Global Crises and Socialism
There is much talk about “a return to normality”, but after the succession of crises we have endured is that really what we want or need? Each one has brought into sharp relief deep entrenched failures of our society under Capitalism. The 2008 financial crash was a crisis on a global scale and led to response of governments to austerity and privatisation, a further crisis affecting working people disproportionately. Those unemployed and dependent on state support shook our faith in government to its foundation. Here we argue that the conditions which have led to the crises are inevitable under the neoliberal Capitalist system which is the norm over so much of the world so we need to look at the global crises and socialism.
The paralysis felt over years on the failure to resolve the outcome of the 2016 referendum, when nearly 17.5 million voted for Britain to leave the EU has also had a traumatic effect on the population. The Brexit debate dragged on in Parliament for 3 years until the 2019 General Election brought in support for those Tories who with Boris Johnson resolved to “Get Brexit Done”. The slogan was effective when many of those in depressed areas of the UK, notably in North and Midland areas of England, abandoned traditional voting habits supporting the Labour Party, voted Tory. The Tories achieved a landslide majority.
Professor Takis Fotopoulos characterisation of people who voted for Brexit seems to me a lot more rational than that drummed up by “the EU elite, closely associated with bankers, financiers and those associated with the 2008 financial crash, (who) are using a poisoned cocktail of ‘suppression and mainly deception’”. The entire press, along with every opposition party in Westminster echoed the EU elite view where Brexiteers were typically racist xenophobes and supporters of the fascism seen as growing dangerously across Europe and elsewhere. Once papers like the Guardian and Independent could be relied on for a balance of articles which put across other points of view. In 2016 the Guardian published some unpicking neoliberalism as one of the great dangers. Over the next few years a number of writers responsible for these simply disappeared from view on their pages. While the Morning Star did continue to publish such articles, it became compromised by its support for Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party failing to note the complete reversal of his long standing opposition to the EU, along with Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn and others. As can be seen in writings and speeches during this period by Scargill he has remained consistent in his criticism of the EU and its elite, which means withdrawing from customs unions and leaving a “no deal” Brexit on the table. Undoubtedly any agreement required by the EU would entail continued acceptance of EU law, as is shown in the case of Norway, which while not in the EU has to accept that overriding Norwegian law. This has led to rights hard won by unions to be overturned in favour of the wishes of big business. Why those in the Labour movement persist in saying that the EU policies and practice is in the interest of working people and supportive of their rights is a mystery. It is demonstrably not the case as we can see notably in France where workers were moving towards a General Strike after weeks of unrest and taking to the streets. This has attracted little comment in the main stream pro-Europe media.
The latest crisis which has cut across all others, the global pandemic, Coronavirus, puts the others into sharp relief. Those relegated to obscurity without a voice are now visible in the front line of the fight against it. Earlier in the year Matt Hancock is on record saying that we were fully prepared for such an eventuality. The results of earlier, deliberate policy to reduce state control through austerity, privatisation, bailing out banks etc. has left us floundering. Those on the front line are having to make do with shortages of protective equipment. Even that issued has been shown to be flimsy and inadequate putting lives of hard pressed, essential and experienced personnel at great risk. There are far too many among those who have died from this highly contagious pandemic.
It has been noted that those countries who took steps early on to identify those who were safely immune and those who spread the virus have been successful in keeping the number of deaths relatively low, notable South Korea and Germany.
As for the EU, its ability respond to the pandemic and give help to struggling countries is starkly apparent. Italy has had to rely on help from Cuba and China. Cuba, a small state struggling under sanctions by the United States, continues to give support to so many others. Even the British Government noted the help it had received from them. (True to form little was said in the press, except to continue to criticise).
If as Takis Fotopoulos has suggested Brexit is part of an anti-global movement by those who have experienced and suffered from globalisation and neoliberalism, the result of the 2019 General Election in the UK an be seen as consistent with that view. The EU’s strategy of making it appear that Brexit was essentially a right wing, racist movement appears to have been successful. For many antiracists on the left the idea of being labelled as supporters of the likes of Farage and Johnson was too much. But this was how the media consistently ramped up that message with these figures shown as the main and only ones who supported Brexit. In the mid seventies the Labour movement had opposed it. Arthur Scargill, renowned for his consistency, has continued to oppose it with a completely different message. At one time he was seen on television and reported in the press regularly, but now we see Johnson and Farage. (If anyone wants to check Arthur Scargill’s speeches at and since the referendum look at the “Socialist Labour Party GB” channel on Youtube and their website at https://socialist-labour-party.org.uk/ )
There is a whole army of others who have to go out on call in spite of everything. Supplying food is essential – here we have a system of supply which is creaking as we depend on imports more than home grown produce. It could be the next crisis. We depend on those in this industry which like so much more is hugely dominated and controlled by multinational companies and profit. We need those who clean up and care for the environment for reasons of health and wellbeing. Again working people including refuse collectors and cleaners. Those who keep us safe, maintaining public order or responding to emergency: police, fire fighters, ambulance workers. How do we show they are valued when their numbers have been vastly reduced, their pay has been reduced or they have been outsourced to private providers who oppose union membership, give them zero hour contracts or withdraw sick pay?
So let’s return to normality, a normality not dominated by 1% of the population, but one where those who are needed and able to work are rewarded with pay and conditions which reflect the high value that society places on them. Those that can’t have a strong support network that recognises their care, housing, health and other essential need for well being. Immediately following the financial crisis in 2010 David Cameron as Prime Minister, with the willing connivance of the Liberal Democratic Party in coalition, announced the need to reduce the role of the state in providing for people. As writers at the time said his real aim was to follow up on Thatcher and end the welfare state. It was Cameron who led in announcing a referendum on Britain staying in or leaving the the European Union. He promised that the outcome would be respected. This was duly acknowledged and agreed by the Labour leadership. Between then and the 2019 General Election there was complete stalemate in Westminster with politicians unable to agree with every party, apart from the divided Tories putting forward policies favouring remaining in the EU. Those Tories which recognised the ground swell of people voting to leave saw an opportunity and went to the country on the promise to “get Brexit done”.
They appealed to the British people by stealing socialist clothes. Labour by contrast appeared to ditch the leave voters by talking about a referendum and joining with all other Westminster parties by campaigning to stay in the EU. Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trades Unions, made the point in a speech at a Socialist Labour Party meeting in Birmingham that Boris Johnson had completed the one policy the Tories had fought the 2019 election promising, to “get Brexit done”. That had now been achieved and now is the time for Johnson to step aside. Now is the time for the Labour movement and Trades Unions to step up and provide leadership in working for the fairer society that successive crises have shown very clearly is essential for a society that puts human need ahead of the greed of the few which has brought us to our knees.
Detail of Saltley Gate mural showing Arthur Scargill, at that time a rank and file member of the NUM, addressing the strikers and supporters in including 30,000 Birmingham workers who stopped work on 10th February 1972.
It’s just two years before the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Saltley Gate in 2022. South and City College, Birmingham in Digbeth, long a centre for trades union studies, are hosting us for the 48th anniversary on 11th February. Banner Theatre will be leading the celebrations with excerpts from their acclaimed repertoire around working peoples’ achievements, including the Battle of Saltley Gate. An unknown rank and file NUM member in ’72, Arthur Scargill, will be back in Birmingham to speak at this event. He will be joined by Paul Mackney, a former General Secretary of NATFHE, closely involved in the commissioning of a mural on Saltley Gate at this college when President of Birmingham Trades Union Council and Doug Nicholls, President of the Federation of Trades Unions from 2007-9 and elected its General Secretary in 2012.
A group of us visited the College in advance to make arrangements for the meeting: Ian Scott, President of Birmingham Trades Council, Graham Stevenson, a former national organiser for the TGWU and son-in-law of the late Frank Watters, a key player at Saltley Gate, Bhagwant Singh and myself from the Socialist Labour Party. We were met by a member of staff, new to the College. We met in the place where the event would take place. Our first question was “where is the mural?” “What mural?” came the response.
At that moment a college lecturer arrived. “Yes I can show you the mural. It’s in the classroom I use for teaching about trades union history” he told us.
The College has undergone modernisation and is a thriving organisation. However the mural had been moved from the original site. We joined our hosts on a trip up two floors, and yes there it was, or at least most of it. Our hope is to get the mural on display in its entirety, preferably in Birmingham which in 2022 will be hosting the Commonwealth Games.
There never was a better time to revisit Saltley in 1972 when failure to achieve solidarity for working people in struggle has allowed political opportunists to masquerade as their champions at the 2019 General Election. The very authors of austerity and opponents of trades union power were allowed to take over by a disunited leadership in the labour movement, a significant number of whom were distracted by the privileges and opportunities for personal advancement offered to them by powerful interests particularly in Brussels and Westminster.
The 48th Anniversary of Saltley Gate meeting takes place at South and City College Birmingham Annexe, High Street, Deritend, Digbeth, B5 5SU on Tuesday, 11th February from 6.00pm to 9.00pm
There will be exhibition stalls at the meeting at Digbeth representing unions and other organisations fighting for equality and justice, including the IWA in Birmingham who have led on demonstrations in Birmingham and London in support of rights of Moslems in India, and the West Midlands Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Corbyn’s call for a national government is a Betrayal reminiscent of Ramsay MacDonald’s Betrayal in 1931, A NO DEAL is a Socialist Deal because it sets Britain free from a European Union which has a constitution committed to Capitalism and an economic and political system which embodies a Customs Union (the EU’s Union) a Single Market (the EU’s Single Market), the Free Movement of Capital( look at who owns Britain’s Rail, Steel, Electricity, Gas,and large sections of our NHS) and Free Movement of Workers (look at facts- Britain has a falling birth rate yet free movement has seen Britains population has rocketed from 59 million to 67 million!)
The EU compels Britain to outsource sections of our economy such as Council Housing to private landlords, the NHS is now partly owned by International Trusts, and Care of the Elderly are now in the hands of private providers,
The EU precludes a Government from giving subsidies to Britain’s remaining basic Manufacturing Industries whist allowing an Internatioal Pension Fund to bid/own our Steel Industry,——
I call on all Constituncies who voted in 2016 to leave the EU to collect the 10% of the main signatures to remove any and all MPs who are acting in breach of the Referendum and replace them with MP’s who will honour the decision of the British People. Remember Britain loses £85 billion a year trading with the EU whist Britain secures a £41 billion surplus from its trade with the rest of the world.
STOP THESE MP”s FROM WRECKING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE. LEAVE THE E U NOW WITH NO DEAL.
ARTHUR SCARGILL–LEADER SOCIALIST LABOUR PARTY.
The result in the Brecon and Radnorshire is a disaster for the Labour Party and a success for Brexit. The total vote for leave parties without a deal was 50.21 per cent whilst the vote for Remain parties was 49.78 per cent. The vote is in line with the 2016 Referendum and the vote in the 2019 European Elections.
The clamour in Westminster by those wanting to remain in the European Union is pressing for a second referendum. That held in 2016 gave a result which many didn’t like so they want another one. So far succeeding elections have shown a similar result to 2016 so why hold yet another ignoring the results. The country is governed according to the results of a process intended to be democratic, so discarding the outcome raises questions of the legitimacy of the outcomes. To change it questions a democratic process. This is not to say that the system can’t be improved so that votes cast to elect representatives do properly reflect accurately the wishes of the people. Many countries have adopted one form of proportional representation but that has so far been resisted in the UK with the major parties in what has up to now been a two party system who fear change will disadvantage them. The time for electoral reform is ripe.
The Electoral Reform Society reported that in 17 councils the party with the largest number of votes did not secure the most seats. Scotland has already adopted a new system.
La Tribune des Travailleurs [Workers’ Tribune] Issue no.191 – 29 May 2019
Britain: The people want democracy respected
“The simple truth is that the people want democracy respected – and political power back.” This is how Doreen MacNally, one of the British delegates to the internationalist rally in Strasbourg (France) on 11 May, summarised the result of the European elections in Britain.
Three years during which the Labour leadership did everything it could to oppose a clear and full break as decided by the voters in the 2016 referendum.
On Thursday, 23 May, British voters had to elect members to the Parliament of the European Union (EU). An EU that they had already decided to leave three years previously. Let us remember that on 23 June 2016, a majority of the British people – especially in working-class constituencies – voted in favour of leaving the European Union.
Three years during which the crisis that has torn the Conservatives apart has seen conflict between the City’s financial representatives in favour of remaining in the EU and those who were saying that they would implement the EU’s anti-working-class policy from outside the EU.
The leaders of the Labour Party and the Conservatives have consistently agreed on this denial of democracy.
Regarding the minority of voters who took part in the election, Tory voters largely turned to the Brexit Party of far-right politician Nigel Farage. The Labour Party’s electoral base mostly abstained, although it is indisputable that some Labour voters voted for Farage’s party – for which the Labour Party leaders bear full responsibility.
The result on 23 May: an abstention rate of 63 per cent, rising to over 70 per cent in some working-class constituencies where there had been a majority in 2016 in favour of leaving the EU.
It is pointless to beat about the bush: democracy means breaking with the European Union, as the people decided in 2016. What is now on the agenda is rallying together all those in both the trade unions and the Labour Party who are in favour of respecting the 2016 mandate: a clean break with the European Union and all its anti-working-class and anti-democratic provisions, which would open up the path to renationalising privatised services, to ending privatisation and zero-hour contracts, and to satisfying working-class demands which are forbidden as long as the straitjacket of the European Union remains in place.
Brexit rides rough shod over political identities, Tory or Labour, left or right, brexiteers or remainers. The booted and suited remainers could well be Labour, we know that it is the Tory elite group who are leading the Brexit campaign since this is the message repeated ad nauseam in press reports. The left case is less well documented.
Brexit has been identified with the right from the start with UKIP getting full press coverage. Takis Fotopoulos analyses a situation where, not only in Britain, but elsewhere, including the US, confusion has abounded. The population, divided between the beneficiaries of globalisation and those (the majority) who have found themselves its victims, have looked for alternatives. The traditional left has failed to show support for the victims while many are giving support for remaining in the European Union, an engine of globalisation repressing further those affected by austerity, the loss of what were termed “essential services” provided by almost non-existent local government.
In case any one missed it, this was David Cameron’s promise around the time he offered the chance to take part in a referendum on staying in or leaving the EU. Since then local government has shrunk losing the ability to provide even the most essential of services at the same time as increasing council tax levels significantly. Privatisation of everything, following the highly praised model of Chile’s experiment under Pinochet, has taken hard as “globalisation” (neoliberalism) has taken firm hold. It has become the engine of the European Union and its institutions as well as governments universally whether calling themselves right or left.
Every where privatisation has been practiced flagship projects have ended in tears as private providers collapse through corruption and greed. Carillion failed in the middle of building new hospitals, our railways are costing more and more, at the same time as failing to deliver basic services with huge profits going to providers which include companies set up by state railways of Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy etc. Carillion’s highly paid boss not only landed a new job leading another failing company but was retained as a government adviser. Heads they win, tails we lose.
The 47th anniversary of the Battle of Saltley Gate, which took place in Birmingham on 10th February 1972, will be celebrated in Birmingham with an address from the man who took a lead on that day, Arthur Scargill.
Press release from the Leader of the Socialist Labour Party
“Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that any discussions with the government will only take place provided that ” NO DEAL ” is taken off the table is not only deplorable but an act of betrayal of both socialist principal and a betrayal of the democratic vote of the British people and the 60 per cent of Labour Constituencies who voted to leave the European Union including its corrupt Customs Union, it’s rigged single Market and it’s unacceptable Free Movement of workers and Capital. His appalling abandonment of his previous position would have been condemned by the late Tony Benn; Michael Foot and is condemned by me who for over 40 years regarded him as a comrade and friend. No More.”
Arthur Scargill Leader Socialist Labour Party and former President National Union of Mineworkers 1982 — 2002