Local Elections: No 2EU – Yes to Workers Rights, The Communist Party and UKIP

A Posting by Nigel Green

Croydon’s communists have welcomed the No2EU – Yes to Workers Rights challenge in the elections on Thursday for the European Parliament as a vital antidote to the reactionary and anti-foreigner poison of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

Communists have condemned UKIP as preying on people’s disillusionment with establishment politics and the European Union. As the Communist Party’s General Secretary Rob Griffiths has pointed out, UKIP leader and ex-City speculator Nigel Farage is a first-class passenger on the Brussels and Strasbourg gravy train who opposes trade union and employment rights, proposes further tax cuts for the rich and big business and wants to privatise the NHS.

UKIP supports the austerity and privatisation policies that have made 26 million people unemployed across Europe, but then cynically seeks to ‘whip up a vile wave of xenophobia’ to make workers in Britain fear for their jobs.

Also standing in the European elections, No2EU – Yes to Workers Rights will, on the other hand, be campaigning against austerity and privatisation, for public ownership and full employment, and for equal rights for all workers to ensure that employers can’t use cheap migrant labour to undercut wages, terms and conditions.

The No2EU electoral alliance comprises the RMT rail and transport union, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Indian Workers Association and other progressive groups and individuals.

Croydon Communists alongside others in the local labour movement, will not allow UKIP, the BNP and the Tory right in our town to dominate anti-EU opinion with right-wing arguments. We oppose the EU as it is an anti-democratic big business club in which an unelected EU Commission and an unaccountable European Central Bank enforce neoliberal policies enshrined in EU treaties.

The international secretary of the Communist Party, John Foster, has warned, too, about the growing militarisation of the EU as the European pillar of NATO. John said ‘Led by the unelected president Jose Barroso and high commissioner Baroness Ashton, the EU has fuelled the drive eastwards to impose a new economic and military order on the peoples of the former socialist countries and Soviet republics’. Seventeen communist and left parties in Europe, including Die Linke in Germany, Portugal’s Left Bloc and the Danish Red-Green Alliance, have now signed a joint statement condemning the EU as ‘in essence neoliberal and militarist’ and therefore ‘unreformable’.

Calling for Britain’s exit from the EU because it is neoliberal and militarist is the Communist Party’s internationalist duty as well as a national necessity.

Nigel Green

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Communist Party Candidate Gives Good Account of Himself in Local Election Hustings

Dr Peter Latham, Communist Party candidate for Broad Green gave a good account of himself at the local election hustings in Broad Green on 15 May. There was a healthy turnout and a good debate.

Dr Latham said, “London is the capital of the world’s super-rich with 72 billionaires. None of them, however, live in the five wards of the central north area of Croydon: Broad Green, Bensham Manor; Thornton Heath; West Thornton and Selhurst. According to the GLA, parts of Broad Green are amongst the 10% most deprived in the UK. Councils are currently half way through a scheduled 40 per cent cut in funding from central government. As a result of these cuts councils in many areas will not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities. The current formula for local government funding is putting councils – quite needlessly – in danger of bankruptcy.”

“An alternative political and economic strategy is needed. But Labour’s leadership are committed to maintaining the public sector pay freeze, abiding by Tory-led Coalition Government’s spending plans for one year after the general election and sticking to a welfare spending cap for the entire parliamentary term. Labour need to be bolder and offer a genuine, socialist alternative to endless austerity.”

The Communist Party’s proposals are modest:
• 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; those protecting private tenants’ deposits; and the “general power of competence” to expand their functions).
• Abolition of US-style directly elected executive mayors and the cabinet system which under New Labour’s Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 created indirectly elected mayors by giving council leaders virtually the same powers as US-style directly executive mayors.
• No councillors should be paid more than average annual full-time earnings in their locality. For example, the London Borough of Croydon has a cabinet system and a leader who in 2013/14 received £65,466 – 5.8 times greater than the basic allowance of £11,239 received by backbench councillors with no special responsibility allowance. The total cost of the basic and special responsibility allowances in 2013/14 was £1,617,706. The total cost of SRAs was £830,976 for the seven cabinet members, the 10 deputy cabinet members, the 10 committee vice-chairs and the seven shadow cabinet members. Annual mean full-time gross earnings (excluding overtime) in Croydon in 2012 were £29,481. The prospect of fewer SRAs may be the major reason why only nine councils have opted for the committee system since the Localism Act. If in May 2014 Labour wins control of Croydon Council – where the current leadership controls the allocation of 43 out 55 SRAs (the other 12 are allocated by the Labour Group) – the Labour Group’s material interests will ensure the status quo continues: unless the Left in the forthcoming period builds a broad alliance able to win a return to the committee system.
• De-privatisation and the direct provision of local authority and other public services.
• A statutory living wage, abolition of zero hour contracts and an end to the wage freeze.
• A mass programme of council housing built by direct labour with proper apprenticeships to cut mass youth unemployment, rent control and abolition of the Bedroom Tax.
• Investment to create green jobs, which would also cut unemployment.
• Increasing social benefits and pensions in line with inflation.
• Stopping the scapegoating of immigrants and welfare claimants.
This could easily be paid for by:
• a two per cent wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent of the population – who own 41 per cent of Britain’s wealth estimated to be £4.5 trillion (revenue £90 billion a year)
• ending tax dodging by the super-rich and big business (revenue £70 billion a year)
• a 20 per cent tax on the super-profits of banking, energy, retail, arms and drug monopolies (revenue £16 billion a year)
• a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on City transactions (revenue £7.5 to £112 billion a year)
• a rise in the threshold for income tax to £30,000 by introducing a new 60 per cent rate of tax for incomes over £60,000
• a new system of local authority finance based on abolishing the regressive council tax, stamp duty land tax and business rates and their replacement by a new system of annual land value taxation (LVT). Local authorities would retain up to a third of the revenue collected, with the rest going to central government (or the devolved governments in the case of Scotland and Wales), which is then redistributed back to local authorities on a per capita basis. Only freeholders and landlords would pay LVT and buildings tax; 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. Tenants would no longer be liable to property taxes. LVT would also 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.

Dr Latham concluded, “Austerity is unnecessary because we are a rich society. Today only parties to the left of Labour (i.e. the Greens, TUSC and the Communist Party) advocate genuine change: which indicates the scale of the crisis of working class political representation locally and nationally. This is why Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey in April warned Labour to drop its austerity policies or face election defeat and the possible establishment of a new workers’ party. Vote for a socialist alternative. Vote Communist on 22 May!”

EDUCATION NOT FOR SALE?

Much publicity has been given recently to reported Lib Dem disquiet over what Education Secretary Michael Gove has been up to at the Education Department. After four years silent complicity, this is a little rich.

In another development, the TUC has just published an 85 page report entitled Education Not for Sale. It’s presumably unrelated to the Lib Dems concern as they are generally as uninterested in what the TUC has to say as the Tories and Labour. The TUC report concludes that the continuing marketization of education through Gove’s academy and free school programme is moving England’s schools system from democratic, local authority control to a more fragmented, less democratic structure. The TUC report is also concerned that the power to take major decisions over the direction of both individual schools and of the education system as a whole now rests with a few individuals: the Secretary of State and those who own academy chains. As the report observes, free schools were supposed to be locally developed by parents, teachers and community groups, but are now more likely to be handed to academy chains.

The TUC report is notable for the cautious and tentative nature of its conclusions. Yet the Anti-Academy Alliance, the NUT and the Communist Party have all campaigned vigorously against academies since they were introduced by New Labour under cover of the Education, Education, Education mantra.

Democratic control and accountability of state education depended crucially on Local Education Authorities (LEAs). These bodies of experts and administrators provided training, expertise, advice and funding to state schools and were accountable to the electorate through council elections. Their undermining began under New Labour. The Tories under Gove’s direction, and with the supine Lib Dems carried along in their wake, have simply finished off the job.

Comments by Labour candidates in the forthcoming local government elections confirm the impression that they have no appreciation or understanding of the problem their party has helped cause and of what must be done to remedy the situation. The Communist Party solution is to kick the profiteers out of education and return it all to democratic control. We also need to start trusting teachers and stop telling them in minute detail what to teach and how. We should pay them properly, give them job security through a local authority contract and we should tax private education institutions, the so called public schools, until they go out of business. A Land Value Tax and a Wealth Tax on individuals would be most effective in this respect. Finally, we need to provide the incentive to school students of guaranteed financial support when they progress to colleges of further education and universities, not saddle them with student loans. Further and higher education must not become once more the preserve of the rich. We don’t expect anything from the Lib Dems, but, if the TUC won’t speak up for working people in this way, the Communist Party will.

Martin Graham

UKIP ANTI-EU CREDENTIALS EXPOSED

A posting by Nigel Green

Writing in this weekend’s Morning Star ( 10/11th May 2014) Natasha Hoarau daughter of the late, great Bob Crow, says that her Dad who did so much exposing the EU empire for what it is – an undemocratic club for big business bosses – “had no time for UKip”.
She points out that while Bob’s union the RMT “campaigned vigorously on the streets for public ownership of our transport networks”, Brussels based Ukip MP’s were demanding that “member states follow EU rail directives imposing privatisation and fragmentation across the EU”.
Natasha emphasizes that Ukip “aims to add to the austerity measures being imposed on us, not fighting against them.”
The BNP and NF are open extreme right neo-fascist racist groups with violent thugs in their membership. These organisations should have no place in any fair – minded society based on peace, justice and equality. However, we are not getting very far if their support simply transfers to Ukip. Although not fascists as such UKip are a hard right, anti-immigrant outfit and as we keeping hearing on the mainstream media, contain large numbers of racist bigots.
They are also rampant neo-liberal free marketeers, who hate the public sector and workers rights. Apart from wanting to dismantle any vestige of public ownership of our transport systems, Ukip would:
• make it easier for employers to fire staff
• cut Statutory Maternity Pay by more than half
• hand over the NHS to private companies, leaving little left other than the NHS logo
• introduce a flat rate of tax for everyone, which would hurt the poorest much more
• scrap rules which prevent corporate tax avoidance
• scrap the legal right to four weeks paid holidays, statutory sick pay and redundancy pay
(Source: Labour Research May 2014)

The Communist Party says these measures will be catastrophic for working people, men and women alike, and completely opposes every one of them.
The Party welcomes the launch of the ‘No to EU, yes to Workers rights’ platform this week, who are standing in the Euro-elections on 22 May. ‘No 2 EU’ includes Communists on the slate. So if you want Britain to leave the EU, but in conditions that favour working people and public ownership, and in conditions favouring a socialist non-racist exit, then vote for ‘No 2 EU’.
I am especially pleased to report that In London, Natasha Hoarau is standing on the ‘No 2 EU’ slate in place of her father. So good luck to Natasha and all ‘No 2 EU’ candidates.

Nigel Green

LABOUR TAX SHOCK: WHO ARE THEY KIDDING?

The Croydon Guardian appears to have splashed over its entire front page this week the shock-horror headline “Labour Spending Plans = 27% Council Tax Rise”, followed by an article explaining that this estimate is arrived at by costing up all the proposals in Labour’s Croydon Manifesto. Only in very small letters on the front page does the word “advertisement” appear, and nowhere on this page can one find who the advertiser is. Only on closer examination is it apparent that the Tories have paid for an entire four page, full colour wrapper.

This raises an interesting question. It is not whether Labour’s manifesto, on the whole a mild and timid document that does not seek to reverse, or even halt, the savage cuts in services, would really result in a Council Tax rise of 27%. If the estimate of the tax rise necessary to fund Labour’s plans were accurate and reliable, it would say more about the extent to which cuts have undermined Croydon Council’s services than about the profligacy of Labour.

The interesting question is how can the Tories afford to pay for such publicity.

The Tory party can afford to spend huge sums on electioneering because it is essentially a conspiracy against the people. It receives vast sums of money from big business and wealthy individuals and rewards them with the laws, regulations and tax breaks they require to make more money and give further donations. That’s where the money to fight the forthcoming local government elections and, on a much, much bigger scale, the general election next year comes from. Furthermore, with breath-taking guile, they have even managed to seduce the hapless Lib-Dems into their conspiracy, getting the Lib Dems to prop them up in parliament for five full years in return for a few meagre ministerial posts, which have been filled ineffectually, and the promise of a referendum on proportional representation (which they lost).

Such is the success of the Tory election-money machine that Labour essentially adopted the same strategy –Tory-lite or, as they called themselves, New Labour. The best argument for voting Labour in the forthcoming elections is not the hope that Miliband will reverse the New Labour sell out, it is the same old argument we have heard for years: vote for us, we are not as bad as the Tories. For how much longer Labour can get away with this dispiriting argument remains to be seen.

In parliamentary democracy, with its two, or two and a half, party system, there is no real choice. Vote for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. Even then, unless you happen to live in a marginal constituency, most votes don’t count. There is no way of fixing this with PR. Even if the ultimate winner receives the most votes, or is, say, the least unacceptable candidate, the system is run by career politicians on behalf of big business and the wealthy. The mass media is, in consequence, controlled by these same interests and ensures that left wing alternatives, particularly the Communist Party, are shut out. Communists, however, aspire to something better. A society run to benefit ordinary working people, employing direct democracy so that they, not career politicians, have responsibility for decisions and where the mass media is owned by the readers and viewers, not a few media moguls with their own agendas. Meanwhile, however, and despite our lack of funds, Communists do stand in elections if only to give a few voters in a few constituencies and wards a real choice; and we do, where possible, enter electoral alliances such as No2EU – yes to workers’ rights. But never be fooled into thinking that this is democracy. That must await a communist future.

Croydon Communists Speak Out on the Demise of Local Government

Press Release

Dr Peter Latham, Communist Party local election candidate for Broad Green, said today, “As the local election campaign picks up, it’s noteworthy how little comment there is by candidates on the effective emasculation of local government under the Con-Dem Government. Unless present policies are reversed we face the prospect of what the leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore, calls the ‘end of local government as we know it’. The current formula for local government funding is presenting councils with impossible choices about which services to support and which services to cut. In some cases, major cities such as Liverpool are facing bankruptcy and being forced into a situation where they cannot even afford to pay for statutory social care services.”

“The Localism Act 2011 is the key mechanism used by the Con-Dems to erode local government. Of, course it is doing anything but promote local democracy and should really be called the ‘Centralism Act’! Its provisions underpin a creeping centralisation of many policy areas previously under local authority control. It has removed powers from councils under the guise of enabling ‘Big Society’ charitable organisations to play a greater role at the local level. The real agenda is to shrink the state, slash public expenditure and accelerate out-sourcing of public services.”

The Communist Party supports a range of measures to re-invigorate local government, including:

• Smaller councils and more councillors because England, Wales and Scotland now have fewer and larger ‘local’ authorities than any other Western advanced capitalist country except Ireland
• 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; those protecting private tenants’ deposits; and the “general power of competence” to expand their functions)
• Abolition of US-style directly-elected local authority mayors.
• The ending of all forms of marketisation, privatisation and profiteering in central and local government.
• Direct provision by councils of locally administered services to revive and develop community participation, accountability and self-government in areas such as council housing and management of schools.
• Capping of councillors’ pay at the average annual full-time earnings in their locality.

Dr Latham said, “Town halls are the lifeblood of local democracy, empowering communities, providing a practical demonstration of direct democracy and offering accountability to constituents. Local government needs rescuing from this wretched Government. The replacement of the traditional committee system with leaders and cabinets or US-style directly-elected mayors has created a brigade of full-time career politicians, which has removed the working class from this layer of local democracy. While over a third of local government services are now marketised or privatised. We need a radical reorganisation of the way local government is financed, based on the needs of each individual town and city; and genuine decentralisation from Whitehall. Vote Communist in the local election to support the fight for local democracy!”

Local residents will be able to hear Dr Latham speak at the hustings organised in Broad Green on Thursday May 15, at 7.30pm at the Oshwal Centre, Campbell Road, Croydon CR0 2SQ.

Notes to editors:
1. For enquiries phone 0208 686 1659 or e-mail croydon@communist-party.org.uk
2. Dr Peter Latham is the Communist Party local election candidate for Broad Green. A former lecturer, he has lived in the area for many years. He is the author of ‘The State and Local Government: Towards a new basis for local democracy and the defeat of big business control’ ( Manifesto Press, 2011) and a longstanding member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee.
3. Ben Stevenson is 29 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. He is the Communist Party candidate for Bensham Manor. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election.
4. John Eden is the Communist Party local election candidate for Selhurst. He is 64 years old and a carpenter and joiner. He is a member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee and has lived in Selhurst for 27 years.
5. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.

NO TO RACISM AND FASCISM IN CROYDON!

A reflection by Nigel Green

Communists in Croydon stand proud as staunch anti-racists. The British economy is failing not because of immigrants or black people but because of the neo-liberal free market economic model so beloved of the EU Empire.

In fact immigrants as a whole make a substantial, positive contribution to the economy and without them the plight of working people would be far worse. Communists do not say there should be no rules or legitimate debate on immigration, but we do say that without immigration economic growth would be come to a halt and the rich cultural and social diversity of cities like London would cease to be.

Unemployment – as well as diphtheria and measles – was greatest in this country in the twenties and thirties of the last century when there was much less immigration than now.

Only when working people come together as one in trade unions and other campaigning organisations will we have the collective strength to take on effectively big business and the capitalist bosses. Above all, this means no divisions based on race, colour, creed or gender. Such divisions mean working people remain weak and divided.

Of course this is not what big business, the far right in UKip and the neo-fascists of the BNP want. They are not interested in working peoples’ welfare and they hate working people getting together in trade unions and exercising independent democratic rights. Blaming immigrants will not solve our problems. Make no mistake, these are caused by Britain’s rich ruling class including the old Etonians and other ex-public schoolboys who pack the government – not by immigrant black or Polish workers.

So vote for Communist Party candidates in local elections on 22 May and for the ‘No to EU, Yes to Workers Rights’ platform in the EU elections, so we can exit the EU on a socialist non-racist platform.

Nigel Green

The Crisis of Capitalism – banks and housing

The collapse of the banks in 2008 and the cuts then implemented by the coalition government to bail them out is only one aspect of the crisis facing capitalism. Another is housing.

It should not be overlooked that the banking crisis was itself triggered by reckless mortgage lending in the USA housing market. These dodgy debts were then packaged up and sold to banks and other financial institutions across the world. Whatever the shortcomings of New Labour – and they were many – the banking crisis was not due, as the Tories would have us believe – to excessive spending on the NHS and social services.

Returns on those who invest in property to rent using mortgages from these same banks have been, so far, insulated from the financial crisis. These returns are estimated to have averaged 16.3% over the past eighteen years – a period that spans the banking crisis. They have been generated by inflated rents: in May these averaged £765 per month in England and Wales and are still rising. Such rents are becoming increasingly unaffordable by those who must work for a living. In response, the government paid out £35 billion in 2013-14 in housing benefit – money that goes directly to landlords and supports the banks that provide the mortgages. The increase in rents that supports this edifice has only been made possible by an almost total lack of regulation and control of private landlords and the absence of security of tenure for tenants.

Once upon a time, ordinary working families could turn to Council housing. This was undermined by ‘right-to-buy introduced by Thatcher and continued under Labour. By 2013 up to a third of all council houses purchased under ‘right-to-buy’ had been sold on to rich landlords. A shocking example is provided by the son of Ian Gow, the Tory minister who presided over implementing Thatcher’s policy. He is now a housing tycoon, owning more than forty ex-council houses in one London estate alone! What remains of the council house stock is now subject to lengthening waiting lists, hardening criteria, diminished security of tenure and now the bedroom tax.

With people on average salaries and wages unable to afford mortgages even at current interest rates depressed by so called quantitative easing, i.e. printing money to support the banks, the housing prospects for the working population in Croydon and elsewhere across the country look bleak. Even those of us currently enjoying good housing can have little confidence that the next generation, i.e. our kids, will be so fortunate. Jobs are becoming less secure, unions are shackled, and well paid jobs are only accessed by those who can bear the huge burden of debt from student loans – bankers and those whose parents are wealthy enough to pay them off. Only the wealthy elite can flourish in such a world, albeit behind gated communities.

The solution? Mere tinkering advocated by the Green Party and, modestly and belatedly, by Labour is no longer enough. Regulation of landlords and abolition of the bedroom tax would be welcome, but cannot address the mess we are in. Tory and Tory-Light (i.e. Labour) solutions such as assistance for first time buyers will simply add to the inflation of rents and make buying by the rest of us even less accessible. The only recovery under capitalism will involve, as Thomas Picketty argues in his well publicised book Capital in the Twenty First Century, greater inequality and eventually the impoverishment of the entire working class – i.e. everyone except the super-rich. But while Picketty appears to believe that capitalism can be reformed, the only viable path out of the mess we are in will involve the appropriation of the wealth of those who exploit us. In a word – communism.

Martin Graham