Sunday, 30 November 2008

Climate March 2008 local details

London protest December 6th 2008

Oxford coach tickets £7 and £10 from Inner Bookshop, Magdalen Street and Quaker Meeting House, St Giles. Coach leaves 10am from St Giles.

Part of a Global Day of Action - see 
- last year 70+ countries were involved !

The march this year goes to Parliament Square to demand that the government act now on climate. The march will now start at Grosvenor Square (5 mins from Speakers Corner, Hyde Park - Bond Street or Marble Arch tube.Apologies for any confusion over starting point see more here) - assemble 12 noon. Full schedule here

Speakers will include Nick Clegg (leader Liberal Democrat Party), Caroline Lucas (leader, Green party), Michael Meacher (ex-Environment Minister) andGeorge Monbiot (Honorary President, Campaign against Climate Change).

The march will be preceeded by a climate protest bike ride starting from Lincoln's Inn Fields at 10.30 am: see more here.

There will be a Climate Change Service at Hinde Street church at 11.30 am - worshippers will join the march afterwards. See more here.

There will be an After-Party in the Synergy Centre from 5.00 pm till late.

For info about coaches or other transport from around the country to the march click here. 
For a "Coach organiser's guide" see here.

To download leaflet for the National March click here

The March on Parliament has four main themes - 
1) NO to a 3rd runway at Heathrow and the runaway expansion in aviation expansion. 
2) NO new coal - no new coal-fired power stations as planned at eg Kingsnorth in Kent 
3) NO to the expansion of agrofuels - with negative impacts on forests, the climate and world food supply. 
4) YES to a renewable energy revolution and green jobs - a "Green new Deal" 
Come with your own banners, costumes etc on one of these themes (if you fancy !) and join up with others pushing that theme......

The March on Parliament for the Climate marks the Saturday midway through the UN Climate Talks in Poznan, Poland and we make our demands on the UK government in solidarity with the world's poorest and most vulnerable communities that will suffer worst and most immediately from climate change caused overwhelmingly by the rich long-industrialised countries.

We need the government to act now on climate, to stop building coal-fired power stations and new runways - and to begin the renewable energy revolution. We need a tidal wave of people outside parliament to make them act to stop climate catastrophe now ! Be part of that tidal wave, be there ! Next year may be too late. 
Why so critical now ? See here.

Friday, 14 November 2008

OLA Public Meeting

Oxford Left Alternative Public Meeting
Tuesday 18th Nov, 7.30pm Town Hall, St Aldates
Speaker: Pete Dwyer (Economics Tutor at Ruskin (personal capacity))

The financial crisis and the Left

All welcome

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Mike’s Letter from America #11

Why Obama Won

So he did it! At 11 pm Eastern Standard Time, Barrack Obama was confirmed as the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. The sheer historic nature of this achievement, less than fifty years after the Civil Rights movement was struggling to end segregation and Jim Crow, makes it hard just yet to put it in perspective, and what follows is my own attempt to draw some instant conclusions. Reactions to Obama’s win range from a belief among his supporters that anything is possible, to the warning of TV pundits that he has to ‘govern from the centre’, and that we must downplay our expectations. There will be plenty of time in the future to consider if, when, how, and why Obama will let down those high hopes, but right now the dominant mood is one of celebration at the end of 8 years of neoconservative rule. 160,000 people gathered in Chicago’s Grant Park to hear Obama’s victory speech, and there are reports of spontaneous celebrations in the streets up and down the country. Obama may not be a radical (despite what McCain says), but this certainly doesn’t feel like any old election.

The feeling of history being made is not just down to Obama being African-American, there is also a real feeling of change in the air. Young people came out to vote in unprecedented numbers, and the votes of first-time electors went about 2-1 in favour of Obama. But Obama won across the board, increasing the Democratic vote among all sectors, including white workers, who are so often written off as ignorant conservative rednecks. McCain’s patronizing attempts to laud ‘Joe the Plumber’ (a reactionary tax-dodging petty-bourgeois wannabee who had 5 minutes of fame interrogating Obama on his tax plans) as a working class hero spectacularly failed in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Joe’s native Ohio. The reason?

The economy.

Or, as Bill Clinton used to say, ‘the economy, stupid’. 63% of voters said the economy was their main concern, and the Wall Street crash of 2 months ago really sealed McCain and the Republicans’ fate, as working people rightly blamed years of free market policies and corporate deregulation for their plight. But even before that moment, home repossessions and rising unemployment meant that the economy was already the leading issue among voters.

But the move toward Obama is more than simply a case of booting out an unpopular government when times are bad. It represents a move to the left, despite the best efforts of the Democratic Party hierarchy to be ‘moderate’. In a mild, filtered, and very American way, Obama was forced to talk about class. Whereas before he had stressed his plans to cut tax for the bottom 95%, in a speech that I heard on TV on Monday he was talking up the same policy as an INCREASE in taxes on the rich, and attacking the record profits of the oil companies. Whether he does it is another matter, but the fact that he was saying it was significant of a political shift. So too is the constant stress on the ‘middle class’ in the speeches of Obama and Biden. The concept of the middle class in the US is rather different from in Europe, as Americans like to deny that this country has a working class. In the sense that Obama used it, referring to the people who are losing their jobs and homes, it meant the working class.

Further proof that Obama’s win symbolizes a shift to the left is the question of Iraq. On the face of it, this was not the big issue that it might have been. Only 10% of voters said it was their main concern. However, with the economy dominating the election campaign, that still left the war as the second biggest issue among voters. It’s true that Obama hardly emphasized his anti-war credentials in the debates, as he stressed his support for escalation in Afghanistan, and seemed unable to challenge McCain’s claim that ‘the surge is working’ in Iraq. Nevertheless, Obama is the first person ever to win a U.S. presidential election while opposing a war that’s still in progress.

Finally, Obama’s win was sealed on the ground by an amazing volunteer army of enthusiastic, and usually young, supporters. To take an example close to home (literally) my teenage step-daughter and a group of her friends, all of them too young to vote, formed a pro-Obama group at high school, and have been out at least twice every week for the last two months knocking on doors, making phone calls, and putting together campaign materials. I cannot think of any like this happening in my memory around electoral politics, only in mass movements such as Stop the War and the Anti-Nazi League.

That’s why the election of Obama feels different from Blair’s election in 1997. Yes, there was a similar sense of euphoria and history around Blair. Yes, Obama is also a centrist like Blair, and even now there is speculation about which former Republicans will be asked to join his cabinet. But there is the making of a mass movement behind Obama, and it’s to that movement, rather than to Obama himself, that we must look for real ‘change you can believe in.’   

PCS Strike- Oxford

Civil Servants to strike over pay- Press Release

PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) members are set to stage a Civil Service wide strike on the 10th November over the Government's 2% public sector pay cap.

The union has urged the government to come to the negotiating table to avoid the action and review it's pay cap, which is resulting in pay cuts and pay freezes for some of the lowest paid in the public sector. If there is no movement from the government then industrial action will begin with a one day UK wide strike on 10th November, hitting passports, Jobcentresm, Tax Credits, immigration and customs, as well as driving licenses, coastguards, driving tests and museums.

The one day strike will be followed by an overtime ban and further targeted industrial action that would stretch into the new year in the different sectors of the civil service.

With one in five in the civil service earning less than £15,000 abd thousands earning just above the minimum wage, the government's policy of capping public sector pay has hit some of the lowest paid in the public sector the hardest.

Commenting, Mark serwotka, PCS general secretary, said "The everyday things we take for granted from passports and getting back into work, through to tax credits, coastguards and securing our borders are delivered by hardworking civil and public servants. Giving these people pay rises that take their wages to just 13 or 25 pence above the national minimum wage is unsustainable when you face double digit rises in food, fuel and housing costs."

Kate Douglas, joint branch secretary of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Department of Work and Pensions, said "The government wants us to think there is no money for our pay, but billions can be found to bail out the bankers; pay in the private sector is increasing at 1% higher than the public sector and the most senior civil servants can get as much as £40,000 in bonuses. We are told by the government to tighten our belts when we have nothing left to tighten."

Tina Watts, who works in Oxford Jobcentre, said "The government claims that low paid public sector workers cause inflation. However, no serious economist has suggested that giving us fair wage rises would cause inflation. With food and energy costs rising, far from being the cause of inflation, we are the victims."

Lorna Merry, HMRC Branch Secretary, said 'The pay cap hits civil servants harder than other public sector workers as we're limited to the same % increase but it has to fund pay progression as well as general increases. 2008 rises for workers in the two largest departments show just how unfairly this works in practice. The DWP is using it's remit to fund progression awards this year, so the 40% paid the rate for the job get nothing this year. HMRC have scrapped progression this year to fund an across the board rise for all staff that's half of the rate of inflation, leaving newer recruits stranded on pay that's hundreds of pounds less than longer serving colleagues doing the same job. A key part of our campaign is to seperate pay progression from pay rises so that future pay offers don't result in this sort of unfairness in future.'

There will be picket lines outside most civil service offices, including the jobcentre in Oxford.