Much publicity has been given recently to reported Lib Dem disquiet over what Education Secretary Michael Gove has been up to at the Education Department. After four years silent complicity, this is a little rich.
In another development, the TUC has just published an 85 page report entitled Education Not for Sale. It’s presumably unrelated to the Lib Dems concern as they are generally as uninterested in what the TUC has to say as the Tories and Labour. The TUC report concludes that the continuing marketization of education through Gove’s academy and free school programme is moving England’s schools system from democratic, local authority control to a more fragmented, less democratic structure. The TUC report is also concerned that the power to take major decisions over the direction of both individual schools and of the education system as a whole now rests with a few individuals: the Secretary of State and those who own academy chains. As the report observes, free schools were supposed to be locally developed by parents, teachers and community groups, but are now more likely to be handed to academy chains.
The TUC report is notable for the cautious and tentative nature of its conclusions. Yet the Anti-Academy Alliance, the NUT and the Communist Party have all campaigned vigorously against academies since they were introduced by New Labour under cover of the Education, Education, Education mantra.
Democratic control and accountability of state education depended crucially on Local Education Authorities (LEAs). These bodies of experts and administrators provided training, expertise, advice and funding to state schools and were accountable to the electorate through council elections. Their undermining began under New Labour. The Tories under Gove’s direction, and with the supine Lib Dems carried along in their wake, have simply finished off the job.
Comments by Labour candidates in the forthcoming local government elections confirm the impression that they have no appreciation or understanding of the problem their party has helped cause and of what must be done to remedy the situation. The Communist Party solution is to kick the profiteers out of education and return it all to democratic control. We also need to start trusting teachers and stop telling them in minute detail what to teach and how. We should pay them properly, give them job security through a local authority contract and we should tax private education institutions, the so called public schools, until they go out of business. A Land Value Tax and a Wealth Tax on individuals would be most effective in this respect. Finally, we need to provide the incentive to school students of guaranteed financial support when they progress to colleges of further education and universities, not saddle them with student loans. Further and higher education must not become once more the preserve of the rich. We don’t expect anything from the Lib Dems, but, if the TUC won’t speak up for working people in this way, the Communist Party will.
The Croydon Guardian appears to have splashed over its entire front page this week the shock-horror headline “Labour Spending Plans = 27% Council Tax Rise”, followed by an article explaining that this estimate is arrived at by costing up all the proposals in Labour’s Croydon Manifesto. Only in very small letters on the front page does the word “advertisement” appear, and nowhere on this page can one find who the advertiser is. Only on closer examination is it apparent that the Tories have paid for an entire four page, full colour wrapper.
This raises an interesting question. It is not whether Labour’s manifesto, on the whole a mild and timid document that does not seek to reverse, or even halt, the savage cuts in services, would really result in a Council Tax rise of 27%. If the estimate of the tax rise necessary to fund Labour’s plans were accurate and reliable, it would say more about the extent to which cuts have undermined Croydon Council’s services than about the profligacy of Labour.
The interesting question is how can the Tories afford to pay for such publicity.
The Tory party can afford to spend huge sums on electioneering because it is essentially a conspiracy against the people. It receives vast sums of money from big business and wealthy individuals and rewards them with the laws, regulations and tax breaks they require to make more money and give further donations. That’s where the money to fight the forthcoming local government elections and, on a much, much bigger scale, the general election next year comes from. Furthermore, with breath-taking guile, they have even managed to seduce the hapless Lib-Dems into their conspiracy, getting the Lib Dems to prop them up in parliament for five full years in return for a few meagre ministerial posts, which have been filled ineffectually, and the promise of a referendum on proportional representation (which they lost).
Such is the success of the Tory election-money machine that Labour essentially adopted the same strategy –Tory-lite or, as they called themselves, New Labour. The best argument for voting Labour in the forthcoming elections is not the hope that Miliband will reverse the New Labour sell out, it is the same old argument we have heard for years: vote for us, we are not as bad as the Tories. For how much longer Labour can get away with this dispiriting argument remains to be seen.
In parliamentary democracy, with its two, or two and a half, party system, there is no real choice. Vote for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. Even then, unless you happen to live in a marginal constituency, most votes don’t count. There is no way of fixing this with PR. Even if the ultimate winner receives the most votes, or is, say, the least unacceptable candidate, the system is run by career politicians on behalf of big business and the wealthy. The mass media is, in consequence, controlled by these same interests and ensures that left wing alternatives, particularly the Communist Party, are shut out. Communists, however, aspire to something better. A society run to benefit ordinary working people, employing direct democracy so that they, not career politicians, have responsibility for decisions and where the mass media is owned by the readers and viewers, not a few media moguls with their own agendas. Meanwhile, however, and despite our lack of funds, Communists do stand in elections if only to give a few voters in a few constituencies and wards a real choice; and we do, where possible, enter electoral alliances such as No2EU – yes to workers’ rights. But never be fooled into thinking that this is democracy. That must await a communist future.
Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, likes to appear mildly progressive in his public utterances, no doubt in the vain hope that we will forget that he and his party will have kept the most rabid Tory government in living memory in power for five years. It was therefore somewhat surprising when, in response to a question from Labour in parliament last week, Mr Cable was largely dismissive of the mildly progressive idea put to him that publicly listed companies should be required to disclose in their accounts the number of employees who are paid less than the living wage. He said he would think about it but added that he was against “coercive measures because these would simply add to unemployment”. Massaging downward the headline figure for unemployment and disregarding the consequential increase in welfare costs – or better, capping them and making the recipients pay – is, of course, a key strategy for the Tories: a strategy that the Lib Dems have gone along with.
The living wage rate is currently £8.80 per hour in London, including Croydon, and £7.65 per hour elsewhere, compared with the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour for those aged 21 and over.
As I mentioned last week, Croydon TUC was calling on candidates in the forthcoming local government elections to commit to ten key policies if elected. One of these policies is that Croydon Council should pay the London Living wage to its staff and insist on its sub-contractors doing the same. While candidates from other parties appear to have ignored the call, Communist Party candidates in Croydon warmly took up this commitment. As communists hoping to be councillors, they recognise that the powers available to elected councils are limited, but a start can be made in the Council Chamber towards building a fairer society. Paying the London Living Wage for council employees, both direct and indirect, and removing such restrictions on employment terms under local government services as not paying carers for their travelling time, represent such a start. As communists, however, these candidates appreciate that tinkering with capitalism cannot bring about the fundamental change they seek. Fair pay for all is the objective, and it cannot, unfortunately, be achieved in the forthcoming local government elections on 22 May, whatever the results. Fair pay for all cannot be achieved without the “coercive measures” feared by Mr Cable, but it does not involve unemployment. It’s a system called socialism, Mr Cable. Try thinking about that!
Posted by John Eden
From: Dr. Peter Latham
Sent: Monday, April 07, 2014 5:12 AM
Subject: Lib Dem candidate’s ‘lunatic fringe’ comment politically illiterate
Please consider my letter below for publication in next Friday’s issue of the paper.
Lib Dem candidate’s ‘lunatic fringe’ comment politically illiterate
Lib Dem local election candidate John Jenkins, according to your report on 4 April, was furious that he would be speaking at Croydon Radio’s hustings programme on 6 April alongside Communist and National Front candidates he describes as the “lunatic fringe”.
In fact Ben Stevenson, Croydon Communist candidate for Bensham Manor ward, dropped out of the show immediately we learnt that a National Front candidate would be appearing. This follows our ‘no platform to racists or fascists’ policy, which is a matter of principle held not only by communists but also by trade unions and vast sections of the labour and progressive movement. We therefore applaud the decision by Andrew Pelling – who is also a Labour local election candidate – to resign from Croydon Radio because the NF were given a platform at the station’s hustings programme on 6 April.
John Jenkins is also politically illiterate when he equates communists with fascists because fascism is the last resort of a capitalist state in crisis. Moreover, the very first people Hitler sent to the gas chambers were the German communists as shown by Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem: ‘First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist… Then they came for the Socialists…the trade unionists…the Jews… Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me’.
Capitalism is again in crisis today and this is why the Communist Party of Britain is part of the No2EU alliance (set up by the late Bob Crow) whose manifesto will go to all households urging voters on 22 May to support a non-racist socialist exit from the European Union with its austerity policies.
Similarly, Ben Stevenson, John Eden in Selhurst and Peter Latham in Broad Green are standing as Communist candidates in the local elections to show that there is an alternative to the austerity policies of the three main parties both nationally and locally. For, as noted in my forthcoming book on The imminent demise of local government, all of the cuts in welfare, health, education, housing and local authority services can be reversed and services massively increased by:
· a two per cent wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent of households who own an estimated 44 per cent of Britain’s wealth (revenue £90 billion a year)
· a 10 per cent ‘Robin Hood’ tax on City transactions (revenue £112 billion a year)
· ending tax dodging by the super-rich and big business (revenue £70 billion a year).
(Dr.) Peter Latham, Flat 8 Scoresdale, 13 Beulah Hill, London SE19 3LH
PCS have intervened in the Croydon North by-election by inviting candidates to sign up to five pledges:
1. To support PCS campaigns against public service job cuts and for an alternative to economically damaging austerity policies.
2. To support the PCS campaign for fair pay and a living wage.
3. To support the PCS campaign for fair pensions for all; including calling on the government to protect public sector pensions ensuring that they’re not linked with the state pension age, that the government addresses pensioner poverty and that companies are prevailed upon to ensure they fulfil their pension obligation to staff.
4. To support the campaign for publicly delivered welfare services and programmes based on dignity and support for those unable to work.
5. To oppose unpaid work experience placements which exploit young jobless people, and discourage employers from genuine job creation and paying fair wages.
Ben Stevenson, the Communist Party candidate has responded as follows:
I wholeheartedly pledge support for all five policies identified by PCS. Furthermore, I consider them to be the primary issues to be put before the electors of Croydon North. The current economic crisis was not caused by ordinary working people, but they, including members of PCS, are being made to pay for it with an austerity programme involving cuts in public sector jobs, worsening of terms of service, and reduction in, and privatisation of, public services. The attack on public sector pensions has more to do with fattening up public services for privatisation than in any conceivable cost saving. The callous treatment of young jobless people and the proposals for older workers to work until they drop or be forced to live on subsistence-level welfare when they cannot work must be exposed and opposed. The claim that “we are all in it together” is a blatant lie, as is Labour’s counterposed policy of “Yes to cuts, – but let’s take a little longer”. But there is an alternative: it’s called socialism.
At the time of posting this entry, neither the Greens nor the Labour Party have responded. The Tories and their Lib-Dem lackies are, of course, silent.
As the LibDems show all the signs of being toast at the next election, it’s easy to take some pleasure from their discomfort as they thrash about trying to put some ‘yellow’ water between themselves and their Coalition partners through vague talk of higher council taxes for larger properties and a crackdown on tax evasion.
But these are limited measures, whose real purpose is to act as a smokescreen. If they were serious, they would be considering the sort of wealth taxes seen in France, Norway and even parts of Switzerland, where taxes are levied on total assets, including property, investments and bank deposits, above a defined threshold. They might also consider a land value tax. Such measures would not only tackle the far greater disparities seen in wealth than in income, but also allow a shift from regressive indirect taxes as well as a more productive use of assets (the ‘use it or lose it’ principle). And while they’re about it, why not restore HMRC staff levels so they can really get to grips with corporate as well as individual tax avoidance and evasion, and do something about the many tax havens controlled by the UK.
But I’m forgetting this a party fully signed up to the austerity agenda and the attack on the welfare state! More interesting will be the extent to which Labour at its party conference next week start to show some backbone on these issues.