Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The truth about UKIP and the Tory right

Phil Hearse examines what’s behind the continuing rise of UKIP (Left Unity site)
The defection of Clacton MP Douglas Carswell from the Tories gives the UK Independence Party (UKIP) the near certainty of getting their first MP. Opinion polls published on August 30 showed Carswell 44% clear of the Tories in the byelection campaign in Clacton caused by his defection. His defection has been reinforced by the stand-down decision of Chris Kelly, Tory MP for Dudley South. This tops off an astonishing surge by UKIP in 2014, following their major success in the European elections.

In May’s European elections UKIP won 27.5 percent of the vote, becoming the first party other than the two main parties to win a national election in 100 years. In the council elections in England UKIP won 163 seats (up 161), with about 17 percent of the national vote. UKIP’s vote damaged both Tories and Labour. While they cost the Tories control of several councils, they also polled well in some Labour territory, like Thurrock and Rotherham.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The return of George Orwell and Big Brother’s war on Palestine, Ukraine and the truth

John Pilger

11 July 2014

The other night, I saw George Orwells's '1984' performed on the London stage. Although crying out for a contemporary interpretation, Orwell's warning about the future was presented as a period piece: remote, unthreatening, almost reassuring. It was as if Edward Snowden had revealed nothing, Big Brother was not now a digital eavesdropper and Orwell himself had never said, "To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country."

Acclaimed by critics, the skilful production was a measure of our cultural and political times. When the lights came up, people were already on their way out. They seemed unmoved, or perhaps other distractions beckoned. "What a mindfuck," said the young woman, lighting up her phone.

As advanced societies are de-politicised, the changes are both subtle and spectacular. In everyday discourse, political language is turned on its head, as Orwell prophesised in '1984'. "Democracy" is now a rhetorical device. Peace is "perpetual war". "Global" is imperial. The once hopeful concept of "reform" now means regression, even destruction. "Austerity" is the imposition of extreme capitalism on the poor and the gift of socialism for the rich: an ingenious system under which the majority service the debts of the few.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Transport and cultural workers strike in France

France continues to be hit by major strikes by rail and air traffic control workers. Rail unions are protesting transport ministry plans for the reform of SNCF, France’s national rail company. 

The government wants to unite it with RFF (French Rail Network) in a single holding company , which is a certain formula for job losses and cutbacks. The French government wants to make the railway companies 'leaner and fitter' in order to face competition from other European companies. In effect they are preparing privatisation of the rail network.

The rail strike has opened up a union split between the CFDT federation which supports the reforms, and the CGT and Sud-Rail that oppose them.

Air traffic control strikes forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights 24 June to and from France and other European countries. They are protesting government cutbacks to aviation spending that they say will result in cutbacks that put safety at risk.

Actors and other cultural workers have also been striking over plans to reform unemployment benefits on which many irregularly employed workers like actors rely.

Portugal Left Bloc: Afterthe European elections

Statement by Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda), Portugal; translated by Federico Fuentes.

 Following the [September 29, 2013] local elections, the Left Bloc developed its European program via a thorough programmatic debate involving many independent activists. That culminated at our February 2014 national conference.
The Left Bloc entered the campaign with a strong orientation, a clear, alternative program to the one proposed by the government, a candidate elected by consensus and an openness reflected in the quality of the list of candidates presented and the public support they received. The Left Bloc carried out a dynamic election campaign, throughout which it remained united and completely focused.
The Left Bloc received a bad election result [149,628 votes, 4.56%, down by 6.15% from 2009]. We were able to elect Marisa Matias, but were a long way away from electing a second deputy. We not only failed to turn around the losses suffered at the last legislative and municipal elections, but received an even lower vote this time around. The party must carry out a profound reflection on the political situation, the path we have taken to date and future options for the Left Bloc.

'Broad left parties': Murray Smith replies to Socialist Alternative's Mick Armstrong

By Murray Smith

 Mick Armstrong of Socialist Alternative, Australia, has written an article which sets out to criticise what I have written over the last 15 or so years on broad left parties ("A critique of the writings of Murray Smith on broad left partes" (PDF), Marxist Left Review, Summer 2014). I would like to reply to some of the points that he makes.
Mick Armstrong’s article starts off by saying that there has been a marked evolution in my views on the question over the last decade and that in his opinion this evolution has not been positive. So let me start by outlining how I began to approach the question and how my thinking has in fact evolved.

Up until the mid-1990s I had a very conventional Trotskyist view of the need to build the revolutionary party by starting with a (more or less depending on the circumstances) small nucleus armed with a revolutionary program. That did not exclude fusions with other revolutionary groups or entry into mass reformist parties (as practised very successfully by Militant in Britain).

Let us note in passing that in Europe, after several decades of experience in a number of countries, this method has never led to the creation of anything resembling a mass party. I came to consider that this was not an accident. I have argued elsewhere that for two or three decades after the Second World War the position of the mass social-democratic and Stalinist parties was so strong that there was very little space to their left. That began to change in the 1960s and even more so after 1989-91. Objective reasons for failure receded and subjective, political weaknesses became more evident.

Mick Armstrong - a critique of the writings of Murray Smith on broad left parties

This text was posted on the Socialist Alternative's 'Marxist Left Review' (Australia)
Mick Armstrong
Click four arrow image for full screen

David Harvey - Afterword on Piketty's "Capital"


Thomas Piketty has written a book called Capital in the 21st  Century that has caused quite a stir. He advocates progressive taxation and a global wealth tax as the only way to counter the trend towards the creation of a “patrimonial” form of capitalism marked by what he dubs “terrifying” inequalities of wealth and income. He also documents in excruciating and hard to rebut detail how social inequality of both wealth and income has evolved over the last two centuries, with particular emphasis on the role of wealth. He demolishes the widely-held view that free market capitalism spreads the wealth around and that it is the great bulwark for the defense of individual liberties and freedoms. Free-market capitalism, in the absence of any major redistributive interventions on the part of the state, Piketty shows, produces anti-democratic oligarchies. This demonstration has given sustenance to liberal outrage as it drives the Wall Street Journal apoplectic.
The book has often been presented as a twenty-first century substitute for Karl Marx’s nineteenth century work of the same title. Piketty actually denies this was his intention, which is just as well since his is not a book about capital at all. It does not tell us why the crash of 2008 occurred and why it is taking so long for so many people to get out from under the dual burdens of prolonged unemployment and millions of houses lost to foreclosure. It does not help us understand why growth is currently so sluggish in the US as opposed to China and why Europe is locked down in a politics of austerity and an economy of stagnation. What Piketty does show statistically (and we should be indebted to him and his colleagues for this) is that capital has tended throughout its history to produce ever-greater levels of inequality. This is, for many of us, hardly news. It was, moreover, exactly Marx’s theoretical conclusion in Volume One of his version of Capital. Piketty fails to note this, which is not surprising since he has since claimed, in the face of accusations in the right wing press that he is a Marxist in disguise, not to have read Marx’s Capital.