Archive for the ‘1’ Category

How to make yourself cross this Thursday

June 7, 2017

Cross at cuts to the NHS;
cross at duplicitous career politicians;
cross at millionaire MPs freezing our wages;
cross at working till 67;
cross at we’re all in this together;
cross at zero hour contracts;
cross at “strong and stable” government;
cross at Blairite betrayals;
cross at tragic foreign interventions;
cross at terrorism;
cross at delayed trains and extortionate fares;
cross at 20,000 fewer police officers;
cross at election expenses scandal;
cross at tuition fees;
cross at austerity.

Cross the road to the polling station.

Cross for Corbyn;
cross for socialism;
cross for change;
cross for solidarity;
cross for leadership;
cross for the 99.9%;
cross for hope;
cross for equality.

Cross the box.

Cross your fingers.

mayends2

 

We want nationalisation, we want workers’ control. We want union freedom, and the Tories on the dole.

May 21, 2017

For a “weak”, “unelectable” leader, Jermy Corbyn seems to be packing crowds in wherever he speaks. Labour are rapidly closing ground on the Tories in the opinion polls. Could it be that their policies – of a living minimum wage, to end zero hour contracts and to renationalise the utilities and railway network, might just be proving popular?

Labour have promised to bring back the railways under public control, but only as the franchises expire. They have promised “cradle to grave” free education, with the abolition of tuition fees. They are opposing austerity – though this has yet to be put into practice by Labour councils.

Opinion polls show overwhelming public support for socialist policies – 52% support public ownership of the railways, 65% support higher taxes for those earning more than £80,000/yr, 54% of people support more council house building, 71% of people support the scrapping of zero hour contracts. The Labour manifesto promises a Britain “for the many, not the few”. How much more inspiring than vague right-wing promises, which have failed to deliver. No surprise then that millions of, mostly young voters, are registering to vote.

The Labour manifesto can be criticised for its climbdown on Trident and for nationalised energy, for example, to be run alongside private utility companies. Surely it would be better to acknowledge that Trident is a white elephant and that the only way to plan and invest in renewable energy would be to renationalise the whole industry at one stroke, and to have democratic control of industry.

However, it is a huge step forward compared to the Blairite mantra of the Third Way, of public-private partnerships and PFI, which have continued Tory plans to get rid of our control over the public sector. The NHS has rapidly been privatised, so this election is in effect a referendum on whether we still want a national health service – not that the Tories want us to know that!

However, their manifesto also misses a target in failing to renationalise the banks. Lack of public control over the banking sector has been shown in the failure to prosecute RBS over that bank’s failings.

The right wing press complain about the expense of nationalisation – but it needn’t cost us a penny – rather big shareholders should receive no compensation whatsoever; they have held the public to ransom for far too long.

Tyneside Labour Party Young Socialists came up with a song in the 1970’s which sums up the situation (to the tune of the Blaydon Races) –

“Aye lads, we all want nationalisation
But not the kind they’ve got in the mines
Or in the railway stations.
We want workers’ control and not participation,
And then we’ll be on were way – to the socialist transformation!”

The reference “not the kind they’ve got in the mines or in the railway stations” is due to the post-war Labour settlement which ended up with the same coal owners still in charge in the National Coal Board, and which still shut workers out of control.  However, even this top-down, limited nationalisation would still be preferable to the present situation!

In contrast, there is a classic example, from the 1970s, of Lucas shop stewards being asked what they could do with the skills in the British Aerospace industry – they came up with long-life batteries, and dialysis machines rather than making weapons for the defence industry. Similarly the GLC, in 1981, before its abolition by Thatcher,  Mike Cooley, sacked from Lucas for his activism, was appointed Technology Director of the GLC’s new Greater London Enterprise Board (GLEB). A series of Technology Networks were created. Anticipating FabLabs today, these community-based workshops shared machine tools, access to technical advice, and prototyping services, and were open for anyone to develop socially useful prototypes.

Technology Networks aimed to combine the ‘untapped skill, creativity and sheer enthusiasm’ in local communities with the ‘reservoir of scientific and innovation knowledge’ in London’s polytechnics. Hundreds of designs and prototypes were developed, including electric bicycles, small-scale wind turbines, energy conservation services, disability devices, re-manufactured products, children’s play equipment, community computer networks, and a women’s IT co-operative. Designs were registered in an open access product bank. GLEB helped co-operatives and social enterprises develop these prototypes into businesses.

However, it is wrong to say that Corbyn’s manifesto is simply a return to the 1970’s. Then, 13 million people were members of trade unions, there was an element of democratic control in some workplaces with “closed shops”, where the union would be able to decide who was hired and fired. There was more equality, cheaper housing, more council housing, better job security, an 80% top rate of income tax – and key industries were nationalised (albeit on a top-down, Stalinist model, inherited from the gains of the 1945 Labour post-war government).

Fast forward 40 years – we have zero hour contracts, the race to the bottom with our terms and conditions being eroded, wage freezes for public sector workers and insecure jobs.

A programme of nationalisation could begin to reverse decades of underfunding and Thatcherite economics. With advances in technology and robotics, we could have a shorter working week without loss of pay (at the moment automation is being used as a tool to drive up profits at our expense).

One drawback is that Corbyn, welcome though his reforms are, is trying to improve workers’ rights and transform society, without actually taking power out of the hands of big business. There will undoubtedly be a retaliation. There are questions over how he will force his programme through. 100 Blairite MPs have already signalled their intention to form a breakaway party, should Corbyn lose the general election, but remain in charge.

The answer to this is to have mandatory reselection of MPs and re-democratise the Labour Party, with more influence for the 500,000 members who have joined as a result of Corbyn’s shift to the left. This has happened in Aberdeen, where 9 Labour councillors were recently suspended for going into a local coalition with the Tories!

Brexit, would allow Corbyn the freedom to break with EU treaties which enforce competition and the internal market. Dave Nellist has dubbed this “Thatcherism on a continental scale”. It would allow trade unions the freedom to campaign for better wages for migrant workers, levelling wages up, rather than the practice of “social dumping”, where EU regulations have meant the ripping up of negotiated agreements and allow companies to employ workers on less than the UK minimum wage, a practice analogous with the use of “flags of convenience” on board ships. Corbyn needs to campaign for a socialist Brexit. Theresa May, on the other hand, would use Brexit to rip up what little protection Europe offers the UK, in terms of the working hours’ directive, for example.

In summary, the general election is a golden opportunity, the first time in my lifetime that I will be able to support a Labour government offering an alternative to cuts. It lifts our aspirations and will encourage millions, whereas all the Tories have to offer is a continuation of drab, grey austerity Britain, where millions rely on food-banks, where people are terrified of putting their head above the parapet for fear of losing their jobs, where the disabled and homeless are victimised, rather than supported. We need a return to the fighting spirit of the 1970s, rather than a return to Victorian conditions and the 1870s.

(This is a speech I gave to Leicester Socialist Party meeting, May 2017 – on the topic – “Nationalisation – is Corbyn taking us back to the 1970s?”)

Deliveroo Rider (with apologies to Lennon & McCartney)

May 21, 2017

Deliveroo rider, Deliveroo rider.

If you need a lamb jalfrezi, and peshwari nan
But can’t be arsed to cook, then I’ve got a plan.
Just pick up your phone and make a call
To the Deliveroo rider, Deliveroo rider.

Pedestrians, get out of his way.
Curry can’t get cold, see him sway
Through traffic jam and pouring rain,
Consults the GPS, then he’s off again.
Deliveroo rider, Deliveroo rider.

Ignores red lights, gets there as fast as he can
And the highway code, he doesn’t understand.
On zero hour contract and minimum wage
It’s a thankless job, underpaid
Deliveroo rider, Deliveroo rider.

Outside Burger King, in late Friday gloom,
You can see them all, prepared to zoom.
Lycra clad, green of hue,
With a pouch on his back and a kangaroo.
Deliveroo rider, Deliveroo rider.

Together they struck for better working rights,
Collective action won t
heir fight.
This gig economy has got to end,
We all need more cash to spend.
We’re all Deliveroo riders, Deliveroo riders.

For fox’s sake, get the Tories out.

May 13, 2017

mayends2

Rural communities have been hit hard by the Tories – dairy farmers get almost no return for their milk, as supermarket chains have squeezed their profits. Price controls and nationalisation of big business would give them a fair standard of living.

By offering MPs a free vote on repealing the hunting ban, Theresa May has shown her priorities for the forthcoming election. With austerity hitting millions, and forcing families to resort to food banks to make ends meet, with the NHS at crisis point, with the ‘gig’ economy and zero hours contracts providing at best low-income, unstable employment, with working-class children unable to afford to go to university – you might think she would consider stopping some of the cuts, invest in the NHS, make a promise to halt privatisation of our public services. But no, she appeals to the UKIP / Tory core rural vote, by promising to bring back hunting. By contrast, drag hunting is a safe and effective way of providing dogs with a chase and horses with exercise. It can preserve rural jobs and livelihoods, without the actual kill itself.

Rural communities have also seen public transport services decimated, as subsidised bus services are cut and rail extortionately expensive. Corbyn would bring back the rail companies under public ownership (albeit as the franchises run out – better to forcibly take back control of our railways now, without compensation for fat-cat shareholders). He also promises investment and green jobs in the energy sector, by nationalising the Big Six energy companies – these could be run in the public interest, providing more environmentally friendly energy at a reasonable price, so that old people, the poor and the vulnerable can afford to heat their homes in winter.

For the sake of our economy, our wildlife and our environment, we need to vote the Tories out on the 8th June. I am a member of the Socialist Party, which is part of TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. We oppose Blairite cuts to services and Labour MPs who have stabbed Corbyn in the back. However, we are not standing against Labour in this vital general election, as it is imperative to put a politician with socialist policies back in charge.

You can register to vote here. There has never been more at stake. For the first time, I will be voting Labour, having been put off previously by its failed, feeble, centre-right Blairism. But the Labour party is changing radically for the better. Hopefully millions of other people will be convinced to do the same on June 8th.

 

 

 

30 days to save the NHS

May 11, 2017

I was watching Pointless the other day, when a question about the NHS came up – 12 out of 100 people did not know what NHS stood for, and the founders of the NHS (Aneurin Bevin and Clement Attlee’s landslide 1945 Labour government) which ushered in the welfare state only managed a score in the 20s. On Twitter, the BBC quipped, “there were originally seven questions in this round, but they have had their funding cut”.

A recent Labour Party PPB highlighted its role in creating the NHS and how it can be transformed once again – http://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/01/19/labour-hits-back-tories-nhs-lines-first-party-political-broadcast-2017

Aneurin Bevan’s national vision for free healthcare was inspired by a working-class community in Wales. It is important that we educate ourselves about the origins of the NHS, as it is facing oblivion under the Tories.  24 A&E services are facing the axe and another nine are being down-graded. The NHS is facing £22bn of cuts over the next four years. A major reason for this mess are PFI deals and privatisation, brought in by John Major’s Tory government, expanded on by Blair and Brown and continued under Cameron and May. Essential services are run by companies such as Capita, Virgin Healthcare, and Serco. Perhaps not so surprising when you consider that 71 Lib Dem / Tory MPs, who voted for the sell-off of the NHS, with the 2014 Health and Social Care Act, have links to private healthcare companies.

But there is an alternative. If elected, Corbyn’s Labour government will reverse decades of underfunding and privatisation to public services, by bringing the NHS back into public ownership. This is a policy which the Socialist Party has long fought for. Labour pledges to abolish hospital parking charges and to kick out the privateers from our healthcare system. This is so important, because for any private company, its priority is to its shareholders and the bottom line, rather than the provision of a public service.

However, this will only happen if enough of us vote for an alternative to cuts and privatisation in the upcoming general election. You can register to vote here. There has never been more at stake. For the first time, I will be voting Labour, having been put off previously by its failed, feeble, centre-right Blairism. But the Labour party is changing radically for the better. Hopefully millions of other people will be convinced to do the same on June 8th.

Strong and stable

April 30, 2017

‘Midst general election expenses scandal
A snap election; risky gamble.
If I wanted something strong and stable,
I’d buy a flipping coffee table.
Theresa May is weak and feeble,
Corbyn stands up for the people.
We have had enough of austerity;
Enough duplicitous treachery.
The Tories always attack the poor
Take us for granted, but no more.
We’ll show May the stable door.
Shove her on the compost heap
Of history, where she will keep
Thatcher company.

 

 

April 1917 – a crucial moment in the Russian Revolution

April 2, 2017

2017

The Russian Revolution was where capitalism broke at its weakest point. This post is largely based on the latest in  a series of articles in the socialist, which follow the events of that historic year.

At the end of February 1917 (dates are from the Julian calendar, which was then in use in Russia) Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, having been overthrown peacefully in the storming of the Winter Palace. He was unable to find any regiment of the army willing to defend him. He attempted to pass power to his brother, Grand Duke Michael,  but this was refused. A provisional government then took power on the 2nd March, headed by Prince Georgy Lvov – with no mandate, it was very weak and unstable.

Russia was entering a period of dual power, nominally the state had control, but real power was in the hands of soviets – the translation from the Russian is simply “committee” – where ordinary people had taken control of their farms and workplaces. The Bolshevik’s slogan for “Bread, Peace and Land” summed up in simple terms what they were fighting for, and could be easily understood, even by illiterate people – Russia was a very backward country at the time and most of the population was extremely poor, working on the land under a feudal dictatorship under the Tsar.

At the beginning of April, both Lenin and Trotsky were in exile – Lenin was in Switzerland, and Trotsky in a prisoner of war camp in Canada – seized by British naval officers on board a ship bound for Russia, and sent to Halifax. In “My Life” – he says he did not join in a protest about their incarceration, because he didn’t see much point in “complaining to Beelzebub about Satan” – he was accused of being a German agent, backed by the British government and Milyukov, the foreign minister of the Russian provisional government.

The objective conditions for a successful revolution had been met: the Tsar had been overthrown and it was clear to the left wing of the Bolsheviks at least, that power must pass to the soviets in order that the gains that had been made could be consolidated. However, as well as this, workers and peasants must also be willing to fight to bring the revolution to a successful conclusion.

On Lenin’s return to Russia, he wrote the April Theses. This is a draft of speeches he gave at assemblies of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, two factions of the Russian Social Democratic Party, which had split previously. The Mensheviks argued that revolution needed to be postponed to a distant future, whereas the left wing of the Bolsheviks argued that people needed to take control over the state for themselves – the names mean “minority” and “majority” in English. Trotsky, before the events of 1917, was in the middle ground – another faction which sought to unite the two conflicting positions – but as this revolutionary year unfolded, he came over to the side of Lenin.

The position of some leading Bolsheviks, such as Kamenev and Stalin,  was that of a gradual transition to socialism – they were caught unprepared by the willingness of the mass of people to fight against the Tsar, the demands for basic necessities, the right to govern themselves, and the soldiers returning from the front, who were sick of trench warfare. All of these factors forced the ferocious pace of events of 1917. Kamenev and Stalin were leading the soviet in St Petersburg – they advocated conditional support of the provisional government, and only advised that “a most vigilant watch” be put on the government.

Lenin made the following key demands:

1. To break completely with the capitalist and imperialist war, and for this to be explained to troops at the front.

2. We have got rid of the Tsar, but he has been replaced by another government of the bourgeoisie – we now must place power in the hands of the workers and peasants.

3. No support for the provisional government – we must expose their lies.

4. The Bolshevik party is in a minority at the present time – but we must explain to the people that our the soviets are the only organ capable of bringing true emancipation, and we must tailor our explanations to the needs of the masses’ and their political outlook.

5. For a republic of soviets of workers and peasants throughout the country. To abolish the police, the army and the bureaucracy. For salaries of all officials (to be subject to recall and to be elected) not to be more than the average wage of a skilled worker.

6. Confiscation of landed estates and the nationalisation of all land – to be handed over to the peasants.

7. For workers’ control of the banks, which would be nationalised and amalgamated into one central bank.

8. Production should be brought under control of the soviets.

9. For an immediate Bolshevik Party Congress. To change the name of the party to the All Russian Communist Party, to alter the party’s positions on the war, the state and its minimum programme.

10. For the establishment of a new socialist International.

Lenin made these points repeatedly. Defeated initially by the right-wing Petrograd Bolsheviks, he took his campaign to the Mensheviks and to the party membership at large and won widespread support for his ideas. At the Bolshevik Party conference on April 24th, Lenin’s motion to transfer all power to the soviets was carried by 149 to 3 votes – and the party had now rapidly grown, enthused by his ideas – it now numbered 79,000, with 15,000 members in Petrograd (St Petersburg) alone.

An important breaking point in the provisional administration was the First World War – should it support or condemn the imperalist conflict? Milyukov said they would “pursue the war to its glorious conclusion” – this resulted in huge May Day demonstrations, which forced his resignation in April 21st. Six socialist members of the Petrograd soviet then joined the provisional government. Milyukov resigned and Trotsky was then released from incarceration.

If it were not for the intervention of Lenin at this key point, and more importantly the support of the masses – whose ideas echoed with his, the revolution may well have been just another wasted opportunity as has happened in many countries since – the Arab Spring, Allende’s Chile, France 1968 to name but a few.

In May the Bolsheviks adopted Lenin’s programme, with the slogan “All power to the soviets”.

This shows the importance, even if all the other factors for revolution are in place, of having the correct programme and being able to win people to your side in order to carry through a successful socialist revolution. The Russian Revolution was unique in being able to accomplish this, but it was isolated. With the subsequent civil war, the death of Lenin and the exile of Trotsky, the USSR tragically became corrupted by Stalinism.

The Socialist Party in the UK is still fighting today, as part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, which is fighting in 50 countries worldwide, to establish true socialism. Capitalism is still failing the vast majority of people. If you are not a member of the socialist party, then join us!

Ballad of James McLean

March 28, 2017

This tale is all too sadly true –
James McLean, he walked the talk.
To London streets, where homeless folk
warm hands on steaming cups of brew.

In Leicester, likewise, courageous stand;
he pitched his tents on Jubilee Square.
Mayor Soulsby, angry at protest there,
Served him notice to quit the land.

But public ground belongs to all;
The Diggers, once fought for such a right.
We have no choice, except to fight,
No longer to be held in thrall.

Moved on, James struck on pastures new,
Nearby the Old Town Hall.
Providing shelter, comradeship too.
Sir Soulsby, he still had the gall

to impose an unjust fine on him:
good James did nothing wrong.
Leicester in Bloom’s all proper and prim
But I’d rather see the homeless throng

provided with places for their needs;
hostel funding should not be cut.
New Labour councillors claim to heed
calls for more resources . . . but

Blairites cry tears of Tory blue,
their words don’t match their deeds.
False claims of  building houses new,
while poor are thrown on the streets.

A Mayor’s vast salary will console;
Soulsby’s never suffered on the dole.
‘Gainst cruel hypocrisy, ruthless cant,
we must, like James, protest and rant.

Homeless services, they must stay,
the fat-cats must be booted out.
Capital’s greed has had its day,
let people protest, hear us shout.

As cuts hit home, we realise
We must all strike and organise,
like James McLean, who made his stand,
and occupied our council land.

mclean

 

Running the Belvoir Challenge 26

March 2, 2017

belvoir1I entered this race to raise some money for Macmillan Cancer Support: a good cause, and also to raise the spirits of a relative who is seriously ill. I had never entered a “Challenge” race before – for the uninitiated, this generally means a vicious route, involving obstacles, mud and anything else the organisers can throw at you. In this respect, the Belvoir Challenge certainly lived up to its name.

The start was much like any other race – around 1,000 runners (with a preponderance of running clubs, from Newark, Lincoln, Nottingham, Grimsby . . .) gathered in the village hall to register and receive their race numbers. One difference was the number of cakes on offer and the start itself – a sign pointed to “Start in field”.

As soon as my feet sank into the rich, clay loam that makes the area around Melton Mowbray such good agricultural land, I realised what I was letting myself in for. Soon, a giant slipper of sticky soil was glued to each foot, making traction almost impossible. We trudged, staggered and slipped our way through field, after field, after field – I commented that you don’t need running shoes for this, skis would be a better option!

After five miles, came the biggest climb of the course – in total it involved 1,200 feet of climbs and descents – a brutal hill, involving clambering up the last section on hands and feet, using tree stumps to get some sort of traction. At least this was near the beginning, so we had some time to recover. The views across the Wolds made up for this ascent, however, with spectacular scenery – you could see the town of Grantham in the far distance and we had some respite as we ploughed our way through some relative wooded footpaths.

Soon, it was back to muddy fields, though – now with the added problem of a chill easterly wind in our faces, and driving rain. At least there was no danger of overheating. We had a welcome stop at the 18 mile mark, at the hamlet of Woolsthorpe – Stilton and crackers were on offer, and there was even the option of turning into the hall for some hot food. I wanted to push on, though, so wiped my muddy hands with antibacterial gel and a cloth, grabbed a homemade flapjack and a drink of orange squash and continued.

Turning the corner, the next stop was at Croxton Kerrial, where a friend of mine runs a pub (the Geese and Fountain). Knowing this was the only chance I was going to get to catch up with him, we had a brief discussion on the chances of Leicester City staying up and whether or not they should have sacked Ranieri, before reluctantly I said goodbye to the inviting warm interior, the pool table, dart board and range of real ales and turned once more into the wind and rain.

The route then took us through more muddy fields, more woodland paths and more twisty lanes – the last six miles took an eternity and I was definitely tiring by now. I passed another friend who was walking the 15 mile version of the course, who commented that I was on “top form” – appearances can be deceptive, as I willed my muscles to keep going and repeated a mantra of, “Not far now, you can do it” to myself. Soon, my energy reserves drained, I struggled through the last lanes back to Harby Village Hall and a welcoming bowl of tomato soup and rhubarb crumble, which might as well have been cooked by a Michelin-starred chef, they tasted so good.

My time was 5hrs 20minutes, which I was pleased with, this being my first challenge race, and having to negotiate countless stiles, the occasional electric fence, a road which promptly turned into a stream we had to ford, and seemingly endless muddy swamps.

I would recommend anyone to have a go and enter it!

Training for a marathon

December 27, 2016
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
Mon 3m 4m 4m 4m 4m 4m 3m 3m 3m 3m 3m 4m
Wed 3m 6m 6m 6m 6m 6m 8m 8m 6m 6m 3m 4m
Fri 3m 4m 4m 5m 5m 6m 6m 6m 6m 6m 6m Rest
Sun 8m 10m 12m 14m 16m 18m 18m 18m 14m 10m 6m RACE

Simple training schedule, for anyone with enough time to train 4 days a week. Rest days have been built in after each run, with the exception of the long run on a Sunday, followed by a short recovery run on the Monday. The distance builds gradually, giving you three long runs of 18 miles to emulate the race, without overdoing it and “hitting the wall”. Anything longer than 21 miles requires about 4000 calories, which your body cannot store as glycogen – you have to accustom your muscles to burning fat stores in order to run further. After a peak 4 weeks before the race, the training tapers down, to allow you to be fresh and ready for the big day.

I would recommend listening to your body as you run. You do not need a heart rate monitor to tell you if you are going too fast – a simple rule of thumb is if you can speak, then you are not out of breath. A companion to run with is also a great motivational aid. In my case, my bicycle was recently stolen, so running to work is a good way of getting the miles under my belt, and also perks me up for the day ahead. The long runs should be run at a slow pace, and the shorter runs at the speed you are aiming to go in the race.

I am running the Belvoir Challenge 26 in February, in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, as a close family member is unwell. This is an off-road race, so trail shoes will be required, and I will need to break them in well before the race itself.

If you can, please give something to the appeal on my justgiving page – all support will go to this worthy cause, which offers counselling, advice and support for families going through the ordeal of cancer.