Category Archives: National

Managing Capitalism

The UK Parliament has just two dominant political parties. They both sing from the same hymn sheet and shift backwards and forwards between left and right depending on the mood of the country. So in the past year we have seen very confident Tories following their rightwing instincts suddenly reconsidering their position in the face of a revitalised Labour Party. If anyone doubted they are both continuing to compete for the best way of managing Capitalism, in spite of the renewed use of the term “socialism” rather more frequently. It’s less easy to understand the Tory’s abandonment of the Single Market after Theresa May’s passionate defence of the free market at a bankers’ shindig recently when the Labour Party are defending it in their latest Manifesto and Keir Starmer has insisted that its support is continued at the 2017 Conference in Brighton.

Individual Labour MPs are among those who have individual managed Capitalism very effectively on their own behalf. The “revolving door” that is Westminster allows lobbyists entry and MPs are prime targets as they are offered this or that perk. Tony Blair has shown his mastery of the system very effectively. It might be expected of former Chancellor George Osborne who holds down countless jobs, some of which he earns thousands at the block of an eye. So we’re all in it together?!

What is it we’re all in together. Basically it’s become known as “Neo-Liberalism”. Even its staunchest champion, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), if we discount the European Union, is asking if it’s oversold! Has it gone too far? They even remind us of its origins and who first extolled its virtues!

“Neoliberalism: Oversold?

Finance & Development, June 2016, Vol. 53, No. 2

Jonathan D. Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri

PDF version
Inside the stock exchange in Santiago, Chile, one of the first countries to adopt a form of neoliberal policies.

Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardizing durable expansion

Milton Friedman in 1982 hailed Chile as an “economic miracle.” Nearly a decade earlier, Chile had turned to policies that have since been widely emulated across the globe. The neoliberal agenda—a label used more by critics than by the architects of the policies—rests on two main planks. The first is increased competition—achieved through deregulation and the opening up of domestic markets, including financial markets, to foreign competition. The second is a smaller role for the state, achieved through privatization and limits on the ability of governments to run fiscal deficits and accumulate debt.­”

Along with Globalisation a large proportion of those claiming to be on the “left” have adopted it hook, line and sinker. This includes the British Labour Party and TUC. A few unions such as the RMT and ASLEF supported Brexit from the left. The Socialist Labour Party led by Arthur Scargill has steadfastly opposed it over many years.

Free market questioning widens as the Brexit blame game continues

Free market questioning widens as orthodoxy espoused by Thatcher and upheld by Blair is no longer taken as read. There are still those across the parties who look for a second referendum as the Brexit blame game continues. Vince Cable talks about older voters “comprehensively shafting the young” as if austerity hadn’t been around to do that comprehensively to poorer and vulnerable sections of the community. The “Free Market” has shown itself to be the engine of unfettered Capitalism with Brexit being a response to that rather than the “immigration” rationale espoused by UKIP and the Tory right. This is what John Pilger has to say,

The questioning is not confined to the usual suspects following the 2017 General Election where both Tory and Labour Manifestos argued for support for the victims of austerity. While members of both parties continue to follow the Vince Cable line clearly Brexiteers have made their point – the one other than the immigration argument. That itself has been put under scrutiny as health, care and other essential services struggle to find staff needed to keep them running.

The difficulty for everyone remains that there is very little to go on about Brexit, what it will look like, the intentions of politicians or even their understanding of it. We are left to draw our own conclusions about the implications of each manifesto. While the Lib Dem is explicit that it should be abandoned the Tory is not. The Labour manifesto is incompatible with the single market. In my experience rank and file supporters of Labour have yet to catch up with this. Before the election senior figures like Diane Abbot explicitly called for remaining in the single market.

Maintaining power. The assumption many won’t vote.

Earlier this year the assumption many won’t vote held. That was the formula for maintaining power. On 8th June that assumption was blown apart. The ruling elite had pissed off enough people to the extent they did just this. Instead of holding onto a belief our vote won’t change a thing there was an unprecedented rush to register. The young in particular are mentioned regularly in this respect. The 2016 referendum had given a foretaste, but the impression was given that this was all about dissatisfaction with uncontrolled levels of immigration. Nothing to do with rampant austerity affecting those already dispossessed by the system. So Brexit was portrayed as essentially racist and xenophobic blunting its actual expression of discontent about endless cuts to what are called “essential services”. when did they become inessential. They were cut irrespective.

Attention now need to go to electoral reform since the first past the post system practically ensures things won’t change. A strange thing happened at this election. The winning party and its leader under the system, formerly seen to be the only contenders for continued power, have come off badly while the defeated in the two-party battle emerged as if victors. Many of those previously denigrating the twice elected leader were having to turn inside out.

What should be noted is that every political party remains wedded to a Brexit staying within the Single Market. It has looked as if the right succeeded in taking on the widespread discontent with established politics and politicians, not only in UK but globally. Trump succeeded in US although as with UKIP having got there he’s clueless on what to do next. Never mind that banks and the whole set up geared to profit over people (you can’t worship God and Mammon) their solution is more of the same. Yannis Varoufakis wants a reform of Europe in the manifesto DIEM 25. Even he knows the EU and such institutions, inherently geared to the needs of global markets on behalf of increasingly powerful interests, cannot be reformed. They don’t even figure in the manifesto!

The Tory agenda exposed

The press are now making the Tory agenda (supported by both Conservative and Labour Parties) exposed whereas up to the point of the June 8th election it has been covered up.The image of of the powerful, competent leader is laid bare. Austerity has been shown to be the sham that so many always recognised but have not found the means of responding to meaningfully. The chance has come.

The Tory agenda was espoused by the Blairite New Labour gang characterised by Blair and Mandelson. The promise that Globalisation and a New World Order will bring equality and a fairer world is a sham. What we have is the complete antithesis of an ever richer and smaller elite controlling governments and multinational capital for their own benefit. Certainly not ours. Even in 2015 the so-called left-leaning leader, Ed Miliband, talked of a cosy kind of “cuddly capitalism”. Nothing remotely cosy or cuddly, it is shown as a monster with sharp teeth and claws thirsty for blood.

The horrific disaster of a fire engulfing Grenfell Tower in the wealthiest area of London< Kensington, isn't a price worth paying for putting the spotlight on what is wrong with global society. Even now the truth is not being told and people are left to their own devices to find out what is going on.

A recent BBC 2 television programme showed commuters attempting to bid for a franchise to run Southeastern railways themselves. Standing room only with a long day ahead, or behind them, fare paying passengers are seen strap hanging packed like sardines into short terms. Made to feel lucky they can get on at all with multiple cancellations. It’s not like that in Switzerland it was shown. But is it like that in Germany, Holland, France and Italy whose “state railways” own 75% of British railway franchises with billions of pounds going back to other railway systems in subsidy. Profit once again is the name of the game, certainly not human activity and need. Rail Union members are going on strike over cuts to guards on trains. One person operators is said to be safe – where is the evidence? I sit so in those countries syphoning profits delivered to them by long suffering UK passengers?

Cuts to health, to education, social services, prisons. All unsafe with billions transferring from the public purse as Cameron promised. It started with Thatcher but was emulated by Blair and New Labour with even prisons privatised. Did even Thatcher dare to speak about that? It happened when she was long gone under the Thatcherite Blair. Prisons have become out of control with low pay of privatised and inexperienced staff. What is the verdict? Are prisons serving society, either those inside prisons (many would say vulnerable people who have suffered miscarriage of justice under corrupt and hugely cut police services), or the victims of crime.

The chickens have come home and British people are protesting they have had their fill of austerity where huge amounts of public money have been handed over to the already bulging pockets of the wealthy. But austerity isn’t confined to Britain: the EU practice it enforcing it on poorer countries like the colonial masters they have become. The “Golden Diktat” is thrusting privatisation down the throats of people in Greece, Portugal et al. How does this benefit the people rather than a small elite?

Voting for virtually any party today means supporting the EU

Voting for virtually any party today means supporting the EU. The majority are set on supporting the Single Market with the pseudo freedoms enshrined in Maastricht. The Capitalist crisis is to be solved – by more of the same. Neither May nor Corbyn have given us anything to go on about how Brexit will be approached, except Labour vows to stay in. May speaks of options but supports all the things the EU has passed on such as austerity, attacks on working class etc.

The EU elite have fought back characterising Brexit as racist and fascist (as if they are not!) Many on the left are disillusioned that broadly the left left Brexit to UKIP and the Tory right. This included the TUC and the Tory Party. Only a few unions took a different line including RMT, ASLEF and the Baker’s Union.

Robert Peston made the point that there was nothing to go on as far as Brexit is concerned when we vote.

Hopefully today will see a failure by the arrogant, out-of-touch Tories to get their desired landslide victory and will be held to account. As far as Brexit is concerned there is no likely opposition from any party likely to be back in Westminster tomorrow.

Capitalism can’t be the answer to the problem it has caused, so why is it supported in this election by virtually all parties

Brexit has been likened to revolution by those who have become victims to the effects of globalisation. Instead of recognising this many in the Labour movement continue to support the Thatcherite free market and globalisation in spite of the realisation it is only a very few who benefit. It is multinational corporations and banks, which have caused so many crises in recent history, who dominate us promoting austerity, privatisation of public assets, including the NHS and state schools, who benefit. The EU is one of the organisations used to regulate us, along with the IMF, the World Bank etc. In the General Election on June 8th, 2017, there is hardly any option but to vote for it in spite of Brexit.

Arthur Scargill, leader of the Socialist Labour Party, spoke about this in his support for the SLP candidate for Birmingham, Perry Barr at the Shaheed Udham Singh Centre, on Saturday, 3rd June, 2017

If Brexit and similar movements in USA and across the globe are symptomatic of resistance to elite domination then the elite are fighting back, systematically according to Takis Fotopulos. It follows that all main political parties are fighting this election on the basis of supporting the EU elite against the wishes of those supporting Brexit. Among the weapons employed to smear Brexit supporters are that it is fundamentally racist and supports facism. This precludes anyone who fought for Brexit on the basis of its policies on austerity, its attack on workers and their representatives including working conditions and pensions. The EU presently does all it can to promote privatisation and dictates to countries, like long suffering Greece, that they should privatise railways, seaports and airports. No money is available for nationalised industries. Workers are on strike because of the impositions being forced on them. In Britain, the RMT and ASLEF rail unions are attempting to ensure that guards are kept on trains for the safety of rail passengers. The RMT has pointed out that 75% of Britains rail franchises are in the hands of German, French and Italian state railways among others. Southern rail has at the same time doubled its Chief Executive’s salary from £200k to £400k. Profits go to those organisations which will not stay state owned under current EU policy and the so-called “Golden Diktat” they operate.

For Thursday’s general election, Diem25, a manifesto for democracy in the EU spearheaded by Yanis Varoufakis, identified UK MPs giving it support. Takes Fotopoulos asks if it is rather a “Manifesto for Perpetuating the EU Elites’ Domination of the European Peoples”. The list includes individuals across parties indicating that they do all agree on supporting an elite over the interests of the majority hit by the effects of ill-considered globalisation.

Verdict on Cameron’s legacy: “a shitshow”

The comment made by Barack Obama on the Tory intervention in Libya probably characterises Cameron’s legacy as “a shitshow”. Why it takes an official report, at great public expense, to come up with this is another question. I thought it was common knowledge at the time. However the verdict has been delivered rather more quickly than that on Iraq, which again the 1 – 2 million who marched in London and those who demonstrated elsewhere across the globe knew instinctively.

Obama’s description could be applied to Brexit, after the faction winning turned out not to have a clue what to do when the result came out in their favour. The outcome has led to what Jean-Claude Junkers has called an “existential crisis” for the EU. Donald Tusk qualifies the argument by pointing out that the issues identified by Britain are shared by other member states:

In a letter to the 27 governments sent before the meeting, the man organising the summit, European council president, Donald Tusk, said it would be “a fatal error to assume that the negative result in the UK referendum represents a specifically British issue”.

He writes that “it is true that the leave campaign was full of false arguments and unacceptable generalisations”, but the Brexit vote was also “a desperate attempt to answer the questions that millions of Europeans ask themselves daily”, citing border control and the fight against terrorism.

“People in Europe want to know if the political elites are capable of restoring control over events and processes which overwhelm, disorientate, and sometimes terrify them. Today many people, not only in the UK, think that being part of the European Union stands in the way of stability and security.”

Guardian 14/9/2016

What he doesn’t mention is the commonality of substantial opinion from trades unions and working people in France, in Greece, even Germany faced with EU directives towards stepping up privatisation and forbidding state intervention such as the nationalisation of railway systems etc. The German state railway is currently being soften up for private intervention and is itself bidding for railway franchises, including London Midland in the UK. Brexit continues to be characterised as a far right racist, anti-immigration move while ignoring appeals by sections of unions and parties who supported from a left-wing perspective. This aims at bringing working peoples’ common interests together across Europe with their work forces consisting of peoples of all origins open to exploitation. Who is representing their interests? Not UKIP or the Tories under Johnson et al. Sadly not the Labour Party who voted to remain under a regime flagrantly against them.

The Steel Industry Game

In 2007 Tata brought up the British Steel Industry. This I learn now was several times bigger than itself and, with the collusion of banks, pulled off the deal. This is the Steel Industry Game played by corporate interests and governments with peoples’ lives as the pawns. Jobs and community infrastructure are nowhere in the reckoning. In India this could be seen as the tables turning on colonial history.

Games began in earnest in the 1970s as industry after industry was closed, jobs lost and communities shattered. To those in charge of us it didn’t matter that an economy based 80% on heavy industry with just 20% service industry was about to be turned on its head. Manufacturing could be outsourced to far away with people on low or no wages being exploited. Unions had become too strong to handle having won decent wages and working conditions supported by health and safety legislation. The “enemy within” had to be stopped at all costs in the class war that ensued. The power of workers demonstrated at the Battle of Saltley Gate in 1972 should never be repeated as the Battle of Orgreave over a decade later made clear as violently repressive measures were used on unarmed demonstrators.

MPs enjoying their Easter hols were slow to wake up to Tata’s announcement that it was going to decide to off load British Steel by 31st March 2016. Hell, that’s today! The first to come back was Jeremy Corbyn requesting a recall of Parliament and visiting Port Talbot where he alone was able to make calm and considered suggestions on action, including nationalisation of the industry whole or in part. David Cameron appeared rather lame as he dismissed requests for the recall of Parliament and nationalisation but claiming nothing had been ruled out.

Tory Education Policies Unravelling

The infamous budget speech from George Osborne has not left the news headlines since its delivery weeks ago. “Austerity” was a term dreamed up to blind people from the reality of Tory policy which was avowedly to shrink the state. Local accountability has certainly shrunk with nowhere to go to question those now running our precious and hard won services.

Education has been overshadowed by proper concerns over what is going on in health, with threats there of increasing privatisation which, with TTIP proposals, could end up with multinational concerns running NHS services. In Birmingham Perry Beeches School was held up as an example of the brave new world, its head teacher, Liam Nolan, elevated to the position of “super-head”. Perry Beeches attempted to produce clones across Birmingham with “Perry Beeches II, III and now V”. “Super-head” has now become a bit big for his boots. Although he has for now retained his position of Head Teacher, his designation of CEO and Accounting Officer of a Trust set up to run the whole empire has been withdrawn, his second six-figure income having drawn fire. The Trust has been paid well over a million pounds annually, with Mr Nolan protesting that £200,000 was too little to reward his brilliance.

Like health and other public services essential to our well being, education is not served by being forced into a market place which discriminates between the well-off and the majority who live from their labour and ability to get employment. Speeches as the National Union of Teachers and NAS/UWT Conferences this Easter serve to show how Tories are now being challenged with a national protest on 16th April and teachers supporting junior doctors with strike action. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, was well supported at the NUT Conference in Brighton while Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had a torrid time in Birmingham speaking to NAS/UWT delegates. Her assertion at the outset that there would be no u-turns in her proposals looks particularly vulnerable in the light of Osborne’s back tracking on benefits following his budget announcement.

Extract from Nicky Morgan’s speech.

What does Nicky Morgan know about Education?

What does Nicky Morgan know about education, or anything else come to that? Her abysmal performance on a recent Any Questions showed her floundering about her own Chancellor’s budget proposals to attack the most vulnerable. Two news stories today ask what qualifies her to foist inappropriate testing on our children and press ahead with her “irreversible” decision to force all schools into becoming Academies.

It has long been blatantly obvious what the Tories were about with education giving all assets away to private ownership, putting it in the hands of many who, like Nicky Morgan, understand little about education or children and how they learn. The 11 plus test used to brand children as failures with living with that idea into adulthood. Now Morgan proposes what teachers are saying is totally inappropriate testing at 7 as well as 11. They believe many adults would have difficulty in understanding the questions children will be expected to answer. In many countries formal education begins at 7 and children have happier experiences of learning through play. In UK private tutors are converting their homes into school rooms to coach the young of pushy parents demanding their children perform to order. How damaging this is to the many is about to be proved once again.

Why it has taken so long to hear the assertion that Tory policy on education is asset stripping is puzzling, except the last Labour Government also promoted Academies. At last Jeremy Corbyn Labour Leader, has said it at the NUT Conference. Nicky Morgan is due to speak at the the NAS/UWT Conference. She should meet with an appropriately hostile reception. Hopefully they will have read the DFE’s own figures on the performance of the the academy chains which are very clear that the Government’s assertion that they will improve schools is utter rubbish. It leaves us in no doubt at all that the Tories’ plans for schools, as with other privatisations, is purely ideologically based as more and more tax payers’ finances are handed to organisations with no mandate or accountability. Typically those at the head of the underperforming chains are paying themselves telephone number salaries. Their schools are allowed to employ unqualified staff and worsen the working conditions of teachers. Morgan is dismissing the parent governors, once welcomed unpaid into schools to carry out very difficult tasks. Now rubbished she wants them replaced by the “experts”, presumably those engaged in foisting proposals as stupid and uncomprehending as hers on our invaluable education system. Indeed what does Nicky Morgan, and many other politicians including Labour imitators know about education?

Socialist Labour Party Policies for Education.