Monthly Archives: April 2013

Food Sovereignty

There is an over production of food globally but around half, much expensively produced cost wise and environmentally, goes to waste. This adds to the cost. Locally produced food can be beneficial since it is easier for the consumer to identify the producer and transport costs are reduced as are CO2 emissions. It is not always the case that local produce is cheaper since it may be cost effective to transport out of season produce than store it in warehouses which may be at a distance from the producer, only to be transported to supermarkets again at a distance.
Struggling countries like Cuba may face huge bills importing food so they encourage more and more people to use unused space to grow crops. Havana, it is estimated, can supply food to about 50% of her people. For most cities a target of 10% would be a huge achievement.
In March 2012 a delegation from the Socialist Labour Party in the UK visited Cuba and saw local initiatives to grow organic crops for food and medicine. In January that year the SLP had put a resolution to the Party’s Triennial Congress in Blackpool which was remitted for further consideration. Four members of the SLP delegation: Andrew Jordan, President, Shangara Singh, West Midlands President, John McLeod, Brighton and John Tyrrell, West Midlands had a discussion on a site just outside Havana.
More recently the SLP held a day school at the Uplands Allotments in Handsworth, Birmingham, led by Malcolm Currie whose wife, Balbir, is Secretary of the Allotment Association. We discussed local initiatives on food issues, including local production and supply.

Speak out to stop history being repeated

It was necessary for someone to speak clearly about what is happening in an attempt to cash in politically on Thatcher’s passing. Glenda Jackson, Labour MP, did just that and claims that her mail reflected a great majority supported her. She said that her reason for giving this carefully considered speech at this time was to “stop history being rewritten”. Other Labour MPs either stayed away or joined in with tributes. For Jackson and some others like David Winnick, neither course was acceptable,
One of the invited celebrities for the Thatcher funeral show is none other than Tony Blair who has taken the opportunity to press Miliband to repeat history, and the Labour “grandees” like Mandelson and Milburn are joining in. “Labour mustn’t be see as just a protest party” they warn because that’s how they ended up in opposition for years before, until the New Labour project took hold. Absolutely right from the point of view that Labour need clear policies for action. Wrong that the country needs more policies built on the base of Thatcherism. Socialism became a dirty word and avoided by New Labour which proceeded to trash Labour Party basics. “You too can become an entrepreneur and play the games in which you can enrich yourself” without having to join the Tory club. That’s alright for the few – Blair and Mandelson are examples of members of an elite group of multimillionaires indistinguishable from the Tories in behaviour. Miliband has retorted and says he is moving on. Clearly with much caution.
As for Arthur Scargill, as iconic a figure as Thatcher, opportunities to bring out the old lies and distortions pepper the media. Scargill has long refused to comment on Thatcher in interviews. He well understands that the issues are not about personalities but about policies he thought, and still thinks are necessary to deal with Capitalism and its Thatcherite version which cripples us today. His ideas are set out in he policies of the party he leads, the Socialist Labour Party.
It wasn’t just Thatcher that brought us to this catastrophic situation, it was the others who picked up the ball she dropped and ran with it. Privatisation was a mantra for New Labour so the wholesale privatisation of education, health, prisons was well advanced when her successors took over, helped to teir eternal shame by another party, the Liberal Democrats. So Labour will have to take a radically different route of action. A return to the past in adopting the post-war Labour stand by introducing a health service based on guiding principles that still stand as a shining beacon to the world, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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Who runs your Local Government? Is it Capita or KPMG?

Most years we go to the polling station to elect our local councillors, but who is running local government? Characteristically a few names crop up over and over: large offshore businesses that have successfully privatised our former public services.
In Birmingham Capita have rules the show ever since the Tory/Lib.Dem coalition took control in 2004. Labour are highly critical of Capita, not as a private entity, but because they have proved unreliable and not met their promises. They would prefer KPMG to take over. Two years back I asked Stephen Hughes to account for Capita in his budget presentation on swingeing cuts then (nothing like now!) He responded with a bland statement of how “they were saving us money”. I didn’t know organisations like them came cheap. There was no suggestion then that they should share in the burden.
The names crop up all over the place, KPMG just last night on Channel 4 news. This was in the context of the HBOS fiasco where a group of out of control bankers trashed it. Where were the auditors then? Who were they? Well KPMG. Why wasn’t this scrutinised by the former FSA? Because it was led by the former head of KPMG at the time could be the answer.
The truth is the Thatcher legacy runs root and branch into our society, operated by all parties returned to power. Changing it again will not be achieved by tinkering and meanwhile it will continue to serve to divide our society to its core.

Blair offers advice to Miliband

We could be back to the situation when Labour brought in Tony Blair and proceeded to reinvent itself as New Labour. Blair is now warning Miliband “not to turn back the clock”. That’s precisely what has happened with the death of Margaret Thatcher bringing old divisions sharply into focus.
The Tories have tried to stage manage a huge spectacle invoking great heroic deeds, patriotism which began with “tributes” when the Parliament was recalled early at great expense and will continue when London is halted to watch the spectacle of the mortal remains being towed round the streets on a gun carriage. Again at huge expense with tax payers expected to foot at least a chunk of the bill when the government are yelling “Austerity” at us. Did it work?
If the discomfort was evident in parliament it was muted when many MPs, particularly those representing devastated mining, steel, ship building and similar industrial communities, all this to defeat who she was pleased to call “the enemy within”. Today this can be translated to the 1% controlling huge powerful and private corporate institutions dominating the rest. As far as most of us are concerned the “enemy within” are those who took our jobs abroad and took their wealth into tax havens avoiding payment of tax. David Cameron claimed in his eulogy “she made Britain great again”. Did she? Are these indications that she and they are “true blue”. But to dissent you are “unpatriotic” as the Murdoch controlled media will proclaim. “An inspiration” says Rupert. Did she inspire phone hacking? Not a convincing recommendation. Certainly she inspired deregulation in many spheres like the media and finance which directly leads to the present financial crisis.
The problem we have now is that the issues of division apparent in 80s was not confronted. New Labour adopted Thatcherite policies like privatisation taking them to new levels. There were values not then acceptable then which have now become matters regarded as “common sense”. When Norman Tebbitt called for a “cricket test” for migrant communities whose patriotism he called ingo doubt there was outrage. Now such a view is enshrined in a mandatory test for citizenship.
Politicians of all parties appear to react more to the pressures from powerful, wealthy, lobby groups, from whom the system allows them to benefit from their largesse. The voters consequently take a back seat. Blair and the Blairite faction still apparent in Labour should fight for power by adopting the self-same policies that have so clearly failed repeatedly for the majority.

Thatcherism isn’t dead when all parties are locked into it.

Ed Miliband made a revealing statement in his effusive tribute to Margaret Thatcher. He says when he thinks about it the policies of Margaret Thatcher shaped Cameron, Clegg and himself. It’s certainly true of New Labour which took Thatcherism to new heights in privatisation and allowing market forces to reign supreme. Why in all the tributes this is this seen as “success” for Britain when all is falling about as austerity dominates the proclaimed policies of all political parties is hard to see. The only way it can be proclaimed so is through the perceptions of a ruling and wealthy elite who have used the ideology to feather their own nests. For the 1% it is a triumph maybe but for everyone else it spells disaster.
So while the elite prepare for a now down-graded but still lavish funeral others are partying. For the reasons I am suggesting that while the lady may have gone her policies haven’t I won’t be joining in. The news also showed a hugely divided nation north/south where regions blighted by the end of manufacturing industry have fallen into decline with unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse the Thatcher legacy.
Views from South Africa were mixed but much more forgiving than could be imagined given Thatchers failure condemn apartheid labelling the ANC and Mandela as terrorist. It appears that there too Thatcherism is a far from spent force.
The word “terrorist” was not applied to other such as the former Chilean President Pinochet with his hugely tarnished legacy of crimes against humanity. Thatcher championed him.

Fidel Castro speaks out about the duty to prevent nuclear war.

Fidel Castro has broken a long self-imposed silence in the Cuban journal “Granma” by drawing attention to the consequences of a nuclear war starting on the Korean peninsula. He speaks as a friend of North Korea and reminds them of ” a duty” to prevent that happening. Castro similarly spoke out when another potential threat to humanity, as Castro sees it, was under discussion: the environment.
Few politicians I can think of have the understanding, authority and wisdom shown by Castro. The United States still mark him out as a danger to the world.
As for understanding the two Korean states we have little chance of doing that from press reports, any more than we have been unable to see what underlies Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Israel and so on. We only begin to understand when it is too late so that Sunni and Shia communities are at each other’s throats following the intervention of dominating world powers have intervened. The legacy of imperialism and empire are not buried and dead, they are very much with us. Humanity as a concern is way down the priority list for them, so to see Castro speaking out comes as cool refreshment. Clearly he is addressing North Korea as much as the United States and all who could play a part should conflict break out.

Did anything result from Obama’s visit to Israel and Palestine?

One group of Israeli protestors thanked Obama for supporting the “Israeli Apartheid State” on his recent visit. So did Obama achieve anything other than bolstering the US/Israel relationship which gives Israel billions to arm itself to the teeth and occupy and confiscate Palestinian territory at will?
One thing has happened since is that Israel has made an apology to Turkey of some kind for the deaths of 9 Turkish activists in 2010 when the Mavi Marmara was attacked en route to Gaza. A report claims that Israel needs some friends to avoid total isolation in the region. It appears that it was a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu from Obama which brokered the deal. What’s on the other end of the deal we can only imagine. A strike by Israel on Iran? One thing is certain it won’t be cheap, and Palestinians remain under blockade in Gaza, their properties at risk from confiscation by Israeli authorities or constant attack from extremist Zionist settlers.
On the israeli side the visit was highly orchestrated as Obama was given a history lesson as he visited the holy sites of Israel’s past. Palestine has no part in this, and if those like Daniel Pipes is to be believed no future.
Through the visit Obama addressed both Palestinians and Israelis. On the one hand he emphasised that the Jewish state of Israel was inviolable “as the strongest state in the region” backed up by the power of the United States. On the other he spoke of peace and a two state solution. Seizure of Palestinian land was counterproductive if that was to become a reality.
So Israel will continue to occupy territory and seize Palestinian land. It is now so small and fragmented that the idea of a separate state is unimaginable as things stand. A withdrawal to the 1967 borders, once touted widely, seems highly improbable.
I can think of nowhere where states become overtly religious where there is room for people to thrive in equality. People of different background and beliefs can and do coexist, and have done for centuries. Political intervention quickly undermines this so sectarianism takes over. The precondition of a religious state, whether Jewish, Islamic or Christian cannot lead to people living together in harmony. Obama’s message to uphold a state devoted to one exclusive group will not work here or anywhere else. He came and went satisfied with a token gesture, otherwise business as usual.

Venezuelanaysis, April 1st 2013

On 1st April Venezuelanalysis reported on Venezuela adopting “US style democracy” and a whole lot of measures that were being taken to this end. Media would be flogged off to Rupert Murdoch so that they “wouldn’t talk to real people on the ground” but read off news from auto-cues. The big corporations that “know people’s needs better than they do” like McDonalds would be bought in along with Monsanto to advise on food reform. Donald Trump would be sold a golf course on the people’s land.
If that looks like a sick joke take a look at life around you. We’re living just like that!!!

Today’s April 1st. IDS says he could live on £53 per week.

As Polly Toynbee points out today is a defining moment for the Tories and their sycophantic partners who allowed this day to happen. A class war is declared as benefits are cut, the health service is changed beyond recognition and justice is dependent on the ability to pay. This is not to mention what is happening to education as schools are destroyed, handed over to mercenary chains of companies that have shown their ineptitude at running prisons, the Olympic Games or whatever they have been able to hoover up to feed their insatiable greed. Minister Ian Duncan Smith says he could manage on £53 a week. On which planet? We should send him there.
It has been the avowed aim of the Tories to roll back the state. The idea of “cradle to grave” support originated in World War 2 when the Beveridge Report was written, the Labour government implementing ideas it contained, including a National Health Service.
A group of MPs from the 2010 intake saw it as a mission to decrease state intervention, allowing individuals the freedom to thrive (or not). Today it is the catch word “austerity” used to buy acquiescence from a huge swathe of voters, but given the stated intention to do this anyway makes it look the contrived vehicle it is.

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