Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Local election nomination papers handed in

This morning handed in the nomination papers for our 6 candidates in the local elections in Lambeth. They've been accepted. So our candidates (Bond, Buick and Parker for Larkhall and Lambert, Lee and Shodeke for Ferndale) are now officially candidates and are no longer allowed to buy drinks for electors. Apparently the Greens are expected to stand a full list so there could be at least 15 candidates for the 3 seats in both wards.

On the way back from Brixton Town Hall noticed the offices of the local government workers' union UNISON so dropped a leaflet through their letter box and looked at their noticeboard. There were three notices.

One was a call for volunteers to go canvassing for the Labour Party in Barking to stop the BNP. Apparently there's a chance they might win control of the council there. As if it wasn't the inevitable failure of the mainstream reformist parties to make capitalism work for the workers that hadn't created conditions for the rise of the BNP.

The other was from the Union's LGBT section (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender, for the uninitiated). Not quite sure what that's got to do with trade unionism which is about what unites workers not what divides them but maybe it's just concerned with combatting prejudices.

The third was from Youth Fight for Jobs, which is a front for Militant. The leaders of UNISON don't like Militant and have recently taken over a branch in Greenwich which Militant had captured. Don't know what this was all about but in general it's a bad thing for union branches to be hi-jacked by vanguardist parties (which specialise in this) or any political party for that matter. They ought to be controlled democratically by their members irrespective of their political views.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

BNP bullshit

Last Monday Nick Griffin of the far-right BNP debated the "Reverend" George Hargreaves of the far-right Christian Party on a Christian TV station. According to a report in Surrey Comet this is what he argued:
"We believe that nations are ordained by God and that they will be there at the end of times, so logically from that all nations have the right to ensure they survive and are not simply swamped by an endless flood from elsewhere."
If this is the sort of nonsense he is spouting just put him on TV every night and he'll soon be a laughing stock.

When, at what point in history, for instance, did God ordain the "nations" of the world and which was to live where? The so-called "British nation" of which Griffin seeks to be the champion is a product of history, not the creation of some god. If you go back only 2000 or so years most of the inhabitants of this island off the north-west coast of Europe were Celts, speaking a language akin to modern Welsh. They were eventually conquered by the Romans who came from Italy (but whose troops and settlers came from all round the Mediterranean and beyond). When the Romans left there was a "endless flood" of Angles and other Germanic-speakers into "Britain" (a word of Celtic origin) who eventually drove the Celtic-speakers to the Celtic fringe of Cornwall, Wales and Cumberland. Then came the Danes from Norway and Denmark. Then England (or Angle-land, as it was now called) was conquered by the French-speaking Normans. And the English-language evolved, a basically Germanic language with a large French vocabulary. It didn't stop there, with later migrations of Flemings and Hugenots.

Daniel Defoe wrote a poem about this which is still a good reply to nationalist myth-makers like Griffin.

As we have always said, the best way to deal with Griffin and his followers is not to ban them or kick their heads in but to put them on a platform and expose the nonsense they spout for what it is. Easy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A bit of gossip

The Workers' Power group supports TUSC and is running a candidate in Vauxhall. Jeremy Drinkall, the candidate, told me that he has asked for TUSC support, and been told officially that TUSC will not support him because the Labour MP he is challenging, Kate Hoey, is in the RMT parliamentary group. (This although RMT is not in TUSC).
Martin Thomas on the site of another Trotskyist group who are also standing alone, without TUSC endorsement, in Camberwell & Peckham, and also saying Vote Labour elsewhere.

Taxi Rank

OK, things are ticking over - I've been to Camden council and I've got hold of the nomination papers for standing in Kentish Town: I'll pick up the electoral roll on the 29th and so will be hitting the streets looking for nominations pretty much straight away.

Until then - the thing overlooked by the media. Polly Toynbee comes close regarding the Byers/Despatches affair:
If a fish rots from the head, Labour's contamination with money was smelled from those earliest days of being "intensely relaxed about the filthy rich". But Tony Blair's behaviour since 2007 defies the ravings of his worst enemies. No conspiracy theorist guessed he would take money for Iraqi oil from a South Korean company – to add to £1m from the Kuwaiti royal family, an estimated £20m from anyone anywhere, £4m for his book, plus properties fit for a Brunei prince. That all this mammon is collected in the name of God is worthy of the faith-based business school of L Ron Hubbard: God can make you very rich indeed. Did Blair go to war in Iraq to get rich quick? Almost certainly not, but the cashflow from American adulation ever since will leave the slur on his tombstone.
This is nearly there, the point is that the desperate, petty, piddling corruption of the type Byers has been engaged in isn't the end of it. There are lucrative and legal and "honourable" ways to get rich post politics. Those in the loop know that there is always the way out into business. The capitalists aren't offering bribes, directly, but capitalism and the prospect of riches does offer an incentive to tow the capital line.

The point the media have missed is this: you cannot have democracy in an unequal society. End of. The lure of riches and reward will always draw power and decision making towards the owners of the world. You can regulate, adjudicate and officiate to buggery and back, and you still won't stop the allure of lucre. Beat that home: in a world where money talks louder than votes, you cannot have democracy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What "mass immigration"?

Came across a UKIP hoarding poster which read "5000 people settle here every week. Stop mass immigration -- vote UKIP".

Of course what UKIP is doing is playing on some people's dislike of already settled immigrants. But most immigrants are just workers who've moved here in search of work and finding it. In fact many of what the BNP, UKIP's cruder rival for the anti-immigrant vote, call the "indigenous" population will be the descendants of one-time immigrants. Everybody with an Irish name for instance, and that's a lot.

The Socialist attitude is that all workers, irrespective of their first language or where they were born, share a common interest in uniting, as long as capitalism lasts, to get the best terms they can for the sale of their working skills and, more importantly, in getting rid of capitalism and replacing it with a world community without frontiers based on the common ownership and democratic control of the Earth's resources so that these can be usd for the benefit of the whole world population.

It's not clear whether UKIP will be standing in Vauxhall -- the poster was in neighbouring Battersea. Just checked who it is and it says:
From a military family, Christopher was brought up in this country and the middle east.
Hold on a minute. Middle East? So it's alright from his family to have settled there in connection with their work but not for families from other parts of the world to settle here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The baby and the bathwater

We have received by email a leaflet about the election from Past Tense Publications who have published some interesting short pamphlets about labour and popular history in South London. Headed "ALL ELECTIONS ARE A JOKE. LET'S TREAT THEM WITH THE CONTEMPT THEY DESERVE" it argues that "all elections are a waste of time". It starts off well enough:
Politicians of all parties fill their pockets, you couldn’t tell their policies apart without a microscope, the power of the rich, the global corporations and financiers continues merrily whoever is elected; well-meaning do-gooders get elected, then become sucked in or ground down by he weight of the system. While the meaningless circus at Westminster rattles on, our lives are at the mercy of their economic upturns and downturns, grinding away at work just to survive. While the rich and their parliamentary puppets wine and dine, whoever gets in next time will slash the NHS and other services many of us need to get by, to balance the national debt – at our expense, again.
They recall what they see as a historical precedent:
"How things don’t change…
In the 18th century, the vast majority of the population were excluded from power by a corrupt political elite, who had the parliamentary processes all sown up in the interests of the rich, ie themselves and their mates (sound familiar?). The poor could see the electoral circus meant nothing to them.
In response some set out to take the piss out of the whole charade. In the South London village of Garratt (in modern Wandsworth), from the 1740s to the 1790s, mock elections were held for the fictional office of “Mayor of Garratt”. Huge crowds flocked to a rowdy and fantastic parade and drinking spree, centred on a fake contest, featuring ridiculous candidates making grandiose speeches, promising the mpossible if elected, and swearing oaths filled with sexual innuendo…"
And conclude with practical proposals to "Turn the joke back on them":
It may not change the world: but why don’t we revive the Garratt tradition, with a vengeance this time, everywhere? We could hold mock elections, in the streets, parks, or even inside the polling stations on election day (till they chuck us out!), at work, school or on the bus, we could stir up a huge non-stop mickey-take of the meaningless parliamentary smokescreen, disrupting, engaging with others, having a laugh, but showing we aren’t taken in? Why not elect your ranty mates, or whoever; maybe they could all turn up at the House of Commons on opening day and claim to be an Honourable Member too? Would your pet gerbil make a good MP?
We could also revive other fun practices from our history: like the Suffragettes’ were fond of following candidates they opposed around and disrupting all their elections speeches; which would be a laugh too, especially with megaphones or sound systems.
These are just two ideas – there’s a million more ways to trash the dash for cash. Let’s use our imaginations, go for it, and not get nicked!
Having fun together is more real than parliamentary puppet shows… The more chaos and disorder, the more disruption, the more open rejection of the empty lie of democracy, the more fun we’ll have the more potential for real change.
Clearly anarchist influence is strong amongst some of those associated with Past Tense publications. The full text can in fact already be found on anarchist websites, for instance, here.

Mildly amusing perhaps (though, to tell the truth, the members at our offices who read it thought it pathetic) but theoretically and practically wrong. Mocking politicians is alright to a certain extent (we do it ourselves) but it can give rise to the mistaken idea that is because of corrupt and self-seeking politicians that we suffer from the social problems we do. It's not. It's the fault of capitalism. Even if all politicians were saints they still couldn't make capitalism work in our interest.

Nor is it true that "All elections are a joke". While what the professional politics who currently dominate politics get up to at Westminister and the antics they engage in to get votes do deserve to be mocked, especially as the media give them so much publicity, there is a serious side to elections.

Elections are ultimately about who controls the government and who gets to make the laws. Ever since most electors have been wage and salary workers the capitalist class has needed to persuade workers into voting for politicians who will support their system. This is what elections are about: tricking workers into voting for pro-capitalist politicians. Past Tense are right to expose this, but wrong to conclude that this means we should never have anything to do with elections. The response should be, as Marx once put it, to transform universal suffrage "from the instrument of fraud that it has been up till now into an instrument of emancipation". Which is one of the points we are trying to make in contesting this and other elections.

Universal suffrage came into being partly as a result of pressure from below. Past Tense recognise this when they note that "from the 1760s the [Garratt] elections were associated with radical politics: demands for reform of the political system band protests against the economic hardships and lack of liberty for the labouring classes began to appear in the speeches". But what was "reform of the political system" if not the extension of the suffrage and its use to gain access to political power to try to improve the situation of "the labouring classes", such as the Chartists later campaigned for? And what did the Suffragettes want if not to extend the suffrage? Was this wrong? We say No, the extension of the vote to workers is a gain and is a crucial difference between today and the situation in 1700s. Certainly, at present the vote is not used wisely -- in fact it is used very unwisely -- but that doesn't mean that it can't be used when once workers have woken up to the fact that capitalism can never be made to work in their interests. To try to speed up this awareness is another reason why we contest elections.

The suggestion to take over "polling stations on election day", i.e. to try to disrupt the elections, is completely irresponsible but is probably just anarchist bombast. Our advice to them (since the Past Tense people seem a decent lot) is: don't be stupid, don't do it. If they really tried it, they'd be in dead trouble and would get nicked, ending up in prison to reflect on the refrain from the Crickets 1959 song "I fought the Law" ... "And the Law Won".

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another Vauxhall election blog

So that electors can be fully informed of the choice before them (and so they can see the difference between a real socialist and a Trotskyist reform-monger and would-be leader) here's the site of the candidate of the League for the Fifth International.

We were also out leafleting, for the local elections, yesterday but in the Stockwell Park area so didn't come across them (Oval is not one of the two wards we are contesting). Incindentally, if you take the wrong turning when you exit from the Oval tube station you end up in the nextdoor constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

Hope none of them did this and handed out their leaflets there as they are supposed to be telling people that side of Kennington Park Road to Vote Labour. In other words, their message to those living near the Oval tube would have been: if you live on one side of road Vote Labour, if you live on the other Don't Vote Labour. We'll try and get hold of one of their leaflets to see if this clears up the confusion.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nul point

Our candidate for Vauxhall has been solicited for his views by yet another organisation. This time, not a single issue group but group which has 21 issues.

"Election candidates challenge!" read the email we got, "Endorse our pledges and we'll vote for you":
"The Instute of Ideas has published a list of '21 Pledges for Progress' ahead of the general election, and is challenging candidates of all parties to endorse them. The Institute of Ideas suggests voting for any candidate willing to back at least 15 of the pledges, whichever party they represent".
The 21 pledges can be found here. As can be seen, they are reform measures to be achieved within capitalism. Despite the fact that we could sympathise with some of the measures such as those concerning freedom of speech and association and the call for a more rational approach to nuclear power and GM crops (though we wouldn't trust them to be implemented properly under capitalism), and although feudal relics like the monarchy and the house of lords will diappear in socialism, we had to reply saying we couldn't endorse any of the "pledges" to gain votes.

This is because we are standing on a straight programme of socialism (the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production solely for use, not sale and profit and distribution on the principle of "from each their ability to each their needs") as the only framework within which existing social problems can be lastingly tackled and only want the votes of those who want socialism rather than just particular reforms of capitalism.

So, we had to report that our score was 0 out of 21.

We know the Institute of Ideas of old. This has been formed by ex-leading "cadres" of the now defunct Leninist organisation, the "Revolutionary Communist Party". In fact, in the 1989 by-election in Vauxhall (which we gave a miss) they put up a candidate who got 177 votes. That candidate, Don Milligan, who has now abandoned Leninism, has written a recent piece about what life was like for the members of the RCP and the illusions they held. It can be found here. We imagine that this is still what life is still like inside the extant Leninist/Trotskyist organisation, the League for the Fifth International, which is planning to stand here. Which confirms why we ourselves have always opposed Leninism and said that those who want socialism should organise as an open, democratic party without leaders or leadership pretensions.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The world we live in. The Tories attack Unite for seeking solidarity from the American Teamsters Union (according to the BBC). Now, the international solidarity of the workers is a principle of trade unionism, so it is in fact a good thing that workers are seeking one anothers' support. Just look, though, at the vitriol being poured on the BA workers for daring to stand up for themselves. Compare with the flood of stories about government cuts being needed to restore 'confidence' in the economy (e.g. here). What they mean by confidence is giving in to the overall policy demands of financiers, who will withhold their economic resources until their demands are met.

We are in the grip of a sustained capital strike, and yet the press turn vicious on any attempt by workers to mount a strike to defend their own interests.

As a note, the Tories are attacking the link between Labour and Unite, because Unite as the biggest union in the country is basically shouldering the cost of the Labour Party now. Labour loyalist Luke Akehurst rebuts the allegations.

The point, though, is that the link is hurting both parties, the interests of political parties and trade unions are not the same. Further, by linking themselves to a party that will form government under capitalism, the unions are signing a paycheque to those who will have to implement capitalism's attacks against the workers.

We support, fully and utterly, the BA workers and Unite and the Teamsters in their efforts to stand up to their employer, a struggle we all share an interest in. We share, though, an even greater interest in getting rid of the wages system all together, and Unite the Union would do better to try and raise their aims to Unite the Workers, for socialism. Unite members in Lambeth and Camden can do this by voting for our candidates.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green austerity

In his blog on Saturday the Green Party candidate for Vauxhall, Joseph Healey, inadvertently reminded people that in Ireland the Green Party is part of the coalition government and so is responible for imposing the increased austerity on the workers there demanded by the current world economic crisis. Green parties have assumed responsibility for governing capitalism not just in Ireland but also, though not at the moment, in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy.

As we have always said, the Green Party is just as much a party of capitalism as Labour, the Tories and the Liberals. They only want to try to give it a green tinge. Not that this can work except on a miniscule scale since capitalism's priority of priorities always must be allowing profits to be made.

This means that any party which takes on responsibility for running capitalism must sooner or later end up acting against the interests of the majority wage and salary working class, as Healey's counterparts in Ireland have found out (and accepted).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Conservative than Thou

Out yesterday to get the last two signatories for the nomination papers for the local elections we came across a Labourite distributing leaflets door to door. She wasn't very friendly quizzing us as to why we were contesting and where. We told her we were contesting to put over the case of for a socialist society of common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use not profit and added that, as far as we're concerned, Labour, Liberals and the Tories were all the same. We could almost see her mind ticking thinking "they might take votes from us and let the Lib Dems in". She seemed relieved when we told her we were only standing in two wards.

Her leaflet was revealing as it was using all the arguments against the Lib Dems that the Tories use against Labour. One item headed "Labour costs you less -- the Lib Dems cost you more!" denounced the "tax-addicted Lib Dems". The claim was that the Labour council had been able to freeze council tax (as if all councils don't in election years) by eliminating waste while "at the same time, frontline services have been protected". By coincidence the front page headline of the March 11 issue of the local free paper, the Post, lying in people's recycling bins, was "SOLICITOR TO FIGHT HOUSING WARDEN CUTS":
Lambeth council could face a legal fight after slashing its number of sheltered housing wardens by almost 25 per cent to save money. The Labour-run council cut the number of wardens who look after more than 1,000 elderly and vulnerable people living in sheltered housing schemes from 28 to 22 late last year.
Apparently Labour doesn't regard wardens for people in sheltered housing as a "front line service". Having said this, this sort of thing is par for the course under capitalism whichever party runs the council. And, by all accounts, it's going to get worse as whatever government emerges from the general election starves councils of funds and gives priority to repaying those capitalists who have recently lent the government money.

Another item "Lib Dems soft on crime" said of the Lib Dems:
They voted against Labour's Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams, tried to legalise hard drugs, and launched a bid to decriminalise kerb crawling putting women at risk from abusers.
Time was when the Labour Party used to support such liberal reforms. Not any more. They're more Conservative these days.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blood sports and the old ruling class

It's started. Single-issue campaigning groups contacting candidates about their single issue. Yesterday the League Against Cruel Sports asked us to reply to this question:
If elected to Parliament and the opportunity arose, would you vote in favour of repeal of the Hunting Act?
We sent the following reply:
The good old English sport of sending hungry hunting hounds to chase aristocrats through the woods, catch them and rip them to pieces, has been slow to take off as a popular pastime. Despite claims that these predatory parasites are a foul rural presence, serving only to infect the countryside with their conceited greed and indolence, it has been hard to find dogs with sufficient brutality to enjoy the so-called sport. Those who favour such hunts claim that it is nothing more than a healthy rural tradition, misunderstood by town dwellers, and that ripping duchesses and viscounts to shreds is the most human way to rid nature of those who have only survived historically by plundering and murdering others. The Royal Society for the Protection of Useless Aristocrats has been long split on the issue, with one section accepting that such blood sport is "just a bit of harmless fun", while others prefer the idea of culling – or permanent quarantine in the House of Lords.

This laboured account would be funnier were it not for the harsh reality that rich, privileged, barbaric bullies, most of whom are brutalised at birth by hereditary right and public-school conditioning, do indeed defend their right to chase around the countryside with packs of hounds in order to savage and tear apart defenceless animals. Their callous defence is mounted in the name of sport. And because it is traditional for these parasitical killers to dress up in the costumes of their class and indulge their pleasure in watching deer, foxes and other animals being ripped apart, they respond with well-rehearsed cries of arrogant immunity to human behaviour when their ritualised sadism is opposed.

Their protest for the right to hunt and murder animals for fun is no more worthy of support than a campaign to reintroduce slavery or to bring back the deportation of criminals.

Daniel Lambert, Socialist Party candidate, Vauxhall
We understand that the MP for Vauxhall, Kate Hoey, takes a rather different attitude. But a word of caution: we are standing on a straight socialist programme and nothing else and only want people to vote for us if they want a world of common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use not sale and profit. So, if (like any decent human being) you are against killing animals for pleasure but don't want socialism, please don't vote for us.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why we contest elections

For those, particularly anarchists, who say we should have nothing to with elections, the new pamphlet What's Wrong with Using Parliament? we are bringing out explains why we disagree.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anti (some) capitalists but not anti-capitalism

It seems that the League for the Fifth International have not received the endorsement of Bob Crow, Militant and the SWP who run the "Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition" and so will not be standing in Vauxhall in the coming General Election under that title. They now say will they be standing as "the Anticapitalists".

Their manifesto, however, suggests that they are only against some capitalists (the bankers) and are not against the wages-prices-profits system that is capitalism but think that if you soak the rich (especially the bankers) it can be made to serve the interests of the majority.

This is what they say:
The Government gave £1 trillion to the banks. We want it back! Anticapitalists say take over the banks, who are making giant profits again, and raise taxes on the rich . . . Spend the money on a massive programme of public works -- creating three million jobs, a million affordable homes and a national repair and improve programme for council flats and houses.
So, the rich are still going to exist -- which means of course that capitalism is still going to exist -- but are to be taxed to pay for a massive public works programme. Either they believe that this is possible -- in which case they are not living on this planet. Or they know it's not possible but are just making promises they think will attract a following -- in which case they are no better than the career politicians in the main parties.

Their manifesto also says:
Labour has let ordinary people down, spending all our money on bankers and unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now Labour wants to make us pay the price with cuts to jobs, pay and services.
Calling the money the government spends "our money" when we never had it in the first place is bit fanciful, but presiding over cuts is what Labour, being the current managers of British capitalism PLC, are obliged to do more or less helplessly (as would any party that takes on the job of running capitalism). But then we are told elsewhere:
In constituencies where there are no anticapitalist, socialist or trade unionist candidates, Workers Power is calling for a Labour vote.
Since this will apply to the vast majority of constituencies this is in effect a call to re-elect the outgoing Labour government . . . "which now wants to make us pay the price with cuts to jobs, pay and services". Their only argument is that Labour is "the lesser evil" as the Tories would be worse. An argument that is music to the ears of the professional politicians in the Labour Party anxious to continue enjoying the fruits of power and who don't care why people vote Labour as long as they do.

It's not a valid argument since the problems we face are not caused by which party is in office but by the capitalist system whose operation they have to preside over and go along with. That's why changing governments changes nothing. It's capitalism that's the "evil" not which group of professional politicians forms the government.

Monday, March 08, 2010

What’s wrong with politics?

With a general election coming up soon what exactly will be on offer from the main contenders? No doubt more of the same but couched in terms intended to give us confidence that this time promises will be kept, regulations will be tightened and adhered to, unemployment will be tackled and reduced (figures can be manipulated). A minor change here, a cosmetic tweak there, but the status quo will endure regardless.

When reading or listening to the pre-election promises and then thinking back rationally to other, similar pledges by previous candidates and recalling the reality of U-turns, excuses and failure to deliver over the years, how could anyone doubt the absolute imperative of addressing the question of what’s gone wrong with politics with the utmost seriousness? If we simply moan and complain from our armchairs what will change? A compliant, too passive electorate is repeatedly defrauded.

At this time of impending election madness if you think you've been cheated over the years, you're right; capitalism is nothing but a racket. The proof of the failure of the world capitalist system to meet the needs and aspirations of the majority of the population of every country of the world is there for all to see, clear and manifest, if only they will open their eyes wide and acknowledge the overwhelming evidence.

Politics, the activities associated with how a country or an area is run, is something which should engage the interest and activity of every citizen worldwide as it bears directly on all aspects of life. The reason for contempt or indifference towards politics comes from a history of being excluded, the expectation of being excluded and the acceptance of being excluded. To be heard, to be considered, to be represented honestly we need to be involved in the decision-making processes, not to be told what is in our best interest by self-serving professional politicians. We need a system that works for us all, of which we're all an integral part, a system we're prepared to work to attain. What we need is socialism.

-- one of the articles in a socialist newsletter currently being delivered door-to-door in the Larkhill and Ferndale wards.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Our candidates

For Vauxhall, at the General Election, the Socialist candidate will be Danny Lambert.

In the local elections, in Lambeth, the candidates will be:
Ferndale ward: Danny Lambert, John Lee and Jacqueline Shodeke.
Larkhill ward: Oliver Bond, Adam Buick, Stan Parker.

The Socialist Party will also be contesting Kentish Town ward of Camden council, where the candidate will be Bill Martin.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Las Falklands

The recent drilling for oil near the Falklands has re-ignited the dispute between British capitalism and Argentine capitalism over which has legitimate sovereignty over the islands, a dispute which led to war in 1982.

At that time Michael Foot was the Leader of the Labour Party. He wholeheartedly support the war. This was how the May 1982 Socialist Standard reported the pro-war speech he delivered in the House of Commons on 30 March:
Of course the real star of the Labour benches was Michael Foot. Belying his reputation as a doddering, ineffectual bungler, the Labour leader lashed the government for their "betrayal of those who looked to it for protection" (he was not talking about workers struggling to live on social security). "We should not," he raged, "see foul, brutal aggression successful in our world." (He was not attacking the record of past Labour governments on Korea, Malaysia, Biafra, Vietnam . ..) Foot's speech was applauded by the MPs as a flag-waving, drum banging demand for war in which, of course, he would not personally be in the front line. It was, we remember, only a few months ago that he won an affectionate ovation at a Labour Party gathering by describing himself as "as inveterate peacemonger".
The League for the Fifth International (along with the other Trotskyist groups) also supported the war, but the other side. They, as they recall in a press statement issued today, supported General Galtieri sending thousands of Argentine conscripts to their death:
In 1982 Workers Power opposed Thatcher’s bloody war, and on the streets of London took a clear and unequivocal position for the defeat of Britain and the victory of Argentina.
They weren't personally going to be in the front line either.

We in the Socialist Party adopted the traditional socialist position:
In face of the imminent threat of war over the potential wealth of the Falkland Islands the Socialist Party of Great Britain affirms:
1 That despite the wave of jingoistic hysteria in the press and its endorsement by Labour and Tory politicians alike, no working class interests in Britain, Argentina or the Falklands themselves can be served by war.
2 That neither the military junta in Buenos Aires nor the elected representatives of British capitalism, least of all the business interests of Coalite-Charringtons, can justify the shedding of a single drop of working class blood.
3 That the new-found outrage at the undemocratic and oppressive nature of the Argentine regime rings false coming from a government which was arming that regime until the eve of hostilities.
4 That the crucial role of Argentine capitalism in profitably making-up the notorious shortfall of agricultural production within the Russian Empire goes far to explain the support given to the junta by the local "Communist Party" and the muted criticism of it by the same circles who so vociferously denounce the similar dictatorship in Chile and its parallel suppression of trade unionism anc free speech.
We therefore reiterate that having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow-workers of all lands the expression of goodwill and socialist fraternity and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism in all its guises and the establishment of socialism throughout the world, the only way to end war.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

We don't like inequality...

...and by we, I mean all of us, according to researchers: "In the experiment, people who started out rich had a stronger reaction to other people getting money than to themselves getting money," Camerer explains. "In other words, their brains liked it when others got money more than they liked it when they themselves got money." that is, we appear to be 'hardwired' for equality and fairness. Of course, the next lot of researchers might cotnradict this, but it does show a trend in research that suggests that inequality is injurious to all, not jut those on the sharp end of the stick.

So, how about working towards an equal society? Start with helping our election campaigns - it's in your own interest.

Standing alone

For the record, here's a letter we had published in last week's Weekly Worker (25 February):
The Socialist Party will be standing a candidate in Vauxhall, London, in the coming general election, just as we did in 2005. We are standing on a straight socialist ticket, opposed to all the other candidates, including 'Workers Power' (or the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, if they get the endorsement).

We do not support the idea of a 'new workers' party' - ie, a Labour Party mark two. That's been tried in the last century and failed, and would fail again because it is built not on support for socialism, but on leadership and reforms of capitalism.

Further information is available at http://spgb.blogspot.com.
It seems that the Fifth Internationalites are having difficulty getting endorsement from Bob Crow and the others in TUSC. At least this is what this passage in an article about a more recent breakaway from the SWP suggests:
In the coming general election, let’s break resolutely with the Respect tradition of cross-class politics and mount an independent working class challenge. Workers Power is standing Jeremy Drinkall in Vauxhall on a clear and uncompromising Anticapitalist ticket. The Left Platform could do the same in other areas, and fight to get the endorsement of the Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition, without agreeing to limit your programme to what Bob Crow is prepared to allow.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Potholes and socialism

OK, lo and behold, I talk about potholes, and they become a national issue: from today's Today programme, '£8.5bn needed for road resurfacing.'

See, the problem is that big infrastructural budgets are the first casualty of any budget cutting - the accountability scale is longer than most politicians terms of office. Underfunding of roads will only begin revealing defects ten years down the line, and persistent underfunding, will simply lead to a long slow decline. This decline will be very expensive to reverse, so the relative underfunding will continue because the political rewards of such repairs will be slow in coming. It’s hard to point to something not being broken.

Depreciation, or amortisation, of capital stock is dealt with separately from current accounts. Essentially, the roads are paid for up front, normally through public debts. Local authorities take out 60 year mortgages to pay for infrastructure, so over that period, they have to pay the initial capital back plus interest. So, while it's depreciating, it's still being paid for in the first place.

Of course, if the debt lives longer than the time scale required to completely replace/renew the roads, then more debt will have to be piled on to carry out that work.

Socialism can't promise infinite riches, or that choices of priorities won't have to be made, but we can say that socialism would end the requirement to turn loans back into money - essentially ending the distinction between the current and capital accounts. All activity would have to be accounted for out of real currently available resources, rather than notional capitalisations.

Further, there won't be the option for externalities - at present councils are not required to take account of the cost of the damage poorly maintained roads do to vehicle stock, but in a system of common ownership, we would have to balance the impact on inventories of vehicle repair versus road maintenance.

Saocialism isn't a magic wand, but it does offer the prospect of accountability and the mechanisms by which we can take proper control of our own communities and our social environment.