The Morning After

The vote to leave the EU, declared in the early hours of Friday morning, was a result of the fissures in British society. Of itself, it will do nothing to mend them, but it will provide an opportunity to do so – if we seize it.

What are these fissures? First, parliament does not reflect the class structure of the people it claims to represent. Thanks to First Past the Post, tolerance of lobbying by Big Business and private ownership and control of the mass media, Big Business is far better represented in parliament than you or I. Our MPs didn’t vote 52:48 for exit: the vast majority of them wished to stay in the EU. This bias was buttressed by the fact that, as individuals, they are, excluding a significant sprinkling of millionaires, largely drawn from the professional middle class. MPs like the veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who worked as a miner and trade union rep, are a fast dwindling minority. Having first hand experience as a worker and trade unionist, Dennis opposes the free movement of labour and capital within the EU because it damages the former and benefits the latter. As reflected in his autobiography Still Sailing Close to the Wind, there is not a hint of xenophobia in his attitude: it is based on the need for all workers, irrespective of colour and creed, to stand together and not to under-cut each other’s wages. Most MPs who supported Leave are Tories who either reflect the interests of smaller capitalists and landowners or who, like Boris Johnson, are driven by naked personal ambition.

The second fissure in British society is the wealth divide – a divide that is increasing due to the policy of Austerity. Under this policy, which George Osborne grotesquely threatened to intensify if voters dared to vote leave: public services, including health, education and social support are cut back; nothing is done to address the need to house ordinary working people; and income and wealth distribution is further skewed in favour of the wealthy. In the absence of a Labour Party able to explain the situation to them, many working class voters concluded that the EU was the cause of their problems. In that the EU was not doing anything to help address their problems, they were not wrong. The real issue, nevertheless, passed most of them by. If we are to build a better tomorrow, we need democratically controlled public ownership and a strong, democratic presence in the workplace . When the time comes to secure this, the EU would have stood in the way. The EU, under its various treaties, is committed to the free movement of labour. This means workers moving into areas where workers have secured for themselves better terms and conditions and driving them down to the ‘market ‘ rate. As Karl Marx demonstrated, this market rate tends to a minimal one – in the long run a subsistence rate. Opposing the treatment of labour as a commodity is the real case for voting to leave – and the Labour Party failed to make it.

A third fissure in UK society did not, however, contribute to the leave vote but cannot be ignored. The leave vote in the UK and the stay vote in Scotland have brought the break up of the UK closer. The Scots have every right to independence if that is their settled wish, but communists recognise that this could undermine working class solidarity in what is now the UK. The blame for the growth in the SNP and the eclipse of the Labour Party in Scotland can be laid at the door of the Blairites. Whether it is too late to re-assert Scottish Labour’s socialist commitment remains to be seen.

Nothing will, however, be gained if we sit back and await the coronation of Boris Johnson at the Tory Party Conference in the autumn. While a better world will require fundamental changes to our democracy and a communist/socialist government which prioritises the interests of ordinary working people, the immediate aim for Labour MPs and the TUC should be to press for an end to anti-trade union legislation and a strengthening of trade union rights under the legislation that will be needed following withdrawal from the EU. For the rest of us, including Croydon CP, we could do a lot worse than campaign in opposition to the view that it is for the Tory Party Conference to select the next Prime Minister and that it is no time for Labour MPs to try to unseat Jeremy Corbyn.

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Branch Meeting on 16 June 2016

The Political Report and Discussion on 16 June dealt with the immediate political consequences of a vote to leave on 23 June – a prospect that seemed likely following an opinion poll earlier that day indicating a 6% lead over stay. The meeting was not fully briefed on the report that an MP (Jo Cox MP, Labour) had been murdered in her Yorkshire constituency earlier that day but expressed its sympathy with her family.

It was agreed that, if the referendum was won by leave, the pressure in Parliament on the present Tory government led by Cameron would be immense. The Tory majority was only 12, and it was difficult to see how, after all the animosities stirred up within their ranks during the campaign, the Tories could come together to form a government. Cameron would not be credible leader of a government required to negotiate with the EU the terms under which we leave; and having threatened to make workers pay for voting leave with more austerity, Osborne would not be a credible Chancellor.

Few at the meeting thought the Tories in Parliament would unite around Boris Johnson. A coalition government ‘in the national interest’ would be the typical response at times of ‘crisis’, but where would they find allies this time? The Lib Dems had paid the price for propping up the previous Tory administration and now had only 8 MPs. Regrettably, the most likely candidates to prop up a coalition government would be the large number of disaffected Labour MPs. Would they be capable of such treachery? The meeting sadly concluded many would.

The meeting also discussed the possibility of a snap general election. The Acting Secretary reminded the meeting that, under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, a two thirds majority of MPs have to pass a motion calling for an early general election or pass a motion of no confidence and no alternative government was formed within 14 days. The meeting agreed that these were not insuperable obstacles, but could be used to enable a patched up government to cling on.

The meeting agreed that the outcome of a snap general election would be unpredictable. While the meeting felt that Corbyn would now make an attractive candidate for Prime Minister (the result of the Tooting by-election was unknown, but the signs were good [subsequently confirmed – big win for Labour] but he could be damaged by being on the losing side in the EU referendum debate and his own Parliamentary Labour Party might try to remove him before or after an election. He would, in any event, face a hostile media, who would stress the need for a ”safe pair of hands” at such a “critical time”. Strengthening the rights of trade unions had been the appropriate response to concerns about immigration, but having remained silent on the anti-union implications of the European Court of Justice verdicts on the Laval and Viking cases , it would be harder for Corbyn and the Labour Party to argue for stronger trade unions following a decision to leave.

The implications of an emboldened extreme right following a Leave vote was discussed, together with the possibility of the ultimate establishment response to any ‘crisis’ which threatened capitalism: the curtailment or suspension of parliamentary democracy and the imposition of military rule. While this might seem far-fetched, the frequency with which it had been resorted to in South America stood as a warning. The other possibility that the meeting was disinclined to dismiss was the imposition of a second referendum to reverse a first decision unacceptable to capital. It was noted that this had already happened on three occasions in the EU (by Denmark and Ireland twice) following the ‘wrong’ decision first time.

Other matters dealt with at the meeting included notice of the Croydon TUC public meeting on education on 28 June at Ruskin House and the forthcoming industrial action by the NUT.

Report From the Croydon Communist Party

The Croydon Communist Party called for urgent action at its recent branch meeting to tackle the growing crisis in the British steel industry. It noted that the Tory Government was refusing to act, blaming the situation on Chinese ‘dumping’ and our membership of the EU whose competition and procurement rules, they say, prevents support for strategic industries. But, as the meeting noted, the UK imports seven times as much steel from other EU industries as it does from China; and EU members Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands were successfully supporting their steel industries, with or without EU endorsement.

The meeting concluded that steel was too important to the UK economy to be destroyed by government inaction. The government could do much more to save the steel industry, but is trapped in a neo-liberal mind-set which requires everything to be left to the self-correcting ‘magic of the markets’. Steel is a foundation industry without which we can’t have a successful manufacturing economy. Its loss will be a tragedy, both for the current workforce, other companies in the supply chain and the wider economy. Restoration of a viable manufacturing economy, including steel, requires fundamental changes, including development and implementation of a joined-up manufacturing and industrial strategy, reduction of high energy bills for the industry (themselves generated by the monopoly action of the privatised energy utilities), ensuring all government-backed contracts buy British-made steel, and a transfer of power away from big business to ordinary working people. This is only possible with a left exit from the EU.

If you are interested in joining the debate, why not join the Communist Party? Contact us via this blog for further information.

Chris Guiton

EU REALITY CHECK

The events in Greece this week will have come as a reality check to the diminishing number of people on the Left who still cling to the belief that the EU is anything other than government by the bankocracy on behalf of Big Capital. The irrelevance of the forthcoming Greek Referendum demonstrates that popular democracy is meaningless within this capitalist superstructure.  The only hope the Greek people have of avoiding decades of austerity and forced economic emigration is to free themselves not only from the shackles of the Eurozone but also from the entire neo-liberal  edifice that is the EU. The Greek people are not being offered such an opportunity in their forthcoming referendum, but such an opportunity has been opened for us in Britain by the forthcoming EU referendum. If we too are to avoid decades of austerity, we should seize this opportunity. It won’t be easy, not least because by campaigning to leave we on the progressive Left will appear to be on the same side as parts of the Right, some of whom are racist and most of whom will be campaigning on the wrong issues. Rather than making  lack of democracy and workers’ rights the primary issues in the campaign, the Right will be campaigning to leave in order to cut the minimal employment legislation imposed by the EU, to remove the remaining entitlement to UK welfare payments by EU immigrants (or indeed, remove these immigrants physically) and to assert various specious issues of petty nationalism.  In addition, the referendum campaign will be conducted with Cameron claiming to have achieved a number of irrelevant ‘reforms’ designed to appease his critics on the Right and with the pro-EU lobby in a position to outspend the Out Campaign many times over. Furthermore, many on the Left may opt to keep their heads down rather than be associated with the right wing opponents of the EU, opening the way for the mass media, including the already cowed BBC, to report only two views: those of the government to stay in and those of its right wing opposition to leave.

The opportunities that will open up to us if we leave the EU are, however, too valuable to throw away without a fight. These include, amongst others, the opportunity to switch away from a regressive VAT to a progressive Land Value Tax,  the opportunity to slam the door on TTIP currently being negotiated between the USA and the European Commission and, most important of all, the opportunity to begin to regulate, tax and eventually appropriate Big Capital after it has been stripped of the preference and protection that the EU affords it. Leaving the EU won’t guarantee that any of these will come to pass, but if we stay in they will remain  unattainable.

The Fortcoming EU Referendum

The Croydon Assembly last Saturday (6 June) was a great success. The Cedar Hall at Ruskin House was full and, with workshops in the morning and a plenary in the afternoon, it was more a day for debate and deliberation than a time to sit back and listen to leading figures on the Left give us their views on the way forward after the General Election.  Two of the key speakers, Philipa Harvey, Chair of the NUT, and Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS, nevertheless, gave us plenty to think about.

Philipa Harvey, a classroom teacher in Croydon until she began her term as NUT President, described the folly of over-testing and over-examining school children. While Labour must share some of the blame for this, it is the Tories, driven by their pathological distrust of the teaching profession and fuelled  by the knowledge that their kids are taught under a different system (i.e. privately), who have pressed this to the extreme. Children, Philipa explained, are now to be tested from the age of four.  Yet the most successful education system in Europe (Finland), has one exam when kids complete their education and no formal testing.

The immense personal courage displayed by Mark Serwotka as he continues to battle for his public service members under continuous attack by the government while waiting for a heart transplant can only fill one with admiration. It makes a mockery of the ‘honours’ to be ‘bestowed’  on the great and good in the Queen’s Birthday Honours tomorrow. How disappointing that so few of those offered gongs and titles have the integrity to decline them; how disappointing that so many people who, until then we respected , lap them up while disingenuously claiming that they did so on behalf of their colleagues or their organisation. It was, however, on this occasion Mark’s views on the forthcoming EU referendum that attracted attention. Mark invariably talks sense, so it was something of a jolt when he argued that the forthcoming referendum would be a distraction for the Left and we should not get entangled in it.

It is certainly the case that the trade unions will be split over continued membership of the EU while the Labour Party under any likely new leader will support continued membership even on the existing terms. Cameron’s strategy is clearly to obtain some cosmetic changes to these terms, probably no more than restrictions on who can claim welfare benefits. This, he hopes, will be sufficient to buy off any revolt within his own party. Those on the anti-EU wing of the Tories and UKIP will concentrate on the free movement of labour within the EU, a line that would have some logic if it were accompanied with restrictions on the free movement of capital, but without this it will tend to degenerate into xenophobia and racism. The big issue for workers is, however, their powerlessness within the EU due to the almost total absence of democracy and the corresponding influence of Big Business within its structures  – an influence so great that TTIP can apparently be rammed through regardless of any opposition workers within the EU can mount.  But do these difficulties mean that the Left and, in particular, the Communist Party can afford to turn its back on the EU Referendum?

Seamus Milne argued in the Guardian on Thursday (11 June) that what has been happening in Greece demonstrates that the case for radical change in Europe and a break from anti-democratic and corporate-controlled structures cannot be abandoned to the Right. Who is correct over this, Mark Serwotka or Seamus Milne?  I would tend to back Mark against Seamus nine time out of ten. This, I think, is the one in ten exception.

85th Anniversary of the Morning Star

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Morning Star. The paper first came out on 1 January 1930 under the title, the Daily Worker. It changed its name to the Morning Star in 1966. The paper is the voice of organised labour. It’s the only paper that reports on the industrial and political issues that matter to ordinary people. And it will play a crucial role in this general election year as the political debate sharpens and we fight to get rid of the Con-Dems in May.

We need more people to buy the Morning Star to cover production costs and ensure the voice of socialism is heard. Please encourage your friends and colleagues to buy the paper by placing an order at your local newsagent or buying a subscription to the e-edition: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/subscribe

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.

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

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

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