Archive for the ‘socialist alternative’ Category

Capitalism in Crisis – a socialist solution

January 17, 2017

This is a review of the pamphlet “Capitalist Crisis – ‘Alternative Strategy’ or Socialist Plan” by Andrew Glyn, which has been recently republished with a new introduction.

Many people have looked to the left for answers to the crises of capitalism, since the downfall of financial markets across the globe from 2008 and the stagnation of the economy. Austerity is not some blip that can be transcended but is here to stay – driven by the internal contradictions of the capitalist system itself.

Andrew Glyn was writing in 1979, before the doctrine of neoliberalism held sway, and at a high point of industrial struggle which had won gains for working people. At the time, 13.5 million people in Britain were members of trade unions. The Tories, under Edward Heath, had been defeated by the miners’ strike of 1974; there was still a strong manufacturing base in the UK, and while there was a right-wing Labour government under James Callaghan, the left had a strong presence in Labour and the trade unions – cause for optimism, you might think going into the 1980s.

In 1979, there were 1 1/2 million people unemployed, a figure that seems laughably low nowadays, where millions are on zero-hour contracts, work part-time, have to work two or three different jobs to make ends meet, or are unable to find work. However, Glyn points out that if a determined socialist government were to initiate full employment, this would create enough wealth to increase minimum earnings, initiate a programme of council house building, provide an increase in pensions and better fund schools and hospitals.  An unemployment rate of 10%, he estimated, involved underproduction of 20%. Nowadays, the gap between what could be attainable and the conditions people are living under, has grown. The eight richest men in the world now own as much wealth as the bottom three and a half billion. Inequality has risen inexorably since 1979, due to deliberate policies of smashing the strength of the trade unions, with the defeat of the miners’ and the printers’ unions, the down-grading and de-skilling of jobs and casualisation of employment.

So why are we in such a mess? Unemployment provides capitalism with a “reserve army” of labour, which it can use to keep wages low, keep people hungry for job opportunities and enables more profits to be made at the expense of the working class. The pamphlet discusses the fall in the rate of profits, which has led big business to demand that the Callaghan government implement what was called, quite laughably, “The Social Contract”. A contract implies that we have some say in what was going on. In reality, Labour capitulated to the demands of big business for increased profitability, in return for cuts to living standards and cuts to public services. In this, we can see the beginnings of the policy of neoliberalism, which decimated communities, tore down industries and built a ramshackle service economy in its place, which meant a few city spivs became extremely wealthy, while the vast majority of people suffered. This was a vendetta carried out by the Tories against the trade unions.

In place of austerity, the Communist Party and Tribune put forward an “alternative strategy”. This was based on the idea of import controls, price controls, bringing banks under public ownership, defence cuts and increased investment in public services. The pamphlet does not argue that these measures would not be welcomed by the working class or that they should not be fought for, rather it questions how these reforms are to be brought about without huge pressure being brought to bear by capitalism, and how such pressure is to be resisted.

Leon Trotsky put forward a different sort of programme, which sought to win reforms for workers, but kept in mind that ultimately, global socialism is necessary in order for such gains to be consolidated. We have seen since the Labour victory of 1945, that the welfare state, the NHS, the nationalisation of the railways, public transport and the utilities, have all been destroyed by the ideology of the so-called ‘free’ market. Socialism needs to be tied to concrete demands and to be linked to the aspirations of ordinary people. However, it is utopian, as Glyn argues, that reforms can be won and held through capitalist democracy.

We have seen the pressure been brought to bear on left wing governments in the past. The pamphlet mentions the military coup against Salvador Allende in Chile, which toppled a hugely popular and democratically elected leader. More recently we have seen the vitriolic attacks against Jeremy Corbyn by the right-wing press, and the capitulation of the Syriza government in Greece to the demands of the Troika. It is naive to think that any left-wing government would be handed largesse from the pockets of the bosses, to revitalise the economy.

The measures put forward in the alternative strategy amount to a Keynesian approach to economics, an attempt to kick-start capitalism back into life, increasing wages and putting money into public services. The CBI, recognising the effects of neoliberalism on the world’s poor, fears revolts, strikes and uprisings, and has encouraged governments to do just this. However, no government is in the process of implementing such a programme, as austerity has become so embedded in the economy that any such measures would reduce profits in the short-term. The only answer to this contradiction is to move to a planned, socialist economy, to take profit out of the equation completely.

The final part of Glyn’s pamphlet explains what a genuinely socialist plan of production would look like. The largest companies and the banking system should be taken into public ownership and controlled democratically, from below. Production could be based on people’s needs and the needs of the planet, rather than funnelled into short-term profiteering. The only people who would lose out would be the rich businessmen, who are fleecing the rest of us.

The wastage inherent in capitalism and the pointless duplication of new models to capture more of a market share, and the constant drive for endless consumption would be eliminated. Full employment would mean a shorter working week, and people would be more involved in their jobs, gradually eliminating the need for micro-management, drudgery and sanctions that are a feature of capitalism.

However, such gains cannot be won without a revolution, to change the nature of society completely and for good. Such a revolution would need to be carried out initially in one country, and be the impetus for working people across the world to rise up. As Glyn puts it, “simply winning the argument and securing a Parliamentary majority for a socialist programme” is simply not going to cut it with the rapacious system of globalised capitalism.

This is not to say that gains cannot be won under the present system, or that socialists should abstain from standing in elections. We need to engage with people, put forward a coherent programme based on their expectations and to explain that we need to take control back for ourselves as a class, in order to change society. The alternative is continued austerity, environmental destruction, economic wastage, high unemployment and a shocking waste of potential for the whole of the human race.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Be true to yourself

October 14, 2014

The title of this post might seem like a trite cliche. However, I do think this is a powerful tool to examine ourselves, and our relationship to the world we live in.

Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don’t follow the herd.

When you next read an article in a newspaper, or watch Question Time on the telly (hard not to do without wishing to throw a brick at the screen, I know) – think about: Why are you being told this? What is the agenda of the person telling you the “news”? Are you getting the full picture?

We delude ourselves by thinking that we live in a free and democratic society, where we have a real choice in who governs us, and the decisions that are made. Putting a cross in a box every four or five years, for a choice of identikit political parties does not constitute democracy.

The word “democracy” means “people power” – in our case those who rule us are hardly representative – an elite political class drawn from private schools and top Universities, careerists who do not serve the interests of those who elected them.

A central problem with our democracy is that the dominant discourse of the media, is decided by the state. That is why small parties are grouped together as “others” in election polls, and why in the UK we have a first-past-the-post system deliberately designed to make it as hard as possible for any alternative view to gain electoral currency.

The dominant ideology seems to be gradually slipping further and further to the right, with Labour, the Tories and UKIP competing with each other to see who can punish immigrants the most, who can most effectively use benefit claimants as a scapegoat, and who can make the most cuts to public services.

But people’s everyday experience constantly clashes with this view of the world. When we rely on public health systems like the NHS, when we use a public library, when our local services are cut, when the elderly have to pay for a private care home, when students have to pay exorbitant tuition fees, when rents go through the roof because of a lack of council housing, we see that there is the need for an alternative, a planned economy run in the interests of all of us, not a rich elite.

The need of capitalism to constantly extract more and more from workers, for less and less pay, in order to maximise profits impacts on our everyday lives. This means that increasing numbers of people see through the smokescreens and lies and become angry. When wars are waged overseas, when MPs are given a 9% pay increase, and we are simultaneously told that we are all in this together and we all must make sacrifices, the hypocrisy of those in charge becomes all too apparent.

When we see time-lapse footage of ice-caps melting in Greenland, or when fracking undermines (literally) our rights to protest against drilling under our homes, we get involved in struggle to protect our environment, for the sake of all life on this planet. It is the only one we have.

It becomes apparent to more and more people, that the direction of travel is forever downward – to lower pay, to working longer for less pension. We are going backwards to Victorian times, when the poor had to rely on charitable handouts, with modern-day food banks replacing the workhouse.

We must be true to ourselves, and a vision of fairness and co-operation.
We need to find our own way.
We must replace the dominant media, by listening not to politicans on the television, or the mass media, but to our conscience.
We must fight back, by joining alternative, left-wing parties, by getting involved in our trade unions and arguing for a fighting strategy for better wages and against cuts.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. In the UK, TUSC is fighting back, planning to stand 100 candidates on a no-cuts platform and 1000 local council candidates in the general election. http://www.tusc.org.uk

In America, Socialist Alternative is gaining support across the continent, with new branches springing up, and hundreds of people applying to join – http://www.socialistalternative.org

In Ireland, the Anti Austerity Alliance has just won its third TD in Parliament as the main parties are increasingly exposed for supporting austerity – http://www.socialistparty.ie

IN Scotland, Solidarity’s server crashed with the demand from people wanting to join a socialist alternative in the wake of the narrow referendum defeat – http://www.new.solidarityscotland.org

In Brazil, 1.6 million people voted for PSOL (Party of Socialism and Liberty) in the recent Presidential elections, winning 5 seats in the process – http://psol50.org.br/site/

In Spain, millions voted for Podemos “We can!” – as a break from corrupt, mainstream parties. http://www.socialistworld.net/mob/doc/6806

In Greece, Syriza is ahead in the opinion polls, and there has been a huge wave of general strikes which have rocked the political establishment. http://www.socialistworld.net/mob/doc/6808

And across the world, people are rising up against this unfair system of Capitalism, which only promises poverty and inequality. http://www.socialistworld.net

Be true to yourself. Join us in fighting for the alternative.

Seattle

April 20, 2014

Occupy leads the way, the Spirit of ’08

Wall Street crashes, but we fight back – strike and demonstrate.

Questioning accepted truths, capitalism’s realm

Tide of humanity, dispossessed. Overwhelm

Squares and centres, reclaim the 99 per-cent

Stolen from us by avarice and greed. Hell-bent

To destroy jobs and welfare, profit at all cost.

If you cannot pay the rent, then all may seem lost.

If you push us too far, we have nothing to lose

Except our chains. We won’t comply and sing the blues.

The rich in charge, capitalism’s ‘fair’ exchange.

Obama raises the stakes, empty promises of ‘Change’.

Fast food workers first take up the union’s cause

Across the states, they demand – take back what is theirs;

Decent pay, a living wage, not too much too ask,

Healthcare when we need it. We take Walmart to task.

No corporate donations, ties with which to bind us

We built this ourselves – in the battle you’ll find us

In Seattle, we shout – $15 an hour!

Sawant’s elected, we realise our power.

Fight until we win –  we’re no longer satisfied

With crumbs from your table, now that we’re organised.

 

 

Note – Excellent article here on the progress of the $15/hr campaign and the impact the election of Kshama Sawant is having on people in Seattle and across America.

 


You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books

 

What do we do as oil begins to run out?

March 16, 2014

When I was at school, I remember being told that the Earth only had about 30 years of oil and gas left. The question was what were we going to do when supplies began to run out. Well, now that is happening, a process dubbed “Peak Oil”, where supply can no longer meet demand.

In this post, I haven’t begun to consider the potential loss of the by-products of oil: plastics, fertilisers, drugs, etc. – that is a topic for another discussion. I am concentrating simply on where our energy will come from.

There is a question mark over peak oil, as countries and oil companies do not publish accurate figures. They argue that exploration is expensive and new fields may be found – however, it is in their interests not to panic the stock markets and investors. Strong signs are, however, that we have reached the peak of oil production, as we have had to put more and more resources into getting back the same amount of energy.

Energy companies are turning to what has been called “extreme energy” – fracking (hydraulic fracturing) or UCG (Underground Coal Gasification). In the UK, the government is also turning towards nuclear energy. There is still relatively little effort going into the development of renewable resources, and this tends to be relatively small scale and in private hands. “Extreme energy” is very inefficient, with a low energy yield. It involves tens of thousands of tanker trips, there is a risk of groundwater contamination with carcinogenic compounds, the process involves seismic shocks. It exacerbates the greenhouse effect – 1kg of methane (CH4) has the same effect as 21kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) on our climate.

Another extreme energy is Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), a process to extract energy from coal, where it cannot be conventionally mined. There is plenty of coal, enough to meet hundreds of years of the world’s energy needs – if we don’t mind the risks of catastrophic underground fires which cannot be extinguished The town of Centralia, for example, had to be deserted due to deadly carbon monoxide emissions after a fire in a rubbish heap set fire to a coal seam. This happened in 1963, and the fire is still raging.

UCG involves heating coal in a controlled manner underground, harvesting the gases produced, and the vacant space is intended to capture CO2 emissions underground. However this is inherently extremely dangerous. It is likely to cause collapse of rocks above the coal seam, there is the risk of earthquakes, and what happens if – through the natural movements of rock, the man-made reservoirs of underground carbon emissions are suddenly released? The technology required is completely untested.

So is the alternative to turn to nuclear power?

Nuclear power stations tend to be sited near the coast, due to their demand for water as a coolant. With global warming and more extremes of weather – this is inherently risky, with the potential for more Fukushimas. There is also the problem of nuclear waste. At present, there is no safe way to dispose of high-level radioactive waste with half-lives in the order of tens, hundreds or millions of thousands of years. You can bury this underground, but at some stage it will resurface, due to plate tectonics, seismic effects or vulcanism.

It is also questionable how much nuclear power would contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, once CO2 emissions from mining and processing yellowcake (Uranium ore) are taken into consideration. Thorium is more common than Uranium  and produces less waste, with no risk of a meltdown (it needs to be bombarded with neutrons to work as a nuclear fuel, and the design of a thorium reactor is inherently much safer). However, apart from a few pilot plants in India, this technology is again untried and untested.

Why? Thorium is of no use in making bombs! However, it is still energy-intensive to mine, there are technical difficulties which still need to be overcome and there remains the problem of nuclear waste.

So why don’t we change our reliance on oil or nuclear and move to renewables?

Goverments across the world are corrupt. The neo-liberal concerns of David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Barack Obama, et al are driven by demands from lobbyists of big business. There is no voice of ordinary people in Parliament. We are not properly informed of the dangers. In the US, landowners were simply bought out to release land for fracking. However, when farm animals’ fur starts falling out, they find that they can now set fire to their tap water and they begin to become ill, people soon start to think again . . .

But nuclear fusion could solve the world’s energy crisis, couldn’t it?

In theory, yes. However, there are still many technical obstacles to overcome and the technology remains decades away.

So what happens next?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (representing an international consensus of the scientific community) project a rise in temperature by 2100 of  4°C. However, this heating is worst at the North Pole – where the temperature is increasing twice as fast, partly due to the albedo effect. Already there has been a massive decline in sea ice (observed by satellites over last 40 years).

The best computer model we have is provided by the Met Office – see a video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h88WF4wOqwI

According to the IPCC, it is possible, in the best-case scenario, to limit global warming to 2°C. However, this would depend on an unprecedented, multinational effort to switch to renewable energy, very quickly. I would argue that this is impossible under capitalism. We have had 120 years to solve the problem since the principle behind global warming was discovered and 40 years of satellite data showing the effects of burning petrochemicals. International summits so far have been useless. Countries have sought to blame each other and minimise their own responsibility. US and China (the biggest greenhouse emitters) opted out of the Kyoto Treaty altogether.

So what can we do?

We urgently need to move away from an economy in which the need to make a profit over-rides all other concerns. We need democratic input from the bottom, with a real say by ordinary people in how things should be run and where resources should go. This would allow long-term, environmental consequences to be taken into account, whereas at the moment the need for short-term profit is the only consideration for companies as they seek to exploit the last of our oil.

We must urgently invest in renewable energy – tried and tested, simple technology, which is far safer than nuclear or oil. Of course, this will require the production of greenhouse gases in the meantime, as solar panels don’t build themselves – but there is the idea of a “solar breeder”, a factory powered by solar energy, which produces solar panels. There is the potential for wind power, hydrothermal, tidal power and wave power. The technology behind the latter, Salter’s duck, a pendulum driven by the waves which powers a generator was invented in the 1970s and could be highly efficient.

Why hasn’t this been done before?

Simply put, the vested interests of multinational companies in making a profit. Where legislation got in the way, governments were simply bought off – George Bush and Dick Cheney introduced the “Halliburton loophole”, for example, making fracking exempt from legislation that protected groundwater.

So we need to get rid of the government?

Yes. We need a socialist, planned economy. However, there is the potential for a mass movement of people, angry at what is being done to the environment, angry at growing inequality and falling living standards for the vast majority of the world’s population, angry at the exploitation of workers and governments’ repression of our democratic right to protest, in order to build that alternative model.

I am a member of the Socialist Party in the UK, which is building movements in 50 countries around the world to make real change happen and overthrow the rotten system of capitalism, which can no longer meet our needs. Join us here – http://www.socialistworld.net

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.

The Socialist Sawant Victory Poster

November 26, 2013

Reblogged from bigbadbeish.art – I think this is the best use of graphics by Suz Beishon I have seen.

Save Our Adventure Playgrounds

November 19, 2013

Over 100 children, parents and members of the community surrounded the entrance to Leicester Town Hall last night, chanting, “No to cuts!”. Leicester Council is shamefully considering cutting its funding to adventure playgrounds by 40%, putting nine adventure playgrounds across the city at risk as a result. These are sited in areas of deprivation, and allow children the freedom to play safely in supervised surroundings. They have been a feature of growing up in Leicester since the nineteen-sixties and seventies. The council’s actions have been announced, without even the usual pretense of consultation.

More protests are planned, and the campaign will not give up. As the Labour council in Leicester has a huge majority, with only one councillor in opposition, it is not surprising that people are asking themselves why can they not stand up against Tory cuts to the budget?

I am a member of Leicestershire Against The Cuts, a body which seeks to unite opposition to all cuts to services across the city and county. The principle we must apply is “an injury to one is an injury to all” – that if one service is threatened, the whole community must gather round to protect it, whether they themselves are affected or not. Organised at very short notice, the protest drew together groups of people from across the city – this must be replicated wherever cuts are made.

Leicestershire Against The Cuts and the Socialist Party, instead of capitulating to Tory cuts to council budgets, would put forward a fighting programme – of building opposition to the council’s plans in every estate in the city, of linking up with other councils willing to fight, and of putting forwards a needs budget, to win necessary resources back from central government. We believe that there is no need to make cuts to any services.

These cuts are on top of the council passing on the Tories’ bedroom tax, and cutting council tax benefit, both of which are hurting the disabled and the poor disproportionately. We are also organising campaigns, together with Unite Community, to blockade people’s houses if anyone is in danger of eviction. We must resist all cuts and in elections, we stand as part of TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), standing against privatisation and cuts to services.
However, Labour councils up and down the country have shown themselves to be unwilling to participate in this struggle, shrugging their shoulders in apology, but still adhering slavishly to Cameron’s austerity programme. It is because they can see no alternative to austerity, and are wedded to this system of capitalism. However, just as PASOK (the equivalent of New Labour) has lost much of its support in Greece because of its capitulation to the demands of the EU, and Socialist Alternative is challenging the Democrats in the US, on the back of the Occupy movement and the shutdown of government caused by the impasse around the budget deficit, in Britain too, people will look for an alternative.

For socialists, that alternative is democratic planning and decision making, bringing companies into public ownership, and an equal distribution of the wealth which is in society.

It wasn’t ordinary people who created this economic crisis, it was speculation by bankers, gambling on mortgages, which were paid with money people simply didn’t have. We should not be the ones who have to pay the price.

Socialist Alternative: Challenging the Democrats

November 8, 2013

In the US, the Democratic Party was once supposed to represent working people. Yet many of the labour unions in America are closely tied to the interests of the bosses rather than the workers. The Democrats are funded largely by large donations from corporations and Obama has continued an aggressive foreign policy, has failed to introduce even the modest reform of Medicare and there has been no let up in the agenda of austerity, with many thousands of homeowners facing the nightmare of repossession, in the richest country in the world.

It is clear, I think, that we need a new party to challenge for power, and to stand up for the interests of ordinary Americans. In Seattle and in Minnesota, and with branches growing across the US, Socialist Alternative has been able to do this in two recent elections.

Ty Moore, standing for Socialist Alternative in Minneapolis, is just 130 votes behind the Democratic candidate, with second and third preference votes yet to be counted. See – http://www.tymoore.org/ for more details of his campaign.

Just as exciting is the battle in Seattle, with Kshama Sawant on 48% and rising, again with many ballots still to be counted. This is likely to be neck-and-neck, as the Sawant campaign gathered momentum in the final days leading up to the election. See http://www.votesawant.org/ for updates.

Both socialist candidates stood on a programme of a $15 minimum wage, for investment in real jobs, against cuts to public services and to support fighting trade unions. Both stood against foreclosures to people’s homes and for tax rises for millionaires to take people out of poverty.

These campaigns show that where they are seen as posing a viable alternative to capitalist cuts, socialists can achieve victory. However, while these are massively important and inspirational victories, whatever the final result, for working class representation in politics, the fact remains that these are just two seats. We still need to challenge the entire system of capitalism. However, the working class make up the vast majority of society and are the producers of the world’s wealth – we hold the power to make the world stop.

Support Socialist Alternative in the US. Support TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, http://www.tusc.org.uk) in the UK in order to help build a similar alternative – against cuts and austerity and for working-class representatives on a workers’ wage.

Update – as I write, the final result in Minneapolis is in: 42% for Ty and 47% for the Democrat – this is an incredible achievement for our small party in America, which just lost by 229 votes, after second and third preference votes were counted.

Update – Kshama Sawant is on course for a probable narrow victory, with a likely recount. Ballots in Seattle are counted in the order they are received, and there is a tendency for more conservative voters to vote early, while more impulsive, radical voters tend to vote later. This has certainly held true in this election with the first batch of ballot papers being 46% to 54% in favour of the Democrat, Richard Conlin, while in later batches Kshama Sawant led by 56% to 44%. It also shows the grassroots support for the socialist campaign, with hundreds of volunteers knocking doors to win support in the days running up to the election. This is despite Sawant’s challenger having one of the best-funded Democratic campaigns in the region (thanks, of course, to largely corporate donations).