Saturday, 31 May 2014

The lefts over optimism

Now I was a member of a left wing party the socialist party of England and Wales the CWI and I am now in no party at present. I left for many reasons too many for one blog post but I did feel one of the most frustrating parts of the left and the far left in particular is to over egg a situation and to talk up a strike or an election like it is the most important thing in the world for some time. Recent reality would suggest otherwise. Take the 2 million people out on strike in the public sector in late 2011 where did it get to? Completely smashed and an opportunity missed by all the trade unions including those who claim to be on the left. As for elections don’t get me started. This year TUSC, The Trades Union and Socialist Coalition which is mainly run and backed by the Socialist party of which I was once a proud member before I was somewhat drummed out of it sadly. TUSC was hoping for a breakthrough as it always does in elections this time it had fielded an impressive 560 candidates in local elections including a few mayoral elections oddly too. SO yes all well and good I can’t fault this at all even if most were paper candidates like me not so long ago. But the election results were poor we have to say; again the level of rhetoric did not match the results for the SP who did not manage to gain any councillors. The one bit of light was Keith Morral who retained his seat in Southampton despite being expelled from the labour party for fighting and voting against the cuts down there so fair play. Even if Keith did not stand on a TUSC label on the ballot paper which can’t be seen as a win for TUSC as a result it is welcome an anti cuts councillor is back in the council chamber all the same. The attempt by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to make a breakthrough in the May 22 local elections in England and Wales - in terms of both achieving a large vote and gaining wide publicity - was unfortunately unsuccessful. Tusc’s 560 candidates polled 68,031 votes - an average of 121 per candidate. But this average is rather skewed by, in particular, the victory of Keith Morrell in Southampton Coxford. Comrade Morrell was one of two Labour councillors suspended for their opposition to cuts who formed the Councillors against Cuts group. This time standing for Tusc, all be it as an independent the reason for which is still unclear to myself he picked up 1,633 votes. Another score that was well above the average was Dave Nellist’s 974 votes (29.7% for second place) in Coventry St Michael’s, where he had been a Socialist Party/Socialist Alternative councillor for 14 years from 1998 to 2012. A second former councillor, Chris Flood, also fell well short of winning back his seat, gaining 659 votes (16.18%) in Lewisham Telegraph Hill. He also stood as Tusc’s mayoral candidate in Lewisham, where he won 1,354 votes (1.88%). In both contests he was a fair way behind John Hamilton of Lewisham People before Profit, who won 6,014 votes (8.33%) for mayor and 1,258 votes in Telegraph Hill (second place). People before Profit stood in all 18 Lewisham wards, by the way, winning an average of 14%. The driving force behind Tusc is, of course, the Socialist Party in England and Wales. In fact SPEW comrades were so busy campaigning for Tusc that they decided they would not be able to publish The Socialist on Wednesday May 21 - the pre-election issue was printed on Wednesday May 14 and was dated May 15-28. So, after this all-out effort, SPEW must be very disappointed in the election results. However, its public reaction is mixed. On the one hand, it wants to play up Tusc’s impact: “In 21 councils Tusc has polled over 1,000 votes. In 10 of these, it has been over 2,000. A powerful anti-austerity message has been sent in all these areas.” The Tusc statement continues: “In 31 councils Tusc stood in over 30% of wards and in five of them (including Southampton) it averaged more than 5% where it stood.” On the other hand, it wants to blame the media for failing to give it the necessary publicity. Tusc’s total of 560 candidates was the fifth highest after the big four (including Ukip, obviously) and it contested 13% of all seats. It was “indisputably ahead of the rest of the pack” - the party with the sixth largest number of candidates being the British National Party, with 106 candidates. “Yet Tusc’s share of media coverage is no way commensurate with the number of candidates we are standing” and in fact the BBC website’s “guide to the English council results doesn’t even include Tusc in its handy list of abbreviations”.2 While the complaint against the media is reasonable on one level, both these arguments are incorrectly based. Tusc’s “powerful anti-austerity message” did not make any real impact. A couple of thousand votes across a whole town or borough represents a very small proportion and even in those areas most workers will still not have heard of Tusc, let alone take on board its political message. But why blame the media for this lack of impact? After all, a common complaint against politicians in general is that ‘You don’t see them between elections’ - and that applies to Tusc even more. For it does not actually function in any real sense at other times. SPEW is campaigning under its own name, while Tusc is hidden away out of sight. And what can be said about SPEW applies many times over to the Socialist Workers Party, which takes no part in Tusc other than nominating a handful of SWP candidates for each election. It will be most interesting to see if the RMT union continuesto back TUSC in the coming years after its dear leader Bob Crow sadly passed way he was a big part of TUSC and his failed no to EU left nationalist project both seem to be struggling badly will a union which has fingers in other pies continue to prop up a tired, worn out political project based on a labour mark 2 model? While Tusc was the left’s main standard-bearer in the local elections that ‘honour’ fell to the campaign known as ‘No to the EU, Yes to Workers’ Rights’ in the European Union parliamentary poll. Thankfully, however, 2014 will undoubtedly be the last we hear of No2EU and its abhorrent anti-European Union left nationalism. First let us state the bare results. No2EU picked up 31,757 votes, which represents 0.2% overall - 0.3% when you take into account the fact that it only contested seven of the 11 EU British regions. Compare that to 2009, when it recorded 153,236 votes - just about 1%. But, worse, this time around there was virtually no campaign. Take a look at the No2EU website. It has hardly been touched for months. If you click on ‘About us’, you will find a page entitled ‘No2EU meetings’ and learn about two gatherings that took place over a week ago. Following on directly from these two adverts is the statement: “No2EU will be standing 46 candidates in seven regions in the May 22 Euro election, including London, North West, Eastern, Wales, Scotland, York’s and Humber and West Midlands.” All the candidates are then listed. And that is it. Apart from this minimal information buried away as part of an advert for a couple of meetings, No2EU has been unable to give any biographical details about the individual candidates, keep us up to date with the ‘campaign’ or inform us of the results. No wonder SPEW gave up on No2EU, even though two of its comrades - Dave Nellist in the West Midlands and Roger Bannister in the North West - headed its regional lists. As in most of the recent copies of The Socialist, there was not a mention of No2EU in the pre-election issue, let alone a call to vote for it (apart from in the weekly cut-and-paste column from SPEW treasurer Ken Douglas, which states: “The Socialist Party is appealing for £15,000 to help finance our election campaigns for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition … and No2EU in the European elections”). This despite an editorial on the UK Independence Party predicting that Ukip would see “a new swathe of councillors elected on May 22, and do well in the European elections”. Even though the editorial told us, “It is vital to counter Ukip”, it did not even advise its readers to vote for its own comrades standing for No2EU. It concluded by stating: “… central to undermining Ukip will be revealing them to be just one more party for the 1% and, more importantly, beginning to build an electoral voice that really does stand for the millions, not the millionaires.” Obviously No2EU is not that “electoral voice” then. The over talk of we’re going to do this we’re going to do that wound me up no end it was lovely it spoke to a lot of people but rarely translated into much beyond the rhetoric sadly. One can only conclude yet again that the left, divided as it is into competing sect lets, is in an abysmal state. And SPEW’s ‘strategy’ for the building of a “new mass workers’ party” has once again shown itself to be a sorry joke unfortunately. We need to start being realistic on the left we are not going to get anywhere otherwise we cant pretend we are where we want to be we are in a hole and we need to accept that to move on. With thanks to the CPGB and the weekly worker for extracts at

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Is britain becoming more racist ?

I certainly think so and new evidence out today would back this up. I myself have noticed a sharp spike in the racist comments i'm hearing about the place with casual comments on other nationalities and races especially eastern europeans at the moment is getting worse and worse. The proportion of Britons who admit to being racially prejudiced has risen since the start of the millennium, raising concerns that growing hostility to immigrants and widespread Islamophobia are setting community relations back 20 years. New data from NatCen’s authoritative British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, obtained by the Guardian, shows that after years of increasing tolerance, the percentage of people who describe themselves as prejudiced against those of other races has risen overall since 2001. The findings come as political leaders struggle to deal with the rise of the UK Independence party, which campaigned on an anti-immigrant, anti-EU platform and has sent shockwaves through the political establishment and put pressure on mainstream parties All we have seen so far is the major political parties reacting with further lurch's to the right with even the labour party conceeding it was wrong on imigration and we let too many in. This does nothing to curtail the UKIP rise and in fact boosts their arguement that we are over crowded and there is not enough jobs or houses to go around which is partially true. In an echo of the voting patterns of Ukip supporters in last week’s European elections, the figures paint a pattern of a nation geographically divided – with London reporting the lowest levels of racial prejudice. Older men in economically deprived areas are most likely to admit to racial prejudice. The data is in stark contrast to other indicators of social change such as attitudes to same-sex relationships and sex before marriage. By those measures, the UK has become a more accepting, liberal country. The shadow justice minister, Sadiq Khan, said the findings should come as a wake-up call. “This is clear evidence that we cannot be complacent about racial prejudice. Where it manifests itself, it blights our society. Those in positions of authority must take their responsibilities seriously. It also falls to us to address the underlying causes.” causes ?? sounds all a bit sinister. The data was taken from the BSA survey carried out by NatCen Social Research and includes exclusive figures from the 2013 survey due to be published next month. It shows a broad decline in the proportion of people who said they were either “very or a little prejudiced” against people of other races – from a high of 38% in 1987 to an all-time low of 25% in 2001. However, in 2002, following the 9/11 attacks in New York and the invasion of Afghanistan, there was a sharp rise in self-reported racial prejudice. Over the next 12 years that upward trend continued to a high of 38% in 2011. The following year it fell to 26% – which experts say could be due to the positive impact of the London Olympics. a little simplistic perhaps but certainly worrying that even official evidence is backing up the idea that we are becoming a more racist, divided country and in fact going backwards in many ways. Omar Khan, acting director of the Runnymede Trust – Britain’s leading independent race equality thinktank – said the data should be noted by all the main parties. “This nails the lie that the problem of racism has been overcome in Britain or that somehow when Jeremy Clarkson said the things he did it is some sort of anomaly that does not tap into a wider problem. “Politicians became too relaxed and thought that all they had to do was let things continue unhindered and that generational change would take over. But this should act as a warning shot to politicians and the public about how we see ourselves.” The BSA survey data shows different levels of prejudice stemming from age, class and gender, with older men in manual jobs most ready to admit to racial prejudice. Dr Grace Lordan, from the London School of Economics, said her own research based on BSA data going back to 1983 showed a clear correlation between recession and the numbers who self-described as prejudiced. Her research found that the group that recorded the biggest rise was white, professional men between the ages of 35 and 64, highly educated and earning a lot of money. Their attitudes may directly affect others as many will have managerial responsibilities. All age groups experienced a spike in their racial prejudice after 2002, but those born since 1980 – generation Y – and the baby boomers born between 1940 and 1959 have seen prejudice levels fall since then. By contrast, people born between 1960 and 79 – generation X – and those born before 1939 increasingly identify as prejudiced. A fascinating picture also emerges in the self-evaluation of men and women. As with almost all indicators of prejudice, this data finds that men are more likely to describe themselves as racially prejudiced than women. However, that gap has closed significantly over the past decade with the number of men admitting prejudice falling from 37% in 2002 to 32% in 2013. Over the same period, the figure for women has risen from 25% to 29%. "We do know that the factors that predict the likelihood of a man or a woman admitting prejudice differ so we should not expect trends over time to be similar,” said Lordan. “For men, the usual socio-economic variables matter more – income, education and being full-time employed. For females the factors that can predict their attitudes are less obvious. We know that females who are in part-time employment are more likely to admit to being prejudiced – perhaps because part-time jobs in the UK have pretty poor conditions.” Party allegiance also appears to have a bearing on racial prejudice. Conservative supporters have consistently been the most likely to describe themselves as prejudiced against people of other races. However, since 2002, when 42% of Tory supporters said they were very or a little prejudiced (compared with 27% for Labour and 24% for Lib Dems), they have been overtaken by the category classified as “other”. This appears to coincide with the rise of the far-right British National party and then Ukip. So what has driven the apparent growth in prejudice? Prof Tariq Modood, from Bristol University, said the findings suggested many people were conflating anti-Muslim sentiment and racial animus. “I don’t think there is any doubt that hostility to Muslims and suspicion of Muslims has increased since 9/11, and that is having a knock-on effect on race and levels of racial prejudice.” Prof Bhikhu Parekh, the Labour peer who in 1998 chaired the groundbreaking Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, said the data revealed a country increasingly ill at ease with itself. “The last few years have been marked by fear of loss of identity,” he said. “There have been new people coming in and new mores. People feel uncomfortable. They lose their bearings. What should they say or do to not be classed as racist? “People have a feeling that we are losing control of our own society in terms of the EU and the liberal establishment and that they are not in charge of their destiny. They feel they can’t do anything about it.” But he also argues that the language around race has changed. “The term racism has undergone a change of meaning. It has lost its moral force. We use it today too freely. After the war if you said someone was racist, you had images of Hitler. A racist was someone who hated people. Now it is applied to someone who might say: ‘I love my people and want to keep others at a distance.'” The BSA survey data shows wide variance in levels of prejudice throughout the UK. In combined figures for 2012-13, 16% of people questioned in inner London admitted to racial prejudice. Outer London and Scotland emerged as the next most tolerant areas, at 26% and 25% respectively. Other regions – including Wales – hovered around the 30% mark. The West Midlands emerged as the place with the highest level of self-reported prejudice at 35% – a difference deemed statistically significant. It echoes the geographical split demonstrated in last week’s elections, when fewer voters in London supported Ukip. In London, one obvious explanation would be the churning population. Those with shallow roots are least likely to mourn change. Tony Travers of the London School of Economics said: “There is a self-defining image of London as a place that celebrates difference. It wasn’t created by Ken Livingstone but he did build upon it – in the same way as New York self-defined itself – and that approach has been carried on by his successor, Boris Johnson.” Travers identifies two migratory tribes in the capital – those who come from abroad and those from other parts of the country. Both choose to live in London and thus buy into the narrative. Strong roots are unnecessary. “The word Londoner is an entirely inclusive concept.”

Monday, 26 May 2014

A look at the 2014 european elections results

As expected UKIP topped the polls in the European elections over the weekend in the UK Eurrosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France's PM called a "political earthquake". UK Independence Party and French National Front both performed strongly. The three big centrist blocs all lost seats, though still hold the majority. The outcome means a greater say for those who want to cut back the EU's powers, or abolish it completely. UK PM David Cameron said the public was "disillusioned" with the EU. Mr Cameron said their message was "received and understood". French President Francois Hollande has called an urgent meeting of his cabinet, as Prime Minister Manuel Valls promised tax cuts a day after the results which he described as "a shock, an earthquake". Chancellor Angela Merkel - whose party topped the poll in Germany - described the far right victories as "remarkable and regrettable" and said the best response was to boost economic growth and jobs. Jose Manuel Barroso, outgoing president of the European Commission, stressed that the pro-EU blocs still had "a very solid and workable majority". He said a "truly democratic debate" was needed to address the concerns of those who did not vote, or "voted in protest". • ance National Front storm to victory - 25%, 24 seats; Centre-right UMP 21%; President Hollande's Socialists a poor third with 14% - lowest ever EP score • Britain Eurosceptic UKIP in first place, with 27%, Conservatives on 24% and Labour about 25%, Greens beating Lib Dems • Germany Angela Merkel wins another election - 35% for her Christian Union, 27% for the centre-left SPD. Eurosceptic AfD score strong 7% • Greece Partial results show far-left Syriza on 26%, PM Antonis Samaras' New Democracy on 23%. Far-right Golden Dawn set to get three MEPs, with 9%. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has asked the Greek president to call early national elections. supporters will be pleased that election turnout was slightly higher, at 43.1%, according to provisional European Parliament figures. at would be the first time turnout had not fallen since the previous election - but would only be an improvement of 0.1%. "The people have spoken loud and clear," a triumphant Marine Le Pen told cheering supporters at National Front (FN) party headquarters in Paris. "They no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by EU commissioners and technocrats who are unelected. They want to be protected from globalisation and take back the reins of their destiny." Provisional results suggested the FN could win 25 European Parliament seats - a stunning increase on its three in 2009. spite the huge gains for anti-EU parties and those that wish to reduce the power of the EU, it is unlikely that the European Parliament will adopt a fundamentally different approach. The main centre-right and left groupings still hold the majority of seats between them. Add in the Liberals and the Greens and parliament is overwhelmingly pro-EU. In that sense if the main groups in the parliament choose to ignore those who didn't vote for them last night, they can. National politicians however, can't afford to ignore them. That's where this election is likely to really shake things up. This will have an impact not just on domestic politics, but on the national leaders when they meet in Brussels at the European Council - where their job is to shape the direction of the EU. Will this lead to a new direction and a shae up of the EU ?? only time will tell. All that is true is that we are heading into a new possibly unstable and turbulent period in European politics.

Friday, 23 May 2014

UKIP on the rise in local elections, a swing to the right in the UK ? or not ?

The UK media has gone berserk in telling us the the anti-EU, anti-immigration, right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) had a huge surge from nowhere in its vote. All the talk was that UKIP was about to win the biggest share of the vote and seats in the European Parliament when the results come out on Monday. It was now a 'major threat' to the centre-right coalition government and could even replace Labour as the main opposition and so on...... Actually, the local election results do not bear out that conclusion at all. It was Labour that polled the biggest share of those who voted in these minor elections, albeit only 29%. The ruling Conservatives also polled more than UKIP at 25%. UKIP was third at 23-24%, a leap up from last time, but hardly a victory. Indeed, this 'Poujadist' party will have no more than one-tenth of the council seats won by the two main parties, Labour and Conservative. And nearly all UKIP's seats will be concentrated in rural areas, particularly the better-off south-east and east of England (Scotland and Wales did not vote and UKIP is non-existent there). Actually the real winners, as usual, were the NO-VOTE party. The turnout for these elections was not more than 40%, so most people eligible to vote did not bother. Translating the share of votes into shares of eligible voters, we find that the winners of these local elections, Labour, got no more than one in eight potential voters to support them and the ruling Conservatives managed only one in ten eligible to vote. The government has been crowing about the return of fast economic growth that the UK economy is now experiencing under its policies. And there was apparently more good news in the this week's retail sales figures, which showed a big surge. But it seems that the British electorate does not agree that all is rosy. And we can see why when the latest data continue to show that average real incomes are falling as inflation outstrips wage increases . Even now, Britain's real GDP has not yet returned to pre-crisis levels, and with employment in badly-paid jobs and self-employment rising, the overall productivity of British capitalism has declined. Indeed, Britons are working harder and longer for less money. UK business investment was up 8.7% in the first quarter of this year compared with a year ago. That sounds good - until you see that investment is still some 18% below where it was in 2008 and this is nominal terms. The latest data show that the top 10% of British households own 44% of all household wealth (to use Thomas Piketty's definition) - they are not feeling the depression, only the 'boom'. And it's their sentiments that the government expresses. The reality is that there is increasing disillusionment with the mainstream political parties as we shall see when the EU parliamentary elections are announced In the UK, the combined Conservative and Labour vote in general elections has fallen to 60% from 80-90% in the 1960s, while separatist and other parties have risen from nothing to 12%. In this little local election, the combined vote of the top two parties was 54%. Voter turnout has plummeted from 75% in the 1980s to about 60% now, as politicians become increasingly divorced from their voters. Back in the 1960s, as much as 15% of MPs were manual workers, now it is less than 5% while those MPs who have never had a proper job and are just 'career politicians' is now 15%. The rest had jobs in the 'professions' and business and finance etc, with many millionaires among them. The 'surge' of support for parties like UKIP is a frustrated expression of people despairing at the main parties of capitalist democracy ever doing anything to improve their lot or even stop it getting worse. We'll see that sentiment expressed in the EU election results on Monday. I’ll takea further look at the European elections next week. reblogged and thanks to michael roberts at

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Athletico Madrid socialist experiment

Over the weekend a big story came to its conclusion or did it. On satuday it was Athletico Madrid of Spain the second team in Madrid who overcame all the odds to win the Spannish leagu title for the first time since 1996. Aletico Madrid: Specialists in triumphing in the face of adversity With thanks to Andy West Spanish football writer Winning the La Liga title was never going to be easy for Atletico Madrid. For a team with a relatively small squad and a wage bill comparable to Fulham's, overcoming the renowned superstars and almighty financial power of Barcelona and Real Madrid required an almost superhuman effort. That was especially the case when Atletico entered the final 45 minutes of their league campaign trailing 1-0 against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in a game they needed to draw, deprived of the services of arguably their two most important attacking players, Diego Costa and Arda Turan, through injury. With so much conspiring against them - injuries, Barca's world-class talents and nearly 100,000 home fans - surely now Diego Simeone's team would finally run out of steam, falling back into the realm of unlucky losers they were supposed to inhabit? Overcoming the odds • Barcelona 1-1 Atletico, 17 May 2014: A goal down and having lost key players Diego Costa and Arda Turan, Atletico players silenced the 100,000-strong home crowd to snatch the draw they needed to win La Liga • Chelsea 1-3 Atletico, 30 Apr 2014: Trailing at Stamford Bridge against a side who excel at nullifying opposition, Atletico tore apart Chelsea with a fantastic counter-attacking display to reach the Champions League final • Real Madrid 1-2 Atletico, 17 May 2013: Faced with the daunting trip to the Bernebeu for last year's Copa del Rey final, Atletico recovered from an early Cristiano Ronaldo goal to win 2-1 Not a bit of it. Nobody who has watched Atletico regularly over the last couple of years will have been remotely surprised to see them roaring back, with Diego Godin's thumping header and a defiant yet confident defensive stand securing a 1-1 draw to bring the title to the Vicente Calderon for the first time since 1996. Nobody will have been surprised because this Atletico team specialise in triumphing in the face of adversity, finding a way to win just when it seems all hope is lost. Atletico really should have crossed the finishing line in this season's title race with a far greater degree of comfort. If their previous two games - a 2-0 loss at Levante and a 1-1 draw at home to Malaga - had yielded anything more than a point, they would have travelled to Barcelona safe in the knowledge that they were already champions, lapping up the traditional guard of honour from the Barca players and enjoying a gentle preparation for next weekend's Champions League final against Real Madrid. But that's not the way Atletico do things. All their greatest recent successes have been achieved by overcoming the odds - such as last year's Copa del Rey final, where they made the short journey to the far-from-neutral Bernabeu to face Real Madrid, fell a goal behind and then fought back to win after extra-time. It was the same at Chelsea in last month's Champions League semi-final, where Atletico again conceded the first goal before mounting a stirring comeback to win 3-1. And now they've done it again, clutching the La Liga title from under Barcelona's noses in their own home arena, providing more evidence to suggest that Atletico can only do things the hard way. Atletico Madrid already showed their ability to overcome the odds earlier this season with their win at Chelsea in the Champions League Manager Diego Simeone revels in it. The Argentine is fond of describing his team as a working-class side, commenting earlier this year: "We see ourselves reflected in society, in people who have to fight. People identify with us. We're a source of hope." Simeone's mantra that his team's life is a constant struggle and nothing ever comes without a fight is partly a motivational tool, of course, instilling an us-against-the-world siege mentality and encouraging his players to believe they can overcome any obstacle. “Diego Simeone's 'socialist football' renounces the cult of the flashy superstar, instead emphasising the importance of collective unity” But it also contains more than a ring of truth, because Atletico's success this season really has only been achieved by relentless commitment and selfless teamwork, best embodied in their inspirational captain Gabi. Simeone's 'socialist football' renounces the cult of the flashy superstar, instead emphasising the importance of collective unity, with every member of the team seeing himself as exactly that: a member of a team first and foremost, an individual only a distant second, prepared to overlook personal glory for the greater good of the group. The Atletico boss also likes retaining their composure even in the most testing of circumstances. And now, remarkably, against all the odds, those qualities have conspired to make them champions. Atletico's biggest challenge now could be keeping hold of manager Diego Simeone, as well as star players such as 27-goal striker Diego Costa Unfortunately for fans hoping that La Liga will no longer be a two-horse race in the years to come, Atletico's success could well prove to be a one-season wonder. With leading scorer Diego Costa almost certain to leave and other key players - such as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois - likely to follow through the exit door, Simeone will face an even bigger challenge to retain his team's current status next year, especially with Barca and Real unlikely to both endure such inconsistent campaigns twice in a row. In the longer-term future, Atletico will also have to face up to the difficulty of holding on to their inspirational manager, with Simeone understandably capturing the attention of the movers and shakers at European football's elite clubs. He is also attracted to the possibility of managing the Argentina national team in the next few years. However, it would be churlish to dwell for too long on the probability of Atletico's future difficulties at a time like this, especially when they are now aiming for an unprecedented domestic and European double with Saturday's all-Madrid Champions League final against Real in Lisbon. In the build-up to the game, Atletico's champions will once again, it is certain, be subjected to doubts and scrutiny, especially if Costa's fragile hamstring forces

Benefits, tax dodgers and the media

Over the last week I’ve been thinking how much media attention gets given to benefit fraud and then to tax evasion both big issues at the moment but one is clearly bigger than the other yet you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. With the high profile account of Gary Barlow and his Take That band members avoiding tax to the tune of 20 million its worth looking at the perceptions and the realities of benefits and what goes where . So lets look at the benefits some not all can claim if they can get that far that is. Job-seekers allowance: 29 per cent of people think we spend more on JSA than pensions, when in fact we spend 15 times more on pensions (£4.9bn vs. £74.2bn). Benefit fraud: people estimate that 34 times more benefit money is claimed fraudulently than official estimates: the public think that £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits is claimed fraudulently, compared with official estimates of £0.70 per £100. The problem is blaming people who are in a powerless position in this society is very easy and easily swallowed. Unfortunately we don't have a gutsy opposition ready to defend people on benefits instead Labour capitulates to the lies. The harsh realities of the benefit system don’t get headline news. The bureaucracy, the waiting, the never-ending form to complete, constant jumping through hoops (figuratively speaking), grinding poverty as the meagre amount of money you receive just JUST about keeps your head above water... and even then. And there's the conditionality and sanctions. Sanctions are unjustly used and used arbitrarily i.e. someone 5 minutes late for their Jobseekers interview. Work programme providers have been known to threaten people with sanctions which aren't sanctionable.....! Again this causes fear and if you experience sanctions ... even more grinding poverty.... The number of sanctions applied to ESA claimants rose 334 per cent between December 2012 and December 2013, according to new DWP statistics. In the May 2014 statistical release, 'Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance Sanctions: decisions made to December 2013', published today, the DWP sets out figures for both ESA and JSA sanctions. The report shows that since the new ESA sanctions regime was introduced on 3 December 2012 there has been a steady increase in the number of adverse sanctions decisions (ie a sanction was applied) made, from 1,102 in December 2012 to 4,789 in December 2013. The total number of adverse sanction decisions over the period was 28,702 with - • 5,889 applied for failure to attend a mandatory interview; and • 22,814 applied for failure to participate in work related activity. In addition the statistics show that of the 28,702 decisions - • 13,994 were reviewed - in 8,508 cases the decision was overturned; and • 331 were appealed - in 90 cases the decision was overturned. In respect of JSA claimants, the statistics show that 870,793 sanctions were applied during 2013, an increase from 804,866 during 2012, and from 650,577 during 2011. Since the new JSA sanctions regime was introduced on 22 October 2012 there have been a total of 1,028,819 adverse sanction decisions up to the end of December 2013, and of these - • 550,033 were low level sanctions; • 388,224 were intermediate level sanctions; and • 89,831 were high level sanctions. Of the 1,028,819 decisions - • 317,411 were reviewed - in 146,486 cases the decision was overturned; and • 34,503 were appealed - in 6,158 cases the decision was overturned. Furthermore 5.6 per cent of lone parent income support claimants were sanctioned in 2013, according to new DWP statistics. In 'Income Support Lone Parents Regime: Official Statistics', published today, the DWP sets out figures on income support lone parent work focused interviews (WFIs), and sanctions for failing to attend a WFI, for the period from April 2004 up to and including December 2013. The statistics include that - • between April 2004 and December 2013 inclusive, 9,779,200 WFIs have been attended by income support lone parent claimants; and • In the year up to and including December 2013, 597,000 income support lone parent WFIs were conducted. In relation to sanctions for failing to attend a WFI, the statistics include that - • between April 2004 and December 2013 inclusive, 597,100 sanctions were imposed on income support lone parent claimants; and • in the year up to an including December 2013 there were 43,800 sanctions imposed on income support lone parent claimants - some claims were sanctioned more than once, such that 40,400 individual claims incurred a sanction in this 12 month period, representing 5.6 per cent of the income support lone parent client base in that period. This all makes for grim and depressing reading yet the media doesn't splash these realities on their front pages instead benefit fraud is more of a sensationalist item grabber. Who cares if someone has been sanctioned and has lived without any money for weeks...? Freud, IDS and McVey (the trinity of evil) would argue that this was based on fairness and anyway just go out there and get a job... And we all know how easy it is to just get a job don’t we???

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Labours drop in the poles; will they still win next year?

It was not only predictable but predicted – by many, on all manner of social media - which this government would start to rebuild its base and Labour's fragile poll lead would collapse, in the year before the general election. This is now happening. Labour's support has fallen six percentage points, and the Tories have a lead for the first time in ages. Why? Hasn't the Labour Party issued a number of popular statements, from fuel freezes to rent controls? Isn't this government implementing profoundly unpopular policies such as the de facto privatisation of the NHS? Isn't austerity - or at least this government's version of it - unpopular with most voters? And if Ed Miliband is uninspiring, wasn't he just as uninspiring when he had a seemingly commanding poll lead? The fact that labour is sleep walking into a defeat in the next general election in 2015 is interesting on many levels. Of course they can still win and nothing has been decided yet of course it would mean the Tories would need to go into next years election with a 7 point lead to achieve a majority. Labours opposition to the government has been woeful more often than not agreeing to the same policies but all is it doing it slightly differently such as the benefit cap which will cause many to suffer in the coming years. I think a lot of Labours drop in the polls and failure to really get a big lead over the Tories is down to several things but not least the fact many just don’t connect with Ed Miliband. Many I speak to find him weird and a little geeky and this doesn’t reflect well with people even if what he is saying some agree with such as price freezes to energy bills. The unions resistance has been pitiful not merely because of bad leadership, and not merely because they have been narrow and sectional in approach, more interested in limiting the immediate damage and preserving the bargaining mechanisms that limited their militancy in exchange for some influence than in leading a broad offensive against austerity. As important has been the politics of the union base, the grassroots. It's not just that there is no 'rank and file' to speak of, no movement 'from below' capable of driving the unions into confrontation with the government. It's not just that unions are more bureaucratised, more dependent on their leaderships than ever for initiative in such matters as industrial action and political campaigns. It is that the space for organised radical politics has declined in the union movement in proportion as it has elsewhere. The extra-Labour left has been nowhere, in total disarray, unsure of its strategy, unable to cohere its diverse strands much less pull together the scattered elements of resistance, unable to consistently mobilise opponents in numbers, and unable to actually disrupt very much (indeed, there are some on the Left for whom disruption is entirely beside the point). In the long, long diminuendo of organised left politics in the UK, the biggest organised left was the tiny far left which, even if it weren't for - you know - everything, was totally unequal to the historical responsibility placed upon it. The five years or so of crisis and austerity have transformed a sectarian left, with each grouplet placing its organisational interests before all else, into a fractal left, characterised by splits within splits, loudly achieving nothing. You know perfectly well why. The break up of the SWP obviously creates a space in which healthy elements can converge and rebuild. The flourishing of individual activists, of critical thinking, of strategic thinking, is real. However, it also liberates - without pointing any fingers - a horde of tinpot generals, smarmy amoral 'operators', cranks, blank-eyed dogmatists who may as well be in the Church of Scientology, vicious self-pitying moralists, bullies and sycophants, and parasites that feast on the decomposing flesh of larger organisms. We have not discussed UKIP here but I do think their influence on next years election where they may be coming off the back of a European elections win and with Nigel Farrage as popular in the media as ever their pull on votes between labour and Tory could play out very interestingly as no doubt UKIP take votes from the Tories but there is also evidence to suggest they are now picking up support from even traditional labour supporters quite worryingly I’d suggest. Labour as it stands does not inspire much hope let alone any change in direction. Its timid policies of interfering in the markets o bring about a more responsible capitalism if such a thing truely exists just do not seem to be capturing many peoples imagination and least not me. With less than a year till the next election in 2015 we will see a very interesting year in politics and I imagine the closer the election next year is looking likely to be the dirtier the tactics from both sides will become. So if you’re asking me who will win next year? I still would say the most likely outcome at this stage is another hung parliament with a possible coalition of either labour and lib dems or Tories and lib dems as we were before and after all the attacks that we have seen on our living standards the thought that the Tories could end up back in power is a disgrace to anyone calling themselves a opposition.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Gary Barlow it’s not your OBE we want it’s your tax, pay up!

Allot of comment this morning on Take that star Gary Barlow on his tax arrangements and his tax evasion. Allot is being made of him needing to give up his OBE but this misses the point. For sure David Cameron is right that Gary has done a lot of good charity work but would this even have been needed if Gary had simply paid his tax to the tax man in first place? “Gary, his Take that bandmates Mark Owen and Howard Donald, and their manager are facing huge bills after it was revealed by the Times that they reportedly paid into the £66 million Icebreaker Management partnership, which was billed as a music-industry investment scheme. The Take That singers now face tax bills of around £20 million. The Times reports that Judge Colin Bishop told the court that “Icebreaker is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax avoidance scheme.” Now Labour’s Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said Barlow “might want to show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE”. She was backed by Tory Charlie Elphicke who told The Sun: “People who have seriously abused the tax system should be stripped of honours.” I do think this misses the point his OBE is not in question even if I don’t agree he should have got one its by the by its his tax we are after. 20 Million to a successful pop singer who has also appeared on the x factor in the UK and been a keen supporter of the conservative party we should not be overly surprised by this recent news on the man but Cameron could find the longer he backs Gary Barlow over tax evasion his claim to clamp down on tax evaders will look increasingly hollow or more so than it already does. David Cameron has said he does not think the singer should be forced to give back his OBE, despite publicly attacking the comedian Jimmy Carr last year for his involvement with a tax avoidance scheme. The Prime Minister, who appeared with the Tory-supporting Take That star during the 2010 General Election campaign, said: "Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for charity, raising a huge amount for Children in Need." Mr. Cameron went on to tell Sky News that the singer was appointed is OBE for his charity work and the tax avoidance issue shouldn't affect that. Gary has yet to comment on the reports that he and his bandmates will have to repay millions but at the time of investing, lawyers for Gary, Howard and Mark confirmed they were involved in the partnerships but insisted the trio believed they were “legitimate enterprises”.” Come on now Gary you may well be a lovely bloke into charity and all that but this does not mean you are above the law and should get away with not paying your taxes in this country. With extracts and quotes from

A look at the South African elections ANC still rule but support fades

Not huge amounts has been made of it but last week the ruling ANC party in South Africa regained power all be it on a reduced turnout. The African National Congress has been re-elected with 62% of the vote. This represents a marginal decline with the shedding of a few hundred thousand votes in absolute terms and the loss of 3.5%. Given the scandal filled five-year term of president Zuma, not least of all the Marikana massacre and Nkandla-gate, ANC strategists must nevertheless be breathing a sigh of relief. However, this “good story” hides the reality that the ANC has continued to shed significant support. Over ten million eligible voters did not register to vote and a further six million were registered but did not turn out. In other words 16 million did not take part in this election. The corresponding figures in 2004 and 2009 were 12 million and 12.4 million respectively. The ANC is in reality a minority government about to resume office with the votes of just eleven million people, barely 32%. As for other parties contesting this election are notably the Workers and Socialist Party with strong links to the CWI who are backed by the socialist party of England and Wales. They came into the elections with high expectations and a lot of bluster as per normal when any election is upcoming the CWI focus's its attention on building votes rather than a mass based movement on the ground. In the CWI piece they claim to be disappointed by the results of their candidates and go on to produce several excuses as to why they received such a poor vote. Such points referring to a lack of resources, lack of people getting involved and isolation from the main unions in SA lead to me thinking this was an election that came too soon for the WASP. They write "The scarcity of resources for the campaign was a fundamental problem. The struggle to raise the finances to pay the enormous election deposits meant that we spent over a month without a cent as we launched the second phase of fundraising for election material and a campaign fund. There is no doubt that if we had had the resources to reach more people our vote would have been higher. In addition, early in the year, the media decided on their narrative – this election was a three horse race between the ANC, DA and EFF. WASP was in reality excluded from serious press coverage. The press did not even cover our manifesto launch. However, they covered the launch of the tiny religious ‘Kingdom Governance Movement’ which received fewer votes than WASP. But there are other important political factors to take account of. Unfortunately, WASP has not been able to consolidate our position amongst the mineworkers. Despite the crucial role of the founders of WASP - the Democratic Socialist Movement – in the move of the majority of mineworkers from the treacherous ANC aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to the previously marginal Association of Mining and Construction Workers (AMCU), the AMCU leadership has done everything to remove our influence among the mineworkers. DSM and WASP members and supporters have been victimised and expelled from the union, frequently leading to the loss of their jobs. The lie has been spread by the AMCU leadership, disgracefully encouraged by tiny jealous forces on ‘the left’, that WASP is behind the new scab union. The Workers Association Union (WAU) which has attempted to take advantage of demoralisation among sections of the mineworkers in what is now a three month long wage strike. Thus, combined with the hostility from the AMCU leadership, and the understandable ‘closing of ranks’ by the mineworkers, in the midst of a life and death strike, WASP found it very hard to even campaign on the platinum belt with some comrades even facing death threats." Well as I’ve previously explained before looking to capture the state usually leads you to being captured by the state yourself. It’s a dangerous road to tread especially in South Africa. Allot of excuses there in the piece but not a lot of concrete reasons why the WASP failed to gain support in the areas it wished to where it should have done well. In an excellent LibCom piece last week I found really well put on the question if to vote or not in the coming elections in South Africa they made some great points. "As part of the hype that has surrounded the elections this year, however, there are two parties that also claim they are fundamentally different to the ANC and DA. These two parties say they have recent struggle credentials against neoliberalism and say they will really help the poor this time around if elected into the state: the EFF and WASP. Some activists on the left, in community movements and some in workplace struggles, have been drawn to these parties and say they are going to vote for them. Some even believe that parties like WASP and the EFF will bring ‘economic freedom’ and even socialism. While the policies of the EFF and WASP certainly differ – WASP being more socialist and the EFF being a black nationalist party (with authoritarian leanings) that promises land and welfare for black workers and the poor – what these two parties have in common is the tactic of wanting to enter into the state to supposedly bring change. The question, therefore, is: can equality, socialism, national liberation or ‘economic freedom’ – or even a respite from state violence – for a majority be brought about through parties and activists entering into the state or through voting for parties that promise not to use the state for violent or oppressive means; or will this only lead to a dead-end for the working class yet again? The state is an instrument of oppression When looking at this question it is important to understand why states exist and what their role in society is and always has been. States arose when inequality between people in terms of class started to emerge in society: elite needed an instrument of coercion to maintain and entrench their rule and states were that instrument. States have, therefore, always been controlled by, and have been instruments of, a privileged minority class. Consequently, all states have always enforced the rule of a minority privileged class. As part of this states have always protected a minority ruling class’s power, privilege and wealth from the majority and have enabled the exploitation and domination of the majority by a minority. To do so, all states in history have been top-down and centralised organs structured so that only a few can govern: the majority of people were and are deliberately excluded from decision-making under a state system. As capitalism developed, the size and power of states dramatically increased. Today we have huge states that ensure the interests of the ruling class today (capitalists, politicians and top officials in the state) are protected and furthered. Through the state’s executive, legislative, judicial, military and policing arms, the state always protects the interests of this class. Under capitalism, states are also central to protecting minority ownership in the form of private and state-owned property. For capitalism to function, and for class rule to be maintained, a state is therefore vital. Without a state, which claims a monopoly on violence within a given territory, elite could not rule nor could it claim or hold onto the ownership of wealth and the means of production under capitalism. Along with this, the role of states within capitalism is to try and ensure that resistance to the exploitation and oppression of the working class is undermined, crushed or co-opted. States are, therefore, not structures that have been created to bring about liberation or equality or to end capitalism, but rather to ensure oppression, domination and the continuation of capitalism. That extends too to gunning down activists if they pose a threat to the state and the stability it tries to create at a national, provincial and local level. On this alone, the tactic of supposedly trying to use a state to end oppression, domination and capitalism is deeply flawed – states have always been central to oppression, class inequalities, domination and today capitalism, and entering into them as the EFF and WASP propose does not change this. Likewise, voting tactically for politically bankrupt parties like the DA and ANC in the hope they will lesson state violence locally will not change the nature of the state nor the purpose it is designed to carry out: oppressing, dominating and facilitating the exploitation of the working class. The reality is that no state is truly democratic. Even in a parliamentary system, most high-ranking state officials, including generals, director-generals, police commissioners, state legal advisors, state attorneys, judges, officials in the various departments and magistrates, are never elected by the people. Most of their decisions, policies and actions will never be known by the vast majority of people – the top-down structure of the state ensures this. Linked to this, parliamentarians and the executive make and pass laws; not the mass of people. In fact, parliamentarians are in no way truly accountable to voters (except for 5 minutes every 5 years). They are not mandated nor are they recallable. They – along with permanent state bureaucrats – have power; not the people. As such, no state is participatory; but rather designed to ensure and carry out minority rule. If the EFF and WASP’s representatives enter into the state, therefore, they will simply be joining the elite few that rule under a state system. States turn liberation fighters into governors States to generate an elite and a section of the ruling class. When people are hired or enter into top positions in the state, they gain access to the means of administration and coercion, and to new privileges, benefits and kickbacks. Being part of a few, who have the power to make decisions for and over others, and the ability to enforce those decisions, creates a privileged position. As such, the centralisation of power, which defines states, generates an elite. The fact that under a state and elite holds decision-making power usually goes hand in hand with this elite also living under far better material conditions than workers and the unemployed. Linked to this, the bureaucracy that emerges from the centralisation that defines states also develops its own interests, like maintaining the material privileges it has and the power it has over other people. In fact, throughout history, states have been sites that have been and are used by an elite to accumulate wealth. This was so even under Lenin in the Soviet Union. An elite arose in the state in the Soviet Union and they ruled and lived privileged lives. In fact, the privileges that top positions in the state offered in the early Soviet Union attracted opportunists that wanted to gain wealth. To maintain their privileged positions these officials in the state ruthlessly exploited and oppressed workers. Indeed, the good lives that top state officials and politicians live in all countries was and is always based on the exploitation of workers and the unemployed. This has been done through exploitation in state owned companies and/or through taxing the working class. The anarchist Bakunin foresaw the possibility of such a situation arising in cases where supposedly implementing socialism or bringing about national liberation was based on capturing state power. Bakunin said that the “statist path” was “entirely ruinous for the great masses of the people” because it did not abolish class power but simply changed the make-up and faces of the ruling class. Consequently, he stated that if the socialist struggle or a struggle for national liberation was carried out with "ambitious intent to set up a powerful state", or if "it is carried out without the people and must therefore depend for success on a privileged class" it would become a "retrogressive, disastrous, counter-revolutionary movement”. He also noted that when former liberation fighters or activists enter into the state, because of its top-down structure, they come to no longer represent the people but themselves and their own pretensions to govern the people. This has not been due to any faults in the personal characters of such activists entering into the state, but rather due to the logic of the state – which exists for a few to govern. The past, therefore, tells us that even if a party like WASP (which is far more principled than the EFF) enters into the state, in all likelihood their character would alter, they would become rulers and governors; and the working class would remain in a subordinate position. " Something to bear in mind I think With thanks and extracts from

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Socialist Way: Nuclear Madness

The Socialist Way: Nuclear Madness:   There are more than 17,000 warheads held by Russia, the US and the other seven nuclear-armed states.  Russia and the US still have a...

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Why I no longer believe in elections

I once stood in a local election. I lay that on the table as my confession. I stood for TUSC. The Trades Union and Socialist Coalition and got a modest 59 votes in a big Tory area. I gained nothing out of this no one approached me since and I wonder why I did it now. I think it was more the pressure from one of the main constituent parties that being the Socialist Party who I was a member of at the time who pushed elections in a big way. I cannot understand why looking back now. I am still a big socialist and still believe in a common society run for the many not just the few. But elections and Bourgeois elections are not the way to go in the path to gaining this. I have fallen out with electoral politics. I pay it attention as many workers still look to it for change but for me I know the reality now there can be no change as the famous saying goes if elections changed anything they’d have banned it. Too right! I personally cannot see any benefit to standing in elections you line yourself up and alongside some very shady characters who are hungry for power. I once stood as I said and got very little out of it and wonder what the point of standing is. Many Marxists tell me it gives you a platform well where as that platform got you so far?? A small way towards anything I’d suggest. You’re fighting on the terms of the bourgeoisie and they set the rules you have to play for to get anywhere. I think that is a recipe for disaster the moment you start to conform to the bourgeois rules and boundaries you set yourself up for defeat in the long run. I think our energies can be better used elsewhere in community campaigns and building resistance on the ground. If the likes of TUSc and the Socialist party put as much effort in to building a genuine rank-and-file union movement as they do as pushing their own self serving candidates in TUSC and beyond we may just maybe be in a healthier position. I have been there I have seen it all TUSC and the SP think they can gain out of the upcoming elections not by votes but by recruits yes building the party not the class and the movement. That folks is what it is all about for parties like the Socialist party. So good luck if you’re standing it’s not for me and many others do not look surprised when you register poor results and left wondering why. Allow us to continue the fight for a better world free of hunger and greed.