‘IT is very clear that the collapse of the capitalist system has collapsed New Labour, that is the modern Labour Party’, News Line editor Paddy O’Regan told a packed 200 strong News Line & All Trade Union Alliance conference in central London on Sunday.
The conference voted unanimously for a resolution calling for the building of a new leadership in the trade union movement to replace the current leadership which ‘slavishly supports the anti-working class Brown government’.
Trade Unionists and leaders of a number of important struggles spoke to the conference and received warm applause.
O’Regan told the conference, ‘The most important thing to the Thatcherites leading the Labour government is to prop up the banks’.
He continued, ‘The miners brought down Heath in 1974 and the return of Labour saw the working class smash all the Tory anti-union laws, including their industrial courts, which had jailed workers for picketing.
‘After the Poll Tax rebellion brought down Thatcher, and the 1992 Black Wednesday disaster – when the pound sterling was forced out of the Exchange rate mechanism, and interest rates rose sky-high – the end of the Tories was in sight, and it was obvious that they would be out of office for a long time.
‘The ruling class was desperate to avoid another 1974 type situation if a massive working class push forward, and their answer was “New Labour” a leadership that would continue with Thatcherism.
‘Blair and Brown removed Clause 4, the nationalisation clause from the Labour party constitution and weakened the trade union bloc vote, way before the 1997 general election, both moves having the support of the trade union leaders.
‘The plan was that a New Labour government would push forward the privatisation agenda to the point where the changes were “irreversible’’, and champion globalisation, encouraging employers to move out of Britain if there was cheaper labour elsewhere.’
This was accompanied by an imperialist war policy epitomised ‘by the attack on Iraq, and the attempt to rob it of its oil resources.’
He continued: ‘What was left of the British economy was kept going by cheap credit, and people getting into massive credit card debt, so that they could spend, and keep the service industry economy going.
‘Brown and Blair never thought that there would be a day of reckoning and they considered that there was little difference between money and credit.
‘Brown even announced that he had resolved the tendency of capitalism to go from boom to bust and vice versa and had also sold off half of the UK gold reserves for a relative pittance.
‘He said that gold was just a symbol, and was not a repository of value.
‘This was done on the eve of the biggest bust ever seen by capitalism since 1931’ said O’Regan, as the huge leap in oil prices touched off the US sub prime mortgage crisis, which spread to the UK, and then to the rest of the world in the form of banking and share collapses.
This saw Brown advance as the saviour of the banks, to the tune of £150bn, and the hammer of the working class, demanding that workers tighten their belts, accept wage cuts, the end of their final salary pensions schemes, or else face interest rate hikes and mass unemployment.
‘Huge price increases have led to a real sharpening of the class struggle to the point where the working class is being driven forward into mass strikes against the Brown government.
‘To prop up the banks, Brown is determined to sell off or close down every gain of the working class’, O’Regan said.
He added: ‘ “Choice” is a popular word with the Brown government but it turns out that choice today means no hospitals, no GP surgeries and just a few polyclinics manned by nurses.’
O’Regan also hit out at Brown’s sponsoring of the Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka.
‘As far as Sri-Lanka is concerned the regime is serving the British government. The British bosses make their millions out of the Sri-Lankan workers working for £1 a day.
‘No wonder the Brown government wants to see the Tamil Tigers crushed so that its exploitation of the Sri Lankan workers is not disturbed.’
O’Regan concluded: ‘The centre of the crisis is the US and then Britain. Property values are crashing and banks are crashing. What they are terrified of is a run on the banks.’
He added: ‘Millions are being thrust below the poverty line. If you loose your job today you won’t eat. It is the policy of the Brown government that if you fight for a wage rise you will suffer.’
‘The trade union leaders are not willing to fight the brown government.
‘This is because if you fight this Labour government you have got to be prepared to remove it to bring it down, and replace it with a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.
‘A new leadership is required to lead this fight and we must build it.’
O’Regan called the TUC’s refusal to call a boycott of Israel ‘an absolute disgrace’. He called for the British working class to fight for the Tamil people and to take action to withdraw the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘The Workers Revolutionary Party is right in line with millions of people world wide, and what they want, join it today!’
Andy Worthington from Reprieve spoke about the struggle to release Binyam Mohamed from Guantanamo Bay.
He told how Binyam had been tortured, that ‘evidence’ used against him had been obtained through torture. He said that Reprieve is representing 30 Guantanamo detainees and ‘people must make a noise, to show that this is not acceptable’
Dave Wiltshire, ATUA National Secretary moved the main resolution, ‘This government is waging a war on two fronts. The world Capitalist crisis is driving the rulers of the world to try to resolve it by lashing out and smashing the gains of the working class.
‘The trade unions must have a leadership that will end all financial support for the Brown government and fight, as the only way to defend the interests of the working class and keep the Tory’s out.
‘This means calling a general strike and bringing down the Brown government and going forward to a workers government that will carry out Socialist policies.’
Gate Gourmet worker Lakhinder Saran said, ‘850 of us were sacked in August 2005. When they brought in casual workers to do our jobs we were told to go to a meeting in the canteen and the union said stay until the matter is sorted out.
‘We were in the canteen for six hours and not allowed to go to the toilet.
‘When security guards started dragging one of the ladies across the floor we decided to leave.
‘British airways workers who heard what was happening to us all came out on strike.
‘Tony Woodley said at first that he would fight to make sure that we would all get our jobs back, but then a couple of weeks later he signed the Compromise Agreement accepting our redundancy and everything the company wanted.
‘We were treated so badly. We are angry at the ruthless bosses and are angry at the union leaders who helped the bosses.
‘We are taking the fight into the union and we are prepared to take Woodley and (TGWU Airport Official) Brendan Gold to court. We are determined to win! We are fighting in the union for new leaders who back the members.’
Hengride Permal Chair of the Chagos Islands Community Association said, ‘The Chagos people were forced out by the British government. Our main Island is Diego Garcia. We were forced on a boat to the slums of Mauritius and the Seychelles. We are fighting to win our rights.
‘We went to court, some were awarded a British passport but some weren’t. The Chagos people have been divided. The judge ruled that an injustice was done to us but the government appealed, for the third time now, to the House of Lords.
‘The judge ruled that we could go back to two small Islands, but all the Chagossians won’t fit on these two islands. We are still fighting to return to Diego Garcia.’
She invited the conference to support the Chagos Islanders picket of the House of Lords and concluded, ‘We need your support, we need to go back to our Island and the government must compensate us for forty years of suffering.’
The next speaker was Dr. Raj from the British Tamil Forum, ‘We have reached a critical juncture. We are suffering racial discrimination and are socially marginalised, we have been denied our rights for 52 years and now we are told that there is no homeland.
‘But the government of Sri-Lanka is unable to prevent facts trickling out, even though paramilitary mercenary groups are murdering media personnel. There is a cunning and unscrupulous falsification of the cause of this ethnic war.’
He told of the struggle of the Tamil people, ‘Under the pretext of a ban of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) the government is holding the Tamil people hostage, they are being starved by the deliberate actions of the government of Sri-Lanka.’
He told the conference, ‘more then 30% of children died in the last two years, 80% are living below the poverty line’. He told of ‘abduction, torture, rape judicial killing’.
He continued, ‘amongst the Tamil people the desire to live as an independent nation, and support for Tamil nationhood is total. . .
‘We have suffered six decades at the hands of the Sri-Lankan racist state.’
Young Socialist National Secretary said Nash Campbell, ‘This government is privatising schools, bringing in academies which are run like a business.
‘The Young Socialists support the teachers and the truck drivers who have been fighting this Labour government. We are joining the Chase Farm march on the 26th July.
‘We support the postal workers, NHS workers and all those fighting this government.
‘The Police attack the youth, there is no future for young people under this system. We are fighting for a future for this generation in Britain today.’
Bill Rogers secretary of the North East London Council of Action said, ‘People are being hammered. 8% for health workers over three years is a massive pay cut. The present trade union leadership is incapable of defending anything.
‘On the 26th July we are having a march through Enfield to defeat this governments plan to close Chase Farm hospital. We are calling on all trade unions to support an occupation of Chase Farm hospital.’
Anna Athow from the BMA Council said in a personal capacity, ‘Darzi has said that the days of the district general hospitals are over. But these have been the lynch pin of the NHS. Polyclinics will be run by the corporate, private sector. The BMA is at a cross roads, we must fight to defend our district general hospitals.’
Vally Wilson, secretary of the South East London Council of Action said, ‘We have set up a council of action in South East London to defend housing. This government is a disgrace, they have failed the working class, they are trying to move out council tenants, this is ethnic cleansing of the working class.
‘But the workers are telling them they are not moving. If we don’t defeat their plans we will return to the days of racketeers and privateers.
‘We need to bring this government down and establish a workers government and Socialism.’
Dave Davis GMB convenor of the Caretaking service Hammersmith & Fulham said, ‘We are seeing our service going to another company and once that happens it is too late. We will be looking at going from a salary of £18,000 to a salary of £11,400 which is a difference of £6,600 and amounts to constructive dismissal. we could never accept that amount of loss.’
Richard Kassir from Harrow CWU said, ‘We have reached a time when we need solidarity and a union alliance.’
Fellow postal worker Billy Colville from S.E. London CWU said, ‘It is time for the trade unions to stand up and be counted, but that means that the present leadership must be thrown out.’
The collection for the News Line newspaper was £450 and delegates voted unanimously for the main resolution.
The main resolution read: ‘This News Line ATUA conference calls for the building of a new leadership in the trade union movement to replace the current leadership which slavishly supports the anti-working class Brown government, thus continuing the support it gave to all of the three Blair governments.
These governments betrayed the working class and sought to privatise and destroy the Welfare State, concentrating on the privatisation of the NHS and education. At the same time they formed an alliance with the Bush government to ‘re-order’ the planet with imperialist wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
They also supported the ‘right’ of capitalists to export their capital from Britain and close down major sections of industry, from shipbuilding to the motor car industry.
They brought in the ‘lightest touch’ regulation of business, and industry, and supported and extended the Tory anti-union laws, with the Brown government bringing in legislation to ban strikes by prison officers.
Now that the war in Iraq has led to a vast inflation in oil and basic commodity prices, which has exposed the indebtedness of the entire capitalist system, the Brown government has leapt forward to champion the interests of the bankers and bosses.
At the same time it is insisting that the working class must accept huge wage cuts and massive price increases.
The policy of the Brown government is that it will bale out all of the bankrupted British banks, but that the working class must pay for it.
It has already advanced over £100bn to bale out banks, without any collateral in return. Meanwhile, Brown is imposing three year wage cutting deals onto unions with ‘rises’ at half of the official inflation rate of 4.2 per cent, while the real cost of living has gone up by as much as 30 per cent this year alone.
The banks meanwhile, are preparing to repossess tens of thousands of homes in the year ahead, as the huge rises in the cost of living result in unpaid mortgages.
Brown, through health minister Darzi, is also preparing massive NHS cuts.
Darzi plans to shut 26 District General hospitals in London and replace them with polyclinics. Many are to be run by nurses who are to be encouraged to form private companies to sell their services to the NHS.
This vast privatisation and cost cutting exercise will see hundreds of GP surgeries close.
Crisis ridden capitalism cannot afford an NHS – so the Brown government is shutting it down and privatising it.
The same goes for education with the rise of the privately run Academies.
The slow-down of the capitalist economy is resulting in rapidly rising unemployment, with the unemployed set to starve as inflation makes their benefits absolutely worthless.
The response of workers to these policies is anger and a demand for action to defeat them.
The response of voters can be seen in Henley where Labour was beaten into fifth place by the BNP, an absolutely shameful result!
The trade union leaders response to these policies is to say that we must keep the Brown government in place, and this includes paying their £8 million of debt from the funds provided by union members.
At the same time as the union leaders keep Brown in place, this support and his policies are helping the Tories back so that they can carry on where Thatcher, Blair and Brown left off.
This conference resolves to build the All Trades Unions Alliance, as the new leadership in the trade unions.
The trade unions must defend living standards. They must draw up their own cost of living index to base their annual wage claims on. Unions must insist that wages increase in line with the monthly changes in the trade union cost of living index. They must take indefinite strike action to defeat Brown’s three-year wage cutting deals.
Similarly unions must fight for work sharing with no loss of pay where bosses demand redundancies.
Attempts at closure must be met with occupation and a demand for nationalisation.
This is the only way to fight since loss of jobs in todays conditions of rampant inflation means hunger, even starvation.
The trade unions must organise Councils of Action that will mobilise the masses to occupy hospitals that are to be closed and fight for national strike action to keep them open.
The trade unions must defend final salary pension schemes with indefinite strike action.
The trade unions must have a leadership that will end all financial support for the Brown government and fight it, as the only way to defend the interests of the working class and keep the Tories out.
This means a leadership that will not flinch from bringing down the Brown government and going forward to a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.
This is the only way forward to defend the working class in the conditions of capitalist crisis.
The trade unions must have an international policy that is an extension of this home policy.
They must support the struggle for a Palestinian state and a boycott of Israel.
They must fight for the British government to end its support for the Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka and to recognise the Tamil Tigers as a legitimate defence organisation of the Tamil people, as well as supporting the Sri Lanka trade unions against the super exploitation of British capital in the New Economic Zones.
They must support the struggle of the Chagos Islanders to return to Diego Garcia, with proper compensation from the British government and with the huge US naval and air force base on Diego Garcia closed.
They must fight for the withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The struggle for a new leadership in the trade unions that will fight for socialism at home and abroad is a vital one.’