Wednesday, February 29, 2012

All aboard for Ken?

The "Communist" Party of Britain (the successor party to the late, unlamented "Communist" Party) has come out in favour not just of voting for Ken Livingstone for Mayor but of voting Labour everywhere. They say:
"The Communist Party urges the left to unite in support of Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London at the Greater London Authority elections on May 3 2012 (...)
"The Communist Party considers the political priority in the May elections to be the defeat of the Right. This must be achieved through:
The election of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London.
The election of a Labour majority in the Greater London Assembly."
This puts them at odds with Bob Crow, leader of the RMT (and one of their former members), and the Trotskyists of Militant and the SWP, who have come together to put up a London-wide list composed of leftwing trade unionists -- TUSC (Trade Unionist and "Socialist" Coalition) -- to oppose the Labour Party list. However, this doesn't mean that they won't be voting for Livingstone for Mayor or for Labour candidates in the constituencies. They're not saying anything on this, but this is probably what they will be doing. There's an intriguing paragraph in the report in Socialist Worker on a TUSC conference held earlier this month:
"The meeting discussed the fact that TUSC had decided not to put up a candidate for mayor against Ken Livingstone, after some parts of the coalition including the FBU felt it would not be the best strategy".
They reckon they have a good chance of getting somebody elected and have calculated they will need to get 150,000 votes to do this. If past experience of militant trade unionists standing for political office is anything to go by, they won't get even half that number.

Anyway, here's their reformist programme:
So, capitalism is still going to exist, except that instead of profits coming before people, people's needs are somehow going to be made to come before profits: the banks and big business are going to continue to exist and to make profits but these are going to be taxed to pay for public services, cheap transport and affordable homes. This is classic, failed and impossible reformism.

Meanwhile our candidates will be pointing out that capitalism can never be reformed so as to work in the interests of those who depend on having to work for a wage or a salary to live. We will advocating socialism as a society where there will be no banks and big business, and no profits, but where all productive resources will be commonly owned and democratically controlled by the whole community in the interests of all.This is the only basis on which to provide decent public services, transport, housing and education as it means there can be production geared to satisfying people's needs instead of for profit. People Not Profits, that's the real socialist slogan.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Freedom for Tooting!

Sorry, couldn't resist. It is, though, the logical extension of SNP style nationalism (see our editorial here on the subject). Obviously, Ken Livingstone has taken up the batton:KEN Livingstone has vowed to let the south of the borough of Croydon break free from London and join Surrey...Before the then Tory government made these changes, Croydon really stopped at New Addington. If people really hate that and they wanted to go back to Surrey I don't think I would send in troops to shoot them. I'm sure the burghers of Croydon will be glad not to be shot. I can remember in the 90's when Yarm wanted to secede from Cleveland and join North Yorkshire because of the difference in council tax rates.

This just shows how contingent communities are, and the arrangements are often made to best suite the people in charge. Boundaries shuffle back and forth, without ever changing the real problems that underlie them. Devolution in London was supposed to make great changes, and yet someone living here wouldn't really notice the difference. What we notice is the unemployment, the market failure in housing, the poverty. The conditions we experience as are workers, irrespective of the label on the town council notice board.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"No politician can help you"

As it was sunny again today I decided to drive 5 miles to the border between Kingston and Merton to deliver a few leaflets. As I discovered from a poster in a window saying "Keep West Barnes Library Open", that's what the area was called.

This time I did come across some political material -- a leaflet issued by the Liberals for their candidate for Mayor, "former top-cop Brian Paddick" as they described him (he was a police commander in Brixton who was hounded out for, amongst other things, his liberal approach to cannabis and stood for Mayor in 2008 as well).

The Liberals are in a difficult position. They can criticise Boris Johnson for making cuts but not the cuts made by the government in which they are partners. But since local councils, including the Greater London Assembly, get most of their income from the central government, local councils (whether Tory, Liberal or Labour) are just passing on cuts decided by central government, itself acting as a transmission belt for the economic laws of capitalism.

If the opinion polls are anything to go by, people are seeing through this Liberal hypocrisy. Paddick is credited with only 6% of the vote. If he falls below 5% he'll suffer the indignity of losing his £10,000 deposit.

Capitalism being what it is, the government is trying to find ways to save money that they can then use to reduce taxes on profits and so help restore the profitability needed before any recovery can have a chance of beginning. Any government, whether Tory, Labour, Liberal or any combination of the three, that takes on the job of running the general affairs of capitalism has to act this way in the circumstances. They have to accept, and do accept, that that's the way the capitalist system works and put profits before people.

As we say in our election manifesto:
"No politician can help you. They all say they are going to have to make you worse off because of the crisis."
So why vote for them (unless you're a mug)?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A morning in Morden

As I had to go to Morden for my car and as it was sunny I decided to stay there and give out some leaflets saying we were standing in the elections in May. For non-Londoners Morden is part of the borough of Merton and so of the Merton & Wandsworth GLA constituency (Londoners will know it as the end of the Northern Line going south).

I know it's a bit early and the only political thing I came across was the constituency office of the Labour MP Siobhan Mcdonagh (which naturally got a leaflet through the letter box). Yes, Labour MP. Merton is not all £2 million houses in Wimbledon. I ended up near what's said to be the biggest mosque in Britain, but it's not a proper muslim one but that of a breakaway sect called the Ahmadis who follow a prophet who came after Mohammed. Their slogan is "love for all, hatred for none". This is not reciprocated by orthox muslims who regard them as heretics and persecute them in Pakistan, Iran and Indonesia and have issued death threats against them in England. A reminder of why we are opposed to religion.

Anyway, although we will be concentrating on Wandsworth, Merton is not being entirely neglected.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grave issues

Speaking of Wandsworth's radical past. It's actually extends worldwide. Alexander Kerensky, the Russian social democrat who formally overthrew the Tsar in 1917 (only to be subsequently overthrown himself by Lenin et al). Here's a wee picture of his grave in Putney Vale Cemetery:

Alongside other such luminaries as Jon Pertwee and James Hunt. According to Wikipedia, he found his way to London partly because Orthodox Christian cemeteries in the US refused to have him, on account of his revolutionary past. Now, this illustrates nicely how interconnected the world is, how the history of one revolution feeds into the whole world. It also shows that when it comes to Putney, revolution is in the soil.


I am reliably informed that former party writer/speaker activist Edgar Hardcastle is also buried in the same graveyard.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Houses of Wandsworth

Just to shed a little light on what m'colleague was saying yesterday, here is a little chart from Wandsworth council.
Estimated households at 31/03/11:
Owns outright:23,288
Owns with a mortgage or loan:42,318
Shared ownership:2,834,
Rented – Council:17,295
Rented - HA/RSL:9,820
Rented – Private:27,407
Rented from other:3,956
All Households:126,917
As can be clearly seen, the vast majority of people in Wandsworth, don't own their own homes (and the way that press and local property sheets went on, you'd think everyone was an owner occupier). We can even include the mortgagees in the non-owners, many of whom are basically renting from the bank with a ruddy enormous deposit. Even if we include mortgagees and part-owners in the owners list, that is still only 54% of households. yet it is seen as aberrant to be a non-owner. It is considered shameful (or a privilege) to be one of the 17,000 council tenants (14% of the total).

Now, we're not proposing that the people who own their own homes be kicked out, what we want is the security of tenure that home owners enjoy to be extended to everyone. The vast majority of propertyless occupiers should be able to enjoy a home of their own. That is, there is a difference between a home and property, turning property into homes is where we're at.


OK, a few more facts from the same source (I scrolled down a way, ok).
Wandsworth:£385k / £50kHouse Price Earning Ratio: 7.7
London:£342k / £37kHouse Price Earning Ratio: 9.2
So, average salaries are higher in Wandsworth, and thus houses are slightly more "affordable". Not affordable, though, for the 509 "unintentionally homeless" families in 2010/11.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where the 1% live

They have to live somewhere and it appears that two of their favourite places are in the GLA constituency of Merton and Wandsworth. The Times's Bricks & Mortar supplement last Friday compared properties in parts of Wandsworth (the area round Wandsworth Common) and in Wimbledon (which is in the borough of Merton).

It appears that the average house price in that part of Wandsworth is £1.125 million. In Wimbledon it's £1.380 million. In Wandsworth 28% of property sales between January 2009 and September 2011 were for amounts between £1 million and £2 million and 12% for amounts above £2 million. In Wimbledon the figures for the same period were 36% and 20% respectively.

And who bought them? In Wandsworth 70% of these buyers came from "the business and financial services sector" and in Wimbledon 75%. So now we know what they spend some of their bonuses on.

The good news is that they make up only a tiny percentage of the populations of Merton and Wandsworth boroughs. The non-rich of these boroughs can easily outvote them if they decide to realise the worst fears of Col. Rich (yes, that was his name) in the debates that took place in the constituency, in Putney, in 1647:
You have five to one in this kingdom that have no permanent interest. Some men have ten, some twenty servants — some more, some less. If the master and servant shall be equal electors, then clearly those that have no interest in the kingdom will make it their interest to choose those that have no interest. It may happen that the majority may, by law — not in a confusion — destroy property; there may be a law enacted that there shall be an equality of goods and estate.
Yes we can — when we want.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our rivals

Well, this is our first foray into contesting elections in Wimbledon; but we didn't expect our opponents to actually be a Womble (OK, I'm just envious that his beard is bigger and more ludicrous than mine). There is an interesting quote from their mayoral candidate:
Jenny Jones, who is running as the Green candidate for mayor in May’s election, said she would ensure the London Assembly dealt only with banks that could demonstrate they were lending to London’s small businesses.
Would these be the same small businesses who fund the Green party's campaign material by paying for advertising space in their "free sheet"? Of course they would be. The Green Party will stand up for its corporate backers and fiercely defend the market system and capitalism (as long as it is small capitalism). Hopefully, when I get some time of work, I'll be able to get out down there and maybe fling a few leaflets around, putting the case for Socialism and ending the need for bank lending altogether.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who needs a City Boss?

A leaflet from the BackBoris campaign came through the door today, a reminder that there is also an election in London on 3 May for Mayor. We don't care about this election as directly-elected mayors are not compatible with a genuine democracy. As we said in our leaflet for the referendum held in 1998 on whether or not there should be an elected mayor of London:

We in the Socialist Party are well aware that in the end whatever arrangements are adopted for local government in London won't make much difference. This is because such arrangements are to be implemented within the context of the profit system, whose economic mechanisms require all levels of government, however structured, to trim their spending so as not to endanger profit levels whatever people may want - or vote for.

Even so, an elected mayor is not a good idea. As the title of the government's Green Paper - New Leadership for London - proclaims, this is a proposal to elect a Leader for London. This Leader will not just have more power than the elected assembly but will be paid a fat cat salary (so as to remove, it is said, the temptation to be corrupt) and have the remit of managing London as if it were a capitalist enterprise. The whole proposal is a travesty of democracy.

Democracy means participating in the running of affairs, not following leaders.

The proposal for an elected mayor is a proposal to endorse what passes for democracy under capitalism: a choice not of alternative social systems or even policies but of rival leaders who are all packaging and no substance. Tony Banks, David Mellor, Chris Patten, who has the best smile? Who cares? But worse, it encourages people to think that some Leader can solve society's problems for them, whereas these problems can only be solved by people refusing to follow leaders and acting for themselves. The only kind of politics that is going to work is a do-it-yourself politics aimed at abolishing the profit-system.

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

This is still our position and the message we would put over to workers in those places outside London - Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield - which will be holding a referendum on 3 May on whether or not to introduce elected City Bosses in their cities too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

From the comments boxes

Vin Manratty wrote:
Declaring the Abolition of the wages system as your first and only demand could be interpreted as ending wages within capitalism, which of course would be chaotic. Just to clarify: A class conscious working class must first take control of the state and use the state to transfer ownership of the means of production into common ownership. When this is achieved the state and wages become superfluous.
I consider myself, almost, taken to task. Given, though, that the wages system is the essence of capitalism, you cannot abolish it within capitalism. Yes, it's conceivable that it could be abolished to be replaced by some other class society: a restored serfdom; a return to chattel slavery; or something new altogether. As our commenter notes, however, we're calling on the working class to do this for themselves.

Indeed, I would agree with the prescription that political action to achieve common ownership is a prerequisite for abolishing the wages system; and the only way in which I think it could realistically be done. That said, we start from the conscious knowledge that we are people who live by selling our labour power, and our struggle to free ourselves must include ending that condition.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What our rivals say II

A kindly soul has alerted me to the intentions of TUSC. No, that's not a team of Bond villains, but the "Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition" -- the current front organisation from the people that brought you the front organisation Militant, who now call themselves Socialist Party (England and Wales). From the latter Wikipedia article:
Militant changed its name to Militant Labour after leaving the Labour Party. The former organisations Militant International Review, founded in 1969, became monthly and was renamed Socialism Today in 1995.[42] In 1997, Militant Labour changed its name to the Socialist Party, and its Militant newspaper was renamed The Socialist in the same year. The ownership of the party's name has been contested by the Socialist Party of Great Britain founded in 1904. As a result, the new party is frequently known as "The Socialist Party of England and Wales". Due to the requirement to register party names with the Electoral Commission, the Socialist Party uses the description 'Socialist Alternative' on ballot papers.
So, just to be clear, they are not us, they are an organisation that stands for
For a socialist government to take into public ownership the top 150 companies and banks that dominate the British economy, and run them under democratic working-class control and management. Compensation to be paid only on the basis of proven need.
That is, they will retain the market under state control (what we call state capitalism. So, necessary distinction dealt with, the main point: they intend to contest the list section of the GLA election this year. Needless to say, we do not endorse their slate, nor any of their candidates. Nor do we endorse their five point manifesto, which includes such as:
When faced with government cuts to council funding, councils should refuse to implement the cuts. We will support councils which in the first instance use their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid passing them on - while arguing that the best way to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to defeat the cuts is to set a budget that meets the needs of the local community and demands that the government makes up the shortfall.
This is a classic leftist demand that they must know cannot be realised. The state has run out of funding sources, and cannot make up this sort of spending without either increasing taxes (which would be evaded) or outright expropriating the means of production. Now, we call up front for a transition to common ownership, whereas TUSC will call on you to fight like demons for unrealisable demands in the hope that you eventually push through to common ownership (rather than become discouraged and go and try something else). Consciously or not, they stand for the continuation of capitalism, we stand for the abolition for the wages system as our first (indeed only) demand.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wrong Nomination Papers arrive

Nomination papers have arrived from City Hall (they have to be in by 28 March, so we've plenty of time), but they are the wrong ones. They're for the Mayor and for the London-wide members of the Greater London Assembly whereas we're only standing in 2 of the 11 constituencies and will have to get the papers we require from Lambeth and Wandsworth town halls. (I don't know if people out there realise that they will have three votes on 3 May, one for Mayor, one for a London-wide Party list and one for a constituency member.)

Still, the papers that were sent were interesting as they detail the conditions needed to stand for Mayor, essentially a £10,000 deposit (returnable if you get more than 5% of the vote) plus 330 signatures (10 per London borough + 10 from the City of London). It's doubtful if those in the Occupy movement who were talking of standing a candidate as a publicity stunt would be able to meet these conditions, especially the £10,000 but also perhaps the 10 signatures from electors in the City of London.

Fortunately no signatories are required for standing a Party List or contesting a constituency, only a document signed by the Party's Nominating Officer. But there is a deposit: £5000 for a List and £1000 for a constituency candidature.

The voice of our rivals

Interesting excepts of an interview with Ken Livingstone (the man who would-be-mayor-again) here. This is a fascinating insight into his politics:
The world is run by monsters and you have to deal with them. Some of them run countries, some of them run banks, some of them run news corporations.
That seems, to me, to sum up his whole career. He doesn't want to slay the monsters, but work with them: Jack the Giant Facilitator.

Now, we might want to ask how the ogres come to power? How it is that the world is so monstrous it takes monsters to run it?

Slightly more than tantatively, we would suggest that it is because we have the domination of the few over the many. We have a world run in the interest of the tiny number of people who own it: and the rest of us need to be quelled in order that to protect those interests; and to do that on a regular basis would make a monster of anyone. We have the option of ridding the world of monsters by ending that monstrous system. That we choose to make that our sole aim is what marks us out as different from those who would befriend the monsters.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

From the comments box:

vin maratty said...

I wish you all the best for the elections but - as I understand Marx and your position - the material conditions for socialism do not exist within capitalism: class consciousness. The election will only show that the workers neither understand nor want socialism.
As my colleague has already said: we don't expect to win, just to raise class consciousness. More than that, though, how can we know the state of class consciousness unless we test it in the most effective way available, through the universal franchise?

More importantly, though, if people let others know about their class consciousness, the more chance we have of spreading it and building it. That's why it is important that, if you live in either of the constituencies we're contesting, and you support the socialist case, that you vote for us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Life in a democratic organisation

Well, so I had this wheeze, see, to get us a bicycle with a trailer to mount a billboard on for election advertising (and to let us have a "poster launch" press event). I submitted the idea to our elected executive committee: and they said no. One member told me he thought it was a low tech solution (actually, he said it would look like Steptoe and Son). Strangely, though, as I walked out of the room and along the street, I saw a commercial bicycle advertising hoarding, so it's not too low tech for the professionals.

Fair do's, though, I'm not going to waste the story; because it does illustrate that we are a democratic organisation, where our members call the shots, not candidates or organisers. That's what we mean by "It's up to you": we aren't leaders, we're not out to tell people what to do. If we're going to make change, you have to do it yourselves. Sometimes you'll be outvoted, others you'll win out, but, unlike the professional politicians, we're not staking "credibility" on an ability to "control" our members, in fact, it's the other way round.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Our Election Address

Greater London Assembly elections 3 May 2012

It’s up to you

No politician can help you. They all say they are going to have to make you worse off because of the crisis. In other words, to make you poorer to protect the wealth of the 1% who own the world. It’s their system of making goods and services to sell for profit that led directly to the crisis. So long as we have this production for profit, we’ll have periodic crises and politicians wringing their hands over them.

The only way out is to change the rules of the game: to change the system by putting an end to minority ownership by replacing it with the democracy of common ownership by and for everybody. Enough resources, know-how and skills exist already to provide comfortably for everyone. It’s the profit system that prevents this. We need to do away with it and instead produce and access goods for needs.

At the moment so many people think that there’s no alternative that they are shrugging their shoulders and hoping for the best. If a few of us stand up and say “we will not put up with this, we want something better” then the idea that resources should be owned in common and used to satisfy people’s needs can get on the agenda as the only genuine alternative to capitalism and austerity.

We need to organise to bring about a world where the Earth’s resources have become the common heritage of all and where every man, woman and child on the planet can have free access to what they need to lead a decent and satisfying life.

If you want this, vote for the Socialist Party candidate in this election, to let people know where you stand, and then come and join us in campaigning for socialism.

The Socialist Party candidates are:

Lambeth & Southwark: Daniel Lambert
Merton & Wandsworth: William Martin

Friday, February 03, 2012

First press coverage

Yesterday's Weekly Worker published our press statement but as a letter. Go to here and scroll down to the last letter.

We will have to see if the statement is published in the other papers we sent it to, ie The South London Press, the Southwark News, the Wandsworth Guardian and the Wimbledon Guardian (yes, Wimbledon is in one of the constituencies).

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Looking at Wandsworth

Some stats about Wandsworth:
A third of the borough's land area is occupied by residential properties, many within one of the forty five conservation areas. A quarter of the borough's land area is open space, much of this in the form of large areas of heath and common, and the Thames forms the northern boundary. [...]Around 134,095 dwellings are home to a population of approximately 289,600 (2010)[...]The 20-39 year old age group represents 47% of the population compared to 27% nationally and 35% in Greater London. Ethnic minorities account for 22% of the population as a whole and 26% of under 15s [...] There are approximately 99,600 people working in the borough, but of the 142,000 working residents in the 2001 Census, 29% worked in Wandsworth and 46% worked in central London boroughs.
That is, roughly, the borough houses about 5 million hours a week of available labour. the question becomes one of whether the people who perform that labour actually benefit from all that such working time could achieve for them. Anyway, moving on. There are 11,000 firms with 0-9 employees (accounting for about 93% of the borough's employees); 700 10-49 employees; and 100 with 50+.

An theme that should loom large in the election will be housing. In 2010/11 apparently, a net of 481 new homes were built in Wandsworth. Anyway, enough for now, next we'll take a brief look at Merton.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

It's election time again

On 3 May electors in London will be voting for a new Mayor and also for the members of the Greater London Assembly. We're not standing for Mayor (even if we had the money) because we don't believe in mayors but we will be contesting two GLA constituencies: Lambeth & Southwark (as 4 years ago) and this time also Merton & Wandsworth.

One reason for contesting two constituencies is that, under the Boundary Commission's proposals for the 2015 General Election, 4 wards from Wandsworth will be joined with 4 wards from Lambeth to form a new Battersera & Wandsworth parliamentary constituency which we will probably contest.

The Socialist Party candidate in Lambeth & Southwark will be Danny Lambert and in Merton & Wandsworth Bill Martin

As always, we will be standing on a single platform: the need to establish socialism as a society based on common ownership and democratic control where goods and services are produced to meet people's needs instead of for profit. This has never been tried (and certainly not in Russia or China) and can only come about democratically when a majority want it.

Follow this blog for regular updates on the campaign.