National Character? The Shame that is Kensington and Chelsea

Some interesting statistics and comment by Ash at https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/londons-local-elections-2018-the-consequences-of-voting/:-

“Out of an electorate of 95,378 people, 37,835 voted, 39.7 per cent of the total. Across the 18 wards, a total of 100,429 votes were cast, and 52,211 of these were for Conservative candidates, 51.98 per cent of the total. That was down from the 57.8 per cent of votes the Conservatives had in the 2014 elections; but out of the 50 councillors elected, 36 are Conservative, 13 are Labour and 1 is Liberal Democrat. That’s an increase of a single Labour councillor since the 2014 elections at the expense of a single Conservative councillor. Significantly, 18,578 more votes were cast than in 2014, but the Conservative vote actually increased by 4,220, which means more people came out this time to make sure they got back into office against the threat that Labour would take the borough. By my reckoning, the 71 people (at least) that died in the Grenfell Tower fire have cost Kensington and Chelsea Conservatives 5.82 per cent of the vote, or 0.08 per cent for every identified corpse, the loss of whose life has equated to the loss of 0.014 per cent of a Conservative council seat.

 As ASH wrote back in July last year when we published our report on the Grenfell Tower fire, how we react to this man-made disaster could turn out to be worse than the chain of decisions and shirked responsibilities that caused it, and this vote by the people of Kensington and Chelsea is a stain on what’s left of our national character.”

As communists we struggle with the concept of “national character”, stained or otherwise. For us this disaster and its consequences can only be understood in class terms. As the Communist Manifesto puts it, the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. There are no fixes, social democrat or other. The sooner we change the entire system the better.

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A Thought for Halloween

Writing this week in City AM, Diego Zuluaga, Head of Financial Services and Tech Policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, seeks to defend capitalism. His article on 24 October Big Businesses Denigrating Capitalism Don’t Understand It is interesting not for its call on big business leaders not to rock the boat, nor for its arguments in defence of capitalism – even the author must surely recognise, deep down, they are disingenuous – but because it was felt necessary to publish such a defence at all.

For Marxists, a study of history and an analysis of capitalism and its instabilities leads us to conclude that capitalism is merely the penultimate stage in our evolving, class-based society, not the final equilibrium or ‘end of history’ envisaged by Francis Fukuyama. Marxists are sometimes accused of irrational belief, but belief has nothing to do with it. Our approach is a rational and scientific one. It is the defenders of capitalism who exhibit irrational belief. Their confidence that de-regulating markets will lead to the welfare of all is, at best, based on an elegant model built on unrealistic assumptions[1]. In practice, it is based neither on economic theory nor on Zuluaga’s flimsy arguments but on the self-interest of the ruling class and those in their pay. Our theories, on the other hand, have concrete evidence to support them: the 2007 financial crash; historic levels of inequality; Grenfel Tower; global warming; the housing crisis; growing hospital waiting times; bloated expenditure on ‘defence’; and …. Readers of this blog are invited to complete the list.

It may be too soon to claim again, as did Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, that ‘a spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of communism’, but we can take comfort from the thought that something is spooking our ruling class.

[1] The Arrow-Debreu Model, a mathematical expression of Adam Smith’s ‘hidden hand’. Amongst its many unrealistic assumptions is perfect and complete markets.

TWO REVIEWS YOU MUST READ

In the Morning Star today is a glowing review by Andy Hedgecock of Dr Peter Latham’s new book Who Stole the Town Hall?  Peter is a member of this branch and an expert on local government. The review concludes that

Neoliberalism is unsustainable and this book uses compelling and accessible evidence that a  different form of politics is both possible and essential.

This is spot on. Copies of Peter’s book will be on sale at the Communist University in South London class at Ruskin House on 20 July but don’t wait until then: buy your copy now.

The other review you must read is Andrew O’Hagan’s review in the London Review of Books (1 June) of Adrian Addison’s book Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the ‘Daily Mail’. It’s not so much a book review, more a full on, in-your-face demolition of the Daily Mail and its editor Paul Dacre. Yet again the London Review of Books has shown itself to be unafraid of rocking the establishment and untainted by the timidity that grips the Guardian and the BBC.

STRONG AND STABLE?

We are used to right wing bias in the capitalist press. The hysterical response of the Daily Express to news that we would not be putting up candidates in the forthcoming general election was an extreme but not untypical example. Tory MPs were quoted by The Express as warning that our support was a sign of how extreme Labour had become under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Amanda Milling, the nervous Tory MP for Cannock Chase (majority only 4,923) bleated:

“Let this sink in: Jeremy Corbyn has been endorsed today by a party who want   to close down businesses, leave the protection of Nato and hike up  taxes to a level never seen before in this country.”

One and a half out of three, Amanda!

Yes, we do want to quit Nato whose original purpose was to contain the former USSR and whose purpose now is to confront Russia by rolling our tanks and missiles up its borders. Yes, we want to hike up taxes on the likes of Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers, who employs trusts and holding companies located in Guernsey to avoid paying UK tax. No we don’t want to ‘close’ businesses, but we do want to see their employees treated fairly and with respect, represented by trade unions with negotiating rights and given a say in the running of the business, with public ownership as an option where the so-called ‘business’ is actually a public service.

Jeremy Corbyn is a decent, principled politician with deep socialist convictions, but he’s not obviously a Marxist; and he’s certainly not a communist. Our programme would go much further as it’s aimed at creating a society run by those who do the work, not those whose families have accumulated the proceeds of other people’s work. Corbyn may not share our entire world-view; but compared with a prime minister who wants to starve state education while promoting grammar schools, privatise the NHS and who confesses to being willing to commit mass murder by launching a retaliatory nuclear attack, he’s well worth supporting.

Strong and stable government under May? For the few, perhaps, but not for the rest of us.

BRING IT ON

Did anyone think the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 requiring parliamentary elections not to be held before five years have elpsed would inhibit an opportunistic  Prime Minister from calling a general election? Like many aspects of our “democratic” system, it was all appearances and no substance. True democracy is not achieved by an opportunity every five years (sic) to choose whom from the ruling class should rule over us. The forthcoming election called by Mrs May today won’t be fair, won’t reflect the needs and wishes of the electorate and won’t be reported fairly in the capitalist owned mass media and the government  controlled BBC. Nevertheless, if we can get May kicked out and  Jeremy Corbyn elected Prime Minister, it will be a useful step forward. Bring it on!

Branch Meeting on 16 March

Following the political discussion at the Branch Meeting on 16 March, members were alerted to and encouraged to attend the following events and meetings :

Sunday 19 March.  Marx Oration. Assemble at 1.30pm for 2pm start at Highgate Cemetery

Thursday 11 May.  Croydon TUC. Open meeting. Speaker from   Campaign against Climate Change. 7.30 pm. Ruskin House

Saturday 13 May. Croydon Mayday March. Assemble at North End Croydon at Noon. Speakers  to include Mark Serwotka. Music at Ruskin House from 2 pm. Bring your          Party flag or collect one from the office

Saturday 3 June. Croydon Assembly to be held at Ruskin House. A day of political discussion, organising and debate.

Thursday, 8 June. Croydon TUC. Open Meeting Speaker from Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom

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Ben Stevenson leaves, the Branch goes on…

The meeting of the Croydon Branch of the Communist Party on Thursday was more a social meeting than a business meeting as its primary purpose was to thank Ben Stevenson for the eleven years he dedicated to working for the Party as National Organiser and National Secretary and to wish him well on his departure to take up a senior position in the trade union movement.  In addition to branch members, the meeting was attended by the Party Chair, Liz Payne, the International Secretary, John Foster, and two honoured guests from Ruskin House.  After speeches and wishes of goodwill, Ben was presented with a pair of hand-made glass vases, one from the Party and one from his friends and comrades.

While there was little opportunity on this occasion to discuss branch business, the Branch Secretary said he would be contacting members shortly to seek their views on future meetings and events. One possibility he had been discussing with the secretaries of the other South London branches, South East London and South West London, and on which he would be seeking members’ views, was occasional joint meetings of all three branches in Brixton.

 

Voices of the Spied Upon

Croydon CP are joining with Croydon Unite RM Branch and Croydon TUC to encourage members to attend the meeting this Monday, 7 pm, 10 October, at The Venue, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY called by the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance to hear the Voices of the Spied Upon. The meeting will be well attended by the police, albeit there won’t be many uniforms on display.

The intention is to give a voice to those spied upon by the authorities. Speakers will include Ricky Tomlinson, one of the Shrewsbury Six imprisoned for legal picketing, and Lisa Jones, an environmental activist who discovered in 2010 that her partner of six years was actually an undercover police officer. Unaccompanied women attending the meeting are strongly advised not to allow any strange men with size eleven feet to chat them up.

If you wish to attend the meeting, you can book a place at Eventbrite.

If you would like to know who attended this meeting, simply submit a Public Information Request after the event to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, 8-10 Broadway, London SW1H 0BG.

TUC Congress 2016

Largely ignored by the capitalist press and the BBC, who have again declined to reinstate their live coverage of the event, the annual TUC Congress is taking place this week in Brighton. Despite these efforts to discourage public attention, Congress is particularly significant this year as the government struggles to implement the EU referendum decision and while the Parliamentary Labour Party struggles to sustain its self-appointed role as Tory Lite, contrary to the wishes of its elected (soon to be re-elected?) leader. Fortunately, the CP has no such internal conflicts and, as ever, will be in attendance at Congress, distributing each day Unity, our well received briefing for Congress delegates.

One of the most significant issues facing Congress is reflected in Motion 17 and its amendments, grouped together under the heading Protecting worker and trade union rights in the EU Brexit as Composite 7  The composite resolution calls on unions to ‘oppose any assault on the rights of workers arising from the decision to leave the EU. Our rights as workers continue to be among the most restricted in Europe and any further restrictions through Brexit negotiations would be totally unacceptable. The resolution calls for the trade unions to be recognised as key stakeholders in the Brexit negotiations and for

  • a campaign to ensure that the UK government does not repeal any current rights guaranteed by the EU;
  • the rights of existing EU workers to remain in the UK to be protected; and.
  • the IER Manifesto for Labour Law to be promoted.

The CP welcomes these proposals which we anticipate will be adopted by Congress and thus become official TUC policy. In this event, at the local level we will be asking Croydon TUC to acquire, study and seek to implement the IER Manifesto locally. I will report back on the outcome of this initiative..