No Christmas presents for the economy

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

We have become pretty used to bad news in the economy. But today’s Office of National Statistics paint a bleak picture for the 3rd quarter but also present a challenge for 2011.

The Office of National Statistics found that output in the construction, mining and quarrying industries all fell while there was a recorded fall in service industry output.

The downward revision of growth in the economy indicates that 2011 will be another tough year for the public with the VAT rise to 20 percent expected to hit consumer spending still further on top of the effects of government spending cuts.

Mainstream economists have tried to play down the downgrading of economic forecasts for GDP growth in 2010.

But even data analyst firm Global Insight’s Howard Archer had to admit:

“We expect growth to lose significant momentum over the coming months as fiscal tightening increasingly bites and adds to the pressures on already stretched consumers.”

Left Economic Advisory Panel Coordinator Andrew Fisher on the other hand agreed the prospects for the economy were “grim.”

But he hastened to add that in the long term Britain could be in the same situation as Ireland who recently took out a controversial IMF loan to help keep their fledging economy afloat.

“Continued slow growth – or even a slip back into recession – will encourage the Coalition government to make further cuts and could send the UK into a spiral similar to Ireland.

“It is clear that the labour movement needs to force a major shift in economic policy in 2011 to prevent misery for millions. That may require ousting the current government.”


Categories: Uncategorized

Don’t get a LIBERAL to do a SOCIALIST’S job

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

BUSINESS secretary Vince Cable “declared war” on the Rupert Murdoch Empire, in comments secretly recorded by Daily Telegraph journalists last week.

He was referring to the impending decision over whether to allow Mr Murdoch to attain majority shareholding in the giant media network BSKYB.

Instead of waiting till parliament re-convenes and to see the Ofcom recommendations, Mr Cable has allowed his ego to take over, pressing the self-destruct option on his nuclear weapons system.

Some liberal commentators might defend Mr Cable as he did make some pointed attacks on a media mogul who has benefited from a system, which encourages huge monopolies to develop, particularly in the media.

However they would be wrong to do so because Mr Cable’s comments jeopardise the entire process of trying to in some limited way prevent Mr Murdoch from attaining yet more power through a majority shareholding in BSKYB.

It is apparent from the leaked transcript that Mr Cable was attempting to show who he thought were working class single mother constituents, that he had more power than he actually has.

His ego got in the way of his judgment.

But his biggest enemy was his own vaguely liberal ideology – the belief that the capitalist state can help foster free competition and prevent monopolies from forming and prevent the likes of Murdoch gaining ever-greater power and influence.

This position borders on delusional.

The only people in society who have the power to stop monopolies or even keep a “check and balance” on big capital in the short term is a progressive government mandated by the people and their representative organisations – such as trade unions to start challenging the power base monopoly capitalism.

For this to be sustainable a fundemental re-ordering of society on the basis of public ownership of the means of production would be required.

The capitalist state is intertwined within the economic sphere of big business and is an active component, not a separate “good” force to keep the likes of Murdoch in check.

Instead of shooting his mouth off, Mr Cable would have done better to have studied VI Lenin – Imperialism the highest stage of Capitalism and remember Chairman Mao’s words: “The two most important qualities in a socialist are: honesty and modesty.”

For the transcript go to the BBC website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12053656

Categories: Uncategorized

I’m back!

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Hello all

Apologies for being away for a couple of months. The blog will be undergoing some changes and in the new year will be playing its small part in  pouring out information and analysis countering the dominant ideology of the mass media.

To kick off what better place than today’s Morning Star editorial on the meeting between the TUC delegation and the Prime Minister.

A unique take on the event:

Oh to have been a fly on the wall

Monday 20 December 2010- MORNING STAR

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at Downing Street today for the first official meeting between a Tory Prime Minister and the leaders of the trade union movement in 25 years.

In the absence of any verbatim reports, one can only imagine the way it went and it really can’t have been a comfortable meeting for either side.

Not that you could heve told much about the meeting from the restrained and diplomatic language of TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, who managed to make it sound as dull as ditchwater and as neutral as a meeting of the Mothers’ Union.

Indeed, from some past reports and with all possible respects to the Mothers’ Union, that august organisation normally has more fire in it than Mr Barber managed to convey from today’s bun-fight.

One can only hope that Mr Barber’s famed diplomatic skills somewhat understated the case.

Because what on Earth could these two diametrically opposed sides have to say to each other that would alter the realities of the case?

On the one hand there are the trade unions faced with the loss of jobs of a considerable proportion of their membership, the destruction of the public sector and massive reductions in available services to the least fortunate in society.

They are contemplating a future in which their members will be forced to pay for the incompetence and avarice of the bankers and the City speculators with their standards of living and, in many cases, their homes and their jobs.

And, on the other side of the table, what are they facing?

Why, it’s the authors of the policies that are driving tens of thousands of children back into poverty, cutting pensions and jobs, putting students on the rack to squeeze them into debt to pay for an education which will fit them for jobs which no longer exist and tearing the National Health Service apart in order to force the takeover by profiteers of a service which is now the envy of most of the world.

It’s the same people who are intent on forcing through a Royal Mail privatisation that has been democratically rejected time and time again and who are systematically robbing local authorities of the money they need to provide the local services that the poor and the needy, the old and the cold rely on.

It’s a collection of politicians who believe in the widening of the gap between rich and poor in the name of capitalism and are blithely going about their business with little or no regard for the wellbeing of the people whose lives they have a stranglehold on.

There’s not a lot in that contrasting set to provide common ground for negotiation to even start, let alone reach a compromise acceptable to both sides.

And, let’s face it, there’s no compromise between the two sides that could be remotely acceptable.

For here you have the classic stand-off between capital and labour, with their entirely opposing interests starkly displayed.

It was instructive to read the leader column in today’s Guardian in this regard.

Far from the phoney “soft-left” liberalism that publication normally displays, it clearly showed that the Tory infection has permeated the entire liberal establishment, tainting it with the class-ridden reaction that is so essentially Tory and hitching the Lib-Dem trailer firmly onto the Tory bandwagon.

There’s no hope to be found there, if there ever was in the first place.

The new Labour government was bad enough and made concession after concession to the City, but this coalition is so deeply mired in class war that it’s difficult to believe that any concessions to working people are acceptable, or even conceivable, to them.

And that leaves one alternative and one alternative only.

The working class will have to fight and fight hard, not just for a few perks or the odd pay deal.

It’s a fight for our very lives and those of our children.

It’s a fight we didn’t provoke, but that we can’t and won’t walk away from.

Categories: Uncategorized

Peaceful civil disobedience and labour movement unity

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment

A MEASURED APPROACH IS WHAT IS NEEDED

by John Millington
Campaigns reporter

16th November 2010

Lecturers and students did themselves proud last Wednesday with an excellent demonstration against the Con-Dem fee hike.

It was a resounding success and a credit to both organisations.

However the day has been largely remembered for the occupation of the Tory HQ at Millbank Tower.

Twitter, TV and the general mass media were alive all day with comment and opinion on the day’s events.

All the focus has now drifted to “why weren’t the police ready?” “How do we clamp down on dissent?” and naming and shaming the “organisers” for the Millbank occupation.

In the myriad of spin from the right-wing media outlets in this country, the facts of the day’s events and the reasons why people felt compelled to protest were almost lost.

Although in itself the smashing of windows at Millbank will achieve little for the anti-fees fight, it was truly gut-wrenching to watch the NUS president Aaron Porter sounding more like a Sky pundit than the democratically elected leader of a mass student body when he spent more time condemning a minority action than on refocusing the debate on the 50,000-plus who had marched peacefully delivering a clear message.

It is quite right to distance yourself from violence and focus on the positives of peaceful protest, but don’t end up doing Murdoch’s work for him and attempt to demoralise students and workers so they won’t turn up next time.

Why is no-one assessing why over 2,000 people chose to protest outside Tory HQ Millbank and then 300 decided to occupy the building?

People are beginning to make the connections between the different cuts, concluding that it is part of an overall agenda.

And the frustration that people feel, the hopelessness, the fear of what the cuts will do to their lives, all gets bundled up together in a moment when you are in a position to do something about it.

This leads to spontaneous, sometimes mindless acts where people are just going with the flow of unfolding events.

For instance throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof of Millbank tower not only endangered the lives of supporters below but it was a gift to the right-wing media machine.

Despite four hours of appalling one-sided propaganda from Sky News on that day, one impromptu interview revealed that even though most of the student protesters were against violence – several quoted Gandhi – they insisted that they would have supported the occupation if it had been done peacefully.

This is the nub of the matter and what people should take out of last Wednesday.

Organised peaceful civil disobedience – a call made by RMT general secretary Bob Crow at the TUC this year and successfully practised by bus workers earlier this year at the offices of Transport for London – is the way forward.

When you have democratically accountable bodies practising strong discipline among members with clear shared objectives, successful actions can be achieved which can bring on new people to a particular cause.

Working-class and dispossessed people are not ready or prepared to engage in violent acts en masse.

But with the proper organisation and encouragement, there are opportunities for peace civil disobedience alongside marching and campaigning in local communities.

Another aspect of the anti-cuts fight, which was highlighted by the Young Communist League last Wednesday on the march, is the role of the EU.

The cuts and fee rises being implemented in this country are a direct result of EU-driven economic liberalisation.

To ignore it or not understand it is akin to burying one’s head in the sand.

Member states will be fined and face other sanctions if they do not implement massive cuts in public-sector budgets.

Our anti-cuts resistance is therefore not just against the Con-Dem government but also against the neoliberal EU.

Removing ourselves from this big-business club is one of the conditions for our success in resisting the austerity drive.

However to begin with we need to rid ourselves of this vicious Con-Dem government.

In Britain, despite the impact of the Lisbon Treaty and EU directives, we have a limited democracy. We have to use the mechanisms at our disposal to resist the cuts, defend our class and unite the labour movement.

Criticisms of the UCU leadership’s response to the demonstration from some students and some of the union’s branches have been unfair.

The UCU recently affiliated to the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group – a collection of smaller specialist and industrial unions including PCS and RMT.

The group is chaired in Parliament by Labour MP John McDonnell and in some senses is ahead of TUC in terms of organising resistance to the cuts and calling for co-ordinated industrial action to that end.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt herself made the call for co-ordinated industrial action at this year’s Tolpuddle event saying: “We are still one of the most powerful trade union movements in the world. If we can’t defeat this poxy Con-Dem government then we should give up and go home. But I won’t go home and I won’t give up.”

Her reference to the violent acts at Millbank being “regrettable” was measured.

But whatever her personal opinion she represents members in a democratic federation where she and her executive committee are held to account.

It is doubtful that the UCU had a policy passed at its last AGM which advocates no-strings-attached acts of vandalism on private property or fighting the police in the street.

In any mass movement there are always agent provocateurs, people with their own sectarian agenda or people with the misguided belief that the revolution can be tomorrow if “we all just get on the barricades.”

But the best way to ensure fringe elements don’t derail the main thrust of the mass movement’s message is to show strong principled leadership, trying to keep one step in front of those you are leading.

It’s a delicate balance. If you set the bar too high for the working class and its allies, they will fail to reach their goals and become disgruntled and disillusioned.

But equally if you hold people back too much, allow fringe elements or state forces to engender negative ideas that marching and peaceful campaigning is pointless, people will stay at home.

Resisting the cuts is a process. There will be fits and starts – huge rushes forward in consciousness but also moments of uncertainty.

Is the working-class movement strong enough to deal with that and a rampant right-wing media machine?

The capitalist state will not be worried by a few smashed windows at Millbank. But if hundreds of thousands can be organised around opposing the cuts during the next two to three years using a range of peaceful tactics, including industrial action and occupations, we might be in with a chance of stopping the cuts and making the country ungovernable.

Categories: Uncategorized

Attempting the ultimate sell off

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment

TODAY’s Morning Star front page should be a reminder that there are no limits to how far this ConDem administration will go to put the working class back in a pre-1945 economic position.

But the seeds of resistance are beginning to grow.

ULTIMATE SELL OFF – Morning Star front page – 15/11/10

by John Millington
Campaigns reporter

David Cameron’s “favourite” think tank is putting pressure on the government to privatise swathes of hospitals, schools and libraries.

Rightwing think tank ResPublica is calling for the biggest transfer of ownership of state assets from the public to the private sector since Margaret Thatcher’s infamous council house sale in the 1980s.

Its report To Buy, To Bid, To Build: Community Rights for an Asset Owning Democracy will be launched by Local Government Minister Greg Clark today – a sign that the proposals are being taken seriously by Whitehall.

ResPublica director Phillip Blond claimed that the proposals would help create an “asset-owning democracy.”

He said: “The council house right-to-buy programme introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980 was a dramatic demonstration of the widespread appetite for asset ownership.

“Two million council houses were sold over the following two decades and produced a rapid extension of capital wealth among large numbers of people on modest incomes,” he said.

But Mr Blond insisted that Thatcher’s policy had not gone far enough.

“Those excluded from the market and ownership have fallen ever further behind,” he said.

“The way in which assets are managed will affect the extent to which underlying goals, greater community and personal self-determination and independence, aspiration, and prosperity” are achieved.

ResPublica also wants the government to allow “community groups and individuals” to profit from owning community assets and running services.

Labour Representation Committee member and left-wing author Owen Jones condemned the proposals as an “example of how a crisis caused by the greed of the private sector has been transformed into an all-out attack on the public sector.”

Mr Jones called for a wide coalition to organise against any attempt to sell off publicly owned assets.

“As the vultures circle around the services that our communities depend on, it is clear that we need a broad-based campaign to stop our libraries, schools and even hospitals being run into the ground by private profiteers,” he said.

Left Economics Advisory Panel co-ordinator Andrew Fisher labelled references to local community ownership as a smokescreen paving the way for privatisation.

“Leisure centres and libraries meet social needs. They should not be run for profit no matter who owns them.

“This is the Tory plan – relieve the state of the burden of providing high-quality services. No amount of rhetoric hides that reality.”

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that the failure of both the Tube private-public partnership (PPP) railway privatisation showed that the plans would spell further disaster for communities.

“These are proposals that even Thatcher would baulk at and we will support any means of peaceful protest that can get these Con-Dems on the run,” he said.

johnm@people-press.com

Categories: Uncategorized

Peace Civil Disobedience – the way forward

November 10, 2010 1 comment

LECTURERS and students have done themselves proud today with an outstanding demonstration against the Con Dem fee hike.

It was a resounding success and a credit to both organisations.

However the day is likely to be remembered for the occupation of the Tory HQ at Millbank Tower.

Twitter, TV and the general mass media has been alive with comment and opinion on the day’s events.

All the focus will now drift into “why the police weren’t ready?” it was the mindless acts of violence by “thugs and louts” and how do we deal with them next time.

In the myriad of spin from the right-wing media outlets in this country, the facts of the day’s events and the reasons why people felt compelled to protest, will be lost.

It is truly ungratifying to watch the NUS President Aaron Porter sounding more like a Sky pundit than the democratically elected leader of the mass student body.

By all means distance yourself from violence and focus on the positives of peaceful protest but don’t do Murdoch’s work for him and attempt to demoralise students and workers so they won’t turn up next time.

Why is no one assessing why over 2000 people chose to protest outside Tory HQ Millbank and then 300 decided to occupy the building?

People are beginning to make the connections between the different cuts, concluding it is part of an overall agenda.

And the frustration that people feel, the hopelessness, the fear of what the cuts will do to their lives. all gets bundled up together in a moment when you are in a position to do something about it.

This leads to spontaneous, sometimes mindless acts where people are just going with the flow of unfolding events.

For instance throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof at Millbank tower not only endangered the lives of supporters below but is a gift to the right-wing media machine.

But the biggest positive was the statement from rooftop protesters, expressing solidarity with public sector workers and declaring the intention to carry out more direct action against the cuts.

Despite 4 hours of appalling one-sided, anti working class propaganda from Sky News, one impromptu interview revealed that even though most of the student protesters were against violence, several quoted Gandhi, insisting that they would have supported the occupation if it had been done peacefully.

This is the nub of the matter and what people should take out of today.

Organised peaceful civil disobedience – a call made by RMT general secretary Bob Crow at the TUC this year and practiced by bus workers earlier this year at the offices of Tfl in London, is the way forward.

When you have democratically accountable bodies practicing strong discipline amongst members with clear shared objectives, successful actions can be achieved which can bring on new people to the cause.

Working class and dispossessed people are not ready or prepared to engage in violent acts en mass.

But with the proper organisation and encouragement, there are massive opportunities for peace civil disobedience.

We have a limited democracy in this country. We have to use the mechanisms at our disposal to resist the cuts, defend our class and rid the country of this vicious Con-Dem government.

Categories: Uncategorized

Students shake the halls of power

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Hot off the press after a hell of a day in London.

More analysis to follow as events unfold:

STUDENTS SHAKE THE HALLS OF POWER

By John Millington
Campaigns reporter

OVER 50,000 lectures and students shook the Westminster halls of power yesterday with one of the biggest mid-week marches in years against the raising of student tuition fees to £9,000.

Anger at the Con Dem cuts and fee hikes spilled over just hours after the march with 300 protesters occupying Tory head quarters at Millbank tower.

Windows were smashed and small fires started inside with 9 protesters and 2 police officers reportedly injured.

Riot police were so overwhelmed by the 2,000 strong protest outside Millibank that when the Star went to press, they had abandoned hopes to re-take the building.

Protesters from inside the Tory HQ released a statement saying: “We oppose the cuts and stand in solidarity with public sector workers. We call for direct action to oppose the cuts. This is just the beginning of the resistance.”

But many students distanced themselves from the violence as committed by “anarchists who weren’t even students,” pointing out they would have supported the building being occupied if it had been done peacefully.

Numbers on the demonstration were double the expectations of organisers with the vast majority of peaceful protesters marching under the banner of ‘Fund Our Future’ and “Unity is strength flanked by UCU and NUS stewards through central London and past the Houses of Parliament.

According to reports from inside the Commons, marcher’s anger could be heard in a chorus of chants from students, lecturers and families present on the demonstration.

Government plans to hike fees to 9000 on top of inflation and the VAT rise will see the expense of putting yourself through university rise by an astonishing 311 percent.

Rallying protesters against the government plans, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “I am here today to send a message to the politicians at Westminster.

“It isn’t fair to make our public universities the most expensive in the world. It isn’t progressive to discourage young people from going to college.”

“And it isn’t just to ask the next generation to pay for others’ mistakes. Over the next four years while college grants are cut and tuition fees triple, big business will get £8bn in tax giveaways from the government.

Labour MP John McDonnell, one of only a handful of parliamentarians on the march, praised the unity of workers and students emphasising the need to build on the demo.

“This is the biggest workers and students demonstration in decades. It just shows what can be done when people get angry. We must build on this,” he said.

Much of the criticism by marchers was meted out at the Liberal Democrats for doing a U-turn on their original opposition to a fee hike.

SOAS student Joana Pinto told the Morning Star that the Lib Dems had “betrayed students’ faith by siding with the government, despite pre-election promises not to increase tuition fees.”

Cambridge University Students Union President Thomas Chigbo said he felt
“particular anger at Lib Dems for their betrayal” and warned they could suffer the consequences at the ballot box.

YCL general secretary George Waterhouse who led a large contingent of Young Communists on the march said: “We believe that education is a right not a commodity.”

“Government plans would return us to the days when education was a preserve of the rich.”

“It is clear the cuts ate being implemented in line with EU diktats.”

johnm@peoples-press.com

Categories: Uncategorized