Archive for the ‘TUSC’ Category

For fox’s sake, get the Tories out.

May 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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A Tale of Three Cities

May 6, 2016

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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.

Hustings for Animal Rights

May 6, 2015

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Britain is a nation of animal lovers, they say – so it is surprising that events like the one above, where candidates were asked questions on their party’s stance on human rights, are not more common. Animal rights was hardly mentioned in the mainstream media during this election campaign.

From left to right above are Ian and Iona (Lib Dem candidate and his guide dog); myself representing TUSC for Leicester South; Mags Lewis (Green candidate for Castle Ward) and Leon Hadji-Nikolau (Conservative, Leicester South). The Labour Party clearly didn’t think the issue was important enough to send a representative! The event was organised by LUSH, which made for an unusual and interesting debate.

We discussed the ethics of fishing, one of the most common past-times in Britain – humanely carried out, with barbless hooks, it causes the fish little distress and anglers regularly report pollution in Britain’s waterways. The Tory candidate confused coarse fishing with game fishing, where fish are returned to the river (although many “game” fish are also returned to the water to preserve fish stocks). I contrasted responsible angling with the overfishing of the seas by commercial trawling, where many fish are returned dead back to the ocean. Capitalism always seeks the greatest profit, and long-term considerations, such as the sustainability of fish stocks, are not taken into account.

The treatment of animals for food was discussed – all participants agreed that CCTV cameras should be used in slaughterhouses. My argument was that we need to connect up the reality of where food comes from, with the meals we eat. Again, capitalism’s mantra of cheapest possible production costs, has led to factory farming and poor conditions for animals.

I pointed out that we cannot rely on the state to uphold the law in respect of animal rights – fox hunting has been banned, for example, yet hunt saboteurs still have to protect foxes from being hunted by dogs. The Socialist Party has a record of supporting activists and upholding the right to protest peacefully. We would also reduce the working week to 35 hours – this would create more jobs in the countryside, thus supporting people involved in industries around hunting – grooms, farriers, etc. At the moment, farmers are not even being paid a fair wage for the produce they sell.

Ian, for the Lib Dems, made a telling point that it is now an offence to allow a dog to attack a guide dog, and this is on the increase, with 10 guide dogs being attacked every month in the UK. However, could this be something to do with government attacks on the disabled benefits and disabled people being labelled as “scroungers” by right-wing tabloids? Ian came across as a very genuine and concerned person – I just wonder why he is with the Lib Dems, when they have been complicit in the Con-Dem government’s savage austerity programme.

The Conservative spokesperson seemed uncomfortable with many of the questions, and contradicted his own party’s policy, which has sought to repeal the Hunting Act, saying that he would fight to ban hunting. He said that a vegetarian diet was as unhealthy as a diet involving meat (which came as a surprise to most of the people in attendance!) and blamed a high-carbohydrate diet for obesity. I pointed out that Cameron had said he would deliver the greenest government ever in 2010, and the Tories could hardly be trusted on environmental issues.

The question of vegetarianism was also raised. I said that this was a personal decision – I am not a vegetarian myself – but that it is a more efficient method of feeding the population of the world. Capitalism cannot provide enough resources to deliver basic human needs for the world’s population, and hunger rather than obesity is a vital issue for most of humanity.

The Green candidate skilfully answered the questions and her party has some very worthy policies. However, her response was limited to staying within the confines of the present economic system – she pointed out that while capitalism had its problems – we needed to do something now about animal protection. My position was that, while we fight for reforms under capitalism, the whole system cannot be reformed – that practices such as the horrific conditions in puppy farms and people importing dogs in the boots of cars (very risky due to the risk of rabies entering the UK) – would continue, as long as there was profit to be made from the exploitation of animals.

Only by getting rid of the capitalist profit motive altogether, and replacing our present economy (profit-driven and short-term) with a democratically planned society to meet the needs of everyone, can a truly sustainable and environmentally friendly society be achieved.

If you agree, support TUSC candidates – read more about us at http://www.tusc.org.uk – in the forthcoming elections this Thursday. If you can’t vote for TUSC where you live, why not consider standing yourself? It is very likely that there will be an unstable coalition government, and a new set of elections could be just around the corner. We need to build an alternative to cuts and austerity, to meet the needs of the millions and not the millionaires.

Leicester South Hustings – TUSC is the only party opposing cuts

April 26, 2015

Footage of myself and other candidates at Leicester South Hustings, at Highfields Community Centre – a local community facility, which is itself under threat because of cutbacks to council funding. This is at the hands of Leicester Council, which is overwhelmingly Labour-controlled. What is the point of Labour if it offers no opposition to Tory cuts?

“Andrew Walton, representing the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) said they would argue against cuts to public services. He also said TUSC would increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour. And he committed, if elected, to just take the average salary of Leicester South constituents.”

Two councillors in Leicester, Barbara Potter and Wayne Naylor, have left the Labour group – upset at infighting and a failure to fight back against the government’s austerity agenda. They founded Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts, which is part of TUSC nationally.

In contrast, Labour have committed themselves to Tory spending plans – only 5 Labour MPs voted against the government’s austerity agenda in January 2015 – http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2a08-Labour-MPs-backing-for-austerity-Bill-a-disservice

To fight against the cuts – vote TUSC, wherever you can in the elections on May 7th.

For more information about TUSC, see http://www.tusc.org.uk

If you agree, join my facebook group here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1616394085249208/

TUSC Parliamentary Candidate Pledges Support for the NHS and for a £10-an-hour Living Wage

March 16, 2015

Press Release:

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) today announced its second local parliamentary candidate for the General Election. Andrew Walton, who has lived in Highfields for the last 20 years, will be standing in the Leicester South constituency. He will be working closely with the present city councillors who are part of Leicester independent Councillors Against Cuts, which is affiliated to TUSC.

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Photo credit – Mike Barker, Leicester Socialist Party

Having worked in the NHS for the past decade, I have direct experience of the attacks faced by the health service and its workers from both Tory / Lib Dem and Labour governments. “Unfortunately, the Labour Party’s role in promoting Private Finance Initiatives and Foundation Trusts handed large parts of the NHS over to privateers. Since then, the Lib Dem/Tory coalition has continued this trend”.

“TUSC on the other hand campaigns for a high-quality, free NHS under democratic public ownership and control. We see no future for greedy corporations and tax avoiders, like Boots, who make massive profits from health provision at our expense.”

Another key area which I will fight on as part of his electoral campaign, will be fighting for a living wage for all. TUSC supports the Trades Union Congress’ demand to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour, and for this to be linked to inflation or increases in wages, whichever is higher.

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A recent article in the Leicester Mercury, highlighted the plight of over 2,500 textile workers in the city, who are paid less than half the minimum wage, just £3 an hour. “In the 21st century, in the world’s sixth wealthiest economy, there is no excuse for poverty pay,” he explained.

I will also pledge to campaign to relieve the day-to-day pressure on overworked front-line hospital staff. “This will improve service provision and minimise stress-related illness. This is one reason why TUSC stands in solidarity with workers taking action to defend jobs, conditions, pensions, and public services.”

If you are not on the electoral register, you won’t get any say in the coming elections. Please register to vote, and use your vote to support TUSC in Leicester South and Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts in the local elections.

A week is a long time in politics . . .

February 24, 2015

The Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, had an interview today, which was at best, “awkward” on LBC radio. She was unable to spell out the financial details of her party’s plans to build 500,000 council houses. Given that this was supposed to be part of their manifesto launch, the interview did not come across at all well.

http://www.lbc.co.uk/incredibly-awkward-interview-with-natalie-bennett-105384

While it is true that there is a crisis in housing, and that people are being exploited by unregulated private sector landlords, the Greens are unwilling to take the necessary steps to solve the situation.

This would involve taking housing stock back under the democratic control of local people; using the powers of local councils to utilise the thousands of empty properties which are lying vacant to provide social housing; for investment in a mass programme of council house building and renovation to meet demand.

The resources are there in society to provide housing to meet our needs, but the problem is systemic and simply taxing private landlords is not an answer. Here are the Socialist Party’s alternative, to solve the problems of homelessness and unaffordable rents – www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/19759

In other political news, today hasn’t been great for the main parties either, with Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind both being caught out selling their services to reporters. At least Rifkind has had the decency to fall on his sword and resign. Any chance of Jack Straw doing the honourable deed for once?

And finally, a senior member of the Labour Party in Scotland, Robert McNeill, has tweeted this helpful infographic – asking Labour voters to tactically support the Tories or Lib Dems in order to avoid an SNP meltdown for Labour in Scotland.tweet

So what is the alternative to parties of incompetence, greed, corruption, austerity and dishonesty?

Fortunately, there is also TUSC – the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which is standing 100 Parliamentary candidates and is aiming to stand 1000 local council candidates in the upcoming elections. Many TUSC candidates pledge to take the average wage of a worker in their constituency if elected, far less than the £60,000 Rifkind thinks it is “unrealistic” to expect him to scrape by on.

Join the fight to build an alternative for the 99%. http://www.tusc.org.uk

Darker Shade of Blue – the Azure card

January 20, 2015

These are notes from a public meeting hosted by Leicester Civil Rights Movement, which detailed the plight of asylum seekers in the UK, today.

We heard first-hand accounts of what it is like living on an Azure card – the card given to asylum seekers who are under Section 4, awaiting a result on their claim for asylum. The card limits where you can go to for food and other essentials: asylum seekers live on a measly £36.62 a week. They do not have access to other benefits and are not legally allowed to work. The voucher scheme was first used in England in 1999 and is currently frozen – it does not go up in line with inflation.

“Not having cash means that you cannot shop in charity shops or the market, which would be cheaper and preferable to supporting big business. I can only use Tesco, Asda, Morrisons or Sainsbury for food – otherwise I need to exchange the card for cash”.

“I have been an asylum seeker for three years, living in a pub and destitute. When you get the Azure Card, it reminds you of a sunny sky, a symbol of hope. But the reality is not like that. Maybe your nearest supermarket is far away, or you may be old, disabled or sick – you still have to walk to the supermarket and back”.

Azure card

“It makes you feel like a criminal, people in the queue stare at you”.

“I can’t save any money from week to week – if you do not use all the money up within a week, it disappears. It makes you a prisoner – you have no choice about where to shop or what to spend your money on. You cannot save up to give someone a gift, or to celebrate. You need to rely on other people to exchange the card for cash – this makes you vulnerable to exploitation”.

“The Home Office want to send me to Nottingham – I don’t know the city, where the shops are – how can I use the card?”

“The card can only be used in the big supermarkets, Mothercare and Boots. I am only allowed to buy food and toiletries – nothing else. I can’t get a phone card, or use a bus. I need to transfer money into a bank account in order to get a phone contract or top up a phone. I can’t do that with an Azure card”.

We heard that it is Home Office policy not to believe applicants when they first apply, so that the vast majority of asylum seekers need to produce additional evidence so that their case can be reconsidered. They are then given an Azure Card, which they could remain on for years.

Asylum seekers have to report to a centre every month – they should be given a bus pass to enable them to do this – but many do not have the confidence to challenge a shop assistant or bus driver if they are refused, the knowledge to whom they should apply, or the English language skills to fill in a form correctly. In addition, many suffer from mental health issues due to the traumatic experiences from which they are fleeing. This adds to the alienation, contributes to stress and makes their situation even worse.

This affects thousands of people, in every major city in the UK.

Asylum seekers cannot travel to visit friends or a solicitor – they cannot travel by coach or train. They have a right to live as well as merely survive. They don’t have access to money, clothes, etc. Women have been denied sanitary pads. Most asylum seekers have had their Azure card refused as they have tried to use it, even in supermarkets which are part of the scheme. Often, because of trauma, they do not have the confidence to argue their rights with a cashier – they may just walk away and their journey to the shop is wasted. If they create a fuss in the shop, generally their card would be accepted – but this draws attention to themselves. Pregnant women have been denied use of the Azure card in Asda – “We can’t take these”.

Why do the government do this?

They want people to leave and become fed up with living in Britain. The official line is that asylum seekers can go to a supermarket and buy food and essentials – what more do they need? There is no account given to people’s basic human rights.

Charities like the City of Sanctuary link people up with asylum seekers, to exchange cards for cash. This helps to some extent, but increases the vulnerability of asylum seekers and affects what little independence they have.

Obviously, we need to get rid of the card, but it is just part of the whole corrupt and rotten detention system. The big four supermarkets make millions out of asylum seekers’ plight – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/supermarkets-rake-44million-governments-asylum-4635562

We heard from a volunteer with Refugee Action, a charity which offers support to asylum seekers and those with Section 4 support.

He reported that Iain Duncan Smith was considering extending the use of the Azure card to people with gambling, drug or alcohol problems, so that they can only spend money on essentials. This stigmatises people with drug and alcohol problems even more than they are already. There is a real risk that while the scheme may begin with people who have drug / alcohol problems, it could eventually cover everyone on benefits.

Asylum seekers cannot unify as a community – Home Office seeks to chop-up their means of support, by scattering them across the country – so they are disenfranchised. The message is that you are not welcome here. Much of the mainstream media constantly spreads propaganda that asylum seekers and immigrants are to blame for the country’s problems, responsible for failings of services. Thus, the government seeks scapegoats, excuses to carry out its austerity and cuts programme.

“People with dependency issues and drink / drug problems could unite with asylum seekers to stop this campaign of stigmatisation. People with problems often self-medicate – I knew a woman who lost both her children, but ended up using heroin. People can be labelled as “criminals”, “CHAVs”, “uneducated”, but I have experienced peer-led communities, who helped me overcome my drinking. This was as a result of a social phobia – used as a coping mechanism”.

“There is a connection, sympathy and similarity between members of these communities, both are alienated and disenfranchised. Whereas, if you have plenty of money, you are welcomed into the country on what is called an “entrepreneurial visa”, yet vulnerable people, who have gone through horrific experiences, are being targeted”.

“We need to defend high quality, publicly provided drug and alcohol services. We need to empower a disenfranchised working class and connect up community organisations with each other”.

It was felt that getting rid of the Azure card is fixing a small cog in a big wheel – but it would be an important start and give people confidence that they can win victories. If people are not getting served in a supermarket, we could target each supermarket individually. Pickets could support people, there could be a photo-op with giant Azure cards. We need to give people the confidence to approach management if they are refused.

The findings of the meeting correspond with a large-scale report carried out by the Red Cross, drawn from first-hand experience with working with asylum seekers across the country. They recommend withdrawal of the scheme completely and abolition of the law which does not allow Section 4 asylum seekers to receive any cash – http://www.scribd.com/doc/234776188/Azure-Card-Report-2014 – It found that the scheme affects the mental health of the vast majority of asylum seekers, most of them do not understand it or their rights, the vast majority have been refused use of the card and they feel embarrassed and stigmatised as a result of using it.

Sodexho run the Azure card system. The Mirror ran a story showing the money made from asylum seekers by the “big four” supermarkets – Tesco £20.6m, Asda £11.3m, Sainsbury £5.9m, Morrisons £2.4m. “Often people are asked for their signature to buy something. Shops are inconsistent – they may take a card one week and not the next”.

“If you ring the Home Office, they say that all shops are aware of the scheme and they would chase up any shops not complying with it – however, how many asylum seekers would know who to contact, how could they without a phone card?”

I would add that this stigmatisation of marginalised groups is part of capitalism. It is a deliberate strategy, to isolate and atomise working-class and poor people. Mainstream politicians, of all parties, argue that cuts are inevitable and we have no choice but to accept austerity.

Yet the people of Greece and Ireland have shown that there is an alternative to division and scapegoating, by rising up en masse against debts and water charges. We need to do the same here, and also build a political voice for those who have no party to speak for them. I support TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition – which is an attempt to build a new political voice for the oppressed.

Nothing like a cup of tea

October 27, 2014

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The best cup of tea I have ever had was served at 19 miles, as I was running in the Potteries Marathon (now sadly no more). This was not a cuppa from a plastic cup, but poured from a teapot into a pottery mug. The prize at the end was a plate, testament to the once-thriving pottery industry in the towns around Stoke On Trent.

Bosses at Leicester’s hospitals have decided that staff in public places are no longer entitled to have a refreshing cuppa. Doing a 12 hour shift on a hospital ward is much like running a marathon, except that nurses have to concentrate, calculate dosages, make potentially life-or-death decisions. I would much rather be treated by a professional who was alert and awake than someone nodding off at the end of a long day. Hypocritically, the same bosses acknowledge the importance of being well-hydrated and require staff to be alert.

Socialists would put an end to petty bureaucracy in the NHS, by increasing democracy and putting workers themselves in control. I did my bit to raise the profile of our party, by running the Leicester Marathon this Sunday, selling 40 copies of the paper and raising over £40 in fighting fund as I went round the course. There was not a cup of tea in sight as I went round the course, just energy drinks and water, but some caffeine would have been very welcome indeed.

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.