Thursday, 28 February 2013
No matter what we are told of a plan B plans for growth the underlying fact remains that for us the 99% it is austerity all the way now this is the new norm some have said. For the Tories they have over seen a huge transfer of wealth from the poorest in society to the rich. Austerity for the ruling class is working. Some smaller capitalists have gone out of business but to them this is the free market that is the rules of the market if you cant drive your workers wages down quickly enough you will become uncompetitive the rule goes. The rules of the market are brutal and its cut throat economics where the fittest and the toughest survive. Workers rights what workers rights they are a block on profits to the boss’s so no wonder they are under attack. Economic commentators debate the likelihood of a triple-dip recession but the reality is that there has been no real return to growth. Prolonged stagnation - 'bumping along the bottom' - is the best scenario on offer. Moody's long-anticipated downgrading of the British government's credit rating will form the backdrop to this year's budget. It is a graphic illustration that - as we warned - Con-Dem austerity has made the economic crisis worse. Not that we have faith in Moody's or the other capitalist ratings agencies - these are the same companies that happily gave the sub-prime mortgage companies an AAA rating! But the Con-Dems worship at the altar of the finance markets. From day one this government has justified austerity by the necessity of keeping the Credit Ratings Agencies happy. The rest of us can go to hell in a handcart. Before the 2010 general election Osborne made maintaining Britain's AAA credit rating one of eight benchmarks by which to judge whether a Conservative government is delivering. The wheels are coming off the Con-Dem coalition - it could fall at any time, particularly if faced with a mass movement of the working class. Osborne will continue to attempt to blame the previous government and the economic disaster in the eurozone but in reality he and his cuts-coalition have no solutions - other than making us suffer and that is the key to understanding this. It’s never been about paying off our debts getting the deficit down austerity is code for transferring huge wealth to the rich. Privatisation on a mass scale always the policies of the right wing are now seen as easier to get away with due to the crisis of capitalism we are living through. They are able to justify these privatisations as part of the need to get the deficit down this could not be further from the case. All of this is creating burning anger among the working class - but also wide sections of the middle class - as our living standards plummet. As the Bank of England's chief economist, Spencer Dale, noted: "The harsh but inescapable reality is that households and families are worse off - much worse off." But while most of us tighten our belts a few households and families are gorging on a feast of riches. The Sunday Times rich list reached record highs in 2012. The combined wealth of Britain's richest 1,000 people swelled by almost 5% to £414 billion, reaching the highest amount ever recorded by the 24-year old survey. The TUC is currently considering submissions from the unions on the question of a general strike. The latest episode in the crisis makes it clearer than ever - the TUC must urgently set the date for a 24-hour general strike against austerity. This would be the most effective way of channelling the burning anger into a movement capable of kicking out this hated government. While a tiny minority increase their wealth at the expense of the majority, for the rest of us there is no end in sight to the economic crisis. Britain only maintained its AAA rating for as long as it did because, to the world's financial markets, sterling appeared a safer bet than the eurozone. But sterling has been falling since the start of 2013. In other words in the last months the financiers have felt that Britain was a riskier prospect than the euro, despite there being more than 50% youth unemployment and profound political instability in a whole swathe of the eurozone. There are no safe havens for world capitalism. British capitalism, and therefore the working class, faces a bleak future. Five years into the economic crisis, UK gross domestic product (GDP) is still 12-15% below the pre-crisis trend. It's been estimated that one in six high street shops is lying empty, with 20 stores closing every day. Such is the lack of jobs that 1,700 people applied for eight 'Barista' jobs at one Costa Coffee branch. Osborne is under pressure from sections of the capitalist class to increase state investment in infrastructure, and he may make some proposals in the budget. Even if this is the case, Osborne has made it clear that this will be combined with continued austerity for the majority. New Labour is deriding Osborne for the economic crisis and calling for a change of direction, a 'Plan B', but has no real alternative. Writing in the Independent (25 February 2013), Owen Jones hopefully declared that: "Labour does have the outlines of an alternative". Jones quotes Ed Balls when he stood for the Labour leadership and asked Labour Party members to imagine if the 1945 Labour government had "decided that the first priority was to reduce the debts built up in the war, there would be no NHS, no rebuilt railways and housing, no welfare state." Jones, however, is forced to mournfully comment: "if only he [Ed Balls] had stuck unrelentingly to this script." The labour movement needs its own mass party - which the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition TUSC, is working to lay the foundations for - campaigning for a 'Plan S' for socialism. What would such a programme include? Take one issue - the growing housing crisis. Homelessness has increased by 26% over the last two years and is set to increase further. While housing benefit is cut, the cost of housing is rocketing. House prices have gone up 40 times since 1971 whereas prices in general have gone up tenfold. One in 12 families is now on waiting lists for social housing, the complete absence of which, combined with deregulation, is allowing private sector landlords to increase rents. The private rented sector has increased by 86% in three years. Rents have risen by an average of 37% since 2007. Younger people are faced with a future of shared accommodation, living with their parents, or sofa-surfing, with some ending up sleeping on the streets. Even the right-wing IEA think-tank drew the conclusion that a mass house-building programme could almost halve the £21 billion that is spent on housing benefits and mortgage relief. However, their means to achieve this end was to get rid of even the current minimal planning regulation in order to allow the construction companies to chuck up jerry-built substandard housing. A socialist solution would be to implement a mass council house-building programme - creating high-quality, affordable, secure, environmentally-friendly housing - for all those who need it. This would solve the housing crisis and provide secure, well-paid work for the many tens of thousands of unemployed construction workers. Such a policy would not only stop at housing but also be used to build the schools, hospitals, libraries, care homes and other necessary facilities and utilities to service the population. How can such a policy be paid for? We favour massively increasing taxes on the super-rich. However, this can lead to the capitalists taking production abroad, as the hysterical reaction of a section of the French capitalists to François Hollande's puny taxation proposals indicate. Attempts to secure even minimal reforms, never mind a substantial reformist programme to change the lives of working people, come up against the inherent limits of capitalism, the system based upon production for profit and not social need. Does this mean we should retreat? No! But it poses the need to go further with the demand for nationalisation, under democratic workers' control and management, of the banks and the summits of the financial system together with the big monopolies that dominate the great majority of the economy. Compensation could be paid to those capable of proving their need for it. Among other measures a socialist programme would also require control of all foreign trade, through democratic nationalisation of all incomings and outgoings, in order to prevent sabotage as big business will attempt to move its resources abroad. In short, in place of Osborne's 'plan A' we do not need a minimalist 'plan B', but a bold 'plan S' for socialism. With extracts from this weeks editorial of the socialist http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/754/16222/27-02-2013/austerity-anger-action
Over the years divide and rule has been tactic or a strategy you could say which the ruling class’s across the globe have used to quell dissent and divide us all the working and popular mass’s. Be it on racial, gender, in work or not, sexuality and nowadays private or public sector and so on its been a way of getting their policies through while distracting us from the bigger issues. While we are focusing on fighting our next door neighbour for claiming benefits they shouldn’t the ruling class and the rich are literally laughing all the way to the bank. We are also divided by the nation state too the working class as Karl Marx rightly told us in the community manifesto has no nation so creating false nation boundaries it leads the workers to nationalistic lines which are muddied all the time. Nation states arose from the development of capitalism. To the rising capitalist class in countries like England and France fell the lot of sweeping aside feudal particularise, knitting together their national territory and attaining recognition as a separate nation. To replace the power of the feudal heads of society with those of the capitalist state, the bourgeois drew behind them all the oppressed social orders. Having used the lower layers of society as a club to lay waste the vestiges of feudal power and consolidate their own class rule, the bourgeoisie set about curtailing the activities and demands of these layers, very often re-imposing the superstructure of the old system in order to do so. Dividing workers is to distract them from the ultimate goal of overthrowing the current system of capitalism and replacing it with a democratic socialist society based on the many not the few. Anyway the ruling elite can distract working people from drawing these conclusions and uniting on class lines they will try and try they have done successfully over the years. Socialists oppose all forms of division and discrimination and stand for the rights of all oppressed people to have representation. We say no to the boss’s divide and rule and call for class unity based on the advancement of the working class and middle class. Society can be changed but not if we fall for classic divide and rule tactics. The Tories are good at it we must be equally as good at resisting their cynical divide and rule tactics and unite against our class enemies.
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
For many the Euro crisis never went away but for the markets there was a period of stability from Christmas till about now when we’ve seen the Italian elections deliver a stalemate and this as a result has thrown the markets into turmoil and panic. The “Tsunami tour” was the name comedian Beppe Grillo gave to his election meetings which filled piazzas throughout the country with tens of thousands of ‘spectators’. Now an electoral tsunami has well and truly rocked the Italian political system with Grillo’s 5 Star Movement, which did not exist at the last election, becoming the biggest single party in the lower house with more than 25% of the vote. Another 25% of the electorate stayed at home, the highest ever post-war abstention rate. The outcome of the election on 24 and 25 February is political gridlock. No party or list having an overall majority and the possibility of fresh elections quite soon. The opinion polls had predicted a victory for the Democratic Party (PD) in the lower house and most commentators expected an alliance of the PD in the senate with the electoral coalition of the outgoing (unelected) Prime Minister, Mario Monti. However, the polls vastly underestimated support for the 5 Star Movements and also for Berlusconi’s PDL, which, on the basis of populist programmes, tapped into deep and widespread anti-austerity and anti-political establishment feelings. Just 120,000 votes separated the PD camp from that of the PDL in the lower house (Camera). The Centre-Left got 29.5% to the Centre-Right 29.2% but the PD lost nearly 4 million votes compared with the last election and the PDL 6 million! Even though the PD as the ‘winning’ party will receive bonus seats to give it a majority in the Camera, it cannot reach a majority in both houses of parliament, even in alliance with Monti. Grillo has ruled out any alliances and a ‘grand coalition’ - embracing Bersani (PD leader) and Berlusconi - although not impossible, could be politically suicidal for the PD. The ‘technocratic government’ card has already been played with the Monti government, so the most likely perspective now seems to be a period of political crisis leading eventually to another election, possibly after a change in the electoral law, in which the support for the ‘Grillinis’ could grow even further. The “worst result possible” was how the Wall St Journal described the election outcome. The repercussions will reverberate far beyond Italy. The day after the election, falls on the Milan stock exchange were so great that trading was temporarily suspended. At the same time the spread (difference between interest rates on Italian and German bonds) began to increase, raising once again the prospect of market turmoil in Europe. The fate of the Euro could eventually be decided not in Greece but in Italy. ‘NO’ to austerity The election results were an overwhelming rejection of Monti’s austerity policies of public spending cuts, tax increases and attacks on workers’ rights. Monti had been dubbed the ‘saviour of Italy’ when he replaced Berlusconi in November 2011 and the markets began to stabilise after months of instability and crisis. In these elections he was the candidate of Brussels, of Merkel and of a section of the Italian capitalist class. They were fearful that a PD government with an overall majority would come under pressure from workers and unions to ditch or water down the austerity policies they had supported under Monti. A PD/Monti coalition was considered the safest option for continuing the ‘Monti agenda’. This strategy failed dismally with Monti’s alliance receiving just 10.5% in the Camera. Before the elections Monti’s personal ratings had been higher than all the party leaders but this was precisely because he was a ‘technocrat’ and not part of the despised political class. Once he became “one of them”, his days were numbered. Grillo and the 5 Star Movement were the real winners. His slogan “tutti a casa” (send them all packing) summed up the absolute disgust and contempt which ordinary Italians have for politicians, establishment parties and an entire rotten political system mired in corruption, scandals and self-enrichment while working people are called on to make more and more sacrifices. Scandals Reports of the huge cover up and fraud at Italy’s third biggest bank, Monti dei Paschi, exploded during the election campaign, tainting the PD, who have been historically closely linked with the management of the bank. It reinforced the deep-rooted feeling that the whole system stinks. Every day pages of the press were devoted to stories of politicians receiving kick backs for economic favours, of public funds being creamed off to fund lavish lifestyles and of company directors (including the director of one of Italy’s biggest and most prestigious companies, Finmeccanica) being arrested for fraud and corruption. The Grillo votes came from across the political spectrum – from the right, from the left and from those with no political affiliation. “I want to give them all a kick up the arse!” was how one voter explained her choice, summing up the mood of many of those who voted for the 5 Star Movement. In the piazzas, Grillo shouted populist slogans and sound-bites about curbing the power and privileges of the political ‘cast’, about a ‘citizen’s income’, a referendum on the Euro, a shorter working week, nationalising the banks, and about improving the environment, all of which struck a chord with those who have had enough of cuts and corruption. There are enormous illusions in the ability of the Grillinis to shake the system up. In reality, the Movement (Grillo refuses to call it a party) has no worked-out programme capable of solving the day-to-day problems of unemployment, low wages, and declining public services which most ordinary Italians are concerned with. It has no real roots in the workplaces or communities, organising principally via the Internet and social media. Grillo himself decides policies and tactics in an ad hoc, off-the-cuff way with no explanation or understanding of how those policies could actually be implemented in practice. His ‘rants’ are confused and inconsistent. Grillo has an ambiguous position with regards to the far-right and immigration. During the campaign he spoke of “eliminating” trade unions although he has also made a distinction between CGIL, CISL and UIL on the one hand and the more combatative FIOM and unions of the base. At a certain stage the limitations and contradictions of the Movement will become clear, ripping it apart. It is likely to disappear as quickly as it has arisen; but for the moment, in the absence of a left-wing, anti-capitalist alternative, it has become the main vehicle for expressing the anger, frustration and disaffection of millions of Italians and its support could grow even more. Economic crisis These elections took place against the background of the longest recession in Italy in the post war period. GDP has declined 7% since the economic crisis began. Unemployment has doubled and more than 37% of young people are now without work. Devastated by rising taxes and declining wages, the average family’s real income is at the same level as it was 27 years ago. Yet with working and middle class people desperate for an end to austerity, the PD was offering a continuation of the Monti agenda with just a few ‘modifications’. They pledged to respect the fiscal compact and balance the budget even though this would entail cuts of 45 billion euros every year. This is behind the massive fall of 11% in their ratings towards the end of the campaign. Berlusconi, on the other hand, was astute enough to understand how supporting Monti’s tax increases and cuts agenda was undermining his electoral base and so he pulled the plug on the Monti government, waging a populist anti-austerity, anti- Europe, pro-tax-cutting election campaign. This included sending a mock-up tax demand to every home pledging to reimburse every penny that people had paid out when Monti reintroduced the IMU household tax. On the basis of this campaign the ‘mummy’, as one French newspaper dubbed Berlusconi, rose like Lazarus from the dead; his PDL alliance clawed back 15 points in support and ended up neck and neck with the PD. What little remains of the Left was electorally crushed. Nichi Vendola’s SEL (Left Ecology Freedom) party, which was allied with the PD, got just 3.2%. Had the party stood alone it would have failed to cross the 4% threshold and would have had no seats in parliament. This was ultimately the fate of Rivoluzione Civile, the heterogeneous electoral list headed by the former magistrate, Antonio Ingroia. New force needed Instead of standing on a clear anti-capitalist/workers’ list, Rifondazione Comunista (PRC), once a semi-mass workers’ party, dissolved itself into Rivoluzione Civile on a vaguely reformist/liberal platform. This was an opportunist move, undemocratically imposed from above in a desperate attempt to get back into parliament. The PRC lost all of their MPs five years ago after entering into a coalition government with the pro-capitalist PD. After every electoral defeat, the PRC leadership, rather than looking to increase its support by involving itself in struggles in the workplaces and in local communities, has sought a new unprincipled electoral alliance, and every time its vote has plummeted. Rivoluzione Civile won just 2.2% of the vote meaning no seats at all.. The unprecedented support for Beppe Grillo can only be understood in the tragic context of the collapse of the Italian Left. But now an entirely new political landscape is emerging. The anger of working class people has exploded in the ballot box rather than on the streets and in the workplaces, but continuing crisis and instability will see the development of new mass struggles. At a certain stage the inadequacy of the 5 Star Movement will be exposed leaving millions looking for another alternative and opening up huge possibilities for the building of a new mass political force based not on confused populism but on the movements of workers and young people, offering a real solution to the problems of working people by challenging not only the politicians but the economic roots of the whole rotten capitalist system. With extracts taken from http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6180
Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Today in the news we hear our county council boosting about how much money they are saving on cutting back school transport to those who need it most. I find this stomach turning. How can they be proud of making it harder for children to get to school? A council that spent more than £15m on taxis to take pupils to school said it has now made "significant savings". Hertfordshire County Council spent the money in the 2011/2012 school year. It said 80% of the figure was spent on those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) but it now provided transport only where legally obliged to. The council is committed to providing free transport for children with SEN and mainstream pupils who live a certain distance from their school. This is currently if the journey to their nearest, or designated, school is more than two miles for children under eight, or three miles for the over eights. Councilor Terry Douris said: "Since [September 2012] we have started a policy of only providing school transport to those with a statutory entitlement to it and have saved £8m. "We hope to save another £2m in the 2014/15 year." Mr. Douris added that the council had been "quite creative" in the type of vehicle it used and how many children were transported at any one time. "Some will go by taxis and some use minibuses but the vehicle chosen is appropriate to the needs of the area," he said. "We are also looking for the most cost effective means so sometimes, rather than buying taxis we have bought seats on buses so children can go by public transport. "We also sometimes have common pick-up points rather than door-to-door taxi provision." Ben Bardsley, from the Harpenden Parents Group, said: "I feel that the council have been slow off the mark in getting adequate places in schools that are local to where children live and as a result there has been an increase in the number of children who have been allocated schools that are not one of their preferences." To me this doesn’t sound like common sense at all cost cutting and savings to me is code for cuts. Making it easier for children to get to school should be the c council’s priority but instead it appears saving money and making cuts is their priority here. Let your councillors know you disagree with this by registering a vote for TUSC in the upcoming county council elections this may. The Trade union and Socialist Coalition opposes all cuts and will be campaigning for a needs budget if elected. Check out more about TUSC at www.tusc.org.uk With extracts from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-21584505#?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Monday, 25 February 2013
The labour run Stevenage Borough council was trumpeting its new announcement of 40 new council homes to be built in the Broadwater area of the town. This is clearly welcome news but does labour think for one minute this is a big success story they should be cheering about? Of course as socialists we support new council homes being built but 40? Is that all? Surely we’ve miss read the numbers here there is 7000 on the waiting list for a council house in Stevenage and with a aging population we are told this will only increase in the years to come. So labour please doesn’t go cheering this tiny little dent in the waiting list it’s a drop in the ocean if ever I saw one. Socialists will support any move towards more council housing but only a programme of mass building on a mass scale enabling construction and building workers to go back to work too can have an affect. Across the country there is an estimated 5 million on the waiting list which is growing all the time. So labour if you want to appear radical do not get us excited by 40 new homes about adding some 0’s onto the end of that then we may be getting somewhere . This is just not good enough and for labour to announce this as a big success is a disgrace. Given the fact that this year in their budget proposals the labour council in Stevenage plan to increase social tenants rent by an average of 5% possibly more if they can get away with it. Is this rent increase directed at the most venerable and some of the poorest in the town going to build these new homes? If it is it’s another example of taking from peter to give to Paul robbing from the poor to help other poor people ultimately helps no one. TUSC who will be standing in Stevenage this year in the country council elections will be standing for a mass council house building programme on a mass scale to meet the needs of the people of Hertfordshire not just the property and housing developers who will be making big money out of new housing projects no doubt.
Yes you heard that right in leafy Hertfordshire which is largely a Tory stronghold has seen child poverty rates increase in recent times. Up to a third of children living in North herts are reported to be living in child poverty it has been shown. UP TO a third of children in Comet country are living in poverty, with the latest figures showing a large divide between different towns and wards in the Area. The Child Poverty Action Group, which released the figures, says there are “gross levels of inequality” between areas which neighbour each other. One such example is in parts of North Herts, with nearly a quarter of children living in poverty in Hitchin Oughton, compared to less than five per cent In Hitchin Priory. A similar pattern has emerged in Letchworth GC. Letchworth East and Letchworth Wilbury have 24 and 25 per cent of children living in poverty – nearly double The number in Letchworth South West. The worst rates in the county, though, can be found in Stevenage. A third of children living in Bedwell are in poverty, while one in five or more are in Six other wards. The town average is 20 per cent. Overall poverty rates in Comet country are also up on last year, and there are fears things will only get worse. Gary Grindal, who is chairman of Howard Cottage Housing Association as well as a Letchworth Wilbury district councillor, said he was concerned welfare reforms, Coming into effect in April, would increase rates. “Those most likely to suffer under welfare reforms are those already suffering,” he told the Comet. Comet country wards in Central Beds have lower poverty rates than Herts, with 10 per cent of children in Stotfold and Arlesey and Shefford living in poverty. Overall even in the so called better off areas of the country there is still poverty and it’s increasing at an alarming rate due to austerity which is only set to continue. It’s time to expose these lies that the cuts are necessary and there is an alternative and we need it now.
It is an interesting thing I’m asked from time to time what you mean by socialism are you not just a communist. Well there is a difference but the end goal is more or less the same. Tonight I am doing a lead off at Harlow Socialist party on what is socialism and I will start by explaining its transitional nature. Socialism the lower form of communism as Lenin described it in The State and Revolution one of his greatest contributions to revolutionary thinking I’d say describes socialism or lower communism as a transitional phase which still consists of capitalist elements but with a socialist edge with the directional arrows pointing in the direction of moving towards a withering away of the state as the old ruling class is removed from the scene of history. Socialism what we stand for in the socialist party is a transitional programme consisting of reforms which capitalism c cannot meet quite deliberately. A transitional programme with transitional demands is supposed to draw the working class forward but not too far in front of its own current thinking to lead it to draw the conclusions for the need to change society. So in affect we are communists and socialists at the same time which may sound strange. But Communism is the final target of a state less and a class less society where the need for a state to oppress a class by another class is gone as there would only be one class left t he working class ready and able to run society for the masses. Socialism and communism are alike in that both are systems of production for use based on public ownership of the means of production and centralized planning. Socialism grows directly out of capitalism; it is the first form of the new society. Communism is a further development or "higher stage" of socialism. From each according to his ability, to each according to his deeds (socialism). From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs (communism). The socialist principle of distribution according to deeds— that is, for quality and quantity of work performed, is immediately possible and practical. On the other hand, the communist principle of distribution according to needs is not immediately possible and practical—it is an ultimate goal. Obviously, before it can be achieved, production must reach undreamed of heights—to satisfy everyone’s needs there must be the greatest of plenty of everything. In addition, there must have developed a change in the attitude of people toward work—instead of working because they have to, people will work because they want to, both out of a sense of responsibility to society and because work satisfies a felt need in their own lives. Socialism is the first step in the process of developing the productive forces to achieve abundance and changing the mental and spiritual outlook of the people. It is the necessary transition stage from capitalism to communism. It must not be assumed, from the distinction between socialism and communism, that the political parties all over the world which call themselves Socialist advocate socialism, while those which call themselves Communist advocate communism. That is not the case. Since the immediate successor to capitalism can only be socialism, the Communist parties,-like the Socialist parties, have as their goal the establishment of socialism. Are there, then, no differences between the Socialist and Communist parties? Yes, there are. The Communists believe that as soon as the working class and its allies are in a position to do so they must make a basic change in the character of the state; they must replace capitalist dictatorship over the working class with workers’ dictatorship over the capitalist class as the first step in the process by which the existence of capitalists as a class (but not as individuals) is ended and a classless society is eventually ushered in. Socialism cannot be built merely by taking over and using the old capitalist machinery of government; the workers must destroy the old and set up their own new state apparatus. The workers’ state must give the old ruling class no opportunity to organize a counter-revolution; it must use its armed strength to crush capitalist resistance when it arises. Instead of wanting to take away people’s private property, socialists want more people to have more private property than ever before. There are two kinds of private property. There is property which is personal in nature, consumer’s goods, used for private enjoyment. Then there is the kind of private property which is not personal in nature, property in the means of production. This kind of property is not used for private enjoyment, but to produce the consumer’s goods which are. Socialism does not mean taking away the first kind of private property, e.g. your suit of clothes; it does mean taking away the second kind of private property, e.g. your factory for making suits of clothes. It means taking away private property in the means of production from the few so that there will be much more private property in the means of consumption for the many. That part of the wealth which is produced by workers and taken from them in the form of profits would be theirs, under socialism, to buy more private property, more suits of clothes, more furniture, more food, more of the things we need. More private property for use and enjoyment. No private property for oppression and exploitation. That’s socialism. Socialism would see an instant shortening of the working week to an initial 35 hours with no loss of pay allowing workers to have time out of work to start to run society. As capitalism has you working all hours of the day you have no time to plan political activity or how to start to plan the running of society collectively. Former economies and nations which called themselves communist we do not consider were communist or even socialist they had a planned economy but run on a bureaucratic rule with no democracy to keep the bureaucracy in check or really had any intention on seeing through the transitional stage to removing the state if anything the states in these lands has grown beyond proportion. We often call these nations degenerated workers states as they are no longer capitalist but can’t be called socialist either they are transitional in c character but as Marxists we must understand the direction of change and the nature of that change. Ultimately today’s socialists and communists largely agree we need to replace this rotten capitalist system with something better some have different ideas of how to get there but one thing is for sure we can’t go on as we are the world is full of resources and there is so much wealth in society if only it was harnessed for the benefit of the many not just the few.
Sunday, 24 February 2013
We talk so often as socialists and the left that austerity has failed and is not working. But when we look at it from the capitalists point of view which we fall foul of not doing nearly enough in my view we’d understand things a lot better if we did see things from their point of view sometimes austerity is working very well indeed. Essentially we are seeing policy after policy being pushed that the right has always supported but has not been able to get away with them up till now such as large scale privatisation and eye watering cuts to welfare and social spending. But now in an economic crisis and telling us thing like we’re all in this together and this is for the national interest they have largely succeeded in dividing people to ram their austerity home. Those who think we have to take the medicine for a bi and we’ll then be ok are starting to look a bit worried this I’m afraid is the new norm for capitalism. Austerity is simply the latest phase of capitalism we are going through and it is working very well for the 1%. The welfare state is under attack, workers’ rights are being eroded and poverty and inequality are on the rise. This is not a new crisis. The austerity measures now being imposed in the UK and Europe have been replicated around the world for decades. Time and again, debt crises created by casino banks have been paid for through austerity measures which have fallen on the poorest in society. The global history of austerity shows us how it has been used to create an economy that is built for the benefit of the 1%. Wherever austerity has been tried people have responded with inspiring resistance and new ways to create a fairer, more equal and more democratic economy. So far this has not succeeded but for the 1% the ruling class austerity has seen a huge transfer of wealth from the poorest in society to the richest in society. The rich as they say have never had it so good. It really is high time for them. The rich see opportunities in every crisis every crisis is a possibility to make a killing and boy many have. What are the policies of austerity? They involve the cutting of public investment and services such as education, health care, and retirement insurance. In addition they also include the privatizing of existing government assets. Public employees suffer wage freezes or cuts and mass layoffs as part of austerity measures. Labour laws are revised to empower employers at the expense of employees’ job security, wages, benefits, and voice on the job. And austerity also involves increased taxes and fees on working class people. Austerity is sold as the only available means of reducing the debt. However, there is plenty of money to take care of these financial imbalances. It is in the pockets of the wealthy and big business elites whose think tanks and politicians are, not coincidentally, the architects of austerity. They want nations’ economies to be run more like the corporations and banks, prioritizing that their shareholders get paid first and foremost at the expense of everyone else. In Europe the level of debt is 87 percent of its collective GDP, necessitating a severe approach, according to their outlook. However, in the U.S., which is in the beginning stages of an austerity campaign, the level of debt is over 100 percent of GDP. Considering this level of debt and the size of the U.S. economy, the largest dose of austerity measures are yet to come, and it will be working people who will be expected to swallow them. The truth is that the world economy is not in crisis because of debt. It is because too many have too little to buy what has been created. Without a stronger consumer base the capitalists have no reason to invest in making more commodities and creating more jobs. How are they going to realize a profit if few can afford to buy what is produced? Before the Great Recession the big business elites of the world had gotten around this problem by indulging in an orgy of financial speculation, especially in the U.S. This extra cash, created out of nothing, enabled them to continue handing out dicey loans while repackaging and selling these toxic assets as good investments. As long as the cash spigot was flowing today, why worry about tomorrow, was the line of reasoning for the 1%. This created massive financial bubbles in, for instance, housing in the U.S. and several European nations. The ultimate effect of all this financial gambling was to inflate the fundamental problem with the economy, which was the crisis of overproduction. When it was no longer possible to get beyond this limit, the resulting crisis was so deep and wide that even today, four years later, there is no real end in sight. This has been greatly exacerbated by massive bailouts to the banks both in the U.S. and Europe as well as costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan conducted by the U.S. and its allies Big business is hoarding trillions of dollars rather than investing these funds in job creating production and services. In the U.S. alone it is estimated that these funds are up to $2 trillion. (1) Without a thriving consumer base, the big business owners have no motivation to invest in goods and services. Without this investment, there will be no thriving consumer base. The economic elite sees no way out of this Catch 22, so they are looking for other ways to enrich themselves. One way they are doing this is by treating the world economy as an enormous casino. For instance, it has been estimated that the total amount of derivatives being played in the market comes to $1.2 quadrillion — 20 times the amount of money currently in the global economy. (2) While the results of such reckless investment produce impressive portfolios for a few today, everyone else is exposed to potentially disastrous risks in the future. The 1% does need to obtain real money from somewhere, however. Productive investment is out of the question for the reasons discussed above. Austerity is a weapon they can use to muscle their way towards grabbing the vast pools of social capital in government programs meant to benefit working people. Rather than acting as organizers of production, the corporation and bank owners are using austerity to act as parasites, draining the economy as a whole. Austerity also serves the business elite’s interests at the expense of everyone else in another way. Without a strong safety net, workers are left in an even more desperate competition with one another to find work. This enables those on top of the economy to depress wages, benefits, and rights since they have a larger reserve of workers to pick from who are willing to take anything. Finally, austerity is a weapon to weaken the Labour Movement, the first line of defence for working people against corporate greed. For instance, in the U.S., it is not a coincidence that austerity measures are aimed first and foremost at public employees and teachers. These are the nation’s two most heavily unionized sectors. If their unions can be broken into accepting austerity, sweeping aside the rest of Labour in the pursuit of greed will be an easier task for the 1%. In short, austerity is a program of class war. Austerity never was about bringing debt or deficits down if anything they have gone upwards not down. Its time to expose the real ideas behind austerity and that is a huge transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Knowing the facts is just one part fighting back to change this is another. Allowing people to know the truth is the first stage exposing the lies of the ruling class’s across the world knowing that taking a wage cut or redundancy isn’t helping you, other workers or the country only a minority of very rich individuals at the top this must be challenged and exposed for what it is. The rule of capitalism
With the recent scandal of horse meat being found in our food mostly beef but also found in other meats I thought it’d be good to blog on this. For me it comes as no great surprise that big business tries and fobs us off with cheap meat and meat that isn’t even meat to make a profit. For me this is the underlying issue the quest for the blind drive of profit they will try and get away with whatever they can in order to profit from our ignorance. No doubt this has been going on for many years I even read somewhere Lenin raising concerns of contaminated meat back in the 20th century so its been going on for as long as we can remember. For as long as profit is the primary motivator to produce meat not for peoples needs or the betterment of their health then issues like this will happen time and time again . I did want to point out though which probably has not been mentioned so far is the fact that I feel and with probably good reason the regulatory bodies in this case the FSA the Food Safety Agency was not aware of traces of horse meant being found in our food well I was not surprised about this either I firmly believe that just like with other so called independent regulators they are firmly in the pockets of big business much like the independent press complaints commission and the Independent Police and Crime commission all a load of corrupt industry hacks no doubt. This for me realises many questions. Is any of our food to be trusted? I fear not I think we never really know what is in our foods that we eat on a daily basis. If we are in hospital or prison how do we have any idea what we are being fed day in day out. Fact is we don’t not eve the FSA did until this scandal broke. What gets me is that if this had not come out and the whistle had not been blown then this would still be going on today they have only reacted as they’ve been caught out otherwise we’d still be eating god knows what and probably still are. Ten companies dominate global food production and the drive for profit comes first. Big business politicians are generally obedient to the demands of the super-rich manufacturers. Profits soar while health problems mount up and industry employees suffer attacks on working conditions. Low pay denies millions from buying high-quality food. And unsustainable agribusiness production is wrecking the environment. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), horsemeat has been found in one in every 75 beef products available in the high street, as well as in cottage pies sent to 47 schools in Lancashire and ready meals sent to hospitals in Northern Ireland. The FSA was established in 2000 as a watchdog on food safety and nutrition, in the wake of the BSE scandal a few years earlier. Part of its remit is to monitor the three million cattle, 13 million pigs, 19 million sheep and lambs, 70 million fish and 800 million birds that are slaughtered every year in the UK for human consumption. Food writer, Joanna Blythman accused the FSA of having an "unduly cosy relationship with the food companies, bio-tech companies and large retailers". As if to demonstrate this the former CEO of the FSA, Tim Smith, is now Tesco's Global Technical Director. Staff numbers at the FSA have dropped by 42% from 2007-2010 reducing meat inspection costs by £13.5 million, and since then a further 13% of staff have been axed. Its budget has been cut by £44 million since 2010. On her blog Blythman comments further: "Now, providing a food-processing company has a paper trail that appears to demonstrate 'due diligence' and conforms to 'quality assurance' schemes, supermarkets take its products on trust. "So unless a whistleblower tips off the authorities or obvious casualties line up in the form of poisoned consumers, any funny business in the factory goes undetected." Moreover, council environmental health teams, which are responsible for inspections of food retailing, fast food and restaurants, have also been squeezed. According to Environmental Health News spending has been cut by "32% since 2009, outstripping cuts in most other service areas." Most workplaces can be expected to be inspected somewhere from every six months to every two years. Some commentators have suggested that horsemeat is being used as a replacement for Desinewed Meat (DSM), which itself was a replacement for Mechanically Recovered Meat (MRM), also known as 'pink slime'. This is produced by removing residual meat from animal bones by high pressure water. The difference between the two is that DSM is removed at lower pressure retaining some structure, but both are a far cheaper source of 'meat' than actual cuts. DSM was reclassified as a form of MRM around a year ago which means it can no longer be listed as meat. It's quite telling that a former FSA specialist, Dr Mark Woolfe, was quoted in the press saying that DSM "was a perfectly good ingredient for value products". In essence he is saying that low-quality food is adequate for those on low incomes who have to buy value products. He then goes on to justify companies using horsemeat as they searched for similarly priced 'meat' to protect their profit margins. Horses are also slaughtered in Britain, some of which are for domestic human consumption, but mainly for export. The UK government's system of passports for horses is meant to identify what drugs they have been treated with over their lifetime, including the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (Bute). In high enough concentrations Bute can have severe side effects in humans. However, the passport system is deeply flawed. 7,000 of these passports were issued by the Spotted Horse and Pony Organisation after it had its license to do so withdrawn in 2008 by Defra, a government department. This is just one of over 75 organisations which can issue such licenses. According to the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals around 70,000 horses are untraceable in both the North and South of Ireland. With the suspected involvement of criminal gangs, horses worth as little as £10 (due to drug treatment) are being sold to slaughterhouses with false passports and identification microchips for up to £400. Although it is highly unlikely that sufficient levels of Bute are present in the horsemeat to seriously affect humans, a bigger potential danger is contamination by bacteria such as salmonella from 'back-street' abattoirs. As long as capitalist companies, driven by the profit motive, produce our food then that profit will always come first, before quality and our health and safety. A lax regulatory system and cutbacks in inspections, means that the horsemeat scandal and previous food scares clearly won't be the last. Only a nationalised food industry, under democratic workers' control, alongside taking other key sections in the economy into public control would allow resources to be devoted to making sure our food is safe and correctly labelled. Socialist Party news and analysis Toxic Tories - With extracts taken from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/753/16191/20-02-2013/food-adulteration-government-cutbacks-and-capitalist-profits
Saturday, 23 February 2013
As we learn today that Britain is to loose its prestigious triple A credit rating this can only be reported as a humiliating turn of events for the chancellor George Osborne. Osborne banked his whole economic policy on maintaining this triple a credit rating now it looks to be crumbling under his nose surely it leaves the Tories and their economic plans in tatters and the coalition in a huge crisis. Moody's credit rating Cut 'shows UK economic policy failure' On Friday, Moody's became the first agency to cut the UK from its highest AAA rating to Aa1. In announcing the ratings cut, Moody's cited the "challenges that subdued medium-term growth prospects pose to the government's fiscal consolidation programme, which will now extend well into the next parliament". It added that the UK's huge debts were unlikely to reverse until 2016. This is a huge condemnation of the Tories economic policy for ministers like Danny Alexander to shrug it off like credit rating agencies do not matter is laughable as it was only last year they were all talking up how proud they were to still have their credit rating at a maximum status. It seems that just like the polls you support them when they support your policy and reject them as nonsense when they appear to be speaking against you. But this could be hugely serious for Britain from a capitalist perspective with borrowing bound to be more expensive for the government on the bond market now it’s lost its prestigious credit rating. However the Tories wish to dress this up it is a failure of mamouth proportions even on their own standards. Only a socialist solution to the crisis will solve the underlying issues. No tweaking of the capitalist system now will solve the under lying issues this is not a cyclical crisis which we can just recover from this is a fundamental crisis of capitalism and only a system change to a democratic planned socialist system will do. Its time to ramp up the pressure on this gov by continuing to build for a 24 hour general strike and force them out whilst building TUSC a working class socialist alternative to the madness of the market.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
Today is the anniversary of one of the most famous text’s ever written. On Febuary21st 1848 Karl Marx and Frederich Engels published what would go on to be known as one of the greatest works for the working class ever wrote. Here I’ll look at its relevance today and how we can learn from the text back then to apply to today’s struggles. A product of the genius of the young Marx and Engel’s (Engel’s was 27, Marx 29); the Manifesto stands out as one of the greatest examples of world literature. With its brilliant summing up of history, the class struggle, the role of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, it marked the entry of the ideas of scientific socialism onto the stage of world history. But the Manifesto is not just of historic interest. Its most important parts are fresh even today. In simple words, it depicts the realities of late 20th century capitalism far more accurately than the millions of words daily churned out by its defenders. Above all, it is in the method of Marx and Engel’s, so clearly elaborated in this document, that are to be found the tools to combat capitalism and build a new socialist world. Obviously, in a document written 150 years ago there is much now outdated. However, it is with astonishment that we discover how much in the Manifesto describes the situation today. To have made such a claim at the beginning of this decade would have invited scorn from the representatives of capitalism. Against the backdrop of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Marxism, that is scientific socialism, was 'dead and buried'. The collapse of the Stalinist regimes, and with them the planned economy, resulted in unbridled capitalist triumphalism. The Wall Street Journal, organ of the ignorant American financial barons, proclaimed, 'We've won', while Thatcher and Reagan, the twin stars in the capitalist firmament at that time, boasted that 'the lesson of the 1980s is that socialism has failed'. It is not just 'antiquated' Marxists who look to the authors of the Manifesto for an explanation of today's world. Individual commentators, confronted by the desolation and chaos of modern capitalist society, are turning back to Marx. Neil Ascherson, in the Independent on Sunday, despite his scepticism about Marx, recently confessed that, "in spite of everything, I feel a spirit moving again under the floor boards... this was the man who saw that every social order carries the seeds of its own destruction, above all when that order seems universal and invincible. Now is the moment to remember that lesson". Commenting on the 90th anniversary of the Manifesto, Leon Trotsky, referring to Marx's materialist conception of history, wrote that it had "completely withstood the test of events and the blows of hostile criticism. It constitutes today one of the most precious instruments of human thought. All other interpretations of the historical process have lost all scientific meaning. We can state with certainty that it is impossible in our time to be not only a revolutionary militant, but even a literate observer of politics, without assimilating the materialist interpretation of history". MARX AND ENGELS showed that the development of capitalism went together with the creation of the world market which bound together the world into one interdependent whole. In the process, the capitalists developed their own 'gravediggers' in the form of the working class. This class was not restricted to one country, but developed on a world scale. From these ideas of Marx and Engel’s developed the idea of socialist and working class internationalism. The Dockers in Liverpool, the French truck drivers, the Danish and Bangalore bus workers, in seeking to spread their struggles on a continental and world basis, all stand on the shoulders of the authors of the Manifesto. The tendencies which Marx traced out in the Manifesto have been taken to a level which could not have been anticipated. Marx referred to the growing concentration of capital, but only in his monumental work, Capital, did he show how free competition tended towards monopoly. Since Marx's day, and particularly in the era of globalisation, the growth and power of monopolies is transparently obvious. An estimated 150 giant firms - monopolies - dominate 80-85% of the British economy. Undoubtedly, Marx and Engel have made a mistake in their prognosis on the imminence of revolution when they wrote the Manifesto. They also overestimated the preparedness of the working class to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism at that stage. Marx maintained that no social system departed from the arena of history before exhausting all its possibilities. In the Manifesto he attacks capitalism for retarding the development of the productive forces. But at that stage, this retardation was only relative in nature. Undoubtedly, if the working class had taken power in the second part of the 19th century, industry and society would have developed at a much greater tempo than it did. Nevertheless, capitalism did develop the productive forces on a world scale. In other words, at that stage, capitalism was relatively reactionary. It became absolutely reactionary only with the onset of the First World War, when it became clear that the productive forces had completely outgrown the narrow limits of private ownership, on the one side, and the nation state, on the other. Only then did capitalism become an absolute barrier to the full utilisation of the potential of the productive forces. This was reflected in the aftermath of the First World War. The booms were weaker and more anaemic than before 1914, and there were deeper slumps and protracted economic stagnation. It is true that capitalism experienced a spectacular structural growth in production between 1950-73. This unique and special period in the development of capitalism arose from the destruction of the second world war, the slaughter of value, both of constant capital and the literal slaughter of variable capital - that is the working class - combined with other factors: the utilisation of technology, which had lain fallow before then, and the economic strength and power of US capitalism. The end of this long boom signified that world capitalism had entered a depressionary phase. The 1980s boom seemed to superficially contradict this, but it was lopsided; the relative position of the working class declined, as did the living standards of the peoples of Africa, Latin America and large parts of Asia. The growth rates of the 1980s were far inferior, as was the rate of investment back into industry, to the 1950-73 upswing. But the trend towards globalisation, particularly in the 1990s, has enormously 'internationalised', speeded up and synchronised economic processes throughout the world economy. The international bourgeoisie, particularly in the USA and Europe, tried to pretend at the beginning that the Asian economic crisis was a 'little local difficulty'. Trotsky's phrase, 'Tobogganing towards disaster with their eyes closed,' comes to mind. ONE OF THE ideas of Marx, elaborated in the Manifesto, which has been the subject of vicious distortion and constant attacks by bourgeois and social democratic politicians alike, is the so-called 'theory of increasing misery'. Marx did not advance such an idea. He was well aware that there were periods when the working class was able to extract concessions, and important concessions, from the capitalists. But even in these periods, superficial appearances disguised the fact that often the share of the working class of national income actually declined. In other words, there was a relative decline of the masses' standards of living. Even during the spectacular structural upswing of 1950-73, when the absolute standards of living of the working class grew substantially in the advanced industrial world, the same was not true in the colonial and former colonial world, where two-thirds of humankind is concentrated. THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO was conceived by its authors not just as a sweeping condemnation of capitalism and an abstract advocacy of socialism and communism. Above all, it was a call for action in the imminent revolution which Marx and Engel’s were expecting. It was directed particularly at the adherents of the Communist League. It is this, the call for revolutionary action, which even the most sympathetic bourgeois commentators on the Manifesto oppose or keep quiet about. Undoubtedly, Marx and Engel’s overestimated the possibility of a socialist revolution in 1848, and the preparedness of the working class to take power then. It took events, particularly the Paris Commune, to show that only by the creation of a mass socialist revolutionary party at the head of the working class could such a social overturn be completed. This was borne out, moreover, by the Russian revolution, which would have been impossible without the existence of a mass revolutionary party in the form of the Bolshevik party, and the far-sighted leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. The task of creating such a party is even more urgent today than at any other time since the Manifesto was written. At the time of the 100th anniversary of the Manifesto, in 1948, the British Labour Party reproduced the Manifesto, with an introduction by Harold Laski, identifying the party with the aims of its authors: "Few documents in the history of mankind have stood up so remarkably to the test of verification by the future as the Communist Manifesto. Essentially, after its publication, no one has been able to seriously contravert any of its major positions. All over the world, the crises of capitalism have grown both more frequent and more profound". How far New Labour has travelled to the right since then! Blair and Brown view the Communist Manifesto as the devil views holy water. They have converted the Labour Party from a vehicle for working people into another capitalist party. This has put the need to create a new mass party of the working class on the agenda. The new generation of workers, youth and radicalised intellectuals, who will raise on their shoulders such a party, will inevitably turn back to the marvellous and brilliant generalisations, the crystal-clear ideas of Marx and Engel’s. In place of the duplicitous and cloudy phrases of reformists, of 'liberal' deceptions, which are now the stock-in-trade of the official leadership of New Labour, they will find clarity. They can read Marx's broad generalisation which has stood the test of time: With extracts taken from http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/manifesto/m2frame.htm?150.htm
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Our beloved Police and Crime Commissioner not happy with coming out with other ridiculous ill thought out ideas before on charging arrested people for their night in a cell whether guilty or not has now come out with another idea straight from the Tory box of money making stupid ideas. Today David Lloyd thinks that sponsoring the police is a good way to go to raise cash for the force while the Tories force through 20% cuts to the police. Police cars, uniforms and equipment could carry sponsors’ logos to raise money for the force under a plan unveiled by Police Crime Commissioner David Lloyd. The idea for businesses to advertise through the force and even have products officially endorsed by Hertfordshire Constabulary was first proposed in Mr. Lloyd’s Police and Crime Plan. In the plan, Mr. Lloyd writes: "The strong commercial brands based in, or operating within Hertfordshire may see business sense in collaborating with me on a range of direct sponsorship and corporate responsibility ventures. "This could include sponsorship of elements of my Drive Safe initiative or sponsoring traffic calming measures outside our schools. "Finding new and innovative ways of securing funding will ensure that the people of Hertfordshire can continue to enjoy exceptional policing as well as low taxes. "I will establish a commercial unit to assess properly and implement a range of proposals to partner better with business." Speaking to the Watford Observer Mr. Lloyd expanded on the idea and said he would welcome contact from businesses interested in sponsoring the force through direct advertising. He said: "From a business point of view anything is possible. What a disgrace. Bringing sponsorship into our publically funded police to allow private business to benefit from this is an idea that we should not entertain. It no doubt is a Tory dream but no way should our police become a marketing tool for a multinational or a local business for that matter. Police although are not class neutral as we well know should not be seen to be endorsing a certain brand, company or a for profit organisation. I’m disgusted to hear of this plan. Were we told of this before David Lloyd was elected with a 14% turnout in Herts ? I’m sure if we’d all know about this he wouldn’t have even got that vote.
Monday, 18 February 2013
This year many people across the country will be affected by the bedroom tax. A tax on empty rooms in a house. [Mike Daily is the Principal Solicitor of Glasgow’s Govan Law Centre and is a member of the Financial Services Authority’s Financial Services Consumer Panel. He writes in a personal capacity.] One of the worst aspects of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act is the so called ‘bedroom tax’, although it might equally be called a ‘disability tax’ because two-thirds of the 95,000 households affected in Scotland contain someone with a disability.1 The rationale for housing benefit cuts for ‘under-occupied homes’ in the social rented sector is the UK Government’s desire to reduce the overall cost of housing benefit by £1bn over two years – so the bedroom tax is another tentacle of the austerity agenda. 2 A strategy that almost all respected political economists around the world will tell you is fundamentally flawed.3 If everyone does something at the same time, like implement cuts and reduce spending, the economy will go on a downwards spiral and UK debt will actually grow. This is what has happened in the UK. This is known as a ‘fallacy of composition’.4 The Chancellor has got it wrong, GDP has gone down, and our economic growth is flat lining.5 Besides the obvious human misery and indignity of forcing people out of their homes, there are other powerful reasons why implementing a bedroom tax is wrong and not in the public interest. Two immediate problems are created: first, you create a dynamic to force people to downsize. The DWP estimate that 660,000 people across the UK will be affected by these changes. The changes apply to claimants under the age of 61.6 Some 81% of those affected are ‘under occupying’ by just one bedroom. This means most people affected will be liable to a 14% cut in their existing housing benefit from April 2013 – the equivalent of £624 per annum or £12 per week. The DWP already accept there will be many communities where there is insufficient smaller homes to downsize to. This added to cuts in other benefits and the universal credit coming in in April will have a devastating effect on local communities and some of the poorest in society. This tax must be fought as widely and as tactically as we can. This is not going to be something the trade unions are likely to get involved in although their support for direct action struggles is always welcome. This may take local tenants groups with militant mass non payment to force this tax into the dustbin of history. What is clear though is that non implementation is a option and labour councils should be using all legal powers they have to try and delay disrupt and ultimately make this tax unworkable. Disabled people will of course be hardest hit, along with those on low pay or benefits. The exemption for tenants who need an overnight career is of limited application. ITV News has given some common real life examples of where disabled tenants will be penalized by the bedroom tax.8 The example of a tenant who uses her second bedroom as sterile room to receive nutrition from a machine, made necessary after she had surgery for bowel cancer. Or a couple where the husband had a stroke and cannot share the same bedroom with his wife. Both of these tenants will lose over £48 per month from their housing benefit from April. While the cost to a social landlord in evicting a tenant is on average £6,000. Local councils will not want to be seen to be shelling out thousands in evicting lots of people this could become unworkable if many simply refuse to pay or in many people’s case cannot pay so won’t pay. It’s a disgrace while rich millionaires have spare rooms in their houses are not taxed yet those of us who need a spare room are taxed for the right to have one. It smack’s a little of a nanny state dictating what you can and cannot have now. There are sure to be many legal cases against this unfair tax on the basis of discrimination and I do hope those who are affected search out any route to fight back and are supported when they do so. Occupations must be supported if families are under threat of losing their homes and our solidarity will be needed at all times. People facing this tax are not alone and must not be made to feel so. An attack on one is an attack on us all.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
With this weeks ruling that it was deemed illegal to force Kate riley and Jamie Wilson to work for their benefits the fight against workfare must be stepped up by the trade unions and young people angry with this rotten capitalist system. The victory in the Court of Appeal on 12 February for Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson has dealt a massive blow to the government's work-for-your-benefit schemes. It turns out the government can't even follow its own rules! Cait Reilly, a university graduate, originally lost her High Court case against being forced to give up career-relevant volunteering to work at Poundland. But the three Appeal judges overturned this decision as the scheme was not compulsory. Jamie Wilson, an unemployed HGV driver, was told that he would stop getting Jobseeker's Allowance for six months after he refused to work unpaid - for 30 hours a week - in the Community Action Programme. The judges ruled in favour of Jamie as the maximum benefit sanction was two weeks. The ruling alone will not make the government scrap workfare. However, it does mean that all people who, like Cait and Jamie, have wrongly had their benefits stopped because of workfare may be able to claim money back. The government is appealing to the Supreme Court to get the decision reversed. Claire Laker-Mansfield, from Youth Fight for Jobs, a key campaign in the fight against workfare, said: "A day's pay for a day's work is a basic right in any supposedly democratic society. "The government must now respond to this ruling by immediately shutting down all unpaid workfare schemes. "These schemes have amounted to a massive bailout to big business. The likes of Poundland have been allowed thousands of hours of free labour courtesy of the taxpayer." The fight for decent jobs continues. 2.5 million People are unemployed, including one million young workers. There are less than 500,000 job vacancies - many are not even real jobs. Millions more are under-employed or in the growing 'precariat' - low-paid workers in insecure jobs with bosses that don't allow even basic rights such as guaranteed hours. But it doesn't have to be like this. Big businesses are sitting on £800 billion as they see no 'profitable outlet' for it. An immediate 50% levy on this, combined with full nationalisation of the banking industry under democratic control, would be a good start to freeing up resources. This money could then be invested in needed jobs, infrastructure, public services and green energy. Instead services are being destroyed in order to pay for the banksters' bailouts. More job cuts in the private sector get announced every week - like those at HMV, Barclays, and Rolls-Royce. Even in prime minister David Cameron's own back yard, 130 jobs are going as a Chipping Norton school for disabled children faces closure. As Claire said: "It's high time the government started investing in creating secure, socially useful jobs paid a living wage - not punitive, ineffective slave labour schemes. "But the Con-Dems' track record shows this is unlikely to happen without a struggle. That is what Youth Fight for Jobs is here for." For more info about Youth Fight for Jobs see www.youthfightforjobs.com, email email@example.com or call 020 8558 7947 or 07757 207289 BBC video of announcement of victory This version of this article was f
Friday, 15 February 2013
In recent times there has been a sustained attack on the left notably the SWP and the crisis within that party but the SWP is not the left and their use of democratic centralism is alien to a lot of others on the left. I thought it was a good time to revisit democratic centralism and why the socialist party the party I’m a member of still use this today. Lenin one of the great revolutionaries did not fetishes over organisational types he considered democratic centralism to be the most democratic form of organisation but was open to other forms of organisation to given different circumstances. It is necessary to begin with a basic summary on the need for a party. This flows from the position of the working class as it develops in capitalist society. It is of course true that the working class is the most homogenous, united class through its role in production. In the transition from feudalism to capitalism the working class was dragooned, disciplined and organised in big industry; it is its objective position in industry which determines that the working class develops a collective consciousness. The petit bourgeois on the other hand is heterogeneous, scattered, with its upper layers tending to merge with the bourgeois and its lower layers forced! By monopolisation, etc., into the ranks of the proletariat. There is then, of course, the ruling class, divided into different sections: finance capital, industrial capital, heavy industry, light industry, etc. These broad categorisations of the classes in society, first formulated by Marx 150 years ago, retain all their validity today. But while the working class is much more homogenous than the petit bourgeois or middle class, it is still divided into many different layers: men and women, racial divisions, skilled and unskilled, young and old, etc. Class, Party and the Leadership THE BOURGEOIS, from the dawn of its rule, has skilfully learned to play on these divisions to perpetuate its rule. A party, particularly a revolutionary party, is designed to overcome these divisions, to unite the working class for common objectives, the struggle against capitalism, its eventual overthrow and its replacement with a socialist society. A party, including the most revolutionary party in history, the Bolshevik party, is not, however, an autonomous factor in history. It is dependent upon, and springs from, the working class. The relationship between the party, its leadership and the class has been a hotly disputed issue, right from the inception of scientific socialism that is Marxism, formulated by Marx and Engel’s. The dialectical interrelationship between the class, the party and its leadership was touched on by Trotsky in his History of the Russian Revolution. Writing about the party he states; "Without a guiding organisation toe energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston box. GIVEN THAT the necessity of a party is clear then what should be the character of this party? Marxism has answered, particularly after the experience of the revolutionary movement in Russia and the successful Russian revolution, that it should be a party that should possess special features which no bourgeois or petit bourgeois organisation, trend or party could possess. It should be a 'democratic centralist' organisation. Unfortunately this term has been partially discredited; the concept mangled and distorted by Stalinism and now recently the SWP. It has come to mean, for uninformed people, something entirely opposite to its original meaning. Seeking to discredit genuine Marxism the reformists, both the left as well as the right, link this idea to the grotesque caricature of socialism manifested in Stalinism. Moreover, the right-wing Labour leadership who usually hurl insults against the Marxists on the alleged undemocratic character of 'democratic centralism' themselves actually practice an extreme form of 'bureaucratic centralism', as the experience of the witch-hunt against Militant and others on the left in the Labour Party demonstrated. A REVOLUTIONARY party is not a debating club, let alone a debating circle, so beloved of the minuscule sects on the outskirts of the labour movement, it must, of course, be thoroughly democratic. Democracy is like oxygen for a genuine revolutionary party. Without the full freedom of discussion, genuine, comradely and fraternal debate, it would be incapable of correctly arming its members with an understanding of the current situation, and the demands and programme upon which it is necessary to intervene in the class struggle. Contrary to what our opponents have attempted to argue Militant, over 30 years, allowed debate, including oppositional ideas, at every level of our organisation. Even then there was a disquieting tendency of some, mainly those who became the minority, not to want to discuss different points of view. But that we possessed a relatively homogenous, united organisation flowed not from any powerful apparatus in the possession of the leadership, but came from genuine agreement on the basis of broad perspectives, the programme, the tactics of work in the mass organisations, etc. This agreement was only gained through discussion and debate within the ranks of the organisation. To listen to some of the sects who criticise the past record of our organisation and who light-mindedly delve into the history of the revolutionary movement in Russia it would be possible to draw a conclusion that the absence of organised tendencies, factions, etc. within the ranks of Militant over a protracted historical period was itself a symptom of an unhealthy internal regime. On the contrary, Trotsky commenting on the disarray in the ranks of his followers in France in the 1930s, who presented a spectacle very similar to organisations which claim to be Trotskyist' at this moment in time, comments: "An organisation that is smaller but unanimous can have enormous success with a correct policy, while an organisation which is torn by internal strife is condemned to rot." Flowing from democracy comes centralism and for the socialist party this is unity in action once an agreed line has been agreed with the majority of the membership. This is THE OTHER and vital aspect of the question, absolutely requisite for a revolutionary party, is that of centralism. It is that part of the formula of 'democratic centralism' which is most misunderstood, wilfully by the enemies of Marxism, and unconsciously even by those who sympathise with the Marxist and Trotskyist movement. It seems to smack, particularly in the light of Stalinism and of various Trotskyist organisations which imitate Stalinism, of a top-down, bureaucratic, 'leadership-dominated' organisation. But the need for a centralised party flows from the tasks which confront the working class in our epoch. The ruling class has concentrated in its hands not just the means of production - less than 300 firms on the planet dominate most of production, distribution and exchange of the world's goods - but enormous means of repression, both legally and physically, against any organised protest. This is particularly the case in Britain with the anti-trade union laws. The centralisation and concentration of capital, which has been taken to unprecedented lengths in the modern era, means that the overthrow of the ruling class is inconceivable without a centralised party capable of unifying the working class and acting decisively against the inevitable attempts of counter-revolution when the working class attempts to change society. IT IS not possible in a revolutionary organisation to have an attitude towards forms of organisation which are 'once and for all'. It is necessary, at some stages, to emphasise the need for democracy, discussion, debate, etc. Following a debate it is therefore necessary, without precluding further discussion, to proceed to action, to a degree of centralism, to a period of implementing decisions. Which predominates at each stage, the democratic or the centralist aspect, depends upon the concrete situation? "Truth is concrete"; this is the most important law of the dialectic. The 'mobile balance' between democracy and centralism is something which cannot be established a priori, but only on the basis of discussion and estimation of the concrete situation Leon Trotsky was once asked to give a definition of democratic centralism This is not a new question. Leon Trotsky was asked to give a "clear and exact formula on democratic centralism" which would preclude false interpretations or bureaucratic degeneration. He replied that he could not give, "such a formula on democratic centralism that 'once and for all' would eliminate misunderstandings and false interpretations. A party is an active organism. It develops in the struggle with outside obstacles and inner contradictions... The regime of a party does not fall ready make from the sky but is formed gradually in the struggle. A political line predominates over the regime. First of all is necessary to define strategic problems and tactical methods correctly in order to solve them. The organisational form should correspond to the strategy and tactic." Trotsky then makes a fundamental point: "Only a correct policy can guarantee a healthy party regime." Of course this does not automatically mean that if a party has a correct programme that its organisational methods will be correct. That is an issue for debate and discussion as to what emphasis should be given, to democracy or centralism, depending upon the different situations. A formula for democratic centralism must inevitably find a different expression in the parties of different countries and in different stages of development of one and the same party. "The equilibrium between democracy and centralism establishes itself in the actual struggle, at moments it is violated and then again re-established. The maturity of each member of the party expresses itself particularly in the fact that he does not demand from the party regime more than it can give. "He is a poor revolutionist who defines his attitude to the party by the individual fillips that he gets on the nose. It is necessary, of course, to fight against every individual mistake of the leadership, every injustice and the like. But it is necessary to estimate these 'injustices' and 'mistakes' not by themselves but in connection with the general development of the party both on a national and international scale. A correct judgement and a feeling for proportion in politics is an extremely important thing." [Leon Trotsky: On Democratic Centralism and the Regime (1937)] With extracts and quotes from Peter Taaffee general secretary of the socialist party of England and Wales on democratic Centralism http://www.marxist.net/namechange/nameframe.htm
Monday, 11 February 2013
The following is a statement from supporters of the Vio.Me workers’ union, which was translated on the excellent From The Greek Streets blog: Occupy, Resist, Produce! “We see this as the only future for workers' struggles.” Makis Anagnostou, Vio.Me workers’ union spokesman Tuesday, February 12, 2013 is the official first day of production under workers control in the factory of Viomichaniki Metalleutiki (Vio.Me) in Thessaloniki, Greece. This means production organized without bosses and hierarchy, and instead planned with directly democratic assemblies of the workers. The workers assemblies have declared an end to unequal division of resources, and will have equal and fair remuneration, decided collectively. The factory produces building materials, and they have declared that they plan to move towards a production of these goods that is not harmful for the environment, and in a way that is not toxic or damaging. “With unemployment climbing to 30% – sick and tired of big words, promises and more taxes – not having been paid since May 2011, the workers of Vio.Me, by decision of the general assembly of the union declare their determination not to fall prey to a condition of perpetual unemployment, but instead to take the factory in their own hands to operate themselves. It is now time for worker’s control of Vio.Me.!” (Statement of the Open Solidarity Initiative, written together with the workers of Vio.Me – full statement: Viome.org) Workers in Vio.Me stopped being paid in May of 2011, and subsequently the owners and managers abandoned the factory. After a series of assemblies the workers decided that together they would run the factory. Since then, they have occupied and defended the factory and the machinery needed for production. They have continued to reach out to other workers and communities throughout Greece, receiving tremendous support. The solidarity and support of all of these groups, communities and individuals, has made an important contribution towards the survival of the workers and their families thus far. This experience of worker’s occupation to workers recovery and control is not new – either historically or currently. Since 2001 there are close to 300 workplaces that are run democratically by workers in Argentina, ranging from health clinics and newspapers and schools, to metal factories, print shops and a hotel. The experience there has shown that workers together cannot only run their own workplace, but can do it better. The example of Argentina has spread throughout the Americas, and now to Europe and the US. In Chicago, workers of New World Windows have begun production under workers control after years of struggles with former owners and bosses. And now in Greece, workers are again showing that the way forward – out of unemployment – refusing the crisis – is workers control and directly democratic self-management. “We urge all workers, the unemployed and all those who are affected by the crisis to stand by the workers of Vio.Me and support them in their effort to put in practice the belief that workers can make it without bosses! To participate in the struggle and organize their own fights within their work places, with directly democratic procedures and without bureaucrats.” (Union’s website: biom-metal.blogspot.gr) As with all factory recuperations, the question of initial financing is central. While solidarity has been able to maintain the lives of the workers of Vio.Me and their families, the capital needed to continue production is huge. The workers’ union has a business plan that is sustainable, but will take time to get off the ground. These first months are crucial. Financial help can make all the difference. Any contribution is helpful. Direct financial support can be sent to the Vio.Me workers’ union in Thessaloniki through the International Solidarity Website: viome.org Solidarity Statements as well as questions can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org Signed, Thessaloniki Solidarity Initiative, Brendan Martin (Working World), Dario Azzellini and Marina Sitrin
Sunday, 10 February 2013
This weekend I attended the socialist party’s national youth meeting in London. It was a whole weekend of debate, discussion and the way forward. Around 80 members of the party attended in a cold wet February weekend and a great level of political understanding was felt by all. The Saturday afternoon was kicked off by Hannah Sell the deputy general secretary of the socialist party who lead off quite rightly on the international global struggle against the global economic crisis and the catastrophic social disasters which have followed from that. Namely the huge levels of unemployment with over 50 million now unemployed in the OECD nations the most prosperous apparently is surely a huge indictment of this rotten capitalist system we live under. Hannah brilliantly outlined the global situation of course she couldn’t go into every country issues but gave a really good broad overview on the global economic crisis and the horrific facts and figures behind that. It has been said that this is the new norm now whilst many workers and even capitalists have been hoping that things will go back to “normal” sometime soon if we just tighten our belts is looking even more unlikely than ever and many are starting to think this is it unless we organise and change society. So this was the basis of these weekends’ meetings getting young people who are deeply angry at the government and the system too wanting direction, a hope and a strategy to fight back. Youth fight for jobs and the socialist party a long with Socialist students can play a vital role in the coming period with our ideas showing the working class which route to take. A really good wide ranging discussion then followed with many comrades coming in e with personal questions on the world situation on certain countries the question of the EU and our views towards it, Cameron’s Tories in a mess how long will the government last, role of new labour and a lot more personal experiences of workplace and student experiences. The later session of commissions was a choice of different sessions I attended a session on answering anarchists criticisms and the need for a revolutionary party I found this really interesting a lot of it I already knew but was a good defence of why we need a party by Sarah Sachs-Eldridge of who is a editor of the socialist our weekly paper. Not much was talked of in terms of anarchism sadly it would appear we don’t have a huge grasp of what they stand for it’d be fair to say but as I expected we know all too well about a revolutionary party which was fair enough I guess. The social was excellent a lot more discussion and drinks On Sunday we had a session on more youth matters focusing on our work with youth fight for jobs introducing our new campaign “sick of your boss” encouraging young workers to get in touch write articles and take on stunts and the like against the worst bits of your boss be them heavy handed or tight on breaks or whatever it could bring in a layer of angry young people we feel linking up with trade unions such as Unite on their community based membership could be useful. The trade unions need to get active with young people organise the youth show them they can fight back and the union will support them. So many still dont know what a union is and others are put off by them so much much more is needed to be done by us and the trade union movement to give young people a future. The socialist party is a revolutionary socialist party fighting for socialism linking the day to day struggles to the need to change society so in the afternoon we had sessions on how we can recruit members, write a leaflet, organise a picket line/protest, public speaking and writing an article for the paper. I attended recruiting and organising in a protest all very interesting discussions and great points. I was glad to see comrades getting fully involved and contributing to the debates and I personally found them very useful for the struggle ahead. Its now time for us to take our ideas out there and fight for the socialist society we all so badly want but more importantly need!
Friday, 8 February 2013
People often wonder how could a socialist society work and would it work. I’m told constantly there is too much greed in society for socialism to ever work. We do live under capitalism a system based on greed for a few by their blind drive for greater profits. But how could production of the things we need and want be different under socialism surely this couldn’t work? I think it could and I’m not utopian I’m a revolutionary who doesn’t just see things as they are now but as a constant process things constantly changing and developing at different rates. In the 300 years or so of its existence capitalism has transformed the planet over and over again. Rail, electricity, the internal combustion engine, flight, space travel, telephones and electronic computers, the list is endless. The world economy is 17 times the size it was a century ago. In 1900 there were only a few thousand cars worldwide. Now there are 501 million. + Despite this, all the technology developed by capitalism has not provided clean water for 1.2 billion people or food for the 841 million who are seriously malnourished. Nor has it prevented the Aids epidemic rampaging through Africa. Upwards of 28 million Africans have the HIV virus and only 30,000 of them can get treatment. Capitalism is capable of spending billions on developing weaponry that is used to bomb the poor of Afghanistan into the rubble, but it cannot solve poverty, hunger or disease. So our alternative is socialism. A socialist economy would have to be a planned economy. This would involve bringing all of the big corporations, which control around 80% of the British economy, into democratic public ownership, under working-class control. Of course, it would not mean bringing small businesses, such as the local shops, many of which are forced out of business by the multinationals, into public ownership. Nor would it mean, as opponents of socialism claim, taking away personal ‘private property’. On the contrary, socialists are in favour of everyone having the right to a decent home and the other conveniences of modern life. A genuine socialist government would not be dictatorial. On the contrary, it would extend and deepen democracy enormously. This would be much more far-reaching than the parliamentary democracies of capitalism where we simply get to vote every few years for MPs who do whatever they like once elected. Instead, everyone would get to take part in deciding how society and the economy would be run. Nationally, regionally and locally – at every level - elected representatives would be accountable and subject to instant recall. Therefore, if the people who had elected them did not like what their representative did, they could make them stand for immediate re-election and, if they wished, replace them with someone else. Elected representatives would also only receive the average wage. Today MPs are a privileged section of society. Their lives are remote from those of ordinary people. This is no accident. From the earliest days of the Labour Party, the ruling class tried to buy-off socialist MPs. Its method is usually subtler than brown envelopes of cash: it is a high salary, a very comfortable lifestyle and the drip, drip of ceaseless flattery about how 'sensible' and 'wise' it is to be 'moderate' and 'realistic'. The result has been that countless numbers of MPs have decided that the best way to emancipate the working class is one by one – starting with them. That is why members of the Socialist Party who become MPs will only take the average wage of a skilled worker. In the 1980s, three MPs (Dave Nellist, Terry Fields and Pat Wall) were elected as Labour MPs on the policies of Militant (the Socialist Party’s predecessor). All took a worker’s wage. Today Joe Higgins, a TD (MP) in the Irish parliament, and a member of our sister organisation in Ireland, takes a worker’s wage and has been described by the tabloid press as "the red that money can’t buy". A socialist government would ensure that no elected representatives received financial privileges as a result of their position but, instead, lived the same lifestyle as those they represented. There is another crucial sense in which democracy would be far fuller in a socialist society. Under capitalism most of the important decisions are not taken in Westminster or local council chambers, they are taken in the boardrooms of the big corporations. By contrast, a socialist government would bring major industry into democratic public ownership. It would be necessary to draw up a plan, involving the whole of society, on what industry needed to produce. At every level, in communities and workplaces, committees would be set up and would elect representatives to regional and national government – again on the basis of recall at anytime if they disagreed with their decisions. Everybody would be able to participate in real decision-making about how best to run society. Many people will argue that this is utopian, that people would not be bothered to participate in such bodies. Yet in every mass struggle - from the Paris Commune of 1871 onwards - the embryos of this type of structure have come into existence. In Britain during the struggle to defeat the poll tax, when 18 million refused to pay the iniquitous tax, hundreds of thousands of people took part in meetings to plan the campaign. While the anti-poll tax unions were only temporary bodies, organised to fight against a single Tory attack, they nonetheless give a glimpse of working people’s capacity to organise. Even today, thousands of working-class people attend their tenants’ associations and other community meetings. And organisations in a workers’ state would be completely different to the toothless bodies that working-class people are currently allowed to take part in - the committees would actually have the power to say how the economy and society is organised. In addition, for a planned economy to work, it would be vital that the working class had the time to take part in the running of society. Therefore, measures such as a shorter working week and decent, affordable childcare would be a prerequisite for society to develop towards socialism. Another argument against a planned economy is that society is now too complicated to be planned. Some people argue that, in the past, when the majority of people's aspirations were more limited, it may have been possible to plan an economy. But that today, when people want washing machines, videos and fashionable clothes, they claim planning just would not work. Yet modern technology would, in reality, make planning far easier than it was in the past. In addition, it would use modern technology to limit the number of hours it was necessary to work. A socialist government could immediately introduce a maximum 35-hour week, with no loss of pay. Capitalism’s remorseless drive for profit means that new technology has been used, not to shorten the working week, but to throw workers on the scrap heap. "We are living in a world of glut, we have too much of everything from grain to cars." This is the real lunacy of capitalism. We have too much grain - which means more than can be sold at a profit - yet in Africa 20 million people are starving. A socialist government would harness technology to lower the number of hours it is necessary to work. This would give working-class people more time to participate in running society. Combined with a massive programme of socially necessary projects - such as increasing the numbers of teachers, doctors and nurses - unemployment could be eliminated. Private ownership of the means of production results in constant duplication. Companies fiercely compete to produce a certain product first and best. Socialism would eliminate this and thereby save a huge amount of resources. There would also be no need for marketing, on which capitalism spends $1 trillion a year. This does not mean, as is commonly claimed, that socialism would result in a lack of choice or poor quality goods: a society where everyone dresses in a grey uniform. It would be possible to have far more choice of the things which people desire to have a variety of (such as clothes, music, holidays etc) than under capitalism. However, society might choose not to have 200 brands of washing powder. All in all a socialist society would run by the mass’s for the mass’s with not just the wealth being shared out as we as socialists do not support sharing out the misery but owning the means of production to produce for peoples needs not profits of a few. With extracts taken from the socialist party’s excellent pamphlet what is socialism http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/WhatIsSocFrame.htm