And now the Pope prays for Madeleine

Forgive me for sounding churlish, but if Madeleine McCann’s parents were not both doctors, were not white – say if they were both black, from Bradford, both employed in menial, low-waged jobs – would the European media give a toss? I very much doubt it. Would they have been granted an audience with the Pope. Like shite! Its a fair bet both would have been arrested and interrogated for hours, with the British gutter press launching an investigation into their private lives, venting their spleen on the parents for being so uncaring and self-seeking as to leave their kids home alone.

Since Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3rd, as well as the Pope, the British ambassador has become involved, along with British cabinet ministers and the Portuguese Judicial Police, with the assistance of other police forces, has launched a search and investigation operation of a scale never before seen in Portugal, with 130 senior officers and 800 beat officers apparently consigned to the case.

The case has since sparked a media feeding frenzy that has escalated into a worldwide cause. Criminologists, doctors and psychologists have all offered their professional opinions and all manner of scenarios as to Madeleine’s disappearance have been mooted on blogsites. Anyone who can articulate a verbal response to the story has been interviewed by the press, radio and TV.

If the story of Madeleine’s disappearance has been blown out of all proportion, then so has the response of celebrities. JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, and Richard Branson, have offered £multi-million rewards for information leading to Madeleine’s safe return. Journalists from all over the world have flocked to that small Portuguese resort, from where the child disappeared, to cover the story.

Meanwhile, according to UNICEF (the U.N. children's fund) last week, 1.2 million children are trafficked every year around the world. Where the front page coverage in The Sun, or the first item, of news on News at Ten reporting this story? Child trafficking by slavers and the child sex industry is big business, most of it taking place in South and South East Asia as well as Africa.
In the tiny West African nation of Togo, according to UNICEF, one child in eight is snatched, never to be seen again. Indeed, in some instances the parents are complicit in their disappearance, their crushing poverty invariably the sole reason.

In Portugal, 31 children disappeared last year and neither has the combined media coverage of those 31 missing kids equalled that afforded the disappearance of Madeleine. The sniffer dogs were not called out and the search helicopters were grounded.

But just divide those 1.2 million disappearances by 365 and work out how many kids go missing every 24 hours!! The figure is roughly 3286 vanished kids every day; almost 137 every hour. And how many of them white and of well-to-do parents?

Does the news hungry press turn up en masse at the homes of these 1.2 million children? Do foreign ambassadors get involved? Do celebrities offer huge fortunes for their safe return? Does the Pope offer prayers to the big man in the sky? No way!!

As a father to four and a grandfather to another 3, I can well imagine the anxiety the McCann’s are going through and sincerely hope she is returned soon and unharmed. But as a socialist I have to ask just what the fuck is going on here. Does this pathetic media circus suggest that a white child is worth 1,200,000 coloured children, or that the seemingly perpetual problems of Africa and Asia are no longer newsworthy? Have people in the West become desensitised as to the suffering of non-whites or is it that impoverished African parents grieve the loss of a child far less than their counterparts in affluent Europe. The race element cannot be denied here.

And for the press, there is the heart-yanking human interest story . This saga sells papers and thus increases the attractiveness to advertisers. At the end of the day the job of newspapers is not to report news, but to sell us to advertisers. And its the same with networked TV which is propped up by advertising and where a high interest news item means commercial breaks attract the big spenders. The message is clear – if you’re gonna lose your kid, just make sure they’re not Asian or African


Having large families ‘is an eco-crime’

The neo-Malthusians in the OPT (Optimum Population Trust) have this week issued a press release promoting the idea that one way to offset carbon dioxide emissions is to have smaller families.

They argue that Britain’s population is getting too big and that if couples opted to have two children instead of three they could cut their family’s carbon dioxide output by the equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York.

John Guillebaud, co-chairman of OPT and emeritus professor of family planning at University College London, said: “The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child.” He further says: “The decision to have children should be seen as a very big one and one that should take the environment into account.”

OPT’s press release states:

“Based on a 'social cost' of carbon dioxide of $85 a tonne, the report estimates the climate cost of each new Briton over their lifetime at roughly £30,000. The lifetime emission costs of the extra 10 million people projected for the UK by 2074 would therefore be over £300 billion.

“A 35-pence condom, which could avert that £30,000 cost from a single use, thus represents a 'spectacular' potential return on investment – around nine million per cent.

“Population limitation should therefore be seen as the most cost-effective carbon offsetting strategy available to individuals and nations – a strategy that applies with even more force to developed nations such as the UK because of their higher consumption levels.”

In other words, Forget that penny-pinching capitalist production methods have been destroying the plant since the advent of the industrial revolution, the real problem there is a bloody big hole in the ozone layer is because Brits have a penchant for the occasional shag.

Whilst the report may cite consumption levels in industrial society as being paramount, nowhere does it criticise the culture of consumption which capitalism actually depends upon and promotes. Indeed, nowadays, the profit merchants are hell bent on instilling in us false needs, continually bombadring us with adverts that tell us we have not got enough, that we have not got the latest, that our lives are not complete unless we surround ourselevs with every available gadget and piece of technology on the high street.

Once again, another problem that is very clearly rooted in how our world is organised for production is laid at the feet of the workers. Capitalism again comes away unblemished.


The class struggle on South Tyneside

As a parent governor at Lukes Lane Community School in Hebburn, South Tyneside, I was perhaps as angered as any - 4 years ago - at the news that our school had been given the death penalty and handed an execution date some time in the next two years; angered also at the damned lies and deception fellow governors encountered whenever we asked council education officials about the rumours that schools would close. Undoubtedly they knew all along.

Lukes Lane school was only one of many facing the axe back then. In all, the local council was planning to close 14 schools, with a knock on effect to another 17. And why the mass closures? So South Tyneside Council could save money. Yup, at the end of the day we were down to that age old problem - pounds before people! Of course, the local council were only acting on instructions from higher up the chain of command – from the government, which itself was only kowtowing to the capitalist god Mammon.

To cut a long story short, we battled, argued our case and Lukes Lane Community School won a stay of execution.

Today I attended a meeting of head teachers and chairs of governing bodies, where we were told that once again the education axe was being sharpened and was being readied for action. At a specified date within the next month, a dozen or so schools will be told, in no uncertain terms: “your number is up, me old mucker.”

And what will the effect of this decimation be? Unemployed teachers, classroom assistants, caretakers, kitchen staff and cleaners. In some instances the heart of the community will be wrenched out, for the simple reason the local school is one of the few places parents can meet together. Labour, it would seem, for the town hall in South Shields is under Labour Party control, is also intent on continuing the Thatcherite policy of destroying close-knit communities of workers.

Precious teacher-parent relationships, school-community relationships - things you really can’t put a price on, things it has taken decades to establish - are being subordinated to the capitalist god Mammon. A Labour controlled council suddenly finds it too costly to maintain its current meagre investment in the borough’s children (though it can bloody well invest in arms manufacturers).

But wait! Wasn't it a Labour government that came to power with the slogan: "Education, Education, Education"? Wasn't it Blair who told us that a vote for him was a vote for smaller class sizes and hence a better quality of education for our children? When schools show smaller class sizes - in this instance because of population trends – the local council sees this as an opportunity to close and merge them and to hell with those aforementioned relationships and the cost and inconvenience to the local community.

Schools should belong to nobody - certainly not controlled by a handful of pompous and overpaid bureaucrats at the town hall. They should be the common heritage of all our children, even if we acknowledge that their present function is to churn out literate and passive wage slaves for industry and cannon fodder for the state’s war machine.

Their fate, however, has been announced by an unaccountable Cabal without much prior warning to the most effected. Nobody knows yet which schools will close. All we know is that on D Day, school head teachers will get that feared phone call. The remit of these bureaucrats running the education system? It’s simple really – education at the lowest possible cost; which is perhaps not surprising considering we live in a two class system in which every aspect of our lives is subordinated to the requirements of profit. It now remains the be seen whether, in the coming months, the parents of South Tyneside will realise their collective strength, organise a massive united campaign, and give education chiefs the battle they deserve.

This, is not to encourage the reformist route, but simply to state a fact – that at a time when parents’ elected representatives - MPs - prefer to sit on the sideline, when teachers fear the wrath of their own union should they side with parents, there is little else for parents do but to unite in common cause?

In a sane world education would not suffer the constant interference of penny-pinching bureaucrats and careerists. Schools would be there to educate, not to train the next generation of workers. Even today, teachers, parents and students are quite capable of working more closely together and to come up with an education system superior to that now in existence. Not only do they have the benefit of a more intimate understanding of schools and children than those presently calling the shots, their goals are different from the objectives of the present educational system’s elite.

Sadly, all too often people come up with improved ways of doing things in this society, only to have their views dismissed as the rantings of utopian dreamers. Never because such ideas can’t work, but because they come into direct conflict with powerful interests. And neither is the education system immune.

Let’s be honest here. The education system is in a state of constant crisis, whether your focus is student grants, ‘A' level results or closing schools. The cause is not tiny class sizes, inadequate teachers, callous parents, unruly kids or lack of resources, or indeed any of the other explanations offered by the apologists for the profit system. The real problem is that the education system is driven by the needs of profit and social control, and exists solely to maintain the class structure.

In his book We Can Change the World – The Real Meaning of Everyday Life, David Stratman writes:

“The function of education in any society is the reproduction of that society – that is, the transmission of the values and relationships which characterise it…In class society, the social and political values which the school system is designed to transmit are the values of the dominant class. In aiming to reproduce capitalist social relations and values, the goal of the education system is to reproduce inequality.” (P.68)

Whatever good exists in schools, whatever valid learning goes on, whatever genuine cooperation takes place, whatever real successes teachers achieve and whatever real self confidence students develop: all these occur in spite of the system, not because of it. They occur because the people who matter in education, those who genuinely care, are engaged in a constant struggle to accomplish their shared goals, in spite of the barriers to their success which the market system constantly throws up.

Of course, success is limited. Parents and teachers may well be conscious of factors they are up against. However, the real one they need to consider is that the goals of the system are quite different from their own goals. And it is only when such goals are acknowledged that the real class struggle begins and schools will at last be truly free to educate.


Election Results in Monkton Ward Analysed

Labour 863
Independent 743
Lib Dem 282
BNP (neo-nazis) 221
Conservative 217
Socialist Party 78

Well, in an area in which we have had far higher results (even higher than the BNP vote in the Monkton ward this time round) we polled 78 votes. Of course coming last place to the fascists of the BNP, in an area in which you have propagated so long the socialist case and worked hard for your community, does feel like a kick in the nuts. Actually, the result was not all that bad. To get 3.24% of the vote in a six candidate race is, relatively speaking, something of an achievement, especially when you’re asking the voters to reject capitalism and everything it represents outright and when you tell the voters on your election address only to give their support if they wholeheartedly agree with you

And what the fuck; the BNP got a lower vote in Tony Blair’s own ward and there were only the two candidates there – the BNP and Labour – and in a nearby ward in Spennymoor they polled 13 votes, so I guess if I felt like I’d been kicked in the gonads, these Nazis must have come away from the count doing first class Joe Pasquale impressions. And just what the hell does “unafilliated” mean? I can only assume it means that the Socialist Party is unaffiliated to the pro-capitalist camp, so if that’s what the Nazis mean, then thanks.

Let’s be honest. It is true that the Party has done better, both in terms of votes and percentages, in previous elections on South Tyneside, but this has been due to there being less candidates. It can only be the case that when we’ve only had Labour and a Tory standing against us we get more votes, but most of these will be neither socialist nor even personal votes but protest votes against the two main parties.

For instance, in Primrose Ward in 2000 and 2003, when there were only 2 other candidates, we got 184 (11%) and 316 (12%) respectively. But, in 1998, when there was also a Liberal standing, we only got 104 (6%). This time, with 6 candidates standing, I guess it was only to be expected that the protest and stray votes would go to the Independent candidate and the fascist. Which is what happened, but this is not perhaps a reflection on either the Party, but simply the result of well-known electoral mathematics.

To get 3.34% under these circumstances is something of an achievement. Most of those who did vote for us must have consciously voted for the Party, agreeing with its case against the profit system. If only we could get a handful of them into a local branch!

It pains me, however, that one disturbing feature of this election is the relatively strong showing of the BNP in this this area (9%), something that has been reflected in other traditional working-class wards in other parts of England. It is now becoming the case that the BNP can outvote any party claiming to be socialist on most working-class estates. I think that this must be put down in some measure to the SWP and other left-wing groups embracing Islamism as well as to the Establishment's policy of "multi-culturalism". While the Respect party has sought to be the party of the Muslim "community", the BNP is trying to become the party of the "white" traditional working class "community", with some success.

Oh, that picture at the top? At last Friday’s count, at the table next to mine where they were counting the votes from Primrose, the BNP kicked off, arguing with the polling staff that one ballot box had been tampered with. Apparently, the BNP had gone around the polling booths when voting ended at 10 pm and after council officials had attached their seals, and had attached their own BNP seals (seemingly this is legal) which they would cut when the council staff snapped the official seals at the count. However, one of the seals was missing from one ballot box, so they cried foul, called the police and had held the bloody count up for ages whilst it was investigated. After about an hour, when cops had been despatched to look for the missing seal, they came back having found it and showed the BNP candidate that it hadn't been broken, that it had fallen off because it was not properly fastened (no doubt done on purpose in the knowledge it would fall off and that this would give them the opportunity of a publicity stunt).

Anyway, no one had ever heard of this being done before, but they have set a precedent and will no doubt exploit this now. Just pisses me off that these fascists are now trying to pass themselves off as defenders of democracy and setting the agenda re. the conduct of ballots. It was not too long ago that the late John Tyndall BNP founder and one time leader (now living it up with Hitler and the 3rd Reich top brass in Valhalla), famously said “what we oppose is the system by which the average man on the street is called upon to make judgement on issues he knows nothing about [in other words, via the ballot box].”

And nationally, the BNP did not do that grand. In spite of standing 879 candidates across the country, twice as many as last year, they only won eight seats and lost eight.

Heard from Nick Griffin as he pushed through crowds to catch up with BNP candidates and supporters as they went for a piss up after the count: "Let me past. I have to follow them. I am their leader."

photo courtesy of Capitalism Money Madness


Polls open within 12 hours

Well, one more day to go. The media are forecasting that Labour will get its arse well and truly kicked across the country in the local elections. Not that it will make any difference to the lot of the working class, for it simply means another bunch of self-seeking careerists, opportunists and down right liars have been elected to office, that this time round new Labour’s lies and promises were just a wee bit too much for the electorate to take. As the saying goes, you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time (I’d love to see George Bush try and say that).

Here on South Tyneside Labour needs to lose 8 seats to lose control of the council – which is highly likely. If the independent candidates can fight as in previous years around here, then no more will Blair’s henchmen call the shots in Hebburn, Jarrow Boldon and South Shields, as they have done seemingly since the year dot.

The independents, of course, if successful, are not going to pull off any miracles. They will have to manage a tight council budget and be charged with administering a system over which they have very little control – for it controls them, not vice versa, despite the promises on their election leaflets to turn South Tyneside into a land of milk and honey. Local schools will still be forced to close as per schedule, families will still be evicted if they fall behind in their council rents, and council employees will get the boot when the town hall auditor’s start banging their fists on tables.

The local Muppets (aka BNP) will be looking for a local election victory and believe support will be so strong as to enable them to create four stand-alone branches here. They're boasting of a successful campaign here, but I’m yet to see one of their South Tyneside leaflets or any sign that they actually exist. All I can see in this area are paper candidates – the BNP more or less testing the temperature of the water here. Their anti-immigration arguments are perhaps wasted in the Hebburn and Jarrow area, where the "non-white" population is probably about 0.05%, if that. But no doubt they’ll get some support.

The local MP, Mr Stephen Hepburn, has not been up to much. He's managed to get his smiling bracket in the paper a lot recently and in lieu of his councillor comrades having any coverage in the local Gazette throughout the election campaign. His sole obsession at the moment seems to be trying to get the statue of Thatcher removed from the Members’ lobby in parliament. However, a source close to Revolutionary Act snapped this shot, below, of Blair unawares. It seems Blair wants it for himself when he leaves number 10.

Me, I've done my bit to raise revolutionary class consciousness, via a leaflet drop (election address further below), a constant stream of letters to the local press and local commumntiy activity - aiming to turn the Lukes Lane Esate from a community in itself and into a community for itself - so now its up to the workers.
What was that Mr Hepburn said about the erection in the Members' Lobby


Two More Days To Go

The Image that should really be on the front of every election leaflet from candidates that do not seek to challenge the profit system.

Well, the candidates have leafleted the local Monkton ward (Labour and the Independents thrice and the Lib-Dems once) and all I’ve received off the opposition so far is the hackneyed and insipid, soundbite-fused, ego-tripping crap that I get every year. The Tories and the neo-nazi BNP have not bothered leafleting, either because they lack the manpower to deliver them, the cost this would incur or because they fear a smack in the teeth from those local residents who do not suffer from historical amnesia every May (the latter is more likely the case when your gurus are Margaret Thatcher and Adolph Hitler).

As ever, every leaflet carries the photo of the candidate, either grinning like an imbecile or affecting an “I’m a caring person” pose, as if anyone should really give a flying shit what a candidate looks like – its what you stand for that matters, mate. The Socialist Party (founded in 1904) has, since it first contested an election, refused to put its candidates’ mug shots on election leaflets.

And as ever, the leaflets carry the usual bit on how the moon shines out of the candidate’s arse, how many committee’s they chair, how they were born and bred in Hebburn etc etc – the kind of crap the British Medical Association now lists as recommended reading for insomniacs.

IF you get this far in the leaflet then you are to be congratulated on your alertness and should consider joining MENSA or seek a commission in the SAS. But hold on, what follows suggests the writers of such leaflets penned their election address proper under the assumption that the average member of Joe Public is a cretin. For this is where we are to forget the past, to put aside our knowledge of capitalism and how it works, to disregard every broken promise of yesterday and to weigh up the candidates on how good their respective pledges are – and as a candidate you don’t have to actually realise the promise, just make it and in the knowledge that in 12 months time its un-fulfilment will have vanished from the public memory.

And when you get down to it each one of these election leaflets says the same thing and which can be summed up thus:

“Vote for me. I’m fuckin’ brilliant, me, man. And see me, I can make capitalism work like never before. I’m a fuckin’ magician when it comes to making a system based upon exploitation work in the interests of the exploited. Nah, capitalism is brilliant, man. Yeah, I know it causes misery and uncertainty and that it creates war and hunger and disease and waste and because of it there is a dirty great bastasrd of a hole in the ozone layer and the sea levels are rising, but other than that it’s fuckin’ magic, much better than fuedalism was or slavery. Yeah, I know you only get a say in how your society is run locally every year and nationally ever 5 years, but who gives a shit – all that matters is that you elect people like me, who will defend this amazing system of exploitation, and who will maintain an outdated system based on class and privilege balanced in favour of those with the most.”

And thus convinced the workers vote for these pricks and put these class traitors in office year after year! The Socialist case is a wee bit more complicated than that and involves the elector thinking for him/herself, challenging long held assumptions and using the most dangerous and subversive word in the English language – “why?”.

If you’ve got this far, then please scroll down and see what one socialist candidate has to say about this election, about the alternative to the rat-race which every other candidate is yet to consider.

Another load of nonsense from our Independent candidate

Tonight the Independent candidate for Monkton ward in the local South Tyneside elections has again leafleted the Lukes Lane Estate with a hastily prepared, one sided A4 flier, in which he makes the main focus of his election campaign the ‘illegal travellers’ who have twice in the last three years set up camp on the fields adjacent to the estate for a few weeks. In attempting to turn the estate against a small section of society he is no different to the fascists in the BNP who likewise scapegoat vulnerable sections of society.

He tells us that if elected on May 3rd his promise is to “resolve the problem as quickly as possible”. The big problem for me is with people who would ostracise travellers and turn communities against them. At a time when the Lukes Lane Community Group is trying to restore a sense of community, the last thing we need is would-be-leaders coming here telling us who our bloody enemies are. I personally feel more in common with travellers, as members of the same social class and with the same basic needs, than with people who tell us who we can and cannot have living near us and who would erect barriers to keep ‘outsiders’ out.

He further tells us that he aims to re-route the 527 bus service through the estate to give it a direct service to South Shields. Were he aware of the local scene then he’d be aware that the Lukes Lane Community Group have had three meetings to date with heads of Nexus and Go-ahead (local transport providers) and raised the issue of re-routing the 527 service. We have been told that the main reason such a service can not be provided is because it would mean having to employ three extra drivers, a cost that would not be clawed back via extra fares from the estate. In the meantime the Community Group is planning a further meeting with local transport officials to address local transport problems. This is not the work of local councillors, but community activists, working together to sort their own problems out.

Again, he promises to work with police to tackle the ‘small minority who cause anti-social behaviour’. As if residents were not aware of the problem. As if the Lukes Lane Community Group was not already on the matter, working to get better facilities for the estate, to give youngsters something to do with their free time, and to introduce new courses for residents, old and young.

At the end of the day the root cause of the problems our Independent candidate seeks to address lies in the way society is organised – profits before people. The travellers camp’ illegally’ because it is too costly for the council to hand them free land on which to camp. The bus service is crap because it is not profitable to improve it and the local community centre functions at a minute fraction of its true capability because of council cut backs and because not one single member of its pro-Labour management committee (mostly ex and present councillors) comes from the bloody estate or gives a shit about what residents would like to see there.

But will any candidate, except the one standing on behalf of the Socialist Party, level criticism against the profit system? Will they shite!!Independent candidates, Labour candidates – a plague on all their f****** houses!!

Click here for more on travellers setting up camp near Lukes Lane Estate.And what a date on which to get such a leaflet - April 30th?