Archive for the ‘Trade Unions’ Category

Message from Diane Abbott about Online Rally to Build Resistance against the Tories in February

January 20, 2023

We must do everything we can in support of the strikers – Diane Abbott

Be part of the fightback – Register here // Retweet me here // FB share here // Read article here.

HelloDavid

Whatever the Tories may tell us, the current strike wave that has been unleashed is as a direct result of government policies to benefit big business by impoverishing workers. Now, ministers are directly involved in attempting to defeat the strikes in numerous ways. As a result, these strikes are objectively highly political. The government has made them so, and is willing to use every type of divide-and-rule tactic and press vilification to defeat the strikers.

The unions taking action on pay, conditions and jobs are therefore effectively taking on the government head-on. There is no doubt the public is with the strikers. The strikers are the big battalions in the fight against this government, but everyone has a part to play. All of us must now do everything we can in terms of moral, political and financial support for the strikers because they really are fighting for us all, and I will be pleased to join with speakers from the PCS, CWU, FBU, GMB and NHS Workers Say No on the national day of action on February 1 at the Building the Fightback rally.

I hope to see you there,

Yours in solidarity,
Diane Abbott MP (via Arise.)

PS: Register for February 1 today here.

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

Online rally, 6.30pm, Wednesday February 1. Join us on to hear about & build on a day of action across the country!
Register here // Invite & share here // Retweet here.

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Liz Cabeza, Acorn (Haringey) // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No // Matt Wrack, FBU GS & more.

Join leaders of key industrial disputes – and who are at the forefront of fighting proposed anti-union laws – at this vital event! Now is the time to build the growing fightback, co-ordinate the resistance & popularise policies that put people before profit. 

Hosted by Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas. All other pages listed on social media are kindly helping to promote the event. ‘

We Own It Appealing for People to Attend Planned Protest Against NHS Privatisation

January 20, 2023

I’ve also had this email from the pro-NHS, pro-nationalisation organisation, We Own It about a planned demonstration they’re holding against the privatisation of the NHS in February. They’re appealing for people to go to it. I can’t, due to expense and illness, but I’m putting it up here in case there are people interested in it, who may be able to attend.

‘Dear David,

BREAKING: private health companies donated £800,000 to the Conservative Party over the last decade. Now we know why the government is doing nothing about NHS privatisation!

A recent Oxford study linked NHS privatisation to the preventable deaths of 557 people.

It is time to make the government feel the power of organised people over organised money.

Can you sign up to become one of 557 people in Parliament Square from 2 – 4pm on Saturday, 25th February demanding an end to NHS privatisation?

So far, 541 people have signed up. We need 89 people to reach our final goal of 630 (that is, 557 people representing the victims of NHS privatisation, 43 people to help carry signs and banners and 30 stewards to help manage the event).

Sign up to become one of the remaining 89 people on Saturday 25th February in Parliament Square

You are involved in our NHS campaign because you believe that our NHS should work for people, not the greedy private companies that donate to the government.

Unite the Union, Just Treatment, Doctors for the NHS and Socialist Health Association fully agree with you. That is why they are now supporting our action.

It is time we make the government feel the power of organised people over organised money.

We want to bring together 557 people representing the 557 people whose deaths are linked to NHS privatisation to put on a powerful display that can get into the papers.

More press coverage means more pressure on the government. The more of us there are at the action, the more likely the action is to get press coverage.

We need 89 more people to reach our goal. Can you sign up now to join us?

Sign up to take action from 2 – 4pm on Saturday 25th Feb in Parliament Square

Because of the incredible efforts of our NHS nurses and ambulance workers who are fighting to save our NHS, the government is already feeling pressure.

With the recent study that links NHS privatisation to 557 preventable deaths, there is no better time than now to pile onto that pressure they are feeling.

The government already knows that over 75% of the public, according to our last poll, want to end NHS privatisation. But they don’t feel that people will fight to see that happen.

You can show them from 2 – 4pm on Saturday 25th February in Parliament Square that you will.

The more people join this action, the more powerful it will be. The more powerful it is, the more likely it is to receive coverage from the press.

This coverage will pile on the pressure on the government and start forcing them to take action.

I will stand up and fight to force an end to NHS privatisation

We need 557 people to represent the 557 people whose deaths are linked to NHS privatisation, according to a recent Oxford study.

But we need even more people to make sure the action is big and effective. So after signing up, please send the link to your friends and family, especially those who live in London and ask them to sign up too.

Thank you so much for always standing up against NHS privatisation.

Cat, Johnbosco, Matthew, Kate – the We Own It team

PS: 30 years ago today the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Act 1993 was passed, paving the way for privatisation of our railway. We’ve put together a list of 30 top failures of rail privatisation from the last 30 years. Take a read and share with friends and family.’

Open Britain: Tories Using Brexit to Scrap Laws Protecting Consumers, Workers and the Environment

January 20, 2023

Here’s another update on the Tory attack on democracy, this time using the pretext of Brexit to scrap up to 4,000 British laws protecting ordinary Brits and the environment against big business exploitation.

‘Dear David,

The Brexit campaign did not end when the UK left the EU. High priests of the cause, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, continue to influence government priorities and push damaging legislation such as the Retained EU Law Bill.

They say that the Retained EU Law Bill is a simple administrative tool to tidy up UK law following our messy departure from the EU. But the truth is altogether more sinister.

What that Bill actually does is give government ministers powers to scrap up to 4000 perfectly sensible UK laws that enforce environmental standards, protect workers’ rights and help consumers hold big business to account…and all without any further reference to our elected representatives in Parliament.

This Bill is a blatant attempt to further entrench the interests of big business over those of ordinary people and the environment. No wonder they are attempting to rush it through at an indecent pace; it would never pass proper democratic scrutiny.

The fact of the matter is that the Brexit purists in this Sunak government don’t care about democracy. They are only interested in delivering for their wealthy paymasters (spoiler: that’s not you and me), and if that requires them to pass regressive legislation behind a smokescreen of anti-EU sentiment and dangerous xenophobia, then so be it.

They will do anything to perpetuate the illusion that Brexit is something other than a cruel ruse carried out on behalf of the elite beneficiaries of a harsh economic model that puts excessive profits first and people and the environment last.

The Retained EU Law Bill demonstrates the general recklessness of the ongoing Brexit project. Ministers are taking ‘Henry VIII’ powers for themselves and have imposed a deadline of December 2023, beyond which any of the laws on their list that have not been given a reprieve will simply fade into the ether.

Consumer protections…gone. Workers’ rights…gone. Environmental standards…gone. For the Brexit puritans, this would be a proud victory; for the British public, an abject and undemocratic disaster.

By taking this approach, government ministers are effectively cheating Parliament, and therefore the British people, out of our right to scrutinise the laws we must live by. Sunak is effectively placing critical elements of Britain’s future in the hands of a minority of Brexit radicals. No one voted for that, and we should not accept it.

It’s no secret why he’s doing it, either. This Sunak government is so weak that it cannot do anything without the agreement of their most radical faction: those who were never going to be satisfied with Brexit and who want to push this country further into the realm of right-wing extremism. (Just this week, the cranks in that faction forced the government to table an amendment to the Online Safety Bill that would make it illegal to share videos of small-boat Channel crossings if they were presented in a “positive light”. Wow!)

It’s important to remember where all this started…in the poisonous Brexit referendum campaign. There is a direct line between the lies and fear-mongering of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson in 2016 and the Conservative playbook in 2023. Unfortunately for us, neither of those two charlatans shows any sign of going away. Almost everything Farage says these days suggests he is planning to unleash another wave of Brexit-level political chaos in the coming elections. And just last week, we saw press reports that Johnson received a record-smashing £1,000,000 donation from a wealthy Brexiteer, which some have speculated could fund a campaign to retake Number 10 if/when the Conservatives take a kicking in May’s local elections.

All of this demonstrates why Open Britain’s fight against the “Farage-isation” of UK politics has never been more important or more urgent. We’re determined to ensure that these political wreckers can never exert their will over us again.

Despite their self-congratulation and the symbolic victories they claim, the Brexit campaign has achieved nothing positive for the people of this country, especially the most vulnerable, who endorsed it with the hope that it would improve their lot. As elections approach, we must all resolve to use our democratic power to put this dangerous ideology to bed once and for all.

The Open Britain team

PS – A quick reminder that we and a number of partners in the democracy sector are working to put pressure on Labour to commit to making the changes we need to renew our political system. You can help right now by signing our joint petition here to get Keir Starmer to support proportional representation.

This is all deeply alarming, though not entirely unexpected. We warned a few years ago that the Tories wished to replace EU, or EU inspired human rights legislation with a British Bill of Rights, which would be far weaker.

Going through this, I found the legislation banning people from sharing videos of the channel migrants particularly pernicious. I’d seen something about this in the titles of videos from various anti-immigrant groups and people on the web. The impression given was that the government was doing this to stop people knowing about the large numbers of migrants crossing the channel in order to protect the migrants themselves and the supposed official policies protecting and encouraging them. But according to Britain, this is absolutely not the case.

The Tories really are getting desperate. Sunak is flailing around with no new ideas against a wave of strikes which have popular support. Hence the attempts to make the right to strike all about illegal, and repeal EU legislation in order to appease the Brxiteers. People like Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

We have to stand firm and get them out.

38 Degrees Email Appealing to Public to Write Letter Supporting NHS Pay Rise to Jeremy Hunt

January 18, 2023

I’ve just got this email from 38 Degrees requesting people to writer to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt asking him to abandon his opposition to the NHS workers’ demands for a pay rise. I’ve written an email as they’ve requested. If you also feel that our great medical professionals and the other staff deserve their rise, please feel free to do so as well.

David, today and tomorrow, nurses in England will be striking. [1] We know they don’t want to do this – but government inaction, pushing our NHS to breaking point, has left them with little choice.

The good news? Things might be swinging our way! Reports are emerging that the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, is working with NHS unions to try and get more money for NHS staff. [2] But it’s also claimed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are refusing to budge. [3]

The Chancellor holds a HUGE amount of power over the purse strings. If we want him to stop dragging his heels, thousands of us need to speak up now.

David, you are one of 75,000 of us who signed the open letter in support of striking NHS workers. [4] If all of us bombard the Chancellor with messages telling him to listen to his colleagues, and invest in our nurses and NHS staff, we’ll be impossible to ignore.
David, will you email the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, today to demand he ends his holdout and offers NHS workers a proper pay rise? It only takes a couple of minutes and there are some pointers to help you write your message.

EMAIL JEREMY HUNT NOW

Thanks to pressure from hundreds of thousands of 38 Degrees supporters, in 2021 we helped force the Government to triple its pay offer to NHS staff. [5] We can do it again, but only if thousands of us speak up together in support of striking NHS workers.

If you’ve never sent an email to an MP before, don’t worry, it’s easy and even a short message could make all the difference. Here are some tips for what you could say:

  • Share your story if you are an NHS patient: if you’re waiting for treatment and are happy to talk about this, it will be even more powerful.
  • If you work in the NHS, you could mention it – personalised stories will go a long away
  • Talk about why you back our NHS heroes: even if it’s a line or two, the Chancellor needs to know why the public are backing NHS staff
  • Remember to be polite: There’s a real person at the other end reading your email!

So, David, will you join in and send one of the thousands of emails landing in Jeremy Hunt’s inbox on the day NHS nurses go on strike? It only takes a couple of minutes and there are some pointers one the page to help you write your message

EMAIL JEREMY HUNT NOW

Thanks for all that you do,

Jonathan, Mike, Veronica and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] BBC News: Nurses’ strike: New dates as union escalates dispute
[2] The Guardian: Revealed: cabinet split over NHS pay disputes piles pressure on Sunak
[3] See note [1]
[4] 38 Degrees: We support striking NHS staff
[5] 38 Degrees: Pay Rise Posters
Times: 38 Degrees full-page ad
BBC: NHS workers in England offered 3% pay rise

A Democratic Marxist Condemnation of the Soviet Regime

January 18, 2023

A few days ago I put up a post about the 18th century communist Morelly. He had some interesting ideas, although I made it clear that I am not a supporter of communism because of the tyranny, poor economic performance and poverty of the Soviet regime. One of the great commenters here remarked that describing the USSR as a tyranny probably wouldn’t go down very well with the Socialist Workers Party, now renamed the Socialist Party. I’m not sure, as the Socialist Workers were, in their day, a Trotskyite party, and therefore opposed to the communism of the USSR over the issue of Stalin’s dictatorship. The impression I had was that the Trotskyite parties wanted a communist society, but one where the workers themselves would hold power through soviets, rather than controlled by the communist bureaucracy.

As well as the Trotskyites, there were democratic Marxists in the west, who believed that socialism should be achieved democratically and rejected violent revolution and the dictatorship of the USSR. Karl Kautsky, an Austrian Marxist and one of the leaders of European Marxism, took this position. Another was the French Marxist, Lucien Laurat, who made the following scathing condemnation of the Soviet tyranny in Russia in his Marxism and Democracy, published by the Left Book Club in 1940.

‘In the fascist countries we can still observe the existence of capitalist characteristics, where as in Russia these characteristics have been radically destroyed as a result of the absolute seizure by the State of all the means of production and distribution. Although the Russian economic system has often been called “State capitalism”, and although the term “State slavery” employed by Karl Kautsky seems to us a more appropriate designation in our opinion, the present Russian regime is not slavery, or serfdom, or capitalism, but something of all three. It is related to slavery and serfdom by the absolute and total suppression of all freedom for the workers, who are tied by domestic passports to their places of residence, and often to their places of employment, like the feudal serf to the glebe. It is related to capitalism by the preservation of a great number of economic categories and legal forms. However, it is fundamentally different from any of these systems.

With more reason, and, of course, with all those reservations proper to such historical comparisons, we may rather compare the present Russian regime with the social and economic regime of the Incas, who dictatorially governed Peru before the discovery of America: an authoritatively controlled economic system strongly marked by numerous communist traits, but with a division of society into classes. No one can say how and toward what this curious social system might have developed had not a brutal and rapacious conqueror brought it to a sudden and premature end. It is quite certain, however, that on an infinitely larger scale, with an incomparably higher mass culture, and provided with all the achievements of twentieth-century science, our modern Incaism over what is called “one-sixth of the globe” reproduces from the social and and political point of view the most characteristic traits of Peruvian Incaism of four hundred years ago.

Just as the Russian State disposes absolutely over the material elements of the economic process, so it disposes dictatorially over the human element also. The workers are no longer free to sell their labour-power where they like and how they please. They no longer enjoy freedom of movement in the territory of the U.S.S.R. (domestic passports) The right to strike has been suppressed, and if the workers expressed even the slightest desire to oppose the methods of Stakhanovism, it would expose them to the severest punishments.

The Russian unions, strictly under the orders of the governing party, are merely organs charged with the execution in their own province of the political instructions of the Government. The instruments destined to defend the working class against the directive organism of the economic system have become instruments in the service of these organisms. The working class thus finds itself subjected to the discretionary power of a bureau-technocracy identical with the State apparatus.’ (Pp. 200-2).

There, and if you only listen to the Libertarians, you would think that only von Hayek believed that communism was slavery, although in his case he all meant all forms of socialism. Not that I think he had any hatred of right-wing dictatorship. He served in Dollfuss’ Austro-Fascist regime, which ended with the Nazi invasion and supported the various fascist dictatorships in South America. This, too me, shows how far Libertarians really believe in freedom.

Open Britain on the Tory Attack on Democracy

January 17, 2023

I got this email from the pro-democracy organisation, Open Britain, on the Tories’ continued campaign against democracy in our fair country. It runs

Dear David,

Over the last four years, we have witnessed a rapid reduction in the fairness and inclusivity of UK politics. Rishi Sunak seems determined to continue Boris Johnson’s all-out assault on the rights, institutions, and norms designed to hold the government to account. Academics have a term for this process: “democratic backsliding”.

It’s worth reflecting on recent years through the lens of backsliding to understand where Johnson, Truss, and Sunak are taking us – and how low we’ve already sunk. Researchers at University College London have identified the following critical elements of backsliding:

  1. Breakdown in the norms and standards of political behaviour
  2. Disempowerment of the legislature, the courts, and independent regulators
  3. The reduction of civil liberties and press freedoms; and/or
  4. Harm to the integrity of the electoral system 

On the first element, it’d be nearly impossible to deny that norms and standards in UK politics have become warped beyond recognition, largely thanks to Boris Johnson.

The sheer quantity of Johnson’s absurd lies to the public. The blatant PPE contract corruption. The unlawful attempt to prorogue Parliament. The repeated partying throughout the pandemic. Truss’ appointment of Mark Fullbrook as chief of staff. Rishi Sunak’s refusal to sack Suella Braverman amid egregious security violations. Take your pick.

But norms have also been eroded at a deeper level. The government now appears comfortable with breaking international law whenever it suits their needs.

The Internal Markets Bill (2020), the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (2022), the planned Bill of Rights Bill, and the plans to offshore asylum seekers to Rwanda all undermine the UK’s long-held reputation for upholding international agreements on human rights and trade agreements (many of which UK ministers and officials helped to draft). Our government is clearly quite comfortable ignoring its citizens and the international community. It’s safe to say that the first box on that list is checked.

On the second element, backsliding may not be as apparent, but close inspection reveals some seriously concerning changes here too.

The government has attracted robust criticism from the Hansard Society for rushing bills through Parliament and abusing the ‘statutory instruments’ mechanism to limit Parliament’s ability to scrutinise bills properly.

They have also drawn widespread criticism for taking steps that inevitably undermined the powers and independence of the Electoral Commission. Boris Johnson removed the Commission’s powers to prosecute and attempted to give a (then) Tory-dominated committee control over its operations, and a number of Conservative MPs even called for its abolition.

It’s not just the Electoral Commission either. Former Commissioner for Public Appointments Peter Riddell also accused the government of “packing” appointment panels to blatantly place political allies in the House of Lords.

On the third element, we’ve also seen that this government is willing to toss aside fundamental rights and freedoms when they become politically inconvenient. The Policing Act (2022) was a significant affront to our right to protest, including giving police the right to shut down “noisy” protests.

That is now followed by the Public Order Bill (2023), currently in the Lords, which seeks to expand these measures further, giving police the right to pre-emptively crackdown on protests before they happen and keep registers of known activists based on facial recognition data. If that’s not an infringement of civil liberties, then nothing is.

And let’s not forget Dominic Raab’s grubby plans to overturn the Human Rights Act. 

We’ve also recently seen the press and the labour movement under fire from the government. Several journalists were arrested while covering climate protests last November, despite showing valid press IDs. And the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4 last year – finally abandoned under public pressure this January – and their continued hostility towards the BBC betray an instinct for threatening vital public news services when they are perceived to be getting in the way.

The Sunak government’s latest priority is to crack down on the right to strike by introducing government-set minimum service standards, once again choosing authoritarian mandates over dialogue or compromise. It’s hard to deny backsliding is also occurring in this area.

On the final element, it has been clear for some time that the integrity of the voting system used for general elections is in jeopardy. The Elections Act (2022) now requires voters to show ID at polling stations, something that creates a barrier to legitimate electors being able to exercise their democratic right to vote. Worse, the government’s choice of valid ID seems to disadvantage people from demographics less likely to vote Conservative. That bill also mandated the use of FPTP for Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections, entrenching a broken system that does not accurately reflect the true will of the electorate. 

It’s clear that the UK is indeed in a phase of democratic backsliding. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue on this path. 

As we move forward in 2023, OB will continue to work, alone and with partners who share our ambitions and values, to ensure UK democracy is striding forwards, not sliding backwards.

The Open Britain team

P.S. We and a number of partners in the democracy sector are working to put pressure on Labour to commit to making the changes we need to renew our political system. You can help right now by signing our joint petition here to get Keir Starmer to support proportional representation.

Add to this the secret courts that Dodgy Dave Cameron pushed through, in which you can be tried in secret, without you or your defence knowing the identity of your accusers and evidence withheld from you if the authorities deem it necessary for reasons of national security, and we really are heading towards what some commenters call ‘a democratic deficit’.

I didn’t realise this, but the tribune was the Roman magistrate charged with defending the rights of the plebs and the army. Hence the phrase, ‘a tribune of the people’. The late 18th century French revolutionary communist, Gracchus Babeuf, also recommended a panel of officials charged with making sure local politicos performed their duties. If they didn’t, their constituents had the right of recall and out they would go. I like this idea, and the fact that the Romans knew that you needed officials to protect democratic rights and freedoms shows, in my opinion, just how wise they were. Not wise enough not to be ruled by a bunch of raving psychopaths, but you can’t expect too much from past ages.

Boris claims to be a great admirer of ancient Rome. It’s a pity the tribunes aren’t one of them. Instead from the Tories we get a lot of bluster about democracy and free speech right when they trying to undermine all of it.

Calendar of Coming Left-Labour Events

January 17, 2023

I’ve had some of this blog’s great commenters wondering what the Labour left is doing to challenge Starmer’s stranglehold on the party and his determination to turn it into another version of the Tories. And not necessarily one further to the left. The Labour left is still around and organising events. I’ve had some emails about them, but didn’t put them up as they were in-person meetings in London, and so difficult to get to for people like me in the provinces, or they were about foreign politics, like Latin America, which I didn’t think many people would be interested in. Yesterday I had another email from Matt Willgress through the Arise festival of left ideas and the Labour Assembly against Austerity, giving details about events coming up in what remains of this month and February.

Let’s make 2023 the year of growing waves of resistance.

Read my article here // Retweet it here to spread the word // Register for Feb.1 here

Hello David

Last week, Tory ministers met numerous unions to discuss public-sector pay, but no movement was made, meaning that strike action is set to escalate, including with the PCS announcing 100,000 will be on strike on what is shaping up to be a major day of industrial and other forms of action on February 1st, the day of our #BuildingtheFightback rally.

The Tory refusal to budge on pay is the logical follow-on from locking-in austerity for years. On the Left we need to understand the scale of what we are up against politically, the extent of the crisis Britain is facing, and the nature of what is to come if the Tories aren’t forced out, including that this is an increasingly authoritarian Government.

We need to be organising resistance  right now – and we need to be backing those movements taking direct action and backing those workers taking industrial action. Let’s make 2023 the year of  growing waves of resistance to the Tories – join us at Building the Fightback on February 1 (details below) in solidarity with workers in struggle and to map out our next steps.

Yours in solidarity,
Matt Willgress, on behalf of the Arise volunteers.
 

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

Online rally, 6.30pm, Wednesday February 1. Join us on to hear about & build on a day of action across the country!
Register here // Invite & share here // Retweet here.

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Liz Cabeza, Acorn (Haringey) // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No // Matt Wrack, FBU GS & more.

Join leaders of key industrial disputes – and who are at the forefront of fighting proposed anti-union laws – at this vital event! Now is the time to build the growing fightback, co-ordinate the resistance & popularise policies that put people before profit. 

Hosted by Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas. All other pages listed on social media are kindly helping to promote the event. 

OTHER 2023 DIARY DATES:

1) FORUM: The economic crisis – was Marx right?


Online. Monday January 23, 2023. Register here // share & invite here // retweet here to spread the word

Here in Britain and around the world the economic crisis is deepening. Join economist Michael Roberts for debate and discussion – was Nye Bevan right, wrong, or both when he said “Marxism put into the hands of the working class movement… the most complete blueprints for political action the world has ever seen?”


Labour Outlook forum as part of the Socialist Ideas series – kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) CONFERENCE: The World At War – A Trade Union Issue

Register here. Saturday 21 January 2023, 10.30am, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD (Nearest tube: Euston/Kings Cross). 

Jeremy Corbyn MP // Mick Whelan, ASLEF // Salma Yaqoob // Fran Heathcote, PCS // Alex Gordon, RMT // Ricardo La Torre, FBU & more.

Organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

3) DIARY DATE: A Society in Crisis – Building a Progressive Policy Platform.

Sat 11 Feb, 2023, 10:00am, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London, WC1B 5DQ. Register here – Retweet here.

“The economic, social and environmental crises we face mean the need for a transformative policy agenda is more urgent than ever. For this reason, on February 11, I will be bringing together academics, think tanks, policy researchers and experts, campaigners and others to develop a progressive policy platform – and hope you can join us there.” – John McDonnell MP.

Organised by Claim the Future & Influencing the Corridors of Power’

It’s a pity the last meeting is in London, as this is what the left really need to challenge neoliberalism, in the Labour party as much as anywhere else. Perhaps they’ll release a video of it later on YouTube.

TUC Online Meeting Tomorrow to Defend the Right to Strike

January 17, 2023

I got this email today through Megaphone, the internet activism wing of the TUC. There’s an online meeting tomorrow evening about defending the right to strike from Sunak’s and the Tories’ attempts to strangle it with further legislation.

‘David. You and more than 115,000 people have now signed the petition: Protect the right to strike.

It’s an incredible response to these shocking and undemocratic laws, but we must do more.

Tomorrow night at 6pm, the TUC is hosting an online call to outline the urgent action we must take to stop this bill in it’s tracks.

MPs will be voting on these new laws in the coming weeks, and we know that many are undecided about whether they will support these laws or not. We must reach them as soon as we can. 

Can you join on Wednesday night (tomorrow!) at 6pm to hear what you can do immediately to help stop these laws? Everyone has a part to play.

Join the call: How we protect the right to strike!

Anthony,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve registered, and if this is important to you, perhaps you’d like to go to it too.

Starmer’s Plans for the Health Service: Some Good Promises, but More Privatisation?

January 15, 2023

This is the sequel to my post earlier today speculating on whether Starmer is planning to privatise the health service even further. I based that on his interview on the Beeb this morning, where he said he wanted to use private enterprise to clear the backlog, and that his reforms may include a greater use of private healthcare companies. I caught more of this on the ITV evening news, and while some of it looked good, it still included private healthcare companies. He laid out his plans for reforming the NHS in today’s Torygraph, which is a warning from the start. From the choice of paper it’s clear that he’s aiming at Tory voters rather than traditional Labour. Which, by previous experience of the way he and the Blairites generally side-line traditional Labour supporters and members, is what you would expect. According to ITV, he promised to recruit more NHS staff. This is good, but so blindingly obvious that the Tories have also been making the same promise over the past few years. They’ve repeatedly broken it, and working for our health service is now so bad that a large proportion of them are planning to leave. This leaves questions of how Starmer is planning to persuade more people to work for it and retain them. The report said nothing about Starmer promising them better wages or reducing the workload. He also promised to make doctors NHS employees. This is excellent. Pro-NHS groups like We Own It have said that doctors should be NHS employees in order to avoid the privatisation and sale of GP surgeries to the private healthcare giants. These have enhanced their corporate profits by closing those surgeries they deem unprofitable and sacking staff. The result is that many patients find themselves without a doctor, and the remaining doctors and staff have poorer working conditions. But hey, you gotta keep that tax money rolling in for the private healthcare firmes!

And then there’s the bit that worries me. Starmer has said he wants to make better use of private healthcare, but is still concerned to keep it free at the point of delivery. This says very strongly to me that he’s going to privatise more of the NHS and outsource services to the private sector. And as I’ve kept saying, this is one of the problems with the health service. Privatisation had resulted in poorer services and massively increasing bureaucracy and administration costs. Starmer has said he wants to cut down on the bureaucracy, which is more Tory cant. He could, if he renationalised the NHS. But he obviously doesn’t want to do that.

Among the people responding to Starmer’s proposals was someone from the NHS unions, who said that it wasn’t true that they were against change. They just wanted to see everything costed. The fact that Starmer hasn’t done that, or at least, not in the article he wrote for the Torygraph, suggests to me that he really won’t increase funding, or perhaps not by the amount necessary. With the exception of the proposal to make doctors state employees, his reforms come across very much as something the Tories would also say, while also crossing two fingers behind their backs. He did make a fourth commitment, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.

I want the Tories out, but I do not want Starmer to carry on with their policies, as the Blairites have done in the past. And I think that if he gets the chance, he’ll ditch the promise to make the doctors employees of the state. It’s socialist, and he hates socialism and socialists.

The Fascist Argument Against Free Market Capitalism

January 15, 2023

I notice that as the failure of contemporary free market capitalism becomes every more obvious, its right-wing supporters are out on the net telling everyone how wonderful capitalism is. Capitalism, according to them, has lifted more people out of poverty than any socialist state has ever done. You find this repeated by the Lotus Eaters, and I recent found yet another video on YouTube put up by a right-winger.

Now there is something to this. Marx in the Communist Manifesto was impressed by the global achievements of capitalism, and industrialisation and trade has produced development and prosperity in Britain, the West and elsewhere, and lifted people out of the poverty of agricultural subsistence economies. But this hasn’t been done by capitalism alone. Trade unions have also been part of the development of mass prosperity in the industrialised nations through demands for increased wages, better working conditions and so on, a fact ignored by the right. And working people in the west enjoyed their greatest period of prosperity when capitalism was regulated as part of the post-War consensus. In Britain this took the form of a mixed economy in which the utilities were owned and operated by the state. The privatisation of these utilities, the devastation of the welfare state and the deregulation of the economy has led to a massive transfer of wealth upwards, so that the poor have become colossally poorer and the wealth of the rich even more bloated and obscene. Properly regulated, capitalism does raise people out of poverty. But free market capitalism, of the kind frantically promoted by right-wingers like the Lotus Eaters, has done the reverse.

But let’s grant them that the 19th century was an age of industrial and agricultural expansion in which people enriched themselves. Mussolini expressed this view in his speech about the corporative state he was introducing into Italy. The fascist corporations were industrial organisations, one for each industry, which included representatives of the trade unions and the owners’ organisations. The Italian parliament was dissolved and reorganised into a Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, in which these organisations were supposed to debate economic policy. In fact, it just served as a rubber stamp for the Duce’s decisions. It was, however, important for propaganda purposes, to show that Mussolini’s regime had transcended capitalism and socialism.

The Fascists weren’t enemies of capitalism, far from it. Mussolini’s constitution made private industry the basis of the state and economic life, which is why I’m using it his critique of free market capitalism against the free marketeers. Mussolini had been a radical socialist, but when the Fascists seized power he declared them to be true followers of Manchester School capitalism. In other words, free trade. This was accompanied by a programme of privatisation. In Germany Hitler gave a speech to the German equivalent of the Confederation of British Industry, saying that capitalism could only be preserved through a dictatorship. He stated that he would not nationalise any company, unless it was failing. During the Nazi dictatorship industry was organised into a series of interlocking associations subject to state control. But they were not nationalised, and the leadership of the organisations was always given to private industrialists, not the managers of state industries.

Back to Italy, Mussolini described how this initial period had begun to decay. The old family run firms declined, to be replaced by joint stock companies. At the same time, firms organised themselves into cartels. In America, these cartels demanded intervention from the government. Mussolini announced that, if left unchecked, this would lead to the emergence of a state capitalism that was every bit as pernicious as state socialism. His solution was that capitalism needed to be more ‘social’. It would be subordinated to the state through the corporations, where workers and management would cooperate to make Italy a great power once more.

Something similar has happened over the past four decades. Under this new corporativism, representatives of private industry have entered government as advisors and officials, often in the departments charged with regulating their industries. At the same time, industry has received massive subsidies and tax breaks so that much of the tax burden has moved lower down on working people. Mussolini was correct about private industry demanding state intervention, however much this is denied and state planning attacked by free market theorists. And the result is corporativism, which the free marketeers denounce as not being true capitalism. But it’s been pointed out that the type of capitalism they believe in has never existed.

Free market capitalism is a failure. The solution is not a murderous dictatorship, but the old, regulated, mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. An economy that includes private industry, but which recognises that it alone does not create wealth, and which demands the inclusion of working people and their organisations in industrial negotiations and policies in order to create prosperity for working people.