Archive for the ‘Working Conditions’ Category

Theresa May Was Told in 2015 that Her Cuts Were Dangerous

May 25, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has posted up another excellent article showing that Theresa May’s cuts to the police force have seriously weakened it, leaving the nation more vulnerable to crime and terrorist attack. Like the one a few days ago in Manchester, that has claimed 22 lives and 59 or so people wounded.

The Police Federation warned her that the cuts had damaged national security, and made the threat of an attack like the one in Paris more likely.

Mike has also posted up a tweet from Andrew Scattergood, containing a video in which Theresa May is told by a former police officer that her cuts are a danger. The police officer had been given an award by her for his services to community policing. He tells her that he left the force in 2012 because he could not stand any longer what the Tories’ cuts had done to it. He describes community policing as having collapsed, including their intelligence gathering. He states very plainly that this is dangerous and ultimately a threat to national security.

May took no notice, and laughed these warnings off as ‘scaremongering’. No doubt with that infuriating shake of the head and irritating, condescending laugh she makes when Corbyn or another opposition MP has just made an entirely accurate criticism and she’s trying to laugh it all off as ridiculous.

Corbyn and the Labour party announced their plans to make Britain safer a week ago. These were

* 500 more border security guards.
* 3,000 more prison officers.
* 3,000 more fire officers.
* 10,000 more police officers.
* Spending 2 1/2 per cent of GDP on defence.
* Renewal of Trident.
* Banning arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
* £10 billion spent on cybersecurity.
* More financial support for veterans.
* And he would use Trident to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/25/heres-the-moment-in-2015-theresa-may-was-told-her-police-cuts-were-dangerous/

These are all excellent policies, which reverse or put the lie to some of the claims about the Labour party. Like the accusation that somehow, because Corbyn isn’t a xenophobe like the Tories and UKIP, he’s complacent about the threat of terrorism from immigrants.

Apart from spending more on the police, he’s also right to want more prison and fire officers. Remember the scandals a few years ago when our prisons were in a crisis, because there weren’t enough police officers? And the way the fire brigade tried to point out that the cuts to them and the Tories’ attacks on their pensions would make people more at risk?

And the ban on arms sales to the Saudis is an excellent idea. Patrick Cockburn is in the I today with an article pointing out how the Saudis are partly responsible for promoting terrorist attacks like the one in Manchester through their efforts to export Wahhabism, the extremely intolerant version of Islam that is their official religion. Apart from banning all non-Muslim religions, the Saudis also prohibit other Islamic creeds. A few years ago, the Sharif of Mecca declared the Shi’a an enemy of Islam and ‘worthy of death’, chilling words advocating genocide. And Saudi law makes atheism illegal, defining it as ‘terrorism’. This is grotesque. It’s horrifically unfair to persecute individuals, who don’t believe in the Almighty but are law-abiding and peaceful, by claiming that they are somehow equivalent to those, who kill and maim, simply because the regime despises their religious views.

And the Saudis have been active sponsors of real terrorism around the globe themselves. It was only the other year that Obama finally released the suppressed 24 pages of the official report on 9/11, that concluded that the terrorists had links to the Saudi government. The Saudis, including the current regent, Salman bin Salman, were funding and arming ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They only stopped because ISIS then turned against them, and released a video urging the Saudi people to rise up and topple the monarchy.

But this will not be acknowledged by the authorities, because the Saudis control the world’s oil industry and western arms companies are making too much money selling them weapons, that they then use on innocents, like the civilians killed by Saudi bombing in Yemen.

I’ve no doubt that in the next couple of days, May and her vile horde will be running around trying to convince everyone that only they can protect Britain from terrorists through ‘strong and stable’ government. But in fact, May’s position on many things is weak and wobbly, and the cuts she was personally responsible for have grievously damaged national security.

Don’t believe the Tory propaganda.
Vote Labour on June 8th for a stronger and fairer Britain.

Theresa May Plans to Stop Children Having Free School Meals

May 20, 2017

Along with her other vile policies – like ending her promise not to raise VAT, taxes and national insurance, ending the triple lock on pensions, bringing back fox hunting, opening more grammar schools, May also wants to end free school meals for infants.

Maggie Thatcher tried something similar way back in the 1970s. She wanted to end free school milk as Heath’s education secretary. This earned her the soubriquet ‘Maggie Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher’. Mike in one of his articles on her vile policies has posted a very nice gif from EL4C, which shows a picture of Maggie with that chant, followed by May and the slogan ‘Theresa May takes your lunch away’.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/19/at-last-britons-are-uniting-against-theresa-may/

Historians of the ’70s have argued that Thatcher’s stopping of free school milk was, in itself, a minor issue, which became a political battleground because people were fed up with the Tories generally.

But the stopping of free school meals for infants is a very different story.

We now have a society in which a hundred thousand people or more have been forced through Tory welfare cuts to use food banks. According to statistics, seven million people life in ‘food insecure’ households. Which means that they don’t know if they’re going to have enough to eat tomorrow.

Mothers are starving themselves in order to give food to their children.

This isn’t scaremongering by the ‘cultural Marxist left-wing media’. And people don’t go to food banks, ’cause it’s free food, as spouted by Tory liars like Edwina Currie.

It’s documented fact.

This will make the situation worse. It will mean more children going to school hungry, where they won’t be able to learn because of the hunger pangs. And if they can’t learn, they can’t pass exams, and so won’t get a proper, paying job. If any are still around after they’ve all been either automated away or outsourced.

And so we’ll go back to the 19th century, when there was real famine and malnutrition amongst the Labour poor.

This is what the Tories want. This is what May intends to give the ‘hard working people’ her party claims to be defending.

All to give her friends and paymasters in big business more tax breaks, and a cowed labour force so desperate they’ll work for literal starvation wages.

Don’t put up with it.

Kick and them out.

Vote Labour June 8th.

Middle Eastern Asylum Seekers Forced to Use Food Banks or Starve

May 8, 2017

I heard this from my mother after she came back from church yesterday. It’s one of those stories which makes you wonder what’s wrong with the people of this country. And the minister, who told it, made it very clear he thought something ought to be done about the poverty being inflicted on the poor and desperate right NOW.

One of the ministers at our local church also helps out at one of the city’s food banks. He told mum that one of the people, who is now forced to use it is a female asylum seeker from one of the war-torn countries in the Middle East. The woman was married with a husband and child, who she had left behind. Fortunately, when she arrived here she was able to claim benefits.

That is until she was joined by the rest of her family. This should have been a joyful reunion. Another family given sanctuary from fear and murder in Blighty. And I dare say for a time it was, until the DWP told the lady that, as her circumstances were changed, she was no longer entitled to benefits.

And so, like over a hundred thousand other people in this miserable country, she was forced to come to the food bank or starve.

The minister was upset and outraged by this obvious injustice. And it’s just one of a hundred thousand others. I’ve reblogged pieces before from some of the great sites and pages on the Web by people, who work in food banks, or who otherwise have contact with those who do, or are forced to use them.

The people, who come to them are genuinely desperate. They don’t use them, as the Tories have lied ad nauseam, because it’s free food. You need to be referred by your local jobcentre because you have no money. And thanks to the government’s determination to brand every job- and asylum seeker a potential scrounger, and throw them off benefits, an increasing number are. And all so the government can appeal to the embittered souls, who read the Daily Heil, and play up to the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in this country.

Except, contrary to all the lies put out by the Tory press, these people aren’t taking our jobs. They do jobs we don’t want to do, as shown in the film, Dirty Pretty Things. Many of them are also highly educated people, frequently with technical backgrounds, whose skills this country needs.

They also are a net contributor to what remains of our welfare state. Immigrants and asylum seekers pay into through taxes and NI contributions, but are less likely to be on benefits than the traditional population.

As for the fears that we shall be overwhelmed with them, they impression I have had is that they really don’t want to leave the homelands. They have genuinely been driven out because of real threats against their lives and those of their families. When the wars in their native countries end, or the oppressive regime is overthrown, they’ll be only too glad to go back.

But you ain’t going to hear about this from the likes of the Scum, the Mail, and the Express. You’re just going to hear tales of violent criminals sponging off the system, or of militant Islamists trying to islamicize the place by stealth.

Not only is this playing up to the worst aspects of the national psyche, it also has a more obscure, but equally important role in promoting the interests of right-wing parties like the Tories and UKIP, before their decimation in the election last week. Playing on fears of immigrants helps divide the working class, just as portraying the rest of the genuinely poor and desperate as scroungers, and trade unionists as evil troublemakers determined to wreck the country. Since the collapse of Communism the Tories and their lickspittles in the press haven’t been able to claim that they’re all the tools of Moscow. this might come back, though, with the new Cold War and the determined campaign to blame everything on Putin. At the moment, however, they’re just content to harp on about the ‘Winter of Discontent’ and the ’70s.

And as they do, it helps keep working people from uniting with others, who are deliberately being kept poor and desperate so that May, and Blair and Thatcher before her, could give tax cuts and a supply of cheap, disposable labour to big business.

It’s time people saw through the lies and propaganda, and realised their common interests with the long term unemployed, the disabled, and asylum seekers, everyone who is sneered at and demonised by the Tories and the neoliberals in the Labour party.

We shouldn’t need food banks. We should have a decent benefit system, which gave people what they need to survive, and recognised that the people, who are out of work, have been thrown there due to a rigged economic system and collapsing jobs market.

Majority Report’s Michael Brooks Urges Brits to Vote Labour against Odious Theresa May

April 30, 2017

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, the host Michael Brooks urges British voters to support Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party against the Tories and their right-wing agenda. The Majority Report is an American progressive internet news programme. Brooks notes that May has called this snap election, despite lying that she wouldn’t. He also correctly says that she’s claiming its about getting enough support for her to win a strong Brexit. However, the real reason is that the Tories are decimating Labour in the polls. In Brooks’ opinion, this isn’t because Corbyn lacks a strong left-wing programme, but because of strategic mistakes by his campaign team and his own failures in trying to get his points across.

However, Brooks also says that in this speech in the House of Commons, Corbyn is precisely right. He plays a clip showing Jeremy Corbyn attacking the Tories for standing for the rich few against the many poor, for their massive mishandling of the economy, their deliberate incompetence in running down the NHS, and for creating a situation where millions are struggling to make ends meet. The Labour leader sums up their attitude, spearing May’s pretensions to be a strong leader: ‘They are strong against the weak, and weak against the strong’.

Brooks states that’s exactly right, and also mocks May’s wails that she’s ‘strong’, and her bizarre laugh. He also states that Brits should go in for damage limitation and vote Labour, as the Tories will bring in an even harsher austerity regime, which will leave millions much poorer, all for the benefit of the rich corporations. Just as the right has done over in his homeland, America. He also recommends that people in marginal constituencies should vote Green, SNP or Liberal to stop the Tories.

He’s right about Jeremy Corbyn’s analysis of the Tories’ attitude to the poor. They are bullies, who fear and hate the weak and vulnerable, and wish to create an impoverished working and lower middle class, who will be desperate to accept any kind of work, no matter how exploitative, from their lords and masters.

I don’t agree, however, with his analysis of Corbyn’s leadership. It has not been for want of trying that Corbyn trails in the polls. He has been consistently undermined and attacked by the Blairites in Labour, and the press. Corbyn has and is campaigning much harder than May, but you won’t know about this, because the press and the biased BBC won’t report it. Similarly, you won’t hear much about his policies either, in the same way that Tony Benn’s and Ken Livingstone’s policies weren’t properly reported in the 1980s. The press than simply attacked them as dangerous Commies from the ‘loony left’, despite the fact that both were highly rational men, who very carefully considered their policies. And unfortunately it was effective. One of the books I bought on media bias begins with the description from one woman how she was told by a friend that she wouldn’t vote for Tony Benn. This was despite the fact that she shared all of Benn’s beliefs, including getting British troops out of Northern Ireland. When the lady pointed this out, and asked her friend why she wasn’t voting for him after all this, the woman replied that it was because Benn ‘was mad’. The press said so, so it has to be correct.

The press lies, and the campaign against fake news is simply the mainstream press trying to stop their competitors in the new media from spoiling their lies by telling the truth.

Brooks is also wrong when he advises people to vote Lib Dem, SNP and Green in marginal constituencies. I don’t think the Greens are strong enough electorally to be able to get an MP into parliament, even with tactical Labour votes. As for the Lib Dems, I’ve seen no indication that, if people vote for them, they won’t do what they did last time and immediately jump in bed with the Tories. I also very strongly believe that if people return to voting Labour in Scotland, not only will it strengthen the left throughout the UK, it’ll also drive the Tories finally out of Scotland completely.

‘Lib Dems Offer Strong Opposition to Tories’ – Who’s Farron Trying to Kid?

April 18, 2017

May’s just called a snap election for June, hoping that she’ll get a 2/3 majority in parliament. She claims it’s about Brexit, and that she needs to challenge the Scots Nationalists and the House of Lords, some of whom – naughty boys and girls – are undermining her, and she wants a united front in dealing with Europe. I’m sceptical about this claim. I think it’s also, as Ian Duncan Smith, the former minister for disabled death, has admitted, about beating the Labour party when they’re weak. The BBC pollsters have put Corbyn 20 to 21 points behind May.

There are good reasons for doubting these figures. Guy Debord’s Cat has written a long article, pointing out that polls are done by newspapers and Conservative interest groups, in order to manufacture public support for the Tories. They aren’t about presenting an objective gauge of how the public feels about politics, as a form of ‘manufacturing consent’, in Chomsky’s words. See https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/how-polling-works/ Even so, I am terribly afraid that the British public will be taken in by the media and Tory spin, and vote for May.

And the lying has already started. Ignoring the lies coming from the Tories, every word of which is sheer is a carefully crafted falsehood, Tim Farron has started lying on behalf of the Lib Dems. He was in Cornwall campaigning. Speaking from Truro, he made the claim that, unlike Labour, the Lib Dems would offer ‘strong opposition’ to the Tories.

Eh? Who’s he trying to kid.

Remember the 2010 election? The first thing Nick Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dems at the time, did was arrange to go into a coalition with the Conservatives. He claimed that he had negotiated with Labour, but that they had refused to remove Gordon Brown as their leader. This was, apparently, one of his conditions to entering government with them. Not having got what he wanted, he then switched to the Tories.

Except it was lies. Clegg had already made his decision to go with them anyway.

Just like Clegg also lied about opposing tuition fees for students. Soon as he got into power with the Tories, he was in favour of raising them. Far more so than Cameron, who was prepared to compromise with him on this. But Clegg was determined to raise them, and so student debt was increased to an even more crippling amount.

The Lib Dems were also more than willing to continue the Tories’ and New Labour’s privatisation of the NHS.

They were also eager to join the Tories in getting rid of Habeas Corpus and setting up secret courts, so you can be tried in secret, using evidence withheld from your lawyer, for reasons of ‘national security’. Just like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

And there was a whole branch of Farron’s party – the ‘Orange Book’ Liberals, all slavering enthusiasts for massive privatisation, the destruction of the welfare state and workers’ rights. One of the noxious pratts promoting this bilge was the Lib Dem MP for Taunton Dean, who came from a very privileged background, having grown up in Kenya and other exotic locales.

It might be that Farron has been a new broom, sweeping all this away. But I doubt it. The Lib-Dems claimed to have opposed the Tories before. They also claimed to be a moderating force against Tory excesses when they were in power with them. That was not true. And I doubt it is now.

How the ‘White’ Race Was Invented to Divide the American Working Class

April 10, 2017

There was another, very interesting piece in Counterpunch last week by Richard Moser, ‘Pawns No More: Ted Allen and the Invention of the White Race’. This discussed the work of Theodore W. Allen’s classic analysis of the origins of racism and racial oppression in America, The Invention the White Race: Volume I Racial Oppression and Social Control and Volume II: The Origins of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America. Allen was a White working class writer and political activist, who spent 20 years working in the Virginia state archives to amass an impressive amount of evidence to support his view: that the ‘White’ race was invented by the colonial authorities to divide the bonded poor, both Black and White, and stop the formation of a united working class opposition to slavery.

Allen noted that when the first Africans arrived at Jamestown in 1619, there was no special status attached either to them or to people of European origin. Indeed, Whites, as a special demographic category, did not exist, and would not exist until after Bacon’s Rebellion 60 years later. Moser writes

What Allen discovered transformed our understanding of race in America and can transform our organizing practice and activism.

He shocked readers with a startling finding:

“When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no “white” people there; nor according to colonial records would there be for another sixties years.”1

Oh, yes, there were English and Irish, but nowhere in the colonial record is there evidence that law or society granted special privileges to people based on European origin.

The white race and white identity were “invented,” Allen argued, by the ruling elite of Virginia, in order to divide laboring people in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. The white race was constructed and used as a political instrument to divide and conquer.

How did this come to be?

By 1620 or so, a system of unfree labor became the dominant labor system in Virginia. The system was essentially slavery, some “bond-laborers” had time-limited contracts, but most servitude was open to interpretation by custom. A majority of these bond-laborers were Europeans.

The archival evidence is clear, as well, that the role of African and African Americans was “indeterminate.” From 1619 to the years following Bacon’s Rebellion, the status of black people was contested in the courts and in the fields. Africans held a variety of social and economic positions: some were limited term slaves, some free, some endured lifetime bondage, while others were property holders, even including a few slave owners.

It was not until after Bacon’s Rebellion, or the second phase of Bacon’s Rebellion to be precise, that law and society created a new custom of racism, and for that to happen, the white race had to be invented.

What was the trigger?

“[I]n Virginia, 128 years before William Lloyd Garrison was born, laboring class African-Americans and European-Americans fought side by side for the abolition of slavery. In so doing, they provided the supreme proof that the white race did not then exist.”3

The Rebellion occupied the capital of Jamestown and pointed the way toward freedom for everyone, by contesting the rule of the oligarchs who had grown rich on slave labor and land stolen from the natives.

“[I]t was the striving of the bond-laborers for freedom from chattel servitude that held the key to liberation of the colony from the misery that proceeded from oligarchic rule…” 4

After the rebellion was suppressed, law and custom began to shift. Europeans were increasingly designated as “white” in the historical record, and given privileges that conferred a “presumption of liberty” while blacks were increasing subjected to legal and cultural limits to their freedoms. Whites were encouraged to view blacks with contempt and see their inferior social positions as proof of innate inferiority.

Conditions for working class Whites continued to be appalling throughout the US, both in the North as well as in the South, but there was a major difference between White and Black. The law presumed Whites were free, and so they had the ability to improve their conditions, and even such basic rights as the right to basic literacy – which were denied enslaved Africans.

Moser’s article is written not just as a piece of interesting historical analysis, but as a piece of factual ammunition for the campaign against the neoliberal rule of the rich elite in Trump’s America. He concludes

Here is Allen’s legacy and challenge to us: racism is historical, it is the product of human activity. If it was then, it is now. Racism was founded on a system of privileges designed to win working class white people’s support for slavery. And so it is to white privilege that we must look if we want to free ourselves from being the tools and fools of the rich and powerful.

We must be pawns no more.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/06/pawns-no-more/

This is important. American progressives have repeatedly pointed out the way the corporate elite are using working class White racism to bolster their own dominance, while at the same time doing everything they can to deny working and middle class Americans of their rights and ability to make a decent living, regardless of race. Bernie Sanders recounts in his book, Our Revolution, how he asked a local union leader in Mississippi how the Republicans got so many poor Whites to vote against their own interests. The union leader told him: racism.

Trump, Bush senior and junior, and Reagan all used White working class fears of Blacks and Black empowerment to get Whites to vote for them and policies that favoured only the rich in a policy that goes all the way back to Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’.

And the corporate elites over this side of the Atlantic have also used the same approach. It isn’t as blatant as it is in America, because British laws banning the promotion of racial hatred makes some of the overtly racist rhetoric of some American politicians illegal. But it’s there, nonetheless. You think about the way the Tories have constantly harped on the dangers of immigration, and the way that shaded quite quickly into racism with the vans Cameron sent round into mostly Black and Asian areas, which encouraged illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. Or asked the public to snitch on illegal immigrants. And then there’s UKIP, which again tried to attract White working class support through opposition to immigration, which at several times crossed over into real racism and Islamophobia, attracting members, who were very definitely part of the Fascist right. All the while also promoting policies that would hurt the very working class White voters they pretended to want to protect, such as privatising the health service, destroying the welfare state, as well as employment rights and rights for women.

Moser’s right in that this strategy, and the people behind it, need to be shown for what they are: a wealthy, corporate elite, who don’t care about the White working class, only about their own rule and power. A wealthy elite, who are using them to divide and rule working people. An elite that fears Whites and Blacks coming together to break their power and improve conditions for all working and middle class people, regardless of race. Theodore Allen’s analysis of the origins of the ‘White’ race is an important part of that ideological struggle.

Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution – A Future to Believe In

April 2, 2017

London: Profile Books 2016

Bernie Sanders is the ‘democratic socialist’ senator for Vermont, who ran against Hillary Clinton last year for the Democratic presidential nomination. He didn’t get it. Although he had more grass roots support than Killary, he was cheated of the nomination through the intervention of the Democrat superdelegates, who massively favoured her. He is the man, who should now be occupying the White House, rather than the gurning orange lump of narcissistic Fascism now doing his best to drag the country back to before the Civil War. The polls show that Bernie could have beaten Trump. But he wasn’t elected, as Bernie’s far too radical for the corporate state created by the Republican and mainstream, Clintonite Dems.

How radical can be seen from this book. It’s part autobiography, part manifesto. In the first part, Sanders talks about his youth growing up in Brooklyn, how he first became interested and aware of politics as a student at Chicago University, his political career in Vermont, and his decision to run for as a presidential candidate. This part of the book also describes his campaigning, as he crisscrossed America holding rallies, talking at town hall and union meetings, appearing on TV and social media trying to get votes. A strong feature of the book is Bernie’s emphasis on his background as one of the country’s now threatened lower middle class. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, who worked as paint salesman. He and his family lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, where conditions were cramped so that they often slept on couches. He freely admits that his parents were also relatively affluent and had more disposable income than others.

After having left uni, he began his political career in Vermont in 1971 when he joined and campaigned for the senate in the Liberty Union party, a small third party in the state. During the same period he also ran a small company producing educational films on the history of Vermont and other states in New England. Finding out that none of the college students he spoke to had ever heard of Eugene Victor Debs, he went and brought one out on the great American labour leader and socialist politician. On the advice of a friend and college professor, Richard Sugarman, Sanders ran for election as mayor of Burlington. He won, introducing a number of important welfare, educational and municipal reforms he called ‘socialism in one city’, a play on Stalin’s slogan of ‘Socialism in One Country’. He was strongly opposed by the Democrats. A few years afterwards, however, he was elected to Congress as an Independent, where, despite some resistance from the Democrats, he was finally admitted to the Democratic Caucus. In 2006 he ran for senator, contested the seat vacated by the Republican, Jim Jeffords, who had retired. By 2013 he was being urged by his supporters to campaign for the presidential nomination. To gauge for himself how much support he was likely to receive, Sanders went across America talking to ordinary folks across the country. After this convinced him that he had a chance, he began to campaign in earnest.

At the beginning of his campaign for the nomination, Sanders was very much the outsider, getting 15 per cent of the votes polled to Clinton’s 60 per cent. Then he started winning, climbing up the ladder as he took something like seven out of eight states in a row. The corporatist wing of the Democrats did everything they could to block his rise, culminating in the theft of the nomination through the intervention of the superdelegates.

Sanders is a champion of the underdog. He garnered much support by going to communities, speaking to the poor and excluded, often in very underprivileged neighbourhoods where the police and security guards were worried about his safety. He spoke in a poor, multiracial community in New York’s South Bronx, and to poor Whites in rural Mississippi. The latter were a part of the American demographic that the Democrats traditionally believed were impossible to win. Sanders states that actually speaking to them convinced him that they were way more liberal than the political class actually believe. During a talk to a group of local trade unionists, Sanders asked why people in such a poor area voted Republican against their interests. This was one of a number of counties in the state, that was so poor that they didn’t even have a doctor. The union leader told him: racism. The Republicans played on Whites’ hatred of Blacks, to divide and rule the state’s working people.

Sanders makes very clear his admiration for trade unions and their members, and how frequently they know far better than the politicians what is not only good for their members, but also good for the industry, their customers, and their country. He praises the nurses’ unions, who have endorsed his campaign and backed his demand for a Medicaid for all. He similarly praises the workers and professionals maintaining America’s infrastructure. This is massively decaying. 25 per cent of American bridges are, according to surveyors, functionally obsolete. Towns all over America, like Flint in Michigan, have had their water poisoned by negligent water companies. The electricity grid is also unspeakably poor. It’s ranked 35th worst in the world, behind that of Barbados. Yep! If you want to go to a country with a better electricity network, then go to that poor Caribbean country.

He describes how the poor in today’s America pay more for less. Drug prices are kept artificially high by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, so that many poor Americans can’t afford them. In one of the early chapter, he describes leading a group of women from Vermont over the Canadian border, so that they could buy prescription drugs cheaper. These same companies, like the rest of the big corporations, do everything they can to avoid paying tax. In some cases, these big corporations pay absolutely none. This is because of the corruption of American politics by donations from big business. As a result, the country’s politicians don’t represent the ordinary voters. They represent big business. He makes it clear he respects Hillary Clinton, but ran against her because you can’t combine representing ordinary people with taking money from the corporate rich. And at the heart of this corruption is the Koch brothers, oil magnates with a personal wealth of $82 billion and a corporate wealth of $115. They are not, explains Bernie, small government conservatives, but right-wing extremists. Their goal is to dismantle taxation completely, along with Medicaid and what little the country has of a welfare state. All so that the 1 per cent, who own as much as the poorest 90 per cent of the American population, can get even richer.

Sanders goes further to describe the massive inequalities that are now dividing American society, including the racism and sexism that ensures that women, Blacks and Latinos are paid less than White men. The notorious drug laws that have ensured that more Blacks are jailed for marijuana and other drugs than Whites. The crippling debt that faces more and more Americans. 48 million Americans are in poverty. 24 million have no health insurance. Many of these are people, who are in work, and frequently working their rear ends off just to make ends meet. He describes talking to a charity worker, who purchases just out of date food to give to the local food bank. According to the young man he spoke to, 90 per cent of the people using the bank are working Americans, whose jobs pay so little that they literally can’t afford to eat. In this section of the book he quotes a letter from a woman, who states that she and her husband are work 2 and 3 jobs each, but still can’t make a living. As a result, the young can’t afford to buy their houses, or go to university. He contrasts this with the situation in the 1950s. It wasn’t utopia, and there was still massive inequalities in wealth according to race and gender. But the economy was expanding, more people had the prospect of good, well-paying jobs, owning their own homes, and sending their children to college. This America is disappearing. Fast.

Sanders has given his support to women’s groups, and is a very staunch anti-racism campaigner. Amongst those who backed his campaign were Harry Belafonte and Dr. Cornel West, among other Afro-American intellectuals, performers and politicians. He also received the support of a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Seth MacFarlane and Danny DeVito. And comic book fans everywhere with genuinely progressive values will be delighted to here that his campaign manager ran a comic book store in Vermont. Presumably this guy is completely different from the owner of the Android’s Dungeon in The Simpsons. Sanders talks about his support for the Civil Rights movement, and Selma march, paying due tribute to its heroes and heroines, including Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s also a keen supporter of Black Lives Matter, the Black movement to stop cops getting away with the murder of Black people. As part of his campaign against racism, he also actively supports the campaign against the demonization of Muslims and rising tide of Islamophobia in America. When he was asked whether he would support this by a Muslim American, Sanders replied that he would, as his own father’s family were Jewish refugees from Poland.

Sanders is also strongly opposed to the current wars in the Middle East. He was not in favour of Gulf War 1 in the 1990s, and has attacked the invasion of Iraq under Bush for destabilising the country and region, and causing massive carnage. But he was no supporter of Saddam Hussein, and is also a staunch supporter of veterans, adding his political clout to their campaigns to stop the government cutting their benefits. He points out that the blame for these wars lie with the politicos, not the soldiers who had fight.

Bernie also takes worker ownership very seriously. Among the policies that he recommends for saving and expanding the American middle class are strengthening workers’ cooperatives and allowing workers to purchase their companies. One of the measures he states he will introduce will be to establish a bank to lend funds to American workers so that they can buy their own companies. He also wants to end the ‘too big to fail’ attitude to the big banks and start regulating them again. And as part of his campaign to strengthen and expand American democracy, he is a very harsh critic of the various laws the Republicans have introduced in states across America to stop Blacks, Latinos, the poor and students from voting. He also asks why it is that European countries can afford free medical care, but America can’t. And why Germany can provide college education free to its students, while Americans are faced with a mountain of debt.

Sanders is a genuine American radical in the tradition of Eugene Debs. It’s no wonder that the rich and the powerful now trying to pull the country back into the colonial era, when it was ruled by coterie of rich White men. He states that his country is now an oligarchy, and even a ‘banana republic’. He’s right, and right about the ways these issues can and should be tackled.

The Republicans have also tried to deter people from voting for him based on his apparent lack of interest in religion. They couldn’t attack him for being Jewish – although with those monsters Spencer and Gorka in the White House, I don’t know how long that will hold – so insinuated that he was an atheist. Well perhaps. But Sanders does have religious supporters. His friend and support Richard Sugarman is an Hasidic Jew and Sanders himself several times states how impressed he is with Pope Francis’ support for the global poor. He also made it clear in a speech he gave to the very Conservative Liberty University that he was impressed with the good in all religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, whatever. So he’s secular, but not anti-religious. Just anti-bigotry, and the way the right is trying to use religion to divide America.

It’s also remarkable that Sanders was the focus of a popular phenomenon far beyond his own campaign team. He states in the book that he wanted to control the campaign, and not have a SuperPAC telling people what he didn’t or didn’t believe. But he also found that up and down America, people at the grassroots were organising independently of his campaign team to support him. Unlike the astroturf fake populist campaign the Republicans and Libertarians have set up, Bernie’s genuinely popular with a growing number of American working people.

America desperately needs him. And so do we in Britain. The predatory, parasitical capitalism at the heart of American society has also been exported over here by the Conservatives. Just like the Americans need Bernie, we need Corbyn. And we need the two together, because if Bernie can do anything to stop the current political degeneration in America, it will also help stop the process over here.

Incidentally, Bernie has a personal connection with Britain. His brother is a member of the Green party in Oxfordshire, and campaigns against the privatisation of the NHS. Sanders also has a strong interest in protecting the environment and promoting renewable energy.

I also recommend this book to aspiring young politicos because of the chapters in which he talks about running a campaign, funded by your own supporters, not corporate backers, and what you need to do when running about the country. Like making sure you can get there in time and aren’t double-booked. It’s good advice, and although the latter seems obvious, he talks about a number of incidents in which he disastrously failed to follow it.

Sanders talks about the way people are being turned off politics in America, thanks to the massive corporate corruption. This also reaches into corporate media. Sanders also has a few ideas how they can be reformed. He himself was the subject of a media blackout, as the TV and news companies definitely did not want to cover him, and very much favoured Killary. Hopefully Bernie’s book will reach more of the alienated folk now being excluded from American politics, and show them that there is someone actively fighting for them. And so encourage them to get involved for themselves.

The Young Turks Lay in to Daily Mail’s Sexist Cover

March 30, 2017

The Daily Heil regularly judges women and girls on their appearance, rather than their intellectual abilities and achievements, but a few days ago they surpassed themselves by running a piece by Sarah Vine about whether Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon had the best legs as their cover story. The headline was ‘Never Mind Brexit, What about Legs-It’ or something similar, and showed a photograph of May and Sturgeon sitting together in skirts which rose above the knees. And The American progressive internet news show, The Young Turks, have duly laid into the article for its sexism.

Cenk Uygur noted that Theresa May just shrugged it off as a ‘bit of a laugh’, as she would, considering that one of her press secretaries used to work for the Heil. Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, simply commented that ‘the 1950s called. They want their headline back.’ Uygur and his co-host, Ana Kasparian, then ripped into the article proper. This raved about how the women’s ‘pins’ and ‘shanks’ were the two women’s greatest weapons. However, Theresa May sat demurely, as befitting the public schoolgirl vicar’s daughter she was. Sturgeon, however, was rather more sexy, ‘seductively’ pointing her feet at the audience.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that the article’s describing two of the most powerful women in Britain – the British Prime Minister, and the First Minister of Scotland. These two ladies were discussing a vitally important issue – Britain’s departure from the European Union, which also threatens to destroy the three-century old union with Scotland, should Scots vote to remain in the EU. And the Daily Mail is there trivialising the issue into a simple contest over which one had the better legs. Uygur says at one point that he doesn’t know what Vine’s ‘proclivities’ are, but Sturgeon wasn’t trying to seduce the audience. She was just sitting there. Kasparian was also deeply unimpressed about the Mail’s blatant sexism, and advised Vine to go off and examine her life.

Here’s the video:

This rather unsavoury piece of journalism is very much par for the course for the Mail, whose articles frequently comment on the appearance of female personalities and celebrities. The newspaper was specifically aimed at a female readership when it was set up in the 20s or 30s. It was aimed at the wives of the men, who read the Torygraph. Despite this, it has a very strong anti-feminist stance. In the 1990s it ran an article about a group of women calling themselves the fluffragettes. These young women were a kind of anti-feminist group, who wanted women to go back to being more ‘feminine’ – in their view – by being ‘fluffy’. And feminists have frequently criticised the paper for the way it judges women by their appearance. This is not just demeaning, but also dangerous. Many girls and young women are severely anxious about their bodies, which can and does lead to problems like eating disorders and an obsessive concern with pursuing an illusory ideal of female beauty and physical perfection, an ideal that can take over and ruin the lives of women, who have absolutely nothing wrong with their appearance in the first place. And this is quite apart from fostering the attitude that, whatever else a woman may achieve, her primary role is simply to look good.

This whole issue also distorts and complicates attitudes in the workplace. Since the 1970s feminists have been campaigning against sexual harassment at work. Again, a few years ago there was a piece of research, in which groups of men and women were shown or played footage of a man greeting female colleagues in various ways, including commenting on their appearance. This was done in order to gauge what the audience considered sexual harassment. Normal greetings at the start of the working day, like ‘Good morning, Mrs X,’, or ‘Hi, Sue’ obviously don’t count. When it involves commenting on a woman’s appearance, it can be sexist or demeaning, or be construed as such.

The Mail’s obsession with female appearance creepily extends to teenage girls. A few years ago Ian Hislop and some of the other panelists on Have I Got News For You also laid into the Heil for its very dubious moral stance in whipping up fears about predatory paedophiles, when it also ran sexualised articles about teenage girls. They made the point that the newspaper regularly printed articles showing photographs of 14 year old girls under headlines admiring their beauty.

I have to say I was really somewhat amazed by the Mail’s attitude, as it didn’t strike me that there was anything particularly sexy about the women’s pose. May and Sturgeon are politicians, which is hardly a physically glamorous profession. One comedian once said that it was ‘Hollywood for ugly people’. It’s not entirely true, but it does make the point that most politicians aren’t there because of their good looks. Nor should they be. The only criteria for their election to office should be whether they are effective representatives of their constituencies and good managers and leaders. And it also goes without saying that they should also be moral, law-abiding citizens.

It’s also not a bad idea to have a female journo commenting on May and Sturgeon as politicians and negotiators. There’s one strand of feminism, which says that women bring a different set of skills and perspectives to politics than their male comrades. I did wonder whether Thatcher deliberately excluded women from her cabinet, because they could see through her management strategies in a way that may not have been apparent to the men there, and so formed a potential challenge to her authority. If women do have a different leadership style, then it would make sense to have a female writer analyse it, as she might be able to perceive subtle nuances that may not be quite so apparent to a bloke.

But this was precisely what the article didn’t give us. We didn’t get any deep insights into the debate about Brexit and the British constitution between the two leaders. We just got a bit of drivel about which one had the better ‘pins’. It really does make you wonder about the people writing and reading the Heil. My guess is that many of the hacks there have come from the even lower end of the tabloid spectrum, like the Scum, which regularly feature various attractive young women in states of undress. The Heil is supposedly somewhat above this style of journalism, but as this headline showed, not by much. The journalistic urge to write about how glamorous and sexy a woman is, is still very much there. It’s just that it’s now applied to female politicians.

I think Ana Kasparian’s right. Someone at the Heil desperately needs to sort their life out. Or take a cold shower, at least.

Damian Green Excited about Taking Away Worker’s Rights to Stable Hours, Pensions, Sick Pay and Holiday Pay

March 23, 2017

Iain Duncan Smith’s loathsome successor at the DWP, Damian Green, has described his government’s moves to strip workers of the rights to stable working hours, holiday pay, sick pay and pensions as ‘exciting’ and with ‘huge potential’, Mike reports over at Vox Political. Mike makes the point that Green, as a former journalist, has enjoyed all the rights that he now wants to see taken away from working people in Britain.

He wants to see the majority of people consigned to poverty, job insecurity and the fear of contact with the assessors at his draconian department. And if this is viewed alongside the government’s other policies, it’s very clear that he’s delighted at employees not being able to afford to take time off when they’re ill. And in any case, after the Tories privatise the NHS, they’ll never be able to afford treatment any way. Just as he wants people to be unable to afford to retire, so that they have to keep on slaving for exploiters like him right up to the moment they did.

Mike concludes

Please, Britain, get a clue. This man – and his friends – hate you. They only want to hurt you. Put a stop to their plans while you still can. Never vote Conservative.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/23/twisted-damian-green-thinks-its-exciting-that-future-jobs-may-not-have-stable-hours-holiday-pay-sick-pay-or-pensions/

Be prepared also for the drivel that the Tories will spout to justify this. If challenged about this, we’ll doubtless hear how such reforms are needed in order to make the labour market more ‘flexible’. It’s the same drivel the Tories and Blairites have spouted, when they started stripping workers of their rights and introduced such wonderful, exciting, reforms as making it easier to sack workers, introducing zero hours contracts and the like. The same journalists and business managers also found it wonderful when John Major’s governments introduced the legislation that permitted employees to be kept on short-term contracts. I can remember the Financial Times raving about how workers would be able to move from job to job, and create ‘job portfolios’ to impress employers. Thus was the beginnings of the current precarity introduced under the Tories back in the 1990s, and sold to the public, or at least the financial class. I think some of the journalists have woken up to the fact that short-term contracts and the idea of ‘job portfolios’ are nonsense. Not that the press hasn’t gone so far as to scrap the whole idea of job insecurity. That would mean scrapping one of the key planks of Thatcherism and Blairite ‘New Labour’.

Sam Seder’s Majority Report: Theresa May Laughs Like an Evil Robot

March 23, 2017

Yes, I know this is ad hominem, and not a reasoned rebuttal of the Tories’ policies. But I’m posting this up to show that American progressives also find Theresa May thoroughly revolting. In this clip from The Majority Report, Sam Seder’s co-host comments on a clip of Theresa May laughing in derision at one of Jeremy Corbyn’s questions. The laugh is so strange, that the presenter says he’s prepared to believe that she’s actually one of the lizard shapeshifters. This is a reference to David Icke’s bonkers theory that the Illuminati who run in the world, including leading politicians like Ted Heath, are really alien reptoids. He also wonders if the laugh might be genuine, but May laughs so rarely that it’s strange when it comes out.

He concludes by wondering what Jeremy Corbyn’s doing wrong to lose in the polls to her, so repugnant does he find her. He even remarks that Corbyn must be in real trouble to lose to that.

It looks to me very strongly that it’s a forced laugh. Listening to Corbyn’s question, it appears that he was asking whether she made some kind of sweetheart deal over funding with the local council that’s escaped some of the Tory cuts, as Mike’s blogged about this week. Corbyn’s obviously hit the nail right on the head, hence the very fake mirth.

Not that she’s remotely alone in making that kind of forced laugh in response to an uncomfortable comment or question. Waaaay back in the 1990s Harry Enfield remarked on one of the chat shows at the time how MPs always put on the same forced laugh when someone makes a statement or comment they can’t refute. This is exactly what’s going on here.

As for Corbyn being unable to beat her in the polls, this is simply because every media outlet runs nothing but smears and attacks on him, and the Blairites in his own party are doing everything they can to force him out. This is because he’s a threat to the Tory-Lib Dem-Blairite project to privatise the NHS and destroy any kind of worker’s rights in favour of giving tax breaks to rich corporate donors.