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!