Tony Benn: airbrushed by the left
The death of Tony Benn on 14 March 2014 led to an outpouring of grief from both bourgeois politicians and socialist organisations across Britain. To the British left, Benn was the Labour Party MP-turned-socialist who, so the story goes, took a sharp left turn after serving as a member of government in the 1960s and 1970s. Little is said of his time in government, where he served as a cabinet member while Labour waged a dirty war in Ireland and defended Britain's economic and political ties to apartheid South Africa; of his undercover dealings with the apartheid regime; or of his role in driving down wages and conditions in Britain. The myth of ‘Tony Benn – socialist’ was manufactured by the opportunist left at a time when sections of the black and Irish working class were breaking with the Labour Party. The truth is that Benn never did a socialist thing or led a serious movement in his life, but he talked and wrote about it.
The vicious Coalition government has opened up a new front in its war against the working class, targeting the most destitute and vulnerable sections of society. In this it has, as ever, the compliance of London’s Labour councils. Operation Encompass, in which local authorities work with the Metropolitan police and the UK Border Agency to ‘deal robustly’ with ‘disrupting and deterring’ rough sleeping in the capital, was piloted in the Tory-led borough of Westminster in October 2013. On a single day (17 October), 15 people were arrested and a further 60 ‘engaged with’ – usually in the form of anti-social behavior notices, a prelude to ASBOs which the council is fighting to retain. In January, Operation Encompass was extended to the Labour councils of Camden, Croydon, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark. Newham’s Labour council has its own project, Operation Alabama, run on similar lines.
By world standards, the bad weather which has hit Britain since December might not seem to be of enormous significance. Around 6,000 properties have been flooded, while in countries like Bangladesh, where much of the country lies underwater during the Monsoon, more than 100 people died in the floods of 2012. But what the floods exposed was the futility and deceit of the local and national government bodies. With the most deprived parts of England three times more vulnerable to flooding than the richest, this winter’s crisis was mainly ignored until, as one observer put it, ‘the effluent hit the affluent’. Meanwhile it sends all of us a warning about the threat of major climate change.
RATB hosts international rally in London - See our facebbook page for more photos
The sun was out in London, as members of Rock around the Blockade (RATB) were joined by activists, writers, musicians and academics from around the world to demand freedom for the Cuban Five and to show solidarity with socialist Cuba. The rally was held in support of the International Committee of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five, which took place in London over the previous two days.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has hit the headlines non-stop this year as he raises the banner of neo-conservatism over the heads of the coalition government to show that he stands for the interests of the right bloc.
In a bid to spike old Etonian Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership pretensions, Gove said that the number of Etonians (fees £33,000 a year) in government circles is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘I don’t know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy’. Gove’s usual cant is that the education system must be changed so that each child can be ‘the author of their own life story’. Lies and sentimentality hide the deep purposes of Gove, which are to dismantle and privatise state education, selling it off to profit-making businesses or giving it away to ideological friends. This is the real project behind his academy and ‘free’ schools programmes.
Juan Pablo Sáenz is an Ecuadorian attorney and representative of the Amazon Defense Coalition (ADC). In 2011 the ADC secured one of the largest judicial victories in environmental litigation history, which saw oil multinational Chevron ordered to pay $9.5 billion in damages for environmental, social and health impacts caused by the operations of Texaco (which Chevron now owns) in Ecuador from the 1960s onwards. Sáenz has received numerous death threats for his role in the ADC legal team.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014
Over the past three years the ConDem government has carried out an aggressive programme of benefit cuts and welfare reforms that amounts to a crusade against the working class. Alongside falling wages and soaring living costs, these changes have driven more and more people into destitution so that, according to a new report by the Rowntree Foundation,1 one fifth of the population in Britain lives in poverty.2 And, despite claims by the Coalition that it would ‘make work pay’, the reality is that the largest proportion of people living in poverty are in households where at least one adult is working. CAT WIENER reports.
While the government talks up the rising levels of employment, the reality is that unemployment remains nearly 50% higher than it was before the crisis, and that the bulk of new jobs that have been created over the past period are part-time and/or temporary. In the period April-June 2008, part-time workers made up 25% of the workforce in Britain, 9% of whom were working part-time because they could not get full-time work. For the period November 2013 to January 2014, the number of part–time workers had risen to 8.08 million, 26.8% of the workforce, with 18.2% of them unable to find more work – double the 2008 proportion. At the same time, 1.6 million people were in temporary work, of whom 37%, or 595,000, were unable to find a permanent job.
The Revolutionary Communist Group and its campaign in solidarity with socialist Cuba, Rock Around the Blockade (RATB), send their condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Bob Crow, who died this morning. Bob Crow was the militant and vociferous General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, one of only two major British trade unions to have disaffiliated from the Labour Party.