TTIP

While the capitalist press here continues to give maximum coverage to the treatment of so called pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, they are not reporting the ruthless clamp down on pro-democracy protestors this weekend in Brussels. Their supposed justification, if they could be called to account on this, would, no doubt, be that the concerns of the former are legitimate, whereas the concerns of the latter are misguided. China is a dictatorship, right? The EU is a democracy, isn’t it?

The first response to this is to ask what we mean by democracy. If you mean the opportunity to vote every few years for a selection of candidates representing parties that seek their funding from big business and wealthy individuals and offer more or less the same policies, all broadly supportive of the existing state, the EU cannot even meet this modest definition as it lacks a legislative assembly. The EU Parliament has limited powers to control its executive, the European Commission, and no powers to legislate. China’s claim to be democratic largely rests with the guiding role it affords to its Communist Party, which itself is governed by the principles of democratic centralism, and the existence of such democratic structures as, at one end, the National People’s Congress, and, at the other, village committees.  It’s a complex system, well described in the Communist Party’s report on the 2011 delegation of Western European CPs to China, Which Road for China? [i]

The second response is that whatever residual claims the EU might have had to be democratic will be totally destroyed by TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which is currently being negotiated in secret between the European Commission and the US government. This will result in a drastic curtailment of workers’ rights, strip away most legislation protecting consumers’ rights and safety, allow big businesses to secure huge damages from national governments and local authorities that legislate in ways that impede what now becomes their right to make profits.

TTIP must be opposed if we are not to see what limited democracy we still enjoy in this country destroyed. Our first line of defence should be the Labour Party, but this appears to have bought into the TTIP project. The dubious claim that economic growth in the EU will increase by 0.5% a year by 2027 if TTIP is signed cannot surely be seen by Labour as sufficient compensation for the number of jobs in the UK that will be lost, perhaps in the order of 600,000, let alone the loss of democratic rights and the power that will be transferred from the electorate to big business. Either they are even dumber than they look or they have sold out to the big business interests that now provide large amounts of their funding. Labour’s claim that TTIP can be tamed by excluding the NHS is pathetic. There is no way either our European ‘partners’ or the USA, with its huge and voracious healthcare industry, will agree to this.

Our next line of defence is the forthcoming general election. Candidates of every party must be challenged on whether they oppose TTIP in its entirety. If they won’t commit to this, they don’t deserve our vote. For Labour, standing on a LWA (Least Worst Alternative) platform will no longer work.

If this line of defence is breached? Let’s see. Meanwhile, our support goes out to the protestors in Brussels.

[i] £2.50 from the Communist Party, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD.

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LWA

Labour’s strategy for winning the forthcoming general election is to hold themselves out as the Least Worst Alternative (LWA). Given the policies of the Tories and UKIP and the revenge voters will inflict on the hapless Lib Dems for propping up the Tories for the last five years, this is a modest aim, but will it be sufficient for Labour, if not to win a majority in the next parliament, then at least to form a coalition government with their Scottish nemesis, the SNP? Given Miliband’s speech on Wednesday explaining Labour’s economic plans for the next five years and making his first election pledge, we doubt it.

In his keynote speech on Thursday, Miliband said a Labour government would cut the government’s current deficit year on year until it is in balance but said borrowing for capital investment would be exempt, albeit there would be no plans for extra capital spending beyond what is in the current government’s plans. While he appears to have grasped the fact that government borrowing won’t come down until the incomes of ordinary working people start to rise, he has, at most, only given a future Labour government some wriggle room. Overall, cuts in services and austerity will continue under Labour. If Labour is to be elected, we need a radical programme, not LWA.

What would a radical programme look like? It would include big tax increases on the pampered 1% and less tax paid by the rest of us, including the huge amounts paid in VAT and other indirect taxes that fall heaviest on those who can least afford them. It would include provision of good housing for our people, not taxpayer subsidy for landlords. It would include restoration of trade union rights so that ordinary working people can defend their own interests. It would include an end to cuts in the services and support given to the weakest in society. It would include not only an end to privatisation but a rolling back of this disastrous and expensive policy. It would certainly include cuts, but not on public services and the wages of those who work in them. They would be in the salaries of the top 1%, whether we pay for them directly in the state sector or indirectly through businesses which leech off tax revenue or, like the banks and the public schools, depend on the privileged position we afford them. There would be cuts in our offensive military capability and a total scrapping of our expensive and illegal nuclear arms. As for austerity, this would continue but not for ordinary working people. It would only be for the rich, and principally for the 1%.

If Miliband were to offer this programme as part of hi next four ‘pledges’, he would, of course, attract a hysterical response from our wonderful ‘free’ press which would be echoed by the supposedly independent BBC. But would this damage Labour electorally? Miliband is already being savaged while offering LWA. Try Googling ‘Milliband’ today. The first five hits will include “bacon sandwich” and “beggar”. This is the currency used by our mass media in its coverage of politics. It could hardly be more hostile if Labour were to offer a radical programme. The voters on the other hand, at least those not part of the 1%, could be won over in sufficient numbers to ensure the absolute majority that Labour so desperately desires.

THE SPARK?

Writing in the Guardian today (Saturday, 6 December), Ian Jack writes that he had thought the New Era estate outrage could spark a London revolution but has now sadly concluded that the apparent acquiescence of the public has meant it would not. The estate which comprises 96 flats and a dozen shops in Hackney has been acquired by a US private equity firm who plan to cash in on the London property boom by jacking up the rents, evicting the tenants and selling the properties to those rich enough to own them. Our legal system provides no protection for tenants to stop them doing just that.

Why no outrage? Why are the foundations of City Hall and the Palace of Westminster not shaking? Partly, of course, it is because our newspapers are, with the exception of the Morning Star, owned by the same interests who stand to gain from exploiting ordinary working people in this way. The other mass media are either similarly owned or, in the case of the BBC, deeply cowed and compromised. Partly it is because our trade unions are in shackles due to the anti-trade union laws and their former political voice, the Labour Party, no longer speaks for them, having been penetrated by the same class interests who will benefit from the New Era rip off. Why else would Labour be about to embark on the general election by offering the electorate oa programme of austerity similar to that of the Tories  and without even the remote possibility of abandoning one of its supports, the Titanic that is now the EU? This act of madness would surely qualify as “the longest suicide note in history”, not their 1983 election manifesto. Telling us there is “no alternative” might have worked for Thatcher, but it isn’t going to work again for Labour. They need to say they will tax the rich and expropriate the exploiters – it’s as simple as that.

There are, of course, other reasons why the New Estate outrage has not provided the spark for revolution. Lenin summarised them brilliantly his paper in 1915 on the Collapse of the Second International   https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1915/csi/ii.htm. We have to note, however, that only two years after writing this paper, it happened in Russia. Capitalists, do not sleep easy in your beds.