Category Archives: Politics

Continuing to resist Brexit

The amplified voices of right wing politicians and media continue to dominate and drown out serious opposition continuing too resist Brexit. Voices from Europe supporting Brexit from a different perspective are unheard in the melee.

For one reason or another over 17 million of us in the UK didn’t like the European Union. Doesn’t mean we all didn’t like Europe. I love Europe, but I don’t love the EU or right wing European governments that push their undemocratic diktat following the imposition of a neo-liberal agenda. The supposition is what the accompanying media tell us – that voting for Brexit was racist and xenophobic. That many supported workers rights and reacted against austerity and privatisation has been written out of the story.

An alternative account speaks of “The Systematic Effort fo the Transnational Elite to Crush the Brexit Revolution….” Takis Fotopoulos, Professor at London University SOAS, sees that an uprising occurred when the opportunity arose to express dissatisfaction with that elite and all that it imposed on the people – the “victims of the effects of globalisation”. combination of fear, disinformation and deception has been at work, including the spreading of a myth about racism and xenophobia.

Costas Lapavitsas talks to George Galloway about crisis in Europe and the transformation of Capitalism. Instead of producing anything Capitalism has become “finacialised” allowing those in he financial sector to produce wealth without producing anything. While big business finds its own capital and is less reliant on banks, these have turned to other ways of raising finance – through drawing on the assets of
the general population and notably the working class. This analysis was prior to Brexit. Here Lapavitsas looks at the opportunities for the left now opened up, drawing on his own experience as a member of the Syriza Government of which he remains highly critical. As with Fotopoulos’ analysis “Brexit” is infinitely more than the reduction characterised by those defending Europe to the hilt, presumably because of the vested interests and privileges they currently enjoy at the expense of the victims of globalisation.

Brexit perspectives polarised

The Internationalist Rally held in Paris on May 28th, 2016, in advance of the UK referendum on leaving or staying in the European Union, made a statement to the labour movement in Britain. They said “We support the British Workers who will vote to leave the European Union in the 23 June referendum”.

Who were they attending the Rally? 1,200 workers, activists and youth from across Europe were there and additional support from others unable to be there personally such as medical staff working in refugee camps and witnessing first hand those holed up by EU policy after fleeing life-threatening conditions in Syria and elsewhere. Was the Brexit they requested that portrayed relentlessly by the British media and advanced by the likes of Theresa May and Boris Johnson? The 17,000,000+ UK citizens who voted to leave are supposedly part of a huge surge rightwards, racist, xenophobic, far right extremists.

The report on the Paris Rally simply does not resemble that view in any way. Steve Hedley, a delegate from the British transport union, the RMT, started by paying tribute to “French workers who are conducting a magnificent strike movement at the moment.” Two years on and Paris is still in the grip of action in defiance of the staunchly pro-European President, Macron, who has been putting through EU-backed legislation favouring the big corporations over those whose labour is necessary to create their huge and ever-growing wealth and power in the first place. WE need to salute and support these workers and those in other countries of Europe oppressed by EU diktat pressing for unending privatisation and austerity. In short the “neoliberal” agenda advocated by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School and followed by Pinochet in Chile, championed by Reagan, Thatcher, and others (including Blairite Labour) has to be culled.

The second point Steve Hedley made in his address to the Paris rally was that “we really did not know that so many people across France and Europe support Britain leaving the European Union”. This remains unknown and unreported.Those who voted for and won the UK referendum include many (who knows how many who voted “Leave”) who reacted to the massive cuts in funding to what we used to call “essential” services and the handing over to private providers at the same time slashing pay and conditions of those working in care, health and other areas of the once public sector.

The 2016 Referendum decided in far of Britain leaving the EU although considerable resistance remains throughout the mainstream press, EU supporters and regrettably politicians. The Westminster system of lobbying, revolving doors etc. ensures that it is not only MPs’ constituents who put pressure on them. While the electorate supply their votes the system allows largesse and privilege and access to all members elected into power. It appears resistance is low irrespective of party and political persuasion.

The problem is that while Brexit perspectives are polarised but each view is not communicated. As Hedley remarked views of Europeans about Brexit are unknown. President Macron once opined that had French citizens had the opportunity of a referendum it was possible they would have voted for France to leave the EU. Macron, a centrist in the mould of Thatcher and Blair according to some observers, won power when many feared that votes for condidates on the left would allow the far right into power.

At the same time does anyone know for certain how many of the 17 million plus UK citizens who voted for Britain to leave the EU supported UKIP, the Tory right. UKIP may account for around 4 million if we judge from votes they received in elections leaving 13 million unaccounted for. Many have protested in programmes such as Any Questions, when the public are given an opportunity speak to a wider audience, that they did not vote for racist or xenophobic reasons. Their concerns were to do with austerity, privatisation of “essential” services and issues around cuts to pay, pensions etc. affecting working people and those who depended on state support for health reasons etc. The many who felt the increase in injustice with access to the public systems of health, education, legal services and so on were withdrawn. The perspectives of UKIP, the Tory right and others played on immigration as a major reason for such problems clearly had its intended effect on many voters. The understanding that globalistation and a “neoliberal” agenda was at play was not made obvious.

The International Monetary Fund, one of the dominant institutions operating alongside the EU and international governments printed an article entitled “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” In doing so they went as far as acknowledging its provenance!

“Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardising 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 – label used more by critics than by architects of the policies -rests on two main planks. The first is increased competition – achieved through deregulation and the opening up of domestic markets, to foreign competition. The second is a smaller role for the state, achieved through privatisation and the limits on the ability of governments to run fiscal deficits and accumulate debt.”

What is puzzling is why so much of the press across the political spectrum continues to tacitly support those operating the neoliberal agenda. The Guardian for example has published a series of articles highly critical of its spread and effects on all of us: “Neoliberalism: The idea that swallowed the world”.; “Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us”. and “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems”.

The neoliberal agenda emanating from the Chicago School and Milton Friedman has had vastly wider effects than in the economic sphere. Doctrines such as “shock and awe” have been practiced both economically and militarily. Pinochet himself came to power following the assassination of Allende following the “shock and awe” attack. What followed is well known, but what is behind it is told in some detail by Naomi Klein in “The Shock Doctrine”.

The Corporate Take Over of Everything

Amey is one of those corporate entities that take over just about everything and anything. They have a website just like their competitors, who like them are Jacks-of-all-trades but masters of none. Why have I chosen Amey. Just because it is currently in the news concerning Liverpool prison. When I searched for Amey and Liverpool it wasn’t the prison that came up but the council which is ending Amey’s contract six years early on its failure to run the street services effectively to keep the city’s streets clean. Liverpool has gone back to doing its own thing setting up a company.

In 2003-4 I came across Amey when I was Cabinet Member for Transportation and Street Services in Birmingham. Lucky Birmingham won a PFI contract to deal with the upkeep of roads, street lighting and everything else. I had oversight of the in-house services at the time. The work force were from my experience diligent and performed relatively well with resources available. Not being a fan of PFI I found myself in a difficult position. One measure recommended to me by a fellow councillor in Yorkshire was to have the work force seconded rather than handed over lock stock and barrel to whoever won the contract. Who won, well it was wonderful, sweet Amey who now have oversight of all. At least I think so. Just now outside as I write there is a van with a team of contractors lopping the trees in the street. It display the name “Acorn Group”. Maybe Amey doesn’t do this but prefers to subcontract in some areas.

S how are things going now in Birmingham. The PFI runs for some 20 years yet. The Birmingham press reports claim and counter claim with councillors saying what a bad state the roads are in and Amey responding by saying that Birmingham was ‘maintenance-light” in the years prior to them inheriting the street maintenance contract. One would have thought that the state of things would be pretty clear when drawing up a contract. I can only speak for myself by saying that the garage I use reported that I have “square wheels” on my car due to the pot holes that abound. They certainly weren’t like this before!

Back to news I was searching for. Amey and Liverpool Prison. The report is about the sacking of whistle blowers who dared to say what a state the prison is in. Not that Liverpool is alone, Winson Green in Birmingham recently faced riots. It’s not “run” by Amey, but another similar outfit which is a long-standing joke – G4S.

Over the years privatisations have typically ended in tears. It wasn’t just the Tories who followed the Chilean experiment under Pinochet. Milton Friedman led the charge from Chicago which put profits before all, in particular human beings. The system is broken. But who will fix it. The EU is predicated on the “Neo’liberal” model to which gave rise to unfettered Capitalism, and is followed by many politicians in Europe and across the world wooed by lobbyists. In Westminster it is the culture which it appears impossible to break. It seems to me those who want Brexit see that as the only chance of dealing with it – from the left, not the right which has got all the news that it is racist and xenophobic. Maybe that’s true of UKIP and the tory right, but not of those of the many that objected to the corporate take over over of everything.

Like others of its ilk Amey has a web site extolling its virtues and how it benefits so many of us. It advertises jobs. Questions to be asked include how good are pay and conditions? Are unions functioning? What happens to profits? Do they pay tax or have they off-shore havens? Typically sites spout “values” they supposedly uphold. You can look at others: Capita (known here in Birmingham as “Crapita” – it has run the City Council at some expense for some years, oh dear….), Serco, KPMG (also active from time to time in Brum).

What goes on behind the backdoor between these financial service giants and their new ways of amusing wealth is reported regularly in the local press. Hospitality is one of the themes regularly picked u
Coming back to Europe we can note the Germany’s GDP is strongly supported by its industry. Italy also has an industry but not having the clout of Germany is susceptible to takeovers. France for example has its eye on Italian communications while strongly protecting its own interests. In the 1970’s Britain’s GDP was based on 80% manufacturing and 20% service industries. This has reversed with service industries continuing to grow. The new way with money is to make more from it, both real and virtual creating bubbles which inevitably burst. It is not a question whether it will happen – like a volatile volcano – but when. To argue against the “progress” that is proclaimed is to be likened to the dinosaur. We want to go backwards. Well if it is to discard what is regarded as progress described in this article we urgently need to retrench!

Labour leave. At last arguments are on the table, if not answers.

The Labour Leave campaign is ratcheting up and at last the arguments are on the table, if not the answers.
This itself is a critique of a paper from “Open Britain”, part of a “Remain” campaign.. However it is far from final dodging key questions.

As with others who campaigned to leave arguing from a left perspective the media provide little oxygen. The Guardian, which itself has published some damning indictments of the neoliberal agenda, nurtures the Labour MPs who maintain there is no left argument for leaving! Attacks on unions, austerity, privatisation are not issues for them? There appear to be a seizable number of people who remain voiceless who voted for Britain to leave the EU, including the single market, and din’t subscribe to the racism and xenophobia of UKIP and Farage or the Tory right and Boris Johnson. This is no accident as the Euro elite in charge of the democracy free zone they inhabit have made sure that the Brexit argument is from racist and fascists alone.

Those leaders who put the referendum in motion and were instrumental in the campaign championed by the right wing media are either gone or largely discredited. Where is Cameron now? Presumably enjoying the perks that the Westminster corrupt revolving door allows politicians and supporting officers to enjoy. His chancellor chum has a portfolio of lucrative positions bestowed on him. If he was ever “in it together” with the likes of us he certainly ain’t now. Farage made his bed with the increasingly unpopular Trump and UKIP can’t seem to find a replacement. If as claimed the left failed the voiceless before another chance awaits.

The problem for Labour is that it is, and always has been, a social democratic party. That it is it does not break from the Capitalism that has been in crisis time and again recovering only by confiscating the wealth that we as working people create and handing it to fewer and fewer. In both Westminster and Brussels the lobbyists have unfettered access to the political leadership and are able ply them with the largesse which fuels the fabled “American Dream” which we’ve now globalised through neoliberalism. Doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Labour you can end up “Filthy ricH” and. like the noble Lord Mandelson, feel entirely comfortable with your loot.

One thing that the US and UK still have are democratic forms of government, nominally at least, which is more than can be said for the European Union. As Tony Benn pointed out at the time of Maastricht in 1991 the EU alone has constitution which is in favour of big business and large corporations i.e. the agenda of Capitalism, and proscribes Socialism. The Labour leadership is saying it will renationalise rail, water, energy et al, but if, as many of the remaining Blairites want, you remain in the single market and fall under EU law you can’t. Norwegian workers found this out to their cost even though Norway is outside the E.U. Because it is in the single market European law has precedent over those of Norway. 40 years ago Norwegian dock workers won the right to refuse casual labour on the quayside. This has been overturned by the imposition of EU law which gives precedent to corporate interests giving big shipping companies the right to employ whoever they want.

While Capitalism receives criticism the article above is written from a social democratic perspective. In other words any answer to Capitalist excesses from bodies such as the EU has to be capitalism. This is often described as a soft form or “cuddly capitalism.’ Nothing cuddly about it. What other ways are there? Blair proposed a “third way”. Judging by his life style there doesn’t appear to be much difference to capitalism in his thinking an doing!

It’s the “S” word that is missing and no one dare mention it’s name. Supporting neoliberalism – an extremist movement if any are, Globalisation has led to rampant colonialism with resources being stripped from the poorest peoples. the right has had its chance to nail Brexit but the right, at first strongly supported, has been widely disgraced and held back from gaining power as widely expected by some. There is an opportunity for the left to support those who have been placed in penury by EU policies, together with those of the Tories which look remarkably similar notwithstanding it is a Tory Government supposedly leading on Brexit.

There is a Socialist alternative which needs to be be seriously considered widely.

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.

Is “Neo-Liberalism” a meaningful word?

Is “Neo-Liberalism” a meaningful word? A Guardian long read heads an article “Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world”. speaks of the “reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.”

Stephen Metcalf, the author of the Guardian article points to the International Monetary Fund putting a question with the question “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” which could just turn out to be the understatement of the century/millennium/history. Starting as it does with an offhand reference to Milton Friedman in 1982 pointing to Chile as “an economic miracle”. The “Shock Doctrine” describes a range of events following the use of the term “shock and awe” in Chile to overthrow its president Allende, and later in Iraq to show the ideas were no where near being confined to an economic theory portrayed as benign and beneficial globally. In practice it continues to pull the world apart as the IMF itself is belatedly recognising.

Another Guardian article by George Monbiot puts “Neoliberalism” as the “root of all our problems”. Unlike “Capitalism” or “Socialism”, “Neoliberalism” signifies nothing except by its critics who have seen its true nature within “globalisation” and now “Brexit” seen here as in broader terms then characterised by the right apologists for globalisation.

“Neoliberalism” seems to encompassed a wide range of adherents. Its high priest, Milton Friedman, had widespread influence with Reagan and Thatcher heading the adulation, but followed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and adherents among Democrat and Labour supporters under New Labour. The Single Market of the EU has followed the tradition, and we find the Guardian and Liberal Democrats among the supporters of a rear guard movement do a second referendum to show that those who voted for Brexit had changed their minds or were misled by the likes of UKIP, Boris Johnson et al. The elite leaders of Europe like this idea to discredit the intelligence of those who supported Brexit because they understood the consequences of free markets and globalisation with its rising inequality under “austerity” (itself a version of “shock and awe” tactics.)

The leader of the Socialist Labour Party, Arthur Scargill, has been consistent in his condemnation of of the free market at the heart of the European Union. He, along with Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for decades against it and dismayed to see large sections of the Labour movement give continuing support in the EU referendum.

Arthur Scargill speaking at the Shaheed Udham Singh Centre, Handsworth, Birmingham, prior to the 2017 General Election.

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.