Don’t delay resistance
Ex-Labour minister and Con-Dem stooge Lord John Hutton finally unveiled his report on public sector pensions this week.
We expected him to recommend that all members of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) will pay in £100 more each month, and work more years to get less out in retirement from April 2012. It could be even worse.
Teachers everywhere are furious about this.
Yet only our brothers and sisters in the University College Union (UCU) will be actively protesting using strikes against his recommendations this month.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) national executive decided unanimously last November that extended industrial action would be necessary to stop Hutton’s scheme.
The UCU and PCS unions got ready to ballot with us in time to strike jointly during the coming budget week. But this option, which we argued for, was rejected by a majority at the January NUT national executive.
Why? Politically it’s like the most frustrating chain that you get stuck in when house-buying.
Labour’s Ed Miliband believes that some public spending cuts are good, and that militant resistance is electorally bad. He leans on TUC leader Brendan Barber to make sure that the TUC organises no embarrassing strikes before the May local government elections.
The Unison, GMB and Unite union leaders put a brake on the smaller unions, especially those not affiliated to Labour, like us. Some of them seem glad to comply with this passivity.
Delay risks anger turning to despair. Price hikes and soaring bills are combining with a looming two-year pay freeze. The cancer of academies, youth unemployment and government spin about failure sap teachers’ morale.
The good news is that the NUT has produced excellent materials for the 26 March demonstration and will finally get cracking on a action ballot after our Easter conference.
Other teaching unions may have realised that it is OK with Mr Ed to get militant in June. It’s vital that the government feels our united wrath before it rushes its plans through parliament. All teachers can play a part in building for that.
Chris Blakey, Nick Grant and Anne Lemon, NUT national executive members (pc)
Pass a model motion backing the pension fight, go to Model motion on pensions for NUT members
Revolution is a global language
Arabic-speaking members of the Socialist Workers Party recently organised a successful 40-strong meeting in London.
We thought that now is the moment to discuss the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries with Arab people in Britain. People are excited and want to get active.
We’d met the people at the meeting on demonstrations in solidarity with the revolutions and on stalls we’d done.
Wassim Wagdy and myself spoke in English and then the discussion was held in Arabic and English.
Wassim spoke about how workers’ strikes drove the Egyptian revolution forward. I spoke about how the Tunisian revolution is continuing.
We plan to hold further meetings in this format after this success, and hold meetings to discuss literature and developments in the Middle East.
Mohamed Tonsy, West London
Winning anti-cuts debate
Mark Henzel is right to be angry that Labour councillors in Liverpool are voting to implement the government’s cuts (Letters, 5 March).
Hundreds of protesters at Islington Town Hall were also angry recently when “our” Labour council voted through £52 million worth of cuts—and called the police to have us removed from the public gallery.
Despite this, all of our experience of building a vibrant and growing anti-cuts campaign in Islington tells me that Mark is wrong when he questions whether “we should continue to work with those who do the government’s dirty work”.
Islington Hands Off Our Public Services (IHOOPS) is an inclusive coalition seeking to build the biggest and broadest campaign against the cuts.
At a meetings and rallies we have argued with the Labour councillors that they were wrong to implement the cuts.
But we were not talking to ourselves. The attendance at all these events was unquestionably far greater than it would have been if they had been restricted to supporters of non‑implementation.
It is only by mobilising our class in large numbers that we will be able to win the argument about the best way to win.
And we won’t be able to do this if we are afraid of associating with the people workers have elected to represent them in town halls.
Ken Muller, Assistant secretary, Islington NUT
I have great sympathy with Mark Henzel’s argument. The best Labour councillors will care about their communities and worry that if they don’t set a budget then the Tories will come in and impose something worse.
They have to be convinced that they are not on their own and that people are willing to make a stand against the cuts.
Others will need to feel the pressure of the mass of people campaigning against them to stop them enforcing the cuts.
Anna Owens, East London
Western intervention is never ‘humanitarian’
I’m astonished that some people are arguing for military intervention by the West against Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.
That some people believe Western arms can play a positive role—despite the bloody recent history of Afghanistan and Iraq—is incredible.
The Western powers are driven by the needs and interests of the rich and powerful.
Worse, such intervention could revive support for Gaddafi among the people of Libya.
I have an large extended family in Serbia. In the spring of 1999 they endured months of bombing by Nato.
The West justified this on the grounds that it was designed to stop human rights abuses in Kosovo and would remove Serbia’s dictator, Slobodan Milosevic.
Over 1,200 civilians died as a result of the bombing, which made it much harder for the anti‑Milosevic forces in Serbia to organise against the regime.
Nato butchered innocent people, but Milosevic’s regime survived the onslaught and for a time was strengthened by it.
It was only after the bombing had stopped and people had a chance to rebuild their lives that Milosevic was finally ousted from power.
The people of Serbia liberated themselves from Milosevic.
The people of Libya can liberate themselves from Gaddafi.
Sasha Simic, East London
A revolution is needed in Britain
David Smith is wrong to say that revolution is not an option in Britain (Letters, 5 March), and that we should look to “democracy” instead.
Massive numbers of young people like me can see that parliament can’t solve society’s ills.
Under capitalism, parliament is subjugated to the illogical and unaccountable drive for profit by the markets.
That isn’t much of a democracy.
There is only one solution to the capitalist crisis—a permanent revolution taking place across the world.
But this is a process. In Britain, a mass revolt could get the Tory government out.
But Labour would continue to prop up the system.
Bringing down one government could give people the confidence to hold the next one to account too and fight to change the system.
People want an end to the drive for profit. We want democratic control over our lives.
The ruling class will always use force to attempt to keep its control. But mass movements can break the strongest states—in Egypt and here.
Chaz Singh, North London
Explanation needed too
It’s all very well listing as many as 26 reasons to march on Saturday 26 March (26 February).
But equally important is a clear explanation and expose of the “given” reasons for the cuts and the neoliberal onslaught in the first place.
Patrick Black, by email
Council has no cuts mandate
I attended a hundreds strong protest outside West Sussex county council in Chichester on Tuesday of last week.
We were protesting against a proposal to take away social care support from disabled people who have been assessed as having “moderate” needs and to close day centres in the area.
A petition containing more than 4,500 signatures was presented.
The council has acknowledged that “the majority [of service users and staff] do not agree with the proposal” to cut support. The council has no mandate to carry through these proposals.
One glimmer of hope, however, is the fact that the council is going to delay its decision until it has examined in further detail all the evidence.
But nothing is certain, and vulnerable people cannot afford to lose this battle. Our very lives are at stake.
Anna Lansley, Chichester
Back struggle in Wisconsin
Thanks to Socialist Worker for its coverage of the ongoing struggle in Wisconsin ( Epic battle in Wisconsin is a taste of our power , 5 March).
One small correction. We are a mid-western state (immediately north of Illinois), not in the north east.
And if people in Britain are interested in supporting the fight for union rights here, please check out this site: http://iso-madison.blogspot.com/2011/02/are-you-outside-of-madison-and.html
Phil Gasper, Madison, Wisconsin
Recession is good for some
I gave over ten years service with Edinburgh council before they took umbrage at me for daring to pass comments on the way they run it.
It would seem to me that this “recession” has turned out to be a godsend to every council in the country.
They have seized on the panic to drive through attacks on workers’ rights and living standards.
The union leadership are standing by like toothless lions. It is the workers who are taking up the challenges to maintain their living standards.
In Edinburgh we have seen a Liberal/SNP coalition cost-cutting by slashing the wages of the poorest paid members of staff.
On top of this we have wage freezes or ridiculous offers.
PR French, Edinburgh
School show not bad dream
The Socialist Worker online article on Jamie Oliver’s Dream School is unduly harsh and provocative (Jamie Oliver patronises us with his Sainsbury's school experiment).
It was interesting that the behaviour of the teachers was a significant influence on the practices in the classroom.
The fact that the star teachers lost their “rag” brought the complexities of motivation and achievement onto our screens.
I do not believe that any of the teaching participants would leave thinking that there are easy solutions to the principle of our universal right to an education.
If, as I believe, the teacher is the most important adult in the classroom, then there is an art and science to education, which governments have eroded.
I agree that the fears of parents that their children are becoming contaminated by association with “failures” may be an unintended consequence, but we will see.
Lawrence Wong, by email