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Cracks in the system exposed

21st August 2017

Cville2

The election of Donald Trump to the US presidency last year was in part due to the failure of the US liberal establishment to produce a credible alternative candidate.  Trump’s characterisation of Hillary Clinton as ‘crooked’ had enough resonance with enough of the electorate to leave the door open for Trump’s particular brand of populism to succeed.  Clinton may still have won 3 million more votes than Trump but the Electoral College system worked in his favour in enough key states to ensure victory.

While the liberal intelligentsia and much of the media in the United States continue to characterise the Trump presidency as dysfunctional, it is becoming increasingly clear that Trump does not acknowledge that being President means playing by the usual rules.  In fact, there is little in the first few months of the Trump presidency to suggest that he gives a damn about the rules.  On the contrary, there is every indication that Trump and those backing him are looking to change the rules entirely and shift the ground of debate in US politics firmly to the right.

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last week were not, in themselves, unusual in the history of racism and apartheid in the United States.  White supremacists, Nazis and the ideology of the Ku Klux Klan have lurked beneath the surface of areas in the Southern United States for decades.  However, this racism is being met by a new assertiveness, on the part of those from non-white heritage in the US, to address symbols of the nation’s slave owning history resulting in a number of moves to remove public symbols of this past.

General Robert E. Lee, the slave owning Confederate leader, is seen as a hero of the Right.  The decision to remove his statue in Charlottesville is the latest in a range of moves to de-toxify public images and monuments in the United States.  Confederate monuments, statues and images are up for discussion in many US cities including Baltimore and San Antonio, as well as Lexington, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida.

The response of the Right to defend this legacy has been emboldened by the election of Trump and the initial actions of his administration.  As the Communist Party of the USA has noted recently,

“The Trump policies of mass deportations, voter suppression, Muslim bans, investigating “race-based discrimination” against whites, “law and order”, reviving the “War on Drugs” and encouraging police brutality are all geared at mobilizing a white nationalist constituency and slowing down, stopping and reversing the vast demographic and cultural shifts to ensure permanent white nationalist rule.”

The difference for the Right is that they have a President who is openly prepared to defend their position and publicly attack those who stand up to oppose racism.  Equating those who were protesting against the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville with the racist mob, Trump stated in his press  conference on the issues,

“I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it.  And you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.”

While Trump and the alt-Right racists around him attempt to shift the agenda and legitimise racist attitudes, resistance continues to grow.  A so-called “free speech” rally in Boston over the weekend, organised by the alt-Right, was abandoned as over 30,000 anti-racist protesters turned out in opposition.  Business leaders, previously associated with the Republican Party have deserted Trump’s economic advisory councils in the past week, forcing Trump to disband them.

The opposition within the business world is not always a matter of principle but a growing recognition that Trump’s overt racism is bad for business.  The Trump agenda of de-regulation is widely welcomed but fomenting racial unrest is not conducive to business stability.

As C.J. Atkins, writing in the CPUSA People’s World notes,

“Because if he has accomplished anything, it is this: Trump has blown apart the idea that the United States has moved past racism or that discrimination is a relic of our troubled past.  By emboldening white supremacists and fomenting racial animosity on the part of white workers, he has exposed the tactic of dividing working people by race.  The threat for capitalism is that more people begin to put together the pieces and realize that it’s not only Trump who is the problem, but the system itself, which thrives on built-in racial divisions.”

Even the New York Times last week was moved to comment,

“Comparing the Trump administration to the Nazis may be a stretch, but many business leaders are concerned that stirring up deep-seated racial and nationalist animosities could be destabilizing, leading to riots, property damage, and widespread civil unrest reminiscent of the late 1960s.”

On the one hand the liberal establishment is attempting to re-assert itself and stabilise capitalism in the United States.  On the other, the hard core around Trump and his more vociferous supporters in the country remain keen to push the alt-Right agenda, reverse the limited social and political gains of the civil rights era of the United States and move towards a more openly institutionalised form of apartheid.

Neither of these options will meet the needs of the mass of the people of the United States.  Removing an overt racist from the White House is only the first step and the growing demand for his impeachment must be supported.

However, in order to build a movement which can unite the interests of the working people of the USA, from across the range of ethnic communities, the struggle will need to be seen as something far more fundamental, taken beyond the White House and into the communities of the United States.

Locked and Loaded

13th August 2017

Kim Jong -un.png

Locked and loaded.  That was how US president, Donald Trump described the readiness of the US military in  relation to the ‘threat’ posed by North Korea.  It followed hard upon his promise to rain ‘fire and fury’ upon Pyongyang, should they carry out their threat to test inter-continental ballistic missiles anywhere near the US Pacific base of Guam.

To suggest that Trump is proposing to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut is putting it mildly.  The power of the US military, as Trump has pointed out, is more awesome than the weaponry of any empire at any time in history.  North Korea, on the other hand, may have found the means by which a small nuclear war head could be fixed to a missile, which may be able to get beyond its borders.

Any nuclear capability is a potential danger.  Even a small atomic bomb can do untold damage and have consequences lasting generations, as the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can testify.  As ever though, the US bluster is less about defending world peace than bolstering its own position as the world’s policeman.

Ever since its characterisation as one of the ‘axis of evil’ states by US President George W Bush, in his State of the Union address in January 2002, North Korea has been the subject of heightened attention by the US and its allies.

The reality is that US hostility to the efforts of the Korean people to free themselves from outside domination go back to the US led war of aggression in 1950 –  1953.  During that time 20% of North Korea’s population were killed, almost every town in the country burned to the ground and the population driven into subterranean shelters.  The fact that, even after such destruction, the US was unable to impose its will upon the country is at the root of US hostility.

With the defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, the United States announced that strategic nuclear weapons, previously targeted at the Soviet Union would be redirected towards North Korea.  War games conducted by the United States and South Korea in 1993 prompted North Korea to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and seek to maximise its own defence capability.

Recent provocative activity has included simulated bombing missions by the US along the North Korean border and the deployment of two aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, to the waters between Japan and Korea, described by the Wall Street Journal as “a show of force not seen there for more than two decades.”  These actions barely make the news, compared to the limited weapons testing carried out by the Koreans.

From a North Korean perspective the capacity of the US to destroy regimes it is in disagreement with is evident from its actions over the past 25 years, notably in Libya and Iraq.  The US continues to have designs upon Iran, another ‘axis of evil’ state, and persists in its internationally condemned and illegal blockade of Cuba.  Interventions in Syria and Afghanistan have caused significant destruction in recent years.  Donald Trump has not ruled out military intervention in Venezuela.

North Korea is the most heavily sanctioned state on the planet.  It is an international pariah with the US alliance but also with many on the international Left.  The dynastic approach to leadership change does Pyongyang no favours with those who may otherwise have sympathy with its anti-imperialist position.  Whatever the flaws and failings of the regime however, it is for the people of North Korea to determine how change will come about, not the United States.

It may be difficult for many on the Left to leap to the defence of North Korea but, seen in the context of its wider actions to suppress opposition to its diktats around the globe, there should be much greater concern about the United States.  The increasing militarisation of the leadership around Donald Trump, as more generals find themselves in political office, is a creeping coup d’etat, which puts a lot of power into the hands of men with itchy trigger fingers.  Being locked and loaded may not just apply to the US approach to North Korea.

Ten keys to the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

6th August 2017

While the Western media make great play about recent developments in Venezuela, and the alleged anti-democratic nature of the new Constituent Assembly, an alternative view is offered by Granma the Official Voice of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee.

Ten keys to the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

The massive turnout for the July 30 vote offers several lessons regarding the complex scenario facing the country and the evolution of events

Author: Sergio Alejandro Gómez | informacion@granma.cu

august 4, 2017 14:08:41

Venezuela

Photo: TELESUR

Nicolás Maduro went for broke. “Come rain or shine, there will be a National Constituent Assembly,” the Venezuelan President stated. And so it was.

July 30, 2017, marked a historic date, not only for the Bolivarian Revolution, which came to power less than two decades ago, but for a nation that has been struggling for its independence and self-determination for over 200 years.

The vote that day offered us several lessons to understand the complex scenario facing the country, and the possible evolution of events:

  1. Venezuela has a Constituent Assembly. Despite the boycott declared by the right wing and the international maneuvers against it, the support of more than eight million Venezuelans at the polls endows the constitutional mechanism activated by the Bolivarian government with legitimacy. The opposition’s bid was to prevent the Constituent Assembly by all means and it failed. They now run the risk of being left out of the Assembly that will shape the future of the country, although few doubt that some kind of dialogue is essential to resume the road to peace.
  2. The elections were held amid relative calm. The number of people killed during the day varies according to the source.

Most speak of at least ten dead. However, after more than a hundred victims in the past few months, some of them burned alive by opposition extremists, the election day balance sheet was far from the “bloodbath” predicted by some international analysts.

  1. The Armed Forces are committed to constitutional order. The plan to preserve the integrity of polling stations, for which more than 230,000 troops were deployed, as well as the extraordinary measures taken by authorities, were key to ensuring Venezuelans’ democratic exercise of the right to vote. In addition, this is a further sign that, unlike in the past, the current Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela are committed to constitutional order and are the main guarantors of the country’s stability.
  2. The right has less strength than had appeared. The opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the main instigator of the violence, promised to hold the “mother of all protests” to prevent the Constituent Assembly. Its limited rallying power in the days leading up to the elections, and the impotence of its leaders faced with the popular mobilization to vote, are proof that it overestimated its forces.
  3. The mass media were left without news. Venezuela was, until the vote, one of the topics receiving most coverage in the international media. Hundreds of journalists from the most important chains are present in the South American country. However, when the reality was different from the coverage they had prepared (a pitched battle and the beginning of civil war), they offered a revealing silence. Instead, they devoted themselves to reporting minor issues and so far practically no outlet has provided coverage of the massive turnout of eight million Venezuelans, who had to cross rivers or stay up through the night, in order to exercise their right at the polls.
  4. The turnout exceeded expectations. Amid the polarization of the country and the instability provoked by the extreme right, the number of Venezuelans who went out to vote was not envisaged by the opposition or their international backers. Even the Bolivarian authorities recognized that the figure was a pleasant surprise. As a means of comparison, the more than eight million votes cast on July 30 exceeded the 7.7 million obtained by the MUD in the legislative elections that gave it control of the National Assembly in 2015.
  5. There is a concerted strategy to disregard the democratic process in Venezuela. The United States, Spain, and several Latin American nations, including Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala, and Panama, did not even wait for the results of the elections before refusing to recognize them and the new Constituent Assembly.
  6. The United States is actively working to destabilize Venezuela. Before the elections, Washington sanctioned 13 Bolivarian officials with the aim of intimidating the government in the lead-up to the Constituent Assembly vote. After learning of the results, the U.S. government announced another series of measures including sanctions against President Nicolás Maduro. Some U.S. media have speculated regarding possible sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector, which has been in the White House’s sights from the start.
  7. A significant number of citizens gave Chavismo another vote of confidence. In the midst of the economic war, the decline in international oil prices, and internal destabilization, the popular support received shows just how much the Venezuelan people appreciate the transformations initiated by Hugo Chávez. It is difficult to think of another government in Venezuelan history that would have resisted a similar onslaught.
  8. The Constituent Assembly alone can not solve underlying problems such as the economic crisis, inflation, shortages, and violence. However, the constitutional powers with which the Assembly is invested constitute a platform to call for dialogue between the different actors in the country’s political and social life, to ensure justice for the victims of the crimes committed by violent sectors, and to once again put the country on the path to progress and peace.

Iran Is Next On Trump’s Regime-Change Agenda

30th July 2017

Recent soundbites from Washington give cause for concern about the prospects for peaceful resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, says JANE GREEN

us-arabs

On May 21 Donald Trump, during his first international trip as President, delivered from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, what was billed as a “speech to the Muslim world.”

It was significant in itself that Trump had chosen the Saudi dictatorship as his first port of call overseas. It was still more significant that, in a speech that pitched the fight against terrorism as a struggle between good and evil, Trump should play to the Saudi gallery and cast Iran as the regional bad guy.

Trump started his tirade by saying: “Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them. But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three — safe harbour, financial backing and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.”

He went on to condemn Iran’s role in supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, though no mention of the illegal Nato intervention in that country was made. Nor did the Saudis’ support for Isis get a mention.

Instead Trump played the populist card, appealing to the needs of the Iranian people, saying: “The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

The sudden conversion of the US to a defender of the Iranian people will come as a surprise to solidarity organisations and human rights activists across the world.

The Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir), along with others, have been fighting a long battle to persuade Western leaders to condemn the human rights record of the Islamic Republic and to bring pressure to bear on the regime to allow free and independent trade union and political activity.

Trump is clearly shedding crocodile tears over the fate of the Iranian people. Even the 5+1 (China, France, Russia, UK, US plus Germany) nuclear deal — negotiated before Trump came to office — did not place any obligations on the Iranian government to clean up its human rights record.

The US president is on record as saying that the deal is too soft on Iran, therefore, any change he initiates is unlikely to improve the lot of the ordinary people of Iran.

Only three weeks after Trump’s Riyadh speech US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, when questioned at the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, stated: “Well our Iranian policy is under development. It’s not yet been delivered to the president, but I would tell you that we certainly recognise Iran’s continued destabilising presence in the region, their financing of foreign fighters, their export of militia forces in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, their support for Hezbollah. And we are taking action to respond to Iran’s hegemony. Additional sanctions have been put in place against individuals and others.”

More alarmingly, Tillerson went on to explicitly call for regime change in Iran, indicating that the US would directly supporting such action: “Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop, obviously, nuclear weapons and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government. Those elements are there, certainly, as we know.”

Codir has vehemently opposed the Iranian theocratic regime for over 30 years. We have consistently opposed the imprisonment, torture and execution of political activists, women and trade unionists over that period. However, at no time have we ever suggested that the fate of Iran should be in the hands of anyone other than the Iranian people themselves.

Tillerson’s utterances potentially target Iran to become another Syria, with the West justifying intervention in support “democratic forces” to destabilise the regime.

There is no doubt that the Iranian regime is deeply unpopular among its people. President Hassan Rouhani is clinging to the hope that the 5+1 deal can be salvaged and a less onerous sanctions regime would help reboot the economy.
In Rouhani’s own propaganda the deal was sold as Iran’s continued opening to the West and necessary for the crippling economic sanctions to be lifted.

While there is opposition to the regime in Iran it is doubtful that it is the kind of opposition the US is likely to support.

It is not implausible to anticipate a scenario in which some manufactured “Free Iran Army” could emerge to become the conduit for Western funding and arms and attempt to bring down the present regime. The real opposition inside Iran would then find itself having to fight on two fronts. It may sound far-fetched but the so-called Free Syrian Army provides a template.

Whatever method is finally decided upon, the main objective of US policy is to weaken Iran as a political force in the Middle East, effectively bolstering the position of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world and ensuring that the Saudis, along with Israel, remain the eyes and ears of the US in the region.

As Nato-led interventions in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria have shown, US policy has been a recipe for destabilisation, people’s misery and uncertainty in the region.

Neither the theocratic dictatorship of Iran, nor the Saudi regime, is acting in the interests of their own people or those of the wider region.

The US State Department has recently released a long-awaited “retrospective” volume of documents on the 1953 coup in Iran, which led to the overthrow of Iran’s prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq. These files confirms what Iranian democrats have known for decades — that the US and British intelligence services have form when it comes to interfering in the internal affairs of Iran. The recent statements of both the US president and the secretary of state indicate that history may be in danger of repeating itself.

Those fighting for peace, democracy and human rights inside Iran undoubtedly need our support. Through Codir and other international bodies we will continue to give that support. However, like the Iranian people, we must remain vigilant against outside interference and be prepared to support the real democratic opposition in Iran, not the opposition forces of Donald Trump’s choosing.

• Jane Green is national officer of Codir and can be contacted at codir_ info@btinternet.com. For more information visit http://www.codir.net.

Overpaid men earn more than overpaid women

23rd July 2017

BBCBBC – still work to do on pay at Broadcasting House

The BBC has been making all the headlines this week, with the news that the overpaid men who work for the corporation, have been massively more overpaid than the overpaid women the BBC employs. This is a form of inequality. That highest paid male presenter, Chris Evans, should get £2.2m per annum and highest paid female, Claudia Winkleman, a mere £450,000 is clearly an injustice.

A little more digging by the media, they are real news hounds after all, reveals that it is not only men but white men who fill the top pay bracket, with ethnic minority presenters, of either gender, barely making the BBC rich list. It will not be much longer before they discover an overabundance of Oxbridge graduates and a paucity of employees from working class backgrounds in the higher echelons of the BBC. Who would have thought it!

The demand signed by 40 of the BBC’s ‘underpaid’ female presenters, that the BBC address the gender pay gap now, not by 2020 as planned, has been gaining traction. No doubt the BBC bosses will feel under pressure to redress the imbalance and renegotiate contracts sooner rather than later.

Putting a value on ‘talent’ is always fraught with difficulty, so much is subjective, but few would consider Chris Evans to be five times better at what he does than Claudia Winkleman, or ten times more valuable to the corporation than the many who made the list but still came in at under £200,000 per annum. The real question is, why does anyone think that any of these people are worth this amount of money?

The argument tends to go that the BBC has to compete in a particular market place and to attract top talent needs to pay the going rate, or its commercial competitors will poach their stars.

Unless the rules have changed however it remains the case that the BBC is a public sector corporation and, by definition, its staff are public sector employees. Quite how the 1% public sector pay cap has affected the BBC rich list is not clear, although 1% of Chris Evans’ salary probably beats the annual pay of whoever cleans his office.

In fact it has fallen to media and entertainment union BECTU to point out that there are 400 BBC UK employees who earn under £20,000 per annum, some being on less that £16,000 according to BECTU general secretary, Gerry Morrissey, who stated,

“We are talking about people who help to make content who are in the same department that is commissioning the talent. The BBC is getting £4bn of licence fee payers’ money and it should at least commit to a liveable wage. We think £20,000 is not extortionate.”

The claim for a £20K minimum salary, first tabled in 2016, remains on the table as talks with the recognised unions – BECTU, the NUJ and Unite – continue on the pay review for 2017/18 alongside an overhaul of BBC terms and conditions.

The flagrant waste of licence payers’ money on inflated salaries is even more scandalous when set against the fact that top earners at the BBC are also drawing massive salaries from external private sector production companies. So Television, which makes the Graham Norton Show for the BBC, paid its star £2.6m last year to top up the mere £850,000 which Norton received from the BBC. Many BBC earners will also top up their salary with appearance fees throughout the year, of between £5,000 – £10,000 a time.

The BBC does not exist in the marketplace in the same way as its private sector competitors. It is the state broadcaster, its terms of operation are set by Parliament, it does not have to attract advertising revenue to survive. Some of the BBC top executives, those making decisions behind the scenes, are on salaries in excess of £300,000 per annum. They should be capable of managing the £4bn gifted to them by licence payers each year more efficiently. Managers elsewhere in the public sector have been delivering savings and efficiencies for a decade under the national austerity agenda.

If local communities are being forced to live without essential services such as libraries, swimming pools and other community facilities, if the fire and rescue service and the NHS are suffering cutbacks, then surely the BBC could cope without Chris Evans? At the very least, the BBC could bring its highest earners into line with the pay enjoyed by Claudia Winkleman. That would make a start on the gender pay gap at the top. As BECTU have insisted though, the BBC’s commitment to fixing the pay gap needs to reach beyond the top tiers to the rest of the organisation.

Beyond Brexit

16th July 2017

In the City (4)

In the City – who really benefits from EU membership?

As the Tory government lists hopelessly towards the next round of Brexit negotiations the impact of the last ten years of austerity has been highlighted in recent research by the Resolution Foundation.  According to the thinktank, those with incomes over £275,000 per annum have recovered from the impact of the banking initiated recession in 2008 more quickly than the other 99% of UK households.

Adam Corlett, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, stated,

“The incomes of the top 1% took a short, sharp hit following the financial crisis.  But they’ve recovered rapidly since the very richest households have now seen their share of the nation’s income return to very high pre-crisis levels.  In contrast, for millions of young and lower income families the current slowdown comes on top of a tough decade for living standards, providing a bleak economic backdrop to the shock election result.”

The under 35’s have been particularly hard hit, struggling with high rents, a lack of social housing and limited access to the housing market, due to low pay and inflated property prices.

The ‘shock election result’ was based very much upon the life experience of many of those in the under 35 age group and the experience of those on low wages, zero hours contracts, unemployed or struggling with job insecurity, whatever their ages and wherever they live.

The most important common factor, uniting all of those experiencing the sharp pain of austerity under the Tories, is not age or geography but social class.   As the recent disaster at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington illustrated all too dramatically, the poor can co-exist with incredible wealth in a single London Borough.  The extremes in other parts of the country may not be as sharp as in Kensington and Chelsea but the same principle holds true.

The beginnings of a solution to the issues facing those in poverty across the country were outlined in the Labour Party manifesto at the General Election, placing an emphasis upon addressing the needs of ordinary people for healthcare, housing and education.  The ‘shock election result’ was a reflection of the recognition by many that a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich was not going to deliver to meet those needs.

The Tories blunder towards Brexit in the belief that by exiting the European Union they can improve the lot of their class.  The past decade of austerity is evidence, if any were needed, of the exact opposite.  As part of the European Union the banks and corporations, which were the architects of the financial crisis, have found themselves protected, even to the extent of having their immediate future secured by the state, Lloyd’s and Royal Bank of Scotland being just two examples.

By contrast, those working in the public sector have seen jobs disappear wholesale, pay frozen or capped at a meagre 1% and investment in new technology and infrastructure at a minimum.  Youth unemployment in parts of the EU is in excess of 25% while job insecurity is rife.  As a capitalist club, which acts in the interests of capitalist banks and corporations, the Tories are going to be hard pressed to do any better than the protections offered by the EU, hence the current disarray in their ranks.

It is salutary to note that the core business the Tories are seeking to protect in Brexit negotiations is that of the City of London.  Making sure that the square mile remains the banking heart of European capitalism is far higher up the Tory agenda than any consideration of the rights of workers, or human rights in general.

For Labour the task ahead is also difficult but in different ways.  Many of those attracted to the Labour Manifesto are young people attracted to that alternative based upon their own life experience of capitalism in the UK.  Many of the same demographic have been brought up on the pseudo-internationalism of the EU, pedalled by the Remain camp, suggesting that to be anti-EU is to be anti-European .  Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has committed Labour to following through on Brexit following the outcome of last year’s referendum.  The idea that to be anti-EU is to be anti-European is an association which must be broken if class interests are to prevail over those of geography.

This will not be easy.  The pro-European sentiments of sections of the younger generation are based upon the positive social benefits which being part of the EU has brought for a number of them.  Conversely, the anti-EU sentiments of others is easily fuelled by demagogues quick to hide the failings of capitalism as a system by placing blame upon immigrants, foreign labour or simply those of a different skin colour.

As the Brexit negotiations progress the complexities of the arguments need to be brought out.  The Labour Manifesto will need to be held up as a touchstone that is merely a starting point.  Even that starting point is not one that could be delivered within the EU, with its current limitations on public investment and public ownership.

As Jonathan White, co-author of Building an Economy for the People, argued recently in the Morning Star,

“Remaining within the single market and customs union would mean remaining subject to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) free trade treaty, which allows companies to sue governments over any new law or policy that might reduce their profits in the future.”

Presumably public ownership would be such a ‘threat’?  It is becoming increasingly clear that a completely new form of organisation and new approach to the type of society we want to see is required.  It is increasingly clear that the current crisis at the heart of capitalism in the UK goes beyond Brexit.  Arguments in favour of socialism cannot be avoided.

Austerity – not one day more

2nd July 2017

Not One Day MoreProtesters demand an end to austerity – London 1st July 2017

To say that top Tories are revolting is hardly news worthy of banner headlines. To say that they are in revolt, over the lack of investment in the public sector, is altogether something else. Following the recent General Election the penny has finally dropped for many Tories that, whatever their views about austerity, it is not a vote winner. One national Sunday weekly suggests that Tories are joining a “chorus…of demands for a radical state overhaul for public services as Cabinet ministers and senior Conservative MPs backed higher pay for millions of NHS workers, more cash for schools and a “national debate” on student debt.”

The paucity of the Tory manifesto for the election was breathtaking, especially when contrasted with the bold and imaginative programme which Labour put forward, central to which was the message that austerity is not working, is not desirable and is not even necessary. The outcome for the Tories is that they are in the embarrassing position of having to steal some of Jeremy Corbyn’s clothes. They may balk at the full wardrobe but will certainly have a close look at anything they think may make them look respectable again in front of the electorate.

Since the election the Tories have stumbled from one crisis to another while the Labour campaign machine has kept rolling on. Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance at the Glastonbury festival last weekend drew stormy applause from thousands of young people when he proclaimed,

“Politics is actually about everyday life. It’s about all of us, what we dream, what we want, what we achieve and what we want for everybody else.”

Corbyn demonstrated that the Labour manifesto slogan, “For the many, not the few”, still has resonance. In London yesterday thousands took to the streets to protest against ongoing austerity. Not having to comply with its electoral ‘balance’ obligations the BBC appeared not to notice this protest. They did not report that Jeremy Corbyn described the Grenfell Tower disaster as a “towering inferno in which the poor died in the richest Borough in Britain.”

The media have been slow to expose the fact that, of the £55m collected in rents by Kensington and Chelsea Council, only £40m was re-invested back into Council housing, something the ring fenced housing revenue account is supposed to guarantee. More could be made of the fact that Kensington and Chelsea Council have £249m in reserves, more than the annual budget of many Councils in the country. Perhaps the public inquiry will reveal all. We shall see.

As ever there are still voices within the Labour Party looking to undermine the unity which the election result should have engendered. The Chuka Umunna amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which sought to rule out withdrawal from the EU without a deal and “set out proposals to remain within the customs union and single market” was an unnecessary tactical diversion at a moment when maximum opposition to the ongoing austerity crisis should have been the priority. The shallow posturing of Umunna and those around him is a measure of the extent to which there remains much personal antipathy towards Corbyn beneath the surface with many Labour MPs.

Fighting with one hand tied behind his back however is not new for Corbyn. The engagement of the wider movement and direct appeal to voters, which has carried him so far, is likely to remain central to his approach.

The Tory deal with the loyalist thugs of the DUP, and a remarkable ‘money tree’ discovery of £1 billion over two years for Northern Ireland, has gotten Theresa May through a Queen’s Speech and into a summer recess. For many Tories it is only the lack of an alternative candidate, credible or otherwise, that has got her this far.

Increasing pressure from the public against austerity could yet make it a long hot summer for the Tories. The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, organisers of yesterday’s London demonstration, are calling for mass mobilisation at the Tory party conference in Manchester on 1st October, to demand an end to austerity. It will be interesting to see how close to an election that date is and whether Theresa May will be anything more than a piece of Tory history.

http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/