Solidarity 277, 6 March 2013

Portuguese march against austerity

The demonstrations that took place on Saturday 2 March in Portugal once again beat all the previous records for participation in this country that is on life support, severely affected by the crisis, and austerity measures imposed by the “Troika” (the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank).

French car strike continues

A strike at the Citroen car plant in Aulnay, to the north-east of Paris, started on 16 January and is now in its seventh week.

Factory owners PSA group (Peugeot Citroën) plan to close the Aulnay factory, causing large job losses. The company plans to shed 8,000 jobs overall in the next few years.

Around 400 workers, out of a workforce of 3,000, organised by the CGT union, are on strike, but also some workers who are not striking are taking part in some of the protest actions and the general assemblies.

University staff fight attacks on union

A packed extraordinary general meeting of over 90 University and College Union (UCU) members at Sheffield University voted on 28 February to fight management attempts to partially derecognise the union.

UCU currently represents admin, library, and computing staff on higher grades (earning £24k and above) as well as academic staff. The University had threatened to restrict UCU’s negotiating rights only to academic staff on grades 7, 8, and 9 — excluding not only the academic-related staff but the most senior academic staff (professors on grade 10) too.

Tories attack civil servants' union rights

The government has begun reducing facility time (paid time off from work duties in order to carry out trade union activity) within the civil service.

By the end of this year, we expect facility time will be reduced by about 50% and many, if not most, union activists currently on a 100% facility time will be on 50% or less per cent.

John Lewis cleaners to strike again

Cleaners at John Lewis’s Oxford Street store are balloting for strikes to win the “London Living Wage” of £8.55 per hour.

John Lewis cleaners struck in summer 2012 and, although they did win a 10% wage increase, they are still paid well below the amount that the GLA deems the minimum necessary to live a decent life in the capital. The cleaners, who are employed by the contractor ICM Ltd., are paid £6.72 an hour.

NUT delays on strikes

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) Executive met on 27 and 28 February to decide whether to strike this term against proposals from Michael Gove to abolish national pay bargaining for teachers.

Unfortunately, the Executive chose to prioritise a continued focus on pursuing joint action with NASUWT, the other large teaching union, rather than striking now. There is no indication that the NUT, with or without NASUWT, will take action in time to fight Gove’s proposals properly.

Reckoning Song

Samiya Bashir’s poem stakes a claim to universal access to joy and freedom. It takes the form of a series of questions, but there are no question marks, and the lack of the formal interrogative turns the poem from a tentative wondering into a series of demands for the way things should be.

Samiya Bashir is an African-American poet born in Somalia and the founder of “Fire & Ink”, an organisation supporting and promoting the work of LGBT writers of African descent.

The two sides of Abraham Lincoln

The following article, by black socialist CLR James (writing as GF Eckstein), was first published in the US Trotskyist paper Militant, on 14 Feburary 1949.

One part of the 1948 election platform of the Socialist Workers Party [US] read as follows:

“In 1860 William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. John Brown and Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens, personified the forces which waged merciless war against the slaveowners’ attempt to perpetuate their ‘outmoded system, halt the expansion of our economy and destroy the liberties of our people.”

A manual of revolutionary socialism

Paul Hampton begins a review article looking at the main documents and themes in John Riddell’s Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (Haymarket 2012).

Toward the United Front is a tremendous work of scholarship in the tradition of David Riazanov. Its 1,300 pages repay reading — it is a manual for revolutionary socialist strategy, in the words of many of its finest representatives.

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