Archive for the ‘1’ Category

NHS – happy birthday 72 today!

July 5, 2020
Thoughts on the pandemic – on the 72nd birthday of the NHS

What is Blairism and how do we fight it?

June 10, 2020

I became active in left politics in 2004 – angry at the Iraq war, I joined the million plus people marching in Hyde Park. The largest demonstration in British history. But the Stop the War Coalition had no real strategy of how to oppose New Labour, it made no difference to the policies of Blair – no threat to the system. Demonstrating is important in raising our spirits, in realising our collective strength – but unless we harness that power – either by forming a political party to challenge the status quo, or using the power of the unions to strangle the bosses’ profits at source – leaders can ignore democracy.

I joined what was the Socialist Party – I thought that, in small way, I needed to get involved in building an alternative to New Labour. I was persuaded of the need for revolution as opposed to gradualism, which was an important step in my political awakening – previously, I would have described myself as Old Labour.

Labour was formed, in 1900, as the Labour Representation Committee, a party of the trade unions, bringing together Britain’s left wing parties, including Marxists, in order to represent the interests of the common people, as opposed to the interests of the bosses. Keir Hardie was its first leader – Keir Starmer, in claiming to be socialist, said that he was named after Hardie. This morphed into the Labour Party in 1906.

Labour’s peak was the Attlee government of 1945-51, the post-war deal which brought in the welfare state, the NHS and nationalised much of the economy – but crucially didn’t go far enough, for example leaving the banks under private control. This radical change was brought about by huge anger at Churchill’s government, particularly by the armed forces, who returning to Britain, voted overwhelmingly for Labour.

The architects of this victory leant on Clause IV of Labour’s constitution, “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”. This crucially called for the economy to be brought under state control. This came out of a similar desire for change after World War I, in 1918. In 1959, the right-wing Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell attempted to remove this from the constitution, but was blocked by the trade unions – which at that time, still had a say in the Labour Party.

The predecessor to the Socialist Party, Militant, had a policy of entryism within Labour during the 1980s. This meant that they could not openly organise within the Labour Party and meant campaigning for right-wing Labour MPs. On the plus side – a big plus, we saw the election of Dave Nellist, Terry Fields and Pat Wall as Militant MPs, reflecting the huge anger against Thatcher in working-class Liverpool, Coventry and Bradford, which had seen Britain’s manufacturing industry decimated by the Tories and campaigned for decent public housing, and investment in schools and services. Militant also had control over Labour Party Young Socialists, the youth wing of the Labour Party, and a sizeable membership of around 8,000 at its height. 1990 saw an important victory in the defeat of the Poll Tax, and the demise of Thatcher.

Neil Kinnock sowed the seeds of Blairism when he expelled Derek Hatton, deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, removed Labour’s commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, began the process of watering down Clause IV, and attacked Militant. By 1992, the leadership of Militant had been expelled, causing a split between those who wanted to remain within the Labour Party, and those who saw the need to build a new party of the working class. The majority, under Peter Taaffe, decided to form the Socialist Party.

Tony Blair introduced what was euphemistically called The Third Way – social democratic policies, a mixed market economy, and supported militarisation and cuts to services. He rebranded Labour as New Labour – Any commitment to socialism was scrapped. Thatcher famously described New Labour as her greatest achievement. Blair massively reduced the power of the trade union movement at conference, and made conference decisions non-binding. Labour became a safe pair of hands for the capitalists. Blair saw a decline in Labour membership. “Blair, in common with all modern party leaders would have liked a mass membership, but had no desire to delegate any form of responsibility or power to it”. Gordon Brown brought in PFI which has strangled our NHS and led Labour, after Blair’s resignation in 2007, to electoral defeat.

In response to Blair, the railway workers’ union and fire brigade union both disaffiliated from New Labour. The late, great Bob Crow led the fight for a new workers’ party, supporting TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) – this later suspended electoral activity in support of Jeremy Corbyn.

It was a fluke of politics that brought Corbyn to leadership – desperate to restore funds to Labour, Milliband ruled that you could become a registered supporter of Labour for less than the price of a pint (later increased to £25 by the right-wing Labour NEC in time for the 2015 leadership ballot) – and it was fortunate that a few right wing MPs such as Frank Field, actually nominated Corbyn to be on the ballot in 2015, in the expectation that he would be crushed.

But Corbyn made mistakes – he was too accommodating: not expelling right-wingers, but attempting to keep the Labour Party “united”, this only emboldened them; campaigning for a second referendum on Brexit; going along with the constant media cries of anti-semitism, even being apologetic for it and not speaking out against the witch-hunting of left-wingers; not appealing to the wider movement enough, not calling for strike action to bring down the Tories and relying instead on Parliamentary democracy. Corbyn also failed to nominate a successor, which paved the way for the right to win back control of Labour.

So this brings us to Keir Starmer, who has talked of a national unity government given the coronavirus pandemic, has put forward no real opposition to the government’s policies, only mild criticism at best, and every indication is that there will be a return to Blairism. The crying need for a new workers’ party re-emerges.

Find out more about the fight for socialism here – http://www.socialistalternative.net

Hubris in face of coronavirus

March 27, 2020

Jonas Salk made no money out of the polio vaccine, but regarded it as knowledge to help the whole of the human race, to be provided: gratis, free of charge, nada, zilch, diddly-squat, zero.Might not some of the same compassionate spirit be in order now?

Such public-minded sacrifice is in all too short supply, it might seem, with a desperately underfunded and privatised NHS, and money-grabbing vultures such as Jeff “unsafe conditions in Amazon warehouses” Bezos, Tim “refusing to pay staff and suppliers” Martin, Richard “eight weeks unpaid leave” Branson; not to mention incompetent politicians: Boris “herd-immunity” Johnson, Donald “coronavirus is a hoax” Trump, Jair “Brazilians never catch anything” Bolsanaro.

But then there is the magnificent solidarity of the general public in defence of the NHS, the small acts of kindness between neighbours, looking out for each other and being there (even if it is only over social media) that reminds me that ultimately there is a greater force than the rich and powerful – it is the cleaners, the supermarket workers, NHS staff – the working class, who are truly essential to society.

Socialism, not capitalism is the only way forward for humanity.

Join us – https://internationalsocialist.net/en/

Carols for Corbyn

December 12, 2019

God rest ye merry workers

God rest ye merry workers, let nothing you dismay.
Get to a polling station, cast your vote on Thursday.
Let’s get rid of Boris Johnson, as we got rid of Theresa May
The Tory party’s had it’s day, its had it’s day.
The Tories have had their day.

God rest ye merry workers, let nothing you dismay.
Remember that next Thursday, it is time to vote away
This cruel and callous governmment, divided and corrupt.
Good tidings of Corbyn and joy,
Corbyn and joy.
Good tidings of Corbyn and joy.

O come all ye workers

O come all ye workers, ye poor and downtrodden
O come ye, O come ye to a polling booth.
You don’t need any ID, you just need a conscience,
Its time for us to speak out, its time for us to shout out
Its time for ordinary people to have their say.

Stand up for common decency, stand up for fair society
Stand up for public services, and our NHS.
Fight against greed, fight against hatred
Fight to end austerity, fight to end austerity,
Fight to end austerity and fair pay for all.
Fight to abolish the anti-trade union laws
Fight to reclaim profits the bosses stole.

O come all ye workers, ye poor and downtrodden
O come ye, O come ye to a polling booth.
O come let’s vote for Corbyn,
O come let’s vote for Corbyn,
O come let’s vote for Corbyn:
Tories Out!

Once in [insert adjective] [insert name of place] city

Once in diverse Leicester City
Stood a lowly polling booth.
It’s not special, it’s not even pretty,
A precious chance to make our mark.
Vote for change, an end to austerity
Vote against greed and inequality
Vote for Corbyn, vote for Labour
Vote for socialist policies to begin to change the world.





How (not) to buy an election

November 9, 2019

In Seattle, Amazon spent $1million, in the 2019 local elections, in an effort to secure a more right-wing council. The company had, in 2018, scored a victory against an attempt to tax big business, after 7 of the 9 council members caved in and repealed a “Head Tax” on big business to help fund affordable housing. Starbucks and Amazon stood to pay $millions as the largest employers in the city into the fund. They put huge pressure to bear on the council to repeal the tax. The only two council members who refused to bow to corporate pressure were Kshama Sawant (Socialist Alternative) and Teresa Mosqueda (Democrat).

Amazon’s most trenchant critic, who helped win a $15 minimum wage in the city has been Kshama Sawant, also said that she would fight to reinstate the tax if re-elected. Has Amazon’s attempt to buy local democracy in Seattle paid off?

Despite promising early tallies for Egan Orion, the Amazon-backed candidate, Kshama Sawant is heading for victory when all votes are counted, as later ballots tend to lean to the left – people who have to work all hours to make ends meet are more likely to vote later in the election. The likelihood is that there will be an astounding third term for the first socialist candidate to be elected in 100 years in the US.

The influx of electoral money prompted a tweet by Bernie Sanders:
“Jeff Bezos and Amazon think they can buy elections. They spent $1 million to stop City Council candidates @d1forLisa, @TammyMoralesSEA, @VoteSawant and @ElectScott2019. Show Amazon that they can’t buy our democracy and that their corporate greed won’t stand. Get out and vote!”

It seems that the people of Seattle are supporting his call and refusing to listen to corporate attempts to buy democracy.

Read more from Socialist Alternative US (the sister party to Socialist Alternative in the UK):
https://www.socialistalternative.org/2019/11/06/amazons-bid-to-unseat-seattles-socialist-too-close-to-call/

Where did it all go wrong?

July 20, 2019

O Jeremy Corbyn, where did it all go wrong?

The Blairites remain, with their tired refrain

And their never-ending song.

Of antisemitic slurs and smears,

Auntie Beeb is there, with friendly ears

To amplify their wrongs.

Momentum was founded, supposed to be sounded

A socialist message of hope.

To all the workers across the land, we who can barely cope.

Our wages frozen, services slashed,

Why fall for Tory soft soap?

O Jeremy Corbyn, where did it all go wrong?

Deselect the right wingers, with their greedy fingers

In far too many pies.

They don’t represent us, they won’t influence us:

Replace, rebuild, revivify!

O Jeremy Corbyn, where did it all go wrong?

Extrapolation

July 19, 2019

A graph is set up; an agenda constructed.
A line is continued, with no visible means of support.
Further on it flies. Reaches the stratosphere,
Where governments spray controlling contrails.

Your feet must be planted firmly at all times.
Let your senses be the guide.
Question those in charge.
Interrogate.

How was the evidence gathered?
What does this trajectory mean?
Where are the data points?
Why has no uncertainty been expressed?

We cannot rely on formulae:
There are varying shades,
Different consciousnesses,
Separate conditions.

Preconceptions must be examined,
Assumptions rigorously explained.
Definitions need testing against
Grounded reality.

Be wary of those with the loudest voices,
Those who are absolute, self-certain.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
Be willing to be proved wrong.

Vote for a socialist alternative in Leicester

April 19, 2019
The Socialist Party is standing in the local and mayoral elections in Leicester.

Read about our manifesto launch today:

https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/socialists-set-out-alternative-proposals-2778702

For a workers’ mayor on a worker’s wage.
For the council to set a legal, no-cuts budget.
The council should take over Leicester’s bus services.
For investment in public transport and schools.
To campaign to end cuts to the NHS and increase the capacity of our hospitals to meet rising demand.
To end privatisation and bring services back “in house”.
To build 1000 council houses a year, as a step towards ending the problem of homelessness in Leicester.
Build a mass movement, linking up with other councils, to force the government to give us money to properly fund public services.
For a referendum on whether Leicester should have an elected mayor with executive powers – we have never had a say in this!

Vote Steve Score as first choice for Mayor.

Vote for socialist candidates where we are standing:

Beaumont Leys – Alex Morgan
Braunstone Park and Rowley Fields – Tessa Warrington
Evington – Satinder Toor
                 Caroline Vincent
Knighton – Anna-Sofia Wiking
Saffron – Pete Bisson
Spinney Hills – Drew Walton
Stoneygate – Franklin O’Riordan
Thurncourt – Darren Baxter
Aylestone – Steve Score

How can we get rid of the Tories?

February 2, 2019

The Socialist Party campaigned in the EU referendum to leave the EU. Our slogan was to “vote OUT the Tories”. Correctly, we predicted that a leave vote would cause a crisis for the ruling party of capitalism, and would undercut support for the far-right.

We also said that Jeremy Corbyn should use his position and authority to lead the Leave campaign, and, as part of TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) applied to the Electoral Commission to be the official Leave campaign; for no taxpayers’ money to be given to the Tories or UKIP as the officially sanctioned campaign. We attempted, with our limited resources, to counter the racist rhetoric on both sides of the referendum campaign. We pointed out that international workers’ solidarity was needed against EU attacks on the people of Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland. We explained that Corbyn would not be able to carry through socialist policies without coming into collision with the Lisbon Treaty.

The Leave vote caused Theresa May to lose a parliamentary vote by the greatest margin ever. She is clearly incapable of running the country. By any normal measure, she would have resigned by now, and there would be huge pressure to have a general election. So why is she still clinging to power?

The opposition is no longer (as it was under Blair) a “safe pair of hands” for the capitalists. They are terrified that a left-wing Labour government would raise expectations of working-class people (not that Corbyn’s manifesto is more than mild reformism, with only piecemeal renationalisation of the railways for example, not as we would demand, expropriation of the railway franchises under workers’ control, with no compensation for fat cats). The bosses are afraid of the latent power of the trade unions, if Corbyn were to repeal the Tory anti-trade union legislation. They are afraid for their profits. The last thing they want is for a Corbyn-led Labour Party to be pushed further to the left by mass pressure from below.

Yet, Labour too is split. There is a rump of Blairites, predominantly councillors and MPs who seek to sabotage Corbyn and his supporters. We are calling for them to be deselected. Instead, socialists have been expelled for the nebulous charge of “bringing the Labour Party into disrepute” and have attempted to smear Corbyn with false claims of antisemitism. The majority of Labour councils are still carrying through the Tories’ dirty work, cutting services and jobs without protest. However, there is a beacon of hope – Islwyn and Enfield North councils have voted to set no-cuts budgets and fight back (it remains to be seen how this works out in practice). The Socialist Party (as Socialist Alternative) will be standing against Blairite cutters in a number of seats across the country, to put forward an alternative to austerity.

What are the chances of democratising Labour into a fighting mass party of the working class? We would argue that Corbyn has been too timid in capitulating to and seeking reconciliation with the Blairites. We have asked to join Labour, but our requests have been rebuffed with the retort that we should not have stood against Labour in elections – we asked for a debate, to discuss co-operation and affiliation on a federal basis, but so far we have not been successful in re-joining Labour (our leading members were expelled in the early 1990s). There are some hopeful signs of change, however, with a new layer of activists coming through and a trickle of deselections.

One factor that has been absent in getting rid of the Tories is the organised working class. If Corbyn had campaigned energetically and the TUC had mobilised its members for the recent march against austerity, using it as a springboard for co-ordinated strike action; if there was mass, spontaneous civil disobedience (as is the case in France) – May’s government would face oblivion.

One Tory backbencher commenting on May’s leadership said “stamina is not a strategy”, recognising the desperate situation she is in. On the one hand remainers are demanding a soft Brexit, or to remain, on the other, Eurosceptics want to break with the EU, and the DUP are threatening to withdraw support over the border in Northern Ireland. The situation has reached a critical impasse, and evidently there is no Plan B. The EU has said its deal is non-negotiable, so May is scuttling round Labour Leave MPs offering cash bribes for their support (just as she did with the DUP).

This shows, as we have argued consistently, that the money is there in society to fund public services. The Tories are carrying out an ideological attack, affecting the most vulnerable disproportionately. Yet, this is also an extremely weak and wobbly government – all that is lacking is the political will to bring it crashing down.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming weeks and months. One possibility is that the Blairite left and Tory right will split, to form an SDP Mark II-style party, but holding them back is the likelihood of electoral oblivion.

A no-deal Brexit is still possible, despite the vote in Parliament to the contrary, if a deal cannot be brokered. This would be a blow to ordinary people, with uncertainty around jobs, increased inflation and chaos around our ports.

The right wing of Labour and the Lib Dems are calling for a second referendum, a “People’s Vote” – we say that a real people’s vote is a general election. The Lib Dems would certainly use this as a bargaining chip in return for support for a coalition government, should we have a hung Parliament in the event of an election. To go down the road of calling another referendum would alienate the majority of the working class, drive up support for UKIP and result in a backlash against immigrants. It would be a disastrous climbdown for Corbyn, who has rightly said that he would honour the referendum result.

Any companies under threat of going under should be nationalised under workers’ control, to protect jobs. We would use Brexit to launch an appeal to workers across Europe, to rise up against the rotten capitalist system which enslaves us. We point out the racist nature of EU legislation – the withdrawal of rescue vessels in the Mediterranean, the razor-wire border fence erected in Hungary. We do not blame immigrants, we blame the bosses. We would close tax loopholes and use the revenue generated to invest in our public services which have long been starved of resources. If there was a flight of capital, we would take control over the money supply.

Although this may sound like a socialist flight of fancy, meanwhile in Tory Britain homeless people are freezing to death, the disabled are suffering under Universal Credit, people are in insecure jobs and on zero hour contracts. It doesn’t have to be this way! We cannot afford to wait until 2022 for another general election.

During the election campaign in 2017, with the leaking of the Labour Party manifesto, this resulted in a huge groundswell of support. May’s gamble (on a snap election to pave the way for a majority for her version of Brexit) failed disastrously for the Tories. Despite a huge lead in the opinion polls at the beginning of the campaign, she has barely clung to power since. If we forced another general election now, the Tories could easily be defeated, if Labour were to pose a bold, socialist programme.

The Socialist Party, at this stage, is a small party, but we have a track record of winning gains for the working class. Locally, we played a central role in the campaign to save the Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre. We won millions of pounds of concessions from Thatcher for Liverpool, building council houses, leisure centres and schools. We led the mass non-payment campaign that led to the downfall of Thatcher and defeated the poll tax. Central to our strategy is the belief that workers are the most powerful force in society. We are the ones who create wealth for the capitalists. By withholding our labour, this can be stopped at its source, and they would have no choice but to capitulate. We are the ones with the knowledge and expertise to run society. We can build a new socialist society, based on equality and solidarity rather than profit and greed. We are part of an international movement seeking to overthrow capitalism, worldwide. If you agree with our ideas then – join us!

(Speech to Leicester Socialist Party meeting – 2/2/19)

Tories out. General Election now.

November 17, 2018

Theresa, Theresa. Fly away home.
Your party is dead and your majority’s gone.
All except one,
And his name is Gove,
And he hid under the kitchen stove.

Here, if I had the skills, I would have drawn a witty, topical cartoon of a ladybird taking flight, with Theresa May’s head and six faux leopard-print shoes on its feet, but I am afraid you will have to use your imagination!