Archive for the ‘New Labour’ Category

You are being lied to about Syria.

April 16, 2018

syriaAs we slide inexorably into renewed conflict in the Middle East, it might be worth revisiting some of the lies, fabrications and half-truths that took us to a decade of war in Iraq. These are worth remembering, as you watch a politician on the news decry the Assad regime in Syria for using chemical weapons, while not mentioning inconvenient truths: precursors to chemical weapons were sold to Syria by the UK in the 1980s, the attack by Israel on Gaza using white phosphorous or the use of depleted uranium shells in Iraq by the US.

We see a tendency by commentators to oversimplify, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”; the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. Socialists oppose individual acts of terrorism. Instead of mass action to remove dictators, the actions of a few “heroic” individuals or suicide bombers (depending on your viewpoint), are supposed to bring down those in power. There is nothing progressive about terrorism. It destroys innocent lives, it does not empower the working class and rather than an attack on the establishment, it only strengthens racism. It divides rather than unites us.

It is worth re-reading Trotsky’s articles Marxism opposes Individual Terrorism and the Bankruptcy of Terrorism. In place of individual action, socialists propose mass action through the organised working class, to transform the lives of millions and end this brutal, warmongering, uncaring system of capitalism. We propose a rationally planned society, worldwide, in which the collective productive forces of humanity can be used for the good of all, rather than killing people. “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people”, as Tony Benn argued.

Just as Theresa May is ignoring the democratic process now, so Tony Blair refused to acknowledge the mass demands in 2003 to Stop the War, the biggest demonstration in British history. Just as then, the conflict in Syria is not about chemical weapons, it is not about bringing democracy or peace, but it is about US prestige, the “special relationship” between the US and UK and a struggle with Russia for control over proposed oil pipelines in Syria. The destruction and casualties of war in the Middle East go back a long way, to British imperialism, the carving up of the Middle East by Britian and France, with the Sykes – Picot agreement in 1916, to carve up the spoils of the First World War, and the advocacy of mustard gas by Churchill to attack Kurds in Mesopotamia (Iraq).  The US is not without its own hypocrisy; as in the 1980s they supported Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq, as a bulwark against the USSR.

What was lacking in 2003, and what is urgently needed now, is a call to action on the part of the left. Tony Benn was the leading figure of the Labour left in those days, but he mistakenly put his faith in the UN and bringing Bush and Blair to task through legal and Parliamentary channels. This is wholly insufficient. We need to hit the capitalist powers where it hurts, in their wallets. Mass strike action is necessary to bring down Theresa May and Donald Trump. The working class alone has the power to end war and austerity. What is lacking is the political leadership and will to see the struggle through to its logical end. I hope Corbyn, as leader of the Labour movement in the UK, will call mass demonstrations, and use these as a platform to enthuse mass opposition to this war.

During the Iraq conflict, in Motherwell, the actions of a few, determined train drivers organised by the ASLEF trade union caused delays to the plans of the US, when they refused to carry munitions destined for the war zone.  If this spirit had spread to other unions, and mass resistance was shown – like the student walkouts, and if the trade unions had the necessary leadership – Britain’s involvement in the war could have ended. There would not have been years of needless suffering. Worldwide there were also similar actions – In Italy, people blocked trains carrying American weapons and personnel, and dockers refused to load arms shipments. US military bases were blockaded in Germany. Unfortunately, such examples were all too few – too little, too late to stop that bloody conflict.

There is also the question of what happens when, with the military might of the Western superpowers, they “win” the war. There were lies about carefully targeted “precision bombing” in Kuwait and Iraq, there were lies about “shock and awe” and “mission accomplished” – in reality the war dragged on year after year, millions of people died through sanctions and warfare, and millions more became displaced refugees.

During the Iraq War a central slogan of the anti-war movement was “No War for Oil” – this latest conflict is no different, it is not about the use of chemical weapons. It is more about who controls the oil supply, as pipelines are planned to run through Syria by Russia and the US.

The Socialist Party, to which I belong, does not support undemocratic, despotic regimes. We denounce terrorism. Our enemy are not innocent people in the Middle East who are caught up in a brutal, sectarian civil war. We point out that bombing will only intensify and risk further conflict – even the spectre of a Third World War and war with Russia is raised. We do not support imperialist Western powers imposing military might on people in an effort to impose freedom and democracy, as if that was possible – clearly the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Korea and Kuwait have taught them nothing. The only beneficiaries of further conflict are private security companies, the arms industry, and the oil companies, whose donations help fund the Democratic and Republican parties in the US.

We need to build a mass movement to bring down those in power, and we need to do it now.

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?”)

A Tale of Three Cities

May 6, 2016


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.


Thoughts on Corbyn’s victory

September 14, 2015

Regular readers will know that the header of this blog – with three cans standing for three varieties of equally foul-tasting soft drinks, was an attempt to highlight the lack of a working-class political alternative in the UK. All the main parties (at the time of designing the blog, when I first started posting in 2009) had the same austerity agenda.

This has changed with the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party. He has galvanised hundreds of thousands of supporters in packed meetings the length and breadth of the country to simple ideas: we do not have to put up with inequality; we can fund decent public services; we can run our public services democratically and we should be governed from the bottom up, with more democracy and transparency. These socialist ideas are what the Labour Party should be standing for, and what the party was founded on.

I have never been a member of the Labour Party, or any other party for that matter, until 2004, when I joined the Socialist Party (formerly Militant Labour) in protest at the Iraq War – now the mess we have made, with imperialist adventures in the Middle East is all too apparent, with the human cost of hundreds of thousands of refugees. Corbyn rightly opposes investment in Trident, and the bombing of Syria.

The Socialist Party had since 1996, been arguing for a new working-class party, to represent the millions disenfranchised by New Labour. As Militant, we had been the subject of a witch-hunt in the 1980s, and so turned outside the Labour Party. We argued that Labour was dead and there was no point in trying to resuscitate a corpse. One of my first blog posts was a parody of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch, to illustrate this point. However, it seems that we could have been wrong – that Corbyn may be able to restore democracy and socialist ideas and finally exorcise the ghost of New Labour.

The scale of his victory (60%, and a clear winner across all sections of the Labour Party – with the exception of the Parliamentary Labour Party) is encouraging – but there is still a lot of work to be done. I support Dave Nellist’s call for a conference of everyone on the left who is opposed to austerity – the trade unions, grassroots Labour supporters, Green Left, and TUSC, the party which I am a member and have stood for in elections. I think TUSC, to a small extent, by articulating anti-austerity policies in hundreds of constituencies across the UK, played a part in convincing people of the need for an alternative. A conference would provide a platform for a discussion about how to defend the ideas of socialism from attacks on the right, and transform the Labour Party back to what it should always have been – a vehicle for democratic socialism, to provide electoral representation for the working class. Careerist, Blairite politicians within Labour will need to be deselected at the earliest opportunity, if Corbyn will have any chance of carrying through the bold programme on which he has been elected.

The Progress faction within Labour are licking their wounds now – with many resigning from the shadow cabinet, but they will waste no time in attacking socialist ideas, for they are still wedded to capitalism. Tony Blair has described capitalism as “the only system that works” – New Labour privatised much of the NHS, did nothing to reverse Tory anti-trade union laws, expanded the use of the Private Finance Initiative (started by the Tories under John Major), and fundamentally did not oppose Tory austerity.

Labour also has a huge problem in Scotland – traditionally its heartland, but the SNP have acted as a pole of attraction for people looking for an anti-austerity party there (not that the SNP actually oppose austerity themselves, and offer no real alternative, being wedded to capitalist ideas themselves). Labour shot itself in the foot by allying with the Tories on the question of independence, and will not easily be forgiven by the Scottish working-class.

We can expect savage attacks on Corbyn from the right-wing press, but also from the right of his own party. Corbyn needs to re-democratise Labour, allowing the grassroots of the party to have a say in decision making. He should enable left-wing trade unions that had been expelled from New Labour – the RMT and FBU – to return, with democratic rights to have input into policy decisions.

The working-class will need to fight back.


August 19, 2015

The Collins review was supposed to be
A beacon of democracy.
As long as no left candidacy
Came to spoil New Labour’s party.

Last minute, by dint of a single vote,
Corbyn took politics by the throat.
No expensive duck house, subsidised moat,
or sanitised, focus-group, soundbite quote.

He packed the public in, from Preston to Prestatyn.
The Blairites started sobbing,
At the thought of him winning,
So they tried to rig the voting.

Blair – you remember him – the Iraq War,
Leads dozens of acolytes, scorn to pour
On the idea of austerity being no more,
Let the rich get richer while the poor stay poor!

Blair, three hundred grand, for talk on world hunger.
Kinnock, millions from the EU, went on even longer.
Brown danced from side to side, no substance on which to ponder.
Mandelson’s plea for resignations, another fatal blunder.

The members had already spoken
This protest, it was no token.
Too many promises had been broken;
Old ideas, in hushed tones, spoken:

Socialism – country run, for the benefit of all;
Nationalise the railways, our fares will fall.
Red and blue Tories, turfed out, on the dole.

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 or – 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.

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.

Lies, damn lies, greenwash and statistics

January 28, 2014

David Cameron commented on the recent British floods by saying that “he thought they were probably due to global warming”. While a single incidence of flooding is not in itself evidence of climate change, extreme weather events are becoming more and more common – the flooding in the UK has been linked to a cold snap across the Atlantic and a shift in the jet-stream, which has brought the stormiest month to Britain since 1969. It seems that meteorological records are being broken routinely, and there is evidence that the planet’s climate is changing.

While Cameron’s remarks are infinitely more helpful than the homophobia and ignorance of the UKIP councillor David Silvester, who blamed the floods on homosexuality, this rhetoric is not matched in terms of Conservative party policy. Why are the Tories pursuing fracking and nuclear power so aggressively? Why can’t the money being used to buy more nuclear power stations and give tax breaks to companies pursuing fracking instead be invested in developing renewable energy?

Of course, the reason is lobbying of politicians by energy companies with vested interests in keeping the status quo, of making as much profit as possible from the remaining fossil fuel resources, without regard for the long-term necessity to stop global warming. We need to get rid of career politicians and elect people who will stand up for our interests. In Britain, Labour, Lib Dems and Tories are all wedded to the system of capitalism. New Labour are no different; papers have been released showing collusion between Blair and Thatcher to keep the Conservative’s neo-liberal, privatisation agenda alive and well throughout Blair’s tenure. There is no sign that Milliband offers anything different.

The evidence for human-induced global warming is overwhelming. We have known of the principle behind global warming since 1896, when the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first put forward the science behind the theory. The warning from our own solar system, of the danger of runaway global warming is stark – look at the uninhabitable surface of Venus. Capitalism has had 100 years to do something about this, yet in the face of the over-riding desire to create profit for a few, the result has been over-exploitation of the world’s natural resources. What little is being done, is far too late to make any difference now. The best case scenario, if we managed to convert to a 100% carbon neutral economy, is a 2°C rise in global temperatures by 2100. This would still be catastrophic, displacing millions of people and destroying ecosystems.

A more likely scenario, put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents the scientific consensus, is that our world will warm by 4°C by the turn of the next century. However, this still entails a sea-change in policy and a willingness for global co-operation which is unprecedented. With every international conference – Kyoto, Copenhagen, Rio – the result has been a fudge, with countries seeking to shift the blame onto others and mitigate their own responsibility, rather then looking to actually address the problem.

So what is the solution? We need co-operation on an international scale. We need to put the control of the economy in the hands of workers, not politicians. We need to end the rule of profit, and replace this with democratic decision making worldwide, so that decisions can be made in the interests of the many, not the few. We need to elect leaders who are accountable to us, not big business.

The CWI (Committee for a Workers International) has organisations in around 50 countries worldwide. We have just recently elected representatives in the Canary Islands, Spain, as part of the United Left, and Kshama Sawant as Socialist Alternative in Seattle. We are standing Donal O’Cofaigh as a candidate on an anti-fracking position in Ireland. We are offering an alternative to corruption, sleaze and politicians squabbling and dithering over vital issues like the environment. We are growing as a political force and around the world, protesters are calling for change. However, leadership from traditional parties and right-wing trade unions is woefully lacking and time is short – we must build the socialist alternative.

In Britain, we are looking to stand as TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) in as many seats across the country in the forthcoming local elections to offer voters a democratic, socialist alternative to this market-driven madness. If you agree with us, please support our campaign, and consider standing yourself as a candidate.

No more cuts – save our hospitals

January 27, 2014

My local hospital, University Hospitals Leicester, has had to apply for financial support from the government, after it has forecast going into the red this year by £40m. Tragically, it is planning to cut £45million pounds in a “cost improvement plan” in 2014. This will only mean the loss of more staff, and further exacerbate the problem rather than providing a solution.

Portering and estates staff have already been replaced by Interserve, a private company, which will look to profit by cutting staff costs, which means cutting jobs or not replacing people who leave. As a result this has meant more charges and bureaucracy and a poorer service. So called “backroom” staff are equally important in keeping hospitals clean, safe and infection-free.

Many hospitals across the country are in a similar situation. Crippled by exorbitant PFI (Private Finance Initiative) deals, many of which involve contracts of 30 years to private companies, much of the NHS is struggling financially. This is not surprising, as budgets have been frozen and not adjusted to meet rising costs and demands on the service.

The Con-Dem’s Health and Social Care Act has opened the NHS up to the private or voluntary sectors. The time of managers is diverted, not into improving patient care, but in finding ways to calculate waiting times to keep commissioners, the people who buy our service, happy. NHS staff are constantly faced with the uncertainty that their service may be taken over.

A recent inquiry into the failure of North Staffs NHS Foundation Trust, prompted by an increased death rate due to budget cuts, recommended an increase in qualified medical staff on wards. Yet hospitals are forced to rely on agency staff due to chronic underfunding. In Lewisham, 25,000 people marched last year to save their beleaguered Accident and Emergency service; they correctly blamed the government rather than staff for the NHS’s failings.

Despite pre-election promises that there would be no major re-organisation of healthcare, the Con-Dem government is opposed in principle to the idea of the NHS, and wants to hand over our hospitals to big business. They are trying to force hospitals to become Foundation Trusts, which can be sold off to any willing provider. Private companies can cherry-pick profitable parts of the service, while the state is left to deal with more complex cases. Yet Foundation Trusts were created under New Labour, who were also enthusiastic about PFI deals. They offer no alternative to save the NHS, and will need to be pressurised by mass action into even repealing the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act. When British Rail was privatised, Labour initially said it would be renationalised, but the party went back on their word as soon as they were elected.

The example of Lewisham shows that the public do not believe the government’s lies that cuts need to be made, and are prepared to fight to save services. The trade unions in the NHS should organise co-ordinated industrial action, along with other public sector workers, firefighters and civil servants, in defence of jobs and services.

The Socialist Party puts forward renationalisation of the NHS. We advocate a democratic takeover of our hospitals and a fully-integrated, nationwide service. The bureaucracy of tendering out services needs to go. We would invest in the health service and kick greedy fat cats out of our hospitals. We would nationalise the drug companies which make billions from inflated drug prices. Only by taking control of the running of hospitals ourselves can we have a truly efficient health service.

Now Maggie’s Dead

September 18, 2013

Is this the extent of our democracy?
Infiltrating the pop charts, with a protest jingle
A snippet of a single on the radio?
While the Munchkins were censored,
And the shipyards of the Clyde lie silent,
Wyatt still sings Shipbuilding,
With a will to instill
Decency. Diving for pearls,
Not dear life.

It’s nothing personal, you understand,
I was as eager as anyone
To pull on a Maggie’s Dead T-shirt
Put together a CD of anti-Thatcher tunes
And celebrate the big day.
I just hate Tories and all their ilk,
‘Cos she stole our kids’ milk.
And as she lay in state in the Ritz
Pensioners are dying in their homes, when they lived through the Blitz.
Victims of fuel poverty, privatised energy.

But in New, Blue Labour, Thatcherism’s still going strong
Is there really all that much to rejoice? Once the song
Ends, and you’ve drank one too many, gloating Ding Dong The Witch
Is Dead. Then the hangover begins: tax cuts for the rich,
Lost jobs, empty factories, homeless on the streets.

I was seven when she came to power in 1979.
My great aunt, with old memories of the general strike
Said the unions wouldn’t stand for it.
I’m still waiting.


I will be performing some of my poems at the Donkey pub, on Welford Road, Leicester on the 3rd October, 8pm – saying ‘Goodbye to Thatcher’. The excellent KGB Jazz and The Splitters are also playing, and Bali Rai will also be reading. Tickets available here – All proceeds go to City of Sanctuary.

You can help build an alternative to Thatcherism and support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Why attack the vulnerable?

July 16, 2013

“One of the measures of a civilised society is how well it looks after its most vulnerable members.”

By any standards then, the present Con-Dem government is far from ‘civilised’. A cabinet of millionaires are attacking resources for the disabled, the poor, the unemployed, benefit claimants and those on low incomes. They are privatising or have already privatised our public services, which the poor rely on most. Public transport, water, electricity have already been sold off and now they are targeting the Royal Mail, comprehensive education and the NHS.

I think the Tories’ calculation is that these people are unlikely to vote, and if they did they would not support a Conservative government in any case, so they are being used as cannon fodder for big business eager to get its hands on lucrative public sector contracts – at our expense. Labour, shamefully, did the same thing when in power, expanding the use of PFI (“Profit From Illness” as Dave Nellist memorably put it), turning schools into academies and publicly run hospitals into Foundation Trusts – both a stepping stone to full privatisation. Dave Prentis, not someone I am normally a fan of, said rightly that “Labour built the bridge over which the Tories now march” – but this is at the same time as handing over millions of pounds of union members’ subs to the Labour Party, which did nothing to restrain the worst excesses of Thatcherism, despite earlier promises.

The railways are still fragmented, private and extortionately expensive to travel on. The anti-union laws are still in place. Manufacturing industry is still in decline. Jobs are still scarce, casual affairs, where unscrupulous employers can hire and fire at will. Outside the consumerism and gloss of our city centres, estates are crumbling, with poor facilities. Even Britain’s much-vaunted Olympic legacy, freshly minted in 2012, is quickly being tarnished, with the Don Valley stadium in Sheffield, where Jessica Ennis trained, scheduled for demolition in September. The promise of investment and jobs has turned to dust.

London remains a divided city mired in poverty, sky-high rents and unemployment. Designer-suited and booted investment bankers in the City still rake in massive bonuses, and MPs vote themselves a 10% pay rise. Yet low-paid public sector workers in the civil service endure year after year of pay freezes.

This is an ideological attack on the fabric of our society, driven by the short-term desire for profit. The gap between rich and poor grows, leading to disillusionment and anger, but this is not always targeted at the culprits responsible, as the old mantra of “divide and rule” is trotted out again and again in the right-wing press. Asylum seekers, public sector workers, benefit scroungers, the unemployed are made into scapegoats – anyone except the bosses of companies which evade tax to the tune of £120 billion a year. This alone would be enough to reverse the damaging trend of under-investment in jobs and services, to revitalise our hospitals and schools, to nationalise our transport system, to build thousands of new homes, to provide the millions of jobs which our economy needs.

The problem is that profit is built into the ethos of the capitalist system we live in, so that any gains workers might win through union struggle or strike action – in this case, the welfare state, the NHS, comprehensive education, the eight hour day – will always be eroded. The only solution is to overthrow this rotten system completely.

What is to be done?

We need to give people the confidence that they can fight back and win real gains.

We need to persuade more workers to join trade unions, as they are the only force in society which can threaten capitalism. If we withdraw our labour, then this threatens bosses’ profits. If the leadership of trade unions has grown soft and bureaucratic, and given up the fight, then those leaders need to be forced into action by exerting mass pressure from below, or removed from office.

We need to oppose every cut in services, fight for every job and to retain what is left of our public services.

I think we need to build a new party for the vast majority of society – the 99%, not the 1%. I support TUSC – the trade unionist and socialist coalition.

Ultimately, we need to follow the example of people internationally – in the Occupy movement, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, Greece – where workers have downed tools in a general strike and the masses took to the streets to try to bring down their government.

However, unlike revolutionary movements which fizzle out in elections leading to the installation of another weak, unpopular and corrupt regime, this movement cannot allow itself to be hijacked by sectarian interests – we need to build a new society, genuinely democratic, free and socialist. The same struggle needs to be spread to every country across the world.

I am part of the CWI – the Committee for a Workers’ International. We are attempting to build a socialist alternative in over forty countries across the world. The alternative is disillusionment, despair and poverty for the majority while a tiny, privileged elite continue to prosper.