Monday, December 20, 2010

Layer 407 . . . Citizens of Poverty, Washington DC, Chairman Cameron, Cuts, Reforming Zeal, Students, Trade Unions, Len McClusky, Unite, and Charlie Brooker


Symbols of democracy, pinned up against the coast
Outhouse of bureaucracy, surrounded by a moat
Citizens of poverty are barely out of sight
Overlords escape in the evening with people of the night
Morning brings the tourists, peering eyes and rubber necks
To catch a glimpse of the cowboy making the world a nervous wreck
It’s a mass of irony for all the world to see
It’s the nation’s capital, it’s Washington D.C.,_D.C.

Gil Scott-Heron wrote this back in the days when Reagan was president. In those days it was inconceivable that a man or woman of colour could become president of the USA. So things have really changed in America, in Washington DC? Hell NO!

Listen to this excellent report on Radio 4, and ask why nothing changes.

In fact things get worse. Working class people in the city are even less able to live there these days. America is governed  by the rich, (supported by the middle class), for the benefit of the rich, (and the middle class). Any notion of social justice and reduction of inequality is completely out the window.

And let's not get smug about it in Britain, in London. But at least we still have some social housing, some decent public healthcare, some decent public schools. It remains to be seen how quickly this government can bring about irreversible change. They've given themselves till 2015, and are cracking on at a hell of a rate. See below.


Chairman Cameron's regime is not a million miles from Mao

Anywhere you look in Whitehall, there's a secretary of state unleashing upheaval with reforming zeal

by Andrew Rawnsley


Can anyone actually DO anything to prevent the neo-conservatives and the government from succeeding in their schemes?

Unions, get set for battle

We must join students in a broad strike movement to combat attempts to strangle the welfare state

by Len McCluskey

Britain's students have certainly put the trade union movement on the spot. Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach.

We know the vast rise in tuition fees is only the down payment on the Con-Dem package of cuts, charges and job losses to make us pay for the bankers' crisis. The magnificent students' movement urgently needs to find a wider echo if the government is to be stopped.

The response of trade unions will now be critical. While it is easy to dismiss "general strike now" rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle. It is our responsibility not just to our members but to the wider society that we defend our welfare state and our industrial future against this unprecedented assault.

Early in the new year the TUC will be holding a special meeting to discuss co-ordinated industrial action and to analyse the possibilities and opportunities for a broad strike movement.

The bigger issue is winning working people to the conviction that the cuts can be stopped. It is vital to rebuild working-class confidence.

Unless people are convinced . . . that there is a coherent alternative to the Cameron-Clegg class war austerity, then getting millions into action will remain a pipedream. That alternative needs to be one the whole movement can unite around. A key part must be a rejection of the need for cuts. "What do we want? Fewer cuts later on", is not a slogan to set the blood coursing.

I would argue there is no case for cuts at all: the austerity frenzy has been whipped up for explicitly ideological reasons – to provide the excuse for what the Tories would have loved to do anyway, completing Thatcherism's unfinished business by strangling the welfare state. If the deficit is seen as a problem – it is not high by either historical or contemporary standards – a positive growth and tax-justice programme should be the main means of addressing it.

Kettling, batoning and mounted charges against teenagers have no place in our society.

And we should work closely with our communities bearing the brunt of the onslaught. That is why Unite has agreed to support the broad Coalition of Resistance established last month, which brings together unions and local anti-cuts campaigns from across the country.

The TUC's demonstration on 26 March will be a critical landmark in developing our resistance, giving trade union members the confidence to take strike action in defence of jobs and services. These are Con-Dem cuts, and this is a capitalist crisis. An attempt to blame Labour local authorities for the problem is a shortcut to splitting our movement and letting the government off the hook.

That doesn't mean Labour councils should get off free. There are, alas, Labour councillors embarking on union-bashing under cover of cuts, something we won't tolerate. Labour needs to understand that any social alternative to the present misery needs strong trade unions. And this is the moment when we have to prove ourselves.


Unions warn of massive wave of strikes

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey vows to work with students to fight government's austerity agenda

The UK faces the prospect of widespread and co-ordinated industrial action in the new year, with the leader of the largest trade union today warning that it is "preparing for battle" with the government over its "unprecedented assault" on the welfare state.

The Unite leader's intervention comes as the prime minister is preparing for a key meeting with union leaders today. David Cameron has invited leaders of the biggest unions in the country as well as the TUC for Downing Street talks, although a spokesman for No 10 would not confirm this last night.

McCluskey is believed to be among those invited, but in a hard-hitting intervention in today's Guardian that puts Unite and its members at the forefront of the anti-cuts campaign he:

• Praised Ed Miliband for drawing a line under the party's Blairite past but called for a clearer alternative to the coalition's "austerity frenzy".

• Said student protesters have been treated as the "enemy within" in a similar way to trade union activists on picket lines in the 1970s and 1980s.

• Criticised police tactics of "kettling, batoning and mounted charges" on recent demonstrations.

• Said the trade union movement must not be paralysed by "anti-union laws" introduced in the 1980s.

• Called for a rebuilding of confidence in working-class communities that are likely to be the hardest hit by the government's plans.

• Accused the Tories of whipping up "austerity frenzy" in an attempt to complete "Thatcherism's unfinished business".

McCluskey's comments come amid a growing anti-cuts movement in the UK and across Europe, with strikes taking place in France, Spain and Greece.

In the UK this weekend protesters against corporate tax avoidance staged demonstrations in more than 50 towns and cities – under the banner of online campaign group UKuncut – arguing a government clampdown could bring in an extra £25bn in tax, greatly reducing the need for spending cuts.

Student leaders, who have organised four national demonstrations and scores of sit-ins to protest about the rise in tuition fees and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance, are already preparing a fresh wave of protests and demonstrations in the new year.

McCluskey said the meeting in January had been organised by the TUC and would be attended by leaders of the UK's main unions. He said one of the first tasks was to "reach out" to the student protesters.


For something a little lighter, try today's Charlie Brooker column:

How to cut tuition fees

We should teach only the useful stuff: scavenging, strangling and how to operate a water cannon

And if this doesn't start a proper debate about what education is actually FOR, then I don't know what will.


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