is a tax on trading property and shares and Inheritance Tax paid when a person dies. If you have many millions you will mainly pay capital gains tax on buying and selling property and shares. The rate of corporation tax will also affect your returns because you will receive dividends from company profits.
Shortly after Mrs Thatcher came to power and for the majority of her term in office the top rate of tax on the super rich was 60%. This was reduced to 40% in the famous 1988 Lawson budget. When Blair came to office the top rate was still 40%. But after the business friendly Blair/Brown governments’ corporation tax had been significantly reduced and capital gains tax had been reduced to an amazing 18%. This is of course less than someone working for measly £6 an hour would pay. Part of the reason for the massive financial black hole which developed during the last Labour government was this massive cut in the taxation of the super rich.
The Condem government's shift of taxation onto ordinary working people is illustrated by the rise in VAT to 20% and the cuts in corporation tax. In several western countries the rate of corporation tax is between 40-50% whereas the government proposes to go to a rate of 24%.
The one small token in difference to this was the rise in capital gains tax under pressure from the Liberal Democrats. It was increased last year to 28% for higher rate taxpayers from Labour's 18%.’ (Thanks to Stuart Richardson for this).
The Rich Keep on getting Richer (from a forthcoming chapter by Dave Hill). And yet the rich keep getting richer! Just to take three examples from Britain and from Ireland. In Britain, the government's latest figures show that in the capital the top 10% of society had on average a wealth of £933,563 compared to the meagre £3,420 of the poorest 10% – a wealth multiple of 273.(from Danny Dorling, 2010a. See Ramesh, 2010. See also, Dorling, 2010b). This is the biggest differential since slavery! Dorling also points out that “The 1,000 richest people in Britain became 30 percent richer in the last year. That’s a £77 billion rise in wealth—enough to wipe out around half the government’s budget deficit.” (Dorling, 2010). And, as for Ireland, `The 300 richest people in Ireland are worth almost €57bn or more than the entire Libyan or Croatian economy. They've got much richer too, with close to €6.7bn added to their combined wealth over the last year’. No hard times for them! (The Independent, 2011). Cuts for the Workers In Greece, the PASOK (social democratic) government of George Papandreou has decided that civil servants- including teachers and university teachers- have had pay freezes or cuts up to 30 per cent; VAT has risen to 21 per cent and state-funded pensions are being reduced to reflect average lifetime earnings rather than final salaries. Also there is a wage freeze for three years, and in the public sector, 4 out of 5 workers who retire will not be replaced. In the private sector, massive wage cuts up to 25%. Unemployment benefits have been cut, and a poverty support scheme implemented in 2009 has been suspended. Drastic cuts in benefits for large families. There are also plans to end collective bargaining and impose individualized contracts instead. The existing practice of extended very low paid or even unpaid internships has been legalized. Resorting to temporary workers is now permitted in the public sector. (See Toussaint, 2011. For detail on Britain, see Thornett, 2010) And in Britain £7 billion in welfare cuts were announced in the October `Comprehensive Spending review’, in addition to the £11 billion presented in the summer. The attack on benefits is the most vicious in living memory- for example cuts in education benefits such as the EMA, cuts in Housing Benefit (subsidies for rents for the poor) which will force poor families out of their homes into cheaper areas, cuts in local government spending which will result in closures of thousands of libraries and support staff for the weak, the elderly, and services for children. Half a million public sector jobs- tax collectors, teachers, nurses, doctors, police, local government workers, lecturers, are to be axed by 2015 with an impact on a further half a million private sector jobs dependent on the public sector. Already, in March 2011, unemployment in Britain is the highest for 17 years. Funding to local councils will be cut by 25% over the same four-year period. University students will see their fees (and the resulting debt they are saddled with) shoot up. Public sector workers will have to pay more for their pensions, and all workers will have to work longer. Public sector workers who still have jobs will be forced to pay 3% more in pension contributions on top of a pay freeze. Ultimately all workers will be forced to work longer before they can retire – a double whammy since you pay more in contributions and get less time to ‘enjoy’ your pension after retiring. The Choice So, are we to be explicit or complicit in our servile, or self-justified, acceptance of the currently exponentially expanding capitalist kleptocracy? Or do we take a principled stand and stand up for humanity and social justice, for the rather more fundamental economic justice and massive redistribution of wealth, income, power, life chances, and for a critical- and self-critical!- democratic socialist, anti-capitalist, future? That’s the choice! And that choice has to argued, organised, campaigned for. That’s where party comes in. Organisation to organise anger and opposition. The 30 June 2011 strike of public sector unions in Britain will be building that anger, that opposition, that organisation.
The Argus has got itself in a real lather about travellers and protest marches - two subjects which never asked to be conflated, but the Argus has obliged anyway!
I am going to concentrate in this article on political protest, which apparently, the Argus and the local Tories seem to regard as a new phenomenon which only goes on in Brighton and Hove. This despite the enormous local heritage of protest demonstrations, from the General Strike, to the anti-fascist protests against the blackshirts, the NF and the EDL, to the protests against the poll tax. Currently, protests against the government's economic policies are taking place in towns and cities across the country, not just here (in case you thought otherwise).
In fact, the only group who seem to have made a point of picking on Brighton for a march, despite most participants not actually living here, was the EDL....ahem...sorry...the "March for England" - although that did of course attract a fair bit of local "attention".
Recent protest marches and activities include a large march against the cuts, and most recently actions by the Brighton branch of UKUncut - activities which were positively received by local people. Until last weekend we had the Spanish Revolutionary camp, a few tents in Steine Gardens, which Councillor Geoffrey "I'll park my Jag where I like" Theobald has spent weeks trying to portray as the end of civilisation as we know it.
The Argus would have you believe that these activities are uniquely bearing down on Brighton and are the sole cause of businesses in the centre of town suffering. Funny..I would have thought that VAT hikes, wage cuts, benefit cuts and galloping inflation might have had something to do with it. Is it really credible that the brief appearance of some demonstrators could so completely gum up the wheels of commerce?
So what's at the root of all this? Well obviously alot of it is about the Tories trying to undermine the Green council administration. Councillor Ben Duncan recently stated that protest was welcome in Brighton - a harmless statement which has sent the Tories into a state of pretend apoplexy. At times like this (when they've just lost an election and face four years of wilderness), the mask of liberal respectability slips. They really don't like the idea of people actually using their democratic right to protest - a bit like Vince Cable upholding the right to strike just as long as there aren't any strikes.
The best antidote to this nonsense is to carry on protesting - and 30th June, when 750,000 public sector workers are on strike, will be an ideal opportunity.
On Monday, about 1000 council workers and hospital cleaners marched through Southampton.
The Council workers are striking against threatened cuts in pay and the imposition of new, inferior contracts of employment. The hospital workers are taking action to force their employer, a contractor called Medirest, to honour a pay agreement.
The City Council dispute is turning into a major test of the ConDems' ability to cut public spending and are a precursor to the coming attack on public sector pensions.
On 30th June, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, teachers and civil servants, are striking for one day.
It is vital that all of the struggles are linked. At the moment local union branches are fighting in isolation, and the national action on the 30th does not include workers in local government and the health service.
It is also extremely important that links are made between the attacks on workers' jobs, pay and conditions, and the cuts in services. Unions need to work with local anti-cuts groups so that the bosses and the politicians cannot drive a wedge between workers and the local community.
The Southampton Council dispute is a major test of the ability of the government and their local proxies to get through the cuts and policies which will so fundamentally change public services - and not for the better!
It is in all our interests to support the resistance being put up by the workers in Southampton.
The strike action by Unison and Unite members against Southampton City Council's massive attack on their pay and conditions has reached a critical phase.
So it was quite a surprise to hear on the BBC News tonight that Tory-controlled Crawley Borough Council has made a low-interest loan of £5 MILLION to its Tory friends at Southampton City Council. It was clearly a surprise to opposition councillors (who are asking a lot of questions), and to the council taxpayers of Crawley.
Given that the union action at Southampton is directed at the council's revenue-raising powers, Crawley Council's "loan" looks a lot like a donation to its strike fund!
Of course, if the workers at Crawley Council were to strike in sympathy with their colleagues in Southampton, this would be regarded as unlawful "secondary action".
Unison Branch Secretary Mike Tucker reports
On Monday 13 June, 70 UNISON / UNITE members working as street cleaners will start a 7 day strike. They will join 170 UNISON / UNITE members already on strike, 40 Parking Enforcement, 20 Itchen Bridge Toll Collectors and 110 Refuse Collectors. The 13th June will be the one day that all four sections will be on strike. Also on 13 June, 250 Cleaners working for Medirest at Southampton General Hospital start a 7 day strike.
To mark the day all 5 strikes are taking place, a joint UNISON / UNITE march is being held on 13 June, starting from 12.30 p.m. Hoglands Park, marching to the Civic Centre. Support from outside Southampton is more than welcome.
The Conservative controlled Council have called on UNISON to call off the action short of strike in Children's Social Care due to the effectiveness of not covering vacant posts, non-use of cars and working to contract. The Council is having to spend £40,000 a week on taxis in the Children's Contact Centre alone. UNISON members in Children's Social Care have reacted angrily at the suggestion and are determined to carry on with the industrial action. See our Branch web site for more information on the use of agency social workers. Also the web site of the Southern Daily Echo. No date has been fixed for talks with ACAS. The Council are now offering 16 June.
Our dispute is reaching a crucial stage. We need financial support, also support on our picket lines and at the demonstration on 13 June.
UNISON National Executive Council Member /
UNISON Southampton District Branch
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Joint UNISON / UNITE Demonstration
Monday 13 June
12.30 p.m. Hoglands Park
March to the Civic Centre for Rally
SPEAKER-DEREK WALL: GREEN LEFT, ENVIRONMENTALIST, SOCIALIST
TUESDAY 28TH JUNE
FRIENDS MEETING PLACE, QUAKERS HALL, MILL ROAD, WEST WORTHING
Global warming, climate change, populations starving and indigenous peoples under attack.
The environment and the future of our planet is facing a crisis. Our economic system is in a state of collapse. Capitalism has failed internationally, with cuts in public services, austerity measures and unemployment affecting all of our living standards across the globe.
On June 30, joint industrial action by public sector workers represents a fight back against the Con Dem coalition. We are told that there is no alternative to their budget plans and we must simply accept it.
From Spain, Greece and the Middle East, people are saying there is an alternative which does not involve protecting bankers, dictators and corrupt politicians. The old solutions are being rejected in favour of international solutions based on people not profit and alternative environmental policies.
Come and hear the arguments and discuss the alternatives. Join us. All are welcomed.
Vince Cable's message to the GMB could not have been clearer - "you can have the right to strike....just don't go using it."
He tried to position himself as a friend of the unions who really, really didn't want to be beastly to them. But if he had to it would be all their fault for being irresponsible enough to defend their members.
Most delegates were unconvinced, and some activists made their feelings clear both outside and inside the hall....