Posts Tagged ‘Railways’

Online Rally Tonight on Fighting Back Against the Tories

February 1, 2023

I had this message yesterday from the Arise people.

Fightback this Wednesday 📢

Hello David

The February 1 day of action is shaping up to be a massive show of resistance. You can be part of it by:

  • Joining a picket line, in support of striking teachers, lecturers, civil servants and many more. Find out where you can go on Strikemap here.
  • Sharing the actions listed on righttostrike.org
  • Coming together with us in the evening at the #BuildingtheFightback online rally at 6.30pm. Full details are below – PCS, NEU, RMT, CWU & more voices of resistance will be joining us!

Yours in solidarity.
The Arise & Labour Assembly volunteers.
 

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

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

FINAL-LINE UP CONFIRMED: Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // John McDonnell MP // Riccardo La Torre, FBU // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Angie Rojas, Acorn // Tandrima Mazumdar, Migrants Organise // Logan Williams, striking teacher // James Braithwaite, RMT Young members activist // Robert Poole, co-founder of Strike Map // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No/

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

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

I’m not planning to go, but I’m putting this up for those who are interested. And I’m 100 per cent behind everyone battling the Tories and their anti-worker policies.,

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

January 20, 2023

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

‘Dear David,

BREAKING: private health companies donated ÂŁ800,000 to the Conservative Party over the last decade. Now we know why the government is doing nothing about NHS privatisation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ideas of 19th Century French Socialist Louis Blanc

January 17, 2023

Plamenatz’s book, Man & Society: From Montesquieu to the Early Socialists, also contains a paragraph on the ideas of Louis Blanc. Blanc was a French socialist best known for creating the National Workshops established by the French government during the 1848 revolution. These were intended to be cooperatives set up by the government to provide work for the employed. They would use part of their profits in buying up other workshops and so expanding this socialised sector of the economy. In practice the scheme was handed over to civil servants, who were resolutely opposed to them. The result was that the work offered by them was mostly in menial tasks like digging ditches. They were not very popular and rapidly closed down. However, there was more to Blanc’s socialism than the Workshops, and his views are very similar to those of 20th century social democrats. By which I mean real social democrats, who believe in a mixed economy, rather than the Labour right which has fallen over itself embracing neoliberalism.

Plamenatz writes of Blanc

‘Louis Blanc wanted the state to control all the banks, the factories, the railways, the insurance companies and the larger commercial enterprises; and he also wanted manhood suffrage. Small businesses should remain in private hands. Like many social democrats in the west today, he called for an economy divided into a ‘private’ and ‘public sector’, over which the State should exercise a general control. But he never really went into the question of how the State should manage the economy and the public sector, and how this management could be reconciled with effective democracy. He also neglected the question put by Saint-Simon: ‘What is the structure of authority appropriate to a large-scale economy, centrally controlled?’ (pp.286-7).

I like the idea of the National Workshops and really wish they’d been a success, though it was inevitable that the conservative ministers and civil servants put in charge of them should be determined to run them down. I also prefer his version of socialism that leaves room for a private sector. Some things, I believe, are better off in the hands of private industry and I think there should be a sphere outside the control of the state in which a person’s business is his or her own, in contrast to the mass, totalitarian societies of communism.

Desperate GB News Tries Red Scare Against Rail Union

December 16, 2022

Oh ho! The news team at right-wing news outlet must be scared. RMT’s Mick Lynch has been laying waste all before him in interviews and debates, and so the alternative to the ‘woke, wet’ BBC is falling back on the old Thatcherite tactic of crying ‘Communism!’ Looking through YouTube this morning I found a piece put by them asking if the RMT aren’t trying to bring down capitalism with an interview with a Soviet historian. Ah yes, we’re back to the old Zinoviev letter of 1925 or whenever, the notorious MI5 forgery which painted the Labour party as in league with the Soviet Comintern. Or to the 1980s, with Arthur Scargill as an agent of Moscow. We’ve already had Sunak’s government tell the nurses that they’re doing the work of Putin.

No, Mick Lynch isn’t trying to bring down capitalism. He’s just trying to get all his union’s members a fair wage, and proper management and investment of Britain’s railways.

No, the nurses aren’t doing Putin’s work. They’re trying to get a living wage for their members. What they aren’t telling you on the news, or at least, I haven’t seen it, is that a quarter of NHS trusts now have food banks for the nurses. Abominable. And they want proper management and funding of the health service.

This means reversing privatisation in those industries.

But this isn’t Communism. It’s not total nationalisation of the economy, or the transformation of Britain into a one party state.

It’s common sense.

Starmer Brings Back Labour Plan to Abolish House of Lords

December 13, 2022

Last week it was revealed that Keir Starmer intends to abolish the House of Lords. Before I go any further, I should say that I have no idea what he wants to replace it with. I caught a few seconds of a video put up by GB News or one of the other god-awful right-wing YouTube channels of a Starmer being laid into on this issue by Peter Hitchens. From the few seconds I saw, Hitchens was accusing him of wishing to make all the members of the upper house appointed by the Prime Minister. Hitchens stated that this would be undemocratic, which is absolutely right, if true. But the debate is also more than a little familiar. Back in 1986 or 87 the papers carried reports that the Labour party then wanted to abolish the House of Lords. I think they also plans to reform the House of Commons to make it more democratic, which would have involved giving more power to the speaker. Then there were Tony Blair’s reforms in the late ’90s and early part of this century.

Blair took on the objection to the House of Lords that it was an unelected, undemocratic anachronism. It is. It is, or was, a remnant of feudalism, the old medieval grand council in which the king or the prince was advised by the kingdom’s great lords. It goes all the way back to the witangemot, the council of wise men, in Anglo-Saxon England and similar feudal assemblies in the Carolingian Empire and other states on the continent. Such an assembly is outdated and against the basic principles of democratic representation. On the other hand, it had the advantage of being cheap. Or so I heard it said at the time these reforms were being mooted. The other argument, put forward by really reactionary Tories, was that the hereditary peers deserved the place because they were better fitted to it through centuries of breeding and education. Which is the old Tory argument that all the great civilisations had an aristocracy that cost them an election in the early part of the past century. I don’t think it’s a vote winner, but I’ve no doubt that Jacob Rees-Mogg probably believed in it. He started his career as an aspiring MP campaigning for the seat of a Scots fishing town. He proudly announced that he was standing on a platform of trying to convince the local people that an unelected, hereditary upper house was actually a great institution. Obviously he didn’t succeed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the SNP vote didn’t increase in that constituency as a result.. Blair reformed the House partly by appointing some of its members, and subsequent Prime Ministers have done the same, so that the number of peers is now 800-odd, far more than the House of Commons and even the governing political assembly of the Chinese Communist party. The peers get an allowance for turning up, and so there have been scandals and accusations that many of them just stick their head through the door long enough to claim their cheque before zooming off to business elsewhere. And the opposition objected at the time that Blair’s reform was hardly democratic. He was denounced as a new Cromwell, who was packing parliament with his supporters, just as England’s Lord \Protector and the butcher of Ireland had done during the Interregnum.

The suggested alternative was to transform the upper house into a senate like America’s. It would still have the duty of checking and amending legislation, but would be elected. According to Private Eye, there was no real enthusiasm behind this idea. People didn’t want to have to go through another round of elections, and the lack of popular support for such a chamber would mean that only mediocrities would serve in it. This must have been the view of the powers that be, or something similar, because the plan seems to have vanished soon after.

.I believe that the current House of Lords needs to be cut down, and no, I don’t want membership of the House to be by prime ministerial appointment. But I also don’t see any point in reforming it radically. The precise nature of the House of Lords doesn’t actually bother me to anywhere near the extent that this country needs a return to the social democratic consensus pre-Maggie. Privatisation has failed, and the Tory welfare reforms are leaving people cold and starving. We need to renationalise the utilities and the railways, as well as the NHS, which should be properly funded. We needed to reverse the destruction of the welfare state so people aren’t left dependent on food banks and private charity to feed themselves if they’re unemployed or disabled. And we need to make sure working people are paid a proper wage for exactly the same reason, not to mention nationalising the energy companies so that people pay less for the fuel and electricity bills and aren’t faced with the decision whether to heat their homes, pay the rent or eat. All this is far more pressing and important than tinkering with the constitution.

But I think the mooted reform of the House of Lords is another example of Starmer wishing to emulate Blair. And Blair wanted to make Britain more like America. But our political system is different. It’s parliamentary, not presidential, and that does apparently affect the results of Blair’s reforms, including his changes to the judiciary. There’s a very interesting video of David Starkey explaining this, put up by the New Culture Forum. Starkey is, of course, a terrible old reactionary while the New Culture Forum are the cultural wing of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a right-wing Buxton Street think tank that wants to privatise everything Thatcher, Major and Blair haven’t already sold off, including the NHS. But Starkey makes a very good case for the incompatibility of British and American constitutional systems.

But most of all I’m afraid that this constitutional tinkering is in lieu of practical policies, that will make a real difference to Britain’s poor and working people. Such as the return to proper, socialist, or at least social democratic politics. Blair changed the constitution, but didn’t change Tory government policies. He just carried on with them once he was in power. In fact, he ramped them up and went much further in the privatisation of the NHS than the Tories had dared.

And I’m afraid Starmer will do likewise.

We Own It Appeal to Send Letter to Transport Minister to Take West Coast Railway into Public Ownership

December 2, 2022

And now, after the sketches of various TV presenters and characters, here’s some serious stuff. Don’t worry if you like the art, I intend to put some more of it up later.

I got this email from pro-nationalisation, pro-NHS organisation We Own It on Wednesday appealing for people to send a form letter they have created to the transport minister to take West Coast railway out of Avanti’s hands and into that of the state. The email runs

‘Dear David,

The governments of England, Wales and Scotland have been forced to take five of our railway lines into public ownership in the last few years.

Now you have a HUGE opportunity to make it SIX. Let’s bring the West Coast Mainline into public ownership.

Can you send our letter to the Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, to demand he save Christmas for millions of passengers and take it into public ownership?

Take 2mins to send the letter to the transport minister

The private company running the West Coast Mainline, Avanti, is doing such a terrible job that the government has said they may take it into public ownership.

The transport minister said in October that a publicly-owned operator is ready to take over if Avanti does not improve the service.

It is clear that the service is not improving – even though they paid out millions in profits to shareholders last year.

Now even right-wing papers like The Times are acknowledging that the publicly owned East Coast Line is doing a much better job than the West Coast Mainline.

It took We Own It supporters like you – alongside our allies at Bring Back British Rail (BBBR) – to force the government to take the East Coast Line into public ownership in 2018.

Now you have an opportunity to force the government to do the same for the West Coast Mainline.

We know sending them our letter can work – because it has worked before.

Demand the government take more of our railway into public ownership

You know our trains would be run much better in public ownership.

Instead of money being sucked out by private train companies, profits can be invested to cut our fares and make sure trains run on time.

Train drivers’ union, ASLEF, just revealed this week that ÂŁ3.2 billion has been syphoned out in profits from our railways. 

That money could have been used to cut fares and make sure our trains run on time.

And it could have been used to pay our rail workers who kept our country running during the pandemic what they deserve.

But you can force change on this issue now.

We Own It supporters like you – side by side with our allies at Bring Back British Rail (BBBR) – forced the government to take the East Coast Line into public ownership when it was failing passengers.

With Avanti now failing to run West Coast trains properly, you have a unique opportunity to get another BIG WIN by forcing the government to step in.

Take 2mins to send our letter to the Transport Secretary now

This action can make a big difference. Send the letter to Transport Secretary Mark Harper and share the link with your friends and family and ask them to send the letter as well.

Thank you so much for everything you do to make sure our railways work for people, not profit.

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

I’ve signed it, because everything it says is correct. And the quotation from ASLEF shows that we need the unions not just to protect workers’ jobs, but also to provide proper information on the destructive effects of privatisation rather than Tory propaganda. If you also feel as I do, please feel free to use the links and send the letter as well.

Brief Left Labour Summary of Labour Conference and Notice of Zoom Meeting about It on Thursday

October 3, 2022

I got this email today assessing the good and bad points of the Labour conference. This Thursday, 6th October 2022, there’s also going to be an online meeting about it from the good people at Arise: the Festival of Left-Wing Ideas.

Next Steps – A message from Rachel Garnham

SPREAD THE WORD: Retweet me here // register here

Hello David

This week’s Tory conference takes place to a backdrop of growing resistance. Saturday saw strikes from the RMT, ASLEF, TSSA, CWU and Unite; Don’t pay and Just Stop Oil direct action; and dozens of Enough is Enough events.

There was strong support for action from significant numbers of delegates at Labour’s Conference – and popular policies supported on a raft of issues,from rail public ownership, to a ÂŁ15 an hour minimum wage, to real action on equal pay – but the importance of backing this resistance was not sufficiently central to the Conference or promoted by platform speakers, who appeared woefully out of touch with this growing resistance. Meanwhile, attacks on Party democracy continue, although not without big opposition, with many CLP and union delegates joining me in fighting for Jeremy Corbyn to be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate in the next election.

There is then much to review, and a need to plot out our next steps as the left. Join me, NEC member Gemma Bolton and Richard Burgon MP online Thursday (details below) for the discussion, and be part of the fightback.

Yours in solidarity,
Rachel Garnham, former NEC member on behalf of Arise & the Labour Assembly.

PS: Please spread the word by retweeting my message here.

Coming up:

1) ONLINE EVENT: Labour conference reportback & next steps discussion

Online Thursday, October 6, 7pm. Register here // Share & Invite friends here // Retweet here to spread the word.

With: Richard Burgon MP, Rachel Garnham, CLPD vice-chair & chair Gemma Bolton (NEC.) Join us online to assess Labour’s conference & discuss together next steps for Labour and the left.

Hosted by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

I am honestly not surprised to read that the platform speakers are out of step with grassroots resistance against the Tories. They’re Blairites, who have an absolute contempt for the party base and who believe in very authoritarian, top-down management.

Kwasi Kwarteng – Diversity Hire, or Just Another Member of Truss’ Government of Mediocrity?

October 2, 2022

It’s been a few days since I commented on a video by Simon Webb of History Debunked, so here’s one now. A few days ago, he put one up questioning Kwarteng’s qualifications for office as Chancellor of the Exchequer and wondering if he was only chosen because he was Black. Was his appointment simply a case of Truss giving him a job in order to show how diverse her government was? Given how disastrous the minibudget is, Kwarteng does not strike me as a brilliant economist. But then, neither does Truss herself, who strikes me as another absolute mediocrity. The same with Therese Coffey, who I wouldn’t trust to run a corner shop or local whist club. As for Jacob Rees-Mogg, I think he’s cleverer than the rest in that he has clever people working for him and is sufficiently slick with his patrician diction and general demeanour to conceal his absolute incompetence from much of the public. But none of them, absolutely none of them, strike me as intellectual powerhouses. Quite the opposite.

Readers of this blog of a certain age and taste in comedy will remember Glasgae toon’s guerrilla philosopher, Rab C. Nesbitt, and his biting view of Scots politics and the treatment of the poor and the underclass from the bottom of a pint glass. In one episode, Nesbitt crossed paths with the local Tory politician, a political nonentity looking forward to great things because Tory prime minister John Major was in office, and ‘this is the age of the mediocrity’. Ah, how that was the joke at the time! John Major was the grey man, a boring, uninspiring individual following the all-too vivid figure of Margaret Thatcher. Major himself wasn’t economically deft or competent, as his privatisation of the railways and the collapse of the pound during Black Wednesday showed. But compared to Truss and her crew, he was statesman of positively Churchillian proportions.

A week or so ago I went to an online meeting where members of the Labour left, like Richard Burgon and members of the TUC responded to Truss’ minibudget. They pointed out what a right-wing nightmare it was, along with her highly authoritarian attempts to strangle the unions with fresh legislation. Truss was promising nothing to the British working class except more poverty while massively cutting taxes for the rich. But the panel was also encouraged by the fact that people were determined to resist, and mobilising strikes and protests up and down this Sceptred Isle. And as for Truss and the rest of the minions, they saw them as the last of the Thatcherite True Believers. Thatcherism has run its course. It’s now looking threadbare. People are abandoning it. And Truss and co are the last of the market fundamentalists, more right-wing than Thatcher herself. And that’s saying something, given how she was a fan of real Fascists like General Pinochet!

If I read what the Labour people were saying rightly, this means that, as the last of the true-blue Thatcherites, Liz, Kwarteng and co are the scrapings from the bottom of the Tory barrel. In which case, Kwarteng didn’t get his post because he’s a diversity hire. He got his job because he shared the views and the same lack of ability as Truss and the rest of her followers.

And unfortunately, that means we’ve got to suffer his and Truss’ doctrinaire incompetence.

Their colour is immaterial. All that matters is their grotesque hatred and victimisation of the poor to benefit the extremely, obscenely rich.

Get them out now!

We Own It Celebrate Starmer’s Policy of a Great British Energy Company

October 2, 2022

I got this email from the pro-public ownership organisation We Own It applauding Keir Starmer’s announcement that if he was elected, Labour would set up a publicly owned energy company: Great British Energy.

‘Dear David,

Public ownership in Starmer’s keynote speech, as one of Labour’s flagship policies?! This is HUGE.

Great British Energy, a publicly owned renewable energy generation company, would help tackle the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis.

Two months ago, we told the Guardian that Labour was being too cautious on public ownership and asked the question:

“Why not set up a publicly owned renewable generation company to drive forward water and wind energy, while creating jobs and boosting the economy?”

You helped to share that article and spread the word – and yesterday Keir Starmer announced exactly that, so this is YOUR win!

Read and share our blog on Great British Energy

Share on Twitter

Share on Facebook

Thousands of you signed the petition for energy in public ownership, which included Great British Energy as one of the demands!

Thousands of you shared polling about support for public ownership, showing how popular taking energy into public hands really is. 

Of course we want Labour to go further by bringing the National Grid and an energy supplier into public ownership. But this huge victory helps shift the debate. After a long period of avoiding the question, it shows that public ownership is on the table again for Labour. 

Starmer also stated that this policy would be rolled out in the first year of government. The next general election could be coming sooner than the Conservatives would like – so with Labour way ahead in the polls, these announcements matter. It’s people like you who will make sure they translate into action when the time comes. (Do read our blog for more on the politics of this announcement…)

We’re making progress. Let’s keep going! 

THANK YOU for everything you’ve done to make this happen.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, and Kate — the We Own It team

PS This isn’t the only public ownership announcement at Labour conference this year… Thanks to everything you’ve done to make the case, Labour announced that they would nationalise rail, lift the ban on municipally owned bus companies, and oversee a wave of insourcing. These are your victories!

Lotus Eaters Facing Up to Rail Privatisation Being a Disaster

September 20, 2022

This must have hurt their delicate free trade, ‘classical liberal’, privatise everything sensibilities. A few days ago, I notice that the Lotus Eaters had put up a piece about Dr Beeching and the failure of rail privatisation. One of them appeared waving around the copy of a book, Broken Rails. The video’s title stated that rail privatisation had been a failure. This is remarkable, given the frantic enthusiasm Sargon, Callum and the others have for private enterprise and laissez-faire economics as against nationalisation and state regulation. In fact, rail privatisation has been a massive failure, as shown by the way the government has been forced to take over failing railway services. This has reached the point where even the Torygraph was saying that renationalisation wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. I didn’t watch the video because I suspect that the Lotus Eaters would try to argue that, although rail privatisation had been a disaster, private enterprise is still a very good thing, and everything would have been much better if the privatisation had been done a certain way. Thus, trying to get out of recognising that privatisation does not automatically lead to better service. But it’s still interesting to see them having to accept that, at least in the case of the railways, privatisation has been a disaster.