Monday, 29 November 2010

Report highlights rural poverty while AWB is scrapped



The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s minimum income standard has recently released this report outlined the problems of rural poverty.

The report states that:

‘while the rate of income poverty is lower in rural than in urban
areas, it is growing faster in rural areas than elsewhere. A higher
incidence of low pay in many peripheral and more remote rural
areas increases risks of in-work poverty. There is evidence to
suggest that rural low income families may face higher costs for
certain essentials such as food and transport than their urban
counterparts. At the same time, however, there is limited
systematic evidence about how needs and costs vary in relation
to rurality. This report presents the findings of research designed
to examine what rural households need, to achieve the same
living standards as urban households.’

Anyone who lives in the countryside knows that poverty is more invisible in the sticks, there may be less widespread deprivation but it is masked in beautiful rolling hills. While the rural poor find themselves in relatively similar circumstances to the urban poor, access to facilities such as hospitals, schools, and other cultural and sporting such as museums and swimming pools is limited.

The only way to get to any of these facilities or the supermarket is to drive, or for those who cannot afford it-a position that people make huge sacrifices to avoid-use appalling irregular and expensive public transport. For instance, the village I grew up in had a bus to Yeovil that only came three times a week.

This position is further complicated by the nature of employment in the countryside, which is often low paid, temporary and seasonal-especially for jobs in the agricultural sector. Since 1923 the Agricultural Wage Board (AWB) has set the wages, terms and conditions for agricultural workers, who number around 154,000-although this figure is constantly changing and varies enormously.

Unite national officer, Ian Waddell, has said: "Even the Thatcher and Major governments didn’t go as far as scrapping the Agricultural Wages Board, recognising that rural workers need protection if food supplies are to be secure. Unite is building a broad alliance across rural communities to oppose the government's decision.

"The government's decision to press ahead with abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board will have dire consequences for farming and farm workers. Living standards across rural communities in England and Wales will fall as a result.

“Agriculture is critical to food supplies in this country and we have very real concerns. There is already a shortage of skilled labour and this will only be exacerbated if wages are under pressure, jeopardising our food security.”

Unite and Country Standard have organized a campaign against the scrapping of the AWB, all progressives are urged to join their fight.

The Minimum Income Standard report can be accessed here:

http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/minimum-income-standards-rural-full.pdf

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Living Wage

At the recent congress, the TUC and the Fair Pay Network published a report entitled ‘Unfinished Business: The quest for a Living Wage’. The report outlines the experiences of several living wage campaigns, from RMT member cleaners on the Eurostar to a Methodist minister. Local Living wage campaigns have sprung up in many cities including Manchester, Glasgow, London and Norwich. The endorsement of the Living Wage by Ed Miliband caused a storm among some Business leaders. Even David Cameron has described the Living Wage as an idea ‘that’s time has come’. It appears everyone is talking about the Living Wage.

Everyone who is paid minimum wage knows how hard it is to get by. You struggle to cover the rent, shopping, electric and heating bills despite working long hours. Many people in this situation are reliant on in-work benefits. We have seen the re-emergence of the concept of an ‘undeserving poor’ propagated by politicians such as multi-millionaire Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who recently argued that poor families should not have children in order to save the state money. However, these myths ignore the fact that the majority of children living in poverty have at least one working parent. Paid work should provide you with everything you need to live a decent life, yet for so many working people this is not happening.

The concept of a Living Wage is the minimum amount of money needed to live a well rounded life. The concept appears to have come from the USA where momentum has been building behind this campaign for several years. The first modern example of a Living Wage campaign began in 1994 when an alliance between trade unionists and religious leaders in Baltimore launched a successful campaign requiring city service contractors to pay a living wage. Subsequently hundreds of campaigns, encouraged by President Obama’s support for a higher minimum wage, are currently ongoing or have resulted in living wage laws being implemented.

The experience of the Living Wage campaign in the USA provides us with some lessons that we can use to improve the campaign in this country. The campaigns were most successful when they incorporated religious and community groups into the movements that could help social justice activists and trade unionist ‘usual suspects’ to mobilise larger numbers of people. While this tactic is something to be repeated in Britain, there were some lessons learnt that we need to steer clear of. In the USA Living Wage laws typically only covered state employees and businesses that receive state assistance or have contracts with the government. The movement is also fractured and often locally based. There is no universally recognised rate of Living Wage and the local Living Wage laws that have been passed have often only been a couple of dollars higher than minimum wage.

In Britain the Living Wage Campaign appears to have the ‘big mo’ behind it at the moment with local campaigns being set up around the country and the endorsement of many senior politicians. The sense of outrage sparked by the bailout of the bankers has meant that many members of the public have got behind movements such as the Living Wage Campaign, the People’s Charter and the initiative for a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on the banks. Despite the grim announcement from the Con-Dem coalition government that working families will suffer an austerity blitzkrieg there is great potential for a progressive alternative that will see a fairer Britain emerge from this crisis.

One Strength of the British campaign is the existence of a unified rate of Living Wage with an agreed methodology of updating it. The Living Wage is currently set at £7.85 an hour in London, £7.15 an hour in Scotland, or £7.60 an hour elsewhere this is based on the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ calculated by Loughborough University's Centre for Research in Social Policy. Researchers asked a broad cross-section of society to discuss and agree what is needed for an adequate standard of living – something that people feel nobody in Britain should fall below. They then worked out how much this costs on average in the UK, based on chain store prices.
For simplicity, the figures used to calculate the hourly Living Wage rate are based an example of a typical couple working full-time, with two children in paid childcare. Whilst not all working-age households include two adults and two kids, £7.60 an hour is enough to protect 90% of working-age households living outside of London.

Another strength of the campaign is that there are arguments for the Living Wage from most viewpoints and positions in society.

Despite the complaints by leading business figures to Ed Miliband’s endorsement of the campaign it has been demonstrated that the living wage is ‘good for business’. Research has shown that paying workers a living wage increases productivity, while reducing absenteeism and the rate of staff turnover. This will decrease the amount of time and money that is needed in order to train new staff. Evidence suggests that socially responsible companies that reward their staff for their hard work are thrive better in the business world than those who do not. Companies such as Barclays and Pricewaterhousecoopers are recognised living wage employers.

For those who are concerned about the amount of money that the state spends on welfare benefits it can be argued that a Living Wage would reduce this spending. The costs paid by the taxpayer, and local community, in relation to the social problems associated with poverty and inequality are staggering. Better paid workers have more to offer for their communities and are not financially dependent upon welfare benefits. Evidence suggests that crime rates would be reduced; acts such as burglary, vandalism and alcohol and drug abuse can be combated by the simple act of paying all workers a Living Wage.

These arguments have persuaded not only business groups such as those mentioned above, but also local government, such as the Greater London Authority, and universities, such as Queen Mary’s, to adopt the Living Wage.

Church Action on Poverty (CAP) has been concerned that some churches have been paying their workers inadequately. The experience of the Living Wage campaign in the USA saw religious groups of all faiths leading the fight for a Living Wage. CAP therefore has been helping Churches lead the way in Britain by signing them up to the Living Wage. It is easy to justify this by highlighting the clear Christian values and moral responsibilities of the Church to treat their staff with respect.

"Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honour God." (Proverbs 14:31)

The current National Minimum Wage is completely inadequate for working families to live off. Despite the 13 pence "pay rise" on the 1st of October, the current rate is just £5.93. While the minimum wage was arguably one of Labour's best achievements, the sluggish increases have been below the amount necessary for a decent standard of living. Furthermore, stratification by age has merely encouraged employers to pay younger workers less. The new rate for 16 and 17-year-old workers will scale the heights of £3.64 an hour and apprentices will be rewarded with just £2.50 an hour.
It is disgraceful that many workers in a nation as rich as ours cannot provide a decent standard of living for themselves and their families because of low wages. The Living Wage is desperately needed. We need to challenge the faux progressivism of the coalition government and step up to fight a generation defining campaign, the campaign for a Living Wage.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Congress and the fight against the cuts

All across Europe workers have been fighting EU-imposed austerity measures. Over 10 million workers staged a general strike in Spain, following the six general strikes held by Greek workers. A recent day of action against the cuts brought over 100,000 workers from 24 countries to Brussels impressed on members of the YCL in the British contingent the need for workers across Europe to coordinate action against these devastating cuts.

Many people in Britain find themselves ill equipped to deal with government austerity measures. Access to housing, education and healthcare is already overstretched. One particularly big issue is unemployment and underemployment. The Office for National Statistics also reported that the number of people classed as economically inactive has reached a record high of 8.17 million. Young people are overrepresented in the unemployment figures and those in work are more likely to be in casualised, precarious agency or short-term contracted work.

Trade unionists came from all over the country on the 13th of September to Manchester a city whose vibrancy cut through the rain. Yet despite the sights and sounds a grim mood hangs over many inhabitants of the city. The shedding of manufacturing jobs has deeply affected the old industrial city and has been accompanied by a huge rise in poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. It could be argued that the city would be receptive to a TUC that would start the fight back against the biggest assault on working people in living memory.

The mood for a campaign against austerity was set in the backdrop of a joint statement by Unison and the PCS to campaign together to defend public services and jobs. Many developments at congress were welcome.

Delegates unanimously gave their support for John McDonnell's Private Members Bill which seeks to prevent the disgraceful practice of employers using small technicalities against democratic ballots for strike action. Court rulings have been used against overwhelmingly support for strike action from Unite’s BA cabin crew, RMT and others recently without any appreciation of the difficulties of maintaining the records of up to thousands of workers who constantly move house or job. The composite motion reaffirmed Congress' commitment to ending the harsh anti-trade union laws by standing behind the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill.
TUC delegates also pledged support for the Communication workers Union’s (CWU) campaign against the privatisation of the post office. ‘Competition equals a better, cheaper service’ is the familiar excuse for the privatisation of public services and has been used in regards to pawning off of our post service. Similar arguments were used to justify the privatisation of Britain’s railways yet we have been left with a more dangerous service that is the most expensive in Europe. The same will become true of our postal service if the Post Office is privatised, not to mention the forfeiting of thousands of postal workers’ jobs.

Another good achievement came from a motion concerning the Middle East. Congress voted for boycott and disinvestment from firms that profit from the occupation and illegal settlements in Palestine. The composite motion, which was unanimously passed, denounced the Israeli government’s attack on the Mavi Marmara flotilla in May which resulted in the deaths of nine solidarity activists and its continuing support for illegal settlements. The motion issued an important condemnation of the reactionary Israel’s Histadrut trade union federation.

A packed Morning Star fringe meeting was held with many more people listening outside the door than were inside the room. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow defended his call for "general and co-ordinated strikes" against attacks by the mainstream media by pointing out that without civil disobedience women would not have the vote.
Conference delegates and members of Manchester CPB and YCL attended a Communist party fringe meeting at the mechanic’s institute which housed the founding meeting of the TUC in 1868. Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths forecast 2010 might be seen in future as the "class war Congress"
"Not in the sense that the TUC has declared class war but that it resolved to unite in defence of the working class against the Tories' class war," he explained.
While progress has been made on some issues more work needs to be done particularly in regards to organising resistance to the cuts. Unfortunately some negative trends distracted delegates from this.

The decision to invite David Cameron was an insult to those who will lose their jobs as a result of the coalition government’s attack on the people. The withdrawal of the invitation was no victory to celebrate it should never have been issued. Similarly it was outrageous to give a warm welcome to Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, as he justifies the scrapping of people’s jobs and services.
Regrettably for the democracy of Britain’s labour movement Manchester TUC 2010 was the last annual full congress. There will be no TUC congress held next year when the brunt of the austerity measures will be unleashed.

The labour movement must be organised in order to stop the austerity measures and defeat this government. As Bob Crow, who was re-elected onto the TUC general council, has stated "the government started this fight with the working class - but we are up for it." It is paramount that a conference is organised as early as possible in order to coordinate resistance to the cuts.

Young communists must help to fight the EU imposed austerity measures in two ways;
Firstly the battle of ideas still needs to be won in rejecting rhetoric surrounding the false claim that "we're all in it together". The wealth of the top 1000 richest people in Britain rose last year by almost 30 per cent so much for universal belt-tightening. It is clear that this remedy proposed by the European Union is a naked attack on the lives of working families. Instead of austerity measures, the government could close tax havens and ensure that tax-dodging millionaires pay their share. The implementation of a wealth tax and a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on bank transactions could raise billions. More could be saved by cancelling the Trident missile replacement and bringing British troops home from the increasingly aimless war in Afghanistan.

Secondly young communists must contribute to the coordinated response to the austerity programme. We must get involved in local anti-cuts groups. It must be acknowledged that the Con-Dem government’s plans for privatisation were built upon existing labour policies, such as the Academy schools programme. Likewise, a Labour government would have introduced cuts in line with other social democratic governments in Greece and Spain. Nonetheless, in the interests of unity, the broadest possible anti-cuts campaign is required and must involve socialists, communists and trade unionists together with labour party members, dissident liberals and Tories as well as local community and religious groups.

Monday, 2 August 2010

A Young Communist Outlook


(From the Morning Star Thursday 29 July 2010 by the fantastic John Millington)

Revolutionary imagery on the walls, 600 years of peasant and working-class struggle eulogised at every table. That's just the first floor of the building.

And no, this is not a Cuban museum - it is the Peoples History Museum in Manchester.

My guide for the day is George Waterhouse, the general secretary of the Young Communist League, and he is taking me through the main events in indigenous struggles of ordinary people in Britain from the Peasants' Revolt in 1391 to the present day.

Legendary figures of the labour and communist movements such as Keir Hardie and Harry Pollitt are given pride of place alongside Morning Star memorabilia.

But it is the future, not history, that Waterhouse has on his mind when we finally get chance to talk.

Much of the debate surrounding the working-class movement is on how youth can be mobilised to positively campaign and fight for jobs and better pay in the current economic crisis.

Before the official cuts agenda was unveiled in Chancellor George Osborne's emergency Budget, the recession had already had a disproportionate effect on Britain's youth, with nearly a million under-25's being unemployed.

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showing 8.1 million people economically inactive across Britain include many under-25's.

Young people are obviously not a monolithic group, but it is safe to say that frustration and anxiety are the highest they've been for years.

Waterhouse points to the increasing liberalisation of work, where the only choices for young people are low-skilled, low-paid temporary work.

"Much of this work is dished out by job agencies which, rather than being the exception, has become the rule for young people."

Officially classed as "temporary contractors," the agencies take a cut of the wage for providing the "service" of finding employment for the worker with the added proviso of being able to terminate employment at one hour's notice.

At 21, Waterhouse is no stranger to this world of temporary and insecure employment.

Currently waiting on his undergraduate degree score, we are interrupted by his agency calling to cancel his shift the next day.

How do you deal with that, I ask him.

Waterhouse gives a characteristic communist response.

"You have to deal with the reality but also analyse the situation. Then you will then be one step closer to changing the situation."

Waterhouse insists that the cuts have exacerbated things for young people and the government "should be investing in real apprenticeships and sustainable jobs," which would have the knock-on effect of creating more job security.

"Precarious and insecure work creates problems for organising in those workplaces.

"People working there get the perception that it is just a temporary job - a means to an end. In that environment it is difficult to organise young people in trade unions.

"This leads to feelings of inadequacy and the feeling of being isolated."

Structural changes concerning young people have not just been limited to waged labour.

The comprehensive education system is being eroded with the introduction of "free schools" and with the Con-Dem government extending the use of academies.

Liberal commentators have noted the undemocratic nature of the schools, with private businesses able to run them and set the curriculum, raising fears that business models could dominate the education system.

But, for Waterhouse, the consequences are much more serious.

"Free schools and academies will entrench class divisions in the same way as raising tuition fees at university," creating effectively a two-tier system.

Several single-issue campaigns have arisen around attacks on state education and cuts in public services, with parents, students and unions starting to become mobilised in localised protests.

And they have had some success. Recently Whittington Hospital in north London, which had been due to be closed, was saved following a well-organised local campaign involving in large part the local community.

Although acknowledging that these campaigns have successfully engaged working-class communities, Waterhouse believes that they are only a starting point.

"Communists have always been part of broad coalitions. But it is our role to link the issues together and ultimately assert ourselves more effectively," he says.

One of the issues that Waterhouse insists has been underplayed and largely ignored by the labour and trade union movement is the role of the European Union in the economic and social affairs of Britain.

At the recent Rail, Maritime and Transport trade union conference, delegates pointed out that rail nationalisation could not happen due to EU directives.

With the Viking and Laval judgements from the European Court of Justice - prioritising free movement of goods over the right to strike - still fresh in the memory of thousands of trade unionists, Waterhouse highlights how the Young Communist League (YCL) is setting out to expose the "neoliberal EU agenda."

"We are planning to hold simultaneous demonstrations against cuts and the EU to reveal the role of the EU.

"Who in the rest of Britain is really identifying the EU as the source of the cuts - the main driving force behind the austerity measures?"

In Greece, where EU-led austerity measures have hit the working class hard, trade unions and the influential Greek Communist Party (KKE) have launched a series of strikes and protests aimed at curtailing the cuts.

On top of this, representatives of many former socialist states in eastern Europe have lobbied in the EU for communist symbols to be equated with the nazi swastika and banned.

Waterhouse is adamant that there is an "umbilical link" between the anti-communist campaigns and the cuts agenda being waged by the EU.

"The anti-communist measures have accelerated in recent years with the banning of the hammer and sickle in Poland and the banning of the Czech Young Communist league (KCM)."

The examples across Europe of organised resistance on a national scale give Waterhouse hope for the movement in Britain.

But the YCL is keen to point out that it is not the communist party or YCL's priority to form a communist government in the future.

"Our programme, the British Road to Socialism, seeks a progressive Labour government with the assistance of communist and other extra-parliamentary forces pushing it in that direction."

It is the extra-parliamentary element to the programme which the YCL is keen to develop. Waterhouse sees huge potential in the Youth Fight For Jobs, which has the support of nearly all unions.

But he adds a note of caution for progressive and left members of the Labour Party and Labour Representation Committee who seek to "reclaim the Labour Party."

"The trouble with the word 'reclaim' is that just working internally is not enough.

"To be successful it is about going out into the labour movement and, if the arguments are won there, then the Labour Party will follow suit."

Despite the mammoth task facing the working-class movement, Waterhouse remains optimistic, even given the scale of the onslaught being unleashed by the Con-Dem government.

"I don't think Cameron's agenda will be seen in the same light as Thatcher's in the '80s.

"Rather than being perceived as being dynamic in some quarters as Thatcher was, it will be perceived as destructive by the majority of working-class people.

"Most young people have been brought up in the shadow of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"The absurd statements that the collapse marked the end of history helped sow seeds of apathy in young people and feelings that Marxism was outdated.

"But Marxism is even more relevant today and young people are showing all over Britain that they are in favour of collective action."

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

YCL makes it's presence felt at Tolpuddle 2010



This year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs festival was the biggest and brightest in a generation. Members of the YCL got stuck into a weekend of activity. We sold hundreds of Morning Stars and gave away over a thousand free copies of a re-launched Country Standard-the radical agricultural workers magazine-to inspire rural socialism. As well as the usual music acts, debates, food and drink, this year’s event included a radical history school and, due to the increased number of visitors, an overspill car park.


The festival commemorates 6 agricultural labourers who, in 1832, were arrested and transported to Australia for forming a trade union. George Loveless, James Loveless, James Hammett, James Brine, Thomas Standfield and John Standfield were taken away from their families for swearing an oath under the villages sycamore tree to establish a ‘friendly society’ in which they would stand together to protect each other.

There are not many festivals in Britain where the tents fly Cuban, Palestinian and Hammer and Sickle flags. Tolpuddle is unique in many ways, but the increase in visitors year after year indicates that a new generation is warming to the values of trade unionism, solidarity and socialism.



In a phenomena widely interpreted by festival goers to be divine intervention it rained for week before the start of the event and, by the looks of it, will rain for a week after the event. Yet it failed to pour down the entire weekend. In fact, the weather was so good during the festival that a few YCLers even managed to get sun burnt.

Festival organisers and visitors commented on how inspiring it was to see so many dedicated young people, however, this did not stop YCLers from enjoying a tasty lunch prepared by the general secretary’s dear mother, pints of local cider and the best ska, rocksteady, folk, African and ‘srumpy and western’ music.



Echoing George Loveless’s immortal words “We raise the watchword, liberty We will, we will, we will be free!” a large contingent from the Prison officers association took part in a ‘freedom hike’ from Dorchester prison to Tolpuddle to highlight their lack of rights. Whether from domestic court rulings or from EU legislation the right to form a union and go on strike is under attack.

The Sunday march was the biggest seen in years. The banners representing trade unions, labour and communist party branches as well as solidarity and other organisations were accompanied by several brass and pipe bands and thousands of marches. The rally included the twin figures of Tolpuddle, Billy Bragg and Tony Benn, although the former was heckled by the crowd for his endorsement of the Liberal Democrats.





There was a defiant mood throughout the entire festival, visitors gathered to debate how we should fight the cuts and to send a message to the Con-Dem government that we will fight these austerity measures.

Almost two hundred years ago, the working class mobilised in hundreds of thousands to free the Tolpuddle Martyrs and after a huge campaign the martyrs were released. The story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs demonstrates how effective the labour movement can be when it is united.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Come to Tolpuddle!




Out of all the Labour movement festivals in Britain, Tolpuddle Martyrs has got to be the best. Although all are fine, particularly Durham Miners' Gala which takes place this saturday, Tolpuddle is held dear by many trade union activists.


This year thousands of visiters from all over the country will come to Dorset for the event which takes place on the weekend of 16th to 18th of July. There will be the usual favourites such as the sunday march of trade union and progresive banners,the music of Billy Bragg and the rousing speech of Tony Benn.

For fans of Folk music Eliza Carthy and Chris Woods will be playing over the weekend. There will be a radical history school, a POA sponsored walk to Dorchester to the court that sentenced the martyrs, as well as kid's activities, debates and of course some lovely local cider.

The Communist Party are looking to expand it's presence which has been fairly huge over the past few years, swelled by activists from Bristol, North Devon, South Devon, Dorset and Somerset branches.



The radical Country Standard will be re-launched at the event, a publication that might be recalled by older agricultural workers at Tolpuddle. The Morning Star and Young Communist League are also set to have a bigger impact at this year's festival.

I look forward to Tolpuddle every year and I have been coming ever since I was young, when me and my brother were disapointed, as our parents had described it as a 'labour rally', not to see any car races.

Tolpuddle is not to be missed. When a Con-Dem government seeks to carry out an assault against the working class unity of the entire movement is paramount. The biggest possible turnout at Tolpuddle would send a message to number ten that we are still here, we are re-gaining strength and we are not going to go down without a fight.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Britain's young communists challenge ban!




Members of the Young Communist League (YCL) held a successful demonstration outside of the Polish Embassy yesterday. Britain’s young communists challenged the implementation of a ban on communist symbols in Poland. The YCL were joined by members of the British branch of the Communist youth of Greece (KNE) and members of National union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) executive. The demonstration also received the support of the British branch of the Young Communists (Giovani Comuniste e Comunisti), youth section of the Communist Refoundation Party (Partito della Rifondazione Comunista)

Monday, 7 June 2010

Making outlaws out of heros


(From tomorrow's Morning Star)

Last month US, French and British troops marched across Moscow's Red Square in a Victory Day parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of fascism in Europe.

The event was a tribute to the 28 million Soviet citizens who gave their lives in the global fight against the tyranny of fascism.

Yet elements within the European Union are currently embarking on an anti-communist crusade that seeks to equate communism with nazi fascism, as part of a much wider offensive against any opposition to the neoliberal agenda.

This gross distortion of history has at its heart a revisionism that attacks the role of communists and socialists while, at the same time, downplaying the crimes of fascism.

Revisionist historians, most notably Niall Ferguson, have claimed that the "blame" for the second world war should be equally shared by the Soviet Union and nazi Germany. Ferguson has stated that Stalin was "as much an aggressor as Hitler." However, attempts to equate communism and fascism hint that the former was worse than the latter.

In history lessons in schools across Britain children are taught a module on the "great dictators" where they study Hitler, Stalin and Fidel Castro. Communism, we are taught, is worse than nazism because, according to figures attained by dubious and ahistorical methodology, it is "responsible" for the deaths of more people.

This outrageous claim has been supported by "historian" Orlando Figes who described the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact as "the licence for the Holocaust." This view of the second world war is complete nonsense. It is a disgraceful insult to the great sacrifices made by the Soviet people, partisans and ordinary people across Europe in pursuit of the defeat of fascism.

How can a conscious genocide carried out along racial lines by death camps be compared to communism?

For all its faults the Soviet Union built an egalitarian society that provided top-quality health, education, cultural activities and employment for all its citizens. The Soviet Union sought to end the violent racism and anti-semitism that traditionally plagued Russian society as well as to bring about the emancipation of women by introducing unparalleled childcare provision and enforcing equal pay.

The socialist camp provided crucial assistance to national liberation and anti-colonialist movements across the globe. The Soviet Union's contribution to this struggle has been recognised by Nelson Mandela among others.

On June 8 the Polish government will implement an amendment to the penal code criminalising the dissemination of "communist symbolism." Anyone who "produces, perpetuates, imports, stores, possesses, presents, carries or sends a printout, a recording or other object" carrying "communist or other totalitarian symbolism" would be punished with up to two years in prison.

Not only would this mean the banning of the international symbol of the communist movement - the hammer and sickle - but also the five-pointed red star, a symbol used by many socialists and social democrats across the world.

From the pronouncements made by government ministers and other right-wing politicians in Poland it is likely that the ban could also extend to other symbols and icons including pictures of Che Guevara and Lenin on T-shirts and posters.

This latest piece of anti-communist repression follows a wave of similar legislation across Europe. Bans on communist symbols have already been implemented in Hungary and Lithuania, while attempts and similar legislation have been pursued in Slovakia and many other countries in eastern Europe.

In 2006 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution that attempted to condemn communism as a "totalitarian" ideology. Speakers denounced the existence of "monuments, street names and other external symbols associated with the history of communism." The PACE resolution also called on all communist and post-communist parties of the Council of Europe member countries "to revise the history of communism and of their own history and unequivocally condemn them."

In 2007 the Czech government outlawed the Communist Youth Union because of its support for public ownership of the means of production. The Czech government has also attempted to outlaw its parent party the Communist Party of Bohemia & Moravia - a party with mass popular support that finished second in the 2004 European Parliament elections and continues to be an influential party in the Czech parliament.

In 2009 Moldovan anti-communists organised riots across the country after the Moldovan Communist Party won the election. In the Baltic republics anti-communism is being used in order to rehabilitate nazism. Veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS now parade through the streets of Riga and Estonian parliamentarians have honoured those who served the Third Reich as "fighters for independence."

Most shamefully, Nato and EU member Lithuania opened a war crimes investigation into four Jewish veterans of the country's partisans. Efraim Zuroff, the famous nazi hunter, has stated: "People need to wake up to what is going on. This attempt to create a false symmetry between communism and the nazi genocide is aimed at covering up these countries' participation in mass murder."

There are two elements to this anti-communist offensive by the European Union.

The first and most predominant element is an attempt to whitewash the crimes of capitalism and to silence opposition to the commitment of the European Union to capitalism and imperialism.

It is no accident that this upswing in the rising tide of anti-communism comes at a time when millions of people across Europe are being mobilised in opposition to the swingeing cuts being pursued by the neoliberalist EU to fund the bailout of the banks and financial institutions.

Communists across Europe have assumed a prominent role in this struggle against an intensification of competition, the surge in privatisation, and the ripping up of trade unionist's rights. Those labour movement battles that have seen most success contain a cohort of communists at their heart.

The great anti-communist crusade is inseparable from the European Union's enforcement of austerity measures across the continent. The campaign to outlaw communism also runs hand in hand with the expansion of Nato into eastern Europe. Along with the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq imperialism is conducting repression on a massive scale in the name of "democracy" and "freedom."

This historical revisionism is being used by a rising tide of fascists to justify attacks on immigrants, socialists and communists. Ultimately, these measures act as a catalyst for the full rehabilitation of nazism.

This disgraceful censorship contradicts the "democratic ideals" professed by the European Union.

It is incumbent on all communists, socialists and progressives to oppose this latest move in the anti-communist offensive.

There will be a protest outside the Polish embassy, 47 Portland Place, London W1B 1JH, on Tuesday at 6pm against the proposed ban and we invite all Morning Star readers and supporters to join us.

George Waterhouse is General Secretary of the Young Communist League.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Silence greets Israel's murderous pirates

The massacre of solidarity activists of the Free Gaza flotilla by Israeli armed forces in international waters was a cowardly attack that further demonstrates Israel's arrogant contempt for the rule of law.


The flotilla carried aid in the form of school and medical supplies that are desperately needed in blockaded Gaza. Hundreds of activists from around the globe were present including Holocaust survivors.

This blatent example of piracy is simplely the latest in a serious of crimes committed by Israel. Last year over 1,400 Palestinians were murdered when Israeli forces commenced a full scale invasion of Gaza. Eariler this year Israel carried out the assassination of Hamas representative Mahmoud Mahboub in Dubai.

How long can Israel carry on like this?

For too long western governments have suported the genocidal state of Israel, while calls for inquiries are made when these events occur, nothing is fundalmentally changed.

Demands must be made for economic, cultural and military boycotts of Israel just as there were of apartheid South Africa.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Demonstrate against repression in Poland!





The Young Communist League is holding a demonstration outside of the Polish Embassy at 6 PM on June the 8th. Anyone wishing to participate please assemble at 17.30 outside the British library main entrance.

The government of Poland will implement an amendment to the penal code criminalizing the dissemination of “communist symbolism.” Anyone who “produces, perpetuates, or imports, stores, possesses, presents, carries or sends a printout, a recording or other object” carrying “fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbolism” for other than “artistic” or “research” purposes can be punished with two years in prison.

This latest piece of anti-communist repression follows a wave of similar legislation across Europe. Bans on communist symbols have already taken place in Hungary and Lithuania, with steps being taken in other countries.In 2007, the Czech government outlawed the Communist Youth Union because it called for social ownership of the means of production. Attempts have also been made to outlaw the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. A party which is the third-largest parliamentary party in the Czech Republic and came second in the 2004 European Parliament elections.

This outrageous censorship condradicts the “democratic ideals” professed by bourgeois liberalism. These moves are deeply connected to the effort to whitewash history and equate communism and fascism. The Young Communist League rejects this suppresion and attempts to rehabilitate nazism.

Britain's young communists declare:

History will not be rewritten!

The future cannot be banned!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

KKE shows the Peoples of Europe how to fight cuts




The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) have held a huge rally in Athens. (See video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSjwwf91rEg )
In a show of strength, tens of thousands of members and supporters of KKE packed into central Athens. Their message was simple, KKE demands that power in the country must rest with the people, not the monopolies. The austerity measures demanded by imperialism must be fought.


Aleka Papariga, General Secretary of the CC of KKE, stood in front of the huge crowd assembled at the Pedion Areos Square. She declared;


“The government is shamelessly lying when it claims that the measures will last for three or maximum four years. This system, which is rotten to the core, is not eternal. The people’s sacrifices will benefit the capitalists, the monopolies. And even if we assume that the Greek economy will soon exit from the cycle of the crisis and recover, things will be equally worse for the people."

She warned that the Social democratic PASOK government mirrors the dictatorship that KKE fought for so long. The government is rolling out the anti-communist propaganda and demanding that the people respect the constitution.

The capitalist courts have carried out their measures against the people's counterattack. Strikes by the All Workers Militant Front(PAME)have been declared ilegal.



The massive demonstration has barely registered with the Greek bourgeois media, but we must make sure that the KKE's heroic efforts to combat cuts are heard. Furthermore, we must echo the call of the KKE that capitalism holds no solutions. This crisis was not created by the people, yet capitalism offers only austerity measures. The only path out of capitalist crisis for the peoples of Europe is that of socialism.

Peoples of Europe, rise up!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Not all that bad...

With on going negotiations currently being held between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, have no idea what form of government we will get.

The results were not as bad as were expected. Despite some quite unnerving losses, Labour were not completely annihilated like some were wishfully prophesying. The Conservatives, who have had this election presented to them on a plate, did relatively badly. Like in 1979, there was a swing to Labour in Scotland and in many traditional heartland areas there was evidence of an increased Labour vote. The British working class are terrified at the prospect of a Tory administration.

It is nothing short of remarkable that the tories, who held huge leads in the polls until very recently have not gained an absolute majority.

There were some low points, although Salma Yaqoob received a very respectable vote, she unfortunately did not win her seat. And it was certainly a process of self flagellation to witness all the Tory gains, however, it was hard to pity the useless New Labour M.P.s who lost their seats. The BNP did not make any breakthroughs, and thanks to anti-facist campaigning they came nowhere near.

A high(er) turnout traditionally is good for the Labour vote and if we look at the local election results we can see that Labour have elected over 400 new local councillors and have gained overall control of 14 councils, while the tories, liberals and BNP are down.

So what about the options for government. It looks increasingly unlikely that a administration will be build around the Labour party, only if the Liberals and nationalists play ball. A Liberal-Tory alliance would mean a loss in popular support for the Liberals, perhaps even in members and M.P.s. However, it might bring us PR, civil liberties and prevent the Tories from implementing the most savage policies. A minority Tory government would be very weak, if it attempted to bring in unpopular measures it would certainly fall and we might have another election later this year.

While the Communist party's election results were disappointingly low, I do not think anyone was expecting a Communist landslide, there was one local result that was particularly good.

The national results were as follows:

Leicester East: - Atvar Sadiq 494 votes (1%)
Carlisle: - John Metcalfe 376 (0.9%)
Cardiff South and Penarth: - Robert Griffiths 196 votes (0.4%)
Glasgow North West: - Marc Livingstone 179 votes (0.5%)
Newcastle East: - Martin Levy 177 votes (0.5%)
Croydon North: - Ben Stevenson 160 votes (0.3%)
Sheffield South East: - Steve Andrew 139 votes (0.3%)
North Devon: - Gerry Sables 96 votes (0.2%)

However, in the mayoral elections for Hackney Monty Goldman received 2,033 votes. Which is a fantastic result.

While a government build around the Labour party would be best, we will still have to fight the cuts of any government. The labour movement must rally round to fight to defend our public services and campaign to withdraw the troops from Afganistan.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Happy May Day!


On international workers’ day it is important for all young people to be aware, both of their rights and the past struggles that were waged to achieve them. While an increase in voter registration for under 25 year olds is to be welcomed, it is largely attributed to the ‘Clegg-factor’. However, on the same televised debate that produced a boost in the polls for the liberal democrats, a question was asked concerning burglaries. The response from all three leaders focused on problems associated with the youth. This not only underlines the perception of young people today, it also indicates that future austerity measures will constitute an attack on Britain’s youth.

Read the Communist Party of Greece's rousing May Day message here;

http://inter.kke.gr/News/2010news/2010-05-1may

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Rally Round the Flag!




I am filled with optimism after spending much of the day campaigning for Labour. It seems that the vast majority of people do not care about Brown's biggot comment and many are intending to vote Labour.

If labour manages to pull off a victory, it would go down as a fitting end to a bizzare election. With the Lib Dem's refusal to support Labour if they come thrid in the popular vote, there is a huge need to get the Labour vote out.

I cannot imagine what damage a Tory government/Tory-led coaltion would do to the country. It would be back to the depression of the 1980s for Northern towns like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and all inner cities in England. Both Scotland and Wales would be subjected to the same policies they were forced to endure during the 1980s, with the same resentment that a tiny minority of their respective populations actually voted Tory.

It is clear that a Labour victory would avoid the brutality of the Tories immediate, savage cuts. Labour proposes to pospone cuts and protect essential services. Labour has forced (or been forced by being abandoned by British capital) a division between it and the Tories. With the likes of Geoff Hoon...etc completely discredited, the right face severe internal opposition what ever the outcome of the election.

Progressives of all shades need to rally around the flag, and help Labour win a fourth term.However, we cannot make apologies for certain policies of the New Labour government. The BNP thrive of the abandonment of the working class by New Labour, we cannot defend the destruction of the manufacturing sector, the inadequate funding of council housing, not to mention the wars in Afganistan and Iraq. That is why the hard right of the Labour party need to be opposed, both politically and electorally. This means supporting candidates from outside the Labour party.

Let's examine the options;





First, the Communist Party.The Communist Party is running one of the highest profile campaigns that it has run in years. You only need to look at the masses of materials on the website and articles concerning hustings, press attention and local campaigning. Let's look at the candidates;

Marc Livingstone is standing for Glasgow North West. He is a member of UNISON and was until recently the Scottish organiser of the Young Communist League and is active in SCND and Cuba Solidarity Campaign, having visited Cuba as part of a work brigade a few years ago, and witnessed the achievements of the revolution. He also plays a key role in public work for the party, selling the Morning Star on the streets of Glasgow. In his spare time, he performs as part of a Hip Hop group called the Stupid Idiots. He also has an honours degree in History from the University of Glasgow. Further information can be found on both the Communist Party's national website and the website of the Scottish committee.

Martin Levy is standing for Newcastle East. Martin is Mr Levy works at Northumbria University as a Chemistry Lecturer and is president of Newcastle TUC. His campaign has been taking off and was the subject of a recent article in the Economist. You can find out more about the campaign, including video clips and contact details at the website of the Northern district of the Communist party.

Steve Andrew is standing for Sheffield South East. It is the first electoral battle the Communist party has fought in the city for over 30 years. Steve is a Librarian and his campaign has been covered by an article on the BBC's news website.

Ben Stevenson is former General Secretary of the Young Communist League and is standing for Croydon North. Ben is a Croydon TUC executive member and is the Youth & Student Organiser and National Secretary of the Communist Party.

Robert Griffiths, General Secretary of the Communist Party, is standing in Cardiff South & Penarth. Rob's campaign has taken off with several lively hustings meetings, organised by the Communist Party locally, and even a spot on the BBC's Daily Politics show. More information on and ways you can get involved in the campaign can be found at the website of the Welsh Committee of the Communist Party.


Finally, in what on the surface appears to be a strange constituency for the Communist party to be standing in, Gerry Sables is seeking election for North Devon. Gerry is a local author and designer and has been throwing himself into a campaign that covers a wide rural area. Check out the Communist party website for more information and for Gerry's explanation of the issues that made him stand for North Devon, chiefly rural poverty, lack of transport, housing and decent education.

As well as a whole host of local candidates, including Monty Goldman for Mayor of Hackney, who Bob Crow has recently pleadged to spend election day campaigning for, the Communist Party is also standing in alliance with members of overseas communist parties who are domiciled in Britain in Unity for Peace and Socialism (UFPS). Avtar Sadiq is standing for Leicester East. UFPS has previously polled hundreds of votes in several local election contests. You can read more about the campaign in Avtar's recent article for the Morning Star;

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/89524

Communist Party member and former Councilllor and Mayor, John Medclafe is standing for Carlisle as the Carlisle Socialist and Trade Union candidate. John is an ASLEF workplace rep can has been creating a storm up in Cumbria. You can find out more about his campaign at http://carlislesocialist.org/

Other candidates worthy of support include the unstoppable Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham.

The outcome of this election will decide what kind of society we will live in for years to come. While a Labour victory would shrink the scale of devestation the country will suffer, it still would ensure unacceptable cuts in public spending. Which ever government is elected, these cuts will need to be fought. That will mean providing soliarity accross the entire labour movement for striking workers and building up the biggest possible campaign around the People's Charter. The Fat Cats must pay for their crisis. There is a viable alternative to public sector cuts, we can and must tax the greed of the capitalists and abandon our cold-war era, 'independent', Nuclear weapons programme.


We have much work to do.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Happy St George's Day


I know it is a day late, but I was busy celebrating St George's day yesterday.

There are some on the left who like to engage with the crazy posture politics of not supporting England in the World Cup and rejecting anything to do with the country.

I have no time for such childishness. Billy Bragg outlined in 'Progressive Patriot' that we can be socialist and love our country. In fact, one of the reasons that some are turning to fascism is due to the fact that left-wingers are seen to hate our country.

We love our country not for the Queen or the empire, but for it's people and it's countryside, it's history and it's culture. I leave you the lyrics of what should be England's national anthem, 'Jerusalem' by William Blake;

" And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land"

For England and Saint George!

27th April

Vote now for Jerusalem to be our song at the Commonwealth games at https://survey.yougov.com/vTFYGZJhkV3q6Z

It would be another step towards adopting it as our national anthem.

Enjoy; ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKaJ4b0XYmI

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Those CAPITALIST courts


As it if wasn't bad enough that the courts are being used to take away British worker's right to strike, the story I just read on socialist unity is out of this world(http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=5540). The story reads that the judge who imposed a court injunction against the RMT that prevented strike action at Network Rail is closely related to a big gun at Goldman Sachs that raise a huge amount of money for Network Rail.

Mrs Justice Sharp's brother, Richard Sharp very recently ran Goldman Sachs’ European private equity fund. Goldman Sachs is a principle dealer for Network Rail’s 34 billion Debt Issuance Programme. She is also a massive Tory and associate of Boris Johnson.

So RMT make a few mistakes with the details of thousands of individuals who move around/get sacked/get promoted/leave for another job and they were overruled by one woman who is very clearly bias against the strike action.

This together with allegations that Mrs Justice Cox, the judge who outlawed the overwhelmingly popular decision of BA workers to strike last year, was to fly with BA leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Whether these allegations are true or not, this provides us with a very good insight into freedom under capitalism. As Lenin wrote in State and Revolution;

"In capitalist society, providing it develops under the most favourable conditions, we have a more or less complete democracy in the democratic republic. But this democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently always remains, in effect, a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners. Owing to the conditions of capitalist exploitation, the modern wage slaves are so crushed by want and poverty that "they cannot be bothered with democracy", "cannot be bothered with politics"; in the ordinary, peaceful course of events, the majority of the population is debarred from participation in public and political life. . . ."

The feeling that everything is fixed breeds apathy, especially when we are presented with allegations as terrible as this. But we cannot allow this apathy to set in. It is just what the capitalists want, it is exactly the conditions that allow fascists to recieve support for their filth.

Only mass campaigning can reverse this crazed set of affairs. Now is the time to step up activity in your trades council and union branches. Come along to the Defending The Welfare State and Public Services demonstration (http://www.10410demo.co.uk/)this saturday.

All Communist party members and supporters are urged to get along to this demonstration and help us get our voices heard, help us sell the Morning Star and give a message to Tories, Liberals and New Labour that we are not prepared to face their onslaught sitting down.

The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Communists to take over the country

An article in the Daily Mail yesterday outlined how the evil Communist party in Britain is to take over the Labour Party and is behind all the strikes in the country. Read the reds-under-the-bed story here: (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1260178/Unite-militants-BA-strike-plot-control-Labour.html)

The Communist party's response was:

"It should come as no surprise that the Communist Party fully supports BA cabin crew and their union Unite in the battle to defend pay and working conditions against a vicious management. Nor is it a shock that the anti-trade union, anti-working class Daily Mail is launching a series of hysterical attacks against workers who have voted democratically and overwhelmingly to take action. Like other socialists, the Communist Party has never made any secret of its wish to see the labour movement take back control of the Labour Party from the New Labour faction and its policies of privatisation and imperialist war."

Is all publicity good?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Tax the rich? no tax the mums!


Rightwing thinktank reform has released some helpful kindlines for us to reduce the country's deficit. Fair enough we are in debt, so I assume we will have to raise taxes, especially on the rich to reduce this deficit. Not according to Reform!

Reform note that "given the weakness of the economy and the need to encourage growth, the tax rises should be levied in the least economically damaging way possible". Confused by what this means? I sure am.

Reform state that "unfortunately all three major parties are committed to the most economically damaging tax rises". Eh?

Surely we have to raise taxes if we want more money to pay off our debts?

Well according to Reform this concept it completely wrong. You see these tax rises, that effect the very people who created this mess, is "already forcing major companies to consider leaving the UK and dissuading talented people from moving to and investing in the UK." Reform argue that "the balance of fairness has tilted too far against a small group of wealth generators."

So they won't pay and want to leave the country? well fair enough, I'll drive them to the airport myself. If they do not feel particularly strongly about the country where they get their profits and they have no will to reduce the debt that will effect all their employees, then to be perfectly frank they should leave.

So if they want lower taxes for big bussiness, how do they intend to solve the problem? Well it is very simple, according to Reform, this crisis created by the rich can only be overcome by reducing taxes on the rich and making the rest of us pay for it.

They declared that "The UK is one of only four EU countries to apply a zero rate to food and one of only three to apply a zero or reduced rate to children’s clothes". I love how they word this, as if it is a terrible thing to keep the prices of essential goods down, especially as these are needed by struggling people.

Despite this crisis created by the rich and the public's anger at bankers, right-wing ideologues such as Reform feel that they can pump out their vile neo-liberal propaganda. They have got some nerve.

We cannot let these creature get away with such balant defence of the rich. Why is the current political agenda based around the cost we are going to have to pay? Because we have not got out there and demanded that the rich pay for their crisis.

We need to stop this ruling class offensive. We can do that in two pays, first we need to understand it. Get a copy of this and read it(http://communist-party.org.uk/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=195&category_id=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=66)

Secondly, we need to get the message out there. We can do that with posters such as this one (http://communist-party.org.uk/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=96&category_id=16&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=66)Set up a local People's Charter group, organise a meeting, talk to your workmates, the other parents at the school gates, your family.

For further inspiration, check out how our comrades from Greece are fighting the ruling class offensive in their country (http://inter.kke.gr/).

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Michael Foot: 1913-2010


I was sad to hear about the death of such a great, West Country socialist.

As with many socialists of his era, Michael Foot started off from liberal, non-conformist roots. Born in Plymouth in 1913, he went to Oxford University and got his first job in Liverpool. The unemployment and poverty of 1930's Liverpool certainly influenced his conversion to socialist politics.

He stood unsuccessfully for Labour in Monmouth in the 1935 general election. Foot become and journalist and continued this throughout the war, as he failed to medical to join the armed services.

Foot was elected for the first time in Plymouth Devonport at the 1945 Labour landslide election. he was associated with the Keep Left pamphlet, that advocated an independent foreign policy instead of a subservient relationship with the USA. He was very much on the Bevanite wing of the party, until he fell out with the old warhorse when Bevan rejected Nuclear disarmament. Michael Foot was a founder member of CND and abided by this moral outlook for his entire life. Fittingly Michael Foot was re-elected to Parliament at a 1960 by-election for Bevan's old Ebbw Vale constituency when he died.

Foot found Gaitskell's leadership to be inadequate and he had the Labour whip withdrawn in 1961, only to be returned two years later when Harold Wilson took over. He refused to become a prominent figure in Wilson's government, prefering to remain on the backbenches and to maintain a socialist attitude to Britain's membership of the Common Market. he unsuccessfully stood for Labour's deputy leadership in 1972, but when Labour was returned to power in 1974 he became Secretary of State for Employment. He through himself into the 'no' campaign in during the 1975 referendum on the EEC and became the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party the following year after losing out on the leadership to James Callaghan.

Michael Foot became leader of the Labour party in 1980 at the age of 67 a year after Thatcher was elected. He played a fantastic role in attempting to keep the left and right of Labour party together, but this didn't stop the treachery of the 'gang of four' who left to form the SDP. Despite Thatcher's huge unpopularity, she was re-elected in 1983. Although the Falklands did help Thatcher win, the traitors of the SDP certainly helped the country to suffer her wrath for another 7 years. Foot's eccentricity was what made him who he was. He prefered principles to the soundbites that vacuous, media-savy M.Ps produce today. This eccentricity was firmly displayed when he wore the 'donkey-jacket' on Remembrance Day in 1982. While our moronic right-wing press tore into him for this, the Queen Mother complimented him on it, you can judge for yourself, as it is now on display in the People's History Museum.

Michael Foot will always be remembered for Labour's 1983 defeat, but the 'longest suicide note in history' promised peace and socialism. It's policies for the banks and finance sector certainly don't look so silly now! While those on the right of the Labour movement have used this as a stick to beat the left and to justify the Labour party's tranformation into a party of inequality, imperialist war and big business. What the apologists for New Labour do not understand is that the idea of the abandonment of socialist policies in order to get elected did not start with New Labour, but with the 'gang of four'. If the SDP did not break away from Labour, Thatcher could have lost the 1983 election.

Instead of sticking to our guns, the New Labour team proposed that we do exactly what the SDP did. We have seen that New Labour was no triumph for electoral tactics to beat the tories, it represents a complete and utter capitulation to Thatcherism. While Michael Foot's personal leadership was seen to have lost the 1983 election, I think that he is exactly the sort of leader that Post-Blair Britain is crying out for. We are sick of the polished spin that spills from the mouths of those self-serving Tory-LibDem-New Labour creatures. In his book Debts Of Honour, Michael Foot wrote that "Men of power have not time to read; yet men who do not read are unfit for power." Today we need men and women who read, who have principles, who do not conform to the corrupt standard of poltician.

Although you might be forgiven for thinking of a certain not the nine o'clock news sketch(At 4 minutes 34 seconds on this clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy0Ax9CVvzo)the universal expressions of sorrow for Michael Foot from all political perspectives are genuine. He was a great parliamentarian, a witty speaker and an all round good bloke. For instance, he was a prominent republican, but well liked by the Royal family. He was everything Thatcherism is not, yet he was respected by Mrs T herself. He was a loved man and deserved his 90th birthday present, when, becoming the oldest footballer on the planet, he was registered with the Football League as an honorary player (number 90!) for Plymouth Argyle.

I do not think I am exaggerating when I say he was the best Prime Minister Britain never had. As he declared at a Morning Star rally in 1980, "In my opinion, Marxism is a great creed of human liberation. It is the creed which says that when all other empires fade and vanish, our business is to enlarge the empire of the human mind." I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cameron might actually lose, happy days

Tomorrow's Morning Star front page is entitled 'Tories on the run as polls lead crumbles' (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/
87395). Isn't about bloody time.

With this Ashcroft business it is really looking like Cameron's hopes of a Tory landslide victory are crumbling. Cameron's latest rants concerning his apparent 'patriotic duty' to get Brown out of number 10 look pathetic.

The next general election will be one of the most interesting that Britain has seen for years, with televised debates for the party leaders and the possibility of a party being elected into government on the basis of 'savage cuts' for the first time in history.

If Brown does manage to pull it off and beat the Tories, despite all the bad press about the current government, the question begs could the tories ever win outright ever again? They have literally been handed this election on a plate, yet it looks as though they are going to have a hard fight ahead of them if they are to win.

If candidates such as Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham Hall Green, Dave Nellist in Coventry North East and John Metcalfe in Carlisle receive a large number of votes all the better. It is going to be interesting to see how Ricky Tomlinson does in Liverpool Wavertree against a parachuted in New Labour Londoner.

If Communist Party of Britain and Unity for Peace and Socialism candidates manage to attract a respectble vote then this election will be even more interesting.

At the end of the say, while it is amusing that the Tories are having it bad at the moment, it is not clear what the result will be. While a Labour government would certainly continue the ruling class offensive in cuts as well as the war in Afganistan, the prospect of a Tory government seems to be sobering people's minds.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Merrie England?

Liz Davies's article in the Morning Star today(available at http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/87003) discussed the special relationship between Britain and the USA and demonstrated what the Binyam Mohammed case tells us about this relationship.

David Miliband's 'insistence that only the US could decide what information is and is not revealed' is disturbing to say the least. Not only is it sick that our government feels that torture can be justified, but the willing of the British government to bend over backwards for the USA and, at the drop of a hat, put the interests of the USA first says much about our government's respect for its own citizens. Forget that a British Citizen was kidnapped, flown half way across the world and tortured, the USA's national security is at stake here people!

It is a terrifying thought that our government would put the interests of another country above those of its own citizens. Yet this precedent appears to have been set.
A Hamas official is assassinated in Dubai, the killers used fake British passports. The Dubai authorities (and lets be honest the entire planet) say they are 99 per cent sure it was Israeli agents. Given Mossad's record of carrying out audacious assassinations around the globe, especially given that in 1997 a Mossad assassination team were discovered to have used false Canadian passports in an attempt on the life of another Hamas official.

Now did the British government issue a fiery statement condemning the assassination, the use of fake British passports and demand answers from the main suspects? no. In fact, the British government has quietly given a kind invitation to Israel to dicuss the matter. As the front-page in the Morning Star pointed out this morning, 'The "invitation" was in stark contrast to the treatment of the Iranian ambassador recently, who was summoned to account for his country's actions and publicly hauled over the coals'. But hey, this is politics in the Middle East, Israel is infallible.

I feel that the public's perception of this complete lack of any national sovereignty is only benefiting the far-right. There are real fears that Britain is just not standing up for itself on a national stage, and in the context of Argentina refusing to back down over it's plans for shipping arond the Falklands, the government could pursue a 'Thatcher moment' to restore national pride. This would of course be a complete disaster, but it could be a solution that our government will take. Just like Thatcher, it doesn't matter if you whore itself out to US imperialism and demonstrate a willingness to sell off our industry to the highest paying bidder, you just need a little war.

Instead of idiotic postures about not supporting England in the World Cup, the left needs to project an alternative nationalism, a progressive nationalism. I recently visited the newly re-opened People's History Museum in Manchester. It is a fantastic place(http://www.phm.org.uk/), and the material it covers provides us with the tools we need to place our radicalism in the politics of our indigenous labour movement. The museum covers everything from the the Chartists and the Peterloo massacre, to the early trade unions, friendly societies and the campaign to bring home the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Right up to the General Strike, the Spanish Civil war, the foundation of the NHS and the Miner's Strike. The People's History Museum looks at the main events and movements within the history of our labour movement and asks the visiter to spot the themes brought up by figures from Tom Paine to Tom Mann and to Tony Benn.

Peace, justice and equality are not alien concepts, despite what the enemies of reason may say, progressive politics are what made and what can make our country great. And we have a rich history to draw examples of this. The left needs to present the British electorate with a progressive patriotism, that will reject imperialism and refuse to take part in it's wars. Only popular sovereignty can stand in the face of global neo-liberalism and protect our industry and our public services. We have a vision of Merrie England and its green and pleasant land, we must get our vision out to the people and not allow the right, who have sold this country down the drain, to push nationalism.

In a speech to a Chartist meeting in Manchester, that is one of the finest parts of the People's History Museum, Ernest Jones stated:

"MR. CHAIRMAN, and men of Manchester! From 18,000 pulpits 18,000 parsons are this day preaching the gospel of the rich. I stand here to preach the gospel of the poor. Surrounded by the Temples of Mammon, I stand here to preach the democracy of Christ—for Christ was the first Chartist, and democracy is the gospel carried into practice. . . .

Some tell you that teetotalism will get you the Charter: The Charter don't lie at the bottom of a glass of water. Some tell you social co-operation will do it; co-operation is at the mercy of those who hold political power. Then, what will do it? Two years ago, and more, I went to prison for speaking three words. Those words were: "Organise—organise—organise." And now, after two years, and more, of incarceration, I come forward again to raise that talismanic watchword of salvation—and this day again I say: "Organise! Organise! Organise!" You cheer: it is well! but that is not enough! will you act? We've had cheering enough—I want action now!. . . ."

That was back in 1850, but the message is just as relevant to 2010. Cheering is not good enough, we need to organise, we need to act. Sign the People's Charter( http://www.thepeoplescharter.com/), find your local People's Charter group, if there is no local group, organise one!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Manchester Burns supper


Over 60 people packed into the Chorlton Irish Association Club, on Sunday 24th January, to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns. People of all ages sat down to anjoy a meal of haggis, tatties and neaps accompanied by a jot of whiskey, although many guests took advantage of the bar and bought themselves a pint of guinness, perhaps a more appropriate drink for the venue.

Lively performances of Burns's classics followed clearly demonstrating that many people had been rehearsing their pieces, even so several members of the audience got up and recalled their favourite Burns pieces off by heart. Many of those who got up on the stage talked a little about Burns, his political ideas and what he might have said about the situation today. In this way, together with a Communist party and Cuba Solidarity Campaign stalls, the radical politics of the event was maintained.



Music was provided by the fantastic Bourbon St Preachers(http://www.myspace.com/bourbonstreetpreachers), who even managed to inspire a spot of dancing. The event was very successful, proceeds from the raffe and donations raised over 400 hundred pounds for the Morning Star's fighting fund. Any radicals in manchester cannot miss next year's event, to come together and sing Burns's words:

For a' that an' a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Now that history appears to have absolved opposition to the war in Iraq; where is the same standard for the current war in Afghanistan?

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is to resume at the end of January, the biggest event will be the grilling of Tony Blair, which has proved to be so popular that the inquiry team is launching a ballot for members of the public wishing to attend. A statement from inquiry officials confirmed that a third of seats are being reserved for families of British soldiers who died in Iraq. Blair caused controversy by stating that he would have invaded Iraq whether Saddam had weapons of Mass destruction or not. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications director and chief spin-doctor, stated that Tony Blair wrote to President George W Bush in 2002, saying that "Britain would be there" to support Washington militarily in an attack on Iraq. Campbell defended the government's ‘dodgy’ dossier and denied that claims such as Iraq’s 45 minute weapons of mass destruction capability has been "sexed up". The questioning by the crème de la crème of Britain’s establishment will refer to classified government records; in the typical ‘war on terror’ spirit of transparency these will not be published.
Media coverage of the inquiry has been very critical of those who still defend the case for the invasion of Iraq. Reading the newspaper’s portrayal of opinions against the war being ‘common sense’, you could be forgiven for asking who in the press was actually in favour of the war. We need to refresh our memory and remind ourselves of how the mainstream media covered the invasion of Iraq. Looking back it is apparent that the press recorded the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in much the same way it is currently covering the war in Afghanistan.
Generally, the media’s performance could be seen to have legitimised the war by neglecting to question the, often dubious, arguments for the invasion. By and large, the more negative results of the war, such as the refugee crisis and general lawlessness, were underreported. Journalists were unable to detach themselves from military and government sources. Reports from journalists embedded within military units were problematic in this sense.
One criticism of media coverage of the Iraq war has been the coverage of life for civilians in Iraq. At a semantic level, civilian casualties were famously termed ‘collateral damage’. Much as torture was framed as ‘abuse’, and the term ‘foreign fighters’ was used solely to refer to resistance within Iraq and not the invading armies. The suffering of ordinary Iraqi civilians was downplayed by the media. A Lancet study into the number of Iraqi civilian deaths published in October 2004 produced shocking results. The catastrophic invasion resulted in a civilian death toll that outnumbered “the combined effects of Saddam Hussein and sanctions” due to both direct (as a result of combat) and indirect factors associated with lawlessness and lack of infrastructure. However, deaths of civilians remained largely ignored, it barely registered in media reports, and then generally only if it could be attributed to insurgents. The vast majority of footage of Iraqi civilians that made the headlines back in London, were enthusiastic responses that welcomed the occupation, they was little coverage of Iraqi’s voicing their opposition to the invasion. The media coverage of Operation Phantom Fury, that broke the siege of Fallujah in November 2004, provided an explicitly one-sided account. Beatings carried out on doctors and the attacks on ambulances by US forces were ignored. Newspaper’s explained that the offensive had shut down a major propaganda weapon for the militants, referring to Fallujah General Hospital. An objective account would have mentioned that US occupation forces refused to allow the Red Crescent access to Fallujah, or at least pointed out that attacking hospitals and using white phosphorous contravenes the Geneva Convention. However, it seems that the press rarely holds contravention of the Geneva Convention against Britain, the USA or its allies, in the same way that it does the enemies of imperialism. This practise most recently displayed during the Israeli invasion of Gaza, where atrocities committed by Israeli troops were justified by the handful of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. While negative aspects of the war, such as the story of torture at Abu Ghraib, were broke by the mainstream media, it soon disappeared and the continuation of the practise of torturing prisoners was barely mentioned.
The central two lies that were the main justification for invading Iraq was the completely unfounded claim that Saddam Husain was linked to Al-Qaeda and the presence in Iraq of weapons of mass destructions (WMDs). Television audiences were told that Saddam Husain not only had knowledge of the terrorist attacks in America on the 11th September 2001, but that he had directly participated in aiding the perpetrators of that atrocity. The fact that Saddam Husain was considered too secular by Al-Qaeda escaped most news reports. Readers of newspapers were informed that Iraq had chemical, biological and even a programme to construct nuclear weaponry. Leading news organisations placed such great emphasis upon these two claims in the face of available information to the contrary that The New York Times and the Washington Post, two prestigious newspapers, later issued apologies to their readers for “having gotten so caught up in the inner workings of power in an administration determined to go to war that they lost focus on other values and other views”. While the US press was certainly more ‘gung ho’ in its reporting of the invasion of Iraq, the British press remained overwhelming pro-war. While the Daily Mirror newspaper and BBC were very critical of the decision by the British government to join the war. Once the war started, anti-war reporting, representative of public opinion, proved to be short lived. British news networks reproduced, rather than questioned, claims about weapons of mass destruction. The anti-war movement also began to suffer after the outbreak of combat operations, as the media fell back to a ‘back the troops’ position, press attention declined, and became increasingly unsympathetic.
Theories of the media during war include Lance Bennett’s indexing hypothesis. Bennett outlined his contention that journalists simply allow foreign policy elites to draw up the agenda, and frame stories of international issues to suit their own conclusions. This is, in part, “a result of ‘transactional’ or ‘symbiotic’ relations between journalists and officials” Another communications scholar, Daniel, C. Hallin, analysed media coverage of the Vietnam War, in order to investigate the concept of the ‘Vietnam Effect’ that television footage of the conflict contributed to the conflict’s unpopularity. Hallin found that initially media coverage had been generally favourable towards the United States intervention, later, the media become more critical of aspects of the war, but never directed confronted whether the USA should have invaded Vietnam. Hallin stated that the media’s criticism of the employment of certain tactics were confined to the ‘sphere of legitimate controversy’ and merely reflected elite dissensus back in Washington. These theories certainly correspond somewhat with the media coverage of the war in Iraq, in that it rarely left the ‘sphere of legitimate controversy’. Journalists ventured procedural criticism, discussing tactical mistakes instead of questioning the whole basis of the war at a substantive level. Despite the ‘negative’ reports and images of carnage coming out of Iraq following the invasion, the relationship between the media and the government did not change. Essentially, the press indexed media coverage to elite debate that occurred in Washington, regurgitation replaced independent investigation and there was little objective questioning of the principal motivation behind the invasion. It was reported in much the same way that German press reported the battle of Stalingrad in the Nazi era. Criticism was limited to tactical choices, debate centred on what strategy we should adopt in the occupation of Iraq rather than whether we should have invaded Iraq in the first place.

New coverage of the Chilcot inquiry conveniently fails to acknowledge the manner in which the press covered the war in Iraq. Despite the negative picture being painted of the Iraq war, we cannot forget that similar reporting, is whitewashing the same levels of devastation created by the occupation of Afghanistan. Just as coverage of the Iraq invasion failed to report the negative aspects of the occupation, contemporary coverage of the occupation of Afghanistan ignores stories such as the heroin epidemic that has accompanied the dramatic rise in the production of opium since 2001.

Spirit of the Old Game; the growing resistance to corporate football


Football clubs existed as an extension of their local communities; they were formed by churches, pubs and other community organizations. Football was a working man’s game, producing charismatic figures such as Brian Clough and Bill Shankly, times it seems have changed.
Like much of Post-Thatcher British society, the soul of English football has been replaced by an obsessive worship of money. The commodification of football has turned the sport into entertainment, its fans into consumers. While the market has provided top quality standards to the English league, there has been a heavy price to pay. We are told that competition within capitalist society is healthy and creates winners, unfortunately it also creates losers. The role finance plays in the game has left many football clubs up to their necks in debt, top flight clubs such as Leeds United have hurtled down the leagues due to the sale of the clubs' assets key players.
Unleashing market forces upon the game, with sizable returns from TV contracts, merchandise and ticket prices, has resulting in colossal weekly wages for premiership footballers. Despite this, some individuals, nodding to their backgrounds, have attempted to do more with their wealth than buy fast cars, property portfolio’s and holiday homes in Dubai. For instance, Alex Ferguson, a former Clyde shipyards shop steward, has donated substantial sums of money to the labour party. Perhaps more impressively, Javier Zanetti, form Inter Milan captain, managed to persuade Inter Milan to donate thousands of Euros to the Zapatista guerillas in Mexico. Zanetti even talked his club into giving away the money from fines for late arrival or using mobile phones to help rebuild after the village of Zinacantán, after it got attacked by government forces. While individuals cannot change society on their own, they can be useful in mobilizing their communities. For instance, Diego Maradona’s admiration for Fidel Castro and declared anti-imperialist politics, derived from his experience of growing up in poverty, is useful in bringing progressive politics to the mass of Latin America.
Marx described the process whereby as the bourgeoisie develops the forces of production, it also develops the very force that will overthrow capitalism. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Well, in football terms, the more the directors develop boxes, business seats, and overpriced season tickets, the more it will create angry football fans, pissed off with the state of the contemporary game. The shared identity of football fans can result in organisation that campaign for progressive reform of the whole structure of the game.
There is a rich tradition of politics being mixed up with football, although the mixture of neo-Nazism and hooliganism is a particularly ugly side of it. In Britain, this manner of organisation of the far-right in football has been witnessed most recently with the association of UK Casuals United with the English Defense League. While groups such as Lazio's Irriducibili, and Real Madrid’s Ultras Sur are rooted within this fascist tradition, the far-right by no means have a monopoly over such organisations.
There is a wide range of ultra groups that adopt a leftist ideology that is represented by their chants and iconography. This stance reflects the traditional politics of the working class districts where the supporters live. The most famous example of leftist ultras is the special relationship between Livorno's Brigate Autonome Livornesi, Olympique de Marseilles Curva-Massilia and AEK Athens's Original 2. The political rhetoric displayed by these groups is often dismissed as posturing; however, some of these organisations do have an impact. NK Zagreb's Bijeli anđeli have challenged the violent fascism prevalent among Croatian football fans by opposed all forms of discrimination and adopting an anti-hooliganism stance.
Ultra groups, together with the vast majority of football fans, view what you could call the modern game with hostility. The price of tickets, drive toward all-seater stadiums and the buying and selling of players for ridiculous amounts of money are common grievances. This attitude towards the modern game represents the potential basis for the politicisation of football fans against commercialism both within football and in broader society. The opposition to the role that money plays in the modern game and the flagrant manner in which wealth is displayed has been on show in stadiums across the world. Banners stating "Contro Il Calcio Moderno" (Against modern football) in Italy or "Love Football, Hate Business" in Britain.
This increasing commercialisation of football has inspired more firm action in the rise of fan-owned clubs. SV Austria Salzburg fans re-established the team in response to the takeover of SV Austria Salzburg by the Red Bull company. The club was renamed Red Bull Salzburg and its traditional colours of violet and white were changed to red and white and its emblem incorporated two Red Bulls. In Britain this process has taken off. FC United of Manchester was formed in response to the hostile takeover of Manchester United by the American businessman Malcolm Glazer. FC United of Manchester is run democratically as an Industrial and provident society, the club accepts sponsorship but does not allow sponsors' logos to be displayed on the team's shirts. AFC Wimbledon was founded by supporters of Wimbledon Football Club in response to the relocation and renaming of the club. In 2003, the Football Association had agreed to allow Wimbledon F.C. to relocate 56 miles north to Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire. In 2004 the club was renamed Milton Keynes Dons Football Club. However, the Football Supporters Federation, an organization that campaigns for increased fan representation on clubs' boards and the reintroduction of safe standing areas, boycotted the new club. In response Milton Keynes Dons Football Club handed over the trophies and memorabilia of Wimbledon F.C. to the London Borough of Merton and ended its claim to the history of Wimbledon F.C. AFC Wimbledon is run by the Dons Trust, an Industrial and provident society, who have a majority share in the club.
“The socialism I believe in,” said the legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly, “is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life.”The strength of the man’s character lives on it seems, when confronted with new American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, a group of Liverpool FC fans formed a group called the spirit of Shankly. The group claims to be the country’s first ever football supporters union. One stated short term aim of the group is “to hold whoever owns the football club to account”, the ultimate aim being “the supporter ownership of Liverpool Football Club”. The group took a big part in the recent resignation of Tom Hicks Junior from the Board of Liverpool FC, after the son of one of the American owners abused a fan.
Back in the day, figures such as Brian Clough, who was also chairman of the Anti-Nazi League, appeared on miners' picket lines. Clough, a committed socialist, was approached by the Labour Party to stand as a Parliamentary candidate in General Elections, although he declined. By no means so characters like this no longer exist; I am sure that all progressive football fans would like to see more players like Cristiano Lucarelli, the communist striker for Livorno. Not only is his goal celebration a dual clenched-fist salute, but his ringtone is Bandiera Rossa. Antics, such as getting cautioned for pulling up his team shirt to display the face of Che Guevara, represent somewhat of the old spirit of the game. Lucarelli is a product of his upbringing in Italy’s red belt. His popularity with the crowd goes further than his playing ability, in Lucarelli’s words “We [Livorno] get no favors from the referees because we are Communists!”
The rise of fan’s organisations that campaign against the excesses of the modern game and advocate more say for fans in the running of the clubs that they love embodies a shift in attitudes. Fans are angry about the commodification of football. Progressive football fans need to engage with this sentiment to ensure that this criticism of the modern game continues to advocate cooperative solutions. There is nothing to stop this resentment over modern game from being transferred to opposition to capitalism. If money is ruining football and the remedy is fan-ownership of clubs, this must lead to the conclusion that greed is ruing our country and the only antidote is the democratic ownership of the economy.