TRULY INSANE

The new bombing campaign in Iraq, which will inevitably be extended to Syria in due course, is expected, even by its advocates, to last at least two years. A much shorter bombing campaign, that of Libya in 2011, cost the UK between £500 million and one billion pounds. This was roughly the same as the savings made by ending the education maintenance allowance or three times the amount saved by scrapping the disability living allowance. Clearly, neither of these adventures was, or will be, affordable by a UK whose government is continuing to cut public services, hold down wages and refuses to address a housing crisis that is spiralling out of control. Even more significant, however, is that neither the bombing of Libya nor the earlier bombings of Iraq succeeded in stabilising the Middle East nor bringing to its diverse people security, harmony and democracy.

The complexities of the Middle East are huge due, in no small part, to our original colonial interventions, including the establishment and nurturing of the Gulf States, our involvement in Palestine and Israel and our meddling in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and across the region. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Anyone who thinks that, this time, dropping bombs on the Middle East will help is, according to Einstein’s definition, truly insane.

BUSINESS AS USUAL IS NOT AN OPTION!

Following the result today of the Scottish Referendum – 55.3% against Independence on an 84.6% turnout – the government has reiterated its commitment to bringing forward draft legislation on more devolution for Scotland in January. If the government and the Labour opposition think that all that’s needed is transfer of some modest tax raising powers for Scotland and some restriction on Scottish MPs voting on English matters where these have been devolved to Scotland, they will be sadly disappointed. The list of constitutional and fiscal matters in the UK that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency is legion. Here are just a few of them:

• The EU. Powers continue to drain away to the unelected European Commission. The latest example of this is the secret negotiations now under way on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTiP) which, when signed up to by the EU, will strip elected governments of the power to resist further privatisation of our public services.

• The unrepresentative nature of the Westminster Parliament. The House of Lords is a retirement home for clapped out politicians. The House of Commons is a sham of democracy, elected every five years (who agreed to that?) on a derisory turnout, peopled by over-paid party hacks and appointees who are elected on the strength of a barrage of propaganda from the capitalist press and a cowed BBC.

• Our enfeebled local government democracy. It’s stripped of revenue raising powers and run by over-paid apparatchiks. The relatively more democratic model provided by the Committee System is opposed by the large parties as it would not support the big salaries for councillors aproportion of which is diverted to financing future elections.

• The absence of democratic control of the NHS which is being privatised piece by piece and which, for us locally, is threatening the existence of Croydon University Hospital.

• The continuing attacks on trade union right and the almost total absence of workplace democracy. The government is even threatening to make illegal strikes and other industrial action that fails to secure a workplace majority of those entitled to vote. Even the decisive vote of No in the Scottish referendum only attained a 46.8% majority – i.e. it would have been inadequate for industrial action.

These and many other issues including education, housing and climate change will be discussed at the inaugural meeting of the Croydon Assembly convened by Croydon TUC on 15 November at Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD. To register your place, go to http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/croydon-assembly-tickets-9351064285?aff=eac2 .

So what happens after the Scottish Referendum?

The principal reason for hoping that the Yes campaign will not prevail in the Scottish Referendum on Thursday is the need for the working class to stay united in the face of the attacks it is undergoing at the hands of those with wealth and power. The panic in Westminster following the YouGov poll putting Yes in front and the speciousness of many of the arguments clearly intended to frighten Scots into voting No does not engender much confidence that this will happen. One thing is, however, clear from the panicky responses of Cameron, Miliband, Brown and Clegg: very little thought has been given by our rulers about what happens after the referendum. If they think that we will all return to business as usual and that Rump-UK will sink back into a passive, Little England conservatism permanently electing a Conservative (or occasionally a New Labour) government, they are very much mistaken. Here are just a few of the issues that will have to be addressed following a Yes vote:

The inappropriateness of such a large military for so small a county.
The unsuitability of an unelected House of Lords at a time of constitutional change.
The need for a written constitution including adequate provision for workers’ and trade union rights.
The undemocratic nature of the current Westminster parliamentary system.
The likelihood that Wales will follow suit.
The unwillingness of local government in England to remain totally tied to Westminster apron strings.
The need for a stable tax base in R-UK, especially as an independent Scotland dominated by the SNP may well seek to compete in a tax race to the bottom.
The unaffordability of (and absence of a home for) the nuclear deterrent for R-UK.
The bloated size of the Royal Family when the Scots no longer contribute to their upkeep.

The only issues temporarily reprieved by Gordon Brown’s promised Devo-Max solution following a No vote would be the last two. All the others will remain to be dealt with.

None of these issues will, however, be resolved in our favour through the beneficence of the ruling class. They all require hard work from the bottom up, albeit with guidance and organisational expertise from the Communist Party, and it may well be best to start with more ‘bread and butter’ issues such as health, education, housing and opposition to further cuts in services. An excellent starting point will be the inaugural meeting of the Croydon Assembly on 15 November. Be there and help start to get the ball rolling.

Diplomats and confused retired generals

Innocent people are dying in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Gaza. Enough problems for world leaders to worry about? Yet when Britain’s former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt, gave his carers the slip this week and found himself in a BBC studio, he informed the startled interviewer that the current situation in Ukraine is not just a return to the Cold War, it’s a return to the 1930s with Putin playing the part of Hitler. Rather than being told by the interviewer to stay calm – the nice men in the white coats are on their way to take you back to the home, he was listened to in respectful silence. The BBC is, after all, adept at peddling nonsense to which its current paymasters subscribe – it’s been repeating ad nauseam this week the briefings emanating from the US government (or just the hawks in Washington?) that democratic governments in Europe need to cut their social spending and apply it to military spending and meeting their commitments to NATO. As if our social spending had not already taken a beating as a result of the financial crisis triggered by corrupt US banks!

Military spending in general and NATO in particular are not the solution to the problems in Ukraine, they are the problem. NATO ceased to have a purpose following the end of the Cold War and should have been wound up then as part of the peace dividend  – whatever happened to that?  Instead NATO has been allowed to grow, vacuuming up former soviet states as if there will be no tomorrow (as there may very well not be with this policy!) and is now threatening to put its tanks (sorry, our tanks) on the very borders of Russia. The best thing those attending the NATO summit this week could do would be, after reminding themselves that Russia is still a nuclear state, to wind up NATO and instruct our diplomats, not our confused retired generals, to broker a solution to the problems in Ukraine.