Sunday, 27 December 2009

What's the flurry he's only the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São Paulo, B...Image via Wikipedia
I was listening to the news report on my radio of the attack upon his Holiness the Pope the other day; in fact it was on Christmas Eve, that’s when this cited assault occurred, what intrigued me more than anything, was the language used by a Vatican spokesperson who said that despite the security arrangements, how were they to prevent a mentally deranged person attending such a service or even being amongst the vast crowd assembled.

My first thoughts were; what the Pope he is mentally deranged?

But of course, the spokesperson was not referring to the Pontiff but rather the woman who if you like, brought down (pardon the pun) the Pope. And let’s face it, we do not know what her mental or medical status is, just because a Vatican spokesperson is quoted as saying she is suffering from mental health problems or whatever, will simply not do, and it’s also a bit much to hear a representative of the Church and only hours later use these terms and words that are derogatory, disparaging and belittling to all suffers of mental health, especially on the eve of making that big annual pitch and sell, you know what I am talking about, the so-called birth of a special child.

The latest is that a Vatican judge will decide within the next few weeks whether the 25-year-old Swiss woman who assaulted the Pope will face criminal charges.

I think that I ought to say, it’s not my intension to put down someone’s or even anybody’s religious beliefs and notions.

I must also say; that for me, I have a problem with the credibility of such organised religion, particularly in the light of the sexual abuse on children by ordained clergymen. I do not hear or see the Vatican rushing about describing these individuals as deranged, which would be a very-light and mild description at its very least!

One other thing that stands out like a burning bush; is that the Church in fact all religion is run by living mortal’s, wannabee’s and somebodies.

The Times Person of the year is Neda Soltan, the Student shot during a demonstration against the Iranian (religious) regime in June. Just to recap, Ms Sotan 26, joined and protested because she was outraged at the way that the regime stole that presidential election and Neda paid the ultimate price with her life. This was a beautiful young woman now in death being used as a symbol of opposition. When you think about it, the young have been the casualties of this decade, the three examples I will cite are war, protest and disposition. As we have seen our young service personnel here in the UK fighting a war in Afghanistan, with some returning via the streets of a solemn Wootton Basset in flag-draped caskets. Being an older man, old enough to be the father of anyone of those youngsters, I simply fill with despair when I look at their ever so young faces published by the media; some were still at school only a few years ago.

Young people have been in the forefront of climate change campaigning, their activities and, to their credit, have made more and more of us aware of the damage being done to the world’s environment and the move towards the depletion of our dwindling resources. In April during the G20 demonstration, the police directed by the state were particularly heavy on the climate camp people, and this in turn will have pushed more of the young to start to question, mistrust the state and its use or the employment of force. 2010 will mark 19 years since the Poll Tax demonstrations in London, with today’s mounting unemployment, and the young being the hardest hit, even universities are turning-out 40% of graduates strait onto the dole, could mean that we see new political developments amongst the young as they start to ask why?

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Thursday, 24 December 2009


It’s Christmas Eve and quite strangely I’m beginning to feel a little pumped up, tense with excitement and enthusiasm as if a rush of adrenalin has hit me full on. Oh no don’t say; the festive jolly’s have got a hold. I’ve held out for so long during the last two months and the run-up to this annual event that has a strange exaltation on the many, albeit, just for a few days. I’ve even found myself singing as I go about my business; these words keep floating around in my head: "the colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of the people passing by. I see friends shaking hands, saying, "how do you do?" But they're really saying, "I love you."

I know it’s not a Christmas Carol, but it will do!

I feel sorry for Scrooge having been visited by the past, present and future on that festive eve, poor sod, it cost him an arm and a leg in the end, and I’m sleeping with the light on this evening.

Well I hope that my affliction passes soon and whatever you are doing, wherever you are in the world, I hope you all have a peaceful, wonderful holiday and I send socialist greetings to you and yours!

I found some lovely photographs thanks to the BBC and I offer them as my blog Christmas card, hope you enjoy!

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Child Poverty at Christmas

Yesterday I blogged about Father Christmas and a pre-Christmas dinner organised by a local church in Canning Town. What I really wanted to talk about was poverty, but I had not quite pulled together my thoughts; particularity about poverty here in my manner Canning Town which is a part of the London Borough of Newham.

I had the good fortune yesterday of meeting at this event a mother and her four young children, and I had the opportunity of not only enjoying their company, which made a very pleasant afternoon spent, and in all the places a church, but much more important was the chat that I had with this wonderful mother, if there was a prize to be had for devotion to the responsibility of parenting, then I wouldn’t hesitate in awarding it to this mum. All four children ages ranging from 11 to the youngest of four were so well behaved and polite that I would have no bother adopting them just for Christmas.

In our discussion during and after the meal this mother shared with me some of the very real difficulties that this family experienced in the struggle to survive in today’s modern world. As a family they were living in private rented accommodation; their rent being £300 a week, with the husband working as a security guard which in London is not a particularly well paid occupation, this meant that most of their expenditure was sucked up just paying bills to keep the utility’s on; but keeping warm and in this cold snap was proving to be problematic, running out of funds meant not being able to charge up the electric key or the gas meter, she told me that this was never a problem until about two years ago, when the prices started to rise like a broken thermometer gone crazy. The family had decided that rationing would make things last longer, this meant watching television covered in quilts and blankets in the evenings.

With a young growing family clothing and the replacement of footwear didn’t come cheap, even in the many charity shops clothing is expensive and there very prominence on the high street has led to the demise of the jumble sale once a reliable option now closed to the many seeking to obtain cheep durable outfits for children.

One other thing that I felt rather up-set about was that this Christmas, with the lack of funds things would be scarce in terms of gifts and presents for the children, the mother told me; that she and her husband had explained the situation to their children and she said they had told them; that the most important thing was being together as a family. I asked the mother did she think that she was in anyway unique in this situation, were any of her friends or neighbours experiencing the same difficulties, her reply was somehow as I anticipated; most were struggling to keep their heads above the water line.

This family I should also emphasize, has spent 11 years on the council housing list and that the children have always lived in the private rented sector, they have never been able to call any particular place their permanent home.

Over the course of the last two years I have written much about child poverty in Britain and particularly about its existences in Canning Town. I find it an absolute abhorrence and detestation that it exists still in the 21st century that children are not only suffering but possibly becoming scarred and deeply affected, as it must surely impede upon their development. I have often read reports in provincial newspapers that organisations are having to handout food parcels to help families cope because child poverty has become widespread in our towns and cities, this is not the short of information that makes the front page of a national newspaper or an item on news at ten, more important to report that the recession is coming to an end, that the housing market is picking up or that a syndicate of factory workers have won big time on the lotto.

So what I’m saying is that child poverty is not considered to be newsworthy; and I wonder why?

Even the politicians give it almost no prominence in their everyday deliberations, how can that be when you consider the 20 parliamentary constituencies with the highest levels of child poverty including Edinburgh, near to where the Chancellor Alistair Darling is an MP, 94% of children in Greendykes and Niddrie Mains ward live in poverty or are in families struggling on low incomes, and just for good measure let me mention some of the others: Bethnal Green and Bow, Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath, Manchester Central and of course Poplar and Canning Town, which has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country.

Bethnal Green and Bow’s MP is George Galloway, the so-called progressive Respect leader, but when I organised a meeting two years ago on child poverty in Canning Town he tried his level best to get out of it, but after applying gentle pressure and when he did attended he spoke about everything but child poverty, considering that his constituency has a very high percentage of children suffering in poverty, he has been nothing more than a complete disappointment because he would rather spend his precious time delivering help convoys to the Gaza. I have no problem in saying that he is a waste of space!

This is a subject that I could go on and on about, it’s more prevalent and more obvious today than at any recent time in the last 20 years. It is the legacy that I will remember New Labour for more than anything else, as it has taken a very serious turn for the worst under their stewardship, but lets be clear and say that poverty in all its vile forms will never be eradicated unless you are prepared to get rid of the capitalist system lock stock and barrel, then and only then, will our children have the best chances to make the most of their lives.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Cheer!

The last few day’s I‘ve been rather busy and have not had the time to blog as much as I would have liked, and I’ve had a bit of writers block. However, today I went along to a local church just down the road from me, who cater and provide food and support to hard-up families struggling to make ends meet in Canning Town. The occasion was the annual Christmas dinner with presents included, and with special quest the bishop The Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood; he oversees a large and varied diocese stretching from East London to the North Sea.

The Diocese comprises the Administrative County of Essex, the unitary authorities of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock, and the London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.

And of course Father Christmas made an appearance, I was trying to workout; just how old Santa, standing next to the elegant nativity display, handing out the wrapped parcels to all, just how this invented character fitted in to the doctrine and school of thought served and up here by the Catholic  Church, made me wonder!

Father Christmas is the name used in many English speaking countries for a symbolic figure associated with Christmas. A similar figure with the same name (in other languages) exists in several other countries, including France (Père Noël) Spain (Papá Noel), Malta (il-Krismis Fader), Brazil (Papai Noel), Portugal (Pai Natal), Italy (Babbo Natale) and Romania (Moş Crăciun). In past centuries, the English Father Christmas was also known as Old Father Christmas, Sir Christmas, and Lord Christmas.

Father Christmas neither typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, or was he a gift bringer, nor particularly associated with children. The pre-modern representations of the gift-giver merged with the British character Father Christmas, to create the character known to Americans as Santa Claus. And it was the American Company Coca-Cola and its artist Haddon Sundblom who in the 1930s introduced the figure that we all imagine is the representation of Father Christmas (Santa Claus) that we all know today. Father Christmas modern creation evolved also from the following poem.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his sack.
His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump,--a right jolly old elf--
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

Written by Clement C. Moore in 1822 as a Christmas present to his children.

I think that’s quite a lovely poem really and composed for the poet’s children; who he clearly loved. I can imagine that so many will say, what harm dose old Santa do then, well that’s a really good question I suppose, with no easy answer, for who would shatter the magic held by millions of children, nay trillions of innocents and young, but add to that the trillions of children thought-out the world whom Father Christmas is nothing more than a fictional character. We forget about them children or put them out of our minds, when we sit around the Christmas tree or tuck into our festive food. Is it that Father Christmas is nothing more than a sales gimmick? After all Coca-cola successfully used him to sell their drinks and they gave him his distinctive red outfit, if you like typecast him in such away that it’s stuck like glue the colour of its branded product.

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Saturday, 19 December 2009

Discarded Christmas tree!

This very morning as I write this post Canning Town were I live is covered in that white stuff known as snow. It’s not often that we’ve see snow in London in the recent years; but this morning we have a winters covering and just before the mad run up to Christmas, of course this has nothing to do with what I’m going to write about of which I’ve not even certain or have an idea, I think, I’ll have a little think out aloud, as to how I see things politically in the closing of the year and ending of the first decade of this century.
So here we are at the closing of this decade, on a winter’s morning and I’m imagining that there will be many thousands of families and single individuals who will find paying just to keep warm comes with great difficulty!
Having taken a short break from the composition of this post, as I had to attend Canning Town JobCentre to claim the pittance that keeps me in the lifestyle that I’ve become accustomed too, I return to take-up my deliberations. My employment adviser, a very nice chap, I think, asked what I would be doing over the festive holidays to which I replied working on this and the other blog ‘In the Box’, he, my adviser, asked out of interest where he would be able to find my blog, so I gave him my (URL) uniform resource locator address on the world wide web, and if by any chance he reads this, as he said he would then may I extended my warmest of greetings to him and his family over this Christmas period.

Well one thing is for sure and that’s next year the country goes to the polls to elect a new government, we can, in the new-year expect the three mainstream parties to start in earnest the phony war, many will become tired of this political urinalysis before that great day and will simply switch off, and who can blame them, if they haven’t heard it all before or maybe we have all become a we bit disillusioned and mistrustful of this élite.

There is not one of these parties that offer any way out of the situation that we are in, they all propose to do the same, in short, hold up and support the capitalist system that is responsible for the world crises or recession.

Twelve months ago, the panic sown by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers had pushed financial markets close to collapse. Global economic activity, from industrial production to foreign trade, was falling faster than in the early 1930s. This time, though, the decline was stemmed within months. Teetering, seesawing banks were rolled in a multi-trillion-dollar wrap of government cash and guarantees. Central banks slashed interest rates; the big ones dramatically expanded their balance-sheets. Governments worldwide embraced fiscal stimulus with zestfulness. This extraordinary activism helped to stem panic, prop up the financial system and counter the collapse in private demand. It also demonstrated the real role and character of government in our so-called democracies – to hold that system up, come what may, by force of circumstances and whatever the costs are in terms of jobs or even the homes of ordinary working people. So whilst banks receive transfusions of cash, communities are abandoned or simply left to stagnate. One interesting example has to be the beleaguered US city of Detroit reported to be in danger of running out of money. The city's accumulated budget deficit is said to be greater than $300 million. Now it is threatened with being placed under the financial management of a person appointed by the governor. And just to give a taster of how bad things are today, according to a new study in the Detroit News, it claims that the city’s unemployment is actually closer to 50 percent than the government’s official 30 percent. A new survey commissioned by the paper said that a full 100,000 people had become so discouraged that they simply gave up looking for work.

The situation in the world is still fragile, because global demand is still dependent on government support and such openhandedness has papered over old problems while creating new sources of unpredictability.
This time last year in Britain 20,000 workers, painfully worked their last Christmas at the stores of that famous icon on the high street Woolworths, flung and cast aside like a discarded tree after Christmas, was the reward given for the many years loyal service of its workforce. This year that trend continues as around 1,100 staff at bookshop chain Borders will lose their jobs next week, administrators said today that after they failed to find a buyer for the struggling business its 45 stores across Britain, will close on Tuesday, with staff finishing work two days later on Christmas Eve.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Cost of Christmas

It is said by some that Christmas has come early this year; well I always think that it’s upon us all too soon as it is. But what’s being referred to are the reports in the media claiming huge discounts in the shops and stores on the high street.

One retail suppliers’ has said that this is definitely to be a Christmas of discounted goods, adding: In this environment, you’d be mad to pay full price for anything. So as the Christmas message of shop while you can spread’s and the Queen practices for her traditional broadcast to her beleaguered and circumvented subjects, Debenhams and what we in Scunthorpe used to call Marks & Sparks have kick started sales early by slashing their prices. It seems that retailers have been forced to take this drastic action and cut their prices as a result of the ongoing financial crisis which has left many struggling to find the money to spend on Christmas.

Christmas Discounts have been applied by many shops in an effort to try and boost spending and stop profits from slumping further. One thing is for sure and that’s it serves as a reminder of how server this recession is.

A recent report has indicated that there is now a higher number of people that are facing bankruptcy in the UK, with a rise of 7 percent in the third quarter of the year compared to the same period last year. The figures come from the Ministry of Justice, and show that 13,653 people had petitioned for bankruptcy in the three months to the end of September.

This number is the second highest since the Ministry of Justice started taking records in 1995. The quarter also saw the number of creditor petitions increase, as well as the number of company winding up petitions, which rose by around 13 percent.

One economist described the figures as ‘a clear taste of things to come’ and he also added: “Individual bankruptcies are poised to surge over the coming months in the face of recession, faster rising unemployment, higher debt levels, very tight credit conditions and more and more people being trapped in negative equity.”

Further increases in bankruptcy levels have been predicted by many industry officials, and it is through that this is because of the ongoing global financial crisis and the expected rise in unemployment figures as the country continues to go through the capitalist recession!

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Monday, 14 December 2009

The Spirit of Christmas

Homeless shelters in London might be even more packed than usual this Christmas as around 300 squatters were evicted from a block of flats that have stood empty for 3 years in Poplar Tower Hamlets say the squatters, which include families. Carrying out the eviction, 2 weeks before Christmas seems Grinch plus Scrooge in the anti-festive stakes.

Police formed a cordon surrounding the entire 6 storey 90 flat block as Tower Hamlets council officers moved in to the flats. A police helicopter circled overhead as they moved through the 90 flats. Construction workers have now moved in to begin securing the site with metal linked fences.

The building itself was sold to the construction group Bellway in April 2009 who plan to demolish it in order to further landscape the park which it sits in and create a new public canalside picnic and recreation area. This forms one of their local commitments under their plans for the 'New Frontier Quarter' development awaiting planning permission at the opposite end of the Park.

In the weekly East London Advertiser it’s reported that Town Hall bosses in Tower Hamlets have been given more power to manage waiting lists by the Housing Minister John Healey, but this I fear may be a bit suspect in light of what national housing charity Shelter revealed that Tower Hamlets would take 10 years to clear the waiting lists at present rates.
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Friday, 11 December 2009

Tower Hamlets referendum is a travesty!

On Monday I was surprised to read a report in the London Evening Standard (7 December) about George Galloway’s Respect Party, and it is very much his own Respect Party, but perhaps without the respect or acceptance it had once for those who whiff from the differing categories of the Trotsky trojan horse type organisations that setup Respect and were part of its conception, the biggest being the SWP of course. Many are crying out following its recent conference that it had moved to the political right or to be totally blunt closer to New Labour.

This post has the intention of not being antagonist, but if you criticise another organisation there will always be those who will try to cut you down in the long grass of confusion, which they often cultivate for there own political facilitation, besides shouting out sectarianism. Such a charge could be made towards this blog, but it would not hide the fact that the Respect organisation has been baptised, dousing in the fount of demonolatry and very much led by Galloway himself with much assistance from gofers, the Socialist Unity misnamed forum is run by one close gofer, habitually facilitating the Respect stance and concordantly posting comebacks to numerous critics. It will be interesting to see what position will be taken if as many are predicting Respect is wiped-out next year following the local and general elections?

However the Evening Standard drew reader’s attention belated and I do suppose uproariously, as it had been some weeks ago that Respect was able to trigger off a borough wide referendum in Tower Hamlets on whether to be governed by one individual an elected mayor. The petition organised by Respect attracted 10,000 valid signatures. Another 7,000 people signed but were not on the electoral register or did not give their name or address.

The poll will take place in May and if there is a yes vote the election will be held in October. The mayor would serve for four years and could appoint between two and nine councillors to form a Cabinet. The Respect party currently has six councillors in the borough of Tower Hamlets.

During the course of New Labour’s stint at the helm of HMS prison ship the United Kingdom it has found favour with this concept of local administration, with Londoners being governed by a City Boss the current incompetent Tory Boris Johnson. The King of his own pushbike.

Whatever arrangements are supported and made by Respect for local government they won’t make much difference. This is because such arrangements are to be implemented within the context of the profit system, whose economic mechanisms require all levels of government, however structured, to trim their spending so as not to endanger profit levels whatever people want – or vote for.


An elected mayor is not a good idea and runs away in the opposite direction to a socialist prospective. A proposal to elect an individual, an elected single leader, a mayor who will not just have more power than the elected council but will be paid a fat cat salary of £75,000 a year and have the remit of managing Tower Hamlets as if it were a capitalist enterprise. The whole proposal is a travesty of democracy. The proposal for an elected mayor is a proposal to endorse what passes for democracy under capitalism: a choice not of an alternative social systems or even policies but of rival leaders who are all packaging without any substance. And at worst, it encourages people to think that some leader can solve society’s problems for them, whereas these problems can only be solved by people refusing to follow leaders and acting for themselves and co-operatively. The only kind of politics that is going to work is a do-it-yourself politics aimed at abolishing the profit-system.

Real democracy is not possible under capitalism where a minority own and control the means of production and are therefore more equal and privileged than the rest of us and where the mechanisms of the profit system work to frustrate what people vote for from being carried out. The only way everybody can participate and have a genuinely equal say in how things are run is in a classless society based on common ownership.

Such a socialist society will mean the end of production for profit and the coming of production geared directly to meeting people’s needs. There will be no longer any barrier to ending problems like transport chaos, pollution and crumbling social services, which are unsolvable today because they arise out of the system. People will cooperate to carry out the necessary work of society and be able to take freely from the common store of wealth according to their needs. “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” will be the guiding principle.
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Monday, 7 December 2009

Too little, too late

The following is the draft text from a leaflet that I put out on Saturdays Climate Change demonstration the Wave.

Too little, too late

That’s the most that will ever be done under capitalism about the problems that global warming may bring.

It’s simply that the way the capitalist system works rules out the effective action at world level that is needed to begin tackling the problem. It even encourages economic activities that contribute to it.

Capitalism is based on production being controlled by profit-seeking enterprise which, supported by governments, compete on the market to buy resources and sell products. This competitive pursuit of profits is the essence of capitalism. It’s what capitalism is all about and what prevents any effective action to deal with climate change.

Nobody can deny that global warming is taking place. Nor that if it continues unchecked, it would have disastrous consequences’ such as rising sea-levels and increased desertification – through its effects on the climates of different parts of the world. There can only be argument over what is causing it. Most scientists in the field take the view that it has mainly been caused by the increase in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere largely as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas.

If this is the case, then one part of the solution has to be cut back on burning these fuels. But this is not happening. In fact, on a world scale, it’s increasing. This is because this is currently the cheapest way of generating the energy to drive industry – and the logic of capitalism compels the profit-seeking enterprises that control production to use the cheapest methods. If they don’t, their competitors will.
There are other sources of energy, in particular hydroelectricity and nuclear power, and the various countries into which the world is divided rely to different degrees on burning fossil fuels. Which means that they would each be affected differently by having to reduce reliance on them. It is this that has prevented, is preventing and will prevent any effective international action to check the burning of coal, oil and gas. The 1997 Kyoto Treaty, which sought rather half-heartedly to do this, was not signed by the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (the United States) and deliberately excluded the second biggest (China).

These two states – whose rivalry is likely to mark the 21st century – will never agree to limit their burning of fossil fuels and put their enterprises at a competitive disadvantage with regard to enterprise operating from other states less dependent on them. No government of either country could afford to agree to this. And nobody can force them to.
There are those who, recognising that government will never agree to do anything effective, argue that market forces will eventually bring about a decline in burning fossil fuels. Oil is supposed to be running out. As it does market forces will bring about a rise in its price and to alternative methods of generating energy – such as wind power, solar energy and other non-polluting, renewable sources – becoming relatively cheaper. Capitalist enterprises will therefore switch to these other sources. That’s the theory and maybe in the long run it might work. Burt the long run could be a long time, by when it would be, as we said, too little too late.

But there are arguments about whether oil really is running out and, as its price rises, so it will become profitable to exploit less easily extracted and previously unprofitable sources, such as under the deep sea. Already the states surrounding the Arctic Sea are manoeuvring to be in a good position to exploit the oil underneath it. The same applies to coal, of which everyone agrees there’s enough to last centuries. New mines are already being opened in China.

So within the framework of capitalism, intergovernmental co-operation and leaving it to market forces will both prove to be ineffective. Are we then doomed to suffer the consequences of global warming? Is there then no solution?

The right framework

There will be a solution and, given the right framework, humanity will find it.

We already know that any solution will have to involve finding replacement sources of energy to burning of fossil fuels. What is needed is a framework which will allow rather than impede the implementation of this and the other measures. The capitalist system does not, and cannot, provide such a framework. It must go before anything lasting and effective can be done.

What is the alternative framework? First, the competitive struggle for profits as the basis for production be ended. This requires that the Earth’s natural and industrial resources become the common heritage of humanity. On this basis, and on this basis alone, can an effective programme to deal with the problem be drawn up and implemented, because production would then be geared to serving human interests and no longer to make a profit for competing enterprises.

There will be those who say that we haven’t the time to wait for the coming into being of this, in their view, unlikely or long-distant framework, and that we must therefore do something now. In this age of apathy and cynicism when any large-scale change is dismissed, this may seem a plausible argument but it begs the question. It assumes that a solution can be implemented within capitalism. But if it can’t (as we maintain), then concentrating on something now rather than on changing the basis of society and production will be a waste of valuable time while the situation gets worse.
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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Welfare not Workfare

Plotting and scheming for Welfare not Workfare

On 12 November, it became legal to force unemployed people to work for their benefits – to do 40-hour-weeks for under a third of the minimum wage. The Government's Welfare Reform Act introduced 'Work for your Benefit' pilot schemes, which once completed can be rolled out without any further debate. It also attacked single parents – who face sanctions if they fail to prepare for work outside the home as soon as their child turns three – and people with impairments, disabilities or severe and enduring illnesses.

Two days later, members of twenty-three different groups from around the UK met to share information and plan resistance to these pernicious attacks, which will take their toll on working-class and low-income communities.

Groups present included Unemployed Workers Unions from six cities across the UK, the Disabled People's Direct Action Network, Southwark Mind, WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), Single Mothers' Self-Defence (part of Global Women's Strike) and members of the union in the Department of Work and Pensions – PCS. They were joined by feminist and other groups (all listed below).

The strength to be gained from meeting in solidarity with each other was immense and created a real sense that a movement is building: a movement which will not only fight the immediate attacks of the Welfare Abolition Act, but draw out the connections between our struggles and together challenge the ideology driving them.

The Act seeks to make our worth dependent on work; work defined in the really narrow terms of waged work for someone else's profit. By making us compete with those in waged work for non-existent jobs, it helps drive down wages and conditions. We all take the brunt as the rich make even more money out of us.

• We want solidarity with and from people in low-income, temporary and insecure work. These are the jobs that 'work-for-your-benefit' would replace.

• We want caring to be recognised as important work in society. Single parents are already working and benefits are their entitlement to a social wage.

• We want justice for people with severe or enduring illnesses. The drive to get people off incapacity benefits and Employment and Support Allowance and into work is making people more ill with stress. Only we know what we are capable of and it is wrong for conditions and sanctions to be imposed on us to force us into unsuitable work, unwanted “work-related activity” or “motivation sessions” which press us into their programmes of treatment for addictions and other conditions.

• We want the right not to work. People not in waged work contribute loads to their communities. We do not want to be forced into mind-numbing, insecure work that leaves us no better off, or worse off than on benefits and definitely not at £1.27 an hour!

• We want free, high-quality, public services to support older people and people with impairments/disabilities. People should not have to become employers managing 'individual budgets' in order to access the care they need.

• We want to stand in solidarity with migrant workers. Just as unemployed people are pitted against people in work, so migrant workers are pitted against us. We believe that we must stand together and demand all of our rights together.

• We want to fight privatisation of the Department for Work and Pensions. Attacks on DWP and Jobcentre Plus workers are attacks on our rights to access welfare. We will support the PCS' fight against cuts.

• We want an end to the apartheid system of benefits, healthcare and housing for asylum seekers. UK Border Agency support should be scrapped -- where people are forced to survive on incomes far below benefit levels – which are already set at subsistence level. No slum housing and dangerous and dirty hostels, dispersal, or vouchers.

After a day of info-sharing, outrage and scheming, we formed a few working groups. If you're able to help out with any of the projects, please email

1. Media working group – monitor and respond to hostile articles in the media.

2. Our propaganda – creating posters, newsletters etc to get our messages out

3. Website – put together a website as a space to share resources, feedback and comment, get the word out about our campaign and publicise local and national action.

4. Our welfare rights – compiling information to help us access our rights now and creating 'Know your rights' leaflets.

5. Defeating the Work for your Benefits pilots – research to support the network to take action against the pilots.

If you want to stay in touch, please join our discussion list here:

If you agree with our demands above and would like to take part in our campaign, please ask your group to sign up to this statement and email

And put the next national meeting in your diary now.... 17 April in Manchester!

The meeting had people in attendance from: South Manchester Community Union, London Anarcha-Feminist Kolektiv, London Coalition Against Poverty, Feminist Action, Defend Welfare Newcastle, Manchester Unemployed Workers Union, Cambridge Unemployed Workers' Union, PCS, Hackney Unemployed Workers, Single Mothers' Self Defence, Winvisible, Alliance for Workers' Liberty, Disabled People's Direct Action Network, Southwark Mind, Women's Office Manchester Student Union, Riveters feminist group in Manchester, Feminist Fightback, Industrial Workers of the World, No Borders, Stop Deportations, Anarchist Federation, Communist Students, Salford Unemployed Workers' Union.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

“hope” and “change” and the "afghanistan pipeline"

Catching up with the preparations in respect to Afghanistan and the Obama choice to deliver the 7th Cavalry, reminds me of the so-called left here in Britain who were hoping, praying for his election as if it were a divine heavenly deliverance from evil and, I suppose compared to the last administration, it’s the lesser of two evils.
But the decision to send 30,000 additional troops comes as no big surprise, despite the length of time that Obama has taken to contemplate his options, which were always going to be what he decided in the end. He may be the Commander in Chef but at the end of the day he’s merely a puppet to the rich and influentially powerful who own, control the profit making apparatus.

So I’m just remembering “hope” and “change” promised by the Obama campaign.

Most of us know that the Middle East is a centre of activity for world oil production. Some of us have heard about the Caspian Sea, and the touted possibilities for great oil resources there. But few would think that rocky, war torn Afghanistan might be part of this energy production picture. Yet it most certainly is. And the information about Afghanistan's role is readily available on the World Wide Web to anyone who wants to investigate. The vast energy reserves in Central Asia and vast energy reserves in Central Asia and the Caucasus have made the region a priority for the United States.

The United States has to get that oil and will make a deal with whatever governments are there in place that is willing to work with

The US government Energy Information fact sheet on Afghanistan dated December 2000 says that, "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes a multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan.

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