Sunday 29 May 2011

Brighton Uncut in action to save the NHS

Film and photos from Saturday's action. Well done to the organisers for their brilliant work!

YouTube Video

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Tuesday 24 May 2011

Solidarity with Southampton City Council workers!


“For ideological reasons we are going for
outsourcing, externalisation, privatisation, wherever possible”
Alec Samuels, Tory leader of Southampton City
Council, the Daily Echo, 17th October 2008

Workers at Southampton City Council, members of Unison and Unite, have this week started industrial action against cuts in pay and other terms and conditions which the Tory administration is attempting to impose.

The action has started with a week-long strike of the City refuse workers (see picture  at the main depot yesterday morning).  The strike is solid.  Other forms of action include overtime bans and workers refusing to use their cars for council business.  Further groups of workers will be taking strike action over the coming weeks.

The Council is trying force through its pay-cutting plans by sacking the entire workforce and re-engaging them on inferior terms. The wage cuts being proposed will mean staff losing up to 17% of their pay over 2 years.  A worker earning just over £12,000 a year would see their pay cut by 8% over 2 years.

The council has been more than happy to lie to the people of Southampton about its own proposals and about the unions.  It accuses them of intimidating workers when the intimidation is coming from them - accept a massive pay cut or face the sack!

In addition to the pay cuts the administration is trying to force through a package of service cuts amounting to £67 million over the next 4 years.

But some are doing OK - Council Chief Executive Alistair Neill, one of the architects of this chaos, continues to pull in a salary of £205,000.

This is an ideological attack by the right-wing Tory administration which would happily see Southampton City Council contract out just about any service that isn't nailed down - despite the fact that Suffolk County Council has recently abandoned similar plans because of huge local community opposition, and because they would have cost more and delivered nothing for local people.

It is imperative that this dispute is won by the workers - otherwise more public sector employers will be trying to do the same thing in councils, the civil service, higher education and the NHS.

For more information download the Unison/Unite flyer

How Green is our valley and at whose expense?

“First They came...” - Pastor Martin Niemoller. Well we all know how that famous anti-fascist poem went but we also know that Romani people were slaughtered and victimized by the Nazis just as much as any other minority. Even today in Hungary and Italy, they face daily threats from both the authorities and fascist gangs. The harassment and racism against the Traveller community in this country has also been widely reported over the decades.

It is with extreme regret then that one of the first acts of the Brighton and Hove Greens, who claim that they offer a new approach to radical politics, reverted to the old ways of populism, racism and opportunism. This is a continuation of the old policies of both Labour and Tories. “No we are not racist, but not in our back yard!”

In expelling travellers’ families from Woolard Field, Falmer, the new Green administration joined a long line of councils up and down this country who say yes we would like to help but we do not have the space. Using so-called eco arguments, this has nothing to do with ecology. Woollard's Field is an urban fringe site with - no doubt - a population of Common Lizards and Slow-worms and other common disturbed land and scrub species. The issue for the Greens, though, is about getting the site free'd up for the builders to move in this summer. The critical issue is not about a conflict with threatened wildlife. Translocation of sensistive and protected species is standard practice nowadays. This is a complete failure of political will by the Greens in finding an alternative temporary encampment site.

Joseph Jones, from the Gypsy Council secretariat, said there was a lack of sites across the South East, with more than a thousand pitches needed.He said: "The idea of slow worms taking priority over people - it is amazing really to think animals take priority over people.

"But gypsies and travellers are the lowest on anyone's welfare agenda. They have the lowest health and education outcomes and have the most problems in achieving standards of human rights."

As we know, racism unfortunately takes many forms and in failing to ensure an alternative site that is both suitable and acceptable to the Travellers, makes this decision extremely worrying. Land sell offs being put before the needs of people is unacceptable. This is something we would expect from the previous Council not the Greens.

Questions need to be asked of :
Were representatives of the Travellers and their various organizations consulted or involved before ejecting the families?
What methods of communications were made with the Travellers or were the police and security just sent in ?
What alternative arrangements were made for the families?
What alternatives are being planned?

According to Amnesty International, the Roma community suffers massive discrimination throughout Europe. Denied their rights to housing, employment, healthcare and education, Roma are often victims of forced evictions, racist attacks and police ill-treatment. Living predominantly on the margins of society, Roma are among the most deprived communities in Europe. In some countries, they are prevented from obtaining citizenship and personal documents required for social insurance, health care and other benefits. Romani children are frequently unjustifiably placed in "special schools" where curtailed curricula limit their possibilities for fulfilling their potential.

Let us ensure that the “new” Brighton is not tainted with this breach of human rights. Are the Greens turning red or blue on this and other issues?

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Monday 23 May 2011

Spain comes to Brighton!

Today I joined a march of young Spanish people expressing their solidarity with the young workers demonstrating in their country.

They call for real democracy and oppose austerity and youth unemployment. Their fight is our fight!

More at

Video of the march

Real Democracy Now Manifesto in English

We are ordinary people. We are like you: people, who get up every morning to study, work or find a job, people who have family and friends. People, who work hard every day to provide a better future for those around us.

Some of us consider ourselves progressive, others conservative. Some of us are believers, some not. Some of us have clearly defined ideologies, others are apolitical, but we are all concerned and angry about the political, economic, and social outlook which we see around us: corruption among politicians, businessmen, bankers, leaving us helpless, without a voice.

This situation has become normal, a daily suffering, without hope. But if we join forces, we can change it. It’s time to change things, time to build a better society together. Therefore, we strongly argue that:

The priorities of any advanced society must be equality, progress, solidarity, freedom of culture, sustainability and development, welfare and people’s happiness.

These are inalienable truths that we should abide by in our society: the right to housing, employment, culture, health, education, political participation, free personal development, and consumer rights for a healthy and happy life.

The current status of our government and economic system does not take care of these rights, and in many ways is an obstacle to human progress.

Democracy belongs to the people (demos = people, krátos = government) which means that government is made of every one of us. However, in Spain most of the political class does not even listen to us. Politicians should be bringing our voice to the institutions, facilitating the political participation of citizens through direct channels that provide the greatest benefit to the wider society, not to get rich and prosper at our expense, attending only to the dictatorship of major economic powers and holding them in power through a bipartidism headed by the immovable acronym PP & PSOE.

Lust for power and its accumulation in only a few; create inequality, tension and injustice, which leads to violence, which we reject. The obsolete and unnatural economic model fuels the social machinery in a growing spiral that consumes itself by enriching a few and sends into poverty the rest. Until the collapse.

The will and purpose of the current system is the accumulation of money, not regarding efficiency and the welfare of society. Wasting resources, destroying the planet, creating unemployment and unhappy consumers.

Citizens are the gears of a machine designed to enrich a minority which does not regard our needs. We are anonymous, but without us none of this would exist, because we move the world.

If as a society we learn to not trust our future to an abstract economy, which never returns benefits for the most, we can eliminate the abuse that we are all suffering.

We need an ethical revolution. Instead of placing money above human beings, we shall put it back to our service. We are people, not products. I am not a product of what I buy, why I buy and who I buy from.

For all of the above, I am outraged.

I think I can change it.

I think I can help.

I know that together we can.I think I can help.

I know that together we can.

Here you can see an album on Flickr with pictures of the Spanish Revolution Brighton!

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Sunday 22 May 2011

Benefit claimants and benefit workers - in it together!

mark-serwotka.jpg“It’s the mark of a civilised society to support people when they are in need, whether they are ill, disabled or unemployed. Welfare is there to provide a decent existence. Coming from the South Wales valleys and working in a DHSS office I saw the importance of the social security system before my eyes every day.”

Mark Serwotka

Living in Brighton gives local union activists a welcome opportunity to dip into the fringes of the trade union conferences which take place here.  So last Thursday I went along to the PCS Conference fringe meeting on welfare reform.

It was quite refreshing, as a visitor with no accreditation, to just walk into the Brighton Centre off the street and browse the stalls and check out fringe meetings.  Had it been Unison conference, some heavy would have been blocking my path and demanding to see my credentials - and no doubt check my name against an ever-lengthening list of "suspended" (read "witchunted") members who are not allowed in!

But I digress.  The meeting was to launch the PCS' new pamphlet on welfare reform which is a very welcome addition to the debate.  PCS is of course in a unique position on this issue, being the union which organises workers who deliver welfare benefits, many of whom are recipients of benefits themselves.

John McDonnell MP spoke powerfully about the "real suffering" he sees at his constituency surgery - people losing their jobs, suddenly having benefits removed, facing homelessness because the reductions in housing benefit mean that they cannot pay their rent.  The wait for a council home in his constituency is 8 years.

Mark Serwotka spoke about the stresses on his members caused by working with the most deprived people facing even more benefit cuts.  The pamphlet points out that admin assistants in the DWP are paid only just above the minimum wage, 50% of DWP staff earn less than £20,000 pa and 25% less than £15,000.  This means of course that many of them receive the benefits they administer.  Jobcentres are being closed all over the country and claimants forced to deal with call centres where staff have to put their hands up for a timed toilet break and get harrassed by management if they spend "too long" with a caller.

The pamphlet also points out that large amounts of benefit money are in effect subsidising low pay and high rents - the money is really going to employers who pay badly and private landlords who charge sky-high rents.  Benefit costs could be slashed if we had a decent minimum wage and there was statutory control over rent levels.

In 2010 £16 billion in benefits were unclaimed.  Only £5 billion is lost through the combined effects of error and fraud.

Linda Burnip of Disabled People Against Cuts also spoke very well about the problems faced by disabled people and carers.  Disabled people on benefits are stigmatised and their rights to benefit constantly questioned.  The tabloids lead the campaign to demonise them and soften up public opinion for cuts.  Carers Allowance is a paltry £53 a week and only payable if your caring responsibilities are over 35 hours a week.  Again, this represents a huge but largely hidden public subsidy to the costs of caring.  The fraud rate in Disability Living Allowance is just 0.5%, and in the last 15 years, an estimated 500,000 people have had incapacity benefits wrongly removed by the state.

From the floor, Tony Greenstein of Brighton Unemployed Workers Centre, remarked on the fall in union membership and the drastic drop in the number if unemployed centres.  He pointed out that claimants are workers too and the the organised trade union movement needed to recognise this.

This pamphlet tells a huge, largely untold, story.  Read it now, and get everyone you know to read it too!

Saturday 21 May 2011

Spain - statement from Fourth International comrades

Rebellion of the indignant. Notes from Barcelona’s Tahrir Square.

Josep Maria Antentas & Esther Vivas  International Viewpoint

There is no doubt about it. The wind that has electrified the Arab world in recent months, the spirit of the repeated protests in Greece or the student struggles in Britain and Italy, the mobilizations against Sarkozy in France... has come to the Spanish State.

These are not then days of “business as usual”. The comfortable routines of our “market democracy”" and its electoral and media rituals have been abruptly altered by the unforeseen emergence in the street and public space of citizen mobilization. This “rebellion of the indignant” worries the political elites who are always discomfited when the people take democracy seriously... and decide to start practicing it for themselves.

Two years ago, when the crisis which broke out in September 2008 took on historic proportions, the “masters of the world” experienced a brief moment of panic, alarmed by the magnitude of a crisis they had not anticipated, through their lack of theoretical instruments with which to understand it, and feared a strong social reaction. Then came the empty claims of a “refoundation of capitalism” and false mea culpas that little by little evaporated, once the financial system was underpinned and in the absence of a social explosion.

The social reaction has been slow in coming. Since the outbreak of the crisis, social resistance has been weak. There has been a very large gap between the discrediting of the current economic model and its translation into collective action. Several factors explain this, in particular, fear, resignation before the current situation, scepticism with regard to trade unions, the absence of political and social reference points, and the penetration among wage earners of individualistic and consumerist values.

The current outbreak did not, however, start from scratch. Years of work on a small scale of alternative networks and movements, initiatives and resistance of more limited impact had kept the flame of contestation alive in this difficult period. The general strike of September 29m 2010 also opened a first breach, although the subsequent demobilization by the leaderships of the CCOO and UGT and the signing of the social pact closed the path of trade union mobilisation and furthered if possible, the discredit and lack of prestige of the biggest unions among combative youth and those who have launched the camps initiative.


“Indignation” so much the fashion through the pamphlet by Hessel [the former French resistance fighter Stéphane Hessel], is one of the ideas that define the protests which have started. Here there reappears in another form, the "Ya Basta!" of the Zapatistas in their uprising of January 1, 1994, then the first revolt against the "new world order" proclaimed by George Bush senior after the first Gulf War, the disintegration of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin wall.

“Indignation is a start. One is outraged, rises up and then one sees” said Daniel Bensaïd. Gradually, however, we have passed from discomfort to outrage and from that to this mobilization. We have a true “mobilized indignation”. From the earthquake of crisis, the tsunami of social mobilization develops.

To fight more than unease and indignation is required, we must also believe in the usefulness of collective action, that it is possible to overcome and that all that has gone before is not lost. For years the social movements in the Spanish State have essentially known defeats. The lack of victories which show the usefulness of social mobilization and increase the expectations of the possible weighed like a heavy slab on the slow initial reaction to the crisis.

Precisely at this point the great contribution of the revolutions in the Arab world to the ongoing protests has registered. They show that collective action is useful, that “Yes we can”. That is why they, as well as the less covered victory against the bankers and the political class in Iceland, have been a reference point from the beginning for the protesters and activists.

Along with the belief that "this is possible”, that things can be changed, loss of fear, in a time of crisis and difficulties, is another key factor. “Without fear” is precisely one of the slogans most heard these days. Fear still grips a large majority of workers and popular sectors and leads to passivity or xenophobic and unsympathetic reactions. But the 15M mobilization and the camps expanding like an oil slick are a powerful antidote to fear that threatens to dismantle the schemes of a ruling elite at the forefront of an increasingly delegitimized system.

The 15M movement and the camps have an important generational component. Each time a new cycle of struggles breaks out, a new generation of activists emerges, and “youth” as such acquire visibility and prominence. While this generational and youth component is essential, and is also expressed in some of the organized movements that have been visible lately like "Youth without future", it must be noted that the ongoing protest is not a generational movement. It is a movement of criticism of the current economic model and attempts to make workers pay for the crisis which is fundamentally weighted towards youth. The challenge is precisely that, as on so many occasions, the youth protest acts as a triggering factor and catalyst for a broader cycle of social struggles.

The spirit of anti-globalization returns

The dynamism, the spontaneity and the thrust of the current protests are the strongest since the emergence of the anti-globalization movement more than a decade ago. Emerging internationally in November 1999 at the protests in Seattle during the WTO Summit (although its antecedents go back to the Zapatista Chiapas uprising in 1994), the anti-globalization wave quickly came to the Spanish state. The consultation for the abolition of the foreign debt in March 2000 (held the same day as the general elections and banned in several cities by the Electoral Board) and the big mobilization for the summit in Prague in September 2000 against the World Bank and the IMF were the first signs of this, particularly in Catalonia. But the mass movement really arrived with the demonstrations against the World Bank Summit in Barcelona on June 22 and 24, 2001. Just ten years later we are witnessing the birth of a movement whose energy, enthusiasm and collective strength has not been seen since then. It will not, therefore, be a nostalgic tenth anniversary. Quite the contrary. We are going to celebrate it with the birth of a new movement.

The assemblies now in Plaza Catalunya (and, indeed, all the camps around the state beginning with that at Sol in Madrid) have given us priceless moments. The 15M and the camps are authentic "foundational struggles" and clear signs that we are witnessing a change in cycle and that the wind of rebellion is blowing again. Finally. A true “Tahrir generation” emerges, as did before a "Seattle generation” or a “Genoa generation”.

Through the “anti-globalization” impulse across the planet, following the official summits in Washington, Prague, Quebec, Goteborg, Genoa and Barcelona, thousands of people identified with these protests and a wide range of groups from around the globe had the feeling of being part of a movement, of the same "people", the "people of Seattle" or "Genoa", sharing common objectives and feeling part of the same struggle.

The current movement is also inspired by the most recent and important international reference points of struggle and victory. It can be situated in the wake of movements as diverse as the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and the victory in Iceland, placing their mobilization in a general struggle against global capitalism and the servile political elite. In the Spanish state, the 15 M demonstrations and now the camps, in a simultaneous example of decentralization and coordination, generate a shared identity and symbolic membership of a community.

The anti-globalization movement had ithe international institutions, WTO, World Bank and IMF and multinational companies in its line of fire. Later, with the start of the "global war on terror" proclaimed by Bush junior, criticism of war and imperialist domination acquired centrality. The current movement places as its axis the criticism of a political class, whose complicity and servitude to the economic powers has been more exposed than ever. "We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers" read one of the main slogans of 15M. There is criticism of the political class and professional politics and criticism, not always well articulated and consistent, of the current economic model and financial powers. "Capitalism? Game over".

Towards the future

The future of the 15M initiated movement is unpredictable. In the short term the first challenge is to continue to build on the existing camps, set them up in cities where they do not yet exist and ensure they continue at least until Sunday May 22. May 21, the day of reflection, and May 22, election day, will be decisive. In these two days building the camps at a mass level is essential.

It is necessary to also consider new dates for mobilization, in the wake of 15M, to maintain the rhythm. The main challenge is to maintain this simultaneous dynamic of expansion and radicalization of the protest which we have experienced in the last few days. And in the case of Catalonia, look for synergies between the radicalism and desire for a change in the system expressed in 15M and the camps, with struggles against public expenditure cuts, particularly in health and education. The camp in Plaza Catalunya has already become a meeting point, a powerful magnet, for all the more dynamic sectors in struggle. It has become a meeting point for resistance and struggle, for building bridges, facilitating dialogue, and propelling future demonstrations. Establishing alliances between the protests under way among unorganized activists, and the alternative trade unionism, the neighbourhood movement, neighbourhood groups and so on, is the great challenge of the next few days.

“The revolution starts here...” was the claim yesterday at Plaza Catalunya. Well, at least a new cycle of struggles is beginning. So there is no doubt already that, more than a decade after the rise of the anti-globalization movement and two years after the outbreak of the crisis, social protest has come back to stay.

*Josep Maria Antentas is a member of the editorial board of the magazine Viento Sur, and a professor of sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

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Sunday 15 May 2011

Worthing Solidarity Network supports Don't Cut Us Out

WSN activists travelled across to Chichester yesterday morning to support another excellent hundreds-strong protest outside West Sussex County Council, organised by the Dont Cut Us Out campaign. DCUO had managed to get more than 20,000 signatures on a strongly-worded petition calling not only for an end to adult social care cuts, but for the money to be found by using WSCC's reserve and calling on the government to tax the banks who caused the crisis.

The protest was VERY noisy, angry and determined. Once inside the chamber, every Tory who spoke with barely-concealed contempt for the people affected and their supporters was heckled loudly from the public gallery. A Lib/Lab motion calling for a pause and echoing the call for use of county council reserves was derided by Tories as 'bad housekeeping' and putting at risk contingencies such as keeping the roads clear in case of snow! With private healthcare director and adult services cabinet member Peter Catchpole clearly having already made his decision, DCUO are considering the next moves for their high-profile campaign to stop David Cameron's local cronies ruining the lives of 4,000 of our county's most vulnerable people.

Cllr Peter Catchpole -certainly not a man of or for the people-surprising that he even has the time to make cuts, or does he do it with his eyes closed?

Originally a biochemist, Peter Catchpole worked as a senior executive in the NHS for over 30 years, 20 of these as a Chief Executive. He has also been a non-executive director/advisor for organisations in the not-for-profit, private and charity sectors. Peter's current portfolio consists of the following: Fellow of the Faculty of Health - teaching at the University of Brighton; Non-Executive Director of the Special Health Authority NHS Direct; and Chair of the Audit Committee. In the regulatory sector he is a member of the General Dental Council, Associate Member of the General Medical Council Fitness to Practice Committees, a lay member of the Nursing & Midwives Conduct and Competence Committee, a lay member of the British Association of Psychotherapy and Counselling Conduct Committee and in Clinical Governance, a Management Reviewer for the Healthcare Commission. He is also an Independent Health Care Consultant and business advisor to the independent health sector.

Peter is the Cabinet Member for Adults' Services

Committee membership
North Horsham County Local Committee

Outside bodies
Peter represents the County Council on the following organisations

Horsham Citizens' Advice Bureau Management Committee
South East Employers (Deputy Member)

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Public Sector Pay - statistical quackery posing as academic research..again

At the beginning of this week the "thinktank" Policy Exchange mused about public sector pay. They claimed to have discovered, through rigorous research of course, that public sector workers are paid 40% more than private sector workers. Startled? Of course you are! Does this claim stand up to even a moment's serious scrutiny? Of course it doesn't! But maybe that's not the point.

This remarkable figure is derived from the simple measure of comparing the average hourly pay of the two sectors....yes gets no more sophisticated than that. The PE "research" fails to actually compare like with like. No account is taken of the fact that the public sector workforce is on average more highly qualified with a greater proportion of skilled workers and professionals. No attempt is made to compare a job with anything approaching a similar job in each sector. As one commentator has observed, it's like comparing the pay of a neurosurgeon with that of a bartender and concluding that the neurosurgeon is overpaid!

Of course, in many cases no such comparison is possible, as some jobs are only done in the public sector and some only in the private sector, but PE don't even try.

If you take a job that is done in both sectors - teaching, the PE would have you belive that a teacher in the independent sector is earning 40% less than a teacher in the state sector. That's a pay differential of some ten to fifteen thousand a year. Is this credible? Would independent schools ever be able to attract any teachers with a pay gap that wide?

Local authority-employed cleaners, who earn barely more than the minimum wage, are earning 40% more than cleaners in the private sector? Would PE care to inform us which cleaning firms are breaking the law?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that the public sector "premium" is more like 6%, but even that is most likely due to the fact that gender discrimination in the public sector is being eliminated in the public sector to a much greater extent than in the private. There is also the fact that many of the lowest paid public sector staff have actually been contracted out to the private sector, which further distorts the figures.

What is really happening is that "think tanks" like Policy Exchange are in reality making a political attack on public sector workers. It's all about softening up public opinion to make workers in both sector easier to divide.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Epic fail.......

Origin of the phrase "damp squib" (with thanks to Wikpedia)

"While most modern squibs used by professionals are insulated from moisture, older uninsulated squibs needed to be kept dry in order to ignite, thus a "damp squib" was literally one that failed to perform because it got wet. Often misheard as "damp squid", the phrase "damp squib" has since come into general use to mean anything that fails to meet expectations. The word "squib" has come to take on a similar meaning even when used alone, as a synonym for dud. Squids, on the other hand, are frequently damp, and therefore not useful in this simile."

Looks like the message of "it's all the fault of greedy poor people" didn't quite capture the public mood.......

Monday 9 May 2011

The poison’d chalice

Here, Green Party activist Andy Player discusses the lessons of the Green victory in Brighton and Hove.  Since this was written it has emerged that the Greens will form a minority administration, Labour having come out against a coalition.

After defending 13 seats and winning 10 new ones, the Green party now has the largest group on Brighton & Hove city council. The Tories dropped from 26 to 18, Labour remained on 13 and the Lib Dems were wiped off the map.

Following on from the remarkable victory in Pavilion a year ago to the day, the Greens have made astonishing progress at a time when votes for smaller parties seems to be diminishing.

In many central Brighton seats the Greens had already replaced Labour as the progressive choice. The results in these wards were cemented by campaigning last year and large majorities increased on Thursday.

The push continued into the Labour suburbs with one seat being turned into three in Preston Park and two seats out of three taken in Hollingdean and Stanmer - with Labour deputy leader Pat Hawkes ousted.

Seats were taken from the Tories in previous Tory / Labour marginals like Goldsmid, but the shock results were in two ‘safe’ Tory wards – Central Hove and Withdean – where a Green candidate came from nowhere to top the poll.

The Greens’ relentless progress in Brighton & Hove should be of enormous interest to those on the left who believe that electoral politics play a part in the fight for a better world.

The Green party won their first council seat in 1996, adding two, then another three, and then another six at subsequent elections, plus a first Hove councillor in a by-election the year before Caroline Lucas won in Brighton Pavilion.

One lesson for the left is that the Greens in Brighton & Hove have achieved electoral success through consistent hard work. They have also built a significant layer of support amongst trade unionists and campaigners with their swift and unambiguous backing of the right causes.

The Greens in Brighton & Hove have a reputation for being honest, active and progressive. That is a breath of fresh air for many voters in this city.

Hard work and the right principles are one thing, but the crucial factor in surviving the current electoral squeeze of smaller parties is that voters believe the Greens can win. After last year’s result, that belief has mushroomed.

The Green party have now replaced Labour in most of their traditional areas and have become the opposition party in most Tory wards. Are we seeing the crumbling of Labourism - the Holy Grail for left-of-Labour electoral parties?

Some big challenges face the Brighton & Hove Green party councillors and the local party membership. The Green platform in these elections was to oppose cuts to services and to protect jobs. Taking over the council purse-strings in a time of savage cuts is not good timing for a progressive party, yet it is what the electorate demanded.

Tories, Labour and many on the left will be rubbing their hands and waiting for the new Green administration to ‘sell out’. To deliver on the local party’s manifesto is not going to be easy. But the local Green party has not got to where it is by being strategically naïve, vain or politically cowardly. We may have been handed the poisoned chalice, but no-one is forcing us to drink it.

“Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!” as Saint Benedict of Nursia once said.

Andy Player

6 May 2011.

The Left and the elections

Socialist Resistance has published a preliminary assessment of the elections.  It does not make very comfortable reading, but there's no point in beating around the bush!  It is clear that in England the big winners were really the Tories, who did not get the hiding that Brendan Barber and Ed Miliband were promising us on 26th March.  Labour made some inroads in their old northern heartlands but precious little anywhere else.  The Lib Dems were severely and justly punished by the progressive end of their vote for their sellouts to the Tories and were of course the big losers. 

In Scotland, Labour were annihilated by the SNP, who now have a working majority in the Scottish Parliament under an electoral system whose supposed main design feature was.....the impossibility of an SNP working majority!  It will be fascinating to see how the issue of independence pans out.  The smart money is on the SNP not rushing into an independence referendum, but waiting for Scottish public opinion to be softened up by a couple of years of being clobbered by Tory cuts emanating from London.

Labour's big problem is that they criticise Tory cuts but their own cuts are only a bit slower and only a bit smaller, while they talk about going for growth - pie in the sky in the current capitalist crisis we are facing.  This, coupled with a leader whose charisma appears to have been surgically removed, do not make Labour a very appealing prospect.

As far as the far left is concerned, this was a dire election.  Good socialist councillors were desperately thin on the ground to begin with, but Michael Lavalette lost his seat in Preston, as did one of the Respect councillors in Birmingham.  The main left challenge came from Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) standing on an anti-cuts platform.  TUSC stood in four wards in Brighton and ran only 140 candidates across the country. This, along with some Respect candidates and the Socialist Labour Party in a few areas, amounted to the smallest left electoral challenge I can remember in years.

Alot of hard work was put in by TUSC activists but the results were disappointing.  In Brighton and Hove, it was always going to be difficult with the Greens looking to take a large chunk of the left vote.  But across the four wards TUSC totalled barely 700 votes.

It is clear to me that the "loose coalition" model of working just is not sufficient. We need a unified party to the left of New Labour - a party with proper democratic structures, and a real existence on the ground, something which SR has consistently argued for.  But as long as the main left groups put building themselves above building that alternative, we will continue to fail in elections, however good our message is.

Some further comments....below from Sussex Socialist Resistance and above, a Green Party perspective.

Well done to the Greens with their electoral success. However entering into discussions with whom? Certainly not the Tories and Lib Dems. The employees, trade unions, service users, local community groups one assumes should be the people the new administration will be talking to, listening to and consulting with, involving them in the decisions that have to be made.

As far as the first challenge they will face is what to do with the budget and council cuts? If they reverse the present cuts and refuse to implement the Con Dem cuts being passed down by this failed coalition gov't then they will have all our support. If they refuse to carry out redundancies and protect workers' pensions then fine with us. There can be no compromises when it comes to workers living standards. Make the bankers pay, not council staff.

However if the Greens merely introduce a few cycle paths and carry on with " business as normal" type approach, based on pragmatism and short term gains then the honeymoon will be short lived. We do not expect this to happen, hopefully. The Green Party conference opposed cuts, with many of the new councillors taking that position and supporting the Coalition of Resistance anti-cuts campaign. Let us see Brighton and Hove now lead that fightback. They promise us new politics and we welcome eco-socialist policies.

The Greens can not do this on their own though and it will require a united front with those in the Labour Party, trade union movement and the Left to ensure the success of such a campaign. Those in the Labour Party who pinned their hopes on a New Labour victory based on cuts but over a slightly longer time period, will have to review where they stand. Milliband has left them high and dry.

The attacks on the democratic right to demonstrate in Brighton will no longer get an easy ride by the new councillors and this may make the Sussex police think twice about how they abuse their powers. It may also mean the EDL and their fascist friends will not in future find Brighton such an easy place to march through. Perhaps the police may not rush to use the Public Order Act . The Green Council should insist all charges are dropped against anti-fascists and anarchists who have recently been arrested.

TUSC candidates promoted Socialist policies in this election campaign and the struggle for Eco - Socialism continues. The anti-cuts campaign groups will expect the Greens to show a new approach in this.

As for the rest of the results of the council elections:

Lewes went Tory and Lib Dems lost seats.

BNP came last where ever they stood in Arun.

Labour candidates, Mike Faddon and Sue Marsh improved their vote in Worthing and opposed cuts.
The election may be over but the campaign against cuts and defending public services continues. The Con Dem coalition now has a huge crack in it, with Lib Dem's defeats all over the place. So much for betraying policies. Let this be a lesson to others and get on with the fightback. Public sector workers plan industrial action and we need to build support for these struggles.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Our right to protest - under attack!

Consider the evidence -

In the last few weeks we have seen -

- Blatantly partisan policing in Brighton to protect the racist EDL whilst attempting to criminalise and demonise the anti-fascist groups trying to oppose them. This included the arrest of anti-fascist activists and the imposition of a "bail condition" banning them from Brighton!

- Saturation policing of this weekends May Day protest.

- Raids and arrests in Brighton and London late last week of people who MIGHT have been planning protests around the royal wedding.

- Numerous arrests of people in London on the day of the wedding for the smallest displays of dissent from the mood of national joy which we were all supposed to be feeling.

- The revelation that police have been compiling a secret intelligence file on local peace activist John Catt, although he has never been prosecuted for any offence. Catt is now taking legal action. The intelligence-gathering in this case resembled the tactics of the Stasi.

We have seen police tactics of selective arrests of leaders, filming and photographing of protestors, violent mass arrests such as that of the UKUncut occupation of Fortnum and Masons on 26 March, and kettling of demonstrations.

Today's verdict in the Tomlinson inquest gives us a chilling reminder of where this state violence can end.

We have also seen this approach coupled with a slick media strategy in which a compliant media simply soaks up the police side of the story. Locally the Argus simply regurgitates Sussex Police press releases with no attempt to investigate what is really going on.

All activists should be concerned about these developments.

There is no doubt that Britain is not (yet!) a police state in the sense that I would understand the term. We have seen ruling classes in many countries being prepared to engage in mass murder of their own people to cling to power. This is clearly not where we are in the UK.

But we should not just "be grateful" as some suggest. We need to be saying that we are not going to put up with it.

As someone once said......

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone