Bernie Sanders and the Dilemma of the Democratic “Party”

February 13, 2016 at 4:26 pm (class, Democratic Party, elections, posted by JD, socialism, United States)

By Jason Schulman (first published at New Politics):

Some months ago I responded to a piece that appeared on the New Politics blog by my longtime fellow NP editorial board member and friend Barry Finger.1 In my own blog, I argued that Barry had a better, more sophisticated understanding of the peculiarities of the Democratic Party and the U.S. electoral system than do many on the radical left who refuse to support any Democratic candidate regardless of that candidate’s personal political platform. However, I also made clear that I believed that Barry still suffered from certain misunderstandings regarding just how different American political parties are from parties that exist anywhere else in the world, and this meant there were defects in his suggestions as to how left-wing socialists should relate to the Sanders campaign. Other defects still characterize the arguments of those who claim that to support Sanders, however critically, is to support a candidate of a party of capital. While invoking my debate with Barry, I’ll touch upon those other arguments and their problems and explain why I think that critical support for the Sanders campaign is a necessity if we’re to build a much larger socialist movement and how the campaign may lay the basis for an independent party of the left.

The Non-Party Party

Barry writes:

The totality with which socialists have traditionally viewed the Democratic Party has been this. The agenda of the Democratic Party is determined by its corporate financiers. It is they who keep the party competitive, who write and prioritize legislation and it is they who provide lucrative post-electoral revolving door employment opportunities for faithful party standard bearers. The two parties provide a full spectrum career subculture, designed to incentivize, entice and indoctrinate candidates and office holders to ruling class perspectives. Its base, organized as voting blocks, has no membership privileges.

Indeed, the two parties are not private, voluntary organizations sustained by membership fees, but political utilities of the ruling class, which, like other public utilities, are internally regulated by the state and protected from outside competition by upstart third parties through a dense network of legal encumbrances to market entry. Because the Democratic Party is sustained and disciplined by the mobilization of outside capitalist wealth, the voting blocks aligned to the Democrats cannot compete for influence on this terrain. Their power is limited primarily to the threat of abstention from electoral participation.2

Much of this is true. Regardless of their origins, today the Democratic Party and Republican Party are not real, “European-style” political parties. They ceased to be so over the course of the twentieth century. The political machines with their party bosses that used to control who could run for office on which party label—particularly in the Democratic Party—are overwhelmingly a thing of the past. In the words of former NP editorial board member Arthur Lipow,

Only in America is it true that direct membership participation in the parties does not exist except in the sense that individuals register their party preference with an official agency of the state or are habitual voters for one or another party. The parties themselves and the choice of candidates are strictly regulated by law in the states in which the individual parties exist. … As a party, control over its own candidates is virtually non-existent.3

That is to say, both the Republicans and Democrats (and any “third” parties on the ballot in any state) exist as state-run ballot lines, not private voluntary associations that can control their own memberships or who runs on their ballots.

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Barry and others have some understanding of this. But where their analysis goes awry is the conclusion that if you are running on the Democratic Party ballot line, you yourself are necessarily being “sustained and disciplined by the mobilization of outside capitalist wealth.” Were this true, it’s unlikely that Bernie Sanders—with his rather radical platform and his steadfast refusal to take any money from “the billionaire class” to fund his campaign—would be able to run for president in the Democratic presidential primary in the first place. Michael Hirsch, another NP editorial board member, was not wrong to write, “The Democratic Party is barely a party; it’s a series of shifting coalitions in 50 state organizations and some 3,000 U.S. counties. In many states, the center-right controls it. In city and county politics, real estate and banking interests dominate the local councils. But that doesn’t make it a corporate party.”4 Why not? Because its leaders at either the national or local level have no control over who runs on the Democratic Party ballot line. Each candidate runs on their own specific political platform (the official Democratic Party platform is an irrelevancy that no one reads). And party leaders find it all but impossible to ensure that all elected Democrats will vote in legislatures the way that they’re “supposed to.” Hence, different Democrats will vote in different ways—with no fear that they’ll be kicked out of the Democratic Party for disloyalty. There exists no legal basis by which they can be kicked out, unlike in parliamentary systems with real, private-association political parties. Dissidents can get kicked out of Democratic Party or Republican Party clubs, of course—but as those have no real power over what the elected officials do, they don’t really count.

Obviously, those Democrats who do rely on “outside capitalist wealth” have an advantage over those who do not—just as in our single-member-district, winner-take-all electoral system, those who run for office as Democrats or Republicans have an advantage over those who do not. (In nonpartisan races this advantage is greatly diminished; this helps to explain why an open socialist like Kshama Sawant, taking no corporate cash and winning support from local unions, was able to win a seat on the Seattle City Council.) And it is true, unfortunately, that at the national level even the most left-wing Democrats do take some corporate political action committee (PAC) money. For example, a cursory glance at opensecrets.org reveals that the top three contributors to Rep. Keith Ellison for 2013-2014 were TCF Financial, General Mills, and Masimo Corp.; for Rep. John Conyers, DISH Network, Avenue Ventures, and Sony; for Rep. Barbara Lee, a union, the IBEW, but also the San Francisco Regional Center and Gallo Winery.

Of course, proportionally Ellison, Conyers, Lee, and other progressive Democrats take more PAC cash from labor than from capital. But why do these elected officials accept corporate PAC money at all? It’s not because as Democrats they’re required to do so, but because of the horrendous U.S. campaign finance system. If one hopes to win a major House (let alone Senate) race against an opponent with much more money to spend, and who gets 95 percent of his or her funding from business PACs, then it’s almost inevitable (except in Bernie Sanders’ Vermont, it seems) that one will take some amount of corporate PAC money—albeit much less than the truly pro-business candidate. Further, the bulk of business PAC contributions will come from those who are ultimately unable to press the leftmost Democrats to vote the wrong way on important legislation. Money may buy access but not always influence in regards to votes. This is what explains why the leftmost Democrats are able to vote the right way most of the time. (On Israel/Palestine, matters are often different—but Sanders himself, as many of his leftist critics have noted, is also rather imperfect on this issue.) As long as the current rotten system of private financing continues—and as long as the labor movement remains a shadow of its former self—one will find few progressive politicians, at least at the national level, who take no money at all from corporate PACs. Will those campaign contributions that one needs to win be a heavy influence on one’s voting record? The evidence suggests that if one has a diversified contribution base and receives one-third or more of one’s money from labor and progressive ideological groups, then one will most likely be able to vote from the left without serious problems. (It’s worth noting that business PACs are incredibly dispersed, as no PAC can give more than $10,000 to any one candidate.)

Given these circumstances—parties that are not really parties and an oligarchical system of campaign financing—I do not consider supporting the leftmost Democrats to be a betrayal of class-struggle politics, or to be the equivalent of supporting (say) the Canadian Liberals. There are, of course, Democrats who obviously represent the ruling class, like Barack Obama and his dominant wing of the Democratic Party, and also there are Democrats who, however very imperfectly, represent the working class. I see nothing class-collaborationist in opposing the former and critically supporting the latter. Yes, ruling-class politicians usually win Democratic primaries simply because they raise more campaign funds, have name recognition, are incumbents, and so on—but not always. (Only the Democratic Party fundraising committees are pure shills for corporate America, and left-liberals and radicals running as Democrats aren’t required to take any money from those committees.) So when genuine left-liberals or radical leftists win office on the Democratic Party ballot line, as has happened and will continue to happen in various parts of the country, the Democratic Party is not simply a “political utility of the ruling class.” It would be if the neoliberal, bourgeois leadership of the Democratic Party could impose parliamentary discipline on all elected Democrats, but there really is very little that it can do beyond removing dissidents from congressional committees.

Does this mean that it’s likely that the Democratic Party will be taken over by progressives, that the “realignment” sought by the late Michael Harrington is near? No. But the primary reason for this, aside from the fact that it’s rather hard to democratically control a state-run ballot line, is the same reason why an independent labor party, which left-wing socialists have advocated for years, is not forthcoming any time soon. Organized labor is simply too weak and, due to the AFL-CIO’s lack of control over its affiliated unions’ political choices, too diffuse. I agree with most American socialists that a labor party based on the unions should have been formed at least by 1948, when 35 percent of the U.S. workforce was unionized and the United Auto Workers in particular was a real power in the country. But Walter Reuther didn’t do what we wanted him to do, and today we are unfortunately where we are. I was active in Labor Party Advocates and then the Labor Party in two states in the 1990s; I really wanted it to take off and become politically important. It didn’t. Nor is it likely that the Green Party, which has existed in one form or another since the 1980s, will ever displace the Democrats. As former Labor Party national organizer Mark Dudzic has said, “If you can’t even put out enough poll watchers to cover every precinct in an election campaign, and you can’t call on a substantial portion of the labor movement to come out and support your candidate, you’re not building anything, and there’ll be little that remains afterwards.”5 I’ve voted for Greens many times in my life but eventually one tires of voting for protest candidates.

Pushing Political Discourse to the Left

This brings us back, finally, to Bernie Sanders. Whatever the flaws in some of his political positions, his running as a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary has led millions of people, even in the corporate media, to talk about “democratic socialism” and “political revolution.” His interpretation of those terms may be far more moderate than that of NP writers, but he is pushing political discourse in the U.S. significantly to the left, and in a country where “socialist” has long been a swear word in mainstream politics, this is no small feat. His campaign is providing an opening for U.S. socialists that hasn’t existed in decades, and he’s made it clear that it won’t be possible to win the radical reforms that he (and we) want without an ongoing mass movement that will outlast his campaign. Yes, we must, as Barry says, “hold Sanders’ feet to the flames if he wavers or weakens his stance against the Party establishment.” But to do this effectively we have to actively support him, not abstain and only offer criticism, however constructive, from the outside. Both the “critical” and “support” in “critical support” are very important in this case. Support of Sanders is the only way to get the thousands of working-class people already involved in Sanders’ campaign—most of whom know nothing of Marxism or the organized socialist left—to take us seriously. Criticism of Sanders’ shortcomings will fall on deaf ears if we do not work with such people in an honest effort to get Sanders elected president.

And Sanders would not be winning over millions of Americans if he had not decided to run for president as a Democrat. He would not have been able to introduce himself to millions who knew little or nothing of him via the Democratic presidential candidates’ debates. The mainstream media would have simply ignored him, and so would have virtually everyone else in the country, had he run as an independent or as a Green. As the late Julius Jacobson, founding co-editor of NP and a genuinely revolutionary democratic socialist, said of Jesse Jackson’s run for president as a Democrat in 1988, “To take advantage of the facilities offered by a Democratic Party primary involves no necessary compromise of socialist principles” provided that it is being used “as a vehicle for propagandizing a position with an eye on building a movement outside the Democratic Party.”6 Jackson failed to do this, but this describes precisely what Sanders is doing, which is commendable.

Furthermore, contrary to the “Bernie Sanders as sheepdog for Hillary Clinton” argument made by various far-leftists, at the moment there’s hardly anyone at all to “sheepdog,” not even a quasi-mass movement for a left-wing third party. If there was, my judgement of Sanders running in a Democratic primary would be quite different. I do acknowledge that Ted Kennedy in 1980, Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, Dennis Kucinich in 2004, and John Edwards in 2008 all ended up endorsing the candidate of the ruling class in their respective Democratic presidential primaries once they lost. And they should not have done so. But it’s important to realize that they did not have to do so but chose to do so. Most have forgotten, but Jerry Brown did not endorse Bill Clinton in 1992. More recently, on the Republican side, look at Ron Paul. He very openly did not support John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012; he supported minor right-wing party presidential candidates. And yet he remained in office as a Republican. Look at the Seattle Democratic elected officials that have endorsed Kshama Sawant’s re-election campaign. Such a thing is simply not possible anywhere else in the world—try to imagine Canadian Liberals endorsing New Democratic Party candidates for office!—and it further proves that our “parties” are not real parties because they lack party discipline, and that applying class-struggle principles to U.S. electoral politics is a far messier business than it is anywhere else in the world.

Yes, Sanders has already said he would endorse Hillary Clinton if he loses to her in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. But Sanders, as explained above, can’t be forced to do this. He’s made a choice. Contrary to what some socialists believe, there are no actually enforceable Democratic Party rules that prohibit him in advance from “harming the Democratic Party.” So, I think that socialists should pressure Sanders’ campaign to “pull a Ron Paul”; at the very least he should not encourage his voters to support Clinton if he loses the presidential primary. If he refuses this request we should openly criticize him for it. But again, the only way we can effectively apply such pressure is if we are active in his presidential campaign. Pressure from the outside simply won’t work. By all means, let’s relentlessly attack Clinton and other “billionaire class Democrats” who dominate the Democratic Party line. One can do this just as easily as a registered Democrat as a registered Green or independent. No one can silence you, just like Fannie Lou Hamer couldn’t be silenced as a civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activist of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which in 1968 did become the official Democratic Party of Mississippi, despite being betrayed by Lyndon Johnson and those who supported him in 1964.

Barry argues that

If the Sanders campaign is competently run, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment will be confronting an incipient rank-and-file mutiny demanding the complete overhaul and repudiation of what the party currently stands for. An increasingly politically conscious grassroots movement motivated by a militant and credible anti-austerity message heralds the development in the foreseeable future of a “split” situation in the Democratic Party when these demands are blocked, watered down, frustrated or compromised with, as they invariably must.

This split may very well happen. Sanders campaign activists are quite aware of the problem of Democratic Party Superdelegates. To quote a recent email I received from People for Bernie, the Superdelegate system is “one of many ways that the system is rigged to ensure corporate-friendly Democrats almost always get the presidential nomination. And it’s almost always longtime party insiders that cast votes as Superdelegates. In an ordinary election year, it’s one of many ways that they disenfranchise people like us.” This is why it’s important that Rep. Raul Grijalva and Rep. Keith Ellison endorsed Sanders, and more pressure needs to be put on other Congressional Progressive Caucus Democrats to do the same. Selection of Superdelegates in fact depends on state Democratic Party rules, and state Democratic parties are not immune to popular mobilization.

But let’s assume the ruling-class Democratic Party Superdelegates turn out to be the sole barrier keeping Sanders from winning the Democratic presidential primary. Then it’s entirely possible that People for Bernie and the mass movement supporting Sanders will make up the base of an independent left-wing party, sooner rather than later. But again, we need to be in the Sanders campaign to help make this happen, and, as NP writer and lifetime class-warrior-unionist Steve Early has said, we need to get as many unions as possible to support Sanders and not Clinton (either in the primary or the general election).7 And we will need the leftmost elected Democrats—the ones who support social-democratic reform and primarily rely on union PAC money and the financial contributions of “ordinary” people—to “jump ship” to this new party, which requires critically supporting them as well. (I see this as no worse than voting for the social-democratic wing of a popular front, which revolutionaries certainly did in the past, and the Democratic Party today is more like a popular front unto itself than a genuine political party.)

Yes, this is a complicated process, and I wish Marxists could simply stand outside Democratic Party politics entirely and convince the toiling masses to “break with the elephant, break with the ass, build a party of the working class.” But decades of revolutionary socialists doing precisely this has been no more successful than the attempt in the 1970s by the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, a predecessor of today’s Democratic Socialists of America, the only U.S. socialist group fully supporting the Sanders campaign, to realign the whole of the Democratic Party into a social-democratic party. The movement to elect Sanders represents the best opportunity to build a much larger socialist movement—and hopefully a split from the Democratic Party that results in an independent leftist party—that I’ve seen in my lifetime. To make that party a reality, ironically enough, means getting involved in a Democratic Party presidential campaign. Yes, most elected Democrats are ruling-class politicians; yes, the Democratic Party was once the party (a real party) of white supremacy in the United States; yes, it was the party of dropping nuclear bombs on Japan and of the Vietnam War. Therefore any involvement in Democratic Party primaries involves “dirty hands” to some extent. But, to paraphrase a French philosopher, “it is easy to have clean hands if you have no hands.” Better dirty hands than none at all.

1. Jason Schulman, “The Sanders Campaign and the Democratic ‘Party,’” New Politics blog, May 27, 2015.

2. Barry Finger, “Further Reflections on the Sanders Campaign,” New Politics blog, May 26, 2015.

3. Arthur Lipow, Political Parties & Democracy: Explorations in History and Theory (London: Pluto Press, 1996), 20-21.

4. Michael Hirsch, “Socialists, Democrats, and Political Action: It’s the Movements That Matter,” New Politics (Vol. XI, No. 2, Summer 2007), 119.

5. Mark Dudzic and Derek Seidman, “Whatever Happened to the Labor Party?Jacobin blog, October 11, 2015.

6. Julius Jacobson, “The Duality of the Jackson Campaign,” New Politics (Vol. II, no. 2, Summer 1988), 5-6.

7. Steve Early, “Labor for Bernie,” Jacobin blog, May 26, 2015.

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Einstein will be proved right … again!

February 12, 2016 at 2:25 pm (history, intellectuals, posted by JD, science, socialism)

Gravitational waves observed for first time, Einstein s theory proved right 100 years onGravitational waves observed for first time: Einstein’s theory proved right 100 years on

By Albert Einstein

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist.

The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstances that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilised period of human history has—as it well known— been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples estab]ished themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks.

The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behaviour.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialisf society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and —if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organisation of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organisation would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behaylour.

The abstract concept “society” means to the individual being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society— in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labour and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society”.

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human beings which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organisations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life-through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behaviour of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labour and a highly-centralised productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time — which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this period of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labour – not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realise that the means of production – that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods – may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does- not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labour power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essentiai point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labour contract is “free”, what the worker receives is determined not by the value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labour power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labour encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organised political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterised by two main principles: first, mean of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labour contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved forrn of the “free labour contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilisation of capital which leads to a huge waste of labour, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilised in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralisation of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of the bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public servlce.

(First published as “Why I Am A Socialist” in Monthly Review, New York, 1949)

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A Raisin in the Sun

February 11, 2016 at 7:18 pm (black culture, civil rights, class, culture, poetry, Racism, theatre, United States, women)


Above: trailer for the 1961 film version

Review by Jean Lane (also published in the current issue of Solidarity):

A Raisin in the Sun was written in 1959 by Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), the first black woman to have a play performed on Broadway and the inspiration behind Nina Simone’s ‘Young Gifted and Black’.

The play is set in an overcrowded Chicago slum apartment just before the emergence of the civil rights movement. The Youngers, a working class family comprising of grandmother Nena (Mama), her son Walter with his wife Ruth and child Travis, and Walter’s sister, Beneatha, are about to come into an insurance pay-out of $10,000, after the death of Nina’s husband. The potential opportunities that come with it, cause tension.

Walter wants to use the money to realise his dream of self-advancement by investing, along with his old street friends, in a liquor store business. His sister, Beneatha, is studying to become a doctor. She is experimenting with radical ideas new to her family such as atheism. She berates one boyfriend for his assimilation into white culture and is being drawn by another, a Nigerian medical student, into the ideas of black nationalism and anti-colonial independence.

Arguments over the money and the cramped conditions of the Youngers’ lives are exacerbated when Ruth discovers that she is two months pregnant. Her relationship with Walter reaches breaking point when Lena refuses to fund the liquor store idea. Instead, Lena puts a deposit down on a larger house in a solidly white neighbourhood. Eventually Lena relents and gives the rest of the money to Walter to use as he sees fit, with the proviso that he keeps back enough of it to pay for his sister’s education.

A representative of the white neighbourhood, Karl Linder, turns up with the message that they would far rather the Youngers did not move in as they would not fit in, and offers to buy the house from them. With righteous indignation from the family, Linder is sent packing by a Walter now imbued with a sense of confidence, as a young up and coming business man. However, Walter’s friend, Willy, runs off with all the money including that for Benathea’s education. Walter’s chance to prove himself a man deserving of respect again seems far away. To the horror of the three women in his life, he contemplates taking the money from the white man who says that they are not good enough to be his neighbours.

The dashing of the family’s dreams of a better life are reflected in Benathea’s loss of confidence in an independent future for black people. She asserts that nationalism is a lost cause which can only lead to the swapping of white masters for black. Walter finally proves himself to be a man in Lena’s eyes by telling the white man where to go with his money and the family prepare to move into their new home. The play ends leaving the audience aware that many of their troubles as a black family in 1950s America have only just begun.

The title for the play is taken from a poem by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore – And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet?

 Maybe it just sags Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

All the emotions expressed in the poem are there in the play, in this production, directed by Dawn Walton, and electrically so. All the political ideas of identity, racism, gender roles and social consciousness are brought refreshingly within the sphere of working-class life.

• The play is on tour around Britain ending in Coventry on 28 March.

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Report from the first Momentum National Committee

February 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm (labour party, left, posted by JD, socialism)

By Ed Whitby, North East and Cumbria delegate (personal capacity)

On Saturday 6 February, a Momentum National Committee met for the first time in London. Just the fact of Momentum holding its first democratic national representative meeting was a success. The procedure could certainly have been improved – there was not enough time for local groups to prepare properly for the regional meetings, indeed some regions didn’t meet at all, and for both the regional meetings and the NC, many documents were either not presented until the day or circulated at very short notice. Nevertheless in many groups and regions it appears there was a lively process of electing delegates and discussing issues, a process which has helped to draw Momentum together.

In general delegates to the meeting pushed things in the direction of greater democracy and a more radical political line. I will summarise here but also publish some of policy passed, remitted, etc, soon.

A summary of what was decided by the NC

– The basic statement of aims was amended to refer more to socialism and the working class. It is still, in my view, far from adequate, but it was agreed as an interim statement to be reviewed by the Steering Committee for redrafting in consultation with NC members and local groups.
– Momentum is oriented towards organising within Labour, as well as broader campaigning.
– Momentum will become a membership organisation. It will encourage its members to join Labour, but anyone who wants to support Labour and is not a member of a party organisationally opposed to it can join, be a representative, officer, etc.
– Momentum will work with others on the left, who are free to distribute their literature at Momentum public meetings, etc.
– In addition to local groups and regions, there will also be the possibility of specific Momentum campaigning organisations: the document specifically mentioned Momentum NHS.
– We agreed to set up an interim Student and Youth Committee made up of student and youth members of the National Committee and nominations of student and young members from regions and a formal more detailed proposal on this work was referred to the Steering Committee.
– It was reported that some regions were already organising policy conferences, but the proposal for holding regional and national policy conferences was remitted to the Steering Committee for further discussion
– A summary of votes of North East and Cumbria proposals are listed at the end of this report.

National Committee and Steering Committee

The NC meeting was attended by 53 delegates (26 from the regional meetings, 8 equalities reps, 11 from various Labour left groups and 8 from trade unions – Unite, TSSA, CWU, Bakers, ASLEF and FBU). About eight delegates were also members of left organisations not formally represented, including two from my organisation Workers’ Liberty. Copies of Solidarity, Socialist Appeal and Labour Briefing were sold at the meeting: a welcome exchange of left-wing ideas. There were people active in a number of unions not formally represented, eg NUT and PCS, and in campaigning organisations including the People’s Assembly and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

The NC will meet at least quarterly. It also elected a Steering Committee to meet more regularly and guide the organisation. The eight representatives from England elected to this committee are (designations indicate who they represented at the NC meeting – they were all elected to the SC as individuals): Jill Mountford (London), Michael Chessum (London), Marsha Jane Thompson (Eastern), Jon Lansman (Left Futures), Sam Wheeler (North west), Jackie Walker (LRC), Christine Shawcroft (Labour Briefing Coop) and Cecile Wright (Black and Minority Ethnic).

They will be joined by four trade union representatives, one rep from Scotland and one from Wales.

The membership debate

This was a big debate at the NC. First we agreed to have paid membership; those who don’t join will remain supporters.

There were proposals about who could become a member and who could become a supporter, and what rights these two categories will have.

The lack of time and clarity in advance caused real problems here, in part because the wording of the options was not very clear, but I think the NC did a reasonable job of untangling things.

The three options were:

a. Only Labour Party members can join or even take part in organising / planning meetings as supporters; though local groups can continue to organise joint meetings with other organisations which can be open to non-Labour members.

b. Membership open only to Labour members, but people can be supporters and participate in local groups, voting only on local issues not connected to Labour – as long as they do not support parties against Labour. Only members can stand for office.

c. Membership and supporter status open to any person who supports Labour and doesn’t support other parties which oppose Labour. All members can take part in all decisions, stand for all positions, etc.

The first position received two votes, the second 18 votes and the third 27. I think that was the right decision. People should join the Labour Party, and it is right that Momentum will strongly encourage this; but there are still many people coming to the organisation who for whatever reason haven’t joined yet. We need to encourage and persuade them, not throw up an unnecessary barrier (insisting Momentum members and supporters must not oppose Labour is enough). And we have avoided creating anything like a two-class system of membership.

It also positive that the NC voted, by an overwhelming margin, to allow other organisations to distribute their literature at public meetings and so on. It is right that those who support other parties against Labour cannot join; but that is no reason to create a culture which discourages debate and free exchange of ideas.

Other discussions

There was discussion, and some criticism, about how equality reps (and also the student/youth reps) had been selected. Although there was not a vote on this, there seemed to be general agreement that there should be broad, democratic equalities/liberation networks established who should allow open nominations and to elect delegates to future National Committees as happened with regions.

Michael Chessum proposed a document to create a democratic Momentum Youth and Students organisation. There was wide support for this but it was referred back to the Steering Committee. It was agreed that the youth and student reps on the NC will form a provisional Youth and Student Committee, which the SC will work and consult closely with.

The North East and Cumbria region proposed national and local policy making conferences made up of delegates from local groups. This was remitted to the SC.

The meeting voted by a clear margin not to organise in Northern Ireland. I think this was wrong. The document said that this was in line with, and for the same reasons as, the Labour Party not doing so. But that is factually wrong: the Labour Party does organise in Northern Ireland, it just doesn’t stand candidates. Moreover, the document didn’t spell out what the Labour Party’s reasons are: I would say that they are generally conservative reasons about not upsetting the “normal” operation of sectarian politics. It was argued that people in a British orgnisation shouldn’t decide or comment on Northern Ireland: surely it dictates to tell them they can’t organise a Momentum group even if they want? Anyway, this is something that comrades in NI can best take up.

Momentum Scotland submitted a report on their work. The Scottish comrades amended one document to point out that the Scottish Assembly elections, and not just the 2020 general election, are also important. Momentum NHS also submitted a report, and its activists spoke about groups mobilising for the junior doctors’ picket lines on 10 February.

We accepted a finance report, setting out some outline funding plans and proposals for employing full-time staff (eight posts to be advertised).

Affiliations

Very positively, Matt Wrack from the FBU moved proposals for unions to be able to affiliate to Momentum, including non-Labour affiliated unions if they sign up to Momentum aims.

I proposed an amendment saying that the requirement to agree with Momentum aims and formally affiliate should also apply to Labour left organisations that take a formal role in Momentum. This was agreed.

Campaigning objectives

The documents passed set out a wide range of campaigning objectives, along lines that will be familiar to Momentum supporters. I will post the relevant material soon.

In the discussion on the 16 April People’s Assembly march, which Momentum is building for, Rida Vaquas from Red Labour argued that Momentum should seek to improve and make more radical the draft demands on a number of issues: build council housing; repeal all anti-union laws, legalise solidarity; demand free education and living grants for all students. The original demands were too conservative, in some cases less radical than official Labour policy (eg it just said “Scrap the Trade Union Bill”, when last year’s Labour Party conference voted to legalise solidarity strikes). This was agreed.

There was some discussion on the Centre Left Grass Roots Alliance slate for the NEC, and some criticisms were raised. Althought it was agreed to support it. There was also discussion on Trident and criticism of Corbyn’s suggestion of building just the submarines proposal. Comrades from Socialist Appeal made good contributions on scrapping Trident but defending the jobs and incomes of workers through conversion.

To conclude

For all the problems, I think the National Committee was positive. There was lively discussion and the NC certainly did not act as rubber stamp; on a number of points the documents were amended and the proposed position changed. Moreover a wide variety of people from different sides of various debates were elected to the Steering Committee.

We need to ensure that the Steering Committee meets regular and functions well, establishing real democratic control over Momentum’s operations and working closely with local groups.

Most importantly, Momentum needs
1. To get out on the streets campaigning on big issues in the class struggle, the NHS being one of the most obvious, supporting workers’, anti-austerity, anti-racist and other struggles, and pushing for the Labour Party to do the same.
2. To develop a clear program of demands and initiatives to shake up and transform the Labour Party, involve more people, change and activate policy and crucially democratise the party.

I think we are in a stronger position to do that after Saturday.

Please feel free to get in touch, tell me what you think, or ask questions: edunison@gmail.com

Appendix
Specific proposals from the North East and Cumbria regional meeting – how the NC voted.
1) Change ‘Make Labour a more democratic party’ to ‘Support democracy within the Labour Party”- final wording: “Transform LP into a more open, member-led party with socialist policies and the collective will to implement them in government.
2) Change ‘…with the policies’ to ‘…with the socialist policies’ – see above
3) The National Committee, along with the Regional networks, have responsibility for ensuring that Momentum groups cover every locality and that all supporters/members are connected within groups and regions. – agreed and incorporated
4) The National Committee should be tasked with engaging with special interest groups, such as Momentum NHS. – agreed
5) The National Committee should meet in different regions (not always London) – agreed
6) The National Committee should organise an annual policy making conference with delegates from local groups – deferred to steering committee
7) The regions should be the largest represented group on the National Committee to ensure that there is a strong sense of democracy and representation. – almost (53 delegates (26 regional, 8 Equality, 11 labour left groups, 8 trade unions)
8) Strong desire for Trade Unionists to be involved in Momentum. However, Trade Unions having ‘block votes’ was strongly rejected by the group. National unions and regions can affiliate and can get 2 delegates to regional network meetings (i.e. the same as local groups with same rules)
9) Strong desire for regions and local groups to be able to access data in a controlled way. – agreed
10) Regions should organise policy making conferences – remitted as a policy, but regions can do this (East Midlands has one in March) it is just not a requirement for regions to do this
11) Membership and attendance at meetings: Remove the second paragraph:
Organising or planning meetings should be open to members of Momentum (Labour Party members, affiliate members, or individuals who are not members of other political parties who support the aims and values of the Labour Party*).
“Momentum groups may choose to organise campaigning activities or public events, which may be open to individuals who adhere to the ‘code of ethics.’ However, as Momentum is a Labour-oriented organisation, individuals are not permitted to promote any other political party (this includes distributing literature for or by another political party).”. We agreed to remove this and agreed that members of momentum can be labour party, members, affiliates or supporters as long as they do not support other parties to labour.

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Junior doctors: industrial action to go ahead

February 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm (health service, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, workers)

From the BMA:

Junior doctors: industrial action to go ahead

With no agreement reached on key issues, junior doctors will provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on 10 February.

Latest news

Despite the best efforts of our negotiating team, and hours of talks facilitated by Acas, we have not managed to reach agreement with NHS Employers and the Department of Health on the new junior doctors contract.

As a result, the industrial action we planned for 10 February will be going ahead. However, rather than the planned full walkout, the action will mirror that of 12 January. Junior doctors in England will be offering emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on Wednesday 10 February to 8am Thursday 11 February.

Read the news story in full

Important information

Advice note for junior doctors on days of action

We are aware that some trusts have sought to nominate junior doctors to have one or two doctors to be on standby for every ward, other than out-patient departments and elective procedures, for the duration of the industrial action (IA). The BMA has taken expert legal advice on this issue.

Read more (PDF)

Read our FAQs (PDF)

Dates of industrial action for junior doctors in England

The BMA is calling on junior doctors in England to take official industrial action on 12 January, backed by a near-unanimous vote in favour in accordance with trade union legislation. Many members of the public have expressed support for our action, but we do not condone or encourage any form of unofficial industrial action or unlawful activity.

We have announced three days of action in total:

12 January 2016 – COMPLETED

Emergency care only between 8am on Tuesday, 12 January and 8am on Wednesday, 13 January (24 hours).

26 January 2016 – SUSPENDED

Emergency care only between 8am on Tuesday, 26 January and 8am on Thursday, 28 January (48 hours)

10 February 2016

Emergency care only between 8am on Wednesday 10 February and 8am on Thursday 11 February (24 hours).

Why junior doctors are taking industrial action

In 2012 the Government asked the BMA to look into negotiating a new contract for junior doctors. After two years, negotiations stalled because the contract on offer would not have provided sufficient safeguards for junior doctors and their patients – either today or in the future.

The DDRB, an independent body, undertook a review and provided recommendations for a new contract. After the recommendations were released the Government asked the BMA to re-enter negotiations with the recommendations as the basis. We could not agree to the unsafe and unfair preconditions proposed, and so the Government said they would impose a new contract from August 2016.

We have consistently and clearly asked Government for the key assurances we would need in order to re-enter negotiations – the first of which was a withdrawal of the threat to impose a contract. These assurances have still not been given to us. In September, the BMA’s junior doctors committee took the decision to ballot junior doctor members on support for industrial action. We have continued to request the key assurances for genuine negotiations. The result of the ballot of more than 37,000 junior doctors in England was announced on 19 November, with more than 99 per cent having voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike, and 98 per cent for full strike action, demonstrating the strength of feeling amongst the profession.

The BMA suspended industrial action planned for December following progress made through talks facilitated by Acas. While progress was made on some issues during negotiations between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health, the offer that Government made on 4 January was not acceptable to the BMA. As a result, the action planned for 12 January went ahead.

Discussions with the Government continued throughout January, which led to the suspension of the planned 48-hour action on 26-28 January. However, despite the best efforts of the BMA negotiating team, major sticking points, including around the classification of Saturdays, remain. Because of this, the BMA decided that the industrial action planned for 10 February would go ahead, although it would see junior doctors offering emergency care only over a 24-hour period, rather than the planned full walkout from 8am to 5pm.

Find a picket line

The BMA is supporting around 149 picket lines across England. Contact your junior doctor representative, your LNC representative or your Industrial Relations Officer for more information.

Click here to view a map of picket lines

Legal advice

The right to strike is a fundamental human right protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, we are aware that an NHS trust has suggested that the proposed industrial action by junior doctors is unlawful, being in breach of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULCRA). We have sought urgent legal advice from John Hendy QC, the leading authority in this area of law.

Get involved

Campaign materials can be ordered for meetings, rallies and street stalls via local BMA reps or ordered online.

Orders must be placed by 11am on Monday 8 February in order to be despatched in time for industrial action.

Order a standard campaign pack

Please email materials@bma.org.uk, stating your name, your BMA membership number, and delivery address. The pack will include the following:

Order specific campaign materials

Please email materials@bma.org.uk, stating your name, your BMA membership number, and delivery address. Choose from the following:

Print your own

Show your support online:

Download (or ‘save as’) a Facebook cover image (.jpg)

Download (or ‘save as’) a Twitter cover image (.jpg)

Add a Twibbon to your Twitter profile

Would you like advice on how to most effectively use social media to share your message? Download our top tips (PDF)

Information for non-junior doctors

The decision to take industrial action has implications for all doctors working in the NHS in England. Read our guidance:

Information for the public

Public information leaflet

Read our leaflet explaining why junior doctors are taking industrial action, Copies will are also available from local BMA representatives on picket lines.

The junior doctors dispute – in their own words

Few people choose medicine for the glory and the riches. Far more likely is the opportunity to make a difference, to help people – but just because, for most, this is a vocation, that isn’t an invitation to undervalue what they do.

While politicians and commentators may try and portray the junior doctors dispute as being all about money, doctors themselves are clear that it’s more fundamental than that: it’s about valuing what they do – and what they have to sacrifice to do it.

Here, they explain it in their own words.

Meet the doctor events

Junior doctors are also holding ‘meet the doctors’ events across England to explain the position to members of the public.

Click here to find local meet the doctor events

News and photos from the first day of action

Dispute timeline

Key dates as the junior contract negotiations have unfolded:

  • July 2013 – UK Junior Doctors Committee agreed to enter formal negotiations.
  • October 2013 – Department of Health grants NHS Employers a mandate to negotiate with the BMA, formal negotiations commence.
  • October 2014 – Talks stalled in light of the Government’s failure to agree measures to ensure patient safety and doctors’ welfare.
  • December 2014 – The BMA submitted evidence to DDRB.
  • March 2015 – DDRB invited stakeholders to give evidence.
  • July 2015 – DDRB submitted its final report to the Government.
  • August 2015 – Junior Doctors Committee decided not to re-enter contract negotiations based on the Government’s preconditions and threat of contract imposition.
  • September 2015 – The BMA voted to ballot junior members in England for industrial action.
  • November 2015 – In a turnout of 76.2 per cent, junior doctors voted overwhelmingly for industrial action.
  • November 2015 – Temporary suspension of industrial action by the BMA following talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health, brokered by Acas
  • December 2015 – Industrial action in England was suspended following conciliatory talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health.
  • December 2015 – BMA Junior Doctors Committee negotiating team entered negotiations with NHS Employers and Department of Health
  • January 2016 – Talks concluded with no resolution. Industrial action to go ahead.

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland health minister, Simon Hamilton, has said he has “no desire” to impose the junior doctor contract and an imposed contract would be the “worst possible outcome”. BMA will be meeting with the Minister to discuss how we can work together to resolve the situation.

Wales

On 18 September 2015, Welsh Government officials issued a statement to BMA Cymru Wales indicating that they will retain the current junior doctor contract in Wales.

Scotland

The Scottish Government has made clear that there will be no junior doctor contract imposition in Scotland.

Join us

Join 160,000 members standing up to unreasonable Government demands

In the uncertain and volatile environment that the Government seems intent on creating for doctors, representation is more important than ever.

Join the BMA today


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The Great SNP Quiz

February 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm (populism, reformism, scotland, SNP, wankers)

 Steve Bell's If ... 13/11/2014 Steve Bell’s If ? 13.11.2014 Illustration: Copyright Steve Bell 2014

By Dale Street

1) When Michelle Thomson MP (SNP whip resigned) twice bought properties in 2010 and sold them to her husband later the same day, by how much did their price increase between purchase and re-sale?
a) £50,000
b) £54,400
c) £60,000

2) When Michelle Thomson MP (SNP whip resigned) paid her business partner £95,000 for a property he had bought for £64,000 from a 77-year-old cancer-sufferer earlier the same day, how much did she receive as a “cashback” from her partner as part of the deal?
a) £25,000
b) £28,180.80
c) £30,000

3) During the 2014 referendum campaign, who was the director of the pro-independence “Business for Scotland” organisation (“The business network with a conscience. We will promote the values that can build a more equal and fairer Scotland.”)?
a) John Paul Getty III
b) Nelson Rockefeller Jnr.
c) Michelle Thomson

4) What happened in 2014 to the solicitor who had represented MP Michelle Thomson (SNP whip resigned) and/or her husband and/or her business partner in 13 different property deals?
a) He was named Solicitor of the Year by the Law Society of Scotland.
b) He was appointed as a judge in the Inner House of the Court of Session.
c) He was struck off by a Law Society Discipline Tribunal for 13 counts of professional misconduct.

5) Who was SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon referring to in the 2015 general election campaign when she said “Michelle knows what’s she’s doing, knows her area and knows about fairness, equality and prosperity. I say: Bring it on, Michelle!”?
a) Michelle Pfeiffer
b) Michelle Obama
c) Michelle Thomson

6) What is the current value of the seven properties in SNP MP Lisa Cameron’s property portfolio?
a) £618,000
b) £628,000
c) £638,000

7) What is the difference between the monthly rent charged for one of five former council flats owned by SNP MP Lisa Cameron and the monthly rent charged by the council for a council flat in the same area?
a) Higher by £140 a month.
b) Higher by £150 a month.
c) Higher by £160 a month.

8) Last September SNP MP Phil Boswell tabled a Parliamentary Question calling for a crackdown on tax avoidance. How much was the interest-free loan which Boswell himself received as part of a tax-avoidance scheme when working for a US energy company?
a) £16,000
b) £18,000
c) £20,000

9) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has condemned tax avoidance as “obscene, immoral and despicable.” What did she say on learning of SNP MP Phil Boswell’s involvement in a tax-avoidance scheme?
a) This is obscene, immoral and despicable.
b) This is what happens when Scotland is governed by Westminster.
c) Nothing.

10) Including the discount secured for the venue (Stirling Castle’s Great Hall), how much did the SNP Holyrood government donate to the launch event of the Scottish Asian Women’s Association (founder: Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, now an SNP MP) in 2012?
a) £15,160
b) £16,160
c) £17,160

11) At its launch event, attended by 160 guests including Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s Scottish Asian Women’s Association spent £4,500 on canapes and £400 on flowers. Over the next three years how much did the charity donate to worthy causes?
a) £600
b) £700
c) £800

12) In the run-up to the 2014 Euro-elections the Facebook page of which organisation appealed to its readers: “Remember to vote SNP on Thursday to get Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh elected and keep UKIP out of Scotland”?
a) A political party: the SNP.
b) An anti-racist campaign: Hope Not Hate.
c) A registered charity: the Scottish Asian Women’s Association.

13) Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) is currently under police investigation for the unaccounted disappearance of how much money from donations made to Women for Independence?
a) £25,000
b) £30,000
c) £35,000

14) Who reported the disappearance of the £30,000 to the police, resulting in the investigation into Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned)?
a) Red Tories who always talk Scotland down.
b) Real Tories who always talk Scotland down.
c) 20 members of the Women for Independence National Committee, including seven SNP Holyrood candidates, one SNP branch convenor, the vice-chair of the British Association of Social Workers, and the Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid.

15) Who did Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) recently accuse of tweeting in support of “a misogynist and abusive Twitter troll”?
a) Tommy Sheridan
b) Comrade Delta
c) J.K. Rowling

16) Which song has Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) described as “banter”?
a) Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
b) Bohemian Rhapsody.
c) The Famine Song.

17) In the 2015 general election campaign the SNP told voters: “The only way to lock the Tories out of 10 Downing Street is to vote SNP.” The SNP won 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats. What was the result?
a) The Tories were locked out of 10 Downing Street.
b) The Tories returned to 10 Downing Street in a coalition with the Lib-Dems.
c) The Tories won an absolute majority of seats.

18) Which party did the SNP not call for a vote for anywhere in the UK in the 2015 general election campaign, while simultaneously listing what it would demand of it as the next Westminster government?
a) Green Party
b) Plaid Cymru
c) Labour Party

19) Which organisation adopted the following rule at its 2015 annual conference: “That no member shall within, or outwith, the Parliament publicly criticise a Group decision, policy, or another member of the Group”?
a) The Mafia (as an extension of the code of Omerta).
b) The Vatican (as an extension of the Bull of Papal Infallibility).
c) The SNP (because it’s the SNP).

20) 20 SNP branches have submitted motions to the party’s 2016 annual conference calling for a ban on fracking. What is likely to happen to the motions at the conference?
a) They will be passed.
b) They will not be passed.
c) Nothing – because they have all been ruled out of order and will not appear on the agenda.

21) What did the then SNP First Minister Alex Salmond prophesy in March of 2013?
a) The end of the world.
b) The second coming of Christ.
c) A second oil boom, beginning that year, which would generate tax revenues three times higher than official estimates.

22) What did the then SNP First Minister Alex Salmond, speaking in September of 2013, say was the value of North Sea oil and gas reserves?
a) Peanuts – it’s just something we dip into now and again when there’s a glut of shortbread on the world market.
b) Make up your own figure, provided that it has a lot of zeros at the end.
c) 1.5 trillions – twelve times higher than official estimates – “worth £300,000 for every man woman and child” in an independent Scotland.

23) What did SNP MP Alex Salmond have to say about the North Sea oil industry two years later?
a) The second oil boom is underway!
b) Hold out your hands for the first tranche of your £300,000!
c) The industry is suffering from tough low-oil-price conditions and needs every single market it can get.

24) Which piece of writing prophesised that the average price of a barrel of oil in the period 2014 to 2019 would be at least $113?
a) The Predictions of Nostradamus.
b) Mystic Meg’s horoscope for Leo in the “Sun” last week.
c) The SNP’s 2013 White Paper on Independence, “Scotland’s Future”.

25) What was the price of a barrel of oil in mid-January of 2016?
a) $113
b) $226
c) $27 (i.e. less than the cost of the barrel containing it).

26) According to “Scotland’s Future”, in the financial year 2015/16 North Sea oil revenues would amount to £8.3 billions. What is current estimate of North Sea oil revenues for 2015/16?
a) £8.3 billions
b) £16.6 billions
c) £130 millions

27) In January of this year SNP MP Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) said: “There is no crisis in the … … industry. We have just extracted more … than ever before. The industry is booming.” What industry was he talking about?
a) Dentistry.
b) Brain tumour surgery.
c) The North Sea oil industry.

28) How many jobs dependent on the North Sea oil industry had been lost in the twelve months prior to SNP MP Dennis Robertson’s statement?
a) 60,000
b) 70,000
c) 80,000

29) How did the daily rate of oil and gas extraction from the North Sea in the twelve months prior to SNP MP Dennis Robertson’s statement (“… just extracted more oil than ever before …”) compare with the daily rate of extraction in 1999?
a) Down by 2.5 million barrels a day.
b) Down by 3 million barrels a day.
c) Down by 3.5 million barrels a day.

30) In the 2014 referendum campaign which of the following did the SNP promise would always be lower in an independent Scotland than in England?
a) Levels of poverty.
b) Levels of social inequality.
c) Corporation tax.

31) What do the following have in common?
a) Air Passenger Duty.
b) Corporation Tax.
c) Taxation of the oil and gas industry.

32) Which of the following has SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised will never be cut?
a) Holyrood’s funding for Glasgow City Council.
b) Holyrood’s funding for maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge.
c) Holyrood’s annual contribution to the Sovereign Grant paid to the Queen.

33) When the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on its “non-profit distributing programme” from £353 millions to £20 millions in the financial year 2013/14, how did the then SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
c) Reprofiling.

34) When the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on its green energy budget in the financial year 2014/15, how did the SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
c) Reprofiling.

35) When the SNP Holyrood government announced a cut of over £350 millions in funding for local authorities for the financial year 2016/17, at a cost of 15,000 jobs, how did SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
c) Reprofiling.

36) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that it was “absolutely” not true that maintenance budget cuts led to the closure of the Forth Road Bridge last December. When the former Chief Engineer subsequently gave evidence to MSPs, what did he blame for the closure?
a) The San Andreas Fault.
b) Mars being in conjunction with Saturn.
c) A 58% cut in the bridge’s maintenance budget by the SNP government in 2011.

37) Between the financial years 2010/11 and 2014/15, by how much did the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on pre-school education places, primary school pupils, and secondary school pupils?
a) 7%, 10% and 3% respectively.
b) 8%, 11% and 4% respectively.
c) 9%, 12% and 5% respectively.

38) By how much did the SNP Holyrood government cut Further Education funding in real terms between 2010 and 2015?
a) 15%
b) 20%
c) 25%

39) What was the fall in the number of students at Further Education colleges in Scotland between 2010 and 2013?
a) 100,000
b) 108,000
c) 116,000

40) What was the fall in the number of teaching staff in Further Education colleges in Scotland over the same period?
a) 6,000
b) 7,000
c) 8,000

41) The poorest 20% of youth in England are 2.5 times less likely than the wealthiest 20% to go to university. What is the figure for the poorest 20% of youth in Scotland, compared to the wealthiest 20% of youth in Scotland?
a) 3 times less likely to go to university.
b) 3.5 times less likely to go to university.
c) 4 times less likely to go to university.

42) In England the proportion of university students from non-professional backgrounds is 33%. What is the equivalent figure for Scotland?
a) 26%
b) 27%
c) 28%

43) How much have owners of band ‘G’ and ‘H’ properties ‘saved’ in the period 2008-2016 as a result of the SNP’s council tax freeze?
a) £250 millions.
b) £300 millions.
c) £350 millions.

44) On average, a low-paid worker living in a Band ‘A’ property ‘saves’ £60 a year (0.3% of income) as a result of the SNP’s council tax freeze. On average, how much does someone living in a Band ‘H’ property ‘save’ each year as a result of the freeze?
a) £324 (0.7% of income).
b) £370 (0.8% of income).
c) £394 (0.9% of income).

45) What did SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh say on her return from a visit to Iran as part of an official SNP delegation last December?
a) A reactionary, homophobic, misogynist regime.
b) So that’s John Mason’s vision for Shettleston!
c) While Iran clearly has a distance to travel on gender equality, so too does Holyrood Westminster.

46) Which one of the following is not boycotted by all true Scots?
a) B&Q
b) Sainsbury’s
c) Iran

47) And which one of the following is not boycotted by all true Scots either?
a) Tunnock’s Teacakes
b) USDAW
c) North Korea

48) With which of the following countries does SNP MP Alex Salmond look forward to Scotland developing a “productive and enduring relationship”?
a) England
b) Israel
c) Iran

49) After 30 years of opposition, what did the SNP annual conference in 2012 vote in favour of membership of?
a) The United Kingdom.
b) The Russian Federation.
c) NATO

50) The Facebook page of the Scottish Resistance carries a video clip of one of their members wielding a sledgehammer. What is he doing with the sledgehammer?
a) Repairing the Forth Road Bridge.
b) Laying the foundations of an independent Scotland.
c) Crushing a pack of Tunnock’s teacakes, with the words “This is a wee message to every c**t who is still a f***king secret teacake eater. F**k Tunnock’s.”

51) Which books did North Lanarkshire SNP councillor Rosa Zambonini tweet that she would ban her children from reading?
a) Books containing lots of violence.
b) Books containing lots of sex.
c) Books by J.K. Rowling.

52) Dundee SNP councillor Craig Melville was suspended from the SNP for having allegedly tweeted which of the following messages to a female Muslim SNP member?
a) Scottish nationalism is different from all other nationalisms – it’s a civic nationalism.
b) That Man to Man the warld o’er shall brithers be for a’ that.
c) It’s not personal, I just f****** hate your religion and I’ll do all in my life do defeat your filth. We live in an uneducated loopy left-wing society which is more interested in claiming benefits. … Horrible murdering Islamic c***s.

53) Which of the following has North Airdrie SNP councillor and Central Scotland SNP list candidate Sophia Coyle said should be banned from fostering and adopting children?
a) Members of ISIS.
b) Members of al Qaeda.
c) Gay couples.

54) According to cybernat Shelley Detlefsen, what was the cause of the cancer which killed David Bowie?
a) Smoking.
b) Poor diet.
c) Supporting a ‘No’ vote in the 2014 referendum.

55) The Tories have recently promised to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with the SNP. But “stand shoulder to shoulder” with them doing what?
a) Repairing the Forth Road Bridge.
b) Fracking.
c) Opposing Labour’s proposal for a 1% income tax rise.

56) On 28th January this year SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “I’m standing up for a fair deal for Scotland – Labour should try it some time, instead of always backing the Tories.” What happened six days later, when Labour proposed a 1p increase in income tax?
a) Labour voted with the Tories.
b) Labour voted with the SNP.
c) The SNP voted with the Tories.

57) What did the SNP support in 1999 but oppose in 2016?
a) Membership of NATO.
b) Membership of the European Union.
c) Increasing income tax in Scotland by 1p.

58) According to SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, nurses would be hit harder by Labour’s proposal for a 1% income tax increase than she herself would be. What is the explanation for this claim?
a) Nurses in Scotland are paid over £136,000 a year.
b) Nicola Sturgeon is paid her salary through a tax haven.
c) Nicola Sturgeon can’t count.

59) Which of the following politicians is the highest paid?
a) The President of France.
b) The Prime Minister of Spain.
c) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

60) What did the by then former SNP First Minister Alex Salmond cancel after the referendum of September 2014?
a) His coronation as Supreme Leader and Great Helmsman.
b) Renaming the Royal Mile the Alex Salmond Mile.
c) His television licence.
d) All of the above.

Answers on a postcard to:

Nicola Sturgeon, Bute House (absent a commercial transaction with Michelle Thomson and her husband in the meantime), 6 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4DR.

How many questions do you think you answered correctly?

0-20: You should join the SNP. Because they all say “But we never knew about that!” as well.
21-40: You should join RISE. Because you have some (modest) criticisms of the SNP, but not so many that you can’t approach SNP supporters to beg for their list vote in May.
41-60: You are an anti-Scottish Red-Tory traitor who is always talking Scotland down.

Permalink 22 Comments

Muslim women ‘stopped from becoming Labour councillors’

February 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm (elections, Galloway, Islam, islamism, Jim D, labour party, misogyny, sexism, women)

Shazia Bashir

“Because I didn’t have my father’s consent and support, I had to step down. I was pressured into stepping down”  – Shazia Bashir (above)

Another said she had been told by Labour members “Islam and feminism aren’t compatible”.

An advocate for gay rights was told: “This is un-Islamic. Leave that for white people.” And many spoke of being criticised for being too Westernised.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35504185

A comrade from a Muslim background comments, “I can tell you the number of people in my family who were surprised by this story when I mentioned it to them and that is nil – which, at an educated guess, is almost certainly also the number of people in the SWP, the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and other groups who usually fall over themselves to say how much they support Muslim women, who are likely to do anything about this issue.

JD comments: it’s not just a Labour Party problem or a problem at councillor level: just look at the misogynistic abuse Naz Shah got from Galloway and his Respect Party supporters when she stood against him in Bradford West at the general election.

Permalink 23 Comments

FGM: stop this mutilation now!

February 6, 2016 at 12:11 pm (child abuse, crime, Feminism, Human rights, internationalism, misogyny, posted by JD, relativism, women)

Today (6th February) is International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. To mark this important occasion, and to support the aims of anti-FGM campaigners throughout the world, Shiraz Socialist republishes the following:

FEMINIST STATEMENT ON THE NAMING & ABOLITION OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (2013)

Patriarchal oppression is the bedrock of female genital mutilation (FGM) and related harmful traditional practices.  

The aim of this Statement is to gather support, from concerned citizens and from people directly working to abolish FGM, for research, dialogue and activism which derives from such an understanding. To that end we insist, for instance, that FGM be correctly named – as specifically ‘mutilation’ and not, in formal discourse, by any evasive or softening euphemism.

PLEASE ADD YOUR NAME  HERE  TO THE FEMINIST STATEMENT ON FGM

1. Female genital mutilation (FGM) in all its forms is cruelty and abuse. The United Nations has decreed it a fundamental violation of human rights [a].

2. FGM is practised in many parts of the world. The World Health Organisation estimates that some 140 million girls and women now alive have undergone this mutilation, with around 3 million more experiencing it every year [b].
140 million is however a very conservative figure and the total including e.g. Indonesia [c], the Middle East and diaspora destinations is likely to be much higher.

3. FGM, like other traditional practices which harm women and girls [d], is done from fear in many guises, at the instigation behind the scenes of powerful people who stand to benefit from it, for themselves [e].

4. The proper, and necessary, response to FGM is to treat it, wherever it occurs, as a very serious, sometimes deadly, crime. There is substantive evidence to suggest this approach, allied with appropriate education and support, is the most effective way of stopping FGM [f].

5. It is essential to acknowledge that African women leaders themselves, in joint statements [g], have decreed that FGM should in all formal discussion be called ‘mutilation’, and not by any other euphemistic term. It is deeply disrespectful of those brave women – and also extremely unhelpful – to ignore their judgement and advice.

6. We are concerned simply and solely with the essential protection from FGM, everywhere, of defenceless children, irrespective of whether the intended FGM operators are traditional practitioners or, in the modern contemporary sense, medically trained [h] .
(NB Necessarily, our concern further extends, in some communities, to the protection of women subject to involuntary FGM, e.g. when their marriages are arranged, after childbirth or after criminal abduction.)

7. We believe that all women and girls who have experienced FGM are entitled, as and if or when they wish, to skilled reconstructive or other surgery and /or additional medical and personal support, free of charge, as part of reparation for this crime.

8. There are many people with different skills and insights who can and should contribute to the work of abolishing / eliminating / eradicating FGM; each of us has a part to play.
It is however fundamentally important to recognise unreservedly, and to hear, the centrally critical contribution of women with direct experience of this harmful traditional practice who are seeking to eliminate FGM.

28 August 2013

Footnotes
[a] United Nations (2012): Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations  (24 September), United Nations bans female genital mutilation (20 December) & Sources of international human rights law on Female Genital Mutilation
[b] World Health Organisation (2013): Factsheet 241: Female Genital Mutilation and UNICEF (23 July, 2013) Despite overwhelming opposition, millions of girls at risk of genital mutilation 
[c] See for example this Research Report: Female Circumcision in Indonesia – Extent, Implications and Possible Interventions to Uphold Women’s Health Rights (Jakarta, 2003)
[d] Which must also be abolished, see e.g. World Health Organisation website page: Female genital mutilation (FGM) and harmful practices
[e] Feminist Europa. Review of Books. Vol. 9, No 1, 2009 / Vol. 10, No 1, 2010 (Tobe Levin, p.69) and To Stop Female Genital Mutilation In The UK, Follow (And Invest) The Money (Hilary Burrage, 28 Feb., 2013)
[f] Thomson Reuters Foundation (22 July 2013), Thirty million girls at risk of FGM despite decline in support – UN
[g] Regional Conference on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Africa organised by the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, 19-24 November 1990, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and later reaffirmed in Mali in 2005 .
[h] World Health Organisation (2010): Global strategy to stop health-care providers from performing female genital mutilation

~ ~ ~

Now please add your name and thoughts via  Support The Statement On FGM .

The instigators and authors of this Statement are listed here.

For information on the reasons and rationale for this Statement please see Statement Background.  An account of how it came about can be found here.

We welcome support from everyone, women and men, black and white, academics, activists in the field, professional practitioners, political representatives, policy makers or simply concerned citizens of the world.

Please choose as many as you wish of the options which follow to let us know about your engagement with our Statement, and why it is important to you.

1. SUPPORT the Statement publicly, via the Change.org e-petition:
FGM researchers and policy makers across the international community: Support the Feminist Statement on Female Genital Mutilation – and also forward the e-petition elsewhere if you can, please;
and / or

2. JOIN THE DISCUSSION on this website, here about how to move the FGM agenda forward  – feel free to also add your website / Twitter etc info for all to see, if you’d like to publicize them as well;  everyone is invited to do this!
and / or

3. REGISTER YOUR INTEREST in future involvement privately, here. 
This is for activists, researchers etc: your name will not be made public if you choose only to do this, but we will know you are supportive and that we may contact you again.

Please note that
1. all posts on this website are moderated, and only posters who we believe give their real names will have their support published;
2. whilst we recognise and are also opposed to male genital harm, this Statement concerns specifically gender-related harm to women and girls. We will therefore publish only Comments which are directly on-topic (but if your website or Twitter handle also reflects male-gendered concerns,   :-)   that’s probably not a problem).

The names of some initial supporters of the Statement can be seen on the Statement Signatories Page.

Many thanks indeed for your support and engagement; we look forward to hearing from you!

_ _ _

See also: Hilary Burrage : author of

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective (Ashgate, 2015)15.07.14 FGM Book1 jacket jpeg
> Hilary Burrage has written the most definitive book ever on FGM.  An invaluable tool to help eradicate it worldwide. A personal triumph.  (The Guardian)

Permalink 3 Comments

NUM answers smears over Ukraine solidarity

February 5, 2016 at 3:42 pm (internationalism, posted by JD, Russia, solidarity, stalinism, Ukraine, unions, workers)

NUM logo.png

Statement from the NUM (also published, in extended form, as a letter in the current issue of the Weekly Worker):

CONDEMN THE DEFAMATION OF NUM SOLIDARITY WITH UKRANIAN MINERS

The National Union of Mineworkers is disturbed by the smears against our union regarding our approach to the conflict in Ukraine. These smears have been promoted mainly by elements on the outskirts of the labour movement. Sadly, some who should know better have been willing to give air to such defamation. We at the NUM have long experience of those who would seek to sow divisions and discredit us and we have a proven record of defending ourselves when necessary.

It is shamefully claimed the NUM has joined the camp of our enemies and abandoned our history of working class internationalism. Some even asserting we have crossed into the same camp as fascists and taken the line of Nato. Let us set the record straight.

The NUM has not based its response to the Ukraine crisis on what the British or Russian media tell us. We have not been charmed by the opportunity to sit in their TV studios and accept without question their government’s line. Instead we naturally turned to our fellow miners’ unions, with whom we have a friendship stretching back decades: the Trade Union of the Coal Mining Industry (PRUP) and the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU). The very first statement issued by the NUM executive committee was clear:

“The NUM supports the international principle of self-determination and expresses its support to our brothers and sisters in the miners’ union, PRUP, who are calling for all interference from outside Ukraine to stop. The NUM calls for a peaceful resolution to the current issues facing the people of Ukraine and our thoughts are with all the miners in the Ukraine, who we regard as our friends.”

During some of the worst fighting in Ukraine, we hosted a delegation of miners at the Durham Miners Gala in 2014 that were warmly received, yet our hospitality is now denigrated by assertions they were not miners, but national union officials from Kiev. This is untrue. The delegation was from Donbas and the speaker that addressed the gala was chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk branch of PRUP.

The NUM has sent two delegations to Ukraine; we have visited industrial areas, met national union officials, local branches and rank-and-file miners. We have also met with activists of the wider labour movement. The NUM attended and addressed the joint union congress of Miners of Ukraine on April 21. We are proud to have taken part in a protest by thousands of miners in defiance of riot police at the parliament in Kiev against pit closures.

Those attacking the NUM seek to question the legitimacy of the Ukrainian trade unions. Yet we have seen with our own eyes that the miners’ unions are not slavishly following the oligarchs and the government. They are resisting as best they can pit closures, austerity and anti-union laws. The NUM is being attacked because we support fellow trade unions that appeal for solidarity instead of the armed forces that hold a third of the territory in Donbas. Despite the wishful thinking of some, Putin’s Russia is not sponsoring a revived 1917-style soviet republic or a Spain of 1936. It is clear the takeover in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk area was initiated by rival oligarchs and Russia out of their own vested interests. In those areas the existing labour movement has been suppressed, trade unionists have been kidnapped, tortured and even murdered. This is common knowledge and has been reported to the international trade union movement repeatedly.

We have given our support to the Ukrainian labour movement in supporting the unity of Ukraine and of the working people of Ukraine, opposing the undemocratic division of Ukraine by force, which has been a humanitarian and economic catastrophe; it has divided working people and their labour movement.

At no time has the NUM given support to either Russian or Ukrainian far-right forces active in Ukraine – our solidarity is first and foremost with the labour movement. The NUM endorses the calls by the Ukrainian trade unions for justice for victims of the attacks on both the Kiev and Odessa trade union buildings, and of those killed on the Malaysian airline.

The situation was summed up in an address by the Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine to the conference of its sister union, Aslef, that “Ukraine has been squeezed between an aggressive power in our east and neoliberal economic policies from the west. The working people of Ukraine are suffering from both the terrible cost of war and of austerity.” NUM shares the view that it is for the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, free from external intervention from Russian or western imperialism. That is, we support the achievement of peace through self-determination, solidarity and social justice.

National Union of Mineworkers
Barnsley

Permalink 9 Comments

EU: time for the UK left to face reality

February 3, 2016 at 7:56 pm (David Cameron, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, left, Murdoch, populism, Racism, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP, Tory scum)

Portada de The Sun (United Kingdom)

As Cameron embarks on his campaign to sell his “reformed” relationship with the EU, the xenophobes have begun their anti-EU campign in earnest. Today’s Sun gives us a taste of what to expect: denunciations of migrants, demands for stricter border controls and thinly-disguised racism.

It’s time for the left to get real: the anti-EU movement is of necessity nationalist, xenophobic and border-line racist. No matter how much idiots like the Morning Star, the SWP and the Socialist Party try to dress up their anti-EU rhetoric with the word “socialism” and dire warnings about the evils of international capitalism and the “bosses’ Europe” they cannot escape the reactionary logic of their anti-EU stance.

Yet for decades now most of the British left — and the left in a few other European countries, such as Denmark — has agitated “against the EU”. The agitation has suggested, though rarely said openly, we should welcome and promote every pulling-apart of the EU, up to and including the full re-erection of barriers between nation-states.

Yet the possibility of a serious unravelling of the patchwork, bureaucratic semi-unification of Europe, slowly developed over the last sixty years, is more real today than ever before. The decisive push for unravelling comes from from the nationalist and populist right.

And that calls the bluff of a whole swathe of the British left.

For decades, most of the British left has been “anti-EU” as a matter of faith. In Britain’s 1975 referendum on withdrawing from the EU, almost the whole left, outside AWL’s forerunner Workers’ Fight, campaigned for withdrawal. Since then the left has hesitated explicitly to demand withdrawal. It has limited itself to “no to bosses’ Europe” agitation, implying but not spelling out a demand for the EU to be broken up.

The agitation has allowed the left to eat its cake and have it. The left can chime in with populist-nationalist “anti-Europe” feeling, which is stronger in Britain than in any other EU country. It can also cover itself by suggesting that it is not really anti-European, but only dislikes the “bosses’” character of the EU.

As if a confederation of capitalist states could be anything other than capitalist! As if the cross-Europe policy of a collection of neo-liberal governments could be anything other than neo-liberal!

As if the material force behind neo-liberal cuts has been the relatively flimsy Brussels bureaucracy, rather than the mighty bureaucratic-military-industrial complexes of member states. As if the answer is to oppose confederation and cross-Europeanism as such, rather than the capitalist, neo-liberal, bureaucratic character of both member states and the EU.

As if the EU is somehow more sharply capitalist, anti-worker, and neo-liberal than the member states. In Britain more than any other country we have seen successive national governments, both Tory and New Labour, repeatedly objecting to EU policy as too soft, too “social”, too likely to entrench too many workers’ rights.

As if the answer is to pit nations against Europe, rather than workers against bosses and bankers. The anti-EU left loves to gloatingly  remind us of the EU leaders’ appalling treatment of Greece and Tsipras’s capitulation – despite the fact that while in Greece and Southern Europe the EU is indeed a force for neoliberal austerity, in the UK no-one can point to a single attack on the working class that has originated with the EU against the will of a British government: indeed the EU has forced reluctant UK governments to enact limited but real pro-worker legislation (despite the Morning Star‘s dishonest claims to the contrary, the EU has been responsible for real pro-working class reforms such as the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, the Agency Workers Regulations and the Working Time Regulations – none of which are at any immediate risk as a result of Cameron’s “renegotiation”).

When Socialist Worker, in a Q&A piece, posed itself the question, “wouldn’t things be better for workers if Britain pulled out of the EU?”, it answered itself with a mumbling “yes, but” rather than a ringing “yes”.

Socialist Worker is against Britain being part of a bosses’ Europe”. Oh? And against Britain being part of a capitalist world, too?

Britain would be better off in outer space? Or walled off from the world North-Korea-style? “But withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t guarantee workers’ rights — the Tories remain committed to attacking us”. Indeed. And just as much so as the EU leaders, no?

A few years ago the Socialist Party threw itself into a electoral coalition called No2EU. Every week in its “Where We Stand” it declaims: “No to the bosses’ neo-liberal European Union!”, though that theme rarely appears in its big headlines.

Even the demand for withdrawal is a soft-soap, “tactical” gambit. In principle Britain could quit the EU without disrupting much. It could be like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland: pledged to obey all the EU’s “Single Market” rules (i.e. all the neo-liberal stuff) though opting out of a say in deciding the rules; exempt from contributing to the EU budget but also opting out from receiving EU structural and regional funds.

That is not what the no-to-EU-ers want. They want Britain completely out. They want all the other member-states out too. A speech by RMT president Alex Gordon featured on the No2EU website spells it out: “Imperialist, supranational bodies such as the EU seek to roll back democratic advances achieved in previous centuries… Progressive forces must respond to this threat by defending and restoring national democracy. Ultimately, national independence is required for democracy to flourish…”

But does the left really want the EU broken up? What would happen?

The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. “Foreign” workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face disapproval at best.

There would be a big reduction in the productive capacities of the separate states, cut off from broader economic arenas.

Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in capitalist world-market competition, and thus would be pushed towards crude cost-cutting, in the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than the bigger employers.

There would be more slumps and depression, in the same way that the raising of economic barriers between states in the 1930s lengthened and deepened the slump then.

Nationalist and far-right forces, already the leaders of anti-EU political discourse everywhere, would be “vindicated” and boosted. Democracy would shrink, not expand. The economically-weaker states in Europe, cut off from the EU aid which has helped them narrow the gap a bit, would suffer worst, and probably some would fall to military dictatorships.

Before long the economic tensions between the different nations competing elbow-to-elbow in Europe’s narrow cockpit would lead to war, as they did repeatedly for centuries, and especially in 1914 and 1939.

The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neo-liberal European Union, but forward, towards workers’ unity across Europe, a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.

It’s time for the anti-EU left to get real, face facts and pull back from its disastrous de facto alliance with some of the most reactionary forces in British politics.

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