Year 2000 No. 123, July 31, 2000

First London Regional Forum on the Mass Party Press

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

First London Regional Forum on the Mass Party Press

Letter to the Editor
Exposing the Privatisation of LEAs

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First London Regional Forum on the Mass Party Press

Sixteen activists and friends of the Party attended the first of a series of fortnightly Regional Forums on the Mass Party Press held in London on Thursday, July 27. The forums have been organised to further discuss the significance and necessity of the mass party press in the context of consolidating RCPBML on the new historical basis, and how all the activists and supporters of the Party in the London region can make their contribution to its development. Everyone interested is invited to come and encouraged to participate and give their views.

Those who attended the Forum discussed and set their own agenda for future meetings. The agenda over the coming period would include discussion on Workers’ Weekly and Workers’ Daily Internet Edition; the Party’s tasks and how to organise in the region; the responsibility of all those who support the Party politically to also do so financially; and the need for a study programme that can assist in developing the Party’s work and the consciousness of its activists and supporters. It was also decided that each Forum would be introduced by a short presentation outlining some aspect of the work to develop the Mass Party Press, and that the participants may come with proposals for the agenda. Already proposed are discussions on the relationship between the style of the newspaper, its content and the social force or forces at which it is aimed; as well as the need for concrete proposals on financing the Party’s Millennium Project.

A representative from the Party centre then opened the discussion by outlining the proposals for a Mass Party Press, which were discussed during the Party’s Congress and presented in the document The Line of March to a New Society. He pointed out the necessity to develop a mass press in order to strengthen the role of Workers’ Weekly as a collective organiser and as the most precious weapon in the struggles of the workers and other section of the people. At the same time, it was pointed out, the development of a Mass Party Press is also vital to lay the foundations for one mass communist party, that represents the interests of the working class and can assist in creating the subjective conditions for revolution and a socialist Britain. In this context the representative also outlined some of the measures already undertaken to develop the Party’s Millennium Project that, amongst other things, aims to put the most modern digital technology in the service of this vital work.

The participants in the meeting then discussed some of the work that is being undertaken in the region and the relationship between this work and the task of developing the Mass Party Press. It was clear that one of the main issues is how to develop groups of writers and disseminators in order to break the passivity and marginalisation that is forced on the workers and other sections of the people, including the youth and national minorities, and provide them with a vision of a new society and the necessary consciousness for victory in their struggles. A further issue is how to solve the problem of the distribution of the newspaper on a mass scale.

It was stressed that the activists and supporters of the Party have to take the lead in this work, particularly by developing the content of Workers’ Weekly through regular reports, letters and articles that reflect the diversity and breadth of the problems facing the people and their struggles to overcome them.

The first forum concluded in a militant spirit with all those present making a financial contribution to the Party’s work. Over £80 was raised from this collection.

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Letter to the Editor

Exposing the Privatisation of LEAs

Dear Workers Weekly,

I thought it might be useful to say a few words about how the anti social offensive is affecting workers in the education service where I work at Southwark Council, South London.

The government has pushed through a plan to privatise the local education authority and recently announced that out of the 40 companies which applied for the contract it has selected as a preferred bidder WS Atkins, a company which has absorbed 2,000 public sector workers since the early nineties. In a presentation to staff at the LEA one of the directors of WS Atkins said, "I am the first to admit that I know nothing about education…We are here to make a profit."

The current education director in response to a question about why he was recommending as a preferred bidder a company which has no track record in education responded by saying that "they have put forward a commercially viable plan and they are going to add value to the organisation".

Workers in Britain know from experience that when these companies take over these organisations the first thing they do is to downsize them. I did not have to wait long to discover that I was one of the workers who was about to be downsized out of a job. Contract and temporary workers will not be transferred over to WS Atkins when they take over, which looks like being November. It will be a TUPE transfer, which means that the terms and conditions of the permanent workers will be protected for one year.

As someone who works in information technology, I was keen to find out what exactly their plans were in terms of technology because this is one area in which they seem to have impressed the current senior management. They did not give any details at the time despite some prompting. But what later emerged is that they are planning to give each child an email address and set up cyber cafés in schools, and encourage parents to buy laptops for the pupils in place of pens and paper. I and my colleagues were somewhat perplexed by this since we had just been involved in putting in place 30 computer networks with internet (web and email) facilities in Southwark primary schools and are about to do another 30. This is what a cyber café is. Many of our pupils already have email.

During the discussion that ensued, it became clear that WS Atkins knew very little about how the education department functions. What they obviously know is that this a £200m contract lasting 10 years in a sector which is projected to be worth £5bn when the other LEAs in the country are put out to tender.

The WS Atkins’ director spoke about training the pupils in specific IT skills, which will enable them to gain jobs working for WS Atkins. They see that the can make profits through the means of the other companies in their portfolio taking over the supplies which go to the schools. For example, they have construction and catering companies in their portfolio.

In this retrogressive period when the bourgeoisie is very confidently pushing forward its programme of dismantling what Margaret Thatcher called the "nanny state", how should the workers respond to this situation?

My view is that this move should be opposed on the basis of the workers themselves discussing and putting forward their views about what direction education in Britain should take. They need to challenge the notion that education should be about making a profit by instead putting forward the notion that education is a right, which should be guaranteed at the highest level possible to all who require it.

Ten years ago the "old Tories" started with privatising rubbish disposal and catering. Now the "new Tories" are throwing the whole education service over to the vagaries of the market place. When we, the workers, question the logic of this whole move, we are told that "this is driven by central government, there is nothing we can do about it".

The battle lines are clear. We, the workers and people of Britain, will have to respond to this challenge laid down by the bourgeoisie. Will we allow our rights to education to be eroded or will we fight and dare to win the affirmation of our rights to education?

Southwark LEA Worker

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