Posts Tagged ‘ukip’

Should we stay or should we go now?

March 9, 2016

bosses

What should the response of socialists be to the EU referendum?

(Lead-off for a meeting at Leicester Socialist Students, on the case for a left exit from the European Union).

It was interesting to see the poll on facebook, which was carried out amongst those who were interested in coming to this meeting, showing a majority in favour of staying in the EU.  I am not surprised that many people on the left, in opposition to the xenophobia stirred up by UKIP and the right-wing mass media, are instinctively siding with the Labour / Conservative / Lib Dem position – that we are better off within the EU. I will outline the case for leaving, and open the debate up to the floor.

We don’t fight on a political terrain of our own making. We are socialists, so we fight for international solidarity of the working class. Yet, we live in an imperfect, capitalist world, where the rights of people are subject to the needs of capitalism – and these two continually come into conflict.

We have to be honest with people and weigh up the consequences of remaining within the EU. Quite often this is portrayed as “coming out of Europe” – it is not the same thing at all. We had a referendum in 1975 on the question of Britain remaining in the European Economic Community (EEC). In that referendum, the Labour Left campaigned against joining, including Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. It is a measure of how weak and isolated Corbyn is as a leader within his own party, that he has recently turned his back on his previous convictions on this issue, under pressure from the right of Labour.

If you look at the experience of many economies within Europe – Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal – they have had to endure huge hardships as a result of being wedded to the troika – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF. The Greek people have been forced to pay 170% of their GDP in debt, and have been told that there is no choice but continued austerity. However, there was the choice of a different course of action – but this would need a socialist leadership prepared to break with capitalism in order to carry this through. Syriza thought they could barter concessions from European capitalism, using a referendum vote against austerity as a bargaining chip. In reality, Angela Merkel and the EC wanted to crush any dissent – the result was a humiliating defeat for Tsipras, Varoufakis and the Syriza leadership.

From an Interview with Nikos Kanellis, Volos City Councilor (Xekinima/ CWI Greece) by Sascha Stanicic (SAV/CWI Germany)

“The great majority of Greek population was in favour of taking a “hard line”. That is why mass demonstrations were organized in all the country in favor of the government and against the blackmail of Troika and especially the German government. In polls, up to 70-80% of Greeks supported the Greek government in this “battle”. Xekinima(CWI in Greece) alongside with other forces and even some Syriza MPs proposed that Tsipras should turn to the Greek people and call for a referendum on the dilemma “euro and austerity or anti-austerity, pro- working class policies and the drachma?”. We strongly believe that if this question was posed the great majority of Greek workers and poor would have chosen to break with the euro. Of course, at the same time, we explained that the return to drachma would not, in itself, provide solutions to the crisis of Greek capitalism and socialist policies should be followed immediately to put the economy on a growth path and in the service of working people.

At the same time, Tsipras should explain who is the real responsible for the debt (bankers, capitalists, the Greek, German and whole European ruling class) in order to immediately stop paying it. Then they should carry out socialist policies, nationalization of the banks and the commending heights of the economy, under social and workers’ control and management and mass public investment etc., to plan the economy and put it on the path of growth. The economy should be “protected” from profiteering and the sabotage of Greek and European capital, through capital controls and the control of the external trade.”

Similarly, in Ireland, a referendum was held on the Lisbon Treaty, where we campaigned for a NO vote, against austerity. When the result didn’t go the way of the capitalists, they simply asked the Irish public again, in another referendum, and when they finally got the required result, they imposed another package of severe austerity measures, in return for a bailout of the banks.

If you look at the fortunes of the equivalents of New Labour in Ireland and Greece – Labour and PASOK respectively, they have been hammered by the electorate. The Labour Party in Ireland has been reduced to just six seats. A new socialist electoral formation, which is a much smaller party in terms of membership, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, has the same number of TDs (the Irish equivalent of MPs). The same fate could happen to Labour in Britain, should it not put forward clear anti-austerity policies.

We say – drop the debt. Working-class people should not have to pay for a crisis of capitalism.

The EU is an undemocratic organisation. Decisions are made behind closed doors and the European Parliament has no real powers – the unelected European Commission wields the real power. It acts in the interests of big business, not the working class. Italy had its elected government replaced by an EU-approved board of bankers, the very people who precipitated the global economic crisis. Is it that the EU cannot be reformed and we should leave, or are we better off staying in and fighting to reform the EU?

Why can’t we reform the EU? Why is capitalism incapable of uniting Europe? Capitalism is based on the one hand on private ownership. Fewer and fewer giant companies control the means of producing the goods and services we consume. On the other hand, capitalism has divided us into nation states. These are not just economic entities, but also social and political formations, with historically rooted features such as territorial boundaries, language, culture, etc., which are not mechanically created and changed by purely economic forces.

The EU’s Schenken agreement, which allows free movement of people within Europe (with the exception of the UK), is being ripped apart by the “refugee crisis”. Of course this is a crisis of capitalism’s own making, created by military intervention in the Middle East. According to The Guardian, there are eleven million empty homes in the EU – this would be more than enough to home the 1 million refugees who have entered the continent, and solve housing shortages for its citizens. Yet, capitalism is incapable of squaring this circle. Housing should be regarded as a basic human right; social housing could be provided for all, yet this would need socialist planning to organise and deliver.

Instead of being urged to support the EU, ‘with reservations’ or otherwise, workers in each EU country should demand that their government defy the pro-market, anti-worker EU directives and rulings. In Britain, for example, that would mean refusing to implement EU directives to ‘liberalise’ postal services, of which the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail is another step. Why couldn’t the EU transport directives be defied and the railways re-nationalised, and other privatisations reversed? Why couldn’t the ‘race to the bottom’ under way in the EU be resisted, with European Court rulings on the posted workers’ directive defied, as the construction workers who struck for their jobs at the Lindsey oil refinery did?

But such struggles, which would come up at each stage against the capitalists’ control of the economy and society, would raise the need for new mass, socialist parties to represent the working classes of Europe.

Another argument is that we are better off within Europe, because of the rights such as the European Working Time Directive. These include paid holidays, equal rights for part-time workers, parental rights, equal pay for equal work, working time limits, health and safety standards and protection from discrimination. Paid holidays have existed in Britain since the 1871 Bank Holidays Act and were widespread, largely through collective bargaining, long before the EU working time directive was passed in 2003.

The EU employment equality directive was issued in 2000, but before that we had the 1970 Equal Pay Act, the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act, the 1976 Race Relations Act and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act — all agreed by the Westminster Parliament without input from Brussels. However, even with this legislation – women are still paid less than men, and minorities are still discriminated against; legislation alone is not enough. We need a political voice, to ensure that workers’ interests are represented in Parliament.

EU directives on paternity leave, the 48-hour working week and rules on transfers of undertakings when a company is taken over all had to be enacted at Westminster to take effect. In England, Parliament is the sovereign decision-making body – not the EU (though this is not recognised by EU law, and it is all a bit complicated). However, laws can be broken – Thatcher was brought down by non-payment of the poll tax; water charges in Ireland are on the verge of being defeated by a similar campaign. A determined, socialist challenge to unfair laws can win victories for the 99%.

Leaving the EU does not mean that laws Parliament has passed would automatically fall. Any government that wanted to end these measures would have to go through the same legislative process to repeal them. In addition, John Major negotiated a full opt-out from the social chapter enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty, while Tony Blair did similarly with the 48-hour weekly limit in the working time directive.

The European Parliament isn’t a parliament. It can’t propose laws. That right is reserved to the Commission. MEPs cannot change the direction of the EU. It is not time for Britain to entrust the future of its people to, what has been called by Paul Murphy, ex-Socialist Party MEP for Dublin,  a “cabal of big business”. The only sensible vote in the referendum for trade unionists and socialists is to withdraw from the EU.

To abstain from this debate, or to support the “in” campaign, would be to leave the “out” campaign to the far-right – on the basis of controlling immigration and narrow-minded protectionism of the economy. This would be a disaster – Jeremy Corbyn, for example, has taken many votes away from UKIP in recent by-elections – this is putting Labour’s gains in danger, in my opinion. It was a big mistake for Galloway to appear on the same stage as Nigel Farage. Farage described him as a towering figure on the left – the only towering thing both men have in common are their towering egos.

This was an attempt to make UKIP’s out campaign official by claiming broad support for it across the political divide. By contrast, we support a position of no government funding for Tory / UKIP campaigning. There could be an official No campaign, which would receive government funding – or neither campaign would get government funding. TUSC has a petition against government money going to right-wing, Eurosceptic campaigns.

I would argue for withdrawal from the EU – not on the basis of racism or xenophobia, but as part of the struggle for a socialist Europe. Many of the fundamental problems facing workers today, from the economic crisis to planet-threatening climate change, cannot be solved in one country alone. A united Europe, bringing together in real solidarity all the resources and human talent in the different countries and cultures encompassed in the 490 million-strong European Union (EU), would be an enormous step forward in the struggle for a new world. But can the EU unite Europe, not in an artificial or imposed ‘unity from above’, but in a genuine coming together of the European peoples? The answer to this question is, “No”.

 

References –

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/22359

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-861f-No-time-to-entrust-Britains-future-to-a-bureaucratic-finance-capital-cabal#.Vt_-XlSLSbk

http://www.socialistalternative.org/2015/03/04/greece-yes-choice/

 

 

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Boxing Day Blues

December 30, 2014

Boxing Day again – too much turkey, pies and beer
Goodwill to all men, and lots of Christmas cheer.
Farage dons green wellies and joins the Surrey Hunt
Cigar in hand, spots a camera, pushes to the front.
Irresistible lure of publicity stunt.

Toady in his element, on turret of trundling tank
City spiv turned country toff, get back to your bank.
While Nigel farages round the fox-hole,
City Link workers are flung on the dole.

I hope he chokes on his Brussels sprouts
With his UKIP chums and their upturned snouts
To a din of grunts and scoffs, they spout
Tales of bestial gay donkeys, to which they gave a clout.

Captain of the “People’s Army”, he leads from the rear
Let’s get him a phone app, thoughtful gift, this time of year.
UKIK is its name – you give immigrants a great punt
Off the cliffs of Dover, while prize porkers grunt in clover.

On Question Time yet again, no-one to speak up for us.
Foreigners they take the blame, but we all get the brunt
Tory cuts, stretched services, a privatised NHS.
Don’t blame the poor for Britain’s problems – it is not their mess.

It’s not the fault of immigrants, you can find the real culprits
Wealthy, hypocritical, racist UKIP shits
Wearing Barbour, green wellies, puffing on cigars
Tearing up the countryside in oversized four-wheel-drive cars.

 

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.

Tide of purple filth

May 6, 2014

UKIP are a laughing-stock, the butt of all our jokes
Whether blaming gays for flooding, or European folks
For bringing skills and culture to Britain’s drizzly clime,
Farage sends a barrage of abuse – ‘cos “foreigners cause crime”.
Regardless of statistics, science or commonplace
Sense, their leaflet goes on, till purple in the face
It runs out of insults and expletives. Explodes in a rant,
A putrid purple shower of racism and cant.
Nick, the con-man, not the common man, fiddling Brussels’ expenses,
A millionaire stockbroker, with views I find offensive,
And the cheek to claim that he’s anti-establishment.
Sometimes I wish he’d met his end in that plane accident.
No – that’s too harsh – just let his neurons be rearranged
To make him less xenophobic, bigoted and deranged.
We need to counter UKIP’s propaganda and deceit.
You see, their policies are designed specifically to cheat
Us of our hard-earned cash, rip up human rights,
Privatise the NHS, rob us of the power to fight
Back against austerity – stop this tide of cuts
That’s swamping public services, threatening to shut
Our libraries and schools, turned into academies.
Tired teens trundle through education factories.
They don’t want us to think, just give UKIP a big cross,
Vote racist, angry, malevolent – do the bidding of the boss.
The working class need to find a common cause
To unite us, across disparate cultures. Otherwise, it is our loss.
Build a new party, to give us all a victory
Something to cheer about, not racists and their bigotry.

 


You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’ (£4 pbk, £2.50 pdf e-book).

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

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.

Patiently explain . . . thoughts on the local election results

May 5, 2013

If you want to see what Britain will be like in a few years’ time, if the trend of the Con-Dem’s planned spending cuts, continued wholesale privatisation of our NHS and further erosion of our living standards is not overthrown by mass strike action on the part of the labour movement, then look at Greece.

With wages stagnating, and workers simply not being given the money to enable us to buy back what we make, the economy will continue to bottom-out, or go into another nose-dive into recession. Without any jobs being created for young people, without the prospect of a decent, free education, then it is not surprising if people look to blame each other for their situation, rather than the real culprits – the super-rich who made money speculating on loans which people could not afford to pay back (the reason for the financial crisis in 2008), and tax avoidance by large companies to the tune of £120 billion a year. Combined with the constant coverage of UKIP in the media, and the usual barrage of anti-immigrant propaganda in the right wing press, the rise in vote for UKIP in the local elections last Thursday is not surprising, as this was an easy way for voters to voice their discontent with the government. Labour hardly benefited at all, and the Lib Dems face political oblivion.

However, when the 147 newly-elected UKIP councillors are actually put to the test, voters will inevitably find an odious, corrupt party of the establishment, with racist undertones. This will hopefully in turn be rejected, just as the BNP have been wiped out in these elections. The question then is, where are protest votes going to be channelled? Without a mass, left-wing opposition, this could develop into far-right, neo-fascist sympathies, as has happened to some extent in Greece with a rise in support for Golden Dawn, an openly neo-Nazi party.

A major difference between Greece and the UK, apart from the savage depth of the cuts – leading to malnutrition amongst children, for example – there is a party called Syriza, which has opposed austerity measures. It has been the vessel into which much of the intense anger against the main parties has poured (particularly PASOK, their equivalent of New Labour). Syriza is now jointly in the lead with New Democracy, the Conservative party of government (both on 20% in the opinion polls). Rewind back a few years, before the cuts impacted on Greek society, when PASOK was the main opposition – then Syriza’s vote could be counted in terms of 5-6%.

I support TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Like Syriza, it is the beginning, I think, of something much bigger, as the cuts continue to bite. What direction and character such a mass party of the working class will have is yet to be determined. One thing is clear – all the other parties, from the Greens on the soft-left, to New Labour on the centre-right, to Tories on the right wing, to UKIP on the far-right – they all stand for cuts. Only TUSC is opposed to all cuts in services, for a decent, living minimum wage for all, to investing in and renationalising our NHS and rebuilding a comprehensive, publicly funded education system, free for all, from nursery to University. Another similar vision is Ken Loach’s Left Unity project, and I hope that the two can work together to provide an alternative to cuts.

Visit TUSC’s website for the election results.
TUSC’s election results 2013
These elections were held under difficult circumstances for the hard-left. There has been the usual lack of coverage of our campaign, and Labour were much more visible in opposition to the Tories. However, our 120 candidates achieved some remarkable results in this context. As cuts start to bite even further, the need for a co-ordinated, left-wing challenge to the austerity agenda is ever greater.

Having completed writing this, I am just off now to canvass for TUSC in a by-election in Abbey Ward, Leicester, where the political landscape is somewhat different, with 52 Labour councillors and just two others – 1 Lib Dem and 1 Tory in the council. Yet the lack of opposition to cuts is still overwhelming. Labour are carrying through the bedroom tax, axing homeless places and council-funded care homes. If a TUSC councillor were to be elected, this would be a massive step forward for the people of the city. We are standing to provide, in a small way at this stage, opposition to the mantra that the poor, the disabled, those on benefits must pay for the economic crisis.

Just as has happened in Greece and throughout Southern Europe, opposition to cuts will definitely grow. We urgently need a mass party of the left to be there for ordinary people. The choice is between socialism or barbarism.

Update – Election results Abbey Ward by-election 9th May
Labour (Vijay Riyait) 1190 elected 47.9% (+0.9%)
Conservatives (Dipak Joshi) 562 22.6% (+9%)
Independent (Terry McGreal) 352 14.8% – this was a NIMBYist campaign against traveller sites
Lib Dem Focus Team (John Taylor) 212 8.6% (In 2011, the Lib Dems and Liberals got a combined total of 602 votes)
TUSC (Tessa Warrington) 165 6.65%

This result gives us a good base, in an area of Leicester where we have not stood before, to build real opposition to cuts and to the bedroom tax.

How can we defeat the far-right?

May 24, 2009

The European and local elections are looming and it looks like New Labour is, predictably, in for a battering. Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of the protest vote against sleaze and corruption could be the far right UKIP or even the Nazi BNP. There is the spectre of the far right being elected and racist thugs getting their hands on the loot that goes with Brussels, where MEPs can be millionaires within five years.

Trying to do something about this, I volunteered for the Searchlight Hope Not Hate campaign and delivered some Daily Mirror tabloids around Leicester. However, the organisers had targetted Keith Vaz’s constituency – overwhelmingly Asian, with not a BNP supporter in sight. The reason for their choice? This was an attempt to get out the anti-BNP vote, rather than offer a positive alternative to the main parties. The message was that the BNP are hardline racists who do not stand up for ordinary people. It is important to cast your vote to keep them out. (Fair enough as far as it goes, but will appealing to voters in a solid Labour ward work anymore, with New Labour at an historic low in the polls and with Vaz himself completely discredited?) At least some of the tabloids I handed out had a NO2EU leaflet inside advertising our public meeting.

I think the campaign should have targeted a white working-class area in the city and engaged with voters about their concerns. However, this takes commitment, honesty and a programme to really benefit ordinary workers – all of which the Labour Party are completely lacking in.

It is vital, therefore, that for the first time in over 100 years, a fighting trade union, the RMT, are backing candidates to the left of Labour. My hope is that the No2EU Yes to Democracy campaign will appeal to those dissafected with the complete lack of representation for ordinary people, and will provide a protest vote for those rightly disgusted with the sleaze and corruption at the heart of Parliament – in Westminster and Brussels. This is the only campaign whose candidates will not take any expenses in the event of them being elected.

It is wholly wrong to suggest that the far right, despite what their propaganda might say, stand up for British workers. They would be hostile to trade unions and seek to divide us along lines of race, when we need to unite together on a class basis to fight back. They only offer lies and hatred.

Equally, we cannot have any hope left in a Labour Party which has completely sold out ordinary voters. At last years Campaign for a New Workers’ Party conference, Bob Crow said that anyone with any principles left in New Labour should leave, as they were only giving the party some false respectability. Recent events have shown how corrupt and rotten all three mainstream parties are and posed the need to urgently build a new, socialist alternative.