Monday, 31 January 2011

Taxation a dirty word



And here’s a dirty word for you ‘Tax’. Oh yes truth be told, and I think we can all agree, this is a word that most would rather not hear, and of course we must hear and discover and see and feel its pull every single day, whether it’s the tax we pay on our wage slavery, or the tax we pay on the consumer goods we acquire by means of a financial transaction, including the food we need. Now tax comes in many shapes and forms I am sure you know that from experience, and for a great many of us who sell our labour in exchange for a wage or a salary there simply is no escape, unless you are working in the black economy for some doggy employer who is paying cash in hand for your services, like the Indian guy working in my local shop who told me one day that his employer pays him £3 an hour for working a 40 hour week and over serving customers in a very busy, lucrative (because it sells alcohol) outlet.

Today the press are spreading and propagating the possibility that Chancellor George Osborne has said he is considering cancelling the fuel duty increase due to take effect in April. There is said to be growing pressure to have a rethink on an extra 1p-a-litre rise at a time when petrol prices have soared after oil price and VAT increases, and of course when you think about it this would be a safe move for the government which is now accumulating the wrath and anger of millions who are being hit really hard by their policies thus far, what with inflation and a noticeable increase in the general cost of living; an increase in fuel duty would be at this time like pouring petrol onto a fire that and which is already burning profusely. The coalition against the majority has bigger fish to fry and don’t want to be blown off course from its agenda and series of planned events, actions and maturation's.

So as we consider tax we are reminded that January 31 (today) is the deadline for personal tax returns to Revenue & Customs, a time to pay up.

Taxation and tax avoidance have become major issues recently, particularly for large well-known companies and individuals, thanks in part to UK Uncut, students and the new movement. In the last few months, hostility towards big business in the wake of the credit crunch and the bailing out of banks, and fear about the impact of austerity cuts have created a toxic cocktail of growing descent and a manifestation of protestation.

Just consider Vodafone, reeling from allegations, first advanced in and by Private Eye, that Revenue & Customs let them off from paying their £6 billion tax bill, or Sir Philip Green’s Topshop Empire which pays his wife dividends in Monaco thereby avoiding taxation, and then there are the not so good banks paying out mega-bonuses while diverting revenues to overseas tax havens. What about the big retail names such as US food giant Kraft, which recently moved some operations to low-tax capitalist wonderland Switzerland; or and this really is a good one Boots the Chemist, whose private-equity owners also moved its tax HQ to Switzerland. Now Boots who helped destroy the early co-operative retail movement started by workers is now in the news and in the frame for taking over parts of the NHS under plans being drown up by the government. The nationwide high street chemist is currently engaged in discussions with the NHS to establish which, if any, services could be provided in stores, according to the Daily Mail. It is alleged that one mooted area for high street outsourcing is chemotherapy and cancer treatment. Is that son of a coal miner Aneurin "Nye" Bevan turning in his grave?”

The collective principle asserts that... no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.
—Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear, p100

A small but worthwhile deviation there, but coming back to taxation, and I have to say that I am no expert, but I do remember the only time in my life that I enjoyed my taxation was when the Labour Government of Harold Wilson handed out tax rebates to workers in the 1970s and I was working at the time on Scunthorpe Steel Works, we would collect our wages in those days from pay stations that were dotted around the works, I got mine and was amused to find I had over £500 in the pay packet which was a lot of money in those day’s and especially for a young lad. Well those were happier days in comparison to today and many young people will be lucky to get a job let alone get a large tax rebate.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Egyptians demand: No to poverty, No to unemployment, No to torture"


Poster reads: No to poverty, No to unemployment, No to torture"

Well there is one definite, precise, explicit and clearly defined mood of determination sweeping the world’s working classes in the opening weeks of this New Year, that’s if the revolutions and protests in both Tunisia and Egypt are anything to go by.

One point that I recognise and wish at the start of this post to give some tongue and clapper to, is that these movements are leaderless revolts, a very significant point in light of our position on this blog in regard to leaders.

I like these lines from yesterdays Guardian: “a wave of protest, sparked by self-immolation, unemployment and high food prices, sweeps the Arab world from Mauritania to Saudi Arabia, there is one cry that stands out in Egypt: dictatorship will no longer hold us down.”

There is no doubtfulness about this; the thirty-year-old US-backed dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak has been shaken by an unprecedented wave of mass demonstrations calling for an end to the regime. An estimated 20,000 protesters, largely youth and young workers, defied a huge deployment of riot police and paramilitary troops in the centre of Cairo, and thousands more rallied in cities across the country. Once again we see the youth of the world taking a prominent role in these world developments.

The demonstrators hailed the mass protests that ousted long-time Tunisian strongman and potentate Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 and demanded that Mubarak follow Ben Ali’s example and resign. Police attacked the rallies in Cairo and other cities, firing tear gas and water cannon and wielding clubs. Two protesters were reported killed in Suez, east of Cairo.

It is I think, very difficult for us on this side of the globe to get a true, accurate picture and position, although the press and media have been reporting developments as they happen, sensitive censorship of counterintelligence achieved by banning or deleting any information of value to the enemy (working classes), and even in the west is being exercised, because the governments of the US and here in Britain have supported, and for strategic reasons the dictatorship of Mubarak. And remember that Britain has a sordid and bloodcurdling history in Egypt. Just looked up an old book on the Middle East, well twenty years old in fact, but still the The Times guide to The Arab World and its Neighbours gives me some good background to Egypt, and I really begin to realise how worrying this must be for world capitalist leaders who would like to maintain the status quo and not see a new front open up in the region for all the obvious!”

Some interesting facts, Mubarak who succeeded Anwar Sadat after his assassination is a former air-force general and the inheritor of a political order which bases its claim to legitimacy on, and get this, a revolution carried out by the officer corps of the armed forces. Consequently, Mubarak is sympathetic to arguments that suggest that the armed forces are not simply the defenders of the country’s borders but are the ultimate guarantors of order. Just one other point before moving on and that’s just to highlight the relationship with the US who in the 90s cancelled the whole of Egypt’s military debt of $7billion. The cancellation of the debt was, therefore, a highly effective way for the US to reward the Egyptian government for the active part it played in the allied coalition formed to eject Iraq from Kuwait, and you could say minding the odd hiccup they have been bosom buddies ever since, with the US breast feeding from time to time.

The anti-government action in Egypt is part of a growing revolt by the working class and oppressed of Northern Africa and the Middle East against the Arab bourgeois and materialistic regimes and their imperialistic sponsors. In addition to the ongoing protests in Tunisia, mass demonstrations have occurred in Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and Sudan.

Egypt, the most populous and powerful of the Arab states and the recipient of billions of dollars in US military aid, is the main seawall of US led imperialist domination in the Arab world. This immensely raises the stakes in the outcome of events in Egypt for the Arab ruling elite groups and political orientation on the one side, and the working class on the other. The US government, which has sought to mask its hostility to the popular movement in Tunisia with empty talk of democratic reform, has responded to the mass protests in Egypt by reiterating its support for Mubarak. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington: “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

On Tuesday the world stood and looked in astonishment as protesters took to the streets and fought running battles with the police, it must be noted that they the protesters raised a series of social and democratic demands: for jobs, against poverty and for an end to the country’s emergency laws. The organisers of the protests, which were coordinated over Facebook and Internet web sites, had called for a “day of revolt against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment” to coincide with a national holiday honouring the police, but traditionally used by dissidents to protest against police brutality.

One learnt and acquired class lesson for us all is this; The protests were boycotted by the established opposition, fearing a social upheaval on a similar scale to that in Tunisia, Egypt’s leading opposition parties and political figures boycotted the demonstrations and issued declarations aimed at discouraging their supporters from taking part.

Just how this will all pan-out in the end is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure and that is the worlds working classes are moving against their rulers!”  

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Then the Law must be an Ass...




Deep down I think many of us can relate with sympathy to the extreme action taken by Mohamed Bouazizi, The 26 year old fruit and vegetable seller in Tunisia who doused himself in petrol and set fire to himself.

On the morning of December 17th 2010 it is reported that Mohammed Bouazizi went to work. He left his house in good spirits and set up his fruit stall in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. Bouazizi was a graduate in a nation where youth unemployment and corruption had led him to regularly bribing the police, who refused to grant him trading permits. On December 17th the police confiscated Bouazizi’s stall. In an act of suicidal protest, Bouazizi set himself alight. His desperation and dissent antagonised anger and rebellion in Tunisia’s youth. By January 9th 2011 protests had encouraged action from labour movements, rural workers and online activists. Although the government attempted to quell the protests through concessions, anger mounted until January 14th, when the 23 year rule of President Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali came to an end. 

We have all come across many evil things in our lives of that I am sure; and that which we know to be absolutely totally abominated and wrong. Many of us do nothing at all, and just let it all go over our heads, some challenge the wrongs that come before us, but then back away when we realise the appended problems this may bring about. Then there are those amongst us that stick their heads down and charge or make a rush or sudden attack upon, as in battle and like a bull with the knowledge that right is on our side (they are undeviating and true fighters), only to loose out in the end and to be left wondering how did that happen. Then there are the wrongs that we are not allowed or permitted under any circumstances to do anything about ourselves, the legal injuries that it would be against the law of the land if we were to try to solve the wrong ourselves, such as wrongdoing that violates another's rights and unjustly inflicted. So we put ourselves in the hands of the appropriate authorities, and guess what, somehow for whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem able to work out, and nothing gets done about it. I would imagine almost everyone reading this would say; yes, I've certainly got that tee shirt.

But then again on a lighter note, Segway rider, Mr Phillip Coates, going about what he thought was his own business, found himself in the Barnsley Magistrates Court's being fined £75, £250 costs, and £15 victim surcharge, after becoming the first person in Britain to be prosecuted for what was deemed by the judge, to have ridden a motorised vehicle on the pavement. But the Government does not allow Segways to be ridden on public roads either, and has no plans to change the law, leaving their use restricted to private land. The Segway was unveiled in 2001; it was claimed to foretell that which would inspire and change transport around our towns and cities as it was quick, environmentally friendly and easy to balance on thanks to gyroscopic technology – although George W Bush (‘ha-ha’) famously managed to fall off one.
The £5,000 machines, which can reach speeds of 12mph, became legal to ride on pavements in more than 40 US states as well as countries across Europe. But in Britain they were classed as motor vehicles under the Highways Act 1835, preventing them from being used on pavements, yet also barred from the road as they do not comply with road traffic law.


This must mean you would have thought that all those council worker's that clean the high streets with their motorised sweepers must be illegal, plus the worker's with there petrol driven stremmers, the hand-held machine for trimming grass and motor driven petrol lawn mowers are illegal, plus all those proud parents that follow there children down the footpaths in their Christmas and Birthday gifts of toy electric police car's and such must also be illegal, not to mention the mobility scooters that the old and disabled use, talking of which we found the above YouTube clip and this story in a US newspaper that went like this:

"Connecticut's favourite motorway, the beloved Interstate 95, was blessed with a unique traveller recently, one who might not quite have the license required to drive alongside cars going at 70 mph. You see, he was driving a motorized wheelchair. 
He's not the first man to take his mobility scooter onto the open road ... though, admittedly, the other one we've seen was just on a side road (and carrying a giant roll of carpet). 
This man was sporting a natty blue coat and a pair of sunglasses (you know, because he's cool), and thanks to his get-up, no one has yet been able to identify him." 
In other words, if you know the man in the clip below and can tell us more about his exit on the Fairfield junction get in contact because either this guy is a living legend or requires urgent medical attention.

The fact that a few years ago it was proven to me in a court of the land, and by a judge of the day and a representative of DVLA, that all thoroughfares that have layer's of concrete, tarmac, slabbed, paved, grassed, or earth itself, and if the edging is put in place and all is maintained by the council then this is deemed by law to be a road, and if appropriate to the vehicle, road tax must be paid.

All this seems or it may have been irrelevant and beside the point to the copper who apprehended Phillip Coates on that day; had he nothing better to do. To the judicial system as a whole, the self possessed and amok copper, the prosecution service or any judge, can somebody, anybody get it right or is it that the law is an ass?” 

Post By: Brian Hopper or In the Box   

Monday, 24 January 2011

Bankers party and the young suffer...




Unemployment has now reached 2.5 million, according to the Office for National Statistics, and of course that’s if you trust these figures and the way they are collated which I don’t. But it comes as no surprise then that the tallying of the figures presented in there present form indicates the hardest hit are young people aged between 16 to 24 years of age, among whom nearly one in five are without work, about one million in all.

The fact that joblessness rose by 49,000 during this span exposes the Conservative/Liberal-Democrat government’s claim that job cuts in the public sector will be “offset” by growth in the private sector.

The figure do not include the impact of the government’s austerity measures unveiled at the end of October, which will wipe out some 350,000 jobs across the public sector over the next four years.

More than a third of unemployed people have been out of work for more than a year, up by 15,000 on the previous quarter. This compares with one-fifth at the start of the recession. The numbers working part-time because they cannot find full-time work rose by 26,000 to 1.15 million—the highest level since 1992.

Young people are finding it increasingly difficult to find work. There was a particularly sharp rise in the number of 16 and 17 year-olds registered as unemployed, from 177,000 to 204,000.

One factor in the rise in youth joblessness is that the number of older people working past the accustomed age for retirement is rising. Those aged 65 and over still working grew by 106,000 over the past year. They are doing so largely because they cannot afford to retire.

Youth unemployment is set to rise even more, with a record number of graduates—320,000—expected this year.

In addition, the government is pressing ahead with plans to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance. Its scrapping played a significant role in the student protests of the last months, as tens of thousands of working class youth took to the streets in opposition. The grant—which allows a £30 per week maximum stipend—is currently paid to 16-18-year-olds living in households earning under £30,800. The overwhelming majority of teenagers receive EMA. A survey by the University and College Union found that 70 percent of students would leave education if it was withdrawn.

The unemployment figures were released as the investment bank Goldman Sachs announced it was paying out £9.6 billion in pay and bonuses. While the announcement led to a Greek chorus of complaints in the media, the government is currently negotiating with UK banks to find a compromise that will help them hold back and hide the pay and bonuses of their top earners.

The government had pledged to make bankers pay more “transparent”, but is now backtracking in the face of hostility from the financial sector. The UK’s banks are opposed to measures that will force them to reveal the salaries and bonuses of their highest paid employees. According to the Financial Times, RBS and Barclays, “which have big investment banking divisions, fear that disclosure of star traders’ pay could lead to a ‘witch-hunt’ and that the vilification of individuals in the media and could drive some out of Britain.”

Friday, 21 January 2011

I have a conspiracy theory about this government



I was very interested but not surprised to learn that Retail sales suffered their worst December on record after a sharp fall in sales of food and fuel due to harsh weather and rising prices, which official data has revelled today.

The media and the politicians increasing talk up an economic recovery, saying that the country is out of recession in fact they have been pronouncing that a turnaround has been taking place for at least the last two years. A CBI survey last month had suggested that retail sales were rising at their fastest pace since 2002 in the first part of December. Subsequent surveys and sales figures from other individual retailers suggest this was not the case. I don’t take any notice when I don’t feel or see an improvement in the circumstances of many who are really struggling to make ends meet and just survive, and indeed survival is the operative word these days.

So you're sitting at home tuned in to the six o’clock news, about to get stuck into a dish of Hungarian goulash made from the week’s leftovers, and the news reader waffles on in an uninteresting, boring monologist manner about retail sales, food, fuel, rising prices and a harsh winter. Well you couldn’t hold it against anybody feeling inclined to thrust the goulash at the goggle box, but they don’t because a new one now costs an arm and a leg, what with hike in VAT and all.

It’s strange, and I’m not by the way suggesting a new conspiracy theory, but it makes me wonder when I read that the Met Office told the cabinet office and the government to expect a very cold winter, and then informed the public that winter was expected to be mild. In fact the Met Office knew that Britain was facing an early and exceptionally cold winter but failed to warn the public and in doing so hampering preparations for some of the coldest weather on record, and I also remember reading the tragic story of an old married couple who went out in the snow to get coal for the fire then keeled over and died.

A Brass Monkey of a winter then, and the Met told the government but they didn’t share it with us why? I don’t think we will ever find-out or get the answer to that somehow, we all know that the Met Office famously and relatively recently has got its forecasts wrong, but this is not about getting it right or wrong but about secrets. Think about it and the government austerity cuts, programs and whatever, and think about the interests of those that this bunch of morons of subnormal intelligence serve, and who they look after not us, did they suppress the information because they knew that those who supply domestic fuel had announced a massive hike that would come into force in and during the coldest winter month; they knew that VAT was going up after Christmas, and did they think that a poor seasonal showing at the shops would hit their economic plans, not to even mention the preparations that should have been in place to deal with swine flu. Just remember the government were told at the end of October highlighting the risk of a cold start to the winter".                         

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Seeing through the Crap



This post I approach with some real trepidation and apprehension, for its subject which has drifted around for sometime in my subconscious mind, and I must say awkwardly if not uncomfortably, and mind chewing over my thoughts and feelings about and on the question of leadership, it has not been an easy experience. There is a certain amount of debate in and amongst the British left at the moment; and just to remind everyone ‘left’ is a description that I don’t like using; it’s like cannibalising the real meaning of socialism or if you like let’s use its other name communism. I think leadership is a very thorny question at this time, bristling with many perplexities within the broader Labour movement; it bubbled up during a lull or pause during which things fell calm and activities diminished or became rundown, and understandably for the Christmas holidays. I’m of course referring to the extra-parliamentary activities of occupations, protests and the demonstrations of students and many others who I will refer to as the new movement.

To be honest I don’t really know when or where I started using the term ‘new movement’, but it fits in with my feelings and plans for the future, it’s probably the fact that I’ve been around the block a few times during the course of the last twenty years, and I dare say presumptuously, like a great many who started off in the Labour Party then left and wondered looking for the promised land, the pillow to lay our socialist heads, the home to call our own, whilst many a travelling caravan came along, Socialist Labour Party (SLP), Respect, Convention of the Left, Socialist Alliance, Stop the War Coalition the list is endless, and it also say’s something about the left in Britain, something that they are very good at doing, but never do they stop to think for a moment for a minute are we doing any good here, in short then the left are good at starting up a new project, here there and willy nilly, but they never ever admit there failures, no-hoppers or political bankruptcies.

There’s another attribute which the British left are good at doing, and I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed, but they are very good at telling others where they are going wrong and handing out free of charge a general lecture to all and sundry. I suppose that I am now standing on holy turf, and this is really why I’ve been putting off writing this post for so long; don’t you just hate the vile sectarianism or should I say the narrow-minded adherence to a particular sect or party denomination. Oh shit I’ve said too much and didn’t want it to come out like that, but it has, and why the hell hide, conceal or blot out and run away from the truth. The British left are not a state to behold, but rather a state of depression and not agitation, nether used or ornamentation is the reality. Now let’s not skip around here, it’s rich and arrogant to think anyone of us knows or holds the right position or can explain something that the majority don’t understand.

It’s become a habit like substance abuse; for the left to bitch on and backbite about each-other, and why that is, well I just cannot offer an explanation, truth is it doesn’t really matter, but it is a force of habit that holds us back and has done for a along time now. I don’t think anyone expected the rapid radicalisation of students, a surprise that has sent shock-waves reverberating into the Tory led government coalition and the ruling class, they thought that students were just another section of the sub-population that could be pick-off, an easy target that would not put up a fight, well they got that wrong, their intelligence service was poor, but it wasn’t just the government who were caught unawares, the left by and large had no idea of the depth of feeling and the anger of students that spontaneously exploded into occupations and street protests and gave birth to other protests against big corporations and business and their organised tax dodging and circumventing of tax obligations which adds up to scandalously billions of pounds, whilst the government is advocating and making massive cuts to public services.  It also does well to remember that the government have wasted no time at all in taking over from Labour in pursuing those on benefits and labelling many including the sick and disabled as workshy.

This all adds up to one thing only, a war waged by the ruling class and directly rained down on all working people whether young or old.

In November last year I wrote that everyday brings a new attack, and that only months into a new government the return of the rotten Tories; propped-up by an equally rotten and now odious Liberal Democrats - we see the head office of the Tory party attacked and smashed, the police struggling to control the situation but still lashing out with their assortments of many different batons and truncheons’.

Over 50,000 young people brought Westminster to a standstill that day with a manly peaceful march past Parliament to protest against the proposals to increase tuition fees up to £9,000 a year. The student body the NUS organised the demonstration with the usual gentleman’s agreement with the police, however and despite the customised laid-back relationship with the Met-Police the NUS leadership were taken aback by the student turnout, they only expected 20,000 at the most, but such was the depth of anger and feeling that day that a tsunami wave caused by an earthquake of such volcanic eruption rose throughout the student and educational fraternity, school pupils, students and lecturers stood together shoulder to shoulder. This was the beginning of what I call the new movement that organised occupations all over the country, and of course the now famous marches on Parliament with the kettling and the indiscriminate police violence. Without getting too much into the internal workings of the NUS which I know nothing about, it has to be said that the leaders were caught on a back foot of inaction and at odds with the growing militancy of students, they lost control of the campaign, as the students decided for themselves how things were going to run, and without leaders!”

Now I have written a great deal about the students and their recent actions and activities and don’t wish to repeat myself in this post which is primarily concerned with the question of leadership. Many have since started to argue that the new movement should have leaders; they have drawn comparison with struggles of the past, struggles in which students played a prominent and significant part, and I touched on these in the first part to this post which can be reread here. But what I really want to do is look at some points that have been made by other comrades and organisation within the circumscribes of this debate.

In a guest post on Leadership, comrade Chris H of Lansbury's Lido felt encouraged at the site of students coming out onto the streets of the capital and other towns and delivering a shock to the authorities, and he made the important points that the anger came from across the student population - young, old, rich, poor, university and college students. Even secondary school students were amongst the marchers. These students were the sons and daughters of a cross representation of England and Wales.

There are many who think that the student population is predominantly middle to upper class in composition, this always gets my goat, and what is it that we refer to when we say working classes, and when we talk about a middle class are we not subscribing to the designed desire of the system to divide and rule the working classes, If you are forced to sell your labour it doesn't matter how much for, you’re a member of the working classes, that simple!”

The other point is that up until recent times more and more students were arriving from what may be considered working class backgrounds and up bringing.

Out with the old politics, and in with the new movement is not my line but that of the young writer and activist Laurie Penny. Here is a berth of fresh air a new approach to an old problem of class antagonism. We would be mad to say that we agree with everything that Penny advocates or as she views the development of the new movement, but there is much agreement and in the Guardian, in December she wrote the following:

Democracy is going cheap. Just in time for the January sales, the party responsible for introducing tuition fees has decided that it wants to jump on the youth protest bandwagon. "Join the party for one penny, and we will be your voice," writes Ed Miliband in a rather desperate Christmas message to under-25s.

What a cheek and as Penny quite rightly points out from the party that introduced in the first place tuition fees, Ed Miliband must think that students, that people are sardines as he attempts to wow and impress greatly the voter, the thing is people are beginning to see through that crap.

To be continued…                                        

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Cards on the table


We all saw the Oldham and East Saddelworth By-Election results in the Media, with all the parties reporting and spinning the spider’s web of what they thought it meant.

I will lay my cards on the table face up. When it comes to today’s Politics and its Politicians I don't really give a blessed damn anymore, who does what, and further more looking at the percentage turn out, the people of Oldham and Saddleworth didn't either.

In my opinion, none of them are fit for purpose and people have said as much over the years, ‘they are all the same’, or ‘there all in it for what they can get out of it’.

This has never been more the case then it is today; the last two decades has definitely brought to light the character and loyalty of those in control, they have all sold out for profit the system and self gain, sod the country, sod the workers, I'm all right Jack!”

My heart really sank into my boots when Rolls Royce was sold out, and everything of any value or profit has been sold to foreign companies, and just like what may happen to the Post Office shortly, and the biggest sell out of all was Tony Blair and the Labour Party in 1997

The working classes were misinformed and lead to believe they were on to a winner, things can only get better they said, and what a joke. In their first months in power the price of petrol went through the roof, from 305pence per gallon in 1997 to 323pence in 1998, with 83% in taxation this being the highest percentage rate in motoring history. This was an attack on us all with fixed incomes; New Labour has done the working classes no favours at all. The big problem is that we are all being forced into playing the game against a stacked deck, everything that modern day societies need, we have to pay the price for, so those needs and our hands are tied, fuel, food, energy bills and VAT, all on the up and the bankers bonuses. This Blog wrote some time ago about broken Britain, how true, but let's not fool ourselves, the system has totally broken down, and if this was a car we would be in the scrap yard.  

Post By: Brian Hopper or In the Box

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Bankers 'Free' School


Britain today is akin to living three hundred thousand fathoms under a sea of wealth, that’s if you consider that we have the highest levels of income inequality for over half a century. Household and personal wealth of the top 10% of the population is 100 times greater than that of the poorest 10% and 30% of children live in poverty.

There is most definitely something very wrong somewhere, and like most things in society it is either, hidden, obscured and generally not spoken about or highlighted in our wonderful and enlightening free press. For instance last year because of the Olympics being hosted in Newham where I live, a local school was relocated from another part or the Borough to Canning Town, and so each morning, when I look out of my kitchen window whilst making my early morning brew, often than not, I see the youngsters gathering in the playground, this by the way is a senior school where the children end their formal state education before either going on to futher and higher education, starting employment or just leaving school if you get my drift, well the point that I am trying hopelessly to make as it seems, is that the children arrive on the school premises from about 7.30am which is rather early, but the reason is that the school like many these day’s runs an early morning breakfasting club. There has been a trend or rather a need as it turns out over the last ten years for schools to introduce breakfast clubs, especially primary schools. This has mainly been driven by concerns that a substantial proportion of pupils are not eating breakfast and arriving at school hungry, which some say impacts negatively on learning and behaviour. But I will also argue this has more to do with family poverty and the times in which we live and the real inequality that grips and blights the lives of millions of Britons today and which as I say, that which we do not read about in the press, although I have spotted very occasionally a story about the return of rickets, scurvy and distended bellies amongst our children, and yes, in this the twenty first century.

So against this setting a generation has been growing up with demands and expectations placed on them and the educational system which is best described as excessive and manipulative in order that it meets the needs of business, we often read in the press that the CBI or others think that schools do not meet the requirements or modern business, and whilst government introduce league tables and all manner of tests to plicate their concerns. In the last twenty years we have seen business get more involved in the running of schools because it has been argued that high rates of education are essential for countries to be able to achieve high levels of economic growth. So in short our education system is really about turning out products not people, products that will service the needs of capitalism. I have one example to demonstrate that education is now quickly becoming the preserve of the well off affluent and rich in this country.

Furious parents and I’m pleased to see trade unions are waging war on a proposed new "bankers' free school" in the leafy, family-friendly suburbs of Wandsworth, London. In a controversy that is likely to be repeated across the country as the "free school" programme of education secretary Michael Gove is rolled out, the new school will exclude children from poorer neighbourhoods and waste valuable public resources at a time of fierce public spending cuts.

The proposed academy, spearheaded by a group known as the Neighbourhood School Campaign (NSC) and the education charity ARK – founded by London-based financier, Arpad Busson – is expected to open on the site of the disused Bolingbroke hospital in the Northcote ward of Wandsworth, an area known as Nappy Valley due to its high birth rates and affluent residents.

Backers of the Bolingbroke academy, which benefactors hope will open in September 2012, include 25 local bankers working for top City businesses including JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Barclays and RBS. Worrying that a school for the well-heeled residents of Northcote will suck resources away from the rest of Wandsworth, a group of concerned parents and councillors have written to the education secretary and the Conservative-run council calling for a review of future education provision. Chief among the concerns raised were access and cost. The hospital site will cost the council £13m to purchase outright on behalf of the NSC and ARK. Central government will pay for subsequent renovation costs.

So the end of our little story the moral is, if you have the wedge the connections you get what you want.    

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Question of Leadership


Only now do I find the time to return to the question of Leadership, a question that very much has arisen in the context of student protests, and we take a look at it subsequently and since the overflowing activism of thousands of students these last two and soon to be three months, which arguably has lit a fuse paper that many in all walks of life and in the broader Labour and Trade Union Movement have found a renewed inspiration.

The visual perception and scene of thousands of young people, comprising of school and higher education students taken over and occupying universities and schools or taking to the streets in large numbers are indeed without precedence in modern times, and I for one don’t or can’t remember the last time that the young vigorous and fresh made such an impact politically of such a magnitude.

Now some will and have referred to the Vietnam War and the protests by students and others here in Britain during and especially in London outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square and of course around the world during that time in the 1960s.

Tony Blair and George Bush may have stood ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ on most issues, but the vaunted ‘special’ relationship between 10 Downing Street and the White House has not always been so cosy. The years 1964-68, when the Labour government of Harold Wilson and the Democratic presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, which back then, saw pronounced strain at the highest levels of Anglo-American bonds, caused to a significant extent by differences over America’s war in Vietnam. Opposition to the war within and please note the Labour Party and among the British general public in general meant that the Wilson government could not satisfy the United States’ desire for support; certainly, Labour back then had to reject the frequent American requests for combat troops. In the absence of direct British participation, the Johnson administration tended to regard Wilson’s various attempts to moderate the war largely as an irrelevance or even as a downright nuisance. Tensions over Vietnam helped ensure that the Wilson-Johnson relationship was probably the worst between any British prime minister and US president, oh such happy days then.

We are of course talking about a totally different Labour Party and to some extent Trade Union movement, and of course a totally different time really, and if you were a time traveller a very different Britain which you would indeed find on arrival as you stepped out from your time travelling machine; although its not that long ago actually, very much still within living memory. But unfortunately the truth is that nothing, and as they say truthfully lasts for ever, particularly under capitalism which is constantly and invariably moving the goalposts in order to harvest through exploitation the financial gain it hungers for which will never squelch and quench its thrust for more and more profits.

Some background and scenery intended only to bring and put today’s struggles into real context, it is not my intention to draw a comparison based on any similarities and differences with students then and now, because put simply there aren’t any, yes I do understand that there are those who think a common footing and ground can be found with the French students of 1968. During this time, France saw the largest general strike, resulting in the economy coming to a virtual standstill, commencing with a series of student occupations and protests. Strikes involved eleven million workers for a whole uninterrupted and unbroken two weeks, and its impact was such that it almost induced the collapse of President Charles de Gaulle's government. In staging wildcat strikes, the movement contrasted with the leadership of labour unions and the French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Fran├žais, PCF), which began to side with the de Gaulle government. Groups revolted against modern consumer and technical society and embraced left-wing positions that were critical of authoritarianism and Western capitalism.

Many saw the events as a chance to shake up the "old society" and its traditional morality; focalisation was especially on the education system and employment.  It began as a long series of student strikes that broke out at a number of universities in Paris, following confrontations with university administrators and the police. Now there is indeed a wealth of information and piles and absolute masses of written material about those events, and all with one interpretation or another, you pay your money and take your pick. From our point of view we don’t see any relevance whatsoever in then or now, a different time and a different set of political circumstances, for one thing capitalism is in a deep toxic world crisis, that wasn’t the case back then, living standards were rising along with capitalist production and world expansion. In Britain more young people were leaving full-time schooling and taking up jobs or starting an apprenticeship in some industry or other rather than go on to higher education and university. In the reign of Margaret Hilda Thatcher many things changed during the late 70s and early 90s which I am sure that there is no need to highlight; industry as we knew it disappeared from our landscape in a great many case’s for good leaving behind industrial desserts and a disposed population who some thirty or so years latter are still paying with their families a very heavy price.

So in a kind of condensed and compact critique, this brings us back to today, what I left out has been any mention of what must be said is an ineffective (in comparison to yesteryear) and weakened Trade Union movement, deliberately impaired by diminution over a thirty year period of attack from the Tories and then inaction by Labour in the 13 years they were in power, something that would be unthinkable in Harold Wilson’s time.

This is the background, the backdrop of our present situation, a situation were the ruling class has never had it so good, a situation were the majority, the working class have never had it so bad as austerity becomes the only game in town. And like tumbling in the dark we look for a way to defend gains made over a hundred years of struggle by the Labour movement, welfare, education are under the butchers knife how are we to defend ourselves is the question of the day, students have taken the first tentative steps in that direction, they have along with many others started to build a new movement which is kissing goodbye to the old movement and its obsession of leadership and instead building a groundswell of real effective opposition.

To Be Continued…

Friday, 14 January 2011

Oldham and East Saddleworth First Thoughts


The first by-election result since the coming into power and the formation of what is described and depicted in some quarters, and not at all a simple fraction, as Britain’s only peacetime coalition was announced in the early hours of this morning. The Oldham and East Saddleworth by-election handed Labour a victory in terms that they continue to represent the people of Oldham and East Saddleworth and hold this parliamentary seat in the House of Commons, despite the disgrace and unfrocking of their former representative and one time government minister Phil Woolas who was found to have breached the Representation of the People Act 1983 in the course of the 2010 general election and disqualified from office.

Many political pundits on both the left and right of conventional politics will read undoubtedly whatever they want into this result and then spin their take on the outcome, they always do and nothing will change that for the time being, and already we can see that the Lib Dems are laying claim that for them the sky didn’t full in, and Labour or rather the Ed Miliband team are interpreting the result as a welcome boost for the Labour leader. Miliband has been facing criticism lately of having failed to harness mounting public anger over tuition fees, VAT, bankers' bonuses and the savage cuts in spending postulated by the Coalition's aggressive deficit-reduction plan. As for the Tory leader Cameron and his great plan, well he walks a very clever and if you like type rope, trying to keep in power with the help of his bedfellows and class collaborationists the Lib Dems which is a little too much to stomach for some breadbasket-set and full-on right wing Tories of the old school, but thus far Cameron has kept them in line, for how much longer remains to be seen

What we read into the result here on The Socialist Way is simply pronounced and best described as nothing really, the real winners and those who hold a majority in Oldham and East Saddleworth which is a really nice name, are those many voters who didn’t bother participating, and that’s as we understand it, to be more than half of those who were registered to vote and didn’t, and you could add to that many more who have even given up registration which is fast becoming a growing trend in modern Britain.

Turnout 48.06%

Labour 14.718 = 42.1%

Lib Dem 11,160 = 31.9%

Tories 4.481 =12.8%

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Many think that Edward Woollard's Sentence is Extreme...


In today’s London Metro and on the letters page two letters which I found pleasing and uplifting like parting clouds revealing the blue of a summer sky", you know just one of those times when you think joyously to yourself thank god there are descent people in the world. So I have decided because it’s important to reproduce those letters on the blog with the heading that the paper gave the letters.

Sentence is extreme

I think it is shocking that Edward Woollard has been jailed for 32 months (Metro, Wed). I do not excuse his actions as they were very dangerous. However, not a single person was hurt by him.

And yet the Labour MP convicted of expenses fraud only got 18 months in prison. If I worked in a shop and stole all the money from the tills, I’d be in prison for a lot longer than 18 months.

Paul, Falkirk

And

I’m absolutely astounded the fire extinguisher-hurling student has been jailed for 32 months.

I don’t condone what he did but there are sex offenders in my local area who have been released after serving little of their two-year sentences for the grooming and abuse of a teenage girl. What a complete joke.

Aiza Mahmoon, Lancaster

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Edward Woollard Harsh and disproportionate? Yes. Unexpected? No.


Well twice in a week and I find myself having to promote and elevate a comment into a blog post of an opinion sent in by Chris H of the blog site Lansbury' s Lido, and which as that maybe, I also feel that Chris makes some relevant points that need airing and sharing in the greater movement so we have no hesitation in posting his comments with the hope that it may stimulate further considerations and even a better understanding with some class clarity, why and what happened to Edward Woolard.   

Chris H has left a new comment on your post "Edward Woollard":

Harsh and disproportionate? Yes. Unexpected? No.

Our model of democracy can only work if dissent is channelled into harmless activities like candle-lit vigils, or at the most well-attended marches. Like the Stop the War marches, visual but ineffective, giving the illusion of dissent. Our democratic system exists only to ensure the continuation of itself, the establishment that populates the corridors of ‘democratic’ power, and the capitalist system.

When protest steps outside of these norms the establishment will always act to minimise the disruption to the process of government and business.

Edward has been gaoled, not for the injury that may have been caused to those at the bottom of the building but because his conduct stepped outside the allowable norms of protest or behaviour. We need only look at others who have been injured or even killed during protest to see the truth behind this: Blair Peach, Ian Tomlinson, Alfie Meadows to name a few. Look at some other situations where brutality has been the order of the day: the miner’s strike, the G20 protests, the Battle of the Beanfield, the Windsor Free Festival. The big difference between Edward’s case and these is who has been dishing it out - The Police, acting in defence of the status quo. And of course the charges and sentences, if indeed there are any.

And then there's the other type of violence - that against the hard-won but meager benefits that the working class have gained. Wages, jobs, health, welfare, the NHS, affordable housing and more. All of this under threat. Yet the ‘violence’ of this type can be just as devastating as the more direct physical type in it's effect. Well being and health, both physical and mental are affected by our material circumstances. When we see a reduction in comparable opportunity to living standards we see a decline in well-being, even unfortunately leading to death and suicide. I've mentioned before my cousin who took his own life. Driven to it by Thatcher's vindictive political actions against the miners. Violence does not need to be at the end of a truncheon to be violently effective or feared.

What we can see from the sentence handed down to Edward and also the sentences that have been and will be handed down to those involved in protest is a reflection of what the state fears most. And it's not a candle-lit vigil.

Post By: Chris H 

Edward Woollard


Edward Woollard the young 19 year old student who threw the fire extinguisher off the roof of Tory Party headquarters in Millbank was yesterday sentenced and jailed for more than two and a half years, and after the judge praised his distraught mother for handing him in.

In fact his mother didn’t hand him in, she persuaded him to go to the local police station, as the best course of action when film and still photographs emerged and started to circulate in the media and on the internet that clearly identified Woollard as hurling the extinguisher, under these circumstances what would any parent do who wanted to protect their children, and what could they do, this can only be considered a very hard and difficult question unless you find yourself in that position as the loving parent.

Woolard frightened and panic-stricken confessed to his mother that he had thrown the extinguisher during the student’s anti-tuition fees protests held in November, and he turned to the one person that he knew he could trust his mother, and under the graveness of a situation whipped-up into a frenzy by the media, she gave her son what she thought was the best advise, and no-one can really find fault with that.

I find and indeed very much feel that the sentence handed dawn to Edward Woollard was harsh and totally disproportionate in his case. I also feel that Woolard has been made an example of here, in an attempted to discourage young people from protesting and forcing parents to exercise control on behalf of a state that is forcing through political change that will hurt the life chances and opportunities of many young people. Before I go on any further into my arguments hitherto, just let me make it clear that what Woollard propelled on that day, was bloody stupid and very unintelligent, but then again this young lad is no pudding head in fact his mother says that Edward is a loving, caring, gentle man. So what happened that day was very much out of character for Woollard, a young pumped up and over exited man, who made a mistake that he knows was his worst idea, which in turn has now become his very own real life experience of a nightmare, here again his mothers’ words speck volumes: 

“He just sat there and said, ‘it was me mum, I'm sorry.’ He was beside himself but relieved. I said why? What happened? I collapsed. I couldn't believe it and still can’t.”

So here we have a young man, who made a massive mistake and a mother who one can only feel for and both struggling to carry a can of worms not of their making really, and when you put it into real prospective then you must surly agree had the older politicians of an old decrepit, worn and broken down generation, and in particular the Lib Dems not made promises and told a younger generation a pack of lies would Edward Woollard be where he is today?” 

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Leadership?”


Originally this post was sent to us here at The Socialist Way by old valued friend and fellow blogger Chris H of Lansbury's Lido as a comment to our last post ‘The electromagnetism and level-headedness of the new generation!"

We invited Chris through the medium which is Twitter to develop his comment into a guest post for our blog as part of the discussion on the question of students and leadership, a discussion which has arisen and come into existence since the winding down at Christmas of many occupations that spontaneously came into being as a result of the Com-Dem governments assault on education and the increase of university tuition fees. We are grateful to Chris for finding time to develop his argument and sending it to us, many thanks comrade; so see what you think and if you have a view please post it we will publish all comments.

Our next post will look into this question of leadership and where these reckonings and ideas are emanating from in more contingent detail, and of course develop our argument further, and without saying in a comradely respectful fashion.

Leadership?”

I have to say that I like many were so encouraged at the site of students coming out onto the streets of the capital and other towns. Coming out to protest, to make their voices heard and to deliver a shock to the authorities. The shock being that they were willing to go beyond what has proven to be the ineffective walk - protest - listen - disperse situation, and to take their anger and fury out upon buildings that house and represent those people and systems that have brought them out onto the streets.

It was typical of the media and authorities to play up the ‘violence’ against brick and steel whilst ignoring the violence inflicted upon the students from our paramilitary police force. The media had their job made harder for them because this wasn’t a series of marches hijacked by a group or sect. There wasn’t the ‘usual suspects’ that could be held up as the conspirators of this ‘orgy of violence’.

The problem for the media and the authorities was that the anger came from across the student population - young, old, rich, poor, university students and college students. Even secondary school students were amongst the marchers. These students were the sons and daughters of a cross representation of England and Wales.

The lack of a well defined leadership once certain of the NUS leadership proved irrelevant is also an issue that the authorities have to come to grips with. It causes problems with information and planning and leaves large gaps in their intelligence. It worries them.

For the present we have a situation where the state is on the back foot. But the continued effectiveness of the student protests and the anti-austerity movement in general is a concern. Although the lack of a defined leadership has benefits now, my feeling is that things may run out of steam. Whilst I applaud the actions of the students my feeling is that they have no political vision beyond what relates to them and their peers personally. Do they want to change the system or just tinker with it? I suspect that beyond the issue of fees the majority would be quite happy to live and earn within our current capitalist system.

Capitalism itself is too entrenched a system to be bothered by spontaneous and singular unrest such as what we have seen. There will need to be leadership if capitalism is to be hurt. But leadership doesn't have to mean a heroic figure standing as a vanguard of a movement. Leadership in the context we see has to involve direction of some sorts. 

Consider capitalism itself - we see no defined leader or committee but we know that the actions of capital aren't rudderless or made in vain. There is a direction being taken by capitalism. It isn't even according to the rules of the market or 'free will' but there is definitely something steering the ship.

What we see happening in this country isn't just the reaction of the economy to market forces but is being done to reclaim much of the ground that has been gained over the last century in terms of the working class. Calls to ‘let the market decide!’ don’t even get a look in with the current global or local crisis. Look at welfare, look at the NHS, look at wages, look at the blurring of class consciousness, look at the equality of opportunity, and look at the entitlement to affordable education. It's all being rolled back. The system is being rejigged and manipulated to ensure the maximum of profit. We are being put in our place. The place where capital owns the resources and means of production and we the workers sell our labour and the capitalists reap the profit.

And as capitalism doesn't need a publicly visible figurehead neither should that which seeks to bring capitalism down and to put in place a much, much better thing. Perhaps 'leader' is what needs to be redefined, but what is needed has to be 'leadership' however that is brought into being. 

I would love nothing better than to see our current system dismantled and trampled into the ground but it isn’t going to happen by accident.

Post by: Chris H

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The electromagnetism and level-headedness of the new generation!"


For some years now it has been running around in my mind and like the shifting sand in an egg timer or hourglass. What exactly do we need leaders for, why are so many of the so-called left obsessed with the cult of leadership?”

Follow the Leader or Simple Simon Said’ was a game I remember only to well from school days many years ago, and a recent psychological study concluded that the game can be a healthy way to help children to improve self-control and restraint of impulsive behaviour, or I would argue a tried and tested means of control instilled into children to become if you like followers like the sheep in the field.

Control in a capitalist society is very important for the system to function, a system where everyone has his or her place. I suppose that’s a very simple way of explaining how our modern world works. Why be flash about it, we are all conditioned to do as we are told and from an early age at that, that is what education is about and what it is increasingly becoming.

As a socialist I have over the years, and I must say not always but have become very disillusioned and free from the enchantment of leadership, this I suppose will pose the inevitable question as to why. How long is a piece of string, which reminds me of the naughtiness of joke I once saw on television where someone on a busy high street was asked to hold one end of a length of string by the prankster who then went around the corner and persuaded another unsuspecting shopper to hold the other end, and this was imagined to be funny.

We are all aware of the explosion onto the streets of our students and school educates just before Christmas, an explosion, a detonation of unexpected anger at the unacceptable hiking up of students tuition fees and the general class attack on education including the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance, paid to poor teenagers to help them continue studying, which will stop thousands getting the qualifications they need to lift them out of poverty. The Education Maintenance Allowance of between £10 and £30 a week is paid to students whose household income is less than £30,000 a year. Student groups are planning to protest against plans to cut it on January 11, when MPs are due to vote on the issue, and we should all support them, if we or you can.

Anyway coming back to this question of leadership, developing my argument further I realise that up till now I have not mentioned the many occupations that gave impetus and made such an impulsion that even trade union elders sat-up and took notice of this new emerging generation; the newly elected leader of Unite Len McCluskey writing in the Guardian on Sunday 19 December he side what many of us older hands felt:

 “Britain's students have certainly put the trade union movement on the spot. Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach.”    

And he was spot on to say that the magnificent students' movement urgently needs to find a wider echo if the government is to be stopped. That echo I would humbly suggest must be found not only in the Trade Union movement but in the wider communities of our Towns and Metropolises. We have to learn from our changing and radicalising young people. They organised not with leaders but in co-operation as their leaders sat on the edge of the fishbowl and then fell in as the NUS leadership diminished and weakened in the face of student anger.

This spontaneous and self-generated reaction came like a blot of lightning from haven, and for years those like me who had been around since before Thatcher feeling every hit and blow against our class, prayed for that day our youngsters would wake-up from that long sleep induced by a system and a class of rulers who learn history and its lesions before we do.

I only attended one of the many occupations and was taken back at how well organised the students at UCL were doing things, never in my life have I been witness or party to such considerate and open planning, no one in charge but everyone able to have their say, the students made history which they can be very proud of in the years to come.

So as we moved towards Christmas things started to wind down and understandably, but they our students had influenced events in such away. The Education Activist Network and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts are but two such organisations that were born out of student protestation. And what does it matter who or what are involved in these groups as long as they are effective.

Now many, and as I feared, have stared to criticise and find fault with the students activities and their simple but effective campaigning, especially from the left and other would be armchair types, the variety of which say; I know how to do it, and what is needed here; if you get my drift, they move about the movement I find aimlessly finding arrogantly cakehole’s to make mountains out of nothing.

Here we have a whole generation up in arms, taking to the streets, being kittled and beaten by a paramilitary police force, who obviously get off on beating the shit out of young people and kids, and what do the left do, they start to tell them the students what is needed and where they fall down on this and that and the other. Now I find myself asking do we really need this, when our backs are forced against a wall, when we all face the most visible malicious and vindictive attack on all our living standards; do we really have to have a debate on leadership or the need for it. Is this really necessary, is this right timing, and is it not simply a diversion from what should be the job in hand, and that’s building the fight and taking it forward.

Building conference and demonstrating that we have every chance of winning in the long term is more, oh yes, much more important than trying to dictate to a generation who seem to have more electromagnetism and level-headedness than the last three generations rolled into one.

So lets lay off them and build the fight instead.

The Socialist Way

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