Trident is a white elephant

April 14, 2016

The term “white elephant” comes from the 19th century. Kings of Thailand would bequest albino white elephants to courtiers who displeased them. The albino elephants were protected; they could not be used for labour or destroyed, but they would cost a fortune in upkeep. Trident nuclear submarines are a white elephant – ridiculously expensive, outdated and a complete waste of money. They cannot be used, without endangering all our lives, but this is a project which the government does not want to get rid of. They are being replaced only for vanity, to ensure Britain remains in the “nuclear club”.

Trident’s total cost will come to some £160bn, at a time when services and the NHS are being slashed. Even by MoD’s estimates, the cost of just building the submarine (without running costs, or the costs of the weaponry) has gone up from £20 bn to £31 bn, with an additional £10bn contingency fund! To put this in context, the entire NHS budget for England and Wales is £100bn.

Trident is a cold-war relic – even if the spending on Trident was justified, militarily it is obsolete – we do not face the risk of nuclear annihilation, but even if we did, there is also MAD – the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction. If a nuclear war were to happen, both sides would be wiped out.

One of the reasons that defence projects’ spending often get out of control is that politicians have been bought off by defence companies. In 2010, Labour’s Geoff Hoon, the ex-Defence Secretary, was caught by Sunday Times reporters pretending to be defence lobbyists, along with Stephen Byers. When Geoff Hoon was an MP, military helicopter company Agusta Westland were awarded a billion-pound order. They were obviously grateful: now out of Parliament, Hoon earns his way as the company’s Vice-President of international business. There is no reason to think that the Tories are any more scrupulous – Cameron has toured Saudi Arabia selling BAE systems Eurofighter jets.

The Tories want to go ahead with an EDF and Chinese bid to build Hinkley Point C Reactor, when the existing nuclear reactors in the UK are due to be decommissioned by 2023. Rather than making Britain safer, this will only provide more terrorist targets and opportunities for sabotage. Is this to provide uranium which can be reprocessed to produced nuclear weapons? There is an alternative to the Uranium reactor, which is more abundant in the Earth, produces less radioactive waste (although the problem does not go away), and cannot meltdown – the Thorium reactor. However, this was abandoned in the 1940s because the by-products cannot be used to make nuclear bombs!

Instead, we could scrap Trident, and invest in renewable energy – jobs could be diverted into clean-up operations, at the moment there is no safe way of disposing of nuclear waste. While government provides £2.6bn for research and development for arms, it is just £42m in the case of renewable energy.

The only reason for keeping Trident is so-called “prestige”. I can’t think of any good reasons for having a weapon which will never be used, and could trigger WWIII. Tony Benn famously said, “If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people”. The attacks by the right-wing mass media on Jeremy Corbyn, that he would do away with the military completely, and the attacks on his personal appearance, echo the attacks on Michael Foot in 1983, the last time a Labour leader was in favour of disarmament. However, most of the Labour Parliamentary Party disagree with him – would Corbyn enforce a whip this time, as he failed to do over Syria? We argue that Blairite Labour MPs and councillors should be de-selected as soon as possible and replaced with class fighters, if Corbyn is to be successful in transforming New Labour into a democratic, socialist party.

The Labour leader’s commitment to disarmament begs the question – are war and capitalism inseparable? Military conflict took place during every single year of the 20th Century. The total number of deaths caused by war during the 20th Century has been estimated at 187 million. From a capitalist’s point of view, war is a necessary evil, because of the need to constantly make more profits – they want to conquer territories, and exploit resources and labour. War also gets rid of excess capacity, where goods are made faster than can be bought by the people who are making them. This is done without regard for the loss of human life, except as employees. It has also caused the expansion of the defence industry – weapons are

An alternative was put forwards by shop stewards at Lucas Aerospace in 1971. Instead of producing weapons, the workers could have used their skills to develop long-life batteries, kidney dialysis machines. This shows the need for democratic control of workplaces – we can decide what is socially useful and what actually needs to be made. Workers on the shop floor are best placed to make these decisions.

It is utopian to think that the threat of nuclear war can be solved under this system of capitalism. However, if there was a successful socialist revolution – this would need to be defended against capitalist interests – so we would still need arms. Only with a socialist world, could we truly get rid of the wastefulness and insanity of war.

Useful links –

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/timeline-of-20th-and-21st-century-wars

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/arms-trading-bae-systems-and-why-politicians-and-men-from-the-military-make-a-very-dubious-mix-8210897.html

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/2843/hinkley-point-c-and-trident-the-link-between-the-tories-two-mad-nuclear-policies

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/david-cameron-brilliant-uk-arms-exports-saudi-arabia-bae

O Panama!

April 10, 2016

O Panama! Where money grows on trees!
O avarice and greed, of taxes we are free.
Fatten our wallets, let our bank balance grow
The tax inspector, he will never know.
For the wealthy, O Panama,
We sing in praise of thee.
Save our money, glorious, tax-free!
O Panama, you’re more than a hat to me.
O Panama, where you never PAYE.

O Panama! Where spivs and bankers go,
To hide their gains, let liquid assets flow!
How dear to us is personal gain,
We must hide it from the HMRC!
A land of hedge funds for those who never toil,
The true Pound strong and free!
Save our money, glorious, tax-free.
O Panama, you’re more than a hat to me.
O Panama, where we’re free from VAT.

O Panama! Convenient distant skies,
May the tax man never from our fingers prise.
Our wads of cash, amassed thro’ the years,
We sing in praise of thee,
Our own beloved tax-avoidance scam
Our true Pound strong and free!
Save our money, glorious, tax-free.
O Panama, you’re more than a hat to me.
O Panama, where you never PAYE.

Good bankers all, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our assets, in thy loving care.
Help us to find, solace in thee,
A lasting rich reward.
As waiting for yet more money,
We ever stand on guard.
And keep our cash, glorious, tax-free.
O Panama, you’re more than a hat to me.
O Panama, where we’re free from VAT.

 

 

SUPPORT JUNIOR DOCTORS, SAVE OUR NHS!

April 10, 2016

 

nhs

Our NHS is under attack like never before, and we must act now to save it. As a worker in the NHS and a UNISON member, I chaired a protest organised by Leicestershire Against The Cuts last Saturday. Itbrought together campaigners from groups such as TUSC, the Socialist Party, Momentum, and Keep Our NHS Public, alongside trade unionists including the NUT, Unite Community and junior doctors from the BMA. We had a lively rally and march through Leicester city centre, with many students and young people raising their voices – we need our public health service to still be there for future generations.

People were angry that cuts are being made to local NHS services – the nearby Hinckley and Bosworth Community Hospital is earmarked  for closure and 400 beds are under threat at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, under the so-called “Better Care Together” programme. Health bosses say inpatient services will transfer into community care. However, community health resources are already paper-thin.  In reality, the NHS is being run down and privatised.

Junior doctors are striking to defend their terms and conditions, because they see the government’s attack on their terms and conditions as an attack on the whole of the NHS. A doctor on a picket line at Leicester General Hospital said that junior doctors are seen as an easy target, as their contract is up for renewal. Jeremy Hunt is seeking to impose a new contract, without any meaningful negotiation. Doctors do not want to go on strike, but when patient  care and the future of the NHS is at stake, they have no other choice.

Peter Flack, from the NUT union, mentioned the need for co-ordinated industrial action – teachers are currently being balloted for ongoing strike action, because of education cuts and the enforced academisation of schools. We believe that the big health unions, UNISON and Unite, should also beballoting their members. NHS pay has been frozen in real terms  for the last six years. Unite estimates that NHS staff have had a 13-19% pay cut as a result. Contrast this with the tax avoidance of the super-rich, exposed in the Panama Papers leak. The PCS union estimates that around £130bn a year is lost through  tax evasion – that is more than the entire NHS budget for England and Wales! Who does the most useful work in society, David Cameron or NHS staff?

Sally Ruane, of Keep Our NHS Public, pointed out the lack of resources put into public healthcare in the UK compared to other wealthy economies. The government wants to make the NHS a “24/7 service”, but are refusing to pay for this! The result is that if they get their way, doctors, nurses and admin staff will be forcedto work longer hours, for less reward. If you go to hospital,  you do not want to be treated by exhausted staff, who have to make life-or-death decisions.

Mark Gawthorpe, of Unite Community, spoke about the strain on the disabled and unemployed. The government’s cuts to disability benefit, are resulting in mental health problems and, tragically, suicides.  It is all right for tax-avoiding MPs, who can simply “go private”. What about the rest of us? The NHS is there for all, not just for those who can afford it.

It was good to see supporters of Jeremy Corbyn from Momentum on the demonstration – however, Corbyn faces an uphill struggle to reform the Labour Party, given that it was Labour who introduced Foundation Trusts, privatising  the health service, with increased spending on PFI. Unfortunately, Blairites are still in control of the Labour Party machine. Corbyn should look outwards to the 100,000s of people who joined Labour and were enthused by his socialist principles. His words  need to turn into action. Right-wing MPs and councillors need to be deselected and the Labour Party needs to be made more democratic. Labour should be opposing all cuts to services, rather than merely wield the axe for the Tories, which is what Labour-controlled  councils up and down the country are sadly doing.

Dr Jon Dale, a Unite member, concluded the rally by putting forward the Socialist Party’s alternative. We stand for investment into our healthcare service. We would scrap extortionate PFI deals, where health trusts owe private companies £billions. We would kick out the fat cats from our health  service by abolishing the Health and Social Care Act, which has opened NHS services up to tender to “any willing provider”. Richard Branson’s Virgin Health, for example, has taken over Wiltshire Childrens’ Services for £64m. We would nationalise  the pharmaceutical companies, which rip off the NHS by overcharging for medicine. We demand a publicly-owned, properly funded National Health Service, as envisaged by the Welsh socialist Nye Bevan, almost 70 years ago. The Tories want to get rid of the  NHS. If you want to protect our health service, join the socialists!

Defend comprehensive education

March 17, 2016

I was coming back from London, on a demonstration to save sixth-form colleges and reverse the shocking decline in funding for schools. “Save Our Colleges, Invest Don’t Cut” was the NUT’s slogan.

12823434_10154216229288974_807975284224464117_o.jpg

As we delivered a long list of signatures in a petition to Nicky Morgan, a paper aeroplane came sailing from an upstairs window in the Department of Education – “Youre gay!” it proclaimed, eloquently. “Homophobic language. No use of an apostrophe. Could do better.”

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Photo – Jenny Stewart

As I was travelling up the M1, I overheard an alarming conversation – “they are making all schools become academies”. I didn’t believe this at first, and thought this was just a dark sense of humour. His colleague said with an air of defeatism, “Well it has been going that way for some time”. We need to fight the principle of elitism in education and defend the post-war idea of comprehensive education – Tony Blair famously called schools “bog-standard comprehensives”. Yet the comprehensive model, well-funded and with smaller class sizes, is that used by Finland – the most successful education system in the world.

Comprehensive education is the idea that every child, no matter how poor their upbringing, is deserving of the best education possible, provided for by the state. It should not matter what your parents’ economic or social background is – we should be living, in the twenty-first century, in the fifth richest economy on the planet – in a meritocracy.

The Tories are waging outright war on our schools, because they want to smash the public sector, and keep education for a privileged elite.  Again, the culprit is Tony Blair, who under Labour started the process off – but the Tories have taken his ball – just as they have with Labour’s privatisation of the NHS, and the formation of Foundation Trusts – and ran with it.

There is a petition to save our schools from academisation – please sign it here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124702

But a petition alone will not be enough to stop this onslaught. The strike by sixth form teachers today needs to be the beginning of a massive fightback, involving united action by all education staff. We need to reverse cuts to education and stop the wholesale privatisation of our education system. We must defend comprehensive education.

 

 

The Poetry Ombudsman

March 16, 2016

If words give you a headache or cause complaint,
If they purport to be a villanelle, but a villanelle they aint,
Don’t get vexed or frustrated, show some restraint
The Poetry Ombudsman – at prices that won’t make you faint.

If your poems have got rather neglected
If they are continually being rejected
If your lines need injected
With originality, charm and wit.
Then it is time to get them inspected
The Ombudsman will look into it.

For advice on inflexion
Just book an inspection
For a thorough dissection
Of metre and verse.
Poetry polished to perfection
Not flabby, limp or terse.

If your stanzas are sagging
And your rhythm is lagging
Your scansion keeps snagging
And you can’t think of a rhyme
Don’t let time go on dragging
The Ombudsman – words which chime!

We will examine every foot, not a syllable will be spared
No more poetry worries, to make you go grey-haired.
Your stresses will be even, lines beautifully prepared
The Ombudsman won’t rest until every word is repaired.

From slam, to sestina, from haiku to sonnet
Give us a try, we’ll get straight on it.
So visit your local poetry showroom!
Ideas will sprout in your head like mushrooms
Similes will fly from your pen like butterflies
Your poems will soar and flutter by.

Publishers will be rushing to see your manuscript
Fame and fortune await – we can get you equipped
With a ready-made, instant, poetry writing kit.

 

Poetry should be practised with due care and supervision. Any promises made in this poem are subject to the discretion of the reader, poetic licence and the whim of the reviewer. While we promise fame and fortune, no mention is made of the amount of fame and / or fortune which may ensue. The Poetry Ombudsman bears no relation to the Property Ombudsman, whose sign I happened to spot in a window.

Should we stay or should we go now?

March 9, 2016

bosses

What should the response of socialists be to the EU referendum?

(Lead-off for a meeting at Leicester Socialist Students, on the case for a left exit from the European Union).

It was interesting to see the poll on facebook, which was carried out amongst those who were interested in coming to this meeting, showing a majority in favour of staying in the EU.  I am not surprised that many people on the left, in opposition to the xenophobia stirred up by UKIP and the right-wing mass media, are instinctively siding with the Labour / Conservative / Lib Dem position – that we are better off within the EU. I will outline the case for leaving, and open the debate up to the floor.

We don’t fight on a political terrain of our own making. We are socialists, so we fight for international solidarity of the working class. Yet, we live in an imperfect, capitalist world, where the rights of people are subject to the needs of capitalism – and these two continually come into conflict.

We have to be honest with people and weigh up the consequences of remaining within the EU. Quite often this is portrayed as “coming out of Europe” – it is not the same thing at all. We had a referendum in 1975 on the question of Britain remaining in the European Economic Community (EEC). In that referendum, the Labour Left campaigned against joining, including Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. It is a measure of how weak and isolated Corbyn is as a leader within his own party, that he has recently turned his back on his previous convictions on this issue, under pressure from the right of Labour.

If you look at the experience of many economies within Europe – Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal – they have had to endure huge hardships as a result of being wedded to the troika – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF. The Greek people have been forced to pay 170% of their GDP in debt, and have been told that there is no choice but continued austerity. However, there was the choice of a different course of action – but this would need a socialist leadership prepared to break with capitalism in order to carry this through. Syriza thought they could barter concessions from European capitalism, using a referendum vote against austerity as a bargaining chip. In reality, Angela Merkel and the EC wanted to crush any dissent – the result was a humiliating defeat for Tsipras, Varoufakis and the Syriza leadership.

From an Interview with Nikos Kanellis, Volos City Councilor (Xekinima/ CWI Greece) by Sascha Stanicic (SAV/CWI Germany)

“The great majority of Greek population was in favour of taking a “hard line”. That is why mass demonstrations were organized in all the country in favor of the government and against the blackmail of Troika and especially the German government. In polls, up to 70-80% of Greeks supported the Greek government in this “battle”. Xekinima(CWI in Greece) alongside with other forces and even some Syriza MPs proposed that Tsipras should turn to the Greek people and call for a referendum on the dilemma “euro and austerity or anti-austerity, pro- working class policies and the drachma?”. We strongly believe that if this question was posed the great majority of Greek workers and poor would have chosen to break with the euro. Of course, at the same time, we explained that the return to drachma would not, in itself, provide solutions to the crisis of Greek capitalism and socialist policies should be followed immediately to put the economy on a growth path and in the service of working people.

At the same time, Tsipras should explain who is the real responsible for the debt (bankers, capitalists, the Greek, German and whole European ruling class) in order to immediately stop paying it. Then they should carry out socialist policies, nationalization of the banks and the commending heights of the economy, under social and workers’ control and management and mass public investment etc., to plan the economy and put it on the path of growth. The economy should be “protected” from profiteering and the sabotage of Greek and European capital, through capital controls and the control of the external trade.”

Similarly, in Ireland, a referendum was held on the Lisbon Treaty, where we campaigned for a NO vote, against austerity. When the result didn’t go the way of the capitalists, they simply asked the Irish public again, in another referendum, and when they finally got the required result, they imposed another package of severe austerity measures, in return for a bailout of the banks.

If you look at the fortunes of the equivalents of New Labour in Ireland and Greece – Labour and PASOK respectively, they have been hammered by the electorate. The Labour Party in Ireland has been reduced to just six seats. A new socialist electoral formation, which is a much smaller party in terms of membership, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, has the same number of TDs (the Irish equivalent of MPs). The same fate could happen to Labour in Britain, should it not put forward clear anti-austerity policies.

We say – drop the debt. Working-class people should not have to pay for a crisis of capitalism.

The EU is an undemocratic organisation. Decisions are made behind closed doors and the European Parliament has no real powers – the unelected European Commission wields the real power. It acts in the interests of big business, not the working class. Italy had its elected government replaced by an EU-approved board of bankers, the very people who precipitated the global economic crisis. Is it that the EU cannot be reformed and we should leave, or are we better off staying in and fighting to reform the EU?

Why can’t we reform the EU? Why is capitalism incapable of uniting Europe? Capitalism is based on the one hand on private ownership. Fewer and fewer giant companies control the means of producing the goods and services we consume. On the other hand, capitalism has divided us into nation states. These are not just economic entities, but also social and political formations, with historically rooted features such as territorial boundaries, language, culture, etc., which are not mechanically created and changed by purely economic forces.

The EU’s Schenken agreement, which allows free movement of people within Europe (with the exception of the UK), is being ripped apart by the “refugee crisis”. Of course this is a crisis of capitalism’s own making, created by military intervention in the Middle East. According to The Guardian, there are eleven million empty homes in the EU – this would be more than enough to home the 1 million refugees who have entered the continent, and solve housing shortages for its citizens. Yet, capitalism is incapable of squaring this circle. Housing should be regarded as a basic human right; social housing could be provided for all, yet this would need socialist planning to organise and deliver.

Instead of being urged to support the EU, ‘with reservations’ or otherwise, workers in each EU country should demand that their government defy the pro-market, anti-worker EU directives and rulings. In Britain, for example, that would mean refusing to implement EU directives to ‘liberalise’ postal services, of which the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail is another step. Why couldn’t the EU transport directives be defied and the railways re-nationalised, and other privatisations reversed? Why couldn’t the ‘race to the bottom’ under way in the EU be resisted, with European Court rulings on the posted workers’ directive defied, as the construction workers who struck for their jobs at the Lindsey oil refinery did?

But such struggles, which would come up at each stage against the capitalists’ control of the economy and society, would raise the need for new mass, socialist parties to represent the working classes of Europe.

Another argument is that we are better off within Europe, because of the rights such as the European Working Time Directive. These include paid holidays, equal rights for part-time workers, parental rights, equal pay for equal work, working time limits, health and safety standards and protection from discrimination. Paid holidays have existed in Britain since the 1871 Bank Holidays Act and were widespread, largely through collective bargaining, long before the EU working time directive was passed in 2003.

The EU employment equality directive was issued in 2000, but before that we had the 1970 Equal Pay Act, the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act, the 1976 Race Relations Act and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act — all agreed by the Westminster Parliament without input from Brussels. However, even with this legislation – women are still paid less than men, and minorities are still discriminated against; legislation alone is not enough. We need a political voice, to ensure that workers’ interests are represented in Parliament.

EU directives on paternity leave, the 48-hour working week and rules on transfers of undertakings when a company is taken over all had to be enacted at Westminster to take effect. In England, Parliament is the sovereign decision-making body – not the EU (though this is not recognised by EU law, and it is all a bit complicated). However, laws can be broken – Thatcher was brought down by non-payment of the poll tax; water charges in Ireland are on the verge of being defeated by a similar campaign. A determined, socialist challenge to unfair laws can win victories for the 99%.

Leaving the EU does not mean that laws Parliament has passed would automatically fall. Any government that wanted to end these measures would have to go through the same legislative process to repeal them. In addition, John Major negotiated a full opt-out from the social chapter enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty, while Tony Blair did similarly with the 48-hour weekly limit in the working time directive.

The European Parliament isn’t a parliament. It can’t propose laws. That right is reserved to the Commission. MEPs cannot change the direction of the EU. It is not time for Britain to entrust the future of its people to, what has been called by Paul Murphy, ex-Socialist Party MEP for Dublin,  a “cabal of big business”. The only sensible vote in the referendum for trade unionists and socialists is to withdraw from the EU.

To abstain from this debate, or to support the “in” campaign, would be to leave the “out” campaign to the far-right – on the basis of controlling immigration and narrow-minded protectionism of the economy. This would be a disaster – Jeremy Corbyn, for example, has taken many votes away from UKIP in recent by-elections – this is putting Labour’s gains in danger, in my opinion. It was a big mistake for Galloway to appear on the same stage as Nigel Farage. Farage described him as a towering figure on the left – the only towering thing both men have in common are their towering egos.

This was an attempt to make UKIP’s out campaign official by claiming broad support for it across the political divide. By contrast, we support a position of no government funding for Tory / UKIP campaigning. There could be an official No campaign, which would receive government funding – or neither campaign would get government funding. TUSC has a petition against government money going to right-wing, Eurosceptic campaigns.

I would argue for withdrawal from the EU – not on the basis of racism or xenophobia, but as part of the struggle for a socialist Europe. Many of the fundamental problems facing workers today, from the economic crisis to planet-threatening climate change, cannot be solved in one country alone. A united Europe, bringing together in real solidarity all the resources and human talent in the different countries and cultures encompassed in the 490 million-strong European Union (EU), would be an enormous step forward in the struggle for a new world. But can the EU unite Europe, not in an artificial or imposed ‘unity from above’, but in a genuine coming together of the European peoples? The answer to this question is, “No”.

 

References –

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/22359

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-861f-No-time-to-entrust-Britains-future-to-a-bureaucratic-finance-capital-cabal#.Vt_-XlSLSbk

http://www.socialistalternative.org/2015/03/04/greece-yes-choice/

 

 

Poems for International Women’s Day

March 1, 2016

Inadequacy

I’m a man, a bloke, a geezer, a lad
So why should I be feeling so sad?
We are supposed to be in charge,
Lording it over our other halves.

If you think that is the extent of your role;
Watch TV all day, hog the remote control,
Take the lion’s share of the duvet at night,
When feminism comes, you’ll get a fright.

It makes me feel quite emasculated
Now that women are emancipated.
If, on the dole, I can no longer provide
It is such a blow to my manly pride.

Of what, exactly, are you afraid?
What’s your problem, not getting laid?
Is there a deficiency in your trouser department?
So I am put in your tidy, little compartment?

But you are good at housework and cooking and such
It’s your God-given role, your woman’s touch.
To be quiet, and pretty and do as you’re told,
Not to nag, complain, berate and scold.

I slave all day behind busy shop tills.
I work to pay the household bills.
Do you have a problem with that?
Would you prefer a meek doormat?

Look at Alexandra Kollantai
She could raise a worldwide hue and cry
Against patriarchy, sexism, brutality,
Artificial, capitalist plurality.

I don’t buy your consumerist shit
I’ve got a brain and a sharper wit
“Men are from Mars, women from Venus”
Just because I lack a penis,
An accident of hormones in the womb,
Doesn’t mean I have to clean and scrub and quietly fume.

There is more to life than a cock and balls.
To differentiate you boys from us girls.

We share the same problems,
We have the same goals.
Equality – for one and all.

 

Post-feminism

Old International Women’s Day
Has been betrayed, it’s not the same.
LeicestHERday is such a shame.
Politicians have conveniently forgotten
History of struggle against conditions rotten.
The courageous matchgirls’ strike
Who told the boss to take a hike,
Who fought against cruel phossy jaw,
Who weren’t afraid to break the law,
‘Gainst exploitation of Bryant and May,
For worker’s rights and decent pay.

The hypocrisy of Liz Kendall
Is enough to send you quite mental.
She spouts on about women’s rights
While council workers are in her sights.
Labour Leicester passes savage cuts –
Thousands sacked, no ifs or buts.
Thousands of families, on the dole;
She has no compassion,no socialist soul.
Reforming the system, their timid goal.
But don’t touch my MP’s pay,
Let us fiddle expenses and stay
Comfortably afloat, on our Parliamentary gravy boat
With silk cushions, duck house, and country moat.

 

 

little redlittle green

 

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

Sonnet for #heartunion week

February 23, 2016

#loveunions

We fought hard for breaks from labour and toil
A weekend of leisure, an eight-hour day.
We won our fair share of the bosses’ spoil:
Now doctors are striking ‘gainst  cuts to pay.
Support brothers and sisters in struggle;
At pickets, on protests – with banners high.
Stand firm and the government will buckle,
To break us, lies and tricks they will try.
Forever hated by the company boss
But loved by workers – their only defence.
Without trade unions, it is our sad loss
Face up to their lies, politicians’ pretence.
So stand together this Valentine’s day,
Unions give us protection, come what may.

unions

In support of junior doctors

February 23, 2016

As junior doctors gear up for more industrial action against Hunt’s imposition of a new contract, which threatens unsocial hours payments, this is the summary of a speech by Rob and Francis, two members of the BMA who spoke at a meeting of Leicester Trades Council recently.

If the media were to be believed, junior doctors should be grateful. They are reportedly getting a 13% pay rise, the reforms will bring about safer weekend working practices, and the NHS is becoming a 24/7 service, despite its staff being given no extra money. If this was true, there would not be a Minister for Health running the NHS, but a Minister for Magic!

In reality, doctors see attacks on their terms and conditions as the beginning of an attack across the whole of the NHS. This is being done in order to make the NHS more attractive to private companies, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Health, who have recently landed a huge contract to provide care in the South West. This is being done in order to attack the principle of the NHS – that it is a nationwide, comprehensive healthcare service, provided for all and free at the point of need. The Health and Social Care Act has already taken away government responsibility for our health service – any “willing provider” can take over chunks of our healthcare system.

So it is not just that junior doctors and student nurses, whose bursaries are being removed, are angry for themselves. They are also concerned about patient care and the principle of a free health service, paid for through central taxation. However, on a personal level, they also have plenty of grievances against the government.

They are angry that they will have to work more night-shifts and weekends, that their working week will lengthen and their breaks decrease. This will have a direct impact on patient care, the morale of the profession and the health and stress of working in a hospital. It sets a precedent for the rest of the NHS and amounts to a substantial pay cut. Doctors who do voluntary or paid work in their spare time – manning an air ambulance, working as a medic on the sports field, or working as  a locum – will have to check if their employer needs them first.

This action is not just about a group of (justifiably) disgruntled employees – this is about the future of the NHS. So get down to a picket line at a hospital near you and talk to the doctors who are taking action. One day, your life might depend on them.

 

Sir Soulsby, British Steel and the case of the Chinese Granite

January 26, 2016

I was standing at a stall in the centre of  Leicester last Saturday afternoon, with the noise of pan-pipes playing Abba jarring my ears.

steel

I had taken the old British Steel logo (designed by David Gentleman in 1967) and made posters with “Save Our Steel”. “Renationalise the steel industry to provide jobs for communities”, I shouted – but the pan pipers had now been joined by some Hare Krishna devotees and I wasn’t sure if people could hear what we were saying.

The last remaining steelworks in Britain, representing centuries of skills and jobs for local communities, are under threat of closure – the Indian steel company TATA is announcing job losses at Port Talbot as I write this. The problem has been that cheaper steel has been imported from China, where labour costs are far lower and our industry has simply been unable to compete.

I realised that the very granite paving slabs we were standing on were also symbolic of the process of capitalist globalisation. They were shipped from China and are made of Chinese granite. It was obviously cheaper for Sir Peter Soulsby, the Lord Mayor of Leicester (no doubt having hired a consultancy to do a cost effectiveness analysis) to import tons of rock halfway across the planet, so that Leicester’s streets could be paved. Cheaper, that is, if you don’t take into account the exploitation of workers in China, or the greenhouse gases involved in the transport of the rock. The word “cheap” in this context is relative – the whole project cost £19m, with £1.5m set aside for the materials needed.

From the beginning, things went wrong – the “wrong type of granite” was delivered, which delayed the project, and specalist machinery had to be purchased to maintain the pavements. Despite all this effort, problems continued – granite is naturally porous and so was always going to be a challenge to clean. One comment was that a bag of chips should have been thrown on the paving slabs to test them before they were purchased.

It isn’t even as if the new paving slabs have been particularly prized by the people of Leicester. In 2010, just three years after they were laid, a quarter of them had become loose and so much of the city centre had to be dug up and re-paved.

So how was Chinese granite chosen for this job in the first place? The manufacturers explain that granite was chosen because it was “traditional to Leicestershire” and because it lasted longer than concrete. Indeed, granite is traditional to Leicestershire. Some of the oldest igneous rock in the world is under Charnwood forest, to the north. The area is dotted with local granite quarries. Had people been informed of the potential difficulties and product miles involved in transporting the rock, maybe they would have had second thoughts?

Under capitalism, it is cheaper to import huge quantities of steel, or granite from China, and ship it across the globe, than it is to use locally-manufactured alternatives. Labour cost is clearly the major factor in this. The answer is surely to secure decent terms and conditions for workers worldwide, so that jobs cannot be undercut.

The stall I was taking part in was on a cold Saturday in January in Leicester was organised by the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party is part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, which fights for socialism and workers’ rights in 45 countries worldwide. We argue for democratic control of industry, decent wages and secure jobs. If the profit motive is taken out of the equation – then we can truly have a future that benefits the vast majority of the Earth’s population, and ensures that there will be a habitable planet for future generations to enjoy.

 

 

 

 


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