Let’s make this huge: Demo in support of Gaza, Saturday 19 July, London

Gaza demo, London, July 19 2014On SU we don’t publicise a lot of events – it’s a full-time job to keep track of the amazing array of events in the fight for social justice, against racism, against attacks on the disabled, the elderly, the young, Muslims and so on.

This one’s vital though. The mainstream media is complicit in Israel’s crimes against the people of Gaza, as is the government. The silence is part of Israel’s power. We have almost no power to do anything to stop this, but one thing we can do is take to the streets in huge numbers, to try to break through the wall of silence, to try to shame our government – and to show our sisters and brothers in Gaza that the people of the world are with them.

With that in mind, please, please try to get to this demo. It’s on Saturday, the weather looks like it’ll be amazing. It’s our chance to show our anger at our government, which gives diplomatic and military support to Israel no matter what crimes it commits. William Hague has given full support to Israel. But as we’ve asked, and had no reply to, how many children should the people of Gaza put up with being killed before the British government will make the same statement, declaring that Palestine has the right to defend itself against attack?
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Did Israel really think Hamas would turn the other cheek?

This is another good article by Gideon Levy, locating things the way any honest journalist would: it’s not ‘Israel the victim’, it’s Israel, pushing again and again and again, and Hamas hitting back.

Israelis in Sderot - they watch for explosions in Gaza and cheer when they see and hear them. That's what Israel has becomeFollowing the kidnapping of three teenaged Israelis in the territories and their murders, Israel wildly arrested some 500 Palestinians, including members of parliament and dozens of freed prisoners who had no connection at all to the kidnapping. The army terrorized the entire West Bank with a dragnet and mass arrests, whose declared aim was “to crush Hamas.” A racist campaign raged on the Internet and led to a Palestinian teenager being burned alive. All this followed Israel’s punitive campaign against the effort to establish a Palestinian unity government that the world was prepared to recognize, its violation of its commitment to release prisoners, a halt of the diplomatic process and a refusal to propose any alternate plan or vision.

Did we really think the Palestinians would accept all this submissively, obediently, and calmly, and that peace and quiet would continue to prevail in Israel’s cities?
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Our wretched Jewish state

By Gideon Levy

Haaretz

The youths of the Jewish state are attacking Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem, just like gentile youths used to attack Jews in the streets of Europe. The Israelis of the Jewish state are rampaging on social networks, displaying hatred and a lust for revenge, unprecedented in its diabolic scope. Some unknown people from the Jewish state, purely based on his ethnicity. These are the children of the nationalistic and racist generation – Netanyahu’s offspring.

For five years now, they have been hearing nothing but incitement, scaremongering and supremacy over Arabs from this generation’s true instructor, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not one humane word, no commiseration or equal treatment.

They grew up with the provocative demand for recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” and they drew the inevitable conclusions. Even before any delineation of what a “Jewish state” means – will it be a state that dons tefillin (phylacteries), kisses mezuzot (doorpost fixtures with prayer scrolls), sanctifies charms, closes down on the Sabbath and keeps strict kashrut laws? – the penny has dropped for the masses.

The mob was the first to internalize its true significance: a Jewish state is one in which there is room only for Jews. The fate of Africans is to be sent to the Holot detention center in the Negev, while that of Palestinians is to suffer from pogroms. That’s how it works in a Jewish state: only this way can it be Jewish.

In the Jewish state-in-the-making, there is no room even for an Arab who strives his utmost to be a good Arab, such as the writer Sayed Kashua. In a Jewish state, the chairman of the Knesset plenary session, MK Ruth Calderon (from Yesh Atid – the “center” of the political map, needless to say), cuts off Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al), who has just returned all shaken up from a visit to the family of the murdered Arab boy from Shoafat, impudently preaching to him that he must also refer to the three murdered Jewish teens (even after he did just that).

In a Jewish state, the High Court of Justice approves the demolition of a murder suspect’s family home even before his conviction. A Jewish state legislates racist and nationalist laws.

The media in the Jewish state wallows in the murder of three yeshiva students, while almost entirely ignoring the fates of several Palestinian youths of the same age who have been killed by army fire over the last few months, usually for no reason.

No one was punished for these acts – in the Jewish state there is one law for Jews and another for Arabs, whose lives are cheap. There is no hint of abiding by international laws and conventions. In the Jewish state, there is pity and humane feelings only for Jews, rights only for the Chosen People. The Jewish state is only for Jews.

The new generation growing in its shadow is a dangerous one, both to itself and its surroundings. Netanyahu is its education minister; the militaristic and nationalist media serves as its pedagogic epic poem; the education system that takes it to Auschwitz and Hebron serves as its guide.

The new sabra (native-born Israeli) is a novel species, prickly both on the outside and the inside. He has never met his Palestinian counterpart, but knows everything about him – the sabra knows he is a wild animal, intent only on killing him; that he is a monster, a terrorist.

He knows that Israel has no partner for peace, since this is what he’s heard countless times from Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. From Yair Lapid he’s heard that they are “Zoabis” – referring dismissively to MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad).

Being left wing or a seeker of justice in the Jewish state is deemed a crime, civil society is considered treacherous, true democracy an evil. In a Jewish state – dreamed of not only by the right wing but also by the supposed center-left, including Tzipi Livni and Lapid – democracy is blurred.

It’s not the skinheads that are the Jewish state’s main problem, it’s the sanctimonious eye-rollers, the thugs, the extreme right wing and the settlers. It’s not the margins but the mainstream, which is partly very nationalistic and partly indifferent.

In the Jewish state, there is no remnant of the biblical injunction to treat the minority or the stranger with justice. There are no more Jews left who marched with Martin Luther King or who sat in jail with Nelson Mandela. The Jewish state, which Israel insists the Palestinians recognize, must first recognize itself. At the end of the day, at the end of a terrible week, it seems that a Jewish state means a racist, nationalistic state, meant for Jews only.

What today’s strikes are about

gmb strikersWhile David Cameron bleets about the alleged lack of a mandate for today’s strike, it should be remembered that the turnout in strike ballots would be a lot higher if the current legal requirements were sensibly adapted to allow, for example, workplace balloting, and internet and phone voting. In any event GMB members voted 3:1 in favour of industrial action in response to the local government employers derisory pay offer of 1%, which is a convincing mandate for industrial action, and my experience as a GMB branch secretary is that in schools particularly there is a strong appetite for action and school support staff have been joining GMB specifially in order to take part.

The first stage of this action will be a 24 hour strike on Thursday 10th July, and this will be only the opening salvo n a long campaign unless the employer and the government enter meaningful negotiations.

Up to the last minute the joint trade unions have sought meaningful discussions with the government, the employers response has been at best bizarre as they criticise the unions for seeking talks to avert strike action:

The unions have also offered to go to arbitration at ACAS which has also been rejected by the government. Trade union members therefore have no option but to take strike action.

The pay offer is for a 1% increase for the majority of local government workers with some larger increases (up to 4%) at the lower end of the pay scales – where members are barely above the minimum wage. This still does not bring these members pay up to the living wage. These members have had a total of a 1% pay rise since 2010. Not only do over half a million people in local government earn less than the Living Wage (£7.65, or £8.80 in London), but during 2015 the national minimum wage is set to overtake the lowest local government pay scales

A decent pay rise is necessary for these hard working, caring workers because a 1% payrise is inadequate when RPI inflation is running at 2.5% this year. RPI is the most important measure of inflation for pay settlements. Set against inflation, and taking increased pensions contributions into account, local-government pay has been cut in real terms by 18% since 2010.

The employers say they are holding down pay to save jobs and services. But pay has been held down for years, and jobs and services have still disappeared! Almost half a million jobs have been lost in the sector since the coalition came to power.

Public services under attack – international austerity and the fight-back

Speaking to the Global Labour Institute’s 2014 International Summer School Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International, gave an account of the struggles public service workers are facing. This article draws on her speech to delegates in Tuesday’s opening plenary.

Public service jobs used to be considered the gold standard in much of the world. Well paid, good pension, decent holidays and solid trade union rights. In an era of neoliberalism however, these previously ‘most formal of formal workers’ are facing the kinds of attacks previously only associated with the most ruthless companies.

International Struggles

There’s an ideological background to this. Labour market and union ‘reform’ has been factor in almost all post-crash countries. In South Korea, the government has recently initiated the most violent attack on public services – derecognising unions in each sector. Privatisation of the rail industry and the mass firing of union activists have turned the country into what one delegate called ‘a war zone’ for workers.

Public Services International, the Global Union Federation for public service workers, is used to privatisation battles – organising in industries which are often publicly funded and subsidised, but increasingly privately owned.

In the US, the Supreme Court last week ruled that there’s no obligation for care workers to pay union dues to unions collectively bargaining for them. These workers often work alone. They are now even more isolated – especially if their unions become toothless in the face of the court decision.

And internationally, at the last ILO conference, for first time delegates couldn’t reach a conclusion on the centrality of the right to strike – despite convention 87 of the ILO convention deeming it fundamental – because employers were so strongly against. It’s a frightening turn for workers of all sectors, as that is one of the only legal bases unions have on the global scale.

But there is some good news. The UN Women’s organisation recently recognised the role of unions as key to addressing the problems of women.

Moreover, until recently trade unions were previously not allowed to participate in UN discussions on migration. Now, after years of struggling from PSI and others, they can. With migration becoming a vehicle for new kinds of slavery, it’s an important milestone.

For public service workers, the water campaigns in the UN are equally important. In 2010, water was deemed a human right, providing the legal background for the massive 2013 struggles in Europe for water to be publicly owned – many of which won, in Paris and elsewhere.

And in the IMF, Christine Lagarde has recently said austerity is creating more injustice and poses a threat to democracy.

A turning point?

The ruling class, then, is getting scared. We are at critical point of class conflict. In response to a global ruling class, unions must likewise organise internationally, not just in one workplace. The welfare state wasn’t won in one shop floor but by the entire working class.

Multinational capital has a strategy. Unions can’t afford to navel-gaze. Whether in care homes, railway stations or outsourced water plants, public service workers in today’s climate of privatisation, cuts and union-busting know this better than ever.

Josiah Mortimer is reporting on the Global Labour Institute’s third International Summer School for trade unionists at Northern College this week. You can follow all of the conference online on the GLI site, through Union Solidarity International, and on Twitter, using the hashtag #ISS14. This article draws on the plenary ‘The Fall & Rise of Labour?’

How workers can win

There’s a question every trade unionist must stop and ask at some point: what am I organising for? For Kirill Buketov, international campaign officer of the International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), the central driver behind is fundamentally that ‘we are dissatisfied with the way the world is run.’ Putting this into positive action means being political – and possessing a few vital qualities.

Buketov raises some examples. In Moscow under the Soviet Union ‘what really shook the system is when workers went on strike.’ But to be successful took organisation and leadership. At first, workers struck without any idea what they wanted – state officials simply sent them back to work until they had some demands. It was only when they had a strategy that change began. In contrast, the Occupy movement was unsustainable and didn’t last because it lacked organisation.

For Buketov, every conflict is at root the same – ‘you need organisation, strategy and commitment to win – to fight until the very end’. He points also to the Kazakhstani oil workers’ struggle in 2011 when 26,000 workers walked out for six months. It was brutally crushed and achieved nothing.

Why? They decided not to have organisation, changing their negotiators every time. There was no strategy or organisation.
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Solidarity with Gaza

Gaza attackAs ever, the dominant narrative being presented to us on the current conflict in Gaza is that Israel is defending itself and its civilians against unprovoked aggression by Palestinian terrorists. And as expected, it is the same narrative being pushed in Washington and London, as like a well-rehearsed play the actors involved perform their respective roles with the same old aplomb.

It is the same narrative we have been subjected to over countless years, one intended to paint Israel, that democratic outpost of Western civilisation surrounded by barbarian hordes intent on its destruction, as perennial victim.

But as in the past, so as now, it is a lie.

The truth is the current conflict has little if anything to do with Hamas or its rockets. It does however have everything to do with the state of Israel’s decades-long policy of occupation, embargo, siege, collective punishment, expropriation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Israel’s war is not with Hamas but with the Palestinian people in their entirety, both the 1.5 million in Gaza and the 3 million in the West Bank. It is a war waged every hour of every day there is occupation, checkpoints, and settlements. It is a war waged every hour of every day there is an economic embargo, siege, and collective punishment. It is a war being waged every second of the indignity and humiliation suffered by its victims.
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How do we revive the global union movement?

This is a guest post from activist Josiah Mortimer

That’s the verdict of Bill Fletcher of the American Federation of Government Employees, speaking to the Global Labour Institute’s International Summer School in Barnsley this week. Workers are being hit by neoliberalism across the world – that much is obvious – but politically, the issue is this: how are unions to respond in the face of supposedly left-wing parties that have capitulated to many of the neoliberal policies unions despise?

It’s a question being asked while the populist right soar in much of the global north – filling the void where previously socialist politics would have existed.

Fletcher sees the current attacks on workers – from privatisation to public sector cuts – as representing the ‘obliteration of the social contract’ that emerged following the Second World War. But it was a social contract that was also ‘historically specific’ – built amid fear of the red threat.
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