Gordon Brown does it again

Sent to the local Shields Gazette

"Immigrants should be required to do community service as a condition of becoming British citizens", Gordon Brown said yesterday

This follows his proposal that we should all display a coloured rag on the end of an idiot stick, also known as the Union Jack, on the Monarch's Birthday or some special "National" day he has hinted he would like to introduce (as long as it's not a working day -- the business interests he has catered for as Chancellor of the Exchequer wouldn't like that).

"Britishness" has become something of an obsession with him. Psychologists have suggested that it might have something to do with, being from Scotland, him being unsure of his "Britishness" and so over-compensating in the same sort of what that Hitler, an Austrian, did with "Germanness". More probably, his spin-doctors have detected that voters in England might not be too keen to vote for a party led by a dour Scotsman whose father was a Presbyterian Minister and so have told him to play up his Britishness. In other words, usual political opportunism. Or maybe he wants to steal votes as well as policies from the British National Party.

But it also serves a purpose. The capitalist class rules in the end only with the consent of the ruled class and nationalism is one of the means they use to try to con us that we have a common interest with them as against the inhabitants of other capitalist states. Brown perhaps feels that liberal and cynical attitudes have gone too far and that we need an increased dose of nationalism to keep us ideologically bound to our masters.

Whatever the reason, he has now come up with the outrageous proposal that workers who come to Britain and want to settle here should first have to undergo a spell of forced labour before being entitled to the "privileges" of being a legal subject of the British State. The Labour Party used to pose as a champion of civil liberties and the like. Not any more. They are now an openly authoritarian as well as an openly capitalist party.


Suffer the little children - under Blair

Commencing a letter to Labour Party Prime Minister Harold Wilson on 22nd December 1965, AF Philip, Chairman of the newly formed Child Poverty Action Group wrote:“There is evidence that at least half a million children in this country are in homes where there is hardship due to poverty.”He ended his plea on behalf of Britain’s deprived minors thus: “We earnestly beg you to see that steps are taken at the earliest possible moment to help these families.”

So confident that child poverty would be quickly eradicated by the amazing magical wand that Wilson often wielded, Labour suggested the CPAG would be obsolete within a year, the problem it was set up to help sort a thing of the past. Forty-two years later the CPAG is still in existence and child poverty is still with us, despite 10 years of Labour reforms.

In the past week the United Nations has reported that children growing up in the United Kingdom suffer higher deprivation, poorer relationships with their parents and are exposed to more risks from alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex than those in any other wealthy country in the world. The report compiled by Unicef says that the UK is bottom of the league of 21 economically advanced countries, trailing the United States which comes second to last.Over 16% of children now live below the official poverty line. Way to go, Blair. Forty two years after a Labour government promised to eradicate poverty it is as high as ever.

Replying to a letter from the CPAG on 20th January 2006, Tony Blair confidently wrote:” I can promise you that we share your ambition to make child poverty history in our country. It is why we have publicly said we want to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it completely by 2020.”What is nauseating about this is that Blair is telling the CPAG, who in 1965 complained that there were officially half a million children in poverty, that by 2010 he will halve child poverty – ie. slash the number of impoverished children from 3.4 million to 1.7 million.

So 45 years after Labour said they would end child poverty the best they can offer is to set a figure which is thrice the 1965 figure as a bloody victory!! Rather than distributing wealth and claiming to have as its priority the lifting children out of poverty and improving their education and prospects, Labour in facts redistributes poverty like no other government in the industrialised world.

Of course, come election time, Blair and co will continue to depend on working class historical amnesia to carry them through to a fourth victory, confident their lies and betrayals and rampant hypocrisy will be concealed by surfeit of promises for the future and pathetic excuses for past failings.Incidentally, if you do suffer from political amnesia, try clicking on this remedy: LABOUR SLEAZE


Climatic change again

sent to the local Shields Gazette
Climate change due to global warming is perhaps the greatest danger facing humanity as a whole at the moment (though others make out a good case for this being the spread of the ability to make nuclear bombs). Environment minister, and South Shields MP, David Miliband wrote about this in the Times (12 February):

"Climate change is, according to Sir Nicholas Stern, the greatest ever market failure, but the answer is not to replace markets. Instead, we need to price pollution into markets and extend market mechanisms so that they work more effectively".

In other words, the Market has Failed, Long Live the Market! This from somebody billed as New Labour's bright young intellectual, though it does show the extent of Labour's commitment to capitalism.

Socialists take a different view. Miliband of course is no socialist (though his father wrote a couple of books -- "Parliamentary Socialism" and "The State in Capitalist Society" -- of interest to them). We say: the Market has failed, so let's replace it with something better that doesn't produce problems like global overwarming.

The "carbon trading" and "green taxes" favoured by Miliband are just tinkering with the market system, whereas if carbon emissions are to be stabilised and the consequences of global overwarming tackled effectively it is the whole market system of competitive production for profit that must go.

Its replacement would be a world without frontiers where the Earth's natural and industrial resources have become the common heritage of all humanity. Only then will a world body capable of taking the necessary co-ordinated global action exist. Only then can the Earth's resources be used to satisfy people's needs not to make a profit for those who own and exploit them.The buying and selling of the market system would be replaced by giving and taking in accordance with the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs".


Demand the Impossible

Text of a leaflet I've done for the antiwar demo on 24th Feb

Today, 24th February, people have travelled the length and breadth of Britain to protest at the continuing bloodshed in the Middle East.
No doubt many will be veterans of the mass protest in London 4 years ago which attracted almost 2 million people - people fully aware at the time that the events of 9/11 had no link to Saddam Hussein and that he posed no military threat to the West. Likewise, the many who marched to Hyde Park that day were right in believing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction—a fact that has now been proved—and that any war in Iraq would fully destabilise the country. And you would have been in a minority had you not realised the link between the intended war and the fact that beneath the sands of Iraq lay huge oil resources.

Undoubtedly, after over four years of campaigning you will be revolted by the incessant lies of the Blair government as it has tried to justify the occupation of Iraq and its further plunge into chaos. Week in, week out, the government has distorted the truth and sunk to all manner of low tactics to justify its position. And now, after all of your campaigning efforts, the meetings and demos you have attended, the petitions you have signed, the umpteen arguments with your friends and neighbours, you are here protesting again, having been proved right, marching today, demanding a withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq, hoping to halt a looming attack upon Iran, and calling for no replacement for Trident.

Four years of solid protest and your cause is not one inch further forward! Indeed, the anti-war cause has taken a step back. For, paying no heed to the hell that has been let loose in Iraq, Labour and the Tories are all too ready to escalate the war and support a US-led attack on Iran, even if this means the use of nuclear strikes.

Whoa, hold on! Do you not think you might just be wasting your time here today? Granted, the Iraq War has resulted in the deaths of 660,000 and innocent Iraqis are still being killed every day. And yes, Blair has increased the British troop presence in Afghanistan and he even kept schtum during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. But do you not think you’re asking the wrong questions, making the wrong demands? Repeating the mistakes of the past? We’re not saying you are wrong for asking questions, only that you do not ask enough. Indeed, question everything! We’re not suggesting you are demanding too much today—in truth, you are not demanding enough!

Whilst this march demands the withdrawal of western forces from Iraq and pleads that Iran is not attacked, it supports the very system that creates war by not questioning the premise of war. War is a bedfellow of the system we know as capitalism, being waged over trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets, natural resources and the profits that can be had via the same. By not taking issue with the nature of capitalism, and the root of war, this gathering is making the mistake of every previous anti-war demo and meeting and paving the way for more in the future. Wars will continue as long as capitalism exists. By demanding the British and American governments listen to us today we further give them legitimacy by acknowledging their right to make war and indeed end it.

Now we’re not being churlish here. It is heartening to see so many here today, united in common voice - it reveals the workers can be mobilised around issues they feel are important. But from our experience - and we’ve had 100 years’ experience of observing campaigns and demonstrations and protests around every kind of reform and demand imaginable (we’re the oldest existing socialist organisation in Britain, having been formed in 1904) - we can confidently say that this demonstration is just one of hundreds over the years that address the symptoms, not the cause of the problem, and will make no significant difference to the established order, either here or in Iraq, or to the way politicians think. Four years ago, two million marched all over Britain; there were demos and vigils every night in opposition to the war. Over one-hundred Labour MPs voted against Blair’s war, and to top it all the push for war received no UN sanction, but still the troops were sent. So much for one of the biggest protest movements in labour history!

Consider this. Across the globe there are literally hundreds of thousands of campaigns and protest groups and many more charities, some small, some enormous, all pursuing tens of thousands of issues, and their work involves many millions of sincere workers who care passionately about their individual causes and give their free time to support them unquestioningly. Many will have campaigned on some single issue for years on end with no visible result; others will have celebrated minor victories and then joined another campaign groups, spurred on by that initial success.

And, considering the above, two things stand out: firstly, that many of the problems around us are rooted in the way our society is organised for production, and are problems we have been capable of solving for quite some time, though never within the confines of a profit-driven market system; secondly, that if all of these well meaning people had have directed all their energy—all those tens of billions of human labour hours expended on their myriad single issues—to the task of overthrowing the system that creates a great deal of the problems around us, then none of us would be here today. Instead we would have established a world without borders, without waste or want or war, in which we would all have free access to the benefits of civilisation with problem-solving devoid of the artificial constraints of the profit system.

If you are now confused forgive us if we come across blunt, but which part of “to end war we must end capitalism” do you not understand? Its simple! Every aspect of our lives is subordinated to the requirements of profit - from the moment you brush your teeth in the morning with the toothpaste you saw advertised on TV until you crawl into your bed at night. Pick up a newspaper and try locating any problem reported there outside of our “can’t pay—can’t have” system. Crime, the health service, poverty, drug abuse, hunger, disease, homelessness, unemployment, war, insecurity - the list is endless. All attract their campaign groups, all struggling to address these problems, and all of these problems arising because of the inefficient and archaic way we organise our world for production.

You’ve got it! We’re unlike any other group here today out to reform capitalism, who beg governments to be just a little less horrid, who ask our masters to throw us a few more crumbs from the bread we bake. We are not into the politics of compromise and we certainly are not prepared to be satisfied with crumbs. We demand the whole bakery!

We are here today to urge you to stop belittling yourself and your class by making the same age-old demands of the master class. Demand what until now has been considered “the impossible”! Join us in campaigning for a system of society where there are no leaders, no classes, no states or governments, no borders, no force or coercion; a world where the earth’s natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the benefit of all; a world of free access to the necessaries of life. Wouldn’t such a campaign movement not only address the real root of every campaign and protest currently being waged?

The choice is yours – the struggle for world socialism and an end to our real problems or a lifetime attached to the ‘pick-your-cause’ brigade and the certainty you will be retracing your footsteps here today in years to come.


A closer look at the BNP

Sent to the local Shields Gazette

In both the local and the national press of late, the BNP have come in for a hard time. In recent weeks their policies have rightly drawn the disgust of readers of the Gazette, whilst nationally the press has reported the hypocritical condemnation of the mainstream parties who have lost seat after council seat to the BNP. The grievances of "Joe Public" I can sympathise with. What I find nauseating is the moralistic pontificating from the Blair and Cameron camps.
Considering the views of the Labour and Conservative parties on asylum and the former’s part in so overtly upsetting the Islamic world in recent years, their concern for the apparent rising support for the BNP does seem a mite misplaced. Labour and the Tories may well abhor the policies of the BNP, but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made significant political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system they champion and which gives rise to the politics of race and hate.

If anything the BNP are the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. And this is not realy the fault of the mainstream parties, for they are controlled by the system and not vice versa, despite their claims and promises. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating rubbish of fascists and the quick fix they offer?

The hundreds of thousands of misinformed workers who fall for the BNP spiel at election are the products of the demoralising system we know as capitalism, deluded into thinking that neo-nazi solutions to social problems – which they have been led to believe are largely rooted in the colour of a person’s skin – would suddenly improve their miserable lives. In truth, a shortage of council housing and poorly maintained housing estates, low wages and pittance benefits are no more the fault of asylum seekers than, in fact, the mainstream parties who mistakenly believe capitalism can be run in the interests of the workers. At the end of the day the BNP simply put together a better package of lies and, just like the other reformist parties, promise voters little more than extra space at the trough of poverty - and tens of thousands, their minds numbed by the politics of reform fall for the scam.


Socialism - been tried?

Sent to the Shields Gazette, 8/02/07

Dear Sir,

The anonymous patriot (7th February) - so proud to stand up for what he believes in that he hides behind a veil of anonymity - regurgitates the hackneyed old argument against those advocating real socialism. He announces that socialism has been tried and failed and to hammer home his claim points the finger of proof to the former Soviet Union.

It seems that one of the pitfalls of being a socialist is to forever have the “its been tried and failed” argument brandished in your face as soon as you announce your political standpoint. The Gazette even helped with the slur by printing a photo of Lenin alongside the shy patriot’s anti-socialist diatribe.

Once again, I am neither a Leninist, a Trotskyist nor a Stalinist and I believe socialism has existed nowhere. I maintain, as ever, that the Soviet Union was state capitalist and that Lenin was simply an opportunistic distorter of Marx’s ideas, oblivious as to what socialism meant.

In The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat it (1917), Lenin wrote: “Socialism is merely state capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people.”

A year later, in Left Wing Childishness… he wrote: “State capitalism would be a step forward…if in approximately six months’ time state capitalism became established in our republic, this would be a great success.”

In state capitalist Russia, the role of the state was to act as the functionary of capital in the exploitation of wage labour. The bureaucratic elite who ran the state lived in comfort and privilege as a result of the exploitation of the working class.

The essential thing is not to point to individuals and say “look, there is the capitalist class”, but to be able to point to the exploitative social force of capital which, in Russia, was represented by the state machine.

And just for the record, the Bolsheviks never abolished the wages system or commodity production. The state controlled key industries and production took place when only viable to do so. Russia traded according the dictates of international capital and, like every other capitalist state, was prepared to go to war to defend its economic interests. Russia was no, more socialist than Hitler was a humanitarian.


John B