Monday, 16 February 2009

Retail and Distribution Activist no 15

Bulletin of Socialist Party members working in retail and distribution
January 2009

Vote Robbie (Robina) Segal For President

No return to the 1930s!

The Activist sent the following questions to Robbie Segal, candidate for Usdaw President and we print below her reply.

What do you think about the present economic crisis?

There does not seem a day that goes by without another announcement of redundancies affecting our members. Clearly the crisis is going to be deeper and longer lasting than the pundit’s are predicting. The present economic system is based on greed of the few and now this global elite, after exploiting the world’s resources and people, now want us to bail them out - so they can keep their privileged life style. Do they think we are mad?

How is the economic crisis affecting those still working?

Apart from the continued announcement of job losses, retail companies have virtually stopped hiring new staff. Not replacing those who leave means that workloads are increasing. Pressure is being applied to those who are lucky enough to have jobs to give up hard won conditions: Workers are being asked to work beyond their contractual hours without pay and overtime premiums are being stopped. Pressure is being applied to ignore health and safety issues.
The TUC has estimated that 5.24 million people work unpaid overtime in 2008, bringing the bosses a bonus of £26.9 billion. For those who are forced into this form of slavery, if they worked unpaid from the beginning of the year then they would not receive any pay until 27 February. This must stop.

Usdaw have many women worker in its ranks, how do you think the current crisis will affect them?

Many of the workers losing their jobs are women and for many families the woman’s wage makes a major contribution to the family income. For 21 per cent of all couples the woman’s contribution is over 50 per cent and for all families women contribute 32 per cent to household bills. Usdaw Women do not work for pin-money anymore and we should defend their jobs.

How do you think Usdaw should respond to the crisis?

Usdaw is handicapped by it years of slavish acceptance of a partnership strategy with the big retail companies. Usdaw’s leaders have no clear strategy to solve the crisis. There has not been one attempt to mobilise the membership to fight against these attacks. In previous crises, the union leaders organised demonstrations and national marches. This time even the verbal protests have been subdued because it would mean attacking the policies of Gordon Brown and New Labour.
The leaders have surrendered many of the best part of our terms and conditions to the bosses without even a protest. Usdaw is the fourth biggest union in the TUC and should be playing a major role in mobilizing workers to fight these attacks. However with the present Usdaw leaders this will never happen. I am standing for the Usdaw’s President so the voice of struggle can be raised amongst retail workers.

Why do you call for nationalisation of the economy?

For over 100 years, the labour movement called for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy. Although the Labour Party leaders never really took the nationalisation seriously, nevertheless it was one of the aspirations of activists. The socialists understood that capitalism never worked and would one day fail. The old clause 4 was passed in 1917 under the influence of the Russian revolution and it called for.
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service

The Labour Party’s socialist clause was ditched in 1995 and a woolly alternative put in its place.

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect."

The driving force behind the change was Tony Blair. Since leaving parliament, Blair’s yearly earnings are estimated to be in excess of £7 million. Obviously the part ‘to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’ worked brilliantly for ex-Prime Minister Blair.
Usdaw’s leaders fully supported the abandonment of the socialist clause. As the supporters of the British establishment in the Labour Party understood, if the clause on nationalisation remained on the Labour Party membership card then it would act as a reminder to members when capitalism faced a crisis and that there was a socialist alternative.
As part of the Usdaw’s objectives, it states, ‘To work consistently towards securing the control of the industries in which its members are employed.’ But this is never mentioned as an alternative to the ownership by the few.
With New Labour' s and the Usdaw’s leaders abandonment of socialism, it means it is the responsibly of the Socialist to call for a new society which would be based on the public ownership of the means of production. Instead of the current crop of parasites who have bankrupted their capitalist system controlling the new public owned banks they should be controlled of the people. They would be run for the benefit of the majority rather than the few.

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