Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Can fascism make a comeback?

Yes it can I’d argue and it already is in some parts of the world in places like the Ukraine and Greece for example there are significant forces building and more worryingly growing all the time. When I was a member of the socialist party combating fascism was not a priority we were always told the capitalists would only use a fascist koo as last resort and the working class will have many chances’ to take power well before it comes to fascism. What they did not tell us was that fascism could make a comeback well before that and indeed right under our noses’. For me it appears as though the old centre ground centre left and centre right are in crisis and are finding their votes and popular support in collapse right across Europe. The centre left in particular is facing a big decline as ice outlined in previous posts on this blog this is no more confirmed than France's president Holland this week seeing his poll ratings sink to their lowest ever for any French president of all time. This is quite an achievement considering the dross they have produced down the years. Fascism can find a hold in times of fear and desperation in the downtrodden middle class's but also the working class too. Fascism was always considered a middle class movement those who have been disenchanted but this misses the point fascism can cover multiple classes in its mass popular support it is a tempting appeal when things are heading quickly down. Fascism in its traditional sense opposes communism but this is the traditional understanding we have fascism in the future and even today will and do look very different to what we understand it to have been in the past. Things do not repeat themselves in history but can take parts of the past with them. I think we may see the rise again of a mass movement against corruption on a European scale and even more so in here in the UK with the likes of UKIP appealing to those who are fed up with the current political elite even though many of their leading figures are hardly too far out of touch of the political establishment themselves. IN a piece in the guardian last November "In the years since the global banking crisis in 2007, commentators across the political spectrum have confidently predicted not only the imminent collapse of the euro – but sooner or later an unavoidable implosion of the European Union itself. None of this has come to pass. But the "European Project", launched after the devastation of the Second World War, now faces the most serious threat in its history. That threat was chillingly prefigured last november in the launch of a pan-European alliance of far-right parties, led by the French National Front and the Dutch Party of Liberty headed by Geert Wilders, and vowing to slay "the monster in Brussels".. Of course, the growth in support for far-right populist, anti-European, anti-immigrant parties has been force-fed by the worst world recession since at least the 1930s and possibly since before 1914. Mass unemployment and falling living standards in the euro-area and the wider EU made worse by the crazy and self-defeating austerity obsession of European leaders has opened the door to the revival of the far right. Parties that skulked in the shadows for decades after 1945, playing down their sympathies with fascism and Nazism are now re-emerging having given themselves a PR facelift. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French NF, plays down the antisemitic record of her party... The Dutch far-right leader has ploughed a slightly different furrow – mobilising fear and hostility not against Jews but rather Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands. Like Marine Le Pen, Wilders obsessively focuses on the alleged cosmopolitan threat to national identity from the European Union. It is a chorus echoed in other European countries by the Danish People's party, the Finns party and the Flemish Vlaams Belang among others. For now, the French and Dutch populists are carefully keeping their distance from openly neo-Nazi parties such as Golden Dawn – whose paramilitary Sturmabteilung – have terrorised refugees and immigrants in Greece, and the swaggering Hungarian Jobbik, who terrorise the Roma minority. For now, our own Ukip is tactically keeping its distance from the new European far-right alliance while whispering a similar story about "east European immigrants". Ridiculous comparisons have been drawn by some commentators between the rise of the populist far right and the growth of the radical left – notably the Syriza party in Greece, which has pushed for a reverse of austerity crisis policies, both in Greece and throughout Europe. In fact, Syriza represents the main challenge to Golden Dawn's offensive. Moreover, while the Italian Northern League may be drawn to the far-right alliance, the bulk of the semi-anarchist followers of the comedian Beppe Grillo in the Italian parliament are anti-fascist and unlikely to take the same path. According to some pollsters – the far right might win as many as a third of all the seats in the European parliament after the European elections this May. That would still leave the centre parties – Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Liberals – with many more members. But for the European parliament to form a credible majority all of these parties might well be forced much closer together than is good for them or good for European democracy. It could threaten eventual paralysis of the European parliament itself. Such a situation would be unsettlingly reminiscent of 1936, when the centre and the left – notably in France – temporarily halted the swing to fascism but formed an unprincipled and ineffective coalition. Its collapse on the eve of the Second World War accelerated the advent of Phillippe Petain's Nazi collaborating regime. History does not normally repeat itself in an automatic fashion. But it would be foolish to take the risk. More worrying than the growth of the far right are the temporising gestures to the racists and anti-immigrants now coming from mainstream Tory and even Liberal Democrat politicians and from some of the new "Blue Labour" ideologues. The warning from the likes of David Blunkett that hostility to Roma immigrants might lead to a popular "explosion" is worryingly reminiscent of Enoch Powell style rhetoric. An effective antidote to the growth of far-right populism requires that the European left is capable of articulating and following through on a comprehensive alternative to economic stagnation, an ever-widening income and wealth gap, the degradation of our social standards, civil liberties and democratic rights and the mindless drift to a global arming catastrophe. But to succeed that alternative has to be fought for at European as well as national and local levels, and to be delivered will require more, not less, European integration." So to conclude fascism is back in some shape or form and can grow further still if allowedto. Our job must be to oppose it wherever it raises its ugly head. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/15/far-right-rise-european-marine-le-pen-geert-wilders

Monday, 27 January 2014

support the 3 cosas's campaign on strike this week lend solidarity with ULU cleaners

Plans and information on the 3 COSAS STRIKE – come to support the strike at Senate House! We, the outsourced workers responsible for cleaning, security and maintenance at the University of London, are striking next week on the 27th, 28th and 29th January. We are striking for our union, the IWGB, to be recognised by our employers, Cofely GDZ Suez, to be entitled to the same sick pay, holidays and pensions as directly employed University staff, and also for assurances from the University that we won’t lose our jobs as a result of the student halls of residence – the Garden Halls – being closed this summer. We feel picketing is very important, and if you can spare some time to come down to support our strike, it will help immensely. Bring your solidarity, love and warmth. Here are our plans for the three day strike: DAY 1: MASS PICKETING FROM 6 AM! We want as many supporters, students and others to come down to support us! We will begin pickets at 6 am at the main Russell Square entrance to Senate House. To find you way, click here. The first day is crucial to having an impact on the University and explaining why the strike is happening to colleagues, but also for boosting confidence! Please come down! DAY 2: TOUR OF LONDON! On the second strike day, from 9.30 am, the entire picket line will board an open top bus and do a whistle-stop tour of high profile sites throughout London, including national media outlets and places of particular interest to the University of London and Cofely. This will be followed by a contingent of supporters on bikes. Bring your bike along to follow the moving bus picket! Importantly, we will still be maintaining pickets at the University! DAY 3: MASS PICKETING! SOLIDARITY WITH THE NATIONAL STUDENT MEETING! We will be continuing the strike picket lines at Senate House from 6 am. Workers from the campaign will also be going to Birmingham to link up with students and staff from across the country to protest and develop national demands for ours and similar campaigns. * On each of the strike days workers at the University of London will be producing a daily strike bulletin through 'Open Book' - this will be to share news, counter management myths and give updates on the strike. See the current bulletin in the lead up to the strike: As well as coming down to the picket lines, how can you support the strike? 1. Contribute to our strike fund: http://donate.3cosascampaign.com/ 2. Pass a motion in your trade or students’ union or community group, info here: http://3cosascampaign.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/model-motion-support-for-the-outsourced-university-of-london-workers-3-cosas-campaign/ 3. Invite us to speak at a meeting to spread word of our campaign: http://3cosascampaign.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/a-national-speaker-tour-3-cosas-the-university-of-london-struggle-and-beyond/ 3cosascampaign

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The young who just cant move out

New findings out today suggest more of us young people are living at home with parents for a long time now. I would place myself in this bracket. I simply cant afford to move out the prices even just to rent in my area are ridiculous and buying is way out of the question as i simply dont earn enough. "British society is undergoing a significant shift as 1 in 4 young adults now live with their parents according to national statistics released on Tuesday. Those aged 20 to 34 are now more likely to be sharing a home with their parents than any time since 1996. That's 3.3 million UK adults who are either unwilling or unable to live in a separate home from their parents. A closer look at the data from the Office for National Statistics reveals who is most likely to be in that 1 in 4. A sharp and significant rise Almost two decades ago, 21% adults aged 20-34 were living with their parents - 2.7 million people in the UK. Now, as 670,000 more individuals in that age bracket are in the same situation, that figure has risen to 26% of young adults. For every 10 women, there are 17 men aged 20 to 34 living with their parents. There are a few possible explanations for this wide gender gap: On average, young women are more likely to form relationships with men that are older than them and are therefore more likely to be living as part of a couple in their own household. (600,000 more women than men in this age group are cohabiting) Young women are also more likely to be lone parents in their own households (590,000 more women than men in this age group) Finally, young women are more likely than men to be studying in higher education - and move away from home to do so In the capital, the number of young adults living with their parents drops considerably to 1 in 5 while in Northern Ireland it is more than 1 in 3, well above the national average. Those regional differences have existed since records began, despite the fact that they've grown more noticeable. In 1996, just 17% of 20-34 year olds in London lived with their parents while in Northern Ireland it was 33% - though the figures were lower back then, they still represented the country's high and low spots. As adults get older, they're less likely to be living at home, though the figures for older age groups may come as a surprise. 14% of male 30 year-olds still live with their parents, a year later that percentage has fallen to 12%, then 9% before finally dropping to 8% for males aged 34. The reasons for younger adults living with their parents may seem self evident but the statistics released still offer some explanations. The first of these is that average earnings of adults rise steadily through their 20s and don't begin to level off until they are in their mid 30s, giving them additional means to leave the parental home. What's more, as age increases, so too does the likelihood young adults will be living with a partner - just 8% of people in the UK do at the age of 20, but by the time they're 31 years old, that rises to 70% of Britons. Finally, the house price paid by first time buyers is now higher compared to their incomes. In 1996, the ratio of first home price to income was 2.7 to 1 - by 2013 it had risen to 4.4. That house price problem is made all the more insurmountable by rising rates of short- and long-term unemployment. The percentage of young adults living with their parents who are unemployed is almost twice the unemployment levels found amongst those in the same group who don't live with their parents (13% compared to 6%). Comparable figures for other countries are based on a slightly different age group - those aged 25 to 34. On that basis, the UK has the 7th lowest percentage of young adults living withe their parents out of 28 EU countries. The lowest rates were in Denmark where it was just 2%, compared to 68% in Croatia. Aside from differing attitudes towards marriage and cohabitation, similar factors are put forward to explain the trends - from university attendance to incomes, unemployment and house prices. You can add your thoughts about the reasons for the British trends below the line. " with extracts from http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jan/21/record-numbers-young-adults-living-with-parents?CMP=twt_gu

Monday, 20 January 2014

Why we need a truly rank-and-file movement from below

With trade union sell outs at the likes of grangemouth signing away terms and conditions and where a no strike agreement was signed the need for action from below and organisation of a sort to bypass the trade union buraucracy is needed more than ever in this period. Are groups like the national Shop Stewards Network NSSN, Right to work and unite the resistance and the people’s assembly fit for purpose? Most if not all are front organisations for various left sects including the socialist party who took over the running of the NSSN leading to many of the militants who had been around from the start walking out in disgust. I wasn’t around at the time but speaking to others in the movement since it is noticeable how Trotskyist parties like the SP are held in contempt by genuine militants who see them as outsiders coming in to push their own people into positions and in affect either gain control or ruin a project that would otherwise benefit workers. With so many anti cuts fronts it is a sketch from Monty Pythons life of Brian which instantly springs to mind. This mode of behavior is already well beyond a joke. Three anti-cuts fronts, all mouthing commitments to unity while stubbornly undermining it; all criticising control-freakery while surreptitiously clinging to private ownership of their members’ political work; the obligatory reference to Monty Python’s Life of Brian (splitters!) no longer cuts the mustard, now that reality has outdone fiction in its absurdity. We need a version of what the NSSN was supposed to be, something to link up trade union activists beyond their unions, something to help rebuild radical trade unionism again across the country - because, like it or not, without it there's no hope of stopping this government (local groups are fantastic, but they don't have the ability to mess things up by some co-ordinated strike action). That means, sometimes, we have to hold our noses and work with people we don't like at times. The need for a genuine rank-and-file movement which is non hierarchical with no enforced leadership from any trot group is necessary today I feel for workers facing attack after attack. I mean with the CWU effectively caving in to privatisation and hoping for the best they can get now where is the room for workers who do not agree with their union’s position and do not wish to just take a resolution to conference. Many wish to see action now and organise from below there needs to be the room for this. Many workers in unions like my own Unite are limited in what they can do. They are unfortunately stuck under the unite union leadership. After the sparks dispute which proved a big victory for our side We need a way of reaching out to workers like that to assist them in understanding why those tactics work so well and supporting them against the union leadership when they do so. I think the recent attacks on the ability to take legal strike action opens up the possibility for direct action. This is what we should be enthusiastically cheer leading. Over the years there have been many attempts to build something from below in the face of reformist trade unionism and try and move beyond endless battles with the bureaucracy. That is not to say that the 'left' has not tried to get over the problems posed by the dominance of the reformist trade unions. Since the war they have attempted to organise 'rank and file' groups in the unions. These have taken various forms, for example Flashlight and Building Workers Charter have set up around the National Rank and File Movement of the '70s, and of course there is the broad left. But the very nature of these groups, and of the politics of those who have tried to organise them, has meant that these groups were also doomed to failure. Since the war this has taken the form of trying to build rank and file groups within the unions. This task has been undertaken by various political groups from those set up by the CP in the 1950's and 60's, eg Flashlight and Building Workers Charter through to the SWP-dominated rank and files of the 70's and of course the militant-dominated Broad Lefts. Needless to say, such Marxist groups were not slow to manipulate rank and files for their own ends, even if this was to the detriment of those rank and files and the workers involved. (...) The manoeuvering of the Marxists should come as no surprise because they all saw rank and files not only as recruiting grounds but also as a way of increasing their influence in the unions. This followed from their political theory, that the unions were the place where workers organise at an economic level, whilst the 'more advanced' would wish to organise on a political level and join their organisation. (...) It would be a mistake, however, to put down the lack of politics simply to the Marxist influence. Instead we should look at the nature of rank and file groups themselves. They were not made up of masses of ordinary workers but trade union activists who were members of political groups with axes to grind, sinking their political differences to the lowest common denominator that is militant trade unionism. /forums/announcements/classic-trot-manipulation-nssn-13122010 So the question remains how does a future rank-and-file grouping avoid being taken over and ruined for some political parties own ends? I think that we firstly need genuine workers involved in the workplace on the shop floor where there is no leadership as such but a forum for discussion to allow workers to discuss and come up with their own ideas without having the tactics and ideas forced upon them by any self appointed leader. “There are many contradictions and limits of a rank-and-file level of trade unionism. It is not simply a matter of the unions ‘not doing their job properly’ – they do it only too well, since they need to be able to control workers’ struggles in order to function as representatives of those struggles. Shop steward and convenor positions - often taken by the most militant workers - must mediate between shop floor interests and the union bureaucracy's organisational interests. Workers often see the union as an organisational framework giving them a collective identity and protective strength; and on a day to day level it often does so, within existing conditions and agreements. What workers don't always acknowledge (or fail to act upon) is that this strength is their own power mediated – and therefore limited – by the union structure as its representation; a power that has the potential to conflict with and go beyond both the control of their employers and their union leaders. In place of the representation of workers in the trade unions, what is needed is self-organisation by workers exercising their collective power directly. How can this be done? Fortunately, many millions of workers have faced these problems before, and out of their trial and error some forms of organisation have repeatedly proved the most successful. Mass meetings the central form of self-organisation is the mass meeting. However, it is vital that mass meetings do not just give a democratic rubber-stamp to decisions made elsewhere (as happened in the Ford-Visteon dispute), but take an active role in organising and controlling the struggle. Workers should demand whatever information they need to make informed decisions from management or union officials, and develop a culture of discussion to ensure all workers, even those with less experience or confidence can play an active part in the struggle. Many workplaces have several recognised unions. Workers should open up their meetings to members of other unions as well as non-union workers – who should not be assumed to be scabs since they have the same interests as their workmates. Management and scabs should be excluded from workers’ mass meetings, but workers should consider letting supporters attend without voting rights at their discretion. Mandated, recallable delegates not everything can be done in a mass meeting. Sometimes a strike committee is needed to draw up demands. Other times workers may want to produce a leaflet or do some research. They may also want to send delegations to other workplaces in order to encourage solidarity actions and spread the struggle. These kind of things cannot practically be done by mass meetings of tens or hundreds of workers; delegation is needed. The important thing when electing delegates is that the mass meeting retains overall control. Even members of the strike committee are not there to lead the rest of the strikers, but to implement their will. This means delegates should be mandated, given a specifically defined task or tasks to carry out. Delegates can then be recalled and replaced by the mass meetings if they fail to carry out or overstep their mandates. Networks of militants In the heat of a dispute many a solid shop steward or convenor has been forced to choose between the interests of their workmates and those of their union bosses. This highlights the need for militant workers to organise independently of the trade unions as well as inside them. Such networks of militants can help provide the moral support to do the right thing, as well as advice, practical support and a continuity of experience between the ebb and flow of struggles. They can also link militants in different workplaces, industries and places, creating the potential to spread struggles that terrifies bosses and wins disputes. Such networks are not there to represent workers, but should agitate and organise for self-organisation: mass meetings and the use of delegates. However as they grow, such networks can take on some of the useful functions of trade unions (such as legal advice, co-ordination with other workplaces etc) without the problems of representation (a bureaucracy that needs to control workers struggles in order to persuade bosses they are ‘responsible’ negotiating partners). “ With extracts from http://www.libcom.org/library/workers-control-lessons-recent-struggles-uk

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Socialist Way: Alright Dave - Roger Lloyd-Pack

The Socialist Way: Alright Dave - Roger Lloyd-Pack:   What a shock it was to have learnt sadly this week that the Actor Roger Lloyd-Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, had...

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Socialist Way: Son of Kinnock seeks a safe Welsh Labour seat

The Socialist Way: Son of Kinnock seeks a safe Welsh Labour seat:   With each passing day I become that little more convinced, that parliament and in particular our own House of Commons is full of not...

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Why do we fight for workers self management

You will often here by some on the left of the labour movement that workers self management is the way to go instead of the tired worn out slogan of nationalise everything which a lot of people on the old left seem to cling to like it is the key to all troubles. “What is workers self-management? Workers self-management is a way of running a workplace without bosses or a fixed managerial hierarchy. Instead, the workplace is run democratically by its workers. By democracy, we do not mean that workers elect a manager to make decisions for them. We mean that the workers themselves decide how they will do things as a group. No one in a self-managed enterprise has control over any of the other workers - decision making power is shared equally between all workers. How does it work? Each self-managed workplace is managed by a face-to-face meeting of everyone who works there – a workers’ assembly. The workers of each enterprise collectively make all "management" decisions on a basis of one-worker-one-vote or consensus. The workers of each department form their own smaller assemblies, in which they make the decisions that affect only their department, and so on to the smallest work groups. Isn't that very time consuming? Not really. Managers will often complain about how time consuming their jobs are, but they spend most of their time doing administrative work. Relatively little time is spent making big management decisions. However, in great factories and plants there are too many workers to gather in one meeting every day. The workplace-wide assemblies might occur once a week, or once a month instead. They are the focus of major "policy" decisions - i.e. those which the workers DECIDE are most important. So how will work be coordinated on a daily basis? The workers will meet in their department assemblies and work groups to make the thousands of day to day decisions that crop up. Each department sends a delegate to a "shop committee" to coordinate their activities. Delegates are not professional managers: They are ordinary workers who have been sent by their department assemblies with special instructions (mandates); they return to these assemblies to report on the discussion and its result, and after further deliberation the same or other delegates may go up with new instructions. Once the shop committee meeting is over, they return to their everyday jobs. Any compromises reached at delegate meetings are subject to ratification by the department assemblies, and delegates can be recalled and replaced at any time. Therefore the shop committee does not tell the workers what the official policy is - the workers tell them. They are not a management board, but means of communication between the different departments. Indeed, the shop committee is not even a permanent body, since different delegates will probably be chosen for each meeting, so that everyone in the workplace gets to serve this role. Will there be managers? No. Workers’ self-management abolishes the permanent division between managers and workers. Instead, the people who do the actual productive work – making products, designing them, maintaining machinery, collecting information and so on - will collectively manage their own work. Workers self-management means that workers literally manage themselves, and therefore there are no professional managers or managerial hierarchy – just normal workers cooperating as equals. Note that rejecting a fixed managerial hierarchy does not necessarily reject leadership. If packing luggage onto an aeroplane needs a team leader, then so be it. But there is no reason why it should be the same person today as it is tomorrow. Similarly, a book may require a chief editor, but there is no reason why that person should be in charge of all the books published. Another member of his working group might edit the next book they take on. And where a team requires a leader for a specific task, she should be elected and removable by that team, and should work within the democratic decisions made by the whole team. But even if cleaners have full voting rights in plant decisions, how will they ever exert the same influence as those who develop budgets or design products? You are right. Despite equal rights, cleaners' work may not challenge their intellectual capacities or provide them with information about technological options or with skill at making decisions. One approach is to rotate jobs regularly, so that engineers do some cleaning work and so on. The most unpleasant jobs could be rotated between the whole workforce, so that no one is made to spend their whole working life doing degrading tasks. However, hierarchies of power will not be wholly undone by temporary shuffling, if the quality and empowerment of peoples’ day to day jobs differ largely. Instead of dividing workers into brain workers and manual workers, it has been suggested that each worker have a “balanced job complex”*. Each worker has a set of jobs composed of comparably fulfilling responsibilities. This does not mean everyone must do everything. But it does mean that the half dozen tasks that I regularly do must be roughly as empowering as the different half dozen tasks that you do regularly. Everyone must have a comparable balance of conceptual and rote tasks. So Instead of secretaries answering phones and taking dictation, some workers answer phones and do calculations while others take dictation and design products. We are not suggesting that everyone has completely equal abilities, although better education and less poverty would do a great deal to equalize things. We won’t all do intellectual or manual jobs equally well, but we will all do them well enough to bring our own unique experiences and insights to bear on decision making. After all, good ideas aren’t the monopoly of any individual or group. For sex or sports we don't say that only the "best" should participate - the same should be true for using one's head. But what about relationships between workplaces? Well, this depends on how people wish to do things. Self managed workplaces could compete in a market as capitalist workplaces do now, although this could still create a myriad of injustices. Others argue that workplaces should join “confederations” – free and equal associations of workplaces which replacing competition with co-operation. These would be run through conferences of delegates elected by each workplace, who come together to make decisions that effect the economy as a whole. These would be controlled from below, because delegates would be mandated and subject to instant recall by the workers who elected them. All decisions made at conferences would be subject to ratification by a vote of the workers’ assemblies in every workplace. So in fact, decisions affecting the whole economy would be made by everyone, with delegates being ambassadors rather than decision makers. In these confederations, workplaces would agree a fair price for each product, probably based on the number of hours they take to produce. Or otherwise, workplaces might make a mutual agreement to give their products away for free. * The credit for this idea must go to Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel. Many of their books and essays are available online at www.zmag.org/parecon/indexnew.htm By Alejandro Vega With thanks to sam sanchez Over at http://www.libcom.org/library/workers-self-management-faq

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Christmas shopping figures disappoints capitalists

Sowed today we hear the Christmas shopping figures in 2013 were very disappointing for a few big names on our high street including the likes of Tesco and Morison’s and Marks and Spencer’s I understand. Year has been mixed signals from the High Street, with Next, John Lewis and House of Fraser performing strongly, but disappointment for Debenhams and Mothercare. Also on Thursday, Tesco reported like-for-like sales down 2.4% in the six weeks to 4 January because of a "weaker grocery market". At the same time, rival Morrisons reported a 5.6% drop in like-for-like sales. Retail analyst Bryan Roberts said the company "should have held its nerve" and not pushed ahead with pre-Christmas sales High Street sales started well before Christmas, something underlined by data from the British Retail Consortium, which reported on Wednesday that shop prices fell by 0.8% in December, the fastest rate in almost seven years. Mr Bolland has reshuffled some key staff in the hope that a new clothing range, heavily promoted with a marketing campaign featuring the likes of Dame Helen Mirren, Tracey Emin and Darcey Bussell, would start delivering results. The executive makeover saw a new head of the GM division, John Dixon, brought over from the successful food section in October 2012, while Belinda Earl, the former Jaeger and Debenhams boss, became style director the month before. The usual hype about massive Xmas sales by retailers both in the US and in the UK turned out to be just that - hype. The shops experienced relatively dismal sales despite internet buying and massive discounts on items. According to ShopperTrak, US retailers posted their lowest holiday sales growth in four years. Sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas rose 2.7%, compared with 3% a year earlier, while the number of people walking into stores declined 14.6%. It was a similar story in the UK. Households continue to suffer falls in real income and so they are not increasing spending much beyond essentials. The misery continues for most.

No justice no peace, Solidarity with the family of Mark Duggan

The disgusting scenes yesterday of the jury in the Mark Duggan inquest ruling that he was lawfully killed whilst being unarmed sparked fury inside and outside of the Royal Courts of justice in London. Understandably the family of Mark are outraged and this will do little to help race relations in the area and relations with the police which are at an all time low I should expect today. If you believe any of the news reports he was a thug and “one of the most dangerous criminals in Europe” and there was no choice but to take him out. Except... The gun he was accused of holding, there was no evidence of his DNA on it. The jury were specifically told this. Mark’s DNA was on the box that was allegedly carrying this gun but not on the weapon itself. The jury concluded that he was unarmed when he was murdered but it was still lawful to kill him. They believed he threw the gun from a taxi before the police standoff. An eye witness was able to confirm Mark was not in possession of the gun but was holding a mobile phone in his hand. He testified that it appeared Mark was about to surrender when he was cruelly executed by the Met. The taxi driver that had driven Mark to the scene, his testimony was disregarded also. As @justinthelibsoc put it “The #Duggan taxi driver wasn't believed. The anon witness who claimed it was an execution wasn't believed. I wonder what they had in common.” An all-white jury sat in for this case (led by a South African – let’s think in the language of our oppressors for a moment) and chose to believe witness statements by the police over the damning eye witness statements by PoC. We are not surprised, we are livid. The disgusting news coverage by the BBC parroting police lies and trying to make out Mark was this violent criminal where in fact Stephen Fry has a worse criminal record than Mark dangerous and violent I think not… This incident describes perfectly the way ethnic people are treated in society. It is the most brutal and extreme examples but it is perfectly allegorical. A person of colour is identified as a problem. They are monitored and treated suspiciously, feared even cos of course many people do believe we are still in the savage stage. The white oppressors make a plan to take said coloured person out, in this instance it was an execution but for many of us it’s being sacked, it is being denied opportunities, it is being ministered and silenced and they create the narrative around you and your character, people will believe them when they say you are a liar or aggressive because of course non-white people just aren’t civilised. Evidence to the contrary doesn’t even hold water in court! Institutional racism is endemic at every level of British society. The courts, the police, we must not trust them. The journalists, the BBC, we must not trust them. Bosses, doctors, nurses, some of our friends; we cannot trust them. It doesn’t matter what we do, they will use our words to hang us if we dare to challenge this racism in the state. I do feel Brittan is still very racist reading a lot of the twitter comments last night it was a lot of white privileged people assuming he must be guilty as apparently he had a gun and he was black so he must have been up to no good. Such deep set in stone prejudices are hard to smash and break down. I believe the truth will out in the end as it has done with Hillsborough but for now we stand shoulder to shoulder with the family of Mark Duggan and all others who have been murdered by the police and the state. No justice no peace.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Crisis funds under threat

From April 2015, a £180m a year hardship fund will be abolished. Councils have simply not made a strong enough argument for it it would seem. This is a disgrace and deserves far greater attention as councils struggle to provide for their local residents. "Iain Duncan Smith's axe has struck again. This time its local authority welfare assistance schemes on the block. But we're not talking reform or even cuts. The scheme had already been significantly cut last year. From April 2015 a £180m a year hardship fund will be abolished completely. That's right. Scrapped. A vital safety net will no longer be there. Crisis loans are not really well known as they are applied for when people are really desperate and have few options left it is often recommended to them as the shame in applying for it is huge with a social stigma attached to it too sadly. But this fund is vital and will have dire consequences I fear. "Yet for all the welfare campaigns and demonstrations highlighting changes to the benefit system this has largely slipped under the radar. Crisis funds have not had the attention they deserve. From freedom of information requests to councils across the country, from a sample of 98 local authorities that the average spend in the first six months was around 20% – but in many cases the fund was just not working. The worst authority was Hertfordshire county council, which had spent less than 1% of the £1,765,277 they received for the scheme. In the first six months they had spent just £11,990. The fact that the council had been awarded £373,000 to administer this fund showed the bureaucrats were doing very well at the expense of people who really need help. Other councils were just as bad. Herefordshire had spent just 1% of their funding and their council leader, Tony Johnson, a former banker, went on national radio to say he was pleased with the results. Cumbria had also spent just 1% of their funding, Hillingdon had only spent 2%, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne had only spent 3% and Manchester 6%. In all of these places poverty exists. Even in leafy Hertfordshire there are food banks and 32,000 children in child poverty. Some council have a complete ignorance of poverty. There are examples where small grants to help a family feed their children were withheld until they'd been on a cooking course and one council offering a homeless man a voucher for a tent. The government has to accept a large part of the blame for this. Their version of localism seems to be directing funds towards councils and waiting for them to fail so they can justify scrapping schemes. There has to be better guidance. But I can't help thinking that had there been more evidence of municipal innovation in tackling poverty, with stronger partnerships with the voluntary sector, then the Local Government Association could have prevented this fund being abolished by making a strong argument to retain it. As it stands, both local and central government have failed the most vulnerable people in society. Poverty can never be tackled simply through central government schemes. There is a growing need for more innovative, local approaches. But where will the funding come from to develop these now?" With extracts from http://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2014/jan/07/council-crisis-funds-scrapped-poverty

Bashing those on benefits

So the new year of 2014 has started in much the same way 2013 ended with much of the media and politicians scape goating people on benefits. In George Osborne’s Keynote speech the other day where he announced we will see a further 25 billion cuts in the next parliament this will mostly be taken from the welfare budget we are told. Further hammering of the poor the working and non working poor is the order of the day for George Osborne and his Tory mates it would seem. This is no surprise to me but I would just like to reiterate that people on benefits are simply not the problem and were not the cause of the economic crisis. While Tories and labour alike look to search for people to blame rather than focus on the real cause of the crisis we will be forever divided and ruled over if we end up blaming immigrants or those on benefits who are a consequence of the crisis not its cause as such. But it is clear with programmes on TV last night on channel 4 called benefit street trying to paint all on benefits as scroungers on the take and living the high life with LCD TV’s and all sorts of accessories. These people are the exception not the norm. Most people who receive benefits or social security as it should be called are actually in work of some sort. The strivers vs skivers false idea is an all wrong as we well know as you can be in work and benefits at the same time due to such low pay. Housing benefit too for example is no benefit at all in a way it is a landlord subsidy and those in receipt of housing benefit barely see it most of it if not all goes straight into the landlords pocket so the idea it is a great life and you can go on holiday after holiday and spend spend spend is just nonsense. I should not have to do this blog post again but I do as the media are relentless with their propaganda against the poor and those unfortunate to have to receive benefits to get by. We should look at the facts of the situation where those who have frauded the tax payer (another false idea as we all pay tax even if it’s VAT (by 1 billion. When you put in to context which the media never do that the estimated tax evasion by rich multi nationals is thought to be around 120 billion a year you can see why the media are trying to cover for their rich private business mates laughing all the way to the bank. It’s time we exposed the media for what they are apologists for capitalist exploitation and enemies of the poorest in society. We need our own voice. Not necessarily a new party as some on the left shout for all the time as labour mark 2 would not be any better but a voice within an alternative media starting from the bottom up holding all those who claim to speak for us to account if they don’t we should out them as soon as possible. Lastly I wish to extend solidarity to those under attack in words and actions I’ve had my benefits cut this year with my working tax credits its harder for me to get by this year than it was last. Many are suffering in silence. Let’s not allow this.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Happy New Year

So its now 2014 and I’d like to wish you all a happy new year with greetings to all who have been kind enough to red my blog over the last year and shared with their friends. Last year was a bit of a up and down one for me politically I came out of it thinking political parties are the problem rather than the answer and that democracy and solidarity are just words to some people. The level of bullying I received when I was a member of the socialist party shocked me and eventually leads to my resignation last September. The lengths some will go to to silence you speaking out are incredible too. I will always think independently and for myself and perhaps the party form never suited me in this sense. I do not like to be told what to think I’d like to make up my own mind. One of the big things I can take out of 2013 is that we are best when we do not rely on a central committee to think for us and we are best when we act and think for ourselves at all times. Socially I have made some good friends over the last year some who came to the surface recently who I didn’t know before but all who have stood by me I thank you for that and is much appreciated. I hope for change in 2014 with austerity looking set to deepen and the cuts biting hard I look forward to bigger and more focused fight backs. I will continue to support workers in action and communities standing up and fighting back. There is much to look forward to this year and much to be aware of. Ultimately the fight against capitalism continues and is something more will join as the year goes on. Our common solidarity with our fellow workers of men and women, black or white or any ethnic background is key to uniting the fight back. Lastly we are all on a journey mine has taken me from the labour party to a Trotskyist organisation and now to a point where I’m wondering what it is all about. I will continue to look into new ideas and learn for myself what is best route to take. As Karl Marx once said it is for the workers themselves to change society I believe that I do not believe anymore a party has the working class’s best interests at heart only their own self interests of the party. I think this is wholey undemocratic and not what is necessary any longer. I think autonomous struggles will develop from below as those at the bottom of the pile feel they have nothing left but to stand up and make a stand. We are a long way from changing society but each day in our small day to day actions we can have an impact building and organising are key ingredients to making something happen. We should not rely on our so called leaders of our movement and political figures be them of a party form or of a union to do it for us their role is different to ours ours is to remove all forms of power and structured power all together. We do not want political power but to do away with it in all senses. The hierarchy of structures like political parties and unions are not helpful a lot of the time but they do exist and we must recognise them for what they are there to safeguard dissent and to moderate how far radicals can go. To go beyond this and break out of the traditional modes has got to be our target in the coming period in my opinion Thank you for reading I wish all a happy new year and keep safe and strong.