Monday, 31 August 2009

Bitterness destroys, but laughter lifts you!

One clear image that I have of the late 1960s is the Television personality that was Simon Dee who today (Sunday) passed away following a brief battle with bone cancer he was only 74 years young.

I remember Simon because his career as a pioneer chat show host seemed to have ended as soon as it started. And although he only appeared on our old black and white; his swinging sixties contribution reminds me of that time elapsed, even though I was an eleven year old school boy.

Simon Dee was one of the biggest stars in the country. But just a few years later, he suffered a sudden and spectacular fall from fame. His Dee Time show was watched by 15 million people and his casual, cocky, manner made him the embodiment of the Swinging Sixties.

In the process, his style paved the way for future chat show hosts from Michael Parkinson to Chris Evans. But by the start of the following decade, it was all over. "Everything just disappeared," he later said.
Dee went to public school in Shrewsbury with John Peel, before another school friend decided to launch a radio station on a ship in 1964. Dee was the first recruit and the first voice on the first offshore pirate radio station, Radio Caroline. Born Nicholas Henty-Dodd, he had changed his name to sound less posh.

And in 1969, he was at the top of a blacklist drawn up by a society aiming to stamp out the use of the phrase "yunno" on the airwaves.

Away from the studio, he did not shy away from tackling difficult issues, whether giving a speech against Enoch Powell, criticising Prime Minister Harold Wilson or campaigning against nuclear testing.

His downfall began when he came to renew his contract with the BBC in 1969.

He moved to LWT however the show was dropped six months into a two-year contract, to be replaced by a variety show fronted by Cliff Richard.

Dee himself believed the decision had more to do with his rivalry with fellow LWT host David Frost and his criticism of Harold Wilson.

His claims that his phone was tapped by security agencies seemed far-fetched, but documents later released proved that his calls were being monitored.

After going on the dole, he hit rock bottom just one year after his last show. In 1971, he was fined £10 for attacking bailiffs sent to make an inventory of his home in Chelsea.

He wept as he told the judge he had no money and was drawing £6.90 a week benefit to support his wife and three children.

"Everybody wants me back [on TV], except those in power," he claimed.

Earlier this year, in his first interview for 20 years, Dee reflected on his brief fame, saying: “I have no regrets. If you change your past, you change your present. Bitterness destroys, but laughter lifts you.

“It has all been enlightening and as a girlfriend said the other day, 'you've still got your hair.'”
Information: BBC

Passing Thoughts

A universally acknowledged truth is that a great power will never voluntarily surrender pride of place to a challenger.

The United States is the pre-eminent great power. China is its potential challenger.

For the Americans and the Chinese are different from the rest of us. Every state in the world may harbour ambitions to have the autonomy of the archetypal nineteenth century nation-state, but most come to terms with the constraints of their relative small size compared with the scale of global markets. Only China and the United States, with their continental economies, vast populations and huge military machines, can genuinely think in old nation-state terms.

They calculate their spheres of military, diplomatic and economic influence. They are prepared to use military powers to secure national ends.

Each believes its civilisation and culture have a special destiny. They are intensely nationalistic. They are, in short, the last genuine great powers.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Workers battles of the last week

Port workers in Dublin, Ireland continue strike

Some 30 striking port workers in Dublin, Ireland continued their eight-week strike action against Marine Terminals Ltd this week. The dockworkers, members of the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (Siptu), began industrial action on July 3 to oppose plans by the company to impose compulsory redundancies and attacks on pay and conditions. The action began when the firm withdrew from talks and imposed nine compulsory redundancies. At the rally one port worker claimed that she was being offered just €4,000 redundancy pay after working for the company for 11 years.
In an attempt to break the strike, Peel Ports, the UK company that owns Marine Terminals, has brought in workers to replace the strikers. On Monday, several hundred port workers and their supporters attended a rally to protest Marine Terminal’s actions. The rally began at the East Wall Road, Ringsend and proceeded to the offices of Marine Terminals at the port. Once at the company offices, a delegation of the workers staged an occupation there for around an hour.

Bus Drivers

Bus drivers employed by First bus in Chester, England struck in a dispute over pay on August 21. The staff first balloted for industrial action on August 11 following the imposition of a pay freeze. The action lasted for three hours. Management at First attempted to break the strike by recruiting management to drive buses.
Strike action and an overtime ban was originally planned to go ahead last month but was prevented after management gained an court injunction in order to make it illegal. They had cited irregularities in the strike ballot procedure.

Street cleaners

Enterprise Liverpool workers set to take industrial action this week
Some 600 refuse and street cleaners employed by Enterprise Liverpool are set to begin industrial action today following a breakdown in negotiations between the company and trade union representatives. The action has been called by the Unite and GMB trade unions in a dispute over pay and working conditions and will begin at midnight.
The strike is to involve employees in a number of departments taking different forms of action for several hours throughout the day. These include an overtime ban, work to rule and selective strike action. Refuse collectors, street and highway cleaners and street light maintenance staff are involved.
The trade unions claim that Enterprise Liverpool is responsible for the breakdown in talks and allege that the company also reneged on an agreement that averted industrial action earlier this month.

Essex fire fighters begin ban on overtime and rest-day working

On Wednesday members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Essex in southeast England began a ban on overtime and rest-day working. The action was in opposition to plans by the Essex fire authority to shed jobs and impose other changes to working practices. In July members of the FBU in Essex voted 79 percent in favour of industrial action short of a strike.
Referring to the Essex fire authority, a local FBU representative said this week, “Unfortunately, they are still determined to remove 44 frontline firefighters’ jobs, but talks will continue.”
Fire Brigades Union members in South Yorkshire to ballot for industrial action
Members of the Fire Brigades Union in South Yorkshire, England are set to ballot for strike action to oppose the introduction of new shift patterns. Firefighters have demanded the withdrawal of plans to turn 9-hour day shifts and 15-hour night shifts to 12-hour day and night shifts.
According to the FBU, 744 staff have been threatened with dismissal unless they accept the changes.
In June FBU members began a ban on overtime and also refused to carry out “detached” duties—firefighters going to other stations to cover staffing shortfalls.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Sand castles in the sky?

Japan's economy in March experienced the most catastrophic level of lay-offs that the country had suffered in the past four previous years.The gloomy figures came as the government released a hopeful report showing a boost in industrial production by 1.6 percent.

Considering the recent upbeat reports that Germany, France even Britain are all on the launch pad of pulling out or recession; put’s things then into a different condensed juxtaposition when you consider today’s news that unemployment in Japan rose to a record high and as consumer prices dropped at an unprecedented pace last month, adding to fears that the country's economic recovery is already stalling under the grip of deflation.

Just two weeks then after Japan claimed to have emerged from its worst recession in half a century; its internal affairs ministry said that the jobless rate rose to 5.7% in July from 5.4% a month earlier. Core consumer prices fell 2.2% as concern mounted that the world's second biggest economy is caught in a deflationary spiral. The emergence of the world's second-largest economy from recession follows as I said the news that Germany and France – the two biggest economies in the eurozone – returned to growth in the second quarter. Clearly all we have here are nothing more than sand castles’ in the sky. This raises the question and gives the answer that recessions are good for the bosses and bad for the workers!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Union for the Unemployed

I came across this that appeared in the Salford Advertiser it's a great idea, grass-roots activity. Hope it builds!

A UNION for the unemployed has been launched in Salford - 80 years after the Battle of Bexley Square when police and jobless clashed.The decision comes as new figures show a 75 per cent rise in the number of people out of work in the city in 12 months.In October, 1931 police baton-charged a large demonstration of unemployed people outside Salford town hall - now the magistrates' court. The incident featured in the classic film Love on the Dole.Organisations for jobless workers were common in the 1930s when unemployment reached record levels.Now the Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre has set up a modern Unemployed Workers Movement, with its first meeting yesterday.Centre manager Alec McFadden said: "With so many people out of work and unemployment rising weekly, the need for a union for people without jobs is obvious."Employers are simply taking the easy route and sacking workers, while the government puts billions into the rescue of banks. Nobody is standing up for the unemployed
The Campaign :
"The idea of the union is to create a voice and representation for unemployed people, and campaign for free training and jobs at a proper rate of pay."Nobody in modern Britain either speaks or represents the unemployed or their families."In July, 7,321 people in Salford were claiming Jobseekers Allowance - 5.2 per cent of the city's workforce. The official unemployment figures show that 2.44m are out of work in Britain - the highest in 15 years.Mr McFadden said: "Jobseekers Allowance is £64.30 per week, which is clearly not enough for a person to live on. "This situation will only get worse unless more focused government action is taken."The government could nationalise some workplaces and increase training and apprenticeship schemes."

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

"A person who stands under someone else's roof must bow his head."

I’ve developed an interest over the last six months or so in China for a variety of different reasons, but I suppose really; its political and economic system interests me the most particularly the part it plays in world affairs. So for the next month or so I’m going to write about Chain occasionally and try to build a picture of what I think is modern day Chain; who are its people and how do they live in the 21 century.

The first thing that comes into my head when thinking about China is the seen of that young man; a protester who stood in the way of an advancing row of tanks in Tiananmen Square on 5 June 1989. And my second image is of James Bond darting around in some secret underground location trying to save the world from the Red Army and its collaboration with some international criminal. Not a very good knowledgeable understanding of a country that has the largest population in the world a staggering 1.31 billion people.

So what I’m going to do is look at and examine the structure that is the ‘People’s Republic of China’ or to use its native name ‘Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo’.

Between 1 and 3 per cent of the Chinese population control 70 per cent of all financial Wealth. In an article in the Financial Times it reported that China’s middle class (a description I don’t care for) dose not like or need what the west calls democracy, they are the most privileged 15 per cent of the population. And they would, in fact be quite concerned that if you had a democracy in China, as thay fear they would be outvoted by the lower classes.

“Most people in the Chinese middle class are complicit in this in the name of preserving social stability, as long as opportunities for money-making and wallowing in nationalist pride keep on thriving.” Pranab Bardhan F T 22/8/2008

According to the National Geographic Magazine the past decade has seen the rise of something Mao sought to stamp out forever: a Chinese middle class now estimated to number between 100 million and 150 million people. Though definitions vary—household income of at least $10,000 a year is one standard—middle-class families tend to own an apartment and a car, to eat out and take vacations, and to be familiar with foreign brands and ideas. They owe their well-being to the government's economic policies that has embraced the market and western style capitalism whilst at the same time holding on to an authoritarian style dictatorship.

In terms of unemployment official statistics are not reliable. But, basically, throughout the 1990s, 70 to 80 per cent of the state industrial sector was privatized. And as a result between 30 million and 60 million workers lost jobs. This came as 100 million to 200 million migrant workers from the rural areas moved to the urban sector typically working in sweet shop conditions; that has provided us in the west with cheep consumer goods.

To be continued ….

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

MORE than 30 people have been nominated to replace the disgraced MP Elliot Morley as the Labour representative in Scunthorpe in the forthcoming General Election

John Leggott College principal Nic Dakin a local New Labour architect' is one of four local people on the list, which features a total of 32 candidates from across the country.
North Lincolnshire Council cabinet members Cllr Tony Gosling and Cllr Bernard Regan have also offered themselves to Labour Party members in the town.
Winterton resident Robert Allen is also a candidate.

Ward branches across Scunthorpe will nominate candidates from the 32-strong list over the next few weeks before a hustings and selection meeting on Halloween.
The new candidate, facing Tory Dr Caroline Johnson and Liberal Democrat Cllr Neil Poole, will defend a notional majority of 8,510 at the next general election

Well I think that we can safely assume that what is known as the left in British politics, will have nothing new to offer workers in the forthcoming general election.

However having said that, it seems very likely that Bob Crow of the RMT union and a collection of individuals and organisations may put up candidates in constituencies’ around the country under the banner of ‘Peoples Alliance’. This is an interesting development in as much as it involves a partnership or collaboration with both the Socialist Party and CPB at its head and who have by all accounts been involved in secret meetings with Crow and others behind closed doors.

This came to light for me when I was reading a report about a proposed meeting to set up an organisation to be know as the ‘Peoples Alliance’ in Wigan. The selling point was that George Galloway was to address the gathering, however he subsequently pulled out which might suggest that he was not in agreement despite the claim that the Respect MP had given his support to the project. Coventry Socialist Party Councillor and former Labour MP Dave Nellist and Stephen Hall were amongst the line-up of speakers including Community Action Party and former Wigan Council Opposition Leader Peter Franzen. Stephen Hall is the local Respect Party Branch organiser.

The proposed new “People’s Alliance” aims to unite all progressive organisations, political parties, trades union branches, community groups and individuals living in the Wigan Metropolitan Borough into a single popular movement which will stand up and fight for the interests of the ordinary people between now and the forthcoming local and General elections.

The only conclusion that I have reached is that this is not going anywhere; especially if the No2EU election campaign is anything to go by along with the autocratic moves of some; it means the exclusion of many, giving nothing to unity or purpose and completely sidestepping the need to build a movement for socialism. My position is that I’m not opposed to it, but my reservations based on past history suggest that it will only degenerate in time to nothing more than melted butter.

Friday, 21 August 2009

The tragic future of housing

It seems as if I'm having a run on housing today; it's not deliberately intended only I keep finding disturbing items of information that come to my attention like this sad and very tragic report that I've lifted from Housing Today magazine; which underlines my concerns about the future of housing :

An inquest into the death of a housing association tenant who killed himself after losing a legal battle against rent increases has recorded a suicide verdict.The inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that Malcolm Neil Hill, 56, from Cadishead, Salford, emailed a suicide note to government solicitors before hanging himself on the weekend of 18 April 2009.

Assistant deputy coroner Peter Watson recorded a verdict of suicide. He said: ‘I have no doubt that Mr Hill was a man of principle who would fight for what was right.’
‘He felt the whole system was against him… I am just sorry I have had to lose my brother to this.’

Mr Hill had started court proceedings against City West Housing Trust, and Salford MP and then communities secretary Hazel Blears, to prevent the housing association increasing his weekly rent by £5.
As a disabled pensioner, Mr Hill could not afford this new figure, which was a condition of a stock transfer between Salford City Council and CWHT.
On 11 March 2009, he applied for an injunction against CWHT and Ms Blears requiring the rent increases to be approved by a court. He chose to represent himself.
However, on 16 April, the case was thrown out of court on the grounds that it was inappropriate. Neera Gajjar, the solicitor whose team had handled the case, told the inquest Mr Hill should have contested the decision via judicial review rather than through an injunction. The three-month deadline for judicial review applications had passed.
He was also unable to bring the case against the secretary of state because she had no jurisdiction over rents.
The government’s legal team had already written to Mr Hill warning him he could face paying their legal costs if he did not amend his application. Ms Gajjar said Mr Hill had refused to do so twice. These costs were initially estimated at around £2,947.
Two days after the hearing, Mr Hill emailed the solicitors saying: ‘By the time you receive this, I will be dead, having committed suicide. I hope you feel very proud of yourselves.
‘Before you send another poor old person a bill for £3,000, please think of the consequences.’
When the lawyers discovered the email, they alerted the Greater Manchester Police. Officers from the force found Mr Hill dead at his property on 21 April.
After the hearing, Mr Hill’s brother Terence told Inside Housing: ‘He was a champion, and the big issue he had as a champion was the fact that he was in a housing association where he had got a fixed income of a pension, and he could not afford the extra increase in rent.
‘He felt the whole system was against him. He represented himself at all levels in the courts. I am just sorry I have had to lose my brother to this.’

Over here...Over there

WASHINGTON — More than 13% of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage are either behind on their payments or in foreclosure as the recession throws more people out of work, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday.The record numbers in the report are being driven by borrowers with traditional fixed-rate mortgages, rather than the shady subprime loans with adjustable rates that kicked off the mortgage crisis. As of June, more than 4% of borrowers were in foreclosure and about 9% had missed at least one payment.

No light at the end of the tunnel!

By no starch of the imagination would I consider myself to be an expert on economics’, I find it hard to get my head around most of it, but try to understand what I can. Last week then, the media were making much to do, about signs that both the French and German economies were improving; and that this somehow meant that we were coming out of recession; it did no mean a great deal to me even though some of my friends fell for the hype peddled by the popular press. That’s the problem with today’s press they will print anything that generates sales rather than provided useful information whilst feeding off and hanging onto peoples real anxieties.

Who wouldn’t buy a newspaper that promoted a wee glimmer of hope, many are praying for light at the end of the tunnel. But the sad fact is this is nothing more than a flash in the pan. Considering other reports I’ve seen suggests otherwise for instance an example to illustrate my point would be the fact that the German and U.K. governments on Thursday became the latest to reveal growing fiscal strains as they struggled to limit damages of the economic downturn.
Rising social outlays and plunging tax receipts have widened budget gaps and driving up borrowing requirements, according to reports issued by both governments. The reports, in line with budget updates coming from elsewhere in Europe this summer, underscores the pressure on governments as most forecasts see a long and shallow recovery, dogged by high unemployment.

So there we have it then no light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Next week London protest camp!

Next week Green activists are planning a London protest camp and are refusing (can’t blame them) to reveal the location of the camp to the police

Around 3,000 people are expected to attend the seven-day event organised by Climate Camp.

According to the BBC from Wednesday, organisers intend to "swoop" on an open green space and set up a mini community, complete with neighbourhoods, shops, toilets and daily events.

I like these guy’s so I’m planning to visit them when they set-up, in the mean time we wish them well!

An unstable crises in housing!'

I’ve always been of the opinion that ownership of ones home; as we have come to know it has been nothing more than one of those very clever devises that has shackled many into compliance with the system. It always seemed strange to me at least, why anyone’ would want to work all there life to pay off some mortgage on a house that they will only own fully-outright at the end of their working life; and yes I know that some see it as an investment all of which may have it use at times. But still you’re tied down economically just like the bricks placed in the wall. Now this is not to say that I’m against anyone owning their home far from it. It’s just the way that I see people being cemented into place by buying onto the so-called property ladder; and this was probably the reason along with the vast profits to be made which lead to many a council houses being sold off.
The results of which has led to a national housing crises including 5 million languishing on council housing waiting lists. Buying a house has become a nightmare for millions when you really think about it: First and foremost you need a good job with a good income and relatively good long term prospects that includes job security which has to be said is very much a rarity these days. Then you need savings to pay for all the hidden extras before you can even start to think about furniture and fittings, carpets, wardrobes and beds – blimey what a tall order!

And let’s not forget that most mortgages are on average still seven times the amount we earn even though house prises have taken a fall in the rescission. So what about the news that Mortgage lending rose 26 per cent in July from last month but lenders warn another dip is likely towards the end of the year.

Total lending jumped to £16 billion in July from £12.7 billion in June, reflecting an improvement in the house sales over the last few months, reports the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

But house purchases typically rise in the summer, and the figure is still £11 billion lower than the average in July – the lowest since 2001. This is no magical economic miracle the rescission is far from over, people still need to have shelter from the elements and risks will be taken. How can buying a house be a risk? Well it is one big risk that people take every day because they have no option; I’ve just been reading about Bad credit mortgages: A bad credit mortgage, also known as a non-conforming mortgage, it’s a loan secured against the value of a property designed for people with poor credit histories. Bad credit or non-conforming mortgages typically charge one to two per cent more than standard mortgage deals, but are available to people denied access to standard mortgages because of a bad credit score. While more expensive than standard mortgages, bad credit mortgages offer people a far better deal so they say; than borrowing conducted on credit cards or through doorstep lenders. And talking of doorstep lenders over the last few years, a new breed of “sale and rent back” (SRB) speculators has emerged in Britain, seeking to take advantage of the most vulnerable homeowners to turn a profit.
Hundreds of companies and individuals across the country have targeted people defaulting on their mortgage payments and facing repossession with the promise that they can sell their home, rent it back to keep the bailiffs at bay and remain there for as long as they wish—provided they keep up with payments. The prospect that they may even be able to buy back their homes sometime in the future is also peddled to those who get caught up in such schemes. Unscrupulous buyers often undervalue the property (in the worst cases, only offering half the market value) and charge exorbitant administration fees. Once the property has been handed over to the buyer, the rent is often as much as the previous mortgage payments and even increased substantially. Once the contract of typically 6 to 12 months has expired, the tenant is booted out to sell the property for a quick profit. SRB schemes have been around for some time, but the scale at which they have grown is an indication of how rapidly the economic crisis—and especially unemployment—is affecting thousands of people now threatened with the loss of their homes.
The threat of house repossessions on an even larger scale than the recession of the early 1990s has led the government to create its own SRB scheme in September 2008, in the hope that the true extent of the crisis can be postponed until after the next general election. But a government minister admitted last month that only six families had been saved from losing their homes under the scheme. In addition the government has proclaimed that it plans to build 20,000 new homes for those on low incomes and on council house waiting lists, but council leaders point out that even this totally inadequate number will mean the chopping of existing programmes such as the refurbishment of council and private rented homes.
As in the financial markets, the collapse of the housing bubble has become another nail in the coffin of free market ideology. The economic crisis has ruled out any major programme of house building as far as the corporate and financial elite are concerned. Instead, demands are being made for massive cuts in public spending and more attacks on wages, to offset declining rates of profit; this is just the beginning wait till the Tories return – for the rest! - Oh and Labour wouldn't be any better with 12 years to look back on!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

My Mum The 'Governor'

I was wondering what I should write about today; there’s always something new in the political world to pass comment on! But sometimes I just have the feeling to write about something that’s totally different from my usual offerings; and today is such an occasion. As a Socialist blogger I believe that I ought to be able to write about things and people who are important to me or at least in my eyes! So I’ve decided to write about the ‘Governor’, who is the governor you may well ask? Well she’s my mother and ‘governor’ is my name for her which in no way reflects the person she really is!

I wanted to write something about her for some time now; because she really is a very remarkable woman in a great many respects. Attempting to put to one side my inclination to be biased: I can truly say that the two women who command respect and admiration are both my mother and the oldest of my two younger sisters, but it is my mother who if anyone deserves an award for a lifetime of achievement! It’s not the fact that she managed to raise a family of four whilst at the same time copping (tongue-in-cheek) with my father her husband for over 51 years – and I’m 53 so what dose that say? But the many gifts and lessons she bestowed on the lemons; her children!

One of the most notable things about my mum is that I’ve never known a time when she has if ever - fallen out with anyone, if she had she would never done it with any despising malaise or vindictive malice. I was always proud that not many if in fact anyone spoke ill of her; which says a great deal about the person she is. If anything people always sang her praise. My mum has always been proud of her German descent and roots; she was a ‘childhood child’ of world war two which still fills me with intrigue and wonder from the prospective view of a German child. Tragically her father was a victim of that war, depriving my mother and her older brother (now deceased) of any meaningful relationship, all they had to cling too was a distant memory and a photograph that hung for years on the living room wall. What effect this had upon mum growing up I can not comprehend, if it had left its mark it did not show for mum without doubt is made with sturdy stuffing. She met her husband and came to a Britain of the late fifties and early sixties that in some respects was still recovering from the effects of war but was moving into the affluence and comfort of consumerism. However pockets of pre-war poverty still persisted and given that mum had just arrived from a country that had been hammered incessantly and battered by bombs with its cities reduced to heaps of rubble, but it did not dent the German people’s sense of standard and despite probable shortages of life’s necessities. So it came as a shock to find that her new husbands family that’s the inn-laws and about nine children lived in a two bedroom tenement in Scotland, with the living room doubling up as the third bedroom. Times were particularly trying for this family with clothing passed down from one child to the next. Matters being all the more difficult for mum as she could not speck a single word of English; however she soon mastered the language better than the English themselves; without any exaggeration if you met my mum in the street for the first time and happen to had a conversation with her; you’ll never had guessed she was German.

Over the coming years mum made the home for the family that all of us children remember so well, as her oldest and most troublesome child (a standing that I still enjoy) my memory stretches’ back the furthest and I easily recollect the unswerving dedication and application of mum’s role in the household. She had the courage of conviction tempered with determination no mater what to strive to make all are lives that much more comfortable within the limits of economic restraint. In the sixties money and dad’s low paid employment meant that for a time we didn’t have all the luxury’s that are taken for granted today, we hadn’t a hover so mum would be down on the floor on bended knee with a hard bristled hand held brush which doubled up as a deterrent whenever my bother or myself misbehaved; which was more often than not the case! Making ends meet meant that mum occasionally took work on the land with a gang of other women who travelled about the Fen-country working farmers land with such tasks as hoeing crops free of weeds – well it certainly beats the application of pesticides; it was very much reminiscent of the ‘Darling Bud’s of May’ that idyllic period drama set in Kent’s garden of Eden. The Flush of nostalgia; not a yearning for the past has captivated my thoughts’ of a time truly gone with absolute fondness as I retrace my own family’s progress thought the years and mums massive contribution. At the end of the sixties we had relocated to Sunny Scunny or rather Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire, with its Steel Works and the red sky at night, the glow caused by the tipping of a slag ladle during the cohesive and begrimed steel making process. Scunthorpe or rather the council gave us our first ever council house albeit then a condemned old back to back house with its very own outside bog and mum worked wonders making this house fit for a growing young family until we moved to a more permanent built in the late fifties council house. By this time mum had taken on fulltime employment as a car cleaner or better known these days as car valeting; for a car sales showroom dealership, she was so good at this that her bosses moved her to there more prestigious new car showroom; mum must have sold hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of new cars just on her cleaning alone! It was hard work; and to think that the day wasn’t over when she had finished at the garage, for she went home to prepare the family evening meal and sort the husband and kids out for the next day – what a grafter!
For years her life revolved around her job and the ever demanding needs of a young teenaged incubate of kids; and how I can only marvel at her enduringness and great strength. For years; she never had a social life her weekends were taken up with household family chores of cleaning, washing, ironing and cooking then back to the soap suds and car waxing.
Mum had one significant friend that she held in much high regard and a friendship that stood the test of time: Trevor worked alongside mum for years as part of the car cleaning crew and I only mention him in passing because of something nice she said about him a while back when explaining their relationship she said: “the thing was he was a genuine kind of guy not like other blokes, who would come on to you: No, he was a real friend!” And when that friendship drifted in life’s all too often sifting quick sand of time and changing circumstance, the friendship remained in place, some years after Trevor’s premature death his widow made the moving effort to visit mum who by now was living in retirement in Scotland; the visit was a promise made and kept to Trevor that his wife would visit his old friend in Scotland. I think on its own this little story speaks volumes!

I see from my word counter that I’ve clocked up 1,312 words making this a rather long entry for my blog and yet the story has some way to go yet, so if you stay with it I will endeavour to the best of my ability to bring things to a swift conclusion which is of course no easy task as I’m writing about this amazing and yet modest women my mum.

Well as you may have gathered; my parents moved to Scotland in fact all my family moved at some time or another to the same small picturesque village of Muirkirk, Ayrshire: and once more, without informing me that’s why I’m living hundreds of miles away in Canning Town’ - but of course I’m joking!

My parents decided to take on the running of their very own pub in this lovely setting and location; for the next sixteen years helped for the most part by my sister and her husband, they set about reopening a rundown closed public house and brought it back into the community, in fact it became part of the community as good as any community centre provided by the council. When I think of the things that they all achieved with the pub I then swell-up with much pride.
It was not about making money for they didn’t have much of that; oh no, it became a service to the community unrestrainedly generous; for example every year they threw a pensioners Christmas party; every pensioner would attend free of charge, would receive a full Christmas diner, drinks and entertainment was put on. But best of all is that they provided every pensioner who could manage to get home in time for Christmas, with a gift, any chosen bottled spirit. This was paid for by funds raised all year round. Well it goes without saying that in amongst it all was mum cooking, cleaning, serving and being her usual welcoming self for this has always been her way, she has indeed held the lantern and shown the way.

I Bless her!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

full force of this recession = unemployment!

I’m starting to write this post on Tuesday evening thinking ahead of those new fingers for unemployment to be confirmed in the morning. Utilizing the magic of the internet I will go on- line and obtain them and then finish this piece. It’s an absolute marvel to have the world at your fingertips, but not at our feet especially if your unemployed.
You may have noticed that unemployment has been on my mind for some time now. I think its something to do with being at it’s cutting edge, something that in my wildest dreams I’d never have guest would have happened to me thirty even twenty years ago. Back then it seemed no big deal obtaining a job whenever I had to earn a crust, for years I sold my Labour without a second thought, times have changed is an understatement but they have.

I honestly believe that we haven’t seen anything yet, the future doesn’t look bright, and I just feel that hard times are on their way.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been rotating in my mind that I’m probably never going to work again in my life, that my own personal situation is far worst than most in being unable to earn a living; having spent years on the streets and thereby being out of the loop, no records of provable employment despite the years of work, only yesterday I was told by an employer that they would not consider me because I had been unemployed for six months without checkable records. Most employers these days require a CV I don’t have one and wouldn’t care for one either. However I have an idea that sooner or later the bods’ at the jobcentre plus will have me make one, something to look forward to then.

Wednesday, or rather 1.15pm in the afternoon and the unemployment figures are the top story on the radio I’m listening too. The Jeremy Vine show is discussing them on his show and very interesting comments are being made by listener’s I shall return to that in a moment after I’ve recorded for antiquity the stats: The number of jobless young people neared one million today after unemployment soared to a new 14-year high of 2.43 million in the three months to June.
Another 220,000 people fell victim to the recession in the quarter to leave a total of 2,434,879, with the rate of unemployment hitting 7.8 per cent - the highest since the end of 1996.

Some of the commentators on the Jeremy Vine show spoke about not making a claim for unemployment benefit, as they considered it demeaning and the regime of jumping through hoops just too much to bear along with the pittance involved. I was surprised that we only have just over 700 Job Centre’s so it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if the government started to open temporary offices as they did in the 1980s. I remember singing on in one that used to be a stationery supplier in Scunthorpe.

So as I say times are set to become very hard for many. I can say that I’ve been feeling the drive downwardly for some time now; my standard of living has dramatically declined compared with only a year ago. I look towards winter with trepidation; I even know now, that it will not be possible to adequately heat my council flat. This may all very well sound somewhat depressing, forgive me it’s not meant to be and the last thing that I am is anything but depressed. However I do worry for children living around me in Canning Town; just why they should be made to feel the full force of this recession?

Times will be hard and unpleasant with unemployment set to hit 4 million some are saying now, but for me the fight starts right now each and every day. We must lift our game and present it to our fellow workers unemployed or employed and say that another world is possible our message to the working class is that their immediate need is the speediest possible establishment of Socialism!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Well I had a good day I think – that’s if you can call tearing the ligaments in my left foot good, very painful that’s what. But it’s got me some time on the sick as I’ve been told to rest the foot for a few days’ then reintroduce movement.

But before today’s injury I was doing a job search on the internet as part of my JSA agreement, and because I’ve to sign-on this coming Friday.

I can tell you that looking for a job is like looking for the needle in a haystack, especially in London. Anyhow I came across this position:

Litter Picker: London SE1

No previous experience required. Must be reliable and willing to wear a mobile tracker. Duties include emptying bins on site, removing any visible litter and reporting any problems on site. Tracking device is turned on upon arrival to the job and turned off when you vacate the site.

I wonder if you have to clock-on as well?

Monday, 10 August 2009

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

And yet another young British soldier killed by a bomb over the weekend whilst on foot patrol in warring southern Afghanistan.
His death takes the British toll to the new high of 196 and I despair at the thought that this might reach 200 before August 20 presidential elections!

What makes me even angrier; is reading the statement issued by Task Force Helmand, or should that really be Task Force in Hell-Mad: Anyhow the spokesman said: “Each and every loss that we sustain here sends reverberations throughout the brigade.” And I should think so too! And then added: “We mourn the loss of any soldier who died working to make Afghanistan a better place.”

So why are we so gullible and naive, easily deceived and tricked by our political captains into believing that all that is relinquished (life) by our young is somehow for our own good?

Only weeks if not days ago: Labour politicians were saying it was to make our streets safer from threats posed by so-called terror. The only terror that I can imagine is the terror that young soldiers face in their thoughts; that this or that patrol may be his or her last and the next stop is RAF Lyneham and then of course the slow parade, a ceremonial procession through Wootton Bassett.
As aready mentioned Afghani's go off to the polls in ten days time to elect a new president or rather re-elect the current incompetent Hamid Karzai. So it was interesting to read what the British ambassador to Afghanistan, Mark Sewell had to say on August 5, “We have to recognise that these elections won’t be up to standards that they would be in Western democracy with an educated population.”

Well no prizes’ for predicting that Hamid Karzai is set to win this “imperfect” election – possibly with more than 50 percent of the vote?

Karzai’s campaign bid is supported by a rogue’s gallery of warlords’ and tyrants who have in their time plunged Afghanistan into years of brutal civil war between them and the Taliban. So when the leaders of the west on August 21 hail Karzai as the victor and say that his election is a triumph for democracy. We will know the truth; that the war in Iraq was about securing the oil, as the war in Afghanistan is about securing the pipeline that carries it away to the west. Any election waged with the built and the gun as a backdrop is an affront to real democracy.

So to bring this post to an end I must say that I feel quite depressed just thinking about the loss of young life through the vileness and evil that is war. I would do anything to bring back just one lost life if I could, but I can’t that’s the short straw. But the long one is that we can all work together for a world of peace, when our relationship with one another is as it ought to be - a celebration of life!

If you scroll down to the bottom of the blog you will find that I have installed a video bar that has Pete Seeger singing his great song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone!”

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Coming Week

Thinking of the week that lies ahead,coming upon me like a rush of wind blowing through the tunnel of life. What am I talking about, I don’t go to work and I have no family to keep or look after like others. I’m free at last from the drudgery and the donkeywork that’s fastened down many; as if they were nailed to the workplace floor. But then again many employers today are only too happy to drive in the nails in this recession aren’t they – with thousands of workers on short-time and as many more in constant fear that they may not be in a job this time next week.
It seems that recession means one thing to the employing and ruling class, and the complete opposite to workers. In a recession wages are driven down, the boss makes good use of the scalpel in dissection of the workforce to sap up more profits, for the workers who may be clerical, manual or whatever its like coming under Frankenstein’s knife without any anaesthetic agent.

I was reading in the Sun newspaper that in Rhyl 1 in 6 is out of work. With headlines “Welcome to the Costa Del Dole” this newspaper will only instil even more fear and uncertainty into the minds of workers. On Wednesday the latest figures for unemployment are set to reveal a worsening situation for the working class. Despite all the bullshit that’s been put out in the media that the housing market is picking up and more cars are being sold, the experience on the ground for many is bleak and set to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile in the US President Obama said on Friday that the encouraging report on jobs shows that “we’re pointed in the right direction” and that the beginning of the end of the recession should spur policies to avoid a similar calamity for the nation. “We’re losing jobs at less than half the rate we were when I took office,” the president said in the White House Rose Garden, taking comfort in a report showing that “only” 247,000 jobs were lost in July, the smallest monthly drop since last August. And in an unexpected reversal, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4 percent from 9.5 percent the previous month.

Well what do they say about specking too soon. However Obama will want to make the most of this when public opinion is shifting significantly away from him in recent weeks.

Obama has mastered the art of kid-ology especially when you consider his next statement: “Now, as we begin to put an end to this recession, we have to consider what comes next, because we can’t afford to return to an economy based on inflated profits and maxed-out credit cards, an economy where we depend on dirty and outdated sources of energy, an economy where we’re burdened by soaring health care costs that serve on the special interests.”

And my favourite was when he said, “We won’t rest until every American that is looking for work can find a job.”

It was reported that the president was quoting his predecessor almost verbatim: In the summer of 2004, the Republican Policy Committee said: “Improving the quantity and quality of jobs remains a top priority for Republicans. In the words of President Bush, “We won’t rest until everybody who wants to work can find a job.”

Drifting back home I think it’s worth mentioning that retirement age has been in the news and under review by some government body or other, they are saying that retirement age may have to raise to 70 sooner rather than latter because of the increase in older people and the cost of state provided pensions to the country. The government have dismissed this suggestion, but only for the small fact of an impending general election which is on the horizon and that pensioners and older people are a significant group within the electorate. It would not surprise me in the least if whoever is elected brings forward plans to raise retirement and state pension entitlement in the next parliament.

We don’t live in a sane society, because if we did it wouldn’t be suggested that older people are expected to work longer. This is the lunacy and demand of the market of the system under which we all live to favour the rich.

“The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs.”
Karl Marx

What is?

I often hear the term Neo-liberalism used by those who consider themselves to be on the left and as I frequently ask whatever that is; another subject altogether me thinks!

So I asked Adam Buick this morning if he could do a guest post on this topic for the blog, he has sent the following from his book ‘Economics and Globalization’ Written in collaboration with fellow World Socialist Party member Binay Sarkar who’s located in India.

I would welcome any questions, comments or observations that Adam will be only to happy to answer.

Copies (Economics and Globalisation) can be obtained from the socialist party head office at 52 Clapham High Street London SW47UN or send me a post and I’ll will sort you out! Cost £5.50 plus p&p.


The third popular idea of capitalism – laissez-faire economics – is more controversial as a defining feature of capitalism. Laissez-faire – from the French for “let it take place” or “leave it alone” – is basically a call for governments not to interfere in the operation of the market, to let market forces operate unhindered. It was first coined by some 18th century French economists opposed to the restrictions on trade and industry inherited from feudal times that then still existed. And was taken up by Adam Smith and in the 19th century by the mill-owners of Lancashire – hence its one-time other name of “Manchesterism”. It has also been called “liberalism”, associated as it was with the policy of Free Trade advocated and defended by the British Liberal Party in its hey-day. But it has never really existed in anything like a pure form.

For as long as capitalism has existed (and Marx and others date the beginning of capitalism to the middle of the 16th century) state “interference”, or to use a neutral word state “intervention”, in the economy has always existed. So laissez-faire is more a policy, advocated by certain interest groups within capitalism at certain times and in certain places. As such it can’t be said to be a defining feature of capitalism.

Capitalism without any state regulation has only ever existed on paper. Capitalism and the state are not opposites or incompatibles. They have always co-existed and in fact capitalism could not have come into existence or survived without the support of the state. It was the state that helped dispossess peasants of their land so that they became factory fodder for the capitalist factory owners. It is the state that creates and enforces private property rights, without which the capitalist class would not be able to monopolise the means of production and extract surplus value from the wage-labour of their employees. The predominant form of capitalist enterprise – the limited liability company or corporation – is in fact entirely the creation of the state. The state has to issue the currency and set up bodies to interpret and enforce commercial contracts. It has to maintain armed forces, both to keep law and order internally and to protect and further the interests of the capitalist class abroad. It has to set up bodies to make laws and regulations at national and local level and other bodies to apply, police and enforce them. All these activities essential to the functioning of capitalism have to be paid for. So the state has to levy taxes. There is, then, no such thing as capitalism without the state.

With the Great Slump of the 1930s, state intervention grew continuously. Economic teachings were changed to take this into account and to justify it – the so-called Keynesian Revolution. In fact state intervention was growing to such an extent that, in the 1940s, many thought that the trend was towards a completely statized economy. Witness books such as James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution and George Orwell’s 1984. There were also optimists who thought that the gradual extension of nationalisation and the Welfare State would eventually end in socialism. But this was not to be: neither full state capitalism nor socialism resulted. Except in places like Russia (and later China) and its satellites where there already existed more or less full state capitalism, this process stopped at a so-called mixed economy of individual, corporate and state enterprises.

Then came the crisis that broke out in the early 1970s, from which the world economy has still not really fully recovered (growth rates are nothing like they were in the 40s, 50s and 60s). But the political reaction to this prolonged period of relative stagnation was the opposite to what it had been in the 1930s. Unproductive state spending had to be cut back in order for a country’s industries to remain competitive on world markets. It resulted in a retreat, not an extension of state intervention. In the 1980s under Reagan in America and Thatcher in Britain and others in other countries, privatisation, deregulation, cuts in the Welfare State, were the order of the day. Keynesian economics was dethroned and replaced by Monetarism. Opponents called these policies “neo-liberalism”, by which they mean a return to the laissez-faire policies advocated by Adam Smith, the Manchester cotton-lords and the 19th century British Liberal Party.

In the literature of the anti-capitalist movement this word “neo-liberalism” occurs again and again. In fact, so often that it gives a very strong hint that this is what the movement is really opposed to, that this is what it means by “anti-capitalism”. Not opposition to capitalism as such (as Marxists understand it: the economic mechanism of production for sale with a view to profit) but opposition only to the policies currently pursued by nearly every country in the world and imposed by the IMF and the WTO on those who might be tempted not to.

The alternative they offer to neo-liberalism is not anti-capitalism, at least only insofar as capitalism is identified with liberalism (which as we saw is wrong). It is basically a return to the state interventionism of the 1950s and 1960s. The argument is that the state could, if it so chose (or if enough popular pressure was brought to bear on it), abandon neo-liberal, laissez-faire policies and again adopt interventionist ones (import controls, currency controls, restore and extend the Welfare State, regulate corporations, even re-nationalise industries). More that “Another Policy” than “Another World” is possible. But there’s nothing anti-capitalist about import controls, currency controls, etc. In fact they were practised before the 1980s by openly pro-capitalist governments just as much as by leftwing pseudo-socialist governments.

- extract from chapter 9 of Marxian Economics and Globalization by Binay Sarkar and Adam Buick, Avenel Press, Kolkata, 2009.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Milk Bottles

There was once a time on a Saturday evening when Radio 2 would play half decent music, in fact I think that the station has gone down the pan altogether compared to a few years a go; well I suppose I mean about twenty years ago!

I love music I really do, it could be me or maybe this very unpleasant humid, sticky evening here in Canning Town that’s making me feel like hurling the bloody thing; the radio out the frigging window, and the DJ is playing a track called ‘Jump’, I kid you not. It’s a good job that the estate kids who have started to use the bin shed as a meeting place are not there tonight.

Well that’s off my chest, my whinge committed to my blog. Oh and guess what there’re playing Frank Sinatra singing ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ how appropriate.

Well today I’ve been thinking about Milk Bottles: Yes, Milk Bottles that’s what’s been floating around in my head. It started when I realised that my milk had gone off, and it was in the fridge but that aside. I was thinking about when milk was delivered to every home by the friendly milkman or woman and not that long ago, most of us will still have memories’ of the milk float rattling along the road early every morning delivering the daily pint. What I loved about our milk then was the glass bottles, how wonderful were they, and practical, totally recyclable they didn’t end-up always in the land fill. There seemed to be so many different types of milk that people used as represented by red, blue, green and I even recall yellow foil tops that every winter with a pile of snow on top the birds would peck through lightly with that picking motion to get at the cream. Of course, I’m assuming it was done by a bird and that the milkman didn’t put his thumb through the top by accident — but if you looked closely, it did look like there was a small hole that had been pecked
My friends’ mother and grandmother collected milk bottle tops for many years for a charity called The Blind Babies of Bethlehem (or something like that). In those days, milk bottle tops were made of aluminium because it was cheaper to recycle aluminium then than it was to dig fresh ore.

The milk float mostly ran off on electricity was a very familiar sight on our streets a part of the community even the many jokes about the milkman and the wife.

Better not forget Benny Hill and his 1970s number one hit ‘Ernie’ and the rattling of ghostly milk tops.

When I was at school we use to be given free milk in the morning. I never did make it as a milk monitor; can’t even put that on my CV shame. But not as shameful as the milk snatcher who shall remain nameless on this post, but we know who she is!

We had two milk delivery companies Daisy Farm Dairies and Co-op Milk who both had their own bottling plants in our town; they even bottled orange juice into glass. Then someone hit on the brainwave of lying off the milkman and franchising-out the milk round. Some of my friends took their redundancy money in the 1980s from the steelworks and shank it into the milk round thinking that this was a safe bet, but less than twenty years on the milk float has almost disappeared from our streets unless you live somewhere like Tunbridge Wells you’ll not see a milk float for love or money.

By: Ernie Driver of the fastest Milk Float in the West.

Friday, 7 August 2009

“organised murder, and nothing less.”

Well one of yesterdays lead news story’s was the funeral of Harry Patch dubbed the last British Tommy due to his longevity.

Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009) – known as “the Last Tommy” – was a British super centenarian, briefly the oldest man in Europe and the last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War. Patch was, with Claude Choules, one of the last two surviving British veterans of the First World War, and along with Frank Buckles and John Babcock, one of the last four worldwide. He was, at the age of 111 years, 38 days, the verified third-oldest man in the world, the oldest man in Europe and one of the 70 oldest men ever

Now, I know that it was only two weeks ago that I wrote about Harry passing away at his care home at the grand age of 111. However I find myself pondering over the life of this very remarkable but ordinary simple and modest man and I mean that in the nicest possible way that I’m able to express appreciation for the lessons and message that Harry has left us all, if only we made the time to think on it!

Harry, from what I can gather, hated war, and called it “organised murder, and nothing less.” (Independent on Sunday, 26th July 2009).

There has always been something terribly sad about the First World War: a useless, worthless enterprise, entered into largely by the German and British ruling class, the price - millions of working class lives.

So the last living memory of the Great War passing on into history was marked by a special service for Harry who up till his retirement was a humble plumber. Yet it wasn’t a company of sanitary engineers who gathered together yesterday to pay their last respects, but rather a full military honour bestowed by the state although Harry himself was opposed to a full state ceremony. I gather that it was his wish to have a simple service without to much fuss given to the occasion. How sad it is then, that the powers that be have to highjack for its own ends, the passing of this great man.

The media as usual, milking anything that supports the equilibrium of the status que and its many justifications for war; and once more for all its worth.
I viewed a BBC news report of the spectators who attended and became intrigued by two interviews one was with a member of a WW1 re-enactment group dressed in full period of time military uniforms’ weapons included and a women who spoke about how fortunate it was that she was able to obtain tickets that enabled her to attend the service inside the Cathedral with the great and good. They both said the same, and I’m certainly sure of one thing and that’s Harry may not have had the same take on it, when articulating that they felt that we all owe that generation, for the freedoms we enjoy today.

One other thing that makes me very uncomfortable whenever I hear it and that’s the solemn recitation of that narrative something along the lines of: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them.”
This was preformed as part of the service unfortunately. However I felt this was countered by a lovely arrangement of the anti-war song ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone’. Harry would have approved of that at the very least!

So to end this entry on the blog I’m going to do it in style with Harry’s own words as my own mark of respect to someone if nothing else was a teacher.

“Last year I went back to Ypres, where I met one of the last surviving German veterans of the war, Charles Kuentz, who was 107. It was very emotional. We had both been on the same battlefield at Pilckem Ridge. For a while I hadn’t wanted to meet him, but I got a letter from him in Germany and he seemed like a nice man and I decided I would meet him. He was a nice man and we talked, then we both sat in silence, staring out at the landscape. Both of us remembering the stench, the noise, the gas, the mud crusted with blood, the cries of the fallen comrades. We had both fought because we were told to”.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

'Little Boy'

And as you can see from the image above a man and his wife try to explain somehow to their four sons about the Hiroshima bombing on the 6 August 1945, they stand in front of what has become known as the Hiroshima peace memorial commonly called the 'Atomic Bomb Dome'.

The drooping of the worlds first atomic bomb 65 years ago devastated this city and the many aftereffect's are still felt today.

At 8.15am on Monday 6 August 1945 a date that should remain more than just a black mark upon a so called civilized society, a nuclear device, weapon, bomb call it what you will; was dropped. Nicknamed 'Little Boy' it killed an estimated 80,000 Innocent people immediately. Tens of thousands more people died of horrific burns and radiation, bringing the death toll to a staggering 140.000. Approximately 70% of the city's buildings were destroyed, and the city became a sea of rubble.

Three day's latter the worlds first nuclear attack was followed by the dropping of a second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki leaving 70,000 people dead.

‘Poverty Over’

On my way to central London yesterday and in the vicinity of Limehouse, well to be precise under the railway bridge of Poplar and Limehouse Station; my eyes fell upon an exact copy of the above billboard poster.
Actually I was on my way to meet some friends who every night queue up at the food handouts in Holborn’s Lincolns Inn Fields. I was on my pushbike traveling through one of the most poverty stricken areas in the country. I will spare you the statistics’ about child poverty in London’s East End as I’ve given them so many times in previous posts on this not bleak but black and distressful subject.

But of all the places to display such a poster it just beggars belief, it really dose!

Christian Aid is the charity behind this ad campaign, as it has a vision that poverty can be eradicated. Instead of prayer! It aims to stimulate debate and invite people to take action to help bring about political change; and so they say. The activity is called ‘Poverty Over’ and thousands of pounds have been spent putting up static and digital billboards in community and other high-impact sites. A few thousand ‘Squid’ has been dished-out to advertising development consultancies that have come up with this unintelligent, daisycutter advertisement which will have as much impact as a spider living amongst a pride of lions.

Child poverty is a scourge on our children wherever in the world they live; it has always existed in one form or the other in every county of the world. Only a few weeks ago MPs were debating the Child Poverty Bill in the House of Commons, and all that this bill amounted to was placing a duty on local authorities to undertake a child poverty assessment in their area's and then develop a child poverty action plan.

Common sense, empty talk, what will it take? To ensure that every child gets a square meal - an earthquake?

Nelson Mandela once said: “Poverty is man made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings”.

One look at South Africa tells us that Mandela and all his grand words have eradicated nothing. What we must ask ourselves is why that is, and not just of him but of all the establishment politicians in every corner of the globe.

All the people of the world, wherever they live, whatever their skin colour, whatever language they speak, really do deserve better than the few crumbs sill cast aside from the masters table. It’s not a pop concert or a poster demanding an end to poverty thats needed but a movement, a world movement for Socialism that will really take that gigantic step to make poverty history, once, and for all humanity.

As always I welcome all comments and contributions to my blog, so long as they are kept clean, I will have no problem in publishing them. And as Christian Aid wish to start a debate and stimulate a discussion, I offer this post as my contribution and would welcome any comments they may like to make by way of return, as I will be forwarding this post to them when publishing.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Unemployment up in the Eurozone

Figures released last week by the European Union’s statistical agency Eurostat show that unemployment continued to rise across Europe in June. The seasonally adjusted official unemployment level for the 27-member European Union (EU) rose to 8.9 percent, reflecting a 246,000 increase in the number of jobless people. The June figure was 2 percent higher than June of 2008 and meant that more than 21.5 million Europeans were without work last month.

The percentage of those without work in the Eurozone—the 16 nations that use the euro as their currency—was even higher, at 9.4 percent, representing an increase of 158,000 jobless people. Unemployment in the Eurozone stood at 7.5 per cent in June 2008.

Youth unemployment in the Eurozone is over double the figure for adult workers, and stands at 19.5 percent.

The European jobless data comes on the heels of the latest unemployment statistics for Japan, which notched up a six-year high of 5.4 percent in June, and the US, where unemployment hit a 26-year high of 9.5 percent.

The latest figures show that while a number of major banks and financial institutions are posting massive—and, in some cases, record—profits, the industrial, commercial and service companies that constitute the so-called “real economy” are continuing to shed jobs at an alarming rate.

The official figures issued by Eurostat have to be taken with a large grain of salt. They are based on workers who register as unemployed and do not include a huge grey area of workers who have either given up looking for work or are not registered because they do not qualify for benefits. Nor does Eurostat index take into account the millions of underemployed throughout Europe—those working part-time or in low-paid jobs that barely enable workers and their families to survive.

European politicians are claiming that the latest unemployment increase should be regarded in a positive light and shows a decline in the rate of jobless growth compared to previous months in 2009. In May, the number of newly unemployed throughout the EU topped 600,000.

However, a number of leading EU countries, in particular Germany and the Netherlands, have introduced extensive short-time working schemes that provide government assistance to firms that cut the work hours of their employees rather than laying them off. As a result, the official jobless figures underestimate even further the scale of social misery and poverty caused by the economic crisis.

The funds for such schemes are expected to run out soon, leading to a fresh wave of redundancies and factory closures in the coming months.

When short-time workers and non-registered unemployed are included in the jobless figure, the rate rises dramatically. In Germany, those officially counted as unemployed rose by 52,000 in June to total 3,460,000. When one includes the jobless who are not counted and the underemployed, the figures rises to nearly 6 million.

According to ING Bank economist Martin van Vliet, “With the economy still in recession and any recovery likely to be sluggish, unemployment, unfortunately, looks set to continue to rise this year and next.”

A number of recent statistics released by other international economic institutions indicate that the current crisis may be even more prolonged and deeper in Europe than in the US. According to forecasts issued by International Monetary Fund, the economy of the 16 Eurozone nations will contract by 4.8 percent this year. This compares to an IMF forecast of a 2.6 percent economic contraction in the US in 2009.

The increase in long-term unemployment is also expected to be far more dramatic in European countries compared to the US. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) calculates that long-term unemployment in the EU could rise by 1.5 percentage points to 9 percent by the end of 2010, about seven times the increase anticipated in the US and Japan.

At the same time, European industries face additional knock-on effects due to the deepening of the banking crisis. European corporate debt stands at record levels, already constituting 96 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2008. US corporate debt stood at 50 percent of the country’s GDP at the end of 2008.

While a number of major banks have been able to register huge profits, many are still harboring high levels of toxic assets and are reluctant to lend to firms confronting insolvency. According to a paper issued by the European Central Bank in June, European banks may lose $283 billion by the end of 2010. This is in addition to the $365 billion they have lost since the crisis began in 2007.

A further indication of growing deflationary pressure in Europe was the report Tuesday that factory prices in the Eurozone had decreased by 6.6 percent compared to a year earlier. This is a much more pronounced decline than that registered in May (5.9 percent), and represents the biggest decline since data collection began in 1981. Producer prices in Europe have now fallen each month of 2009.

Against this background, a number of major European industries have made clear that they are planning for further contraction.

Europe’s biggest airline, the Air France-KLM Group, reported a net loss of 431 million euro for the three months ended June 30. The losses were much higher than expected, and the airline plans to respond to plunging revenues and falling demand with an extensive reorganization of its business, which will inevitably entail large job losses. The problems facing Air France are typical of those confronting airlines throughout Europe, as business traffic slumps and even demand for holiday flights is ebbing.

The share price of Belgium’s biggest supplier of pharmaceuticals, Omega Pharma NV, fell steeply in July following a sharp drop in its second-quarter sales. The company abandoned its forecast of a “slight” increase for the full year and is also planning restructuring measures.

On July 22, Munich-based Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineering company, said it planned to axe an additional 1,400 jobs from its 409,000 workforce. The company announced 17,000 job cuts a year ago and a total of 19,000 employees are currently working short-time.

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, has also announced plans for major cut-backs, including slashing work hours at its Spanish plant by 40 percent and idling a part of the workforce for the rest of the year. Nicolas Correa SA, Spain’s largest milling machines maker, declared at the end of July that it would lay off workers at its plant in northern Spain, with additional redundancies planned for September.

While no European country is exempted from the consequences of declining economic growth across the continent, some nations have been hit especially hard. According to the Eurostat figures, unemployment in some European countries is over double the EU average.

In Spain, unemployment hit 18.1 percent in June. In Central Europe, Latvia recorded an official jobless level of 17.2 percent, and Estonia posted a rate of 17 percent.

Spain has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in its construction sector, which has virtually collapsed this year, and its youth unemployment rate of 36.5 percent is the highest in Europe. According to a European Commission forecast in May, Spain’s jobless rate will continue to rise to over 20 percent in the coming period.

The figures for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are even more dramatic. Last week, Lithuania, announced that its economy had shrunk by 22.4 percent during the second quarter of 2009, with similar declines expected to be announced by Latvia and Estonia. Latvia has already applied for two emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Lithuania is contemplating applying for such a loan.

Loans from the IMF and EU are inevitably bound up with punitive economic measures and budget cuts. The Latvian government has already cut public-sector wages by a third this year and drastically reduced pension payments.

Unemployment benefits in Latvia last just nine months, meaning that the tens of thousands who lost their jobs at the start of the year will soon be deprived of any income. Costs for heating have sky-rocketed, and many Latvians face a harsh winter without heat. As part of its latest loan, the IMF is demanding that Latvia slash its state budget by a further 10 percent this year.

Writing in the Financial Times on the situation in Central Europe, Gideon Rachman warned that the crisis in the region “could threaten the fragile prospect of recovery in the rest of Europe.” He added that the Latvian government should prepare for a “winter of discontent.” Under such circumstances, Rachman advised, “Cutting police pay by 30 slightly foolhardy.”

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Off the Record

somewhere over the rainbow!

Oh to be young, for me it was the South African Embassy London, twenty years on and I’m still wondering what did we achieve?

Yesterday, Ed Miliband’s London offices were blockaded by a coalition of “red, green and black” activists in a demonstration of solidarity for the factory workers who have been occupying the Vestas wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight since the 20th July.

The activists in Whitehall, holding placards saying “take back the wind power” and wearing red, green and black as a symbol of their diverse political viewpoints, glued themselves in a chain across the entrance of the Department for Energy and Climate Change, demanding that the factory be kept open.
Socialist Unity Blog reports: The action marks the development of a new alliance between socialist and autonomist environmental campaigners which has been cemented by the Vestas solidarity campaign.

Sophie Lewis, co-coordinator of the support network, said: “this is not the first time the world has seen an alliance between politically distinct groups under the banner of fighting climate activism. But Save Vestas is a narrative so potent that thousands nationally and internationally are rallying around it. Miliband must show real leadership on this one.”

Molly Grayson, one of the activists glued on, said:

“Closing down the UK’s only wind turbine factory is an act of madness at a time like this. Climate change has to be tackled and in a recession green jobs should be the last to go. This is an issue which is so pressing that ordinary people of all political leanings are prepared to get arrested for it. I’m here today to show up Ed Miliband’s hypocrisy in promising a green revolution but falling flat at the first hurdle.”

Well so long as we have young people who are prepared to march too ban the bomb or in this case glue themselves together – why do we still end up with the thin end of the waged? Call me a cynic but not a faultfinder.

There are limits to what Trade Union action can achive!

A demonstration was held yesterday outside the head office of the Department of Energy and Climate Change in London by students backing the workers' sit-in at the Vestas Wind Systems plant on the Isle of Wight.

The protesters held up banners saying "Take back the wind power"; they blockaded the main entrance to the building for over two hours before they were arrested.

In another move the Rail Maritime and Transport union made a formal complaint to the police over the weekend about the actions of private security guards employed at the plant. The union took legal advice about the treatment of the workers after claiming they were being denied access to adequate supplies of food. Officials said they were seriously concerned about the health implications of the lack of food reaching the workers inside the factory. One has already been forced to leave on medical advice after his blood sugar levels were found to be seriously low. The union said it believed it had reached a deal over the weekend to take hot food in to the 10 workers who have been staging a sit-in for the past two weeks, but claimed that supplies were blocked again last night.
A spokesman said the union was now considering taking out an injunction against the company and the security firm.
General Secretary Bob Crow said: "It's disgusting that Vestas are trying to starve the workers out and we are calling on the police to take urgent action against their private security company to stop this outrageous affront to basic human rights.
"We will fight with every tool available to get food in to the workers on the inside whose only crime is to fight for their livelihoods and the future of green energy."
The factory was due to shut last Friday, with the loss of hundreds of jobs, but the closure has been delayed following the occupation.

Vestas will seek repossession of the factory in a court case on the Isle of Wight today, which is expected to attract large numbers of protesters.
A climate camp has been set up outside the factory as environmentalists join trade union activists in trying to save the plant.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber urged the Danish owners of the factory to re-think its closure decision.

"Business, unions and Government must get around the table and make every effort to secure a future for wind turbine manufacturing in the UK.

"Ed Miliband (Climate Change Secretary) has proved himself to be a champion of the green agenda and the drive to create new jobs.

"Now we are asking him to go the extra mile for the 600 workers and the production facility - the only one of its size in Britain - which is vital to building our low-carbon future. Everything must be done to look for positive alternatives."

Ye old cat and mouse chase…..

This dispute, this type of dispute reminds me of Tom and Jerry the famous cat and mouse whose disputes personified and screened on TV in the 70s as time fillers; before other programmes’. And I mean no disrespect to the workers at the Vestas Wind Systems plant on the Isle of Wight. They should be applauded for their courageous stand in defence of their jobs and livelihoods.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with any campaign to defend workers jobs, we can not run away from the fact that the owners of the means of production in the first decade of this century have the upper hand and unfortunately assist by legislation introduced by Thatcher and held in place by New Labour. The result has been that many Trade Unions have either disappeared or amalgamated into larger organisations’ with less influence in what was known as the workplace. While the latest official statistics show that trade union membership in the UK fell more than 2% to 27.4% in 2008, new figures from Unison, Britain's biggest public sector trade union, indicate a rise in new members this year. More than 12,000 young people (16- to 27-year-olds) joined Unison in the first six months of this year – 1,500 up on the same period last year – and the union is predicting that this growth will continue. Overall, membership of Unison is also growing, a trend that other unions also say they are seeing.

After decades of steady decline, trade unions face their biggest challenge – persuading a new generation of workers that, in the face of the worst recession since the 1930s, being a union member really will make a difference to their working lives. My feeling is that the ruling class has learnt all the lessons on how to deal with trade unions combined with the decline of manufacturing and little if any inroads into newer industries such as IT and finance have not been made. If the Tories win the next election then Unison may see a program of cuts in services that become a threat to jobs.

In some ways its like a throwback back to the early days of capitalism, employers are able to act with almost complete ruthlessness in the treatment of worker. With unemployment on the way up bosses take advantage by driving wages down and make do with an ever-ready pool of immigrant workers to reduce pay and conditions to the bare minimum. Between May 2004 and June 2006, 447,000 workers from these eight countries registered to work in UK. The government estimates that the figure is now over 500,000. Over 60% of these workers come from Poland. One reason for the large number of Poles moving to Britain to find work is that Poland (population 38,500,000) is the largest of the eight countries to join the EU in 2004 has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the EU, approximately 18% in 2005 compared to 5.5% in UK. Salaries and wages in Poland are amongst the lowest in Europe, (approximately 25% of the average for EU countries). For example in UK average weekly wages were £447 or about £23,250 per year, while in Poland the average monthly salary is £380 or less than £500 per year. Although things are cheaper in Poland than in the UK (for example milk is about half the price, bread about one third the price, petrol ¾ the price and rents for flats and houses about half price), people in Poland have a lower standard of living than people in UK do.

Breaking News

As I write it is being reported in the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph; ANGER and frustration has driven unions to call an official strike ballot over on-going unrest at the Total Lindsey Oil Refinery.
Hundreds of North Lincolnshire residents work at the site, which was rocked by wildcat strikes in May and June this year.
Nearly 650 workers were sacked during the protest over 56 redundancies from the on-going HDS-3 construction project. All were reinstated after a deal negotiated between the GMB and Unite unions and Total management.

The GMB union will organise the ballot to start on August 11. It will run until September 1, with any agreed action beginning shortly afterwards.
GMB national secretary Phil Davies said: "The anger, frustration and mistrust between the employers and union members has been made a lot worse by the action of Total in reneging on the deal that led to the settlement of the unofficial dispute at Lindsay."

The Socialist Party (SPGB) urges workers to use their intelligence and imagination to envisage a world fundamentally different from the one in which capitalism operates and trade unions function. It must be emphasised that capitalism is a system, with its own economic laws, and this system cannot be made to run in the interests of working people.

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