cuts

Beware all vanguards!

Way back in the midst of time (or the mid 19th century to be precise) was an organisation called the first International Working Mens Association - or First International for short, which declared that "the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves". We would do well to remember those words as we struggle against austerity, as there's no shortage of would-be vanguards vying to substitute themselves for mass collective action.

Northampton Fights the Cuts

On Thursday 20th January members of Northampton Solfed attended a local meeting "Northampton Alliance to Defend Services" at the Guildhall.  The meeting was well attended, the hall was packed with between 200 and 300 people.  (Which meant we hadn't taken quite enough Catalysts with us!)

The first speaker, Tracey Morel, represented a local charity "Autism Concern" and spoke about the imapct on people with autism, but touched on those needing various types of care.  In particular she discussed the implications of changes to disability allowance and the massive problems it will cause to individuals and families.

The second, Mick Kavanagh, represented the CWU and talked mostly about the impact of privitisation of the Post Office, including the implicated attack on the pensions fund.

The paradox of reformism - a call for economic blockades

Neoliberal ideology is a crock of shit and everyone left of Labour knows it. Critics have pointed out its flawed assumptions regarding perfect competition, consumer access to information, human nature and a host of other factors that nowhere apply in the real world. They’ve also pointed out that where neoliberal policies have been applied, the results have often been disastrous and rarely matched the promised outcomes of prosperity for the rich and trickle down for the poor. One famous example was the so-called J-curve model for transitioning the former USSR to Western-style capitalism. The ‘J’, a small downswing in transition followed by a long upswing when neoliberal policies worked their magic, turned into something more resembling an ‘L’, plunging millions into worse poverty than before.

And then there’s the cuts.

Reading Anti-Cuts March

On Saturday 15th January around 50 people, including members of the fledgling Thames Valley local, marched across Reading from the Royal Berkshire Hospital to the Civic Centre to register their opposition to the government’s cuts in public services.

Leafleting the public along the way the turnout was double the number that attended the previous protest and culminated in a series of speeches outside the civic centre. Spokespeople from the Reading Save Our Services group, Unison, the Reading Trades Council, a Labour Party councillor and a councillor for the Green Party all took part. All made clear how the proposed cuts, both locally and nationally, would impact hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community, from cuts in services for children to the loss of up to 600 jobs at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Student protests: the angry, not the anarchists

On November 10th, the National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities and Colleges Union  (UCU) organised a demonstration against cuts in education, which ended in an occupation of Tory offices at Millbank, with smashed windows and arrests. Two weeks later, tens of thousands of students marched in towns across the country, taking over roads and buildings and scuffling with police. The Solidarity Federation, which puts out Catalyst, has been one of the groups suggested in the press as the ringleaders of the trouble. Not only do we refute this, we call for more direct action against the cuts.

Cuts spark town hall riot in Lewisham

Inspired by the recent student protests and angry about proposed local cuts, people in Lewisham stormed the town hall where a vote on the cuts was taking place. Around 100 people tried to force their way into the building in an attempt to stop the vote going ahead. Some protestors got to the council chamber whilst others faced police brutality in the lobby, where batons and fists rained down on the protest. After half an hour, the protestors were ejected from the building. The meeting was subsequently held in private where the first wave of cuts were passed by the Labour-run council.

The lobby at the town hall continued outside where several hundred people faced riot police, horses and dogs. There were so many officers that the south circular road outside the town hall was closed due to the number of police cars and vans.

Housing benefits cuts spark poverty fears

The media keep running stories about benefit fraudsters living it up, paving the way for drastic changes to the benefits system. Catalyst spoke to one of the supposed benefit scroungers to find out what it’s really like to live on benefits.

Since finishing a postgraduate course, Teresa has been looking for a job in Brighton. “I have been applying for at least 4 to 5 jobs a week for the past 4 months but did not get any job. Often I have been told I am overqualified for the positions and even though I tried to impress on them that I would like to work – I was told that they can get someone less qualified to do the work on minimum wages.”

Interview with a French striker

2010 saw huge social unrest sweep France in response to proposed pension reforms which would have upped the retirement age, amongst other cuts. Jean-Marie Cosson, a striking teacher from the town of Saint-Nazaire talks about the revolt at one of the last bastions of the worker’s movement, where the entrance of the lyceéns (young students) into the movement was given an ovation by ‘their fathers in blue collars.’

What’s the situation  at Saint-Nazaire?

Actions speak louder

October 20th saw the unveiling of the long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), the coalition government’s detailed blueprint for attacking jobs and services. Little within the CSR was a surprise, with cuts roughly at the level that had been predicted in the run up. It is significant that the the scale was below the 40% that had been mooted, this was a blatant attempt to ‘soften us up’ and feel lucky the cuts were “only” 20%, as if it had been taken straight out of the pages of ‘Negotiation for Dummies’.

Comment & Opinion: Time to act

Class matters in Britain today. It always has, but for a long time the media and politicians have pretended that the real divisions in this country are among those who work or are on benefits. I disagree and instead hold that the real differences are between those who own and control the economy and those of us who don’t. Put it like this: the country is run in the interests of that tiny elite. The public face of that elite are often politicians, whose parties claim to be different but actually share more than they differ. We had thirteen years of Labour government, acting in the interests of that elite, despite their rhetoric. Who did well? Bankers and financiers, property developers, management consultants, PFI owners. Who didn’t? Almost everyone else, particularly if they didn’t benefit from rising house prices.