Solidarity 347, 10th December 2014

Belgium: general strike on 15 December

The three union confederations in Belgium — the FGTB, linked to the social democratic parties, the CSC, the Catholic confederation, and the liberal-linked CGSLB — have called a general strike for 15 December against the new right-wing government’s cuts plans. There have been regional general strikes on 24 November, 1 December, and 8 November and a demonstration on 6 November. The demonstration was the biggest labour protest in Belgium for many years. The regional strikes have been well-supported too: in each area, nothing has moved on the day of the strike. Teachers have struck nationally for...

US protests spread

The news that police officers involved in the death of black man Eric Garner will not face criminal charges has sparked protests across the US. In a situation similar to that of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a New York Grand Jury decided not to indict the officers who choked Eric to death using a stranglehold. Eric was stopped by police on suspicion selling illegal cigarettes in July. After a struggle Eric was tackled to the ground and held in a chokehold, banned by the New York Police Department (NYPD), even as he gasped “I can't breathe”. He was later pronounced dead in hospital...

Industrial news in brief

London Underground has announced its schedule for closing every ticket office on the Tube, starting from early 2015. It has done this despite the publication of a passenger survey conducted by independent watchdog London TravelWatch which shows the strength of public opposition to the closures. TravelWatch says that its wider research, from 2013, “clearly demonstrated the strong feeling that passengers place significant value on the presence of ticket offices”. It also says that the data from its 2014 survey “indicates that ticket offices are more used by minority groups, and the loss of...

Firefighters strike over pensions

Firefighters in England began another 24 hours of strike action as Solidarity went to press, as part of the FBU’s long-running pensions dispute. The FBU also called a demonstration in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire on the same day, to rally activists for the pensions fight and to show solidarity with FBU executive council member Ricky Matthews, who was sacked during the four-day strike in November. Firefighters gathered in Aylesbury to demonstrate their anger with government proposals to make them work to 60. The FBU has also had success with its political campaign to get the regulations going...

Fight for the private renters!

There were only muted howls of anger from the rich who lost most from the changes to stamp duty on house sales in George Osborne’s Autumn statement. That’s because those who will be paying an extra £163,750 on their £5 million house can afford it and they realise that this is a bid by the party of the rich to cling onto power in next year’s general election. It’s those in private-rented housing who are really suffering. After years of growth in home ownership, the numbers able to afford to buy are in decline,; many people are reliant on private rentals. The 2011 census showed that the number...

Equalise the wealth!

According to NHS bosses, the Health Service needs an extra £8 billion a year by 2020 to cope with an ageing population and new medical technologies. Or a total of £30 billion on top of the Government’s projections. Those figures, £8 billion and £30 billion, are both both big numbers. They are much bigger than the £2.5 billion which the Labour leaders have promised to add to the NHS budget from a mansion tax. They are also small. They are small compared to the £297 billion which is the total wealth of just the hundred richest people in Britain. They are not big compared even to the £40 billion...

Why so irate?

Duncan Morrison's complaint (Solidarity 344) about Jon Lansman's column (343) seemed to be that Lansman implied we should push motions praising Ed Miliband, and wasn't really anti-cuts (since anti-cuts was mentioned only in the headline). But now (Solidarity 345) Duncan says only that Lansman's column was bland. Why the irate complaint, then? In 1994 and 1992, we had no choice about whether there was a Labour leader election, because the predecessor had died or resigned. But, if not, at both times we would have disliked a whispering campaign by right-wing Labour MPs to get Smith or Kinnock to...

Verbal inflation blurs

Mumsnet defines a rape apologist as “someone who seeks to excuse rape. Normally by finding a way to blame the victim...” Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog summarises: “A rape apology is any argument that boils down to the myth that rapists can be provoked into raping by what the victim does or does not do”. Cathy Nugent (Solidarity 346) defends her claim that the SWP is “rape apologist” by quoting reports from SWP oppositionists of responses by SWP members in the “Comrade X” and “Comrade W” cases. They are bad. But not all bad is “rape apologist”. The reported responses are not “yes, there was sex...

Not so red

On 5 December, Bodo Ramelow became the first state premier in Germany from Die Linke, Germany’s Left Party, which is a composite of remnants of the old ruling party of East Germany and a left split (mainly in West Germany) from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 2005. He heads a three-way “red-red-green” coalition with the SPD and the Greens in Thuringia. There has been outcry from the German right against an alleged return of the old East German Stalinist dictatorship, which this isn’t. But, for Die Linke’s newer, more left-wing, post-Stalinist members, the prospects aren’t good. The...

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