23 December 2008

Is socialism relevant today?

The first question is: what is the defining principle of being a socialist? My answer is:

to work for a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families.

This definition does not exhaust the aims of socialism, nor does it highlight the various policies and struggles in favour of socialism. It does, however, tell us that New Labour and many of the ‘socialist parties across Europe are not in reality socialist.

The second question is: how relevant is socialism today? We live in a society of vast and growing social inequality, whose financial crisis is throwing many working people into destitution. In such circumstances socialist goals and purposes are clearly relevant.

The key problem today is to work towards the articulation of socialism and then to create organisations which can struggle for socialism.

20 December 2008

No agency for progress

The problem is that there is no agency to bring about social progress; New Labour is not going to become a social democratic party again, and Cameron’s Conservatives are even worse. The best one can expect from Brown et al are a few publicity palliatives. Working people will suffer in the financial crisis at least until some of them fight back politically and challenge the power and interests of capital.

16 December 2008

New Labour's Economic Mis-management

New Labour promoted a regime in which capital flowed into Britain, bolstering the value of sterling, to fund working class spending. The houses, cars, etc. were paid for in part through wages, but consumption was hugely supplemented by unsustainable borrowing. One effect of this high level of expenditure was to inflate the economy and drive up house prices leading many to re-mortgage in order to fund further expenditure, which in turn drove up house prices further. (In the early 2000s, 40 percent of mortgage advances were not to purchase property but to fund consumption)

This credit-fuelled boom was marketed as New Labour’s success. Yet, credit for consumption makes little sense unless the consumer believes that his or her income will continue to rise. The myth of eternal economic growth was peddled by New Labour in the 90s and early 2000s who argued that a flexible workforce and low wages were boosting the economy. What in fact was boosting Britain just as much was the inflow of capital to finance consumer credit.

The boom ended in 2008 when finance capital saw the value of its security (the house, earning potential of the worker) could not guarantee the credit advanced. The inevitable withdrawal of credit plunged Britain into recession: spiralling unemployment, collapsing property prices and wide scale bankruptcy. Workers face mortgages and other credit bills they can't pay as their income and assets devalue. The end of the road is re-possession and destitution. The few palliatives from the Brown government hardly make any difference.

In 2007 Britain’s income per head was USD 44 000. The real pain is not caused by even a ten percent in that figure, but by the effects of Britain’s vast social inequalities. Those once surviving on stream of credit which has now dried up now have nothing but debts. Today and in the coming years many working people have, and will continue to have, absolutely nothing, or less than nothing.

Frank Field & National Government

Vindictive, nasty and authoritarian though Frank Field undoubtedly is, his advocacy of national government is inopportune. National government arises - in peacetime at least - only when there is a need for a coalition of the ruling establishment against an adversary. Unfortunately today socialism presents no challenge to Brown and Cameron.

Jean Charles De Menezes

From what I understand of the facts, police officers walked up to a sitting suspect and shot him repeatedly.

No doubt the officers thought he was a terrorist bomber, but the police could have overpowered and arrested him, but chose assassination instead.

Capitalist power conquers Labour

Labour’s original purpose was to overcome capitalist power. The reality is that capitalist power has overcome Labour.

Falling sterling & the suggested collapse of the Euro

Some have argued that the falling value of sterling will not have an inflationary effect. I do not believe this to be so because import led cost-push inflation is compatible with recession in the British economy.

It is sometimes argued that the Eurozone will collapse in the current economic crisis. Yes, it will come under severe strain, but two things will probably hold it together. First, there would be the will to avoid the political humiliation of being forced out of the zone. Second, departing the zone would be an economic disaster. National public debt for the leaver would be denominated in euros and would therefore inflate against the ‘new currency’, while the whole population would hold euros in the transition period to make a gain at the time the ‘new currency’ floated free of the euro.

10 December 2008

The Liberal Democrats offer no solution

Some have argued that progressive politics, briefly defined as personal freedoms protected and rampant capitalism curtailed, could be carried forward by the Liberal Democrats. I do not think so.

The nub of the problem is this: New Labour has lurched to the right in attempt to deny the Tories anywhere to pitch their tent. For the Liberal Democrats to adopt progressive politics, they would have to place themselves to the left of Brown and Cameron. Such politics could never be imposed on the Liberal Democrats across the country where often the local party is a catch-all surrogate for protest or tactical voting Tories or Labourites.

Believing that the Liberal Democrats can become a consistently progressive party will only lead to disappointment.

9 December 2008

Censorship of the net

It is a statement of the obvious that free expression is under attack when a self-styled Internet Watch Foundation can censor the web at will.

Many things have been wrong in the past decade, but one positive aspect has been a very real expansion of individual freedom especially for those with specialised sexual tastes. The net has allowed the more-or-less free exchange of information and the semi-autonomous creation of virtual communities. (I am speaking here of the exchange of sexual fantasy and portrayal of consensual activities, not of crimes such as the abuse of children which I believe are rightly the object of the criminal law)

We now live in an era where those in power fuel moral panics and seek to demonise unorthodox sexual fantasy, including images even remotely resembling it. They seek to transfer the understandable revulsion at child abuse into areas which have nothing to do with paedophilia. Fear is a means of controlling a society in crisis.

8 December 2008

Brown is not moving leftwards

Against those who argue that New Labour’s response to the financial crisis of October 2008 has sifted the party leftwards.

Brown et al have moved to part nationalise financial capital in Britain, not because they are moving leftwards, but because they need to stave off a meltdown of British capitalism.

It is wrong to define left politics simply in terms of borrowing and spending. A polity moves leftwards when three things happen: first, a significant lessening of social and economic inequality; second, a strengthening democracy and working class power, and third, the power of capital and traditional elites are reduced.

None of these things are happening in Britain.

A dose of pain is needed?

Against the journalist Max Hastings who argues that a dose of hard government and pain, akin to that inflicted by Mrs Thatcher, should follow a probable Cameron victory at the next general election.

Mr Hasting casually talks about a British society which is pampered and unaccustomed to pain.

The truth is that since 1979 under Thatcher and her pupils Major, Blair and Brown many working people have been plunged into and never lifted out of pain: pawns in a flexible workforce, unaffordable housing only available on credit, insecurity over financing their education and retirement.

These, too, are the people who will suffer most in the current crisis.

If Mr Hasting believes that salvation can only occur through pain, then lets have an equality of suffering; an appropriation of the better off (for funds to invest in the collapsing economy) until their pain equals that of ordinary working people.

5 December 2008

Totalitarian logic as a propaganda tool

The totalitarian minded Home Secretary deployed the same propaganda tool in her justification of the arrest of Green as with 42 day detention.

In the case of six week’s pre-charge incarceration, the argument was: “perhaps it’s not necessary now, but there are possible circumstances in the future which would render necessary this oppressive measure.”

In Green’s arrest, the argument became: “though the leaks in question do not threaten national security, repressive police action is required because there might be leaks in the future which do.”

Quite clearly the notion of the “pre-emptive strike” is now to be directed at the “enemy within.”

4 December 2008

Two aspects of New Labour Authoritarianism

New Labour authoritarianism has two aspects.

First there is the restriction of individual rights against the state: enhanced police powers, longer pre-charge detention, identity cards, etc. The diminution in these rights means that when the individual or civic groups are in conflict with the state, the balance has been tipped further in favour of the state.

The second strand of authoritarianism limits the freedom of people in the private sphere: buying and selling sex, viewing internet pornography, further restrictions and punishments of drug taking.

Capitalist crisis and New Labour

That capitalism - left to its own devices at least - periodically causes economic crises has yet again been demonstrated. Also proved is that government will intervene to prevent in so far as it can economic collapse and the impoverishment of whole layers of society.

Yet the fact remains that bailing out the banks and attempts to re-mortgage Middle England represents only a shift in tactics and not of strategy for New Labour. In the absence of working class and progressive pressure (now totally lacking) there will be no shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of the worst off in society, nor will anything reign in the growing authoritarianism in Britain.

3 December 2008

The arrest of Damian Green

Every serious person can agree that, regarding political freedoms and rights, Britain is not Stalin’s Soviet Union. But because Britain is not a totalitarian society does not mean that democracy and personal freedom are not under threat.

The arrest and detention of the Conservative Parliamentarian, Green, is undoubtedly more serious for what it represents than the physical and psychological harm done to Green and his family. The two key issues are: the police causally violated MPs offices in Parliament; and it would appear that the Government prompted anti-terrorist police to intimidate the opposition. Neither to these things should happen in a liberal democracy.

1 December 2008

Community Service Order vests

Punishments (the stocks, ‘community pay-back’ bibs) which are devised with the direct intention - whether admitted or not - of public humiliation are always wrong. Their only purpose is to feed the sadistic impulses in ordinary people and thereby to provide a means for an unprincipled government to be seen to be doing something – however wrong and ineffective – against crime.

That petty criminals lack respect and self-esteem is obvious. To humiliate and belittle them more can only further alienate these people from society and stoke up crime.