CROYDON TUC CONVENES A CROYDON ASSEMBLY on 15 NOVEMBER 2014

The government has been trumpeting that economic recovery is under way: according to figures published by the Office of National Statistics, unemployment in the UK fell by 121,000 in the three months to May; the rate of unemployment fell to 6.5% from 6.6% in the three months to 31 March, l the lowest level in nearly six years; the number claiming jobseekers allowance has fallen to 1.04 million; and more than 78% of men and 68% of women are now in work.

The Tories are desperate to persuade enough of the electorate, or at least enough of the electorate who can be bothered to vote, that the economic crisis triggered by the bank collapse in 2008 is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

After four years of austerity, government borrowing remains more or less where it was following the banking collapse. But reducing government borrowing was never what the coalition’s continuing austerity programme is about. It is an attack on the living standards of working people and it is succeeding. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, after inflation, the real, hourly pay of workers under the age of 30 has collapsed by 11% since 2008; and their household incomes are down 15%. Meanwhile, rents are up and the property market for buy-to-rent is soaring.
Every capitalist state requires a large pool of unemployed workers in order to subdue the rest and keep profits rolling in. This could be achieved with an even lower unemployment rate than we are currently experiencing – provided further measures are put in place to cow workers. This is why Cameron is threatening to further restrict trade unions and workplace rights and why there will be further tightening of unemployment and other benefits. These measures ensure that workers can be pressed into employment at rates of pay that scarcely provide for their subsistence and ensure that their kids will never be in a position to enjoy even this modest level of subsistence or have families of their own.
The solutions are obvious. We need the government to promote trade unions, not attack them. We need solid financial support for our young people before they enter employment, not student loans. We need a living wage, not the derisory minimum wage. We need security of tenure for tenants and a huge council house building programme. Only with a bedrock of social housing will the private sector curtail its exploitative behaviour. We need generous social security benefits and an end to attacks on claimants. We need a media that doesn’t attack the unemployed and foreigners, not one owned by billionaires who fund the Tories and yet don’t themselves pay tax.

The Labour Party, or at least a significant element within it, once supported all these measures. These days they believe in “equality of opportunity” and seek to appeal to upwardly mobile “hard working families”. Don’t they understand that for every family on the way up, there is one on the way down, and that working class families have kids and these kids won’t be in a position to start families if nothing is done?

If enough pressure is brought to bear on the Labour Party, it could be brought round again to progressive policies. This is the idea behind Croydon TUC’s recent decision to launch a Croydon Assembly, bringing together workers, special interest groups and local activists in the area. A meeting of the Assembly has been called for Saturday, 15 November at Ruskin House, South Croydon. The Communist Party gives this initiative its full support. Whether Labour can be shifted from the secure middle ground that offers it the prospect of winning, or at least sharing, power at the general election in 2015 as the ‘least worst option’ remains to be seen. One thing is clear. This is the last opportunity to attempt this. If Labour takes power and continues with further austerity and more neo-liberal policies, or indeed, if it loses the election having stood on a platform of such policies, we will have to conclude that, as they say, the party’s over.

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The Crisis of Capitalism – banks and housing

The collapse of the banks in 2008 and the cuts then implemented by the coalition government to bail them out is only one aspect of the crisis facing capitalism. Another is housing.

It should not be overlooked that the banking crisis was itself triggered by reckless mortgage lending in the USA housing market. These dodgy debts were then packaged up and sold to banks and other financial institutions across the world. Whatever the shortcomings of New Labour – and they were many – the banking crisis was not due, as the Tories would have us believe – to excessive spending on the NHS and social services.

Returns on those who invest in property to rent using mortgages from these same banks have been, so far, insulated from the financial crisis. These returns are estimated to have averaged 16.3% over the past eighteen years – a period that spans the banking crisis. They have been generated by inflated rents: in May these averaged £765 per month in England and Wales and are still rising. Such rents are becoming increasingly unaffordable by those who must work for a living. In response, the government paid out £35 billion in 2013-14 in housing benefit – money that goes directly to landlords and supports the banks that provide the mortgages. The increase in rents that supports this edifice has only been made possible by an almost total lack of regulation and control of private landlords and the absence of security of tenure for tenants.

Once upon a time, ordinary working families could turn to Council housing. This was undermined by ‘right-to-buy introduced by Thatcher and continued under Labour. By 2013 up to a third of all council houses purchased under ‘right-to-buy’ had been sold on to rich landlords. A shocking example is provided by the son of Ian Gow, the Tory minister who presided over implementing Thatcher’s policy. He is now a housing tycoon, owning more than forty ex-council houses in one London estate alone! What remains of the council house stock is now subject to lengthening waiting lists, hardening criteria, diminished security of tenure and now the bedroom tax.

With people on average salaries and wages unable to afford mortgages even at current interest rates depressed by so called quantitative easing, i.e. printing money to support the banks, the housing prospects for the working population in Croydon and elsewhere across the country look bleak. Even those of us currently enjoying good housing can have little confidence that the next generation, i.e. our kids, will be so fortunate. Jobs are becoming less secure, unions are shackled, and well paid jobs are only accessed by those who can bear the huge burden of debt from student loans – bankers and those whose parents are wealthy enough to pay them off. Only the wealthy elite can flourish in such a world, albeit behind gated communities.

The solution? Mere tinkering advocated by the Green Party and, modestly and belatedly, by Labour is no longer enough. Regulation of landlords and abolition of the bedroom tax would be welcome, but cannot address the mess we are in. Tory and Tory-Light (i.e. Labour) solutions such as assistance for first time buyers will simply add to the inflation of rents and make buying by the rest of us even less accessible. The only recovery under capitalism will involve, as Thomas Picketty argues in his well publicised book Capital in the Twenty First Century, greater inequality and eventually the impoverishment of the entire working class – i.e. everyone except the super-rich. But while Picketty appears to believe that capitalism can be reformed, the only viable path out of the mess we are in will involve the appropriation of the wealth of those who exploit us. In a word – communism.

Martin Graham

Lib Dem candidate’s ‘lunatic fringe’ comment politically illiterate

Posted by John Eden
From: Dr. Peter Latham

Sent: Monday, April 07, 2014 5:12 AM

To: newsdesk@croydonadvertiser.co.uk

Subject: Lib Dem candidate’s ‘lunatic fringe’ comment politically illiterate

Dear Editor,

Please consider my letter below for publication in next Friday’s issue of the paper.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Latham

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

Tax Reform

Chris Guiton

With the budget looming, bourgeois commentators are getting excited about the apparent spat developing between the Tories and the LibDems over the prospect of a mansion tax or a ‘tycoon’ tax, and a trade-off between the introduction of one of these options and the removal of the 50% tax rate on income above £150,000. Both mansion and tycoon tax proposals are fundamentally flawed and limited in scope, and the suggestion that tax be reduced for the wealthiest is an insult. And all this while the banks continue to pay out unfeasibly large bonuses, Barclays being only the latest, benefits are slashed and real wages continue to fall.

It’s abundantly clear that the Government will do their utmost to avoid upsetting their friends in the City. Treasury steps to close one or two limited tax loopholes will have been choreographed with the banks and are, anyway, no substitute for robust action on a broad front, such as a general tax anti-avoidance rule. In the meantime, wealthy individuals and big business will continue to pay tax on a largely voluntary basis, while people on PAYE have no option but to pay tax, VAT is inescapable and low-hanging fruit such as small businesses will continue to be targeted by HMRC .

With the Labour leadership clearly signed up to the neo-liberal agenda, social democracy in Britain is a busted flush. But it would be interesting to see whether a broad coalition of forces on the left could be developed in support of the establishment of a ‘Fair Tax Commission’ to examine the legitimacy of a more progressive tax system which shifts the focus to taxation of wealth, land and the grossly over-inflated incomes which have become the hallmark of 21st-century capitalism. And which considers serious steps to tackle the tax avoidance and evasion which is estimated to cost the exchequer more than £100bn every year.

Richard Murphy, a tax expert, is doing some quite interesting work in this area. It’s worth checking out his blog: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/

Croydon and beyond

by John Eden

I don’t have my own computer, so my blogs are going to be rather intermittent. my first blog was to draw the the compassion between events that might seem unconnected to some, that the connection between the cuts being imposed in Croydon and the events in the middle-east,and that they have a common cause the economic crises of the capitalist system, and this is the underlying reason of the riots in Croydon and the Arab spring. There are many who don’t share this view of course, they may agree that the riots in Croydon are caused by the economic crises, but not the latter or vice-versa, or they don’t agree at all with the proposition. I have for the last four weeks been reading and re-reading two books, one about the ” History of the Arabs” by Peter Mansfield said to  be a very good introduction to the subject, and another by Nickolaos Van Dam, the “The struggle for power in Syria” and I have also researched on the web

There are those who think that the crises in the middle-east is the creation of imperialist intervention particularly by the United States,Britain and France, paraphrasing the Syrian regime,Russia and China,and that it as nothing to do with the impact of the economic crisis on the internal contradictions of Syrian society. Russia’s defence of the regime as more to do with the retention of their only military base outside the former Soviet Union, and the desire to be a great nation in world affairs, and to sell arms, here is an example of the importance that arms can play in the internal politics of Syria. In the struggle for the power in Syria in 1970,  between the cilvilian Bathist Party led by Salah Jadid and the Military Bathist Party led by Hafiz al-Assad, the Soviet Ambassador sided with the former, the USSR was the main supplier of arms to the regime, the chief of staff of the military was sent to China, and waving the “Little Red Book”,proposed to by arms from there, the USSR backed down. Salah Jadid fell shortly afterwards, this may have been only one factor in his demise, but it was a factor in Syrian-USSR relations. More to follow later, comments welcome!

Croydon and beyond

by John Eden

People of Croydon face the same problems confronting others in Britain and others though less acute than those worldwide, rising unemployment,particularly among the youth and young adults, rising food prices though not on the scale as in some countries where prices have tripled leading to great social unrest as in Middle -East. The websites of the two main legal communist parties in Syria dated April and May 2011 put the initial unrest in the southern town of Derra at the ending of food subsides,the privatisation programme of the government in electrical supply and telecommunications, and rising unemployment. Tensions increased with the heavy-handed response of the security services using state of emergency laws which have been in place for almost fifty years,the lifting of these laws was also a demand of the two parties,what started as peaceful demonstrations though illegal under the above mentioned laws, as become an armed struggle as old suppressed tensions have been unleashed, and what was an oppressed class struggle, could become a sectarian conflict, as regional forces and world powers fight out their own contradictions with each other through the crisis in Syria.

Just as regimes in the middle-east have resorted to cuts to resolve  the world capitalist crisis and how it affects them,so  have the main political parties in Britain, and Labour say they will not reverse any of  the cuts if elected at a general election, in this scenario there is no political party in parliament,where the working people can fundamentally change things for the better.

The Labour leadership has fully endorsed capitalism and come to its rescue, and exposed the working class to savage cuts in living standards, at local level Labour councillors when in power have impose cuts (Lambeth)  and condemned trade unionists who oppose them,where not in power opposed cuts, (Croydon) and invite trade unionists to support their position. Can the working class win back the labour party? Myself I am convinced we can’t but of course we must work with those who think they can.

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.”