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Strength in Numbers

TO FIGHT AUSTERITY WE NEED A UNITED LEFT

By Simon Hardy, Anticapitalist Initiative (Britain)

October 9, 2012 –  Submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

The urgent need for unity on the radical left is something that has been eloquently put forward by Dan Hind on the Al-Jazeera website. Asking a very pertinent question as to whether there can be a SYRIZA-type organisation in Britain, Hind draws out some of the most important lessons of the Greek struggle and poses a challenge to the British left — can we break out of the ghetto as well?[1]

To plot a possible trajectory we have to be clear of the political alignment that has emerged for the left under the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. While Ed Miliband’s Labour Party might be surging ahead in the polls, the possibility of a Labour left revival is simply not on the cards. The Labour Party is hollowed out and bureaucratically controlled and all the best intentions and actions of Labour left activists will not change that. The Labour left is reduced to the old argument that there is nothing credible outside the Labour Party. They mockingly point to all the twisted contortions of the far left in Britain in the last decade (Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Respect, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Left list, Respect renewal, etc.) to forge a new unity and conclude that the Labour Party is the only show in town.

But this is not an argument made from the Labour Party left’s strength, it is an argument about the radical left’s weakness. They cannot point to any meaningful gains made by the Labour left in recent years because there hasn’t been any. Even the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the only significant bastion of the socialist left in the party, has failed to grow. On the crucial issue of the coalition government’s spending cuts they couldn’t even get any commitment from their municipal councillors to vote against cuts to local government budgets. Some have claimed that the Labour Party could act as a dented shield against the coalition onslaught, but the truth is that the Labour Party is no shield at all.

The most significant recent press offensive by the Labour Party has been to force the government to re-examine the west-coast mainline rail franchise deal, not to re-nationalise it but to try and keep Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains on the line. Yet barely a peep about the privatisation of the National Health Service, including privatising the pharmacies, some of which are also being taken over by Branson’s Virgin company.

The Labour left is generally principled on issues like privatisation and fighting austerity, but they are drowned out by the party apparatus, which is overwhelmingly neoliberal and anti-socialist. John McDonnell’s failure to even get on the leadership ballot in 2010 speaks volumes. As does the obvious non-growth of the labour left activist base. The magazine Labour Briefing, which recently became the official organ of the LRC, probably has a readership of around 500-600 people, smaller than some of the revolutionary left newspapers.

This is not to say that the Labour left has no role to play – far from it – they should just face reality squarely in the face and realise that reclaiming the Labour Party is a dead-end project.

But there is some truth in their criticism of the revolutionary left. Even where we have built new organisations that looked like they were about to achieve lift off (Respect, SSP), they collapsed in ignominy, usually caused by ego clashes and ridiculous control freakery by various organisations. While some of us criticised the political basis of these projects, the reality is that the political weaknesses barely even had time to come to the surface – the inveterate problems of the far left ran these initiatives into the ground long before they even had a chance to be put to the test of any kind of political power.

So a Labour left that can’t get anywhere and a revolutionary left that can’t get anywhere.

What lessons can we draw from these ”realities”? Certainly pessimism, although understandable, would be the wrong conclusion. The lesson of SYRIZA shows what can be done if the left gets its act together, puts aside its own empire-building projects and tries to do something that might actually make a difference. We have to start from the objective situation and work backwards – the reality of the cuts and a potential lost decade to austerity needs to sharpen our minds and our resolve. Starting from the necessity of a united, credible left we can work backwards to imagine the steps that we can take to get there.

I would go so far as to say that anyone at the present time who opposes attempts towards greater unity is, perhaps unconsciously, holding back the movement. The crisis is so acute and the tasks of the hour so urgent that we have no time for people who spend their hours constructing excuses for fragmentation, isolation and weakness. They are the past, and we desperately need a future.

Dan Hind is right and his voice joins a growing chorus of others who see the need for unity on the left. Does this mean every sect and group can just get together? No, of course real differences emerge. But there is so much that unites us in the current political context that it is criminal – absolutely criminal – that none of the larger groups are seriously talking about launching a new united organisation. The three-way division of the anti-cuts movement is the bitter fruit of this backward attitude on the British left — a situation that should deservedly make us a laughing stock in other countries.

If the success of SYRIZA raises the benchmark for what the left can achieve then the natural next question is, “How could we create an organisation like SYRIZA in Britain?“ I think this question should dominate the discussions on the left in the coming months. But let’s be clear – I am not saying we should just transplant SYRIZA’s program and constitution and graft it onto the British left. Such an attempt would be artificial. An organisation like SYRIZA means a coalition of the radical left, united against austerity, united against privatisation, united in action and united in fighting social oppression. The kind of program that any new initiative adopts is largely the result of who is involved in it, certainly it should have an anti-capitalist basis, though it can leave some of the bigger questions unresolved, at least initially.

Let’s focus on the goals that Hind identifies: “campaign for an end to the country’s predatory foreign policy, for the dismantling of the offshore network, for democratic control of the central banks, urgent action to address the threat of catastrophic climate change, and reform of the national media regimes.”

Each constituency does not need to dissolve itself, we just need to ensure checks and balances to prevent “swamping” of meetings. Each local unit of the organisation would retain certain autonomy while a national committee was permitted to adopt political lines, within the remits established at a conference. If an organisation or individual does not like any of the policies then they should have full freedom to speak their mind about it, while accepting that there is unity in the campaigns and actions the organisations agrees to pursue.

Everyone has to accept that they might be minoritised at some point. But they also have to understand that abandoning the organisation over a constitutional dispute or over this or that policy means abandoning the vital struggle for building a credible radical left in this country. Do people want us to live in glorious isolation for another decade or more, as people’s living standards plummet?

We also have to overcome the very real difference in size between constituent parts on the left. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) for instance is still the largest group on the radical left in Britain, although it is much smaller than it was when I joined the left in 2001. Members of the SWP argue that launching a new party is not practical because, as they will numerically “dominate it”, it would cause problems (as it has in the past). But there are a number of ways to overcome this, if there is a political will to make it happen. Changing the culture on the left also means changing how we “intervene” into campaigns or broad organisations, and taking a more open approach, transforming sects into networks and “giving of yourself” for the greater need of the new organisation, these can all be thoroughly healthy steps to take.

Possible alternatives, definite pitfalls

The danger is that the left attempts some kind of united initiative, but limits it to an electoral coalition – replicating the Socialist Alliance (1999-2004) but without the enthusiasm. While a genuine socialist alliance would be a step forward from the current situation, it will suffer the same crisis as the last version, where all the left groups did their campaigning work under their own banners but stood together only in the election.

Let’s put it bluntly, British people generally don’t vote for electoral coalitions. They are here today and gone tomorrow, people respect the concept of a party or at least something more tangible that looks like it is going to last beyond the next internal spat. The Scottish Socialist Party was credible because it was united and forced the smaller groups involved to campaign as SSP activists first and foremost. Putting party before sect is essential to the success of any project, just as it was in the early days of the Labour Party or any of the Communist parties internationally.

The Respect débâcle shows the danger of personality politics (the “great man” view of politics, when the entire project is hung around one person’s neck). But its fragmentation also shows what happens when large constituent groups (in this case the SWP) act like control freaks and treat a coalition like their personal property. Although they blamed the disastrous outcome on John Rees, the fact is that the entire party was complicit in the mistakes that were made, both opportunism in political terms and bad practice in the organisational centre of the party. It was a feeling of loss of control when Galloway started to criticise the SWP’s handling of Respect that led the SWP leadership to “go nuclear” in the words of one protagonist.[2] While we can be critical of the conduct of Galloway and some of his positions, the complaint about organisational manoeuvres and people swamping meetings is one that many on the left will be sadly familiar with. This kind of practice must stop.

The political problem with Respect was not so much its “liberal” program, at the end of the day it was largely old Labour social democratic in much of what it said, the unstable core at the heart of it was the drive for electoral success with people who had no real interests in extra-parliamentary movements and struggles. A temporary alliance with careerists can come back to bite you, as it did for Respect in the east end of London, where Respect councillors jumped ship, first to the Tories and Liberal Democrats and then to Labour.

Again this points up the importance of political movements on the streets and in the workplaces as being paramount, with elections as a subordinate part of that strategy. Moreover, it means a much more democratic and accountable relationship between any elected representatives and the rank and file members, one where they are subordinated to the wider organisation and struggle, and not seen as its “leaders” merely because they have been elected to a position within the capitalist state. This is a point that SYRIZA will also have to debate out in the coming months.

Today the remains of the cycle of left unity initiatives exists in the form of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), an electoral alliance between the SWP and the Socialist Party (CWI), as well as a handful of independents. But again the TUSC only exists for elections and has no activist base. It seems to be doubtful that the TUSC can be transformed into something better; rather it appears to be a marriage of convenience for the two bigger Trotskyist groups. Its last conference had less than 60 people at it, despite the fact that the combined membership of the constituent groups must be over 1000 – real decisions are of course taken by the SWP and SP party leaderships.

While the past should not be forgotten, it can be forgiven, if people can prove their earnest support for a new initiative. Otherwise we are locked in a vicious circle with no way out.

Differences with SYRIZA

Regardless of the subjective problems of the British left’s sect-building ethos, there are two objective problems if we consider ourselves in relation to what the Greek left has achieved. The first is that SYRIZA’s success is clearly the result of a country in complete meltdown. Wage cuts of 40% and closure of important services is at a qualitatively higher level than anything we have in Britain… so far. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that only around 10% of the cuts have gone through, so worse is to come.

Second, Syriza was launched in 2004 and has had the best part of a decade to build up its support in elections before the explosion in 2012. In most elections they received around 5% of the vote, which to the British left would be nothing short of a breakthrough. Patience and a long-term view of politics is essential to make such a project work. But then, maybe the British “explosion” will happen sooner since any new organisation built will be involved in tenacious struggle against austerity from day one.

We also could not limit ourselves to electoral politics as SYRIZA seems to have an inclination to do. While some of the more radical elements within the coalition are organising forums and initiatives outside of the parliamentary process, it is essential as part of our strategy to see elections as a subordinate part of the wider struggle, not the primary focus. If SYRIZA imagines that it can really reverse the austerity measures and revive Greece only through governing the capitalist state they will be in for a rude shock. When it comes to Greece’s political and economic future, the European Central Bank and the leaders of France and Germany, not to mention the Greek capitalist class, are all in a far more powerful position than the parliament in Athens; removing their support and control mechanisms would be a crucial task for any radical government.

Campaigning for a united, radical left formation in Britain should be an essential part of the Anticapitalist Initiative’s (ACI) work in the coming months and years. Even more so, 2013 should be the year that serious steps are made to bring together a re-alignment on the left. We have had our fingers burnt in the past, but we cannot let past failures haunt us. If we fail to rise to the challenge, then we will deserve the defeats inflicted on us by the ruling class.

But the working class and the poor do not deserve them. It is not their fault the left is so weak – it’s ours. Now we have to get our house in order so that we can create a movement that can fight austerity and challenge capitalism.

Simon Hardy is a member of the new Anticapitalist Initiative (ACI), which, according to its website, seeks “to search out avenues for unity and co-operation that presents radical and socialist ideas in a way that is more appealing to new layers of activists. We will promote activity and struggle that aims to overcome division and sectarianism and points the way to a new type of society without exploitation and oppression.”

 

Notes

[1] Read Dan Hind’s article here http://aje.me/U5lUOj. It subsequently drew a critically examination from Socialist Workers Party member Richard Seymour at his Lenin’s Tomb blog http://www.leninology.com/2012/08/the-problem-of-left-unity.html.

[2] See http://www.socialistunity.com/galloway-on-respect/ and also http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Car-crash-on-the-left.

Originally at LINKS: International Journal of Socialist Renewal: http://links.org.au/node/3054

**END**

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Judith Butler

‘WHAT IS COALITION?’ – WITH JUDITH BUTLER

Call for Conference Papers: European Conference
What is coalition? Reflections on the conditions of alliance formation with Judith Butler’s work

Date: 15 May 2012 with Professor Judith Butler (UC Berkeley)
Venue: Institute for Gender Studies, Geneva University, Switzerland

Conception : Delphine Gardey (Geneva University) and Cynthia Kraus (Lausanne University)
Logistics: Aurélie Chrestian and Julien Debonneville (Geneva University)

In her groundbreaking book, Gender Trouble (1990), Judith Butler inaugurates and develops her critique of foundational reasoning – of identity categories such as (biological) sex, or of a transcendental subject such as “the woman” or even “women” (in the plural) – as a critique of identity politics in general, and of a women’s identity-based feminism in particular. For this reason, her antifoundationalism appears as a critical practice that seeks not only to rethink the political – along with genders, bodies, subjects and agency – in terms of performativity rather than of representation, but also, and most importantly, to theorize alternatives to identity politics in terms of coalition building.

Since then, we can consider that Butler has insistently returned to the action-oriented question of “what is coalition?” and further elaborated on the conditions of possibility of alliance formation – at least, as much as on the conditions of subversion – in order to move effectively toward what she calls a “progressive” or “radical democratic politics.” This one-day conference aims to reflect – historically, sociologically, philosophically – on the conditions of possibility, on the objects, means and purposes of alliance formation – between minorities, with the State, political parties, and other public actors, or between disciplines, or even across species (e.g. animal-human), etc. –, of political transformation, and thus of a collective agency, in both domestic and international contexts, through the concrete and generic question of “What is coalition?” – with special interest for the ways in which critical perspectives inspired from feminist and queer theory can be made into productive tools to theorize the political at various levels, at different times and locations, but also to intervene and do better democratic work. We encourage submissions from all research fields that present original material and engage, with creativity and precision, with both the theoretical and practical dimensions of the conference question with insights from – rather than directly on – Butler’s “political theory.”

Deadline for conference paper (including abstract) submission: 15 February 2012
Notification of acceptance by: 5 March 2012
Deadline for final conference papers: 15 April 2012

Abstracts, conference paper proposals and final conference papers should be sent to:  coalition-genderstudies@unige.ch
Please check the following link:  http://www.unige.ch/etudes-genre/Institut/Evenementsscientifiques/Coalition.pdf

————
Cynthia Kraus
Maître d’enseignement et de recherche
Institut des sciences sociales
Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques
Université de Lausanne
Bât. Anthropole – bureau 3087
CH-1015 Lausanne
Tel +41-21-692.32.23/ 31 80
Fax +41-21-692.32.15   
http://www.unil.ch/iss    
http://www.unil.ch/labso

*****

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Economic Crisis

BRITAIN’S BROKEN ECONOMY – AND HOW TO MEND IT

The New Political Economy Network

FREE TO DOWNLOAD

There is no cast-iron law that states that crises of capitalism end in victories for the left – and certainly not in Britain. And yet this is not a Conservative moment – it is clear that the Coalition has no viable plan for rebuilding the economy. The problem is that Labour does not have one either. The task for Labour now is to come up with a vision of a moral economy based on decent jobs, good homes, stable pensions and fair finance. This e-book is the story of how Labour might begin to do this.

Foreword by Larry Elliott
Afterword by Jon Cruddas MP

The following contributed to the e-book:
Aditya Chakrabortty, Tom Clark, Ismail Eturk, Julie Froud, Sukhdev Johal, Stewart Lansley, Adam Leaver, Toby Lloyd, Mick Moran, Richard Murphy, Howard Reed, Jonathan Rutherford, Duncan Weldon, Karel Williams

Published by Soundings and supported by The Guardian and the Barry Amiel Norman Melburn Trust

Details at: http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/ebooks/BritainsBrokenEconomy.pdf

For more information on Soundings visit our website

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A World To Win

SOUNDINGS 45

Soundings 45 is now out

Although the cuts are coming, there has been an eerie political calm and sense of inevitability about all that is in store for us (carefully nurtured by the Coalition and their allies in the media). But the storm will break – people are going to start seriously suffering and we need to ensure that there is a political battle against the assault planned by the government. Can Labour lead this battle?

CONTENTS

The political struggle ahead
Doreen Massey

Labour in a time of coalition
Sally Davison, Stuart Hall, Michael Rustin, Jonathan Rutherford

What comes after New Labour?
Gerry Hassan

The SNP and the ‘new politics’
Richard Thompson

Rebuilding social democracy
George Irvin

Greek myths
Duncan Weldon

Money manager capitalism and the global financial crisis
L. Randall Wray

Carbon trading: how it works and why it fails
Oscar Reyes and Tamra Gilbertson

Why I am a socialist
Ruth Levitas

Smile till it hurts
Laurie Penny

Lives on the line
Vron Ware

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'Having a great time here in Iraq!'

TONY BLAIR: THE NIGHTMARE WE DID SEE COMING

STOP THE WAR COALITION  
Newsletter No.1168  
02 September 2010  
Email office@stopwar.org.uk Tel: 020 7801 2768  
Web: http://stopwar.org.uk   
Twitter: http://twitter.com/STWuk

IN THIS NEWSLETTER:  
1) TONY BLAIR: THE NIGHTMARE WE DID SEE COMING  
2) MORE SIGNS OF “PROGRESS” IN AFGHANISTAN  
3) LETTER TO MPs FROM MILITARY FAMILIES  
4) OBAMA’S FAKE END TO THE IRAQ WAR  
5) ARTIST SIGNED PRINT OF ICONIC BLAIR PICTURE  
6) NEW NATIONAL MEMBERS HELP RAISE URGENT FUNDS

*************************************  
1) TONY BLAIR: THE NIGHTMARE WE DID SEE COMING

Tony Blair says in his memoirs that Iraq was the nightmare he did not see coming. The majority of people in Britain had no difficulty in seeing that the nightmare we faced was not Iraq, but Tony Blair and his war policies.

Blair’s legacy will be that of a war criminal who waged an illegal war which killed hundreds of thousands and left Iraq in pieces, and who when he left office exploited his crimes to accumulate wealth soon expected to top £60 million.

We will not forget Blair’s crimes or the victims, whether Iraqi civilians or British soldiers, and we will continue to campaign for his indictment for the violation of countless international laws.

Which is why on Wednesday 8 September Stop the War will hold a protest outside Waterstone’s bookshop in London’s Piccadilly, when Blair will be doing a book-signing.

Tony Blair is not like any other author promoting a new book, but a war criminal who should be behind bars awaiting trial.

* EMAIL WATERSTONE’S NOW USING OUR E-LOBBY TOOL  
It takes a couple of minutes using our model letter to send an instant message to Waterstone’s urging them to cancel Tony Blair’s book-signing.  
GOTO: http://bit.ly/93tbfF

* JOIN THE PROTEST AT WATERSTONE’S ON 8 SEPTEMBER  
If Blair’s book-signing is not being cancelled,  Stop the War will organise a protest at 12.30pm outside Waterstone’s in Piccadilly, London. Please join us, if you can.

SEE NO BOOK-SIGNING FOR TONY BLAIR: http://bit.ly/bGC6W2

*************************************  
2) MORE SIGNS OF “PROGRESS” IN AFGHANISTAN

Parliament will debate the war in Afghanistan next week against the background of claims by the politicians and military waging war that the invading armies are “making progress”.

Twenty-one US soldiers were killed over last weekend — adding to the number killed this year, which is fast approaching the total for the whole of 2009. This exposes the reality in Afghanistan, as do the continually rising numbers of Afghan civilians being killed at a higher rate than in any previous year of the war.

Stop the War has organised a public meeting in the House of Commons the day before MPs debate the Afghan war. The title will be Afghanistan: Time To Go, and the speakers will include MPs Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Flynn, who will be joined by Joan Humphries, from Military Families Against the War, whose grandson was killed in Afghanistan.

The meeting is part of the campaign mobilising support for the Afghanistan: Time To Go national demonstration in London on 20 November.

PUBLIC MEETING: 08 SEPTEMBER 7.00PM  
AFGHANISTAN: TIME TO GO  
HOUSE OF COMMONS, LONDON  
RIGHT SIDE ENTRANCE  (Ask for Stop the War meeting)

*************************************  
3) LETTER TO MPs FROM MILITARY FAMILIES

A group of military families have come together to produce a letter to MPs in the run up to next week’s debate and vote on Afghanistan in Parliament.

The letter calls for the troops to come home, and ends by saying:

“Politicians who send and keep the British Military in Afghanistan should take heed of the majority of the population  
who want the troops home, remembering that they are elected as our servants not our masters. This pointless waste of life must end now before too many more suffer.” (SEE LETTER HERE: http://tinyurl.com/35zhv39)

The families are asking others who have military connections to add their names to the letter. If you are in contact with military families who have relatives serving in Afghanistan, or about to be deployed there, please bring this letter to their attention.

DOWNLOAD LETTER FOR PRINTING HERE: http://tinyurl.com/35zhv39

Any members of military families who would like further information, can contact Joan Humphries, whose grandson was killed in Afghanistan: Tel 07859 168 440, Email joanhumphreys2001@yahoo.co.uk

*************************************  
4) OBAMA’S FAKE END TO THE IRAQ WAR

Barack Obama’s speech this week announcing that the Iraq War is over is, as Robert Fisk says, just “tomfoolery”: SEE  
http://bit.ly/cQPjXT  

The Americans are not leaving, the occupation is not over and the fighting continues. And as Hadani Ditmars reports in her article, Iraq in Pieces, the legacy of the illegal war is a nightmare for the Iraqi people, SEE  http://bit.ly/aBJVe2

*************************************  
5) ARTIST SIGNED PRINT OF ICONIC BLAIR PICTURE

Artists Peter Kennard and Cat Phillips have made available to Stop the War 100 signed copies of their iconic picture of Tony Blair photographing himself with his mobile phone against a backdrop of Iraq in flames. SEE PRINT HERE: http://bit.ly/dBYeit

These limited edition 51cm x 51cm prints are available to Stop the War supporters, on a strict first come first served basis, at a cost of £10 plus £2.50 postage, from the national office: Tel: 020 7801 2768

Demand is likely to be very high for signed prints of this now legendary image, so if you would like one, it is advisable to apply immediately.

*************************************  
6) NEW NATIONAL MEMBERS HELP RAISE URGENT FUNDS

We have had a tremendous response to our appeal in our last newsletter for supporters of Stop the War to become national members, as one of the best ways to help fund our activities.

We are still in urgent need of raising funds for the events we have planned for the coming months, not least the national demonstration on 20 November.

If you have not yet contributed and would like to support our fund raising drive, by becoming a national member or by making a donation, you can do so in three ways:

* ONLINE: http://bit.ly/11eQoy   
* BY PHONE: 020 7801 2768  
* BY CHEQUE: Payable to “Stop the War Coalition”, send to: 231 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1EH

*************************************

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Dave Hill

STATEMENT AND EDUCATION POLICY MANIFESTO – BY DAVE HILL

Statement and Education Policy Manifesto by Dave Hill

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Parliamentary Candidate for Brighton Kemptown

Details at: http://www.brightontusc.blogspot.com

I have spent my lifetime as a teacher in ‘challenging’ primary and secondary schools, in teacher ‘training’ and in universities trying to tackle inequalities in schooling: inequalities that result in millions of working class children having far less educational opportunities – and subsequently, usually lower paid jobs – than the children of richer parents; especially the 7% who go to private schools – and snap up most of the highest paid, elite, jobs.

The very choice of what and how it should be taught, how and what schooling should be organised, how it should be funded, and where and how the funding should be targeted, and a consideration of ‘who wins and who loses’ through all of the above, are all intensely political. And we want that politics to be in the interests of the millions not the millionaires!

I come from a working class family brought up in some poverty: for example on free School Meals (like a million others!) in St. Martins’ St., off the Lewes Rd., Brighton. I went to Westlain Grammar School, my brothers to under-funded secondary modern schools, such as Queens Park and Moulscoomb. Three times as much was spent on the education of grammar school students than on Secondary Modern students! My children went to local state schools. The inequalities I have witnessed – and lived – as a child, as a teacher and socialist political activist, have led me to spending my life fighting for greater equality in education and society, and against racism, sexism and against homophobia.

What an indictment of our divisive education system that students from private schools are 25 times more likely to get to one of the top British universities than those who come from a lower social class or live in a poor area! And that (in 2008) only 35% of pupils eligible for free school meals obtained five or more A* to C GCSE grades; compared with 63% of pupils from wealthier backgrounds.  This stark education inequality mirrors that in our grossly unequal society.

It is incredible, actually it is only too believable, in Britain today, that the richest section of society has 17 years of healthy life more than the least well-off in society. The minimum wage should be raised by 50%. How can people – decent hard working people like some in my own family, live on take-home pay of less than £200 a week! And there should be a maximum wage, too! Nobody, banker, boss, or buy-out bully, should be on more than £250,000 a year. This figure should reduce progressively so that within 10 years no-one is taking more than four times the average wage, nobody should be creaming off £27 million or £67 million a year for example! Certainly not when there are 4 million children living in poverty! I was once one of them. I was helped by the welfare state. We need our public services.  We need to improve them, not cut them; not attack them.

All three parties, New Labour, Lib Dem, and Tory, dance to the music of big business. All are promising cuts. Whatever they say, those cuts will hit schools, children, and the quality of education in our state schools. Already we are seeing staff cuts and course closures in universities up and down the country. In Brighton, for example, both Brighton and Sussex Universities are promising to cut out the nurseries, and Sussex to chop over 100 jobs. Brighton University is proposing to cut its Adult Ed art courses. Vandalism! Cutting popular and widely used public services!

And don’t believe cuts are necessary. They’re not! Cutting the Trident nuclear submarine replacement programme, bringing troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, stopping the Identity Card programme, and collecting even some even of the £120 billion in taxes unpaid by the rich… yes, £120 billion!…would mean cuts are not necessary at all!

But you won’t hear that from the other parties, just from Socialists, like the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and from Respect.

A Socialist Manifesto for Education is:

[1] Cut class sizes (they are currently some of the largest in the rich world- much larger than in private schools for example). According to OECD research Britain is 23rd out of 30 developed countries in terms of large class size. Other countries such as Finland have a maximum class size of 20. Finland is widely seen as providing an extremely high quality of education. For a maximum class size of 20 by 2020 in both primary and secondary schools!

[2] Abolish league tables and abolish SATS (some external testing is necessary, but SATS so very often restricts teaching to ‘teaching to the test’, and results in undue stress (and an increase in bedwetting, compared to the pre-SATS era, for example).

[3] Restore local democratic control of ‘Academies’. They should be run by the democratically elected local councils, and keep to national pay and conditions agreements. Why should rich businessmen and women take control of any of our schools? Let’s keep the added investment- but it’s the government that pays for that added investment anyhow! Let’s keep and enhance the added investment, but distribute it fairly between all schools. Our schools and the children in them are not for sale! Nor, through uneven funding for different types of school (e.g. Academies) should some schools be set up for success at the expense of others being set up (and under-funded) for relative failure.

[4] Private profiteering out of our schools! Bring the education services hived off to private profiteers back into either national or local private ownership! These include Ofsted, Student grants, school meals, cleaning and caretaking.

[5] Free, nutritious, balanced school meals for every child to combat poor diets, obesity, and… yes… for some children… hunger!

[6] Restore free adult education classes in pastime and leisure studies as well as in vocational training/ studies

[7] Restore free, state-funded residential centres and Youth Centres/Youth clubs for our children so they can widen their experiences of life in safe circumstances and enhance their education beyond the confines of the home or city.

[8] For a fully Comprehensive Secondary School system; so that each school has a broad social class mix and mix of ability and attainment levels. 

[9] For the integration of Private schools into the state education system – so that the goodies of the private school system are shared amongst all pupils/ students. All schools to be under democratic locally elected local council control. No to Private Schools. No to religious groups running schools. No to big business / private capital running our schools and children! 

[10] Free up the curriculum so there can be more creativity and cross-subject/ disciplinary work.

[11] Get Ofsted and their flawed tick-box system off the back of teachers. The results of Ofsted are to penalise even the best schools (outstanding in every aspect- other than in SATS attainments) in the poorest areas.

[12] Encourage Critical Thinking across the curriculum. Teach children not ‘what to think’, but ‘how to think’: including how to think critically about the media and politicians.

[13] Teach in schools for ecological literacy and a readiness to act for environmental justice as well as economic and social justice. Encourage children to ‘reach for the stars’ – and to work for a society that lets that happen – a fairer society with much more equal chances, pay packets and power, and about environmental and sustainability issues.  

[14] Proper recognition of all school workers, and no compulsory redundancies. For teachers, secretarial and support staff, teaching assistants, school meals supervisory assistants, caretaking staff, there should be workplace democratic regular school forums in every school. Regarding jobs (for example the threatened job cuts at Sussex University – and the ‘inevitable’ job cuts in every? school after the election – and no compulsory redundancies – any restructuring to be conditional on agreement with the trade unions.

[15] Setting up of school councils – to encourage democratic understanding, citizenship, social responsibility, and a welcoming and valuing of ‘student/pupil voice’.

[16] Ensuring that schools are anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic – making sure schools encourage equality, welcoming different home and group cultures. As part of this, anti-bullying practices in every school must be fully implemented, to combat bullying of all sorts, including racism, sexism, homophobia, and bullying based on disabilities. And this should be not just in anti-bullying policies, but also be part of the curriculum too!

[17] An honest sex education curriculum in schools that teaches children not just ‘when to say no’, but also when to say ‘yes’; a programme that is focused on positives and pleasure and personal worth, not on stigmatising sex and sexualities.

[18] No to ‘Faith Schools’ and get organised religion out of schools. If Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, or whichever religion wishes to teach religion, let them do it in their own time, places of worship (Saturday/Sunday schools) or in their supplementary or complementary schools. Teach ethics and spirituality by all means, and teach about religions. But no brainwashing. Teach a critical approach to religions.

[19] Broaden teacher education and training so that the negative effects of the ‘technicisation and de-theorising’ of teacher training (that were the result of the 1992/1993 Conservative re-organisation of what was then called teacher education- subsequently retitled teacher training). Bring back the study and awareness of the social and political and psychological contexts of teaching, including an understanding of and commitment to challenge and overturn racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of underexpectation and discrimination – such as discrimination against working class pupils.

[20] A good, local school for every child. No school closures! “Surplus places” should actually mean lower class sizes! And increased community use of school facilities.

[21] A completely fully funded, publicly owned and democratic education system from pre-school right through to university. Education is a right not a commodity to be bought and sold. So: no fees, like in Scandinavia, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, where education up to PhD level is free. No to university or further education/vocational training fees! And bring in a living grant for students from less well-off backgrounds/ income.

In my jobs, firstly as a teacher, and now as a Professor of Education (and writer/editor of 17 books on education and equality) I have been round hundreds of schools. Many of them are brilliant. Schools in the poorest areas, schools in better off areas! Brilliant. But, with better funding, smaller class sizes, an end to the destructive competition between schools (if every school is a good local school) and with more professional judgement being allowed for teachers- then I look forward to a time when all state schools match the class sizes and results of the currently more lavishly funded private schools’. And working class kids – black, brown, white – get the fair deal currently trumpeted – but in actuality denied – by all three major parties.  

Professor Dave Hill, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown

Professor Dave Hill teaches at Middlesex University and is Visiting Professor of Critical Education Policy and Equality Studies at the University of Limerick, Ireland.

The Brighton Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition blogspot is at: http://www.brightontusc.blogspot.com

Dave’s Wiki and Publications are at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Hill_(professor)

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