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

#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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Public inquiry to investigate undercover policing (in left-wing groups & to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family/friends)

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[EXCUSE THE BAD FORMATTING: THIS BLOG POSTING IS SO IMPORTANT THAT WordPress IS BEHAVING STRANGELY!]

I include below the contents of hopefully an article (but maybe just a letter) that I have submitted to the Weekly Worker newspaper:

Mark Fischer, at the end of his article (‘Review: How to guard against state agents‘, January 16), of “Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police“, by Guardian journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis (based on an investigation they conducted alongside Channel 4 Dispatches) says: 

After all, if groups as essentially harmless as the likes of London Greenpeace, the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army or Earth First can wobble the world view of some undercover coppers, think of the damage that Marxism’s inspiring vision of the future can do – when we Marxists clean up our act.

I beg to differ in Mark calling these organisations “essentially harmless”.
London Greenpeace produced a leaflet against McDonald’s who sued two of their members (Helen Steel and Dave Morris, who volunteered due to them having virtually no assets) for libel, launching the infamous (from that massively unethical corporation’s point of view) “McLibel” trial, which (largely due to use of the internet by the defendants) was a massive own goal in terms of their reputation by McDonald’s. If you do a web search for McLibel, you even find a film (directed by Franny Armstrong and Ken Loach) of the trial.

The original case lasted ten years, making it the longest-running case in English history. McDonald’s announced that it did not plan to collect the £40,000 that it was awarded by the courts. Following the decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in Steel & Morris v United Kingdom that the pair had been denied a fair trial, in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a fair trial) and that their conduct should have been protected by Article 10 of the Convention (right to freedom of expression). The court awarded a judgment of £57,000 against the UK government.

What is important about that case, from an infiltration point of view, is (as revealed in “Undercover”) the fact that a Special Demonstration Squad infiltrator helped write the leaflet!

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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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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My obituary of Nelson Mandela (edited), still big wealth gap, ANC ordered Marikana massacre, new party (WASP)

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I posted an item on this blog entitled Nelson Mandela obituary, state of ANC today (supporting Marikana massacre) and new Workers and Socialist Party on Monday, but subsequently improved it quite considerably before submitting it to the Weekly Worker newspaper, on which it appeared today entitled “Wealth gap” on the letters page. I include below my obituary as edited firstly by me and secondly by editors of that newspaper.

[I will post the entire letter that I submitted to that paper as a comment, since the Communist Party of Great Britain (PCC) that produces the Weekly Worker does edit my letters (usually quite considerably), not just due to reasons of space but due to their particular political agenda – most noticeably in opposing proportional representation under socialism (although I have won them round to supporting PR under capitalism with several letters over the years on that subject). It is an aside that I included at the end of the letter, but an important aside if a mass revolutionary movement in South Africa is not going to repeat the dreadful mistake of the Bolsheviks in Russia of implementing “the dictatorship of the proletariat” (power only in the hands of the working class). If majority support cannot be achieved for a socialist society then the revolution would not last anyway and it is much better to run society in the interests of “the 99%” rather than disenfranchising the middle class. Amandla!]

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Nelson Mandela was a very inspirational and courageous figure. He suffered so much in jail on Robben Island, enduring decades of hard labour, but refused to be broken by the evil apartheid regime. He did so much to force the regime to introduce democracy in South Africa.

The regime didn’t concede defeat out of the goodness of their hearts – it cannot be denied (whatever the mainstream media will say) that it was due to the actions of ordinary (mainly working class) people in South Africa and their allies around the world.

Obvious factors were the extremely courageous actions of black youths in Sharpeville and Soweto, brutally massacred by the regime, and the effect those massacres had on mobilising international opinion into boycotting South African goods and companies like Barclays Bank, which were propping up apartheid.

Less obvious, except perhaps to people in South Africa itself, was black, white and ‘coloured’ workers uniting in trade unions, with perhaps the possibility of general strikes (via ‘dual power’) leading to socialist revolution, forcing the regime to release Mandela and end apartheid. Their prime motive was to preserve capitalism and their own wealth, and so far that has been successful.

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Nelson Mandela obituary, state of ANC today (ordering Marikana massacre) and new Workers and Socialist Party

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Nelson Mandela was a very inspirational and courageous figure. He suffered so much in jail on Robben Island, enduring decades of hard labour, but refused to be broken by the evil apartheid regime. He did so much to force the regime to introduce democracy in South Africa. The regime didn’t concede defeat out of their goodness of their hearts – it was largely due to black, white and “coloured” workers uniting in trade unions (with the possibility of general strikes leading to socialist revolution) and of course international sanctions that played big roles. Their prime motive was to preserve capitalism and their own wealth, and so far that has been successful.

It should not be forgotten that Margaret Thatcher called Nelson Mandela, when he was languishing in jail, a “terrorist”. One report on British TV said that in an opinion poll within South Africa, 9 out of 10 white people said the same thing about him. The racist mainstream media in that country didn’t want to acknowledge that he was actually a lawyer (perhaps they didn’t want the idea that black people could be intelligent enough to qualify in that field!)

Unfortunately, for many of the poor masses in South Africa, little has changed since apartheid (there are still shanty towns) and disillusionment in the African National Congress (ANC) is rampant – particularly after their support for the massacre of 44 striking Marikana miners last year. The ANC is mired in corruption and big business still runs the country, albeit with some black bosses rather than them all being white as in the apartheid era.

We had a minute’s silence for Nelson Mandela and for others fighting (or had fought) injustice around the world at an anti-fracking protest (in Barton Moss, Irlam, Salford, Greater Manchester) yesterday. Whereas some of our political views may differ, we quite often (at least) recognise when someone with quite different views is an ally in our fight against mutual enemies.

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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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Ed & Ralph Miliband v Daily Mail (who said “Hurrah for Blackshirts”) – David Cameron’s father Ian was a tax dodger!

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I’ve contributed to the debate on the row between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail, over the Mail’s vicious attacks on “Red Ed” and his late Marxist father Ralph Miliband, claiming Ralph hated this country although he fled to Britain to escape the Nazis – who, ironically, the Daily Mail supported!

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Facebook page to get “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” to number 1

Already at number 1 in the itunes chart and number 10 in the national midweek chart according to the BBC, this is our chance to show the country what we think of Thatcher and her legacy. Download the song from “The Wizard of Oz” by Judy Garland (et al) before Sunday, for it to make number 1 in the official Top 40 as broadcast on Radio 1 on Sunday (click on above link for Facebook page).

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Guardian poll on Thatcher’s flagship policies – particularly interesting points about the poll tax

The above link to a Guardian article contains the following at the bottom. The reference to the problems councils had collecting small amounts (although with over 18 million people who hadn’t paid a penny or were in arrears at the height of the anti-poll tax campaign in the summer of 1990 meant it wasn’t just unemployed people and students, who only had to pay 20%, who were participating, and the campaign’s slogan “Pay NO Poll Tax” urged people to withhold the whole amount) and the potential with the new poll tax (where the poorest will be expected to pay up to the 30%) for building mass non-payment again is telling.

 

The poll tax, or community charge

THATCHER_POLL_POLLTAXGraphic: Guardian

Thatcher loathed Labour town halls, which she felt set big budgets because their poor voters would not pay. Rate capping was the early response, but in time she resolved to replace the whole old system of rates on house values with a flat tax on every citizen. Big families got clobbered, while old ladies living alone in big houses cleaned up. At a time when Britain was becoming mindful of the wealth gap that the Thatcher era was producing, the policy ran up against the argument that it was wrong for a duke and a dustman to pay the same. North of the border, the Tories never recovered from trialling the policy on the Scots. Riots followed when it was rolled out in the south. A personal pet project, the tax played a crucial part in Thatcher’s downfall. Coalition ministers would do well to be warned that one crucial shortcoming was an inadequate system of rebates that resulted in town halls having to chase poor families for small sums. With effect from this month, their council tax reform will have the same result.

The British Government: No public money should be spent on the funeral of Margaret Thatcher

Sign this petition. The millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money planned to be spent on somebody who was so divisive and hated so widely is an affront in these times of austerity. The Daily Mirror is stridently against this waste of public money and this petition is already going viral with nearly 7,000 signed. Click here.

The demise of Maggie Thatcher and my song: The New Poll Tax

A lot of rubbish has been said about Margaret Thatcher, such that her downfall was due to Europe or that the poll tax riot was responsible. John Major, who followed her into Downing Street, admitted that the poll tax had to be abolished because it was “uncollectable”. Thatcher wasn’t pushed until the autumn after the difficult summer when the Anti-Poll Tax Unions had to defend people who weren’t paying (from the courts, bailiffs and ultimately jail – but they couldn’t jail us all as my song says). Part of that struggle was the People’s March Against the Poll Tax, which I went on – from Liverpool to London (with other legs going from Glasgow and South Wales) – with many meetings, demonstrations and social events on the way to build support for non-payment. And non-payment actually increased during that period, from the initial figures of 14 million (following the 1 million in Scotland where the poll tax was implemented a year earlier) to over 18 million, who hadn’t paid a penny or were in arrears.

My band Fruity Frank and the Frisky Freaks recorded two versions of my new song “The New Poll Tax” on Thursday of last week. I uploaded it on Saturday and posted it to various places on Facebook on Monday suggesting people listen to it to celebrate Thatcher’s death. There is a Bollywood version and an alternative Lenny Kravitz-style version.

This song brings things up-to-date with attacks on council tax benefits (as well as the bedroom tax). As the description of the song says: ‘The ConDem (Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition) government introduced a “new poll tax” on 1 April 2013 – attacks on council tax benefits which will lead to councils making the poorest pay up to 30%, unless we refuse to pay! This song is intended to mobilise opposition to this and the hated bedroom tax, which millions literally will be unable to pay (especially combined). You don’t need to let the bailiffs in, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau: http://bit.ly/ZFgNVf‘.

There is a Facebook group to discuss opposition to the new poll tax.