Croydon and beyond, the Surrey Hills and California

By John Eden

I have just been on a short break down to Arundel in West Sussex via the Surrey Hills which is classified as an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” right on the doorstep of Croydon, it is in my opinion some of the best English countryside you will ever find, yet I wonder how many Croydonians realise this or have been there.

Seeing the  sign approaching  “Surrey Hills” it reminded me of  “Suffragettes” and “California” a connection I shall explain.

Some five years ago, while working at Ruskin House in Croydon, I use to have my lunch and often my evening meal in the “Skylark” the Wetherspoon Pub in South End, one part of the Pub is lined with bookshelves, containing many old books, one of the oldest I found had an inscription inside from a Mother to her Daughter, it was a Christmas present and dated 1845. One of the books I flicked through, the “Fowler” by Beatice Harraden published in 1899, had a reference in the novel to a “Grantham School for Girls”, coming from Grantham myself, I did not know if this was a fictional or real school that may have existed once in my hometown, I could find no reference to it in Google. The Grantham and Kesteven Girls High School is not fictional “Famous” for having my Auntie as a pupil and equally famous for having the future and imfamous Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher (Nee Roberts) as a pupil.

Beatrice Harraden author of  “The Fowler” I found out had been quite a famous suffragette, mainly as a contributor to many of their journals, and wrote novels, with their cause as its theme. her most famous book of 1893 is  “Ships that pass in the Night” which ran through many editions, I picked one up while on holiday,  in Hay on Wye in 2007, a twentieth  edition published in 1900.

Beatrice Harraden

Croydon had a very strong women’s movement in the ninetieth and early twentieth century by all accounts, as there were three separate movements, in Croydon in 1912, each having offices, two were in George Street and one was in the area of the present Green Dragon pub.

Now the  maybe not so “tenuous” link between the “Surrey Hills” and “California”. One of Harraden’s short stories that I read  called ” Hilda Stafford and The Remittance Man (Two Californian Stories) (1897) the author had spent sometime in America, the story might be part about herself or someone she knew. In the latter part of the ninetieth century as the story tells, some young Englishmen junior clerks in the City of London and similar types, were avid readers of Wild West novels, and dreamt of the life of a Cattle Rancher instead of the nine till five life of a clerk,commuting into the City from places like Croydon and it seemed quite a few turned this dream into reality, the novel goes on to show that the dream for most becomes a nightmare.

The young men had answered ads in national papers of land for sale in Southern California, each had bought themselves many acres of land which turned out to be very barren, most of them failed to make it work,some returned to England, some even died in the attempt, like the character in the novel, who had brought his fiancé to share the life, she absolutely hated it, it was a landscape to her that seemed to be nothing but dust and rocks, dried out river beds in the summer and flash floods in the winter, it was one of these floods that destroyed the ranch and lead to the death of her fiance, she remarked before his death that she longed to return to England, and at the weekends walk again in the  “Surrey Hills” she got her wish.

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Labour Need to Commit Now to Taking the Rail Network into Public Ownership!

By Chris Guiton

In a recent interview with Progress, Maria Eagle, shadow transport secretary, has denied any ambition to re-nationalise the rail network, stating ‘I’m not interested in setting up some monolithic, centrally-run-from-my-desk nationalised body to run everything to public ownership.’ Instead, she  waffled about devolving power to local communities. You wonder if this represents a retreat from her earlier more positive response to the ‘Rebuilding Rail’ report published by the think tank Transport for Quality of Life, on behalf of the main rail unions: Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite.

The report sets out a strategy for how public ownership of the railway could be restored and how a future Labour government could reintegrate rail operations and infrastructure. It calls for Labour to make a number of commitments: use money saved from reintegration to lower fares; award no new franchises; review all existing franchises to assess whether they should be bought out; reduce ‘dividend leakage’; and campaign against the European Commission’s intention for member states to open domestic passenger services to competition.

With rail fares set to rise in January 2013 by inflation plus 3% – in effect, up to 11% depending on the franchise terms, Labour are clearly missing a trick here. Even Tory MPs are waking up to the impact of fare rises on their constituents – and those in marginal seats with significant commuter populations appear to be getting decidedly nervous. Many Croydon residents use the train service to commute to London and elsewhere, and with no prospect in sight of an end to this grossly unfair squeeze on rapidly diminishing incomes, people are justifiably angry.  The case for re-nationalisation is well-understood. A publicly owned, integrated rail network would deliver a better service, cost the taxpayer and commuters less and avoid the excessive transaction costs and profiteering generated by privatisation.

Every reason for Labour to be bolder and for Croydon voters to act accordingly!

BLAME THE UNEMPLOYED!

ImageWith the unemployment rate in London reaching 8.9% and likely to go even higher, the ConDem government has adopted its usual approach: blame the working class and protect the rich. This week Nick Clegg’s timid suggestion that the rich might be asked to pay a little more towards filling  the deficit for which they are responsible was shot down by the Chancellor  George Osborne. He said it would deter the ‘wealth creators’. In the same week the government, backed by Mayor Boris Johnson, announced that Croydon will be one of the London boroughs to trial a new scheme to require the unemployed to work for nothing. 6,000 unemployed up to the age of 24 will be required to do 13 weeks unpaid work as a condition for receiving their miserly £56 per week unemployment benefit.

What’s wrong with the government’s logic? Where to start! Communists understand that wealth is created by those who work. The idea of a class of clever ‘wealth creators’ is a self-serving myth put about by the wealthy. An educated working class, properly organised, can generate all the wealth this country needs and make a contribution to reducing world poverty and to halting global warming. Neither will happen under a system that disregards the interests of ordinary working people and is concerned only with protecting the interests of the rich.

The belief that unemployment is due to the idleness of the unemployed is a vicious lie. This capitalist economy is simply not producing the education, training, social services and employment that the working population needs. It’s the interests of the wealthy that are protected, disguised as calls for ‘economic efficiency’ and assertions that there is no alternative. That’s why there are tax breaks for private education and cuts in state education; tax breaks for private health care and cuts and privatisation for the NHS; elite universities for the wealthy and student loans around our necks of the rest of us; investment in more riot control and privatised prisons. Compulsory, unpaid work for our young people is just their next step.

 It isn’t working, it cannot work, it won’t work. Join us on the TUC march on 20 October and tell them so.

Martin Graham

Croydon and Beyond

Council-changes-twitter-profile-at-inside-croydon-suggestion.

By John Eden.

Yesterday I read on the “Inside Croydon” blog that the Council are setting up Twitter account so Croydonians can air their views to the Council, the “inside” blog welcomed the idea, but seemed sceptical of the motives, I don’t feel we have to get into speculation, I welcome any furtherance of the democratic process, how can it be detrimental to the interests of the people of Croydon, I am pretty sure that “inside Croydon” understand that.

On the leaflet the Communist Party in Croydon have been circulating over the recent weeks, against the building of a giant incinerator on Beddington lane, we wrote about the hypocrisy of the local Labour Councillors being against it in Croydon, but their colleagues on Merton Council supporting it, (the plan to build is a joint venture  of four Councils Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Kingston).

Well the hypocrites are at it again, in a report in the “Croydon Advertiser” Friday August 24th page 7 entitled “Labour: “We will force firms to employ locals” Labour leader of the opposition Cllr Newman pledges to tackle the high unemployment in Croydon by forcing building Employers undertaking new work in the borough to take on 20% of the workers from Croydon, it would be welcome! but this is the same Councillor who as leader of the Council in 2006 closed down the Council run Local disabilities Factory (only days before the people of Croydon remove them from office in the local elections of May of that year) thus creating unemployment amongst already vunerable workers’, it is said only two of them have found employment so far, six years on. The factory had been opened by the then Conservative Council in 1961, when I challenge one of the Labour Councillors after their defeat, and said  “closing it, contributed to their losing control of the council”  the reply was, well the Conservative can restore it, but I replied ” you closed it and all the machinery as been removed”. No call me cynical but Cllr Newman remarks as more to do with electioneering.

Viewers from Poland

By John Eden  22nd August 2012

Today there as been a number of viewers to the site from Poland, I being a Carpenter and Joiner  have worked with many Poles over the years, the first ones I encountered, were the generation who had fought in the British Army during the Second World War. My father had fought alongside the Poles at Monte Cassino in Italy, I should say he watched them and the Indian troops take the Fortress, he described the action as a suicide mission, and how the British had tried to raise their flag when it finally fell, something that caused great anger among the Poles and Indian troops who had lost so many men killed and maimed.

I found this piece from Robert Fisk of the “Independent” newspaper today 3rd September, in a report from Syria, in a mixed area of Christians and Moslems  but mainly the former, in an area still controlled by the Assad regime.

It tells of  the Polish troops my Father saw in Italy and how they got there to fight the Fascists. “Over the Roman temple of Maaloula (Syria my insertion) was built the church, and thence came in 1942
the twice wounded General Wladyslaw Anders, who was shepherding his 75,000
emaciated Polish soldiers from Soviet imprisonment through the Holy Land to join
the Second World War allies and subsequently the battle for Monte Cassino.
Anders gave a beautiful icon of Christ to the church at Maaloula; I found it
inside the front porch, his name written at the base, but no hint of his
mission. His brave II Polish Corps was condemned by Poland’s post-war Communist
government as a legion of defectors.”

The ones I have work with lately are the young generation often with wives back in Poland, travelling back at holiday times.

As a Communist and with the hindsight of history, I have come to the conclusion that one of the major reasons for the failure of Socialism to advance in the 1920s and which still as repercussions today, was the “mistaken” policy of the Bolsheviks to pursue the retreating Polish Army into Poland in 1920, after Poles failed attempt to seize  Ukraine. The intension of the Bolsheviks was not the occupation of Poland and the restoration of the Russian Empire, it was to break out of their isolation and spread the Revolution to Germany, or as Lenin later said to “probe the revolution with Bayonets”.                                                                                                                   The need to spread the revolution was foremost on the minds of all the Bolshevik Leaders, Germany was itself in Revolutionary turmoil, and was also the industrial powerhouse of Europe, Soviet Russia was completely exhausted by the Civil war, which was  backed by foreign Armies from 24 Capitalist Nations, This Civil war was essentially over by the end of 1919, the Red Army had been victorious, but all materials and food had been used up to feed this army, there was no materials for the factories, spreading the revolution was essential, the potential counter revolution now came from the Russian Peasantry (although in 1920 this was only implicit not explicit as it became in 1928) not from the defeated Whites and their foreign backers, the peasants were no longer willing to give up their stocks of grain and meat for nothing, their former landlords were defeated and the Red Army itself was overwhelmingly from the peasantry, the alliance between the workers and the peasantry which was so vital to the victory of the revolution and the civil war would be broken if the demands of the peasants and wider society could not be met i.e the necessities of life,  but the exhausted Soviet economy had no way of paying the peasants either in money or farm implements, the workers in the factories had no more materials and were returning to the countryside, factories were closing, the transport system had mostly been destroyed,so the urgent need to spread the Revolution.

One thing must be made clear the Polish invasion of Ukraine was not part of the war of intervention against Soviet Russia, it was purely a land grab, the Polish leadership understood completely that to bring down the Workers state, would have meant the return the White Army, the Russian landlords and Capitalists, and they would want Poland again within the Russian Empire, this is why at the height of the civil war 1919 the Poles did not intervene against the Soviet regime, all the wars the Poles fought in this period  against their neighbours, and there were many, were to extend their frontiers.

After the Polish Army was forced to retreat from Ukraine, discussions took place in the Soviet leadership and the Red Army whether to pursue the Poles into areas that were ethnically Polish, at this time both Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin were against this policy, out voted they never the less agreed to carry out the decision to invade Poland. The Soviet Army was defeated at the “Miracle on the Vistula” as the Poles called it. Without going at this time into the reasons for the defeat, I will only say that when Trotsky was asked again to invade Poland some weeks after the defeat he refused, threaten to resign as leader of the Red Army, The Bolshevik leadership backed down, and Trotsky continued as leader.

Top photo taken on November 7, 1919 while celebrating the second anniversary of the October Revolution three people, Trotsky, Lev Kamenev and Artemy Khalatov were later edited out of this photo in the Stalinist period.
            Photo immediately above, Trotsky with Lenin and Red Army recruits in Petrograd 1921

I will end this blog for today, and try to return to it, with a deeper explanation of the events of 1920.

Croydon Council a possible conumdrum

By John Eden.

We have been leafleting Croydon door to door since the end of  June, with the intention of standing candidates in the next local elections in 2014, without going into all the reasons why we are standing, I think Croydon is unusual, especially in the South of England in that it as only two parties on the Council,  Labour and Tory, there is no third-party such as the Lib-Dems or Independents (ie usually meaning Independent Tories).

The Tories control the Council which is divided 37 Tory 33 Labour, all the wards in the North of the Borough are labour, in the South all are Tory, the Centre is divided between the two.

The elections in 2014 might spring a very interesting situation, should the Labour party win two seats, the Council would be split 35 seats each, one party would have to supply the Mayor, who only as a casting vote, therefore the Mayor’s party, in the bipartisan politics of Croydon, would always be in a minority.This is a real possibility because of entrench positions in the North and South of the borough.

So no party would logically want to propose a Mayor from their own ranks, I was speaking to a labour Party member from Croydon about this, and he said, that if this did arise the most likely out come is that one councillor, lured by the possibility of becoming Mayor would jump ship, and join the opposition, most likely someone who would never have been considered having the possible qualities in normal times.

The only difference between the two parties in local politics nationally, is their enumeration for being part of the quite recent introduction of the cabinet system of local government, the leader of  cabinet of the ruling party might get £70k per year, other cabinet members less but still substantial, the Leader of the opposition cabinet a few thousand less, but the politics are the same, Labour in London Boroughs where they are in control have made cuts just as deep as the Tory boroughs. So Jumping ship can be very rewarding.

Time to elect Communists Councillors.

Croydon University Hospital: Virgin’ on the ridiculous

Croydon University Hospital is currently threatened with legal action by the Care Quality Commission over a number of serious shortcomings, including shortages of equipment and staff. The root cause of these shortcomings is cuts in government funding, disguised as demands for “efficiency savings” and the leeching of tax payers’ money into the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). So why is Croydon University Hospital wasting its stretched resources on stuffing the already replete off-shore bank accounts of Richard Branson?

In April Croydon University Hospital part-sold the Accident and Emergency Service to Richard Branson’s profiteering company, Virgin. Could anyone without a vested interest in the deal have seriously expected that Virgin’s involvement would improve the service or produced savings for the tax payer? Anyone familiar with Virgin’s expensive and unreliable rail and bus services who was aware that they receive huge public subsidies would have known better. However, we only had to wait for the first quarter’s results to have our fears confirmed: for the first time in three and a half years Croydon University Hospital failed to meet its target of seeing 95% of patients at A&E within four hours.

Although they deny it, the NHS is being privatised by the Tories, with the Lib Dems complicit in this conspiracy. The well meaning Labour MP for Croydon North, Malcolm Wicks, is quoted in the Croydon Advertiser (3 August 2012) as saying that missing the A&E target “sends a strong signal about the dangers of privatising the NHS”. Indeed it does, and it is to be welcomed that Mr Wicks has now recognised these dangers, but it was under the previous Labour administration, in which he was a minister, that privatisation of the NHS and other public services gained momentum through the expansion of PFI.

Unlike Mr Wicks, the Communist Party has consistently opposed every form of privatisation, including PFI. For us, public services, and indeed society as a whole, should be organised democratically to meet the needs of its citizens, not to maximise the wealth of a few rich individuals like Richard Branson and their army of acolytes and hangers on.

TEN POLICIES FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT DEMOCRACY

In his talk to the Communist University in South London on 7 August, Dr Peter Latham, author of the book Local Government Democracy (Manifesto Press 2011) proposed ten policies to resuscitate local government democracy and assert working class interests. They were:

1)    Repeal of the Localism Act (except the provisions giving councils the right to return to the committee system and all councillors the right to make policy again in England and Wales, which should be an immediate campaigning priority for the Left).

2)    Abolition of US-style executive local government mayors and police and crime commissioners (PCCs). The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 – under which elections for 41 US-style PCCs with salaries between £65,000 and £100,000 per year depending on the scale of the police force area being overseen and regional pay variations) in England and Wales outside Greater London will be held in November 2012 – should be repealed because the abolition of police authorities is a centralising measure, which further downgrades the role of councillors. Turnout is also likely to be too low to give the bodies legitimacy. Moreover, elected PCC’s, according to West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, with the power to hire and fire chief constables, set the police force’s budget and “strategic direction” could undermine operational independence and also “be the door that unlocks corruption”.

3)    Smaller councils, more councillors.England, Wales and Scotland now have fewer and larger ‘local’ authorities than any other Western advanced capitalist country.

4)    Direct provision by councils of locally administered services. Most public spending is now controlled by the unelected ‘quango state’ with local councillors responsible for only five per cent of the total public spending in their areas. In addition, where this is in accordance with the wishes and needs of their electors, local authorities should be able to expand their functions under the “general power of competence” to run many things now owned and controlled by the private sector, such as local industry, some types of retail and wholesale distribution and a broad range of cultural facilities.

5)    The ending of all forms of marketisation, privatisation and profiteering in central and local government. Over a third of local government services are already marketised and privatised. However, there is no evidence to support the claims of the dominant neoliberal wings of the three main parties that the marketisation and privatisation of public services is value for money, either for taxpayers or for the users of services.

6)    Abolition of the council tax, stamp duty land tax and national non-domestic rates to be replaced by a system of annual land value tax plus progressive taxation of income and wealth. In Britain — where 0.3 per cent of the adult population own 69 per cent of the land worth an estimated £5 trillion — a land value tax (LVT) instead of the regressive council tax, stamp duty land tax and national non-domestic rates levied at one per cent could raise £50 billion a year (i.e. twice the estimated amount raised by the council tax in 2009/10). Only freeholders and landlords, moreover, would pay LVT; and the owners of large estates would pay more because their acreage is greater than a semi and they often own valuable sites in town and city centres. In addition, LVT would avoid the main shortcomings of a local income tax (LIT): which would be more complex and costly to collect, especially if it included unearned income not covered by PAYE, due to so many people living in a local jurisdiction different from where they work; and LIT would also be inequitable because of the large difference between mean or average income in more affluent areas and in poor areas.

7)    Ending the City of London Corporation. The anomaly of the City of London – which is a tax haven for the super rich – and retaining the non-residential business vote – which was actually extended in 2002 – is a travesty of democracy that should be resolved by abolishing the City of London Corporation and reconstituting it as the 33rd London borough.

8)    All councillors should only receive the average backbench annual allowance. The replacement of the traditional committee system with the systems of leader-cabinet or US-style directly-elected mayors has created a brigade of full-time career politicians. The working class have been removed from this layer of local democracy; and the average salary for directly-elected US-style executive mayors is now over seven times that of the average backbench councillor’s allowance).

9)    The Single Transferable Voting (STV) System should be used for all elections.  The first-past-the-post system to elect councillors not only fails to reflect fairly the votes cast, but also discourages participation in local democracy. STV, used for the first time in the 2007 local government elections in Scotland, is preferable, and would enhance local democracy. Moreover, the Supplementary Vote system – currently used in mayoral elections and continued by the Localism Act 2011 – in which voters record their first and second choice, should be abolished: since a large number of voters may be denied any say in the second round, sometimes exceeding in number the eventual majority of the winning candidate.

10)   Short-term deposits by councils should only be in publicly owned banks

In addition, Dr Latham identified an alternative economic and political strategy (AEPS) as a  pre-condition for carrying out the above. The 2011 TUC adopted an Alternative Economic Strategy, although it did not contain the anti-privatisation and public ownership policies contained in the People’s Charter adopted by the TUC in 2009. In addition, the Communist Party has called for:

  • a two per cent wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent of the population who own 44 per cent of Britain’s wealth, including private pension wealth, estimated to be £9 trillion (revenue £78 billion a year);
  • a 20 per cent windfall tax on the super-profits of banking, energy, retail, arms and drug monopolies (revenue £16 billion);
    • a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on City transactions (revenue £20 billion a year);
    • ending tax dodging by the super-rich and big business (revenue £70 billion a year);
    • repayment of money owed by bailed-out banks (£131 billion).

Such measures, if implemented, would not only close the deficit within five years: but also enable expenditure on public services to be increased – not slashed. N.B. only 10% of the cuts have so far been made and more are in the pipeline.

Do you agree? Are there any policies Dr Latham overlooked? Let us know what you think. Dr Latham’s complete paper may be read at  http://communistuniversity.wordpress.com