Sorry we missed you

Anyone who has seen the moving film Sorry We Missed You directed by Ken Loach will have been left in no doubt about the horror of the gig economy and the misery it heaps on workers and their families. Once referred to as McJobs, casual employment, zero hours contracts and spurious self-employment are now ubiquitous throughout the economy. Yet the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported on Tuesday that the unemployment rate in three months to November was only 3.8%, its lowest since the 1970s, while the number of people in work has risen by 208,000. The employment rate, according to ONS, is at a new high of 76.3%; and a report by Whiteshield Partners, in collaboration with the Said Business School, Oxford University, concludes that the UK remains the “ninth most resilient labour market in the world”. What exactly is going on here?

According to ONS someone who works only one hour a week is considered to be “employed”. They deny that this distorts the figures as the number of workers on less than six hours a week is “only” 1.4%. As the unemployment rate is “only” 3.8%, this presumably means that, as those working less than six hours a week are effectivly unemployed, the unemployment rate is actually 5.2%, not 3.8%. But even this figure is likely to be a gross underestimate.
ONS tend to hide behind internationally agreed definitions of employment and unemployment. That might assist international analysis, but it does nothing for assessing the economic reality that should be the basis for economic policy – and will be when we start to build a socialist future. Some 9 million people in the UK aged 16 to 64 are “economically inactive” and 14.5% of UK homes are “workless”. The official unemployment figure doesn’t reflect part-time workers who want full-time jobs, “inactive” workers alienated from the workforce and workers who are prematurely “retired“ by their employers . Analysing these groups leads some analysts to conclude that the true unemployment rate is not 50% bigger, as suggested above, it’s three or four times the official figure. That makes sense. How else can we explain the misery, so convincingly portrayed in Ken Loach’s film, of workers driven to seek jobs in the gig economy ?

Another route to social revolution?

Marx argued that, in acquiring new productive forces, men and women change their social relations, illustrating this with the example that the windmill resulted in a society with a feudal lord and the steam engine resulted in a society with industrial capitalists. Social revolution occurs, according to Marx, when these social relations – feudal and Victorian industrial capitalism in the examples – inhibit the development of productive forces. This helps to explain the interest communists display in reports about new means of production. These developments can signal  social revolution to come.

As the CUiSL paper last year on global warming argued (link below), our need to leave fossil fuels in the ground will lead to social revolution – or the destruction of humanity, for, as Marx recognised, effective action precedes social revolution and, without it, the mutual destruction of all classes is a possible outcome. The fires raging in Australia may give us some indication of whether this necessary action will be forthcoming. Will Australians permit their government to deny the true cause of the conflagration (global warming caused by increased CO2 in the atmosphere) and fail to hold them to account for their failure to respond?  Will they be gulled into believing that the fires are a random event – an “Act of God”? Or will they hold their government and the corrupt system that supports it to account? We shall see.

The development of new productive forces is reported by George Monbiot in the Guardian Journal yesterday – lab grown foods using a new process, the hydrogen pathway, developed by a company called Solar Foods. Brewed in giant vats, the company estimates that it is 20,000 times more efficient than conventional farming. Monbiot is clearly convinced – he calls it “farmfree” food and predicts that we are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation in 200 years and the end, after 12,000 years, of conventional farming. While not quantifying the effect, Monbiot appears to be arguing that farmfree food is the answer to global warming, enabling us to continue to extract and burn fossil fuels, albeit less with be needed for fertiliser. Clearly, the effect on global temperature needs to be modelled, but the correct initial response should surely be one of scepticism.

Of course, economic transformations have been predicted before. Remember nuclear fusion with its promise of free electricity? Furthermore, even Monbiot recognises that this development might not flourish in a capitalist world reliant on copyright and patent law to secure profits for capitalists. The owners of this new means of production will be aiming to become immensely rich, content, no doubt, to see much of the world’s population reduced to the status of unemployed peasants. Fertile territory for a thousand Che Guevaras!

https://communistuniversity.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/global-warming-a-discussion-paper/

NEW YEAR DISHONOUR

The New Year Honours list contains the usual mixture of time-servers, government stooges, tax dodgers, donors to the Tory Party (typically the same thing), over-paid entertainers, sportsmen and women and those unctuous recipients who accept ‘to recognize the contributions of others’. It’s time again to remind ourselves that recipients can decline the ‘honour’. We salute those who have, over the years, had sufficient principle and self-confidence to do this. This honourable band includes, amongst many others:
Stephen Hawkings
Ken Loach
Alan Rickman
Bill Nighy
Peter Capaldi
Benjamin Zephaniah
Jon Snow
Rudyard Kipling

The New Year honours list has, however, plumbed new depths this year with the award of a knighthood to Iain Duncan-Smith. It’s this government’s way of poking two fingers in the face of claimants of Universal Benefit and everyone who has campaigned against its introduction.

You can sign a petition objecting to this award here:

https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fchng.it%2FGZn9YfWK4F&data=02%7C01%7C%7Ced863a0bf7a0420a560208d78c5d3de4%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637132204398848736&sdata=AikWEQaacnjB3avEHLnGLABoKuSHRC%2FXwhNEZaRAIGw%3D&reserved=0

No notice will be taken of your objection, but at least you will be able to say not in my name!

HOPE DESTROYED?

Croydon communists share the dismay and disappointment of our friends in the three Croydon Constituency Labour Parties at the general election results last night. Their own results were good, with Croydon North and Croydon Central (a marginal) retained and a little bit of a shock for the Tories in the smug Tory heartlands of Croydon South due to a spirited campaign focussing on school cuts. Although we questioned Labour’s decision to abandon their commitment in the 2017 manifesto to implement the EU Referendum, we recognised (although didn’t agree with) the argument that this was a strategic necessity given the leave/remain split amongst Labour voters and we welcomed many of the other commitments in the manifesto for this election.  How sad the strategy failed. This was the true cause of the results last night, not, as the right wing of the Labour Party are already claiming, a shift too far left.

An internal battle inside the Labour Party for its future has already begun and the prospects don’t look good. The Parliamentary Labour Party is even further to the right than it was before the general election and it’s hard to believe they would allow another left wing candidate to stand, even assuming a credible candidate could be found. The left won’t easily surrender the gains they have made in the constituency parties but it nevertheless seems inevitable that much of the political struggle for the next five years will have to be extra-parliamentary and ‘on the streets’. The prime target? Aside from fighting Austerity and advancing privatisation, it has to be exposing Tory acceptance of  global warming and their implicit belief that the 0.1% who fund them can insulate themselves from the consequences.

 

A MOMENT OF HOPE

The Communist Party has welcomed the Labour Party’s election manifesto It’s Time for Real Change. It has left the Tories and their one-time stool pigeons, the Lib Dems, floundering in its wake as the abysmal performances by Johnson and Swinson on the BBC Leaders Interviews last night demonstrated.

The immediate banner headline in City AM following publication of the Labour manifesto reflects the ground on which the Tories will now have to fight this election: not Brexit, as they intended, but simply whether Labour’s Plans are “credible”. They thereby concede whether they are desirable; their line is confined to whether they are affordable. The ‘experts’ they will draw on to endorse this concern are, however, the same ones who failed to see the 2007-8 crash coming and who supported Austerity as the appropriate response thereafter. As Sun Tzu said of war, he who occupies the field of battle first and await his enemy is at ease; he who comes later and rushes into the fight is weary. Elections are not war, but the similarity is such that the words of this Chinese General from around 500 BC can give us some reassurance.

The Tories have, of course, a heap on money with which, if they are indeed forced to fight the election on the ground of Labour’s choosing, will enable them to scare many voters into not voting Labour. The Tories might also hope to benefit from interference with social media by the Russians. Perhaps the most significant threat to enacting the Labour manifesto will, however, arise only after Labour win the election. The Parliamentary Labour Party harbours many disgruntled Blairites and “liberal social democrats” who would rather see a Labour government led by Corbyn fall than have socialist policies enacted. Also, let’s not forget the option to which capital might resort if Labour were to form a progressive government: what one might call  the Pinochet Option. Surely such a strategy would only be attempted in South America? Are you so sure?

But back to the general election. Let’s enjoy our moment of hope, win the election for Labour and carry things forward from there.

General Election and the NHS

It’s early days in the general election, but there are signs that the Tories are rattled. Their intention was to fight it on the issue of Brexit, not their record of imposing austerity, de-regulating employment and creeping privatisation in the NHS. Yet it is these issues that keep dominating the headlines.

The hysterical editorial in City AM on Monday under the banner “Labour’s Shameful NHS Scaremongering” demonstrates their sensitivity to NHS privatisation. Anyone who thinks the Tories’ plans for the NHS are benign only has to read the article by John Furse in the current edition of The London Review of Books, link below. As Furse demonstrates, the Americanisation of the NHS is not something waiting for us in a post-Brexit future, it is already in full swing. Denials by City AM which rely on selective quotes from reports by the Kings Fund about there being “no evidence of widespread privatisation of NHS services” miss the point. The complexity and lack of transparency of Tory plans are intended to conceal what has been going on, and hard statistics have been deliberately suppressed or made impossible to collect; but campaigners such as those in Keep our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) have not been fooled. KOSHH’s tenacity has won the admiration and support of both Croydon TUC and Croydon Communists. Their next public meeting in Epsom on 12 November, link below, will be well worth attending.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n21/john-furse/the-nhs-dismantled

https://koshh.org/

 

The General Election on 12 December

The Parliamentary Labour Party, with the abandonment of the pledge in the 2017 Labour Manifesto to implement Brexit, has significantly undermined the prospects of a Labour government implementing the other important pledges in that manifesto. These were to

  • Extend state aid to industry
  • Take the railways into monopoly public ownership
  • Reform VAT
  • Reform public procurement rules
  • Rebuild regional development policy
  • Negotiate fair trade agreements with dynamic and emerging economies beyond Europe.

These pledges were welcomed by the Communist Party at the time, and we have made clear subsequently that our support for Labour in the forthcoming election is dependent on the Labour Party not watering them down. It is, however, worth bearing in mind that none of these six pledges can be implemented if we remain in the EU. It will be interesting to see how Labour will try to square the circle in its new manifesto.

The prospect of a Tory government after 12 December does not, of course, bear thinking about. Johnson may enjoy playing the fool – his picture on the cover of City AM today giving the Benny Hill salute is no doubt intended to amuse and reassure, but he is a dangerous and slippery enemy of the working class who is clearly prepared to break any rule to secure his ends which include a trade deal with the USA that would make our current EU suzerainty appear benign. Nor can we expect another hung parliament to rein him in – both the Lib-Dems under Cameron and the Democratic Unionists under May demonstrated the ineffectuality of coalition government. Tory coalition partners quickly morph into Tories before they are dumped when no longer needed.

Fortunately, we are not quite back to the bad old days when the choice was between Tory Tories and Blairite Tories. Many Labour candidates in the coming election are worth supporting. Croydon South is solid Tory and Croydon North has a healthy Labour majority but with a right wing MP, Steve Reed, who voted to remove Corbyn. Croydon Central is a marginal constituency currently held by Sarah Jones for Labour. She’s not the most progressive of MPs but she seems to have realised that to get re-elected she needs to listen to her young, left-leaning supporters. Communists in Croydon will be tramping the streets for her. Let’s hope she doesn’t let us down when she gets re-elected.

 

Elections and all that

The defining issue of our age is not, contrary to current preoccupations, Brexit – it is climate change. Twenty years from now our relations with the EU, assuming that, against all odds, it still exists, will be of little significance compared with the consequences of global warming if we have not ended fossil fuel extraction by then. For that is what it will take to keep the rise in average global temperature from breaking through the 1.5% ceiling. As we argued in our paper on this topic (link below), it doesn’t matter how many windmills we build or how well we insulate our homes, if profits can be made from fossil fuel extraction, capitalist society will continue to do so. All solutions other than keeping fossil fuels in the ground are cosmetic. Only a universal and escalating carbon tax set sufficiently high to ensure that fossil fuels are left in the ground, the proceeds of which are then distributed to working people (the so-called Hansen tax and dividend carbon tax) can achieve an end to fossil fuel extraction; and only under socialism could such a revolutionary remedy be implemented.

On Thursday and Friday, with the BBC failing to report the XR demonstration surrounding its own headquarters, we were treated instead in the BBC’s London News programme to Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, complaining about the police being deflected from fighting knife crime by the need to control these peaceful demonstrations. No further comment is necessary.

On Friday the Guardian, which is smart enough to recognise that there is a global warming problem but too interwoven with the Establishment to identify the solution, had a four page feature pointing out that big oil companies extract oil (!) and are planning to pump more: an extra 7 million barrels a day over the next twelve years. This isn’t news: projections of fossil fuel extraction have consistently shown such growth. If there is money to be made from pumping oil, the capitalists will pump it – and to hell with the rest of us!

On Saturday the Guardian continued its statements of the obvious by estimating that Tory MPs are five times as likely to resist action on climate change as MPs of other parties. Of course they are! If Brexit were not a reason to kick the Tories out in the forthcoming general election, climate change certainly is – but not if we replace them with the middle-of- the- road Blairites and Yellow Tories favoured by the Guardian. Corbyn’s proposals on global warming don’t go far enough, but they are a start. Let’s get him elected and go from there.

 

 

The CUiSL Discussion Paper on Climate Change is at https://communistuniversity.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/global-warming-a-discussion-paper/

Croydon and the General Election

The Communist Party has announced that it will not be standing candidates in the next General Election – provided Labour retains its left leadership and fights the election on a left and progressive manifesto. This is fully in accordance with the principles expressed in the Communist Manifesto where Marx and Engels wrote that communists fight for the current interests of the working class while taking care of the future of the working class movement.

This does not mean that communists in Croydon will be passive by-standers at the next general election. If the conditions mentioned above are met, we will be actively assisting Labour in Croydon while, at the same time and in the words of the Communist Manifesto, disdaining to conceal our views, aims and membership of the Communist Party from fellow campaigners.

Croydon has three constituencies. Croydon South is a safe seat for the overtly ambitious Chris Phelps who has recently been campaigning Nimby-style to oppose housing developments in his leafy constituency, blaming the local Labour Council while failing to point out that it is Tory relaxation of planning regulations that is facilitating these developments.

Steve Reed MP in Croydon North is on the right of the Labour Party and supported Owen Smith in the 2016 Labour Party leadership election. He has caused trouble for his leader, most recently when calling for a second EU referendum . It is to be fervently hoped that his local party will de-select him but, until then, he is sitting on a comfortable majority and would expect to get re-elected without the need for any active support from the Croydon Communist Party.

Sarah Jones MP is harder to pigeonhole. She was first elected as MP for Croydon Central, a marginal constituency, in the 2017 general election following heroic efforts by local Labour Party members, mostly on the left  and many in Momentum, with active support from Croydon communists. She subsequently disappointed these local activists by immediately removing her Constituency Office from Ruskin House, the Labour and Trade Union Centre for Croydon which has played a key role in the rise of Corbynism. She appears to be have shaken by the resulting furore and has subsequently sought to bridge the gap between herself and those who worked to get her elected. While she remains hard to pin down politically, her appointment in May 2018 as Shadow Minister for Housing provides some modest ground for optimism.

The real problem with MPs generally is that they mostly see themselves as members of a profession in which they can build a career, not as delegates representing those who chose them. This, of course, won’t change until we achieve the communist aim of overturning the entire existing social and political order.

BREXIT DEBATE at Ruskin House

To reiterate our previous posting, communists seek fundamental change – to our economy, our democracy, our constitution, our relations with other nations, our response to climate change and, above all, change to break the power of the capital. It was good to hear Dave Ward, the General Secretary of the communications and postal union, CWU, express not dissimilar sentiments at the public meeting at Ruskin House last night. The other speaker, Cllr Patsy Cummings, running for the Croydon and Sutton GLA Labour candidate and widely acknowledged as a sound left winger and easily the best candidate on offer, simply declared that “Labour is a remain party”. Dave Ward showed a greater awareness of the difficulty for the Labour Party if they too blatantly abandon the commitment in their 2017 election manifesto to respect and implement the referendum decision to leave. He finessed the position significantly, stressing the need to negotiate ‘credible’ leave arrangements and referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the TUC this week where he confirmed the sequential strategy comprising

  • Stop a no deal Brexit in October.
  • A general election once this had been accomplished – Tom Watson’s argument for a general election first was dismissed.
  • Negotiations by a Labour government for a ‘credible’ exit from the EU.
  • The Labour negotiated deal to be “put to the people” – presumably a second referendum but there appeared to be some wriggle room here. There was, however, no mention of the nonsensical strategy advocated by Emily Thornberry of campaigning for remain regardless of any deal Labour might reach.
  • A programme of fundamental reform by the Labour government, including trade union freedom and the reintroduction of sectoral bargaining. This presumably (still) includes re-nationalisation of key industries, but the point was not stressed.

 

This strategy requires quite a few dominoes to fall in line and in sequence. As Marx wrote, we make our own history, but not in conditions of our own choosing. The weak spot in the Corbyn-Ward strategy is, first, that Labour could lose the next general election if they try to pass themselves off simply as a “remain party”. A substantial proportion of working class Labour voters, especially in key constituencies for Labour in the North, are Brexiters and, anyway, the LibDems got there first. Second, and even more critical, if we stay in the single market, as Labour favours, we would remain subject to the EU’s Four Freedoms. These comprise free movement within the EU of goods, services, people and capital. While free movement of goods and services can confer economic benefits, the EU referendum was fought by both the official campaigns, often dishonestly, around the issue of the free movement of people. It is, however, the free movement of capital that would undermine any attempt by a future Labour government operating within the single market to curtail the power of capital. This happened in Greece when the government found itself unable to halt the flight of capital following their own referendum in 2015. In consequence, in 2016 34,000 Greeks aged under 40 left the country to look for work. While many of them were no doubt grateful for their “right of free movement “, it’s pretty certain that most of them would have preferred a right to work instead.