Posts Tagged ‘new labour’

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.

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Corbyn

August 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

little red little green

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

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.

Falkirk

July 7, 2013

The Wheel rotates
Water compensates
Balances the arms.

Unite donates
The right incriminates,
Betrays and harms.

The principle is as simple
As the pimple
On Archimedes’ naked bum.

Milliband’s nimble lies
Only serve to symbolise
Deceit. Following The Sun.

Build an alternative. Break the link;
Just think:
New Labour is tarnished.

Turn the wheel
Of a real workers’ party, to feel
The union’s power. Harnessed.

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

Jigsaw Puzzle

July 4, 2009

For some reason, this one has got Mandelson completely stumped. Can you help him out?

Child's play - online jigsaw puzzle - 40 piecesChild’s play

Give him some motivation to complete the puzzle – download a petition to renationalise our railways. Which bit of “integrated public transport system” doesn’t New Labour understand?

Thirty years of hurt . . .

May 12, 2009

Thirty years of hurt (we’re fighting back) – apologies to the Lightning Seeds

Sadly it was 30 years ago that Thatcher was voted in to Number 10. The result was decimation of industry in Britain, mass unemployment, rioting and wealth for a select few at the cost of poverty for the vast majority of people.

New Labour have carried on where she left off, and Cameron would be no different. We may not have a mass working-class party yet, but the RMT’s No2EU Yes to Democracy campaign is a step in the right direction.

The main three parties only offer sleaze and corruption. We need a new party that is not going to join either the Westminster or Brussels gravy train and will stand up for ordinary people.