Lessons from the Hacking Trial

Writing in the Guardian this week following the conviction of Andy Coulson and the acquittal of Rebekah Brooks in the News of the World Hacking Trial, Joan Smith, Executive Director of Hacked Off, argued that the real story that has emerged from the trial is the lack of corporate governance in Rupert Murdoch’s press empire. Shareholders, she argues, will wish to know how a criminal conspiracy could flourish for so long at its heart. The remedy, she argues, is an independent regulator as recommended by Leveson, not the grandly named Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) favoured by Murdoch and the other newspaper publishers which is simply the discredited Press Complaints Commission in a new guise.

This is all pie in the sky. Truly independent press regulation might discourage unprincipled journalism but it will do nothing to address the even more serious problem of the gross political bias displayed by our newspapers. Another example of this was provided this week by their failure to report on the Peoples Assembly demonstration in London. The BBC, which is ‘independently’ regulated, was, however, equally remiss on this. Independent regulation of the press and indeed other media will clearly do nothing to restrict the way in which the rich and powerful use the media to promote their own interests. After all, they appoint the regulator. The appropriate remedy for our appalling newspaper industry is to regulate its ownership.

An immediate and short-term remedy would be to outlaw non-residents such as Rupert Murdoch from owning or controlling shares in newspapers published in this county. This is a no-brainer. Non-residents should be neither allowed to vote in our elections nor to influence their outcomes. A more permanent and effective solution would, however, be provided by requiring newspapers, as a condition of publication, to be re-structured as co-operatives owned by their readers, with every shareholder-reader having one vote regardless of the number of shares they own. Impracticable? No – that’s the structure successfully adopted by the Morning Star, the world’s only English language socialist newspaper and the most reliable and objective source of news in the UK.

Two questions need to be addressed: how much compensation should be paid to the present owners? and how to overcome the EU treaty obligations to safeguard property rights above all other interests, including those of labour? The answers are straightforward. Compensation should be based on circulation revenue less operating costs, adjusted for any current exploitation of labour such as sub-living wages paid by the newspaper and its subcontractors. Advertising revenue should be disregarded in this calculation as it arises in the main from the newspaper’s misuse of political influence and exploitation of its monopoly power. Compensation would, as a result, be minimal and would be further reduced if the co-operation of the owners and management over the transfer were opposed or resisted. On the EU treaty obligations to safeguard property rights above all other interests, including labour, the solution is simple: we should leave the EU.

Martin Graham

BRITISH VALUES

Following Ofsted investigation into Birmingham schools and the resulting undignified spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May, David Cameron was forced to intervene and explain what Gove meant by the “British Values” he wants to see taught in English and Welsh state funded schools. Apparently these “British Values” are freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions.

This list is loaded with class implications and is worth picking apart. Taking them in order:

Freedom – a term always banded about by those on the right but never properly defined by them. They mean, of course, freedom for those with wealth and power to enjoy these with as few constraints as possible.

Tolerance – this means a relaxed view to the views of others provided they don’t impact on those with wealth and power. Ownership and control by the rich and powerful of the mass media does, of course, ensure that really dangerous views such as socialism can be not so much tolerated as safely ignored.

Respect for the Rule of Law – this means rigorously enforcing those laws that protect property and generally disregarding those laws which protect the rights of ordinary working people. To ensure this, the judiciary is drawn from the powerful and wealthy sections of society and can be relied on to protect their class’s interests.

Belief in personal and social responsibility – this means that ordinary working people should not anyway expect “rights” under the law. They must take personal responsibility for their own welfare, just like the rich and powerful do.

Respect for British institutions – this means we should not criticise or question those institutions that prop up the ruling class – the police, parliament, the army, royals etc. Such unquestioning respect need not, however, apply to those institutions that actually serve ordinary working people such as the NHS, our trade unions and those schools that have not yet been sold off to business interests.

It is quite easy to think of a more wholesome set of values. The list could include solidarity with fellow workers, opposition to sexism and racism and treating other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves. The problem with these from a Tory perspective is that they are not exclusively “British”. How strange then that Cameroon and his Tory chums appear to have overlooked that it would only take one more clumsy intervention from them in the debate in Scotland on independence and the term “British” will become an historic relic.

Martin Graham

Seven reasons to join the Communist Party!

A reflection by Nigel Green

Our three Communist candidates each got only around 50 and 80 votes at last week’s local elections in Croydon. This was, of course, nowhere near enough to win, but our campaigning on a left, socialist platform nevertheless helped radicalise an otherwise lacklustre election.

Our efforts to raise the level of debate in the campaign was not unhelpful to Labour, the eventual winners, and we contributed to the outcome in which Croydon voters shunned the Tories, UKIP and the neo-fascist BNP.

Despite the difficulties we face under our first-past-the-post electoral system in which mass media, from which we are largely excluded, brings in the votes, not local campaigning, there are still seven good reasons for working people and trade unionists to join the Communists in Croydon, right here, right now:

1. Economics/Political economy – Communists characterise the present system as ‘State Monopoly Capitalism’, where the economy is dominated by a relatively small number of privately–owned, profit driven conglomerates. A key function of the capitalist state is to defend the interests of these giant monopolies and the neo-liberal market system that enables them to thrive.
2. Workplace issues and priorities – Communists in our programme ‘Britain’s Road to Socialism’, argue that trade unions must be at the heart of the opposition to austerity and workplace attacks. We campaign within unions for their leaderships to adopt a militant but very realistic campaign on pay, pensions and jobs.

3. Organising to win – Communists always advocate and adopt a collaborative approach to campaigning and seek to involve other organisations where we can – trade unions and grass roots organisations. We campaign to win but we are not sectarian in the way we go about this!

4. Political campaigning and the Labour Party – Communists say that Labour governments under rank and file union pressure have enacted some important reforms, but have never challenged the capitalist system. This is where Communists come in – we are fighting to end the capitalist system and establish a socialist and ultimately, in the more distant future, a fully communist society. We agitate on this all the time!

5. Internationalism and anti-racism – Communists stand in solidarity with workers in many countries. We are part of the international communist movement and there are very few countries where we do not have good contacts with our sister parties. We oppose fascists of every kind, wherever they reside, and we campaign for pay parity and full rights for migrant workers.

6. We campaign to exit the European Union in a socialist direction – we seek its dissolution because it is the main instrument for imposing big business, neo-liberal policies on member states. That is why, along with other socialists and the RMT union, we called for a vote for ‘No2 EU’ in the Euro elections the other week. On the other hand, we totally oppose Ukip for the racism lurking beneath its surface and its right wing agenda hostile to the interests of ordinary working people.

7. The environment – The current capitalist-made devastation of the earth’s climate and ecology is the most important issue ever faced by humankind. Communists put defence of the environment at the heart of everything we do.

Seven reasons to join the Communist Party! The eighth is that, by joining, you will make us a bigger party and thus more effective in pursuing these aims. Read our fighting socialist daily newspaper, the Morning Star, join our local Marxist education programme (details at http://communistuniversity.wordpress.com), but, most importantly, e-mail office@communist-party.org.uk and say you want to join the Communist Party. Now is not the time to hold back!

Nigel Green