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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Will Britain still go to war in Syria?

Well they will have to do it without the approval of parliament after a motion from David Cameron and the government as surprisingly voted down tonight thankfully in my view. David Cameron: "It is clear to me that the British parliament... does not want to see British military action" Tonight British MPs have voted to reject possible military action against the Assad regime in Syria to deter the use of chemical weapons. A government motion was defeated by 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes. Prime Minster David Cameron said it was clear Parliament does not want action and "the government will act accordingly". It effectively rules out British involvement in any US-led strikes against the Assad regime. And it comes as a potential blow to the authority of David Cameron, who had already watered down a government motion proposing military action, in response to the opposition Labour Party's demands for more evidence of Assad's guilt. Labour had seen its own amendment - calling for "compelling" evidence - rejected by MPs by 114 votes. But - in an unexpected turn of events - MPs also rejected the government's motion in support of military action in Syria if it was supported by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors, who are investigating claims President Bashar al-Assad's regime had used chemical weapons against civilians. So where does David Cameron and his pro imperialist supporters go now? I don’t think they’d get away with pushing forward with military action now without a vote before parliament. It shows that Cameron and his authority are weakening all the time and he can be defeated too. This should spur the working class on to know that the government can be defeated if organised and willing. Will there still be intervention in Syria? Well possibly but it may have to be without America’s good friend Britain. This will be interesting to se what America in particular does next.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

This feels like Iraq all over again

With a recalling of parliament for a debate and a vote on what action to take in Syria this all feels like de JA vu from 2003. I was not so political back then but I do remember what happened very vividly and it feels too similar for my liking. Do we ever learn? Apparently not the government is a Tory lib dem one yet Labour who was in power in 2003 with Tony Blair famously taking the country to war to remove Sad am Hussein we were told. It later turned out that there were no claimed weapons of mass destruction as claimed and we could not be hit in 45 minutes. The Iraq invasion still haunts this country and the political class in particular they claim as labour do that they are sorry and Ed Miliband is sorry for watt happened this is all very well and good yet nothing has changed his party under his leadership has backed the Libyan intervention of a no fly zone and now look set to back western intervention in Syria. Lessons clearly have not been learnt then. I put a tweet out tonight saying if labour support intervention here will they loose members or face a back lash and I don’t think they will as most good socialists are no longer members of labour anyway and those wishing to reclaim it unbelievably still will look even more ridiculous than they already do. The likes of Owen Jones who claim to want to reclaim labour will have a difficulty explaining this latest pro war intervention and pro imperialist action by their party. What is labour if it is not acting in the naked class instincts of global capitalism now? Clearly there will be a few good Labour MP’s who may oppose this vote but on the whole it will be minimal and the government will have its so called mandate to go ahead and move towards military action in Syria. What form this will take is still not clear. Syria is not Libya and has a much more densely populated areas and where the apparent use of chemical weapons was used and it is still apparent as UN weapons inspectors never ones to support the mass’s have not been able to get in to investigate on safety grounds so I’m suspect right from the start. I will say that any action taking by our government will not be in my name I do not oppose this intervention for the sake of it or just because it’s the Tories and America is involved but quite simply this will not solve anything and will do more to create more toil and division in the region than doing nothing at all. This may seem like I’m standing back and advocating doing nothing but I’d suggest as socialists we support the worker son the ground in Syria and we should point to uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in recent years to show how a brutal dictator can be removed without western intervention. I’d far more support a popular uprising of workers and the oppressed than an American backed intervention that have no regard for local rights or feelings on the ground. In the desperate pursuit to rise the rate of profit America and Britain are turning to more and more desperate ways. This latest jaunts will do nothing to help any sort of recovery if anything it may create further tensions in the market especially in oil prices. I’ve said for a long time there will be another bigger crisis of capitalism around the corner as the contradictions of the system have not been solved still so could we see an oil price spike set off another slump in the world markets. Only time will tell.

Monday, 26 August 2013

No to western intervention in Syria, for a socialist solution

Over the weekend the rhetoric has been ramped up by the west and military action is looking a growing possibility. I felt I needed to write this blog to oppose this and put my reasons why. There has been a flow of western leaders condemn an apparent chemical attack in Syria by President Assad. A lot of similarities to the claims of WMD’s are quite stark. John Kerry the secretary of state for the US government has recently come out with this. “US Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned what he termed the "moral obscenity" of the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its own people. He said footage of the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus was "real and compelling" and "undeniable". He said President Barack Obama was considering a response. It comes hours after UN chemical weapons inspectors came under attack near the Syrian capital. The team was dispatched to five sites around Damascus where hundreds of people were reported to have been killed on Wednesday. "What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality," Mr Kerry said in a televised statement on Monday. The US administration had additional information about that attack that it would make public in the days ahead, he added. He said the delay in allowing UN inspectors to the sites of the alleged chemical weapons attack were signs the Syrian government had something to hide.” I myself am very wary of believing what the west has to say. Not because I’m anti western but their track record speaks for itself. The unsubstantiated charges that the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad carried out a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus killing large numbers of civilians have all the hallmarks of a staged provocation aimed at provoking Western intervention. Reports of the attack were made by Western-backed opponents of the Assad regime early Wednesday, just as a United Nations chemical weapons inspection team, admitted to Syria by the government just 72 hours earlier, began its work. Indeed, according to the opposition sources reporting the chemical weapons attacks, they took place in Eastern Gout in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, just a few miles from where the UN inspection team is headquartered. Initial contradictory reports of the alleged attack put the number of victims at as few as 20 and as many as 1,300. Why the Assad regime should choose such a moment to launch large-scale chemical attacks—under the noses of the UN inspectors—and what motive he would have for doing so, under conditions in which his military has been inflicting a series of defeats on the US-backed “rebels,” has not been explained in any of the extensive media coverage of these unverified allegations. Nonetheless, the US and its NATO allies, the principal supporters of the bloody war for regime change in Syria, lost no time in issuing condemnations and demanding an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which convened behind closed doors in New York Wednesday afternoon. The White House issued a statement declaring itself “deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of Syrian civilians have been killed in an attack by Syrian government forces, including by the use of chemical weapons.” Together with its allies in London and Paris, it called for both the Security Council session and for the UN team on the ground in Syria to immediately investigate the report. Proponents of direct US intervention in the Syrian civil war went further. The Washington Post rushed an editorial statement onto its web site declaring: “If the allegations of a massive new attack are confirmed, the weak measure adopted by President Obama in June—supplying small weapons to rebel forces—will have proved utterly inadequate.” The newspaper concluded that Obama must respond to the alleged chemical attacks by “ordering direct US retaliation against the Syrian military forces responsible and by adopting a plan to protect civilians in southern Syria with a no-fly zone.” Sounds familiar? Yes it does the very same language was being used in Libya when there was a no fly zone put in place that has done nothing in the long term to maintain stability and prosperity in the region if anything its made things worse. Not that we can equally believe the Assad regime either who have come out with this The Syrian government and its military, which have repeatedly insisted that they would not use chemical weapons against the population, denied the charges made by such US-backed outfits as the Syrian Opposition Centre. The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement charging that the cooperation between Damascus and the UN inspection team “didn’t please the terrorists and the countries supporting them, which is why they came up with new false allegations that the Armed Forces used toxic gas in Damascus countryside.” Syria’s ambassador to Moscow, Riyad Haddad, told the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS that the charges were false and were designed to reproduce the “Iraqi scenario,” i.e., a direct US military intervention in Syria. “Our Armed Forces have never used chemical weapons and all fabricated concoctions in this respect aim to disorient international observers and defocus their efforts in achieving the set goals,” said Haddad. “It is no secret for anyone that all these falsifications that appear from time to time about the use of chemical weapons are nothing but an attempt to repeat the scenario that was used in the past with regard to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” the ambassador added. There can be no support for western intervention or for President Assad either or the rebels who the west did support briefly. Socialists must support independent workers organisations to control their own destiny. Socialists do not support Assad or the ‘rebel’ leadership. We would give all necessary political and active support to workers on the ground fighting for a common front on a class struggle programme which is badly needed. With references and extracts from http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/08/22/syri-a22.html and www.socialistworld.net

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Why the underconsumptionists appear to be winning the argument

This is the perception anyway. The underconsumptionist argument detailed by myself and Bruce and Steve Dobbs in various blogs in the last few months has detailed how they as revolutionaries try to explain the crisis. It is clear that this is a popular and highly thought of position certainly within the trade unions anyway. This is a worry and not just for Marxists. If the trade union movement or the labour movement believe in reforming capitalism and that it is simply a lack of demand that is hampering the capitalist mode of production from investing then we are indeed in a very very bad place indeed. I do believe the under consumption position is so wide spread is because it is easy. It is easy to understand and then consider yourself a Marxist if you get it which frankly isn’t hard. You don’t need to read Marx or Lenin or any Marxist economist if you believe that there is no such thing as a falling rate of profit or if you do and just consider it maybe as part of a multi causal cause of a crisis under capitalism then you nod to yourself and carry on This was in fact my position for a long time and due to me not critically thinking and not questioning the position and the economic analysis of my own party I just took this explanation as read. I have now met a fantastic group of Marxists and have now started to root out the causes of capitalist crisis and Marx himself provided us with a brilliant and well thought out explanation and it is an amazement that more Marxists do not and refuse to take this up. I do wonder why. Maybe the implications of what Marx says is too much for some and the status quo is something however much some may detest it maybe just too great to get rid of all together ? But as I say holding a under consumptions view on the cause of the crisis and all crisis's is a quite simple and yet it is not a view that is helpful to the labour movement. Under consumptionism which in affect is a Keynesian idea and as a result is a bourgeois idea and even Keynes was not on the side of the workers so why some bring this into the labour movement I have no idea. Maybe they fear the socialist revolution more than the capitalists themselves? As I say this is an easy position to get to grips with all be it not a Marxist position at all as I shall explain. “For Marxists, capitalism goes into economic slump because profitability drops so much that the mass of profit starts to fall. This leads to capitalists stopping investment in real production. If credit is provided, investors use their money to invest in other assets that are not productive like property or speculating in shares. Thus this capital becomes fictitious. It will not stop the eventual slump but merely delay it. Once enough capital value (of money, labour and plant) is destroyed and profitability is restored, those capitalists that are left will start to invest again and the ‘liquidity trap’ will end. Just as huge dollops of credit will not stop a slump under capitalism; neither will huge dollops of credit revive capitalism, if profitability is not right.... Slumps cannot be avoided under capitalism, because they are necessary to restore profitability when it gets too low.” The laws of motion that Marx identified in the capitalist mode of production, including the Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall (LTRPF), are responsible for booms and slumps and crises. Quite often you will get arguments like this below on the left and must be taken to task as Steve Dobbs a fine comrade and a comrade I have huge respect for has done in his blogs repeatably . “The reality is the capitalist system has reached its limits. In the past, it was able to develop the productive forces at a colossal pace. The recent period of globalization and intensification of world trade reflects the latest efforts of the system to overcome its contradictions. Credit was used to extend the market beyond the limits of capitalism but this has now reached its limits..... While corporations are flush with cash, they are not prepared to invest given the lack of markets but without investment there can be no recovery. This, in turn, adds to a collapse in demand. It is a vicious circle.” The capitalist system has reached an impasse. Sound familiar? It gets better: “Marx analysed capitalism long ago. He explained the contradictions of a system based upon the drive for profit. The capitalists employ workers in order to squeeze surplus value from their labour. This surplus value is then reinvested by the capitalists to make more money which serves to develop the productive forces. However, the barrier to capitalism is capital itself. The outpouring of commodities seeking new markets reaches a crescendo at the height of the boom. However, there comes a point where the limits of the market come into collision with the unlimited production of commodities. This leads to an inevitable crisis of over-production, as witnessed in 2008-9. Everything comes to a complete standstill. The capitalist system is paralyzed, not because people do not want things, but because of a shortage of effective demand, i.e. money to buy the products.” So now the problem is the limits of the market – there is not enough demand for all these commodities produced, so there is overproduction of commodities. This is nonsense. Workers can never afford to buy back the goods they produce, so how can this be a cause of crisis? Overproduction is never in relation to consumer demand, as I explained previously. “A fall in the rate of profit and accelerated accumulation are different expressions of the same process only in so far as both reflect the development of productiveness.... Those economists, therefore, who, like Ricardo, regard the capitalist mode of production as absolute, feel at this point that it creates a barrier itself, and for this reason attribute the barrier to Nature (in the theory of rent), not to production. But the main thing about their horror of the falling rate of profit is the feeling that capitalist production meets in the development of its productive forces a barrier which has nothing to do with the production of wealth as such; and this peculiar barrier testifies to the limitations and to the merely historical, transitory character of the capitalist mode of production; testifies that for the production of wealth, it is not an absolute mode, moreover, that at a certain stage it rather conflicts with its further development.” (Marx, Capital vol 3, Chapter 15, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch15.htm) As Marx states, the capitalist mode of production becomes the barrier to itself because of the falling rate of profit, which means that capital can no longer accumulate at the same pace. This is rooted in production, not the market. In fact, Marx explicitly cites the falling rate of profit as the underlying cause of over-production and crises: “On the other hand, the rate of self-expansion of the total capital, or the rate of profit, being the goad of capitalist production (just as self-expansion of capital is its only purpose), its fall checks the formation of new independent capitals and thus appears as a threat to the development of the capitalist production process. It [the falling rate of profit] breeds over-production, speculation, crises, and surplus-capital alongside surplus-population.” (Marx, Capital vol 3, Chapter 15, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch15.htm) Clearly, having large amounts of debt in itself does not cause crisis. Remember, the highest percentage of debt to GDP, 250%, the British government had was after WW2, but it was able to pay off most of the debt over the proceeding decades on the basis of the high rate of profit. http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fsocialismiscrucial.files.wordpress.com%2F2013%2F08%2Fuk-debt.jpg&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNFxiv0oIittK6-hP5A1Ey7cg2wT6w With thanks and links and references to comrade Steve dobbs who blogs at http://wp.me/p2NvOP-36

Friday, 23 August 2013

Prospects for the UK economy

Prospects for the UK economy As we hear today Britain has seen some modest growth figures. Is this cause for celebration or a false dawn? — Britain's economy grew faster than thought in the second quarter, official data showed on Friday, extending a broadly based recovery. Gross domestic product (GDP) -- the total value of goods and services produced in the economy -- grew by 0.7 percent in the second quarter, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. That marked an upgrade from the initial estimate of 0.6-percent expansion. Growth occurred across all sectors of the economy, with small upward revisions across manufacturing, construction and parts of services. Second-quarter GDP growth has more than doubled from the 0.3-percent expansion that was witnessed in the first three months of the year. The economy expanded by 1.5 percent in the second quarter, or three months to the end of June, compared with the equivalent period in 2012, the ONS added. That was also up from the previous estimate of 1.4 percent. Sterling and the London stock market shrugged off the news. Market expectations had been for no change to both figures, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires. The ONS added that construction activity expanded by 1.4 percent in the second quarter, up from the initial estimate of 0.9 percent, as the housing market was partly lifted by state schemes that are aimed at stimulating lending to homebuyers. Factory output grew 0.7 percent in the quarter, up from the prior figure of 0.4 percent, while consumer spending rose 0.4 percent. There were also upward revisions for output from distribution, hotels and catering firms, as well as business services and finance firms, and the agriculture sector. Britain's shrinking net trade deficit, which dropped to £3.2 billion ($5.0 billion, 3.7 billion euros) in the second quarter from a £4.3-billion deficit in the first quarter, also boosted growth as exports hit a record level. Friday's data comes one week after news that British retail sales -- a vital indicator of consumer confidence -- jumped 1.1 percent in July from June as a heat wave fuelled spending on food, drinks and summer clothing. "The slight upward revision to Q2 GDP continues the run of good news on the UK economy and the spending breakdown looks reasonably encouraging too," said Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics. "The initial estimate of a 0.6-percent quarterly rise has been nudged up to 0.7 percent and now looks even better compared to the more modest rises seen in the US and euro zone in Q2. "As indicated by the timelier retail sales figures, consumer spending played a big role." ING economist James Knightley added that the higher estimate of GDP will "boost optimism on the economy". Although this is some modest growth it is still the fact that not enough constant capital dead labour in affect has not been destroyed to restore the rate of profit. As such the system is bound to hit trouble in the near future. As we know the capitalist system is not based on meeting so called demand in fact workers can never buy back what they create as this would mean the system wouldn’t be capitalist at all in fact. This is a crisis of profitability with the under lying crisis being caused by the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall which Karl Marx brilliantly described many years ago in his works on das capital in the 19th century. For the capitalist system to come out of recession a certain amount of constant capital needs to be destroyed to create space for new modes of production to sprout. The reason the recovery is so sluggish is due to the organic composition of capital and the simply fact there is still far too much constant capital to variable in a ratio form anyway. We are not out of the woods yet and any capitalist polititian calling this a real recovery should hold fire. Certainly in the UK much of this short term growth can be put down to the laying off of workers and the driving down of the surplus workers receive their wages in other wods increasing profits as a result. Capitalism is a system which invests for profits not to meet need so calling this a crisis of under consumption I don’t think is right as capitalism has never been about meeting the working class’s needs not now not ever. Understanding Marx’s 3rd law of capitalist motion is key to understanding that the system cannot be reformed or made to work for us. It simply must be replaced with a system planned to meet the mass’s needs before profits are even considered which under socialism they will become less and less relevant.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Socialist Economic Bulletin: Why do we have ‘austerity’ and what is the alterna...

Socialist Economic Bulletin: Why do we have ‘austerity’ and what is the alterna...: By Michael Burke The national launch of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity is a very welcome development. It brings together a numbe...

Monday, 19 August 2013

One year after the Marikana massacre

Both capitalists and working class prepare for unforeseen turmoil Liv Shange, DSM (CWI South Africa) On August 16, 2012, at Marikana, a bloody line was drawn in South Africa’s political sand when police in cold blood shot dead 34 workers and wounded 78. The few seconds of the massacre that were shown on TV tore down decades of carefully nurtured illusions about the ANC government and the capitalist state. The state’s resort to the most brutal form of reaction against the striking Lonmin workers set in motion a new period of revolution and counterrevolution in South Africa. A year later, a mining bosses’ offensive against jobs and worker rights is gathering pace. With the lessons of Marikana imprinted on the consciousness of millions of workers and youth, the scene it set for further mighty upheavals centred on the mining industry. The massacre on August 16, 2012, was a carefully orchestrated operation calculated to crush the Lonmin workers’ deadly challenge to the government and the capitalist order. Provoked by days (and years) of repression, the thousands of workers gathered on the hill, ‘the mountain, outside Marikana were fenced in with razor wire, attacked from behind and from the air with water bombs, and automatic gunfire. Chased towards the five-meter opening in the fence, in front of TV cameras, a first group was shot down. The majority of those killed and wounded were hunted down, out of sight of the cameras, among the rocks and bushes at another small hill. Many were shot at close range, in the back or with their arms stretched up to surrender. Police deliberately destroyed the faces of the dead by running over their skulls with armoured vehicles. Less well-planned, perhaps, was the police ‘investigation’ of the scene which has been revealed as a clumsy cover-up attempt. The true story of Marikana was forced out in the open by the Lonmin workers’ defiant continuation of the struggle after the massacre and the industry-wide strike that followed. In the days immediately before and after the massacre, the public was washed over by a virtual flood of vicious propaganda against the Lonmin workers and their struggle. The workers who had been left, by the National Union of Mineworkers’(NUM’s) betrayal, with no choice but to take the fight for a decent wage into their own hands and for this crime were subjected to brutal repression were painted out variously as bloodthirsty criminals and murderers, muthi-possessed savages or hapless victims of manipulation by a ‘third force’. Jeremy Cronin of the South African ‘Communist’ Party (SACP) took the prize by publicly condemning the strikers a ‘Pondoloand vigilante mafia’. While the state and its appendices continue to hammer the refrain of police ‘self-defence’ at the Farlam Commission, this just shows how detached from reality this farcical show trial is since in the rest of society, these initial ‘truths’ were long overturned by the workers’ struggle. Bloody repression of working class struggles in general, and mineworkers’ struggles in particular, of course did not begin at Marikana. Just two weeks earlier, on August 1, 2012, for example, five protesting workers were shot dead by police at the Aquarius K5 shaft outside Rustenburg. Their murders warranted no more than a paragraph on the business pages. The scale and publicity of the violence meted out on the Lonmin workers, which shook SA and the world, were no accidents. This was the calculated response to the, up until then, most serious challenge to the foundations of the African National Congress’ (ANC’s) rule – a mineworkers’ uprising against the NUM, which throughout the democratic era has been the key to control the mineworkers and thereby the mining industry, the backbone of the SA economy; by so doing also becoming a bearing pillar of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the ANC-led Alliance. The threat was not just to NUM’s authority but to the ANC’s ability to maintain the capitalist ruling class’ confidence in its ability to ‘control the black working class’ (as a recent Business Day editorial so helpfully defined the ANC’s reason for being). ‘Concomitant action’, the expression used by ANC leader and Lonmin shareholder Cyril Ramaphosa to urge the crack-down, therefore had to mean asserting the state’s power through the barrels of automatic rifles. The attempt to drown the worker-led strike in blood, instead of shoring up these relationships, exposed them to millions with blinding and instant clarity. One of the key lessons of Marxism – that any state at its core consists of ‘armed bodies of men and women’ defending the ruling class, while also relying on ‘softer’ institutions (such as parliament as a means to reinforce illusions in the system on regular basis) and extended arms such as the trade unions, political parties and the media to justify the oppression of the many by the few – was suddenly understood way beyond the reach of committed socialists. Marikana spelled out that the ANC government is a party that exists to defend the interests of the capitalist bosses, that the NUM is the main tool to carry out this task, and that the supposedly neutral police, courts and media are in fact little more than the private securities and praise singers of big business. Flowing immediately from these conclusions is the search for a working class alternative. Mineworkers, first in the Rustenburg platinum belt and then throughout the country’s mines, immediately followed the Lonmin workers’ example of setting up independent strike committees. The NUM fulltime shop stewards, often earning ten times the wage of ordinary workers, were chased out of the union offices. Through the spreading, unification and coordination of the strikes the mining houses and the government were forced to instead recognise the workers’ committees. In the minds of the striking workers this was right from the start linked to the need to also take the government bosses out of their Union Building offices, and put in place a workers’ government. As workers regained the confidence in the ability to organise, fight and win, the idea of building a new party, a working class alternative to the ANC and all the established parties, took root as an urgent necessity. The development of the strike committees into the National Strike Committee by October 2012 and the formation of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) by December 2012 came out of these realisations. Marikana registered a new level of class consciousness within the SA working class, which is forced to fight on several fronts – in the workplace, in the community – on daily basis. When battles are now escalating again this is against the backdrop of the recognition that things cannot continue as before – both within the working class and the capitalist class. Again, SA’s political and economic contradictions come to their most concentrated expression in the mining industry. While the R15bn in lost sales as a result of the strike wave August-December 2012 is certainly an irritant to the bosses, this is not the cause of the looming onslaught on jobs. It is the relentless downturn in the world economy which have seen prices of e.g. platinum and gold plummet and eaten into the profits and room to manoeuvre of the mining multinationals. Their major objectives are to cut the ‘over-supply’ of minerals such as platinum and gold to restore profitability and to shoot down the workers’ newfound confidence in struggle. Already before Marikana, the mining houses were testing the waters for reducing over-production by attempting the closure of some shafts around Rustenburg. Having been forced to retreat by the strike movement, they resumed the offensive immediately after the strikes were over, starting with the lock-out and eviction of 6000 workers at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu shaft in Carletonville on New Year’s Day 2013. Amplats, the world’s biggest platinum producer, followed two weeks later announcing the so-called moth-balling (closure with the possibility of re-opening later) of four shafts in Rustenburg, the closure of one mine and the retrenchment of 14 000 workers. Under pressure from government and the continued combativitiy of the mineworkers, the numbers have been reduced to three shafts and 6000 workers, for now. While the AMCU (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) is still busy with the company’s ‘consultation on this ‘strategic review’, the bosses are already acting on the plan and count on its finalisation within the second half of 2013. Anglo Gold Ashanti has announced a 300 000oz cut out of its total 920 000oz global production – in just one year, most likely concentrated to SA. Like Amplats, Glencore Xstrata is a pilot case for the ruling class. They too understand the working class truth that an injury to one is an injury to all. Throughout 2013, brief spontaneous worker-led strikes have continued to break out throughout the mining industry. At Glencore-Xstrata’s Eastern Chrome mine in Tubatse, Limpopo, 2000 workers struck in May in protest against the company’s protection of a white supervisor who had racially assaulted a black worker. The company acted immediately by having the strike declared illegal and dismissed the 2000 workers. Backed by SA mining bosses and international speculators united, the Glencore Xstrata bosses are hell-bent on consolidating a defeat for the workers, who are fighting for their reinstatement supported by the Workers and Socialist Party and the Democratic Socialist Movement. Bourgeois analysts speak of a possible cut of 200 000 mining jobs in the next five years (or three?). At the same time, the falling Rand, falling GDP growth rate, falling tax revenue and rising inflation, unemployment and government debt has the SA economy overall balancing close to a ‘tipping point’ which pro-capitalist commentators fear may trigger an all-out social crisis. In addition to the attacks on mining jobs, the ruling class is responding by pushing for the rolling back of the collective bargaining system and for the cementation of the repression to which they resorted in Marikana. A series of ‘peace accords’, under various labels, have been branded about in the aftermath of the massacre. The latest is the ‘Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry’, developed in talks government-industry-union talks led by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe (a former NUM GS). Just previous, completely ineffectual agreements, it contains vague promises to improve the standard of living in mining communities and more concrete undertakings to enforce law and order, e.g. through the permanent stationing of police and ‘other security forces’ at all mining operations. Workers and unions are made to take responsibility for maintaining ‘peace’ while the bosses are preparing for war. Meanwhile, threats and assassinations against worker leaders associated with AMCU have continued, often provoking bloody retaliation. The ‘Framework’ is part of the ANC government attempts to assure the mining capitalists and the ruling class as a whole that it can re-establish the grip on the situation after Marikana. It is of course no accident that it was drafted just at the start of wage negotiations in gold and platinum which are the most polarised in decades – e.g. a 120% increase demand versus a 5% offer in the gold industry – and the onset of the possible mass retrenchments. The attack on the Democratic Socialist Movement, attempting to scapegoat DSM EC member Liv Shange for so-called anarchy in the mining industry and effectively deport her from SA, also forms part of the efforts to undermine the fighting capacity of the mineworkers. Despite the ANC’s efforts, its ongoing internal rifts are evidence that its big business handlers are yet to be convinced that ‘the centre can hold’. While the Zuma-faction appears all-powerful for the moment, its paranoia indicates a recognition that others, e.g. around deputy ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, may be biding their time. Increasingly however, the ruling class is shopping around for political ‘Plan Bs’ outside of the ANC. The formation of Agang-SA, a new political party led by former mining magnate and World Bank director Mampela Ramphele, is one such experiment. The right-wing opposition Democratic Alliance is aggressively attempting to swallow other parties into a ‘super-opposition’. Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is now the ‘commander-in-chief’ of the Economic Freedom Fighters hoping to capitalise on the new situation with a programme of radical demands. The ANC is widely expected to suffer big losses in next year’s elections to national and provincial parliament. A year after Marikana, on the threshold of turmoil that could shake SA to its core, the SA working class has only just begun the reconstruction of its class-independent organisations. AMCU, the union which took over the Rustenburg platinum belt and cut out a large chunk of NUM membership also in the gold industry in the wake of the strikes is yet to show how it will fare in the test that is already beginning with dismissals and retrenchments. So far, the lack of any apparent fight-back strategy is a great cause of concern. Cosatu, the trade union federation to which NUM belongs, appears unable to recover from its historical capitulation to the bosses at Marikana. Since the Cosatu leaders effectively condoned the massacre, and went on to endorse the directly responsible ANC leaders for re-election, the federation has not displayed any effective organising or campaigning work. Instead it stoops to new lows in bitter infighting on weekly basis. It is high time for workers, the unemployed, youth and students to act on the key lesson of Marikana – that there is no more powerful force than the working class independently organised and united in action. Izwi labasebenzi/ the Democratic Socialist Movement calls for the mineworkers National Workers Committee to work for a joint fight-back plan, coordinated across the different mining sectors and trade unions, to stop the mass retrenchments and fight for living wages and jobs. We also call for a national day of action against the job cuts, for the nationalisation of the mines, banks and big and big business under democratic control and management by workers and communities, for jobs and decent living conditions such as housing and education for all. Izwi labasebenzi/ the DSM campaigns for working class unity and urges all genuine working class fighter to come together in the building of the Workers and Socialist Party. The best honour we can pay to those comrades who were mowed down at Marikana is to craft the political weapon we will need to defeat their murderers once and for all – a mass workers party armed with a socialist programme. http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6433

Where is Egypt's revolution heading ?

Alot has happened in Egypt since the initial revolution as part of the Arab Spring in 2011. We've had elections and now a military koo with millions taking to the streets. Certainly the situation in the country are very fluid. Extracts from article on CWI website www.socialistworld.net by Robert Bechert, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) Immediately after Morsi's removal as President, the CWI warned that the Egyptian generals' hijacking of June and July's huge, up to 17 million strong, anti-Morsi mobilisation was a basis for them to take power themselves. It "opened the doors to the dangers of sectarianism, different varieties of counter-revolution and the possible ultimate defeat of the revolution." (Polarisation grows - No trust in the generals, 10 July) The brutality of the camps' dispersal and the bloody repression of the subsequent protests, following on from the killing of many pro-Morsi demonstrators, both at the beginning and end of July, has given a taste of how the generals would like to deal with all opposition. Now it is pro-Morsi protestors who are being crushed, but just two days before the bloody 14 August attack on the pro-Morsi camps, the regime moved against a workers' sit-in at Suez Steel, arresting two of the occupation's leaders. While the attack at Suez Steel showed the generals' class character, it was not a new experience for workers in post-Mubarak Egypt. Previously Morsi's government had also shown its capitalist character when, last February, security forces attacked a Portland Cement workers' sit-in in Alexandria. Since the 3 July ousting of Morsi, the military tops under General al-Sisi have worked to consolidate power in their own hands. Old Mubarak era security units have been re-activated. Two-thirds of the new provincial governors announced on 13 August were either army or police generals, some with "glaring records of hostility to the 2011 revolution" (the Economist, 17 August). One commenter said that: "What Egypt has experienced since the coup has been the systematic return of the military and police state through arbitrary arrests, media clampdown and the shooting of protesters... The security apparatus is taking revenge for the last two years when it felt threatened by the possibility of any new order that would eventually hold it accountable. Since the coup began it feels it has taken control again and is ready to strike hard at anyone who challenges it, whatever their ideology" (the Guardian, 16 August). Only today we hear that ousted former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is to be released. Will he be drafted back into power of some sort ? "In this situation it is absolutely essential that efforts are redoubled to build an independent workers' movement, not just trade unions, which can offer a real alternative and appeal to those workers and poor, backing Morsi because of their own opposition to the military and the old elite. This is the only way the workers' movement can try to limit the ability of reactionary fundamentalist religious groupings presenting themselves as the main opponents to military rule." (Polarisation grows - No trust in the generals, 10 July) Since the start of the revolution in 2011 there has been a massive growth of the workers' movement in Egypt. Workers' struggles, already important before Mubarak's overthrow, have enormously developed. There has been a huge movement into independent unions from a membership of less than 50,000 when Mubarak fell to over 2.5 million, and there are also four million in the formerly state controlled official unions. Recently strikes have been running at the rate of 800 a month, not just on pay and conditions but also against Mubarak-era management, victimisations and privatisation. However, an independent voice from the workers' movement has been hardly heard since Morsi's overthrow. Indeed Kamal Abu-Eita, the president of the independent trade union federation, EFITU, has become minister of labour and begun calling for an end to strikes. Not for the first time in history, a trade union leader has been brought into a capitalist government with the express purpose of holding back struggles and trying to make workers accept a fundamentally military government. Officially, three trade union federations supported General al-Sisi's call for a mass demonstration on 26 July to show support for the new government, although significantly in the EFITU executive this was only after a 9 to 5 vote. This policy of supporting the military tops is a road to disaster for the trade unions. Workers' organisations need to have their own, independent and class-based programme, to offer a way to prevent both the consolidation of a military regime and the threat of increasing sectarian division and violence. Immediately the key question is organising democratically-run, non-sectarian defence of communities and workplaces from state and sectarian attack across the country. The workers' organisations have the potential to begin this task, combined with offering a political alternative to military, Muslim Brotherhood and capitalist rule. With such a programme it would be possible for the workers' movement to begin to undermine both the generals and the Muslim Brotherhood leaderships. The trade unions, especially the EFITU, should demand that Abu-Eita leaves the government and should launch their own campaign against repression, sectarianism and military rule, in defence of democratic rights and for immediate free elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly so that the Egyptian people can decide their own future. General al-Sisi and his fellow military rulers will not find it easy to firmly re-establish a 'security state'. The revolution is not yet over. The rapid disillusionment and subsequent outburst of opposition to Morsi's rule showed how quickly opposition can develop. While the bloody events of the last few days may understandably produce hesitation due to fears of repression and the growth of sectarianism, this will not last forever. The combination of Egypt's deep economic and social crisis plus the emerging strength of the workers' movement will lead to renewed struggles. Workers' experiences, such as the clash at Suez Steel, under this new version of military rule, as well as the horrifically bloody crushing of protests, will undermine much of the support which was initially given to the military's ousting of Morsi. This can create opportunities to win support for socialist policies. But this is not automatic, religious forces will also be competing for support from those in opposition, or coming into opposition, to the new regime. Left or workers' organisations should have no thought of supporting this military regime in anyway; it has never had a progressive character. The military moved against Morsi not simply in order to defend its own privileges and interests, but also to cut across the developing anti-Morsi mass movement that could have led to a deepening of the revolution, a weakening of the capitalist state and moves against capitalism. This is why the regime has been supported by the western powers which, like Obama, have now only been very gently criticising the brutal suppression of opposition. Unfortunately much of the left in Egypt has been floundering since the revolution started. One of the larger groupings, the Revolutionary Socialists (RS - co-thinkers of the British SWP and the ISO in the US) have repeatedly zig-zagged. Initially the RS did not make any direct criticism of, or opposition to, the military take-over in their 6 July statement. Unlike the CWI, the RS at that time did not warn about military rule or explain that the real alternative would be building support for the idea of a government of representatives of workers, small farmers and the poor. Now, after the latest bloodbath, the RS issued on 14 August a statement entitled: "Down with military rule! Down with al-Sisi, the leader of the counter-revolution!" This statement said that the RS "did not defend the regime of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for a single day. We were always in the front ranks of the opposition to that criminal, failed regime." However, the RS supported Morsi in the second round of the 2012 presidential election. Such huge inconsistencies, both towards the military and Morsi, can only cause confusion among the people they reach. In tumultuous events like these, the workers' movement, and the revolution, needs clarity more than ever. From the moment of February 2011's euphoric overthrow of Mubarak, the CWI has been arguing that the revolution could only be successfully concluded in the interests of working people when: "the mass of the Egyptian people... assert their right to decide the country's future. No trust should be put in figures from the regime or their imperialist masters to run the country or run elections. There must be immediate, fully free elections, safeguarded by mass committees of the workers and poor, to a revolutionary constituent assembly that can decide the country's future. "Now the steps already taken to form local committees and genuine independent workers' organisations should be speeded up, spread wider and linked up. A clear call for the formation of democratically elected and run committees in all workplaces, communities and amongst the military rank and file would get a wide response. "These bodies should co-ordinate the removal of the old regime, and maintain order and supplies and, most importantly, be the basis for a government of workers' and poor representatives that would crush the remnants of the dictatorship, defend democratic rights and start to meet the economic and social needs of the mass of Egyptians." (Mubarak goes - clear out the entire regime! 11 February 2011) This programme is even more relevant and urgent today.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Is football still a working class game ?

The BBC sport pages have a interesting article today on their website on the changing face of football and how out of touch it is increasingly becoming with the mass’s. I republish the article below. Is football still affordable for the working classes? Cheapest tickets for English league football average £21.24 according to the BBC Price of Football Survey • BBC Sport Price of Football survey 2012 With players earning £200,000 a week, transfers of more than £50m and match tickets up to £126, can football still be considered a sport of the working classes? Wales manager Chris Coleman says the distance between players and fans has grown because of what the two sets are earning. So what are the opinions of others involved in the game and how can it be made more affordable? We asked three people their views. The fan Tim Hartley has been following Cardiff City for the past 38 seasons. When he started going to matches the price of tickets was hardly a consideration. Now he feels it's getting harder for supporters. "I fear the working man is being priced out slowly and it would be a pity if this continued. "There is no atmosphere in a stadium without passionate, committed fans. How clubs help • Stoke City hasn't increased their ticket prices since being promoted to the Premier League in 2008. This year they're offering free coach travel to away games • Arsenal has a discount scheme for younger supporters and has set up a ticket exchange scheme for season ticket holders that can't get to a match • Crystal Palace is offering discounts for 18 to 21-year-olds at every home game. • A number of clubs allow fans to pay for season tickets through interest-free direct debit instalments. • Aston Villa offer its season ticket holders a loyalty scheme to get money off tickets, food, drink and merchandise. • Brighton Hove Albion offers season ticket holders free bus travel within the city on match days . "If you turn football into a one-off special treat like going to the cinema or going to the opera, it's not going to be the game we all love." As the team start life in the Premier League Tim's still paying Championship prices for his season ticket. A few years ago he took advantage of a price freeze offer at the club. He says that £349 for the season is great value at around £18 a game but going to away games can be more expensive with some tickets over £50. "As a family we can't go to every away match like we used to. We are picking and choosing where we go." As chairman of Cardiff City Supporters' Trust he wants the prices of away tickets fixed. "At around £20 I think more people would go. "My top tip to reduce the cost on away games is to fill your car with friends, pack some sandwiches and bring a thermos," he said. The fansite owner Matt Cook's tips • Book your tickets early - particularly trains, hotels and parking - to get the best deal • Get flexible rates for your transport and accommodation in case kick-off times change • Share cars and fuel costs • Eat before you get to the stadium. Food at the grounds can be expensive, vary in quality and mean standing in a long queue • Buy club branded hoodies or t-shirts rather than the replica shirt. It's usually cheaper and you don't need to replace it every season • Talk to fans of other clubs for their tips and share knowledge about the cost and quality of what's available at each ground Matt Cook is founder of First Rate Football - a fans' guide to football grounds. He feels football is still a working man's sport but thinks clubs need to keep focused on catering for all budgets. For Matt, the biggest challenge is the cost of transport. "As a Brighton and Hove Albion supporter in London I have to travel by train to every home match," he says. "With limited car parking spaces and trains servicing the route on match day there's only so much I can do to keep the cost down." New Financial Fair Play rules start this season, aimed at stopping clubs from getting into money problems. Matt thinks it will benefit supporters. "As a fan I fear too much money is going out of the game and straight into the players' pockets. "Hopefully the new rules will play a part in helping supporters' costs. It's a good idea to prevent clubs overspending and risking their long term relationship with the fans." The finance expert Football now appeals to a wider class of people, not just the working man. That's the view of Dr John Beech from Coventry University. Even Prime Ministers and members of the Royal Family are open football supporters. Prince William is an Aston Villa fan. Dr Beech is concerned that in the future fans' passion for their teams could be turned against them as teams aim to make more money. "Football clubs are under pressure to generate revenue to compete at the highest level, "Clubs are producing a third kit outside the home and away strip for fans to buy. I wonder how much further can clubs go in their pursuit of generating Football and money seem to be more closely linked than ever. Being a fan is unlikely to become much cheaper anytime soon. For the supporters the game is more about love. Cost will usually come second. But as prices increase fans may be forced to be more selective about when and how they support. With thanks to the BBC sport pages for the article

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

For disabled students to have a choice in their education

I have been reading the 'Reclaiming Our Futures: Draft UK Disabled People’s Manifesto' consultation And whilst it’s mostly a good piece with many of the areas covered I would just like to point out one omission and where my views differ in terms of policy for disabled people. I am myself registered blind but haven’t always been. I lost my sight aged 16 through ha rare genetic disease which affected my optic nerve. I did attend mainstream school for most of my schooling life when I could still see and spent the last year of 6th form struggling by and trying to complete my education whilst trying to cope with a fairly quick sight loss. I am With Ben Golightly http://m.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.inclusionlondon.co.uk%2FAnnouncing-Reclaiming-Our-Futures-Manifesto&h=kAQHDVMdO&s=1 Also a member of the socialist party who is finding the demand for a fully inclusive mainstream system of education problematic on various levels. For myself who attended both mainstream for a time and specialist education at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford for a few years. I experienced both sides of the coin if you like and I personally found being in a specialist environment really beneficial to myself in terms of independence and progression in life too. There are skills I have learnt away at Hereford I would not have been able to get in mainstream education. I personally feel as a socialist and a disabled rights campaigner that there should always be the choice for people if you felt mainstream was where you would be better suited then all necessary adjustments and provisions should be made available to you to complete your education fully to the best of your ability. Likewise if you feel mainstream education which can be very full on and intense for many with big class's and a heavy work load with all the pressures it comes with isn’t for you then specialist education is a must and is something that should be continued to be being funded. During my time at RNCB there were cuts going on all over the place with the Learning and Skills Council effectively disappearing in place your local authority would have to decide if to fund you to travel out of county to a residential specialist school. This as we well know was becoming harder and harder with budget cuts meaning colleges like mine were facing a very uncertain future. I think this is desperate and much awareness needs to be raised on this. Hereford College for the blind for example taught me many things and was I stand by a vital part of what I am today. The people I met the experiences I had the skills I learnt are all hugely important to the person I am today. I am lucky I had the chance to learn away from home in a relaxed atmosphere the education but also the daily living skills including basic cooking, washing and personal hygiene etc. I also received much needed mobility training to gain confidence to use public transport and navigate using a white cane which I was not so familiar with before attending college. The consultation is a good one I may submit this piece but Ben has already covered a lot of what I put I would just be coming from a blind persons perspective. As a disabled person choice matters and having the option to choose what meets your needs the best is something we should promote and encourage. Labeling and boxing people into categories and education systems which may not suit them is a sad state of affairs. The choice to be supported in mainstream with the necessary funding is as important as maintaining and up keeping specialist education for disabled people today and in the years to come.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Euro Crisis is the end in sight ?

A lot more bullish feeling is coming out of the economic power houses of Americ and Europe of late. Is this to be founded or is this just more wishful thinking. Economic figures due out shortly are set to show a ending or at least softening of the recession in the Euro zone and America growing slowly yet there is tentitive fear that this is a false start and a real recovery is still not appearing . On Bloomberg one of my favourite capitalist news outlets and superb for figures and long term trend analysis anyway has a good summary by Jeff Black By Jeff Black - Aug 12, 2013 2:13 PM GMT+0100 Q The euro-area economy probably edged back to growth last quarter for the first time since 2011, ending the longest recession since the single currency union started 14 years ago. Gross domestic product in the 17-nation region expanded 0.2 percent in the three months through June after shrinking for the previous six quarters, according to the median of 41 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. The European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg will release the data on Aug. 14. Germany probably grew about 0.75 percent, according to a government estimate, exceeding the 0.6 percent economists predict. year of relative calm on financial markets, budget cuts from Spain to Italy and accelerating growth in the U.S., the world’s biggest economy, have helped the euro area start to recover. While the overall outlook has improved, the recession has left the region with a youth unemployment rate of 24 percent, and parts of southern Europe remain mired in a slump. “The external environment is really getting better, led by signs that U.S. demand is picking up,” said Nick Kounis, head of macro research at ABN Amro Bank NV in Amsterdam. “The second quarter should mark the end of the recession in the euro area, but the recovery will be excruciatingly slow. We’re not getting the champagne out yet.” say the capitalists. I always like to look at the bourgeois press and fianncial news in particular i think its good to know your enemy so to speak and read how they see the long term trends and slumps. Its clear anyway to me that any sort of recovery if we can call it that is a two speed one anyhow with southern Europe still very much in a slump ropean Central Bank President Mario Draghi has described progress as “tentative.” Against that backdrop, the ECB has cut interest rates to their lowest-ever level and Draghi has pledged they’ll stay there or lower for an “extended period.” Spain’s economy shrank just 0.1 percent in the second quarter from the prior three months. Still, the country’s youth unemployment is 56 percent. In Italy, where Prime Minister Enrico Letta is easing last year’s budget austerity, GDP fell a less-than-forecast 0.2 percent. Economic confidence in the euro area increased for a third month in July. Manufacturing expanded for the first time in two years, according to a purchasing-managers survey by London-based Markit Economics. Adecco SA (ADEN), the world’s largest provider of temporary workers, reported increased profit for the second-quarter, and the Glattbrugg, Switzerland-based company said it sees more positive signs for business as Europe’s labor markets stabilize. An expanding manufacturing figure is a sign of a weak attempt to try and claw back some edge in the market to start to slowly restart production towards a better level. Greece is still very much the sick man of the Euro zone though. It all looks a bit better than we thought,” said Evelyn Herrmann, an economist at BNP Paribas SA in London. “Our central case is a very modest recovery, and we’re still not overly bullish for the second half of the year.” Greece’s economy contracted for a 20th quarter, extending an economic slump that has left more than six in 10 young Greeks out of work, the Athens-based Hellenic Statistical Authority said today. Gross domestic product shrank 4.6 percent in the three months through June from the same period last year after dropping 5.6 percent in the previous quarter. That’s better than the median estimate of a 4.9 percent contraction in a Bloomberg News survey of six economist. Greece doesn’t publish seasonally adjusted or quarter-on-quarter GDP data. area of stress remains corporate access to credit. Lending to companies and households across the region fell the most on record in June. A review of banks’ balance sheets to be conducted by the ECB has probably been delayed until the first quarter of 2014 as the central bank says it can’t start preparing until EU lawmakers vote on the legislation, which won’t be before September. The review is part of a plan to strengthen the region’s financial system by building a banking union comprising ECB oversight, a single resolution mechanism for winding up failing lenders, and common rules for deposit guarantees. In the meantime, economic performance remains patchy. An unexpected 1.4 percent drop in French industrial production in June underlined the government’s struggle to revive growth in the region’s second largest economy. France is also due to release data for second-quarter GDP on Aug. 14. “Talk of an economic recovery, to say nothing about a sustainable one, when domestic demand is still contracting, government debt levels continue to surge and the economic and institutional reform agenda is unraveling, is wide of the mark,” said Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London. “Germany may be pulling ahead, but the bloc’s other main economies, including France, remain in dire straits.” Improving Indicators The euro area’s path out of recession will also be determined by conditions in major export markets such as the U.K., the U.S. and China. There, indications are improving. In China, July industrial output rose more than expected after a larger-than-forecast rebound in exports eased concern that a credit squeeze in the world’s second-biggest economy would curb growth. The U.S. economy grew at a 1.7 percent annualized rate from April through June after a 1.1 percent pace in the first quarter. For the whole of 2013, the ECB forecasts a contraction for the euro-area economy of 0.6 percent, before an expansion of 1.1 percent in 2014. “There’s still some fiscal adjustment going on and that’s weighing on consumption, as well as banks in the south not being in a position to support the economy,” said Laurence Boone, chief European economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London. “The consensus is for slight growth and we wouldn’t expect anything much more buoyant than that.” so all in all very mixed but signs of a possible upswing or anything like a boom period are well far wide of the mark. Any recovery will be very slow and drawn out. Painful for the working class's of Europe and beyond no doubt.

Big victory for the Unison 4, for member lead democratic fighting unions

! Glenn Kelly, Unison (personal capacity) On Friday 9 August, the employment tribunal dealing with the Unison leadership's illegal banning of the 'Socialist Party Four' from office issued its judgement as to what compensation Unison would have to pay. The compensation follows the 2011 ruling that found the Union leadership guilty of "unjustifiable" disciplinary action against the four activists for producing a leaflet complained about resolutions being excluded from the 2007 Unison Conference. Given that the average pay out for a worker from a tribunal is about £4,000, the tribunal's decision to award £49,000 in total to the four shows how the union's actions were viewed. The court also award aggravated damages against Unison for their treatment of me, saying: "that we are satisfied that the conduct of the respondent (Unison) amounted to high-handed malicious and oppressive conduct and we decided in the case of Mr Kelly to award an additional award for aggravated damages". 'Dedicated trade unionists' Agreeing the damage done to the four of us by the union, the court found all four of us as "committed and dedicated trade unionists, elected by the members and had devoted either the whole or a large part of their working life to advising representing the member and their interests at regional and national level". Despite this, in an attempt to diminish their actions, the union had tried to argue in the court case that the damage done to us was minimal 'as we were Marxists and Socialist Party members and were used to political rough and tumble of political life'. The court responded by saying that: "we do not accept that the claimants' political beliefs and or activities made them in some way impervious or immune to hurt caused by the action of the respondents". Alongside the ban, we also had to face our branches being taken into regional administration. All along the union tried to say the two events weren't related. However, on 9 August the court rejected the unions claim saying: "it is inconceivable that there was no link between the claimants being banned and the branches being taken into regional administration." In reference to the raids on the branches it said: "it was done in a way to cause the maximum humiliation to the claimants". Given the findings of the court cases, the question still remains: who will be held to account inside Unison for spending six years attacking union activists and wasting literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of our members' money? For more about the Defend the Four campaign see stopthewitchhunt.org.uk

Can labour win in 2015?

It would appear they can but increasingly they look like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Labours poll lead has plummeted since the start of the year and they are not helping themselves anymore. It seems incredible that the Tories could get back in but at this stage there is every chance all be it maybe with a Lib Dem hand me up. Ed Miliband is being targeted with questions and many are questioning if he is up to the job but they all miss the point. Labour is a party which is now wedded to capitalism and as such the austerity consensus which has seen them agree the need to keep all the Tory cuts if elected which is by no means certain anyway. With the Tories ramming through austerity, privatisation and a fall in living standards not seen in a generation opposing this doesn’t sound that hard but this also misses the point the thing is labour do not oppose the cuts or privatisation they started and laid the ground for much of what we see today. So how can they oppose things which they themselves would be doing anyway? We have a sense of what labour would be like in government if they are elected with their record in government accepting and passing on the Tory cuts passed on to them all be it with crocodile tears which is no consolation to those on the sharp end of cuts to their jobs and services. Clearly Labour is no longer a worker’s party in any sense those like Owen Jones who like to cling onto the desperate hope of a reclaimed labour headed by himself no doubt must be wondering where they go next now. Yes labour has a trade union link but shouting this as a reason to remain backing it is frankly laughable. With the timid response quite frankly by the unions labour and the union leaders will be selling you austerity in 2015 at the next election. You vote Tory you get cuts, you vote lib dems you get cuts and now with labour you get cuts too. How the trade unions continue to fund this sham of a party I’ll never know. Actually I do its easier for them to bemoan the cuts and how awful they are but actually standing up and opposing them is a lot more effort and all seems like hard work. Ed Miliband and his labour party are often referred to as on the left I’m not so sure. We do have to separate out the labour party and the left they are two very different groups and neither share each other’s values any longer. Labour claims to be a centre left party whilst upholding anti immigrant, pro war anti worker and pro privatisation ideas this in my book is not on the left at all and the unions and their members need to kick them into the long grass. Let’s let the party die and hopefully then workers will see that we need a new way of doing things with people putting themselves forwards as candidates much like with TUSC simply opposing all cuts as a starting point. A line in the sand is needed no more funds to labour from the unions, no more cuts to be accepted by the unions. Unions should be run and controlled democratically by their members if not those leaders need to go. Labour can win in 2015 but it will be despite itself not because of what it is. I still think the most likely outcome will be another hung parliament with the lib dems again joining the bigger party to form a coalition of cuts again will it be labour ? Possibly. What is clear though is whoever gets in in 2015 will carry on with the same policies and same pro capitalist ideas. We need a new party to represent the voiceless. The further alienation of people from the political plain can lead to all different reactions some more ugly than others. A political voice is key for those who wish to oppose austerity and change society for the better. That for me would be a new mass workers party with its aim socialism and no concessions to capitalism.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

3400 people still on East herts housing waiting list still more homes needed

About 3,400 people are currently on East Herts Council’s housing register and a points system aims to prioritise those cases most in need. Changes to the system to make it fairer for all were proposed in March and introduced in May. They included new registration criteria, a maximum household income cap and more preference for those already living within the district. Since the changes, the waiting list has dropped from 3,600. I myself am on the waiting list for a council flat in the Hertford or Ware area and I’ve been bidding for properties for a good few years now. Quite clearly even in East Hertfordshire which isn’t a big area there is still huge demand for homes and affordable ones at that. With the possible development of Harlow North still undecided it is key housing is part of a development of the region. In ware and surrounding areas there is a lot of private renting going on and very little in the way of council properties. The council are claiming a drop in 200 off the waiting list in the last year which could have come about due to these so called changes to the points system brought in and also those who like me who have to renew their interest every so often may have missed out perhaps due to not remembering to renew. It is clear that there is a need for new council homes which young people in the area could benefit from who have to live at home with their parents due to the inability to move out to a place of their own. I will be told people can still rent in a private property but this is all very ell but we do live in an expensive area for renting. We live on the commuter belt to London and as a result rental prices are very expensive around the 500 pound mark and more. SO what we do need is more council homes being built. Affordable housing is a confusing concept officially it can mean 80% of market value which around here is still very unaffordable to many. So I’d suggest we need a rent control system with a cap on rents that landlords can charge as a first step. With this as a start and a development of new council homes a cap on rents not benefits could really start to help ease the situation. Of course this would have to be planned democratically and used sensibly with the input of local people and those on the waiting lists. We have a housing crisis in East Herts too aswell as elsewhere in the country this is an urgent problem that needs to be tackled. I don’t think there can be a solution or at least a long term one under capitalism. We do need a democratic socialist plan for housing to meet the needs of the people.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

What makes someone racist?

Firstly this post is not an excuse for racist behaviour or racist language I for one totally oppose all forms of racism and discrimination on any level however casual it may seem on the surface there is to be no excuse for it in this day and age. But I thought I world try and look all be it quite sensitively at the reasons or possible reasons why some people do hold racist views as such. Coming from a very white background in Hertfordshire in the South East of England hearing racist views is something which I get to hear a lot not through choice but due to peoples held prejudices. You do see a lot more immigrants moving into our area now not in huge huge numbers but certainly more than there ever has been. I do understand or at least try to understand workers concerns on immigration these are often a veiled concern by them of a lack of resources be that affordable homes for their families or a decent job which will pay a decent wage to live on. A lot f racist views I’ve found are held on the so called fear of the unknown and a fear of loosing their so called way of life nothing could be further from the truth in reality. There is a understandable feeling of isolation and feeling over run in a area you previously felt was your own I fully get this but does taking it on those who m are moving in and living their lives peacefully and no harm to you ? I think not. I think most human beings are tolerant people and are accepting of most people. Certainly I think most people are good people and are helpful to others in need but there is always a minority a certain section in society who finds it hard to adapt to new changes and changing social make ups. I do also think we should try and point out to people that racism is a tool used by the ruling class to divide and rule us. Dividing us by race, gender, age or anything like that is designed to weaken our class solidarity and community spirit which has been gradually worn down over the years and years. Racism is a feature of capitalism and is a tool of the ruling class which we must oppose and fight against and speak out against whenever we can. Whilst doing this we must understand to finally end racism for good and to end all discrimination e must end capitalism and inequality of a class system which is hugely ridiculously unequal in so many ways. When you hear a racist view as a socialist it makes me twinge with anger and disappointment in people that they can laugh and have so much hate for other human beings, other workers in many cases who face much the same difficulties and struggles as all of us. The lack of resources is not something which is aimed at a certain race or nationality its inherent to capitalism as the wealth is held in such few hands that being the capitalist class those who own the means of production call the shots. As socialists we shouldn’t write off and hammer those workers who may hold racist views why not challenge them and try to convince them that the enemy is not the a Asian or Polish family just moved in down the road who they think has just taken their job but to explain that wearer fighting like rats in a sack and that there is more than enough resources in society to go around enough jobs and homes for us all if we had a say in the way society was run and run for our needs not for the profits of the few. I stand for a society called socialism a society free of oppression, war, discrimination, the, greed and all the evils that come with a society called capitalism the system based on the blind drive for profits by a rich few and the rest go to hell in a handcart. If you like me believe a better world is possible do ask yourself are you a socialist or if you don’t wish to use that S word do you agree with me and what I say whatever you call it we need to stand together to change things and soon.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Miliband, The labour party and the left

As a result of the Falkirk west nonsense over the labour party and Unite Ed Miliband is looking to weaken the trade union influence in teh labour party even more. In this weeks socialist there is a editorial on the whole matter and where as the socialist party we see things heading and what we feel is necessary to give workers a voice. Tonight at the Harlow Socialist party branch we will be discussing political representation, the labour party and where does the left go next. Ed Miliband's decision to rush through the end of trade union bloc affiliation to the Labour Party at a special conference next spring has all the symbolism of Tony Blair's 'Clause Four moment' in 1995. That was when Blair organised a special conference to abolish Labour's historic commitment, in Clause Four, Part 1V of the party's rules, to "the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange". It is not only symbolism that is involved in Miliband's move, however, but the content that is also the same; to continue (in fact, to complete) the process of transforming Labour into just another capitalist party. Clause Four summarised the collective interest of the working class in fighting for a new form of society, socialism, in opposition to the capitalist market system. Trade union affiliation (when democratically exercised by union members) enshrined the ability of the working class through the unions to control its political representatives. It was these characteristics that defined the Labour Party in the past as a 'capitalist workers party', with a leadership at the top which invariably reflected the policy of the capitalist class, but with a socialistic ideological basis to the party and a structure through which workers could move to challenge the leadership and threaten the capitalists' interests. Details have yet to emerge of the proposals being considered by a review led by former Labour Party general secretary Lord Collins to go to the special conference. But the central idea, to replace bloc affiliation in favour of trade unionists joining Labour as 'affiliated' or 'associate' individual members, would finally end the remnants of the affiliated trade unions' collective political voice within the party. The Falkirk affair, the ostensible reason for the changes, shows how far in fact this process has already gone. What happened in Falkirk - with Unite officials recruiting union members to become individual members of the constituency Labour Party (CLP) - actually had no connection with the union's affiliated status. In the past trade union branches would send delegates to constituency Labour parties (CLPs), alongside ward party representatives, to select a parliamentary candidate. This was the way, for example, that the Militant MPs Dave Nellist (now chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - TUSC), and the late Terry Fields and Pat Wall, won their selection as Labour candidates in the 1980s. Democratic structure That democratic structure, which meant that healthy mass participation Labour parties like in Liverpool and Coventry were effectively local 'parliaments of the labour movement', was overturned in 1994 by the introduction of 'one member, one vote' (OMOV) rules for selecting candidates. Those changes, promoting passive membership over representative democracy (some OMOV selections have been decided by postal ballots, with prospective candidates having no chance to speak to members) were accurately described by John Prescott as being more important in changing Labour than the abolition of Clause Four. In Falkirk Unite members were being recruited as individuals to take part in a future OMOV ballot with no certainty, of course, as to how they would vote. But even that pale reflection of 'union influence' has been seized by Miliband as a chance to complete the job of effectively ending the union link. The Socialist Party believes that the Labour Party has already been qualitatively transformed from its roots as a capitalist workers' party, which is why we argue that a new workers' party is necessary. We support TUSC as a precursor of a new mass party that could unite together trade unionists, unorganised workers, socialists, young people, oppressed groups and community campaigners, as the only way to ensure that the working class today can achieve an independent political voice. But social formations can retain many of their old forms - even as their new content predominates - and residues of the past position of the unions in the Labour Party still remain. Affiliated unions have 30 votes out of 144 in Labour's National Policy Forum (NPF) for example (which will now be examined by the Collins review), and are directly represented on the national executive committee. And while the affiliated unions' 49% share of conference votes has been reduced from the 90% share in the past, if they rejected Miliband's proposals, which they should, it is not guaranteed that he could push them through the special conference. But unfortunately the Unite leadership in particular are not signalling opposition to Miliband's plans and in doing so are using arguments that are undermining the very idea of independent working class political representation. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, for example, has argued that he could not go "in front of TV cameras and pretend to speak on behalf of a million Unite members" since many of them do not vote Labour. That's true, they don't; but when Len speaks he is representing Unite's democratically agreed policies against cuts and privatisation, for repeal of the anti-union laws etc. In negotiating with employers, union representatives speak for the decision reached collectively by the union members, even though a minority may not have supported the finally agreed position. So why shouldn't the union be represented collectively in the political arena too? More power? Len McCluskey has also suggested that Unite could actually have more power by making its donations conditional on Labour's support for specific policies. But how would this be different to the position of the US unions, reduced to being just another lobbying group alongside corporate donors, giving millions of dollars to buy some alleged 'friends of labour' in the Democratic Party? Or for that matter the 19th century 'Lib-Labism' of unions before the formation of the Labour Party, seeking support for particular policies and parliamentary representatives within a capitalist party? Not the least danger of such an approach is that it reinforces the idea that the attacks of capitalism on workers' living conditions, jobs etc could be met by a few policy changes or reforms rather than an alternative programme for government - which requires an alternative party. Ultimately the only effective control over workers' political representatives is that exercised by workers' organisations through their collective decision-making structures. In Britain today that means the trade unions drawing the lessons of Miliband's 'Clause Four moment' and taking the necessary steps to set up a new workers' party.

Zero hours contract scandal

This week the scandal of 0 hours contracts has come to light. Of course this has been known about for a long time but this is something we must fight against. The exploitation of workers and more often than not the young. Below I republish a excellent article in this weeks socialist from Youth Fight for Jobs. We demand real jobs and a living wage The scandal of Sports Direct employing their entire part-time workforce (90% of employees) on zero hours contracts has been exposed this week. At the same time they are paying huge bonuses in the forms of shares to 2,000 staff. But the bonus scheme only applies to full-time workers - mostly supervisors or managers. And managers are apparently allowed to exclude workers from the bonus scheme for 'under-performing'. The workers on zero hours don't know how many hours they will get to work from one week to the next, making it impossible to plan ahead or pay normal household expenses. They are also not entitled to sick pay or holiday pay. This precarious existence is experienced by hundreds of thousands of workers - even the government statistics office ONS admit that over 200,000 are on such contracts and nearly half of those are 16-24. These figures are rising as the bosses pass the effects of their crisis onto the workers at the bottom of the employment pile. A combination of zero hours contracts, plus working hours and bonuses which can be arbitrarily withdrawn as a disciplinary measure, creates a bullying climate of fear in many workplaces. Laurence, a young worker from south London is on a zero hours contract. He told the Socialist: "The biggest things for me are that it makes it impossible to plan what you're doing on a week to week basis. "That means it's socially inconvenient but obviously you don't know what money you'll have anyway. "It's impossible to navigate the benefits system, which is designed for people who are on a fixed income. You can't tell them how much you earn." But there is a fight back. Youth Fight for Jobs has launched the "Are You Sick of Your Boss" campaign. They were protesting in London outside Sports Direct in Oxford Street on 3 August and spreading the protests around the country from then on. Youth Fight for Jobs spokesperson Ian Pattison said: "We won't win proper contracts with guaranteed hours by asking nicely. "Around the country, we will be marching straight into Sports Direct stores speaking directly to staff about how they can fight and strike for better rights and conditions." ________________________________________ Youth Fight for Jobs demands: • Proper contracts, guaranteed hours and full employment rights • Pay us enough to live on • Decent tea and lunch breaks • End 'fire at will' • We won't be used as cheap or free labour • We have the right to get organised at work • Scrap the anti-trade union laws • Build democratic campaigning trade unions • No to benefit cuts • Fight sexism and discrimination in the workplace For more on this see www.youthfightforjobs.com

Friday, 2 August 2013

Marxist crisis theory, does it matter?

I’d argue it does very much. To have an understanding on crisis and the reasons why and how they occur under capitalism and why the system is riddled with contradictions and crisis is key to understanding the world we live in in 2013. In 2007/08 many so called economists were caught off guard when the economic crisis or what it has now been dubbed the great recession hit. Why was this? Well many economists are pro capitalist and do not understand the labour theory of value but also they were taken in by the system thinking that the boom times could keep on rolling and rolling indefinitely. As Marxists we know capitalism is a system which serves rich elite who control and own the means of production for profits sake. The recent economic crisis and persistent recession are bringing out new interest in Marx’s writings. We are in danger of Marx being reduced to a figurehead Who can be used by anyone to mean anything, as members of the “Marx industry” use his name to promote their own theories even when the result is to make Marx’s own theory disappear from view? Marx’s works can be difficult to understand today, when we have little context for the milieu in which he was writing, yet once understood, they illuminate capitalism and what must be changed in order to replace it with a new human society, as no other thinker’s writings can do. We want young people and new people looking for revolutionary ideas to be able to learn and evaluate Marx’s theories for ourselves, not to be misinformed by “Marxists” who are promoting their own theories as superior to his. Many economists including many Marxists point to one of the contradictions of capitalism at present of the huge hordes of money many capitalists are sitting on. This is indeed interesting and has puzzled me for a very long time. Until I myself read Marx and tried to get my head around how this could be. As comrade Bruce Wallace points out on his excellent blog http://69.195.124.91/~brucieba/ “By 2020 (seven years!) The capitalists will have $900 trillion of financial assets worldwide, compared to $90 trillion of GDP. Yes that’s right they are in massive debt but will have assets ten times the size of world economic output! How can this be possible? Some Marxists suggests that the capitalists have loads of capital (awash in profits, drowning in capital and other aquatic metaphors) and won’t invest because there is no demand. Yes this is the stock Keynesian bourgeois economist’s explanation of crisis. However we have a problem? How is it possible to be in massive debt but to be awash in assets at the same time? Well it isn’t. The projected $900 trillion in assets isn’t real! This represents the massive fictitious capital that has swollen and will continue to swell through the proliferation of financial instruments such as credit default swaps and other exotic financial trickery. In reality things aren’t so rosy. The US capitalists for example are in massive debt and any assets need to be balanced against that. Market Watch reported in August 2010 (which is a bit dated but trends have continued since then) ”According to the Federal Reserve, nonfinancial firms borrowed another $289 billion in the first quarter, taking their total domestic debts to $7.2 trillion, the highest level ever. That’s up by $1.1 trillion since the first quarter of 2007; it’s twice the level seen in the late 1990s”. So is it any wonder I’m starting to question and wonder just a little bit about our own economic analysis of the socialist party and the CWI. As Michael Roberts a Marxist economist who I’ve been following of late who I find has an interesting take on the global financial situation says in a recent blogpost “In my view, we are now in a Long Depression, centred in the advanced capitalist economies but also affecting the emerging capitalist economies. The latter do better because they still have ample supplies of cheap labour available to exploit (well, at least some larger emerging economies do). So absolute surplus value can be increased without Marx's law of profitability applying too strongly. What do I mean by that? Well, capitalists are permanently engaged in the search for value, or more specifically, surplus value. They can get that globally by drawing more of the population into capitalist production. The big issue is how much longer capitalism can continue to appropriate value from human labour power when the workforce globally can no longer expand sufficiently. Ironically, the UK's right-wing City paper City Am put it from the perspective of capital: "People, not commodities, land or even capital, are the ultimate resource of an economy, as the US academic Julian Simon famously put it. Without talented, motivated, skilled and educated individuals, nothing is possible; capital itself is a product of labour. Human ingenuity is able to overcome everything. Malthusians who dream of a shrinking population and who reflexively believe that every country is over-populated are wrong. This is always a lesson that nations suffering from shrinking populations relearn at great cost: all the productivity growth in the world is rarely enough to compensate for the psychological and actual effect of a declining population." More important, more people mean more potential value to be appropriated by capital. But getting more value and surplus value through extending the size of the workforce is increasingly difficult or even impossible in many advanced capitalist economies. Instead, in these economies, capitalists must try and raise surplus value though the intensity of work and through more mechanisation and technology that saves labour i.e. relative surplus value. But that, as Marx explained, brings into operation the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the ultimate barrier to further accumulation and growth in value (see my post on http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/crisis-or-breakdown/). “ Understanding crisis is crucial to have a chance in understanding the tight turns and longer term trends in capitalism and when the opportunities are best for the workers to go on the offensive. Right now workers are very much on the back foot defending their gains. As capitalism continues to struggle to improve the rate of profit more workers will be encourage into fighting back. Understanding crisis as a Marxist is crucial and taking a serious approach to the study of Marx’s work is the first step towards that. With thanks to my comrade Bruce Wallace and his excellent blog at http://69.195.124.91/~brucieba/