Archive for the ‘Gas’ Category

Yay! Online Rally from the Labour Left Demanding Public Ownership

June 24, 2022

Gawd bless those evil Corbynite commies and trotskyites! I got this email yesterday from the organisers of the Arise Festival of left-wing ideas telling me and the world that they’re organising an online rally demanding public ownership, along with general details of the Arise Festival this year. Here’s the bit about the nationalisation event.

Public Ownership Now!

Online. Wednesday July 6, 19.00. Register here // Retweet here // Get ticket for the whole festival here.

With: Ian Lavery MP // Kevin Courtney, NEU General Secretary // Nadia Jama, Labour NEC // We Own It Speaker // Fraser McGuire, candidate on Socialist Future slate in Young Labour // Dr. Sonia Adesara, Keep Our NHS Public & more tbc.

Join the discussion on how public ownership, stopping the privatisation scandal & public control are essential to tackling the crises facing Britain. From addressing the cost-of-living crisis, to the climate emergency, to the urgent need for more resources for public services, extending public ownership across the economy is key.

An online event as part of Arise 2022 – A Festival of Left Ideas.


Privatisation hasn’t worked. It hasn’t made anything more efficient, or provided value for money, or any of the other supposed benefits Thatcher was raving about in her 13 years in power. It’s just been destructive, giving us poorer services in return for higher prices on everything – gas, electricity, the railways, water, you name it. And it is absolutely destructive in the NHS where the piecemeal privatisation will eventually lead to a fully private healthcare system, funded by private health insurance, like the American system. The Guardian today has put up an article stating that the Tory experiment has failed. In fact it failed a long, long time ago, and it’s long past time that the Tories’ free market bilge was consigned to the dustbin along von Hayek, von Mises, Milton Friedman and the rest who promoted it.

Capitalism and Property Rights in the West and Islam

March 25, 2022

Private property is very much at the heart of modern Conservatism. Conservative intellectuals, politicians and activists maintain that private industry is more efficient and effective, and has raised more people out of poverty than alternative economic systems. It’s also a fundamental right, a mainstay of western democracy that has prevented Europeans and Americans from tyrannical government, whether absolute monarchies or soviet-style communist dictatorships. It’s also supposedly the reason why Britain and the West currently dominate the rest of the world. The Times journo Niall Ferguson wrote a book about this a few years ago, which accompanied a TV series. In his analysis, Britain was able to out-compete Spain as a colonial power because British democracy gave people a stake in their society, while the only stakeholder in Spain was the king.

This can be challenged from a number of directions. Firstly, early modern Britain wasn’t democratic. The vote was restricted to a small class of gentlemen, meaning people who were lower than the aristocracy, but nevertheless were still able and expected to live off their rents. At the same time, although the power of the monarchy was restricted by the constitution and parliament, it still possessed vast power. Kings could go for years without calling one. As for Drake and the Armada, we were also saved by the weather. There was a ‘Protestant wind’ which blew apart and disrupted the Spanish fleet. As for capitalism, more recent books like The Renaissance Bazaar have shown that the new capitalist institutions that were introduced in Italy and thence to the rest of Europe during the renaissance were based on those further east in the Islamic world. And far from western global domination being inevitable, in the 15th century Christian Europeans feared that they would be conquered by Islam. The Turks had blazed through the Balkans and took 2/3 of Hungary. One fifteenth century German soldier and writer, de Busbecq, feared that the Ottomans would conquer Christendom because of the meritocracy and professionalism of their armies. The Ottomans, along with other Muslim states, recruited their armies through enslavement. It’s the origin of the Mamlukes in Egypt and the slave dynasties in Delhi. But these slaves were given an intensive military training, as well as education in Islam and the Turkish language, and promoted on their merits. Jonathan A.C. Brown in his book, slavery & Islam, how further back in Islamic history Black African slaves had been appointed the governors of parts of Iraq. The result was that while the European armies were feudal, led by aristocrats who had been born to their position and held it despite their ability or lack thereof, the Ottoman’s were manned and led by well-trained soldiers who held their commands by merit. We had better armour than the Ottomans, but they were able to defeat us because they were simply better soldiers.

Property rights have been a fundamental part of western political theory for a very long time. The social contract theory of government held that the primordial human community had elected kings to protect their lives and property. But Islam also maintained that property was a fundamental human right. According to Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Islam & Slavery, from the 700s AD Muslim jurists discussed the issue of human rights – huquq al-‘Ibad, or the rights of (God’s) slaves, i.e. humans, or huquq al-Adamiyya, or Adamic rights, or human rights. These were held to be the rights possessed by all humans, whether Muslim or not. Under the great Islamic theologian al-Ghazzali, these were expanded into five universals: protection for the integrity of life, reason, religion, lineage and paternity and property. He concludes that ‘The Islamic rights of physical inviolability and property can be seen as counterparts or perhaps forerunners of these aims.’ (pp. 299-300). I’ll admit this came as something of a surprise to me, because unless you study Islam at a higher level, you don’t hear about it. And you definitely don’t hear about it from the conservative right, who seem to believe that property rights and virtuous capitalism are something that only the Anglo-Saxon peoples invented. Remember George W. Bush’s famous, ludicrous sneer at the French that they had ‘no word for entrepreneurship’. Well,, they have, as attested by the word ‘entrepreneur’.

And property rights are not automatically intrinsic to modern concepts of freedom and democracy. They arose long before the expansion of the franchi8se in the 19th century and the emergence of universal adult suffrage in the early 20th century. Over much of western history, property rights meant the rights of the property owning upper classes against the working masses. And slaves could not own property, as legally, following the precedent of Roman law, they were property. Anything they had automatically belonged to their masters. Property rights were also regularly invoked to defend slavery. That’s very apparent when you read the protests against the British government’s attempts to regulate and then finally abolish slavery in the 19th century. The slaveowners were incensed by what they viewed as a tyrannical governmental interference in their property rights.

Now I agree people do have a right to private property, though private enterprise in many spheres is certainly not adequate to provide decent services. These are the utilities, education and healthcare. I also believe that, following Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the west was able to gain ascendancy through technological and scientific advances, particularly military. I think the development of western capitalism also played a part in creating a mass, industrial society that was more efficient and advanced than the craft economies of the Islamic world. But this does not mean capitalism, or at least its antecedents, were absent from Islam or that Islam had no conception of property rights.

Perhaps, before we go to war with these countries to liberate them for multinational corporations, we should stop listening to Conservatives and listen more to those academics and experts, who actually know something about Islam.

Richard Burgon’s Petition for a Wealth Tax Not National Insurance Increase

March 16, 2022

I’ve just had this email from left-wing Labour MP Richard Burgon for a tax on the superrich one per cent to be imposed instead of the Tories’ increase on National Insurance, which will affect the working class.

‘People are being hit by a cost-of-living emergency from soaring energy bills, high inflation, falling real-term wages and cuts to Universal Credit.

Yet next month the Tories are going to make this even worse by hiking National Insurance on ordinary working people.

I’ve launched a campaign to scrap this tax rise on working people and to replace it with a Wealth Tax on the richest 1%.

I’ve put down a parliamentary motion calling for this – already backed by over 60 MPs from 8 parties.

Next week I’ll be presenting a public petition in parliament calling for the Tories to scrap this National Insurance rise and replace it with a Wealth Tax.

Will you back my campaign by adding your name to the petition I am presenting in Parliament next week?

Sign the petition to tell the Tories: we want a Wealth Tax not a National Insurance rise

I’ve absolutely no problem with signing the petition. Since the election of Thatcher, the Tory party has given massive tax cuts to the rich, which has been offset by shifting the tax burden onto the working class. The proposed National Insurance tax hike is part of that policy. It’s time it was ended and the rich were made to pay their fair share.

We Own It Petition to Nationalise the Energy Companies

February 11, 2022

I got this email from the pro-NHS, pro-nationalisation organisation We Own It Wednesday night. It’s a petition appealing to the government to nationalise the energy companies as a response to the massive rise in electricity bills. The email runs

Our energy system is broken. 

Your energy bills are expected to go up by nearly £700 in April. While companies like BP are reporting eye watering profits of  £9.5 billion! 


But energy could work in public ownership for people and the planet – not profit. 

We are calling on Rishi Sunak as the chancellor and Kwasi Kwarteng as the minister for energy to end the chaos in our energy system and commit to bringing energy into public ownership by the 1st of April.

By signing our petition you can tell Rishi Sunak and Kwasi Kwarteng to bring energy into public ownership now.

SIGN THE PETITION

There are news stories everyday about the energy crisis we are facing. 

These are the solutions. 

1) Introduce a permanent windfall tax on oil and gas companies like Shell and BP, at the same rate as Norway

2) Stop wasting money bailing out failing energy supply giants – set up a publicly owned energy supplier instead

3) Bring the privatised monopolies of the National Grid and regional distribution into public ownership

4) Set up a new state-owned renewable energy company to help tackle climate crisis

Lots of voices are calling for a windfall tax and we agree!

But the government should go further.

This petition will highlight what should be done and help push for action on energy bills right now.

The deadline for this petition is the 1st of April when energy bills are expected to rise. 

Now is the time to push the debate as far as possible. Add your name and join the voices calling for a genuine fix for our broken energy system. 

I’LL ADD MY NAME

The eye watering profits of companies like BP are an outrage.

Since 2010 BP has handed out almost £200 billion pounds in profit to shareholders while right now 6 million households in the UK are facing fuel poverty.

It really doesn’t have to be like this.

In countries like Norway, oil and gas companies pay a corporation tax of 22% AND a special tax at the rate of 56% upwards! 

The Norwegian state owns Statkraft, the largest renewables generator in Europe. While Denmark owns 50% of Ørsted which is the world’s largest developer of offshore wind power.

These are sensible, tried and tested solutions that we know can get to the root of the problem. 

You can join the thousands of others calling for urgent action instead of more government sticking plasters.

Sign and share our petition and tell Rishi Sunak and Kwarsi Kwarteng that now really is the time to bring energy into public ownership. 

I’LL SIGN

Thank you for your support with this campaign and let’s start the fight to bring these essential public assets back into our hands.

Solidarity’ 

I’ve signed it, as this is further proof that the Thatcherite privatisation of the utilities has been a massive failure. It hasn’t brought the investment Thatcher expected it would and has, as this email shows, led simply to massive profiteering. The energy companies also know they are extremely vulnerable to this criticism, as an executive from one of them was on TV the other day blustering about welcoming government regulation while fervently denying that the government could run industry. Anyone who believed that, he sneered, was stupid. If so then 50 per cent of the British population were stupid even under Thatcher, as the support for her privatisations never went above that level. And since then more people want to see the utilities renationalised. It was a central plank for Corbyn’s programme and remains extremely popular. Which is why the Blairites and the Tories could only combat it by smearing him as a Communist anti-Semite.

Thatcherism is zombie economics, a shuffling, putrefying corpse whose dead hand is holding Britain back and its people in poverty. It’s long past time it was consigned to the dustbin and reversed.

End privatisation; end energy poverty; renationalise the utilities!

Prize Winning Turkish Novelist Arrested Again for Talking about Armenian Genocide

November 19, 2021

All around the world there are states and arseholes trying to cover up the genocides their countries and favoured political regimes have perpetrated. Over here, the right-wing pseudo-historian David Irving is notorious for his books minimising the Holocaust, for which he lost a libel case and ended up in an Austrian prison, where Holocaust denial is a crime. Tzipi Hotovely, the Israeli ambassador, is an enthusiastic Judaeonazi who has declared that the Nakba – the Palestinian equivalent of the Holocaust when the indigenous Arab population was massacred and ethnically cleansed at the foundation of Israel – to be a ‘Palestinian lie’. She also support razing Palestinian villages to build Jewish settlements, believes that all of Palestine should belong to Israel and would like to start another war with Syria and Egypt. She’s a racist fanatic whose difference from European Nazis is one of race, not genocidal nationalism. And I caught I headline on the Internet yesterday reporting that the prize-winning Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk has been jailed once again for ‘insulting Turkish nationality’. What this means is that he committed the terrible crime of talking openly about the Armenian genocide and maintaining it was fact as opposed to the cover-ups and lies of the Turkish state.

The Armenian genocide was a series of massacres carried on the orders of the last Ottoman emperor in the last days of the Turkish empire. It was a response to a failed revolt by the Armenians during the First World War. The Armenians were encouraged to believe the west would help them, and were tragically let down. In response, the Ottoman emperor issued a firman, an imperial decree, the Armenians were rounded up en masse, forced to march through the desert, starved, shot, bayoneted and crucified amongst other horrible methods of extermination. No reputable historian believes that the massacres didn’t happen and there is plentiful evidence, documentary and eyewitness, to support it. Including by serving Turkish officers who were disgusted and opposed to it. But the Turkish state continues to deny it, and anyone maintaining that it actually occurred, like Pamuk, will be jailed under a law forbidding the insulting of Turkish nationality.

This has also caused problems at the annual commemoration of the Jewish Holocaust by the Nazis. A few years ago various other Holocausts experienced by other nations and peoples were also commemorated at the ceremonies around Holocaust Memorial Day. When Jackie Walker got accused of anti-Semitism by the Jewish Labour Movement simply for asking what was going to be done about the commemoration of other Holocausts, such as that against her people, the Black Atlantic slave trade, at a workshop on Holocaust Memorial Day, she was actually asking a reasonable question. Other Holocausts were indeed mentioned on camera during the proceedings. Except the Armenian massacres. People, especially Armenians, were upset and wanted to know why. They were reassured that there was a ceremony to commemorate the Armenian Massacres, but that it was held off camera. Which is precisely the kind of mealy-mouthed double-talk you expected from Blair’s government.

I suspect the real reason was geopolitical diplomacy. Blair didn’t want to start a row with the Turks. The west needs Turkey to be a part of NATO and a bastion of western power in the Middle East. But not enough to allow Turkey to join the EU, and potentially flood Europe with even more Muslim immigrants as is the fear of certain right-wing Tories. Remember all that rubbish about 7 million Turkish immigrants finding their way to Europe if Turkey joined the EU?

But the Armenian Massacres have a direct connection to the Nazi Holocaust. They’ve been described as ‘the first genocide of the 20th century’. This isn’t quite true – the first genocide was the attempt by the German authorities in southern Africa to exterminate the Herero tribe after they revolted. The Armenian massacres were rather later. Nevertheless they had a far greater impact. The refusal of the great powers – Britain, France and America – to intervene taught Hitler that they could similarly persecute and murder the Jews with impunity. He summed it up in the phrase, ‘No-one remembers the Armenians’.

Well, to be fair, some Jews do. Years ago Mike and I went to see a play at Quaker’s Friar’s theatre in Bristol. Burning Issues was a updated version of King Lear, set in a struggling Jewish-owned publishers. It was a family drama centre around the conflict between the aging patriarch, who was head of the firm, and his children. The company is losing money hand over fist and the children wish to save it by publisher more popular books with a wider appeal to the reading public. The father, however, is determined to publish a lavish atlas of the Holocaust. As the play goes on and the man’s estrangement from his family worsens, it becomes clear that the old man may have been through the horror of the Shoah himself. He talks about coming back to nothing except a devastated Europe. The only person who really understands him his Armenian housekeeper, he feels. Because the Jews and the Armenians have clearly undergone similar horrors.

It’s a great play, and if the lockdown is ever lifted and you feel that it’s the type of play you want to see, please go to see it. I can remember seeing a number of excellent plays performed locally in the ’90s when Mike was briefly the theatre critic with one of the local newspapers. Some of the very best were performed in pubs, ranging from 17th/18th century French comedic classics to far more modern plays, One of my favourites was an adaptation of the classic Key Largo, about a man struggling to come to terms with the his betrayal of the Internationalists after being captured by the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War. This won prizes when it appeared in the 1940s, and really is one of the great classics of 20th century stage and film. It’s theatre like this which, without sounding snobbish or pretentious, makes a city genuinely civilised.

Pamuk’s arrest simply for speaking the truth about the Armenian massacres is another assault on real objective history by a highly authoritarian state. Revealing the truth about your nation’s dark deeds is not insulting. Indeed, it’s necessary so that a society can come to terms with it and move on. Apart from the more simple fact that covering up massacres and genocide is a disgraceful act in itself. Unfortunately, I don’t expect Starmer to raise any questions about the proper commemoration of the Armenian Massacres. I doubt he even knows where Armenia is. He’s too concerned with trying to silence people in the Labour party who challenge Israel’s gradual ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Orhan Pamuk is a courageous man, and I stand with him in his attempts to challenge official lies. As I do with everyone set against mass murder and violence.

And this is also why I believe that Tzipi Hotovely is a disgusting human being who should be thrown out of the country, rather than defended, regardless, or especially, because she’s the Israeli ambassador.

Myles Power Debunks Fred Leuchter’s Holocaust Denial: Part 2

October 13, 2021

A few days ago I put up a video from Myles Power, a YouTube vlogger who specialises in debunking pseudoscience. And some of the nonsense he debunks is really nasty. A couple of his videos attack the weird ideas of a Black American pastor, who seems to have been telling people to drink bleach. Another one also rightly attacks a similar weird cult that injected bleach into people in Uganda.

The video I put up was the third in a series of videos by him completely refuting the claims of Fred Leuchter, an engineer specialising in designing gas chambers for the American prison system, that Auschwitz wasn’t used to gas people. The video below is the second in the series, and I’m putting it up as it adds some more information about Leuchter and his claims. And it’s utterly damning.

First of all, it turns out that Leuchter doesn’t have any formal qualifications or training in engineering or chemistry. It turns out that he entered his highly limited profession as his father was a prison officer, who often got his son to help him. The young Leuchter got interested in methods of execution when one day he helped his father move the prison’s electric chair. Leuchter junior then started sending in suggestions for improvements, and his career went on from there. When it came to designing them, he got the job because real engineers, chemists or pharmacologists didn’t want it. And I’m not surprised. For a very long time Eire employed Britain’s hangman, Pierrepoint, to execute its murderers and other crims, because nobody in the Emerald Isle wanted the job. And I think Pierrepoint was the only person to apply for it in Britain.

Leuchter was employed by German-Canadian Nazi Ernst Zundl to go to Auschwitz to examine it in 1988 as part of his defence against a charge of anti-Semitism. Leuchter had no official permission to do any kind of scientific investigation, so he simply joined an ordinary tourist party. He scraped pieces off the walls in the gas chambers when nobody was looking, and in order to smuggle them in through customs wrapped them up in his dirty undies. He sent the samples away to a laboratory for analysis, but didn’t actually tell them what they were supposed to look for. This is important. In proper chemical analysis, the scientists are always given instructions on what they are supposed to look for and it what amounts. The laboratory didn’t find any traces of Zyklon-B, the gas used by the Nazis in their murder factories. Leuchter therefore declared that Auschwitz wasn’t used to gas people, and the results of his scummy investigation was published by the neo-Nazis as The Fred Leuchter Report.

In fact it isn’t surprising that he couldn’t find any trade of Zyklon-B. It doesn’t penetrate very far into masonry and brickwork, only a few micrometers. In the decades since the Second World War, the remnants of the gas would have been exhaled out into the atmosphere. Not that Leuchter’s testimony impressed the judge: he ruled it inadmissible because it was of such abysmal quality. One problem was that Leuchter simply wasn’t aware of the mass of documentary evidence supporting not just the Holocaust, but also Auschwitz itself. This includes testimony from its commandant, Rudolf Hoess. But as this video shows, it also includes plans and blueprints of the camp itself and its horrific machinery.

Leuchter also seems not to know how the gas was used to kill the millions of innocents murdered in the Holocaust. He seems to assume that the Nazis used a similar mechanism as that in American prisons to kill individual inmates. This, if I understand correctly, is by a pellet of the chemical dropped into a solution, which then produces the poison gas. Leuchter states that this method couldn’t have killed so many people, and so the Nazis weren’t gassing anybody. But the Nazis did, because that wasn’t the method they used. They pumped it into the chamber from cannisters. Incidentally, it says much for Power’s own humanity at this point in the video that he shakes his head, and says repeatedly, ‘This seems so wrong.’ You can understand why he is so uncomfortable. I think most decent people wouldn’t feel right trying to put themselves in the mental position of the Nazis and try to imagine the most efficient method of mass murder, even if it’s for a video debunking the denial of such horrific murders.

I think Power says, either here or in one of his other videos, that he’s particularly interested in Leuchter’s case, because Leuchter doesn’t seem to have been an anti-Semite or Nazi when he started out. Unfortunately, he certainly seems to have been sucked into that noxious milieu, as the video shows him trying to refute Power’s attack on his squalid claims in conversation with someone who definitely is a Nazi. The man’s clad in black, in a dark room, with a giant Nazi symbol in gold behind him. It’s the one of an eagle with the swastika in its claws. As the Nazis are also infamous for their notorious use of propaganda, that should simply on its own act as a warning to most people that lies and falsehoods were ahead.

As for Leuchter himself, I think there’s another moral here: you should know exactly what you’re getting into before becoming involved with extremists, if you don’t avoid it altogether.

The video also contains a wealth of additional information that is undoubtedly invaluable to anyone who wants a detailed refutation of some of the claims of the Holocaust deniers. It also shows you that there is serious money in American Nazism somewhere, as the quality of publication of the Leuchter Report seems high. It isn’t, unfortunately, a cheap pamphlet someone dashed off on their computer, or typed and then photocopied. And that high quality is dangerous, as it might impress some people that it is a serious document demanding proper respect and consideration.

Which makes videos debunking it, like Power’s, all the more necessary.

Foreign Countries Able to Threaten British Energy Supply Because of Thatcher’s Privatisation

October 11, 2021

The Beeb has caught the Tories lying again. Not that it’s anything remarkable. Mike’s shown in an article a few days ago that Johnson’s speech at the Tory conference was just one lie after another. It would be more remarkable if he actually told the truth for once. But this time it’s Kwesi Kwarteng, who for some reason I’m always tempted to call ‘Queasy’, who’s told the porkies. He said he’d been in talks about the coming massive price rises for energy with Rishi Sunak. The Beeb checked and no, he didn’t. Well, as Bill Hicks used to say, ‘colour me ‘surprised”. But in many ways the most important point in Mike’s piece was further down, when he states that the ability of foreign government to pull the plug on our energy goes back to Thatcher and her privatisations. Mike writes

This has been a long time coming – and some of us have been warning about it, every step of the way.

The Tories privatised the energy suppliers on the promise that prices would stay low and systems would improve, in order to stay competitive. Instead, prices quadrupled and control of the new companies was bought by foreign firms, many of them wholly-owned by the governments of EU nations.

And then the UK left the EU, annoying those governments.

And now we are facing the threat of being deprived of our power supply.

It would not be possible if the UK had retained control of its own energy supply. But that’s another truth you won’t hear from Kwasi Kwarteng.

This is presumably why the Americans don’t allow foreigners to control their utilities. And it is, obviously, a major argument in favour of keeping them nationalised. But as we’ve seen, national security means zero to the right if they can sell a vital part of Britain’s industry or public infrastructure to any foreign government or country that wants it.

They’re only interested in it if they can use it to smear the left as commies or Trotskyites, like Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn.

We Own It: Hacks Waking Up to Failure of Privatisation

September 30, 2021

I’ve said many times on this blog that Thatcher’s privatisation of the utilities and the railways has been an utter, complete, unmitigated failure and that these services should be renationalised. I am very pleased to say that a number of mainstream hacks are finally waking up to this. I got this email from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS group ‘We Own It’ reporting that journos on the Times, Torygraph, Herald and the Guardian have written pieces criticising privatisation. They also describe how various rail companies have had to be renationalised, and that nationalisation is part of Labour’s Green New Deal and Shadow Transport Secret Jim McMahon supports the renationalisation of the railways. It also castigates Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves for opposing nationalisation on ideological grounds, even when they claim the complete opposite.

“Dear David,

People are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed the UK for nearly 40 years.

In the Times, Jon Yeomans talks about Thatcher’s sell offs, saying “More than 30 years later, Britain lives with the consequences of that 1980s revolution. From buses to trains to energy, there are signs that the wheels may be coming off.”

In the Herald, Lesley Riddoch asks on behalf of frustrated Scots “Is there any way to escape privatised Britain other than independence?”

Scotland is bringing its railway into public ownership.

Wales is bringing its railway into public ownership.

The East Coast line was brought into public ownership in 2018 (it’s now run by the government’s operator of last resort).

The Northern franchise was brought into public ownership in 2020.

And this week Southeastern, after defrauding the government of £25 million, has also been brought into public hands.

As the Telegraph (yes, the Telegraph) says “the Southeastern debacle exposes the failure of Britain’s rail privatisation”.

It’s not just rail – with Covid, the bus ‘market’ (never much of a market) is collapsing.

The Guardian comments on the proposed merger of Stagecoach and National Express, saying “Passengers, who have seen rail fares rocket and local bus services wither, may also hope this signals the end of a chapter when a few could profit so enormously from an essential public service.”

Meanwhile Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has committed to re-regulating the buses there (a victory of our campaign!) comments about himself and Mayors Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis “Between us we are rolling back the 1980s, we are overturning the Thatcher legacy.”

At the Labour party conference, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband talked about the Green New Deal, committing to “a green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon confirmed his support for public ownership of rail and buses.

And Labour delegates voted for a Green New Deal, including public ownership of transport and energy, with speech after inspiring speech explaining why this is needed.

Despite all of this, Keir Starmer (who hasn’t responded yet to our open letter) and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have said they don’t support nationalising the energy supply companies. They’ve said they don’t want to be “ideological” about it.

But the truth, as Cat writes in the Guardian today, is that privatisation is an extreme ideological experiment that has failed us all for decades, and people have had enough of it.

When the Times, the Telegraph, the Herald and the Guardian are questioning privatisation, when more and more of our railway is being brought into public ownership, when Mayors are re-regulating buses, and when the energy market is in crisis – there’s a shift happening.

On moral and on economic grounds, privatisation just isn’t making sense anymore.

Don’t tell Sid

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Who’s Sid? In 1986, when Thatcher sold off British Gas, the company was floated on the stock market, accompanied by the famous ‘Tell Sid’ advertising campaign.

This shows precisely how out of touch, far right and ideological Starmer and Reeves are. They’re still pushing Thatcherism when it’s increasingly obvious that Thatcherism is dying. As for the Tory privatisation slogan in the 1980s, this was ‘If you see Sid, tell him’. It was a hidden gibe at Sidney Webb and the Fabians, who advocated the nationalisation of the utilities. Now it seems Sid is may just have the last laugh yet.

If you see Maggie, tell her: privatisation is disaster.

Brexit Britain’s Collapse also Reveals Failure of Free Market Capitalism

September 26, 2021

I wonder sometimes if the Communists and Trotskyites didn’t throw in the towel too soon. They were always looking for the collapse of capitalism, and while that didn’t happen and probably won’t, they would have realised that Thatcherism, at least, isn’t working and made real efforts to make the British public realise it. Communism collapsed with the velvet revolution in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the countries of the former Soviet bloc threw off their chains and embraced democracy and free market capitalism. Francis Fukuyama declared that it was ‘the end of history’. Liberalism in the broad sense of the mixture of liberal democracy and capitalism, had seen off its rivals and would now reign supreme and unchallenged as the global ideology bringing peace, freedom – both political and economic – and prosperity to everyone.

But it hasn’t worked out like that.

Thatcher’s privatisation of the public utilities here in Britain haven’t brought the necessary investment these sectors needed. As Ken Loach’s superb documentary, The Spirit of 45, makes very clear, the power, water and railway industries are natural monopolies that need national planning and support. This has been particularly shown time and again in the management of the railways. Major’s privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s and its breakup into separate companies resulted in a spate of horrendous train crashes. Insult was added to injury by the rail companies passing the buck and accusing each other of responsibility for the disasters. As a result, the company owning the railway network itself, Railtrack, had to be renationalised in 2002. Privatisation did not work. And it has continued to fail with the private railways companies. Several have had to be taken back into state administration after providing poor service. However, this has always been excused as a temporary measure and the government has insisted on finding some other private company to run those services afterwards. After a series of such failures, this strategy now looks more than a little desperate. It’s an attempt to fend off the obvious: that private enterprise isn’t providing a proper, decent rail service and the only way to run it properly is to renationalise it.

It is very much the same with the government’s part-privatisation of Britain’s schools. Declining standards in state schools led Thatcher to experiment with privately-run schools outside the control of Local Education Authorities. These were then called ‘city academies’. They were another failure, and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, was forced to wind them up quietly. Unfortunately, Tony Blair thought it was a wizard idea and it became a major part of New Labour education policy. Simply called ‘academies’, these schools would be run by private companies. Some of these would specialise in particularly subjects, such as Maths and science. Expertise from private industry would ensure that standards would be high, and they would provide a powerful incentive through their competition for the remaining state schools to improve their performance. Except that didn’t happen either. The academies don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools once the massive difference in funding is taken into account. An academy may receive tens of millions of funding compared to a fraction of million that the Local Education Authority receives to spend on all the schools it runs. Furthermore, many of the academies have only been able to maintain their high standards through being highly selective about their intakes. Pupils that may not reach the marks demanded by the schools, including those with behavioural problems or who come from poorer families, are often excluded and expelled. Educational performance and standards in many academies has been so abysmal that the chains managing them have collapsed and the schools once again taken into public administration. But private enterprise under the Tories cannot be allowed to fail, and so we had the grim spectacle a few years ago of Nicky Morgan, the Tory education secretary, repeatedly not answering the questions on the Andrew Marr show why the government was pushing ahead with turning schools into academies when just a little while ago 25 academies had had to be taken over by the government again.

Now, thanks to a mixture of Brexit and global problems elsewhere, the gas industry is in crisis. There are shortages of gas, a number of the smaller companies have already collapsed and customers are being faced with sharp price rises. Novara Media have even said that the government has admitted that if there are severe problems with the major gas suppliers, then they will have to be nationalised.

Gas, like electricity, should never have been privatised in the first place. When it was initially privatised, the company was not split up into separate, competing companies and so it was able to dominate the market as a private monopoly. Now some of those companies are suffering because they are unable to cope with free market conditions. This says to me very much that Jeremy Corbyn was right – that the public utilities need to be publicly owned and rationally managed as part of an integrated system. This is another point that Ken Loach’s documentary makes very well.

And Brexit has created further problems. The establishment of a customs border with Eire overturns one of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and so threatens to return Northern Ireland to sectarian violence and chaos. There is a shortage of CO2 as a result of which some foods and other goods may suffer shortages. And there may be further shortages, including petrol and other fuels, because Brexit has also resulted in fewer haulage drivers. Some are even now predicting a new ‘Winter of Discontent’, like that in 1979 that resulted in the defeat of the-then Labour government and the election of Maggie Thatcher.

I remember the petrol crisis of the ’70s, when OPEC suddenly raised oil prices and there were queues at petrol pumps. Just as I remember how Ted Heath’s dispute with the coal miners resulted their strike, the three-day week and power cuts. It got to the point that by the middle of the decade the right were expecting a Communist takeover and the end of civilisation as we know it. There were supposedly private militias being formed by bonkers right-wingers while parts of the establishment wanted to overthrow the minority Labour government in a coup to be replaced by a kind of coalition government composed of representatives from all the parties. Well, that was what the Times discussed in its articles. The security services, however, were forming plans to round up trade unionists and left-wing politicians and activists and intern them on a Scottish island somewhere. The editor of the Mirror went to Sandhurst to interest them in overthrowing the government but was met with a no doubt polite refusal. I think he, or one of the other plotters, even went as far as Paris to see if that old Fascist, Oswald Mosley, would be interested in leading the new government.

All that has been used in the Tory myth that socialism doesn’t work, and only creates the economic and political chaos that helped bring Britain to its knees. Chaos that was only ended by the glorious reign of Maggie.

Except that these problems look like they’re coming back, and this time the fault is Brexit and the free market.

I think Boris will be able to find temporary solutions to alleviate, but not cure, some of these problems. He has, for example, introduced new legislation to encourage lorry drivers from the continent to come over here. But the underlying structural problems remain. The only way to solve them is through nationalisation.

The Labour party is in an excellent position to drive this home, at least in the case of gas. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it should still be landing hard blows on Johnson and the Tories because of Brexit’s massive failures. But Starmer isn’t doing that. Instead, as Zelo Street pointed out in a piece published a day or so ago, the Labour leader is more intent instead on destroying democracy in his party as part of his war on the left.

Which is why I’m almost nostalgic for the old Socialist Workers’ Party. They’re still around, rebranded as ‘the Socialist Party’, but they’re nowhere near as active as they were. Whenever there was any kind of crisis or major issue you could count on them turning up with their megaphones and copies of their newspaper to harangue the masses and demand further action against the problem. Unfortunately, in many cases the Socialist Workers’ Party were the problem. They colonised left-wing issues in an attempt to turn protest groups into front organisations, which they could then use to produce further discontent. Rock Against Racism collapsed when the SWP took over the leadership of that organisation, formed to protest against the rise of Fascism. They were also busy infiltrating the Labour party and other left-wing parties here and abroad with the intention of radicalising them. I think the eventual hope was to create some kind of mass revolutionary movement. It didn’t work, and has only resulted in purges, such as that of Militant Tendency by Kinnock in the 1980s. In fact, the policy has helped strengthen the right in the Labour party, as they smeared Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Trotskyite infiltrators as the pretext for their continue purge.

The Trotskyites lived, however, in the firm belief that capitalism would eventually fail. Well, it isn’t doing that now, but it should be abundantly clear that Thatcherite free market capitalism isn’t working. The SWP would have realised that and tried to get the message across. The Labour left, which isn’t remotely Trotskyite, realises too that Thatcherism isn’t working. Their solution is simply a return to the mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. This wasn’t perfect, but it operated far better than the free market shambles we have now. And no, mixed economies are not ‘Communist’, ‘Trotskyist’ or ‘far left’. The real Communists and Trotskyists hated it as a form of capitalism, just as they hated reformist socialist parties like Labour.

But Starmer’s leadership is pledged to propping up the same wretched free market capitalism. Which is why I really feel there should be a mass movement driving home the point, again and again, that Thatcherism is ideologically and economically bankrupt. It is doing nothing but producing chaos in the economy and industry, and poverty and starvation to Britain’s working people. And this poverty will get worse. This is why I’m almost nostalgic for the wretched SWP, as they would have been determined to drive this home. And who knows? Perhaps if they behaved like a reasonable party, they might have gained further support and forced the Labour party to rediscover its socialist heritage in order to head off a challenge from real Communists.