March Against Homophobia

On Saturday 22nd, over 150 people marched through Birmingham City Centre against the current repression against the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community in Chechnya (an autonomous region of the Russian Federation).

Reports says that gay men and women have been arrested due to their sexuality, with beatings and extra judicial killings carried out. Chillingly, the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has pledged to “eliminate” the gay community “by the start of Ramadan”.

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Socialist Party members joined in to show our disgust at the persecution suffered by LGBT people in Chechnya and throughout the world. We also took the chance to point out that the fight isn’t over in this country. The current Prime Minister, Theresa May, has voted in parliament against LGBT rights on multiple occasions. On 8th June we have the chance to kick her out – let’s take it!

A young LGBT Socialist Party member addressed the rally, mentioning the fact that while today LGBT people face repression in Chechnya and throughout Russia, 100 years ago the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia following the October revolution, and become one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex relationships. You can watch his speech here, and read more about the advances for LGBT people, women and the working class as a whole in Russia prior to the rise of Stalin here

BMW Workers Fight Back Against Pension Robbery

On 19th April, workers at BMW’s engine plant in Coleshill held the first of 5 separate 24 hour strikes against changes to the pension scheme. Part of the first national strike by workers for BMW in the UK, the stoppage was called by Unite the Union after a massive 93% vote on a 72% turnout was delivered.

 

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The company is trying to force through a change from a final salary pension scheme (based on workers’ contributions) to a defined benefit scheme (leaving retirement income at the mercy of stock market fluctuations). This could see the 5000 workers in the scheme losing up to £160,000 over the course of retirement. The move comes in spite of BMW Group making profits of €6.9bn in the year to March 2017, with orders constantly increasing for the UK made Mini and Rolls Royce brands.

 

There was a determined mood among those on the picket line to fight back, with one striker saying “you plan out what you think you’ll need for your retirement, and keep putting towards your pension pot, and then suddenly the company turn round and say you might not be getting what you thought you would. It’s a disgrace”.

 

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Reports from inside suggest that some sections were closed entirely, with managers desperately looking for qualified staff to keep production going on others.

 

The strike continues with further action planned on the 3rd, 16th, 18th and 24th May.

Defeat the millionaires’ Tory government

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Response from the Socialist Party on the snap general election:

Jeremy Corbyn must fight the election with socialist policies

Theresa May has called a general election for one reason – not the reason she gave – but because of the government’s weakness in face of a rising tide of anger in British society.

Workers are suffering the most prolonged squeeze on wages since the start of the nineteenth century. Benefits cuts are leaving millions without enough money to feed themselves and their families. Last year a record 200,000 people were admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition. Education and the NHS are facing life-threatening cuts. The housing crisis is acute. The new ultra-draconian anti-trade union laws are creating bitterness and frustration among trade unionists.

Far from being a strong government, May fears that, given the Tories’ wafer-thin majority in parliament, she could be overwhelmed by forced u-turns. In the first year of the government alone there were eleven, now – in order to try to prevent more – May has made the biggest u-turn yet. Having pledged not to call a snap election she has gone ahead and done so. This shows how capitalist politicians change the rules whenever it suits them.

Cameron and Clegg introduced the Fixed Term Parliament Act in order to try to shore up the Coalition government for five years, now May is over-riding it to try to strengthen a weak Tory government. She is gambling, based on current opinion polls, that she will win the general election with an increased majority and will then be more able to carry out her real programme – not the warm words about helping the ‘just managing’, but vicious austerity.

High risk for Tories

Her gamble is high-risk. The real poll will take place on 8 June, and a lot can happen between now and then. She is partly posing the election as a referendum on Brexit, hoping that the third of Tory voters who supported ‘remain’ will reluctantly continue to support her government. This is not guaranteed however – some may well switch to the pro-remain Liberal Democrats.

Moreover, the hated Tories are very unlikely to make significant inroads in Scotland. The Scottish National Party is not yet fully exposed and is likely to largely maintain its electoral base. Winning the Copeland byelection has probably given May hope that theTories can improve their position in the North of England. However, in both the Copeland and Stoke byelections the Tory vote actually fell in absolute terms. The Tories only scraped victory in Copeland because the Tory vote held up better than the Labour vote.

Globally the lesson of recent elections – from the US, to France, to the Netherlands – is that voters want to punish the capitalist establishment; and those parties and candidates that claim to be anti-establishment can have a mass appeal. Look at Melenchon in France, who by standing on a left programme, has soared to 19% in the opinion polls with a possibility that he will even go through to the second round. Jeremy Corbyn has already stated that Labour will not oppose the general election going ahead. Now he needs to launch an election campaign based on socialist policies that are relevant to working class people’s lives.

Policies for socialist change

It is clear that much of the pro-capitalist cabal at the top of the Labour Party will be secretly welcoming this election because they think Corbyn will be defeated and they can then replace him with some pro-capitalist pro-austerity leader. However, they could rue the day this election was called. If Corbyn fights on a clear socialist programme – for a Brexit in the interests of the working and middle-class – he could win the general election.

The policies that first thrust him into the leadership of the Labour Party would be a good beginning – an immediate introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage, free education for all, mass council house building and nationalisation of the rail and energy companies. These should be combined with policies such as an immediate end to all cuts in public services and a pledge to immediately renationalise Royal Mail.

Jeremy should make clear that he would kick the privateers out of public services and education. He should pledge to introduce a real socialist NHS – a well-funded, comprehensive, high quality NHS, under democratic control, with care free at the point of use. These demands should be linked to the need for fundamental socialist change – for a society run in the interests of the majority instead of for the profits of a few.

Such an election campaign should not be limited to speeches and election broadcasts. The campaign to defend the NHS should be linked to the mass movement which began with the national demonstration on 4 March. Jeremy Corbyn spoke at that demonstration. Now he, together with the trade union movement and health campaigners, should call a second demonstration, during the election campaign, mobilising millions onto the streets against the Tories and in defence of the NHS.

A Socialist Party statement

Want to join the socialists and help fight for a better world? Contact us and we will be in touch about local meetings and campaign activity near you!

Jobstown Not Guilty – Public Meeting

TUESDAY 25TH APRIL, 7PM,

THE VICTORIA, JOHN BRIGHT STREET, BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE


The Irish state plans to try 18 peaceful protesters for ‘false imprisonment’ of Labour former deputy premier Joan Burton. They were part of a sit-down protest and slow march around Burton’s car during the successful campaign against water charges in Ireland.

Not only is the claim of ‘false imprisonment’ completely bogus, this will be a direct attack on people’s rights to hold protests.

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Demonstration against Water Charges in Dublin

Our Public meeting will have Shane Finnon, an Anti-Water Charges Activist from Dublin, talking about the campaign to support the Jobstown defendants and what we can do to help.

For more information on the campaign and water charges check out this article on the Socialist Party national website


TUESDAY 25TH APRIL, 7PM,

THE VICTORIA, JOHN BRIGHT STREET, BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE

Benefits Slashed to 50p, Another Hit to Housing

Once again the government have found a way to reduce benefits in the United Kingdom and hitting Birmingham the hardest.
This time they have targeted housing benefits, reducing 578 out of 2,968 people that are benefit-capped to receiving only 50p housing benefit a week in Birmingham alone, a Panorama survey has found.
Compared to the average rent price in the Birmingham area of £145 a week this amount pays for a measly 0.3% of the money people need towards their rent.
This isn’t even taking into account the bills people need to pay like gas and electricity etc.

The situation of housing in Birmingham gets worse year by year, we are now seeing that 1 in every 14 people don’t have a home and only 59.3% of households actually own their home.
With this new scheme the government are putting out more people are going to be put at risk of homelessness, A rising issue in the area with the number of people sleeping rough on the streets becoming an increasing issue.
Capitalism again doesn’t care if it puts people on the streets, people unable to work are instantly victimised in this cruel system. 80% of people affected by these changes are either sick or have very young children in need of care so do not have the choice to go to work.

To tackle these changes we need to fight for increased affordable council housing to meet demand. Having a system of democratic rent control will prevent people from being victimised by private landlords who are making a profit at the expense of people’s livelihoods. In addition, we need to stop cutting housing benefits and reverse the cuts so people are able to afford to pay, as the actual cost of living keeps rising. Homeless is something which can only be eradicated under socialism – socialism will ensure people’s needs are met, while capitalism’s purpose is to bank money away made from the ever growing housing crisis!

If you would like to join the socialists or get more info please contact at birminghamsocialistparty@gmail.com

Terror Attack In London: Unite Against War, Racism And Terror

Abridged article from the Socialist Party national website

A wave of shock has followed yet another horrific terrorist attack. This time in the centre of London, yesterday’s mowing down of people using a vehicle comes after atrocities using vehicles in Berlin and Nice during the last eight months, and other appalling terrorist attacks in France and Brussels.

The Socialist Party has strongly condemned all these attacks, and does so again on this occasion.

The attacker’s choice of Westminster – and the fact that he ran towards Parliament – suggests anger against the establishment and government, but the victims were ordinary people, especially tourists viewing the Houses of Parliament. People of ten different nationalities were indiscriminately hit. Three people plus the attacker died and seven are critically injured.

In any case, whoever is targeted, acts of individual terror should always be opposed. They are not an effective means to struggle against the establishment.

Government hypocrisy

The Tories’ hypocrisy knows no bounds. The last thing that the likes of May will acknowledge is any link between the devastation their policies have caused across the Middle East and the threat of terrorism in Britain. Little information has so far been released on the background of the attacker, but May called the attack “Islamist terrorism”, and Islamic State (Isis) has claimed responsibility.

It is unfortunately no surprise that an incident of this nature has again occurred. There have been few terror attacks in Britain since the terrible 7/7 London bombings in 2005, but the intelligence services say they have ‘foiled’ 12 plots in the last three years and they have called the likelihood of the threat “severe” for a long period.

Last November, MI5 head Andrew Parker stated “there will be terrorist attacks in this country” and noted that the ‘tempo’ of terrorist plots and attempts during the previous three years was the highest in his 33 years at MI5.

Sign of weakness

Isis in Syria and Iraq has made it known that it is encouraging the carrying out of attacks in Europe – this is one way it is trying to fight back while being squeezed by military onslaughts against it in Mosul and north Syria.

It is a sign of its weakness, not strength, that it resorts to murderous individual acts. It doesn’t seek to remove capitalism – rather it wants use its fascistic type methods and individual terrorism to attack ordinary people and aid its aim of creating a capitalist or semi-feudal caliphate in the interests of its leaders.

Whether or not the perpetrators of atrocities like yesterday’s are directly motivated by Isis, British imperialism – along with US imperialism and other world powers – has created outrage across the Middle East and globally at its involvement in the slaughter of over 150,000 people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars – and also the foreign interventions in Yemen, Libya, Syria and parts of Pakistan – have generated would-be terrorists and Al-Qaida type groups across the globe.

Much of the worst suffering by ordinary people from terrorist acts has been in those countries, where regular suicide bombings have hit many hundreds of people in cities like Baghdad and Kabul.

Now the media in Britain is again asking how further attacks like yesterday’s in Westminster can be stopped, but there will be no way of stopping them based on a continuation of the government’s policies. The attacker was born in Britain – as were the 7/7 bombers. The police and intelligence services have no way of preventing all such future attackers, through their methods of surveillance and ‘anti-terrorism’ laws.

Fight racism and scapegoating

For years right-wing politicians in the three main parliamentary parties have dangerously used rhetoric that has played into the hands of racists. Anti-immigrant talk came from leaders on both sides of the EU referendum debate. The Socialist Party’s pro-working class standpoint, against division and racism and for Brexit on the basis of socialist internationalism, was not covered in the mainstream media.

Since the referendum, and the election of Trump, there has been an increase in racist attacks. Also it mustn’t be forgotten that racist attacks increased six-fold in the weeks after 7/7; a similar outcome must be fought against by socialists and trade unionists following this new terrorist attack, by calling for workers’ unity against all forms of racism and the far right.

This needs to include countering the far-right Britain First demonstration that has been called for 1st April.

All the racist, anti-democratic, pro-austerity and pro-war measures and policies of May’s Tory government must be fought by the trade union movement with new vigour and a determined plan of action. The building of a mass movement of opposition can remove it from power – and lay the basis for reversing its policies that breed poverty, division and terrorism.

Read the full article here

No To Zero Hours! Protest Against Sports Direct

This Saturday, Socialist Bluenoses will be organising a protest against Sports Direct’s Dickensian working practices at the Birmingham City vs Newcastle United game. Newcastle and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has built a business based on rampant use of zero hours contracts for shop and warehouse staff, poverty pay, and workhouse-like conditions at the firm’s Shirebrook warehouse.

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Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley being questioned by MPs

The warehouse has become notorious even in today’s super-casualised job market. Practices include intrusive searches of staff on entry and exit and a six strikes disciplinary policy which led to one woman worker giving birth in the toilets, as she was unable to afford to take (unpaid) time off while pregnant.

After these practices were exposed by Unite the Union’s campaigning to get Sports Direct exposed in the press and in front of a parliamentary committee, Ashley generously promised to give his minimum wage employees a pay rise – of 15p an hour!

We’ll be passing out signs before the game for fans to hold up five minutes before kick off, saying “Boycott Sports Direct” and explaining just what Sports Direct workers have to put up with on the back.

The Socialist Party, and the Youth Fight For Jobs stands for the following, and works with trade unions to make it a reality:

  • A living wage of £10 an hour
  • An end to zero hours contracts, with holiday, maternity and sick pay
  • Full employment rights from day one to protect against unfair dismissal
  • An end to the parasitic wideboys running our football clubs, with genuine fan ownership and control

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    Newcastle fans protest against Mike Ashley