Communists at the TUC
Tuesday 15 September 2009
Unless Labour’s government policies change the 2010 TUC will be debating an even worse crisis – with a Tory government in office by John Foster Are we on the road to economic recovery – as Alastair Darling and much of the press would like us to believe? The answer is almost certainly no. The only thing that has shown slight signs of revival is the City of London’s appetite for speculation – in the stock exchange, commodities, takeovers and at the millionaire end of the residential property market. But the real economy continues to sink disastrously. Manufacturing output is now 18 per cent lower than it was in 2005 and its employment has
fallen by 7.4 per cent in the last year – the biggest fall since the 1930s. The most recent figures show this trend is continuing into the third quarter of 2009. For the economy as a whole the picture is no better. The government’s claimant count figure minimises real unemployment. But even this shows a massive jump from 872,000 to 1,582,000 in just twelve months. However, the figures that really reveal the dire state of economy are those for business investment. The second quarter of 2009 is 18.4 per cent lower than that the year before – itself at a historical low. Engineering is 24 per cent down. Even
service sectors like retail and hotels are badly down. All this bears out the argument of Professor Wade of the London School of Economics in the July issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics. This is that the much talked-up recovery of
summer 2009 is simply a temporary stabilisation. He sees it as a ‘high probability’ that 2010 will witness a further downturn, across the US, Europe and not just in Britain, and that this in turn will result in a further round of banking crises. continued on page 4
TODAY! 12.45pm Room 3b, BT Convention Centre
Trade unions fighting back Speakers: Brian Caton POA; Bob Crow RMT; Anita Halpin NUJ; Len Bayliss and Len McLusky of Unite. Chair: John Haylett Morning Star political editor
unity TUC Communist Party daily
The women workers of Merseyside
by Ju dy Cotter Liverpool and Merseyside has a proud history of trade union and class struggle. It’s hard to think of any major disputes or campaigns where Merseyside workers have not been directly involved. Women played a major role but often remain ‘hidden from history’. In 1912, nearly 2000 workers, mostly women at Wilson’s bobbin and shuttles factory in Garston Liverpool, struck over union recognition, pay and sweatshop conditions (pictured right). This was a time of massive industrial turmoil; 1911 had seen what amounted to a general strike in Liverpool centred on transport and the docks. The strikers suffered extensive police brutality with gunboats deployed on the Mersey. The bobbin workers’ strike lasted nearly four months with widespread support in the community, with riots when scab labour tried to cross picket lines. Police attacked the women pickets injuring many including children. The strike was
partially successful; the strength and determination of the women – facing the workhouse or the street if they lost their jobs – was extraordinary. The Suffrage movement was strong in Merseyside. One prominent campaigner was Mary Bamber. In May 1919 Mary won the Everton ward – an Orange stronghold – for the Labour Party. A communist and supporter of the Russian revolution, she was the first woman to win an election in either local or national government as no woman was elected to Parliament in the 1918 General Election. A tireless campaigner against injustice and to improve women’s lives particularly through the organisation of women into unions, promoting birth control and supporting the
unemployed, Sylvia Pankhurst described her as “the finest, fighting platform speaker in the country”. Liverpool was dominated and weakened by religious sectarianism, its economy characterised by casualism, poverty, ill health, appalling housing conditions and hand-tomouth subsistence. The labour market was highly segregated and if the situation of male workers was bad then that of women was worse. Much of women’s work was irregular and poorly paid. Many factories operated a marriage bar; homework and ‘sweating’ were common making unionisation even more difficult. The situation was compounded by the ambivalence of the male dominated movement– regarding women as either a threat to male wages and conditions or as involved only in peripheral, not ‘real’, work. And yet as part of the development of “new unionism” the recruitment
of women developed apace. After the Second World War the traditional industries around the docks and seafaring declined And new manufacturing industries arrived with factories springing up around the outskirts of Liverpool and throughout Merseyside – many, including Fords at Halewood, highly subsidised by local and national government. These factories had to be organized from scratch and often in the teeth of determined opposition from employers. Significant numbers of women were recruited and the gender balance of the trade union movement in Merseyside was radically changed. Issues such as equal pay now took on a new priority as shown by the struggle of the women machinists at Ford’s (pictured above). Almost identical numbers of Merseyside women were involved in the action at the Halewood factory in Speke, Liverpool alongside their Dagenham sisters. The successful industrial action by these women in the 1960s and 1980s not only helped change government policy but the attitudes of men in the trade union movement as well as inspiring women to join trade unions and to change the union structures that directly and indirectly discriminate against them. Judy Cotter was formerly secretary of Liverpool City Council Nalgo/Unison and women’s officer of the North West TUC.
A fuller version of this article appears at http://21stcenturymanifesto. wo r d p r e s s.com/
TUC Communist Party daily unity
OPINION Defend unemployed centres by Peter Middleman Congress delegates will have a refreshing opportunity to agree a radical, yet uncontroversial, plan to defend the interests of our class on Tuesday when debating Resolution 82 on the National TUC strategy for the defence of the TUC unemployed workers centres. The fact that the resolution appears at all, in the name of the TUC Trades Union Councils Conference should be applauded in itself as it re-introduces a voice at Congress for rank and file, communitybased activists who, unlike comrades in Scotland and Wales, have been denied a role for too long. All that is required for next year is agreement between Standing Orders and the TUC JCC on providing for a delegate to move the resolution originating from that conference! Unemployment now stands at 2.5 million, the highest for ten years and little more than seven out of ten of the UK’s working population is in gainful employment. Job vacancies are down and despite some isolated and optimistic pronouncements the economic future of millions of citizens remains bleak. Liberal commentators may conjure up evidence of “green shoots of recovery” but the fact remains that 30 years of Britain’s policy maker’s catastrophic over-reliance on finance capital and financial services over manufacturing and a productive economy, means that the jobs and livelihoods of the people we are gathered in Liverpool to represent have not been in graver jeopardy for a generation. Allied with the “flexible labour market” celebrated by new Labour, recent examples of industrial and social vandalism at GM Rover in the Midlands, Diego (Johnnie Walker) in west Scotland and perhaps Vauxhall in Luton and Ellesmere Port in the near future are eminently predictable. As we prepare to resist a possible Cameron Tory government, it’s vital that the whole gamut of working class institutions step up to the plate to ensure that we avoid the worst manifestations of the ruling class fear and hatred meted out throughout the 80’s. The terms of Resolution 82 provide the basis for maximum solidarity between workers - regardless of their employment status – while seeking to reinvigorate priceless local resources which produced many of our finest working class activists and leaders. Peter Middleman, who writes in his personal capacity, is a member of Liverpool Trades Council and the North West TUC Executive Young Communist magazine £1.50 post free ★ Euro elections ★ Communist festivals in Europe/ ‘Green’ China ★ Cover story: Light bulbs, Branston and ‘2nd-homes’ ★ Whose afraid of the People’s Charter? ★ Religion & Revolution ★ Testing Times – exams in education www.ycl.org.uk
Groucho in Liverpool Unite, the invisible union Has a mysterious ectoplasm captured the Unite head office(s)? No names appear as nominees of our mighty general union to the general council. If they all appear dressed in bandages, with trilby hats and sunglasses how will we know which one has seniority? A metsieh far a gane Harpo says he can’t tell the difference between stuff from the Occupied Territories and from what he describes as the original bit of Palestine the zionists occupied. So he won’t buy anything from Israel. Meanwhile mounting trade union support for the Palestinian cause has put Trade Union Friends of Israel on the back foot. It is no surprise that Mick Leahy lends his name. Ganze macher among the right wingers on the General Council he is tucked up with the USbased Tulip outfit whose main worry is a boycott of Israel. As the TUFI schtick is to present itself as an advocate of cuddly co-operation with Palestinian trade unions Mick could suggest tearing down the apartheid wall, ending illegal settlements, returning Palestinian refugees to their homes stolen since 1948, restoring civil rights to Israeli Arabs and ending the occupation of the West Bank. That would be a start.
★ TUC/Justice for Colombia, Colombia: Stop the EU Free Trade Agreement Joaquin Romero (Colombian Federation of Oil, Chemical, Energy, Metal, and Mining unions), Sally Hunt UCU, Brendan Barber TUC, Simon Dubbins Unite. Chair: Jeremy Dear, NUJ and JfC. 12.45pm Room 3a, BT Convention Centre. Sponsored by Unite and OH Parsons Solicitors. ★ CND Trident – the real financial scandal: time for nuclear disarmament’ 12.45pm Room 11a, BT Convention Centre ★ Merseyside Stop the War Coalition Evening with Tony Benn, George Galloway MP; Tony Woodley Unite, Betty Hunter PSC and Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition. Ticket only event: tickets from News from Nowhere Bookshop, Bold Street, Liverpool City Centre Road. Price £8.50 concessions or £10 (Gaza Solidarity price). 5:45pm The Adelphi Hotel, Ranelagh Place ★ Trade Union Coordinating Group Resistance and Representation – The Year Ahead A stronger coordinated political voice for unions. Brian Caton POA, Bob Crow RMT, Jeremy Dear NUJ, Jonathan Ledger NAPO, Joe Marino BFAWU; Bob Monks URTU, Mark Serwotka PCS, Matt Wrack FBU. Chair: John McDonnell MP. 5.45pm Room 11b, Convention Centre ★ Palestine Solidarity Campaign Palestine After Gaza. Building trade union solidarity Mark Serwotka PCS; Keith Sonnett UNISON, Mick Shaw FBU; Mike Kirby, STUC/UNISON, Christine Blower NUT. Chair: Hugh Lanning PCS. 5.45pm Room 3b, Convention Centre.
unity TUC Communist Party daily continued from page 1 His argument is threefold. First, in none of these economies has government succeeded in directing money into the productive economy. Even in the US, despite Obama’s interventions, unemployment continues to soar. Second, public sector cuts have yet to kick in. In the EU the European Central Bank is demanding draconian cuts in public expenditure starting in 2010 – knocking out the EU’s only economic stabiliser. Third, and most importantly, the imbalances in the US economy are not being corrected. These, and the massive banks debts taken on by the US government, are likely to result in a depreciation of the dollar with serious consequences both for world trade and bank reserves. In the EU in particular the banking system is still very fragile. The German banks alone have 800 billion euros in (largely undeclared) toxic debts. Further corporate failures would be a
disaster. So if 2009 is bad, 2010 is likely to be worse – unless something is done. What then should be the demands of the trade union movement? On one front, but one front only, the Labour government has done well. As against Tory demands, it has so far defended public spending. But only so far. From next year as Alastair Darling has made clear, Britain will be following very closely the EU Central Bank guidelines, and, as every trade unionist knows, the assault on pay, conditions and pensions has already started. However, the government’s biggest failure has been its approach to the banking system. How could it be otherwise? All the relevant ministers and advisers are themselves exbankers and hedge-fund managers. It has passed upwards of £100 billion of their bad debts on to the tax payer. It has provided the banks, through the Bank of England, with virtually
free credit and pumped £175 billion of new money into the system. Where has this money gone? Certainly not to industry or those wanting to buy a house. Bank lending to business actually fell by £14 billion in July. But this new cash may have something to do with the C i t y’s revived appetite for shortterm speculation. Far from moving to control shadow banking, hedge funds and private equity, the government has actually aligned itself with their lobby groups to oppose regulation. Yet it is precisely this sector, fed with cheap money from the retail banks and the pension savings of workers, which generates the massive profits for the very wealthy and caused the speculative bubble of 2007-08. Even Adair Turner, the financial services regulator, has warned that the hyper-growth of ‘socially useless’ speculative banking gravely endangers the economy and called for a tax on transactions. Nothing has been done.
1979 and strategic industries given protection from cheap imports. At the same time government must play a pro-active role to develop the economy. Economically this is essential. The collapse in economic activity, if continued, will to cost far more than even the bank rescue itself. A state bank is needed to channel investment directly to industry. To sustain demand there must be direct government investment in housing and increased public sector spending. The transport and energy infrastructure should be taken back into public ownership – as should failing firms. There must be change. Unless there is and the government is compelled to switch its economic policies radically, then the 2010 TUC will be debating an even worse crisis and doing so under the auspices of a Tory government. . John Foster is international secretary of the Communist Party
Communist University of Britain 6-8 November 2009 London
Instead Alastair Darling and Cameron have rallied to the defence of the City and the socalled investment banks have been given more money with which to gamble – while the real economy sinks. This is why the demands of the Communist Party’s Alternative Economic and Political Strategy, largely incorporated in the People’s Charter, are today more urgent and relevant than ever. Capital movements can and must be controlled. Other countries have shown this can be done. Capital export should be subject to the same kind of regulation as existed before
▲ The Politics of Economic Crisis Communist Party pamphlet by John Foster updated and revised £2.50 post free from CPB Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CRO2 1BD or www.communist-party.org.uk People’s Charter flags £7