Tuesday, 29 September 2009

He came a Courting

This was sent out by the Labour Party, this afternoon to Labour voters following Browns speech, I thought it might be of some interest - then again maybe not!

I hope you will have caught something of my speech to Labour Conference today. You can watch it in full here but I wanted to drop you a line just to let you know what mattered most to me today.My message is clear: our country faces the biggest choice for a generation – a choice between a change that benefits people like you - or a change that benefits the privileged few.I am determined to stand up for the mainstream majority of families in Britain – to stand up for those British values of fairness and responsibility for all.Today I believe we have shown that we are the party of ambitious change for the many:- Change for a new society with new measures to tack le anti-social behaviour and ensure our public services meet new challenges - expanding free childcare for two year olds, a new offer on social care for older people, and additional funding to local authorities to help keep people in their homes.- Change for a new economy with tough new rules for bankers and investing for growth, with a new legal obligation for fiscal responsibility.- And change for a new politics so we ensure that MPs guilty of gross financial misconduct are recalled and we modernise our democracy with a new voting system.In the coming weeks, don’t just listen to what our opponents say - demand to know what they would do. Because if you’re a family that’s feeling the pinch – don’t take it from me – just ask them the question. If you care about me, why is your first priority to give a £200,000 pound tax cut to each of the 3,000 wealthiest estates?I am confident we are on the side of the British people on the fundament al choices our country faces in the years ahead.


P.S. Now let's go out and campaign for this change. Click here to get involved

Labour Party Conference

I gave myself a treat this afternoon, I tuned into the Gordon Brown speech at the Labour Party conference being held at Brighton. Nice place Brighton have not been there for ages; and I always think of that beach as being unusual with shingles and pebbles, and of course the nudist beach!

Well what can I say about Gordon's speech, well not a lot really, only how lavish an event the conference has become and a far cry from 30 years ago, they must spend thousands on the stage setting what with the big video screens and the reflected images of the Union Jack, do they still call it that, I cannot remember?

The presenter on the TV said that the conference hall was packed full to the rafters and then added the first time this week! I suppose that says it all really, not like the old days when delegates from CLPs and trade unions would be doing a weeks work fighting on the conference floor to get some policy or other thorough. Well there are some lovely pubs in Brighton and it might as well be a weeks holiday at the seaside, because its just a show, the delegate's have no say any more, them days are over and long ago!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Blogging Forum?

Having a blog or just using the Internet for sharing ideas is an absolute out-and-out marvel!
Thirty years or so a go when I started to get interested in Socialist ideas, I never thought that a thing called the World Wide Web would have such an impact on our lives. Almost anything and everything it seems can be done over the Internet.

I love my blog not because I write it; or because others anywhere in the world can access and read its content; it gives me atmosphere and a space to breath and develop the good clean ideas of change, the opportunity to think out aloud and examine even self-examine my own ideas and beliefs.

It's like being a mountaineer climbing the rock face with altitude, temperature and intensity all these things rolled-up into one and much more on that journey of discovery. And along the way we meet others with slimier or occasionally contrasting thoughts and outlooks, what I call the challenging spice on the mountain top. But the most important aspect is the unperturbed opportunity to exchange and share new and old ideas, developing a better understanding of any given subject under the sun with the help and cooperation of others!

So let me cut to the chase, I would like to start a new forum for socialist bloggers and individuals who are socialists or just interested in discussing any posts in more detail, or just sharing any ideas or information that would be of general interest. The proposed forum would be open to anyone interested in developing and sharing a better understanding of what socialism is or what socialism means to any individual from a personal perspective, it would not be affiliated or take any particular party line. My initial thoughts are that the forum would be small to start off with and likely would remain a manageable size that is comfortable for all concerned, and with as little labour as possible, but we would need a moderator; I am happy to fulfil this role and set-up the forum to start off with. This is just an idea that I've been thinking about for some time and I am hoping, and this is a big if, if not a bare cheek that Chris H and his excellent blog would consider being a founder member; no strings or obligations involved. Think about it and lets have your thoughts. We can build a new socialist blogging community with real purpose and optimism!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Old Photograph

I've had a scanner for about three years; and I bought it when I got my current computer about the same time but have never used it for some reason until today. The above photo was taken in 1984 on almost the very eve of the miners strike. It's an image of a packed meeting on homelessness being addressed at that point by yours truly; at the end with his finger on his lip is John Pilger and next to him is Chris Homes who went on to become the Director of Shelter and the meeting was held in the old town hall used by the legendary Poplar Council. I will in the future give a more fuller account of that meeting and campaign but for the time being here's this old photo!


Money we all know is a medium of exchange
Buyers and sellers relate to each other through money
The question here is – what is the value of money?
Few say money is the root of all evil
Many say money is the root of prosperity
And how valuable is money
Almost everything is measured by money
People go to work everyday because of money
Wealth of individuals is measured by money
All purchases and transactions are made by money
Every country has a name for its own money
The importance of some countries
Is based on the value of their money
What is the value of money?
The rise and fall of foreign exchange
Is used to measure the value of money
Success too many is also measured by money
Corporate positions are measured by money
There are some people who marry for money
What is the value of money?
To many, money is everything
You cannot get many things done without money
Many have pondered and contemplated to ask
Can human beings live without money?
Then, how shall we determine and decide
The prices of individuals and materials
Differences between the rich and the poor
Are calculated in monetary terms
The power bestowed by money
Seems bigger than imagined


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Building Bridges and Mending Fences

Building Bridges and Mending Fences

This is a polite notice to readers of ‘The Socialist Way’ my own personal blog. That, due to unforeseen circumstances I will be taking a short break from posting any new posts just for a few days.

On Friday out of the blue and completely unexpectedly and thorough the marvel and wonder that is the World Wide Web; I received an e-mail from a long lost but dear friend who’s wellbeing and simple congeniality means everything. Without broadcasting any unnecessary personal information, I find the need to take some time out; to make space to rebuild some bisected, broken down bridges besides mending abandoned fences.

So with everyone’s attention this far; I would just like to thank you all, for visiting and reading my blog, which has much to say and contribute to developing a genuine movement for 'Socialism' in the very near future with full vigor and passion. Thank you for your trust and I hope understanding.

“Perhaps it's just as well
Why spoil your little dreams
Why put you through the hell
Life is no fairytale
As one day you will know
But now you're just a child
I'll stay her and watch you grow”

Friday, 18 September 2009

Hungry people

By Jerry White
18 September 2009

For the first time in history, more than one billion people, or nearly one in every 6 inhabitants of the planet, are going hungry this year, according to a new report from the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP). Chronic poverty, still high food prices and the impact of the world economic crisis have led to a sharp increase in the number of hungry people, now larger than the combined populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union.

The total number of hungry people has shot up by nearly 200 million over the last decade. After a small decline between 2007 and 2008, world hunger rose sharply as the impact of the economic crisis hit, rising from 915 million in 2008 to an estimated 1.02 billion this year.

While disasters, such as floods or droughts, cause temporary food shortages, these emergencies accounted for only 8 percent of the world’s hungry population, the WFP said. Nor is the problem caused by a shortage of food production, which at current levels is sufficient to feed the world’s population.

The source of the catastrophe is the capitalist profit system and, in particular, the continued oppression of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Sixty-five percent of the world’s hungry people live in just six countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

The various IMF-dictated “development” programs imposed on these countries have chiefly benefited the banks in London, New York and Tokyo—which have sucked out hundreds of billions in interest payments—as well as the native ruling elites. Falling commodity prices for raw materials have also reduced revenues, while speculation on food has also driven up costs.

According to an article on the WFP report on Livescience.com, aid programs had made certain inroads in fighting hunger at the end of the 20th century. However, rising food prices have all but negated those efforts, causing the number of hungry to rise again everywhere except in Latin America and the Caribbean. The rising cost of food caused the number of hungry to jump by 75 million in 2007 and 40 million in 2008.

“The double whammy of the financial crisis and the still record high food prices around the world is delivering a devastating blow to the world’s most vulnerable,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran told a London press conference Wednesday. “They have been squeezed so much that many have lost what few assets they owned, further exposing them to hunger. Now, it only takes a drought or storm to provoke a disaster.”

The present crisis also underscores the criminal misallocation of financial resources by governments around the world. Sheeren noted that the $3 billion the agency needed to cover its budget shortfall and continue providing food to 108 million people around the world was less than 0.01 percent—or one-hundredth of one percent—the amount spent by world governments on the bailout of the banks and other financial institutions.

While hunger has reached record levels, she said, food aid has fallen to a 20-year low. The WFP said it would have to drastically cut food aid by October because it had only raised less than half of its $6.7 billion budget.

In Kenya, where drought and high food prices have pushed nearly 4 million people into hunger, the WFP said it was preparing to reduce rations.

In Guatemala, its program to provide food supplements to 100,000 children and 50,000 pregnant and lactating women was “hanging by a thread.” Almost half of the children in the Central American country are chronically malnourished—the sixth highest level in the world—and the government has recently declared a “State of National Calamity” due to a shortage of food to feed hungry rural communities.

The WFP reported these stark statistics:

• An estimated 146 million children in developing countries are underweight
• Every six seconds a child dies because of hunger and related causes
• More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women

A host of irreversible physical ailments can be caused by undernourishment—the insufficient intake of calories to meet minimum physiological needs—and malnutrition—the lack of sufficient levels of proteins, vitamins and other nutrients.

The most common form of malnutrition is iron deficiency, Livescience.com noted, which affects billions worldwide and can impede brain development. Vitamin A deficiency affects 140 million preschool children in 118 countries and is the leading cause of child blindness. It also kills one million infants a year, according to UNICEF.

Iodine deficiency affects 780 million people worldwide. Babies born to iodine deficient mothers can have mental impairments, the web site noted. Zinc deficiency results in the deaths of about 800,000 children each year and weakens the immune system of young children.

The desperation facing millions produced tragedy Monday when a stampede of people seeking free food in the southern Pakistan port city of Karachi left up to 20 impoverished women and children dead. Officials said they were crushed in a stairwell and alley, as hundreds lined up to get free flour from charity workers.

Police and other witnesses told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that a private security guard in charge of making sure the women stayed in line charged them with a baton when they became impatient with the long wait. An injured woman, Salma Qadir, 40, said the women wanted to get their rations quickly but were beaten by the guard. “The women got scared and tried to turn back, which scared others and resulted in a stampede,” she told the AFP.

The narrow streets of the market area were reportedly teeming with hundreds of poor people seeking scarce wheat and sugar. Poverty levels in the city of 14 million people have been on the rise along with food prices, which government officials blame on hoarding by mills and large wholesalers. The BBC reported that Pakistan’s government had recently ordered a crackdown against such hoarding, “[b]ut this failed to materialize thus far due to the lobby’s massive influence in Pakistan’s parliament.”

According to the World Food Program, 85 percent of the South Asian country’s 173 million people live on less than US$2 a day. Hunger in the country has been exacerbated by world financial breakdown, skyrocketing food prices and the US-backed war in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and tribal areas, which has driven millions from their homes. Currently the WFP is trying to provide daily food rations to 100,000 displaced people in the war-torn area.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Reach for the sky!

Unemployment today leapt to its loftiest level for 14 years, curtailing expectations of an economic recovery. There is no point me posting up the depressing figures here they are available on the Internet for anyone who cares to inspect.

I have read that economists are jabbering that the figures depict a slackening of the labour market; well if that means that thousands are losing jobs with no end in sight to the human cull then yep; I agree.

Featureless as ever the government conceded that it would take some time for the labour (slave) market to improve. But my feeling is that the iceberg that is hitting the working class has not emerged form its murky depths and when it doses it will only turn over the lifeboats.

One other important mater that we should contemplate is fast-falling earnings, and following on from my post of yesterday; is that government datum shows workers are taking pay cuts, accepting pay freezes or going part-time to hold desperately on to a job.

Who was it that said you’ve never had it so good, well I am not offering a prize for the correct answer. But I am alarmed about all the young people who may have left school or university in the last year, they are being described and incurably sketched as the wasted generation. The number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work rose from 928,000 to 947,000 – bordering closer to the cardinal point of one million. One in five young people are now looking for a job.

A YouGov poll inducted for the poverty charity Elizabeth Finn Care intimated that 5 per cent of unemployed young people felt suicidal about their circumstance.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

laughing all the way to the bank

While the earth reels from the worst ever self-infected recession in a lifetime or more, the band masters at the summit continue to bankroll themselves lopsidedly.

Last year those at the very top paid themselves more than £1. Billion not to mention perks.

Executives at Britain’s top blue-chip companies saw their basic salaries leap 10% despite the onset of the worst global recession.

How twisted up can you get! So many people at the moment are faced with taking pay cuts, yet those making the most are getting paid more!
This kind of flagrant profiteering is unfair and amoral and in a better place would be illegal...

To the better of us mere mortals this practice confronts rationale sense and is an affront to any measure of creditability or fair play. And yet are we really shocked? Current history certainly illustrates to us that there is no real sense of fairness in existence when it comes to the distribution of wealth and the reward for hard work in this our society. So the managerial classes at the top continue to award themselves the most obscene amounts while the rest of us suffer the devastating hardships of a recession, which this very same class helped create through blind greed and incompetence.

And we the suffering majority, who have without any real say had to bank roll the survival of this deeply dishonest and unfair system with trillions of pounds of tax income, and then we are rewarded with job losses, wage cuts and the destruction of barely adequate pension packages. Yet the rewards for the top few percent just keep on escalating. We are being utterly, utterly shafted so that this managerial/banking elite can carry on as usual, rewarding itself ever more obscene sums of our money whilst laughing at our own collective impotence, apathy and servitude.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

George Galloway settles secretary’s claim on email sacking

My own dealings with George Galloway have left me in no doubt that some MPs can be very manipulative and self-seeking, so it came as no surprise to find the following story promulgated in the East London Advertiser:

GEORGE Galloway has made a settlement with his former Parliamentary secretary who claimed he pressured her to return to work while she was sick and summarily sacked her by email.

The controversial East London Respect MP was sued by Yasmin Ataullah for unfair dismissal after she had previously said she felt blessed “to work for such a special man.”

But she alleged that he threatened to ask her to resign for poor performance, make her redundant or sack her for gross misconduct if she did not work full-time rather than part-time while she was recovering from a back injury.

Mr Galloway, after firing her from her £27,500-a-year post in August last year, allegedly ignored protests from her and her union representative and insisted on hearing her appeal himself before rejecting it.

The 54-year-old MP for Bethnal Green & Bow denied unfairly dismissing her and insisted she was rightly fired after warnings about her attitude and attendance.

Her case against him was due to be heard at the Central London employment tribunal, but both sides settled on the eve of the hearing after an ACAS arbitration.

Miss Ataullah accompanied Mr Galloway on speaking tours worldwide. She said of her job in a TV interview a year ago while the pair were in New Zealand: “I very much fell into the position and it is a real blessing to be able to work for such a special man who fights for justice and truth so passionately.”

Information East London Advertiser 9 September 2009

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Do or Die!

I resolved to stay up last night and watch President Obama address the joint houses of Congress on his healthcare plans, a keynote speech in what they say is a bitter American heath provision debate.

I found it fascinating although I am not familiar with all the issues, it seems that the US has a very un-healthy (unless accomplished and able to pay) health provision for its inhabitants. Many millions are unable to afford or even pay for simple medical treatment. The row in the US over President Barack Obama’s health care proposals; for the most part, is motivated just as much by prejudice, political posturing and outright deception, much attention has focussed on groups such as Conservatives for Patients Rights, who charge the Obama administration with seeking to introduce a “socialist” health care regime like the National Health Service in Britain, can you believe it?

The accusations made in several advertisements and articles run in the US are grave. They charge the NHS, and by dint the British establishment, of setting an “Orwellian” cap on the value of human life. The British system, they contend, routinely rationalises health provision, condemning many to painful waits for treatment, denying medicine and even operating “death panels” discriminating against the elderly and disabled.

The Investor’s Business Daily suggested that leading physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, “wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.” Hawking, who is a British citizen, repudiated the claim, stating, “I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS.”
And to think that we have a special relationship with our cousins on the other side of the big pound is it healthy?

On Sunday the New York Times ran a story that was not only interesting but a certain condemnation of American Capitalism, certification without incertitude that the system is rotten to its very core. After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one it reported:

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.
Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them – what vulgarisation of these albatross’s complete head and neck bare of feathers, hoarding, greedy grasping and feeding on the dead.

The speech was an effort by Mr. Obama to regain his political footing on health care, the centrepiece of his domestic agenda. After months of insisting he would leave the details to lawmakers, he presented his most detailed outline yet of his own plan, which he said would provide "security and stability" to those who have insurance and cover those who do not, all without adding to the federal deficit.

Cravings rise for economic recovery

Yesterdays information on the economic forefront, that was being driven and given to the media, prevails that longings are generating towards a brisk economic recovery following a swathe of encouraging signs that suggest the UK economy is on the road to expansion. Which challenges in away what I articulated in my last post. Far from being an economic expert, I am just one of life’s observers and formulate my opinions on what I see, hear and read, but observations and fact finding play a big part, and of course my own experience.

I made reference to the 1930s in fact I drew a comparison; but the myth and reality of that period is two very important truths. On the one hand it is remembered and retains that all-pervasive image of the ‘wasted years’. Even today we imagine unemployment, hunger marches, appeasement, and the rise of fascism. This time is best summed up by A.J. P. Taylor who has written:

The nineteen-thirties have been called the black years, the devil’s decade. Its popular image can be expressed in two phrases: mass unemployment and ‘appeasement’. No set of political leaders have been judged so contemptuously since the days of Lord North.

Taylor continues:

Yet, at the same time, most English people were enjoying a richer life than any previously known in the history of the world: longer holidays, shorter hours, higher real wages. They had motor cars, cinemas, radio sets, and electrical appliances. The two sides of life did not join up.

Interesting to consider the light that Taylor throws on that period before the war, and that was not escaping; and it would, of course, be fatuous to suggest that the 1930s were not for many thousands of people a time of great hardship and personal suffering. However for those in work, the 1930 were a period of rising living standards and new levels of consumption, on which a considerable degree of industrial growth was based.

I’ve also discovered that throughout the interwar period two benefit systems operated in parallel in the United Kingdom, the national unemployment insurance started in 1911 and made available to all workers in 1921, and the vestiges of the nineteenth century Poor Law; that is just an interesting supplement.

Returning to the essence of my post; it’s notable that in the 1930s many new industries emerged such as service and entertainment, with travel broadening the horizons of millions. All this led to a network of roads and motorways, filling stations and so on. This was a time of the new Factories that looked like exhibition buildings, giant cinemas and dance-halls, cafes, motor coaches, wireless, hiking, greyhound racing and the dirt tracks, swimming pools, and almost everything given away for cigarette coupons, it also gave expansion to such a shopping icon as Woolworths. By the 1920s and1930s a new Woolworths store was opening every 17 days. Local officials across the country were desperate for Woolies to open in their town, and if it did so it was seen as a seal of approval for the area. The British image of the chain was raised further when the company raised enough money to buy two Spitfires during World War II.
Woolworths dropped the fixed price concept during World War II. The 6d upper limit had been stretched to breaking point during the 1930s as Woolies started selling socks and shoes individually for sixpence. And if you wanted a saucepan, you had to buy the lid separately too! As rationing came in, the 6d upper limit had to go.After the war, Woolies grew even more quickly than before. Alongside the programme re-opening stores affected by the events of World War II, 330 new stores were opened within a six year period in the 1950s. At one point, stores were opening at the rate of two per week. The 1,000th Woolworths store in Britain was opened in 1956 the year I was born and of course, I digress, wandering from the main subject again. But what is being demonstrated I hope; is that capitalism even in the depths of slump and depression as worst as the one with hunger marches and soup kitchens, never stopped its drive towards it only concern, that of profits, whatever and no matter what the costs were to wider sections of the community. So long as there is a profit in it, do it, has always been the approach of this system, from one generation to the next. So when the profits slide or the competitive edge is lost, well Woolworths 2009 says it all; 27,000 workers sent to the dole. It's not that the goods and things sold in Woolies were not useful or expensive but rather the constant sifting ground without gravity of the market, imposes and dictates!

I hold the view that recession, is good for capitalism, even though the economic crisis is seen by many as unstable thwart with danger, bankruptcies and redundancies and so on! However it’s an economic crisis’ after which the ‘patient’ either dies or gets better and survives, and around we go again. In a recession, in a crisis such as this, surgery is carried out, without the medicines or anaesthetic agents of a sane and humane society, discarding any concern with the alleviation of suffering, which is considered burdensome; and has costs that are not compatible to the capitalist system of society. The knife of the butcher is then used; cutting away the lean red flesh and muscle tissue of profit, discarding the rest. Governments will administer, in a desperate attempt to prop up the patient with oxygen of stimulation, dumping trillions down its gullet in the hope of recovery.

Capitalism will not cease on its or of its own accord, and no one can prophesy its frequent twists and turns or even it final cessation, nevertheless I believe that a system that denies the many the real fruits of their Labour, will one day be vanished, when the many see the light of reason and demand the complete abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a system of society in which the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the whole community.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

On the horizon!

What passes as good news these day’s then, it’s very hard to think of what dose in the unsettled and uncertain times for the many. How depressing to read or hear of race hatred violence in Birmingham or that the leader of the BNP is to be given a platform on Question Time, not that I’m opposed to this, what do they say about giving someone enough rope.

But I’m beginning to see comparisons with the years before the last war, unemployment, poverty and the rise of a far right in Britain.

We are heading into the eye of the storm, and I can’t help thinking that in the next years to come things are going to turn very nasty unless a miracle delivers us from evil.

Only today I’ve been reading that High Street sales slumped last month, an indication that the recent hopes for economic recovery were if anything premature; something I’ve been saying to my friends and on this blog for some time. Food understandably, was the only product category in which sales rose in August; only because people have to eat and the trend was towards eating at home as our disposable income dries up.

High street sales flattened as consumer anxiety about unemployment the economy deepen. Well, as we move towards Christmas will this continue as VAT returns to 17.5 per cent, remains to be seen.

Asian shares touched their highest levels in a year yesterday, whilst gold hit $1.000 an ounce for the first time in six months indicating concerns about the sustainability of the global economic recovery. Gold is rallying on fears of a equity retreat. Many feel that stocks will fall, so people with hard cash put there money into something they feel is safe; until better times!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Mass unemployment is back: labour movement must act

The following offering is from Workers Power who I don't really know allot about, but this article caught my eye because it makes some good points that I find agreement with.

Workers Power 337 – August 2009

Unemployment is now rising at a rate not seen since the early 1980s and is forcing millions of people into a poverty trap.The unemployment rate was 7.6 per cent for the three months to May 2009, up 0.9 over the previous quarter and up 2.4 over the year. This is the largest quarterly increase in the unemployment rate since 1981. The number of unemployed people increased by 281,000 over the quarter and by 753,000 over the year, to reach 2.38 million. This is the largest quarterly increase in the number of unemployed people since comparable records began in 1971.In many working class neighbourhoods, unemployment is already passing 10 per cent. As this year’s school and college leavers enter the job market, prospects are pretty bleak. Labour’s response is to blame the unemployed, while making it increasingly difficult to claim benefits. Just after Labour came into power 12 years ago, they introduced the New Deal scheme. Under the scheme, long-term unemployed people are forced to do full-time “training courses” if they wish to continue receiving benefits.A recent BBC report on the scheme presents a damning picture: “People all over the country have complained to the BBC about the compulsory courses which are run by private companies contracted by the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions].”New Deal trainee Darren also complained there was not enough room for people on the course. “There would be a class of 30, but only about 18 chairs,” he said.” (BBC News website 4 April 2009)Now the government’s Welfare Reform Bill will only make things worse. The bill, thought up by former investment banker David Freud, will mean that anyone unemployed for more than a year will be forced to work in return for benefits. It will introduce new punitive sanctions against job-seekers not deemed to be doing enough to find work, including increased powers to stop benefits altogether.The bill will also require single parents and disability claimants to actively seek work – again, under threat of having their benefits stopped.It is clear that this bill aims to introduce “workfare”. Claimants who are unemployed for more than two years will have to work full-time in return for their benefits. “Workfare” is effectively super-exploitation of the unemployed as participants will be paid less than £2 an hour.Equally important, it is an attack on all workers. Those being paid less than half of the minimum wage, forcing down wages and making yet more workers unemployed, shall undercut those who would be employed at the going rate for the job.Unemployment represents a massive attack on the wages and conditions of the working class as a whole. Workers who are laid-off are often grateful to find another job, even if it means taking a big cut in pay. Those who are still in work feel under pressure to keep their heads down, work hard and accept pay cuts.The trade unions must now act:• Organise a national unemployed workers movement.• Oppose the Welfare Reform Bill.• Smash the anti-union laws.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

City leader sacked over China protests and unrest continues!

As a China watcher; I’ve been somewhat slow to comment on the recent developments in the western city of Urumqi, where what’s being reported as racial tensions that have led to violent confrontations amongst different groups and the authorities, has now seen the sacking today of the Communist Party chief Li Zhi for allegedly trying to appease public anger.

This week violence has broken out in all its ‘ugliness’ following on from a series of stabbings with hypodermic needles that the government blames on Muslim separatists that torched off the protests, which left five dead, and further unnerved the city still uneasy from July rioting that killed 197, mostly members of China's Han majority attacked by Muslim Uighurs. So will this ball up into something else, remains to be seen. On Thursday and Friday thousands marched demanding the dismissal of Li and his boss’s for failing to provide adequate public safety.
According to Wikipedia, with an urban population of over 2.3 million people, Ürümqi, whose name means "beautiful pasture", is by far the largest city on China's vast Western interior. Since the 1990s Urumqi has become gradually developed economically and now serves as a regional transport node and commercial centre.

Ürümqi is a major industrial centre within Xinjiang. Ürümqi, together with Karamay and Bayin'gholin, account for 64.5% of the total industrial output of Xinjiang. Ürümqi is also the largest consumer centre in the region, recording ¥41.9 billion retail sales of consumer goods in 2008, an increase of 26% from 2007. The GDP per capita reached US$6,222 in 2008. According to statistics, Urumqi ranked 7th in 2008 by the disposable income for urban residents among cities in Western China. Ürümqi has been a central developmental target for the China Western Development project that the Central Government is pursuing.
The July 2009 riots broke out on 5 on the first day it involved at least 1,000 Uyghurs in what began as a protest, but after confrontations with police escalated into attacks on Hans.Two days later, on 7 July, hundreds of Han people clashed with both police and Uyghurs On 8 July, Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short his attendance of the 35th G8 summit and returned to China due to the situation in Xinjiang.
The violence was part of ongoing ethnic tensions between the Han—the largest ethnic group in China—and the Uyghurs—a Turkic, and predominantly Muslim, minority ethnic group in China. The specific riots were sparked by Uyghur dissatisfaction with the Chinese central government's handling of the deaths of two Uyghur workers, as part of an ethnic brawl ten days earlier in Guangdong province Officials said at least 197 people are dead, with 1,721 others injured and many motor vehicles and buildings destroyed. Police attempted to quell the rioters with tear gas, water hoses, armoured vehicles, and roadblocks, while the government responded by strictly enforcing curfew in most urban areas Authorities shut down Internet services and restricted cell phone services in Ürümqi for the night.

The cause of the riots is disputed. While the protests that preceded the riots were ostensibly a response to the death of two Uyghur workers in Guangdong, the Chinese central government claimed that the riots themselves had been planned from abroad by the World Uyghur Congress (WUC); Rebiya Kadeer, its president, denied the charges.
My own estimation is that these protests represent a worrying significance for the Chinese Ruling Class that we in the west should not underestimate. Looking Back; Tiananmen was China’s failed but nevertheless attempted perestroika and velvet revolution all rolled into one. Not only did the protests jactitate Beijing for the whole of six weeks back in 1989; it lit the fuse of a Chinese cracker that led to 181 separate demonstrations in cities and towns throughout China, including all of the provincial capitals like Urumqi. It would be foolish to forget that students from 319 Chinese universities were represented in Tiananmen Square, and that the leadership of Communist Party was divided over how to respond or that the army had 150 officers who declared that they would not fire on demonstrators after martial law had been declared and at least a third of the Central Committee wanted to reach a compromise with the protesters, but instead the world witnessed a furious and tempestuous crack down on dissent.

The Communist Party of China knows one thing for certain, and that’s; they might not survive another Tiananmen Squire and that cracker may still go off. That’s why I’m a watcher!

Ilya Grigoryevich Ehrenburg and 'The Peoples War against Fascism'

Ilya Grigoryevich Ehrenburg, was a Soviet writer, journalist and propagandist who I must say I'd never heard of before I read a post about him on the Socialist Unity Blog in relation to 'The Peoples War against Fascism' thread; which cast an interesting light on this proposition that some would like us to believe that it was simply a war against fascism. He wrote the following:

"The Germans are not human beings. Henceforth the word German means to us the most terrible curse. From now on the word German will trigger your rifle. We shall not speak any more. We shall not get excited. We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day. If you think that that instead of you, the man next to you will kill him, you have not understood the threat. If you do not kill the German, he will kill you. If you cannot kill your German with a bullet, kill him with your bayonet. If there is calm on your part of the front, if you are waiting for the fighting, kill a German before combat. If you leave a German alive, the German will hang a Russian and rape a Russian woman. If you kill one German, kill another - there is nothing more amusing for us than a heap of German corpses. Do not count days; do not count miles. Count only the number of Germans you have killed. Kill the German - this is your old mother's prayer. Kill the German - this is what your children beseech you to do. Kill the German - this is the cry of your Russian earth. Do not waver. Do not let up. Kill."

Friday, 4 September 2009

‘People’s War against Fascism’

I didn’t deliberately miss the historic fact those 70 years ago on 3 September 1939, marked the start of the Second World War as we have come to know it.

I just didn’t think that this was an anniversary; that I as a Socialist could commemorate, particularly given the situation in Afghanistan which has intensified over recent weeks with the return - and I’ve now lost count of the number of British casualties’.

There is and has never been such a thing as a ‘Just War’ ever in the world, and the Second World War is no exception.

George Lansbury then I think the Leader of the Labour Party; made the following statement in opposing rightly that war: “I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world "do you're worst."

George Lansbury was of course, famously a pacifist, and I think that the older I’ve become the more I think that I’m a pacifist, because war and violence is not only primitive but an uncivilised and barbaric 'toss back' to when the human race knew no better.

The consequences that led to the Second World War, the collapse of the United States economy following the Wall Street Crash, which reverberated around the world meant that European countries, especially Germany, were hit hard by the Great Depression, which led to high rates of unemployment, poverty and much civil unrest. Some of the other things that need to be considered that helped Hitler and the Nazi Party to power are the following: After the First World War Germany lost her colonies and territories, she had to pay reparations and anti- German feelings were still running high and this in turn damaged German exports. At the end of hostilities Germany had to hand over “huge quantities of industrial machinery including, merchant shipping, railway engines and wagons”. As the economy collapsed, the currency became worthless and social unrest rose. However in 1929 the economy did begin to recover economically; then the Great Depression destroyed her economy; this briefly led to the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis.

Many on the so-called left particularly in Britain see WW2 as the ‘People’s War against Fascism’. If this is the case then they are wrong; for how on earth can it be described as such, when it was lead by the ruling class with Churchill at its head along with the fact when war did break out in September 1939, some men volunteered to join the armed services, but Britain could still only raise 875,000 men. Other European countries had kept conscription between the wars and were able to raise much larger armies than Britain. In October 1939 the British government announced that all men aged between 18 and 41 who were not working in 'reserved occupations' could be called to join the armed services if required. Conscription was by age and in October 1939 men aged between 20 and 23 were required to register to serve in one of the armed forces. They were allowed to choose between the army, the navy and the air force. About 60,000 men applied for Conscientious Objector status; this itself suggests, anything but a people’s war!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A Real Labour Man

I often think back to 1974; and it just doesn’t really seem that long ago, and yet its 35 years on, where have all the years gone I do wonder sometimes. However it was a special year for me, you know one of those years that stand out amongst dare I say it; all the others. I was eighteen a shop steward in the trade union that was known as NUPE in those days, and a member of the Labour Party. It was also the year that I participated in my very first General Election. However this story’s not about me but rather someone I greatly admire and respect; the former Member of Parliament for Brigg and Scunthorpe John Ellis.

I can’t exactly remember when, or, where I first met John Ellis all I remember is that it was in 1974 and I think in October when Harold Wilson called the second General Election to be held that year, the one that finally ended Edward Heath’s leadership of the Tory Party and unfortunately paved the way for Mrs Margaret Thatcher and the savage vengeance on the working class when the right wing of the Tory Party received a new strength and confidence under her leadership five years later.

Back then I was young naive and it must have been showing a teenager’s simplicity and lack of worldly experience, it all seemed an adventure being a younger member of the local party back then, as for some reason there weren’t many youngsters in the local party at that time; only that was about to change, but that’s really another story for possibly another time, only to say that because of my age and them early years I received much encouragement and I suppose in a kind of way the appreciation from the older members, in particular from John’s election agent Reg Neal a retired headmaster. It was Reg who got me into reading such books as ‘The Making of the English Working Class’, the funny thing about that was years later I shared a flat with E. P. Thompson’s son Ben – well it was a squat actually, same thing really, anyhow I got to know John through Reg during that election campaign even went to the count to witness John’s return to Westminster in what was Harold Wilson’s last Labour Government.

John Ellis was the kind of Labour MP of whom, it can be said: that, the mould if anything, has been well and truly broken if not smashed to smithereens by the abomination that is New Labour. John always had the look of a real Labour man about him, the sort that you could imagine had been self educated with a little help from the WEA or the Open University, but probably not the latter as he would have helped get that through parliament. He was a junior whip for a time and convener of the T&G group of union sponsored MP's in the House of Commons: I suppose you could describe John as old school or old Labour down to his very toenails. John always proudly wore the emblem of the T&G in his lapel button hole of his permanently crinkly parliamentary whistle and flute. I liked John instantly he had a great sense of humour and was always amenable and civil, his brand of socialism he held with a real passion, and he was a workaholic for the struggle the case and the constituency. I ran a surgery with him once and saw for myself how hard he worked; some years after, when I’d left Scunthorpe and was living down in London my Mother had a spot of bother with the DHSS, John shorted it out. There was also the time when I had my own troubles with the police at the ‘Railway Parcel Office’. I used to sell a left wing publication in Scunthorpe which was sent from London by rail every week; it was my job to pick up the papers from the station every Friday, on this particular occasion to my surprise and amazement a police sergeant was waiting for me, so when I picked up the papers he approached and asked if he could have a word in the empty waiting room on platform two over the other side of the track, I agreed thinking nothing of it. In the empty room, he asked what was in the parcel, I told him papers, he asked what short of papers, I said of a political persuasion, and so it went on until he insisted that I open the parcel – not knowing any better I obliged; he made some more disparaging remarks before allowing me to leave with the papers in a messed up state. I will forever remember his parting nonsensical and laughable utterance; “you’re no friend of mine” and I replied your no friend of mime to which he said; “I know that son, I know that son!” Well as it happened the General Management Committee (GMC) was meeting that very evening and some, what shaken by my first run-in with the police I decided that I would raise it with my comrades as I thought that it was an unprovoked case of flagrant harassment. John would be at the meeting of his GMC as always, travailing up from London at the end of the parliamentary week to rest and do some constituency case work. The GMC was the governing body of the local party and met every month and John always sat at the front with the party officers, he always gave a report of what was going on in the House and with the Government which we delegates would always hope and pray that John would keep it short, but he never did; nevertheless the sixty delegates assembled, would hear him out respectfully and then ask him questions; and on this particular evening a delegate raised the incident with the meeting, to my disappointment John gave one of his; I’m a MP type of replies in which he said a lot that meant nothing; along the lines that even he as MP had been stopped outside his home by the police who wanted to know what he was doing at midnight out on the street, and somehow John had managed to play the whole thing down with a promise that nevertheless he would raise the matter with the local commanding officer, and no more was ever heard of that.

The problem was that a left-right split had developed in the local party at the same time as it was developing nationally and percolating through the Labour Party at all levels, culminating in the formation of the SDP. Scunthorpe had its own formidable detachment who eventually broke away after much fighting within the party. (This again is another story in its self that would best be explained on its own; another time perhaps.) If memory serves me right this group left the local party before the SDP had publicly declared itself a new political entity: Lead by a millionaire local butcher who had been the leader of the Labour council for a number of years; his group were I believe responsible for setting the police onto me, as part of their campaign to discredit the Labour Party, and I think that John recognized this and decided to sit-it out on the fence, rather than get involved in internal local party maters and disputes.

However the split in the local party was particularly nasty, and spearing the details of the fallout, split whatever you call it cost John and Labour the seat in the 1979 General Election. The Master Butcher now a member of the SDP put up as their official candidate; apparently he split the vote letting the Tory take the seat thereby considerably helping ‘Thatcher’ form her first Government. This was earth shattering; Labour had returned a member for over fifty years, even in 1931 when Ramsey MacDonald stabbed the Labour Party in the back out of the 52 MP’s David John Kinsley Quibell was returned for the Town and Labour following the ensuing election of the ‘National’ Government.

The victor was Michael Brown who now has carved out for himself a new career as a political columnist for the Independent Newspaper following his subsequent defeat years later. Writing in that paper he penned this in 2005. “Twenty-six years ago, I walked into a count at the Drill Hall in Scunthorpe as a fresh-faced 27-year-old Tory candidate for the safe Labour seat of Brigg and Scunthorpe. After three recounts, I found myself elected as the MP with a majority of 486.
Brown continues: “I will never forget the look of shock, horror and devastation on the face of the Labour MP, John Ellis, over whom I triumphed in 1979. He was a middle-aged, horny-handed representative of old Labour toil. Although utterly elated, I could not help a momentary pang of conscience at ruining the political career of a perfectly decent opponent. Although I soon got over it I never forgot the whisper from the Labour agent: That’ll be you in four years’ time, lad.”

John had previously been a member of parliament for Bristol along with Tony Benn before losing that seat in 1970, so being out of a job was nothing new and although he had one more attempt to regain the Scunthorpe seat, John never made the return journey back to them green benches. He stayed on in the Town finding work on the Steelworks and becoming for a time a member of North Lincolnshire Council, always remaining an activist in the Labour Party.

On June 1, 1974 a vapour cloud explosion destroyed the Nypro cyclohexane oxidation plant at Flixborough, England killing 28 people and seriously injured 36. The massive fuel-air explosion completely destroyed the plant and it is thought that had it happened on a weekday more than 500 employees would almost certainly have been killed. The factory was rebuilt much to the dismay of local residents but closed a few years later due to falling nylon prices and was demolished in 1981.Other plants on the site were seriously damaged or destroyed and the site presented a scene of utter devastation. The accident was traced to a poorly qualified design team that were asked to design and install temporary piping. The Guinness Book of World Records still lists it as the worst industrial explosion in U.K.

The North Lincolnshire village of Flixborough is situated near to the River Trent, about 3 miles of Scunthorpe and fell within John’s consistency, most of the workforce were drown from Scunthorpe and surrounding area, my uncle was a security guard at the plant and a neighbour who lived on our street with his young family was amongst those killed. The force of the blast damaged nearly 2,000 houses and 167 local shops. Even today in the village one can see the driveways to houses that were literally blown away by the blast. It still remains a tribute to John as the MP, that he was recognised for the way in which he had assiduously pursued the interest of his constituents since the disaster occurred, and in connection with the various considerations involved.

It is important to refer to the Flixborough disaster when considering John Ellis and his part in Labour Party history and the simple desire to represent the interests of working people. The truth is that John came from and belonged to a Labour Party that has long gone; I said that I admired John well I do for the tenacity of his own commitment to still hold a faith in what Labour use to be, and that’s probably why John was the only member of the Scunthorpe Labour Party to speck out against Elliot Morley.
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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

‘Try to remember the kind of September'

Well here we are then; September a month of change moving from the warmth of summer (what summer) to the magnificent, brilliance and splendour of autumn’s glory when the leaves fall from the trees majestically back to mother earth then swept up bagged by the council and composted one hopes?

So the year moves on its unstoppable journey one season ending another starting, days shorting and nights lengthen until the bleak mid winter. Soon be Christmas then?

But before the years end; there’s the little matter or rather ‘matinees’ of the party conference season first, that spectacle, that mixture of showmanship, spin and stage-managed matadors strutting there stuffing. The leaders of all the three capitalists parties suited and booted take to the pulpit and plea there case to right the wrong and face the foe and save our nation from devastation; as if!

All most daily now we are being told through the press and media that the recessions end is in site, that dry land has been spotted from the crow’s-nest and Captain Pigs-wash Brown (sorry, Gordon) has told the crew it’ time to berry the treasure from Black Jack Cameron and his band of cutthroats, but cabin boy Darling Tom informs the Captain: “Captain we have no treasure” ..No treasure Darling Tom asks Pig-wash; “where's it all gone”, Tom replies; “the bankers have taken it to the bottom of the deep blue sea Captain”.

I’ve just arrived back home from spending some time with my homeless friends, at the handout at London’s Lincoln Inns Fields. The nights are pulling in and the wind was blowing the leaves from the trees as the men gathered as they do every night for the evening meal. And as we waited and chatted with each other; I thought of that song my dad use to like; ‘Try to remember the kind of September”.

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

food parcels

About fifteen years ago a friend and I started the Crosby Community Association in what was and still remains a rundown area of Scunthorpe, prevalent with poverty and high unemployment. Whilst it is pleasing that the association still exists and has grown into an organisation that has five fulltime staff who provide a wide range of services from welfare rights to debt counselling and has its own mini bus and premises, it nevertheless still remains disheartening to read such reports as the one I’ve pasted below which appeared in today’s local paper.

A CHARITY which provides essential food parcels for needy North Lincolnshire families has appealed to Scunthorpe Telegraph readers for food donations.
Anne Mulligan, debt and welfare support co-ordinator with the Crosby Community Association, said on average one North Lincolnshire family per week is in need of a food parcel.
"We have donated about 50 food parcels which usually equates to one per week," she said.
"The parcels are given to people throughout North Lincolnshire, including rural areas, to people who need them, not just in the Crosby area."
But she said, the association was in desperate need of food donations from members of the public.
"Our stocks of food supplies used in the parcels are drying up and becoming increasing low.
"We are desperate for people to donate tinned food and non perishables so they can be issued straight away," she said.
She said the impact of the credit crunch and rocketing fuel prices had affected people's ability to provide the bare essentials for their families.
"With rising utility bills such as gas and electric people are having to chose whether to eat or keep warm.
"People forget that there are people on their doorstep in need. We are very good in this country at giving to charities abroad.
"The demand for parcels is increasing but unfortunately people are not donating as much produce because the recession and the credit crunch has a knock-on effect," she said.

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