Author Archives: John

Post Brexit Opportunities. The missing agenda.

In it is difficult to make sense of the underlying reasons why nearly £17.5 million of us in Britain voted against staying in the European Union. Reasons given are those from the small elite group who have found globalisation of markets have worked in their favour. The missing agenda is the debate about why a significant proportion of leave voters were motivated to do so. The kind of suppositions put about include voters are uneducated and/or they are racist and xenophobic.Time for an open post-Brexit including the missing agenda is long overdue.

Costas Lapavitsas, Professor of Economics at SOAS, University of London, and former member of the Greek Parliament in 2015, describes in more detail the characteristics of the voters on both sides in a description of two rifts, minor and major, among the elite and in wider society. He says “according to the Ashcroft poll 64% of the C2, D and E categories (i.e. class classifications) voted for Brexit; these are basically skilled and unskilled manual workers, casual workers, those who depend on the welfare state for their income and so on.” This is followed by a detailed breakdown area by area. Lapavitsas article “Why They Left” articulates how the confusion arises in his description of a “minor rift” between leavers and remainers in the “British ruling class” and a “major rift” in the wider society.

Another Greek commentator, Takis Fotopoulos, has written about “The Systematic Effort of the Transnational Elite to Crush the ‘Brexit Revolution’.” He states that “the apparent collapse of the ‘Brexit revolution’ far from reflecting the feelings of the victims of globalisation, which, if anything, gets stronger all the time, it simply reflections the vicious attacks of the elites against any political expression that the Brexit revolution has taken….either in the UK, the USA or France. Therefore through suppression nd mostly deception, they may have successfully temporarily succeeded in suppressing the growing anger of the victims of globalisation.” He notes that the left, associated with “societies’ victims, has clearly changed sides in the globalisation era…..”

A closer look at the voting figures, while 17,410,742 voted to leave the EU, UKIP secured 4,376,635 votes in the 2015 general election (falling to 594,068 in 2017). This leaves in excess of 13,000,000 whose views and motives are unknown and untested. While rhetoric at Westminster repeatedly states the imperative of honouring the result of the referendum, in fact they and their reasons for voting thus have gone missing, absent without leave. Those who determined the outcome are being deliberately ignored.

Recent events have brought the current situation into star focus in the wake of the visit of the US President, Donald Trump. It had appeared that many of those active in the referendum campaigned had melted away, but there they were associating themselves with individuals and groups even further to the right than they had appeared earlier. Steve Bannon, a one time associate of Donald Trump, closely involved in his election, came to Europe. Both Bannon and Trump recommended Boris Johnson as next PM! (Bannon’s activities were not confined to the UK it should be noted. He consorted with some far right leaders including Austria, Hungary and Italy.) Significantly he was interviewed by Nigel Farage. “Tommy Robinson” the jailed English Defence League leader was discussed and hailed in glowing terms by Bannon as “the ‘backbone’ of England”. A prominent Union Leader, member of RMT, Steve Hedley, was injured in a vicious attack by his supporters taking part in a violent demonstration on behalf of the EDL.

It was Tony Benn who asserted that “The EU has the only constitution in the world committed to capitalism. It destroys the prospects of socialism anywhere in Europe, making capitalism a constitutional requirement of that set up.” He and others were campaigning against the EU in 1975, including Arthur Scargill and Jeremy Corbyn. It was repeated when the Maastricht Treaty defined the so-called “four freedoms” underlying the way the European Union would proceed. If it wasn’t clear then it is abundantly so now in the light of experience. “Freedoms” referred to free trade allowing powerful organisations to move their operations around in order to make use of the cheapest labour available. For individuals it has been a different matter in their experience as they have lost jobs and communities have been devastated. These are the victims of what is termed variously as “globalisation” and “neo-liberalism”. When we look to see where these areas are they coincide with poverty and deprivation, exacerbated by the effects of austerity and privatisation of “essential services”. Immigration was proclaimed a key factor, but those communities are often characterised by their now highly diverse communities who have for many years exhibited solidarity in working class issues.

Neoliberalism itself has been the subject of considerable discussion while its world-wide progress shows little sign of abating. “Neoliberalism: the Idea that Swallowed the World” ….(18/8/17) ”the reigning ideology…that venerates the market and strips away the things that make us human.”; “Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us” (19/8/17) and “Neoliberalism-the ideology at the root of all our problems” (19/8/17) are articles on the subject, all published in the Guardian in the space of a couple days last summer, seem to have made little impact, including on the Guardian itself still supporting the rearguard action to remain. Likewise the Independent and Mirror. For me the article that sums it up was printed in an International Monetary Fund paper in June 2016 which lays bare its inhuman origin. In the article headed “Neoliberalism Oversold?” it is stated:

“Milton Friedman in 1982 hailed Chile and 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 by 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 privatisation and limits the ability of governments to run fiscal deficits and accumulate debt.”

While the authors note some excesses, including “increased inequality” they maintain “there is much to cheer about in the neoliberal agenda”. Maybe for the few benefitting from the finance sector and its ability to print money, but certainly not the majority who depend on producing goods and getting well-paid, dependable employment for their existence. 

What is staggering is the labour movements’ ambivalence to staying in or leaving the EU given the existence of publications which demonstrate repeatedly that the EU is repressing workers through dictatorial orders, orders which so many “democratic” leaders are impatient to impose like President Macron in France. A report of a seminar held by the Institute of Employment Rights last summer brought together delegates from across Europe to the Marx Library. The report is crucial at this time in showing what opportunities Brexit bring for Trades Unions and Socialists, yet it is difficult to find even in the Institute’s publication list. It points, for instance, to the experience of Norway, a member of of the single market but not the EU. Even then in 2016 EU-based law overturned a hard won union fight to decide on dock labour by giving away the rights to a shipping company when they contested it!

Seen like this many more than the number who voted to leave the EU are victims of globalisation. Access to key services and maintenance of quality affects health, education, housing, transport, justice has been severely weakened for those without the means to pay up with massive cuts and lower standards from privatised suppliers paying lower wages to their staff. They are characteristically under huge pressure to meet excessive demand, health and safety standards have fallen sharply while at the same time the bosses of companies, some of which are multinational, multitasking, get huge returns. Profits are likely to be outsourced and tax paying avoided.

Governments in Brussels and Westminster operate under similar characteristics with a burgeoning system of patronage from powerful lobby groups. The difference Tony Benn reminds us concerns democracy. We directly elect MPs to Westminster and have a direct link. With Brussels this is not the case, and MEPs have little say in policies dreamed up by bureaucrats. There is therefore a strong possibility that a significant number voted to leave so as not to surrender British sovereignty. For the Left EU rules would disallow the possibility of voting for governments seeking to introduce Socialist policies.

There are a number of other possible serious reasons why people voted against the EU given its current rightward drift.

A very strong reason for rejecting the EU is its adherence to austerity and policies of privatisation of services particularly by victims of globalisation who have lost essential services, had benefits slashed ending in homelessness, depending on food banks and so on. Their vulnerability was exploited by the right putting the blame on scapegoats once again.

The EU, in line with their masters, big business, reduce costs and make cuts at every opportunity leaving individuals with low paid and unstable employment through ploys like zero hour contracts. Maybe quite a few of the leave voters considered enough is enough as union powers were seriously curtailed. Collective bargaining was a major target. Where was the left leadership when it was needed when the union leadership widely fell in with the remain campaign telling workers that their rights were protected by the EU. While there may have been some truth in this once upon a time the financial crash saw to it that it was the banks and financial institutions that needed available funds. Social democracy has traditionally seen a need to compromise and co-operate with a “cuddly” Capitalism. It is now abundantly clear that Capitalism shows no wish to compromise in its aim for maximum profit. Public funds intended for health, education, criminal justice have been handed over to private concerns with catastrophic results affecting the great majority of people. Those who realised this from the beginning would have voted to leave the EU.

NATO has been a matter of concern for some years as it has been involved with conflict continuously both inside and outside Europe. Its actions led to large displacements of people many of whom sought refuge in countries of Europe through bombing campaigns. Europe’s armaments industries have been selling to regimes noted for their abuses of human rights.

If the term “Brexit” has negative connotations in the UK, this is not the case across European countries and globally. The same agenda is missing elsewhere and many are looking to the UK for a lead in removing the burden of exploitation in this new manifestation of colonialism. In Europe many countries have become impoverished by being saddled with a currency, the Euro, over which they have no control. This is having disastrous effects particularly on people particularly those denied a voice.

Greece has recently faced devastating wild fires near to Athens. Commentators are pointing directly at the effects of Brussels’ control with 4,000 fire fighters lost through cut backs demanded by the EU. To add insult the Greek government supports 14 privatised airports providing them with hundreds of firefighters! Have you guessed, the private owners are a group based in Germany? Under the EU it is becoming quite usual for profit to go out of the country so the possibility of updating equipment is lost. (in the UK railways are being run by foreign owners, including German, French and Dutch state railways. They have taken substantial profits from the UK while providing terrible services and compromising safety, including removing guards from trains.)

Further examples of the situation across Europe can be found in the Institute of Employment Rights’ publication “Europe, the EU and Britain: Workers’ Rights and Economic Democracy.” The conference was held at the Marx Memorial Library on 1st July, 2017. Mauricio Miguel from Portugal spoke about the 1972 left wing takeover of government now seriously compromised by EU diktat and law. He says”

“I would like to emphasise how much we value the outcome of the British referendum for what it represents and contributes to the struggle of the Portuguese workers and people in terms of respect for their sovereignty, their right economic development and social progress, and against the unacceptable impositions and constraints of the European Union and Euro.”

The Socialist Labour Party are among those calling for a conference to be held in Birmingham this autumn inviting Arthur Scargill and Costas Lapavitsas as key speakers.

James Connolly and the EU

A series of articles about James Connolly in the Morning Star today, Tuesday June 5th, include a timely article from Ireland about “James Connolly and the EU” concerning his reaction to it had he been living now. This would be rejection. I mentioned this on Facebook and had an immediate and passionate response that in no way would he aligned to Brexit which is inherently fascist. The seems to be the position that those Labour MPs and supporters claiming to be on the left who are planning a summer of meetings to put the case for remaining regardless of the outcome of the referendum of June 23rd 2016.

James Connolly founded the Socialist Labour Party which has consistently argued that being a member of the European Union removes the democratic possibility of electing those who represent us and holding them to account. An account of the challenges he faced as a socialist in Ireland and of the 80 years of the Connolly Association testify to his influence. Finally there is a review of a republished bookly”“The Life and times of James Connol by C. Desmond Greaves testifies to his humanity.

Continuing to resist Brexit

The amplified voices of right wing politicians and media continue to dominate and drown out serious opposition continuing to 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 (including UK!) 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.

A V2 attack on South London

The following is an article about a V2 attack on South London on 25th November, 1944. V2 launchings are recorded and it is quite a narrow window. I had just turned 3 years old and was visiting an aunt in South London. I have vivid images in my mind of that day. Whether they were first hand or the result of stories told to me later.

The V2 fell from the skies while I was having lunch with my family. It is my Grandfather’s image that stays with me. Plaster from the ceiling fell into our meal. It was recounted that my Grandfather commented “dust or no dust am going to finish my dinner.” I don’t think he did. In my mind there is an image of him scarping his plate onto the garden!

The next images are looking down the road to see a haze as if there was fog. Then I saw the neighbour, a middle age woman with blood on her face.

My cousin Pauline, some 3 years older than me, was also there. My next image is her father with other relations boarding up the shattered windows.

This is an account of a V2 falling in the area about this time. From the records of V2s it most closely fits with my knowledge of the date and place I was.

A scene of devastation following a V2 rocket attack, somewhere in the south of England. In the foreground, a casualty is being carried away on a stretcher, whilst in the background, Civil Defence workers continue to search through debris and rubble, checking for any other survivors. The remains of a building can also be seen. According to the original caption, the rocket fell here “about two hours ago”.
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Part of
Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer

168 dead as Woolworths obliterated in V2 attack

A scene of devastation following a V2 rocket attack, somewhere in the south of England. In the foreground, a casualty is being carried away on a stretcher, whilst in the background, Civil Defence workers continue to search through debris and rubble, checking for any other survivors. The remains of a building can also be seen. According to the original caption, the rocket fell here “about two hours ago”.
In Britain the government had taken until November the 10th to admit that the “gas main” explosions, that had mysteriously started in September, were the result of enemy rockets. Secrecy still surrounded the time and place of the explosions themselves. There was no defence against the V2 rockets so the only means of mitigating their impact was to try to feed false information to the Germans about where they were falling.
By using their network of double agents British intelligence was telling the Germans that the rockets were falling north of London. It was hoped that the Germans would adjust the aim of the rockets further south. In due course the rockets’ impact was gradually seen to shift southwards, away from central London, where they had actually been accurately targeted. However the advantage was only marginal, some rockets still fell on London and those that fell short of it were still likely to cause casualties in the suburbs.
The worst V2 attack of the war happened on 25th November when the Woolworths department store in New Cross, south London was suddenly blown apart. It had been crowded with Saturday shoppers, perhaps more people than usual because the store had a supply of saucepans to sell, a rare wartime commodity. In an instant 168 people were dead or dying, with many more injured in the vicinity.
Tony Rollins was 13 at the time:
I used to buy Airfix model aeroplane assembly kits and put them together.Since there were few toys around I was able to sell these to a shop in New Cross Gate. The shop was situated next to the railway bridge, which is part of the main road, at New Cross Gate in a row of shops opposite Woolworths.
It was Saturday and I visited the shop to deliver some models and earn some pocket money. I boarded a tram heading down towards Deptford Broadway. I got off at my stop and started to walk the few hundred yards to my home in Friendly St when there was a huge explosion.
The V2s always exploded with two “crumps” one quickly followed by a second. I knew immediately it was a V2 and as I looked back in the direction of the noise I saw a huge tower of smoke with all sorts of pieces turning and twisting and glinting heading skyward.
I turned and ran back to the scene.It took me about 10 minutes.
I shall never forget what I witnessed.The front of the shop I had sold my aeroplanes to was completely blown in,and on the other side of the road was a huge smouldering crater.
Sheets of corrugated steel had been placed along some of the gutters to cover what was left of people and blood was seeping out from beneath. There was debris everywhere.I saw several people dead beneath telegraph poles and there were bodies and wounded and maimed laying randomly all over the place.
Everybody who could was roped in to help clear debris and I did what I was asked to give a hand.
Read the whole account on BBC Peoples’ War
James Tait was another boy who had a narrow escape, he had recently moved back to London after having been evacuated to Wales for much of the war. In July his family’s hairdressing shop had been badly damaged by a V1 rocket, on that occasion there had been a warning siren and the occupants of the shop had taken shelter in the basement. On this occasion there was no warning:
At the end of November 1944 I went by tram to Lewisham to do some shopping.It was a dry,reasonably bright Saturday for the time of month and I was in quite a happy mood with my new clothes as I returned to New Cross. I alighted at the Marquis Of Granby Inn around midday and watched the tram continue into New Cross Road. I had barely taken a few steps towards my new home fifty yards away when I was picked up by a tremendous blast of hot air and flung backwards.
I did not hear the explosion of the V2 rocket that landed on the Woolworths store that lay on the opposite side of the road just a few hundred yards away close to New Cross Gate railway station. For a few moments I could not comprehend what had happened until debris began to fall all around me. I could still hear nothing having been deafened by the blast.
People were lying around me, some bleeding with cuts to their heads from flying glass. I managed to stand up unsteadily and then I saw the huge pall of black smoke rising from the Woolworth site. There was too much for the mind to take in, but bodies lay everywhere, some stripped of clothing. Cars were mangled wrecks,on their sides or upside down. Telephone poles lay crazily across rooftops.

The tram I had been travelling in had stopped in the middle of the road. I learned later that all the passengers were found dead in their seats. My brain reeled and then I thought of the shop we had just moved into. I ran towards it, fearing the worst, but once again fate had been kind to us.
The shop and others in the parade had been partially sheltered by the facade of the Town Hall which jutted further out toward the road. The shop doors and widows had stove in and external brickwork damaged but nothing beyond repair.
Inside the recently equipped hairdressing salon glass lay everywhere from mirrors and shelves and cabinets. One large sliver had pierced a cubicle curtain a few inches above the head of a woman customer under a hairdryer. Once again everyone was more shaken than hurt.

German photograph of a V2 rocket in the initial stage of its flight
CL 3429
Part of
AIR MINISTRY SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION                                                                         Read the whole of his account on BBC People’s War




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.