Archive for the ‘privatisation’ Category

Why are we in this mess?

August 16, 2013

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” – the opening words of the Communist Manifesto highlights the fact that there has always been a subjugated class (slaves, peasants, workers) and a higher elite, which has opposed their interests (slave-owners, aristocracy, bosses).

The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848 at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, which transformed economies – the mass of the population moved into cities for the first time, workers congregated together in factories as mass production took the place of traditional craftsmanship. This led to the emergence of a working class for the first time and the beginnings of socialist parties – making it possible for the working class to take over the running of society.

Looked at in terms of two opposing classes and the tension between them, economics begins to make sense. Workers struggle against oppression, while bosses fight to maximise their profits. The interests of the two are incompatible.

Marx describes this process as “surplus value”. For him, goods are valued according to the labour involved in their production. Companies take away some of our labour value – whether this is indirectly in terms of services, or directly by manufacturing goods. In return, we get a proportion of this as wages. Workers struggle through trade unions and may take strike action in order to get more pay. Meanwhile, the company seeks to maximise its profit margins. The film, The Corporation, gives a good description of how individual companies operate under capitalism – as psychopaths – devoid of human compassion, feeling or empathy and striving only to maximise their profits.

Because of this, capitalism is incapable of solving the problems of the world. It is incapable of co-operation on a global scale, incapable of planning to meet the problems of global warming, or of even finding enough resources to feed the world, or to provide clean, safe drinking water for all of us.

Capitalist economics, as Trotsky, said, creates within it the conditions for its own crisis – “capitalism is its own gravedigger”. However, there is no final crisis of capitalism, without a mass revolutionary movement to bring about socialism.

When capitalism cannot get rid of the surplus it creates, prices fall according to the law of supply and demand, and conditions are created for recession or even depression.

Eighty years ago, the Great Depression was caused by a perfect storm of forces – the stock market crash in the US, hyperinflation in Germany after the destruction of the workers’ movement, the collapse of banks, and a failure of harvests in the Dust bowl. Capitalism only emerged from this by using World War II to raze whole cities to the ground. The same process of imperialist resource-grabbing, of divide and rule (in the case of Nazi Germany taken to extremes), the naked preoccupation with nationalism and profit has led to violence, hatred and the loss of millions of lives.

Instead, socialists argue for workers’ co-operation internationally, for a planned, genuinely democratic economy where it ordinary people are in control over the means of production. We decide what our priorities are, how resources should be divided up, and we have a real involvement in decision-making. With the rule of profit gone, people are therefore able to enjoy the full fruits of their labour – a shorter working week, more leisure time and to rid themselves of the burden of poverty. We would be able to invest more resources into the economy in order to fully realise our human potential.

The present economic crash in 2008 was caused by speculation on sub-prime mortgages, with debts being consolidated and re-sold around different investors. There was a downturn in the economy, causing interests rates to be lowered, and so there was a boom of cheap credit. Loans were sold to people who simply could not afford the repayments. The system collapsed like a house of cards, or an elastic band that has been stretched way past its breaking point.

Any theory can be tested by how well it predicts actual events. Capitalist economists completely failed to predict the economic crash. Francis Fukuyama predicted “The End of History”, with the fall of the Eastern Bloc and the supposed world-dominance of neoliberalism. Gordon Brown said arrogantly that he had “abolished boom and bust”. However, in the pages of “Socialism Today”, we predicted that a crash would come sooner or later, that the bubble had to burst at some point, and that when it did the result would be disastrous for working people.

After the crash of 2008, house prices fell through the floor. No lenders were offering mortgages and banks had to be nationalised and bailed out to the tune of trillions of dollars worldwide. This goes to show that the money is there in society, it is just not spent where it is needed – on public services, or clean water, but on maintaining the status quo for big business, at any cost. Meanwhile the people at the bottom were left homeless.

In 2013, we are still not out of the woods. In an effort to reduce the debt, public services are slashed and privatised. However, post-1945, our national debt was much higher than it is now, at 240% of GDP. Yet we still managed to build council houses, found the welfare state, the NHS, and nationalise 20% of the country’s industry. All these gains were won by pressure from below – servicemen coming back from the front demanding change, a land fit for heroes. There remains massive potential for a huge fight back from the trade unions and community groups across the country – what is lacking is any leadership. Unlike 1945, Labour has shifted massively to the right, and refuses to countenance any alternative to cuts and austerity. We need to build that alternative.

However much workers gained through their struggles, capitalism will always come back for more. We get a few crumbs from the rich man;s table in good times, but in bad, there is no hesitation in cutting jobs and wages, even if this costs lives. Look at the rises in NHS waiting times and the increase in the number of deaths in our hospitals as the cuts bite.

We need to build a new parties to represent working people internationally. In Britain, TUSC is hopefully the genesis of a new workers’ party. The trade unions must break with Labour or be broken as they will lose members in their droves, either through disgust at the way they are treated by their leadership, or through job losses and privatisation. The Labour Party is undemocratic, and the Falkirk scandal, where Milliband threatened Unite with legal action for the crime backing its own (not even very left-wing) candidate, and getting working-class people to join Labour, proves that it is completely unfit for purpose.

Depressions can have a stunning effect on workers – they can keep their heads down, afraid of the sack, or grateful that they have a job at all. However, at some stage, there must be a mass fight back. The potential was shown on November 30th 2011, when 2 million workers took strike action. Across Southern Europe and North Africa, the fight back is already happening – people have no choice but to take to the streets and fight their own governments, who have nothing to offer but austerity.

The crying shame is the lack of a revolutionary leadership of these movements, capable of uniting struggles and putting forward a socialist programme to take power. Join the Socialist Party and the CWI and help us build that leadership.

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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.

Reclaim UNISON

May 14, 2013

UNISON members across the country are facing attacks on pay and conditions and their jobs are at risk. In schools, libraries, the NHS and council departments workers are facing the threat of downgrading or redundancy, as councils make cuts. Labour councils have not put up any real resistance to these cuts, except for a few councillors in Southampton and in Hull – their reward has been to be expelled from the Labour Party!

If there is one union that could stop the government’s attacks on the public sector dead in their tracks, that is UNISON. Prentis boasts about the potential strength of the union’s 1.3 million members but he has then done everything possible to avoid national industrial action. On the one occasion, workers did come out in November 2010, mass demonstrations were held up and down the country and picket lines were buzzing with excitment. However, this glimpse of possible militancy has never been repeated. We need national strike action again, this time co-ordinated with the private sector as well. We have tried being reasonable and negotiating, but this has only encouraged the government and been taken as a sign of weakness.

If you agree that we need a fighting, democratic union, vote for Reclaim The Union Candidates on your ballot paper for UNISON NEC elections. If you have lost your ballot paper, if it is underneath a pile of junk mail on your desk, or if the dog has eaten it – you can get another by phoning 0845 355 0845 befoire 21st May. Ballot closes 24th May.

Jean Thorpe (East Mids region, Female Seat)
Adrian Picton (East Mids region, Male Seat)

Monique Hirst (Black Members’ Seat)
April Ashley (Black Members’ Seat)
Hugo Pierre (Black Members’ Seat)

Suzy Franklin (Health Service Group)
Gary Freeman (Health Service Group)
Mark Boothroyd (Health Service Group)

Greta Holmes (Young Members)

Claire Wormald (Eastern)

Jim McFarlane (Scotland)
Duncan Smith (Scotland)

Jamie Davis (Wales / Cymru)

Dave Auger (West Midlands)

Bernie Parkes (South West)

Helen Davies (Gtr London)
MarshaJane Thompson (Gtr London)
Jon Rogers (Gtr London)
Gundula Seidel (Gtr London)

Bernie Gallagher (North West)
Karen Reissmann (North West)
Roger Bannister (North West)
Tony Wilson (North West)

Jacqui Berry (South East)
Diana Leach (South East)
Paul Couchman (South East)

Helen Jenner (Yorks & Humber)
Mike Forster (Yorks & Humber)
Vicki Perrin (Yorks & Humber)

Reclaim our Union. Standing together for a fighting, democratic union.

We stand for – resistance to all cuts, privatisation and job losses.
industrial action against attacks on pay and conditions.
strike action to be co-ordinated across all trade unions.
only funding and supporting politicians who will oppose cuts and fight for our members.

10 reasons why you should support TUSC

March 26, 2013

1. We need real opposition to the cuts being made by the Tories, not feeble cries of “We agree with the need for cuts, but they should not be made so deep or so fast”.

2. Labour has made promises before in opposition – to renationalise British Rail, not to bring in tuition fees. They cannot be trusted to deliver.

3. Labour councils across the country are carrying through massive cuts to local services. Where Labour councillors are standing up against the cuts (The Hull Three and The Southampton Two, for example) they have been expelled from their own party! They should be supported, not witch-hunted, for standing up for local people who elected them. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition opposes ALL cuts to public services.

4. Labour conference decisions are ignored and the handful of left-wing backbenchers that do exist are sidelined; left-wing candidates face likely deselection. The Labour Party cannot be reclaimed for the left.

5. Trade unions should stop funding Labour and instead build an alternative party to stand up for their members’ interest.

6. Labour began the process of privatising schools, the NHS, council services, the welfare state. The Tories have only put their foot on the accelerator. There is no difference between any of the main parties on the need to slash vital services and punish the poor for the economic crisis.

7. Inequality increased under Labour as well as the Tories.

8. If we carry on down the path of cuts, the outlook is bleak – look at Greece, Ireland, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal . . . Iceland, by contrast, where the people in a referendum voted to reject austerity, is doing much better.

9. Labour is wedded to a failed model of capitalism. We need democratic socialism, planning instead of the anarchy of the “free market”.

10. Where TUSC has been seen as a credible alternative to Labour, it has achieved respectable votes – in Coventry, Maltby, Huddersfield, Preston, Walsall – TUSC candidates have come close to winning or have won council seats.

TUSC is aiming to stand 400 candidates in the local elections across the country in May – why not be one of them – look at http://www.tusc.org.uk for more details.

We need to fight to protect the welfare state – no to benefit cuts

November 11, 2012

This is an appopriate video for Remembrance Day, as those who fought in the Second World War demanded a “land fit for heroes”. This resulted in the creation of the welfare state, the NHS and the nationalisation of some major industries. Today, all these gains are being taken away from us. We need to fight to defend benefits – the above video is of the Socialist Party stall I was on, campaigning against cuts in benefits for the disabled, the unemployed and people on low incomes.

We need to build a mass, left-wing alternative to austerity. The only party arguing against cuts to working-class people is TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, in which the Socialist Party is playing a leading role.

The Emperor’s New Foundation Trust

August 24, 2012

The Trust’s New Clothes

Once upon a time, the managers of a hospital were approached by government ministers. The ministers grandly unveiled a huge loom, and an empty bale of thread. They said that a wonderful new uniform had been invented for the hospital staff to wear. This uniform was made of a magic, golden thread that could only be seen by people who were honest and pure of heart.

The ministers held the cloth up for inspection, and they made actions as if they were working hard, weaving away on the empty loom. However, the hospital managers could see nothing at all! Not wanting to appear foolish, they all remarked on the beautiful pattern and delicate embroidery of the cloth.

When finally the ministers stopped “working” and they said that the uniforms were complete, the managers took it in turns to try on the new uniform. None of them wanted to let the others know that they were not honest, so they all commented on how light it was to wear, and how beautifully it fitted them. Indeed, they could hardly feel it at all!

A Golden Thread Group was appointed to report back on the suitability of the cloth. The group said it would be the answer to all the Trust’s problems, and would even reduce hospital-borne infections.

When the uniforms were ready, the managers put them on and proudly paraded through the county, asking everyone what they thought of the new uniform. They even offered incentives to hospital staff who could find the greatest number of admirers.

Everything went well, until at one public meeting, a union rep at the back of the audience piped up, “But they haven’t got any clothes on!”

The people realised they had been fooled all along. They forced the managers to give them back their old uniforms, and provide money to mend them. They had been rather neglected recently, due to budget cuts to pay for the new golden cloth. The material was stretched too thinly and had grown quite threadbare in parts.

Under threat of action, the managers reluctantly complied, and returned the uniforms to the ownership of the public. The managers promised to ensure that they would always be fit for purpose, and they all lived happily ever after.

Unfortunately, the above account is a fairytale and will continue to be so unless health unions get off their knees and fight back against privatisation of the NHS.

The public have been conned into thinking that New Labour, and the Tories after them were not privatising the NHS. Foundation Trusts are a blow to the heart of the NHS – of the idea of a universal, joined up health system, which provides comprehensive, high quality medical care free to everyone. Combined with the Health and Social Care Bill, we are seeing the end of the NHS.

We need to fight back. Join the Socialist Party. Support TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) in its attempt to build a new party for ordinary people, not politicians who only represent the interest of the rich.