Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

Kevin Logan on Grenfell Tower, Justice and Patriotism

June 19, 2017

This is an angry, impassioned rant by Kevin Logan against the gross social injustice of Tory Britain that has produced the Grenfell Tower fire. Logan’s a male feminist, who makes vlogs attacking the Alt-Right and Men’s Rights movements and their lunacies.

Logan begins the video by discussing the fire itself. He mentions how Grenfell Tower is an area of low-income housing in Kensington, one of the richest places in Britain. As it is a pocket of low class housing – he calls it ‘slum’ – amidst extreme wealth, the local council decided to cover it in cladding, so that the richer residents wouldn’t have to look at it. The fire spread rapidly because this cladding was inflammable. The disaster was entirely avoidable, as fire-proof cladding was only an extra £2 per unit more expensive. Thus it would have cost a mere £5,000 more to protect these people from the horror that engulfed them.

He also queries the official figures for the number of victims. At the time he made the video, the official death toll was 30. This, he states, will be revised upwards. It may well go over 100, and some have suggested that the real figure will be over 300. We don’t know at the moment, as the government has decided that it’s politically sensitive and so have slapped a D notice on it.

He lays the blame for this tragedy firmly on the Tories, and specifically David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. George Osborne is responsible, as he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who launched the Tories’ austerity policies. David Cameron was the Prime Minister, who stated clearly in 2012 that he was against the culture of health and safety. He therefore was determined to repeal the ‘red tape’, which means the laws actually protecting humans beings. And Theresa May is responsible because she cut emergencies and the number of fire stations in London when she was in charge of the Home Office. As for Boris Johnson, he made the situation worse by cutting the number of counsellors available to help fire fighters get over the horrors they’ve seen. There were 14 of them before he took office as mayor of London, and those weren’t enough. But Boris then went and reduced them to two.

Logan states quite clearly that austerity kills. Not just through cuts to the emergency services, but also in cuts to hospitals and the welfare state. He also states that this country needs to decide what it is. Either we’re a nation too poor to afford to give decent cladding that will protect people for a mere £5,000, or we’re a nation so rich we can afford to give billions in tax cuts to millionaires. Not to mention the fact that we’re spending another £100 billion on nuclear weapons. He states that he isn’t going to get into the debate about nuclear weapons, only that apparently we can’t afford to feed and shelter the poor, but we can find money for nuclear weapons, and bombing brown folk elsewhere in the world.

He also informs his viewers how Jeremy Corbyn attempted to introduce legislation to protect people in poor quality housing, but 311 Tory MPs voted against it. This included 80, who were private landlords. This was a massive conflict of interest, which should never have been allowed to happen. And the media are complicit in it because they have remained silent on it.

Over half of the video is Logan discussing patriotism, and the question, often asked, whether he is patriotic. He states that when a tragedy like this occurs, no, he can’t be patriotic. Not for a country that cares more for the rich, than to spend £5,000 stopping poor people from being burned alive – or, rather, killed by smoke inhalation, in their beds. He states very clearly that there needs to be riots about this, and for those responsible to be properly prosecuted. He doesn’t know where legal responsibility for this tragedy lies, with local council or elsewhere, but a large number of people need to be prosecuted, far larger than a small number of sacrificial lambs. He states that corporate manslaughter needs to be taken far more seriously in this country. The politicians responsible should be given absolutely no peace until they either resign or pass the necessary legislation to protect people against further tragedies like this.

He also predicts that the Tories will find some way of tricking people out of their homes. They’ve said they won’t, and that the residents will be rehoused in the borough, but they will do it anyway. Logan states that it is wrong that there are people, who are homeless, while there are mansions, owned by the rich, that are going empty. The people made homeless by the fire could be housed in them, and the state could pay for their accommodation. But this won’t happen, because the rich always come first.

He says that he isn’t interested in what we claim to be, or what we were, but what we are and will be, before he will say he’s patriotic. He doesn’t hate the country, but we have to stop being a Tory vassal state. And Theresa May needs to go. If, however, we want to be a country where the rich come before stopping the poor die, then as far as he concerned, you can burn the country to the ground.

I agree with nearly everything he says here – about the twisted system of values we have in our society, where the profits of the rich come before human life, and where invading nations in the developing world for the benefit of multinationals is far more important than tackling the poverty back in Britain. As Mike and other disability rights bloggers – DPAC, Stilloaks, Johnny Void and many others have shown time and again, austerity is killing tens of thousands each year. There is absolutely no question about it. And neither should there be any question about who is responsible for this carnage as well. It’s the Tories.

I reject the call to riot, and his angry rejection of patriotism. Rioting only results in local residents having their lives and property threatened and damaged. It doesn’t threaten the politicians and corporations ultimately responsible for the iniquities against which the riots are aimed. And it allows the Tory press to dismiss those protesting as thugs and extremists. We’ve already seen it happen this weekend, when a peaceful crowd spontaneously invaded Kensington council offices to make their voices heard. No-one rioted, there was no violence, and no begging. But that didn’t stop the media and Tory press from claiming there was. All to frighten the millions watching and reading the papers away from supporting them.

As for patriotism, I’m a patriot in the sense that I want the best for my country and its people. There is still much that is good in this country. But its government is mendacious and corrupt. And the very people, who insist that we all be patriotic, are usually those responsible for the injustices that mar it. Like the Tories under Thatcher, who made much about how they stood for Britain and patriotism. Or the right-wing nationalists in the NF, EDL, BNP and similar organisations.

There’s a lesson here for the Alt-Right on why many people in the West don’t feel patriotic. According to the Alt-Right and similar right-wing ideologues, it’s all due to ‘cultural Marxism’. The Frankfurt School has undermined western self-confidence in order to destroy its culture, and place everyone under the Communist heel. It’s also because of ‘cultural Marxism’ that feminism is making such inroads to the point that men are being treated unjustly.

No, ‘cultural Marxism’, if it even exists, doesn’t have anything to do with the rejection of patriotism by many in the contemporary West. It’s gross injustices like the Grenfell Tower fire. Decent people are outraged by a social system that has gives such massive, disproportionate power to a rich minority, and has allowed the poor, non-Whites and women to be mistreated and oppressed. But I very much doubt that this obvious fact will make much impression on them, as they’re not going to listen.

Thoughts and Prayers to the Victims and Emergency Teams of the Grenfell Tower Fire

June 17, 2017

Like the rest of the country, I was shocked and horrified by the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in London. I have also been profoundly moved by the great community spirit of the victims. The people of the block were of all ethnicities, cultures and religions, but they all pulled together to support each other escaping from this horrific event. I also have nothing but admiration for the courage, professionalism and sheer heroism of the fire fighters and other first responders, who did what they could to save people from this conflagration.

I therefore send my thoughts and prayers to the victims and rescue workers, and the various charities that worked to give them somewhere to sleep after their homes were destroyed, and were collecting to provide for them after they lost everything in the fire.

I hope they will be housed soon, and will get satisfaction from the Kensington Council and this despicable Tory government, who have passed the legislation that allowed this to happen.

Mike has put up several fascinating posts about it, but one of these is particularly suitable for this post. It’s simply of a sweat/T-shirt on which someone has written their message of love to the victims. You can see it at:

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/this-image-speaks-for-itself/

The NME Interviews Jeremy Corbyn

June 3, 2017

The musical paper, NME, last week put its support firmly behind Jeremy Corbyn. They’ve put on YouTube this interview with the great man by their editor-in-chief, Mike Williams.

Williams states that the other parties are ignoring the needs of young people, with the exception of Corbyn. In the course of the interview, Corbyn talks about how support for Labour is surging because, now that we’re in the election period, the reporting has to be a little fairer, and so people are for the first time hearing what Labour’s policies actually are.

He talks about how children are having their future damaged through growing up in high rent, poorly maintained housing, attending schools that are having their funding cut so they are releasing teachers and teaching assistants.

He talks about how Britain spends less on its welfare support than other nations. This is unacceptable, as we are not a poor nation. He states that he intends to correct this by putting more on corporation tax, but 95 per cent of the people of this country will not be paying anymore.

He also talks about how student debt is also damaging young people’s future. It harms their credit rating and makes it difficult for them to get a mortgage. As you have to be earning over £21,000 before paying it back, it means that many people don’t earn enough, and so, as many people also move abroad, it means that there is a mountain of public debt that’s piling up.

He states that Labour will make tuition free for those beginning uni in 2017/18, but acknowledges that there is a problem with existing students, who have already accumulated a debt. He sketches out various ways Labour may try to reduce it, but acknowledges that at this point he can’t give a definitive answer, because an election has only just been called.

Corbyn and Williams also talk about how the Tories are running down public services, including the welfare state, through massive cuts, in order to give massive tax breaks to big companies, which leave the rest of us worse off.

He rebuts May’s dismissal of Labour’s proposals as ‘utopian’, and makes that dry observation that this the first time he’s heard her use the word. Clearly, he has a low opinion of her intelligence and vocabulary.

As the NME is a music paper, Corbyn also talks about Labour’s proposals to protect and nurture music and young musical talent. About 40 per cent of the music venues in London have closed. Corbyn states that he intends to rectify this by putting more funding into live music venues and music education. There will be an additional £160 million given to schools, which will enable schoolchildren to learn an instrument. He also wishes to give money to councils so they can provide affordable practice spaces to aspiring musicians. In this way, he hopes to encourage the music industry to take up the pool of talent that there will be.

Williams tackles him on the subject of pacifism, and asks him why he has said he will put more money into defence. Corbyn states that he believes in and works for peace, but there is the question of what you would do in a war like the World War II and the need to attack enemies like the Nazis. However, he states he has set up a shadow minister for peace and disarmament, and that if Labour wins he will turn this into a ministerial position.

The two also talk about what will happen to the NHS if Labour don’t get into power. How close is it to collapse? Corbyn states that it is very close to collapse already, and that if this goes on, it will become a health service of last resort to people who cannot afford private healthcare. If that happens, you will have the system where the poor will have to receive care from emergency rooms, a prospect he finds appalling.

Williams asks him what will happen if Labour doesn’t win. Corbyn says in reply that Labour will, but people need to get out and vote.

As for the whole question about young people versus old people, he states that he does not believe politics should be so compartmentalised. He describes a public meeting in which he spoke to a wide cross-section of the community, the young, the old, gay, straight, Black and White. We should be talking, he says, about intergenerational support. The young need the wisdom of the old, and the old need the inspiration of the young.

Williams also asks him the burning question that people have been poring over for the past 20 years: which was better, Blur or Oasis. Corbyn things a bit, and then says Oasis, but then says that what he really should have said, was that he’d refer it to a focus group. But he doesn’t do focus groups.

This is an excellent interview. Corbyn is quiet spoken, in command of the facts and figures, optimistic, but not complacent, and with very clear ideas how to make life better in Britain for everyone, not just the poor. And he has the honesty to admit that Labour doesn’t yet have a fixed policy when it comes to the debts students now have built up. You won’t hear such honest from May. All you can expect from her is lies.

All the Tories will give us, by contrast, is more poverty, more starvation, and all to give more money to the rich.

We can stop them.
For peace, a just Britain, and an end to Tory poverty and misrule, vote Labour on June 8th.

The Real News: Tory Lead Slashed to 5% – Corbyn Definitely Electable!

May 30, 2017

This is a very interesting perspective on the massive downturn in the Tories’ lead in the polls here in the UK from the Real News Network. From the looks of things, this is a global Indian news programme based in America. In this video, Sharmini Peries in Baltimore talks to Kam Sandhu, a young woman, who is the founder of Real Media in the UK.

They discuss how the Tory polling lead has fallen from 20 per cent to just 5 due to May’s ‘Dementia Tax’, in which the homes of the elderly were to be seized and sold by the government to pay for their social care. Sandhu makes the point that this policy, and May’s removal of the cap on social care costs, attacked the Tories’ own supporters. The result was that afterwards, 28 per cent of people said they were less likely to vote Tory.

Sandhu also talks about the impact of the Tories’ plans to remove free school meals and replace them with free breakfasts. The Tories’ hadn’t costed this either, and when it came out that there was going to be only 7p spent per pupil on these breakfasts, it caused outrage and the Tories had to admit they didn’t know how much it would cost.

Sandhu admits that the 5 per cent polling lead of the Tories is only in one poll, but she says it has overturned the criticisms against Jeremy Corbyn – that he was too weak to lead, as against May, who was ‘strong and stable’. This has refuted these allegations.

She also states that even if Corbyn does not win, and is forced out of the Labour leadership, he has still set the Labour agenda on tuition fees, the Health Service and other major areas of Labour policy, which will be permanent. This is positive, and Sandhu is very glad that Labour now have a real chance of winning.

Weak and Wobbly Theresa May’s Contradictory and Crap Housing Policy

May 15, 2017

The leak last Thursday of the Labour party manifesto, with its promise to nationalise the railways and parts of the energy network, clearly has rattled the Tory party. Mike over at Vox Political remarked that leak was probably intended to discredit these policies, but instead they have proved massively popular.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/11/labours-manifesto-approved-unanimously-by-nec-and-shadow-cabinet-after-leaked-version-wins-huge-public-support/

I’m not surprised. The Tory party, of course, started shrieking that this would drag us all back to the 1970s – actually not a bad thing, as Mike has also pointed out, considering that the gulf between rich and poor was at its lowest during that decade. The Torygraph also went berserk, and plastered all over the front page of its Friday edition a headline claiming that Labour MPs were ‘disowning’ it. I don’t know how true this was. It could be the Blairites trying their best to undermine their own party again, in order to shore up virtuous neoliberalism. Or it could be just more rumour and scaremongering put out, as usual, by the rag and its owners, the weirdo Barclay twins. The Telegraph has been in the forefront of the newspapers attacking Corbyn since he was elected to the Labour leadership. So many of its stories are just scaremongering or, at best, the fevered imaginings of a frightened capitalist class, that you can’t really believe anything the newspaper actually writes about the Labour party or its leader. Ken Surin, in an article for Counterpunch, quoted statistics by media analysts that said that only 11 per cent of reports about the party presented the facts accurately.

But the fact that the railways do need to be renationalised was ironically shown again that day, as a train I wanted to catch was delayed by 15 minutes. Because a train had broken down. The British taxpayer now pays far more subsidies to the private rail companies for a worse train service than in the 1970s. So once again, we’re back to showing that rather than being a decade of uniform disaster and imminent social collapse, it was better in some ways than the present.

So May has decided to unveil a few radical policies of her own. In order to counter Labour’s promise to build a million new homes, half of which will be social housing, in the next five years, May has announced that her government will boost the number of social housing being built, and included a special right to buy clause. Which sounds good, until you realise that they’re not going to release any more money for it.

Without that extra money, the promise is meaningless.
It’s more Tory lies.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/14/theresa-may-has-actually-announced-a-policy-and-its-rubbish/

The Tory party has absolutely no intention of building any more social housing. Mike has put up in his article a table of the Tories’ abysmal record on housing. These include a 43 per cent increase in homelessness, a 166 per cent jump in the number of people sleeping rough, private rents have gone up by over £1,700 since 2010, and the cost of owning a home for first-time buyers has risen by £65,000. But this won’t worry the Tory party, as 1/3 of them are private landlords. And I distinctly remember Johnny Void posting a number of articles about they sought to profit by the dearth of housing in London.

And this is quite apart from the fact that the Tory press, such as the Daily Mail, is aimed very much at the kind of people, who buy to rent, and endlessly applauds high house prices even though they make homes unaffordable to an increasing number of people in 21st century England. Of course they see such prices as a good thing, as it means even greater profits for them.

So they won’t want to undermine the housing bubble they’ve created, and cause prices to fall by building any more.

But they can’t be seen to be doing that, with Corbyn and Labour hot on this issue.

So they’ve concocted this rubbish, self-contradictory policy, hoping that people will be deceived by the meaningless promise. They hope people will remember the first part, and forget that without any more money, it won’t happen.

Don’t let them fool you.
Vote Labour for a decent housing solution on June 8th.

Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

April 5, 2017

by Richard Seymour (London: Verso 2016).

I bought this last Friday, as I wanted something that would help me refute the continuing lies about the Labour leader: that he is a Trotskyite, his supporters have infiltrated the party, and that he is too left-wing to lead the Labour party to victory in 2020. The book does indeed provide plenty of information to refute these accusations, though I’m not convinced of its over all thesis. The book’s blurb states that Corbyn’s election as leader is just the latest phase in the party’s degeneration. Flicking through the book, it appears that his main point is that the Labour party has never really been a Socialist party, and that apart from the great victories of Clement Atlee’s administration, it’s record has been largely one of failure as it compromised its radical programme and adopted conventional, right-wing policies once in office. At one point Seymour describes the idea of Labour as a Socialist party as a ‘myth’.

I was taught by historians, who did believe, as Seymour does, that the British Labour party was influenced far more by 19th century Nonconformist Liberalism than by continental Socialism. And certainly when Labour took power in the 1930s, it did disappoint many of its voters by following the-then economic orthodoxy. There is a difference between Labourism and Socialism. However, the party included amongst its constituent groups both trade unions and Socialists, and stated so. However, I haven’t read the sections of the book where Seymour lays out the arguments for his view that the Labour party is degenerating – along with, he says, western democracy. But he does have some very interesting things to say about Corbyn’s supposedly ‘Trotskyite’ views, and the whole nonsense about Far Left infiltration of the party.

Corbyn’s parents were middle class radicals, who met when they were campaigning for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Growing up in rural Shropshire, he worked on farms. He was radicalised while working as a volunteer for Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica, where he became aware and appalled by ‘imperialist attitudes, social division, and economic exploitation.’ He was a trade union organisers for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, and then the National Union of Public Employees. He’s teetotal, and did not take part in the ‘hedonistic pleasures of the counterculture’. He is a member of the Bennite wing of the Labour party, the Socialist Campaign Group, which Seymour states has consistently opposed the government regardless of whichever party is in office.

His former partner Jane Chapman states that he is ‘very principled, very honest … a genuinely nice guy.’ Since 1983 he has been the MP for Islington North. Seymour notes that even his most ‘sceptical’ biographer, the Torygraph’s Rosa Prince, acknowledges that he ‘is known as a “good constituency MP”‘. He takes great pains to help his constituents, and is ‘universally considered to do an exemplary job’.

Apart from being anti-austerity, he has also actively campaigned against attempts to limit immigration, and rejects the New Labour tactic of trying to take on board some of UKIP’s militant nationalism. His first move as the new Labour leader was to attend a pro-refugee rally in London.

His other policies are left-wing, but not extreme Left by a very long way. Seymour writes

The agenda on which Corbyn was elected is not, however, the stuff of which revolutions are made. he has pledged to end austerity, and in its stead implement a People’s Quantitative Easing programme, with money invested in infrastructural development, job-creation and high-technology industries. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won office on an agenda like this. Even the OECD is anti-austerity these days. He promises to address the housing crisis through extensive home-building, to fully nationalise the railways, and to bring all academies back under local democratic control. These objectives are to be funded, not so much by squeezing the rich like a sponge to water the gardens of the poor, as by closing tax loopholes, stimulating growth, and spending less on controversial programmes like Trident.

This is in most ways a classic social-democratic remedy, which could easily have come with some Wilsonian vocables about ‘the white heat of technological revolution’. The problem for the establishment is not necessarily Corbyn’s agenda. It may be too radical for today’s Labour party, today’s media and today’s parliamentary spectrum, but business could live with it, and the consensus would shift if Corbyn gained popular support. (pp. 8-9)

So where did this bilge that he was a Trot come from? Some of it came from the fact that his rallies were partly organised an attended by ‘accredited helpers’, people who were not Labour members, but who gave their time and effort alongside those who were. The only evidence that there was a ‘far left plot’ was the call by a tiny Marxist grouplet, the Communist Party of Great Britain. This has only 24 members, at the most, and whose weekly news-sheet is regarded as the Heat magazine of the Far Left. (P. 30).

So where do the new members comes? Many of them are simply Labour members, who drifted away or became inactive thanks to the managerial, autocratic attitude of the New Labour leadership. They were tired of being ignored, and regarded only as useful for leafletting and so on. And what really annoyed many grassroots members was the scripts the leadership insisted that canvassers should follow when talking to people on doorsteps. A significant number are also young people, who have joined the Labour party because for the first in a very long time there is actually a leader, who means what he says and talks straight in language ordinary people can understand, rather than the waffle and management-speak that constitutes the rhetoric of his right-wing opponents.

Much of the hostility against him in the press and the New Labour coterie comes from his support from two of the largest trade unions, Unite and Unison, which has had the Sunday Times and other rags screaming hysterically about the threat of renewed union militancy.

But what really terrifies the Right – including the Blairites – and the media-industrial complex, is his style of campaigning. Blair and the other parties adopted a style of government based on industrial management, using focus groups, and with news and the party’s statements all carefully marketised and timed according to the news cycles. Corbyn doesn’t do this. He actually turns up at rallies and events up and down the country, and speaks to the people. Corbyn himself said that he went to 100 meetings during his leadership campaign, and by the end of that year would have gone to 400-500. (P. 7). Seymour states that on one Saturday in August, Corbyn spoke to 1,800 people in Manchester, 1,000 people in Derby, 1,700 in Sheffield’s Crucible and a further 800 outside. By the end of the month 13,000 people had signed to volunteer for his campaign. 100,000 people signed up as registered supporters, and 183,658 as active members of the Labour party.

Like his American counterpart, Bernie Sanders, Corbyn is also massively popular on social media. Marsha-Jane Thompson states that within four weeks of setting up his Facebook page, they went to 2.5 million people. The page reached 11 million people every day. As a result of this, when they announced a meeting in Colchester on Facebook, all the thousand tickets were gone within 45 minutes. Seymour also notes the deference given to the traditional media has broken. over half of Corbyn’s supporters received most their information about his leadership campaign from social media. And the attacks on him in the mainstream press and news have compounded a sense among his supporters that not only is Corbyn genuine, but the traditional media is untrustworthy. (p.23).

This is important. It isn’t just that Corbyn and his supporters represent a challenge to the neoliberal consensus that private industry is automatically good, and those on welfare have to be ground into the dirt, starved and humiliated in order to please bilious Thatcherites and their vile rags like the Scum, Mail, Express, Torygraph and Times. It’s because he’s actually going back to doing the traditional hard work of political oratory and speaking to crowds. Not just relying on his spin doctors to produce nicely crafted, bland statements which the party masses are expected to follow uncritically.

And the newspapers, TV and radio companies don’t like him, because his success challenges their status as the approved architects of consensus politics. When 57 per cent of his supporters get their information about him from social media, it means that the grip of the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4 and Murdoch to tell people what to believe, what to think and what counts as real news is loosening drastically. And if no one takes them seriously, then their ability to act as the spokesman for business and politics is severely damaged, as is the ability of the commercial companies to take money from advertising. What company is going to want to spend money on ads following ITV and Channel 4 news, if nobody’s watching. And the businesses spending so much on advertising to take over the functions of the welfare state, like private hospitals and health insurance, are going to demand lower rates for their custom if fewer people are watching them and the mood is turning away from the Thatcherite and Blairite programme of NHS privatisation.

How Labour Can Become a Party of the Countryside

April 2, 2017

Last Thursday Mike put up a piece asking ‘How can Labour become the party of the countryside again?’, following the announcement by the Fabian Society that it was launching a project to investigate ways in which the Labour party could start winning over rural communities in England and Wales. The Society stated that the government had promised to match the subsidies granted to farmers and rural communities under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020. However, farmers are faced with the devastating prospect of losing access to European markets, while being undercut by cheap foreign imports. Environmental regulations are also threatened, which also affect the continuing beauty of the English and Welsh countryside.

The Society recognises that agriculture isn’t the only issue affecting rural communities. They also suffer from a range of problems from housing, education, transport and the closure of local services. Rural communities pay more for their transport, and are served worst. At the same time, incomes in the countryside are an average of £4,000 lower than in the towns, but prices are also higher. Many market towns, pit villages and other rural communities have been abandoned as their inhabitants have sought better opportunities in the towns.

The Society is asking Labour members in rural communities to fill out a survey, to which Mike’s article is linked, and give their views on how the party can succeed in the countryside.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/28/how-can-labour-become-the-party-of-the-countryside-again/

This is a fascinating project, and if successful would see Labour challenge the Tories and Lib Dems in their heartlands. The Tories in particular seem to see themselves as the party of the countryside since the 18th and 19th centuries, when they represented the Anglican aristocracy, who tried to emphasise the rural traditions of a mythical prosperous ‘merrie England’ against the threat of the towns of the growth of the Liberal middle class.

Mike states that one of the problems he’s faced as a Labour party campaigner in his part of rural Wales is the myth that ‘Labour wants to nationalise farms’. Clearly, this is the part of the same complaint I remembering hearing from middle class children at school that ‘Labour wanted to nationalise everything’. It was to allay these suspicions that Blair went off and got rid of Clause 4 as part of his assault on Labour as the party of the working class. But even before then it was nonsense.

Following Labour’s defeat in the 1950 elections, the party halted its programme of nationalisation. Labour was in any case committed to nationalise only when it was necessary and popular. Thus, Atlee’s government set up the NHS and nationalised the utilities, with very little opposition from the Tories, but did not proceed further. And the Social Democratic section of the party, led by Tony Crosland, argued very strongly against nationalisation on the grounds that it was not only unpopular, but the benefits of nationalisation could be achieved in other ways, such as a strong trade union movement, a welfare state and progressive taxation.

This held sway until the 1970s, when the Keynsian consensus began to break down. Labour’s response in 1973 was to recommend a more comprehensive programme of nationalisation. They put forward a list of 25 companies, including the sugar giant, Tate & Lyle, which they wanted taken into public ownership. How large this number seems to be, it is far short complete nationalisation.

The party was strongly aware of the massive problems the Soviet Union had in feeding its population, thanks to the collectivisation of agriculture. Most of the food produced in the USSR came from the private plots the peasants were allowed on their kholkozy – collective farms. Tito’s government in Yugoslavia had attempted to avoid that by letting the farms remain in private hands. At the same time, only companies that employed more than 20 people were to be nationalised.

Even in the 1930s and 40s I don’t think the nationalisation of farmland was quite an option. Looking through the contents of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, I found an old copy of Production for the People, published by the Left Book Club in the 1940s. This explored ways in which Socialists could raise production in industry and agriculture, to the benefit of working people. The section on agriculture was almost wholly devoted to the question of subsidies and suitable government infrastructure to support farmers. I can’t remember there being any mention of nationalisation. The closest the book came was to argue for an expansion of rural cooperatives.

This project may well embarrass the Fabian Society. I’ve got the distinct impression that the Society is now staffed very strongly with Blairites, and it is Blairism as a barely left extension of Thatcherism that is at the heart of so many of the problems of rural communities. Blair, for example, like Major and now the administrations of Cameron and May, strongly supported the big supermarket chains. But the supermarket chains have done immense damage to Britain’s small businessmen and farmers. They force small shopkeepers out of business, and impose very exploitative contracts on their suppliers. See the chapter on them in George Monbiot’s Captive State. Yet national and local governments have fallen over to grant their every wish up and down the country. David Sainsbury even had some place in one of Blair’s quangos. I think he even was science minister, at one point.

If Labour would like to benefit farmers and traders, they could try and overturn the power of the supermarket chains, so that farmers get a proper price for their products and are not faced with the shouldering the costs while Sainsbury’s, Tescos and so on reap all the profits. At the same time, your local shops together employ more people than the local supermarket. So if you cut down on the number of supermarkets in an area, you’d actually boost employment. But this is unlikely to go down well with the Blairites, looking for corporate donations and a seat on the board with these pernicious companies when they retire or lose their seat.

At the same time, rural communities and livelihoods are also under attack from the privatisation of the forestry service. Fracking is also a threat to the environment, as is the Tories campaign against green energy. A number of villages around Britain, including in Somerset, have set up local energy companies generating power from the sun and wind. But the current government is sponsored heavily by the oil and nuclear companies, and so is desperate to close these projects down, just like the Republicans are doing in America.

The same goes for the problems of transport. After Maggie Thatcher decided to deregulate bus services, the new bus companies immediately started cutting unprofitable services, which included those to rural areas. If Labour really wants to combat this problem, it means putting back in place some of the regulations that Thatcher removed.

Also, maintaining rural communities as living towns and villages also means building more houses at prices that people in the countryside can afford. It may also mean limiting the purchase of housing stock as convenient second homes for wealthy urbanites. The Welsh Nats in the ’70s and ’80s became notorious for burning down holiday homes in Wales owned by the English. In actual fact, I think it’s now come out that only a tiny number – perhaps as low as 1 – were actually destroyed by Welsh nationalists. The rest were insurance jobs. But I can remember my Welsh geographer teacher at school explaining why the genuine arsonists were so angry. As holiday homes, they’re vacant for most of the year. The people, who own them don’t live locally, and so don’t use local services, except for the couple of weeks they’re there. Furthermore, by buying these homes, they raise the prices beyond the ability of local people to buy them, thus forcing them out.

This is a problem facing rural communities in England, not just Wales, and there are some vile people, who see nothing wrong with it. I’ve a friend, who was quite involved in local politics down in Somerset. He told me how he’d had an argument on one of the Somerset or rural British websites with a very right-wing, obnoxious specimen, who not only saw nothing wrong with forcing local country people out of their homes, but actually celebrated it. This particular nutter ranted on about how it was a ‘new highland clearances’. I bet he really wouldn’t like to say that in Scotland!

Labour may also be able to pick up votes by attacking the myth of the fox hunting lobby as really representing rural Britain. Well, Oscar Wilde once described them as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible’. Which about accurately describes them. They were resented in the early 19th century, when some farmers and squires started ‘subscription hunts’. Their members where wealthy urban businessmen, off for a day’s ‘sport’ in the country. At the same time, harsh laws were passed against poaching, which saw starving farm workers transported.

Mike’s put up statistics several times on his blog, which show very much that very many, perhaps even the majority, of rural people do not support fox hunting. And I know people from rural Britain, who actively loathed and detested it. I had a friend at College, who came from Devon. He bitterly hated the Tories and the fox hunters, not least because the latter had ridden down a deer into school playing field and killed it in front of the children.

Another friend of mine comes from East Anglia. He told me how many of the tenant farmers over there also hated the fox hunting crowd, not least because of the cavalier way they assumed they had the right to ride over the land of the small farmers in pursuit of the ‘game’.

The fox hunting crowd do not represent rural Britain as a whole, and their claim to do so should be attacked and shown to be massively wrong at every opportunity. As for the Tories’ claim to be the party of the countryside, they have represented the interests only of the rich landed gentry, and the deregulation and privatisation introduced by Maggie Thatcher and carried on by successive right-wing administrations, including May and Cameron, have done nothing but harm real working people in rural Britain. The bitter persecution of the farmworker’s unions set up in the 19th century clearly demonstrate how far back this hatred and contempt goes.

Westminster Council Goes 16th Century on the Homeless

January 15, 2017

Mike also put up a post yesterday reporting that Westminster council has decided on another authoritarian way of dealing with homelessness. They’re going to round them up and send them to other councils outside the borough from January 30th. The council’s excuse for this disgraceful policy is that it’s to combat the high cost of temporary accommodation. Mike points out that the reality is that it’s simply more social cleansing from a Tory-run council, whose leaders want to take as much as possible for themselves while giving little to others. Mike also makes the point that the real way to tackle homelessness is to make sure people are able to keep their homes, and states that it’s a miracle that anyone is there to do the cooking, cleaning and other menial work for the borough’s rich electors.

He concludes

This is truly disgusting behaviour by some of the most vile dregs of humanity, all dressed up as respectable people in the same way their activities are decorated with a veneer of respectability.

Scratch it and see the corruption.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/homeless-people-are-to-be-hidden-not-helped-according-to-britains-most-tory-council/

Johnny Void has been covering policies like this for a very long time. He has a particular interest in homelessness, and has put up countless posts about how Tory policies, and those of New Labour, actually create homelessness and make life worse for homeless people. He has also covered the social cleansing policies of the various councils in London and elsewhere, whose solution to the problem of rough sleepers is to make sure they are not seen on the streets, and so drive them out of town centres or the area altogether. This is part of the same mindset that seems very happy with putting house prices well out of the ability of working people to afford them, forcing them to commute from the poorer boroughs where they live into the exorbitantly expensive areas where they work further into London.

And the council has plenty of previous in its exploitative and abysmal treatment of its poorer residents. In the 1980s or ’90s there was the ‘homes for votes’ scandal, in which the council leaders, Dame Shirley Porter, and her minions deliberately put working class, Labour voters in sub-standard property with dangerous levels of asbestos as part of a strategy to engineer a cosy victory for the Tories.

Thatcher famously used to bang on about ‘Victorian values’, by which she meant making welfare as uncomfortable and difficult for the poor as possible, in order to deter them from using. Like the architects of the workhouse. This policy, however, goes further back.

Right back to the 16th century.

It’s a return of the old Elizabethan legislation in which the homeless in search of work were, unless they had a permit, to be whipped and sent out of the borough. Except that they haven’t got round to flogging them yet. However, as Mike put up a couple of posts just before Christmas of incidents where people thought that beating and urinating on the homeless and their bedding was a great joke, this probably won’t be long.

This shows the disgusting medieval attitude of the rich lords and ladies of Westminster council, and how they view us serfs, even if we are fortunate enough not to have to live on the streets.

The Demands of the Independent Social Democrats during the 1919 German Council Revolution

August 20, 2016

I found this statement of the political demands of the Independent Social Democratic Party in J.W. Hiden’s The Weimar Republic (Harlow: Longman 1974), pp. 78-9. The Independent Social Democratic Party – USPD – were the left-wing of the main German Socialist party, the SPD, which split in 1919 over the issue of the workers’ councils. These had sprung up across Germany following the defeat in the First World War, and were modelled on the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils that had been set up in 1917 during the first phase of the Revolution, which eventually ended in the Bolshevik coup. Hiden in his comments notes that at the time the USPD issued their demands, there was actually no chance of it being implemented. The elections to the National Assembly had already been held, and the Spartacist Uprising, which was intended to establish Germany as a Communist state, had been quelled. Nevertheless, he considers it important as the kind of state that the Revolution could have created.

The immediate demands of the USPD are:

1. Inclusion of the Councils system in the constitutions. Decisive participation of the Councils in legislation, state and municipal government and in industry.

2. Complete dissolution of the old army. Immediate dissolution of the mercenary army made up of volunteer corps (Freikorps). Disarming of the bourgeoisie. The setting up of a people’s army from the ranks of the class conscious working sector. Self-government for the people’s army and election of officers by the ranks. The lifting of military jurisdiction.

3. The nationalist of capitalist undertakings is to begin at once. It is to be executed immediately in the sphere of mining, and of energy production (coal, water-power, electricity), of concentrated iron and steel production as well as insurance. Landed property and great forests are to be transferred to the community at once. Society has the task of bringing the whole economy to its highest degree of efficiency by making available all technical and economic aids as well as promoting co-operative organisations. In the towns all private property is to pass to the municipality and sufficient dwellings are to be made available by the municipality on its own account.

4. Election of authorities and judges by the people. Immediate setting up of a Supreme Court of Judicature which is to bring to account those responsible for the world war and the prevention of a more timely peace.

5. Any growth of wealth achieved during the war is to be removed by taxation. A portion of all larger fort8unes is to be given to the state. In addition, public expenditure is to be covered by a sliding scale of income, wealth and inheritance taxes.

6. Extension of social welfare. Protection for mother and child. War widows, orphans and wounded are to be assured a trouble-free existence. Homeless are to be given the use of the spare rooms of owners. Fundamental reorganisation of public health system.

7. Separation of state and church and of church and school. Public, standardised schools with secular character, to be developed according to socialist educational principles. The right of every child to an education corresponding to his ability and availability of the means necessary for this end…

The programme’s clearly a production of the revolutionary ferment at the end of the First World War. But much of it remains acutely relevant for today. For example, we do need the nationalisation of public utilities – electricity, gas and water – as millions are being overcharged and exploited by these companies. The railways are notoriously expensive and inefficient. Under private management they consume three times more money from subsidies than they did when it was a nationalised industry as British rail. At the same time, Britain’s forests are being privatised, to the public’s disadvantage, by the Tories.

Similarly, there does need to be increased taxation of the super-rich. Under Blair and the Tories the rich have benefited from massive tax cuts, and the tax burden has been unfairly passed to the poor. Inequality has massively increased, so that a vanishingly small minority of people own far more than the rest of us combined. This was shown very clearly last week when the Duke of Westminster died, leaving £9 billion to his son.

Social welfare certainly needs to be extended. Blair and the Conservatives have consistently cut benefits for and demonised the poor, disabled and unemployed as ‘scroungers’. The result is that some 4.7 million are living in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands are only kept from starving by food banks. As for the war wounded, and the widows and orphans produced by Blair’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I wonder how much help they are receiving, despite charities like Help For Heroes. Many of the squaddies that fought for their country during Gulf War I were left homeless. I have a strong feeling that many of their comrades in these wars have also been left, discarded by the state, in similar poverty and destitution. We also need a profound reorganisation of the public health services, as these are being privatised by Blair and the Tories.

There’s an irony here in that USPD wanted homeowners to have to take in the homeless. This is the precise opposite of what the Tories have been trying to do to those in council houses with the ‘Bedroom tax’. Millions are being left without homes, not just because they aren’t being built, but because many properties were bought as part of the buy-to-let market. Rents have risen, so that many people can no longer afford them, let alone think of owning their own home. But the Tories are the party of business and property, and something like this measure would fill them with panic. After all, it’s why they have a fit of the vapours every time someone talks about the ‘Bedroom tax’. They definitely don’t want to give the rest of the population the terrible impression that they are going to tax everyone’s bedroom. But doing it to the very poorest is perfectly acceptable.

I went to a church school, and don’t agree with the complete separation of church and state or absolutely secular schools, although I understand the reasons why many do. But I do support their statement that every child has right to the education that corresponds to his ability, and the means necessary for that end. It should be an automatic right. Unfortunately, this is also being undermined by the academies, that were brought in by Blair and which the Tories want to expand. They’d also like to bring back grammar schools, which were abandoned in favour of comprehensives because they did discriminate against working class children achieving a high education. And the introduction of tuition fees by New Labour and then increased by the Tories is leaving students with crippling debts, which are actively leading a quarter of graduates to stick to low paid jobs in order to avoid the extra burden of paying them off.

As for the most radical proposal, the inclusion of workers’ council in the political system – there’s a very, very strong argument for that too. The massive corporate corruption of parliament has shown that it increasingly does not represent the working class or their interests. It represents the power of big business, and their campaign to have a poor, desperate, poverty-stricken working class willing to be exploited through workfare, zero-hours and short-term contracts and the like.

Short 3-4 Minute Video of Jeremy Corbyn at Bristol Rally

August 11, 2016

I’m afraid I haven’t posted much over the past several days. Some of this is due to having other things to do, and its partly just pure laziness and the desire to take a little break. But I found this excellent little video of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, speaking at a rally in Bristol on Monday.

Corbyn talks about Bristol and the anti-racism campaign by the Black bus drivers led by Paul Stephenson, and backed by Tony Benn. He mentions that Benn was also against the human rights abuses perpetrated by the British government against the Mao Mao rebels in Kenya. He congratulates Marvin Rees on his victory as Bristol’s elected mayor. He then talks about the general housing crisis, and how it’s there’s a shortage of council houses in Bristol. This has become so acute that even those from well-off families can no longer afford to own their own homes. The situation has been made worse in Bristol, as the council has been told it must sell off the higher quality properties.

He promises that his government will build more homes, so that people have a roof over their heads, that they can look forward to owning their homes and having affordable electricity. He promises to improve public services. The video ends with his pledge to create a society in which no section of the population or person is left behind.

Now, I’ve only seen this edited and highly compressed version, but from it I see absolutely no evidence that Corbyn is somehow a bad speaker, who cannot sway crowds with his oratory. He speaks here with urgency and passion, and the crowd are shown listening respectfully and recording him. Despite Thangam Debonnaire’s backing of the Chickencoup over in Bristol East, the impression I had is that Corbyn is massively popular with grassroots Labour supporters in Bristol. There was a rally in support of him in the city a couple of weeks ago, before he arrived here.