Friday 26 December 2008

And I believe in Santa Claus too

Merry Christmas to one and all, or so the cliche goes. If only that were true! While the Establishment are trying to use Christmas to get us to put our class conflicts aside and join together in celebrating this contrived 'season of goodwill', the fact of the matter is that Christmas is a time when class differences are as stark as ever. This year more so than most.

While the capitalists are using Christmas (or should that be Cashmas?) as a marketing ploy, ramming TV adverts down our throat which scream 'have a merry Christmas if you buy our seasonal offers', many people facing redundancy in 2009 - such as Woolworths, MFI, Arqiva (myself included) , HBOS and many other companies' employees - will be welcoming Christmas about as much as the average turkey :-(

To add insult to injury, this closet Tory so-called Labour government - which has poured so much money into protecting the capitalist Establishment's profits but done sweet FA to protect workers' jobs - is now hell-bent on punishing those who will become unemployed and have to claim benefits. Especially insulting is the attack on disability benefits; forcing people to look for jobs which they may be able to do, while doing more or less exactly nothing to force employers to adapt so that people with disabilities are able to do more jobs, is putting the onus once more on the individual rather than society to adapt. In short, it is a blatant return to the medical model of disability, rather than the much-preferred social model.

Even for those in work, saving for next Xmas will be a pain. Following what happened to unFarepak, and with even banks such as Northern Rock and HBOS going belly up, where can we keep our money? We could put it in Under The Mattress Bank, but there it will be at risk of being taken by thieves. A bit like saving with companies like Farepak or putting it in a bank, really :-P

Yet it is perfectly possible to save jobs. Failing companies should be nationalised, and priority should be given to saving workers' jobs not bailing out the fat cat bosses.

At the same time, a shorter working week and more holidays, with no loss of pay, would create jobs. On that score, I do have a lot of respect for the Labour MEPs who recently defied Brown and their own Labour government, and voted in Europe to end Britain's opt-out from the 48 hour maximum working week. This would also improve safety, as tired workers are unsafe workers; as someone whose car was recently badly damaged by an accident involving a truck on the A1, a comment by a union leader that overworked drivers can be as dangerous as drunk drivers really struck a chord with me. But not, it seems, with the bunch of jerks who call themselves 'our' government :-(

Yet just as depressing, is the fact that the left - which could be offering a real alternative to the McReformism of New Labour - is currently fighting like cat and dog. So, despite how I started this blog article, I am ending it with a plea for peace and goodwill. The whole left - both factions of the SWP and Respect, the Socialist Party and other socialist parties, Greens, left-wing Labour, anarchists, trade unionists - must put our differences aside and fight the real enemy. Namely, the capitalist Establishment and its client System.

Then, and only then, can we really wish for - whether we have had a merry Xmas or not - a happy New Year!

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Warning: BBFC ruling contains Establishment prejudice

While reading DANmail today, I came across a thread about how the BBFC have given the label "disability themes" to the disability-related film Special People, along with a 12A rating (The Independent: Director's anger over comedy film's 'disability' warning). So not only have the capitalist Establishment brainwashed people into seeing disability as a negative, they're now also expecting us to view it as being just as taboo as "sex scenes", "violence" and "bad language" :-(

Well, while they're at it, I can think of a few more deserving "warnings" they could put on films. Films from Top Gun to BFG could include "Warning: contains glorification of militarism". A few, such as Who Dares Wins, could include "Warning: contains blatant right-wing propaganda". Many old Western films could include "Warning: contains negative images of American Indians". While countless more should warn that they contain negative or patronising images of a racist, sexist or - last but not least - disablist nature.

As well as challenging prejudices about people with disabilities, the fact that Special People is a relatively low-budget film (presumably by an independent company) can't have done it any favours among the capitalist Establishment, whose numbers include the bosses of the big Hollywood film companies. Not to mention overpaid actors, and writers. (Maybe Harry Potter films could have a "Warning: proceeds from this film may help fund a sell-out right-wing pseudo-workers' party" :-P )

For a more rational and more detailed description of Special People, check out Eye For Film's review of the film. Even better, it may be worth watching it for yourself.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Anti-fascists should not be bleary eyed

In the wake of the BNP's list-leak disaster, Labour MP Hazel Blears is quite right to lay the belt into the BNP by describing them as 'playing on people's apprehensions and peddling "pernicious but plausible lies"' (BBC News: Blears sounds warning about BNP). She also rightly claims that the BNP has been successful because working-class people feel 'ignored by mainstream politicians'. At the same time, however, she seems very vague about how we should deal with this problem.

Why is this important? Because there is also a pernicious argument within the mainstream parties, Labour included, that we should try to undercut the BNP's support by pandering to some of its demands. This has seen Blears' own New Labour government bring in ever tougher rules on immigration and ever more draconian crackdowns on asylum seekers, while harping on about 'Britishness' and the need for ethnic minorities to become more assimilated into 'British society'. Yet far from undercutting the BNP, such measures have boosted them by legitimising their racist beliefs, and allowing them to set the political agenda.

At the same time, the New Labour government is introducing measures, such as further attacks on benefits at a time when unemployment is increasing (BBC News: Welfare plan 'may cause poverty'). Such actions not only increase people's alienation from mainstream politics, they also fuel the misery and despair on which the fascists feed.

In order to attack the fascists and their racist ideas - which handicap our ability to unite against reactionary measures such as welfare cuts - we need to take on their myths, not pander to them. However much British people's living standards have been attacked, they are - contrary to the right-wing myths peddled by the capitalist media and Establishment - still better than those suffered by asylum seekers. Asylum seekers do not get council houses, they are housed in spartan accommodation reserved for asylum seekers, forced to live on benefits (increasingly in the form of vouchers) of less money than that given to British nationals, and are subject to constant surveillance - even having their possessions checked to make sure they don't own 'luxuries'. For the truth about asylum in the UK, check out the Refugee Council website, which has a section devoted to refuting myths about asylum seekers. And the theatre show "They get free mobiles, don't they?" by the Banner Theatre Company, gives an excellent insight into the real lives of asylum seekers.

Speaking of unappealing 'safe havens', the BNP certainly ain't a safe haven for people - white people included - who are disillusioned with the Establishment parties. Even leaving aside their racist, oppressive and violent politics and behaviour, let us not forget how the BNP's membership list ended up online. It is widely believed to have been caused by an internal dispute within the BNP, in which one member who was forced out decided to execute a 'scorched earth policy' on the BNP. This is not an aberration, the BNP have had a simmering feud since last year (Searchlight Hope Not Hate: Internal splits threaten BNP's chances in London Assembly poll). Indeed, the anti-democratic nature of fascist parties, internally as well as externally, tends to create splits and splinters; the BNP itself formed in the early 1980s from a split within the National Front. And the intolerant nature of fascism tends to make such disagreements erupt pyroclastically - the epitome of such loose-cannon behaviour was the Night of the Long Knives purge, back in Nazi Germany, when Hitler murdered his own SA storm troopers!

So what can we do when we become bitter and disillusioned with our government and its Establishment rivals? What we need to do is build a left wing alternative, which can unite workers, regardless of colour, sex, sexuality or disability, into a movement which can challenge the capitalist Establishment and its puppet politicians from below. Then we can effectively challenge cuts in benefits, job losses etc without blaming the most marginalised within society. What's more, by creating unity against the such acts of the capitalist system, we can sow the seeds of a movement which can eventually destroy the capitaist system itself. And create a socialist society which is free of racism, prejudice, poverty, unemployment and misery.

Black and white, gay and straight, able bodied and disabled - UNITE AND FIGHT!!!

Friday 21 November 2008

Blundering Nazis Pwned!

We've all been enjoying schadenfreude over the BNP's membership list ending up online (Love Music Hate Racism: Fascist public servants exposed as BNP chickens come home to roost). And LOLing as the BNP's reactions are hilariously hypocritical - bleating about their members being placed in danger (one word: Redwatch!) and wanting to use the Human Rights Act (which the BNP wants to repeal) against those who posted the list online.

Having said that, I would not like to see a witch-hunt against those on the list for a number of reasons. Firstly, it may give false creedence to the pernicious myth that anti-fascists are "as bad as the fascists". Yes, this myth ignores the fact that, unlike the fascists, we do not target people on the basis of unchangeable characteristics such as colour or disability, in fact we only target their poisoned ideology. What's more, UAF has welcomed former National Front and BNP members who have seen the error of their ways, ie it is perfectly possible for people to stop being fascists. Whereas I've never seen a black man become white (with the possible exception of Michael Jackson, LOL). Nevertheless, the "as bad as they are" myth continues, and has been parroted by the less aware in the wake of the BNP list leak. So we should not encourage it.

Even more importantly, there are questions about the accuracy of the list. Even if names haven't been deliberately added (let's fact it, we've only got the BNP's "highly trustworthy" word for that), there are people on the list who naively joined the BNP briefly and who now condemn what the BNP actually stands for - such as the Reverend John Stanton (Searchlight: Church leader withdraws support for the BNP). Others may never have actually been members at all, like a worker at Windsor Castle (BBC News: BNP members 'targeted by threats'). Even in the case of the Merseyside policeman, maybe the Police need more accurate evidence than the online membership list before sacking him ... perhaps they could obtain such evidence by raiding the office of the local BNP branch where he is apparently a member :D

Where the list will come in useful, however, is for locating areas where there is a cluster of BNP members, or areas near a BNP organiser, and leafleting these areas with anti-fascist literature and building a movement in said areas against the BNP and its toxic ideology.

BTW The laughs at the BNP's expense don't stop here ... check out the LOLGRIFFIN blog :-)

Monday 10 November 2008

Total eclipse of the brain

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has really dropped a clanger (more like the Bells of St Clements :-P ) with his description of Barack Obama, the next president of the USA (for those who've been on holiday on another planet!) as "tanned" (BBC News: Berlusconi says Obama is 'tanned')

Berlusconi was quick to deny that he was being racist. That's as maybe, but I'm afraid his defence really isn't made any easier by the fact that his Forza Italia party is governing Italy in coalition with the fascist MSI party and the horribly right-wing Northern League. (Ironically, although the Northern League want separation of their 'Padua' region from Italy, their closest UK equivalent politically is probably the Ulster Unionists). Or the fact that his government has taken a hard stance against immigration, and attacks on immigrants and Roma gypsies in Italy have increased massively under his rule.

Besides, I always thought there was something a bit dodgy about a party (Forza Italia) which is named after a football chant. Then again, it's perhaps just as well Berlusconi wasn't English, or he'd probably have named his party 'You're Shit And We Know You Are' ...

Over to America, I'm glad Obama won the election for a number of reasons. Firstly, the election of a black man as US President has given 'the bird' to America's racist past (epitomised by the 'Jim Crow' apartheid laws in the southern US during the early half of the 20th Century). It also proves beyond reasonable doubt that racism is not, as many on the right allege, an indelible part of 'human nature'. But perhaps even more importantly, Obama's election owed at least as much to grass-roots local campaigning by working class activists as it did to rich donors. Hopefully, the high illusions among many in Obama will be translated into activism to shift his administration, and America in general, to the left.

Back to Berlusconi, he is best known as a media baron who owns several TV and radio stations in Italy - a factor which no doubt helped his election campaign. Yet back in the 1970's, when he took on and broke the Italian RAI state monopoly in broadcasting, he was considered by some to be almost a liberator of the airwaves. By the 1990's, he was coming rather close to creating his own national TV monopoly - so, hardly surprising that soon after he came to power, Italian broadcasting was re-regulated and the first raids in decades took place on a number of unlicenced TV stations.

Yet, despite Berlusconi's media empire, he is not all-powerful. He was voted out of power after his first term in office, only to be re-elected when the centre-left Olive Tree coalition let down its supporters (sound familiar?) More importantly, his government and the Italian capitalist Establishment of which he is a part, can be broken by Italian working class activity such as strikes and protests.

Stuff Forza Italia - I'd rather be singing Bandiera Rossa :-)

Saturday 8 November 2008

Blog off, Blears!

Ah well, I guess we should be flattered that political blogs are obviously a big enough thorn in the side of the government, for a government minister to attack us (BBC News: Blears attacks political bloggers). But Blears' knee-jerk attacks on those who disagree with her, and the way her government is going, do nobody any favours - least of all herself and her government!

Far from "fuelling disengagement" with politics, as Ms Blears alleges, blogs are one way in which ordinary people can re-engage with a political scene which many feel is becoming increasingly remote from working class people. If anything is fuelling disengagement, it is the flood of reactionary right-wing policies which are often driven by the needs of the capitalist Establishment, and the out-of-touch rantings of government ministers in tabloids like The Sun and the News Of The Establishment, sorry, World. Indeed, one government minister even pitched his reactionary immigration legislation at Sun readers (BBC News: Woolas ' looking to Sun readers'). If you ask me, Blears' attack on grass-roots blogs while remaining silent on ministers spouting, even signalling new legislation, via the tabloids, seems to be a case of the Establishment's "seeming hypocrisy" which Blears berates us for unearthing :-P

Ms Blears does have a point when she says some blogs are right-wing - even some blogs which are allegedly left-wing (notably those of the so-called 'decent left'), in supporting wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and (in the case of Harry's Place) even 42 days detention for 'terror suspects', often have de-facto reactionary right-wing undercurrents. But there are many left-wing blogs out there, many some way to the left of Blears and her fellow New Labourites (easy I know!) - such as Snowball's excellent Adventures in Historical Materialism blog. Blogging is also invaluable in getting across news which is not covered by the Establishment media, which Blears' friends are so in love with. Especially in more repressive regimes (eg Burma during the military regime), or areas under foreign occupation (eg Iraq and Palestine).

Yet, at the same time, it is true that blogging on its own is very limited as to how much social change (or 'added value' to use Blears' Newspeak) it can bring. For real social change, we need to confront the capitalist Establishment in real space.

Which is why this blog urges all readers (that means you!) to actively support, and get involved with, every strike, every protest against cuts in services and attacks on our living standards, to become actively involved in your trade union, and - last but not least - become actively involved in politics by joining a truly working class political organisation, such as the Socialist Workers Party!

Tuesday 4 November 2008

A stinky Trump in the face of conservation

It beggars belief that the Scottish government has given planning permission for Trump International to build a massive golf course, which will result in the environmental rape of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (RSPB: "Greener Scotland" is sold down the river). Especially considering Trump's immature attitude that the site is developed exactly as he wishes or not at all - he even turned down an alternative design commissioned by the RSPB, which would have saved the SSSI!

Now I've nothing intrinsically against golf as a sport (although I don't play it myself), but I do have a problem with the creation of golf courses when it involves the destruction of wild habitats - just as I dislike the endless building of supermarkets, yuppie houses and PFI projects when they involve the destruction of wild spaces, kids' playing fields, etc. I also dislike the way many golf clubs have astronomical membership fees which effectively exclude working class people (indeed, some operate as a clique with an invitation-only membership policy which the Freemasons would be proud of! ) The Trump International development, a playground for the rich (and, seemingly, the pet project of Mr Trump himself) seems to epitomise both the environmentally destructive and socially exclusive aspects, which give golf a piss-poor name.

The Scottish government's granting of planning permission for this monstrosity also says it all about how the Scottish National Party can be every bit as bad, when it comes to kow-towing to the rich and powerful, as the other Establishment parties. Especially when we contrast their incredibly permissive attitude towards Trump, with their refusal to overturn the homophobic rule which prevents gay people from giving blood (BBC News: Gay blood donor appeal rejected). No wonder homophobic bosses like Stagecoach magnate Brian Souter feel at home in the SNP :-(

Don't get me wrong, I'm in favour of an independent Scotland. But if its rulers continue to allow the capitalist Establishment - whether American capitalists like Trump or Scottish capitalists like Souter - to run the show, such independence will feel very hollow for working class people in Scotland.

Which is why, in the coming Glenrothes by-election, I will be cheering for Louise McLeary, the Solidarity candidate.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Immoral Monetarist Fools

Despite his apology for having an affair (BBC News: IMF chief apologises for affair), I have no sympathy for the director of the International Monetary Fund. But my grievance with the IMF runs far deeper than this sex scandal, whatever its implications.

The IMF is a tool of the international capitalist Establishment, largely controlled by the rich and powerful G8 countries (including Britain and the US), which effectively holds the purse strings of poor countries which are heavily in debt. And uses this power to impose destructive neoliberal policies, such as privatisation and cut backs in essential services such as health care and subsidies, in return for limited debt relief and even more limited aid (which often has more strings attached than Tracy Island :-P )

But even in terms of the sex scandal, I don't feel any sympathy for him. Especially not while teachers who have affairs with students over the age of 16 are still put on the Sex Offenders Register (BBC News: Sex laws are 'unfair to teachers'). If it is the case that teachers are a special case because of their position of power over students, why should it stop with teachers? I am incredulous that any boss, of any organisation, does not have a position of power over his or her employees. (That includes MPs who have affairs with their secretaries!) But whatever the outcome of the investigation, the IMF boss is extremely unlikely to suffer such hardships as being labelled a sex offender.

And before anyone accuses me of making light of 'child abuse', I must point out that the IMF, and the policies which it imposes on the Third World on behalf of rich capitalist countries, are responsible for mass child abuse. Malnutrition of children is still widespread, as poor countries sell crops which should be used for feeding their population, in order to meet debt repayments. Children still die from easily preventable diseases, as healthcare budgets are slashed as part of 'restructuring', and large pharmaceutical companies fix prices beyond the reach of millions of poverty stricken people (while making profits which would make the average Mafia drug cartel jealous :-P )

Then again, removing the boss of the IMF is not really the answer, either. The entire institution, along with other proxies for the international capitalist Establishment such as the WTO, should be shut down. And capitalism internationally must be overthrown, and replaced with a socialist system which is run for people not profit, need not greed.

On the one hand, we must not let the capitalist Establishment fool us into placing all the blame on corrupt Third World dictatorships. But on the other hand, we must at the same time support the workers in Third World countries who are fighting against their own corrupt regimes, while at the same time building a workers' fightback against the corrupt regime at home!

As Marx said: "Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains".

Friday 3 October 2008

Return of the living dead

It was bad enough Brown surviving past the recent Labour Party conference; despite the unease within Labour and calls for him to go, nobody in Labour has yer backed this up with any serious attempts to force a leadership contest. Yet to add insult to injury, his recent cabinet reshuffle - which would, at best, have been "watering the lightning tree" - he brought back the arch-Bliarite Peter Mandelson. What next, a return of Bliar himself?

Then again, the resurrection of Mandelson's rather chequered political career does seem eerily appropriate. With not only Brown and his Labour government, but even the capitalist system, seeming to be "dead men walking".

Meanwhile, the attempts to rescue capitalism itself - not only in the UK and Europe, but even in the US - appear on the surface to be a return to old-fashioned state investment in the economy. Yet this international rescue package is far from F-A-B for the workers; billions of pounds, which could have been spent on public services and welfare, have instead been spent on protecting the bankers, the capitalist Establishment and, above all, their beloved capitalist system. The nationalisation of Bradford and Bingley epitomises how nationalisation is often in the interests of the capitalist system - while the government has nationalised B&B's debts, the assets, including B&B branches, have been sold off to Santander (sounds like reverse-asset stripping to me!) So B&B workers' jobs are still at peril, the privateers continue to make profits while workers will end up paying for the crisis in the form of higher taxes and/or cuts in public services.

Small wonder, then, right-wingers like George W Bush have backed this international rescue (not so much Thunderbirds as Chunderbirds :-P ) of capitalism. As has the Tory leader, David Cameron.

Speaking of the Tories, after a brief period in which they sometimes seemed to be attacking Labour from the left (!?!), they seem to have resurrected their reactionary right-wing policies. Like being even tougher on benefit claimants than New Labour, and wanting to improve discipline in schools by encouraging people leaving the Army to re-train as teachers (I'm all for 'swords into ploughshares', but I don't think this idea is anything of the sort!) Meanwhile, I heard on the radio earlier today that there are renewed calls to bring back the cane in schools. Welcome to Abu Ghraib High ...

But what's really scary is the potential revival of a really grotesque corpse. As the Establishment parties lay the belt into immigrants it can only lead to more racism, while their attacks on incapacity benefit claimants have already been leading to an unwelcome rise in disability prejudice. Such prejudice is what feeds the Nazis, who - despite their ideas being utterly discredited in 1930s Germany - were never properly buried. The stinking corpse of Nazism has been stirring for some time, and must be stopped before it terrorises entire communities.

Yet there is also hope. Not so long ago, strikes, industrial action and trade union power were written off for dead. Yet there has been a revival of strikes over pay in recent years. And as the credit crunch bites harder, there is a good chance that workers' militancy will return to haunt the Establishment.

But it must not stop with strikes over pay. While encouraging industrial action in our own workplaces and supporting other workers who are on strike, we must generalise these strikes into a political movement which can take on not just individual employers, but also the capitalist system itself.

As Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto: A spectre is haunting Europe. The Spectre of Communism.

Friday 19 September 2008

Personally, I prefer Andrex

A vile leaflet has been distributed across Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire, grossly libelling Muslims by accusing them of being responsible for the heroin trade. To add insult to injury, the Crown Prosecution Service has dismissed any chance of prosecuting the perpetrators by claiming it does not constitute incitement to racial hatred (BBC News: Muslim Police anger over leaflet). F**king hell! I bet the German Nazis would have wished that bunch of prats were in charge of the Nuremburg War Trials :-|

However the heroin comes to the UK, its trade has a long and sorry history of Western collaboration - from the 19th century Opium Wars, in which Britain went to war for the right to push opium in China (which is how Britain gained control of Hong Kong, which we didn't relinquish until 1999), through to the CIA turning a blind eye to the Mujahedin (precursers of the Taliban) in Afghanistan selling heroin to finance their war against their (at the time) Russian occupiers. And the main areas in the UK for heroin addiction are those which never fully recovered from the loss of jobs caused by the pit and steelworks closures in the 1980s and early 1990's (such as my home village), which left a pool of despair on which drug pushers profit. The culprits for this are the Tories (who were in government at the time) in particular, and the capitalist Establishment in general - not Muslims.

Yet this is far from the first time Muslims have been slandered by Nazis - Muslims are constantly vilified as "terrorists", "woman oppressors" and have even been blamed for child prostitution. And Islamophobia is, sadly, not confined to Nazis - all the Establishment political parties, even some who claim to be 'left' (notably the so-called "decent left") have opportunistically slagged off Muslims, misquoting the Koran and mis-representing the Establishment in oppressive middle-eastern regimes (such as Saudi Arabia) as typical of Islam. All this feeds prejudice against Asians, let alone Muslims, and gives a false credence to the racist rantings of Nazi groups like the BNP.

I personally am very grateful to the decent majority of Muslims, who have given enormous backing and help to the Stop The War Coalition and to the Respect Coalition. And before slagging off Islam, we should remember that extremists within Christianity have committed some repulsive acts of repression towards women (such as the Magdalen Laundries in Ireland), and even terrorist acts (such as bombing abortion clinics in the US). And the biggest danger to world peace is George W Bush, a born-again Christian :-P

Well, if the CPS and Police aren't going to stop Nazis stirring up racial hatred against Muslims, it's up to ordinary working class people who abhor racism to act directly. You can help build the campaign against fascism by joining Unite Against Fascism, and taking part in action such as leafleting to expose the truth about what the Nazis stand for.

A big demo is taking place tomorrow against the BNP's rally in Stoke On Trent, where the Nazi BNP have 9 councillors and even have all 3 councillors in one ward (scary or what!)

I urge everyone reading this blog to come to this demo, and any future demos against the Nazis where they organise. And help drive the Nazis back into the gutter where they belong!

Thursday 11 September 2008

Penguin protesters and kangaroo courts

It's not every day the Home Office attacks a local council for eroding civil liberties - yet that is exactly what has happened due to Telford & Wrekin Council's policy regarding adults without kids in parks (Shropshire Star: Home Office attacks park policy)!

For once, I agree with the Home Office. It is a dangerous erosion of freedom of movement, when council staff are able to question, even expel, people from public spaces. It also adds weight to some people's concerns that single people are an oppressed group - there is a pernicious myth that single men over a certain age (often around 40) are more likely to be paedophiles (there is nothing really new about this - back in the 80's, when homosexuality was much less tolerated than today, the same group was often labelled "gay"). Not only is this oppressive, it ignores the fact that most sexual (let alone physical) abuse of children happens within the family.

As for the Telford case, it seems to have a political edge. The policy came to light when two Stop The War campaigners were handing out leaflets about climate change, dressed as penguins (to symbolise those in most danger from climate change). Now I've heard of paediatricians being confused with paedophiles, but never penguins :-P

On a more serious note, the park was not only a convenient place for the protest, it was also quite appropriate; anyone doing any outdoor activity this (and last) summer will have been all too aware of how climate change has caused the British summer weather to be increasingly unpredictable (and miserable to boot).

Yet not only were the protesters told to move, they were also told they needed Police CRB checks to hand out leaflets! At this rate, we'll soon need an Enhanced CRB disclosure to go birdwatching :-| If, that is, the poor old robins, blackbirds, blue tits, etc don't all go extinct due to climate change :-(

The council later tried to back-track, saying they only question people "acting suspiciously" in parks etc. Yet"acting suspiciously" is so ill-defined as to be a weasel-word, covering a wide range of behaviour. Including, it seems, peaceful protesting :-(

Also worthy of note is the fact that Telford and Wrekin Council is effectively Tory controlled (the Tories have 27 seats there, exactly half the total, according to their website's political make up of the council web page). Ah well, so much for the Tories' hypocritical bleating about the "nanny state". And their equally shallow environmental pretensions - which already took a knock earlier this week, when a coalition of environmental groups - from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, to the RSPB and the National Trust - produced a report stating that all 3 of the UK's main Establishment parties are failing on the issue of climate change (BBC News: Parties 'fail on climate change')

So, the capitalist Establishment are attacking both the environment and civil liberties. So it's up to civil libertarians and environmentalists to unite. Anong with trade unionists, anti-racists, gay rights activists, and all groups under attack from the system.

Then maybe we can launch a successful attack on the capitalist system, and the capitalist Establishment who it serves. And kick them out - of power!

Tuesday 9 September 2008

When love and hate collide?

Despite the scare stories about the Large Hadron Collider, this will almost certainly not be my last blog article. In fact, the chances of the LHC creating a black hole which will swallow the world are virtually negligible, and I am more scared of the world ending as a result of the capitalist Establishment's obsession with warfare, in the shape of nuclear weapons (such as Trident) and the "son of Star Wars". At the same time, however, I wonder just how disconnected the LHC really is from the Western military machine.

There has been a long and bloody history of scientific discoveries, which could have greatly benefited humanity, being hijacked by the military - for example, would Einstein really have approved of his work in atomic physics being responsible for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cold War arms race, and the continuing waste of resources in new, potentially even deadlier, nuclear weapons???

What's more, the military continues to be one of the main funders of scientific research in universities, as well as having its own research facilities (eg Porton Down in the UK). And wouldn't the western imperialist war machine just love the ability to research into using artificial black holes as a super-weapon ...

It also seems kinda odd that the LHC was built at a cost of £5 billion (BBC News: CERN collider ready for power-up), while public services and welfare across Europe are suffering cut-backs. But whether or not the LHC has any military connection, it is clear that imperialist militarism has created a black hole of its own.

The cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the £76 billion being squandered on replacement Trident nuclear weapons, have left a black hole in funding for welfare and public services!

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Will depression turn to anger?

Depression, recession, credit crunch, slowdown ... whatever word you use, the British economy's stuffed, or soon will be. And even this capitalism-loving New Labour government knows it, as shown by Chancellor Alistair Darling's admission that we are in for a severe recession. What I'm more sceptical about, is the apparent belief that the UK is in a better position to weather the storm than elsewhere.

Recessions are not some natural event, like the weather (although the weather this year seems less natural, and more the result of climate change, but that's a topic worthy of a discussion all of its own!). Recessions are built into capitalism. For capitalists to make profits, ie exploit their workers, they must pay their workers less than the money they make by selling the goods which the workers produce. Since capitalism forces all companies to do this (or go bankrupt), a situation is soon reached where more goods are produced than workers have money to buy.

As time goes on, it is also no accident that booms are becoming shallower - ie with smaller increases in living standards - and busts are getting more severe. This is because it is also the nature of capitalism for the capitalists' rate of profit to fall - due to increased investment in machines and technology. In a rational world, the advances in technology would make life easier for us, liberating us from work. Yet under capitalism, technology has forced the capitalists to exploit us more, making us work harder and for longer hours while paying us less :-(

This time around, the recession is likely to be made especially severe by the one thing which has allowed the system to avoid recession for a relatively long time - debt. Capitalist companies have been able to drive real wages down and still make profits, because relatively cheap loans have been relatively easily available to workers. Trouble is, a growing number of people are now unable to pay these loans back - hence the "credit crunch".

Other factors have come into play, such as the rising fuel prices. Oil is still at a high price, largely aggravated by the illegal and murderous Iraq war and the west generally p**ing off the other oil producing countries (such as Iran) in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the gas prices can't possible be helped by the West hypocritically sabre-rattling with Russia, a large producer of gas. Notably over Russia's invasion of Georgia. After all, the West would never launch an un-provoked invasion of another country, would we Bush and Bliar :-P

A recession will doubtless cause massive hardship, as millions of people are made unemployed and plunged into poverty. Yet the sickening thing is, although goods will no longer be profitable for capitalists to produce, they won't be needed any less by workers. So any job losses must be resisted by strikes, and we must support any and all workers who take strike action to defend their - and our - jobs and livelihoods.

But most of all, we must generalise these economic strikes into a political movement. Only then can we achieve the ultimate goal of getting rid of the capitalist system, which is obviously failing even by its own standards.

And replacing it with a socialist system, based on human need not corporate greed, on people not profit!

Thursday 28 August 2008

All that Glitters

Before I go any further, I'd like to point out that I have absolutely no sympathy for Gary Glitter, or any paedophile. His actions were grossly exploitative of children, and as such are indefensible. Yet, as the media feeding-frenzy on his less-than-welcome return to the UK subsides, there are issues raised which need addressing (and, despite the endless coverage of the Glitter story, weren't addressed by the mainstream media).

Most notable was Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's riding the wave of revulsion of Glitter's crimes, by announcing the populist measure of extending the ban on convicted sex offenders travelling abroad. Yet, as Ecpat UK have stated, "British law enforcement has the tools to protect children abroad, they just don't use them" (Ecpat UK: New Report Shows Government Failure in Combating Child Sex Tourism). Besides, concentrating exclusively on child sex tourism overlooks the fact that all sex tourism is undesirable, as adult prostitutes in the Third World (and sometimes in the West) are vulnerable and often heavily exploited and abused. Surely the best way to reduce the problem of child prostitution is to enact measures to protect the welfare of all sex workers. (My views on prostitution in general have been covered in an earlier blog article, Pimping an alternative).

Since the increased restrictions on foreign travel appear un-necessary, this begs another question: Is the Sex Offenders Register primarily designed to protect children from abuse (as it was originally touted), or as a punitive measure? And if it is designed to be punitive rather than protective, should it perhaps be used more sparingly?

True, some necessary restrictions are punitive by nature; such as the travel bans already available in British law, and the restrictions on what employment people on the Sex Offenders Register can have. But occasionally, this goes well beyond the scope of protecting children; last year, a contestant was removed from ITV's Britain's Got Talent show because he was on the Sex Offenders Register, for a crime so heinous he was given a Conditional Discharge in court. (The irony is not lost on me that ITV has also shown I Smack And I'm Proud, despite protest from the NSPCC)

Indeed, not everyone on the Sex Offenders Register is a paedophile, or even a molester. People have ended up on the Register for acts of consenting BDSM activity among adults, for example.

There is also the situation of people being placed on the Sex Offenders Register after receiving a formal caution, for offences not considered serious enough to go to court. Yet many people will agree to a formal caution rather than end up in court, with the publicity and stigma that often entails - especially when it comes to an offence as taboo as sex crime.

The Sex Offenders Register seems to have much in common with ASBOs, also originally touted as a means of "protecting the community" rather than as a punitive measure. Likewise, people often end up with ASBOs, which often carry heavy restrictions, for behaviour which would not necessarily result in a court conviction. Finally, both ASBO's and orders to sign the Sex Offenders Register seem to be handed out like flyers :-P

What is also scary is the way "child abuse" has been hijacked by the Establishment, almost to the point of it becoming a weasel-word. In previous blog articles I've talked about how photographing even your own kids in a public place is now about as socially acceptable as telling sick jokes at a funeral :( More recently, there was talk by local authorities of getting social services to investigate the families of overweight kids. Around the same time, there were local news reports of kids being sent warning letters for playing games on the street. Well, maybe I'm missing something, but preventing kids from getting exercise outdoors sounds to me like a very funny way of tackling childhood obesity!

But perhaps most importantly of all, epitomised by the Glitter coverage is the way the media portrays child abuse as solely the act of sick individuals. Yet, in reality, most child abuse occurs within the family. And, far from an aberration, it is often institutionalised within the capitalist system.

Physical abuse traces its roots back to the Industrial Revolution and child labour; children were forced to work for long hours doing unpleasant work, and had to be forced into doing so by beatings. Even as child labour was largely abolished, "reasonable chastisement" continued to be promoted as a way of keeping kids subservient to the rules of the system. Even to this day, the government still refuses to outlaw smacking completely :(

Child sex abuse is more complicated, and has never been directly encouraged by the Establishment. But that does not let the capitalist system off the hook. The perversion of sexual relationships into a patriarchal situation where the man dominates the woman (as mentioned in my Iris can't see the truth blog article), mixed with the situation where children are similarly dominated by adults, is a fertile breeding ground for sick individuals to take sexual pleasure by exercising their domination on the most vulnerable people in society, ie children. People like Glitter are sick and obnoxious monkeys, but let's not take our eye off the organ grinder...

Capitalism is the main sex offender. As such, it should not be allowed anywhere near our schools and youth services. Nor should it be allowed, via war and imperialism, to travel abroad.

If I had my way, it would be permanently taken out of circulation!

Sunday 24 August 2008

Salmond the brave? Or just stupid?

To say that Scottish people "didn't mind the economic side so much" of Mrs Thatcher's policies is either a very brave comment to make, or a very stupid one (BBC News: Salmond defends Thatcher comments). Working class people across most of the UK, but especially Scotland, suffered at the hands of Thatcher's mine and steelwork closures, Poll Tax, union bashing, and other neoliberal economic policies (as continued by Major, Blair and Brown).

True, Thatcher's social policies weren't good either. Yet, for all Thatcher is remembered for attacking civil liberties, she actually passed fewer laws curtailing social freedom than Bliar has done. Much of the social repression under Thatcher was tied in with her economic actions, such as the Thatcherite anti-union laws (still not repealed by Bliar or Brown) and the police victimisation of striking miners.

One notable stand-alone curtailment of social freedom by Thatcher, was Section 28 - a homophobic law banning the "promotion of homosexuality", which tended to have a chilling effect on any rational discussion of homosexuality. At the same time, Establishment-propagated brainwashing at the time was most definitely anti gay - small wonder, then, that at the time homosexuality was often considered as socially unacceptable as paedophilia is now!

But who has been one of the greatest defenders of Section 28 into the 1990's? Brian Souter, the arch-capitalist boss of Stagecoach buses, who has also been responsible for cutbacks in bus services and fare hikes in many areas. And was, in the late 90s, a supporter of the SNP (BBC News: Stagecoach tycoon donates to SNP).

On many issues, the SNP appears to the left of New Labour and the Tories (dead easy :-P ), such as their opposition to student tuition fees. Yet in other ways, they follow the Establishment parties close behind. SNP controlled councils have embraced privatisation and PFI with as much enthusiasm as their Tory and New Labour counterparts, while on the social front, they have championed such reactionary measures as the raising of the age for buying alcohol to 21 (BBC News: Drink age 'could be raised to 21').

So, whatever Salmond actually meant by his Thatcher comments, we cannot trust the SNP to defend the working class from the capitalist Establishment's attacks on us, either on the economic or social fronts. In elections, Scottish workers should vote for Solidarity. More importantly, we should support workers who are resisting the attacks of the Scottish political Establishment, such as the council workers there who recently went on strike (Solidarity website: Massive response to council workers' strike rocks employer)

Workers - not only in Scotland, not only in the UK, but all across the world - must unite in strikes, demonstrations and other extra-parliamentary actions, to defend ourselves from attacks on our wages and civil liberties. Not only by our immediate bosses, but by the capitalist Establishment in general, including those elected into government. Regardless of which party is attacking us!!!

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Don't talk wet!

Many views have been expressed both for and against Brown in recent weeks (bet you can't guess which side I'm on...). But, in the midst of all the speculation as to whether or not there's going to be a leadership challenge in the autumn (I hope there is!), I notice one piece of unintentional comic relief. Namely, John Prescott's comparison of New Labour to the Titanic (BBC News: Valid point but unfortunate metaphor).

Prescott was intending to say that the Titanic was sunk by the iceberg, not by its captain. Yet what Prescott seems to have overlooked, is that the Titanic was sailing rather too fast in an area known to be hazardous due to icebergs. What's more, there was pressure on the Titanic crew to recklessly increase the speed, in order to cut the journey time and maximise White Star Line's profits.

Likewise, the economic problems of the UK, and the government's seeming inability to deal effectively with them, have been - at best - greatly exacerbated by the New Labour government's commitment to neoliberal free-market policies. Fuel, food and water price hikes are all the product of the free market's pursuit of profit at all costs, and the credit crunch is the result of poverty wages leading people to borrow money which they become unable to pay back. Yet rather than consider renationalisation of the energy companies, price curbs and a decent minimum wage, this government is hell bent on further privatisation (often in the form of PFI) and shifting the tax burden onto the poor. Hardly a recipe for economic stability, let alone social justice!

Back to the Titanic - where the White Star Line rode roughshod over the safety and welfare of its passengers - this has been repeated time and time again. Most obviously, we saw it in the Herald of Free Enterprise sinking in the 1980's, but we have also seen it in Railtrack's many avoidable train disasters, and on countless building sites etc.

But staying with the nautical theme, the film The Perfect Storm has at least one parallel with Titanic. Although it was a hurricane which sunk the Andrea Gail, the crew of sword-fishermen were under pressure to get back to shore as quickly as possible, in order to 'set the market' for the swordfish which they caught. Which is why the Andrea Gail ended up sailing through, and sinking in, a vicious hurricane.

Speaking of perfect storms, the economic gloom and the government's disastrous poll ratings, seem to be combining with an increase in industrial action (such as the recent local government workers' strike) and grassroots protests (such as the recent protests against E-ON's new coal power station in Kent). Hopefully these will come together to create a political hurricane from the left which will not only sink Brown and his New Labour cronies, but also shipwreck the capitalist system which is so beloved by all Establishment politicians :-)

Saturday 9 August 2008

Police can shove curfews up their bottom

I never did like youth curfews, ever since Jack Straw first mooted the idea back in 1996 - for more details, see my No Curfews website. The arguments against the Redruth curfew (BBC News: Redruth curfew two weeks on) are no less valid; what is of questionable validity is the Police's claim that this curfew is "voluntary" and the result of "bottom up" policing.

It is true that the capitalist Establishment can sometimes exercise control over people without coercion being used; for example, people who pander to the Establishment's divide-and-rule tactics by being racist, sexist, homophobic, disablist and - last but not least - ageist, are rarely forced into such behaviour or rewarded for their actions. But, since such prejudice is the result of sustained brainwashing by the Establishment over a long period, it is highly debatable whether such behaviour can be called "voluntary".

Besides, the Redruth curfew is hardly non-coercive. As the BBC News report states, the Police "can issue social orders against parents or children who flout the curfew" - which makes it about as "voluntary" as a request by your boss :-(

As for "bottom up" policing - did the Police's "consensus" include the views of the local young people, whose liberties are being swept away by the curfew? Indeed, a number of adults, notably a local representative of the Childrens Rights Alliance, has blasted the curfew as unfair. And how much were the local population consulted on whether money could be spent on youth facilities rather than illegal wars, Trident missiles, tax breaks for the rich, etc?

Indeed, this "voluntary" curfew should not only be seen as an attack on the civil rights of young people. It should also be seen as a warning of the implications of other "voluntary" measures, such as "voluntary" opt-outs from maximum working hours (which, even if there is no enforcement of longer working hours by employers, can result in the erosion of real wages as employers can expect workers to make up the shortfall from a living wage by working overtime).

On the other hand, I am all for "bottom up" rather than "top down". Not only the legal system, but also government and the economy should be run from the bottom up, by workers committees. This will necessitate a revolution, followed by the government, bosses and the capitalist Establishment being forced into a "voluntary" surrender of their power to workers!

Sunday 27 July 2008

Brown down Warwick avenue with a duff mandate

Brown is his usual right-wing self, at Labour's National Policy Forum - a meeting between Labour ministers, activists and trade unionists, held at Warwick University (BBC News: Labour rejects union strike calls). He has rejected calls to scrap the Tory anti-union laws or commit to free school meals for all primary school pupils, yet plans were approved for a welfare crackdown, ID cards, and new nuclear power stations.

Fair enough, the NPF did agree on a few progressive measures; namely to reduce the voting age to 16, make the House of Lords an elected body, and extend the full minimum wage to people aged 21 rather than 22. Yet these are more than outweighed by the reactionary measures being pushed by Brown et al, and will do more or less exactly nothing to reverse Labour's recent self-inflicted misfortunes :-(

Brown's cockiness would be bad enough at the best of times, but it is made worse by the fact that recent election results - most recently in Glasgow East - show that Brown has no popular mandate for his policies. Indeed, calls for a leadership contest from within his own Labour Party, imply he has no popular mandate as leader - except perhaps as the leader of a desert island :-P

The Glasgow East result was rather interesting in a number of ways. The swing from Labour to the SNP was approx 22%, greater than that in other by-elections from Labour to the Tories. Since the SNP is to the left of Labour on a number of issues, such as university tuition fees, this should scotch (no pun intended!) the myth that the Labour meltdown is due to British people moving to the right. On a sadder note, it's a terrible shame the SSP / Solidarity split occurred, because the combined votes of the SSP and Solidarity would have been enough to push the Liberal Democrats into 5th place (BBC News: Glasgow East result in full)

Meanwhile, Brown whines that he does not want "a return to the 1970's". Yet the strikes of the 1970's, culminating in the Winter of Discontent, were not caused by the trade union laws of the time being too permissive. They were caused by workers' real wages and living standards being attacked by a right-wing Labour government, while their wages were being eroded by massive inflation. Ring any bells ?!?

Already the general secretary of the GMB, one of Britain's biggest unions, has called for a leadership contest (BBC News: PM 'must face leader challenge'). And unions are becoming more willing to take strike action to defend their members, as seen in the recent local government workers' strike.

Since union contributions to Labour still make up a substantial percentage of Labour's income, it's time they asked for something back in return. The unions must demand Brown repeals the anti-trade union laws, and that's just the start! They must also demand that Brown immediately reverses his decision to scrap the 10p tax rate, stops attacking striking workers, funds public services properly, gives decent wage increases to public sector workers, pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and cancels the Trident nuclear weapons programme. And, most importantly of all, demand that he starts listening to the workers who voted for him, and whose unions fund his party, rather than the fat cats who now seem to be dictating Labour policy.

Or steps down now, and makes way for someone who will !!!

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Revolutionaries still top of the Class

Maybe the Equality and Human Rights Commission are attempting to fill the vacuum left by the right-wing shift of Labour and the collapse of electoral representation of the left. Or maybe they're attempting to protect the Establishment by trying to buy off the increasing support among workers for strikes and industrial action. Either way, it seems kinda surreal that Trevor Philips, the head of the EHRC, wants to extend its remit and focus on the issue of class (BBC News: Fight class divide, says Phillips).

Although this is dubbed 'a radical departure' from the organisation's remit, it will be very interesting to see how Philips and the EHRC view the issue of class, in practice. There is some confusion about what defines a person's class, with some seeing it as typified by cultural differences - the cliched 'cloth caps and whippets' of the working class, and 'airs and graces' of the so-called upper class (leading some people to mistakenly see contemporary bosses such as Richard Branson as 'working class heroes'). Yet class is not defined by culture or interests, or even purely by earnings or type of work. Class is defined by our relationship to the means of production; the ruling capitalist class (so-called 'upper class') own and control the means of production, and profit directly from the goods and services produced. The working class, by contrast, have no such ownership or control of our workplaces, and can only survive by selling our labour - which the capitalist class goes on to profit from.

A report by the EHRC - an amalgamation of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Commission for Racial Equality, and Disability Rights Commission - rightly states that 'there is too much vertical division in Britain between social classes'. Yet let us not forget that class also exists across the 'horizontal' divisions of race, sex, sexuality and disability - there are now a minority of black, Asian, gay and disabled bosses, who are just as ruthlessly exploitative as their white counterparts. And despite the pernicious myth of the White Working Class™, white workers have far more in common with black and Asian workers than we will ever have with white British bosses.

What all capitalist bosses have in common is that they must maximise their exploitation of workers, while workers all share this exploitation. Although both are subject to forms of alienation, ie the divorce of our living standards from our own efforts, the alienation suffered by workers makes us feel insignificant, while the bosses feel an inflated sense of power. Small wonder, then, that the boss of British Gas, Jake Ulrich, responds to customers' fury and despair at the hyper-inflation in gas prices - out of which he stands to make fat profits - by telling us to 'wear two jumpers' (The Independent: How to beat 60% rise in gas prices? Wear two jumpers, says energy boss). Personally, I'd love to see Mr Ulrich wear two concrete shoes :-P

What workers also have in common is our ability, through collective strike action, to attack not only our bosses, but also the capitalist system which they are at the head of. Without workers' labour, their profits soon disappear!

It is also pointed out that Trevor Phillips is advocating an 'implicitly political policy', from an organisation which is supposed to be 'apolitical'. Yet this is the EHRC's greatest weakness, and not just on the issue of class. Racism, sexism, homophobia and disablism are political, they were created by the development of capitalism and are still perpetuated by the capitalist system, not least as a means of 'divide and rule'. Likewise, any opposition to such oppression, if it is to be effective, must take a political form.

Likewise, class cannot simply be reformed away by bosses being told to be a bit kinder to workers. Class, and the exploitation of one class by another, are a central part of class societies such as capitalism. The only way to solve once and for all the issue of class, is for the exploiting capitalist class to be smashed by a workers revolution, and for workers to take control. In the meantime, strike action by workers is much more effective not only for improving workers' pay and conditions, but also for challenging the political and economic structures which perpetuate class inequality, than any number of mealy-mouthed speeches by NGOs and their bureaucrats will ever be. ,

As Marx said in The Communist Manifesto: "Every class struggle is a political struggle"!

Sunday 20 July 2008

New Labour's Freudian slip

So soon after the Tories announced plans to set up boot camps for young unemployed people, New Labour have shown their 'me too' attitude by planning to force long-term unemployed people onto workfare (BBC News: 'Work for dole' proposals leaked). This plan seems to have been inspired by an ill-founded allegation in February by David Freud - the government's welfare officer and also an investment banker (so much for Labour being the party of the working class :-P ) - that fewer than a third of incapacity benefits are legitimate claimants.

Such a move would be hideously reactionary at the best of times. But it beggars belief that the government has the cheek to announce it now, when unemployment is rising and more and more companies are announcing job losses due to the credit crunch and economic slowdown :-(

Workfare, in whatever guise, has not helped people into secure, well paid jobs. Indeed, the low wages associated with workfare schemes, from 'work for dole' to the YTS schemes of the 1980s, encourage companies to take on low-paid workfarers with next to no employment rights - rather than taking on more full paid staff with full employment rights. Funny way to improve the job market!

At the same time, there is a pernicious development which seems to be eroding the job prospects of substantial numbers of people. After sacking a 'too fat' firefighter (BBC News: Strike ballot over 'fat' fireman) rather than re-deploying him in another job within the Grampian fire service, their assistant fire chief officer said the service's policy required crew "to be able to perform all the potential requirements of a modern firefighter". Such an argument is used to oppose the military being covered by anti-discrimination legislation (see Red Disability's article on disability discrimination in the UK armed forces). As support staff in emergency services such as Police, Fire and Ambulance services are cut back due to cost-cutting, can we see more cases of the skills and abilities necessary for all remaining employees becoming more stringently enforced - with negative implications for substantial numbers of employees, eg employees with disabilities ?

If the government genuinely want to get more people into work, they should put a stop to cost-cutting which is forcing lay-offs of staff in the public sector. And take action to stop companies closing production facilities in the UK, in order to transfer the work abroad where wages are cheaper - for example, any factories, call centres etc which are closed should be nationalised, without compensation to their fat cat owners! But this government won't attack the fat cats who give New Labour lots of money, oh no, it's much easier for them to kick those of us who have already been cast aside by their friends in the capitalist Establishment :-(

So both the Tories and New Labour are united in attacking workers, including unemployed workers. That's because both are part of the capitalist Establishment, which is united in defending and enhancing the capitalist system by increasing the exploitation of workers, as far as they can.

Yet workers can also defend ourselves, if we unite. We have seen the power of united workers in the local government workers' strikes on Wednesday and Thursday (Socialist Worker: Strikers have power to win). Yet this is only the beginning. If enough workers across the economy take strike action, the strikes can go beyond economic demands and start raising political demands. Eventually this can lead to a revolutionary situation, as detailed in Rosa Luxemburg "The Mass Strike".

As Marx said in The Communist Manifesto: "Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!"

Thursday 17 July 2008

Spring botch

So those in charge of the Labour Party have decided to axe next year's spring conference, allegedly to save the party money (BBC news: Labour axes its spring conference). Personally, I think they could save money better if they chose a less posh venue (a common practice of smaller parties such as the Greens), stayed in cheap-and-cheerful B&B's (like most of their members do when on holiday), and didn't go so over the top on heavy-handed security.

Even so, I can't help wondering if the real reason for the cancellation of the spring conference, is to avoid Labour Party activists and trade unionists from asking too many awkward questions. Especially at a time when New Labour's appeal to its left-wing members, and even its trade union donors, is - understandably - increasingly threadbare.

Not that the mandarins at the helm of New Labour have ever liked too many awkward questions. Remember back in 2005, when Walter Wolfgang heckled (at the time) foreign secretary Jack Straw over the illegal, murderous and unjustifiable Iraq war - and was physically removed from the conference by security guards, and had his security pass confiscated. After such more recent obscene blunders as the 10p tax fiasco, they couldn't possibly be trying to avoid similar angry exchanges at conference, could they?

Besides, the Iraq war hasn't gone away either. As the death toll of the illegal occupation rises, both of Iraqis and British soldiers, the protests continue with every death and every anniversary of this atrocity.

What's more, the military death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan are having a negative impact of Armed Forces recruitment; I can't help thinking this is the real reason behind measures such as increasing the compensation for military personnel wounded on duty. Admittedly this is welcome, as is the plan to give free university education to all soldiers who have served 6 years or more. Then again, how about bringing back free university education for everybody, by scrapping tuition fees and bringing back decent grants. Education is a right, not a privelege, and such a move would be enormously beneficial to the economy by providing highly skilled workers. And would cost a fraction of the cost of the Iraq war and occupation, let alone that in Afghanistan.

Speaking of cost, if the Labour Party is so hard up they have to resort to penny-pinching measures such as scrapping their conference, they have only themselves to blame. It is because of the Blairites and Brownites dragging the party so far to the right and alienating so many working class supporters, that Labour Party membership has plummeted since 1997, a number of unions have stopped donations (most recently, Unison are questioning their donations to Labour), and an increasing number of trade unionists are opting out of their unions' political levy.

To put Labour on a "long term stable financial footing", it's not the spring conference which needs to be ditched. Instead, they must ditch the entire right-wing New Labour Blair Rich Project, and get back to representing the unions. And the working class, who not only provided most of Labour's past support (both financial and political), but who elected them in the first place!

Sunday 13 July 2008

Electoral dysfunction?

The crisis within Respect reached a new low recently, as our remaining 3 councillors in Tower Hamlets - including, most shockinghly, Oliur Rahman - defected to Labour (Respect's statement on the defection). In addition, one Respect Renewal councillor there has also defected to Labour (Respect Renewal statement on the matter). This is exspecially shocking, coming so soon after Labour's disastrous results recently.Tickets for the Titanic, anyone :-P

Sadly, this does show clearly the problem with bourgeois democracy in general, and with the UK electoral system in particular, which is heavily biased against small and fledgling (no cat jokes, please!) parties.

On a happier note, the Nazi BNP were prevented from winning in a recent council by-election in Eckington - Labour won, the BNP came 4th with 11% of the vote. Although they still got over 200 votes too many, and we must still be vigilant, it at least proved my fears that they may win (I myself suffered abuse from Nazis in Eckington as long ago as 2000) wrong.

Also on an uplifting note, the Green Party came a good second in the recent Haltemprice (David Davis' seat) with over 7% of the vote. According to the Green Party report of the Haltemprice result, their vote in Brighton Pavilion has now surpassed that of Labour, so they may get their first MP at the next general election.

But all this is still eclipsed by the Respect crisis. Especially at a time when the Establishment parties are pissing on us more than ever; Brown gives us hyper-inflation then tells us to 'stop wasting food', while the Tories want to bring in boot camps (reminiscent of the 'skivvy schools' of the early 20th century) for young unemployed people (BBC News: Tories outline plans for jobless). Has the left, left us in the lurch?

One crumb of comfort is the coming by-election in Glasgow East, where both Solidarity and the SSP are standing, not to mention the Scottish Greens. What's more, if Labour lose this by-election, we may well see the back of Brown in September.

But far more hope can be gained by ignoring the electoral mess, and looking instead to the extra-parliamentary fightback. The Shell tanker drivers led the way by winning a 14% pay rise over 2 years, and this has been followed by a number of significant strikes - notably the strike this coming Wednesday and Thursday by 650,000 local government workers (Socialist Worker: 650,000 workers to strike against Brown's pay freeze). I urge all readers of this blog to support this, and any other, strike. It is by striking, that the working class exercise real power and can take on not only their bosses and the government, but the capitalist system in general.

Real power does not lie in parliament (although many politicians do!). Real power lies in the boardrooms of the big capitalist companies who control the capitalist system, including the British state. But it also lies among organised workers, without whose labour, not only the capitalists' profits, but also their power, will dwindle to nothing.

Stuff the politicians ... the workers have the real power!

Sunday 29 June 2008

Who stands for what, and where?

The electoral drama rolls on ... most recently, we saw the Labour Party candidate in Henley (Boris Johnson's old seat) beaten into 5th place, behind the Green Party and the BNP. Thankfully the Greens beat the BNP into 4th place, although sadly the BNP still gained at the expense of Labour.

This rather savage pruning of the red rose was, rather unexpectedly, followed not by calls for Brown's head, but by others in the Labour party supporting him. The most recent being ex-London mayor, (ex-Red) Ken Livingstone, who has urged Brown to "hang on in there". I almost agree with that statement, just remove the "on in there" :-P

At the same time, the Tories, who have for the past few years tried to hide their right-wing pro-Establishment nature, are getting ever more naked - and it ain't a pretty sight! One Tory was reported in the Daily Express as supporting sending the SAS into Zimbabwe (Daily Express: Send in the SAS to oust evil Mugabe say Tories) - who wants Iraq Mk II ?!? And Boris Johnson has overseen the return of police heavy-handedness, during the recent London demo against the visit of the war criminal George W Bush (Indymedia: Anti-Bush visit protest marred by police violence and snatch arrests).

Looking towards the next big by-election, in David Davis' Haltemprice constituency, neither New Labour nor the Lib Dems are standing. But there is some opposition to Tory David Davis from the left; both the Green Party and the Socialist Equality Party are fielding candidates in this by-election. Unfavourably, so are the Nazi National Front and the far-right English Democrats. So this election will be one to watch.

Less high profile but much closer to home, the Nazi BNP are standing in a Derbyshire County Council by-election in Eckington. An anti-Nazi leafleting campaign is taking place every weekend up to the election on July 3rd; UAF leaflets and leaflets from Searchlight / Hope Not Hate, are being distributed to all houses in the Eckington constituency. So far there has, thankfully, been no activity (eg leaflets and canvassing) noted from the BNP in the Eckington area. Yet, considering the BNP got councillors elected nearby in Amber Valley and Rotherham, there is no cause for complacency! But you can keep the Nazis at bay, by helping to leaflet in aeas where Nazis are standing or trying to build, and donating to and joining Unite Against Fascism.

Whatever happens in the coming by-elections, it is also increasingly clear that the need for a left alternative is as great as ever. So I urge anyone reading to help build a parliamentary left alternative by joining the Respect Coalition.

Perhaps even more importantly, we need to build an extra-parliamentary left party, which is organised in workplaces and communities, and can build an effective fightback against whichever government is in power. The Socialist Workers Party is that party.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Inflated egos of the capitalist Establishment

It seems timely that, on Saturday's Love Music Hate Racism anti-BNP demo in London, slogans were chanted which openly attacked the Tories - the first time I have heard such slogans on demos since the late 1990s. Timely, because the Tory leader David Camoran is backing tough action on strikes (BBC News - Council workers vote for strike) - nakedly showing the Tories' union-bashing which we saw so much of in the 1980's, epitomised by the brutality of the state during the 1984 miners' strike.

This is accompanied by ill-founded allegations that large pay rises - such as that won by the successful fuel tanker drivers' strike - are fuelling inflation. This may have been the case if the inflation was demand-pull inflation, in which a surplus of money in the economy causes inflation because people are able to pay more for goods and services, leading to demand outstripping supply. Yet the vast majority of pay rises across the UK have been woefully inadequate, well below the rate of inflation (which is, for necessities on which working class people spend most of our income, well above the official 3% figure). So it ain't demand-pull inflation.

It is cost-push inflation, caused by a massive increase in costs of production, notably raw materials. Such as oil (see my earlier article on Peak Oil). Such inflation has massively eroded workers' living standards, pushing many workers - especially lower paid workers - into poverty. The strikers are not greedy, only wanting a living wage!

Mr Cameron also alleges that New Labour will shy away from attacking strikers, believing unions have a "stranglehold" over the Labour party and can "dictate terms". I'm not saying Mr Cameron must be on another planet, but I understand this news was relayed to us by SETI :-P

Indeed, chancellor Alistair Darling has, at best naively, called for pay restraint (BBC News: Darling calls for pay restraint). To be fair, possibly as a result of increased union activity and his party's unpopularity, he has this time attacked large pay rises "from the boardroom to the shopfloor". But he has not made clear if this "restraint" should also be applied to bonuses and share options, which make up a substantial percentage of the fat cat bosses' excessive take home pay.

Even if the inflation was demand-pull and caused by excessive money in the economy, it should not be the workers - already underpaid and overworked - who should suffer. It should be the fat cat bosses, whose wages are paid from the exploitation of workers, who should take a pay cut. Especially considering it is their lavish lifestyles, not to mention the nature of the capitalist system which they support, which is aggravating the problem of peak oil (not to mention destroying our planet).

So, for the striking workers in local government and Highlands and Islands airports, and others considering strike action, I have the following message:

Good luck ... and GO FOR IT !!!

Monday 16 June 2008

Something fundamentally wrong with the universe?

I really don't know how much more bizarre things can get!

First we saw a Labour government launch a diabolical attack on our civil liberties by allowing terror suspects to be locked up for 42 days without charge - almost akin to internment without trial. This is especially scary when it comes so soon after the case of a university student being locked up and tried for downloading materially freely available online, from a US government website!

What's more, in a situation reminiscent of the last Tory government under John Major, they could not get the law allowing 42 day detention passed without the support of the Ulster Unionists. Let alone how a lot of Labour members must feel about their leaders passing draconian legislation with the support of arch right-wing protestant-chauvenists whose MPs include an arch homophobe (see my last blog article); I wonder how the New Labour members of Opus Dei, a fundamentalist Catholic sect, must feel about their own government collaborating with equally fundamentalist Protestant supremacists!

Yet then we had the spectacle of David Davis, a right wing Tory who supports the reintroduction of the death penalty and opposed the repeal of the homophobic Section 28 law, presenting himself as a champion of liberty and human rights, by taking the Chiltern Hundreds over the passing of the 42 day law. This led to the even more sorry spectacle of the Lib Dems giving him not only unconditional but seemingly uncritical support, even to the extent of pledging not to stand a candidate against him in the resulting by-election.

Labour also seem set not to stand a candidate against Davis, for a different reason - Gordon Brown decried Davis' filibuster as "a stunt that has become a farce". Well, Mr Brown, considering some of your government's actions - notably the 10p tax fiasco - you'd know all about stunts which became farces, wouldn't you :-(

That doesn't mean the election will go uncontested, however. The former editor of The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, has vowed to stand against Davis. On a pro-42 day detention, and - considering the content of his former newspaper - probably generally an anti-civil liberties platform. Ah well, I guess this won't be the first time Labour has had a total eclipse by The Sun; indeed, under Bliar, it was hard to tell whether The Sun was a mouthpiece for Bliar or whether Bliar was allowing Rupert Murdoch to turn Britain into a tabloidocracy.

My reaction to the whole mess is, Yersinia Pestis on all the dwellings of the candidates and parties involved. Also, why have the left been sidelined once again?

Actually, we haven't. While the Establishment are having fun and games in Westminster, the real activity is happening at ground level. There has been a significant increase in strikes, notably the Shell tanker drivers' strike which has led to petrol stations running out of fuel - Back Of The Net :-) Then there's protests on the streets, such as the one on Sunday against the war criminal George W Bush's visit to London, and the mass demo and concert in London against the BNP this coming Saturday.

Forget parliament - the real power lies with the workers!

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Iris can't see the truth

Ulster Unionists never were known for their tolerance of minorities (especially Catholics!), but the latest rantings from a DUP MP really does hark back to the dark ages. Iris Robinson has called homosexuality an abomination, and urged gay people to seek psychiatric counselling (BBC News: New criticism over MP's gay views)

Despite reforms which have improved the rights of gay people - such as civil partnerships, equalisation of the age of consent, and the scrapping of the hated section 28 - such ill-informed comments prove that homophobia remains a significant problem in society.

By far the most pernicious myth is that homosexuality is allegedly akin to paedophilia. This is completely wrong. The vast majority of gay sex involves consenting partners, whereas this cannot be the case with paedophilia because children are not sexually active and therefore unable to consent to sex.

Yet such assertations are backed up by spurious 'evidence' that a large percentage of child sex abuse cases involve men abusing boys. This is scientifically b******s, ignoring the fact that adult men are attractive to women, and may therefore also be attractive to (arguably) a minority of men also. Children, by contrast, are not sexually attractive, so paedophilia is purely a psychological issue. This also means that the physical differences between boys and girls are less pronounced than those between men and women, so paedophiles are more likely to be 'attracted' (I use the term loosely) to either sex - ie sexual abuse of boys is nothing to do with the abuser being gay.

Then there's the issue of homosexuality being 'un-natural'. Wrong again - evidence of homosexuality has been found in wild animals.

At the same time, however, so-called 'normal' heterosexual sex has been perverted. Partly by the media and the capitalist Establishment indoctrinating us as to what the 'ideal woman' should look like, through soft-porn such as Page 3, and glamour images of supermodels (are they called models because they're made entirely of plastic :-P ) being rammed down our throats. This leads women to go to extremes to fit the artificial model of beauty, such as plastic surgery, and women - even young girls - to develop potentially fatal conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.

Then there's the perversion of human relationships, promoted by the capitalist Establishment, which places men in a position of power over women and demands that women must be subservient to be attractive. No wonder there is the problem of some men being violent and abusive towards women.

So the real perverts are the capitalist Establishment. And considering the way they've trampled on the rights and welfare of young people, privatised schools and cut back youth clubs - I certainly wouldn't want them anywhere near my kids!

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Driven to drink

There's nothing new about the under-age drinking moral panic, it was around in the 1980s and possibly before. But it has reached new heights (BBC News: Parents to get youth drink guide) with parents of under-age drinkers being threatened with parenting classes and prosecution, and encouragement (on pain of possible licence revocation) of sellers of alcohol to check the ID of anyone under 25 (a way of marketing ID cards to young people, perhaps?)

To be fair, there is one good reason why young people drinking excess alcohol is unwelcome - the increased health risks. Yet these vary from age to age, making the blanket ban on alcohol sales to anyone under 18, unfair. And counter-productive - as mentioned in the report, it is widely believed that "the illicit nature of alcohol added to its allure." The best way to reduce under-age drinking is to stop the irresponsible marketing of alcohol, by cheap promotions and advertising campaigns (which often appeal to young people).

Besides, the most often quoted reason for the clampdowns on under-age drinking is that it "leads to anti-social behaviour" - a message rammed down out throat by actual adverts, and by biased newspaper reports and "crime documentaries" (often seen especially on the smaller Freeview channels). Such Establishment propaganda masquerading as "news" or "public information" creates the impression that all under-age drinking leads to violence and vandalism. Yet not only is this overly simplistic, it also ignores the fact that much alcohol-related crime, including violent crime, is carried out by people over 18 and even well over 25. And is sometimes taken less seriously by the law than under-age drinking, as it can be harder to prove. (A few years ago, me and members of my family suffered a campaign of harassment by an alcoholic, in which he frequently threatened violence.) Indeed, it tends to be drunken adults, rather than teenagers, who are responsible for drunken wife-beating and child abuse, and drink-driving - less obvious to the public than "rowdy teenagers", but just a little more serious!

Even for young people who don't drink, the moral panic on under-age drinking has negative effects. Much entertainment, including discos and live bands, takes place in licenced premises (whether pubs or nightclubs) - which have always tended to exclude kids, and ever more stringent licencing laws are making this problem more acute, not less. No wonder, then, kids often have little to do but hang around on the streets. Where they are more likely to end up being enticed into joining a group of binge-drinkers.

And who can blame kids for wanting to "act grown-up" (of which drinking alcohol is often seen as a part), when they have to to get into half of the entertainment venues :-(

Enough to drive you to drink ... trebles all round!

Saturday 31 May 2008

What a fuel believes

It all seems very nice on the surface, the government wanting to help people on low incomes to pay fuel bills. But I can't help feeling apprehensive about the means, namely the plans by the government to share data on benefit claimants with energy companies (BBC News: Fuel poverty action plan unveiled). Even ignoring this government's cavalier, even contemptuous, attitude towards privacy, we have seen their lack of competence at handling and transferring peoples' data with the loss of numerous data CDs (see my blog entry on this subject, from November 2007).

True, the energy companies are ripping customers off and making sky-high profits from astronomical fuel price rises. But rather than attacking the profiteering fat cats, the government is merely asking them to be a bit kinder to people on low incomes, and transfer them to a cheaper tariff if possible. Ah well, I guess it saves the government from paying decent benefits. Or making the exploitative bosses pay decent wages, so there are fewer people on low incomes. Or making those on lower incomes pay less tax, eg by properly reinstating the 10p tax rate.

So how should we deal with fuel poverty? How about renationalising the energy companies, and bringing the prices down for all of us. And then the income from energy sales, instead of going to fat cat shareholders, could all be spent dealing with fuel poverty, and on energy efficiency and home insulation which would also benefit the environment. Instead of bargaining, with the energy companies, the privacy of the poorest members of society, for a few crumbs from their fat profits!

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Brown's kick in the balls

I was in force twelve gales of laughter yesterday, when I read in the Daily Mirror how Gordon Brown had sent a message of sympathy to Chelsea footballer John Terry (Daily Mirror: Gordon Brown tells sad John Terry: I know how you feel!). Now I'm not the world's biggest football fan (although I have a soft spot for Robbie Fowler when, back in 1997, he was fined £900 by UEFA for wearing a T-shirt supporting the striking Liverpool Dockers). But I think the blunders and savage attacks on working people by Brown and his government, have a rather more serious impact on most people's lives than a f**king missed penalty!!!

A senior Labour spokesman then fawned over Brown, saying this proved that he "believes in standing by people when they are in trouble". Yeah, right. That must be why he has still ruled out proper compensation for everyone who has been belted by the 10p tax fiasco, let alone even considered reinstating the 10p tax rate. And why he has blocked EU laws designed to protect agency workers (Socialist Worker: Gordon Brown leads Europe in blocking agency workers’ rights). And why he has refused to support, and even attacked, striking workers. So, as for Brown telling Terry he has "nothing to be ashamed of"; well, I wish I could say the same about Brown :-(

Small wonder, then, that New Labour got caned in the Crewe and Nantwich by election - and in the council elections at the beginning of the month. Although I have no joy in seeing the Tories take the seat, it's arguable how much it was a shift to the right, at least among the voters. In fact, it did seem kinda surreal that New Labour were attacking the Tories from the right, playing the law and order card, while the Tories were attacking New Labour from the left, over the 10p tax obscenity. (Cue 'Twilight Zone' music ...)

Brown's cynical attempt to look like a 'man of the people' by aligning himself with popular culture like football, kinda reminds me of Tony Bliar's "Cool Britannia", in which Bliar tried to get kudos by associating himself with pop music. Well, on the subject of pop music, my message to New Labour is a line from "Going Underground" by The Jam ...

"What you give is what you get, you've made your bed, you'd better lie in it!" :-P

Monday 26 May 2008

Boris cuts off his petrol pumps to spite his nozzle

With oil prices at hyper-inflation levels, it seems strange that anyone - much less, the mayor of a city with a large public transport network - would turn up his nose at cheap oil. Yet that is exactly what Boris Johnson, the new Tory Mayor of London, has done. The oil in question is from Venezuela (BBC News: Mayor to end Venezuelan oil deal)

Mr Johnson's excuse for ending the oil deal is that the deal is, allegedly, "funded by the people of a country where many people live in extreme poverty". True, there is still widespread poverty in Venezuela. But Venezuela's elected leader, Hugo Chavez, has done more for the poor people of his country, and to address the poverty issue, than most leaders internationally, let alone in Latin America.

Chavez has nationalised a number of industries, notably Venezuela's oil, and used the revenues gained to embark on social programmes including welfare, health and education - which have massively benefited the Venezuelan poor. Small wonder, then, that Hugo Chavez has been enormously popular. Popular enough not only to be re-elected on a number of occasions, but also to survive a vilification campaign by the Venezuelan establishment media - notably the tabloid-esque private TV stations - and even an attempted military coup!

It was partly because of Chavez popularity, not just in Venezuela but among workers internationally, that the previous London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, made a deal with him to keep his remaining (albeit rapidly diminishing) credibility among the left. At the same time, Chavez' popularity among workers has an equal and opposite unpopularity among the capitalist Establishment, notably in the US, who are angry with his nationalisation programme - especially the oil nationalisation and his attacks on the mega-profits of the oil multinationals who were operating in Venezuela.

It is against this backdrop that the real reasons for Johnson's ending of the oil deal with London, become more obvious. The Tories are still no friends of the working class, as has been shown by their recently-announced intention to introduced workfare for young unemployed people (BBC News: Tory work plan for young jobless).

Admittedly, I'd be lying if I said Venezuela was a socialist paradise. It is still a top-down society in which reforms and wealth redistribution are carried out on behalf of, rather than by, the working class itself (similar to countries such as Cuba). My nose would grow further still if I then said that Ken Livingstone was the ideal choice for London Mayor. Although Livingstone has been committed to the anti-war campaign and the fight against racism and oppression, his economic policies have been flawed, as he has endorsed privatisation on the London tube, attacked strikes, and defended non-domiciles who earn obscene amounts of money but pay little if any tax.

But electing a Tory Mayor of London, and siding with the imperialist Western Establishment against a fledgling social-democratic economy like Venezuela, is not the way forward. The only way to achieve a socialist society, from London to Caracas, is for the working class in all countries to unite against the capitalist Establishment in all countries.