Socialist Worker

Paying a bully to rough you up

Issue No. 2071

In among the 'will he won't he' hype over whether Gordon Brown will call a general election, the prime minister has asked the union leaders for some cash.

Quite a lot of cash in fact. The joint general secretaries of the Unite union, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, are expected to sign a cheque for £5 million when the election is called. Labour also asked the other unions to pay next year's party affiliation fees now – raising about £6 million.

Despite putting bosses and Tories into the cabinet, Brown is still reliant on the funding of trade unions. In 2006, Labour received donations of more than £12 million – some £8.5 million of that came from the unions. Since 2001 the unions have given £55 million to Labour.

Brown takes the money and uses it to fund a party which attacks workers and goes to war.

During the 2006 pensions dispute the Unison union suspended its support, including financial, for Labour. It should do the same till Brown drops his public sector pay limit. Similarily, the CWU postal workers' union shouldn't be paying the government that is attacking its members.

Why should Labour get the cash when it tramples on what the unions stand for? These funds should be used to support people who support the unions' policies.

The unions need a political voice and a democratic political fund. That means the unions backing socialists inside and outside of Labour, and not simply shovelling more and more money into Brown's coffers.

Schools programme

Academy of division

The government plans to encourage private schools to sponsor academies by exempting them from paying an up-front sponsorship fee. This follows exemptions for universities and colleges announced earlier in the year.

The government is trying to encourage more educational institutions to run academies. This reflects pressure from parents and others concerned at the role of businesses and religious groups in academies. But whoever sponsors academies, the same problems remain.

The NUT teachers' union notes that the academies initiative transfers 'billions of pounds worth of publicly funded assets… into the hands of private sponsors'. Selection and exclusion are more pronounced in academies.

The academies programme must be abolished and schools returned to local authority control.

Arms sales

These killer deals

The US is selling billions of pounds worth of arms to 'friendly regimes' to help them repress their populations. A report by the US Congressional Research Service found that £20 billion was spent on the global arms trade last year.

The US increased its sales by £1.7 billion to £8.5 billion. It is the biggest arms dealer in the world with 42 percent of the market. Developing countries bought 80 percent of the global arms trade, with Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia being the biggest buyers.

Britain is the third biggest seller of arms with £1.55 billion sold last year. This waste of resources in a world scarred by poverty and disease is another indictment of capitalism and the world it has created.

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What We Think
Tue 2 Oct 2007, 19:28 BST
Issue No. 2071
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