Sunday, 30 March 2014

How careless to make the same mistake!

What is ir about the Labour Party?
It is widely  accepted that the first and fatal mistake that the Blair/Brown government made in 1997 was to continue to impose the spending constraints they inherited from the Tories.
Remember the slogan 'Things can only get better'?
Well they never could get better when you started your administration with both hands and both feet tied together.
It's true that they were able to make small reforms and some of them significant,but the minimum wage legislation was never likely to end poverty-one of Keynes five 'giants'- and reforming zeal perished on the rocks of banker happiness!

So now we have Miliband and his brave new world,and what does he promise?
Why to continue the attacks of folk on welfare and in order to buy the votes of the deserving rich pledges to continue austerity.He also drives his parliamentary party into the coalition lobby.

Lets make it clear, the poor are not,have not, and never will be responsible for the crisis of capitalism.
At the same time the object of government is not simply to pay off the National Debt,or indeed to drive down the deficit. 
The national Debt has been with us since Henry VIII wanted to build a navy to fight France, and over the centuries has fluctuated wildly.The Attlee Government in 1945 faced a much higher debt, a broken infrastructure and a war damaged country, and yet it managed to create a health service,a massive housing programme,a welfare state and nationalised the major industries that the private sector had ruined.

The lesson of that government,just as the lesson of Roosevelt's New Deal was simple, don't blame and punish the poor,but take bold decisions to rebuild the nations' infrastructure.
This dreadful coalition has built its entire strategy on blaming people for the crisis in capitalism,demanding that wages are restrained, that contracts are torn up, that public services are sold off at knock down prices and worst of all that the poorest are made to pay even more.
The demonisation of people on welfare benefits has been the leitmotif of everything this lot have done.
The potent mixture of scroungers,welfare cheats, greedy migrants and the undeserving poor have sent a frisson of terror through the respectable poor.
There is masses of evidence that the hardest hit section of welfare claimnts are the elderly,the disabled and those in work on rock bottom wages and zero hour contracts.

And if that is not enough every piece of legislation is designed to turn the screw a bit tighter,even their own flagship legislation,'the bedroom tax' is a failure and only adding to the distress of social housing tenants and increasing rent arrears.

So we should expect boldness fro the Labour Party, I well remember Neil Kinnock describing Labour local authorities as 'battered shields' against Thatcherism.

With the emasculation of local authorities (aided in part by New Labour!) the best we can expect is that the Parliamentary labour Party will stand up and vote against further attacks on working people.
OK its only a vote, but at least it would offer hope that something better might come along.

Yet only 13 Labour MP's voted against the Government, over 100 strolled into the coalition lobby.
In fact the voting record of the SNP,PC and the Green Party MP was far better that that of the people's party. 

Shame on you all.
So here is a simple question to the Labour Party hopefuls in Northamptonshire-if you were in Westminster-how would you have voted on the welfare cuts?
So far all we have seen from all of you has been nothing more than party platitudes, and even they have been few and far between.
Is the new Labour orthodoxy akin to being political trappists?

There is a dark shadow of fear passing over this country, a rising tide of reactionary thought and a Labour Party afraid of its own shadow,

Now is the time for boldness-is the Labour Party up to the challenge? 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

But when your dead.....

The last week has seen the loss of two outstanding and inspirational socialists from two generations.Both Bob Crow and Tony Benn will be mourned by most folk in the socialist movement for the contributions that they made in reminding people that the ideals of socialism are far from dead.
What is shocking is the number who are jumping on the sadness of their deaths to proclaim how inspirational they both were in their lifetimes,when for most of the time they were vilified and traduced.
There have of course been the usual caveats-"I didn't agree with much of what they said but they were blah blah blah..."
Bob not unnaturally came in for more weasel words, the sycophantic bleatings of Boris Johnston were at considerable odds to what he had been saying about Bob only a few days ago.The silence from the leadership of the Labour Party said it all

Truth to tell Bob Crow was the most effective trade union leader of his generation, and his capacity to lead from the front produced the best conditions for his members despite the austerity.
Bob believed that nothing was too good for the workers and his philosophy  echoed the words of Brecht in the 'song of the patch and the overcoat'- I don't want a new patch for my overcoat, I want the whole bloody overcoat!

Bob also led his union out of the unequal relationship with the Labour Party that unions have 'enjoyed' for decades.The railway workers have for generations been led by donkeys, from the corrupt anr treacherous JH Thomas in the 1920's to the slimy and pathetic Sid Weighell in the 70's.
Jimmy Knapp was a considerable improvement on all that had gone before but Bob was a real step change.
No surprise that in a period of rapid decline in trade union membership, only RMT put on over 20,000 new members.
The crocodile tears shed for Bob were perhaps best explained by the fact that there are some in the Labour party that hope by appearing 'sincere' and 'well disposed' to Bob and his union they can lure the union back into the straightjacket of Labour party affiliation.
I hope the members are as wise to the Labour Party's tricks as they are to the wiles of management.

The death of Tony Benn has also unleashed an outpouring of synthetic grief. The notion that he has somehow become an iconic figure for the Labour Party, and as Tam Dalyell  described him as a 'prophet not a king' is more in the spirit of 'thank christ he too has gone'.
Everyone and their hampster is now an expert on Tony Benn,and how he brought the Labour Party to the brink of disaster and drove those nice SDP types out of the party.

Those of us who lived through the SDP episode know what was really happening.Those miserable opportunists and careerists were the ones who wrecked the party, they took delight in trampling on the socialist aspirations of many, and in fact the bastards won!
Blairism and Kinnockism  were the real heirs to Jenkins,Owen and that clique.Truth to tell the vicious attacks on Tony and others on the left was what fatally damaged the Labour Party.They never wanted the Labour Party to win on a socialist programme. 

Now is the time when that dreary Gerald Kaufman quote about the 1974 election manifesto being the 'longest suicide note in history'- no it was the last manifesto that put clause 4 of the Party at the centre of its political programme,and you all remember what happened to Clause 4 under New Labour.

many of us stayed in the Party because we hoped that things might get better and when people like Tony were still around it sometimes seemed that there was a small still radical heartbeat somewhere in the core of the party.

The price we paid was the total destruction of a party that had at its whole purpose the advancement of 'Labouring people'-after all that was why it was called the Labour Party in the first place.
It was created by the organisations of the labour movement to fight for and defend the interests of working people, and that was why it recieved the funds to do that from the trade unions.

But of course not any more, rather a handout from Lord Owen and Tony Blair instead of the pennies from the workers, and indeed as the Co-operative passes into the hands of the money men and the international speculators, where is the future?

If we are to undertand the legacy of both Bob Crow and Tony Benn  we need to start again,we need to build a new movement once again from the bottom up.Bob had it right,and in his heart of hearts I suspect the 'icon' knew that too.  

Monday, 10 March 2014

Everyone is an expert now!

Who would have believed it? A few short weeks ago most people thought ,if they thought about it at all,that Ukraine was part of Russia and Crimea certainly was,and indeed always had been.
I must admit I always thought that they were all one and the same and I grew up in a household that had Soviet Weekly delivered alongside Boxing News and the Daily Worker!
My Dad never really got the hang of the Morning Star, till his dying day he always called it 'the Worker' and as a matter of fact with regard to Soviet Weekly they sent that to him free because he had been a subscriber since the 1940's.
I probably knew more about the Donbass coal field than I knew about any mining areas in Britain, other than of course the heroic miners of Fife and the equally heroic ,or almost as equally heroic men of South Wales.In our house it was a stretch of great imagination to think that there were coal mines in England.
Mining was a celtic occupation,rather like deep sea fishing and goading the English.
Yet the news over the last few weeks has concentrated on events in Ukraine,which again as a child I knew as 'the' Ukraine in the way that I knew things happened behind 'the' urals and anyway it was all part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

I knew Uncle Joe was a Georgian,ut that was OK too because Georgia was part of the USSR- the 'unbreakable union of freeborn republics' as described i the Soviet national anthem.

Now I should be used by now to the breakup of the Soviet Union and all those pesky small and like Ukraine enormous separate republics but even now its fairly difficult to make the separations

And if its hard for us, think how difficult it must be for so many millions of citizens of the former USSR.
Especially the older folk, who lived through or were directly affected by what they still call the Great .Patriotic War.Twenty-maybe thirty million Russian people died in the fight against fascism.They didn't much care if they were Georgians or Ukrainians or Tartars or whatever, they were Russians fighting for their homeland.
Now the war did throw up contradictions, there were some within the minority peoples who  saw the war as a situation where they could escape th Russian hegemony,and of course there were still remnants of the White Russian forces who sided with the Germans in the hope of defeating the Communists.
So I', not surprised that there are lingering distrusts amongst sections of the community and that is easily fanned by both sides.
It is ironic perhaps that Leni believed in the rights of small nations to self determination and one of the best statements ever written about the rights of small nations was  by JV Stalin when he was Commissar for National Minorities .
But of course socialist history is littered with ironies and contradictions.

However it does seem that what is going on at the moment in Ukraine is a nasty powrplay etween competing oligarchs, their stooges and the jockeying for power bases.
I have no doubt that amongst the crowds in Kiev there are many genuine radical democrats who hated the corruption and exploitation of their country.A genuine yearning for self determination that today every Scot should be acutely aware of(other than that numpty Darling!) but within that movement there lurk some very unsavory elements- anti-semites,racists,the worst possible nationalists-and of course the ususal band of free marketeers,opportunists and criminals

Yet on the other side there is the mirror reflection of Putin and his oligarchs, gun thugs,motor bike gangs,and corrupt officials and politicians.

What we are seeing is the criminal bands fighting amongst themselves for the spoils whilst the people get trampled in the middle.
Its a battle we have seen repeatedly in the Middle East, in the Balkans and almost anywhere where gangsters fall out!

And people wonder still why China is resistant to any attempt to break up the Peoples Republic!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

And on the other hand....

Harriet Harman has never given any evidence of being a political thinker of any great depth or indeed of any great consequence.She always appeared to be in the right place at the right time and demonstrated the knack that so many in the Parliamentary Labour Party have of not upsetting too many people.

The closest I ever came to her was once in the Commons car park when Tony Clarke and I were waiting for a taxi when Phil Hope, the shining pale pink MP for Corby pushed past us to climb into a cab with the memorable excuse:
"I'm off to a party at Hattie's!"
Such comradeship at the heart of the Labour Party.

That encounter with the elite of the Party however does not detract from the witch hunt that is being carried on against Harman by the odious 'Daily Mail'.

The fact that she was the legal officer for the NCCL in the 1970's merely indicated the route to parliament that many aspiring politicians took in those days, and was in fact a far more honourable and useful route than the political assistant,intern and party hack route so favoured today.

NCCL was ,and indeed is still, the sort of organisation that civilised nations always need.It is true that in the 1970's there was a libertarian tinge to the organisation, and in many ways it was imitating the American trends for outrageous extremism,but that does not detract from the good work that it was undertaking in the fields of human rights,anti-racism,against homophobia and all the other causes that required a progressive stance.
Inevitably some oddball fringe elements  crawled in under the 'libertarian' banner, and its worth remembering that many of them were quite right wing and reactionary.
NCCL as a campaigning group for civil liberties had often to defend the rights of quite unsavory individuals and even groups.
I have no doubt that PIE(Paedophile Information Exchange) was no more than five men and a dog(and I bet the dog was not a willing member!) but as so often happens with self promotion,they bullied their way in.
Gay Liberation as a movement was just finding its feet in this country and was under constant virulent attack from many quarters-not least the 'Daily Mail', it has many other things on its collective mind to worry about -and the five men and a dog pie outfit was low on the priorities.
And if it was low on the GLF priorities, it was almost certainly far lower on the paid officers of NCCL's  agenda.
Harman has nothing to apologise for, and indeed even if she had,who would she apologise to,and for what exactly.On that basis should the family of Thatcher apologise to the victims of Jimmy Savile for hugging the old brute in public?

The most interesting aspect of the 'affair Harman' to my mind is the contrasting coverage given this week to her and Peter Bone, the right wing xenophobic Tory MP for Wellingborough.

Credit to 'The Times' for bringing out the story of the Police investigation into Bone's alleged criminal behaviour in defrauding the County Council of many thousands of pounds in benefits for his mother-in-law's care in a nursing home.
If the CPS decide to bring charges, then that is far more significant an event this week than Harriet harman's alleged pecadillos over 30 years ago.
Strange how silent the 'Daily Mail' appears to have been on that story!