Archive for the ‘Gas’ Category

Book on Austerity as State Violence

December 21, 2019

The Violence of Austerity, Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds. (London: Pluto Press 2017).

Okay, I realise that this isn’t the kind of book most of us would choose to read at Christmas. We’d rather have something a bit more full of seasonal good cheer. I also realise that as it published nearly three years ago in 2017, it’s somewhat dated. But it, and books like it, are needed and still extremely topical now than 14 million people have been duped into electing Old Etonian Tory Boris Johnson.

I found the book in one of the many excellent secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I was particularly drawn to it because of its title, and the titles of the chapters it contains. It’s a collection of papers describing the Tories’ attack on the poor, the disabled, the marginalised, the unemployed, homeless and BAME communities, and particularly women of colour, as forms of violence. This isn’t mere hyperbole. The book discusses real instances of violence by the state and its officials, as well as landlords and private corporations and individuals. Mike in his articles on the Tories’ wretched benefits sanctions has argued time and again that this is a form of state violence against the disabled, and that it constitutes genocide through the sheer scale of the deaths it has caused: 130,000 at a conservative estimate. It’s therefore extremely interesting that others attacking and campaigning against austerity share the same view. The blurb for the book runs

Austerity, the government’s response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, continues to devastate contemporary Britain. Thius books brings together campaigners and writers including Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara and Rizwaan Sabir to show that austerity is a form of systematic violence.

Covering notorious cases of institutional violence, including workfare, fracking and mental health scandals, the book argues that police attacks on the homeless, violent evictions in the rented sector, community violence and cuts to the regulation of the social protection are all being driven by reductions in public sector funding. The result is a shocking exposes of the ways in which austerity policies harm people in Britain.

One of the editors, Vickie Cooper, is a lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology at the Open University, while the other, David Whyte, is professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is also the editor of How Corrupt Is Britain, another scathing look at the UK under the Tories.

The book’s introduction by the editors is on the violence of austerity. After that it is divided into four sections, each on different aspects of austerity and its maltreatment of the poor.

Part 1, ‘Deadly Welfare’, contains the following chapters

  1. Mental Health and Suicide, by Mary O’Hara
  2. Austerity and Mortality, by Danny Dorling
  3. Welfare Reforms and the Attack on Disabled People, by John Pring
  4. The Violence of Workfare by Jon Burnett and David Whyte
  5. The Multiple Forms of Violence in the Asylum System by Victoria Canning
  6. The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People, by Emma Bond and Simon Hallsworth.

Part II, ‘Poverty Amplification’, has these

7. Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality, by Joanna Mack
8. Hunger and Food Poverty, by Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton
9. The Deadly Impact of Fuel Poverty, by Ruth London
10. The Violence of the Debtfare State, by David Ellis
11. Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism, by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
12. Dismantling the Irish Peace Process, by Daniel Holder

Part III, ‘State Regulation’, includes

13. Undoing State Protection, by Steve Tombs
14. Health and Safety at the Frontline of Austerity, by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte
15. Environmental Degradation, by Charlotte Burns and Paul Tobin
16. Fracking and State Violence, by Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Joanna Gilmore
17. Domicide, Eviction and Repossession, by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper
18. Austerity’s Impact on Rough Sleeping and Violence, by Daniel McCulloch.

Part IV, ‘State Control’, has these chapters

19. Legalising the Violence of Austerity, by Robert Knox
20. The Failure to Protect Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Maureen Mansfield and Vickie Cooper
21. Austerity, Violence and Prisons, by Joe Sim
22. Evicting Manchester’s Street Homeless, by Steven Speed
23. Policing Anti-Austerity through the ‘War on Terror’ by Rizwaan Sabir
24. Austerity and the Production of Hate, by Jon Burnett.

These are all subjects that left-wing blogs like Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge have all covered and discussed. The last chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’, is on a subject that Mike’s discussed several times in Vox Political: the way the Tory press and media justifies the savage attacks on the poor and disabled through stirring up hatred against them. Mike has published several articles on the way Tory propaganda has resulted in vicious attacks on the poor, particularly the homeless.

This violence and campaign of hatred isn’t going to stop after Boris’ victory, and his appeal for healing after the election is just rhetoric. He doesn’t want healing, he wants compliance and complacency. He doesn’t deserve them, and should not be given any, because from now on he and his party will only step up the attacks.

Don’t be taken in by establishment lies. Keep working to get him out!

Meme Showing the Popularity of Labour’s Plan for Renationalisation

December 15, 2019

Another Angry Voice has published an excellent article pointing out that, contrary to what the Conservative media and the Blairites are saying, Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto promises to take back the NHS and the public utilities into public ownership are actually popular. What he believes ruined the campaign was the way the arguments for them were framed. They were too vulnerable to the Tories twisting them to put their own spin on them. For example, the Tories pushed the line that somehow Labour was going to take their children’s inheritance away from them, even though the manifesto would have removed student debt and given proper funding to schools and education. He argues that Labour needs to phrase and the arguments for their reforms better so the Tories can’t do this.

I think it’s a good point, but however Labour phrased the problem, the Tories would still twist it or simply lie, and the article does recognise that they lied during the campaign. But the graph shows very clearly just how popular these policies are.

See: https://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.com/2019/12/why-did-we-reject-evil-santas-presents.html

Classical Music Against Boris Johnson

December 12, 2019

This is another musical video attacking our murderous clown Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. I’ve put up a number of videos from JOE and Cassetteboy attacking Johnson through parodies of various pop hits. Now it’s the time for classical music to make its bow. I found this piece on Ben Comeau’s YouTube page. It’s an important work entitled ‘Boris Johnson Is a Lying Shit’. It appears to be a piece by F.M.L. Bach with this explicit lyric commenting on Johnson’s colossal mendacity fitted to it. Okay, swearing isn’t big and isn’t clever. But putting it to classical music performed properly is.

In the short description about the piece on its YouTube page, Comeau says

He’d have you believe he can be trusted with the NHS… …trusted to deliver Brexit… …trusted to safeguard a livable climate!… (remember when he conspired to get a journalist beaten up?)

This was when Boris was caught talking to fellow old Etonian Darius Guppy, who wanted to know where a particular journo lived so he could get someone to go and beat the man up.

Comeau also asks people to vote, and lists organisations which make a positive contribution to society and the planet. He writes

and you can also support UK organisations who advocate for a more humane society and habitable planet, the opposite of Johnson and his ilk, e.g.: Reclaim the Power (a direct action network fighting for social, environmental and economic justice, with particular recent focus on anti-fracking) https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/ Disabled People Against the Cuts https://dpac.uk.net/ Keep Our NHS Public https://keepournhspublic.com/

Here’s the video:

 

Labour’s Green Transport Pledge – Electric Buses

December 10, 2019

This is another story from Saturday’s I. The Labour party has also promised to introduce electric buses if they come to power. The article about this, written by Hugo Gye, ran

Labour has promised to replace every bus in England with an electric vehicle if the party wins the general election.

All of the country’s 35,000 buses would be powered by electricity rather than diesel or petrol by 2030 at a cost of £4bn, Jeremy Corbyn said. The pledge is the latest in a string of promises on public transport, partly funded by cutting the amount of money spent on road improvements.

Over the next 11 years, every bus in England that is not fully electric would be taken out of service and replaced by an electric vehicle to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the moment just 2 per cent of the country’s buses run on electricity. the switch would be paid for by a “green transformation fund”, part of Labour’s plans to ramp up infrastructure spending through borrowing.

Mr Corbyn said: “This policy will bring our bus services into the future and help revitalise our high streets and rebuild local communities.”

Conservative Transport Secretary Grant Shapps responded that Labour would pay for the plan by raiding budgets for vital road upgrades.

Labour said devolved administrations would receive money to enable them to carry out a similar policy.

The air quality in British towns is very poor. There have been a series of articles in the papers revealing that townspeople suffer poor health as a result of the air pollution around them, and some of this is obviously vehicle exhaust. Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin, wants to improve air quality by taxing the most polluting vehicles, including buses and taxis. However, so that this doesn’t affect ordinary people, he’s allowing older cars to go untaxed. This has proved highly controversial, as it means that public transport in this city will become more expensive. It seems far better to me for the government to replace existing fossil fuel buses with electric vehicles than to place extra taxes on them. Of course, this also calls into question the decision made after the War to scrap the trams across Britain, as these were also run on electricity. Continental cities didn’t, and as a result some of them – I’m thinking here of those in the Netherlands – may be greener.

But I’m convinced that this is no mere empty promise. Corbyn and his team are sincere about their policies they intend to implement. Unlike the Tories, who have consistently broken their manifesto promises and whose present promises to improve public services either have not been costed or would be inadequately funded. Which means the Tories really aren’t serious about honouring them.

And remember how David Cameron declared that his would be the greenest government ever. Which lasted right up to the moment he put his foot inside No. 10. Then all his election promises were forgotten, he took the little windmill from his house, and went ahead with allowing fracking and privatising Britain’s forests.

Unlike the Tories, Labour is serious about the environment and renewable energy. Vote for them.

Short Guardian Video of Corbyn’s Election Promises

November 22, 2019

Labour launched its manifesto yesterday, as did the Tories, and the newspapers and TV were full of it. The Guardian, however, produced this little video in which Corbyn presents the party’s manifesto promises in just a minute and a half.

The Labour leader says

‘Labour’s manifesto is a manifesto for hope. That is what this document is. We will unleash a record investment blitz. And it will rebuild our schools, our hospitals, care homes and the housing we so desperately need. Every town, every city and every region. So a Labour government will ensure that big oil and gas corporations that profit from heating up our planet will shoulder the burden and pay their fair share through a just transition tax. We’ll get Brexit sorted within six months. We will secure a sensible deal that protects manufacturing and the Good Friday Agreement. And then put it to a public vote alongside the option of remaining in the EU. And yes, be clear, we will scrap university tuition fees.’ 

At this point there is massive cheering from his audience. He goes on

‘We are going to give you the very fastest, full fiber broadband for free. That is real change. And Labour will scrap Universal Credit.’

More cheering and applause. Corbyn’s speech ends with

‘It’s time for real change. Thank you!’

The crowd rises to give him a standing ovation.

Okay, so this is a very short, very edited version of Corbyn’s speech, just giving the briefest outline of the party’s policies. But it shows that Corbyn’s policies offer real change after forty years of Thatcherism, which has decimated our schools, NHS and public services and destroyed people’s health and lives through savage welfare cuts intended to punish the poor so that the rich could profit. All of which was also carried out by the smarmy face of Blair’s New Labour, who tried presenting themselves as some kind of caring alternative to the Tories, while taking over their odious policies and actually going further.

And as Corbyn says, this is a manifesto of hope. Zelo Street has written a post comparing it with the radical changes that set up the welfare state by Clement Attlee’s 1940s Labour government and their manifesto, Let Us Face the Future. The Sage of Crewe describes how Attlee’s reforms, which set up the post-war consensus, were destroyed by Thatcher, leaving nothing but poverty and run-down, struggling public services, including the NHS, so that the rich 1% can get even richer.

But he writes

Today, Labour brought something to the General Election campaign that recalled the message of 1945, and that something was hope. Hope that students of whatever age would not be saddled with tens of thousands of Pounds of debt for years after graduating. Hope that the punitive benefit sanctions régime would no longer target the sick and disabled. Hope that a living wage really would be enough to live on.

Hope that those out-of-towners without cars would not be effectively trapped in their homes at weekends and in the evening because of public transport cuts. Hope that the NHS would be able to cope without leaving emergency admissions on trolleys in corridors. Hope that someone would, at last, take the Climate Emergency seriously. Hope that the scourge of Universal Credit would at last be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Hope that the victims of press abuse would finally see the long-overdue completion of the Leveson Inquiry, so shamelessly ducked by the Tories in exchange for favourable coverage. Hope that bad housing, and bad landlords, would finally become a thing of the past. Hope that the Police and Fire services will be able to cope, giving security and peace of mind to everyone. Hope of an end to homelessness.

Hope that education will be resourced properly, that teachers will be supported in their work, that pupils will not have to ask parents or guardians to help pay for what should be classroom essentials. Hope of real action to challenge racism in all its forms. Hope for 1950s women that pension injustice will be acknowledged – and tackled. Hope that the divisions caused by the 2016 EU referendum can finally be healed.

He goes on to predict how the people, who have profited from the poverty and misery Thatcherism, and particularly the austerity imposed by the Tories and Lib Dems over the past 9-10 years, will fight to prevent these hopes being realised. He points out that

that alone tells you whose interest is served by the decade of decay that has ravaged so many towns and cities across the country.

And concludes

‘Labour has promised us hope. Let Us Face The Future Once More.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/let-us-face-future-once-more.html

This is all precisely what we need, which is why the establishment will do everything they can to prevent ordinary people getting the government, a Labour government, that they deserve. Because, as the Galaxy’s dictator Servalan once said in the BBC SF series Blake’s 7, ‘Hope is very dangerous’.

 

 

Does Anybody Really Believe the Tories’ Fracking Halt Isn’t an Election Stunt?

November 5, 2019

I know this story is a few days old, but it bears repeating, if only only to remind everyone that Tories are flagrant liars. On Monday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the Tories’ decision to stop fracking. But only for the moment. It’s just a temporary halt, while they consider the situation. Both Andrew Adonis and Jeremy Corbyn called it out as an election stunt. Adonis said that the ban would last all the way until December 13th, the day after the election. Corbyn added that Labour really would ban fracking. And that would be the real change. He also reminded people that BoJob had called fracking ‘glorious news for humanity’ and that we couldn’t trust him. No, we can’t. And certainly not the people in the areas where they’re drilling for shale gas, who’ve suffered earth tremors and other disastrous environmental effects.

And Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey made some very acute observations on the way Andrea Leadsom had phrased the news. She described fracking as ‘a glorious opportunity’ and the decision to halt it ‘a disappointment’. Long Bailey said that usually the Tories wait until after an election before breaking their promises, but this time they’ve made a U-turn within hours of announcing it. She also concluded that this showed they had no intention of stopping fracking, and it was all an electoral stunt.

As did Mike, who wrote

So the choice is simple: A makeshift, make-believe, pretend freeze on this dangerous process under the Tories that will last until just after the general election – or a genuine ban under Labour.

Boris Johnson is a proven liar. Jeremy Corbyn is known to keep his word.

Who do you believe?

Election 2019: Tory halt on fracking condemned as a lie and a stunt

There shouldn’t be any question about it. Johnson’s a liar, and the Tories have lied again and again. Johnson said that the NHS was not on the table in his Brexit negotiations with Donald Trump. Except it was, and there were six secret meetings about it between British and American negotiators. He has said that the Tories intend to build 40 new hospitals, but they’ve only got real funding for six, and about 120 hospitals are also set to close. They’ve also claimed that they’re not privatising the NHS, but the majority of services are now contracted to private healthcare companies. Tweezer lied so much that a London Ska band released a song attacking her for her mendacity, suitably called ‘Liar, Liar’.

And remember when Dodgy Dave Cameron and Iain Duncan Cough were campaigning for the 2010 election, and were leading campaigns to save hospitals from closure? That lasted all the way until Cameron got into No. 10. As did his promise to lead the ‘greenest government ever’. The environment was going to be protected, right up to the point where he became Prime Minister.

And this is another empty promise from a government known for lying.

‘I’ Article on Leaked Report About Brexit Undermining Workers’ Rights

October 31, 2019

The I carried this article by David  Connett, ‘Brexit ‘jeopardises workers’ rights’, says leaked paper, in its edition for last Monday, 28th October 2019. The article reads

The Government has denied that it is seeking to throw out existing workers’ rights and abandon environment protection after Brexit.

Kwasi Kwarteng, a business minister, dismissed reports that employees’ rights would be slashed after Brexit as ‘way exaggerated’.

It followed a leak of documents handed to government ministers saying that Boris Johnson was willing to consider diverging from EU standards on the environment and workers’ rights despite statements he has made in Parliament to the contrary. The Prime Minister told MPs last week that the UK was committed to “the highest possible standards” on both issues – a stance which helped to secure votes from 19 Labour MPs to support his Brexit bill.

Mr Kwarteng dismissed the report, saying it was completely inaccurate. “I think this is completely mad, actually,” he told the BBC. “You’ve said how we built a coalition – 19 Labour MPs have come with us and voted for a second reading [of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill]. It wouldn’t make any sense at all to dilute workers’ rights in building that coalition to land the Bill. We have said we will be better than our word. We have said our ambition on securing workers’ rights will be stronger than the provision of the Bill.”

According to the report, the leaked document said the way the political declaration – the agreement setting out the aims of the future trade negotiations between the UK and the EU – had drafted workers’ rights and environmental protection commitments left “room for interpretation”.

It reportedly boasts “UK negotiators successfully resisted the inclusion of all UK-wide level playing field rules” in the previous deal agreed by Mrs May’s team, allowing the UK to compete against the EU by possibly watering down rights.

The document, seen by the Financial Times, will fuel Labour’s concerns that workers’ rights and environment rights would be tampered with if the Tories were in power after Brexit.

Jenny Chapman, shadow Brexit minister, said: “These documents confirm our worst fears. Boris Johnson’s Brexit is a blueprint for a deregulated economy, which will see vital rights and protections torn up.

“It is also clear Boris Johnson was misleading Parliament earlier this week. You simply can’t trust a word Boris Johnson says. The Brexit Department initially declined to comment on the leak but later said: “The UK Government has no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights or environmental protection after we leave the EU.”

I’m sure that this has already been covered by the many other excellent left-wing blogs, including Mike’s and Another Angry Voice, but this bears repeating. Of course the Tories are going to cut workers’ rights and environmental protection. Their hatred of workers’ rights is one of the fundamental reasons why the Tory right has wanted to leave the EU since the days of Thatcher. I can remember one of them appearing on Wogan back in the 1990s, who explicitly said so. He liked the single market, but hated the Social Charter. That’s the section of EU law providing for workers’ rights and other standards regarding social conditions. They also loathe the green movement with a passion. Remember how Dave Cameron boasted that his would be the Greenest government ever, and put a windmill on the roof of his house to indicate his commitment to it. And then when he won the election, he went back on his word – surprise, surprise! – supported fracking, and that windmill was off his roof. And BoJob is a worse liar than he was.

As for the 19 Labour MPs, who supported him, they were either gullible, as one blog suggested, or active collaborators. The Blairites, it should be remembered, are also fellow worshippers of the cult of Thatcher.

Kwasi Kwarteng and the rest of his revolting party cannot be trusted on this for a minute. It might be Halloween, but to them it’s always April Fools Day, and they see us as the fools. Vote for Corbyn and get them out of office.

The ‘I’ on Labour’s Manifesto Policies

October 12, 2019

Thursday’s edition of the I, for 10th October 2019, carried an article by Nigel outlining Labour’s election promises. The article ‘What will be in the Labour Party election manifesto’, stated that ‘Jeremy Corbyn aims to target areas for radical change’. These were itemised and described as follows

Brexit

The plicy issue likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. One in office, Labour would spend three months negotiating a new Brexit deal with Brussels to enable Britain to remain in customs union with the European Union and be closely aligned to the European single market.

It would then organise a referendum within six months, offering voters a choice between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU. Labour would hold a special conference to decide which side it would endorse in the referendum.

Taxes

Labour says its tax-raising plans would only affect give per cent of taxpayers. It is currently committed to increase income tax rates to 45 per cent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 per cent for salaries over £123,000.

Cuts to corporation tax would be reversed and the rate would be fixed at around 26 per cent. 

Infrastructure

Labour is pledging to spend £250bn on upgrading the UK’s transport, energy and broadband infrastructure. Another £250bn of capital would be provided for businesses and co-ops to “breathe new life into every community”.

Nationalisation

Labour would bring the railways, Royal Mail, the water companies and the National Grid into public ownership so “essential services we all rely on are run by and for the public, not for profit.”

Minimum Wage

Workers of all kinds would be legally entitled to a UK-wide minimum wage of £10 an hour. LOabour says the move will make the average 16- and 17-year-old in employment more than £2,500 a year better off.

Free Personal Care

A new National Care Service would help elderly people in England with daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing, washing and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care, and provide better training for carers. The £16bn annual cost would come out of general taxation.

Free Prescriptions

Prescription charges would be abolished in England. They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

More than 80 per cent of English prescriptions are already issued free of charge, but in other cases patients pay £9 per item.

Boost Doctor Numbers

The number of GP trainees in England would rise by 50 per cent to tackle a recruitment crisis. Labour says it would mean an extra 27 million GP appointments per year.

Scrap Tuition Fees

One of the party’s most popular policies at the last election, Labour is committed to scrapping university tuition fees in England and Wales, which currently stand at a maximum of £9,250 a year.

It would also cancel existing student debt, which the party says has reached “unsustainable” levels.

End Rough Sleeping

Labour would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.

Outlaw Fracking/ Increase Renewables

Fracking would be banned “once and for all”, with Labour putting its emphasis on developing clean and renewable energy.

The party wants 60 per cent of UK energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and would build 37 state-owned offshore windfarms. it is pledging to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a Green Industrial Revolution.

Scrap Ofsted

The schools inspectorate, which the party claims causes higher workload and stress for teachers, would be abolished and replaced with a two-stage inspection regime.

A Four-Day Working Week

Labour would cut the average working week to 32 hours within ten years, but with no loss of pay. It would end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms sidestep EU rules on limiting hours to 48 a week. Zero hours contracts would be banned.

Overturn Union Legislation

Margaret Thatcher’s union legislation would be scrapped as a priority, and moves begun towards collective bargaining in different sectors of the economy.

Reverse Legal Aid Cut

Labour would expand legal aid as a priority with help focussed on housing cases and family law.

These are all policies that this country desperately needs, and so you can expect the Tories, the Lib Dems and the lamestream media, not to mention the Thatcherite entryists in the Labour Party itself, to scream ‘extremism!’ and do everything they can to stop them.

And you can trust that the party is absolutely serious about honouring these promises. Unlike David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris Johnson, all of whose promises about restoring the health service and reversing cuts, bringing down the deficit and ending austerity, have proven and will prove to be nothing but hollow lies.

Two Books By Tony Benn

January 4, 2019

I hope everyone’s had a great Christmas and their New Year is off to a good start. May the shadow of Theresa May and her wretched Brexit be very far from you!

Yesterday I got through the post two secondhand books I’d ordered from Amazon by that redoubtable warrior for socialism and working people, Tony Benn. These were Arguments for Socialism, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979) and Fighting Back: Speaking Out For Socialism in the Eighties (London: Hutchinson 1988).

The two books differ slightly in that one is written from Benn’s perspective at the end of the ’70s, while the other was written nine years later at the end of the 1980s. In both Benn tackles the problems of the day, and lays out his radical, democratic socialist plans to revitalise the British economy and industry, strengthen and broaden democracy, and empower working people.

The blurb of Arguments for Socialism simply runs

Tony Benn, the most controversial figure in British politics, outlines a strong democratic-socialist approach to the most crucial issues in our political life over the next decade.

It has an introduction, and the following chapters, subdivided into smaller sections on particularly topics. These are

Section 1., ‘The Inheritance’, is composed of the following
The Inheritance of the Labour Movement
Christianity and Socialism
The Bridge between Christianity and Socialism
The Levellers and the English Democratic Tradition
Marxism and the Labour Party
Clause IV
The Labour Movement.

Section 2. ‘Issues of the 1970s’
Labour’s Industrial Programme
The Case for Change
Opening the Books
Planning Agreements and the NEB
Public Ownership
Industrial Democracy
The Upper Clyde Work-In
The Worker’s Co-ops
The Lessons of the Workers’ Co-ops
Democracy in the Public Sector

3. ‘Energy’
North Sea Oil
The Debate over Nuclear Energy
Windscale
The Fast Breeder
A Future for Coal
Alternative Sources of Energy
Conclusion

4 ‘The EEC’
Loss of Political Self-Determination
Loss of Control over the United Kingdom’s Industry and Trade
Unemployment and the EEC
After the Referendum

5. ‘Democracy’
Technology and Democracy
The Case for Open Government
How Secrecy Is Maintained at Present
Leaks and How They Occur
Conclusion

6. ‘Issues for the 1980s’
The Arguments
The Argument in Outline
The Present Crisis of Unemployment
Adam Smith and the Birth Capitalism
Lessons from the Pre-War Slump
Three Remedies on Offer
1. Monetarism
2. Corporatism
3. Democratic Socialism

7. ‘Jobs’
The Pension Funds
New Technology
Growth
The Trade Union Role in Planning
Workers’ Co-ops
A New Relationship between Labour and Capital

8. ‘The Common Market’
Three Criticisms of the EEC

9. Democracy
Open Government
The Unions
The Armed Forces
The Media
A New Role for Political Leaders.

Fighting Back’s blurb runs

With crisis after crisis rocking the country throughout the Eighties, the formation of new parties, divisions with in the old, mergers, reconciliations – British political life is at a watershed.

Tony Benn, in speeches on picket lines, at Conferences at home and abroad, in broadcasts, in the House of Commons, has been a consistently radical campaigning voice: for equal rights, for democracy and for peace against the increasingly brutal politics of monetarism, militarism and self-interest.

Fighting Back brings together for the first time in one volume the best of Tony Benn’s speeches from 1980 to 1988. Few poeple will have heard more than brief snippets of proceedings in the House of Commons given by television, radio and the press, so the most important debates are included here – the Falklands War, Westland helicopters, Fortress Wapping, Zircon and Spycatcher – as well as some lesser known concerns, from the ordination of women, to the politics of singer Paul Robeson.

Throughout the difficult years in Opposition, Tony Benn has played a leading role in defending and regenerating the socialist tradition. But Fighting Back is more than simply a personal testament: it is also an exciting and accessible handbook to the turbulent Eighties, whatever one’s political convictions.

After the introduction, it has the following chapters and subsections:

1. The Stalemate in British Politics
-Fifty Years of Consensus Rule
-The Party and the Government
-From Defeat to Victory
-Parliamentary Democracy and the Labour Movement

2. Prophetic Voices
-Positive Dissent
-Thomas Paine
-Karl Marx
-Paul Robeson
-R.H. Tawney
In Defence of British Dissidents

3. Fighting Back
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (May 1982)
-The Falklands War (December 1982)
-The Miners’ Strike (June 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (September 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (February 1985)
-Gay Rights
-Fortress Wapping (May 1986)
-Fortress Wapping (January 1987)
-The Irish Struggle for Freedom
-After Eniskillen
-Privatisation of Gas
-Legal Reform

4. British Foreign and Defence Policy
-The Case for Non-Alignment
-Who is Our Enemy?
-A New Agenda for the International Labour and Socialist Movements
-Some Facts about Defence
-Towards a Permanent New Forum
-Paying for Apartheid

5. Work and Health in a Green and Pleasant Land
-The Unemployment Tragedy
-Trade Unionism in the Eighties
-Full Employment: the Priority
-The Common Ownership of Land
-The Case Against Nuclear Power
-Nuclear Accidents
-The Nuclear Lobby
-Evidence Against Sizewell B

6. The Arrogance of Power
-The Case of Sir Anthony Blunt
-The Belgrano-Ponting Debate
-Westland Helicopters
-Surcharge and Disqualification of Councillors
-The Ordination of Women
-The Zircon Affair
-Spycatcher
-Protection of Official Information

7. Disestablishing the Establishment
-Power, Parliament and the People
-The Civil Service
-The Crown, the Church and Democratic Politics
-A Moral Crisis
-The Disestablishment of the Church of England
-Television in a Democracy
-Televising the House

8. Light at the End of the Tunnel
-The Radical Tradition: Past, Present and Future
-Staying True to the Workers
-Aims and Objectives of the Labour Party.

The Books and their Times

Arguments for Socialism comes from a time when this country had nationalised industries, strong trade unions and an efficient and effective planning apparatus. It was also when unemployment and discontent were rising, and the country was facing the threat of Thatcher and her monetarist agenda. The speeches and articles in Fighting Back come from when Thatcher had seized power, was busy privatising everything not nailed down, smashing the unions and trying to silence any dissent. This included attempts to prosecute civil servant Clive Ponting for leaking documents showing that the Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, was actually leaving the Falklands warzone when it was attacked and sunk. Thatcher also banned the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher over here, because of the embarrassing things it had to say about MI5. This turned into a massive farce as the book was widely published elsewhere, like New Zealand, meaning that foreign readers had a better understanding of the British secret state than we Brits did. It was such a ridiculous situation that Private Eye’s Willie Rushton sent it up in a book, Spythatcher.

Benn’s Beliefs on Socialism and Democracy

Benn was genuinely radical. He believed that British socialism was in danger not because it had been too radical, but because it had not been radical enough. He wished to extend nationalisation beyond the utilities that had been taken into public ownership by Attlee, and give working people a real voice in their management through the trade unions. He also fully supported the workers of three firms, who had taken over the running of their companies when management wanted to close them down, and run them as co-ops. On matters of the constitution, he wished to expand democracy by bringing in a Freedom of Information Act, strip the Crown of its remaining constitutional powers and have them invested in parliament instead, and disestablish the Church of England. He also wanted to strip the office of Prime Minister of its powers of patronage and give more to MPs. He was also firmly against the EEC and for CND. Socially, he was on the side of grassroots movements outside parliament, fully embraced gay rights and the ordination of women within the Anglican Church.

Not the Maniac He was Portrayed by the Press

He was and still is vilified for these radical views. The press, including Ian Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye, presented him as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, at best a mad visionary of hopelessly unrealistic ideals. At worst he was a Communist agent of Moscow ready to destroy this country’s ability to defend itself and hand it over to rule by the Soviets.

He was, it won’t surprise you to learn, anything like that.

He was very well respected by his constituents in my part of Bristol as a very good MP and brilliant orator, and was respected even by his opponents in the city. One of the leaders of Bristol’s chamber of commerce said that he was always rational and his opinions clearly thought out. I’m a monarchist and a member of the Anglican church, and so don’t share his views on the disestablishment of the Church of England. But his arguments there are interesting.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church

Recent calls for disestablishment have come from atheists and secularists, and Benn does use the secularist argument that privileged position of various Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords is unfair to those of other faiths, Roman Catholics, Protestant Nonconformists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. But this argument actually comes at the end of the main body of his pieces. His main points are that the bishops shouldn’t be there, because they’re unelected, and that parliament and the prime minister, who may not be Anglicans or even Christians, have no business appointing the denomination’s clergy or deciding doctrine. It’s an argument primarily from within the Anglican church, not from someone outside, jealous of its position.

The Prime Minister against the Church and Its Members

One example of how the Prime Minister abused their position to override or impose their views against the wishes of the Church itself was when Thatcher got stroppy with the-then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie. After the Falklands War, Runcie had preached a sermon saying that we should now meet the Argentinians in a spirit of reconciliation. This is what a Christian leader should say. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, and all that. We’ve heard it several times since by great leaders like Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But Thatcher didn’t like it because she wanted something a bit more triumphalist. This section is also interesting because it has an interesting snippet you and I south of the Border have never heard of, except if you’re a member of the Church of Scotland. That august body at its synod overwhelmingly voted in favour of nuclear disarmament. I hadn’t heard anything about that before, and I doubt many other people outside Scotland had. And it obviously wasn’t an accident. The Tory media really didn’t want anyone else in Britain to know about it, in case they thought it might be a good idea.

It wasn’t just the Church of Scotland that were against nuclear weapons. So was a leading Roman Catholic prelate, Monsigner Bruce Kent, now, I believe, no longer a member of the priesthood. One of my aunts was a very Roman Catholic lady, who was also a member of CND. She found herself on one march next to a group of Franciscan friars. So kudos and respect to all the churches for their Christian witness on this issue.

CND, the Unions and Media Bias

On the subject of CND, Benn talks about the blatant bias of the press. All kinds of people were members of the Campaign, but when it was covered on television, what you got were a few shots of clergy like Monsignor Kent, before the camera zoomed in on the banner of the Revolutionary Communist party. CND were part of Russkie commie subversion! Except as I remember, they weren’t. The Russians didn’t like them either after they criticised their maneoevres in eastern Europe.

Benn states that the media’s bias is peculiar – its somewhere to the right of the Guardian, but slightly to the left of Thatcher. This was the attitude of the establishment generally. And it was extremely biased against the trade unions. He cites the work of Glasgow Media Studies unit, who looked at the language they used to describe industrial disputes. The language used of the trade unions always presented them as the aggressor. They ‘demanded’ and ‘threatened’, while management ‘offered’ and ‘pleaded’. He then asked hsi readers to turn the rhetoric around, so that a union asking for a pay rise of 8 per cent when inflation in 10 per cent is ‘pleading’.

The Ordination of Women

His stance on the ordination of women is equally interesting. He was obviously for it, but his arguments as you might expect were very well informed. He pointed out that women had been campaigning to be ordained in the Church since the 1920s, and that other Christian denominations, like the Congregationalists, already had women ministers. As did other Anglican churches abroad, like the Episcopalians in America. It was blocked here by the Anglo-Catholics, who fear it would stop re-union with Rome. But even here, he noted, this may not be an obstacle, citing movements for the ordination of women within Catholicism. Again, it’s an argument from within the Church, or from someone genuinely sympathetic to it, than from an outsider frustrated with the Church’s stubborn refusal to abide by secular social values, although that is also in there.

Government Secrecy

And back on the subject of government secrecy, the Zircon Affair was when Thatcher banned the transmission of an edition of the documentary programme, Secret State. I’ve put up that documentary series a few years ago on this blog, because it showed the extent to which Thatcher and others had been using the Official Secrets Act to suppress information that was embarrassing or uncomfortable. Like the fact that in a nuclear war, this country would suffer massive casualties and the obliteration of its major population centres.

The book actually contains any number of interesting snippets that definitely weren’t reported, or else were only given very tiny coverage, in the mainstream press. Like details of various incidents at nuclear plants that could have led to serious accidents. He also talks about the ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme. In this international project, we sent our nuclear material over to America, where, we were told, it would be used for peaceful purposes generating power in American reactors. Well, it was used in American reactors. They refined it into the plutonium, that was then put in American nuclear warheads and sent back over here to the US nuclear bases on British soil. He also pointed out that the agreements covering the use of Britain as a base by US forces in the event of a nuclear war also contravened our sovereignty.

Ted Heath and the EU

Loss of sovereignty was also a major part of his opposition to the EU. But he also makes the point that our entry into the Common Market was also undemocratic. Ted Heath simply decided the country was going in. Parliament was not consulted and did not vote on the issue. I do remember that there was a referendum afterwards, however.

Intelligence Agencies Smearing Labour MPs

The intelligence agencies are another threat to British democracy. He cites Peter Wright’s Spycatcher memoir on how MI5 was spreading rumours smearing the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as a KGB spy. This, like much of the rest of the material in the books, has not dated. The problem of the security services smearing left-wing politicians is still very much with us, as we’ve seen from the Integrity Initiative. They’ve smeared Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian spy.

Books Still Relevant in 21st Century

I’ve only really skimmed the books so far, just reading the odd chapter, but so much of it is directly relevant now. I think if he were alive today, Benn probably would have voted ‘Leave’, but his arrangements for leaving the EU would have been far more sensible and beneficial to this country’s ordinary folk than that of Tweezer and her band of profiteers. And he is absolutely right when he writes about expanding democracy in industry. He states that the workers’ co-ops on the Clydeside and elsewhere were attacked in the press, because suddenly the British capitalist establishment were terrified because it showed that there was a genuine alternative to capitalism, and that workers could run companies.

The individual sections in these books chapters are short, and the arguments clear. He also gives point by point party programmes on particular issues, such as making this country more democratic.

Benn Democrat, Not Authoritarian Communist

And it’s this concern for democracy that most definitely marks Benn out as being a democratic socialist, not a Trotskyite or Communist. Those parties and their various sects were run according to Lenin’s principle of ‘democratic centralism’. Put simply, this meant that the party would hold some kind of open debate on issues until a decision was made. After that, the issue was closed. Anybody still holding or promoting their own opinions faced official censure or expulsion. And the Communist parties of eastern Europe would have been as frightened of Benn’s championing of democracy as the British establishment.

Conclusion

As I said, I take issue with Benn on certain issues. But his reasoning is always clear and rational, his points well argued and based in fact. Furthermore, he is impressed with the British radical tradition and how much British socialism is squarely based within it. We lost one of our greatest parliamentarians with his death.

His ideas, however, are still very relevant, and have been vindicated with time. He was right about monetarism and corporatism, about unemployment, about the need for unions, about media bias. His support of women priests and gay rights were ahead of their time, and have now become almost a commonplace, accepted by all except a few die-hard reactionaries. And he’s right about nationalisation and worker empowerment.

These are books I intend to use for my blog and its attack on Tweezer and the Tories. And I won’t be short of useful material.

Short Film on the Police Targeting Anti-Fracking Protesters, Particularly the Disabled

December 26, 2018

Yesterday, Christmas Day 2018, Mike also put up a piece and a short film, about ten minutes long, Targeting Protesters, produced by Gathering Place. The film-makers have been working on a long form documentary about fracking in the UK, during which time they have observed some features of this issue they found ‘surprising’.

They contacted Mike after he put up a piece last week about how the rozzers were reporting disabled people at anti-fracking protests in Lancashire to the DWP. The assumption seems to be that any disabled person out on protest is committing benefit fraud, as if their condition was genuine, they would be in no condition to attend. The DWP’s response to any allegation of fraud is to suspend benefits during the investigation, so that disabled people are automatically denied the money they need to live on before the Department has made a decision on whether or not they are guilty. Opponents of the police’s actions have called it ‘ableist’, and stated that it’s based on a very simplistic view of disability. Not all conditions, that mean someone is unable to work, are obvious, and the severity of many of them can vary from day to day. They have also argued very persuasively that the police seem to be doing this to intimidate disabled people as a deliberate strategy to prevent them going on these demonstrations.

Mike quotes the film’s publicity, which states

“The police have identified and targeted prominent anti-fracking campaigners, key protest organisers and invariably protesters with disabilities – in order to undermine or neutralise their effectiveness in challenging the interests of the shale oil and gas industry.”

The film has been posted on social media by Netpol, the Network for Police Monitoring, and features their coordinator, Kevin Blowe. Blowe explains that the police have a deliberate strategy of targeting particular individuals for arrest. These are people, who are respected by the other protesters. They are either in a position of leadership, or can make critical decisions and actions when the moment comes. They also stop people travelling to the protests. The film shows an example of this, in which a carload of people are stopped by the cops at the side of the road. A woman, one of the crew, asks why they have done this. The policeman states that they are stopping them because they have information that their car contains a tripod. It’s a trumped up charge, and the woman asks them if they really think a tripod can fit in her car. The cop doesn’t respond and simply walks away. Later in the video Raj Chada, a member of a firm of solicitors, states that the cops’ charge that a woman was using a car illegally was complete ridiculous. The police haven’t charged her, or applied to the courts about it. Their arrest is simply a way of stopping free speech, which is unacceptable. It’s against the culture the police should have, which should be about facilitating those, who want to protest. The video also shows Labour’s John McDonnell talking to a group of protesters about the way they’ve been harassed. The film shows another woman, who has been grabbed by the rozzers, just as they release her. She says that it’s the second time that day the police have grabbed her.

Blowe states that the police target particularly influential people. This may sometimes involve arresting them, and pushing that arrest right up to taking them to court, even though the accused person would normally get off in other circumstances. If the targeted individual is local, the cops may continually go round to their homes or disrupt their business, deliberately making it very clear to them that they are under scrutiny.

While many fracking protesters are local, some do come from outside the area. They are also deliberately targeted by the police, who will visit their camps and make it clear that they are being targeted for arrest. They will also claim that any public order offences are due to people from outside the area. One protester from elsewhere in the country states that not only do the police target them, they also target anyone who associates with them, and that they can’t go anywhere without having a police escort. McDonnell also states that he’s concerned about the level of physical force used by the police, and particularly the incident where the police tip a disabled man out of his wheelchair. The film shows this happening, and the man says that it has happened to him three times already. McDonnell explains that the people on these protests are locals concerned about fracking in their area, and that most of them have had no interaction with the police before. The cops’ actions have shocked them, just as they’ve shocked him. The video shows another disabled man, in an orange T-shirt, being seized by the police, who then appear to strap him down physically into his chair. Blowe explains that the police will target someone, who appears vulnerable, in order to show that they will do absolutely anything possible to stop this person being as effective as they could be. Another disabled man tells the camera how the police told him that they had informed Motability that he was using his car for illegal purposes. The same man appears a few minutes later telling John McDonnell that the police have tried to stop his benefits, and passed on to the DWP a years worth of footage of him and other protesters. McDonnel states that this is unacceptable, and that this person should take it up with their MP, so that it can be discussed in the House of Commons. It appears to be done to prevent disabled people protesting, when they should have the same rights and ability in society to protest as everyone else.

Blowe also explains how the police will try to create ‘a situation’ where they can start arresting people by picking on someone vulnerable, like someone in a wheelchair or an older person, so that the other protesters will react. This is done so that the fracking lorries can get through. Sometimes the police is reactive, such as when the police on the day arrest particularly influential people. But they will also target otherwise unlikely targets, like women. They also target the young in order to give them the message that they are vulnerable, and the police consider them to be at risk of getting sucked into extremism. But it’s also a way of letting that person know they’re on the cops’ radar, and they have identified them for harassment. Blowe’s comments are accompanied by footage of a tall, long-haired young man being seized by the police, and forced onto the ground with his head all but in the gutter, before being dragged off. The man then briefly explains in a piece clearly filmed later that he was frightened after this happened to him in the short term, but in the long term absolutely not. Blowe then continues, explaining that this is all about identifying the key people to disrupt and end the protests.

Keith Taylor, an MEP from the Green Party, appears, and makes the point that many people still remember Orgreave from the miner’s strike, and that when the police follow orders, heads get broken. This is not the future that either he nor the community groups want to see.

John McDonnell then appears in turn to say that some form of inquiry into the conduct of the police is needed, and the evidence he’s seen is deeply worrying, and he believes other people seeing it will feel the same. There’s a level of physical force that’s unacceptable, and that therefore needs to be addressed.

Blowe explains that it’s all done to reduce the level of protest in an area, to cut down their duration time of months or weeks, to cut the numbers of people on these protests down to numbers they can manage, and to stop the mass opposition to fracking.

The film ends with the young chap, who was arrested, stating that he knows it’s all done to put people off, and that knowledge itself completely overrides any fear they would try to put upon him or others.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/25/watch-this-short-film-about-the-way-the-police-target-disabled-people-at-protests/

Taylor’s right when he says that it will remind many people of the miner’s strike. It seems very similar to the way Thatcher used the police in the 1980s to break the miner’s union. This was very much a political strategy on the part of the Tories. They remembered and resented the way the miners had defeated Ted Heath’s government in the 1980s, and were determined not to let this happen again. I can remember going to a meeting of the Fabian Society in Bristol, where one of the speakers explained how the efforts of the police, the Tory government, and Tory local authorities were very carefully coordinated and planned, with the same Tory politicians and activists appearing again and again around the country to try to break the strikers and the picket lines.

As for targeting women, they tried doing it to one of the members of my family. One of my female relatives was amongst the people protesting against the poll tax in London, and the police tried to grab her and pull her away, but her friends managed to hold on to her and pull her back. And I can very well believe that this is done deliberately to provoke the crowd to violence, so that the police will have an excuse to crack heads and arrest people.

The police did very well under Margaret Thatcher. They were well paid and given a range of benefits, like cheap or subsidized housing. Since then many very senior police officers have made it plain that they regret how they were used, stating that they were used by Thatcher as her private army. Recently the police have been decimated under Cameron and May through cuts in funding, which have led to a drastic fall in the numbers of police officers. Because the Tories clearly don’t think ordinary people and their homes and property are worth protecting as much as the rich. And they still probably believe that twaddle about neighbourhoods funding their own policing through hiring private security guards.

It is clear, however, that the link between the Tory party, the police and private industry still remains strong, at least as regards the fracking industry. Such politicised policing is a threat to the environment and democracy. McDonnell is right. We need an inquiry. Now.