Opposing hatred and bigotry in Leicester

May 29, 2016

Leicester has been in the news a lot recently, because of the unprecedented success of its football team. However, we have seen the far-right attempt to jump on this bandwagon, oblivious to the multicultural nature of both Leicester and its footballing heroes. This was the scene last weekend:

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photo – Leicester Socialist Party – see more details

For two weekends in a row, the people of Leicester have successfully defended the city centre from Britain First, a far-right splinter-group which crawled out of the wreckage of Nick Griffin’s BNP. They claimed to be campaigning for the EU referendum, but their literature is full of lies and hatred, targeted at Muslims in particular. The Another Angry Voice blog has posted a useful guide to their brand of hatred.

Leicester is one of the most diverse cities in Britain and has a proud record of standing up against racism. Dividing people in terms of their race is a convenient smokescreen for the ruling class. If working-class people are made to view each other as the enemy, then they are not blaming the real causes of their problems. These include attacks on services and jobs which the Conservatives are carrying through nationally, but unfortunately the local Labour council are passing these on to the people of Leicester and the shortage of council housing due to a lack of investment in public housing over decades.

People are at the mercy of private landlords, on zero-hour contracts, in insecure employment or are unable to get a job. It is not surprising if the ruling class try to divert their anger on to scapegoats, such as “terrorists” or “immigrants”, rather than admit that the situation we find ourselves in is because of the system of capitalism. This results in an increase in racial attacks and discrimination against minorities.

The Socialist Party in Leicester have a long tradition of holding street stalls in the city centre, every Saturday. When confronted with the bullying tactics of the far-right, we refused to go away. Instead, we called on the public to oppose and surround their stall. We reminded people of the nature of Britain First, and why they do not stand for modern Britain. We pointed out that we need to unite as a community in order to defeat the Tories’ attacks and it is still vitally important to oppose the far-right, just as the people of Leicester saw off the National Front in 1979 and opposed the EDL when they marched through the city in 2012.

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A similar unwelcome reception for Britain First this weekend – picture Midlands Antifascist Network

If they are left unopposed, racist thugs can get away with attacks on Muslims. Britain First has invaded mosques, and its leader Paul Golding has been convicted of harassment. He was arrested again this weekend, after breaking bail conditions by failing to show up to a scheduled appointment in a probation office in Luton, as he was 50 miles north of that city, in Leicester.

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Golding being escorted by members of the local constabulary – picture East Midlands Anti Fascist Network

The far-right have form in this city. In 2010, the EDL broke out of police lines and attacked Big Johns, a local fast-food restaurant, because it was selling Halal produce. In 2013, I wrote about a Leicester pub, “The Globe”, which was attacked on a neo-Nazi website for allegedly refusing to serve members of the armed forces, in case this offended Muslims. As a result, staff of the pub received threats, although the report was clearly completely fake. Britain First share the racist views of the EDL and BNP and have no place in a modern, democratic society.

The principle of freedom of speech extends only to those who will allow freedom of speech to others. In destroying a stall table and megaphone of socialist groups, Britain First showed themselves to be no respecters of the right of free speech. They brought a loud sound system, blaring out patriotic music, in an attempt to drown out the public’s opposition.

Fortunately, they were again sent packing, behind police lines and carrying armfuls of their racist publicity, which they were unable to give out due to being surrounded and outnumbered. The public of Leicester will need to be watchful and ready to mobilise to counter their threat.

The Socialist Party stands for unity of the working class and against any attempts to divide us. We stand against racism, bigotry and intolerance. We are a democratic party and are happy to debate with our political opponents, but we will organise against far-right bullies, who resort to abuse, threats and violence.

The Socialist Party campaigns for a LEAVE vote in the forthcoming EU referendum, but not on the basis of racism and xenophobia. We are for a united, socialist Europe, not the bosses’ undemocratic EU, whose treaties have imposed privatisation and austerity across the continent.

 

 

Orangutan’s Song

May 24, 2016

We still remember the joyous canopy
a verdant green blanket
smothering – sunlight struggled
down to the dank forest floor.

We still remember the tamarind’s hoot,
the faintest placement of the tiger’s paw,
the chattering of cicadas.
tree frogs flashed vivid; danger.

We had no such warning,
no scent or sound, until
it was too late.
few of us escaped.

A new sound came –
the rasping death rattle
of alien machinery;
great trees felled in moments.

We grew hungry, stressed, scared.
resorted to eating bark:
the rainforest clamour gone
amidst acrid stench of smoke.

We remember a time when
this fragile dream was shattered
into chaos and suffering.
hundreds of lifetimes gone.

For what? Palm oil: cheap bulking agent
from distant tropics, where labour is cheap
and the old people of the forest
do nothing for profit margins.

Goods line supermarket shelves:
capitalism captures, constricts, commodifies;
brainwashes humans. soothing adverts
mask the suffering.

If we could only communicate in your alien tongue:
“Find your inner ape.
play together, co-operate
discover life’s true value”.

Orangutans cannot speak.

They cannot voice their displeasure at supermarket chains raking in £billions, while destroying fragile ecosystems in distant rainforests, which may have held the cure to cancer, or are home to millions of undiscovered species, or are the last sacred home of an indigenous culture, who have had little contact with the outside world.

They cannot use keyboards to send indignant emails, explaining the injustice and suffering associated with palm oil.

They cannot point out that it is perfectly possible for supermarkets to use palm oil substitutes, or sustainably grown palm oil, neither of  which harm precious and irreplaceable habitats.

They cannot organise to overthrow this system of capitalism which sacrifices all in the name of profit.

But you can!

The worst offenders can be found here:
http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/shoppingethically/palmoilfreelist.aspx#supermarkets

For a political alternative, and a better livelihood for people in poor countries, so that they do not have to do backbreaking work, which is destructive to our environment:
http://www.socialistworld.net You can also buy my poetry pamphlet ‘Little Green Poetry’ – http://www.lulu.com/gb/en/shop/andrew-walton/little-green-poetry/ebook/product-21745906.html – all profits go to help build a movement to change this rotten system.

 

Standing up to hate in Leicester

May 21, 2016

Like much of the East Midlands, Leicester is well known for its multi-ethnic communities. Narborough Road, for instance, has recently been named as one of the most multicultural streets in the country. It is perhaps for this reason above all that the vile right wing organisation Britain First thought that their ideas might resonate here. […]

via Leicester Makes Short Shrift of Britain First — Leicester Socialist Students

Defend comprehensive education

May 21, 2016

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We don’t need no academisation,
We don’t need no mind control.
No funding cuts to education.
Hey Morgan, leave our schools alone.

We don’t need no academisation,
We don’t need no tuition fees.
We stand up for free education.
Hey Morgan, leave our schools alone.

We don’t need no standardised testing,
We don’t need no SATs at all.
We want kids to enjoy their childhood.
Hey Morgan, leave our schools alone.

All in all, you’re just another Tory clone.
Nicky Morgan, leave our kids alone.

Nicky Morgan – career advisor

May 8, 2016

“art holds you back”
constrained, caged, compartmentalised:
dead-end, zero-hour contract existence.

“study useful subjects”
science, technology, engineering:
pointless luxury: culture, humanities

how can you evaluate
happiness, transcendence, joy
in terms of asset management?

not quantified, boxed-in, trammelled
imagination soars – unconfined
by assembly lines; instructions do not apply.

how much poorer would we be
without ecstasy illimited?
put down, downcast, downbeat, dumbed-down, downtrodden

masses, who have courage to ignore advice
of  so-called betters; privately educated Tories
spreading bile and ignorance?

with our libraries closed,
sixth-forms shut
what can we do?

we dare to dream,
we dare to fight,
we dare to win
a fairer world.

A Tale of Three Cities

May 6, 2016

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Picture: Nick Chaffey (Southampton Socialist Party)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Labour have, against the odds – after the Collins Review, which was based on the assumption that the electorate in the UK are right-wing and agree that austerity is a necessary evil; on the Blairite assumption that you have to moderate your demands to the very mildest squeaks of protests against the Tories to be “electable”; on the assumption that the Left and trade union movement were finished, so that it was now safe to open up the Labour leadership election to anyone who could stump up the price of a pint – elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. He stands against cuts, for peace and socialism and for a new kind of politics.

So why are the majority of the Labour Parliamentary Party and Labour councillors at odds with their own leader? He has been mandated with 6o% of the vote – their most popular Labour leader in decades. He has the potential to win over the mass of the electorate who don’t vote, because they have no-one who stands up for their interests. the only choice on offer is of three parties made up of professional politicians who see their calling as a career, not as a privilege, most of whom were educated at private schools and who would happily take backhanders from private companies, in addition to their generous pensions, expenses, second home allowances and Parliamentary salaries.

By way of example, I take you to the first of our cities – Coventry, in the heart of England – a once thriving beacon of industrialism, which was home to Britain’s engineering and transport industries. The factories stand idle – replaced with zero hour contracts and low paid jobs. There, the former socialist MP Dave Nellist (1983-92) stood and is still standing for a different vision, against Thatcher’s winner-take-all mentality, for community, socialism and a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage. He stood firmly against war and for basic principles of solidarity with ordinary people, that a representative in Parliament or on the council chamber is a shop steward for those who elected them, a voice for the dispossessed. Yet Labour still oppose the stand of TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) and actively campaign against socialists – why do they not target Tory seats in the city?

We then travel to our second city, Southampton – where faced with the closure of a local swimming pool, two councillors, Keith Morrell and Don Thomas, opposed the ruling Labour council. For their principled position, they were kicked out of the Labour Party. They stood as Independent Councillors against Cuts and were comfortably re-elected. Yet Labour still stand in opposition to them. In last night’s local elections, the ward of Coxford gained another socialist, independent councillor, Tammy Thomas, the daughter of Don, who follows in his footsteps, fighting for a working-class political voice. Yet Labour campaigned hard against her.

Finally, in the town of Warrington, the former Labour councillor Kevin Bennett was forced out of Labour due to opposition to cuts. Yet the local Labour leaflet pleaded with voters not to indulge in gesture politics, but to stick with Labour councillors who were wielding the Tory axe to public services. Against a backdrop of boundary changes, a media blackout for TUSC, and a spirited campaign to keep his seat, he achieved a massively creditable 921 votes, just 76 short of being elected. Three Labour candidates, with a much larger national ‘machine’ behind them, unfortunately pipped him to the post. But why just one of them could not have stepped down, in order to make way for Kevin, is beyond me.

TUSC has the principle of bringing together all those who oppose cuts, whether in the Labour Party, or without, whether they come from different socialist traditions or not. We are trying, from a small base, to build a new mass workers’ party – to represent the interests of the 99%, not a tiny minority in society who own most of the wealth. We are not beholden to big business and support workers in struggle. We are glad that Corbyn has won the leadership of the Labour Party and hope that it can be won over to the ideas of socialism. But would it be too much to ask, in the handful of seats where they have a real chance of winning, for the Labour Party to stand aside and not challenge socialists? This would be a hallmark of a party that is serious about transforming itself – after the dark days of Blairism – into a force that opposes all cuts, is truly democratic and casts aside any compromise with Tory austerity?

Instead, we have a Labour party at war with itself – plots to oust Corbyn, backbench rebellions and Labour councils which pass on Tory cuts. Corbyn should call a conference – with representatives of the 400,000 people who joined Labour to fight against cuts, of the trade unions and community campaigners. He should join with left forces outside the Labour Party, rather than fighting against those who share his aims.

Instead, sadly, Corbyn has sought to placate the right-wing of Labour – by suspending Ken Livingstone, by backing down on the EU, by not whipping MPs on Syria. Blairites need to be replaced with class fighters, otherwise Corbyn’s promises of equality and socialism will forever be a distant mirage.

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

 

 


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