The London Borough of Hackney is heading for a major confrontation both with its workforce and with the residents.
The so called 'recovery plan' has been dismissed by local activists as a 'closing down sale'. On top of £22 million in council cuts already agreed, the council plan a further £18 million in cuts, wholesale asset stripping and a 10% per year increase in council tax for the next three years.
John Page, Unison branch secretary, has stated: "If these proposals are accepted we will see a complete meltdown in council services, widespread redundancies and cuts in pay and conditions. Put simply, we are not having it."
Council workers have voted for a campaign of strike action. The ballot result showed a staggering 81% in favour of strike action. The first strike day is Wednesday December 20. All council services will be affected in what looks set to be a massive show of trade union strength. All committee clerks are supporting the action, the legal department has voted to support the action, all housing offices will close and 20 schools have already announced they will not be opening on Wednesday. Only senior management are expected to attempt to cross the mass picket of the town hall.
The day of action coincides with two council sub-committees and a full council meeting, where councillors plan to privatise school buses, and close a nursery which they pledged just four weeks ago to keep open. Pickets will be out at 7am at every council building. There will be a lunchtime rally and protest march. There will also be a mass lobby of the council meetings at 6pm.
Hackney Unison are calling for the following support. Can all London trade union branches publicise the day? Hackney residents should try and support the day of action by taking the day off work and supporting the picket lines, march and rally.
Local workplaces should discuss sympathy action; the Turkish community are planning to repeat their impressive one-hour general strike in Stoke Newington. Lunchtime delegations from workplaces (with banners) will also be valued. All London trade unionists should attempt to send a delegation to the evening lobby. The dispute in Hackney is primarily about the right of working class communities to have services from their local councils. Hackney is effectively facing a structural adjustment programme that demands the withdrawal of essential services, the destruction of workers' rights and a process of asset-stripping.
Hackney is the test case borough. If they defeat us they will move on to other 'failing' boroughs. The real solution is: return the £50 million of government grant withdrawn from Hackney in the last three years; cancel the crippling debt payments of £65 million per year that Hackney pays to the City; reclaim the missing millions lost by the incompetence resulting from the privatisation of our revenue and benefits service.
Help us force open the government 'election war chest'. Support the following demands:
- Cancel the debt
- No rent rises, no cuts in services
- Support council workers in Hackney
- Support the working class of Hackney in asserting their rights to council services
It is anticipated that the dispute will escalate in the New Year, with additional strike days already planned. Hackney Unison is keen to speak to groups of workers to gain support for our campaign. Anyone able to offer support should email <firstname.lastname@example.org> or phone 0208 356 4130.
Unity is strength.
Looking forward to your support.
Last month an entry on the website of Anti-Fascist Action asked the question, "Where is anti-fascism going?" It ended with the comment, referring to the failure of the left to discuss anti-fascist strategy, "Their silence is deafening."
Since then the Weekly Worker has gone into print on the subject and in stark contrast to the CPGB speaker at Afa's October rally (which said the left owed Afa "a debt of honour") is openly hostile.
Two points in particular stand out. Commenting on the Preston by-election, where the Socialist Alliance candidate polled over five percent compared to the BNP getting just over one percent, you say: "This result ought to scotch once and for all the notion that extreme rightwing groups like the BNP are about to make a breakthrough ... for too long the left has spent too much time chasing tiny bands of fascists instead of putting forward our own positive alternative. The most infamous example of this was the SWP campaign in the mid-1990s, calling on workers, 'Don't vote Nazi' - with the implicit suggestion that they should continue to vote for Labour" (Weekly Worker November 30).
"Tiny bands of fascists" is a curious term to use, especially in reference to the Isle of Dogs, because at the very time you refer to, the BNP won a local election and got a councillor elected - Derek Beackon. More recently these "tiny bands of fascists" received 80,000 votes in the GLA elections, 27% in Tipton, 23% in Bexley, 21% in Burnley ... so let's not be too dismissive! With racist attacks as high in Britain as anywhere else in Europe, and recent polls suggesting 80% of the population are opposed to refugees, the reservoir of reaction is sizeable and the far right, following the successful strategy of their European counterparts, are looking to exploit it. These are facts.
But a stupid remark downplaying the threat from the far right is then included with an accurate criticism of the Anti-Nazi League. No distinction is drawn between the different strategies. Militant anti-fascism is dismissed. Your criticism of the ANL's 'anyone but fascist' approach on the Isle of Dogs is perfectly valid, and a point that Afa made at the time, and since 1995 Afa has argued for a 'filling the vacuum' strategy to challenge the BNP, precisely to promote a "positive alternative", as opposed to chasing after the tiny NF, which is the ANL alternative.
So despite Afa making the very same criticisms of ANL policy, and making them many years before, the CPGB choose to ignore this and present themselves as something superior. This arrogance is surprising, seeing as how the CPGB toyed with the idea of joining Afa in the early 90s, only to jump on board the ANL when the SWP relaunched it in 1992. You then mobilised your members for the ill-fated first leaflet session in Whitechapel which ended up in the ANL walking into the most obvious ambush Afa scouts have ever seen and getting badly beaten. Not what you would describe as a good call.
The idea that the left have spent "too much time" fighting fascism is laughable, and clearly this is a veiled attack on Afa. But Afa, who make no apology for taking anti-fascism seriously, have spent considerable time and effort trying to get the left to realise that the tactics employed against the fascists in the 70s, 80s and early 90s are no longer appropriate.
This leads on to the second point, which appeared in the following week's paper (Weekly Worker December 7), where the CPGB come out in support of Searchlight, dismissing Afa's criticisms with the comment "... before the politically correct left decided it was a state tool for infiltrating them". Afa has not said that Searchlight is "a state tool for infiltrating [the left]": rather that Searchlight works closely with the state, in particular sitting on the police's Racial and Violent Crime Task Force. This, coupled with their willingness to work with anyone so long as they're not fascists means they inevitably have some very reactionary bedfellows. Being identified with the status quo, and the police and intelligence services, not only identifies 'anti-fascism' as conservative in the eyes of many working class people, but surely presents some problems for an organisation like the CPGB that describes itself as 'revolutionary'?
Given the fact that the state and its security forces have played a consistent, and often brutal, anti-working class role (e.g., the miners' strike), it would be naive to imagine that their influence is harmless. In Germany, whose police work closely with their British counterparts, anti-fascists have been targeted by the state in a sustained manner. Activists from the militant AA(M) in Gottingen were targeted over a five-year period which culminated in 17 doors getting kicked down in dawn raids and the group suffering long-term damage.
In Britain Afa has been the subject of harassment, intimidation and attempted criminalisation at the hands of the police and intelligence services. And for what? For upholding the militant anti-fascist tradition in this country, which stretches from Cable Street to Lewisham and beyond; a tradition which most of the left are happy to pay lip service to.
Do the CPGB seriously suggest we should work with these people, or their allies in Searchlight? Resistance groups in Nazi-occupied Europe in the last war paid a heavy price for similar reliance on state-sponsored support, being manipulated for interests other than their own, often fatally. Despite their links with the police and intelligence services, manipulation of the anti-fascist movement, and their support for the status quo - criticised in the Weekly Worker the week before - Afa's criticisms are dismissed as being "politically correct".
It is not clear why the CPGB have decided to attack Afa, but you would do well to remember that your ability to operate with relative safety from fascist attack was brought about by Afa winning the battle of the streets in the early 90s, a luxury many leftwingers no longer enjoy in many parts of Europe.
It is a genuine concern of comrades that political cults are fragmenting the left and tarnishing the character of leftwing movements.
A political cult is centred on a small inner circle of charismatic leaders that refuse to accept reality. Membership to a political cult is not open to everyone, as this would dilute his or her power. Instead members of the inner circle will target individuals and work on the individual over a period in the same way as religious cults do by offering them every need and comfort. As with religious cults, it is vulnerable people that are targeted.
In a non-industrial society, there are cults of tribes, of nations, of trades and of religions. In an industrial society there are cults of political organisations, of unions, of corporations and of professional organisations. The spiritual side of the cult is what gives it meaning. The spiritual side of a cult consists of both the personification of the living worshippers' devotions, their leaders and also the spirits of dead worshippers and heroes. The cult leaders can only affect the material world through the agency of their cult, so they do everything they can to ensure that the cult continues to exist, remaining pure to their ideals.
The spiritual side of cults is concerned with three things. It will promise guidance, information and miracles; the International Bolshevik Tendency is no exception to this. In fact they favour a 'Hollywood casting couch' approach for new members. The guidance from these cults frequently takes the form of a complete lifestyle designed to ensure that recruits entering the cult conform to the model.
If you say soWhat a sensible chap Neil Davidson is (Weekly Worker December 7).
"First, nationhood is subjective, by which I simply mean that the only way you can actually say that a nation exists is when a group of people collectively consider themselves to be one, when they come to possess a national consciousness." That is the reason why Cornwall, England, Scotland and Wales are nations and Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight are not nations.
Historical 'facts' differ from historian to historian. One thing I am sure of, though, is that Stalin never meant his definition of a nation to 'prove' that somewhere was not a nation when the natives collectively considered it to be one. If Lenin and Stalin had told the Ukrainians that Ukraine was not a nation in 1918, the nationalist leader, Petlura, would have won out and there would have been no Soviet Union.
If you say so
If you say so
Republican partyMark Fisher's report of the recent London Socialist Alliance meeting forgot to mention the amendment which I put in to his motion (Weekly Worker December 14).
I welcome Mark's initiative and the eventual unanimous vote by the LSA in favour of republicanism. However, I proposed the deletion of his call for a referendum and instead called for the setting up of a "militant republican party based on the working class". This proposal was greeted with some dismay. Nobody wanted to go to that extreme.
It was not clear whether it was the 'militant republican' or 'party' or 'based on the working class' that was objectionable. Even Mark did not accept my amendment. So, given the shortage of time, I withdrew it . But the argument as to whether a referendum or a militant republican party is the best means of getting rid of the monarchy is one that we will have to return to. The Workers Power amendment came as a response to my mine and called for a "militant campaign". We all united behind that.
There is always a problem putting in new amendments in crowded agendas. This is one reason why I withdrew it. Had Mark and myself, as RCN members, got together before the meeting we could and should have got a unified position. I applaud the CPGB initiative. I certainly do not blame Mark for the fact that RCN members do not work together, particularly on republican issues. I can blame myself for that. I do not criticise Mark for not immediately supporting an amendment he had not seen before. But I feel Mark was wrong not to report it in his article.
The argument between referendum, campaign and party is very important and gets to the heart of the problem.
Still at itSteve Freeman's recent comments about Phil Walden require a reply (Weekly Worker December 14).
Firstly, Steve Freeman's contention that Phil is a witch-hunter is misplaced. Arthur Miller's play The Crucible showed that a witch hunt is about establishing ideological conformity in a climate of hysteria. In contrast, all that Phil is asking for is an inquiry to establish the facts about Terry Liddle's relations with fascists. The question of guilt or innocence is not predetermined. In this context it is Steve Freeman who is trying to create a witch hunt against Phil in order to oppose an inquiry.
The biggest witch hunt in history was conducted by the Stalinists against Trotsky and the Fourth International. Yet Trotsky was still willing to support an inquiry in order to refute the ludicrous allegations of the Stalinists. In contrast Steve Freeman and the CPGB are dogmatically opposing an inquiry into Terry Liddle. Why?
Secondly, in relation to the election to the RCN editorial board Steve Freeman and the CPGB out-manoeuvred themselves. They rejected a reasonable compromise by Allan Armstrong that would have established a three-person editorial board, comprising of Allan, a CPGB representative, and Nick Clarke, an RDG supporter. But this was rejected by Steve Freeman and the CPGB. This created a window of opportunity for Phil Walden to be elected. The CPGB and Steve Freeman could have had a majority, but were just too greedy! Comrades, you do not play poker very well.
Thirdly, in his frustration at not being elected to the editorial board Steve Freeman seems to have disowned Nick. This does not show much loyalty towards his comrade!
Still at it
Still at it