A MOMENT OF HOPE

The Communist Party has welcomed the Labour Party’s election manifesto It’s Time for Real Change. It has left the Tories and their one-time stool pigeons, the Lib Dems, floundering in its wake as the abysmal performances by Johnson and Swinson on the BBC Leaders Interviews last night demonstrated.

The immediate banner headline in City AM following publication of the Labour manifesto reflects the ground on which the Tories will now have to fight this election: not Brexit, as they intended, but simply whether Labour’s Plans are “credible”. They thereby concede whether they are desirable; their line is confined to whether they are affordable. The ‘experts’ they will draw on to endorse this concern are, however, the same ones who failed to see the 2007-8 crash coming and who supported Austerity as the appropriate response thereafter. As Sun Tzu said of war, he who occupies the field of battle first and await his enemy is at ease; he who comes later and rushes into the fight is weary. Elections are not war, but the similarity is such that the words of this Chinese General from around 500 BC can give us some reassurance.

The Tories have, of course, a heap on money with which, if they are indeed forced to fight the election on the ground of Labour’s choosing, will enable them to scare many voters into not voting Labour. The Tories might also hope to benefit from interference with social media by the Russians. Perhaps the most significant threat to enacting the Labour manifesto will, however, arise only after Labour win the election. The Parliamentary Labour Party harbours many disgruntled Blairites and “liberal social democrats” who would rather see a Labour government led by Corbyn fall than have socialist policies enacted. Also, let’s not forget the option to which capital might resort if Labour were to form a progressive government: what one might call  the Pinochet Option. Surely such a strategy would only be attempted in South America? Are you so sure?

But back to the general election. Let’s enjoy our moment of hope, win the election for Labour and carry things forward from there.

ENTER THE CLOWNS

Clowns and jokers are intended to amuse but some of us find them scary, especially when they pop up in the wrong place as happened on Thursday this week.

Boris Johnson may appear clownish, but he isn’t stupid. Reckless, yes, but stupid, no, not when it comes to protecting the class interests he represents. In a series of statements and actions, including his appointments to the cabinet, his intention to do so was crystal clear:

  •  Money for the NHS and schools? We cannot afford it. Tax cuts for the rich?  No problem!
  • Humanitrian relief for refugees? Too expensive. Military adventures to protect oil reserves?  No problem!
  • Social security instead of food banks? It would encourage laziness. Printing money to keep bankers’ bonuses flowing? No problem!

But perhaps the most chilling policy statement from our new Prime Minister came in his answer to a question from Anneliese Dodds MP in his first Prime Minister’s Question Time. Asked why he had said so little about global warming, he replied:

The Conservatives are the only party that believes that private sector driven new technology can provide a solution to the problem.

This astounding answer deserves unpicking. Why do Tories alone believe a technological fix will be discovered? Belief (for some) is a wonderful thing, but communists prefer scientific analysis and evidence and they indicate that no such technological fix is possible, at least not one that would result in a stable climate. Of course, it is possible to believe in anything -fairies with magical remedies for example – but even Tories are not that self-deluded. Some further unpicking is called for.

The emphasis on the private sector to find and implement the imagined technological fix assumes that markets can be relied on to do this. Markets are great for meeting the immediate, inessential needs of consumers but they cannot distinguish between immediate, containable costs in the medium term and catastrophic cost in the more distant and less certain future[1]. Are Tories really willing to leave global warming to a mechanism with such a serious defect to address global warming?

These extraordinary beliefs might better be explained by examining the nature of the ‘solution’ they seek. Could this be not global temperature containment but rather the survival of the 1% (0.1%?) on a mountain top (not necessarily metaphorically speaking) and the extinction of the rest of us? Such a solution might not be so implausible in a world in which automation and robotisation rendered most of the 8 billion world population redundant. In other words, could the solution be a ‘final solution’ in name and deed?

So don’t be amused and distracted by the grease-paint. Clowns and jokers can be really scary.

[1] By way of example, markets reflecting a risk adjusted discount rate of 10%markets, cannot distinguish between a cost of £1 million incurred in eighty years from now, when someone born today might expect to still be alive, and one of £480 incurred today.

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.

Hope and Opportunity

As we wallowed in the ‘commemoration’ of the start of the First World War (when does commemoration tip over into wallowing and celebration?), another anniversary slipped by largely unnoticed. August 2014 not only marked 100 years since the start of WW1, a conveniently long enough time to ensure that no one is still around to recall what a huge disaster it was, it also marked three years since the Croydon Riots. Take a stroll up London Road: the devastation is still apparent. The only green shoots in evidence are those growing out of abandoned and run-down buildings.

It is worth recalling that Boris Johnson, the then and regrettably still Mayor of London, was on holiday in the USA at the time. Our elites don’t like to stint on their holidays!  After all, it cannot be easy to hold down public positions, well paid second  jobs and consultancies at the same time as has become their custom and expectation. They also need lots of time to invest their grotesquely huge pension savings ready for the time when they will no longer be ‘serving’ us. In Johnson’s absence, the BBC turned to his predecessor, the principled and independently minded Ken Livingstone. Ken condemned the violence, but dared to point out that it was caused by depriving young people of “hope and opportunities”. For this he was roundly condemned in the capitalist press and media.

Ken, of course, was right. A report earlier this week from KPMG, an organisation that generally concerns itself with reducing in any dubious manner that remain just inside the law the taxes of corporations and wealthy individuals, not with the plight of workers, found that 22% of those in work receive less than the living wage of £7.75 an hour (£8.80 in London). in 2012 the number of teenagers staying on in school after the age of 16 fell for the first time in a decade and the proportion of 18 year olds not in education, employment or training’, so-called NEETS, rose by 8% in the same year. It would take a very optimistic youngster, not having been born into the 1% of the population that comprises our ruling elite, who did not to feel deprived of hope and opportunity by these findings.

Meanwhile, to end on a positive note, see you all at the Croydon Assembly on Saturday 15 November when we can discuss what is to be done about the mess we find ourselves in..

Croydon and beyond, Boris Johnson and the Incinerator.

Boris’s objections are set-back for Beddington incinerator

Croydon’s Greens and other groups opposed to the £1 billion Beddington Lane waste incinerator scheme were in celebratory mood last night thanks to help from a most unexpected source: Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson: putting his words into action

The Greater London Authority has submitted a detailed report which found eight significant points under which the plan by waste management giants Viridor, the contractors selected by Sutton’s Liberal Democrat-run Sutton council and Conservative-run Croydon, can not progress under Boris’s London Plan.

Sutton Council issued a statement last night, which did not take much reading between the lines to sense the embarrassment at such weighty objections.

Ransford Stewart, Sutton’s interim executive head of planning and transportation, said: “The Mayor of London has provided a very detailed response to Viridor’s planning application for an Energy Recovery Facility in Beddington.” Ahhh. Still can’t bring themselves to call an incinerator an incinerator.

“It’s important that everyone has the opportunity to have their say on this important and complex proposal,” Stewart said, probably wishing that Boris Johnson hadn’t been one of those who decided to have their say.

“Sutton Council will continue carefully scrutinising the contents of the planning application, seeking expert technical advice where necessary, to ensure there is a sound basis on which to make a planning decision. We will also review all of the comments made by residents and public bodies.

“When this process has been completed, a report will go to the council’s Development Control Committee, who will decide whether permission should be granted, granted conditionally, or refused after considering all of the evidence and the comments received from residents and others.”

This, to paraphrase Churchill, is not even the beginning of the end for the incinerator saga: in all likelihood Viridor will now go away and modify their application in order to try to address the GLA’s objections. With contracts worth £1 billion over the next three decades at stake, they and the local councils who have backed this scheme are not going to let this drift away without some effort.

Yet there is a growing realisation about the health risks of waste incinerators, the contradictions over the use of proposed parkland near Mitcham Common, and increasing acknowledgement that the boroughs in the South West London Waste Partnership will be unable to generate enough waste to feed the incinerator – seeing local authorities from across southern England “export” their crap to this corner of London.

So any additional delays will not assist the incinerator’s cause, and objections from someone as influential as the Mayor of London’s office will be much more difficult to brush aside than those from “mere”, well-meaning action groups of ordinary people concerned about the health of their children and grandchildren.

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Future is bleak for Londoners if Boris blunders on

Boris Johnson displaying his razor sharp political witThe recession will bite even deeper in London unless voters return Ken Livingstone as Mayor on May 3, according to the Communist Party in London.

The party is urging the left to unite again in support of the former mayor, warning that the future is bleak if Boris Johnston is returned to the post.

Steve Johnson, London District Secretary of the CP, says: “The election of Boris Johnson in 2008 has been a disaster for Londoners with his programme of budget cuts, underinvestment, above inflation fare rises and attacks on jobs and services.

“The cuts agenda being pursued by the Con-Dem government in Whitehall is being faithfully pursued from City Hall by Johnson and his administration. Threats to bus services, tube station ticket offices and the transport infrastructure project Crossrail are a warning of what Londoners can expect if Johnson wins another term in May.

“By contrast Ken Livingstone has adopted a principled opposition to the government’s austerity measures. He has also advanced progressive positions on many of the key strategic areas within the mayor’s remit: housing, public transport and the environment. The Communist Party particularly endorses his commitment to engage with transport workers on policy matters. We also welcome the commitment to job creation through major infrastructure projects.”

Communist Party activists are already focusing on building unity on the left in London to ensure the defeat of Boris Johnson’s administration. As well as campaigning for the election of Ken Livingstone as mayor, they want to see the election of a Labour majority in the Greater London Authority.

And Steve Johnson warns: “The battle against cuts and privatisation will need to continue after the election and  we will also be calling on Labour candidates to reject the rule of the free market and to advance the interests of working people in London.

“To help meet this objective we will be producing an Alternative Economic strategy for London for debate amongst the wider labour movement.”