Morning Star conference: Capitalism is the crisis

by New Worker correspondent

“THE GLOBAL financial crisis started in the unregulated finance and banking sector. But now the ruling class is trying to shift the responsibility on to the working class and in particular the public sector,” Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, told the Morning Star conference last Saturday — and his words summed up the theme of the conference.

The conference, at the TUC’s Congress House in London, attracted a wide spectrum of Star readers including union leaders, academics, international guests and activists across the whole spectrum of the labour movement.

Other union leaders who opened discussions included Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke, National Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and Megan Dobney of the South-East Region TUC.

Green Party MEP Keith Taylor, Sinn Fein northern Ireland Legislative Assembly Member Billy Leonard and former Respect MP George Galloway took part in wide-ranging debates throughout the day while the international perspective of the struggle was stressed in openings from Panos Rentzelas of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), Venezuelan ambassador Samuel Moncada and Carolina Amador Perez. the Head of International Relations of the Federation of Cuban Women.

The conference opened with a session entitled “Star gazing” — a history of the Morning Star and its predecessor, the Daily Worker and the left-wing press in Britain back to the days of the Chartist movement and it included the showing of a special DVD marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Daily Worker.

In the debate on the economy Matt Wrack gave his warning on Prime Minister Cameron’s intentions to lay the blame for the economic crisis on the working class and the public sector in particular, with his misleading talk about “gold-plated public sector pensions”, which in reality rarely amount to more than £4,000 to £5,000 a year.

And he accused the Tories of opportunistically using the economic crisis to carry out swingeing public sector cuts that they had always wanted to do anyway.

Speaking of the £900 billion bail out of the banks, he said: “There has been a massive transfer of wealth from the vast majority of people to the tiny clique who rule this country.”

Panos Rentzelas spoke of the work of the KKE in Greece to build unity throughout the workers to refuse to pay the price of bailing out the bankers. The Greek banks received £20 billion in bail-outs and are now making £200 billion in profits.

Panos reported that, following 10 successive national strikes, recruitment to the militant trade union front Pame is soaring. And in the banner that KKE members draped from the Parthenon in March, they reached out to workers across Europe with their message; “Peoples of Europe rise up!”

Many speakers throughout Saturday’s conference said how this sight had inspired them.

“Stopping the capitalist attack is not enough,” said Panos, “we must counter-attack with class coalitions and alliances and prepare to bring socialism to power.”

And he defined socialism as a state under workers’ control, with a centrally planned economy run for the benefit of the people.

He reported that there are growing threats to outlaw the KKE but the party is not dismayed. Working in conditions of adversity would help the KKE to build the beginnings of the organs of a workers’ state.

Panos finished by repeating the message of the iconic banner: “People of Europe rise up; the future belongs to the workers, not the capitalists!”

The Clarion Singers, members of the Workers’ Music Association, entertained everyone in the main lobby during the lunch break with great renditions of traditional working class songs while others went to fringe meetings on LGBT rights and privatisation.

“Where next for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Rights” was led by Dr Peter Purton, Deidre Costigan and Thierry Schaffauser and chaired by Anton Johnson and the other was a power point presentation from the civil service union PCS on privatisation.

In the afternoon Professor Keith Ewing, Bob Crow, George Galloway and Tony Burke spoke on “Trade union freedoms/the Labour Party: can you have one without the other?” — followed by discussion from the floor.

Crow argued that the Labour Party was dead while Galloway and Burke argued that is was not, citing the surge of working class vote for Labour on 6th May in the traditional inner city Labour seats.

Professor Ewing warned that changes proposed by the new Con-Dem coalition involve cutting the number of parliamentary seats and redrawing constituency boundaries — not to the advantage of the working class.

He also warned that introducing state funding of political parties would outlaw the funding that Labour now gets from the unions and the representation of the working class in Parliament.

“This is a cynical move,” he said and warned: “there may never be another Labour government elected in Westminster.”

In a later session headed: “Life, the universe and everything: the way forward in fighting capitalism” Sinn Fein Assembly Member Billy Leonard spoke of the very sudden impact of the banking crisis on the Republic of Ireland and the swift departure of the “Celtic Tiger”.

There were many stalls at the conference, including one organised by the Metropolitan New Worker Supporters’ Group, which sparked a lot of interest and discussions with the comrades which included NCP general secretary Andy Brooks along with Daphne Liddle and Robert Laurie from the Central Committee as well as Juan Zapata and other London supporters. Pamphlets on, about or by Stalin proved especially popular and the total sales of papers, pamphlets and books raised £102 for the New Worker fighting fund.