Thursday, 21 August 2014

David Cameron offers UK families his biggest insult yet

David Cameron is completely out of touch with reality - the reality of life for ordinary families in Britain. How could it be any other way? Cameron was brought up in a wealthy family. His father was a tax dodger. Cameron went to Eton - the college of the ruling class.

So when he talks about his government only pursuing family friendly policies he must be taking the piss, or is it that he is really unable to  understand how families live? In his statement he even talked about -  'all the amazing work families do on our behalf' - by 'our' of course he must have meant the capitalist class which he represents. Yes David, families do do amazing work reproducing and creating cheap labour to work for you and your corporate chums - work that they do for very little reward on ever decreasing incomes - thanks to your government. 

So here is my message to David Cameron:
 "if you want to be family friendly end austerity, restore child benefit, stop the privatisation of the NHS, introduce a universal basic income, implement rent controls, build more houses, introduce a Green New Deal .... and when you have done that - do the decent thing - apologise for all the harm you've caused and ... resign!"

Now that is putting UK families first.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The 'Free' market is damaging our economy and well-being

About 18 months ago I was listening to one of those capitalist puff piece programmes which have become so commonplace on BBC Radio 4. A presenter, probably Evan Davies, was busy sucking up to group of 'captains of industry', who were telling the listeners what a great bunch of wealth creators they were. Amidst the general congratulatory backslapping they were talking about India and one of them, clearly a fully paid up 'free' market fundamentalist, said that  the reason why there was so much poverty in India was due to the fact that there weren't enough entrepreneurs. Well obviously... not! I can remember thinking that the problem that lay behind massive poverty in India was in fact the capitalist 'free' market economy so enamored of the speaker.

In India there are millions of people who live a hand-to-mouth existence and survive only because they have created jobs for themselves.  If they could I'm sure most would take a decent paid job. They can't because there aren't any. They have to create their own jobs because the capitalist 'free' market economic system is a failure. It has failed them. Its a system which creates massive fortunes for a few, loots the natural resources of the country, exports vast wealth, and leaves poverty and deprivation for the many, and environmental degradation, behind in its wake.

We are used to the idea that capitalism creates jobs because it used to but it doesn't have to. In the 21st Century arguably the most important sector of the capitalist economy - the financial sector - makes billions in profits yet does nothing which is socially useful and creates relatively few jobs. It is by far the largest part of the global economy. Since the crash in 2008 - 80% of net new jobs created in the UK have been through self employment by people who have had to create jobs because capitalism has failed them also. As Larry Elliot says in the article:

"A feature of the labour market is the increasing role played by the self-employed, who account for more than 80% of the net rise in employment since 2008. A large number of the self-employed may be former full-time staff in well-paid jobs in, say, the public sector or construction, who are now scratching a living where they can"
Note the 'scratching a living'. Sound familiar? The UK is becoming more like India with fewer jobs and increasing poverty. Much of this is thanks to the Coalition government with its class-war austerity attack on the public sector, low-paid, poor and disabled. Real wages have fallen 8.4% in real terms since 2008. As more of the public sector is asset stripped - i.e. privatised - and the market insinuates itself further into our lives and our economy we can expect the trend to accelerate. 

In the week in which Robin Williams died there has been a lot of talk about people suffering from depression and the inadequacy of support and treatment in the UK has been highlighted. How much of this depression is due to the desperation and anxiety of poverty and the lack of a future in the UK's failing 'free' market economy? Capitalism doesn't just cause poverty it causes alienation and despair. The triumph of the 'free' market is that it is making the UK daily more like India, a society with massive inequality, mass poverty with a vast reservoir of low-paid workers available to churn out ever greater profits for foreign shareholders. A society run for the benefit of the few rather than the majority. There is only one solution, to turn away from the marketisation and commodification of our lives to the commons and the mutualisation of wealth creation.

Monday, 4 August 2014

So our 'meritocracy' is really just jobs for the boys .....and girls?

Really good episode of Thinking Allowed last week. Its a great programme, consistently thought provoking and always well worth listening to. What caught my attention was a discussion on 'networking' by the Middle Classes. I use a capital 'M' because I'm talking about proper middle class people, not just people who think they are middle class because they have a white collar job, and by 'proper' I mean professionals - doctors, lawyers etc. You can't just become middle class overnight by simply going to university and getting a half decent job, Middle class people tend to come from families that have been been Middle class for several generations and they usually have money, property and importantly for this discussion - connections.

In the programme Laurie Taylor discussed a paper called 'Staying Classy' with the author Jessica Abrahams based on research carried out on working class and Middle class students at university. What she found was that while Middle class graduating students were more than happy to use family connections to get on the job ladder, gain experience and further their careers, working class students were prevented by feeling of 'honour' i.e. they didn't feel it was the right thing to do. As you can imagine this put them at a disadvantage in a very difficult and competitive job market.

But its interesting to also think about how employers relate to all this. Given the choice between someone who had started out with a 'good' job - e.g. some sort of internship with a high powered company arranged through family connections - or someone who had acquired a less glamorous post through their own hard work and efforts - who would you choose?  Well I'm supposing many employers would choose the former rather than the latter candidate, and that's how the job market largely works.

I can imagine people thinking not to use connections is daft and if you don't bother you deserve what you get, but what about nepotism? Do we really want a society built on class privilege with the 'best jobs' being monopolised by the sons and daughters of the better off? What does this say about the kind of society we live in? So much for meritocracy. There's no merit in gaining advantage through who you know. 

Finally, its worth defining 'meritocracy' because most people misunderstand it. The word was coined by George Young in1958 to mean:
'merit is equated with intelligence-plus-effort, its possessors are identified at an early age and selected for appropriate intensive education, and there is an obsession with quantification, test-scoring, and qualifications.

Young was describing a meritocratic 'class' groomed for success. Meritocracy is now taken to mean something very different - success based on ability and talent. But perhaps it needs a new meaning in 21st century Coalition Britain - success based on who you know not what ability you have - or maybe we should just call it 'Nepotocracy'?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Welcome to Western Neoliberal Totalitarian 'Democracy'

I am old enough to remember the Soviet Union. I grew up with it and I'm glad I did. Why? because it meant that I lived in a time when there was an alternative to capitalism and it was an alternative that was taken very seriously. It was taken particularly seriously by American capitalism, to the extent that there were show trials of communists  and 'communist sympathisers' in the USA in the 1950s, and there was a relentless tide of ant-Soviet propaganda both in the USA and the other 'Western Liberal Democracies' (known then as 'the West') in Europe and Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

We were told that while the West was free, the Soviet Union was a totalitarian one-party state, characterised by a rigid ideology, an all-pervasive propaganda machine, the brutal suppression of dissent, that people were imprisoned on trumped-up charges in terrible conditions and you couldn't fart in your own toilet without the authorities knowing about it because the KGB had an all pervasive system of spies and snoopers recording everything you did - and heaven help you if it was the wrong kind of fart.

Of course there was more than a grain of truth in the anti-Soviet propaganda though it was no doubt played up as far as possible by the capitalist propagandists. But anyway this isn't a post about the Soviet Union, neither is it a defence of the Soviet Union, its a post about those 'Western liberal democracies' I referred to earlier and what has become of them since the demise of the USSR.

The fact that I've had direct experience of living at a time when the Soviet Union existed enables me to put the current situation we find ourselves in here in the 'West' in perspective. Because as far as I can see in 'the West' we are now living in a one-party state with a regime of rigid ideology, an all pervasive propaganda machine and the brutal suppression of dissent, where people are imprisoned on trumped-up charges in terrible conditions and you can't fart in your own toilet without the regime knowing about it. Now where does that remind you of?

"Imprisoned on trumped-up charges in terrible conditions"

Every major party in the 'West' is now a neoliberal party following the same rigid 'free' market ideology. In the UK, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are simply the left, right, and centre wings of the UK 'neoliberal party'. The same is true in the USA with the Republicans and Democrats and the pattern is repeated in all the other 'Western' democracies. The result is that whoever you vote for in Western democracies you get more of the same, and whichever major media outlet you use you get the same narrow ideological view of the world. 

A classic example of the way this stitch-up works is austerity. Since the 2008 global economic crash, every 'Western' government has had its own version of austerity, dumping the costs of the crash onto workers, the poor and the unemployed. When voters have rejected those governments at the ballot box and voted for the opposition, wanting real economic change, they have been faced with more of the same - yet more austerity. So what used to be called 'Western Liberal Democracy' could perhaps now be more accurately described as 'Western Totalitarian Democracy', or since our 'democracy' is now largely controlled by corporations and the rich perhaps simply fascism would be a more accurate description. 

It may well be that things in the 'West' are not yet as 'bad' as they were in the Soviet Union. But a quarter of a century after its demise the parallels between what happened there and what is happening here must be taken seriously. All who want a genuinely open, democratic and plural society, and want to bring about real change and sweep away the growing threat to our prosperity and freedom that is being driven by the corporations and neoliberal 'free' market right, need to organise, protest and vote for parties that oppose the corporate takeover of our lives. 

Postscript: today (20/08/14) I came across an interesting passage in David Harvey's latest book Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism:
 " other words, and intensification of the totalitarian police-state surveillance and and militarised control system and the totalitarian democracy we are now largely experiencing" [p220 -my italics].

Friday, 30 May 2014

RIP Labour: The day the Labour Party finally died

I'm not the only one who noticed but today marks the end of any useful life that the Labour Party had left in it. I've posted about the impending demise of the Labour Party before but now its finally arrived. The Party's had its problems for a long time but the rot really set in with the advent of Tony Blair and New Labour in the 1990s, followed by the black farce of the premiership of Gordon 'end of boom and bust' Brown. Since then the Party has been on life support and it looks like the feeble efforts of Ed Miliband to resuscitate it have finally failed, for today Chris Leslie, who is apparently the shadow chief secretary to the treasury, will announce that:
"We won't be able to undo the cuts that have been felt in recent years, and I know that this will be disappointing for many people. A more limited pot of money will have to be spent on a smaller number of priorities. Lower priorities will get less."
f this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at:
So that's it. Labour has completely capitulated to the 'free' market. It is the party of the corporations and bankers. Labour can no longer make even the vaguest claim to be a party of labour and the people. Many of us knew that but this statement makes it official. Labour are finally committed to permanent austerity and even a "budget surplus". 

RIP Labour: The rot set in long ago with New Labour
Whats really sad about this is not just the end of a once great party but that its demise is through its own doing - its suicide because there is absolutely no need to do this - its political and economic nonsense. The cuts can be undone and spending can be raised. As Richard Murphy has pointed out on his blog today there is no need for a budget surplus and, as a nation, we can afford debt. Murphy hits the nail on the head when he says:

"If this is what Labour have to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility."

If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. - See more at: as Richard Murphy has pointed out on his blog there is no need for a budget surplus and, as a nation, we can afford debt. Murphy hit the nail on the head when he said:
 I agree with every word of that but there's more - it is the politics of a party which no longer has a useful purpose or anything to offer the British people and has reached the end of the line.

If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at:
f this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at:
If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at:
If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at:
If this is what Labour has to offer no wonder so many people do not vote. Labour is offering the politics of despair and not hope. It is the politics and economics of reckless irresponsibility. And it is the economics  of those without the courage to deliver change, most especially for those who are dependent upon that change happening in this country. - See more at:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Roosevelt was right; it seems that what we have to fear is fear itself

Despite Cameron and Osborne's best attempts to convince us that we are in recovery, and that we are all getting better off and heading back to the sunny uplands of endless growth, its clear that the crisis hasn't been worked through yet and we still have major problems. Lets consider unemployment; the figures are falling and have been for some time but its obvious that they are being massaged. 'Jobseekers' are being sanctioned for the feeblest of reasons, and no reason at all - like failing to attend a meeting you weren't invited to. There has also been a massive rise in the numbers of 'self employed' people and there are now 1.4 million people on zero hours contracts. Self employment is a convenient way of getting people off the books but it is also a sign that the economy is failing to provide proper jobs for people. So, despite a fall in unemployment to 2.24 million its clear that the real figure is way higher and if you consider underemployment, which has been estimated to be as high as 6 million people, you can see an economy that is failing.

Of course its not just unemployment that concerns people, there are also severe problems with falling living standards, poor housing, growing personal debt and shrinking pensions. This is the result of 30 years of neoliberalism, or Thatcherism as it is better known in the UK. The bright shiny future we were all promised in the 1980s just turned out to be a bonanza for casino capitalism and the super rich. And the super rich are really just a kleptocracy who have made massive gains by asset stripping the public sector and stealing our pensions, making the rest of us poorer in the process. 

Those who caused the great crash of 2008 have escaped without any sanction, banks have been bailed out, and lots of ordinary people have suddenly found themselves much worse off. Children have found they have less prospects than their parents. Not surprisingly governments and politicians have become unpopular and there is real anger about these changes. So who to blame? Well anyone it seems apart from 'ourselves' - in the sense that 'we' voted repeatedly for people who screwed 'us' because 'we' are politically naive - and the people, the capitalist corporations and their tame politicians, who are really to blame for the mess we are in. 

And there we have it. Lots of angry people, fearful for the future, feeling they have been left behind in a time of austerity, and wanting change. And how do you control those people and deflect them from the real culprits and the real solutions to their problems? You play on the their fears and you offer them simplistic solutions which feed their prejudices. You divide them to rule them, and you use the well worn but effective tactic of scapegoating. "Blame the immigrants, they are taking your jobs. Blame the unemployed, they are benefit scroungers soaking up your hard earned taxes". 
Franklin D. Roosevelt; well aware of the dangers of fear
Which brings us to UKIP which is the vehicle that people are using to vent their anger in the UK because they have been screwed. UKIP, the anti-establishment blokish party of common sense. Except that UKIP is neither anti-establishment nor does it speak any sense. What it does do very effectively is feed on people's fear and and discontent and its clear that if we ever had a UKIP government the very people who voted for it would be screwed even harder by the capitalist class. All of which shows us that Roosevelt was right, what we have to fear is fear itself because it is fear which can be exploited by political demagogues like Nigel Farage for their own ends and fear which blinds people to the truth and makes them act against their own best interests. Make people insecure and it is much easier to control them.

So what is the answer? Hope has to be the antidote to fear and we have to expose the real establishment nature of UKIP, and its policies, such as privatisation of the NHS. We have to promote positive alternatives which will result in the restoration of security for all the people through Social Security and a publicly run public sector. The only political Party which offers this hope is the Green Party. So vote Green in 2014.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Now an economist proves what we already knew - capitalism doesn't work!

I was really interested to read about Thomas Piketty's new book 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' which is being hailed as a 'groundbreaking'  work and, apparently, is making a real impact on economists. What Piketty has done is to 'prove' what many of us long thought was true - capitalism creates inequality, and left unchecked, ever increasing inequality. Piketty has done this by sifting through masses of economic data from the past couple of hundred years and he has written about his findings in a book which is accessible to the general reader.

All of this is good news - if it has a real impact on economics - and we can only hope now that it does. One hundred and fifty years or so ago Marx showed how capitalists expropriate wealth from working people through the mechanism of surplus value, and despite the fact that Marx had a huge influence politically, much of his work was ignored by mainstream economists, who were wedded to the capitalist economic system. Lets hope that Piketty doesn't suffer the same fate as Marx because economists whose ideas run counter to the prevailing order tend to have little impact in the end. This is because 'economics' is less an academic discipline and more a political justification of the current structures of economic power. 
David Harvey's new thought provoking book

I look forward to reading Piketty's book when I've finished a book I suspect will prove to be a much more interesting and thought provoking read - this is David Harvey's 'Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism'.  Harvey is a renowned Marxist who has lectured on Capital for many years. I'm only six contradictions into this book but Harvey has already nailed the iniquities and inefficiencies of capitalism and is well on the way to explaining what we must do to build an economy for the 99%. Its a book that I can thoroughly recommend. I'll get round to reading Piketty as soon as I can but I guess I owe him thanks already for proving what I have been saying on this blog for years - capitalism creates poverty.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The French Socialist Party is repeating the failures of the mainstream left

Another day, another election drubbing for the left. The French Socialist party got a kicking in the recent local elections. Much of this has to do with the unpopularity of the French President Francoise Hollande. In May 2012, I posted optimistically on this blog about Hollande's success in becoming the President of France. And why not? Hollande offered some hope of an alternative to the austerity programme which has proved so devastating for millions of people in the EU. But that optimism proved false. Hollande may have started out with tax increase for the rich at a rate of 75% but he quickly succumbed to the austerity agenda announcing £50 billion of cuts. And here's the irony, the beneficiaries of this have been the French National Front headed by Marie Le Pen.

Once again, a party of the left has failed in Europe by following a neoliberal agenda, and by conceding ground to a right-wing political agenda, has encouraged the right. There are parallels between France and the UK, where UKIP has benefited by assuming the mantle of being the champions of the working class just as the Front National has in France. So when is the mainstream left going to begin to learn some lessons from this debacle? When is it going to reject the austerity agenda and promote a positive alternative which shows its support for the 99% with jobs, housing and support for public services, publicly delivered?
Hollande: repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result

Since the crash of 2008, wherever parties of the left have implemented austerity they have been decisively rejected by voters at the ballot box and the right have been the beneficiaries. There is a serious lesson for Ed Milliband and the Labour Party here. Recently Len Mckluskey, General Secretary of UNITE threatened to withdraw support from the Labour Party if they fail to win the next general election. Who can blame UNITE for talking this stance? Labour ceased to be a party of working people and the trade unions about twenty years ago. Until left mainstream parties can begin to articulate a positive alternative to neoliberlaism they will continue to fail. They are like Einstein's  madman endlessly repeating the same mistake and each time expecting a different result.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The NHS is a massive national asset that we must invest in

Today I am hearing the usual crap about pay rises for NHS staff, and this from a government which has increased the pay of top NHS managers by 11% in the past few years. I also had to put up with Peter Allen on BBC Radio 5Live launching a tirade of Tory propaganda against the leader of the Midwives union - " How can we pay for these pay rises - increase taxes?" Well yes, if necessary increase taxes if it means a better NHS! - but make sure those tax rises are paid not by genuinely hardworking people like public sector workers such as nurses, but the rich and the bankers who have had their snouts firmly in the trough for the past 30 years and more.

If it hadn't been for the economic mismanagement of this Tory-led government and near on five years of austerity our economy would now be in much better shape to deal with the economic difficulties we face, and we'd have a stronger NHS. This government is  entirely responsible for the mess we are in.

The NHS was created at a time of austerity, now we are much wealthier - is it unaffordable? NO!

Most importantly, we must reject the government's neoliberal political agenda with its mania about tax cuts which is beamed out every minute as propaganda by the corporate media. The 'story' they tell us about the economy is a false and misleading one. The NHS is a perfect example of this. Far from being a drain on resources that we 'can't afford' the NHS is a massive national asset which creates wealth for the UK. How? By maintaining the health and well-being of more than 60 million people, not to mention the money it puts into our economy by creating useful employment and ensuring that we are a more productive nation. Where would we be without it? We'd all be an awful lot poorer.

We need to change the terms of political and economic debate in this country and reject the false world view which we are being told we must believe. Until we do that we will continue to be subjected to a regime of 'economic necessity' which is calculated to make us all poorer whist a tiny and undeserving minority benefits at our expense.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What we can all learn from Bob Crow

I was really shocked when I heard that Bob Crow had died this morning. He was only 52 years old and his sudden death will be a real blow to members of the RMT and trade unionists and workers everywhere. In his twelve years as leader of the union he increased its membership by 20,000, no mean feat in difficult times. He also did his best to ensure that his members were properly rewarded for their work and wasn't afraid to use industrial action to achieve better terms and conditions for them. That, of course, is how it should be and that is why he earned so much respect, even from his political enemies.

Bob Crow - a fighter for social justice who will be missed
The oft forgotten reality is that the wealth in our economy is created by workers. The trains and the infrastructure Bob Crow's members used in their daily work were built by workers, and the vital task of transporting millions is daily carried out by workers. What would happen without any of this? Capitalists, who are credited with creating wealth, are really the expropriators of the wealth that workers create. Since when has a shareholder or banker ever done any useful or essential work?

There will be more Bob Crows in the future and some of them will have been directly inspired by his example of shrewd tactics and tireless struggle for social justice. What can we learn from Bob Crow? The value of workers and the necessity of struggle by workers to achieve a better world for all. Every poorly paid worker can learn to join a union and to fight for a better standard of living. When Bob Crow was elected he was invited to Newsnight for an interview. He didn't go because he was celebrating with his mates in the pub. Tonight I will be raising a glass to the memory of Bob Crow and all the good things he achieved. RIP Bob.