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.

Monday 19 May 2008

Cheeky holiday

A government-backed study has recommended the creation of a new public holiday, Armed Forces Day (BBC News: Backing for Armed Forces Day plan). At a time when there is a significant shortfall in recruitment to the Armed Forces, as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would it be cynical of me to ask if this was another ploy by the government to promote militarism? As someone who (for my sins in a previous life?) grew up in the 1980's, the idea of an Armed Forces Day cunjures up images of the public military parades in Red Square, Moscow, during Russia's Stalinist (ie so called "communist") days!

There have been a number of ideas put forward recently, to encourage more people to join the Army. Gordon Brown (or should that be Bliar Mk II?) has said young people should be encouraged to join the Army Cadets - despite the fact that, in many areas, the Army Cadets are the dominant (if not the only) organisation providing youth activities. This is hardly surprising, considering the Cadets have an £80 million budget at a time when council youth clubs are being cut back, and many youth organisations now find it increasingly difficult to recruit organisers etc (not helped by measures brought in over the past 5+ years to combat Paedophiles™). There are now proposals to increase Cadets involvement in state schools (The Independent: Use the force: Why ministers want all pupils to learn to fight) - no doubt tied in with the de-facto privatisation of schools which comes with Academies (for more info on Academies, see the Anti-Academies Alliance website).

One idea I do agree with, however, is the proposal to ban discrimination against army soldiers in uniform. Opposition to war and the military should not be allowed to translate into abuse of soldiers who have little say over where they are sent to fight. Instead, such anger should be targeted at those who give the orders - namely the Army Generals and the Government. (Now how about the MOD dropping its own exemptions from anti-discrimination legislation, eg the Disability Discrimination Act ?)

Then again, while the government and MOD cry crocodile tears about the abuse of military personnel, they are the worst for riding roughshod over their own soldiers' rights and welfare. By keeping soldiers in sub-standard accommodation, ill-equipping them for battle, and - last but certainly not least - sending them to fight and die in illegal, immoral and unjustifiable wars :-(

It would be extremely difficult to argue against another public holiday, however. Especially when UK workers have fewer paid holidays per year than elsewhere in Europe. But I can think of at least 2 possible holidays, which do not involve promoting militarism. How about a Peace Day, celebrating peace and opposition to war. Or Diversity Day, celebrating the contributions to society made by minorities and opposition to all oppressions, eg racism, sexism, homophobia, disablism.

But there's one holiday I'd love to celebrate in my lifetime ...

Overthrow of Capitalism and Imperialism Day !

Saturday 17 May 2008

Oil peaks and noses in troughs

Possibly as a result of the incredible inflation of oil prices, the concept of 'peak oil' is gaining recognition. Peak oil theory is based on the idea that oil production has reached its peak, and is now declining.

At one extreme, the oil and petroleum industries, and the capitalist system which is heavily dependent on oil, are in denial about peak oil. There are other factors which have led to the crazy rises in oil prices, notably the Iraq war and capitalist speculation in oil. But, even if oil production hasn't peaked yet, it is clear that - especially at its current rate of usage - the oil supply cannot last forever!

Meanwhile, some claim that peak oil will cause the end of life as we know it, leading to an end in all industrial production and to social upheaval, maybe even widespread war. (We are already seeing a war for oil in Iraq, and threats of similar oil wars in Iran and Syria). A few claim there is nothing we can do to halt the decline of society as we know it.

Yet there are several ways in which we can reduce the impact of peak oil. The most obvious is to reduce the use of private cars and transportation of goods, as I described in more detail in my earlier blog article, The road to Hell. Air travel is also very fuel hungry, and suggestions for its reduction were made in my Planes, planet and planning blog article.

For heating and electricity, we need to move towards renewable energy such as wind, wave and solar power. And to reduce our energy usage by more efficient heating, refridgeration, lighting and other equipment - for example, all TVs, videos, computers and similar electronic equipment should be designed to not need to be kept on standby. All buildings should be properly insulated to reduce the use of energy for heating. Much energy is especially wasted by businesses - shop lighting, notably neon signs, are often kept on even when the shops are closed. And lit-up advertising boards should be banned, as a needless waste of energy!

Oil does have other uses, such as plastic. There should be far more efforts made to recycle plastic, including the effective labelling of plastic types used in equipment so the plastic can be more easily recycled. Indeed, the recycling of all materials will help conserve energy, as less energy is used to recycle materials (over 90% less in the case of aluminium, for example) than to create materials from scratch. Even better, plastic or even glass bottles and other containers could be collected, cleaned and re-used. There are already efforts made to encourage recycling, such as supermarkets are now encouraging consumers to re-use carrier bags, but far more can be done, and needs to be done!

Another possibility is to look at ways in which plastics could be made from crops, in the same way that biofuels are. But biofuels etc should not be considered a substitute for using energy and resources more wisely. I have nothing in principle against biofuels (my own car is run on biodiesel), and - especially when made from recycled waste oil, eg from fish and chip shops - they can be part of the solution. But, unless our use of fuel for transport is significantly reduced, it would not be possible to grow enough crops to supply the needed amount of biofuels. Indeed, current attempts to substitute biofuels for oil without addressing the root cause of the problem (wasteful fuel consumption), are already aggravating rises in food prices - as mentioned in my Feeding us bull article. Said article also describes how we can reduce the need for oil-based fertilisers, by techniques such as crop rotation.

Whatever happens to the oil supply, we simply cannot keep using fossil fuels at the rate we are. Burning oil, gas or coal is also leading to global warming, which in turn leads to harmful climate change - from droughts and increased desertification, to violent weather and flooding. To prevent climate change destroying the planet, action is needed now!

All the measures I have described cannot be effectively delivered by capitalism. The sole aim of capitalist production is profit, and the required action to reduce energy use will hit profits. Over-production, which wastes precious resources (such as oil), is also built into the capitalist system. The only answer is to replace capitalism with a socialist system, where production is for human need not corporate greed.

So, peak oil or no peak oil, we are faced with the same stark choice - socialism or barbarism.

Friday 16 May 2008

Feeding us bull

It's open season on fat people again. First we were accused of being a drain on the NHS - creating a moral panic which led to reactionary policies, from a reduction in choice for school meals and the banning of certain foods from school lunch boxes, through to the threat of overweight people being denied NHS treatment. Well, now we're accused of being responsible for the rising food and oil prices (BBC News: Obese blamed for the world's ills). We'll be responsible for the assassination of Princess Diana next :-P

I'll deal with the oil situation in the next blog article. As for the food prices, there are a number of reasons for the hyper-inflation of food prices - none of which are due to obesity!

One reason is reduced crop yields, partly due to the negative effects of climate change, from droughts and increased desertification on the one hand, to floods caused by increasingly violent storms (as seen by the recent cyclone in Burma) on the other. Climate change can only be dealt with by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, by reducing car use and moving towards renewable energy - as I will deal with in more detail in my next article.

Crop yields have also been reduced in some areas due to soil erosion as a result of monoculture - the growing of the same crop year after year. Many third world countries are forced by debt to grow cash crops which they can then export; to hell not only with feeding their own people but also with protecting their own environment :-( The solution - drop all third world debt NOW!

Monoculture has also depleted the natural nutrients in large areas of arable land, necessitating the increased use of fertilisers, not to mention environmentally damaging pesticides and herbicides. A far more efficient, not to mention ecologically sound, system would be to use a form of crop rotation, ie growing different crops on different land at different times. Crop rotation was used successfully even in the Middle Ages, but with current technology allowing soil sampling and analysis, and an increased range of potential crops available for planting, it would almost certainly be even more viable today. But it would require collective ownership and cultivation of the land, and its use to grow food etc. for human need and not cash crops for private profit.

Even in the UK, farmers have moved away from growing food because they have been paid very little for it - due to the stranglehold of the big supermarkets, which take unfair advantage of their market dominance as a buyer of produce and pay the farmers as little as they can. Then they take unfair advantage of their market dominance as a seller, charging the consumer as much as they can get away with. And then they pocket the difference, in the form of fat profits. No wonder then, farmers in the UK, as well as abroad, are switching to non-food crops - notably for biofuels. (The biofuels situation will be covered in more detail also in my next article).

Finally, the rising price of foodstuffs (due to the above factors) has been massively amplified by hoarding and speculation. With a recession looming and the property market already in recession, investors have moved towards investing in commodities. With the food price rising, food is seen as a good investment, and to hell with those who now can't afford to eat it :-(

There is still more than enough food to go round. If people are at risk of starvation, it has nothing to do with fat people.

But it has everything to do with fat cats, and the capitalist system which does their bidding!

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Still no love for Darling

So New Labour's half-hearted apology for the scrapping of the 10p tax rate, is to be followed by a quarter-hearted compensation package. Namely, an increase in the personal tax allowance for anyone earning up to £40,835 per year (BBC News: Basic rate taxpayers to get £120). Sorry, but this isn't what we asked for, for 2 reasons.

Firstly, not all households will be properly compensated, and certainly not all workers! 1.1 million households will still lose out (as I feared in my earlier blog entry), but these "will see their loss at least halved". Well, whoopee-do! How dare this pathetic excuse for a Labour government still be so arrogant as to think anyone can afford to suffer a drop in take-home wages? After all, prices aren't exactly falling, are they ?!?

Secondly, again as I feared, this so-called 'compensation measure' is to be introduced in September. And tough luck to any low-earner (and his/her family) who hoped to have a summer holiday in August this year :-(

Last but not least, it is benefiting people earning up to £40k per year, well above the £18k level at which workers lost out when the 10p tax rate was removed. This isn't even compensation, it's yet another example of this bunch of closet Tories trying to get Middle England votes :-(

I demand, as do the Socialist Workers Party, that the 10p tax rate is reinstated immediately. Then again, I do feel it's only fair to repay the favour to New Labour for their pathetic effort ...

I hope only some of their MPs lose their seats at the next election :-P

Sunday 11 May 2008

Theft of our rights

A new database is due to come on-line, with the sole purpose of blacklisting people whose previous employers have accused them of theft - even when no criminal charges were brought (BBC News: Bust-up with the boss?).

I have always been against the use of unproven criminal allegations being used to stop people getting jobs; I never liked the use of the 'enhanced disclosure' section of CRB checks for working with kids, which included failed convictions (as opposed to actual convictions, or even formal cautions). Indeed, in the past, people were blacklisted by employers for activities which weren't even criminal - both the state organisation MI5 and the private Economic League held lists of left-wing and anti-Establishment political activists and even union activists, which employers (both state and private) used to avoid employing people who they did not agree with politically.

It also seems to me that the Establishment's attitudes towards employing criminals have changed massively in the past 10 years. Back in 1999, the British Army was actually recruiting in prisons (BBC News: Army prison recruitment confirmed). Maybe I'm missing the point, but I'd personally feel just a little safer if a criminal had a cash register than if he had a gun!

The biggest problem for me with this blacklist is that it relies on unproven allegations. miscarriages of justice occur even within the legal system, where a crime must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. How many more miscarriages of justice will occur within a system where the mere say-so of the boss, even another employee, who an employee has had a personality clash with, could ruin someone's chances of working again? And would this not be a charter for racists etc who, rather than dismiss someone overtly due to prejudice, can instead concoct allegations of theft or dishonesty?

The National Staff Dismissal Register was set up by as a joint venture between the British Retail Consortium and the Home Office - hardly surprising, considering the Home Office also introduced ASBOs, which similarly rely upon unproven allegations and can severely restrict a person's rights without needing the burden of proof required for a criminal conviction :-(

Then again, some thieves will remain secure in their jobs. Bosses of big business have fat salaries which are largely dependent on how much profit they make their company - and profit is nothing more than exploitation, ie the theft of their workers' labour. Yet such thieves, far from being placed on a blacklist, would be welcomed on the boardroom of a rival company even more if they increased the level of theft of their workers' labour, meaning higher profits.

Capitalism is a crime - together we can crack it!

Saturday 10 May 2008

Two wrongs can take a right

Still on the subject of New Labour's fanaticism for law and order, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has urged Police to 'harass young thugs' (BBC News: Harass young thugs, police urged)

There are a number of problems with this tabloidocratic idea. Firstly, it legitimises police harassment, which is unsavoury at the best of times. Even worse, what is there now to stop incidents of police racial harassment, which have occurred in the past - indeed, it is understood to have been police harassment of young black people which was the flash-point triggering riots (such as those in Brixton, Handsworth and Toxteth) in the 1980's. Even now, black people are significantly more likely to be stopped and searched by Police than white people, a problem which is hardly likely to be helped by Ms Smith saying that police harassment is a good thing!

Then, there's the nature of the harassment that Jacqui Smith is advocating - namely, the persistent checking of 'thugs' for fairly trivial offences such as benefit fraud and TV licence evasion. Is this an admission that the government has passed so many laws (literally hundreds, possibly even thousands since 1997!) that the Police can't enforce them all, so they need to enforce them selectively? If so, I guess this kills the myth of everyone being equal in the eyes of the law :-P

Finally, what is a 'young thug'? Don't get me wrong, I have no time at all for bullies who threaten people, i've been on the wrong end of quite a few myself over the years. But I don't think 'playing them at their own game' is the answer, especially when the Establishment's definition of 'thug' seems to not necessarily be the same as how ordinary people understand the term. One of the criteria mentioned in the BBC News article is 'street drinking' which, like drug use, underage drinking etc, is not a violent or threatening act in and of itself. Also mentioned is breach of ASBO's - yet some of the ASBOs served are unfair, occasionally ridiculous (some examples are quoted on the ASBOwatch website).

This isn't the first time a Home Secretary has suggested the increased use of a flawed practice by the police. Back in 2004, David Blunkett urged police to increase the use of police informants ('coppers' narks', 'green giros'. 'PFI CSI's', call them what you will) - despite the fact that many informants abuse their near-untouchable status to commit more crimes, violence and bullying included :-(

Then again, if Ms Smith really wants the Police to harass some thugs, I can point them in the direction of a few. In Westminster, there is a gang of people who have instigated mass violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have indulged in threatening behaviour towards Iran and Syria. Maybe the Police could also investigate these people for theft from low paid workers, vandalism of public services, milking House of Commons expenses , etc, etc :-P

Thursday 8 May 2008

High time for decriminalisation

Having lost so miserably in the recent elections, I hoped this New Labour government may have learned some lessons. Sadly, they've learned the wrong lessons, and now think their main chance of recovery is to be more like the Tories. (Indeed, in some cases, to be more Tory than the Tories). Such is the case with law and order.

So it is perhaps not surprising that cannabis has now been uprated to a class B drug, from class C, carrying tougher penalties for sale and possession (BBC News: Cannabis laws to be strengthened). This is despite the fact that cannabis is not addictive (unlike tobacco and even alcohol), has very few proven harmful effects (the alleged link between schizophrenia and cannabis use is far from definite),and deaths from cannabis use are few and far between. Last but not least, the government has even ignored an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs review, which recommended cannabis stay class C - despite the fact that the report was itself commissioned by the government! Ah well, typical I guess of the arrogance of this government, always thinks it knows best and won't listen to reason :-(

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite aware that not all cannabis use is in any way progressive; nowadays a cannabis user is just as likely to be a brainwashed lumpenproletarian with right-wing oppressive ideas, as he/she is to be a progressive peace-loving hippy. But, just because cannabis use has spread beyond the hippy movement, doesn't make it, in and of itself, any more harmful.

What will make it more harmful is increased prohibition, driving it further underground and its suppliers further into the criminal underworld. The more illegal a product is, the greater are the profits to be made by those prepared to break the law by selling it - and these profits are often made by underhand means such as mixing the drug with similar looking but potentially harmful products, as is often done with class A drugs such as heroin.

It's not just recreational users who will suffer, either. Cannabis has numerous medicinal uses, including as treatments for multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc. Yet this government, and the previous Tory government, have persistently refused to consider making cannabis available on prescription or even licence it for medicinal use - which is why we are still seeing people arrested, even jailed, for using or supplying cannabis for medicinal use. This problem can only be made worse by the government's decision to increase the penalties for its use.

The drugs moral panic, which will be fed by the decision to reclassify cannabis, also has wider implications. In many areas it takes on a racist edge, as black people are more likely to be arrested, searched, and prosecuted for drug use than white people. (This was also the case in 1990's America, where the 'war on drugs' was often nicknamed the 'war on blacks').

Personally, I think cannabis should be legalised and regulated. It is one of the less dangerous drugs - responsible for far fewer deaths than tobacco and alcohol, which are both legal.

I also think hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine should be decriminalised, as this would allow addicts to be able to get help without fear of arrest and prosecution. I would supply 'safe' (or as safe as possible!) uncut heroin, cocaine etc on prescription - removing much theft-related crime, by addicts who steal to fund their habit, not to mention removing a source of income from gangsters.

In fact, I think Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown etc should all be prescribed a nice big spliff. It might make them lighten up and mellow out, and expand their narrow minds, for a change!

Sunday 4 May 2008

If you tolerate this

The single scariest result from this years's election, as I said in my last article, is the accelerating rise of the Nazi BNP. As well as a seat on the Greater London Assembly, they have also gained 10 councillors nationally - including 3 in Rotherham and 2 in the Amber Valley of Derbyshire, both "in my back yard". How could this have happened?

The most obvious answer is disillusionment with the Labour government, and the lack of a credible left alternative in most areas, leading people to turn to the right wing. People in areas where employment was decimated by the last Tory government, where coal mines and steel works were shut by Thatcher and then Major (such as South Yorkshire, including Rotherham) will be rather unlikely to vote Tory! Which often leaves just the BNP as a protest vote.

At the same time, there has been an increase in reactionary right-wing thinking, driven by the capitalist Establishment. The media-created myth of the White Working Class™, moral panics about Terrorism™ and the scapegoating of asylum seekers, have all acted as a catalyst for racist bellyfeel, and vice versa. Meanwhile, constant attacks on Incapacity Benefit and its claimants, have catalysed with disablist bellyfeel. ('Bellyfeel' is an Orwellian expression, used in '1984', to describe deep-seated feelings and beliefs, often confused with 'common sense', which are the result of alienation mixed with prolonged and sustained mass-brainwashing by the Establishment. Often confused with 'human nature'). Under these circumstances, the discriminatory and oppressive b***s*** of the Nazis gains an undeserved hearing.

Last but not least, the anti-fascist movement seems to be increasingly fragmented. Since the Anti-Nazi League seemed to split into Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism, even though the two groups campaign together, they sometimes feel like two separate entities. At least compared with the days of the Anti Nazi League, which organised both the music festivals and the leafleting and campaigning on the ground.

But a potentially more serious division occurred when Searchlight - a long standing anti-fascist organisation, best known for Searchlight newspaper/magazine, with much respect among the left - made a tactical error by seeming to promote a Labour vote as the way to keep the BNP out. (Hardly a good way to build a united front with anti-fascists not only across the left, but also Lib Dems and even Tories who oppose the racist and anti-democratic beliefs of the Nazis). Meanwhile, Searchlight - often under the 'Hope Hot Hate' banner - have moved towards advertising campaigns (eg adverts on buses) and links with national newspapers such as the Daily Mirror. Useful as these tactics are as a tool for spreading the anti-fascist message, they are no substitute for effective grassroots campaigning in the communities where the BNP are attempting to build support. Likewise, the support of celebrities such as Alan Sugar, although welcome, is no substitute for mass support among the workers and minority groups who will suffer if the Nazis ever get real power.

To beat back the Nazis, unity is the key. Even if the left can't unite in opposition to the government, we must unite in opposition to the fascists.

The consequences of our failure to do so could be catastrophic. Maybe even fatal :(

Saturday 3 May 2008

Mayday means SOS for the left

The recent election results were not only terrible for the government, but also dire for the left. New Labour lost massively but, instead of the left gaining, it was the right-wing who capitalised on their unpopularity.

The Tories tore ahead not only in the council elections, but also took control of the Greater London Assembly, and Tory Boris Johnson became the London Mayor, unseating Ken Livingstone. The UKIP also gained 3 councillors. But, most horifically of all, the Nazi BNP gained 10 councillors and even gained a seat on the GLA.

The reasons for Labour losing so terribly are obvious; war (notably the Iraq war), privatisation, rising prices, and the shift of the tax burden onto poor workers (epitomised by the scrapping of the 10p tax rate). This was not so much a tragedy as the "chickens coming home to roost", and will hopefully be the final nail in Brown's coffin.

But what about the real left? Respect, severely damaged by the split last year, was obviously still not in shape to provide a serious alternative to New Labour. It wasn't all bad news though; Respect came very close to gaining another councillor in Preston, coming a very close second. We also came second in a number of other council wards, including Maxine Bowler in Sheffield Burngreave (obviously my efforts during the election campaign weren't wasted, lol). In a number of wards, we pushed the Tories - the main winners nationally - into 3rd or even 4th place!

There are another few rays of light penetrating the hurricane. The breakaway Respect Renewal gained another councillor in Birmingham. The Green Party gained 5 councillors nationally (including one in Sheffield), despite being seen as 'anti-car' (which is not a good label to have in these days of extortionate fuel prices!).

Even so, these are very grim times for the left. Our main hope of recovery is unity; all left-wing parties must remember that we have more in common than that which divides us, and certainly more in common with each other than we will ever have with the Establishment.

The call for unity also goes out to the working class in general - we also have more in common with each other than we can ever have with the bosses and the capitalist Establishment. Which is why we should support every strike, campaign and fight by workers. Especially as we now face more overtly right-wing councillors, GLA representatives, etc.