Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Madiba - our tribute


Members of Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) have reacted with great sadness at the announcement a couple of hours ago of the death of Nelson Mandela.

“Members and supporters of Rugby TUSC have been collecting their experiences and memories of Nelson Mandela and the fight against one of the most extreme forms of racism – apartheid in South Africa,” TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren has informed us. “I set the ball rolling by describing how I watched the film 'Cry Freedom' with our then nine year old daughter Karla, and I think she was moved to tears even more than I was at the death of Steven Biko and the actions of the repressive anti apartheid regime. It certainly helped form her political views. I also went to the Wembley concerts in 1988 and 1990, the first organised in support of Mandela's release from prison, the second just after his release when it was so moving to be part of the audience, all 80,000 of whom gave him an 8 minute standing ovation before he spoke.”

Julie Weekes, Rugby TUSC Treasurer, and Trade Union Studies lecturer, told me about her memories. “The whole labour movement in the 1970’s challenged apartheid. We even ran special courses on it for union reps. I remember taking part in lots of pickets outside the SA embassy in Trafalgar Square and going to pop concerts too to raise awareness and then later to celebrate his release. I was also lucky enough to hear him speak in Birmingham when he visited.”

Local supporter Gerry White added, “Always having been active supporters of the anti-apartheid movement, my sister and I went to South Africa to celebrate her 50th birthday and to see for ourselves the changes that Mandela's recent election victory had brought about. There was a wonderful feeling of optimism everywhere we went in Cape Town, Jo'burg, Pretoria and the rural Eastern Cape. Our most moving moment was when we stood on the very spot at the parliament buildings in Pretoria where Mandela had so recently taken his oath as President! We probably will never see his like again - a great fighter for freedom as well as a great person.”

In his summary, Pete McLaren said “As socialists we have all consistently supported Nelson Mandela as a freedom fighter, but it will be interesting to hear what kinds of sentimental hypocrisy come from the Tory leadership when it is doubtful any of them supported Mandela during his imprisonment. Some were members of the Federation of Conservative Students, which produced "Hang Mandela" posters in 1985. David Cameron, in 1989, as a rising star of the Conservative Research Department, accepted an all expenses paid trip to South Africa funded by an anti-sanctions lobby firm whilst Nelson Mandela remained imprisoned by the Apartheid regime. This was described at the time as a ‘sanctions busting jolly.’ The Thatcher government of the day had opposed placing sanctions on the racist regime, with Thatcher, Cameron’s political heroine, calling Mandela’s Party, the ANC, ‘a typical terrorist organization.’ Let’s see what Tory MPs have to say today,” he concluded.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

TUSC expresses anger at Autumn Statement: further attacks on the working class

Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has reacted angrily to today’s Autumn Statement. “One again, the Tory/Lib Dem Government has decided to hit public services and ordinary working people, including those already in poverty”, TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren claimed this afternoon, “and once again Labour has been conspicuous by its silence on these dreadful cuts

“The most vicious attacks outlined in the Autumn Statement are on those forced to rely on benefits. On top of the £19 billion per year already cut from the welfare budget, Chancellor George Osborne has today announced cuts of a further £3 billion over the next 3 years. The Tories had already announced that from April 2014, benefits and tax credits would only rise annually by 1% for each of the next 3 years, well below inflation.

“If forcing those already struggling to face further cuts in their living standards is not bad enough, the Government has stealthily slipped into today’s Statement a new plan to make unemployed young people work for their benefits. Those under 21 not reaching a required standard in English or Maths will have to undertake training every day or lose their benefits. All under 21 unemployed for over 6 months will have to do unpaid work experience, a community work placement or start a traineeship – at a time when youth unemployment has risen to 21% of the workforce – over 1 in 5 of those under the age of 25, one million young people. Unemployed people want to work, as they have been telling us as we leaflet outside Rugby Job Centre against Universal Credit. But there are no jobs – 5 people chase each one.

“The Autumn Statement also attacks pensions. Those in their 40’s and younger will have to work until they are 70 to get their state pension, 5 years longer than at present. People already struggling with health and fitness will be forced to work even longer – in order to save the Government £500 billion over the next 50 years.

“Public Services will also be hit by the announcement that most Governments departments face a collective cut of a further £1 billion a year for 3 years, leading to redundancies, loss of services and rising unemployment. It is a fact that the poorest suffer disproportionately from service cuts because of their greater need for them

“Today’s’ Autumn Statement is yet another attack on the poor and low paid. A TUC study shows that average household income has fallen to 2005 levels. Those in work are £1,600 a year worse off than in 2010 when this Government came to power. But the wealthy are not suffering. The collective wealth of the richest 1,000 people is the highest on record. Total pay for the directors of the UK ‘s top businesses has risen by a staggering 14% in the last year. As usual, there is one rule for the rich, and one for the poor – we are certainly ‘not in this together’ as the Tories keep claiming,” he concluded.