Political Discussion on 15 September

At the branch Meeting on 15 September the political discussion centred on the leadership contest in the Labour Party.

It was agreed that, although Communist Party members were simply observers in the struggle going on inside the Labour Party, and we had no interest in entryism, we were well placed to speak out on what was going on. While the reports to the meeting were essentially second-hand, they drew on excellent contacts across the labour movement and, in many cases, the experience of family and friends who were Labour Party members and members of Momentum.

It was reported that Momentum were advising its members to keep a low profile in the internet and not to refer in public or on the internet to ‘plotters’, ‘coups’, ‘traitors’ or ‘Blairites’ when discussing the election. Fear of being expelled, or at the very least being disenfranchised in the current election, appeared to be widespread amongst Labour Party members. Fortunately, the CP, at this meeting and in the pages of the Morning Star, was not susceptible to such intimidation..

It was reliably reported that Labour Party members were still receiving telephone calls asking whether they had voted yet and, if so, which way. When challenged about the purpose and legitimacy of enquiring about votes already cast in a secret ballot, the callers had, it was reported, hurriedly rung off. The evidence points to these calls coming from the Smith campaign, but how they got hold of names and telephone numbers of Labour Party members was unclear. Breaches of the Data Protection Act could not be discounted.

The attention of the meeting was drawn to the extensive anecdotal reports that Corbyn supporters were being expelled for trivial reasons and to the exclusion of some 130,000 new members because they had joined in the last six months. Doubts were expressed over whether the elements in the Labour Party opposing Corbyn would succeed in expelling enough members to swing the election in favour of Owen Smith. Whether this was so won’t be clear until the Labour Party Leadership Conference on 24 September.

It was noted that, in seeking comments on political developments, the BBC had reverted to those who had participated in the staged and phased mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. The self-imposed silence from Hilary Benn and his fellow conspirators had ended. Little surprise was expressed over this development, but it was pointed out that, when the BBC draft Royal Charter was enacted, the likelihood of the BBC  reporting  without bias on political developments would be further reduced.

The most disturbing aspect of the Labour leadership election for many at the meeting was the failure of the challenger, Owen Smith, to confirm that he would respect the result of the election. He had previously stated his refusal to serve in a future shadow cabinet under Corbyn and, in the televised debate with his ‘unelectable’ opponent, he had left the stage after being thoroughly trounced, mumbling about offering Corbyn the non-existent role of ‘president’ of the party. As the Co-op Party had refused to go along with the plotters’ proposal to use it as a vehicle to legitimise a Parliamentary Labour Party in revolt against its elected leader, the meeting was concerned that the Blairite wing of the Labour Party would simply trigger successive leadership elections until they finally win one.

Concluding the meeting, it was proposed that, in response to ideas discussed at the Party Cadre School on 10 September, the Croydon Branch should in future hold public meetings to debate and discuss political developments and analyse them in the light of Marxist theory. It was suggested that this might be done by re-activating and re-branding the classes previously held by the Communist University in South London, but possibly introduced this time by named speakers. This proposal will be investigated by the Branch Committee. Views of members were invited.

 

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Bring it on

Having jumped the gun last week and been recalled to the starting line, Angela Eagle finally left the starting blocks today in her bid today to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader. If the intention of those behind the unrest in the Parliamentary Labour Party really is to replace Jeremy with someone more “electable”, they could hardly have found anyone less suitable. Their real motive is, of course, money. The plotters fear that Corbyn won’t deliver the needs of Big Business, on whom the careerists in the Labour Party depend and whose interests they represent. If Corbyn cannot be kept off the ballot paper (an issue that may be resolved by the NEC tomorrow) and the ballot cannot be rigged, their Plan B will be to form an SDP Mark 2 comprising Labour MPs, managed by the existing Labour office staff and funded by Big Business. This new party will, however, require a more “electable” leader than the hapless Angela.  Whatever the outcome, her leading role is likely to be very temporary.

The outcome of the EU referendum came as a surprise to many commentators and has been blamed by the plotters on Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to join Project Fear, the Tory led attempt to frighten electors into voting to stay in the EU. The conspicuous absence of a similar strategy to block Theresa May from becoming Tory Leader and, by default, Prime Minister, on similar grounds is significant. The difference between Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn is that the former will act in the best interests of Big Business and the latter cannot be relied on to do so.

What the referendum vote to leave the EU actually reflected was the growing gulf between the middle classes and the working class. This gulf has been growing apace under ‘austerity’, the policy pursued by the Tories and, until Corbyn was elected leader, by Labour. Under austerity social spending benefitting the working class and the taxes paid by Big Business are both cut. That this is the explanation for the significant working class vote for exit has escaped much of the liberal intelligentsia. Their spokespersons – the likes of Will Self and the hacks at the Guardian – have not blamed Corbyn  – instead they  have turned on the working class itself, attributing their support for Exit on endemic racism.

What the liberal intelligentsia overlook is that it is easy to be liberal about the free movement of labour when you gain from the arrangement. For the middle classes it provides lots of well paid jobs for UK graduates and professionals across the EU. Together with a rather woolly feel-good attitude about European togetherness, the EU also provides them with cheap building labour, cheap, unchavvy nannies and cheap fruit picked in the UK by sweated labour. If, on the other hand, you are not a member of the middle class and are denied access to further education, or can acquire it only at the cost of incurring crippling debt, the glittering job opportunities in Europe are irrelevant. The attractions of cheap, unskilled labour are also diminished when it’s you who have to compete for the zero hours jobs on offer. If you are in a trade union, the EU’s failure to recognise and respect collective bargaining and its opposition to trade union solidarity is also a major concern. To be told by those who are unaffected by these issues that you are racist is insulting. There is nothing inherently anti-racist or honourable in supporting the free movement of labour when you happen, personally, to gain from it at the expense of your fellow citizens; and there is nothing inherently racist or dishonourable in opposing the free movement of labour when it damages the collective interests of your class. The liberal intelligentsia need to wake up to these facts and, like the Communist Party, show the working class some respect.

The liberal intelligentsia could also usefully follow the Communist Party in rallying to the defence of Corbyn. This does not mean that the CP is going to indulge in mass entryism which, according to the Guardian today, Labour HQ claim to fear. This is simply scare tactics on their part. Had Labour HQ ever read the Communist Manifesto, they would know that communists “disdain to conceal their aims and views”. What was true in 1848 is true today: communists don’t do entryism. We will, however, openly and defiantly campaign, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the trade union movement, including those represented by Croydon TUC, with ordinary Labour Party members and in the pages of our newspaper, the Morning Star, to see Jeremy Corbyn re-elected. Bring it on.

 

MOTHER SUPERIOR JUMPED THE GUN*

It was nauseating to see the serried ranks of well fed, self-satisfied Labour MPs failing to rise to defend their own Leader when Cameron used Prime Minister’s Question Time this week to engage in what amounted to bullying Jeremy Corbyn. In attacking him in the most personal and unpleasant manner, Cameron, himself on the way out, quoted Oliver Cromwell’s address to Parliament in 1653: “In the name of God, Go!” As Robert Wilkinson pointed out in his letter published in the Morning Star today (Labour Coup), neither Cameron nor the silent Labour MPs sitting behind Corbyn appeared to be aware that Cromwell’s instruction wasn’t addressed to a leader facing problems with his own side, it was addressed to The Rump – the mass of corrupt MPs in 1653 who represented no one but themselves. Check it out here. Labour MPs, who are now, with only a handful of honourable exceptions the modern day equivalent of the Rump, should be ashamed of their cowardice and ignorance. If they survive long enough to stand again as Labour Party candidates or, more likely, as candidates of a new party (the Social Democrats Mark 2?), their treachery will not be quickly forgiven or forgotten by the electorate. If they should prevail , the Labour Party will experience the same fate as their fellow Blairites in the Scottish Parliament : total oblivion.

The Labour Party can, nevertheless, still be saved provided Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t crack under the immense strain imposed on him by his ‘colleagues’, and provided the unions don’t weaken in their support for him. With the support of Labour Party members and supporters, and the moral and campaigning support that the Morning Star and the Communist Party can provide, he can win again. In this he should be assisted by the publication of the Chilcot Report next week. Although it’s bound to be something of an establishment whitewash, it will be difficult for Chilcot completely to cover up Blair’s mendacity and evidence of criminality and conceal the spinelessness of his cabinet and ministers, from whom the most likely leadership contenders, including Angela Eagle, are drawn. Could this be why, when she jumped the gun on Thursday, Angela Eagle had to be recalled? I wonder who whispered in her ear “Angela, Darling, I think you may have overlooked something”.

* The Beatles, from Happiness is a Warm Gun, The White Album

Political Party Funding: seeking the level playing field

Having won the last general election with the support of only 24.3% of registered voters, the Tories are looking to cement their hold on power by cutting off off trade unions’ financial support for the Labour Party. Only the unelected and unrepresentative House of Lords now stands in the way of enacting the Trade Union Bill which will achieve this end.

The £30.2m that Labour has received from the unions following the general election is about what the Tories get from a handful of wealthy individuals: £27.9m, or 62 per cent of the party’s total. 61 donors gave more than £50,000 at one go, qualifying them to mingle  socially with Cameron and his chums. A further 141 donors clocked up £50,000 with multiple donations but apparently don’t qualify for an immediate opportunity to rub shoulders at the trough.

The Tory party’s biggest individual donor is Michael Farmer who has made eight donations totalling £2,191,392.42. This explains why he is a Tory Party co-treasurer. He is the founder of the hedge fund RK Capital Management. Hedge funds are financial institutions which speculate on behalf of the super-rich. Collectively, they are major backers of the Tory Party and help to explain why the Tories are so relaxed about the decline in manufacturing and happy to ignore the potential for another financial crash.

Companies make up 25 per cent of Tory donations. The biggest corporate donor is JCB Research which has donated a total £1.4m since the election. Prem Sikka, the principled and celebrated professor of accounting at Essex University, has described JCB Research as a “black box” due to its status as an unlimited company with minimal reporting requirements.

What can be done to reform the financing of political parties when we eventually turf out the Tories? Fairness dictates that corporate donations should only be allowed when the majority of shareholders entitled to vote in UK elections approve them. Furthermore, those who do not vote for the resolution should be excused from contributing. Many donating companies are, however, privately owned by wealthy individuals, not all of whom are located offshore for tax purposes. The proposed reform, although essential, would not necessarily significantly dent the 25% corporate share of Tory funding. What is needed is a cap on all donations of, say, £500 per annum, with union donations treated as donations by individual members unless the individual opts out. This would, of course, bring forth squeals of anguish from all the major political parties who have become dependent on handouts from the rich. There would inevitably follow a demand for public funding to replace the ‘lost’ income. Such demands have to be dismissed. Provided deposits for standing in elections are scrapped, political parties can and should operate, as does the Communist Party, by relying on the modest donations and hard work of their members and supporters. Then we really would have a level playing field.

Hilary Benn Speech on Syria

Hilary Benn has come in for justifiable criticism for his shameful, pompous and historically illiterate attempt to use the International Brigade’s fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War to justify bombing Syria during his intervention in the Commons debate on Wednesday. Let’s be clear. By doing this he was supporting an imperialist agenda designed to topple the legitimate Government of a sovereign nation. Readers may recall that Harold Wilson commented acidly of his father, Tony Benn, that he “immatured with age”, as he moved steadily to the left through his political life. If only the same could be said of Hilary!

Chris Guiton

Dooming the Labour Party Forever?

Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate in the Labour Leadership election, received a respectable 41 nominations from her fellow MPs, including one from our very own Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North. Their hopes of a payback for this support must be fast diminishing.

Liz Kendall’s bid to become Labour Leader didn’t come out of the blue. Before the general election the Independent on Sunday said she had “emerged” as the favourite among Blairites who were impressed by her TV performances. What a mistake that turned out to be! She fell flat on her face in the first televised hustings, finding herself unable to establish any rapport with an audience of potential Labour voters.

She was also tipped by the odious Daily Mail in January as a potential future Labour Leader. Their source was not disclosed, but the Mail would probably not have gone ahead with such a puff without sounding out Miss Kendall first. They made much of her membership of a mysterious ‘breakfast club’ of right wing Labour frontbenchers, including Chuka Umunna and the dire Tristam Hunt, who reportedly met regularly prior to the full shadow cabinet to discuss such matters as who should succeed Ed Miliband. With the election still some months away, one has to sympathise with the hapless Ed. Who needs enemies when you have friends like these?

Despite preparing the way so assiduously, things have not gone well for Liz. Ladbrokes are now offering 10:1 on her winning this four horse race. Jeremy Corbyn’s odds, on the other hand, are shortening by the day. It seems to have come as a shock to our so-called ‘opinion formers’ that there are so many of us who are demanding radical reform and more. Not everyone has, however, woken up to this yet. The slumbering Daily Telegraph has called on its readers to register as Labour supporters and vote for Corbyn in order to “doom the party forever”. Calling on them to vote for Liz Kendall would have been a far more effective way of achieving this.

The only good news for Liz in the last few weeks has been a paltry third endorsement by a Constituency Labour Party. Regrettably for those of us who take pride in Croydon, it was from Croydon South CLP.

Jeremy Corbyn, if elected Labour Leader, would face huge difficulties with the Parliamentary Labour Party. No doubt he would seek to build bridges with the many pragmatic (if not to say self-serving) Labour MPs, but the hostility of much of the party and especially the Blairite rump – a group so disengaged from reality that they thought Liz Kendall was the solution to the problem – will mean a very real risk of another SDP-style break away if Jeremy is elected. That’s no reason, however, not to register, if you can, as a Labour supporter and vote for Jeremy. If you have any doubts about the quality and integrity of the man, would like to know more about what he stands for or if you would simply like to express your support for him, come along and hear him speak at 7.00 pm on Tuesday, 4 August at Croydon TUC, Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD.

Croydon North communist candidate Ben Stevenson calls for revolution in our democracy

 

Croydon North Communist candidate Ben Stevenson spoke to assembled national and international media at an event in Westminster today organised to promote the CPs election manifesto.


Whatever government manages to be formed come may 8th 9th – whether it’s blue and purple; red and orange; green, pink, black, gold or yellow 

What’s clear is that what we wont get is a government that will break the neoliberal consensus which has dominated our politics for the last 35 years. We won’t get a government that will represent the interests of ordinary working people over that of the city spivs, big business or any other section of the top 1% who own and control nearly all of Britain’s wealth. Why is this, well over the last 35 years we’ve seen a sustained and gradual selling off, erosion and rolling back and of our democracy by Tory, new labour government and now this unelected coalition government.

What we need is a revolution in our democracy. If we’re serious about tackling tax havens why don’t we start with the 2nd largest one in the world – the city of London – that resides just a couple of miles down the road. A revolution in our democracy that challenges the power of the city and punctures through the Westminster bubble

That’s why the Communist Party puts forwards the creation of a truly democratic relationship between the nations and peoples of this country. A truly federal Britain, which will include extensive economic, financial and law-making powers for Scotland, Wales and the regions of England (where it is wanted).

To those that say regional government in England doesn’t work, just look at London even with a blithering idiot like Boris Johnson as mayor – public transport in London (despite its many faults) is streets ahead of other cities and regions of Britain.

Of course as a communist MP I would go even further in my constituency setting up local street level bodies and fighting to transfer power back to the people.

What’s more all three nations would benefit from Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and NATO, enabling us to pursue domestic, foreign and non-nuclear defence policies free from pro-big business diktat and aggressive foreign wars. These are the kind of policies that the Communist Party is putting forward at this election and that we will be fighting for whatever government is formed on May 8th.

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

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.

Communist Party Candidate Gives Good Account of Himself in Local Election Hustings

Dr Peter Latham, Communist Party candidate for Broad Green gave a good account of himself at the local election hustings in Broad Green on 15 May. There was a healthy turnout and a good debate.

Dr Latham said, “London is the capital of the world’s super-rich with 72 billionaires. None of them, however, live in the five wards of the central north area of Croydon: Broad Green, Bensham Manor; Thornton Heath; West Thornton and Selhurst. According to the GLA, parts of Broad Green are amongst the 10% most deprived in the UK. Councils are currently half way through a scheduled 40 per cent cut in funding from central government. As a result of these cuts councils in many areas will not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities. The current formula for local government funding is putting councils – quite needlessly – in danger of bankruptcy.”

“An alternative political and economic strategy is needed. But Labour’s leadership are committed to maintaining the public sector pay freeze, abiding by Tory-led Coalition Government’s spending plans for one year after the general election and sticking to a welfare spending cap for the entire parliamentary term. Labour need to be bolder and offer a genuine, socialist alternative to endless austerity.”

The Communist Party’s proposals are modest:
• Repeal of the Localism Act (except the provisions giving councils the right to return to the committee system and all councillors the right to make policy again in England and Wales; those protecting private tenants’ deposits; and the “general power of competence” to expand their functions).
• Abolition of US-style directly elected executive mayors and the cabinet system which under New Labour’s Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 created indirectly elected mayors by giving council leaders virtually the same powers as US-style directly executive mayors.
• No councillors should be paid more than average annual full-time earnings in their locality. For example, the London Borough of Croydon has a cabinet system and a leader who in 2013/14 received £65,466 – 5.8 times greater than the basic allowance of £11,239 received by backbench councillors with no special responsibility allowance. The total cost of the basic and special responsibility allowances in 2013/14 was £1,617,706. The total cost of SRAs was £830,976 for the seven cabinet members, the 10 deputy cabinet members, the 10 committee vice-chairs and the seven shadow cabinet members. Annual mean full-time gross earnings (excluding overtime) in Croydon in 2012 were £29,481. The prospect of fewer SRAs may be the major reason why only nine councils have opted for the committee system since the Localism Act. If in May 2014 Labour wins control of Croydon Council – where the current leadership controls the allocation of 43 out 55 SRAs (the other 12 are allocated by the Labour Group) – the Labour Group’s material interests will ensure the status quo continues: unless the Left in the forthcoming period builds a broad alliance able to win a return to the committee system.
• De-privatisation and the direct provision of local authority and other public services.
• A statutory living wage, abolition of zero hour contracts and an end to the wage freeze.
• A mass programme of council housing built by direct labour with proper apprenticeships to cut mass youth unemployment, rent control and abolition of the Bedroom Tax.
• Investment to create green jobs, which would also cut unemployment.
• Increasing social benefits and pensions in line with inflation.
• Stopping the scapegoating of immigrants and welfare claimants.
This could easily be paid for by:
• a two per cent wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent of the population – who own 41 per cent of Britain’s wealth estimated to be £4.5 trillion (revenue £90 billion a year)
• ending tax dodging by the super-rich and big business (revenue £70 billion a year)
• a 20 per cent tax on the super-profits of banking, energy, retail, arms and drug monopolies (revenue £16 billion a year)
• a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on City transactions (revenue £7.5 to £112 billion a year)
• a rise in the threshold for income tax to £30,000 by introducing a new 60 per cent rate of tax for incomes over £60,000
• a new system of local authority finance based on abolishing the regressive council tax, stamp duty land tax and business rates and their replacement by a new system of annual land value taxation (LVT). Local authorities would retain up to a third of the revenue collected, with the rest going to central government (or the devolved governments in the case of Scotland and Wales), which is then redistributed back to local authorities on a per capita basis. Only freeholders and landlords would pay LVT and buildings tax; and the owners of large estates would pay more because their acreage is greater than a semi and they often own valuable sites in town and city centres. Tenants would no longer be liable to property taxes. LVT would also avoid the main shortcomings of a local income tax (LIT), which would be more complex and costly to collect, especially if it included unearned income not covered by PAYE, due to so many people living in a local jurisdiction different from where they work; and LIT would also be inequitable because of the large difference between mean or average income in more affluent areas and in poor areas.

Dr Latham concluded, “Austerity is unnecessary because we are a rich society. Today only parties to the left of Labour (i.e. the Greens, TUSC and the Communist Party) advocate genuine change: which indicates the scale of the crisis of working class political representation locally and nationally. This is why Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey in April warned Labour to drop its austerity policies or face election defeat and the possible establishment of a new workers’ party. Vote for a socialist alternative. Vote Communist on 22 May!”