Saturday, 31 December 2011

Kim Il-dave is Dear Thatcher's worthy successor

At New Year it is the time to reflect on the successes of the People's Free Market of the United Kingdom (PFMUK) and to celebrate the achievements of the Dear Leader Thatcher's chosen successor Kim Il-dave. When our new Leader came to power many members of the ruling elite - caricatured cruelly as "the 1%" by student terrorists and other enemies of the state - were fearful that he would fail in his historic mission to further enrich the ruling class. They need not have worried, Kim Il-dave has made great progress during his short rule.

The Worthy Successor
He has successfully humiliated our despised minority partners in the Great Coalition, Clegg, Alexander, Huhne and Cable, known as The Gang of Four, rendering them harmless as future opponents. He has defeated those in Europe who seek to neutralise the excesses of our dear friends in the City, making himself a hero with the people, and greatly increasing his popularity in the process. But his greatest achievement has been to complete the People's Free Market Party's historic mission to destroy the hated welfare state and to privaitise the NHS. We now look forward with confidence to the completion of the Party's five year government plan, to greater increases in inequality and reductions in living standards for the workers, paving the way for much needed tax cuts for deserving corporations and the Capitalist Class. As we anticipate the state funeral of the Great Leader Dear Thatcher, long live our glorious Leader, worthy successor to Dear Thatcher!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Are we conditioned to capitalism?

On the day of the funeral of the 'Dear Leader' of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, I've been musing about how it is that there has been such an outpouring of grief in that country. North Korea is a 'communist' state, which still has all the trappings of Soviet-style government, and there has been a huge outpouring of grief amongst the population. The grief has caused some some comment and bemusement in the western media, and while its obvious that some of that grief is genuine, the suspicion is held that the grief is largely stage-managed and that many people, living in such a totalitarian state, have little choice but to be seen to display grief publicly. Because its not difficult to imagine how it is possible, through a system of education, rigid control of the media, and a cult of personality, to foster belief in a system of leadership and government, even if that  leadership and government is ultimately corrupt and despotic.

The Dear Leader

Also it is true that In any society there will be those who choose to conform and support the system, often for personal gain, and those who oppose it, and those who oppose are likely to have a torrid time. Because the same is true in the UK as it is in North Korea, if you oppose the system you are likely to be subject to coercion and end up in some kind of trouble. The difference is that how much 'trouble' is likely to be a matter of degree, though the methods are pretty much the same; public ridicule, loss of employment opportunities, harassment, beatings and imprisonment. All those things happen here as well as in countries like North Korea. The difference is that the powers that be in Western capitalist societies stage manage the coercion particularly well by making dissent a criminal activity in order to avoid having 'political prisoners'. Thus active trade unionists find themselves labelled as 'trouble makers' and sacked and blacklisted, opposition politicians are ridiculed in the press, people who demonstrate peacefully are beaten by the police and risk imprisonment because protest has been criminalised. All these things have happened to dissenters in the UK since the election of a Coalition government determined to destroy the welfare state and privatise the NHS.

So how does 'freedom' really square up in the capitalist UK? How conditioned are we to capitalism? Surely we don't have a media propaganda machine and a cult of personality? Maybe its worse than you think. Only recently we've been reminded of the incredible power of the media through the Leveson inquiry, and witnessed the suppression of dissent by the police and the courts, and that is even before we consider the effect of advertising and consumerism in creating 'needs' in a capitalist society. Then there is the co-opting of people by making them, falsely, think they have a real stake in capitalism through things like home ownership, and the use of fear by exaggerating the threat of terrorism. This is a blog post not an essay, and I don't have the time or space to fully consider how conditioned we are to a capitalist society, though I recommend you follow the last two links and watch the excellent documentaries by Adam Curtis. Suffice to say that conditioning must be considerable given the way we tolerate capitalism's creation of poverty, inequality,  exploitation of workers and destruction of the biosphere.

And do we have a cult of personality? A cult of personality is usually based around a ruling dynasty. The media pay rigid obedience to the importance of this 'ruling clique' and show deference, particularly at times of stress. Step forward Prince Philip, who topped the headlines with his stay in Papworth Hospital recently due to a 'heart scare' at a time when millions suffer in silence due to government cuts. Of course I'm not suggesting that Prince Phillip is the 'Dear Leader' of the UK, after all he is only the Queen's consort, just that in the UK, he and his family have been willingly co-opted into the role of figureheads who help to maintain the system and keep all of us in our place.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

David Cameron is a charlatan

I was intending to do a post about the climate conference in Durban but I have been sidetracked by the phenomenon which is David Cameron. He is a phenomenon because he has phenomenal brass neck - he has no sense of shame - he also has no real sense of what is right and what is wrong. The brass neck  isn't surprising because his background has given him something very precious - confidence - the sort of confidence which comes from having a privileged upbringing, without need or want of any kind. That is something which only money can buy.

I'm typing this because on Friday Cameron chose to play the religious card. He chose to do what he has no right to do - stand on the moral high ground. In his comments, on the 400th anniversary of the King James bible he said:
 ".... what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today."
He was saying that Christian morals, something which he supposedly subscribes to, could mend our broken society. He also said that Christianity is a guarantee of freedom for other religious faiths. History shows that this is nonsense. Its only because Christianity is so feeble in our society that other faiths can breathe. The best guarantee of religious freedom, David, is a secular society.

Of course, morality is something that right-wing politicians like to bang on about, and continue to bang on about even when they are found to have had their hands in the till, or are caught sleeping with other mens' wives, or things that are much, much worse, like causing the deaths of one million Iraqis in a war which was fought on a false prospectus. In this sense Cameron is no different. His is a moralising government which favours marriage over co-habitation, and faith schools over secular. The right love religion, not because it teaches people right from wrong, but because it teaches people to know their place in the grand scheme of things. Because free thought and secularism can pose a threat to the established order.

David Cameron has presided over a government which has done more real harm to the British people than any in living memory. Billions have been cut from health and welfare, cuts which have fallen mainly on the poorest and most disadvantaged people in this country. All in all, 700,000 jobs in the public sector are to go and working families are also being hit hard. And for what? To save the necks of his class and the bankers and bondholders. And not only were those cuts unfair and unnecessary, they were, as I said in my last post, also profoundly immoral.

So how does Cameron get away with this? He was obviously chosen as leader to detoxify the Tory party after 13 years in the political wilderness. The party desperately needed a front-man to sell them and their 'free' market fanaticism to the public and he fitted the bill. He is now the acceptable face of the nasty party, but he is still very much in the mould of the nasty party. People seem to like him because they think he tells it straight - if only he did. He is a charlatan and a hypocrite for the reasons given above and one of the reasons why he has got away it so far, is because the British people don't like class war. You might wonder how that works because Cameron and co. are clearly waging class war on the British people. But oddly the British people, over centuries, seem to have been conditioned to accept that fighting back against class war is just not cricket. So its OK for them to dump on us but not OK for us to dump on them, because that would cause social conflict, which the British people don't like. That is one of the most depressing aspects of living in this country, not that I want social conflict myself, but I want people to understand what is happening, and to get up off their knees and fight back through trade unions and the ballot box.

So, for the time being, Cameron continues to lecture us on morality with impunity, but not everyone is fooled by any means.  Many hundred of thousands of people can see right through him. But not enough people, yet. Before Cameron was elected he lectured us about broken Britain. What is for sure is that Britain is going to be a good deal more broken by the time his Prime Ministership is over. I'd just like to finish with a quote from a blog by a disability campaigner Sue Marsh, called 'Diary of a Benefit Scrounger":

"I have severe Crohn's disease. Probably one of the most severe cases in the country. I have had 7 major life saving operations to remove over 30 obstructions (blockages) from my bowel.

I take chemo-shots every two weeks that suppress my immune system, ensuring that I regularly have to fight infections. Exhaustion, pain and nausea plague every single day of my life.I have osteoprosis and malnutrition. I have had major seizures and a stroke.

Nonetheless, I have just heard from my own Disability Living Allowance application, that it has been rejected. Completely. I will receive no support at all from DLA. Despite claiming successfully in the past, despite only getting weaker and more frail and less able to live independently, my reconsideration was rejected." [my italics]

David Cameron is directly responsible for the plight of this person, and he and George Osborne knew the consequences when they made the cuts that are causing harm to millions of British people.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Make no mistake about it, Cameron and Osborne are evil

Why would a left-wing blogger and a ecosocialist make such a statement? Socialists aren't really supposed to deal in such terminology. Whilst most people would accept that 'leaders' in the past such as Hitler, Stalin and Gaddafi were evil individuals, surely describing our Prime Minister and Chancellor in such terms is way over the top? In addition to this, many socialists are atheists who prefer to deal with the hard-headed facts of history, economics and politics, rather than deal with issues in terms of morality.

Firstly lets deal with definitions. According to my Mac 'evil' means:
  • profoundly immoral and malevolent; and
  • harmful or tending to harm
If we accept these definitions lets examine the case of Messrs Cameron and Osborne. There can be no doubt that they are the ruling minds of a government which claims that we 'are all in this together', and then proceeds to dump the staggering costs of unregulated failure by wealthy, greed driven bankers onto the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society, and are behaving in a profoundly immoral way. Not only has the country had to deal with savage cuts of £81 billion in Osborne's first budget, but now, in the autumn statement we have further savage cuts and job losses which will hit the poorest people in this country hardest, and all that to save the necks of bankers and financial capitalism.

Both David Cameron and George Osborne are 'well educated" millionaires who are supposed to have been brought up in the best way this country can manage. They have had every advantage and opportunity, yet what they are doing is deeply reprehensible and dishonest. Its dishonest because they claim to be acting in the 'national interest' when they are clearly acting in the narrow interests of their class and against the interests of the vast majority of British people. Osborne claimed that savage cuts were necessary about two years before the 2010 election. He was swiftly slapped down by Cameron. Did either of them mention these 'savage cuts' in the election campaign? No, they kept silent because it was clear that this would damage their election hopes. Of course, its not just Cameron and Osborne who are to blame for the governments actions. There are 20 millionaires in the cabinet, and many MPs in Parliament who are playing the role of Auschwitz camp guards to Cameron's Hitler. You don't have to kill people to be evil, although it seems that at least 10 people have been killed by the cuts so far, you just need to cause them deliberate harm. That is what this government is doing with its class war cuts, knowing full well the consequences.

Morality matters. Morality is something that people on the left are profoundly concerned about. Not in the way the political right are, which is all about imposing your prejudices and beliefs on others, but in championing fairness and behaviour which treats all people equally. We have made great strides on that front over the past thirty years or so, everywhere in society but in the economy. Its essential that we champion the return of decent behaviour to our rotten democracy, which has become so scarred by the appalling behavior of government ministers.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Its time to begin to embrace the post-growth economy

Capitalism has brought about a double crunch; a crunch which is both environmental and economic. The cause is capitalism's drive for endless growth which has depleted the key natural resources, oil and gas, that it needs to continue its relentless material accumulation. One of the waste products of growth, carbon dioxide, is threatening to make our planet uninhabitable through climate change, natural resources are becoming exhausted and the biodiversity upon which we ultimately depend is threatened with destruction. Now that economic growth has stalled due to the economic crisis brought about by financial capitalism, politicians and economists are struggling to overcome the problem of massive debt from the banking crisis and get economies back 'on course' by re-starting growth. But what if they can't? And even if they could, would that option be desirable?

Growth, in conventional neoliberal terms, is not the answer. Continued privatisation and deregulation will not bring about growth, nor will it increase prosperity for the many. It will simply increase poverty and inequality. Neoliberalism is an ideology that has failed the people. Its time is over. The problem is that politicians and the ruling capitalist class are unable and unwilling to see an alternative to what has been rightly described as 'business as usual'. It will take political change to bring about economic change and to implement the solutions we need to deal with the unemployment, falling pensions, poverty, homelessness and inequality brought about by 30 years of neoliberalism.

The Green Party and others have proposed means to get us out of the current economic crisis by means of a national investment bank and a Green New Deal which will stimulate the economy and create much needed employment whilst helping to combat climate change. Amory Lovins and others in Natural Capitalism have proposed ways in which we can stave off the problems of growth and resource depletion by means of a vastly increased resource efficiency. All these measures will help us to overcome our present economic and environmental difficulties, but in themselves, are not long term solutions because they still create growth.

In the longer term we will need to adjust to an economy which can create prosperity without growth, because growth will no longer be possible. We simply won't have the energy resources to grow our economies in the way we have in the past 200 years. The Transition movement offers us a compelling model of how we can adjust to a low energy society, and there is no doubt that we can have prosperity without growth just as our forbears did before the advent of capitalism. What we will need to do is adjust our ideas about what prosperity means, and this means weaning ourselves off consumerism. This isn't going to be easy but, in the end, it is going to give us healthier and happier lifestyles. We have much to learn from indigenous communities who have lived in harmony with the land as to how we can develop a more successful management of the commons.

There will be those who argue that all this talk is a kind of madness and by ending growth that we are taking ourselves back to the stone age. They believe that we can continue business as usual by building hundreds of nuclear power stations and finding technological fixes for climate change as Daniel Ben-Ami does here. This is really akin to a science fiction fantasy. It is an example of the denial which affects many people, the sort of stuff that is reflected in Comment is Free when environmentalists who post on prosperity without growth are denounced by commenters as eco-fascists. The reality is that if the arguments of the fantasists prevail we are likely to end up living in caves rather than if we have an orderly and planned transition to a new kind of economy.

Prosperity without growth can be achieved and it does not mean poverty. It means a slower pace of life. It may mean less gadgets, but not no gadgets. It means things that last longer. It means more localism and more community. It means more labour and more labour intensive industries and it means more jobs, more community, more time with family, and much more social justice. But best of all it means the end of divisive, destructive capitalism.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

N30: the struggle for pensions justice

On 30 November 2011 twenty nine public sector unions took joint strike action over savage cuts to their pensions. Over 2 million workers went on strike, the largest number in the UK since the General Strike in 1926. In Cheshire West Against the Cuts we organised a march and rally in Chester that was attended by over 1000 striking workers and supporters. The march started on Castle drive at 12.30 and as it progressed through the city centre spontaneous applause broke out from many on the onlookers. It was a day of mutual support and solidarity against the attacks of a reactionary class war government, which is making the public sector pay for the crisis we are in. The 3% pensions levy is unnecessary to sustain public sector pensions, and is being used to pay down the deficit.

We had a great day out. There was a lot of happiness in solidarity which is what the bedrock of the trade union movement is about, but there was also some sadness that people were having to do this in the face of a class war attack from their own government. People in the UK have been lead to believe that unions are a thing of the past, irrelevant in a 'modern' age, they are now beginning to realise that they need the support of their fellow workers to survive the onslaught of the capitalist class as the crisis deepens.

There is hope for the future and we can change things but we need to get this government replaced by one which acts in the interest of the people rather than the capitalist elite. That means getting out and voting for alternatives at elections. If you are a public sector worker reading this, consider the fact that the Green Party has a policy for a Citizen's Pension for all at £300 p.w. for a couple and £170 p.w. for single people.