Implications of Respect By-Election Victory in Bradford West

Chris Guiton

The Government’s having a bad time of it, what with the fall-out from the Budget, the cash-for-Cameron scandal and their handling of the fuel ‘crisis’. Senior Tory strategists must be having sleepless nights as poll ratings slide. A fatal combination of sneering unpleasantness and rank ineptitude can only serve to underpin the growing recognition by voters that a wealthy elite is waging class war on ordinary people.

In this context, George Galloway’s by-election victory in Bradford West offers some useful pointers for Labour. It’s no good dismissing the result as a ‘one-off’ or representative of a narrow section of the local electorate. With over 50% of the vote secured by Respect, this is a clear indication that Labour can win when it presents a clear set of progressive policies to voters. Let’s hope they heed the lesson!

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Cash-for-Cameron Scandal

Chris Guiton

The cash-for-Cameron story marks the latest instalment in the long-running saga of Tory sleaze. It’s not really clear why people continue to be surprised. The Tories are, after all, the political wing of the City. And with further, significant sell-offs planned of public assets and services – the police, NHS, roads and Royal Mail are simply the latest examples – we can expect the feeding frenzy to ramp up and business to continue to want to influence Government policy by buying access to Ministers.

The Tories, and their media friends, are making all too predictable attempts to link the scandal to union support for Labour. But there’s no moral equivalence here. Union support is palpably transparent and democratic and represents the political aspirations of ordinary people rather than the devious machinations of a greedy elite. Labour should talk up its roots in the union movement and use this opportunity to capitalise on Tory discomfort and public disquiet, and take the attack deep into Government territory.

Let’s Campaign for Openness on Tax Payments

Chris Guiton

The Morning Star reported yesterday on the pressure on the Government to reveal Cabinet ministers’ tax details after millionaire Chancellor George Osborne insisted he would not benefit from slashing the top tax rate to 45p.

I’ve a suggestion to make. Why not campaign to follow the example of Norway, where people’s tax payments have been publicly available for years – not just for public employees, but everyone. Despite occasional complaints from the rich, it’s broadly accepted in Norway that you have a right to know what others are paying in tax, to minimise the scope for tax evasion and avoidance and to enable people to check that others are contributing their fair share towards public funds. This might be pitched as part of a broader drive to shift the debate from tax as a ‘burden’ to one where a progressive tax system is recognised as a benefit for all, funding decent public services and helping re-distribute wealth from the richest to the poorest. Food for thought?

 

 

Blatant Class Bias of Budget

Chris Guiton

The blatant class bias of the budget reminds me of the late William Buroughs’ novel ‘Naked Lunch’. This is surely ‘the frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork’. For those still seduced by Government propaganda or unconvinced by the poor showing of Labour to date, there can no longer be any doubt about the purpose of this Government: a masssive shift of wealth from the poorest to the richest. Accompanied by levels of dishonesty, smugness and cynicism that beggar belief.

But have the ConDems made a serious political misjudgement with this undisguised reduction in taxes for the rich and big business and the increased burdens on pensioners and the poor? Ed Milliband offered a surprisingly strong response to the budget in Parliament. Is this the moment where Labour, in the words of the Bulgarian proverb, ‘seize opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind’ and start to shift the debate to an alternative economic strategy based on a rejection of austerity and a switch to investment, jobs and growth? I fervently hope so!

Remploy

John Eden

I finished my last blog, which was on the threatened closure of Remploy with the line, “The argument about saving Remploy should be about creating wealth and not about making a profit” unfortunately the line of defence of Remploy by some trade union and Labour Party leaders is that they can be made profitable, this could only happen if you employed only the least disabled workers there, in which case it would be better for those workers to be working alongside able bodied workers. Making a profit in the capitalist sense, would mean excluding most disabled workers, because production time is where the profit is made. I remember going into a Remploy factory where they made PVC double glazed windows, the end product was the same in quality as any other manufacturer ,if you had put them amongst other windows in a large wholesalers mixed them up you would not be able to distinguish who made them, and if you were buying one you would not be bothered if they serve the same purpose Even if the articles produced in a Remploy factory are identical to that of any other factory it will sell for the same price on the open market, but the profit will be different, if the wages are the same for both sets of workers, which means that the wages of disabled workers must be less to make the same profit, yet the cost of living to disabled worker is often higher than others. If the articles are produced are on a piecework system, then in a capitalist system the factories like Remploy have no chance of being profitable, unless they are given government subsidies.

Lets look at what happens to identical articles produced at the two different types of  factories mentioned, in a capitalist market, the produced articles that is commodities, are usually bought up by a wholesaler, if the wages are the same at the two factories, he is going to get more, say PVC windows for his money at a abled bodied factory, because the owner of that type of factory is in a position to  sell for less to the wholesaler and still make a profit compared to the other type of factory, so the wholesaler when he or she sells on, their profit will be greater. If the two factories decide to sell direct to the public, the disabled factory is at a great disadvantage, unless the workers accept lower wages, a profit can still be made but they won’t see it, which of cause is the same for both sets of workers, but one set earns more than the other.

Under Socialist system and a socialist market there would be no individual or collective middle wholesaler or capitalist, the commodities would enter the market as equally useful articles of equal quality, therefore of equal price, because the time taken to produce them which is the ultimate determinate of price, is not manifest in their appearance.

The windows produced would go into a general pool of products, money from their sale would be divided equally,  or to use the Marxist term “each according to their ability to each according to their need”

This is not a present panacea, but is a struggle communists and socialists have long fought for, but to reduce the argument of saving Remploy to it,s ability to make a profit will inevitably mean their closure, there are bankers who are making billions in bonuses, and proposed tax breaks for the wealthy, the money is there to subsides these factories.

Proposed Top Tax Cut Outrageous

Chris Guiton

The news that the Government are planning to cut the top 50% income tax rate in the budget is, simply, outrageous. We can expect dubious statistics to be wheeled out to justify the move. But the Tories are being disingenuous. They claim that it’s a barrier to growth, while also arguing that it isn’t actually going to raise much revenue anyway. They can’t have it both ways! Surely, the answer rests in moves to end the tax evasion that is probably undermining the 50% rate and recognising that a genuinely progressive income tax is only fair given the basis for the wealth of the highest earners – surplus value appropriated from workers – and the real pain currently being experienced by the poorest in society.
Interestingly, the Tories appear to recognise that the cut could be politically damaging to the Government as it reveals starkly to all its class basis. Taken with the likelihood that the health and social care bill will be voted through in the near future (replacing the National Health Service with No Health Service), and their blindness to poverty as real wages fall and pensions and benefits are cut, the Government are starting to look increasingly vulnerable. The challenge for the Left is how we translate this into action which will topple this wretched bunch of plutocrats.

Defending Remploy

John Eden

On March 7th last, Remploy who provide work for people with disabilities, announced the closure of 35 of it’s 54 factories and the possible lose of 1700 jobs.Some spokesperson I can’t remember who,said the factories have to close because they don’t make money. Quiet right! the only factory I know in Britain that makes money, I believe is called Del La Rue, they mint coins and print bank notes and not just for Britain but world wide. Remploy like other producers create wealth not money, material wealth, every thing produced at Remploy makes the world a better place. When the Scottish born economist Adam Smith wrote his famous book in the late 18th century “The Wealth of Nations”  he was talking about material wealth created by labour, not money. Marx makes a distinction between Material wealth,money and capital. What the spokesperson should have said, in a capitalist world Remploy does not make a profit for shareholders, bankers etc. Some disabled people, because their disability is not to severe can work in jobs along side non disabled workers, and they create wealth along side those workers, but more disabled people can contribute to making the world a better place, but the time taken to make the same object will be longer, but the end purpose of the created object is the same, to satisfy a human want.

Only in Socialist society where production will be for need and not profit will the disabled be able to play a full role, and their wages be the same as all other workers.

The argument about saving Remploy should be about creating wealth and not about making a profit.

Re-Nationalise the Utilities

Chris Guiton

Recent news from the privatised utilities continues to appal and astonish in equal measure. We hear that NPower profits have soared by 34% in the last year alone, fuelled by blatant price manipulation amongst the ‘big six’; that a hosepipe ban is to be introduced across the south-east by water companies, while they continue to lose over 20% of supplies through easily fixable leakages and fail to invest in sustainable supplies; and that commuters will experience further pain on the trains as fares continue to rise significantly above the rate of inflation because of the failure by Government to tackle the inefficiencies and profiteering caused by the privatisation and fragmentation of the rail network.

This should give us all pause for thought. It’s amazing, really, how successive governments have got away with the fiction that selling off the utilities, which used, after all, to belong to us all, would lead to better service and lower costs. The reality is higher costs, worse service and poorer terms and conditions for staff as shareholders and senior executives suck value out of the companies and profit at our expense; and, in the case of the railways, extract huge sums of public subsidy.

Why do people put up with this? Why should private profit be made out of public need? Let’s fight for re-nationalisation of the privatised energy, water, transport, post and telecommunications companies!

Tax Reform

Chris Guiton

With the budget looming, bourgeois commentators are getting excited about the apparent spat developing between the Tories and the LibDems over the prospect of a mansion tax or a ‘tycoon’ tax, and a trade-off between the introduction of one of these options and the removal of the 50% tax rate on income above £150,000. Both mansion and tycoon tax proposals are fundamentally flawed and limited in scope, and the suggestion that tax be reduced for the wealthiest is an insult. And all this while the banks continue to pay out unfeasibly large bonuses, Barclays being only the latest, benefits are slashed and real wages continue to fall.

It’s abundantly clear that the Government will do their utmost to avoid upsetting their friends in the City. Treasury steps to close one or two limited tax loopholes will have been choreographed with the banks and are, anyway, no substitute for robust action on a broad front, such as a general tax anti-avoidance rule. In the meantime, wealthy individuals and big business will continue to pay tax on a largely voluntary basis, while people on PAYE have no option but to pay tax, VAT is inescapable and low-hanging fruit such as small businesses will continue to be targeted by HMRC .

With the Labour leadership clearly signed up to the neo-liberal agenda, social democracy in Britain is a busted flush. But it would be interesting to see whether a broad coalition of forces on the left could be developed in support of the establishment of a ‘Fair Tax Commission’ to examine the legitimacy of a more progressive tax system which shifts the focus to taxation of wealth, land and the grossly over-inflated incomes which have become the hallmark of 21st-century capitalism. And which considers serious steps to tackle the tax avoidance and evasion which is estimated to cost the exchequer more than £100bn every year.

Richard Murphy, a tax expert, is doing some quite interesting work in this area. It’s worth checking out his blog: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/

Croydon Communists and defence of National Health Service

John Eden

I am contributing a draft to a leaflet for the Croydon Communists, it is to be the basis of our intervention in the area by the party,it’s been many years since we have done this type of work.

In my previous blogs “Croydon and beyond” I have emphasised the world capitalist crisis as being the central driving force behind the “riots” in Britain and the “Arab spring”

In South West London including Croydon, a NHS review published this week says one of four accident and emergency departments and a maternity unit in the area will close, with the aim of saving £64.6million by the end of March 2013. How can you put a price on life  and health? but the capitalist system does. The NHS was part of the welfare state set up after the war, to prevent the  conditions that previously existed, where if you did not have the money, common diseases or accidents often meant death or being permanently disabled. In a civilised society health care should be an area of ever-increasing budgets as new cures are found.  In the last two or three decades with the acceptance of the neo-liberal agenda by all the main political parties including the Labour party, the NHS as become an internal market, where if you live in the wrong postcode, you may die because the local NHS trust as used up its budget, and now they are proposing to increase the internal market even further,which will drive down patient care, as lower tenders are excepted. It is said that nothing  exemplifies Britain like the NHS, all politicians have called it a national treasure, it’s what the people of Britain was prepared to accept in 1945, capitalism with a welfare state, Labour and the Con-dems all  say the NHS is save in their hands, but all agree on the need for market lead reforms. Andy Burnham Labour shadow Health secretary has criticised the present Tory-Lib coalition Health and social care bill, and if it helps to prevent it’s introduction good, but it should be remembered he  introduced GP commissioning in the NHS. His opposition as more to getting back in power and diverting attention from  Labours role previously of being the  main conduit for marketing of the NHS, just as they were for student tuition fees, they have become a stalking horse for the capitalist class. they are the means by which the profiteers get their foot in the door to public services. Here is what John Lister a leading campaigner in the defence of the NHS and against it’s privatisation, in an interview with Tomasz Pierscionek of the “London Progressive journal” 18th June 2010:

TP “There seems to have been a big expansion in PFI contracts (Private Finance initiative), in recent years, What is the reason for this?

JL: Well, PFI never happened under the Tories. The Tories devised the policy but they were never prepared to go as far as New Labour to placate the private sector and allow them to sign these deals with no risk to them whatsoever. The only piece of legislation New Labour passed in 1997 that pertained to the NHS, was short act : the National Health Service (Private Finance) Act 1997 which stipulated that in any PFI scheme that went broke, the debt would be picked up by the Secretary of State for Health” that is you and me the taxpayer, Labour bent over backwards to introduce the market to the advantage of the profiteers.