Responses to Paris

In the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, 30 November to 11 December, the BBC is today heavily spinning some survey findings it has commissioned from the Research Group Globe Scan indicating that only  just under half of all those surveyed across 20 countries viewed climate change as a “very serious” problem, compared with 63% in 2009. Despite this spin, the report concedes that a majority in the UK still consider it “very serious”.

One must question why a supposedly cash strapped BBC has commissioned this survey and why it has given it such a negative spin. Could it be that it is seeking to curry favour with its paymaster, the one-time “greenest government ever” when it is about to sell out in Paris?

Opinion surveys are, of course, very dependent on the questions asked. Other recent research has drawn very different conclusions. For example, that published last month by the Pew Research Center, identified climate change as the biggest concern of peoples across the globe, far more serious than global economic instability or the threat of ISIS. While in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in Paris this may not currently be the majority view in the UK, it must surely be the rational one after considered reflection. ISIS could murder thousands of people in the UK over the next few years. Unchecked global warming has the potential to extinguish all human life in a few generations.

The responses of our government to terrorism and to global warming are indeed very different. The response to terrorism is “something must be done” while taking the opportunity provided to effect largely unrelated but advantageous “regime change”. 9/11 was a horrific crime but declaring a “war on terror” and going on to invade Afghanistan and Iraq was such a response. Had President Bush simply called in the FBI to identify and arrest the culprits, we would not now be confronting ISIS and mass migrations of people from the Middle East. The wish to bomb Syria is also motivated by the “something must be done” principle and a scarcely concealed wish to topple President Assad of Syria. Both are consistent with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing something over and over again and each time expecting a different result. The response to global warming, on the other hand, is to try to spin the problem away. This is criminally inadequate but so would be “something must be done”. Real action to curb CO2 emissions has to be negotiated in Paris and then implemented or humanity is in deep, deep trouble. Furthermore, unlike meddling in the Middle East, there really is a regime change that would help: ending capitalism!

 

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Another Bottle of Wine, Please, Comrade Waiter

It is not always appreciated that a communist is, by definition, someone who is a member of a communist party. It is not a set of beliefs that one can choose to adopt much as one can, for example, call oneself a socialist or a Marxist. Merely reading the Communist Manifesto or donning a Che T-shirt doesn’t make you a communist. For that you need a Party Card. To decide whether this is the right step for you, you could do much worse than read the Communist Party Handbook[i]. This is intended for CP members but is ideal for someone seriously thinking about “becoming a communist”.

The aim of the Communist Party is succinctly summarised in the CP Handbook as

“…to achieve a socialist society in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are socially owned and utilised in a planned way for the benefit of all. This necessitates …ending the existing capitalist system of exploitation and replacing it with a socialist society in which each will contribute according to [his/her] ability and receive according to work done. [This] creates the conditions for the advance to a fully communist form of society in which each will receive according to need.”

No one should, however, be misled by the succinctness of this summary. For example, while the basis for distribution in a socialist society is summarised as “to each according to work done”, it does not mean that only those who work would be rewarded. A society planned “for the benefit of all” is a humane society in which those who cannot work, whether through lack of skills or ill health, age or infirmity, will be looked after. It will not be a world of the current , ruthless ‘fit for work’ assessments; nor will it be a world where ordinary workers have to work into old age before they can draw a pension while company directors receive in their fifties pensions worth millions of pounds per annum.

Another issue not covered in the summary is how, under socialism, we would treat our opponents, or at least those who didn’t flee abroad trying to take their wealth with them. This time, we must take seriously our commitment to a society planned “for the benefit of all” and not persecute our former opponents. That means re-training the 1% and recognising that everyone has some abilities. Many of our top financiers are, for example, quite good at maths and could be retrained in more useful activities such as traffic management. Admittedly, some who do very well under capitalism will present problems. It’s difficult to see what useful skills are possessed by judges, police chiefs, Tory MPs and non-executive directors of public companies but, as with the last Emperor of China, retraining as gardeners is always an option. As for David Cameron, as he already has the uniform, would he not make, with suitable training, an excellent waiter?

[i] Available for £2.50 including postage from the Communist Party

Love’s Labour’s Lost? Not yet!

The clear message to emerge from the Croydon Assembly held at Ruskin House on Saturday was that people are desperate for an end to austerity and want progress towards a more equal and democratic society. Equality of opportunity, once thought sufficient by New Labour, just won’t do. Star speakers, all echoing this theme, included John McDonnell, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT , Philipa Harvey , President of the NUT, and Andrew Fisher, economics adviser to Jeremy Corbyn and currently suspended from the Labour Party. This followed a complaints by Emily Benn about a tweet he made about her prior to General Election when she stood as the Labour Party candidate in the Tory stronghold of Croydon South. One wonders what her grandfather Tony would have made of her efforts in support of the malign Stop Corbyn lobby inside the Labour Party.

Whether the Labour Party is actually reformable by Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters is an open question. He received a massive endorsement from Labour Party members and supporters and, as the event on Saturday showed, he continues to have wide support amongst ordinary working people inside and outside the Labour Party. Labour’s payroll membership – MPs, MEPs, councillors and those like Emily Benn seeking well paid jobs within the structure –  are the huge obstacle. While they are a pretty uninspiring bunch, they do represent a powerful interest group within the party. Due to their privileged positions, they are, however, completely out of touch with needs and interests of ordinary working people. This was never better illustrated than when, on Saturday, Jamie Audsley, Labour Councillor for Bensham Manor and a leading light on the ruling Labour Group running Croydon Council, joined in the debate and told the Assembly that he would be happy to ‘consult’ them and others on where the next round of cuts imposed by the government should fall. His inept intervention duly received the response from the meeting one would expect.

Even if Lost Labour can be brought back from the Blairite abyss, it would be a mistake to think that this would be sufficient for progressive change. Even if Corbyn holds on and wins the next general election, his party will remain a coalition of disparate interests – more Methodist than Marxist as Morgan Phillips once put it – and full of class collaborationists, opportunists and self-promoting careerists. As Marx and Engels argued 167 years ago in the Communist Manifesto, while we should support parties of the working class where they exist, real progressive change requires a strong and independent Communist Party. Fortunately we have one and we are not going away.