Friday, 26 October 2012

Report back from Coalition of Resistance Europe Against Austerity Action Conference | October 21st


Peter Murry (GPEW rep to CoR) 22/10/2012

Report back from Coalition of Resistance Europe Against Austerity Action Conference | October 21st

 

1)    About 160+ attended. I do not think the GPTU rep (D.Rouxel), London Fed rep (A.Garrett) and G.Left rep (S.Thompson) were able to attend this event, but I met F.Bakht, A. Gray, S.Ennis and R.Phoenix there. There may also have been other Greens who I did not know/see.

 

2)    Video livestream of the event is currently available at http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/2012/10/live-coverage-of-europe-against-conference/

 

3)    The event’s full agenda is published at http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/2012/10/europe-against-austerity-action-conference-sunday-21-october-11am-430pm/

 

4)    It was initially addressed with a welcoming speech from Jimmy Kelly of unite, a speech from Jeremy Corbyn MP on the political importance of the event and opposition to Austerity and a Quebec student leader who described the unrelenting series of student demonstrations mounted by Montreal students against a gov’t imposed fees hike, which, with support from rank and file trade unionists, succeeded in overthrowing a Liberal gov’t.

 

5)    The morning plenary was addressed by Elisabeth  Gauthier, Transform/Parti Communiste Francais, James Meadway, New Economics Foundation, , Stathis Kouvelakis, SYRIZA, Greece and Myriam Bourgy, CADTM, Belgium, followed by brief questions and discussion including a contribution from  Dave Hopper (NE  region NUM) who described the solidarity actions against Austerity by Durham miners supporting miners in Asturias (Spain).

 

6)    I attended the afternoon session No to neoliberal education
 with Alex Kenny, National Union of Teachers, Haralambos Kokkinos, DOE primary teachers trade union (Greece), and a
Quebec Student representative, a French teacher trades unionist, Dominique ? also spoke. There seemed to be a Europe wide education austerity agenda described as “neoliberal”.

 

In Greece only 40 teachers had been recruited recently when about 2-3,000 were needed; there were forced school mergers; free text books, teacher training and in-service training had all been abolished; there were reports of teachers having to appeal to parents for, or pay themselves for, basic supplies (eg toilet rolls), and of pupils passing out in school from under-nourishment.

 

In France the situation had slightly improved with the Hollande gov’t, under Sarkozy 40,000 teaching jobs had been lost and a few were being replaced. The French teacher unions were demanding a raising of the school leaving age to 18, but there were threats to reduce it to 14 or 15, except for an √©lite.

 

Alex Kenny, National Union of Teachers, stated that Gove had an agenda of Academising or freeschooling every school in England and Wales, but he also pointed out that the UK gov’t agenda involved increasing, often self-contradictory, micro management controls over teachers and the curriculum. AK also noted the recent gov’t dictated GCSE grade changes which seemed to indicate a reversion away from meritocracy towards a quota system which rationed HE access and educational attainment. If this is so, it echoes the French trends (see above) and indicates that some aspects of current governmental educational agendas are not, strictly speaking, 

neo-liberal, but actually reactionary.

 

7)    Because I went to the education session I missed the better

attended session on “The Shape Of The Resistance” with billed speakers Danielle Obono, Front de Gauche (France), Kevin Courtney, National Union of Teachers, Jeremy Corbyn MP, &
Florian Wilde, Die Linke, (Germany). Perhaps one of the other Greens who went there could provide a report?

8)    The closing plenary: “Actions, co-operation and the timeline to
Athens 2013” was addressed by Marisa Matias MEP, Bloco, (Portugal) and European Left Party, Fred Leplat CoR, Dot Gibson, National Pensioners’ Convention (personal capacity), Natalie Bennett, Green Party, Vladimir Nieddu, SUD Sante,  (France) followed by brief questions and discussion.

The salient points made and not made, here, and during the whole conference, seemed to me to be:

a)    Those who were suffering from Austerity were not to blame for it. In particular the stereotyping of some of the southern Europeans (esp., the Greeks?) as “lazy” was an inaccurate slur and evidence was cited to demonstrate this. It was also noted that economic inequality was increasing in Germany.

b)    Austerity was presented as economic necessity but was actually an attempt to restructure socio-economically towards a neo-liberal or even an elitist model. Some speakers cited how a programme of nationalisation and the creation of the welfare state was carried out after WW2 in the UK when its financial situation was possibly worse than now.

c)    Austerity could be resisted by united action and this has been successful in some cases (esp. Quebec).

d)    In the UK, demos were not enough. Some thought the fact that several TU leaders had called for a general strike at the Hyde Park rally on 20/10 was a step in the “right” direction.

e)    Non sectarian unity was repeatedly stressed, most anti Austerity organisations (including Syriza and Bloco), were coalitions of previously disparate parties, unions, the disabled, interest groups.

f)      There was little mention of Eire.

g)    There was little mention of environmental crisis (in the sessions that I attended or in Natalie Bennett’s speech) except for a representative of Hackney Transition who did remind the conference of it. There was some talk of future infrastructural projects as an element in a possible recovery but no mention that these could be used to create a low-carbon economy.  (I regret not speaking up about this).

h)    Also the possible role of environmental crisis in creating a profits famine and innvestment strike which, some said were causes of the recent economic crash, was not mentioned. 

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