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!
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:
[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.]
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.
[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.