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

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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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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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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Uniting atheists, agnostics and believers struggling for a better world – through music

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My band Fruity Frank and the Frisky Freaks (based on a computer game I wrote in the 1980s with my brother providing graphics like shown above!) has recorded a cover version of Bob Dylan’s song “Death Is Not The End”, also performed by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds featuring Kylie Minogue, or alternatively by other artists including the Waterboys (although our version was closer to Nick and Kylie’s).

It was dedicated to Ruth Wallis, my grandmother, who died today (about 12 noon, 3 June 2013), an atheist and committed revolutionary who did not live long enough to see a socialist revolution. Even if she is not in heaven, she leaves behind a sort of spirit in those she has affected over her lifetime. I sent her a CD including this song which she really appreciated – the inspiration she has given me, as well as good advice, over the years (mainly by telephone in more recent times), is part of her legacy which lives on now she has gone.

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International Demonstration “People United Against Austerity” on Saturday 1 June (across Europe and New York)

I have produced a music video (at http://tinyurl.com/notausterity), with a song I wrote the lyrics of and performed with my Rochdale band Fruity Frank and the Frisky Freaks, to promote a “decentralised” international demonstration (consisting of linked protests across Europe, plus an attempt to re-occupy Wall Street in New York). Details of the London demonstration are shown at the start of the video. At the moment, YouTube is showing 301+ views, probably to stop it going viral! The following is the description of the video:

On Saturday the 1st of June we come together, people in solidarity and in struggle against austerity and the troika, and demand a political and economical change for the future. People United Against The Troika! [People United Against Austerity in the UK.]

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Non-payment advice

I produced the leaflet with the text below providing advice for non-payment of both the bedroom tax and new poll tax (attacks on council tax benefit) before the initial meeting of Middleton & Rochdale Against the Bedroom Tax (for details of further meetings, lobbies and demonstrations in the Greater Manchester area, go to http://www.nobedroomtax.co.uk) and handed it out in Rochdale town centre. I first handed it out outside the job centre, and after a while a G4S security guard insisted I move from the doorway, saying it was their property. Silly me, I thought it belonged to the state (i.e. you and me)! I moved a small distance away and he hassled me again asking me to go somewhere else. I said he could call the police if he wanted to – I wasn’t scared! A nicer security guard eventually recommended me moving to the shopping area, which I thought was a good idea then since it wasn’t very busy (and most of those leaving I’d leafletted on the way in).

Anyway, I thought it worthwhile to pass on advice to other campaigners and non-payers. I’ve already posted the contents of the leaflet to various places on Facebook, but I’m posting it here for the benefit of those who read my blog – or get a leaflet containing the lyrics of my song “The New Poll Tax” (see http://soundcloud.com/fruity-frank), to which I’m putting a link to this blog entry.

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Obituary and song remembering Gayle O’Donovan of Green Left and secretary of Manchester Green Party

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My new band Fruity Frank and the Frisky Freaks has recorded a new version of my song “Donovan’s Doorway”, which I have uploaded to the SoundCloud website (click here to play/download it) in memory of the tragic death of Gayle O’Donovan.

I include below the description, which is a sort of obituary:

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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.