Friday, 22 July 2011

Now we know for sure – Britain is a turnip republic

This week we discovered that Rupert Murdoch and his son James knew nothing about the criminal activities that took place in News International, the company they controlled, even though their chief protégé Rebekah Brooks had admitted to a parliamentary select committee as long ago as 2003 that the News of the World (NotW) had paid money to police officers. In fact, in a day of questioning by MPs for the Murdochs, and for ex-senior figures from the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, and John Yates, we learnt that not one of the people who appeared before the select committees was to blame for the failure to deal with the NotW phone hacking scandal – so that’s all right then.

But it isn’t all right. What we really learnt on Tuesday, including from David Cameron’s flapping speech in Nigeria, is that Britain is run by a collusive class of chums who are well paid to run things but don’t really appear to know what is going on - or is it rather that they choose not to know about certain goings on? Of course, not knowing about wrongdoing may be a defence against criminality but it isn’t a defence against incompetence, complacency, negligence and poor management.

These are the same people, the media moguls who have a corrupting influence on our democracy, the policemen who have lost their moral compass, and the spineless politicians, the very same people who meet at parties in Oxfordshire and posh restaurants in London. The hearings at the parliamentary select committees served to confirm what we already suspected, that Britain is a corrupt society, a turnip republic where people are on the make, driven by power and profit, a society dominated by banks and other capitalist corporations.

But hang on, that’s how it supposed to be isn’t it? This is UK Plc after all, go getting, ‘free’ market Britain, where private gain is good, the market is to be worshiped  and public welfare is old fashioned nonsense. A place where you are meant to trample over others to get to the top, where paying your fair share of taxes makes you some kind of sucker. This neoliberal enslavement of our society to the market, which is  being driven by our ruling capitalist class, and their tame politicians in the mainstream parties, is leading to inevitable economic decline. In other words -  the very people who tell us they can make us all richer are really making us all poorer. And, as we continue to become poorer our society will become more brutal, repressive, corrupt and unequal. As I said in a recent post about Thatcherism and the Arab Spring – as Egypt struggles to become more like us, we are becoming daily more like Egypt

If we want to live a fair and more equal society we have to tame the market and make everyone pay their fair contribution to our common welfare. We can do this by re-asserting democracy and putting our people at the heart of our economy. To do the latter we need a strong public sector, and a mixed economy where capitalism has largely been replaced by a sustainable social market. The alternative is decline; morally, socially and economically. We have reached a moment in history which is akin to the time when the Roman Empire declined and collapsed. Then, as now, almost no one believed that the collapse was possible but the warning signs were there for all to see.

Monday, 18 July 2011

SS Titanic-Capitalism is still heading straight for the rocks

Perhaps I should have entitled this post the 'comedy of errors'? The problem with that title that I have, is that the current crisis of capitalism, which is manifesting itself in the sovereign debt crisis, is being so cack-handedly managed by our leading politicians that it is really a human tragedy, rather than a comedy.

In the UK, the NoW phone hacking scandal is moving so quickly that people are forgetting about the main event - the slow motion collapse of the world economy, and the feeble attempts of politicians in Europe to deal with it - see this. The reason for the failure of politicians in Europe to sort out the economic crisis is obvious; they are completely blinkered; they are so conditioned to neoliberal 'free' market fanaticism and looking after themselves and the rich, that they, like the Captain of the Titanic, are going down with the ship.

Its just a pity that there are many many hundreds of thousands of Europeans, and other millions of peoples around the world who are going to suffer in the process. They don't deserve to suffer - the politicians do.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Loony right trumpet the benefits of slavery

I just had to do a post on this. I have been wondering how long it would be before someone from the right in the USA started to bang on about the benefits of slavery. Well why not? Since the financial collapse caused by neoliberal 'economic' policies, which started in 2007, the capitalist class have been trying to make ordinary people pay the bill through a succession of bailouts. Look what has happened to workers in the USA. In places like Wisconsin workers pay, pensions and bargaining rights have come under attack. How long would it be before workers were expected to work for nothing? Why hang around? Why not just bring back slavery? It would be so much simpler, after all.

In the past few years, the loony rightists of the Tea Party have plumbed new depths for extreme 'free' market bullshit. So it comes as no surprise that Michelle Bachmann, their current darling, should have signed up to a pledge which said that children in the USA who were born to black slaves were better cared for than the modern day offspring of black Americans. Huh? The opening statement of the pledge actually read:

"Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President"

This is the kind of racist extremist ignorance and prejudice that the lunatics of the Tea Party embody. Pledging in itself is just the kind of saddo activity which right-wing Americans love to indulge in. Of course, Bachmann has distanced herself from the statement, claiming she didn't read it, despite the fact she signed it - and, doh! - it was on the front page. The problem here is that Bachmann wants to be president of the USA. Ordinarily, we would look on people like Michelle Bachmann as a bunch of relatively harmless backwoods knuckle-draggers, but we should be more wary, because if let loose, the Michelle Bachmanns of this world pose a genuine threat to any decent society. As far as we know, unlike other female Tea Party nine day wonders,  she's not a witch, though being a witch would obviously be an improvement on being what she is.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

We can win the economic argument - so lets do it!

"Its the economy stupid!" - it sure is. The economy is just about all we hear about these days, and its no wonder, because we are going through the biggest economic crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression. But the problem we have is that the neoliberal right are in the ascendancy, they have the power. This means that the response to the economic crisis is the same as it was during the Great Depression. Does this mean we have learnt nothing in the past 80 years? To some extent yes, but the real problem is that the same kind of people are in control now as were in control in the late 1920s - capitalist corporations and the politicians who support them. The Great Depression lead to immense hardship and deprivation for people around the world. In America, the slump, despite the uplift given by Roosevelt with the New Deal, lasted over a decade until the end of World War II. It was the massive US spending during the war economy that lifted the whole world out of the Great Depression. Without that lift the world economy would probably  have remained stagnant for many more years, possibly decades.

In the mid 1930s  the economist John Maynard Keynes explained that in a economic slump governments needed to take counter-cyclical measures to revive the economy. In other words, you don't cut spending in a recession - you increase it. But Keynes's ideas were ignored then - just as they are being ignored now. Then as now, for reasons of class, politicians preferred to cuts jobs and welfare rather than increase spending or increase taxes on the rich - who could have afforded to pay more. Belt tightening was, as usual, forced on the poorest in society.

So where does that leave us? The sovereign debt crisis which is now engulfing Europe and the USA is a direct result of the banking crisis known in the UK as the 'credit crunch'.  This crisis would have brought down the world economy, if it had not been for the fact that the state intervention, both here and abroad, propped up the faltering world private banking system. The resulting losses (costs) were nationalised and the gains (profits) remained in private hands. The people who caused the crisis got away free whilst ordinary people picked up the tab, bailing out the banks, and paying by losing their jobs, homes and pensions.

But that was only round one. The debt form the economic crisis didn't just  disappear - it became the sovereign debt which is crippling Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal, and which now threatens the USA itself with debt default. So, the people are  being made to pay for the crisis a second time around. The name of the game now is austerity. Yet more cuts in welfare and more jobs losses - all to protect the same people  - the private sector, the banks and bondholders - financial capitalism. But as Keynes showed more cuts and austerity won't fix the problem - it will make it worse. That means the best we can hope for in the UK and Europe is economic stagnation, continuing high unemployment, and increasing hardship and poverty. The result is that your children will inevitably be poorer than you are and your grandchildren will be poorer still, in a society blighted by homelessness and inequality.

In the UK we have our own austerity crisis. The Chancellor of the Exchequer,  George Osborne, has taken a reckless ideological and political gamble with our economy by instituting savage austerity cuts of £81 billion. His aim is to use the debt crisis as cover to slash the welfare state - which is something the right have always hated. He is hoping that the economy will recover enough so that he can announce tax cuts before the next election. he believes this will win the next election for the Tories. That is why the Tories wanted a fixed term five year parliament - because they need at least 5 years for this ideological economic gamble to have a chance to work.

So, if the economic policies being followed by the EU, in Greek debt crisis for example, and in the UK government aren't working, why are they being followed? The answer is simple - neoliberal ideology. This is class war politics. The lesson of the past thirty years is that the capitalist class and their politicians have allowed a world economic crisis to develop by following neoliberal 'free' market dogma, by deregulating financial capitalism (the banking and shadow banking system). Now they are exploiting the outcome of that crisis, and using it to roll back all the democratic gains made by working people in the last century. 

So what does the left do about this? Well, we have to win the economic argument. That is essential. We have to explain to people how the failed 'economic' policies of the neoliberalism got us here. We have to explain how the crisis has been exploited to benefit the people who caused it. We have to debunk the myths about the benefits of the unregulated 'free' market. But most of all, we have to show that we have an alternative which can create jobs and prosperity. That is what the Green Party did in its 2010 election manifesto. We showed that  by investing in creating one million green jobs, and by building housing, by improving public transport, by controlling the banks, and by growing our economy in a sustainable way, we could lift the UK out of the economic crisis it is in.

The reality is that Osborne's reckless ideological gamble with our economy won't work, and when it fails, we have to be ready to strike. The next UK quarter figures are due soon. All the indicators are that they will be very poor - either very low growth, or no growth at all. That is the time we must put the boot it - and hard. People in the UK are beginning to waver in their support for cuts. In the past year support for the cuts has fallen from 69% to 55%, with 45% now against Osborne's savage cuts. Once the British people realise that Osborne's economic 'policy' isn't working the Tories economic competency will be finished. It is then that the Coalition will be in real danger. The Coalition government is a weak and divided government which has only survived because the British people have been conned into believing that it was acting in the national interest, to tackle the economic crisis. Cameron has already been severely wounded by the phone hacking scandal. Its hard to see how the government could survive similar damage to Osborne.

The reality is this; pensions and the welfare state aren't unaffordable; low taxes only benefit the rich; the state is not inherently a bad thing - governments can and should intervene to create jobs, build houses and protect the vulnerable; we can only have a better health service if it is provided by the public sector; privatisation means that you pay more for less; banks can be nationalised and brought under democratic control; co-operation is much more important than competition.

These are the messages that all those who oppose this government; UK-uncut, the Coalition of Resistance; trade unionists, and all the other anti-cuts groups need to get across, and get across soon. The only way we can slay this neoliberal system and get rid of this government is by winning the economic argument. Until we get on with the task of doing that we won't have the power to change things for the better and we won't be able to stop the deliberate destruction by this government of all the things which make this a society worth living in.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The European project is failing the European people

The Eurozone debacle continues. Now Italy, the third largest economy in the Eurozone, is having to pay much more to finance its debt. Yields, the interest that Italy has to pay on government bonds, have reached over 6% which is unsustainable. So that is Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and now Italy which are already in, or in grave danger of falling into, the sovereign debt crisis.

The people of Europe are being asked by the leaders of Europe to pay for a crisis which is not of their making, whilst the perpetrators of that crisis, the banks and financial capitalists, are being protected. This is not just a betrayal of the people of Europe, by their elected leaders, but of democracy itself. Politicians in Greece have recently sold out Greek sovereignty to the banks, bondholders, and the financial technocrats of the ECB and the IMF by agreeing to a second bailout.

We have been sold the story that the EU is a European creation with the countries of Europe coming together in solidarity after WWII. But the EU is fundamentally an American cold war creation foisted on a weakened Europe after the war, the aim being to create and ensure a capitalist 'free' market ideological and economic hegemony in Europe, at a time when Soviet communism was seen as a real threat. Despite strongish trade unions and a tradition of social democracy, the EU is now a neoliberal state - with neoliberal 'free' market policies enshrined in its constitution. The purpose of the Euro is to pave the way for a European superstate. The aim now of politicians and financial technocrats is to reduce the living standards of workers and the middle classes, in order to create a great big bonanza for western corporations and their capitalist owners. The only thing which distinguishes this capitalist corporatist European project from fascism is the use of suits instead of uniforms and jackboots.

Having created a crisis by building a casino financial capitalism out of democratic control, and nearly bringing down the world economy, politicians and bankers have used the crisis to cut welfare and workers terms and conditions in the USA and  Europe. This is straightforward class war, with ordinary people being made to pay for the failures of 'free' market capitalism. In the current circumstances the EU and its leaders are the enemies of the European people. In his excellent Guardian piece, Mark Weisbrot explains why the Euro deserves to fail. It is beginning to look like its failure may be the only hope for European democracy.

The EU may be a supertanker, but it will have to be turned round if the European people are going to be liberated from neoserfdom (neoliberal serfdom). That means a massive reform of the EU and re-writing of the constitution to remove the neoliberal shackles which bind the EU into this extreme right-wing project.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The phone hacking scandal exposes our sham democracy

I blogged a while ago about our sham democracy, the cosy carve up which means that whoever gets elected, the policies pursued by governments are always the same. The economic crisis caused by the collapse of the banks illustrated this really well, because that crisis lead directly to the sovereign debt crisis, and we have seen that successive governments in countries like Greece and Ireland have toed the party line, and swallowed the neoliberal medicine, to the detriment of the people who elected them. How ironic it is that the electorate in Greece should boot out an incredibly unpopular conservative government, only to replace it with a 'socialist' government which then proves to be even more unpopular, by kow-towing to the IMF and the ECB and introducing yet greater austerity.

So that's how it goes. You have an incredibly unpopular government, you boot it out and elect another government which then goes on to do exactly the same thing. There is only one way to break this cycle - vote for a party which is not neoliberal and has different policies. If that means voting socialist or green - do it!

So what has this all got to do with phone hacking? The essence is that the problems with the banks and Murdoch's media empire are the same - capitalist corporations which have too much power and are out of democratic control. Just as our politicians have ceded power to the banks, they have also ceded it to moguls like Murdoch. News International should never have been allowed to control 40% of the UK press. Sky should never have been allowed to build up a monopoly of satellite TV through exclusive rights to Premier League football. But it was allowed to happen, and in the process our democracy has been undermined and our body politic corrupted. This is what happens when you have unregulated capitalism and 'free' market fanatics in government. The sad reality is that there is no change in sight. Murdoch may have his wings clipped for a while, but the neoliberal juggernaut moves on, crushing decency, democracy and freedom in its path.

I'd just like to finish this post with two pertinent quotes from an article in today's Telegraph (my italics):

"There were those who believed that Murdoch had debased and debauched British public life, and there is indeed great evidence that this was the case. For example, the News of the World was a respectable – if racy – family newspaper before Murdoch brought it under his ownership. As we now know, it converted into a flourishing criminal concern that took an evil pleasure in destroying people’s lives."

"The bitter truth is that no major figure in British public life was prepared to take on and expose the Murdoch newspaper empire. Rival proprietors were silent. Senior public figures did not dare to speak out for fear of exposure and attack in the Murdoch newspapers. This is why, for more than a generation, Rupert Murdoch’s empire has been a spider at the heart of an intricate web that has poisoned British public life. "

Strange it is though that a paper which can see the shortcomings of Cameron and speak with loathing about Rupert Murdoch will be trumpeting the wonders of the 'free' market which is the real engine of inequality, poverty and the corruption it so rightly condemns.

Monday, 4 July 2011

What is the Labour Party for?

A lot of people are wondering what the Labour Party is for. Since Ed Milliband became leader its been hard to to tell. But at least we know what the Labour party is not for; its not for the working class, it abandoned them a long time ago, letting the BNP fill the vacuum; its not for decent public sector pensions; its not much interested in housing; or the poor; or trade unions. It is, we know, in the historic words of Peter Mandelson - "intensely relaxed about the filthy rich" and it seems to be pretty keen on the banks; Oh!, and privatisation of the NHS, education, and well, pretty much anything else that moves.

The Labour Party is a party that has lost its way completely. So much so that it doesn't really know what it is for, except perhaps a vehicle for its leaders to get elected and hold political power, a vehicle for career politicians, the political class that I blogged about in this post. That means that it is the job of party members, who presumably think they are part of a project to change things, merely to have a role of furthering the career aspirations of Milliband, Jowell, Balls, Alexander et al.

I'm sure that Ed would be horrified if he read what I'd just written. He'd protest that he believes in a progressive future and that he, and his colleagues, have been traduced by that statement. If he thinks that I'd like to suggest its his own fault, because I think I think those are perfectly reasonable conclusions for onlookers like me to draw, based on the statements, and behaviour of Ed and other leading Labour politicians.

For example, for him to state that the June 30th strike was wrong, on the basis that negotiations about public sector pensions were ongoing, was laughable. It was obvious to all but the most naive that the government wasn't involved  in meaningful negotiations and had no intention of compromising on terms remotely acceptable to the striking teachers and civil servants. Not only that, but it was clear that the government had been hiding the fact that the Hutton Report showed that public sector pensions were affordable, and this had been exposed on the Today programme.

The Labour party has become a right-wing reactionary neoliberal party and there is little to distinguish it from the other neoliberal parties; the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. The reason for this transformation is not difficult to discern. This transformation has happened to 'left' parties all over the world since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Social Democracy has been abandoned in favour of 'free' market globalisation, and the domination of democracies by the multinational corporations and the banks. In fact, this is little different to Fascism. It is only a matter of degree, because Fascism is the subjugation of democracy to capitalist corporations -  with some goose-stepping in uniform, and gratuitous violence, thrown in.

This is what is happening in Greece. Democracy has been openly replaced, under a 'Socialist' government,  by the control of financial technocrats from the EU and IMF, on behalf of their market masters. Our politicians, including Ed,  are complicit in this free market coup d'etat. There is only one way we can stop this. We must stop voting for these people. We need to vote for parties which can stop the rot. In the UK there is only one party of social justice left - the Green Party.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Cheshire West Against the Cuts: J30

On Thursday June 30th striking public sector workers and their supporters came together for a rally at the Town Hall in Chester. We had a  turnout of about 350 people and some very good speeches from trade unionists and CWAC supporters. All in all a very good day for the fightback against Cameron's class war government's attempt to make us pay for the failures of financial capitalism.

There is a lot more work to do but we are building resistance in an area which is hardly renowned for left or trade union activism. Long may it continue.