Monday, 29 September 2008

We need a fair market not a free market

For the vast majority of people in the world, the so called 'free' market has delivered little but poverty. The “free market” economy is meant to deliver investment, innovation, efficiency and a trickle down prosperity. In reality it has meant privatisation - where public services suffer under profit-led management and deregulation - leaving the banks and finance sector free to gamble national economies into debt and exploitation.

In the twenty first century we have faced increased prices, cuts to our living standards, long hours and insecurity both in work, and in retirement. Here, unions suffer the most restrictive laws in Western Europe. Prosperity is increasingly seen to be reserved for the unaccountable few, who face none of the pay restraints imposed on workers and none of the regulations and burdens placed on unions. Free market capitalism has been a social, economic and environmental failure.

What the left has to do is nail the lie of the 'free' market - which means deregulation and privatisation that only benefits the rich - as we have seen. What we need is a fair market which workers can benefit from without the fruits of their labour being expropriated by capitalists. The right have expounded simplistic bullshit - like the 'free' market - and got away with it because the left haven't exposed what a fraud it is. That must now change.

The 'free' market right have also always said that we couldn't afford to re-nationalise utilities, railways etc. Now, having seen the vast sums invested recently in propping up the banks, we all know that is not true.
We need to show people that an alternative economy is not only possible but achievable. That alternative needs to be a mix of state ownership and mutualism - to give people a real stake in the economy and their future.

We need to begin by explaining the benefits of public ownership as a fair market alternative to free market capitalism. People understand they have been had. The events of the past year, and in particular the last few weeks have given us an opportunity to get that message across that we haven't had for at least a generation.

One consequence of all this is the beginning of the end of America as a dominant global economic and military force. The very people who wanted this to be the American Century - the neo-liberals - have brought their country down. This was very well summed up on an article by John Gray in the Observer. The geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting as I write this, and the American dream is becoming a nightmare.

Postscript: I have just read on the BBC that the House of Representatives has voted down the bail out plan which makes the crisis potentially all the more acute.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

After the debacle ....the whitewash begins

Well, what a momentous week! It started with the 'invincible' Lehman Brothers going bust and moved on through AIG and HBOS, not to mention Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs - both of which are still reputed to be in trouble.

But it gets even better because after the $200 billion bail out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac we now have the US government planning to buy up all those toxic mortgages to the tune of $700 billion dollars! How they have managed to come up with that figure I don't know, but it may be more, just as Lloyds TSB's takeover of HBOS my yet run into difficulties. That makes George W Bush just about the biggest socialist in history. Of course American citizens are right to be worried about where all this is going to lead. We are not out of the woods yet.

In the UK, Robert Peston the BBC's Business Editor said - "The UK's unsustainable economic dependence on the City and financial services is coming home to roost." But who has been Chancellor for most of that period? None other than Prime Minister Gordon himself. And Gordon has been hamming it up this week trying to absolve himself of any blame. In fact, he is trying to take the credit for the buy out of HBOS by Lloyds TSB, something which may well yet rebound on him. But lets look at what Gordon has done since the collapse of Northern Rock a whole year ago .... er ... exactly zip, zilch, zer0 ... er ..... one big fat NOTHING. Only now, after the wheels have finally come off, has Gordon, on the eve of a Labour Party conference, said he will do what it takes to sort out the mess. Oh, well, that's alright then.

You can bet Bush, Blair. Brown, Bernanke, McCain, Greenspan et al will all be doing their level best in the coming months to airbrush their role in this debacle out of history. But if the panelists of BBC Radio Four's Any Questions have their way it will be a very easy task. When Friday's panel was asked whose fault the meltdown of the financial system was - Bridget Roswell, who, apparently, is an economist, said that it was the "fault of all of us". Well thank you Bridget, now we know. It was our fault that thousands of dodgy mortgages were sold in the USA (and UK), it was our fault that governments did the bankers bidding and deregulated the financial system , and it was our fault that regulators did nothing. Now I guess it is 'our fault' that we are having to stump up billions of taxpayers money to prop up the fat cats. Of course non of the other panelists, including Menzies Campbell, had either the guts or gumption to challenge Bridget's erroneous view. No Bridget, it wasn't 'our' fault it was the fault of the aforementioned individuals, the fat cats of Capitalism and their flunkeys.

I tell you what - it is our fault, though. It is our fault that we have tolerated the politicians and financiers that have lead us into this mess. Its time for change. Join the Green Party and help make that change happen.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New Labour's free market economic disaster

At the weekend we had Lehman Brothers going bust , then AIG having a $85 billion handout from the US Government and today HBOS merging with Lloyds TSB. In the latter case the government has been bending over backwards to avoid having to pay out for another Northern Rock, even to the extent of breaking competition rules. So the new British banking behemoth will have 28% of the mortgage market - good for customers eh?

But lets not forget that although much of the credit crunch originated in the USA, New Labour has a lot to answer for. And who was Chancellor while the conditions for the crunch were being created? - none other than Gordon Brown. Mr 'prudence', who claimed to have eliminated boom and bust, has now lead us into the biggest bust since 1929. The 'sound' economy he created over here was based on a housing boom and ballooning credit. That is economic mismanagement. Notice that the biggest casualties in all this are the USA and UK - the cheerleaders for free market deregulation and privatisation. Do you hear of a housing collapse in Germany or France - no - they follow the European Social model much despised by Gordon Brown.

Blair and Brown encouraged the City-lead deregulatory financial model that got us into this mess in the first place and turned the UK into a tax haven for non doms and other tax dodgers. Well now the chickens have come home to roost. If Brown had any integrity he'd resign and if his party had any guts they'd sack him. Sadly, neither is likely to happen.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

We do not need GM technology to feed the world

A recent report has highlighted the fact that while enough food is being produced to feed the world's population 800 million people are still going hungry. The report, based on the findings of 400 scientists from around the world, and chaired by professor Robert Watson, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also concluded that GM technology was not the answer to feeding the world's population.

Not surprisingly, these conclusions have not gone down at all well with agribusiness corporations like Monsanto. They don't want to feed the world, they want to make huge profits by controlling the food chain with GM technology which effectively puts the farmers, and the crops they produce, in their pockets. That is why the GM companies have been buying up traditional seed companies - they want to monopolise world markets. If they succeed you will end up with no choice other than to eat GM, unless you can source food locally. But if GM is used here in the UK it is unlikely that non GM agriculture would remain uncontaminated.

GM technology is a pig in poke. We are told it increases yield but there is little concrete evidence to support this. In fact there is evidence that GM reduces yield. GM crops are a vast unregulated gamble. We don't know what the possible long terms effects on the environment or harm to human health could be. There are a number of potential dangers such as harm to human health and damage to biodiversity and environmental systems.

The simple fact is that we don't need GM to feed the world. So why take the gamble - especially when the main beneficiaries are large corporations and their shareholders - not the poor or the hungry.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Brown provides too little too late....again

Many people were disappointed when the government announced a stamp duty holiday for properties costing up to £175,000. It was rightly denounced as too little too late to stimulate the housing market and help first-time buyers.

Now we have the latest gem from Gordon - £910 million for household insulation to tackle fuel poverty. £560 million of which is old money. We also know that the work to insulate all the houses of the 'fuel poor' can't be done before winter. Which means the old and the poor are likely to freeze. Meanwhile the energy companies are making billions in extra profits and laughing all the way to the government bailed out bank. Much of the extra cash that they are making is going where you would expect - straight into the pockets of shareholders. The energy suppliers paid £1.64bn in dividends in 2007 - £257m more than the year before.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party Leader, has called for a windfall tax - she wrote:-

"When the fuel crisis started to bite, a strong leader would have set their sights on achieving energy independence. Instead, our prime minister went running to the profiteers-in-chief to beg for just enough more oil to keep us dependent. Just three of these companies – BP, Centrica, and Shell – together made £1000 profit every second over the first 6 months of this year. Every penny that the oil price inches up, is a new surge of cash from the pockets of working families, students, the elderly and the disabled, directly into the bank accounts of the world's petro-giants."


It's unlikely that Gordon Brown, who is deeply committed to protecting the interests of big business, will be shifted on a windfall tax. But his obstinacy in the face of the overwhelming case for such a tax might just result in him finally being shifted out of office.

What is "progressive"?

Progressive politics is an alternative to conservatism but not as far to the left as socialism. Progressive politics is about social justice and workers rights. Franklin D Roosevelt was a progressive. Of course we have shifted so far to the right nowadays, and the left is so weak and divided, that hardly anyone dares mention socialism (or even social democracy) anymore.

'Progressive' has been co-opted by 'modern' political parties because it sounds good - i.e. forward looking - and, for parties of the 'left', avoids using the dreaded 's' word.
But being 'progressive' has to be a pretty vacuous concept if it is being used by New Labour and the Tories. Of course, neither the Tories or New Labour are progressive parties in the true sense of the word - they both espouse reactionary free market policies. The reactionary right are trying to co-opt the term progressive to describe their politics thereby devaluing it as a concept, just as they have stolen to term 'reform' which means 'making things better'. Does this matter? Well yes it does because it confuses people and provides yet another distraction from the issues that we should be talking about.

I think socialism's obituary has been written far too soon.
But its interesting to read 'lefties' squabbling on CiF about what left wing politics means nowadays. What they need to understand is that nothing has changed - the same old conflict between Capital and Labour is continuing as it always has. Class is just as important as it ever was, and good old imperialism is going strong too - they just call it globalisation these days. All this has been well understood for well over a century thanks to someone called Marx, and others. Give these 'lefties' a couple of decades and they might manage to come up with some coherent ideas for a way forward and ... er ... call it socialism.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Green Party elects a new leader

Caroline Lucas has been elected as the first ever leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. I voted for Caroline and I wish her every success in the job. I believe that she has got the ability and integrity to make a good leader for the Party.

But she is going to have to be tough. When it was suggested (this time around) that the GP elect a leader I thought twice about it. Why? Because I know that the media agenda will be to neutralise the GP's radical programme of reform by making the GP conform to the neoliberal agenda that every other mainstream party has adopted.

That means that our leader will come under great pressure to act and behave as every other leader does, and that isn't what the GP is about. They will also shine a spotlight into her private life in an attempt to rake up anything they can use to discredit her.
They are probably sifting through her (recycled) rubbish as I write this.

The Party agreed, if I recall correctly, that we would have an elected leader for a two year term. There will obviously be pressure to increase this into a 'permanent' leadership position - so that the GP leader will become an elected dictator. The media like such 'strong' leaders because once they are 'onside' there is little the rest of the party can do to change anything - remember Tony? We have to make sure we resist these pressures. If we don't the GP will become like all the other parties - and then it won't be worth voting for.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

What I like about Sarah Palin

I have been meaning to comment on the Presidential contest in the USA, particularly on Barak Obama. I haven't done so, so far, for two reasons; firstly I keep getting distracted by events and issues elsewhere; and secondly I can't really find much to say about Barak except I hope he wins. I'd have liked to comment on his policies, but I don't know what they are. He does represent hope against the darkness of another Republican presidency. But that's about it - as far as I know.

So what about the opposition? McCain was on the left of the Republican Party and surely it would have been better if he had beaten Bush to the nomination eight years ago. But now he is in the serious business of getting elected he has, inevitably, been moving ever rightwards since his campaign started. He one described the religious right in the US as 'agents of intolerance' but that sort of rhetoric has long been dropped.

Now he comes up with his trump card - Sarah Palin. Why is she so useful? Well obviously she will attract support from the religious right who are suspicious of McCain. But most importantly she will help to polarise the election and deflect the debate from things that matter.

Since the late sixties Capitalists have been successfully dividing America along 'lifestyle' lines. Jonathan Freedland recently called it the 'Culture Wars' in the Guardian. It goes like this - you kick up an almighty big fuss about things which divide and distract the nation from the important issues of the day. In America the Capitalist controlled media makes a big deal out of abortion, gay marriage, and 'family values'. Palin's role is to polarise the debate, and deflect it away from the really important issues such as Iraq, the new cold war, controlling Wall Street, taxing the rich, climate change, healthcare and employment.

The more time the electorate spend squabbling about abortion, gay marriage, and family values, the less time they'll spend on the big issues, and that plays right into the hands of the Capitalists. It'll be interesting to see how Obama deals with this. He has done fairly well so far but not well enough. To win, he has to bring the big issues back centre stage - in spite of the media. If he can't do that he may well fail.

So how did we get the title of this blog? Well I can't think of anything that Sarah Palin and I could agree on; She is a Christian - I am an Atheist; She is against abortion - I am pro-choice; She is against gay marriage - I am for it; She likes guns - I don't; She likes to kill animals - I don't; She likes to promote ignorance in the form of creationism - I'm a biologist and a qualified teacher and I know that creationism is not science, its a flat earth belief; She likes war in Iraq - and elsewhere - I don't; And finally She is stupid enough to support a political party which defecates on her class - I'm not.

So what do I like about her? - what I like about her is the fact she is prepared to stand up on her hind legs and say what she believes in. And I've had a bellyful of politicians on the left who haven't got the guts to stand up and say what they believe in, or perhaps haven't even got the guts to believe in it anymore.

Culture wars: how we are divided

Rulers have always maintained their power over society by dividing the ruled. Racism, for example, has proved a useful tool for those who dominate society to exploit the people beneath them. Some people think that racism is a 'natural' phenomenon - that its normal to dislike or fear people who are different to themselves. But racism has been deliberately manufactured, and used by imperialists and capitalists.

In the early days of the British Empire in India the leading colonists admired Indian culture and even adopted its dress and practices. Warren Hastings, the first Governor General, was one of these. But Hastings was deemed to be fraternising too much with the Indians. He was recalled to Britain and impeached. After that, racism against the Indian population was fostered by the British. The same racist measures were used during the slave trade. Much easier to enslave people and expropriate the wealth of their countries if you can see them as being inferior.

Of course the same could be said of sexism and the fostering of prejudice against the poor. But in the USA since the late sixties capitalists have been manufacturing a new kind of division - culture wars. Why is America so obsessed by gay marriage, abortion and issues like 'family values'? Because the capitalist controlled media push these divisive issues in order to distract people from the real issues.

In this sense McCain's choice of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was a smart move. Not only will it bring in the religious right's support but it threatens more than ever to move the election away from things that really matter such as Iraq, the fostering of a new cold war, controlling Wall Street, the economy and employment.

It will be interesting to see how Obama and the Democrats react to this. He should focus on the economy and real issues. But will he be able to turn the debate away from Palin and on to the real issues. If he fails to do so he may just fail to elected.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Capitalists create poverty then report on it....

A recent report from the World Bank (WB) estimates that 400Million more people are living in poverty than was previously thought. Here is a quote:

"August 26, 2008—New poverty estimates published by the World Bank reveal that 1.4 billion people in the developing world (one in four) were living on less than US$1.25 a day in 2005, down from 1.9 billion (one in two) in 1981."

Note that they are talking about poverty in the 'developing world' here. No mention of poverty in countries like the USA where about 37 Million live below the official US poverty line. Incredibly 58.5% of Americans will find themselves living in poverty between the ages of 25 and 75 at some stage in their lives .

Of course you might also want to consider the measure of poverty at $1.25 a day. When you look at the number of people who live on less than $2 a day the number doubles to 3 Billion, about half the world's population.

Its interesting that the World Bank should show such concern. Particularly when privatisation, deregulation and expropriation of natural resources by multinational corporations, are policies that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) force on countries in the developing world - its called globalisation. In April protesters demonstrated against these globalisation policies at the World Bank meeting in Georgetown.

Countries like the USA and the UK were able to develop their economies protected from the kind of predatory capitalist measures supported by the WB AND IMF. That is how our economies became developed. The developed west, through the WB and IMF is now denying 'developing countries' that same opportunity to develop by insisting on the form of economic imperialism called globalisation.

Monday, 1 September 2008

What we want is a secular state education system

Who wants faith schools? Lord Adonis apparently. Lord Adonis, in case you didn't know, is Tony Blair's unelected chum, who seems to have control of education policy in the UK. Now what does he know about education? Has he been a teacher or had any experience of schools apart from being a pupil? Not according to Wikipedia. But isn't that just what you would expect from New Labour - don't bother about any kind of useful expertise - just parachute your mates in to run the country. Tony knows best. Anyway, apparently his Lordship likes 'Faith' schools, and because he likes them we all have to have them.

Not only that, but its OK to discriminate against teachers who are not Christians (or Jews or Muslims) by not giving them jobs in faith schools. You can't discriminate on the basis of gender, sexuality or race but its now quite legal to say - " We are not going to give you this job because you are an atheist". So are we now going to have that grotesque farce whereby teachers are going to have to pretend to be Christian to get a job - just as parents have to - to get their children into school? All of this is utterly unacceptable and is being foisted on the English people. Its something we just don't want. What the hell are people in the Labour party doing allowing this to happen!

Taxpayers money should not be used to promote religious interests. And that includes faith schools. Its simple we need, and want a secular state school system. Just 2% of people in England a regular churchgoers - this is not a christian society much as the faith brigade would like us all to believe.

We had a Tory government which neglected the state school system because of antipathy and now we have a New labour government forcing faith schools on us dishonestly whilst making false claims that such schools are better.

Fortunately, not all Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths are narrow minded enough to want segregated schools and communities. A group called Accord is working to promote a secular education system bringing people of all faiths and none together. They deserve our support. Lets work together to provide schools for all our children.