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.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

'Free' market myths no.1: the public sector doesn't create wealth

This is the first in a series of posts which aim to explode the common myths of neoliberal 'free' market propaganda. Something you can read in the Daily Mail, Times, Telegraph, Sun, and Daily Express any day of the week. If you want to find out more about the mythology of the 'free' market right I recommend the excellent '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by the economist Ha-Joon Chang. Its essential reading to understand how modern capitalism portrays itself as dynamic and risk-taking, when it is more often conservative and protectionist:

In the UK, in the past decade or so, and particularly since the big crash of 2008, there have been increasing attacks on the public sector. Neoliberal 'free' market fanatics have been working hard to paint the public sector as a drain on our national resources, something which is an unaffordable luxury populated by workers on fat cat salaries and pensions. We are routinely told that only the private sector can create wealth. This is nonsense, and is demonstrably false. But why is it happening?

The reason is that corporations want to get their hands on public sector assets at knockdown prices, and see providing public services as very easy money. This is because public services are monopolies.  For example, your local council has a waste collection (and disposal) contract with one company. You don't see refuse wagons tearing down your street competing to pick up your bins, do you? Its a monopoly and therefore very easy money compared to the supposed cut-throat world of capitalism, where businesses are supposed to be competing for survival. So, the public sector represents rich and easy pickings for 'free' market 'entrepreneurs'.

Rubbishing the public sector is all about getting the public onside to accept the asset stripping of privatisation, which is based on sacking workers, reducing the conditions for those who remain, and dumping the costs of unemployment and hardship onto wider society. This is the time-honoured 'free' market trick of privatising the profits and nationalising the losses, in other words - a racket.

The reality is that the public sector creates jobs, infrastructure and wealth and a vibrant public sector is essential to a healthy economy. A public sector that is efficient and well run offers much better value for money than the private sector ever could. Why? Its simple, the public sector doesn't have to make a profit and therefore will always provide better value for money than a private sector alternative. That is why the 'free' market fanatics are so desperate to convince you the opposite is true.

Neoliberal 'free' market fanatics don't really understand the concept of wealth anyway. They think in terms of profit, cash and personal gain. But real wealth is not about money, its about much more than that, it's about human need and well-being. The public sector creates wealth in many ways, through health, education and welfare, through infrastructure and creating jobs both in the public and private sector. Without it we would all be at lot worse off. The NHS is the greatest engine of wealth creation in the UK and plays a crucial role in our economy.

 If we allow our public sector to be privatised it will become hollowed out. Do you really want the education of your children to be reduced to the level of a transaction at Tesco or Barclays?  If you privatise these crucial services, you reduce them to the level of a mere commodity, a financial transaction, and you become merely a customer, rather than a stakeholder, an owner. But you can never expect the 'free' market fanatics to understand that level of subtlety, for them humanity is reduced to mere units of consumption. That is your function, to provide them with profits. Their  ideology is ultimately anti-human, like George Orwell's Room 101, and the boot stamping on the human face -  forever.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Tory driven ideological class war attack on British workers won't promote growth

It was bound to happen here, as it did in Wisconsin and other American states. First the capitalist class, or 1% if you prefer,  creates a crisis, a crisis of financial capitalism which nearly brings down the world economy. It does so through its ideology, neoliberalism; which means destruction of public services by privatisation; letting the banks and corporations run riot through deregulation; and the looting of natural assets by corporations through globalisation. Then, using their tame politicians in the UK, USA and Europe, it makes the middle and working classes and unemployed, the 99%, pay to bailout the banks and save the skins of the bankers. This is privatising the gains and nationalising the losses. Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the rest of us.

So the banks get saved but there is still a big problem because much of that debt incurred by the banks has now been transferred to governments and taxpayers leading inevitably to a sovereign debt crisis, which is where we are now. The Eurozone crisis has been triggered by the sovereign debt crisis brought about by the banking crisis. Still with me? We are nearly there.

In response to the sovereign debt crisis governments in the UK and Europe implement austerity programmes, ostensibly to bailout government debt, particularly in Greece and Ireland. But its not the poor old Irish and Greek taxpayers who are being bailed out, the money is being used, once again, to bailout French, German, Spanish and Greek banks. So taxpayers have been shafted twice, first in the bank bailout and secondly by austerity - which is just another bank bailout.

To top all this the right wing politicians who are the friends of the bankers and the 1%, are now using the crisis to try and smash workers rights. In the USA, in Wisconsin, the Tea Party backed Governor Scott Walker has used the deficit to not only slash services but to try to deny unions their collective bargaining rights. Now in the UK today we hear that the government is contemplating undermining workers rights by making them easier to sack and limiting further their already limited rights to an Employment Tribunal. This crude, class war attack on workers is being carried out in the pretence that it will encourage growth.

The real irony is that the rising unemployment, increasing poverty and lack of growth in the UK are a direct result of this government's austerity programme. Economically, this government is already a complete failure and its only to be expected that it should dishonestly try to pin the blame for that failure on working people and the unemployed, that, after all, is what class war is all about.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Police brutality is being used in an attempt to crush `OccupyUSA

Pepper spray, tear gas and good old fashioned beatings are being dished out by the police in America in an attempt to crush the occupy movement. The past week or so has seen the eviction of the occupywallst camp in Zuccotti park, and attacks on protestors have resulted in serious injuries, including a ruptured spleen suffered by army veteran Kayvan Sabehgi when he was beaten by police officers at occupy Oakland. Some of the most shocking footage I've seen this week is of police using pepper spray against peacefully protesting students at occupy UC Davis - see below.

There is also evidence that the evictions of occupy camps across America were co-ordinated, and that the local authorities were 'advised' and supported by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The former organisation is part of the repressive apparatus put in place by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11. All this should surprise nobody because the occupy movement is becoming an increasing embarrassment to the capitalist class and their tame politicians, because it is providing a focus for social justice and radical reform, something the ruling class can't contemplate.

This kind of brutality is nothing new. Police were used to crush the student protest movement in the US in the late 1960s, and were used to break the miner's strike in the UK in 1984. I know about the latter because I was there and witnessed it. The USA has a history of brutality and violence used by the capitalist class against popular protest and organised labour. One of the most infamous incidents was the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 in which 15,000 armed miners battled with the police for five days, as a result of the brutality of the mine owners' attempts to crush the union, until the army intervened . In the UK we have seen recent moves by the police to intimidate protesters with heavy handed police tactics and plain clothes snatch squads reminiscent of the Stasi in the German Democratic Republic. Before the recent student demo on 9 November the police announced they were to deploy rubber bullets. All this is beginning to look like a police state. Just compare these two videos; the first is of plainclothes police arresting a student in Iran; and the second is plainclothes police arresting a student in London on the 9 November. Spot the difference? There isn't one.

Of course, as the occupiers have pointed out - 'you can't evict an idea'. In the UK Occupy London have responded to an attempt to evict the camp at St Pauls by taking over an empty building owned by bankers USB. They have called this event the "Bank of Ideas", this is a brilliant coup, and one which keeps them one step ahead of the capitalists class's attempts to close them down. That is what the occupy movement will have to do; stay peaceful, stay leaderless, think on its feet and continue to outwit the police and the so-called 'free' press.

What the crackdowns on protest in America have shown us is that there is really very little difference between the ruling class in the USA and in Egypt. The former may prefer to use lawyers and wear suits but they are just as determined to deny people their rights, criminalise protest and use brute force to hang on to power. Teargas and brutality are being used on peaceful protestors by both regimes as I type this. Again, spot the difference.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

So, have we screwed up Planet Earth?

The simple answer is no, the Earth will be around for a long time after we have perished, but it is beginning to look like we may have screwed up the planet as far as humans are concerned. The latest data from the International Energy Authority paints a disturbing picture. It seems that we are in danger of passing the point where we can prevent a global temperature rise of 2oC and damaging climate change, because we are continuing to build fossil fuel power stations, and that we have only five years left to do something about it.

We are always being told that capitalism can do great things and that the market can solve all our problems. But it is clear that the market is responsible for this particular problem. Its not just the demand for energy that is at the root of climate change but the fact that the energy companies are completely wedded to fossil fuel extraction. We could have gone down the renewable energy route years ago, putting ourselves in a much better position now. But what was the energy companies response to a shortage of easy to extract fossil fuels? Go for the harder and much more environmentally damaging fossil fuels like tar sands oil and shale gas from fracking. With capitalism the desire for profit obviously outweighs the desire to prevent irreversible climate change - here is a quote from Oil and Energy Investor:

Shale is no longer "the future" of natural gas... It's now... And fracking is paying-off in high profits for those who know how to take advantage of it. The reason is simple: Old natural gas wells around the globe are running dry, replaced by new shale wells. 
So now we know. It should come as no surprise, because capitalists put profit before people and the environment. But the energy companies are not just behind our addiction to fossil fuels, they are just as keen to discredit alternatives to fossil fuels, and the very idea of climate change itself. In the UK, Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, is the front man for something called the Global Warming Policy Foundation, an energy company funded organisation which is dedicated to casting doubt on man made climate change, activities which were exposed in this article in the Independent. Lawson often speaks out about climate change and was apparently responsible for changing the policy of the Daily Mail against climate change.

On my desk I have a copy of a book called 'Natural Capitalism', which was published in 1996. In this book the authors, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L Hunter Lovins, show how, using resource efficiency, we can create more goods using less materials, and much less energy, and recycle the outputs on closed loops that mimic how nature works. The authors have provided us with a solution to climate change and resource depletion. Any company which uses these methods is bound to be much more efficient and competitive than its rivals. But this hasn't happened, certainly not on any kind of scale that will help the planet. The reason why is that capitalism, far from being dynamic and innovative, is inherently conservative. People stick with what they know works, and what they know is profitable, and they also often have large amounts of capital tied up in plant and machinery which is simply out-of-date. I've posted about this problem before here.

Natural Capitalism in action

So what is the answer? Its simple. Governments bailed out the banks. Now they must make changes happen to prevent climate change. The move to renewables  must go ahead and the energy companies must be made to make that change. If they won't do it they must be nationalised. The solar energy Feed in Tariff (FIT) must be maintained at a reasonable level instead of being cut in half as this government is doing. We also have to make companies use resource efficient methods, both through incentives and regulation. We need a Green New Deal to insulate all our homes and create thousands of jobs. The market has failed us, and will continue to fail us. Its time that democratically elected governments  remembered what they are their for - to represent the interests of the people and the common good - not to bow down to the market.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

God's investment banker still doesnt get it

Nice to hear that the Church of England is beginning to catch up with the protesters at occupylsx. The recent statement by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that there is "widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment",  is what we should expect from the church - support for the poor against their powerful and rich exploiters - now known as the 1%.

Now, the Bishop of London, he of the chauffeur driven car, has appointed an investment banker to look at solutions to the problems identified by the occupylsx protesters, though you could be forgiven for thinking that a banker is perhaps not the best person to seek advice from, given the problems we have been suffering from since 2008. However, in today's Sunday Telegraph, Ken Costa, Chairman of St Paul's Initiative, has written about markets losing their "moral moorings". He is right of course, but what are his solutions? Well, there is a lot of stuff about civic duty. Essentially we need reform, and we need to get rid of "shareholder value", something I couldn't disagree with, and we need to " reconnect the financial and the moral", and "legislation might help with this", but not yet apparently. Then he goes on to make this telling statement:
"Those in power should understand that governments are incapable of creating new jobs and wealth, that is what a vibrant private sector is for, supported by a vibrant financial services sector. "
I find this statement worrying because it is plain wrong. It is factually incorrect. Of course governments can and do create jobs and wealth. The public sector is essential, not only for delivering services, but it also creates jobs in the private sector as well. What we need is more government intervention to create green jobs in the UK, especially for young people, because the private sector has failed to do so, and is incapable of doing so. What the crash and its aftermath have shown us is that the powers of the private sector are very limited indeed, and that we need governments more than ever to directly create wealth and to help the rest of society to create wealth.

What Costa's article illustrates is that he is trapped in the same 'free' market fantasy as are all neoliberals. Perhaps that's not surprising when we learn from his article that he has been a banker for 30 years. That tells us that he has been part of the problem, and is therefore unlikely to be part of the solution. His pious words about "moral moorings", and patronising comments about the "usual suspects" at occupylsx are a dead giveaway - if we want to get out of this mess we need a radical change of direction, not the tinkering with legislation, appeals to goodness,and papering over of the cracks - however worthy that may be.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Neoliberalism is threatening to bring down the economies of the USA and the EU

What we are witnessing with the Greek tragedy that is unfolding is something worthy of Euripides, or, in a more contemporary form, Shakespeare. Greece is being torn apart by the Eurocrats, headed by  Sarkozy and Merkel, in their desperate attempts to preserve the Euro-empire. The Greek Prime minister, Georges Papandreou, offered a way out of the situation, by giving the Greeks a chance to vote against the bailout, but the self serving  political class in Greece look like scuppering this appeal to democracy by looking after their own skins and  bending the knee to the Eurocrats and the IMF.

Georges Papandreou

What is so ridiculous about all this is that the EFSF, which is supposed to bailout Greece, and is primarily intended to save French and German banks, is doomed to failure. It cannot work because the more austerity that is imposed upon Greece the less likely it is to be able to repay its debts. The Greek economy has already undergone a 15% contraction, and more austerity can only make this worse. As deficit reduction bites harder, the more it will contract the Greek economy, making the debt ever harder to pay off. The Greek economy is in a death spiral and the actions of the Eurocrats are self-defeating. As the situation gets worse, Greece will become more ungovernable. It may even become a failed state, and the likelihood that other EU members like Italy will begin to slide into the abyss will be increased.

The neoliberal-EU project enshrined in the Lisbon treaty has not only failed, but has seriously damaged the fabric of European societies.  Neoliberalism has wreaked similar havoc in the USA. The result is that once powerful western economies are now going cap in hand to China, which is a totalitarian waged slave-labour state, for financial handouts. The madness is complete, but the Eurocrats are so blinkered and institutionalised that they cannot see they are in danger of destroying the EU altogether.

There is only one solution. Let Greece default and leave the Euro, and then build the reconstruction of Europe through investment in the real economy, in infrastructure, and in jobs, through a Green New Deal. The Icelanders held a referendum which lead to a default, and an exit from debt-slavery, and the Greek people deserve the same chance.  Meanwhile, destructive neoliberalism must be chucked in the dustbin of history - where it belongs.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Hierarchy is bullshit

Ever thought about why we need bosses? I have, and I've never been able to understand why we need them. What are bosses for other than to earn more than us and tell us what to do? But we don't need anyone to tell us what to do, and we certainly don't need them to earn more than we do!

So why do we have them? Because it's a great way of maintaining control and a great way of making us accept that we are worth less than we actually are. Now I guess some of us have worked for an inspirational boss at one time or another. But for every good boss, there must be a least a dozen poor ones. They tend to range from the ones who just aren't up to it to those who are careerists, desperate to climb the greasy pole, who see each job as a stepping stone to the top, and of course, some are just downright bullies.

So why do we put up with them? I'm not a psychologist but it's not too difficult to see why. We are socialised into it. As children we look up to our parents - the 'grown-ups' who comfort and protect us. Then we go to school and are trained to accept the authority of another grown up - the teacher.

When we finish education we are usually starting on the bottom rung of the ladder in a large organisation. We accept that those who've been there longer than us and have more experience and prestige. So it seems natural that we defer to them. But is it? Respect should be earned - not taken for granted.

The system works well for those at the top as we have seen recently in the banking debacle. These top bods claim they are special people. Without them businesses and organisations wouldn't be run properly - but were the banks run properly? More recently we have seen Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, floundering over the Ross and Brand debacle. Do we seriously think that no one could have handled it better? I doubt it.

So why do we tolerate these people? - especially when there is plenty of evidence that we just don't need them. Let's go back to the start of this century when there was an economic crisis in Argentina. Years of corruption and privatisation lead to a run on the banks. While the rich took their money and ran, ordinary Argentinians were left in the lurch, unable to access their bank accounts. Businesses went bust, and in many cases bosses just abandoned their businesses, making the workers jobless.

But many of the jobless refused to give up - they took over the abandoned businesses and kept them going. Many are still successful today and still owned as worker co-operatives. Not all successful co-operative businesses start in this way though. The US company W L Gore and Associates is very successful, and it doesn't have any bosses. Don't believe me? Then read this article. You'll probably know the company because it makes Gore-Tex. In fact the company topped the UK Sunday Times "100 Best Companies to Work For" list for 4 consecutive years, 2004–2007.

The hierarchy that surrounds us is manufactured bullshit. There is nothing natural or desirable about it. It is maintained because it suits the purposes of those at the top who cream off the wealth from society and require us to accept less as a consequence. Attacks on this system are described as sour grapes or envy - but they would be wouldn't they? It's not envy to want social and economic justice and to rid ourselves of a 'class' of people who add no value to our lives but benefit from our labour and acquiescence to their authority.

Postscript: I don't usually add anything to a posting but there is an interesting article on the front page of Guardian Work today by Don Tapscott about inter-generational attitudes to hierarchy that is worth reading. I searched the website but couldn't find it so I can't make a link. here is a brief quote:

"Too many organisations are still stuck in the old unproductive hierarchy, which divides worlds into the governors and the governed. Most people above the age of 40 accept this..... The goal in a hierarchy is to move up, and have more people reporting to you"

Don believes that the 'net generation' have a different attitude to hierarchy - let's hope he is right.

We need to end the dependency culture of the 1%

You'll often hear the 'free' market fundamentalists on the reactionary right of politics complaining about the 'entitlement culture' and the 'dependency culture'. What they mean is that people, usually unemployed, believe that they are entitled to benefits, or handouts from taxpayers, and that they become dependent on them. The result is that these people either never feel the need to work for a living, or have become almost incapable of finding work. The approach of our reactionary coalition government is well summed up in this article from The Sun, which crows about the government's plans to:
"smash the dependency culture that condemns millions to a life on the dole"
But its not the dependency culture that condemns people in the UK to a life on the dole, its the failed ideology of neoliberalism and the economic policies of privatisation and deregulation which have destroyed jobs in the UK over the past 30 years. So what do the reactionary right do? Blame the victims of course! Since the failures of 'free' market capitalism can never be admitted, it is essential that the blame is dumped onto individuals like the 'benefit scroungers', who have been made scapegoats for the UK's economic problems.

A depression era dole queue

Papers like the Daily Mail and The Sun promote the denigration and hatred of the benefit recipients as a distraction from the real cause of our country's problems - neoliberalism and Thatcherism. The aim is not just to shift the blame, but also to move the UK from a system of decent social security provision to a grossly inadequate system of welfare 'handouts'. This not only allows savings for greater tax cuts for the rich, but also helps to grind the underclass even further into poverty, creating a pit into which people fear to fall, thus making them more likely to work for less.

But its not the so-called 'benefit scroungers' that we need to be angry about. Its the really big cheats in our society, the tax dodgers, who should be causing us concern. There really is a serious problem with entitlement and dependency cultures throughout the world. Its the dependency of the 1% on ever increasing wealth to the detriment of the rest of us, and its the culture of entitlement which the 1% have which makes them think they should own everything on the planet, and not have to pay taxes. If we are going to have a fair and socially just society we need to end the entitlement culture and dependency culture of the 1%.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Plan B endorses the Green Party's measures to revive our economy

On the 6th of October 2011, Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas called for a programme of green quantitative easing (QE) to revive our economy at a time when the Bank of England was announcing a plan to waste £75 billion on a QE programme of handing over money to banks. I blogged about this on the 10th October, and talked about how the Green Party had proposed green QE measures as part of a Green New Deal approach in our 2010 manifesto. The measures include a massive programme to create one million green jobs and a citizens pension to help lift pensioners out of poverty.

The Bank of England's QE plan is not the answer

In today's Observer there is a call by 'leading' economists for the government to adopt a Plan B approach which would include many of the measures we have been talking about for the past few years. Bizarrely enough, in the article, Tory MP Jesse Norman is given the credit for getting the Plan B ball rolling by stimulating Neal Lawson of Compass to act. According to the Observer:
For all the constant griping about the government's policies, and a despondency over the perceived flaws of Osborne's austerity prescription, Neal Lawson, chair of the centre-left pressure group Compass, had to admit to himself that they were nowhere.

"When Jesse said that I just thought, yep, we need to stop just talking about this stuff and get down to sorting out an alternative plan," Lawson said.
Of course if Lawson had bothered to pick up our manifesto he wouldn't have needed Norman or his group of economists to formulate his Plan B. But the good news is that he and his centre-left colleagues are now beginning to catch up with Green Party policy.

Such are the perils of being a minority party. It would have been nice if a few journalists could have been bothered to listen to what we were saying at the last election, and also to Caroline's recent views on green QE. At least now it is beginning to look like the non-green left is moving in the right direction. If we can work together with others on the left, the anti-cuts groups, such as UKuncut,  and the trade unions we may be able to put enough pressure on this government to make it change course. The November 30th pensions action is the next big event, lets help to make that a day of action to stop the government's austerity programme and bring about positive change.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Yes to a referendum on the EU!

According to Paul Cotterill on the Liberal Conspiracy blog Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party,  has outflanked Labour on the issue of a referendum on the EU. He is right. Outflanking a gauche and leaden-footed Labour leadership isn't difficult these days. Labour is completely hamstrung by its New Labour legacy, and because of its complicity in privatisation and austerity it is incapable of challenging the most dangerously reactionary government in a century.

Caroline said: "I support a referendum on our membership of the EU because I am pro-democracy, not because I'm anti-EU - and because I want to see a radical reform of the way Europe operates. The EU has the potential to spread peace and make our economies more sustainable, and to promote democracy and human rights, at home and throughout the world. But it must urgently change direction, away from an obsessive focus on competition and free trade and towards placing genuine co-operation and environmental sustainability at its heart."

Caroline has called this exactly right. We need to challenge the lack of democratic accountability and neoliberalism of the EU. Most people don't want us to leave, but this is a Europe of austerity, dominated by the ECB. The way the Greeks and Irish have been humiliated is appalling, and all to bail out French and German banks. That is unacceptable. We need start a movement to liberate the EU from the dead hand of neoliberal failure, and make sure that the Green Party is at the forefront of that movement.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The free market fundamentalists are the purveyors of our poverty

I like to describe neoliberals as 'free market' fanatics or 'free market' fundamentalists. I always put the 'free market' bit in italics because there really is no such thing as a free market, and never has been. The 'free market' concept is a crucial part of the flawed ideology of neoliberalism, which is an extreme right-wing ideology that favours the rich - the capitalist class, over the rest of us. An important part of the reason why neoliberalism has been so successful is that it has successfully disguised itself as 'economics', an economics which pretends to be a mechanism for prosperity and has been sold to us as good for everyone.

We have been told by economists and politicians that the tenets of neoliberalism i.e. - globalisation; 'free' trade; privatisation; low taxes; downsizing; outsourcing; and deregulation are essential economically and that without them, we cannot have a prosperous and successful society. But prosperous and successful for who? All the aforementioned things benefit the capitalist class, at the expense of the rest of society. That is how they have gone from being the rich to the super-rich over the past 35 years or so, and these are the mechanisms by which the 1% have left the 99% way, way behind.

The simple fact is that the outcome of this neoliberal ideology, driven by the capitalist class, with the support of Western politicians, is a direct transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. As wages have fallen as a percentage of GDP, profits and income for the rich have risen - see here for the recent US figures. The super rich don't need social security, they don't need healthcare, they don't need state education like the rest of us, so their view is - 'why should I pay for any of that through my taxes'? In fact, 'why should I pay taxes at all'? Furthermore, thanks to globalisation, if they can pay someone in the Third World $1 an hour to make widgets, why should they pay you, as a worker, in Europe or the USA, $10 an hour to do the same job?

But we still live in a consumer-capitalist economy, so as wages have fallen as a percentage of GDP, the 99% have accumulated more and more debt, with the help and encouragement of capitalist lenders, in order to try and maintain their lifestyles, and this is part of the debt crisis, and the economic crisis we are now in. Because if people in 'wealthier' Western countries can't afford to buy the products of capitalism, and are saddled with debt, the consumer-driven economy is bound to be depressed, which is exactly what is happening now. The 'free market' fanatics through the mechanisms of privatisation etc. are therefore purveyors of poverty, through lower wages, unemployment and austerity for us, the 99%.

In addition to the problems of the current banking debt crisis, which was caused by deregulation of the banks and financial capitalism, there is the longer-term problem for capitalism of the falling rate of profit. It has been noted by many observers that capitalism is uniquely versatile and able to re-invent itself when faced, as it always is, by periodic crises. If capitalism reaches a barrier it will find a way round it. So, the big driver for privatisation is the need for capitalist corporations to maintain their profitability, because having exhausted much of the possibilities of the private sector, through globalisation, they are now intent on devouring the public sector in the search for new profitability and never ending growth.

For the 99%, healthcare, education, pensions, housing and social security are essential. Healthcare and education are public goods - not commodities to be bought and traded like widgets. We need social security as a right, paid for through national insurance - not welfare as some kind of handout. We need social housing and pensions so that we can retire with some dignity in our old age. All these public services are best paid for through taxes, collectively, and delivered without the profit motive, for the benefit of all. If we want public services and pensions we need to pay taxes. Low taxes are only good for the 1%, and are bad for the rest of us. In addition to paying more taxes ourselves, we need to make the rich pay much more in taxes, as a prelude to permanent economic change.

Until very recently, we had all of these essential public services mentioned above here in the UK. Now the capitalist class are trying to take them away from us, they are trying to to roll back all the democratic gains our grandparents, and parents made in the 20th century. The banking crisis is being used as an excuse to pay for the failures of neoliberalism through austerity. It is essential that we resist privatisation and cuts in public services by supporting each other, and supporting the occupations, local anti-cuts organisations, student protests, and all the diverse community groups in their ongoing struggle against austerity, and the trade unions in their planned strike action on November 30th.

Last weekend, on 15 October, global demonstrations were held to show the growing discontent of the 99%, and as a result a video was produced - see below, and a manifesto, which is worth reading, and may be the start of global demand for change.

The many thousands of people involved in the occupation movements and protests which are now happening in 900 cities across the world are rightly suspicious of politicians, political parties, and ideologies. They must be able to determine their wants and their own destiny. But ultimately what they need are the things we all need, the public services which I have outlined above, plus work, and freedom of expression, and freedom from fear. What is clear is that they can only achieve their aims by breaking the stranglehold that 'free market' neoliberalism has on our economy and democracies, and to regain control over their lives they must seize control of the economy and make the global economy their economy.

Only when we control our economy will we have the freedom and dignity we all desire and need.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Tories and sociopaths

Its been a bad week as far as this government is concerned, but we have learnt something very important, that this is a government of cranks and oddballs. First up for this week we have had the resignation of the arch -Thatcherite Defence Secretary Liam Fox, because of his bizarre relationship with his friend Adam Werrity. The mind boggles that anyone in a position of power and trust could just invite his chum to tag along on foreign trips and meetings with foreign politicians to discuss defence issues. But this is the Tories that we are talking about, so while Adam was tagging along, there were, of course, fat salaries and five star hotels, all paid for by their businessmen buddies.

Next, we have Oliver Letwin, another Thatcherite and special advisor to David Cameron who was photographed wandering round a park in London tossing correspondence from his constituents into the waste bins! I'm sure the people who had written to him were well impressed. This was followed by 'man of the people' Ian Duncan Smith, losing it and ranting because the Child Poverty Action Group had the temerity to challenge his plans for the capping of housing benefit, which will lead to social cleansing in London with up to 9,000 families being forced to leave their homes.

And in the same week, Jamie Oliver has rightly condemned the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's obesity strategy as "worthless, regurgitated, patronising rubbish". Because Lansley's strategy is basically to blame obesity on the fat. Is he just daft? No, being a Tory he is a friend of money and the big food corporations.  When it comes to profits the health of the nation is a long way second. The food corporations encourage people to eat processed food containing high amounts of salt and sugar. They are like the tobacco companies and its about time they were treated the same way.

The point is that there is a pattern here. This is a government of reactionary cranks. Tory ministers are simply not the ordinary 'men in the street' that they would like the rest of to believe they are. They are either wealthy people from privileged backgrounds, who have never had to apply for a proper job, or people who support and aspire to privilege, and people who see no problem with there being vast inequalities in society, as long as they and their loved ones have their snouts firmly in the trough. They are a curious blend of the public schoolboy and second hand car salesman, people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. People who are quite happy to impose poverty and hardship on others through £81 billion worth of cuts which will hit the most vulnerable people in society the hardest, and cut health services for the rest of us. I suspect that many of them are probably sociopaths.

The profile of a sociopath is too complex to describe here but if you can take time to examine this definition, reflect on the qualities of the people in power I have mentioned, including David Cameron, and see for yourself if you think they fit the profile. Here are some rules to help you deal with sociopaths when you meet them, because you undoubtedly will.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Quantitative easing, and how to help to avoid the big crash

Just after the Tory party conference, which ended last week, we were told that the Bank of England had introduced a new round of quantitative easing (QE) in the UK  to the tune of £75 billion. This is throwing bad la la money after bad.The bad is the £200 billion already wasted on QE to little effect on the UK economy so far, except perhaps as an increase in inflation. The la la, is that it is made up money which comes from nowhere, so it might as well come to you and me, and I'm not joking, because if it did, that really would lift off our economy. But we all know that is not going to happen. The iron law of capitalism is - "To those that have shall be given".

What we have with this economic crisis is the perfect storm, which was described by Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, in the link above, as:
"There is not enough money. That may seem unfamiliar to people." [he told Sky News.] "But that's because this is the most serious financial crisis at least since the 1930s, if not ever."
All of which makes our current situation potentially worse than the Great  Depression. This is because; we still have a huge amount of debt in the system; we have nation states (like Greece) bust; we have bust banks; and all the economic levers, including record low interest rates, and QE, have been pulled, both here and in the USA. So there's nowhere left to go - not as far that is, as neoliberal economics is concerned - see Larry Elliot's article in the Guardian.

On top of all this, now we hear that yet another bailout of European banks is planned by Sarkozy and Merkel in the EU. This will cost at least £200 billion, but the EFSF could go up to €2 trillion. But  hang on..... where is all this money coming from? Why, from you dear taxpayer, you and your children, and your children's children will have to fork out at least that amount, and possibly more, to bail out commercial banks. And yet, this really is the plan - a kind of madness.

The Guardian have summarised the current situation in their Eurozone graphic - see below:

The Eurozone crisis - source: The Guardian
So what is the answer? Not more QE, that is for sure, and no more bank bailouts. The state has done its bit, now it is time for the market to bear all of the costs of the debt in the system. That sure will hurt bad, it wont be easy for anyone, but it is the only solution. The major banks must be nationalised and the rest written off. Then the nationalised banks need to be turned into national investment banks (with some mutualised). We then need a sustained burst of Green QE, starting with the Green New Deal.The Green Party plan is to start by investing £44 billion in creating one million green jobs, a far better investment than QE. There is much more to be done, including building renewable energy sources, and affordable housing, and a citizen's pension, but this is only  the start. If you want to know more, take a look at our manifesto here.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

There is a solution for the 99%

Growing economic inequality in the USA, and throughout the West, is something that I have commented on before in this blog, and it is well documented. The incomes of middle class Americans have been stagnant or falling since the 1970's whilst those of the capitalist class have been growing. According to Rupert Cornwell in today's Independent:
"Income disparities are wider than at any time since the Wall Street crash of 1929, and almost 50 per cent of financial wealth in the US is now in the hands of 1 per cent of the population."
The American middle classes are really suffering the impact of 30 years of neoliberalism, and the effects of the financial crash, which began with the sub-prime mortgage scandal. Its important to make a distinction because 'middle class' means something different in the USA and the UK. In the UK, the middle classes are well-off professionals such as doctors and lawyers, whereas in the USA the term 'middle class' includes working families that would be described as 'working class' in the UK. Middle class Americans are crucial to the USA because they are at the heart of America.

Because the USA has always had privatised healthcare and higher education and a weak welfare system, the American middle classes have always lead a potentially precarious existence. If you get ill, you get large health bills, if you can't work because of your illness you can lose your job and your house. In a short space of time you could go from a fairly comfortable lifestyle to being out on the street. In the past the US economy has been strong enough to ensure that this didn't happen to most Americans. That is no longer the case. Millions of Americans are now finding themselves in a situation where they are living hand to mouth, knowing that if they lose their job they will lose everything they had. They are living in fear of joining the millions of families who have already suffered this fate.

We are the 99% is a website which documents the fears and suffering of middle class Americans. Many of these people are hanging on just one paycheck away from disaster and shouldering thousands of dollars of debt.

This photo is typical of the plight of people on We are the 99%
We are the 99%, like occupywallst, which I have been following from its start in mid September, is a reaction against the bailout of Wall Street, and growing poverty, unemployment and economic inequality. The Tea Party was also a reaction to the bailout which came largely from the middle class right and which was rapidly absorbed, manipulated and funded by the capitalist class as I reported here:
"That is what the Tea Party is all about. Millions of Americans are angry, bewildered and frustrated at the recent crash and the fact they aren't getting richer anymore. But there is a huge problem here - they are directing their anger against the wrong enemy. The people who caused the crash - the financial capitalists and corporations of Wall Street aren't being blamed. Instead, the anger is being directed at the government." 
Unlike the Tea Party, the occupywallst movement is really about social justice. It is a recognition that the growing inequality has to be reversed, and that the neoliberalist policies pursued by successive governments have failed the American people. As yet the movement appears to be leaderless and doesn't have a coherent programme and specific demands for change. But it is growing and spreading to other cities in the USA. It is beginning to cause concern to politicians like Obama, who have begun to take notice.

What should the demands of the occupywallst movement be? Well, it's not for me to say, but if you read about the problems of the 99% the solutions are fairly obvious. What Americans need is freedom from fear through access to jobs and public provision - in health, education and social security. These are things that we have in the UK, but we are in the process of losing, due to the Coalitions government's austerity programme, if we don't fight for them. Like us, Americans need a Green New Deal to provide jobs and tackle climate change, they need a properly funded system of public healthcare and higher education. What they need is social security as a right, not welfare as a handout.

One of the greatest of Americans tried to ensure that Americans had all these things but was unable to complete his project before he died. His name was Franklin D. Roosevelt and he enshrined the freedom from fear in his economic second Bill of Rights. His bill of rights is what the American middle classes need. The occupywallst movement don't need to invent a programme because they already have a ready made one, now they have re-discover it and fight for it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

March for the alternative at the Tory conference

Last Sunday, along with 35,000 other people I marched in Manchester to protest against the austerity measures being inflicted on the British people by the Coalition government. The march started and finished up at First Street, and was characterised by good humour and a feeling of solidarity on what was a very mild and largely sunny October afternoon.

Most of the marchers were trade unionists, with members from Unison, Unite, The GMB, NUT and PCS, mixing with other protest groups. The Green Party was represented mainly by members from Manchester, Carlisle and the Green Left, and a coach came from Chester from our local campaign, Cheshire West Against the Cuts, which is supported by West Cheshire Trades Council.

One of the biggest issues for the marchers was the attack on public sector pensions. The Tories and their corporate backers, aided by cheerleaders in the right wing press, have managed to drive a wedge between public and private sector workers on the pensions issue. Public sector workers, many of whom are low paid and can expect a pension of only £3,000 per year, have been vilified as 'fat cats', whilst private sector workers have seen their pensions slashed. If the government succeeds in destroying pension provision for the public sector that will make it all the harder to bring back decent pensions for those in the private sector. Public and private sector workers need to support each other on this issue, otherwise millions more will be condemned to poverty in their old age. The Green Party sought to address the pension crisis in its 2010 manifesto by introducing a citizens pension of £300 p.w. for a couple and £170 p.w. for a single person.

The public sector unions are balloting their members for industrial action on pensions to start on November 30th. Its important that all working people support this struggle because it could be the pivotal point where the public really turn against the Coalition government's austerity programme, which is already becoming more unpopular. Cameron is well aware of this and his lacklustre speech at the Tory conference shows that the government is stuck in a hole of its own making with no plan B, rising unemployment, a flatlining economy, and no real idea of how to move the country forward. Never has the alternative I've argued for in this blog been more sorely needed - see here.

Monday, 26 September 2011

What is a 'strong leader'?

Now that the Labour party conference is underway we keep hearing about Ed Milliband's leadership qualities - as if this was all that mattered as far as Labour is concerned. Is Ed a strong leader? We hear that question repeatedly asked by the media. It seems that it has now become axiomatic that 'leadership' is the most important thing about any political party. After all, if you don't like the leader of a party how could you possibly vote for that party? And nobody could like a leader who isn't 'strong' could they?

Of course in a media age its important that party leaders are media savvy. They are bound to be in the spotlight. But isn't there something else going on here? What matters about a party is its policies and what it intends to do in government - that is the bottom line. So why the media obsession with 'strong' leaders which, over the past 30 years or so, has created a presidential style of government in the UK? Could it be that what the capitalist media really want is 'strong' leaders who are actually weak, who they can exert pressure on to act against the wishes of other ministers, MPs and the party membership, thus making it easier for the media to set the political agenda in their owners interests?

I don't want 'strong' leadership. Hitler and Stalin were 'strong' leaders. I believe the benefits of 'strong' leadership, and leadership in general, are greatly exaggerated. I would question whether we need leadership at all. But given the current set up, what I want is leaders who are team players, and listen, and respond to the party membership. I want a good party team elected into government. A team who work together and are are going to do their damnedest to implement policies which have been democratically decided upon at a party conference, whether the Daily Mail likes it or not.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

So the Liberal Democrat conference is over. The leadership will no doubt be pleased that any signs of revolt over their propping up of the most reactionary government of modern times have receded. Of course we had the predictable attacks on the Tories and bankers by Vince Cable and Chris Huhne, but the Liberal Democrats are now the party of bankers and the Tories - the attacks being merely a few crumbs thrown to party activists to help them to sleep a little easier at night.

However, you can bet that Cable, Clegg and Huhne themselves sleep very comfortably at night. After all, they are now all government ministers on good salaries at a time of austerity. But their greatest satisfaction must be that they have successfully achieved what Blair and Brown also achieved with New Labour - a right wing coup which has taken their party from the centre to the right of politics. The Liberal Democrat Party, like the Labour Party before it, has now become a shell, a hollowed-out organisation dedicated to putting the leadership into power, another vehicle for the political class, rather than a democratic party for promoting the political aspirations of the membership, and for building a better society - see here.  It is now a truly neoliberal party. As we saw with New Labour, when a party is in power it is all too easy for the leadership to ignore the views of a party membership rendered docile by its party being in government.

In case you are wondering about the title of this post, it originates in one of the most famous soliloquies from Shakespeare, delivered by Macbeth on the discovery of his wife's death, and can be found here. I selected it, because for me, it perfectly describes Nick Clegg's conference speech. Because Nick Clegg is an idiot if he really believes that by slashing welfare, destroying the NHS and wrecking the economy with austerity that he is "doing the right thing", as he claimed in his speech. Even by the standards of neoliberal politicians this was a mendacious and dishonest speech, completely detached from the realities of the crisis of capitalism we are in. It offered no real understanding off the difficulties we face, no hope for the future and It contained the usual lies - Labour caused the deficit and the "economy must be run for ordinary people not big finance" being but two examples. What Clegg said was that his government was doing "not the easy thing but the right thing". He is wrong. What this government is doing by implementing an austerity programme is the easy thing and the wrong thing to do, and it will make our children poorer than us and our grandchildren poorer than our children.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Neoliberalspeak dictionary

This post was inspired by George Orwell's Newspeak. According to Wikipedia:
Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, it refers to the deliberately impoverished language promoted by the state.

Over the past 30 years or so neoliberalism has contributed to the impoverishment of our language by the usage, or perhaps mis-use of certain words. The aim of a neoliberalspeak dictionary is to give some of the key words their real meaning.

  • affordable housing / adj. - unaffordable housing. Mythical housing unavailable to most citizens in the UK
  • bailout / n.; v. - a method of privatising financial gains and nationalising financial losses
  • capitalism / n. - a gigantic global Ponzi scheme designed to benefit a small elite whilst plunging billions of people into abject poverty
  • deficit reduction / n. ; v. - a means of class war by which the populations of countries are made to pay for the failures of the markets
  • efficiency / n. - increasing profits by lowering the living standards of workers. This is typically achieved by cuts in pay, a reduction in holiday entitlement and reduced pension.
  • efficiency savings / adj. - cuts
  • Eurozone / n. - proto-European capitalist empire where commercial interests are put above democratic rights
  • gig economy / adj. low paid - sweatshop labour
  • globalisation / n.; v. - a process of opening up the world to Western economic imperialism. A means of looting the natural resources, exploiting labour in all the countries of the world and lowering the standard of living of workers in the West
  • Labour market flexibility / adj. - attack on workers conditions, lowering pay reduction in holidays - cheap labour. 
  • privatisation / n.; v. - asset stripping of the public sector by the private sector 
  • quantitative easing / adj. handouts for the rich. Printing trillions of dollars to prop up a broken global economy
  • Social mobility / adj. - conservative fraudulent frame which is used to legitimise inequality in society
  • strong leader / n. - a weak leader i.e. someone who will do what we tell them to against the wishes of their own party and its supporters. we being the neoliberal so-called free press (corporate media)
  • sustainable / adj. - unsustainable. A word that has become so debased and devalued as to have rendered it virtually meaningless
  • tax / n.; v. - a levy by the state on the 99%
  • Trump / n.; v. - a fart, noxious gas released from the anus
  • we're all in this together / adj. - you pay for our crisis
  • WTO / n. - 'we've taken over' . Global organisation for the purpose of promoting the commercial interests of global corporations above the democratic rights of nation states.
I'm sure that in time the dictionary will grow into a comprehensive guide to Neoliberalspeak. I hope that I'll be able get some contributions from some of the greatest exponents of Neoliberalspeak  such as Nick Clegg, Tony Blair, Barak Obama, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nicola Sarkozy.