SA National Office bulletin
12 November 2002
Firefighters' strike is on
The FBU national executive council has just announced that they have unanimously rejected both the recommendations of the Bain inquiry and the employers' final offer. Fire fighters will be staging their first national strike for 25 years and only their second national strike ever from 6pm tomorrow (Wednesday) night for 48 hours, with further action to follow. Many fire fighters are extremely angry about the way the government and employers treated them and frustrated with the lack of progress in the pay talks. It would not be surprising if some fire fighters have been disoriented by the events of the last couple of weeks.
It is extremely important that Socialist Alliance members raise again the issue of support for the fire fighters in workplaces, union branches, etc., and particularly raise the issue of health and safety problems arising from the fire fighters' strike. We should also try to contact fire fighters today and tomorrow to give them messages of support and to visit picket lines tomorrow evening. There should be picket lines on all fire stations from 6pm tomorrow evening. The motion passed by the National Executive with recommendations for action in support of the fire fighters is on the website (at www.socialistalliance.net).
We will try to get a leaflet out on pdf tomorrow morning and we will be examining whether we can afford to produce some more placards supporting the fire fighters pay claim. There is a fire fighters support leaflet on the website which comrades can download if they need a leaflet immediately, and a window poster has been produced by Clive Searle of the Greater Manchester Socialist Alliance and is available from him at email@example.com (and here). If you don't yet have a fire fighters' support group set up in your area, you should try and get fire fighters to agree to help launch one tomorrow when you go to the picket lines. And invite fire fighters to come and address your local Socialist Alliance meeting. And please let us know any good stories you have of local support activity.
Political fund debate
The fire fighters' strike and the growing industrial action in other areas, now including the possibility of seven of Britain's major airports being closed by industrial action by fire fighters and security staff on 28 November, means the question of the relationship of the trade unions to the Labour Party remains a very important issue that we need to be raising in our union branches now. We have produced a model motion (available here) and we need to hear from you any good stories about getting motions successfully passed to be debated at union conferences next year.
Stopping the war
The US has finally got the UN to agree a resolution which Bush hopes will give him suitable cover to launch a war on Iraq. Exactly how things will develop is difficult to say, but it seems there is a war plan in which the US will seek to take out command and other systems with 30 days of bombing before sending in up to 250,000 ground troops. The likelihood is that this will all kick off in February. There is massive opposition to war on Iraq across Europe and beyond, and this is before the war has begun. The demonstration on the 28 September in London was the biggest anti-war protest in living memory. On Saturday in Florence up to a million people protested against the war. The Stop the War Coalition has called a national conference in London on Saturday 7 December. It is very important all Socialist Alliance members are building opposition to the war wherever they are and that we have both a big turnout of members at the conference and a high profile for the Socialist Alliance. A Europe wide day of action is also being called probably for 15 February when there will be a national demonstration in London and demonstrations in other European cities. Other initiatives from the Stop the War Coalition can be accessed on their website - www.stopwar.org.uk
The European Social Forum
This was an outstanding success. Organisers predicted between 20,000 and 30,000 participants and the final number was probably closer to 60,000, although I think they gave up counting. I personally have never been to such enormous political meetings - one meeting on parties and the movement at which Fausto Bertinotti, the general secretary of Rifondazione Comunista, was speaking must have had 5,000 or 6,000 people packing out a hall the size of a large aircraft hanger. More than the size of the event was the atmosphere which was quite incredible. Because there were many meetings taking place simultaneously experiences may be diverse, but at all the meetings I attended the most radical speeches generally speaking got the biggest cheer. There was a consensus on the need to build the anti-war movement and a rejection of any war whether sanctioned by the UN or not.
The high point of the event was the demonstration on Saturday. The march was led by workers from the car plants threatened with mass redundancies. International contingents were placed near the front of the march and the large British contingent with, amongst others, members of the Stop the War Coalition, Globalise Resistance, the Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party and many trade unionists, some with their union banners, was very lively and featured prominently in pictures in the Italian press the following day. The march was originally scheduled to leave at 3pm, but because of the numbers the time was brought forward to 1pm; the last trains to arrive with demonstrators did not get to Florence until 5.30pm and some demonstrators were still waiting to start marching at 6pm. The police estimate was that there were 500,000 demonstrators and the organisers thought up to a million. The event was entirely peaceful without a single arrest, despite Berlusconi and the right wing press having tried to whip up a hysterical atmosphere in the days before and the deployment of some 7,000 Carabinieri.
Although lack of violence would normally mean a lack of media attention, the event got massive front page and top TV news publicity, all of it favourable as far as my more or less non-existent Italian allowed me to understand. In some national papers the event was literally on the first six pages or so. The march itself headed out of the centre of Florence to the semi-defunct Fiorentina football stadium through working class areas, where again literally thousands of people lined the streets to give support, people appeared from windows and on to balconies to applaud the demonstrations. There were also dozens of home made banners opposing the war draped from tenement blocks.
Further events are now planned over the next few months including major protests in Prague and Copenhagen in the next few weeks. Details can be acquired from the Globalise Resistance website at www.resist.org.uk. In particular there is likely to be a second ESF event in St Denis, France next year and a big mobilisation against the G8 meeting in Evian in France in June. The ESF also saw discussion about co-ordinating demonstrations and also civil disobedience across Europe against the war.
National Council - change of date and venue to be announced
The National Council has been moved to Saturday 14 December as a result of the clash with the Stop the War Coalition conference. We will put out the agenda and final details of venue in the next couple of days, but it now seems likely for logistical reasons to have the Council meeting in London. So do NOT book transport yet. Details will be confirmed by Thursday, which should still allow you to take advantage of cheap transport offers.
The Socialist Alliance AGM has been set for Saturday 15 March at the South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London N1. The Conference Arrangements Committee will be sending out standing orders for the conference by the end of November. Comrades should be aware that there will be some three months from now in which local Socialist Alliances may wish to debate resolutions, etc. to be tabled at conference. The AGM will debate and decide both on constitutional amendments and policy resolutions.
Despite comrades locally working very hard to make an impact in the Downham by-election, the result was disappointing. However we have two further by-elections coming up in Kings Park and Lea Bridge, in Hackney, where we did well in May and had an outstanding result in the October mayoral election in October, when Paul Foot, the Socialist Alliance candidate, came third beating the Greens and the Liberal Democrats with some 12.72% of the vote, 4,187 votes. Comrades have already covered much of the two wards with a post-mayoral election tabloid and intend to leaflet strongly and to do some intensive canvassing. The National Executive and the National Council will also be discussing our election strategy for by-elections, the 2003 local council elections, and the European, GLA, and local. The National Executive's current position is that if there are any doubts about the tactical wisdom of standing a candidate in a local by-election, we would like to discuss with comrades locally the wisdom of standing, given the additional publicity that can attach to by-elections, both good and bad.
There is a steady flow of new people continuing to join the Socialist Alliance which is encouraging. By the end of the year we will have reached the 2000+ level at the new membership rates of £24 and £6 (by end 2001 at £6 and £2 we had around 1600 members).
A new membership leaflet will be ready by the end of this week. If you would like some, then please get in contact with the office and we will send them to you. If groups can make a donation to help cover costs it would be appreciated. Both the build up to war and the fire fighters' dispute are creating an environment that will encourage more people to join the SA.
Dates for the diary
13 November Fire fighters on strike for 48 hours, followed by three eight-day strikes.
14 November London HE strike at old and new universities over London allowance. Picket lines at many universities plus rally
16 November National Executive meeting, Birmingham
26 November London teachers strike over London allowance, with possibility of Unison Local Govt workers also striking
28 November Major airport strikes by fire and security staff
7 December Stop the War Coalition national conference, London
14 December Socialist Alliance National Council meeting, Birmingham or London venue to be announced
29 January 2003 Lobby of Parliament for council housing called by DCH
15 February 2003 Stop the War demonstration
15 March 2003 Annual General Meeting, London
Rob Hoveman, National Secretary
Firefighters; Political fund; Stop the war - 5 Nov 02
Stop the War; The political fund debate - 29 Oct 02
Strike off; Labour turmoil over Iraq - 6 Aug 02
All out to stop the war on Iraq - 30 Jul 02
TU meeting/Conference on Europe/ESF - 2 Jul 02
Mini-bulletin - 27 Jun 02
Perspectives for the next two years - 17 Jun 02
Taking the long view - 12 Jun 02
Capitalising on our election success - 6 Jun 02
Contact the SA office by phone on 020 7609 2999 or by email