Exercise

June 23, 2015

Learnt by rote. Trammelled
Along defined lines
Spoon-fed. Constrained.
Confined to the
Box.

The expected space
To be filled.

Bureaucracy. Ticked.
Hoops. Jumped through.

listen!
Inside:
is there?
still,
the shrill
insistent
voice,
the thrill
of
r e b e l l i o n?

b r e a k
f r o m
r o u t i n e

e  y  s
x  o  u
p  u  r
l   r   r
o      o
r       u
e      n
d
i
n
g
s

The Crisis of Working-Class Political Representation, the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn

June 14, 2015

The Labour Party was set up at the turn of the twentieth century by socialist groups (the Social Democratic Federation) and trade unions, to provide a political voice for the working class. Previously there was no choice, other than Tories and Liberals – the bosses, landlords and aristocracy had political parties, but there was no representation for ordinary people. Prior to the struggle of the Suffragists and Suffragettes, and the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave men over 21 years old, and women over 30 years old the vote, you had to be male in order to vote.

The Labour Act 1906 made strike action legal, giving trade unionists more power. Trade unions switched from supporting the Liberal Party to the new Labour Party.

Clause 4 was introduced in 1918, as the leadership of Labour felt themselves under pressure from the working class to deliver socialist ideas, at least in theory. This was due to the end of WW1 and the Russian Revolution. It was printed on membership cards: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”.

However, savage austerity measures, “the Geddes axe”, followed in the early 1920s. In 1926, with the defeat of the all too short general strike, the Trade Union movement suffered a blow – the mineworkers’ union heroically stayed out a whole year until they too were defeated by starvation.

After the Second World War, a victory for Labour brought the most left-wing government Britain has ever had. The welfare state was introduced and around 20% of the economy was nationalised – steel, coal, railways, etc. The NHS brought previously unaffordable medical care to the working class. These reforms were again given under pressure from below, with armed troops returning to Britain. With the end of WW2, the UK economy was on its knees, requiring socialist policies to kickstart it, with a huge injection of cash from the US. The government built millions of council houses. It is nonsensical, given the current deficit “crisis” to say that we cannot afford government expenditure. After World War II, the country’s debt measured 248% of GDP – dwarfing today’s figure of just 80%. However, these gains have been eroded ever since.

Hugh Gaitskill, a right-wing Labour leader in the 1950s tried unsuccessfully to do away with Clause IV and expel leading left wingers, such as Michael Foot, from the Labour Party. At that time, Labour was still relatively democratic, with a working-class base and the trade unions had a strong voice, so the left won this battle, but their victory was temporary.

The 1970s marked a high point in industrial struggle – the Tories were defeated in 1974 by the miners. The end of the decade brought the “winter of discontent”, and the collapse of Callaghan government in 1979. Workers had a high level of union organisation, with 13.5 million people in trade unions. The demise of Labour and the victory of Thatcher was not inevitable, had the leadership of the Labour Party and trade unions not been lacking.

In the 1980s, Thatcher brought in the anti-trade union laws and started a process of privatisation of industry, which has been ongoing ever since. There was a series of magnificent defeats for the working class – the printers succumbed to Murdoch in Wapping; the miners’ strike from 1984-85 was ultimately divided and lost. Militant in Liverpool from 1983-87 built thousands of council houses, leisure facilities and provided thousands of jobs. If this had been linked up with fighting Labour councils across the country, the outcome could have been different – unfortunately only Lambeth and Liverpool took the fight to the Tories at the time, and isolated, the Labour Party moved against its own left wing. At the time, Militant controlled the Labour Party Young Socialists, and had 8000 members.

Tony Benn was tipped to be Labour leader in 1983, but lost his seat in Bristol. The next challenge to Kinnock  was unsuccessful for the left in 1987 – this was the last time a left candidate got onto the Labour Party ballot paper, such is the undemocratic nature of the party today.

1989 brought the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, which had an impact on left-wing parties worldwide, and hastened their capitulation to neoliberalism.

1990 saw the Poll Tax, and a mass campaign of non-payment, involving 14 million people, which defeated Thatcher.

Militant was expelled from and eventually left the Labour Party in the early 1990s. John Smith’s short reign as leader was succeeded by Tony Blair, who revoked Clause IV 1994, with the birth of “New Labour”.

The 1997 election of Blair saw a continuation of privatisations and cuts, with academy schools and foundation trusts in the NHS. The use of the Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnerships was expanded by New Labour. The Labour Party did not repeal any of Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws or bring any former public services or industries back under nationalisation. It is little wonder that Thatcher said her greatest achievement was New Labour.

1997 also saw the launch of Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, but this unfortunately was undemocratic and sectarian in its outlook and has failed to match its potential.

In 2003 2,000,000 people marched against Blair’s invasion of Iraq – there was a huge opportunity for the left to form a new party, but this sadly ended up with the communalist politics of RESPECT.

In 2006, the Socialist Party launched the Campaign for a New Workers Party.

The worldwide financial crash in 2008, not long after Gordon Brown famously said he had abolished boom and bust, was and still is used as an excuse for more attacks on trade unions, with further cuts and privatisations – the most indebted part of the private banks were nationalised and are now being sold back, at a huge loss to the country.

2009  saw the Launch of the National Shop Stewards’ Network, an important vehicle for rank and file trade unionists to campaign together, supporting workers in struggle nationwide.

TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition was launched in 2010. The same year as John McDonnell made an unsuccessful attempt to run for leadership as he could not get the required backing of 30 MPs – his support passed over to Diane Abbott, who offered no real left alternative.

The RMT formally backed TUSC in 2013 – this is appropriate since their forerunner, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants was pivotal in the formation of the Labour Party back in 1906.

We have seen the rise of anti-austerity party in Greece, with Syriza; a collapse of support for ruling parties in Ireland, with advances made by the AAA and Independents. Social democracy is unable to find a solution to the problems inherent in capitalism and workers will look for alternatives, provided a viable left alternative is given.

In 2014, Labour’s Falkirk fiasco resulted in UNITE’s favoured candidate being deselected for MP because they were seen as being too left wing. This resulted in the Collins Review, with Labour cutting off its nose to spite its face. This gave “transparency” of trade union funding, in other words union members now have no voice in Labour Party policy or leadership; and they have to pay as individuals £3 to have a vote in the leadership debate. The threshold increased to support from 15% of Labour MPs (or 35) needed to qualify. The Labour party has also long ignored conference decisions where these do not reflect the agenda of New Labour, such as conference decisions to renationalise the railways and Royal Mail.

Over 5,000,000 working class votes have deserted Labour since 1997 – some have gone to UKIP, many do not bother voting at all. There has been a huge defection in Scotland to the SNP, due to its “anti-austerity” posturing and Labour being implicit in the No campaign along with the Tories.

This brings us up to date and in 2015, with the resignation of Miliband – all the leadership candidates, except Jeremy Corbyn are Blairites. Unfortunately, with Corbyn on 23 nominations, he remains very unlikely to win (the bookies are offering odds of 100/1), but perhaps he could just reach the required threshold to at least be on the ballot. Socialists should give critical support to his campaign, saying that it is good that he is running, but due to the undemocratic and corrupt character of New Labour, he has little chance of success. If he is unsuccessful in his bid for leadership, but is serious about campaigning for socialism, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that he should leave the Labour Party and help form a new mass workers’ party.

The direction of events in Europe will inevitably come to Britain also, and we will need huge struggles by the trade unions aligned to a political voice of our own, against the Tories’ attempts to introduce even more draconian anti-trade union laws. The 40% threshold that would be required for strike action is rich, coming from a government elected with just 24% of the popular vote. We need to build a fighting alternative – the trade union movement and socialists need to come together once again to form a new, mass working-class party, just as it did in 1906.

Endurance

June 2, 2015

When it comes to setting world records
People do try some mad things.
Rub chillies in their eyes,
Balance spoons on their body,
Cover their skin with tattoos.

But there’s one record which few have attempted.
Tommy Godwin pottered around on his bike,
The former grocer’s delivery boy;
Baked hard in the kiln of life.

1939 – a bitter New Year’s morning
To hearty cheers of well-wishers,
His steed rolled on into the mist,
Pushed off into the unknown.

Raise a glass to the Burslem battler
Who fought cobbles and rain and snow.
Set a record that couldn’t be broken
Why not give it a go?

He had no aerodynamic carbon,
No energy drinks he imbibed.
Just bread, eggs, milk and cheese,
Fuelled the veggie rider on.

Raise a glass to the Burslem battler
Who fought cobbles and rain and snow.
Set a record that couldn’t be broken
Why not give it a go?

Events went on around him
Soldiers left for the front.
Tommy fought his personal battles,
Riding on and on and on.

Raise a glass to the Burslem battler
Who fought cobbles and rain and snow.
Set a record that couldn’t be broken
Why not give it a go?

A human dynamo lit up the hearts,
Of towns plunged into darkness
As blackout blinds were drawn.

205 miles, a day, every day,
For a year. Not content,
He still pedalled on.

Raise a glass to the Burslem battler
Who fought cobbles and rain and snow.
Set a record that couldn’t be broken
Why not give it a go?

Last year, one Steve Abraham
Decided he would do just that.
Mortgage paid, he could scrape by on savings,
Goodbye to the regular grind.

He chose a steel-framed Raleigh
In homage to his hero of old.
Brooks saddle, still made in the Midlands,
Supports and softens the blow.

For three months, he made steady progress
Was on track for success at the end.
But for a thoughtless moped rider,
Broken ankle, hobbled his dream.

Undeterred he hopped on a recumbent
One-legged, he still pedalled on.
Fifty miles a day on half power
Falling behind, but staying the course.

Now astride his bike again,
You can follow him by satellite.
At the moment, somewhere near Bletchley.
Echoes of war linger on.
Faces a new personal battle,
Endurance against the odds.

Raise a glass to the Burslem battler
Who fought cobbles and rain and snow.
Set a record that couldn’t be broken
Why not give it a go?

You can track Steve Abraham’s progress here – http://trackleaders.com/oneyeartimetrial15i.php?name=Steve_Abraham

Good luck to all the cyclists involved in this epic attempt – Kurt Searvogel (US), Steve Abraham (GB) and and Miles Smith (AUS) are all competing for the Human Annual Mile Record or HAM’R – whatever the final result, all three are showing incredible endurance and determination.

Cuts to mental health funding affect the most vulnerable

May 26, 2015

akwaaba

Mental health has long been seen by authorities as the “Cinderella” of the health service. It attracts relatively little funding because it is not visible and because people who suffer from mental health problems are less likely to be able to articulate their concerns. The cuts being passed on by my council in Leicester are affecting vulnerable people, and will end up costing us more in terms of healthcare, because people’s problems will be exacerbated by funding cuts.

A supporter, angry at the cuts to local mental health services, contacted Leicester Socialist Party. He had been given help with confidence-building skills from a local service called Akwaaba Ayeh. He had found the staff there very helpful and experienced. It has been around for over 20 years, helping some of the city’s most vulnerable people and is a specialist service for ethnic minorities, situated in Highfields, a diverse, working-class area in the city, with high unemployment and levels of poverty.

Nearby, a mental health care charity, the Adhar Project, also serves ethnic minorities in the city. The two services are being closed down and merged, in a building situated miles away from the local community. This change is being driven by cuts to council services, not by people’s needs.

Due to the stigma surrounding mental health in many communities, there is a reluctance for people to come forward. This is why specialist services should be situated within the communities they serve, to help overcome such barriers, and make people feel welcome.

When I tried to visit the centre, to discuss the cuts with staff, and ask if the Socialist Party could help, a notice informed me that it would be closing next month; the building was currently empty. With the move elsewhere, I have been informed that cuts are being made to staffing levels. Charges for meals have been increased from £2 a month to £6 a week – representing a huge difference for people on benefits. The amount of activities on offer have been reduced – previously groups were on offer, which would help people find solutions to their problems together. The new site is over-crowded and only offers bingo and cooking.

Mental health difficulties often arise from long-term unemployment, social isolation and discrimination against communities, all of which are exacerbated under the system of capitalism. Mental health services should be delivered locally, in an environment where people feel comfortable and safe. They should offer therapeutic activities to help recovery. They should be directly funded by the council and NHS, and not have to rely on charity or lottery funding.

Socialist Party members pointed out in the recent election campaign that cuts to public services are not necessary. Leicester’s overwhelmingly Labour-controlled council is meekly passing on Tory cuts, rather than opposing them. The council actually have £50m of funds in reserve and is adding to this pot “for a rainy day”. We say that cuts are raining down on vulnerable people now! If councillors had the will to oppose cuts, they could keep services running, while building opposition amongst trade unions and the wider community, including protests and if necessary, strike action and occupations. This could empower people, angry at service closures, to fight back and demand money from central government. This would give vulnerable people confidence and purpose, rather than accepting austerity and cuts, which is all that mainstream political parties have to offer.

As part of TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), Socialist Party members will continue fighting for a socialist future for all, free from discrimination and for investment into services rather than cuts.

Hustings for Animal Rights

May 6, 2015

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Britain is a nation of animal lovers, they say – so it is surprising that events like the one above, where candidates were asked questions on their party’s stance on human rights, are not more common. Animal rights was hardly mentioned in the mainstream media during this election campaign.

From left to right above are Ian and Iona (Lib Dem candidate and his guide dog); myself representing TUSC for Leicester South; Mags Lewis (Green candidate for Castle Ward) and Leon Hadji-Nikolau (Conservative, Leicester South). The Labour Party clearly didn’t think the issue was important enough to send a representative! The event was organised by LUSH, which made for an unusual and interesting debate.

We discussed the ethics of fishing, one of the most common past-times in Britain – humanely carried out, with barbless hooks, it causes the fish little distress and anglers regularly report pollution in Britain’s waterways. The Tory candidate confused coarse fishing with game fishing, where fish are returned to the river (although many “game” fish are also returned to the water to preserve fish stocks). I contrasted responsible angling with the overfishing of the seas by commercial trawling, where many fish are returned dead back to the ocean. Capitalism always seeks the greatest profit, and long-term considerations, such as the sustainability of fish stocks, are not taken into account.

The treatment of animals for food was discussed – all participants agreed that CCTV cameras should be used in slaughterhouses. My argument was that we need to connect up the reality of where food comes from, with the meals we eat. Again, capitalism’s mantra of cheapest possible production costs, has led to factory farming and poor conditions for animals.

I pointed out that we cannot rely on the state to uphold the law in respect of animal rights – fox hunting has been banned, for example, yet hunt saboteurs still have to protect foxes from being hunted by dogs. The Socialist Party has a record of supporting activists and upholding the right to protest peacefully. We would also reduce the working week to 35 hours – this would create more jobs in the countryside, thus supporting people involved in industries around hunting – grooms, farriers, etc. At the moment, farmers are not even being paid a fair wage for the produce they sell.

Ian, for the Lib Dems, made a telling point that it is now an offence to allow a dog to attack a guide dog, and this is on the increase, with 10 guide dogs being attacked every month in the UK. However, could this be something to do with government attacks on the disabled benefits and disabled people being labelled as “scroungers” by right-wing tabloids? Ian came across as a very genuine and concerned person – I just wonder why he is with the Lib Dems, when they have been complicit in the Con-Dem government’s savage austerity programme.

The Conservative spokesperson seemed uncomfortable with many of the questions, and contradicted his own party’s policy, which has sought to repeal the Hunting Act, saying that he would fight to ban hunting. He said that a vegetarian diet was as unhealthy as a diet involving meat (which came as a surprise to most of the people in attendance!) and blamed a high-carbohydrate diet for obesity. I pointed out that Cameron had said he would deliver the greenest government ever in 2010, and the Tories could hardly be trusted on environmental issues.

The question of vegetarianism was also raised. I said that this was a personal decision – I am not a vegetarian myself – but that it is a more efficient method of feeding the population of the world. Capitalism cannot provide enough resources to deliver basic human needs for the world’s population, and hunger rather than obesity is a vital issue for most of humanity.

The Green candidate skilfully answered the questions and her party has some very worthy policies. However, her response was limited to staying within the confines of the present economic system – she pointed out that while capitalism had its problems – we needed to do something now about animal protection. My position was that, while we fight for reforms under capitalism, the whole system cannot be reformed – that practices such as the horrific conditions in puppy farms and people importing dogs in the boots of cars (very risky due to the risk of rabies entering the UK) – would continue, as long as there was profit to be made from the exploitation of animals.

Only by getting rid of the capitalist profit motive altogether, and replacing our present economy (profit-driven and short-term) with a democratically planned society to meet the needs of everyone, can a truly sustainable and environmentally friendly society be achieved.

If you agree, support TUSC candidates – read more about us at http://www.tusc.org.uk – in the forthcoming elections this Thursday. If you can’t vote for TUSC where you live, why not consider standing yourself? It is very likely that there will be an unstable coalition government, and a new set of elections could be just around the corner. We need to build an alternative to cuts and austerity, to meet the needs of the millions and not the millionaires.

Leicester South Hustings – TUSC is the only party opposing cuts

April 26, 2015

Footage of myself and other candidates at Leicester South Hustings, at Highfields Community Centre – a local community facility, which is itself under threat because of cutbacks to council funding. This is at the hands of Leicester Council, which is overwhelmingly Labour-controlled. What is the point of Labour if it offers no opposition to Tory cuts?

“Andrew Walton, representing the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) said they would argue against cuts to public services. He also said TUSC would increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour. And he committed, if elected, to just take the average salary of Leicester South constituents.”

Two councillors in Leicester, Barbara Potter and Wayne Naylor, have left the Labour group – upset at infighting and a failure to fight back against the government’s austerity agenda. They founded Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts, which is part of TUSC nationally.

In contrast, Labour have committed themselves to Tory spending plans – only 5 Labour MPs voted against the government’s austerity agenda in January 2015 – http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2a08-Labour-MPs-backing-for-austerity-Bill-a-disservice

To fight against the cuts – vote TUSC, wherever you can in the elections on May 7th.

For more information about TUSC, see http://www.tusc.org.uk

If you agree, join my facebook group here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1616394085249208/

In Defence

April 24, 2015

We need our public services
The poor have no voice.
Fall through cracks and crevices.
They need our public services.

Right wingers blame the immigrant
Make me want to shout and rant.
Don’t fight your fellow man
We are all part of the same plan.

Defend our public services
We do have a choice.
Mend the cracks and the crevices
We all need public services.

Fight back against their policies
Greed, arrogance and hate.
Privatise our public services
Bosses’ profits accumulate.

We need our public service,
Our libraries and schools.
Cuts make me nervous
Defend our public service.

There is an alternative
To austerity and cuts.
Strike back, get organised:
Defend our public services.

little red little 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.

Conflict

April 24, 2015

I dwell, fox-holed, warm beneath once-green leaves.
Snug and secure, I curl in a corner.
Silently, I fester in the enveloping dark.

I grow in the minds of men.
It is there I make my den.

Sparks fly when I venture outside.
I bring division, discord – the breaker of worlds.
I sow despair, grief grows. My weeds are of black.

I corrupt the hearts of men,
It is there I make my den.

I am mantled in heavy robes,
The ancient uniform of my dank kingdom.
Sheet armour – proof against steel.

I sculpt the minds of men,
It is there I make my den.

Underneath this velvet surface
Hidden depths
Shimmer with surprise.

I am the psyche of men,
It is there I make my den.

I plot and scheme
Voracious, ambitious
Glory is what I crave.

I prey on the minds of men,
It is there I make my den.

I feast on the bones of war.
I eat proud men;
Glut on their entrails.

I devour the hearts of men,
It is there I make my den.

I build great machines of battle
Enslave armies of people,
Bend them to my will.

I break the spirit of men,
It is there I make my den.

I dream of power.
Machiavelli, Tsung Tzu
Are nothing to me.

I control the minds of men.
It is there I make my den.

I bask in conceits
And flatter politicians,
Gullible, dishonest cheats.

I infest the minds of men,
It is there I make my den.

I spread rumours like venom.
Dreams the powerful hear
In their troubled, guilty sleep.

Words shape the minds of men,
I use them to make my den.

little red little 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.

On trident replacement

April 4, 2015

 

Its a rollover: the jackpot

is an estimated £10 million.

We have one lucky winner.

 

The cost of Trident’s replacement

is an estimated £100 billion.

We have no lucky winners.

 

You would need to win

the lottery, every day

for the next 27 years.

 

In nuclear conflict,

there are no lucky winners.

 

little red little 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.

Watch “Leicester South Hustings” on YouTube

March 29, 2015


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