Will socialist revolution start in one country then spread, or start simultaneously (e.g. a #MayDay or credit crunch)

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Different revolutionary socialist organisations have two distinct theories about how to achieve socialism, which is reflected by their differing strategies on all sorts of issues including defeating austerity (cuts, the public sector pay cap and other attacks on the living standards of the masses):

  • Revolution happens (or starts) in one country first, which inspires the masses in other countries to rise up and overthrow their ruling classes too. This was the model pursued in Russia flowing from the October 1917 revolution, but a combination of factors meant it didn’t work – Russia being a semi-feudal country at the time, about 20 foreign armies invading to try to restore capitalism, naivety of the German Communist Party combined with the assassinations of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht preventing the revolution spreading, and the disastrous decision to abolish the Constituent Assembly (after campaigning for it when the capitalist Provisional Government that came to power in February 1917 refused to call any sort of elections). Some argue that it is necessary to wait until election time before changing governments, but many countries (including the USA and UK) have very undemocratic electoral systems (I advocate proportional representation under capitalism or in a future socialist society as explained in my About Steve Wallis page) and the mood of the masses may dissipate if forced to wait for months or years (with many suffering and even dying in the meantime).
  • Revolutionary movements happen more or less simultaneously, either due to a concerted mass movement initiated by the masses across the world (at a time of our choosing, such as International Workers’ Day aka May Day (1 May) or a summit of world leaders) – with the ability of workers to withdraw their labour, via general strikes or particularly mass strikes from below as advocated by Rosa Luxemburg, key (notwithstanding the power and courage of activists occupying public spaces, demonstrations and direct action) – or due to another massive global financial crisis (such as in the eurozone or a repeat of the 2007-8 credit crunch which led to many banks across the world being bailed out by capitalist governments). Nowadays, the high level of globalisation with interconnected multinationals cause economic crises to quickly spread, and activists using social media are able to cut across big business propaganda to quite a large extent (in countries where there is a reasonably low level of censorship at least).

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Strike/demonstrate on May Day/International Workers’ Day (1 May): Videos and marches in London and Greater Manchester

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[EDIT 18/4/14: I have modified the first paragraph to mention a new video, adapted from last year, in HD and non-HD versions, that specifically advertises the May Day demonstration in London.]

I produced a music video last year, based on the song “The Stars Look Down” from Billy Elliot the Musical, set during the miners’ strike, with changed lyrics calling for strikes and demonstrations on the 1st of May to oppose austerity, inflicted by capitalist politicians urged on by bankers and big business. I have added details of a London demonstration on that day, with links to a Facebook event for the London demo and to this blog entry at the end, but I used tinyurl.com which may be censoring those links… I have also considerably improved the description of the video (including warning about tinyurl), and produced high definition (HD) and non-HD versions (it seems that HD versions don’t play on smart TVs, or some of them anyway). Click here to watch the HD version on YouTube or here to watch the non-HD version on YouTube.

I have also produced a video this year for an original song/poem by my band called “Austerity Kills” – opposing the scapegoating of benefit “scroungers” by the Tories and immigrants by the British National Party (BNP) and United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) – and pointing out that rich bankers are mainly to blame in engineering the 2007-8 credit crunch which led to a global recession. Click here to watch it on YouTube.

In most countries of Europe, the 1st of May (International Workers’ Day) is a public holiday, but the official “May Day” holiday takes place on the first Monday in May in the UK. The London May Day Organising Committee (LMDOC) organises a march on the 1st of May anyway, and campaigns for that day to be a public holiday. It would be an ideal day for a general strike, but if only the odd union strikes on that day in the UK, that would significantly help in the struggle for an effective fightback against austerity.

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Bedroom tax eviction reprieve, comparison with millionaire Tory Maria Miller, and opposing austerity/cuts that kill

 

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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 TelegraphExpress 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). Continue reading

People’s Assembly and #LeftUnity conferences: debating the economy and European Union – be radical but strategic

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This blog entry (that I am also submitting as a letter to the Weekly Worker, which as usual will undoubtedly cut it significantly but without distorting my points) is about uniting much of the left in the new broad socialist party Left Unity – with the People’s Assembly Against Austerity which also held a conference recently going some way to uniting the left in a single anti-cuts organisation. I argue that we should not just put forward radical (and sometimes revolutionary) demands but consider the implications rather than dogmatically taking up positions which make a socialist revolution less likely.

In (“‘Moderate’ party takes shape”, 3 April), Peter Manson writes about the policy-making conference of Left Unity in Manchester on 29 March: “the obsession with political ‘broadness’, with anti-democratic constitutionalism, risks disabling the project from the start.” As CPGB members in the Weekly Worker have made clear many times, they are in favour of a solely Marxist party (which they sometimes call a “Communist Party”). Apart from the word “Communist” putting people horrified by the crimes of Stalinism (with “Marxist” having similar connotations to many), such a party could never gain mass support. When they actually put that theory into practice, uniting with the Democratic Socialist Alliance and the Critique journal, in setting up the Campaign for a Marxist Party, that campaign completely failed to take off.

I have argued for “a revolutionary platform” within Left Unity, and supported the Socialist Platform, but to make LU more revolutionary and unite together revolutionary socialists in preparation for a potential huge economic crisis (that could even be more severe than the 2007-8 credit crunch) rather than to totally take over LU, which is not practical anyway even if we tried to. I want a “broad socialist party” involving reformists as well as revolutionaries, with at least some members openly mentioning their revolutionary views. Apart from other significant political differences, including the emphasis on “the working class” suggesting that middle class people like Russell Brand (who incidentally plugged Left Unity via Twitter a Guardian article by Ken Loach on the eve of the Manchester conference contributing to the quick recruitment of 200 new members) should be disenfranchised, I wouldn’t be keen on joining the Communist Platform due to its name. Continue reading

My statement as a candidate for the National Council of #LeftUnity

[EDIT 23/4/14: Left Unity’s internal elections are now underway. They will close at midnight on Tuesday 6 May 2014. The statement below, that also appears on the North West elections page on the LU website, is very slightly modified from the one previously on this blog (to increase the number of issues I’m campaigning on).]

The following text is my statement as a candidate for one of the four vacant seats (at least two of which have to be female due to the women’s quota rule) from the North West region of Left Unity on the National Council. I was nominated by Alison Treacher (Stockport LU) and Tom Armstrong (Manchester LU). Left Unity members can vote via the Internal Elections page (but you will only be able to vote for me if you live in the North West of England). Continue reading

29 March #LeftUnity conference: The ongoing struggle between revolutionaries and reformists

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Me at founding conference in November

As some of you will know, I was unable to attend the Left Unity (LU) policy-making conference in Manchester on 29 March. I did attend and speak at the founding conference in London on 30 November 2013, getting one of my amendments passed making LU much more revolutionary on trade unions, as described in my blog entry Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP. However, after the Manchester conference, it is even more clear that there is an ongoing struggle between those who advocate a more revolutionary approach and those who want LU to limit itself to reformist demands (even though some of the latter are actually revolutionaries or are in organisations that claim to be).

There is a concerted effort by many within LU (as well as those outside like the SWP) to portray the party as “reformist” or “left reformist”. Indeed, in opening the discussion on the economics commission document, Pete Green said that the programme in the document is reformist. This is despite the fact that when I went to the meeting to discuss the document in London, it was described as “a transitional programme” (I can’t remember whether Pete himself used that term but he certainly didn’t object).

There is a big difference between putting forward a set of demands, many of which cannot be implemented under capitalism, that is the transitional approach of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant, that I was in from 1990-98), and simply presenting a set of moderate reforms (the approach of other “left unity” approaches including the Socialist Alliance, before its abolition largely by the SWP in favour of Respect, and Respect itself as an even more moderate party that generally avoids even mentioning socialism at all). In truth, the demands on tax in the document are indeed left reformist but some demands in other sections can more accurately be described as transitional and amendments passed at the conference make LU’s economic policy even more so.

To be charitable towards Pete, part of the point of “transitional demands” is to appear reformist even if you aren’t! If you actually argue publicly (in front of those in the room and on the live stream if it was working at the time, but wasn’t, and later appearing on YouTube) that the point of those demands is to bring capitalism down, then that undermines the point of being “transitional”! Arguably a reason why LU has got much more publicity in the mainstream media than the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is that we come across as more moderate.

As far as I’m concerned, we are a broad socialist party rather than a reformist party, which is very important because gradual reforms cannot bring capitalism down, and ending capitalism (which was explicitly added to the Left Party Platform statement of aims by a Camden amendment, and accepted by the founding conference) is vital since reforms in the interest of the masses that can be afforded during booms cannot when there is a recession or slump.

It is good that both amendments I put forward (via Manchester) to make our policy on the economy more radical were accepted. Continue reading

#Budget2014 What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament: critique of new MoneyWeek End of Britain argument – need revolution!

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MoneyWeek, which claims to be “the UK’s best-selling financial magazine” has been predicting “The End of Britain” in a slick and heavily funded advertising campaign, with the main objective of getting new readers and encouraging them to put some of their money in overseas “bolt-holes” (arguably to encourage tax avoidance as well as to guard against loss of investors’ money due to the “inevitable economic and social chaos” they predict in the UK). I wrote a critique of that video/letter on this blog in October 2013 at Is MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” just fearmongering? What about US debt default? Is socialist revolution on the cards? Their main argument is that government debt is increasing rapidly, despite the “austerity” agenda, even when the interest rates they pay for government bonds (gilts) are around 2%, and that Britain would be “broke” and unable to pay them back if they reached a more normal level of about 5%.

[Incidentally, although “End of Britain” does not refer to the potential break-up of the country if the Scottish people vote “Yes” in the referendum later this year, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond has recently remade an argument he put in May 2013 that if an independent Scotland was not allowed to share the pound that it would not pay a share of the national debt. This situation itself could exacerbate the crisis of capitalism and is in my view a major reason why virtually the entire political establishment (apart from the SNP of course) is opposed to Scottish independence. Apart from lack of control over interest rates etc., with Scotland not being truly independent if the Bank of England has power over the currency, this is another reason for the Radical Independence Campaign (which is arguing for a “Yes” vote on a much more left-wing basis to strongly argue for an independent currency.]

This blog entry is about a new web page (letter) by MoneyWeek called What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament (its web address looks temporary so do a web search for those words if that link doesn’t work). “The End of Britain” has been widely criticised because it was produced by MoneyWeek’s advertising department, and has biased graphs not adjusted for inflation or GDP, but this new letter is professional, written by financial experts and designed for serious investors. Its points are less controversial and difficult to argue against (with the propaganda against the welfare state omitted for example) although for those who believe in gradual reforms to capitalism to end up with some sort of “socialist” society, with such people often arguing that we are “the seventh richest country in the world” and that austerity is unnecessary, it is a massive wake-up call!

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Austerity Kills – my song and video about how the cuts agenda of the ConDem government costs lives

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I wrote the following lyrics to an original Fruity Frank and the Frisky Freaks song called “Austerity Kills” in December 2013:

We need unity
Not austerity
No ifs, no buts
Stop all the cuts
Except Trident of course
And perhaps the armed forces

We can choose eating
Or we can choose heating
With high energy bills
Austerity kills

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Radioactive wastewater, radium 90 times background levels, without treatment facilities, puts fracking future at risk

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A diagram of how fracking works

In the BBC1 TV programme on Monday (27 January), “Inside Out North West” (which those of you in the UK, and those abroad who pay a license fee, can watch or download on BBC iPlayer for a limited time period – or view on YouTube if it hasn’t been deleted due to copyright), there were some dramatic revelations that could put an end to fracking in Britain. You may prefer to read my transcription of the entire contents, if you don’t have wi-fi, to avoid missing important details, or to read a few comments of my own (which I have placed without indentation):

Dianne Oxberry, Presenter, Inside Out North West: “Tonight, Paul Rose investigates how the fracking industry plans to dispose of radiation in its wastewater.” The implications of that radioactivity are so severe according to some experts that it could put the whole of the industry in this country in a state of limbo!

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Let Her Be (Frack Free) – my variant on a classic song

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[EDIT: 1/2/2014: Modified to include embedded YouTube video, and other text changed after the lyrics. The lyrics have also been changed in minor ways, to reflect the recording on 30 January – but only by removing the odd “ah” and “yeah” which were clearly ad libbing in the original Beatles track!]

When the earth finds herself in times of trouble
She doesn’t say to me
Speaking words of madness, frack me
And in this time of struggle
She is lying right under me
We speak words of wisdom, let her be
Let her be, let her be
Let her be, frack free
Whisper words of wisdom, let her be

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The Big Questions: Is war ever just? Stop glorification of First World War by Michael Gove: Keep showing Blackadder Goes Forth in schools! #bbctbq

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I was in the audience for the BBC TV programme The Big Questions (produced by the private company Mentorn Scotland), that has debates from a moral/religious viewpoint, often but not always on political issues, last Sunday in Salford for a pre-recorded special on the subject of “Is war ever just?”

It will be shown tomorrow (Sunday 26 January at 10am) – probably on BBC1 (possibly switched to BBC2). Nicky Campbell didn’t select me from the audience to make a point (or ask a question to the panel on the front row who dominated the show) but I’m writing this blog post to make some points I could have raised (and I will tweet links to this blog entry when the programme is aired).

My newly founded party, Left Unity (which I admitted to being a member of when asked by a woman who rang me before inviting me onto the show, perhaps influencing me not being picked to speak), has a position of opposition to glorification of war (throughout 2014 which is the 100th anniversary, i.e. centenary, of the start of what was then called “The Great War” and “The war to end all wars”, and is now known as “The First World War” or “World War I”).

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Doesn’t Gove look a nasty piece of work?

The extremely annoying and incompetent Tory toff and ConDem Education Secretary Michael Gove has argued against teachers in school showing “Oh! What a Lovely War”, “The Monocled Mutineer” and “Blackadder Goes Forth” because they put across left-wing viewpoints, in an article in the Daily Mail. That “newspaper” (very right-wing rag) incidentally supported the fascist Blackshirts in Britain and the Nazis in Germany before the World War II – see my blog post Ed & Ralph Miliband v Daily Mail (who said “Hurrah for Blackshirts”) – David Cameron’s father Ian was a tax dodger!

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#bartonmoss Anti-Fracking camp forced Cameron’s council bribe, peanuts for residents, is tidal power a better way?

ImageI went on a march on Sunday (along with around 1,000 others at the very least – the BBC apparently had the cheek to say 100-200 then, but said “hundreds” yesterday) to the anti-fracking camp at Barton Moss (in Irlam, Salford, Greater Manchester) where drilling for shale gas (known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking” for short) is taking place by the company iGas.

Fracking was top of the news agenda yesterday on most if not all TV news programmes in the UK – and was also featured heavily on RT (Russia Today, Freeview 85). This was partly due to direct action by protesters that day (including getting on top of a tanker and holding up traffic) and the high policing costs that could make it uneconomic, and partly due to UK prime minister David Cameron doubling the bribe to councils from 50% of the business rates to 100% (giving back with one hand a bit of what he has taken with the other as part of the austerity agenda), clearly scared about the unpopularity of fracking, which should be massive in urban areas as long as campaigners put across effective arguments. The benefits to residents however are tiny – £100,000 may be a lot per person if there are just a few farmers nearby, but it is ridiculous to expect city-dwellers to accept a minuscule share of that money, plus the 1% of revenues if shale gas is found (compared with 10% in some countries overseas), even if there is just a small chance their tapwater will be undrinkable like in Dimock in the USA as covered up until revealed in a Huffington Post article, or even get skin lesions from showering in water contaminated by fracking: “The first person in Dimock to discover that there were problems with the water was Norma Fiorentino, whose water well exploded. And it took a little while and, for a certain period of time, some of the residents were still showering in the water and drinking the water and were experiencing a lot of the health impacts and dizziness and skin lesions. And, of course, the long-term effects aren’t known. But, over time, they started to realize that the water is not safe to use.” Some other problems are listed in an article I co-wrote for an issue of Revolutionary Platform News: Number 6: “mini-earthquakes, subsidence and noise for those who live nearby (hence reduced house prices), heavy use of water, radioactive contamination, carcinogenic chemicals”. If councils accept the bribe, expect a lot of the councillors to lose their seats in the local elections in May!

It is the point mentioned above about putting across effective arguments that I am particularly concerned about – arguing for tidal power (sometimes called “tidal energy”) and putting serious amounts of research and development (R&D) into that technology (at last taking place from 2012 in Scotland but with an investment of a mere £30 million according to this article, the same amount as the French company Total is investing into just one Lincolnshire drilling project according to the Independent due to fracking being banned in France and the lucrative profits – part of the solution to solving environmental problems is revolutionary change involving overthrowing the leaders of such companies without compensating rich shareholders and running them democratically by ordinary people). I fully agree with arguments about moving away from fossil fuels (including shale gas obtained from fracking) and opposing nuclear fission, and instead investing in renewable forms of energy. Unfortunately, however, the renewables suggested by speakers at the protest on Sunday limited suggestions to using wind turbines (which don’t work when there’s no wind or even too much wind and they produce little power compared with their cost) and solar panels (which aren’t particularly efficient either in the UK).

Furthermore, there is a shortage of rare earth metals used for both technologies (wind turbines and solar panels) as revealed in a November 2013 Yale University report  by Nicola James entitled A Scarcity of Rare Metals Is Hindering Green Technologies:

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Police execution of Mark Duggan (2 minor convictions) “lawful” says jury & other police injustices #NoJusticeNoPeace

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The extrajudicial killing by a police officer of yet another black man Mark Duggan has caused massive outrage in Tottenham (London) where the shooting took place and across the UK. The jury came to the conclusion that Duggan had a gun (hidden in a sock without fingerprints or DNA evidence and with two witnesses testifying that it was planted by police) but threw it an unfeasibly long distance away before being shot by a police officer – even if true, that officer would have noticed he was unarmed at that point! Yet somehow the jury came to the conclusion that the killing was “lawful”.

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2014: Economic & social chaos? A general strike in Britain at last? Prospects for Left Unity

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2013 was quite a good year for the left, particularly in Britain. I will summarise by listing items from my blog about some of the things that happened last year:

  • Margaret Thatcher died – giving me inspiration for this blog! I just happened to have written a song for my band Fruity Frank & the Frisky Freaks called The New Poll Tax (based on the mass campaign of non-payment that defeated the poll tax and played a large part in removing her from power), which we recorded two versions of a few days before Thatcher died, and my first post on the blog was The demise of Maggie Thatcher and my song: The New Poll Tax. The “new poll tax” refers to council tax payments by those on benefits, which can be up to 30% of the full value (and are set at 25% in Rochdale where I lived at the time).
  • There was some progress towards a general strike, against austerity (cuts) and perhaps to bring the ConDem (Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition) government down. I took part in (and spoke at) a meeting in Liverpool organised by Merseyside TUC (Trades Union Council) which unanimously decided to put forward a motion at the North West (of England) TUC Annual General Meeting (AGM) calling on the national TUC to call a general strike, preferably on International Workers’ Day (1 May, popularly called May Day although the “May Day” public holiday is always on a Monday in the UK). The motion also called for international coordination (i.e. strikes elsewhere in the world) on the same day. I created a Facebook page: Launch an international general strike on 1 May against the 1% and also modified the lyrics of a song called “The Stars Look Down” from Billy Elliot (the musical) about the miners’ strike, to refer to present day and call for a general strike and demonstrations on 1 May. I sang it with a very good female singer (a singing teacher) and put it on the internet with a video including clips of protests and strikes (etc.) on YouTube (which includes a call from Anonymous for similar action on the same day) – see The Stars Look Down – join the 1 May global MayDay general strike! As it happened, at the NW TUC AGM, a deal was struck whereby an amendment to massively water down the motion, removing any calls on the national TUC and suggestions for a particular date on bureaucratic grounds. Nevertheless, the North West became the first region of the UK in which the TUC officially had a position of support for a general strike. I handed out a newsletter before and at the (national) TUC conference (Trades Union Congress) in Bournemouth: Lobby TUC for serious coordinated strike action, fracking, Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity, Tory conference demo – a motion on it was passed unanimously but, predictably I suppose, bureaucrats in the various unions affected by attacks by the ConDems have totally failed (so far) to coordinate action. [I would like to think that my activities influenced the general strike in Greece (but there had been many before) and demonstrations by workers in Iran (but there is little internet access there) on 1 May…]
  • The campaign against perhaps the ConDems’ most vicious measure – the bedroom tax – has been strong in 2013. I helped by providing some Non-payment advice (on leaflets and my blog – with a record 560 views of a blog post on a single day). My other achievement (not to ignore the parts played by many thousands of other protesters across the country on the issue) was to appear on the BBC TV programme Question Time – playing a part in Labour leader Ed Miliband saying Labour will abolish the bedroom tax the day after I question his deputy Harriet Harman on it (if they come to power at the next election). It had been forecast, including in the Sunday People, that Miliband would make that announcement, but perhaps I brought it forward a few days from the party conference.
  • Revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden (particularly in the Guardian and New York Times) about spying by the US National Security Agency with its PRISM software (and similar activities by GCHQ in Britain) and a huge database containing information about virtually everyone in the world who has been on-line (including contents of emails, Facebook interactions and Google searches) plus details of phone calls, which ultimately provides the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms processing this data without need for human intervention and eliminating the possibility of further potential whistleblowers. I know that this is possible based on my expert knowledge of AI (I was the main designer and sole developer of an AI/simulation language called SDML) but such world fascism (as John Pilger has also called it) has hopefully now been averted by the Snowden revelations and the response to them. My posts The purpose of PRISM – stopping worldwide socialist revolution forever with Orwellian 1984-style society and #copsoffcampus demos against police clampdown on student protests – infiltration, PRISM & possible UK police state provide my analysis.
  • My role (perhaps) in alleged rapist Martin Smith’s resignation from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Some will see the self-destruction of what has been (and just about still is) the largest party to the left of Labour, excluding the Greens, largely stemming from the rape allegations against their former national secretary Martin Smith (aka Comrade Delta) as positive, others negative. Make your own mind up (free will is the best antidote to such “Leninist” organisations’ propaganda and something that Marxist philosophy doesn’t seem compatible with). The fact that there is another organisation that is far better (Left Unity) and already involves some who split from the SWP in March (the International Socialist Movement) is a good sign.
  • The debate between Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman, with Brand arguing for revolution and there being no point in voting when there’s no real choice, on Newsnight went viral on YouTube (with over 9.5 million views), and there were a large number of Facebook shares (102,000) of his New Statesman article too for the edition he was guest editor of. I wrote a blog entry Russell Brand v Jeremy Paxman on “revolution” plus bureaucratic centralism of the SWP (but not the Socialist Party) which went off at a tangent explaining why the latter has a more healthy internal regime than the SWP based on my eight-and-a-half years in it (including when it was called the Militant Tendency and Militant Labour). I didn’t argue that “democratic centralism”, as practiced by the Socialist Party/Militant was ideal though, and I am pleased to say it has not been adopted as a way of operating by Left Unity.
  • Left Unity started with a call for a new party to the left of Labour by socialist film director Ken Loach in March, although I didn’t get involved initially (I waited until I saw a meeting in Manchester advertised although there was a big one I missed). My position has been consistent, in wanting a broad socialist party but with a revolutionary “platform” bringing together people who want a “sudden thorough” change of society, as I put it, rather than gradual reforms (which wouldn’t actually lead to socialism anyway). I therefore issued a Call for a Revolutionary Platform of Left Unity. I didn’t get sufficient support for an official platform (of 10 members), perhaps due to sabotage by my email providers, and found that the Socialist Platform was basically revolutionary anyway, so dropped my own platform in favour of it. Under pressure from the Socialist Platform (which in the meantime had virtually self-destructed due to ultra-left amendments from the tiny CPGB), the strongest platform called the Left Party Platform (LPP) put forward a much improved statement of aims compared with its initial wishy-washy statement. I therefore proposed amendments to the improved statement, one of which (on improving the paragraph on trade unions to mention strike action, including mass/general strikes) as a means to winning individual disputes and changing society (with improvements suggested by other Manchester Left Unity members in also mentioning occupations and solidarity) was submitted, and (despite only having 2 minutes to speak on it and another amendment) I got it passed at Left Unity’s founding conference on 30 November. See Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP. Another branch (Camden, which actually is Ken Loach’s branch, potentially undermining claims that he is steering the party in a reformist direction) getting another amendment to the LPP passed committing the party to ending capitalism – Socialist Platform main instigator Nick Wrack’s main objection to the LPP’s revised statement of aims and something I asked others to take up after failing to persuade Manchester members. Consequently, Left Unity is truly broad and reflects both revolutionary and reformist views and members will hopefully continue to put both kinds of views forward, on the website and forum (and in a publication once we decide to produce one). I also put forward a motion to keep Left Unity as the name of the party, suggesting much more than the main rival Left Party that there is an aim to unite the far left and bring many of the “57 varieties” (which should actually be 150 according to Facing Reality but is based on an old advert for Heinz soups) together rather than be just another socialist party/organisation. Another Manchester member, Ali Treacher, spoke on that motion and it won by 98 votes after transfers.

By far my most popular blog entry towards the end of 2013 was Is MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” just fearmongering? What about US debt default? Is socialist revolution on the cards? with “End of Britain” being heavily advertised by the (allegedly) most popular stock market investors’ magazine MoneyWeek and my blog entry being in the top 10 of Google searches for it. MoneyWeek predicted inevitable economic and social chaos in Britain, and the UK going “bankrupt” if inflation reached about 5%. The issue of whether British capitalism is very healthy (as reformists who claim Britain is “the seventh richest country in the world” argue) or in dire straits (as Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert argue in The Keiser Report, on RT and YouTube, hence them shifting their TV programme from the USA to London) is probably the most important debate socialists can have to determine strategy. The former banker Frances Coppola, who “debunked” the MoneyWeek video/letter has started debating with me on the above-mentioned entry on my blog, after I demolished the arguments of Martin Odoni, a follower of the US “unorthodox post-Keynesian economist” Warren Mosler, so I am directing those particularly interested in that debate there (especially if you wish to comment on my views on the subject). But let me just leave you now with the following thoughts:

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Compromise between the Left Party Platform and Socialist Platform: Justification for my amendments to LPP

[EDIT 1/12/13: The founding conference of Left Unity, on 30 November 2013, has just taken place. I will shortly write a report of it on this blog, including mentioning that one of the two amendments proposed by me (and included below) on considerably strengthening the paragraph on trade unions, by mentioning striking (including mass/general strikes), occupations and solidarity, was passed. My proposal on keeping Left Unity as the party name (proposed by another member of my branch) was also passed, which could prove important in encouraging people of autonomous/anarchist views (preferably non-violent as most of them are) due to such people disliking the word “party”. Most of the comments below the article were from a debate I had with Felicity Dowling of the Left Party Platform (and a former member of the Liverpool 47 surcharged councillors and one of the Militant Tendency “entrists” within Labour before Militant’s “open turns” in Scotland and then England and Wales). There is also a reply to my article by John Penney, to which I have posted a reply having just seen it after the conference. The conference is over but debates go on…]

[EDIT 8/12/13: I have now added a comment below containing details of a report by Pete McLaren from Rugby (of the Independent Socialist Network and Socialist Platform) plus two responses from me – being more upbeat about the fact that the conference decided to adopt a combination of revolutionary and reformist politics, which was basically my aim with the amendments below (one of which was passed), and that forthcoming economic crises will provide great opportunities for revolution.]

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Steve Wallis of Manchester Central Left Unity proposed changes to the Left Party Platform submission for the aims section at the founding conference, which, after discussion, were submitted as two separate amendments to those aims for debate at the conference. The justification for those amendments above the amendments are Steve’s personal views.

One of the problems of the debate between platforms is that it has, at times, become polarised between those who favour an electoral road to achieving socialism (with some such people accused, rightly or wrongly, of being content with positive reforms to capitalism) and those who favour a socialist revolution. The Left Party Platform (LPP) is in favour of a broad socialist party encompassing both (but some members particularly favour elections and others hide some of their politics to accommodate them), whereas the Socialist Platform (SP) is much more openly revolutionary.

Most revolutionary socialists, including myself, also agree with standing in elections, but think it impossible or highly unlikely for socialism to be achieved solely by electoral means. We should also welcome participation from those with autonomous/anarchist views, such as many in the AntiCapitalist Initiative, although I have used the phrase “(preferably peaceful) socialist revolution” in the second amendment below. We should not encourage the participation of people who encourage violence for the sake of it, as counterposed to defending themselves if attacked by the forces of the state – which the LPP’s Kate Hudson (general secretary of CND) informed us at the foreign affairs commission at the policy conference in Manchester is consistent with CND’s position on violence.

Discussions around the formation of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (New Anti-capitalist Party) in France included people of an autonomous/anarchist persuasion, and although they didn’t participate eventually, we should welcome members of the AntiCapitalist Initiative into LU (especially because they are involved in merger talks with two organisations that are more keen – the International Socialist Network and Socialist Resistance). I have therefore included a paragraph in the second amendment below saying that those just interested in extra-parliamentary activity rather than helping with election campaigns (or vice versa) would be welcome.

The extremely undemocratic (misnamed) first-past-the-post electoral system, which would have only been slightly improved if the Alternative Vote proposal (that only the Liberal Democrats campaigned for and which was an awful compromise from the much more proportional single transferable vote system that they advocate) had been passed, makes it extremely unlikely that socialists can make as much headway as socialist parties/coalitions on the continent, particularly Syriza in Greece. The ConDems have also passed legislation for fixed term parliaments of five years – without LU playing a key role in massive extra-parliamentary action forcing a capitalist government to resign, or otherwise forcing them from office by a general strike leading to “dual power”, we would be betraying the masses who look to us to provide a lead.

If there is suddenly another massive economic crisis, on the scale of the 2007-8 credit crunch or worse, which some financial experts predict, such as Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert in The Keiser Report, viewable on RT (Russia Today) or YouTube, or the MoneyWeek magazine’s video/letter entitled “The End of Britain” (nothing to do with Scottish independence!), it would be vital for socialists to respond by leading a revolutionary movement – if not, the far right will have a field day. Waiting for another general election is not an option!

It should also be emphasised that the massive gains in support Syriza achieved, which led to it almost becoming the largest party in the Greek parliament in 2012, could not have been achieved without the mass movements of ordinary working and lower middle class people, including strike waves, demonstrations and particularly general strikes – in which members of Syriza played important roles.

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Age discrimination in UK mortgage market due to prospect of rising inflation and housing bubble bursting

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[EDIT 11/11/13: As pointed out on the Money Saving Expert forum which I provided a link to at the end of this post, I got it wrong about interest rates offered by banks/building societies being based on inflation – there are a number of factors including the base rate set by the Bank of England (although this is partly based on government targets on inflation). The title wasn’t particularly good either in talking about “age discrimination” because it is only rational for lenders to discriminate against older people on the basis that they may die before they have repaid their mortgages. However, Watchdog reported that maximum age limits for mortgages to be repaid had been reduced by 10 years by many lenders after the credit crunch, irrespective of ability to pay back, but failed to explain why (which is what I gave an explanation of in this post). I have had very few views of this post in five days according to the blog statistics facility, despite it being the top item on the blog, possibly due to the bad headline. Laura Kuenssberg on ITV News at lunchtime today reported that 2,384 mortgages have been applied for using Help to Buy (there is a separate one for new build properties – search online if you want details) out of 60,000 in total – a drop in the ocean and certainly not worth risking the housing bubble which there is already evidence of.]

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Review of Warren Mosler’s “The 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy” and prospects for socialist revolution

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My last two blog items (on MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” video/letter, discussing a US debt default and consequences for socialist revolution in Britain and it never being necessary to reduce the level of the national debt covered some arguments I’ve been having with a blogger called Martin Odoni (hstorm), who agrees with the analysis of Warren Mosler in his book “The 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy“. The following is a short review, drawing on some of my economic knowledge as an ex-Marxist, posing some important questions for British economic perspectives and consequences for socialist revolution.

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It will never be necessary to reduce the level of the national debt!

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The above graph shows the UK national debt is now much lower than it has been in the 1940s relative to GDP, but the analysis of an “unorthodox post-Keynesian” economist, Warren Mosler in his book “Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy”, who once stood to be US President shows that a central bank (such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve) doesn’t need to pay back the national debt to anybody who has lent money to it even when gilts/bonds mature, because the money remains at the bank in a different account!

I first publish an article by Martin Odoni (hstorm) that I largely agreed with, after having big disagreements in comments of my post on MoneyWeek’s “The End of Britain” video/letter, and then added my own analysis, correcting the odd mistake…

UPDATE (31/10/13): This article is misleading, mainly because Warren Mosler’s analysis does not take inflation seriously (see these 1-star reviews at Amazon). I have now written a review of that book and published it on this blog at https://thatcheroftheleft.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/review-of-warren-moslers-the-7-deadly-innocent-frauds-of-economic-policy-and-prospects-for-socialist-revolution/.

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Is MoneyWeek’s “End of Britain” just fearmongering? What about US debt default? Is socialist revolution on the cards?

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[EDIT 24/3/14: This blog entry’s comments now include a short debate with financial expert and ex-banker Frances Coppola and myself, and information about a new blog entry of mine containing my critique of a new, much more serious, argument by MoneyWeek entitled “What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament“, which was actually written by financial experts and aimed at serious investors. In contrast, “The End of Britain” was  written by MoneyWeek’s advertising department, leading to it being widely criticised by economists and others who have not been fooled by biased graphs and a huge dose of propaganda. I strongly recommend reading #Budget2014 What Osborne didn’t tell Parliament: critique of new MoneyWeek End of Britain argument – need revolution! which is currently being censored by Google due to the importance of the arguments.]

The financial magazine MoneyWeek is continuing its slick advertising campaign, with its prediction of “The End Of Britain” (inevitable social and economic chaos in the UK), with a video (viewed preferably on YouTube since the video on their website doesn’t allow rewinding or fast-forwarding, a sign of untrustworthiness) or in text form (with graphs) as a “letter” at http://moneyweek.com/endofbritain/. I argue below that, while some of their arguments are false or biased, socialists should recognise the validity of some of their other arguments and be prepared for the opportunities that will open up.

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As you probably haven’t heard, @Ed_Miliband pledged 1 million green jobs at @LabourParty conference – quietly dropped

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At this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton, its leader Ed Miliband veered markedly to the left, ending the policy of “triangulation” which had led to the policies of Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats being almost identical.

For example, Labour-supporting Owen Jones’ instant reactions were:

If there’s one notion that is dead, deceased, defunct after this speech, it’s that “Labour has no policies”. A million green jobs; a freeze in energy prices; a house building programme and a “use it to lose it” policy for property developers; the end of the hated bedroom tax. Labour activists who have too often been lost for words on the bedroom tax now have something to say. Miliband took on the policies of divide and rule, the merciless redirecting of people’s anger at their falling living standards at the unemployed, private sector, immigrants – anyone but those at the top. But there is still so far to go. What does strengthening the minimum wage mean? Labour needs to commit to a living wage to stop the taxpayer subsidising of poverty pay. Where is the commitment to letting councils build housing? How is he going to create a million green jobs? A coherent alternative to austerity during the longest fall in living standards since the Victorian era is still to emerge. But this was a step in the right direction, will help win public support, and undoubtedly will boost the morale of an all too often deflated activist base.

[It has to be said that the way Miliband and the rest of Labour’s leaders come up with policies, which seem to be based partly on internal policy forums (such as the green jobs pledge, close but not identical to the demand for “1 million climate jobs” put forward by some campaigners and trade unionists) and also on focus groups (Labour’s new raft of policies are actually popular!)]

But what happened to the pledge of “1 million green jobs”? It was hardly reported in the news coverage of the speech (and completely omitted in the half-hour long BBC2 highlights programme “Today at Conference” in the evening).

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