Friday, 2 May 2014

United against the Far Right in Brighton

On Sunday 27 April, a collection of far-right groups descended on Brighton for the annual 'March for England'. The English Defence League is an organisation in decline and it showed with the racists mustering barely 75 supporters. Anti-fascists outnumbered the march significantly.

Socialist Party members were among the first on the scene as police escorted the fascists into a pub for a pre march drink.

Within moments the nationalists were surrounded and their racist chants drowned out with: "the workers united will never be defeated".

Police had issued draconian special powers, giving them the right to stop and search anyone and to arrest anyone who had a face covering. Unsurprisingly we only saw these being used against the counter protesters as the police helped the march shuffle slowly along the seafront.

1,000+ lined the streets to drown out their racist chants. The English Disco Lovers were dancing and banners and placards were hung from windows and balconies. Once the march returned to its starting point the speeches to the small gathering were drowned out by a protester on a balcony with a loud trombone.

As police tried to escort the march back to the station, the so-called family march then divided and headed into the North Lanes where they threw tables, benches and bottles at anti-fascists.

Protesters ensured the route back to the station wasn't easy, using anything they could find including fences to make barricades causing the march to stop in its tracks. Only the police using horses, baton charges and kettling meant the march got to its final destination.

United action by hundreds of Brighton residents and a heavy downpour of rain ensured the marchers had a thoroughly miserable day. Half an hour after they left the rain stopped and the sun came out!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Council Tax Referendum, the missing question: Fightback against ALL CUTS!

Thursday 30th January marked a new low point in the pantomime political point scoring between the mainstream parties who make up Brighton and Hove Council. Amidst cat calls and booing, a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Green Party administration was passed by 29 votes to 21.

Scandalously this was not a vote against the £20 million cut in jobs and services proposed by the administration, but a vote by Labour and Tory councillors for more cuts!

The Green Party have said that they won’t resign, and plan to press ahead with a referendum in May on their proposal to carry out these cuts, threatening 100 plus jobs, or to increase council tax by 4.75%.

The Socialist Party have argued ( that this referendum is no defence against the Con-Dem government’s austerity programme, which has withdrawn £70 million of central government funding from Brighton. 

As we have explained, the referendum would pass the bill for Tory cuts onto the council tax payers of Brighton, and divide, rather than unite, opposition to the austerity programme the Greens were elected to resist.

The Socialist Party will be campaigning in the run up to the council’s budget meeting in February for a second question to be added to the referendum. This should ask whether voters agree that:
Brighton and Hove Council should draw up a ‘needs budget’ to restore jobs and services. Based on this the council should launch a campaign with Trade Unions, Service Users and Community Groups to demand that Central Government refund the £70 million lost from the City’s funding since 2010.
Section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 provides a specific power for local authorities to hold polls in order to ascertain views on any matter relating to:
      (1) their services, or
      (2) expenditure on those services, or
      (3) their power to promote well-being in their areas.

The Green Party have suggested that they plan a ‘referendum on austerity’. The Socialist Party says that it is merely a referendum on "WHAT FORM austerity should take’: ‘£22 million of cuts and a 2% council tax rise’ or ‘£20 million and a 4.75% rise’. Our proposal is a REAL alternative and provides an opportunity for the people of Brighton to link up with others fighting austerity like the RMT tube workers in London. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Oppose the Green Party’s Cuts Budget. Referendum does not offer an alternative to cuts: the Green Party threatens 100-150 Jobs and a £20million cut to services!

Brighton and Hove Green Party leader Jason Kitcat wants to follow up last year’s attack on the city’s Bin Workers’ wages with further cuts in the council’s 2014-15 budget.  If successful, this would mean that his administration, elected on a mandate to ‘resist austerity’, has cut £50 million from jobs and services in the city in 3 years. Amazingly the Green Party are trying to spin this attack as an act of ‘resistance’ to central government cuts and are seeking a mandate for their budget, and a 4.75% increase in the council tax, in a referendum that, if it goes ahead which will cost the city almost a quarter of a million pounds to carry out! 
There is no question that the primary responsibility for cuts in local government services lies with the Con-Dem Government’s austerity programme. This has ramped up the onslaught on council budgets after 13 years of attacks under New Labour. The proposal by the Greens to increase council tax by 4.75%, however, is no defence in the face of this attack.

This tax increase would raise £2.75million more than December's draft budget.[1]  But that budget proposed £22.56 million in spending cuts[2]. These threaten the jobs of 100-150 Council workers[3].  In other words the Green Administration would be asking the voters of Brighton to swallow a rise of almost 5% in their council tax bills as the price for still accepting nine tenths of the cuts in jobs and services demanded by Pickles and the Con-Dem government!

These would come on top of £30 million worth of Tory cuts which the Green Party have passed on to workers and service users in the city since coming to power in 2011. Not surprisingly the Tory local government minister Brandon Lewis MP fully supports the Greens’ move.[4] This shows that it is not the case, as Green Party National Leader, Natalie Bennet, has claimed, that: ‘Instead of letting Whitehall impose cuts on vulnerable people in Brighton & Hove, this announcement takes the decision to the people.[5]

By playing along with the spending limits imposed by Pickles and the Millionaire ‘Eton Boot Boys’ in the Con-Dem cabinet, Brighton’s Green Party is ensuring that the only possible outcomes of the referendum are either:
·         Voters reject an increase in council tax bills 2 ½ times the rate of inflation (at a time when real wages are under sustained attack and public and private sector rents and other housing costs are shooting through the roof) and so all £22½ million pounds in cuts demanded by central government go through, 

·         Council tax payers in Brighton bear the brunt of subsidising the cuts in central government spending: the penalty system means that much of the extra council tax will not fund threatened services, but will simply be clawed  back by Central Government. At the same time we will still have to swallow 90p in every £1.00 of Eric Pickles’s cuts to services!

In other words, whatever Natalie Bennett and Jason Kitcat claim, either way, the referendum can only lead to ‘Whitehall imposing cuts on vulnerable people in Brighton and Hove.’  

The referendum would also be a highly divisive exercise in ‘divide and rule’: pitting ‘council tax payers’, against ‘council workers’ and ‘service users’ when the reality is that resisting the cuts requires that we stand united (indeed, most often we are the same people, anyway!).  If we accept the Greens’ ‘dented shield’ analysis, which says that nine-tenths of the cuts are inevitable, we will end up engaging is a vicious ‘race to the bottom’. This would pit education against housing and children’s services against services for older people and the disabled, in a struggle to become the lucky ‘one in ten’ to escape Councillor Kitcat’s axe. Instead we should be standing together and resisting ALL CUTS. 

This is not what is being proposed by The Labour Party. Labour Councillors are proposing a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the Green administration. Not because they are carrying out cuts but because they want to carry out more cuts! Labour want an ‘all party administration’ to implement the Con-Dem coalition’s cuts in full for 2014-15, and for 2015-16. This would inevitably lead to even more losses in jobs and services. 

There is an alternative, which the Socialist Party, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), Brighton Trades Council and Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition have urged on the Green Administration since it was first elected. Cuts are only inevitable because our councillors have meekly accepted the restrictions imposed on the City’s budgets by successive Labour and Con-Dem ministers in the interests of big business. Instead, Brighton and Hove Council  should set a ‘needs budget’ and campaign for Central Government to return the £70 million plus which has been cut from central government allocations to the city since 2010. 

Imagine; if our councillors explained that adequate funding for Brighton’s schools, bins and recycling (which are still reeling from the ‘settlement’ of last year’s strike and the botched ‘reorganisation’ forced through by Kitcat and senior managers), housing and care services should have priority over the governments’ agenda: tax cuts for the rich, subsidies for fuel companies which raise prices and destroy our environment by ‘fracking’, and imperialist wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East!  This way, Councillors could build a mass movement of resistance and unite council workers, services users and Brighton’s communities to force Pickles to return the money stolen from our city. 

This was what the Socialist Council did in Liverpool in the 1980’s. Not only did they force the Thatcher government to increase funding for services but they expanded the council’s workforce at a time of rising unemployment and built 5,000 new council houses (more than were built by councils in the whole of the rest of England and Wales in the same period!). For this, 47 Labour councillors were surcharged and banned from office. The draconian laws which allowed this to happen no longer apply. The worst which Brighton Councillors defying Pickles’s cuts today would face is being forced to face a new election at which they could defend their strategy: a real ‘referendum on Austerity’ unlike the bogus exercise being entertained by Councillor Kitcat. 

Liverpool Council did raise the rates (the fore-runner to the Council Tax) but only to expand spending and provide new services not to pay for central government’s cuts to the City’s budget, their political honesty won them undying respect from the people of Liverpool. Their willingness to fight and boldly confront the government shows that there is an alternative and, that it would gain mass support, if followed in Brighton three decades on.,-to-protect-citys-vulnerable.html

[1] Guardian 16/1/14.
[2]Budget Update and Savings 2014/15’, Agenda Item 76 policy and resources committee 5th December 2013 (para 3.24)
[3] Ibid, (para 3.33)
[4] Brighton and Hove Green Party website

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Brighton shows solidarity with LGBTQ Russia

Saturday the 30th November 2013 saw over 100 people showing their solidarity with the increasingly oppressed LGBTQ community in Russia. The protest, organised by Socialist Party members attracted people keen to show their anger at the recent wave of oppressive legislation brought in under Putin.
This legislation, that includes at attempted ban of so called "homosexual propaganda" has seen activists arrested and jailed for organising and joining protests, and is part of a general crackdown by the Russian state on any form of dissent.

The protest heard from Ksenia Zhivago, a Russian activist who has experienced the brutality of the Russian state first hand. She called for mass international protests on the day the Winter Olympics opens, 7th February 2014 to highlight the plight of LGBTQ people in Russia and to put pressure on the Putin regime.
Local Green councillor Phelim McAfferty spoke and pointed out that Russia had been the first country to legalise gay marriage following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution! It is a damming indictment of capitalism to look at the plight of LGBTQ people in Russia today, nearly 100 years on from 1917.
Two local poets read out poignant messages, and Socialist Party member Beth Granter shared a message from the Russian section of the CWI (Committee For a Worker's International). CWI members have been at the forefront of the struggle in Russia and have faced huge fines and imprisonment for their activism.
Crucially it was highlighted at the rally by Peter Tatchell, longstanding LGBT rights activist, that these laws in Russia also threaten the rights of everyone fighting back against Putin; the "propaganda" law has been used to sack striking teachers.

 The fight for LGBTQ rights is a fight that must be taken up by all of those fighting austerity and for democracy in Russia,

The protest then marched down St James Street, led by a loud and vibrant samba band - to applause from passers by. It was clear that the message of support being shown to Russian LGBTQ people was widely echoed across Brighton.
It was the largest demonstration on this issue outside of London, and a fantastic building block for future action, which is likely to include marking the opening of the Winter Olympics on February 7th 2014.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Russian LGBTQ+ solidarity demo to take place in Brighton

Russian LGBTQ+ solidarity demo to take place in Brighton

For press information email or call 07976846385

For immediate release
25 November 2013

A demonstration of solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in Russia is planned to take place on Saturday 30th November 2013 in Brighton. "To Russia with Love, Brighton" starts at 12 Noon at New Steine Gardens off St James' St,  by the HIV memorial.

Organised by members of local PCS and Unite unions, and members of the Brighton and Hove Socialist Party, the aim is to raise awareness of the increasing violence and oppression faced by gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer and other people in Russia.

In Russia today, gay people and their allies are under attack: beaten, arrested and killed. New anti-gay laws have effectively made it illegal to even mention the existence of LGBTQ+ people positively, let alone defend their human rights. Currently being proposed is a law which would remove custody rights of gay parents of their own children.

Young people in Russia demonstrating for LGBTQ+ rights earlier this year.

Beth Granter, Brighton & Hove Socialist Party says,
" The coming Sochi Olympics puts the world spotlight on Russia and international protests are showing mass opposition to Putin's homophobic government. The 'Russian Section 28' is fuelling a rising tide of violence. The laws must be challenged! Here in the UK we ask our own government to defend human rights worldwide and tell Putin to stop turning back the clock.

As a city which values its own diversity, it's important for the people of Brighton to show our solidarity with LGBTQ+ people around the world."

Over 100 people are expected to gather on Saturday where speeches will be heard from human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, local 'My Genderation' documentary filmmaker Raphael Francis Fox, Russian LGBT activist Ksenia Zhivago and local Green Party Councillor Phelim McCafferty. The event is also supported by the Rainbow Association (Moscow-based LGBT activist group), March for Equality (LGBT and women’s rights campaign), Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Committee for a Workers’ International (Russia), Left Socialist Action and the Pussy Riot Support Group.

3 September - Whitehall, London - A demonstration was held opposite Downing Street, to protest Vladimir Putin's signing into law the prohibition of 'promotion' of homosexuality in Russia. The protest was also attended by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, and TV presenter and writer Paul O'Grady.

For more information see the Facebook event at

For a map of the event location see

Black and white photo credit:

Colour photo credit: Aleksey Vinogradov

Monday, 21 October 2013

Teachers strike against the ConDem's

Thursday 17th October saw 2,000 striking teachers and supporters march through the streets of Brighton in a display of anger towards the government’s attacks on education. Schools were overwhelmingly shut across Brighton and Sussex as NUT and NASWUT members joined together in the second regional strike action taken by the two main teaching unions. 

The route was lined by people applauding, showing up the divisive tactics of the media in trying to undermine teachers – it was clear on the day how much support the teachers had from the public.

While the official dispute is over pay, pensions and working conditions that are threatened by Michael Gove, the demonstration saw an outpouring of teacher’s frustrations right across the board. OFSTED, over testing and “free schools” were all highlighted in speeches and on placards throughout the day. 

More than anything, there was a general feeling that the day was about defending an idea of education that is shared by teachers and students alike, a publically owned, accountable and inclusive system.
This idea is not shared by the ConDem government, especially the Tories, who are threatening to break up the state system with more and more academies, in effect, privatisation of schools.

It is not just teachers fighting back as we enter what could be an uncomfortable winter for the government and their austerity plans. The Brighton NUT rally heard from firefighters, and higher education workers who are set to join postal workers and probation staff who are all set to strike over the coming weeks.
This represents the entering of a new stage in the industrial struggle in Britain, following the retreat of the union leaderships over pensions, and should be welcomed.

Firefighters show their support

However these unions alone are unlikely to force the government back. If these strikes were co-ordinated, if not by the TUC then by the unions themselves, they could form a powerful force against the next wave of privatisation and cuts coming from the ConDems. 

But just like the massive public sector general strike on November 30th two years ago, this strike showed there is a desperate need for a mass political voice for workers in Britain today. 

The Labour Party locally had offered their support on the day, but with the Labour Party leadership openly supporting academies and free schools – it is hard to take this support seriously. In fact it strikes as hollow when the Labour Party talk about defending education, seeing as it was their party that introduced academies and tuition fees in the first place! 

A party that supports, and encourages strike action as a tactic in opposing all cuts could have the potential to be a pole of attraction for all opposition to cuts and austerity in Britain.

In Brighton there have been steps towards this. A meeting last month called by local TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) and Left Unity supporters agreed to make sure there were anti cuts candidates contesting right across Brighton in the next local election. TUSC contested the Hanover by-election in the summer and took was the only party to increase their vote, taking 5%.

This all points to a rising wave of anger against the government following a summer lull, and shows the potential for the building of a mass movement; both industrially and politically to bring down the Con-Dems and their brutal cuts agenda.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The fight against fracking in Sussex

Hundreds of protesters have set up camp in the small village of Balcombe, West Sussex, to stop unsafe, environmentally dangerous gas shale extraction - fracking - by Cuadrilla.

On Sunday 18 August, Socialist Party members joined a 1,000-strong demonstration called by 'No Dash For Gas' that marched from the station.

Although a heavy police presence meant the demonstration was unable to reach the drilling site, a human chain was formed around the site.

Police later admitted that policing the demonstrations has cost £2.3 million. The mood was carnival-like and peaceful, as Balcombe residents showed their support by joining in the demonstration.
Monday 19 August saw the beginning of direct action against Cuadrilla, who had been forced to suspend drilling due to the demonstrations. Hundreds of demonstrators blocked the B2036 road between Balcombe and Cuckfield.

Earlier in the day, campaigners forced their way into the company's headquarters in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and six protesters glued themselves to the London HQ of Cuadrilla's PR company.
In Balcombe, police served a Public Order Act notice and arrested 30, saying the crowd might cause serious damage to property or disrupt the life of the community - despite the community largely supporting the action. The real damage and disruption is being done by Cuadrilla!

The idea that unsafe shale gas extraction is about cheaper energy for working class people is nonsense.
It's about more profits for the greedy energy companies and never mind the consequences for the rest of us.
As socialists we need to link the protests to the wider movement against the capitalist system and its demand for profit at any cost.

Kevin Dale