Saturday, 30 April 2011

Tyranny As Well As Tyrants Come To Britain

Not content with inviting a host of tyrants be they fellow Monarchs, or just the run of the mill dictatorial equivalent, all with blood on their hands, to attend the Royal Wedding of Britain's own symbol of privilege and medievalism, the same kinds of police state tyranny common in those countries also came to Britain yesterday.

Hat tip to James Bloodworth, for this story. According to RT, today a UK peace activist was also arrested in the dawn raids that the Metropolitan Police launched to round up anyone they thought might use thier democratic right to voice their disaproval of the day's events, and thereby destroy the carefully constructed consenus view of the British love of everything feudal.
RT also reported in their TV coverage that this person's girlfriend had tried to find out what had happened to him, but he seemed to have disappeared into the bowels of the Met.

According, to the Guardian,at the same time that Chris Knight and others, who were intending to stage a mock guillotining,were arrested, a Channel 4 News crew who were filming the Unofficial Royal Wedding, had some of their equipment confiscated.

RT, also interviewed a former MI5 intelligence officer, ­Annie Machon, who said she found the police action in mounting dawn raids very disturbing, and compared it with the actions of the authorities in Syria.

The reason such measures are needed is apparent. There is a lot of the Emperor's New Clothes about the British attitude to the Monarchy. No one wants to be seen to be standing out against something, which we are told is such a popular institution. Opinion polls show around 70% support for the Monarchy. Yet, opinion polls done by Newsnight prior to the wedding showed a majority of people had no interest in it. That is apparent from the lack of support despite massive prompting, for people to engage in street parties. Yesterday, I made a point of going out for a nice walk to avoid all the crass news coverage, and was pleased to find as I walked over the M6 bridge that the motorway was full of other people who had found better things to do with a Bank Holiday. Indeed, as I walked around the Park that was formerly part of the estate of the Duke of Sutherland, there was no shortage of people there enjoying the Spring sunshine.

But, you would not have thought that possible had you watched some of the talking heads over the last few days like Simon Schama who came out with the most abysmal apologism for the Monarchy on Newsnight, or if you'd listened to the garbage spouted by the awful Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan on "This Week". Its interesting that the Monarchists quickly go on to the defensive, however, especially with the favourite "But they bring in lots of money from Tourism" line. No they don't! I'm going to do a separate blog post nailing that argument, but for now I'll summarise it like this.

Most tourists, like most British people never see the Queen! So, she can't be the cause of the Tourism. But, if the argument were correct, here's a thought. When she dies, why don't we have her stuffed, and mummified and stuck in a glass case like Stalin did with Lenin.
The, like Lenin, she might really be a tourist attraction. In that way, we don't need any future Monarchs as she'd remain in that state for decades, if we got the Russians to provide us with their expertise. We could house the glass exhibit case in Buckingham Place, and make it completely open to the Public. We could then give the other Royals a job on Minimum Wage as Tour guides, and ticket sellers. In fact, if we really want the Royals to be a Tourist attraction, why don't we open Buck House completely on that basis with the Queen doing book signings and autographs for people on the door?

After all we keep being told that the main reason for their existence is as tourist attractions don't we?

Northern Soul Classics - If You Ever Walked out Of My Life - Dena Barnes

A bit of classic Wigan from Dena Barnes out of Detroit.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Kanta - Japanese Northern Soul Dancer

I was looking at some videos on Youtube of Northern Soul events in Japan recently. My sons came back from Japan recently where they saw some of the dancers in the park in Tokyo. This clip is actually, though of Kanta from Fukuoka who was the winner of the Cleethorpes competition in 2007. Not bad, but I'm not sure about some ot he footwork, but then each club has its own style, and mine comes from the Torch and the Twisted Wheel, where the footwork was always more complicated.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

OECD - UK House Prices Need To Fall 40%

Last night's "Newsnight", covering the fact that the UK economy is flat-lining, according to the latest data from the ONS, was interesting. Despite the Government trying to spin the data to claim that things were on track it is clear that this data was very bad, though not as bad as I'd expected - but we've still to get the revisions and final reading. The Government's own Office For Budget Responsibility, as well as the Bank of England, had been expecting growth of 0.8%, as opposed to the dismal 0.5% it turned out to be.
Some City analysts had been forecasting growth of as much as 1.1%. But, then when you are getting massive salaries, and bonuses in the millions, you are bound to get a much rosier view of the state of the economy than if you are earning Minimum Wage in McDonalds, or one of the Government's new Slave Labour Camps known as an Enterprise Zone.

But, it was not just Labour's ex City Minister, Lord Myners, who thought the data was bad.
Fund Manager, Nicola Horlick, also thought the data was bad, and was due to the Government's economic policies. After all when you've been in office for a year, its much harder to blame the previous Government. Besides, in the second and third quarter of 2010, as a result of Labour's stimulus package, growth was 1.8%. The fact that the economy has flat-lined ever since, even before the Cuts take effect, is clearly down to the Liberal-Tory Government's incompetence, and the way they talked down the economy with scare stories that Britain was in the same dire straits as Greece. Even the former CEO of ASDA, one of those people who signed the letter supporting the Tories proposals for Cuts, thought the data was bad, and things were going to get worse. He seemed much less confident now that these polices were going to lead to a bonanza of private sector jobs and growth.

But, the elephant in the room, also made its appearance. That is the question, I have been raising for nearly a year - house prices.
Vince Cable was asked directly by Gavin Esler if there was not still a massive bubble in house prices. Cable evaded giving an answer. But, there is no doubt that there is such a bubble. The OECD, as Lord Myners pointed out, have themselves said that UK House prices need to fall by 40%, to come back to a long-term average against incomes. As Deutsche Bank state,

"For both the US and the euro area the indicator crossed the long-term average in 2003 and reached new peaks in 2005 (US) and 2006 (euro area), respectively, with levels 12% to 18% above the long-term average. However, the regional differences were significant, with price-income ratios topping the long-term average by more than 40% in UK, Spain, Ireland, Finland and the Netherlands."

The IMF have arrived at a similar figure. But, as I've pointed out previously, that is just one measure of how much they are over priced. With real incomes being squeezed considerably - the ex ASDA CEO said the data he was still getting showed that real incomes had already fallen by 6% in the last year - this measure considerably understates how much house prices will need to fall. As illustrated by the figures I have previously given, showing the movement of house prices adjusted for inflation, UK house prices are around 4 times where they should be, meaning a 75% fall would be required. And measured against the very, long-term average rise in house prices of 4% p.a., house prices are around 10 times where they should be, requiring a 90% fall in prices.

Those figures might seem extreme, but they are not. In the 1930's, house prices fell by 90%. In 1997, property prices in Japan fell by 90%, as the Government attempted to remove its previous monetary accommodation. In 2001, in a similar bubble of Technology Share prices, the NASDAQ fell by 75%. In 1990, after a similar, but smaller, shorter lived bubble, UK house prices fell by 40%, and finally over the last year, house prices in Ireland fell by 60%, similar falls have been seen in the US, as the bubble in its housing market has burst, and renewed falls are being seen again. The figures provided by Deutsche Bank and OECD in the link above, show that the situation in other EU countries such as Spain is even more extreme, and shows the danger that these countries are in, and particularly that the Banks that lent to blow up this property bubble - including many from the UK and other Northern European countries - face when that bubble relly does burst.
It is no wonder that the financiers, and the politicians want to keep this quiet, because it threatens to blow the financial system wide apart. As I've said before, this private debt, much of it tied to housing, is far bigger, and a far more serious problem than Government debt. Government's can always print money to pay off their debt. Individuals cannot, and beyond a certain point, there only option is to default, and leave the Banks holding a worthless asset.

That is one reason the Bank of England is resisting raising interest rates despite soaring inflation. The Economist, which on its Price to Rent basis of calculation says UK house prices are 30% overvalued, says that house prices are now dictating interest rate policy not vice versa.

"What would such a prospect imply for a still-fragile economic recovery? Purists say that a further drop in house prices would merely shuffle wealth around. Homeowners would suffer, but those saving to buy a home would benefit. Reality is messier. Many householders have onerous debts, and would cut spending abruptly should prices plunge. For this reason, the housing market is likely to determine interest-rate decisions, not the other way round. If rate-setters prove cautious, house prices will take longer to reach bottom, but they are likely to fall all the same."

But, the experience of the 1980's is that Governments and Central Banks do not control Monetary Policy, except in places with a central planning system, such as China. The biggest part of money creation takes place in the private sector through the creation of credit, and money creation by Banks and other financial institutions. But, similarly, that experience showed that when the Money Markets decide that interest rates are too low, then whatever oficial interest rates, central banks set, is irrelevant.
The "Bond Vigilantes", can simply stop buying Bonds, and push interest rates up, and it is these rates that the Banks and Building Societies have to pay to borrow money - especially now that near zero interest rates have caused a liquidity trap, with no incentive for private savers to deposit their money.

On CNBC, yesterday, legendary oil man, T. Boone Pickens, warned that if the trouble in the Gulf escalated, and drew in Saudi Arabia, oil prices could go to between $300-$400 a barrel.
Even without that, oil prices were going higher, he said, because of continued and increasing demand from the dynamic economies in the world such as China and India. Meanwhile, China and other dynamic economies are suffering rapidly rising inflation, largely driven by the massive amount of money put into the global system by the US and western economies, which is monetising the rise in primary product prices. Slowly, at the moment, China is revaluing the Yuan against the dollar, so as to reduce its dollar cost of imports of these products. The consequence is that the cheap Chinese imports, that the West has relied on over the last 20 years, to keep down its own inflation, and more particularly the Value of Labour Power, is going to go into reverse.

The hope, clung to by the Bank of England, that inflation is going to fall, is doomed, and sooner rather than later, the financial markets will decide enough is enough, and UK interest rates will be forced higher, whatever the Bank of England decides. Already, finance for house purchase is only being offered to people who the Banks feel are likely to be able to pay it back. They still have, however, huge amounts of outstanding loans, to people who increasingly, even with interest rates at 0.5%, are finding they cannot pay, and are going into arrears.
For now the banks have had an incentive in not pushing for repossession, which would cause a firesale of houses to start, sending prices spiralling down, and meaning that the Banks would be likely to only get a fraction of their money back. This is at a time, when the question of default on loans is being spoken of openly more generally.

The EU has said that after 2013, Bond holders should expect to have to take a haircut - lose money - on any money they lend to Governments such as Greece or Ireland, or Spain or Portugal, that cannot pay it back. Already, the option of a partial default is being raised in respect of Greece. Iceland already defaulted on its debts, and has benefitted by doing so.
Unless the EU can find a way - such as selling EU Bonds, as I've suggested in the past,of raising money to cover the debts of the periphery more cheaply than currently available through the EFSF and EFSM, then a default is inevitable, because it is clear that the austerity measures in Europe are being as destructive to the peripheral economies, as the Liberal-Tory measures are in Britain.

This heightened level of risk will mean that interest rates are raised in any case, but, as happened with the Credit Crunch in 2008, if lenders fear they will not get their money back, they will be reluctant to lend at almost any price, and will begin to try to retract the loans they have made to prevent the risk of them going bad.

The initial effect, of a significant house price crash, be it just the 40% the OECD say is necessary, or the 75%-90% crash, I think history suggests is more likely, would be pretty catastrophic. Not, it has to be said for individual homebuyers. If your house has a paper price tag on it tomorrow only a tenth of what it is today, it really does not make any difference to you in terms of its affordability, or in terms of what it offers you as a house. A house is a consumer durable the same as a car or a washing machine, and people should get away from the ridiculous idea that it is in some sense "an investment". If you were going to buy another similar house, or a more expensive house, then the price of that will have fallen just the same, so relatively you are no worse off, in fact, in absolute terms you would be better off if you were moving up to a more expensive house. The problem only arises for those people who can no longer afford their mortgage payments, which has nothing at all to do with the actual market price of the house, but is determined by income and interest rates. In those cases, of negative equity, people could not sell their house at a price that would cover the amount they had borrowed. But, in reality, that is a much bigger problem for the Bank that made the loan than the individual that defaults on it.
That is why the Government and the Bank of England are doing everything they can to prop up the banks and their shareholders by propping up the housing market. But, that dam is bound to burst.

The consequence will be that the banks will face a flood of defaults and bad loans on a far larger scale than in 2008. That will have an impact across Europe, particularly in the periphery such as Spain where house prices are in an even larger bubble.
Many more banks will have to be taken over by the State across Europe, and that will mean those States will need even bigger bail-outs than has been seen in Ireland and Greece, and shortly to be seen in Portugal and Spain.

But, for all those millions of people who for the last 30 years have been unable to buy a house as prices soared to astronomic levels it will be a very good thing. If house prices fell by 75-90%, then millions of people would be able to buy. It would force land prices down markedly, reducing the cost of building new homes too. That would give a huge incentive to house builders to start building many new houses, creating jobs for thousands of building workers. The question is how much of a hold does Financial Capital have over the Government to continue a policy of "Socialism For The Rich", as opposed to a real rebalancing of the economy away from this fictitious Capital, and towards real productive investment, and economic growth?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Why We Need A Tomb Of The Unknown Worker

On Friday, we will be provided with a potent symbol of National Unity, as two rich people get married, amidst miles of patriotic bunting, and endless TV coverage emphasising the lineage, going back centuries of British Royalty. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels argued that one of the progressive functions of Capitalism was to remove all national differences, and to act as a means of breaking down all national barriers, and national particularism.
At the same time, it created a working-class, whose interests stretched across borders, leading to the idea that the working-class has no country. After two World Wars, in which workers volunteered in their millions to fight for “their” country, and died in their millions too, after numerous other smaller Wars, in which there has been no problem finding enough workers to go to fight for the interests of “their” country, it is clear that Nationalism has a powerful hold, certainly a more powerful hold over workers than Socialism.

Part of the reason for that is that Socialists have not provided workers with very good solutions to their immediate problems. On the one hand, the Reformists have focussed on providing solutions to immediate problems only in so far as those solutions are compatible with the needs of Capital. Frequently, that has meant, as now, that rather than them providing workers with a solution to a problem caused by Capital, they instead find themselves providing a solution to a problem of Capital, at the expense of workers.
And, of course, in doing so, by limiting any solutions to only those acceptable to Capital, they reinforce the idea of National Interest, by perpetuating the idea that there is a common national interest between workers and Capital. On the other hand, the revolutionaries show little interest at all in providing any practical solutions to workers immediate problems. To the extent they offer any solutions they are geared not to the interests of the workers, but more to the interests of the revolutionaries themselves. Marx and Engels had pointed out the danger of “Economism”, the idea that workers interests could be advanced by addressing issues of the distribution or redistribution of income.
It didn't matter whether that redistribution came as a result of militant strike action, or redistributive tax policies. The fact was that it could never work, because Capital has the whip hand, and the needs of Capital Accumulation would always mean that any redistribution was minimal and short-lived. If higher wages or higher taxes reduced the profits available to Capital for Accumulation, Capital would simply respond by slowing down that Accumulation. The result would be higher unemployment, falling wages and rising profits. In a globalised world economy, the potential for Capital to do that by simply transferring to another country is a hundred times greater today than in Marx's time.

But, the revolutionary sects continue to focus their attention on the idea of such industrial militancy, proposing strike action for almost every situation, and mislead the workers into believing that such action can provide them with a solution to their problems. In doing so they reinforce the idea of Nationalism, because such Trade Union politics convey the idea that the interests of workers and Capital are reconcilable, and that it is just a matter of a squabble over the size of share of a national cake. The sects do this, because experience has shown them that during such strikes they have a potential to recruit the odd new member. Their activity is geared to this party-building rather than providing workers with any real solutions to their problems. Moreover, in the last thirty years, these sects have moved to occupy the ground previously the preserve of the left reformists.
The only other solution to workers they provide besides the idea of industrial action, is the idea previously purveyed by the Fabians, that of State Capitalism, by which workers exchange exploitation by relatively weak private capitalists, for more effective exploitation at the hands of a more powerful Capitalist State. Such solutions have been discredited in the eyes of tens of millions of workers as a result of their experience both as workers in, and consumers of State Capitalism. But, the sects continue to offer up these failed solutions to workers. Its little wonder workers look to other sets of ideas.

But, the strength of Nationalism, as an ideology, is not wholly due to the incompetence of the Left in providing solutions for workers. The reality is that as Marx and Engels set out in their theory of Historical Materialism, ideas are a function of material conditions, of lived experience. And part of that lived experience is itself conditioned by the world we find ourselves in, including the sets of ideas, and rituals handed down from previous generations that make up what can only ever be a 'national' culture.
That is not to say that this 'national' culture does not change over time, clearly it does, but it does so slowly, and still retains that characteristic of being 'national' and therefore something that binds together people in a powerful way not only because it appeals to a shared material condition – a material condition of all being in the same boat, surrounded by external threats – but also because, it appeals to powerful emotional levers based upon family and kinship that extend far more readily into the idea of shared nationality than they do to ideas of shared class interest.

And, of course, the very working of Capitalism itself undermines the very basis of class allegiance, and solidarity based upon it. Within each enterprise, each worker is forced into a dog eat dog competition with every other worker. That frequently is more powerful than any drive of the workers to take their shared condition and experience, and to form Trades Unions to fight for their interests against Capital. That is why Trades Unions have never managed, even during the time of the closed shop, to organise even more than half the workforce. But, even when Trades Unions are formed, their struggle is rarely a CLASS struggle, but is limited to merely a sectional struggle. In fact, frequently these sectional struggles are fought explicitly on the basis of defending the interests of one group of workers at the expense of workers somewhere else, be it in a competing firm, or country.
These sectional struggles fit neatly into a Nationalist ideology that seeks to represent the idea of promoting the interests of “British” workers, by promoting the interests of Britain, for which read British Capital.

Marx was right that Capitalism does act to break down national barriers. The development of a world economy is a powerful illustration of that. The same multinational companies that operate in New York, also operate in Tokyo, Paris, Rome and London, and sell the same products in the same packaging.
Capital has indeed become international, and a tiny, but very powerful international Capitalist class now exists that has in many ways detached itself from the nation state. It has attempted to create a range of international state institutions such as the IMF, WTO etc. to act at an international level in the way that the State acts at a national level. It, or its representatives meet at a range of international gatherings such as the G20.
But, these are only partial global state institutions, reflecting the fact that Capital is not homogeneous. The bulk of Capital remains tied up within the nation state, dispersed amongst a large number of small capitalists whose interests and ideas diverge considerably from those of the international Big Capitalists. Part of the contradiction is resolved, though unsatisfactorily by larger State organisations such as the EU, but here too the legacy of all those old separate, national cultures and interests continue and press down on the ability of Capital to move forward and introduce rational solutions.
Indeed, those separate interests of the small capitalists, and of their workers with their sectional interests, provide not just an obstacle in the realm of ideas, but an obstacle based upon real material interests. Just look at the German or Finnish workers objecting to bail-outs of Southern Europe, or look at the rise of the fascists of the Front National in France, now gaining even more support on the basis of the row breaking out between France and Italy over the flood of refugees already streaming in from the Middle East and North Africa.

There have been examples of noble actions of class solidarity by workers across borders. British textile workers in the 19th century, even though they were starving as a result of being out of work, opposed the textile manufacturers, who wanted to send the British Navy to break the blockade of Confederate Ports during the US Civil War, which was preventing cotton coming to Britain. Workers went to fight in Spain during the Civil War, indeed some went to fight in the US Civil War.
There have been numerous actions by workers to take solidarity action with workers in other countries, such as that of dockers in South Africa who blacked arms from China to Mugabe. But, in truth these actions are far from common place. At the height of workers militancy in the 1970's, efforts were made to create international combine committees in Europe across some of the big multinational companies, particularly in the car industry. Some co-ordinated action was taken, but ultimately sectional and national interest won out again, and the international combines proved ineffective. The European TUC has been established, but is just another bureaucratic talking shop. It has had no success in promoting the idea, and certainly not organising action to achieve, common Trades Union rates of pay across the EU, still less for the establishment of common Pensions and Benefits, or retirement ages. Nor has it even be able to repeat the example of the Trades Unions in Britain, who at the start of the 20th Century created a Workers Party based upon them. But, that is not surprising the history of Trades Unions in Britain has been as much about inter union squabbles and attempts to poach members, as it has been about solidarity.

If workers at least across Europe are to achieve some kind of unity, and sense of real shared interest it will have to be built on more promising ground than this. It is yet another example, of where workers need to build Co-operatives. Capital is forced to combine and expand, because its immediate material interests dictate it. Indeed, in order to avoid some of the problems of competition, Capital has been forced into co-operation to the same end, establishing cartels and price-fixing rings. Co-operatives, which from the beginning are based on the idea of such Co-operation as much as on competition, are perfectly suited to extending that principle for workers. There are something like 20,000 workers Co-operatives in Britain alone. Their main problem as with most small businesses is that they are limited by their small size, which makes them dependent upon the Capitalist Banks, and upon large Capitalist purchasers of their goods and services.
But, effective binding together of these separate units into a powerful Co-operative sector can overcome most of those problems. In Europe, the huge EuroCoop provides a basis for many of these individual producer Co-ops to sell their products. In this way the spread of worker Co-ops across Europe, all part of a European Co-operative federation can provide a material basis for developing the idea of internationalism, and workers solidarity as well as of Co-operative production, in a way that occasional, even very large industrial struggles never can.

But, even this is not enough to overcome those ideas of nationalism that have been fed down to us over generations, precisely because those ideas are not just based upon immediate material conditions, but are based upon other factors with emotional roots, that have just as much influence in determining the material environment we experience.
In his book, “Imagined communities:reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism”, Benedict Anderson points out the central symbolic role of Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers in nearly all nationalisms and says,

“The cultural significance of such monuments becomes..clearer if one tries to imagine, say, a Tomb of the Unknown Marxist or a cenotaph for fallen Liberals. Is a sense of absurdity unavoidable? The reason is that neither Marxism nor Liberalism are much concerned with death and immortality. If the nationalist imaging is so concerned, this suggests a strong affinity with religious imaginings.” (p18.)

Of course, the vast majority of those unknown soldiers are themselves workers sent off to fight in the interests of Capital in Two World Wars, and numerous other conflicts, including the intervention against the workers revolution in Russia in 1917.
But, the ceremonies and rituals surrounding them de-class them, and turn them merely into British soldiers. The closest this comes to referring to any class aspect is the attempt to portray the Second World War as in some sense a war against Fascism, rather than a War of British Imperialism against German Imperialism, with the other Imperialist powers choosing sides not according to their own political regime or inclinations, but according to where they thought their own economic interests would be best met. In fact, even in this the revolutionary sects have abandoned the ground of Marxism for Left Reformism, and Social-Patriotism.
On the one hand organisations such as the SWP have attempted to harness, rather ridiculously, the imagery of the second World War, in their propaganda against the BNP today, which fits neatly with their Popular Frontist politics of appealing to the clergy and other bourgeois worthies. At the same time their fellow Third Campists such as the AWL, bowdlerise Trotsky's writings, attempting to make him say that he was in favour of such a war against fascism, and that it was necessary to find a way of workers supporting such a war by “Democratic Imperialism”. A most grotesque distortion of what his actual position was.

But, of course, there is no recognition in those ceremonies, there is no mention on those cenotaphs of all those workers who fought and died against fascism, and who DID go to fight as workers and socialists, as opposed to simply being BRITISH soldiers. There is no reference to those who were part of the International Brigade, fighting in Spain against Franco.
After all, that was not a war that British Imperialism showed any interest in fighting against fascism, just as throughout the 1930's they had shown no interest in the atrocities already being committed by the Nazis against German Jews. Why would they?
Throughout the 1920's, the British establishment lauded the efforts of Mussolini and the Fascists in Italy. And, they heaped equally lavish praise on the Nazis after they came to power. Lord Rothermere who owned the Daily Mail was a friend of both Mussolini and Hitler, and the Daily Mail carried numerous headlines supporting them, and one entitled "Hurrah For The Blackshirts" supporting the British Union of Fascists. After all, the Nazis and the Italian Fascists were acting to put down their own workers. Nor was there any reason for Britain to show much concern for Jews.
Its history of anti-Semitism went back into its Medieval past, and leading politicians such as Churchill were equally vile in their anti-Semitic views.

But, there are many, many more instances of workers who have fought and died in the interests of their class, and of progressive historical development. There are those who fought alongside the peasants during the Peasants Revolt, or alongside others during the Civil War in the cause of Constitutional changes that form the basis of Britain's bourgeois democracy.
Indeed, there are those who died in St. Peters Fields in Manchester, demanding further such democratic rights, in the same way that workers are doing across the Middle East today. There are many more who were mowed down by dragoons opposing the struggle of the Chartists for the right to vote for workers, such as the Leek Mill worker who was decapitated by the lash of a Bull whip at a Chartist meeting in Burslem.

Yet, their numbers pale compared with the thousands of workers who have died so that Capital could make profits. Men, women and children have died in some of the most grisly industrial accidents imaginable. My father's own best man, died at work when a huge piece of equipment fell on his chest.
Industrial injuries alone have cost thousands of workers their lives, and despite the Tories pledges to reduce Health & Safety provision, continue to do so today. But, the numbers who have died from industrial diseases, or had their lives ruined by them, are even greater.

A powerful class symbol of the lives lost by workers in the cause of creating a decent society ought to be created. As well as the cenotaph in London, similar monuments exist in every town around the country. Other symbols of nationalism abound such as the National Military Cemetery in Staffordshire. The Labour Movement should create its own such focus for working-class pride, and remembrance that provides a focus for celebrating all those workers who have fought reaction, and lost their lives because of Capitalism.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Politics Of Farce

The last few days have seen the media falling over itself to be taken in by the idea that there is some kind of difference between the Tories and Liberals, as a result of comments made
by Campo and Clegg. There isn't. They are joined at the hip, as the video below of Clegg's recent comments to Cameron caught on his microphone demonstrate.

In fact, its the fact that there is no difference between the Liberals and Tories illustrated by those comments that makes this manufactured row necessary in the week or so ahead of the Local Elections, in which the Liberals look set to be annihilated, and the Tories to do not much better. On the Andrew Marr show this morning, he asked Simon Highes how the Liberals could continue working with the Tories after his leader had spoken about a "right-wing clique", and talked about the Tories telling lies. Quite easy is the answer.

Before the General Election, the Liberals were frequently talking about the Tories as a right-wing clique, and accusing them of telling lies. It didn't stop them immediately jumping into bed with them at the first sniff of an opportunity to get their grubby hands on a bit of power!
And, if we are talking about telling lies, then the Liberals with their pledge on Tuition Feees, their comments about opposing increases in VAT, their statements about opposing further changes in the NHS, and on, and on, and on have little room in any glass house to be throwing stones.

Clegg is correct, their is a tiny right-wing clique at the centre of British politics. He should know, he is a central part of it, as are the other Liberal Ministers and MP's!!
He is right that the Tories are telling lies, but the most important lies they are telling are not about an issue that is irrelevant to the majority of ordinary British people - i.e. over the rigged chocie between two undemocratic systems of electing M.P.'s, - but over the need for massive cuts in Public Spending, the need for attacks on workers pensions and so on. And, of course, on all those issues, the Liberals as a Capitalist Party, have absolutely no real disagreements with the Tories.

In fact, despite the fact that former Liberal Chief Secretary to the Treeasury, David Laws, told Sky News, last year, that the issue of the deficit had been hyped up, that introducing Cuts early on would be bad for the economy, and so on, as a right-wing, Orange Book Liberal, he was leading the charge in introducing those cuts!

The way, in which normal "democracy" works in Capitalist countries is tht every few years, voters are given the choice of voting for parties whose real political differences are minor. None of them offer any kind of real challenge to the wealth and power of the miniscule number of billionaires, and multi-millionaires who own and control the majority of productive wealth in the country - the real right-wing clique that is ultimately in control - and any Party that did would find itself being vilified and attacked on all sides by the media, and would face a Capital strike by those very same powerful Capitalists to undermine the economy - these are the same people, of course who throw up their hands in horror at the very thought that ordinary working people might strike for a few extra quid in wages or pensions - and ultimately would face the kind of opposition that other left-wing Governments have confronted. In 1973, the Government of Allende in Chile was overthrown by the Chilean Capitalists, and their State apparatus with the assistance of the CIA.
In the 1970's, even Harold Wilson's tame Labour Government provoked sections of the Capitalist establishment to consider a coup. Sections of the Military top brass, along with leading Capitalists considered the idea, and of installing Lord Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin, to act as figurehead. Of course, a look at the list of people coming to the Royal Wedding, shows that the Royal Family are not at all embarassed by the idea of dictatorship, and overriding democracy in the interests of Capital.

But, this spat between the Liberals and the Tories is to reduce that to the level of farce. No one really believes that the day after the local elections it ill not be business as usual between them as they proceed to both wreck the economy with their Cuts, and to undermine ordinary working people's living standards. It is an indication of the paucity of the British media that they act as a channel for such superficial hogwash. But, then this is the same media that is drowning in the cult of celebrity, the epitome of which will be the Royal Wedding itself, where the main topic of conversation will no doubt be whether the celebs at Buckingham Palace have wasted as much money on dresses and bling, as the celebs from Beckingham Palace!
And, of course, the only reason we should give a fuck is that both sets are only able to waste such vast amounts of money, because in one way or another they are spending OUR money. One set gets it given to them out of our taxes, the other out of an effective monopoly over aspects of the entertainment industry. Football was once considered a working man's game, but the only part of it now that fits that description, is in respect of the blokes who assemble in the local parks, and recreation grounds to compete against each other on a Sunday morning. The rest has become just another arena of big business, and profit making. By creating an effective monopoly by astronomical transfer fees, and deals with monopoly satellite TV companies, they are able to pay those fees and ridiculous wages to players - that the real working class blokes who were the founders of the game could not have dreamed of - and thereby build around it, a brand image.
The cult of celebrity in the film and music industry performs the same fucntion. The sooner Internet piracy breaks that monopoly apart the better.

But, that Monopoly that masquerades as competition in the commercial world is precisely reflected in the political world. And just as the lack of real differences between products in the commercial world has to be compensated for by creating artifical differences via branding, and marketing, so that is the case in the political world. The vote over AV is a reflection of that. Is it any wonder no one gives a toss. If we were being offered real alternatives it would be different. Across the Middle East and North Africa tens of thousands of people are demanding a real say in how their countries are run, how they elect their Governments and so on.
Britain says it supports them, yet in Britain ordinary people are being denied that same right! If instead of a monopolised choice between FTP or AV, we had a real debate over democracy in Britain there would be a reason to get involved and take part. Why can we not have a vote on many types of voting that would provide real Proportional Representation? Why can't we have a debate and a vote on scrapping the Monarchy as the epitome of a lack of democracy, as well as on scrapping the House of Lords? Why can't we have a Constitutional Assembly to discuss and propose a written Constitution for Britain? Why Can't we have a vote on which positions such as the top Civil Servants, Military Top Brass and Judges etc. should be elected?

But, they will not open up such a debate and give us the opportunity to vote on these things that could make a real difference, because that would take the control of the political debate out of the hands of the Capitalist politicians and put in the hands of ordinary people. And should the people come up with proposals that might provide a means for curtailing the power of that right-wing clique of Capitalists that control the destiny of the country, they would then have to show the real nature of that power out in the open.

But, if the Capitalist politicians will not give us those rights that is no reason for not taking them. That was what the radical democrat Thomas paine argued.
He said, "Democratic Rights are not granted, but taken." That is what ordinary people in the Middle East and North Africa are doing. We should learn from their lesson. There is no reason that workers on Council estates and in other such communities should not create their own democratic assemblies, perhaps extending existing Tenants and Residents Associations, or even bodies such as Neighourhood Watch schemes, and begin to create their own forms of demcoracy at grass roots level that do not ask for rights to control their neighbourhood from their local Council, but take them.
That same kind of principle and action could be replicated across society, including within the workplace. It is a solid basis upon which to build opposition to, and an alternative to accepting the Cuts being introduced by the Liberal-Tories, and implemented by Local Councils of all political complexions.

Forget about the superficial politics that is hyped up by the Capitalist politicians and their media, and begin to build a real alternative politics, a real alternative democracy that we can control, and that offers real chocies not the sham that is presented at Westminster, and in the local Council Chambers.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Northern Soul Classics - I'll Never Stop Loving You - Carla Thomas

A skin tingler from the Queen of Memphis, Carla Thomas. This is the last for now in the series of gems from Stax, and what a song to finish on.
Carla was the daughter of legend Rufus Thomas, and as well as having a clutch of classic Stax songs to her credit regularly duetted with the late, great Otis Redding, notably on the King and Queen album.

This song was rediscovered back in the 90's, and we are all glad it was.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Arrest The Royal Tyrants!

Last week Paul Mason, on Newsnight, detailed some of those who next week have apparently been invited to attend the Royal Wedding. At a time when Britain is involved in yet another War to bring "Democracy" to other parts of the world, its Royal Family - itself the very antithesis of the principle of Democracy - are busy bringing their fellow Monarch's to Britain.
Whilst Britain is once again waging war against tyranny in far flung parts of the globe, Britain's Royal Family, whose ancestors made their mark by being the most vicious group of bastards amongst a generally vicious, murderous bunch of thievs and ne'er do wells that made up the Feudal Aristocracy, are busy bringing some of the world's worst tyrants to Britain.

Paul highlighted one of them. The King of Swaziland. He will be bringing around 50 of his entourage to stay at the Dorchester where a room will set you back £450 a night.
Meanwhile, back in his country, the average person has to survive on just $2 a day! The Government has just arrested trhe country's entire Trade Union leadership, and broken up a protest of 1,000 people with tear gas and water cannon.

One of the people commenting on Paul's blog wrote, "If, thirty years ago, Gaddafi had married into the Senussis and been proclaimed King of Libya, he might well have an invitation to the Royal Wedding too.".
And, of course, the King of Swazi will not be the only Absoluet Monarch and tyrant invited to or attending the wediing. The King of Bahrain is likely to be there, as is the King of Saudi who has just sent 1,000 troops to Bahrain to put down the democracy protests there.

In fact, many of the tyrants will be from countries that are still in the 21st Century, still essentially pre-capitalist societies, still mired in feudal medievalism. Every socialist should want to see them swept away, even if the only way that could happen was as a result of a modernising Imperialism moving in, and achieving that task. But, of course as pointed out before there is little chance that will happen. Unlike Colonialism, which had an incentive to spread itself around the globe, with feudal Landlords simply extending their landholdings and Rent collecting to foreign parts, and Merchant Capitalists making profits in the normal way by unequal exchange, modern Imperialism based on industrial, productive Capital has no incentive for that.
Colonialism could operate through a version of the feudal state simply transposed on to another country. But, efficient exploitation of a modern industrial working-class requires more than that over the longer-term. That is why modern Imperialism, whilst its prepared to leave the provision of its necessary raw materials to those previuous Mercantilist arrangements, and may station outposts in strategic positions, when it comes to actually investing any serious amounts of productive Capital requries at least some minimum level of development to already have occurred. It requires a certain degree of infrastructure to be in place, even if only in selected zones near to ports etc. It requires something approaching a modern Capitalist State prepared to uphold the Rule of Law. It needs a large enough working-class that is educated and trained to at least a minimum standard. That is why this modern Imperialism has focussed its attention on a relatively small group of economies, and has no interest in modernising large areas of the world. Only the working-class as part of developing a global socialist economy will be able to carry through that task.

So for the foreseeable future there will remain many of these countries suffering this backwardness, even whilst the absolute Monarchs and other tyrants that rule over them live a life of lavish luxury and excess. For now we can show our support for the poor inhabitants of those countries by doing what we can.
When their rulers come to Britain next week, we should have our own snatch squads ready to carry out citizens arrests upon the criminals amongst them. The bosses and the worthies of the British establishment are quick to want to bring Gaddafi to trial at the International Criminal Court - and socialists should want that too - but they seem rather more reticent about bringing some of these other criminals - friends of our Royals - to book, even though some of them are even worse criminals than Gaddafi. Even they will not implement the Rule of Law in bringing them to book, we should.

Of course, we shouldn't expect the ICC to be impartial either. Like all other parts of the international Capitalist State order, its there to serve the interests of the bosses. But, for now we cannot bring these tyrnats before a Workers Court for trial, and even bringing these tyrants before a bouregois court would send a strong message to the people they oppress. We could send them a furher reminder of how to deal with those tyrants by reminding them of how we did it in the past.
What better time than on the day of the wedding than to remember Guy Ffawkes, who is remembered for trying to blow up Parliament, but was trying to blow up the King. Or they could remember the contribution made by Oliver Cromwell in removing a King's Head, or the French bourgeois revolutinaries, who consistent with Capitalist methods, industrialised the process via the Guillotine.