Sunday, 25 July 2010

Ian Tomlinson: what hope for justice?

Not much, I would think. Ian Tomlinson is one of a growing number of people who have died after being assaulted by police officers during demonstrations, with no prosecution being taken. He was an innocent bystander at the G20 protests which took place in London in March 2009. The Director of Public Prosecutions announced last Friday that no action would be taken on a charge of manslaughter after video footage released by the Guardian showed and officer striking him from behind with a baton and pushing him to the ground. The police later lied about the circumstances of his death, claiming that they hadn't assaulted him and had helped him when it became clear he had collapsed.

It's not just the death of Ian, and the seeming immunity of police officers to prosecution which should concern us but the way in which peaceful protest is being increasingly criminalised. Protesters are being treated as if they are terrorists. The best recent example of this was when peaceful climate change protesters were harassed by police to the extent that loud music was played to keep them awake at night and even children's crayons were confiscated.

I wish Ian Tomlinson's family all the best with their continuing campaign to get justice for him. Eventually, they may have to bring a private prosecution. If you want to find out more, or help, you can visit their website here.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Socialism is the only solution

Before you carry on, try reading this article. Its about how California, the world's eighth largest economy, was brought to its knees. It was brought down by something called neo-liberalism, something which I've mentioned many times before on this blog. Neo-liberalism is a reactionary political ideology dressed up as economics which aims to make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer. Driven by the big corporations and the wealthy its a project designed to take us back to the 19th century. In populist democratic terms its appeal is lead through the fallacy that the 'free' market has all the answers. Just hand over to the market and all will be well. But that is exactly where we were in the 19th century - a small rich elite and mass poverty with no decent housing, healthcare or education.

People have fallen for the get rich quick, low taxes bullshit pedalled by the reactionary right. But low taxes only benefit the rich. For the rest of us taxes are good because they support the services we need. The rich are well aware that they can pay for education and healthcare, they don't need the NHS, state education and pensions. So why would they want to pay any taxes at all? How many people appreciate the fact that only 12% of workers in the UK earn more than £40k a year? The vast majority of us gain nothing from tax cuts whereas the rich gain thousands of pounds.

Privatisation and deregulation, which are an essential part of the neo-liberal project are designed to benefit corporations and shareholders at the expense of ordinary people. They lead to more expensive public services and workers who are paid less with poorer pensions so the corporations can make bigger profits. These neo-liberal 'economic' policies are bringing not just California but the USA to its knees, as I stated in this post last year.

There is only one antidote to this crippling malady - its called democratic socialism - politics and economics as if people mattered. It means building an alternative economy based on need rather than greed. An economy controlled by the people who work in it. Yes, I know that people think socialism has failed, because they always think of the Soviet Union. But there never has been a democratic socialist country - ever. Now its time to start building one and here is the basis for it. Unfortunately things are going to get a lot worse before people wise up, get off their arses and start doing something about it.

Michael Gove's schoolboy errors

Now that the Tories, er .... I mean the Coalition is in power we can expect a continuing attack on state education under the guise of 'improving standards'. The new Education Secretary, Michael Gove, wasted no time in asking schools to apply for academy status. What he meant was privatisation and removal from local democratic control. This is part of the shameful plan, started by New Labour, to break up the state school system. Private companies, charities, and dubious religious groups will be given control of our education system. Money which could have been spent on our children will disappear into the pockets of 'entrepreneurs' instead. But education is public service, not a business. Children have to be educated, which means a steady supply of cash will go into the pockets of the profiteers, and like privatisation of other public services those companies will continue to take the money regardless of whether they provide a good service - remember the railways? - because this is all driven by neoliberal ideology.

When Gove spoke to parliament on Monday we heard the predictable cuts - the slashing of the Building Schools for the Future programme - started by New Labour. While the NL plan to build and repair schools was admirable it was also a PFI initiative designed to put money into the pockets of the private sector and rip off UK taxpayers - a scam - in other words.

Gove made at least 25 mistakes in his predictably arrogant - 'we're in power now' - statement. But his biggest mistake was to announce those swinging cuts. There are many people who wanted change and gave this coalition the benefit of the doubt. Those numbers are thinning rapidly. After only a few weeks in government many people are now waking up to the reality of a 21st century Thatcherite Tory government - its like waking up with a very bad hangover, and the worst is yet to come.