As reported in an article in the Salford Star, an eviction partly due to the bedroom tax was given a four-week reprieve in court today, shortly before bailiffs were due to arrive to evict a Salford woman called Vicky from her home. This was the first attempted eviction that the Greater Manchester Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation was aware of within the area. Two Left Unity members, including myself, attended a 60-strong protest outside her home. I have previously posted some Non-payment advice – also about “the new poll tax”, council tax payments of up to 30%, depending on council area, demanded from people on benefits (that have had far less publicity), to help people who want to go down the road of non-payment or have no choice due to poverty. I have written a song called The New Poll Tax (which briefly mentions the bedroom tax too).
If we compare the situation of Vicky, whose rent arrears were far smaller than the £5,800 disgraced Tory minister Maria Miller was forced to pay back, to say nothing of the £45,000 that she allegedly should have repaid (but was overruled by a committee of MPs) – see the Guardian article Public disgust at MPs’ expenses is the only thing that brought down Maria Miller which counters arguments that Miller was forced to quit due to some sort of media conspiracy – or the opposite view in Paul Demarty’s Weekly Worker article Rightwing press rocks the boat for more radical analysis with a lot of details, slightly spoilt by that paper’s pessimistic (as usual) viewpoint at the end, saying that the influence of the right-wing press is “another index of how rapidly British society is moving to the right”. Anger at expenses-fiddling by mainstream parties presents great opportunities for Left Unity, and indeed the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
As reported in a news release from Left Unity, “Without getting carried away, Left Unity played its part in her downfall. Labour’s Ed Miliband, ridiculously, refused to call for Maria Miller to quit – while Left Unity called a protest at Downing Street, as covered on LBC Radio and Huffington Post. Miller resigned that morning, before the protest, but our call for her to face criminal investigation still made it into the Telegraph, Express and Herald“.
It has been a socialist tradition, to try to prevent politicians from selling out, that MPs (and MSPs, MEPs, etc.) only receive a worker’s wage (generally the average wage of a skilled worker), which was adhered to by members of the Militant Tendency who became Labour MPs and all six Scottish Socialist Party MSPs. Politicians should be allowed to claim reasonable expenses, but certainly not mortgage payments on second homes, which was used by Miller for example, and changing to rent is definitely a step forward. However, David Cameron has not kept his promise to make politicians who have been convicted of corruption subject to recall by their constituents, meaning that they would have to stand for re-election to keep their seats, and many socialists argue that even if they have not been convicted of anything, all MPs should face potential recall as well (perhaps if a petition signed by some proportion of the electorate in a constituency call for one). For example, Labour’s Hazel Blears faced a Hazel Must Go! campaign that achieved considerable support due to Blears’ expenses fiddling as reported on Wikipedia. However, when it came to the 2010 general election, and the choice was seen as being between Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat candidates, she won the newly created Salford and Eccles seat.
One of the problems of so-called “democracy” as it operates under capitalism is that waiting until politicians call a general election lets them off the hook if there is a massive mood for change in the meantime. This is not just an issue as far as individual MPs’ expenses is concerned, but bringing down massively unpopular governments – which tend to be particularly unpopular due to them breaking manifesto commitments, like “No top-down reorganisation of the NHS” (Tories) or “No increase in student tuition fees” (Lib Dems). Unpopularity often arises too from austerity measures (cuts and/or tax rises), which actually leads to people dying as my Austerity Kills song states. Although I am not in favour of a socialist society run solely in the interests of the working class, or controlled just by workers, but with a government elected by proportional representation in addition to some degree of workers’ control and direct democracy (for reasons stated in the About Steve Wallis page on this blog), I recognise the importance of workers in changing society, or in bringing a government down to force new elections which may lead to a socialist society, by withdrawing their labour – particularly in a “mass strike” from below or a “general strike” from above. I proposed an amendment to the Left Party Platform’s statement of aims at Left Unity’s founding conference, that got passed, on adding this to the party’s statement of aims (which would otherwise have been too electoral for my liking).
Unless there is a massive economic crisis before May 2015, on the scale of or worse than the 2007-8 credit crunch, we will almost certainly have to wait until then for a new general election – due to the “fixed term parliaments” law passed by the ConDems, which makes it harder, though not impossible, to bring them down before the five years are up, but that has also removed Cameron’s power to dissolve parliament at any point for party political advantage. To a large extent, the trade union leaders (except for the odd notable exception like the RMT’s late Bob Crow) have failed to launch any sort of serious challenge to the ConDems due to kowtowing to Labour (who have pledged at least a year of further austerity if they win the next election). They have failed to call a general strike or coordinate workers in different unions taking strike action despite the TUC congress passing motions in favour – unless you count the pensions strike (involving nearly all unions and even professional bodies like the British Medical Association) over pensions, then capitulating without winning concessions, with the probably deliberate aim of increasing cynicism of unions and the idea that industrial action works.
As far as a new eurozone crisis in the near future is concerned, there is a lot of spin in today’s BBC News web page Huge investor demand for Greek five year bond. A mere €3bn (£2.4bn) worth of those bonds “attracted 550 investors” and was eight times over-subscribed at a yield of around 5%. Greece’s deputy prime minister Evangelos Venizelos claimed that this “proved the country’s debt is sustainable”, but if you compare this with details later on that page “It received an international bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Union (EU) and a further bailout two years later as well as loans of €240bn.” Just those loans, never mind the bailouts from the troika (IMF, ECB and EU), come to 80 times as much as today’s bond sale!
The BBC page goes on to argue that austerity is working: “The bailouts were granted on condition Greece imposed a series of deeply resented spending cuts and tax hikes. However, the country’s interest rates have been falling recently as its public finances have improved following tough austerity measures.” The article also mentions big protests yesterday against austerity, unsurprisingly since “Greeks have lost about a third of their disposable income since the debt crisis started and unemployment has soared, leaving more than one in four without a job.” Due to such unpopular measures, a Greek party similar to Left Unity in Britain, Syriza, has been leading in some opinion polls (although not nearly enough to come to power on their own). If Syriza did came to power with radical enough policies (which I’d argue should involve swift moves towards socialism rather than trying to manage capitalism that unfortunately reports suggest that they wouldn’t), that would cause massive panicking by big business, which could indeed spread across the eurozone and the rest of Europe and the world – so maybe it is not so farfetched to think that the ConDems can be brought down without waiting until 2015! Check out my Facebook groups Bring down Cameron – millions can’t afford to wait until 2015 and Eurozone in crisis: second credit crunch inevitable – end capitalism!
Watch a YouTube video for an original composition (maybe more of a poem than a song but there is music) called “Austerity Kills”, that I produced and uploaded yesterday, on YouTube below (or listen to it on SoundCloud). [This video is better than a previous one due to an improved graphical explanation of the credit crunch, which after all is at the heart of the economic problems, rather than poor people getting benefits that are too high (arguably if they were paid more, they would spend more in the shops, so austerity could actually be exacerbating the terrible economic situation for which socialism is the only way out) or immigration. The video also includes Nick Griffin on Question Time, as part of my contribution to ousting him from the European Parliament at the upcoming Euro elections.]