Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Initial Problems with the Anti-Cuts Movement

There seems little point my writing up North Staffs TUC's successful public meeting against the cuts, which took place last Wednesday evening, simply because everyone else has already done it. Different reports are available on Boffy's Blog, PitsnPots, and Stoke Socialist Party. There are some big issues the anti-cuts movement need to address, such as alternative cuts, other means of tackling government debt, and contesting the hegemonic mystification of the deficit. But what I'm interested in are the strategic issues the Stoke meeting raised, which are likely to find themselves replicated elsewhere - and especially in those places where SP and SWP branches have a significant input into local campaigning bodies.

Firstly there is a difference in emphasis, which was brought out by Chris Bambery with his Right to Work hat on and Andy Bentley of Stoke SP (speaking under the fig leaf of Stoke UCU). Going first, Chris's speech broke no new ground and I suspect it will be one I'll hear many times again - the coalition has "no mandate" (actually, it does), this is a government of millionaires, they say cut back, etc. etc. But he was right on this: the government has Thatcherite ambitions, but the nature of the coalition means the Tories do not have the strength to prosecute the class warfare Thatcher oversaw in the 80s. Of course, what Chris didn't say was that while they are a weaker, so is the labour movement. This probably explains why he skirted over the issue and plugged instead a big demo outside the Tory party conference on October 3rd, attacked the TUC for "doing nothing" for 30 years (didn't he realise who organised the meeting he was speaking at?), and called for a general strike. In other words, leftist verbiage without any appreciation of the work that goes into activity.

The SP's approach is different. Andy's focus (apart from denouncing the cuts) was on building the campaign against them. While a couple of Chris's acolytes made vague pleas for unity from the floor, Andy talked about the need to set up an anti-cuts alliance as an immediate outcome of the meeting. His emphasis was on involving North Staffs TUC and other local union branches in such an organisation and, in contrast to the SWP, plugged the
September 12th National Shop Stewards' Network-backed lobby of the TUC General Council to get them to call a national anti-cuts demo in London.

Here we have two approaches favoured by the principal far left organisations in Britain. The SWP's approach sets themselves up as the hard left of the movement. Witness the very leftist-sounding language, bypassing of existing structures, and eagerness to repeat scenes from Greece on the streets of Britain. Theirs is all very "movementy" and radical. The SP's approach is much more sober and links the building of an effective anti-cuts campaign with rebuilding labour movement organisations - it is the kind of level headedness that attracted me to the SP in the first place. In reality, there shouldn't be any hard opposition between the two - building the labour movement's strength goes hand in hand with imaginative and well publicised actions and protests. But I fear that because one organisation is set on one perspective and the other another, there is a danger at this early stage the
beginning movement could be pulled in different directions.

The second problem is related to the SP's strategy and, if it persists, could store up trouble in Stoke and elsewhere. It may not have the same prominence in its propaganda as it once had, but the SP
remains committed to its new workers' party perspective (despite the fact the political space for a sizable formation to the left of Labour has snapped shut, but I digress). The comrades are perfectly entitled to argue for this but it could prove problematic for the anti-cuts movement.

At the meeting Andy argued that Labour representatives should be excluded from participating in the movement if they decide to vote through cuts in the council chamber. I would imagine their non-participation would be self-enforced anyway - councillors have a tendency to avoid meetings where they're likely to get a lot of stick. Nevertheless I can understand where the SP are coming from - it's a principled position. But it's pursuing this line of argument that will cause severe difficulty. As Stoke has all-out council elections next year (with 40 seats up for grabs) and with a Labour-led coalition council implementing cuts, Andy argued the anti-cuts organisation in The Potteries should support anti-cuts candidates and stand its own. In other words, the campaign is a means of trying to realise the SP's new workers' party perspective - and taking the campaign down this road is music to the ears of the former Labourites and ex-fascists in Stoke's
Community Voice. But at what price? Labour folk will find it very hard to remain involved - many of whom are the very trade unionists the campaign must attract. And potentially more damaging, Labour-affiliated unions would not be able to participate. Even if some separate anti-cuts entity is set up to pursue an electoralist course a split movement is still a split movement.

This is not a Stoke-specific issue - wherever the SP has an influence in the campaign and it is a Labour council making the cuts, if the comrades are successful in arguing for this line there will be a damaging split. So the SP needs to ask themselves a question: should unity among the labour movement be sacrificed for the sake of local electoral adventures? What matters the most?


james said...

To expect Labour councillors to somehow refuse to implement cuts passed down from central government is unrealistic given the weakness of the labour movement.

It's disappointing that the SP haven't taken note of the situation that exists, especially given they usually have a more nuanced understanding of consciousness (re: the Lindsay strikes, etc.)

Duncan said...


I think a more relevant question is: can there be meaningful unity in an anti-cuts movement with people who support the cuts and vote for them? Or, alternatively, what's the point of having an anti-cuts movement if it's elected supporters vote for cuts?

Here in Cumbria our County Council is controlled by a Tory-Labour coalition. Councillors from both parties will most likely vote through cuts in the next 12 months. Would you tone down criticism of this to avoid alienating Labour councillors?

Phil said...

I agree with you on that, James. In my opinion Labour councillors and MPs should be as active in the anti-cuts movement as they like. If they then go into the chamber and vote for cuts that;s a particular contradiction they themselves have to negotiate.

I do think Labour at the local level needs to think through its attitude to the cuts. Ken Livingstone has said he would use his position in London (assuming he wins the mayoralty) to resist cuts. Labour councils need to start thinking this way too - I'm sure there are many things they could be doing short of repeating the dead end of Liverpool City Council in the 80s.

Phil said...

No Duncan, I don't think the issue of Labour councillors is a particularly central one when it comes to unity in the anti-cuts movement. Sure, criticise by all means - I can't foresee anyone in the anti-cuts movement having problems with that apart from cuts-voting councillors themselves. Far more serious is the likely attempt by the SP (and others) to use local protest groups as a launchpad for their election challenges: that poses a the potential for a more dangerous split than the actions of the tiny minority of Labour councillors likely to get involved.

Stephen said...

How about not having an 'anti-cuts' movement.How about having a movement FOR public services...bit less defensive, bit more positive, actually says what it's about...

"Stoke for Services" isn't quite as depressing sounding as "Stoke against the Cuts."..

Boffy said...

I agree with Stephen, socialists need to start talking more about what they are for not what they are against. On the general question, I suppose I'd base myself on my experience as a shop steward. I quickly found that there are no end of people who are willing to talk a good fuck about the need to confront the boss, but then when you go in all guns blazing to the boss, you turn round and find they have all gone! If you had a factory meeting over some issue where only a handful of people turned up, or where the discussion showed no one was really prepared to take any action, it would be suicide to send a steward in to make all kinds of demands, backed up with all sorts of dire threats that everyone knew were not going to be carried out. Even worse if it meant a good steward got sacked!

I'm all in favour of using Labour Councillors position to mobilise as much opposition to the Cuts as possible, but if no mass movement is created, you can't ask them to substitute themselves for it. That would be crazy, and self-defeating. In Stoke Labour Councillors actually COULD vote against the Cuts, because they could pull out of the ruling Coalition. But, its not clear what the cosnequence would be and elsewhere its even less clear. If voting against is just a token gesture, and a majority can vote it through, then its pointless, and will just be used by demagogues to boost their personal position. If it means the Cuts don't get voted through, and in the absence of a mass movement, the Council is closed down and Commissioners sent in etc. it might even be counter-productive.

Gary Elsby said...

Labour Councillors don't have the guts to resist cuts.

For Stoke Central CLP to criticise the Tory/Liberal coalaition had everyone (including lost sheep) at the genuine 'shadow' CLP howling with laughter.

Lawrence Shaw said...

Good discussion.

It is a depressing truth that we run around telling everyone what we're against (be it cuts, bankers, New Labour, Israel, war, low pay, the continued occupation of the Chagos Islands etc...etc...) instead of shouting about what is possible.

I think it suits some elements of the left to criticise and be negative all the time. The Socialism Today article that Phil links to is a classic case in point - where the previous Labour government is hauled over the coals to such an extent that an alien reading this would think we had been living in a prison camp nightmare for the past 13 years. No mention of the first ever legal rights to paid holiday, right to union recognition, right to individual representation etc etc...

I'm not saying New Labour was fantastic. But it is disingenuous to write it off as being as bad as Thatcher and the Tories and I think many working people realise this - hence the previous election result.

On the theme of being positive, I keep pointing to the fact that I haven't heard a decent speech or read any decent articles in a long time that focuses on the possibilities of reorganising society along socialist lines and the potential benefits for all of us.

We denounce union leaders for being too right wing, we denounce Labour councillors for voting for cuts, we denounce anyone who disagrees with us, but we don't tell people what kind of world we are in favour of and how we envisage a modern, technologically advanced democratic socialist system working in practice.

In effect we are saying the answer to austerity and recession and constant shit from the government and the capitalists is to wage a bruising and damaging battle with many casualties simply to defend what we have with no guarantees of even managing that. It's no surprise this isn't inspiring the masses to come out fighting - and no surprise many people just give up on the future entirely and retreat into their bedrooms to play video games or watch X-factor.

There is so little vision on the left now - just a tired model of chest-beating about who is hardest, criticising and sniping down anyone else we don't agree with and generally speaking about "Socialism" in the abstract. All of this is what makes us appear irrelevant and utterly uninspiring.

Looking back to the lessons of 1895 is important. But it is far more important we look forward to the world in 2095 and give people a vision of a future worth fighting for.

Neil said...

I think the problem with your perspective Phil is that you underestimate the political impact these cuts are going to have. You're worried about splits in the anti-cuts campaign? What about the splits between working people and their elected representatives who implement 25%-40% cuts in their workplaces and their local services?

Bear in mind we had this statement from Labour Party leadership candidate front runner David Miliband: "David Miliband will urge his party to reject its knee-jerk approach to opposition – recognising the public has warmed to politicians working across party lines – and to be responsible in its approach to the public finances.

“Opposition is necessary but insufficient,” he will say. “At worse it can take us back into our comfort zone – and our pantomime role in politics.”'


I think we can take this to mean under a David Miliband leadership even minimal vocal opposition to cuts will be at a premium.

The greatest attack on working class living standards since the 1920's raises the objective need for a party that can provide an alternative to endless cuts and austerity programs. The Labour Party is not going to provide that alternative. You criticise the left for being endlessly negative but you (Phil and Lawrence) are members of a party that puts forward nothing except mild criticism that the cuts are being put forward at the wrong time and in the wrong fashion, not that the cuts themselves are wrong. There's a slogan to inspire people!

You are both also being disingenuous by saying that the lefts campaign is entirely negative. In the case of the SWP that is true. But you're both perfectly well aware of the SP's detailed strategy to fight the cuts. That is; build effective, democratic, locally rooted campaigns to pressurise local representatives to refuse to implement the cuts and campaign to get the required money and resources, which exist in the bank accounts and assets of the super rich in this country, from central government. This is the only credible and realistic program to oppose the cuts. Now if Labour MP's and councilors are prepared to do this then I great, by all means they should lead the movement. But if they don't then we are back to the need for public representatives that will.

There would be nothing to stop Labour aligned trade unions from participating in a genuine anti cuts campaign... except for a Labour Party that was in favour of cuts.

james said...

Neil, the section of the population which will be most in agreement that taxing the rich is preferable to cutting services is to be found within the Labour Party. Unlike a smaller organisation with a more coherent political perspective, the Labour Party is primarily an electoral organisation - and it is possible for people with different perspectives to work within it.

Whoever leads the party, it will be impossible for the shadow cabinet to abstain from opposing austerity measures - you might think it only rhetorical, but it should not concern us if politicians are genuine in their statements only that we can get action.

Liat said...

"So the SP needs to ask themselves a question: should unity among the labour movement be sacrificed for the sake of local electoral adventures? What matters the most?"

Talking about a united labour movement is all well and good, I remember a lot of people talking it at the public meeting. But what good is a united labour movement when it includes people like Cllr Al-Khatib who said to all intents and purposes that he will vote for the cuts. He is no use to us in doing what is important - stopping the cuts.
And you're right, nor are "local electoral adventures" as the next elections aren't until May, by which time the initial cuts to the budget will have been voted upon.
So what else is there for us to do, other than to pressure Labour councillors to vote against the cuts, and use the force of an anti-cuts campaign to threaten to stand against them if they wont?
Like Neil said, if Labour stand against the cuts and argue for the alternative, then that would be great - but otherwise why should an anti-cuts movement offer support to people who have voted for cuts?

Lawrence Shaw said...

I don't disagree with on the need for a strong, federal and united campaign to try to stop cuts, with major national trade union backing.

I do, however, question the tactic of denouncing and criticising the very people we need to urgently engage with and win over to our views on the cuts.

The reality is that most of the elected representatives we have are not experienced, skilled political operators who are cynically sitting there rubbing their hands with glee as they execute some kind of sinister plot to bring down the working class through brutal cuts to services.

I argue instead the vast majority are, at worst, misguided and cannot see a viable alternative. We need to engage and educate rather than snipe and humiliate.

Ideally, I would love to see massive industrial unrest in response to the cuts, and a resurgent strong socialist political voice for working people, with elected representatives refusing to carry through the cuts being ordered by the toffs.

However, the awful reality of the disappointingly low support for pretty much every far left electoral project in the past 15 years in arguably the most favourable conditions we could hope for in a generation, coupled with generally low levels of industrial action and union workplace density suggests to me that, for now at least, we are in no position to demand a general strike in response to the cuts, plus a new workers party into the bargain.

That said, the cuts haven't really bitten yet, and I think many people still believe that the cuts wont actually affect them. There is still this tabloid-fuelled myth that there are corridors of overpaid administrators sat there drinking tea all day who can be easily dispensed with.

This myth perpetuates everywhere, even amongst seasoned union reps I deal with, and it is going to take some time to evaporate.

There's also the very real division between public and private sector workers - whatever we would like to think about solidarity and class conciousness, I have to say I see very little evidence of private sector workers ready to rush to man the barricades if the public sector goes out.

Hopefully once people realise that Cameron is out to get them instead of the phantom army of bureaucrats that exist, then maybe the situation will change and the very same Labour politicians we are loudly denouncing as traitors will feel that pressure from below to change tact, and unions will start to organise.

But until the penny drops with the masses, we can only work with what we have got - and kicking off a campaign with a series of denouncements over who can and cannot take part is not going get us anywhere.

brother_f said...

Just to echo Liat's comments here, if we are serious about stopping the cuts then why include or even endorse councillors who vote for cuts? I don't think we should have unity at any cost, we need to take a principled position that we don't want ANY cuts.

Look at the example of the poll tax, the only reason that failed was because millions didn't pay it. If the anti-poll tax federations had taken the line, 'yeah the poll tax is bad, but we best pay it in case we get in trouble' then we'd still be paying it now.

Another relevent event from history is the 1980's militant led city council, who won millions off Thatcher, a PM in a much stronger position than Cameron. Now the reason that they won this money from central government was because they had the communities and union branches behind them. There was even the spectacle of workers going on strike in SUPPORT of the council, and massive demonstrations in SUPPORT of what the council were trying to do.

Once the anti cuts campaign sinks roots into the communities and local union branches, then the councillors voting against cuts will not be acting in isolation, but with massive support.

Pete Shield said...

This debate has a sense of deja vu about it for those of us that were active under the Thatcher government.

Like now Labour councillors had a choice, vote for cuts that have been imposed on you from central government, vote against the cuts- and be disbarred and your administration taken over and the cuts and worse being imposed anyway, or take what was then described as a 'dented shield' approach and try and keep as many services for the less well off open as possible.

They could of course go in to 'majority' opposition, and let the Tory/Lib Dem minority impose the cuts while trying to bugger up the whole process as much as possible.

The one thing about any of these positions is that cuts happen, sometimes with less impact on the working class sometimes with more- but either way the cuts happen.

Most Labour councillors don't want to cut, and can be a great asset to a campaign against the cuts/ for public services as they have a large amount of practical knowledge about the workings and budgets of the council, and often direct access to the press. To exclude them is insanity, unless of course your agenda is Party building when the whole objective is to ride the campaign while pulling 'cadre' into the ranks.

So the question is really are comrades actually interested in building a united opposition to the cuts and for public services or are they in it for the Party, which ever one it is, and to hell with people who rely on those services. There was a lot of the latter around in the 1980s, and a lot of working people, old age pensioners, special needs and marginalised people suffered, as the services were cut. The SWP was weaker at the end of the era than at the beginning and the Militant Tendency was under the hammer, the Labour Left in disarray, the CPGB dissolved. We started the Thatcher era with a Labour Party with a strong left wing and a militant Trade union movement and ended up with Blair.

Its worth while I think taking our rose tinted glasses off and looking back to the mistakes we all made then, and trying to do better this time.

Anonymous said...

Also, I still think that when industrial action is taken by council employees against the effects of a council budget 'anti cuts' councillors who voted for a cuts budget will not support the action, as it will be aimed primarily against them and the decisions they have made in the council chamber.

Phil Brighton

Boffy said...

Brother F said,

"Just to echo Liat's comments here, if we are serious about stopping the cuts then why include or even endorse councillors who vote for cuts? I don't think we should have unity at any cost, we need to take a principled position that we don't want ANY cuts."

I'd suggest the reason we should is given by lenin in his attack on such Ultra-Left sentiments in "Left-wing Communism", and was also explained by Lawrence above. What you are doing is adopting the standard sectarian position of saying, "I couldn't possibly work with anyone who doesn't agree with me."

As Lawrence says, most Labour Councillors are not conscious bouregois agents, lying through their teeth in order to deceive workers. On the contrary most of them are far more proletarian than the average member of the left sects attacking them, and probably likely to personally suffer more from the Cuts for that same reason. Its also that fac t that most explains why these workers do not have the advantage of the extended periods to study the marxist classics that the average to sectarian has been privileged with to understand why their position is wrong - the same reason of course, why the vast majority of workers who are NOT Councillors or LP members share their ideas, the opinion that there is no chocie but to vote for the Cuts!

I'd suggest that if you can't work with those Councillors for having those views, you can't work with the millions of workers who share those views with them, which makes it difficult to see how you are going to build any kind of mass anti-cuts movement! But, then as in the past the members of the sects will be able to content themselves that although they have done bugger all to take workers forward they have mainatined their purity, and perhaps recruited another paper seller to their sect!

Liat said...

Lawrence, you seem to be misunderstanding what we are saying.

"I do, however, question the tactic of denouncing and criticising the very people we need to urgently engage with and win over to our views on the cuts.
I argue instead the vast majority are, at worst, misguided and cannot see a viable alternative. We need to engage and educate rather than snipe and humiliate."

This is exactly why we aren’t denouncing them. If you look back at what we have said we need to talk with them to "win them over". We need to convince them of the alternative, but what use is this "barking" if we don't have the "teeth" of threatening to stand against them?

We also do need to build unity between public and private workers. We do need unity of workers - but unity based around the common cause of fighting against the cuts, rather than unity for unity's sake as some people seemed to want at the public meeting.

"for now at least, we are in no position to demand a general strike in response to the cuts"

This is exactly why we aren’t calling for a general strike in this country.

Chris said...

“but the nature of the coalition means the Tories do not have the strength to prosecute the class warfare”

It is already happening. The policies have been actioned or are in the process of happening. By the time the anti cuts ‘movement’ becomes a reality all the cuts will have been implemented! The fact is people have very little idea about what cuts are being introduced. They will only become aware of them once they need use of the service. This is the consequence of the democracy deficit; the process of electing councillors to act on ‘behalf’ of the public is a crock of shit. Official!
Marx once said that being a productive worker was a curse in capitalism. Well in modern capitalism where the working class have a 50:50 'choice' between the public and private sector and fate decides where they end up, being an ‘unproductive’ public sector employee is the greater curse. Your jobs, your living standards are shafted and even elements of the left tell us we are inefficient, that the ‘productive’ workers, those who took the private road in the labour market, can tell those of us in the ‘unproductive’ sector to go to hell. Welcome to the workers united will never be defeated!
I am a local authority accountant in a diehard Labour area and I have spent the last 2 weeks sitting with Budget managers preparing the list of cuts. These are cuts to jobs and services. The jobs are those of decent, hardworking people, often women and more often jobs that pay below £20k per annum. None of these actual cuts will make the news, no economist, Marxist or orthodox will factor these cuts into their growth analysis; they will not be factored into the stock market levels or the growth levels or GDP. All these cuts will be conveniently forgotten. They will feature in no long wave analysis. They are literally persona non grata. It will be like they never existed.

And now we are told that following New Labour sheep like into the cuts agenda is a bulwark against sectarianism!! Jesus, if that is Marxism then Marxism is a fucking joke.

Boffy said...

At the NSTC anti-cuts meeting, Chris Bambery of the SWP, argued that we should follow the example of the Greek workers. In contrast, I argued that we should follow the example of the French workers in 1968. The French occupied their factories, and recognising that other workers still needed the products of those factories, began to run them under workers control. I argued we should do the same. Any school, library or other facility threatened with closure we should occupy, and continue to run on behalf of the workers dependent upon it. We should establish joint committees of workers and users to ensure that it is run under direct working-class control to meet our needs, and we should finance its running costs out of the proceeds of a Rent and Council Tax strike.

By contrast, the Greek workers appear to be getting nowhere. In fact, their strikes appear to be doing the Greek Government's job for it. The Government says it needs to reduce its spending, to save on wages, and on services provided to the Public. That is exactly the effect the strikes have! The strikers don't get paid, and the Public doesn't receive any services during the strikes, and so the Government saves the money it wanted to save. In fact, its probably as a result of the additional savings it has made from the strikes that have allowed the Government to get ahead of its programme of planned reductions in spending.

The two situations are summed up in these two quotes from Engels.

1. “It seems that the most advanced workers in Germany are demanding the emancipation of the workers from the capitalists by the transfer of state capital to associations of workers, so that production can be organised, without capitalists, for general account;"..

The Prussian Military Question

“Even strikes, than which nothing had been more nefarious up to 1848, were now gradually found out to be occasionally very useful, especially when provoked by the masters themselves, at their own time...

The best proof is that, out of ten strikes they make, nine are provoked by the manufacturers in their own interests, as the only means of securing a reduced production. You can never get the masters to agree to work “short time,” let manufactured goods be ever so unsaleable; but get the work-people to strike, and the masters shut their factories to a man.”

England in 1845 and 1885

Bill said...

"hegemonic mystification of the deficit"

One for Pseud's Corner if I've ever heard one.

Phil said...

Brothers F and Liat are missing the main point. Labour-affiliated unions will (or at least hopefully will) be the backbone of the anti-cuts movements. They will withdraw their backing from any group that decides to go down the route of fielding candidates against Labour candidates in next year's elections. That's the issue that concerns me as it will produce a split in the movement. So what's it to be? A unified labour movement response to the cuts or have it sacrificed on the altar of doomed electoral interventions?

Going back to the Poll Tax, where it was Labour councils enforcing collection, taking non-payers to court and banging them up, I note the far left then didn't electorally challenge Labour councils - and yet the movement carried on and inflicted a mortal wound on Thatcher's premiership. There's no reason why that shouldn't be the case today.

Chris, what on Earth are you talking about? Economists opposed to the cuts - whether of a Marxist or non-Marxist persuasion - have indeed factored those cuts into their growth analysis, hence the outpouring of pieces about the cuts sending Britain into a double dip. Far from ignoring it, it's a central plank of their argument.

Phil said...

Bill, don't assume everyone's as ignorant as you.

Gary Elsby said...

Let's get it accurate.
This Labour led coalition of Tories, will implement cuts handed down by the Conservative led Liberal Government.

And then they will knock on our door and say: "Vote Labour because these nasty Tories are cutting our services".

That is the Labour message 2011.

Chris said...


I will give it a couple of years before this savage attack on public sector workers is but a distant memory to most economists. As a group they are not interested in the human story. They are fixated with facts and figures.

I will give one example of cuts I have been involved in, though this really is the tip of the iceberg. Four bowling greens are to be cut with the loss of 3 full time equivalents (jobs). The note on the impact of this says that despite some protest, the people using these facilities are miniscule as a total % of the population of the area. It is felt even though older people rely on this service and they cannot easily find an alternative, this is one area that is politically expedient to cut. Now forgive me but no economist will factor the pschological imapct of this on these people. It will not even be an issue. Some Marxist economists (eg Boffy), when looking at the next wave of accumulation will have put these human stories very much out of their mind.

So that is what the hell I am on about, OK!

Boffy said...


I've explained to you about Phil, and i think these points demonstrate the point. I'd be tempted to just repeat your own attitude of "Don't Feed The Trolls." Let them sit in the Library in say Sheffield or Rotherham dreaming up who they will pretend to be next, and type to their hearts content.

Perhaps Chris, would reconcile his comments, however, with my lifetime of activity fighting for and alongside the very people he describes here? Perhaps, he could reconcile that statement even with the comments I made above, or at the NSTC meeting calling for such Cuts to be resisted by joint action by Public Sector workers, and workers using those facilities to occupy them, and finance via a Rent and Council Strike.

The implications of Chis's comments are that he wants "New labour" Councillors to vote against the cuts even where no mass campaign is built against them. Fine he's entitled to his view. But, if that is what he wants then perhaps he should give a lead by refusing himself to be sitting in the meetings he describes drawing up these plans for Cuts!!!

But, in fact he couldn't do that because he's just a troll.

Chris said...

Firstly, the number of bowling greens to be cut is 15 and not 4! It is still 3 full time equivalent posts.

At the end of the day unless there is mass action against these cuts the government will give x less amount of money to public services, there will be very little the ‘forces’ within the capitalist state can do about it. Some compromises may be done with the military and local authorities will raise charges but these cuts are coming and they will not be insignificant. I predict actual cuts of unprecedented levels.

I responded to this article because I disagree that the Tories will struggle to wage class war. I think the levels of cuts proposed will go through without much hostility from the forces Boffy thinks will attempt scupper them. I think we are witnessing an epoch making event here. Actually I think the opposite of Boffy, I see no evidence that big capital is fighting the Tory-Liberal cuts, quite the opposite. Throw into this the ‘popular’ perception of an inefficient public sector, so well fostered by the ruling class divide and rule division (and Boffy), and the campaign against cuts is frighteningly lame. I put this down to a democracy deficit, the separation of workers from decision making and the successful sowing of division and atomisation among the working class – particularly between public and private workers. The latter issue is surely the biggest immediate problem the left have to face. Boffy actually adds to the problem, I cannot think of another Marxist who does that. Given that in modern capitalist societies the split between public and private is roughly 50:50 then this is a problem that isn’t going away even with the current cuts factored into the equation.

I previously gave a pretty in depth description of the process of preparing revenue outturn reports to central government, in such detail that a troll could not possibly have that info. I think I have given enough context to prove I am no troll, but keep persisting with this stupid line of argument as it highlights your own inadequacies.

Actually I am the opposite of a troll, I am on the front line, on the inside, on the receiving end of these cuts. Unlike Boffy telling the ‘world’ how inefficient workers in the public sector are from the comfort of wherever he spouts his half truths (again I am in a generous mood) I am right at the centre of the struggle. I can inform comrades exactly what the situation is, with first hand accounts. And when the October spending review is published I will be able to update comrades with virtually every cut in my local authority to give comrades a flavour of the human cost of these cuts. Whereas all Boffy can spout is capitalisms civilising mission and accumulation equals good news for workers. Or he will stick rigidly to Marx’s approval of Adam Smith’s polemic against the ‘unproductive’ classes, even though in a modern capitalist system that includes at least half the working class!

On resigning (which is the inmplication of your childish point) my post as a gesture of solidarity, well that would be one option but I am in the same boat as everyone else. There are reviews underway of ALL departments’ budgets. It is felt the finance department is ‘lean’ but compulsory redundancies are expected. United action would be better than silly gestures; at least that is what my bank manager advises me! I have decided that slitting my own throat for the ‘cause’ is not my best available option; I will instead try to provide as much detail as I can about the human cost of these cuts and the extent of them. This will remind comrades that capitalist crises are not some temporary blip, enabling the next wave of civilising accumulation but events that have devastating impacts on people. It called the Marxist tradition.

Boffy said...

So no attempt to reconcile those statements with the facts then! Just more trolling waffle. And for all your usual spleen the reality remains that - if we were to beleive your latest piece of Walter Mitty fantasy - you are the one sitting in meetings using your Accounting Skills to advise on how to go about making Cuts, whilst I am the one attending meetings to discuss how to fight those very same Cuts!

The fact remains that you are not prepared to make a personal stand to oppose the Cuts by refusing to participate in such meetings, yet you call on Labour Councillors to make such a personal stand, risking being surcharged, imprisoned, and bankrupted. I've always beleived you should not ask anyone to make a personal stand you will not make yourself.

Chris said...

You are a nut job Boffy. What facts do you want? The total value of cuts, number of FTE's??

Currently we have known cuts that have been approved, that is stage one. We have a number of reviews of different areas of the authority, such as business support, these reviews are all interlinked but have different timetables. Some employees appear on multiple reviews etc etc Currently we are working on different scenario's, listing cuts based on a 15%, 20% and 30% cut to budgets. The word on the street is that cuts between 20% and 30% are the most likely outcome of the October spending review.

Your conspiracy that some shadowy force within the state is busy undermining Tory plans is based on no factual evidence at all. Your belief that big capital is trying to undermine the cuts is based on the pathetic idea that some news coverage hints at potential cuts. But the majority of news coverage I watch is sympathetic to Tory cuts.

I could be wrong, I may have overestimated the Tory intentions but at this early stage I think we are seeing something unprecedented. Time will tell.

I have not called on Labour councillors to do anything, quite the reverse. I think leaving things to councillors is THE problem! I have made it clear that I am very pessimistic about strength of the anti cuts 'movement', but I have admiration for the great number of comrades who are fighting our corner. When I hear your views I do not feel the same solidarity.

Andy B said...

Phil says,

"Brothers F and Liat are missing the main point. Labour-affiliated unions will (or at least hopefully will) be the backbone of the anti-cuts movements. They will withdraw their backing from any group that decides to go down the route of fielding candidates against Labour candidates in next year's elections. That's the issue that concerns me as it will produce a split in the movement. So what's it to be? A unified labour movement response to the cuts or have it sacrificed on the altar of doomed electoral interventions”?

In response;

A ‘unified labour movement response’ is less likely to be built if ONE component part of an ALLIANCE tries to lay down preconditions even before it has been officially launched. The building of an alliance almost by definition means compromises by the different organisations, groups and individuals taking part.

The “main point” is not about elections alone but what strategy should be adopted which if successful can DEFEAT the savage attacks planned by the Con-Dem government and councils across Britain.

Of course trade unions have a crucial role to play in the fight against cuts but they are not all 'Labour affiliated'. In fact non- affiliated unions like the RMT and PCS are already playing a leading role whilst 'Labour affiliated unions' like Unison & Unite have so far been largely silent in terms of building concrete opposition to the cuts. We also have to consider the millions of workers in Britain who are not in trade unions.

It’s not possible at this stage to say categorically as Phil attempts to do that Labour affiliated unions “will withdraw their backing” from groups standing against Labour in forthcoming elections and wrong to pose it as an ultimatum.

Even a basic Marxist analysis would tell us that the “Labour affiliated unions” are not one homogenous mass. They are made up of millions of members many of whom are facing the threat of losing their jobs. Clearly there will be much discussion about who to support at future elections particularly where Labour dominated councils are imposing cuts.

The question Phil poses above will be determined by the struggle against cuts itself. To prejudge the outcome or in this case what “Labour affiliated unions” will do EIGHT MONTHS before council elections take place is somewhat premature to say the least.

To put it in the concrete; the anti-cuts movement has eight months to build a mass campaign which can inspire/pressure councillors to oppose all cuts not just in words but more importantly in action.

Andy B said...

Phil says,

“Going back to the Poll Tax, where it was Labour councils enforcing collection, taking non-payers to court and banging them up, I note the far left then didn't electorally challenge Labour councils - and yet the movement carried on and inflicted a mortal wound on Thatcher's premiership. There's no reason why that shouldn't be the case today."

In response;

1) This is not true. As Labour councils “campaigned against the Poll Tax” by hauling non-payers off to court to be jailed, Tommy Sheridan (a member of Militant Labour – the forerunner of today’s Socialist Party) was elected as a Glasgow councillor from his prison cell!

2) “and yet the movement carried on and inflicted a mortal wound on Thatcher’s premiership”. Here Phil demonstrates his lack of understanding of how Poll Tax was beaten. He refers to “the movement” as if it was one unified homogenous mass presumably to support his argument today about Labour affiliated unions.

Analysing the history of workers struggles is crucial to ensure lessons are learned to arm workers and youth in today’s struggles. The mass campaign built by the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation (ABAPTF) in which Militant played such key role has important lessons for today’s campaign against cuts.

The victory achieved by the ABAPTF was DESPITE opposition from the ‘strategy’ adopted by the majority of the leadership of the Labour Party & trade unions. Through the ABAPTF a concrete unity of millions was built around the concrete demand for mass non payment.

The Labour Party & trade union leadership were of course ‘opposed’ to Poll Tax but campaigned against the idea of non payment arguing that it would be breaking the law. They counterposed paying Poll Tax and waiting for a Labour victory in the next general election which could repeal the tax.

This ‘strategy’ ignored the millions unable to pay and was largely designed to convince big business and the establishment that Labour would not challenge their laws and therefore could provide a ‘safe pair of hands’ in government.

The ABATF strategy based on ‘its better to break the law than break the poor’ led to 18 million people not paying Poll Tax inevitably leading to its defeat. It also crucially led to the removal of Thatcher at the time seen as the strongest right wing leader in Europe.

Labour’s ‘strategy’ was a disaster for Labour and the working class. If they had supported the mass non -payment campaign and instructed all Labour councils to refuse to implement the Poll Tax then they would have won the next general election in 1992! The overwhelming majority of the 18 million non payers would have enthusiastically voted Labour in 1992 if they had supported their stand against the tax. Instead working class people had to suffer another 5 years of the Tories.

In fact Labour’s enthusiasm to curry favour with big business interests resulted in the grotesque chaos of Labour council’s jailing ordinary working class people who’s only ‘crime’ was being unable to pay Poll Tax. There are many thousands who have never voted Labour since.

Today the Con-Dem coalition is preparing to make the working class pay for a crisis created by big business, top bankers and successive governments. At this stage of the fight against these cuts Labour and their apologists appear to have learned nothing from the experience of the movement that defeated the Poll Tax. ‘Opposing’ the cuts in words while at the same time dutifully voting for them in council chambers will not help working class people nor win their support.

The savage nature of the cuts which are planned will inevitably mean that there will be opposition to them. The task of socialists is to build the maximum unity to oppose them.

But unity is not an abstract concept based on not ‘upsetting’ anyone! Unity needs to be based on concrete opposition to all cuts which adversely affect working class people – a unity whose words are matched by deeds. Anything else will not be sufficient to force the government to back down.

Andy B said...

Phil and others have criticised the strategy proposed by the Socialist Party and we have no problem with that. Done in a comradely fashion discussion and debate helps us all clarify ideas but where criticisms are made it also requires an alternative strategy.

Unfortunately, a Labour alternative to the SP’s strategy has been conspicuous only by its absence on this blog.

The North Staffs TUC public meeting was another excellent example of this. Labour MP Tristram Hunt, asked a direct question from the floor by a PCS member, refused to give an answer and left the meeting. There were at least two Labour members of Stoke-on-Trent’s Cuts Coalition present but neither had anything to say. One Labour councillor spoke explaining that he would vote in favour of cuts and another Labour Party member spoke appealing for everybody to join Labour!

We look forward to your response outlining what the strategy of Labour is to the crucial task of defeating the savage cuts in jobs & services now on the agenda.

Boffy said...


You are right that the most important question is how best to build a strategy to fight the cuts. I don't think Phil is necessarily correct in saying that Labour affiliated unions would withdraw from any campaign that included people from organisations standing candidates. That to me is not the point.

In the last election every voter knew that Cust were coming, every voter knew what Labour's position was. Millions voted for Labour, millions more voted for the Liberals and Tories who they knew would be putting forward those cuts. Only thousands voted for those like the SP who were opposing them. On that basis why do you think that all these millions of people will "inevitably" oppose them? The NSTC meeting was great, though the 80 people who turned up - all existinga activists - was a smaller number than used to turn up every month to a regular meeting back in the 1980's when I was President.

A strategy has to begin from where we are not statements about what we hope is "inevitable". The SP did show with the Poll Tax that a mass campaign could be built by systematic work within communities. That has to be a central part of a strategy now, rather than simply relying on TU action. But, I would suggest to you that if you want to put pressure on Labour Councillors you will not do that by standing no hope alternatives to them at elections. A far better means of exerting such pressure would be from inside the LP itself. If you are serious about wanting to stand candidates who will actually vote against the Cuts, rather than who will never be elected for that to be tested, then do what I and others did in the 1980's, get elected as a Labour Councillor.

Even if you did manage to get a few Councillors elected who would vote against the Cuts, their roile would only be to act as flag wavers for the SP rather than any serious strategy for fighting the Cuts, because it would only be meaningful if you could get enough elected to actually vote down the Budget. The real campaign has to be built outside the Council Chamber, and will require a range of actions. For a start we should press the Public Sector unions to ballot on action to black all work on budget preparations based on Cuts. Secondly, UNISON and the other LG unions should begin to organise propaganda to be delivered by their members into their local community, as a prelude to neighbourhood and community meetings, building up to larger Public Meetings.

We need clear decisions by local branches of unions to follow the kind of action I set out above, of occupying any facilities threatened with closure, tactic that would be facilitated if the unions had already held the discussions with local communities set out above.

Chris said...

Just to back up my belief that big capital is actually supporting the Tory agenda and not undermining it as Boffy believes comes this article from the Guardian:


Boffy said...

This panel seems like just the kind of mechanism by which Big Capital uses its influence to change Government policy that I have been suggesting. Looking at all the big companies that have already had their share prices decimated as a result of Government policies, I'm sure they are keen to use whatever emchanism they can.

Phil said...

You're reading something that isn't there, Andy. I'm not attempting to set down preconditions for participation in anti-cuts campaign - as if I'm in a position to do so anyway. No, to reiterate the argument as simply and as plainly as I can, if an anti-cuts campaign ends up going down the route of challenging Labour councils at the ballot box, then any trade union affiliates of that campaign will withdraw. It's as simple as that. It's there in the rule books and habits of organisation and it's unlikely upsurge of workers mobilised by the anti-cuts movement will enthusiastically pursue the electoral road.

Phil said...

Re: elections in the Poll Tax struggle, correct me if I'm mistaken but didn't Tommy Sheridan win his council seat in 1992, after Thatcher had been turfed out of office and the defeat of the tax? And also you cite only *one* contest - a single election is not proof of a generalised conclusion that the far left had to challenge Labour at the ballot box.

I don't understand the rest of your argument about the APTF and how it is relevant to this issue. My argument is that despite Labour's baleful role, despite the lack of homogeneity in the movement, millions of workers did not see it fit to support left alternatives to Labour. Now Labour is moving in fits and starts to the left, now what remains of the labour movement is renewing its links to the party, that the anti-cuts campaign will assume an electoral expression is even less likely.

Phil said...

Just one last point on the whole Tristram Hunt thing, perhaps he did feel the need to respond to the 'PCS member' because the PCS rep on the platform more or less did it for him! And he left shortly after ... as did approximately a third of the meeting.

Boffy said...

An example, of why sections of Capital might not be happy with the Tories illiterate economics can be seen by the BBC News story today about Connaught the company that makes its money out of social housing. Immediately after the Budget made its statement on cutting Housing Benefit, which provides a lucrative income for some landlords, Connaught's share price collapsed by 30%. It continued to fall, and is now down 95% from the Budget.

Connaught employees 10,000 people who look like being the first large scale casualties of the Budget, and larger than any actual Public Sector redundancies so far. This collapse of Connaught is basically just on the threat of Cuts, not the actual cuts themselves. They are not alone there have been similar large falls in the share prices of other companies reliant on Public Sector contracts.

And all at a time when the Tories will be busy firefighting to defend Andy Coulson!

Chris said...

So some sections of capital that are directly affected by cuts may be hostile to them. No longer big capital or small capital but whichever capital is threatened.

Well objectively speaking these cuts are possibly not in the immediate interest of some sections of capital and many sections of the working class. It’s just that this doesn’t necessarily translate into subjective support for or hostility to cuts. People may hold a position that is contrary to their obvious immediate interests. Objective does not automatically equal subjective. So I still see no evidence of a major campaign by any section of capital to oppose these cuts – quite the opposite. The ConDems have a clear road ahead unless the working class can get its act together.

P.S. Guess whose side the CBI is on?????