Solidarity 296, 18 September 2013

Defend unions' say in politics

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 14:01

Activists meeting on 16 September have decided to launch a broad “Defend the Link” campaign, based on a statement issued in July which has already got wide support.

Keith Ewing will be the president of the new campaign, Mark Seddon will be chair, and Jon Lansman and Marsha-Jane Thompson will be joint secretaries. They are confident of winning the official support of at least some unions.

The campaign will be out and about as delegates will assemble on 21-22 September in Brighton for the Labour Party Conference 2013, in the shadow of Ed Miliband’s proposal to count out trade unionists who do

Syria: bombing averted; prospects still grim

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 13:49

Plans by the USA to bomb Assad’s military bases have been stalled by the “Framework for the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons”.

This agreement between the US and Russia demands Assad hand over his chemical weapons and allow for the handover to be verified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This would be a condition for Syria joining the Chemical Weapons Convention and removing its stocks of chemical weapons much faster then other signatories to the agreement — including the USA and Russia!

As socialists, we are glad of the reprieve from bombing. Military

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 13:45

Tube workers have returned a 98% vote in favour of industrial action against the introduction of biometric fingerprinting in their workplaces.

Cleaners employed by ISS are now expected to sign in and out of work using biometric thumb-print machines. Their union, RMT, has called the introduction of the machines “a draconian attack on civil liberties”. Tube bosses and cleaning contractors have a history of colluding to use cleaners’ often precarious immigration statuses to intimidate workers and undermine union organisation; there are fears that the introduction of biometric booking on will

Teachers' campaign needs rank-and-file strategy

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 13:40

From the “Rally for Education” called by NUT and NASUWT on 14 September in London, I conclude that to combat Gove and the government, we will also have to organise at rank-and-file level, and challenge the leaders of our unions.

We will have to challenge the supposedly left-wing leaders of the National Union of Teachers as well as the openly professionalist NASUWT leadership.

The rally was supposed to be the first step in a renewed campaign about pay, pensions, and quality of education.

The next step is strikes in some regions on 1 October and others on 17 October. I know that from socialist

Hovis pickets stay strong

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 13:30

Police have attempted to break up picket lines at the Hovis factory in Wigan where workers are striking against the use of zero-hour contracts.

Three people were arrested in the early hours of 16 September, and one activist was thrown into the road on her back as police used force to clear a blockade of the road leading in the factory.

According to the Union News website, “two people were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the highway while a third was arrested for a public order offence. One of the three is a local Unite organiser.”

The police called the early-morning picket “quite a

Firefighters to strike

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 12:55

Firefighters in England and Wales will strike on Wednesday 25 September after governments in Westminster and Cardiff refused to budge in the pensions dispute with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The FBU does not accept the proposed pension scheme that may see firefighters forced out of the job early or forced to work to 60, putting public safety at risk.

Firefighters voted by nearly four-to-one in the ballot over the summer. Although some progress has been made in Scotland, which means strikes will not take place there next week, the lack of movement at Westminster meant action had to be

Chávez’s Trotskyist cheerleaders

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 12:32

Pablo Velasco concludes his assessment of Hugo Chávez’s political legacy and the relationship of the “Bolivarian” state to Venezuela’s working class. In this article, he looks at the attitude of international Trotskyism, and particularly the “International Marxist Tendency” to Chávez.

The accommodation and prostration of the apparently “Trotskyist” left to Chávez was one of the principal signifiers of a wider ideological collapse of socialism that took place in the early years of this century.

Alongside support for the murderous Islamist “resistance” (instead of trade unionists and secular

Dawn in New York

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 12:19

Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican poet who, during his time in London, became involved in revolutionary socialist circles.

He attended the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in 1922. While he did not associate himself with Trotskyism, he became disillusioned with Stalinism in the 1930s and later became a Roman Catholic.

He was a key figure in the “Harlem Renaissance”, and his 1922 poem “Dawn in New York” reimagines William Wordsworth’s “Upon Westminster Bridge” for 20th-century Manhattan, writing in the stories of human struggle and suffering that Wordsworth’s picturesque

New strike wave in Greece

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2013 - 12:08

According to official figures, participation in the strike by Greek teachers on 16 September was over 90%.

Over 30,000 teachers, university administrators, students and workers in pension funds, and others flooded the centre of Athens. Four other sectoral union federations have coordinated with OLME (the union federation for high school teachers) and have announced repeated five-day rolling strikes against government plans to cut jobs and suspend tens of thousands of workers for eventual sacking or possible redeployment.

There were also around 10,000 demonstrators in Thessaloniki. The public

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