The platform at the News Line Anniversary Rally. Left to right: Hank Roberts, Vally Wilson, Zina Dodgson, Lakhinder Saran, Sheila Torrance (chair), Paddy O’Regan, Nimalan Sevaranam and Dave Wiltshire (ATUA National Secretary, speaking)
The platform at the News Line Anniversary Rally. Left to right: Hank Roberts, Vally Wilson, Zina Dodgson, Lakhinder Saran, Sheila Torrance (chair), Paddy O’Regan, Nimalan Sevaranam and Dave Wiltshire (ATUA National Secretary, speaking)

THE Labour leaders are terrified the whole capitalist system is going to go, News Line Editor Paddy O’Regan told an audience of 200 youth and workers at the News Line Anniversary Rally on Sunday.

He said that, so far, five trillion pounds has been spent worldwide trying to prop up the capitalist banks, with the Brown government demanding that the working class must pay the price for the bail-out, with huge cuts in wages and benefits already starting along with the growth of mass unemployment.

He opened his remarks by thanking everyone who had addressed the rally, especially the speakers from the Tamil community, the sacked Gate Gourmet workers’ struggle, the Chagos Islanders and the bus workers.

‘Our position on the struggle in Sri Lanka is very clear,’ he said.

‘In the conflict taking place, we stand for the military victory of the Tamil Tigers and for the military defeat of the Rajapakse regime and we congratulate the Tamil people on their courage, valour and refusal to be conquered.’

Turning his attention to the Chagos Islanders, he said they had been treated ‘like slaves’.

He paid tribute to their fight to return to their islands, including Diego Garcia, where a US military base has been constructed from which Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan were all bombed.

‘Presently, they’re going to use it to bomb Iran,’ he warned.

That was why the struggle of the Chagossians to return to their islands was a struggle for the international working class to stop imperialist war.

He called for a ‘massive mobilisation’ on April 18, when the Chagos Islanders plan to hold a national demonstration in London, ‘to show Prime Minister Brown he won’t get away with treating people like slaves’.

He continued to warn that the union leaders today act as the ‘Labour lieutenants’ of capitalism to try and keep capitalism alive, they are cancelling strikes so that Brown can get on with bailing out the bosses.

He said that ‘Today Labour is the guardian of capitalism. It is giving tens of billions to the banks to prop up the capitalist system because it’s absolutely frightened the whole thing will go.

‘Their sole concern is saving the banks and you’re going to have to pay for it. through taxation, through huge cuts in wages and benefits, through mass unemployment and imperialist war.

‘What’s coming up here is huge cuts in benefits.

‘The more they pump billions and trillions into keeping the bankrupt capitalist system going, the more the Welfare State is going to be wound up. . . He warned that Woodley and Simpson, and the other Labour leaders would accept mass sackings and wage cuts provided the manufacturing bosses got some bail-out money to keep a few of them going.’

He added that: ‘the working class is becoming more and more angry and there’s going to be an eruption of this anger.’

He concluded: ‘The working class has got to be mobilised and organised.

‘Build the WRP and YS in every union, factory, bank, university and school to replace the union leaders with real leaders who will bring down this government, and bring in a workers government.

‘Build the Fourth International to lead the world socialist revolution to victory.’

Zina Dodgson, Surrey and Sussex Health UNISON branch secretary, wished News Line a ‘happy anniversary’.

Warning of the cuts taking place in the NHS, she said: ‘We had a queue of 18 ambulances waiting to get patients into our A&E.

‘Our workforce has been cut from 4,000 to 2,500, but the workload has been increased dramatically.’

She added: ‘We might have to occupy schools and hospitals if necessary to stop them being handed over by the government to their friends in big business to make profit out of.’

Vally Wilson, secretary of the South-East London Council of Action, said: ‘The Labour government and Conservative/Lib Dem coalition that runs Southwark Council both want to destroy council estates and the land to be given to private developers.

‘The banking collapse means building firms are laying off workers, but they’re still sealing up homes on the Heygate Estate.

‘This is a mass eviction of the working class.

‘Enough is enough!’ he said, calling on tenants on all council estates to mobilise and do ‘whatever it takes to save the council housing for working-class and low-income families.’

Chris Eames, from the News Line Editorial Board, said: ‘The News Line plays a decisive role today, it is a tremendous achievement for our party and the working class.

‘Through the pages of the News Line we launched a campaign to defend council housing.

‘Out of the campaign we’ve been able to follow the example of the North-East London Council of Action and set up our own Council of Action in South-East London to mobilise the tenants and the working class.

‘It’s only through the struggle to build our party and our youth movement, the Young Socialists, that this struggle can be won.’

Sacked Gate Gourmet worker, Lakhinder Saran, told the rally that News Line had supported the locked-out workers at Heathrow ‘from day one’.

‘They sacked 800 of us to save money,’ she said. ‘Other employers are doing the same today.

‘Gate Gourmet tried to impose a “survival plan’’, they sacked all the morning staff, afternoon staff and those on holiday and sick as well.

‘We were treated worse than animals,’ she added.

‘The union leaders behind our backs accepted a deal that agreed to compulsory sackings.’

‘We are determined to carry this fight forward and we are now proceeding with legal action.

‘Our struggle is the same struggle as lots of trade union members today.

‘That’s why we call for Tony Woodley to resign,’ she concluded.

Anti-Academy campaigner and Brent NUT Secretary Hank Roberts said: ‘I have a list of what they’ve privatised.

‘Why should we be surprised they want to privatise education?

‘They boast about the profit-making potential of Academies.

‘We occupied Wembley Park Sports Ground for six months.

‘They put an injunction on us.

‘Now they are threatening to sack us.

‘They want to give our schools to hedge fund speculators.

‘These people have ruined the economy and now they want to ruin our schools.’

BMA Council member Anna Athow, speaking in a personal capacity, said: ‘The NHS was one of the greatest gains of the working class, won through struggle.’

She added that: ‘In north London, where the decision has been made to close Chase Farm Hospital the local residents remain determined to maintain their local District General Hospital and the council have called this week for a judicial review of the decision to close Chase Farm Hospital.

‘North-East London Council of Action receives large local support for the perspective of physical action such as strike action and occupation to keep the hospital open.’

Nimalan Sevaranam, from the British Tamil Forum, said: ‘The British ruled Sri Lanka for 135 years.’

When they left, he said, the Tamil minority faced systematic racist discrimination and violence.

‘The Tamil people must have self-determination,’ he insisted.

Tim Martin, an NGO worker, said he had been ordered out of north-eastern Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan government, which has also forbidden journalists access to the Tamil areas.

He warned: ‘There is ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.’

Young Socialists National Secretary Nash Campbell said capitalism was destroying the future for young people, by making millions unemployed and as well as imposing pay cuts.

He added: ‘No one has the right to do that and take our future away from us.’

Bus worker Veladimer Bitzoomayeh, a member of the Unite union, said bus drivers were being treated like ‘21st century slaves’.

He said the route from Uxbridge to Holborn in central London took about one and a half hours and at the end of the route there are no toilet facilities.

He said it was as if they expected bus drivers to ‘urinate on the street’!

‘Going back to Uxbridge, again it’s the same story,’ he continued.

When bus drivers at First Group went on strike recently, their union was taken to court and a ‘loophole’ was used to get the strike banned, he told the rally.

But the union leaders refused to fight, he said, describing the merger of the TGWU and Amicus as like ‘trying to put two dead bodies into one coffin’.

‘We are sick and tired of being led the wrong way,’ he said.