Archive for the ‘Labour Party’ Category
Weekly Worker Congress, 2015 (Photo Courtesy, Sunday Times)
“As we hit the rough midpoint of the Labour leadership contest, it is safe to say that the right – both within Labour, and meddling from without – is in total, blind panic.”
As the Labour leadership contest gets ugly, William Kane begins to worry about the sanity of the bourgeois press (Weekly Worker).
At the most delusional end, we find – unsurprisingly – The Mail on Sunday, whose foam-flecked red-baiting focuses on a truly astonishing claim from the MP, John Cryer: “I am reliably informed that members of the Militant Tendency are using Tusc [the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition] to pay £3 to vote for Corbyn.”2
Where are we to begin? Perhaps by suggesting Cryer looks up the word ‘reliable’ in a nearby dictionary, and considers whether it can really be applied to any source who claims that:
- The Labour Party is being infiltrated by an organisation that no longer exists, and whose direct descendant, the Socialist Party in England and Wales, refuses to touch Labour – Corbyn’s campaign included – with a barge pole.
- This infiltration is being conducted through the same organisation’s electoral front, set up as a competitor to Labour.
- This peculiar course of action is being taken in spite of there being no need for it, since anyone can sign up for £3 if they so choose.
TUSC stood against Labour in the General Election.
It was made up of the Socialist Party, the SWP, and smaller forces, such as the Independent Socialist Network.
How long union support, officially from the RMT, will continue is unclear after the election of a new General Secretary.
The Socialist Party – committed to the building of a new workers’ party – is well-known for the view that Labour is a “bourgeois party” which cannot be reformed.
TUSC was prepared to stand against Labour in marginal seats.
On this basis it aroused opposition on the left:
In February 2015, senior figures from Unite the Union condemned the Socialist Party and by implication TUSC, for standing candidates against Labour in marginal constituencies for the 2015 general election. The open letter addressed to the Socialist Party, which does not mention TUSC, accuses the Socialist Party of having a “derisory” electoral record.[ In response, the Socialist Party claimed that a Labour government “would be at best austerity-lite and a continuation of the crisis that faces working-class people.”
The Socialist Party may have wavered on this point (after the wave of support for Corbyn).
[Note: what the SWP thinks varies from week to week according to the rhythm of its own fads and recruitment drives, so we shall pass over this for the moment.]
The Independent reports,
We at the Tendance doubt this news, which would mean ditching a stand taken for well over two decades.
This is the TUSC general election result: “the party performed badly at the election, winning a mere 36,327 votes, or 0.1% of the popular vote. No parliamentary seats were gained and no deposits were saved.”
Cde Kane continues on the story that cheered us all up:
Hard left plot to infiltrate Labour race. Sunday Times 26th July.
HARRIET HARMAN has been urged to suspend the Labour leadership race after evidence emerged that hard left infiltration is fuelling a huge surge in party membership.
More than 140,000 new activists are projected to have joined by the deadline for registration to vote, a rise of more than two thirds since the election, with many signing up to back the hard left candidate Jeremy Corbyn.
The Communist party of Great Britain has called on supporters to join and back Corbyn as part of its revolutionary “strategy” while Green party activists have also been discussing how to vote for him.
…we expect better things from The Sunday Times. After all, Rupert Murdoch’s papers are not indifferent to the internal goings-on of the Labour Party, but highly interventionist. We might consider them a sort of evil twin: both our organisation and their corporation think about Labour strategically, albeit from diametrically opposed political viewpoints.
How amused we were, then, to make the front page! A story about “hard-left infiltrators” voting for Corbyn seized upon our humble organisation as a significant agent in all this stuff. They quoted us – more faithfully than many comrades on the left, we might add – on transforming the Labour Party, on fighting for a left victory in the leadership election, urging people to register and vote for Corbyn.3
There was, naturally, some hair-raising revolutionary rhetoric, and a little photomontage of Provisional Central Committee chair Jack Conrad and the last issue of the paper (clearly in view, ironically enough, is the front page promo: “As Jeremy Corbyn surges ahead, right plots anti-democratic coup”). There you have it – it’s the Weekly Worker wot won it.
Seriously now – we find ourselves, above all, concerned with the precipitate decline in journalistic standards. When a mail-out writer for Labour List declared on July 27 that we “could organise an infiltration of a nine-year-old’s birthday party and I doubt anyone would notice”, he was being a touch unfair; but we do not claim to be a large organisation, and frankly even if everyone who had read this paper since Corbyn’s nomination had signed up (almost certainly not true, given our international reach), it would still not amount to a significant minority of the numbers who have done so.
It must be said that on Sunday when these stories in the Mail and Sunday Times broke, social media, that is, Facebook and Twitter, were buzzing with the happy voices of leftists chortling over their croissants and Co-op 99 tea.
Our instructions from the CPGB Central Committee (Provisional) were not slow in coming: well grubbed old mole!
More, please, please, more peals of laughter….
Cde Kane rightly observes,
we are not a large organisation, and target our propaganda more or less exclusively at other “hard leftists”, who in turn seldom take our advice.
Many on the left do read the Weekly Worker.
Some of (including the Tendance) have written for it.
It is well worth a read.
Now…must ask Cde Kane on next line (with approval from the SPA. GS?).
Jeremy Corbyn opens up MASSIVE 20-point lead in the Labour leadership election race
Jeremy Corbyn has opened up an astonishing 20-point lead over his rivals in the race for the Labour leadership.
Private polling seen by the Daily Mirror shows Mr Corbyn set to top the ballot with 42%, way ahead of Yvette Cooper on 22.6%, Andy Burnham on 20% and Liz Kendall on 14%.
But once second preferences have been taken into account the veteran leftwinger is ahead by just two points on 51% to Ms Cooper’s 49%.
Some Labour MPs are now urging supporters of Mr Burnham and Ms Kendall to either back Ms Cooper or at least ensure she gets their second preference votes as the only way of stopping the Corbyn bandwagon.
Ballot papers for the contest are sent out on August 14, with the result announced on September 12.
Unison has announced it will be backing the anti-austerity candidate Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.
And in a blow for Andy Burnham, who emerged early on in the leadership race as a union favourite and frontrunner, the trade union has tipped Yvette Cooper as its second choice.
It comes after a second poll suggested a significant lead for the veteran Islington North MP, putting him 20 points ahead of Ms Cooper.
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s message has resonated with public sector workers who have suffered years of pay freezes, redundancies with too many having to work more for less.
“They have been penalised for too long by a Government that keeps on taking more and more from them. Their choice shows a clear need for change towards a fairer society where work is fairly rewarded, and where those living and working in poverty supported.”
I was not going to Blog on this, after receiving threats from some very odd quarters.
But is too important to confine to the world of Twitter and Facebook.
Weekly Worker Editorial Board Deciding Corbyn’s Strategy.
Senior Labour MPs are plotting to oust Jeremy Corbyn if he is elected party leader, amid growing fears that the leadership contest has been hijacked by far-Left infiltrators.
Shadow cabinet sources have told The Telegraph that Mr Corbyn would never be allowed to remain in the job long enough to fight the 2020 general election, if he is elected on September 12.
A coup could be launched within days of the result, which would plunge the party into even deeper crisis and division, but would be necessary to prevent an electoral “disaster” under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, senior figures said.
However, a growing number of Labour MPs believe Mr Corbyn’s campaign is being boosted by tens of thousands of radical Left-wing socialists who have paid £3 to sign up as an “affiliated supporter” in order to vote in the election.
There are reports that Unite, the country’s biggest trade union, which is backing Mr Corbyn, has been telephoning 1,000 people a day urging them to register with Labour and back their preferred candidate.
One shadow cabinet minister told The Telegraph a coup would be inevitable if Mr Corbyn is successful.
Reports the Telegraph.
On the 6th of May Seamus Milne announced:
The Tories are plotting a coup in the name of legitimacy.
Fleet-footed the People’s Assembly acted (7th of May):
Stop the ‘Tory Coup’.
Ipswich followed the lead.
Cde Milne swiftly replied:
We beat off that coup!
Our troops, after recruiting thousands of new Labour Party supporters, are ready again!
Ipswich Workers’ Militia in Training.
Tim Farron: New Populist Front – but don’t invite Gays!
Older left-wingers will remember the group, the Democratic Left.
It was the official heir of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and grew out of the magazine Marxism Today.
One of the principal criticisms of the current that became the Democratic Left, was its its willingness to dissolve any form of class politics into a very nebulous form of “democratic alliance”. In the case of Stuart Hall this took the shape of looking for “new constituencies for change” to win over a hegemonic majority opposed to the ‘National Popular” configuration that cemented the electoral the base of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘authoritarian populism”.
The idea that there is an alternative, progressive, type of populism, is not new. The present rise in the intellectual popularity of “populism” on the British left, articulated in a “democratic” left-inflected way, woes something to another influence on the Democratic Left, the “post Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau, and, to a lesser extent Chantal Mouffe (she has since adopted a form of left republicanism or “agonistic pluralism” *).
Laclau developed the idea out of his studies of Latin America, including Peronism, and a critique of the Althussarian and Poulantzian position on the class grounds of ideology. Ideology is something which only take a class alignment in specific configurations of discourse. This leaves open the possibility of “democratic” as well as reactionary forms of populism. That is ” the basis of populism in the creation of “empty signifiers”: words and ideas that constitute and express an “equivalential chain”. This “equivalential chain” is made possible only when a list of unfulfilled political demands create a ‘logic of equivalence” between them. ” To translate: populism can become ‘popular’ when the frustrated masses fuse their demands (through what mechanism?) together.
Like Castoriadis’ concept of the “social imaginary” this appears to encourage a great deal of political creativity. Unfortunately it also allows politicians to ‘creatively ‘ make alliances and launch campaigns around demand with whoever seems to advance their cause. It is also suggested that it lets political parties and activists lose sight of the need to give a voice to clear interests – like class – and to make “socialism” such a flexible ‘democratic’ signifier that it loses all specific meaning.
We hear that Laclau has had an impact of Podemos and (we are surprised at this) the more seriously left-wing Syriza (Why Ernesto Laclau is the intellectual figurehead for Syriza and Podemos In the Spanish case it appears to mean appealing to the “masses” against the “elites”, the “political caste” (la casta), and claims to have gone “beyond” the “old” divisions between left and right.
In a British left-wing version, advanced by, amongst others, Owen Jones, left populism appears to mean pandering to anti-European fears. It can, in fact, mean just about anything that is “popular”
This is the end result of the (soon to dissolve) Democratic Left:
The Democratic Left stated a belief in a pluralist and socialist society “incompatible with the structures and values of capitalism.” Beginning as a political party, it decided not to stand candidates but instead to support tactical against the Conservatives at the 1992 General election and soon become a non-party campaigning organisation. DL campaigned on modernising unions, including Unions21; anti-racism and cultural diversity; democratising Britain, including Make Votes Count; social exclusion and poverty, including the Social Exclusion Network; focussing on coalition building, and operating in effect as a ‘socialist anti-Conservative front’.
Hard-line critics of this approach dismissed it as an end to class politics, without any solid basis in society, and (for Trotksyists) a renewed “popular frontism”, without specific socialist politics.
The Democratic Left withered away during the early Blair years, though we hear that some of them are still around in the New Politics Network (always something ‘new’…) and the journal Soundings.
We were reminded of these ideas when we read Red Pepper in June.
Many of the SNP candidates in the last election were chosen from or influenced by this movement, even though the movement is autonomous from the SNP. They have come to Westminster not with a nationalist but an anti‑austerity and pro-democracy agenda. As George Kerevan, now MP for East Lothian, said in the last issue of Red Pepper: ‘Watch out for SNP campaigners south of the border. If there are anti-austerity demonstrations in London, I will be there.’
He’s not alone. And although with Cameron in office there is probably little that he and his fellow SNP activists can achieve through sitting in Westminster and sticking to conventional procedure, there is much that a progressive anti-austerity alliance of MPs, including from Plaid Cymru, the Labour left and the victorious Green Caroline Lucas, can contribute to amplify the voices and demands of the movement across the country.
Hilary was once a critic of the Democratic Left and Marxism Today…..
It will be interesting to see this ‘populist’ left reacts to this generous offer:
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, began his first day in office by calling for progressive groups on the left to come together to forge a joint agenda on key constitutional issues such as electoral and Lords reform. He also revealed that defence of civil liberties, more social housing, climate change and continued UK membership of the European Union will be the primary issues on which he first intends to define his leadership.
This seems one of the – many – stumbling blocks to this new alliance (Guardian).
The new Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, on Friday night repeatedly avoided answering whether he regarded gay sex as a sin during a live television interview.
Just one day into his role as party leader, in an interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, Farron was asked whether he personally believed, as a Christian, that homosexual sex was a sin.
After replying that as liberals it was not “our views on personal morality that matter”, Farron said that to “understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners”.
* See the readable On the Political. Chantal Mouffe. 2005 and the, less readable, Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically. Chantal Mouffe. 2013.
Europe’s Left: No Retreat to Nationalist anti-European Politics.
Alexis Tsipras’s grip on power suffers a blow with 32 of his own MPs rebelling as the Greek parliament votes in favour of new austerity measure against a backdrop of violence on the streets of Athens reports the Telegraph.
There are many things to say about the developing Greek crisis but I am still struck by the information given in Le Monde on Tuesday about the “Explosive Propositions of Wolfgang Schäuble“.
The German Fiannce Minister, Schäuble, wanted Greece out of the Euro (no doubt to the satisfaction of the ‘left’ critics of Syriza’s leadership ), for a “provisional” period (not enough, would say the ‘left’, the True Finns and Golden Dawn). He also demanded a through-going “depolitisation” of the country;s administration, under close EU supervision (not something the ‘left’ would welcome one suspects).
The details behind this are a lot worse – as presented by Jack Rasmus,
It is a known fact that Schaubel and the ‘right wing’ of Euro bankers and ministers have wanted to eject Greece from the Euro since 2012. In that prior debt restructuring deal, private bankers and investors were ‘paid off’ and exited the Greek debt by means of loans made by the Troika, which were then imposed on Greece to pay. 2012 was a banker-investor bailout, not a Greece bailout. What was left was debt mostly owed by Greece to the Troika, more than $300 billion. Greece’s small economy of barely $180 billion GDP annually can never pay off that debt. Even if Greece grew at 4% GDP a year, an impossibility given that Europe and even Germany have been growing at barely 1% in recent years, and even if Greece dedicated all its surplus GDP to paying the debt, it would take close to a half century for Greece to pay off all its current debt.
Schaubel and the northern Europe bankers know this. In 2012, in the midst of a second Eurozone recession and financial instability, it was far more risky to the Euro banker system to cut Greece loose. Today they believe, however, that the Eurozone is stronger economically and more stable financially. They believe, given the European Central Bank’s $1.2 trillion QE slush fund, that contagion effects from a Greek exit can be limited. Supporters of this view argue that Greece’s economy is only 1.2% of the larger Eurozone’s.
What they don’t understand, apparently, is that size of GDP is irrelevant to contagion. They forget that the Lehman Brothers bank in 2008 in the US represented a miniscule percent of US GDP, and we know what happened. Quantitative references are meaningless when the crux of financial instability always has to do with unpredictable psychological preferences of investors, who have a strong proclivity to take their money and run after they have made a pile of it—which has been the case since 2009. Investors globally will likely run for cover like lemmings if they believe as a group that the global financial system has turned south financially—given the problems growing in China, with oil prices now falling again, with commodity prices in decline once more, with Japan’s QE a complete failure, and with the US economy clearly slowing and the US central bank moves closer to raising interest rates. Greece may contribute to that psychological ‘tipping point’ as events converge.
But there’s another, perhaps even more profitable reason for hardliners and Euro bankers wanting to push Greece out. And that’s the now apparent failure of Eurozone QE (quantitative easing) policies of the European Central Bank to generate Eurozone stock and asset price appreciation investors have been demanding.
Unlike in the US and UK 2009-2014 QE policies that more than doubled stock prices and investors’ capital gains, the ECB’s QE has not led to a stock boom. Like Japan recently, the Eurozone’s stock boom has quickly dissipated. The perception is that stock stimulus from the Eurozone’s QE, introduced six months ago, is perhaps being held back by the Greek negotiations. Euro bankers and investors increasingly believe that by cutting Greece loose (and limiting the contagion effects with QE and more statements of ‘whatever it takes’ by central banker, Mario Draghi) that Grexit might actually lead to a real surge in Euro stock markets. Thus, throwing Greece away might lead to investors making bigger financial profits. In other words, there’s big money to be made on the private side by pushing Greece out.
So, when we are talking about Syriza’s ‘betrayal’ bear this in mind.
Read it carefully.
Most will rightly, dismiss as stale air, calls for a “true” revolutionary party which will abolish these difficulties, and no doubt make the bankers and Schäuble disappear from the Earth’s surface.
But there are serious people inside Syriza, the Left Platform, who offered an alternative strategy to Tsparis and who have not accepted the present deal.
One of their leading spokespeople, Stahis Kouvelalkis has declared of the pro-EU Syriza leadership (this could apply more widely to others on the left – to Tendance Coatesy amongst many others) (Greece: The Struggle Continues Sebastian Budgen & Stathis Kouvelakis):
So for these people the choice is between two things: either being “European” and accepting the existing framework, which somehow objectively represents a step forward compared the old reality of nation-states, or being “anti-European” which is equated with a falling back into nationalism, a reactionary, regressive move.
This is a weak way in which the European Union is legitimated — it might not be ideal but it’s better than anything else on the table.
I think that in this case we can clearly see what the ideology at work here is. Although you don’t positively sign up to the project and you have serious doubts about the neoliberal orientation and top-down structure of European institutions, nevertheless you move within its coordinates and can’t imagine anything better outside of its framework.
This is the meaning of the kind of denunciations of Grexit as a kind of return to the 1930s or Grexit as a kind of apocalypse. This is the symptom of the leadership’s own entrapment in the ideology of left-Europeanism.
Kouvelakis cites the Greek Marxist political writer Nicos Poulantzas, who wrote and lived in France for most of his career, to back his anti-EU ideology.
He says that Poulantzas said the following.
Yes, Poulantzas talked about European integration in the first part of his book on social classes in contemporary capitalism, in which he analyzes the processes of internationalization of capital and he clearly considered the European Economic Community an example of an imperialist form of internationalization of European capital within the framework of what he considered the new postwar structural hegemony of the United States.
Poulantzas indeed made this analysis in Les Classes sociales dans le capitalisme aujourd’hui, (1974)
But in L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme (1978) Poulantzas offered an alternative to the domination of capital: a fusion of direct and representative democracy based ont eh workers’ movement and civil society. He famously stated that the state, is a ” « condensation matérielle d’un rapport de force entre les classes et fractions de classe » (a material condensation of relations between classes and fractions of classes).
The European Union is a judicial and economic framework which is, self-evidently, linked to these relations of changeable power.
It is not only a cabal of finance ministers, EU Commissioners, and neo-liberals who can do as they will – if there is a large enough power to stop them.
To change the EU, to fight neo-liberalism, requires a different relation of force: based on Europe-wide unity between the popular classes and lefts.
It means a political movement, across borders, with institutional weight.
The European Parliament, without any effective influence on EU decision-making, which is essentially inter-Ministerial and Commission based, is nevertheless a point where these bonds can, and are, made, through groups like the European Left Party – however weak they may be at present.
To leave the EU is to leave these potential ties of unity.
It is to give up the game at the first sign of difficulty – to follow those, misguided or simply opportunist ‘friends’ of Syriza who now turn on them when they have run into trouble.
It is to set the course for naked domination by the forces of international capital.
Or to put is more simply, no country, nor left, is in a position to break free of the IMF’s clutches, not to mention world financial markets.
Those on the Syriza left who proposed a Grexit, the centrepice of their economic plans, have yet to answer the point: would they have either offered a viable package, and how would they have warded off the financial locusts described by Rasmus?
They have yet to give a serious response.
A ‘New Britain’.
The Greek crisis has been a perceived as proof that the ‘pro-European’ left has failed, largely by those who were already convinced that this is so.
Briefly basking in Syriza’s reflected glory they have now returned to their own political projects.
In France, apart from the anti-Euro and ‘Sovereigntist’ Front National, a minority of the Parti de Gauche (45%) voted at their recent conference for this as part of a general “Eurosceptic” line (Libération). Their leader, Jean–Luc Mélenchon, has made frequent nationalist and anti-German remarks during the Greek crisis.
He said a few days ago,
For the third time in the History of Europe, the obstination of the German government is destroying Europe.
There is little doubt the same mood exists across Europe.
In Britain some see the Greek crisis as a sign to join in the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union.
This, Owen Jones dreams, would ” focus on building a new Britain, one of workers’ rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice. Such a populist campaign could help the left reconnect with working-class communities it lost touch with long ago.”
Unfortunately this option will appear on no Referendum Ballot paper, when, one assumes the believers in a New Britain will mark their slips in the same way as the ‘populists’ of the far-right, and hard-line anti-socialist economic liberals.
As Jim Denham rightly says, “The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neoliberal European Union, but forward, to a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.”
In the meantime here are some serious articles by people the Tendance respects (though disagrees with) on Syriza and the present crisis:
Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin: Treating SYRIZA responsibly (Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal)
Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, Athens
Update: A reminder from UNITE,
02 April 2015 By Tony Burke, Unite assistant general secretary
Two-thirds of manufacturing jobs in the UK are sustained by trade with the rest of the EU.
Between 2009 and 2011 the number of manufacturing jobs in the UK dependent on trade with the EU grew by 15 per cent.
But it is not just the economics that make membership crucial it is also the protection that workers have because of the EU.
Talk of employment directives may seem dry but protecting our members rights at work have come about because we belong to the EU, and because Unite and other trade unions have fought long and hard to achieve them.
Parental leave has been extended to at least four months for each parent no matter what type of employment contract a worker may be on.
Thousands of workers in part time jobs can no longer be treated less favourably than their counterparts who work full time.
Bosses don’t want anything that might interfere with their right to hire and fire at will so anything that provides protection for temporary agency workers from gross exploitation are hard fought. But we have been able to do it.
One of the major protections for workers is the transfers of undertakings directive a vital piece of legislation that guarantees workers’ rights and obligations in company takeovers and mergers – there was a time when companies could dismiss and automatically sack their entire workforces upon the transfer or sale of a business.
The working time directive protects workers from being forced to more than 48 hours on average and guarantees breaks during and between shits.
And lest we forget – guaranteed paid annual leave, of at least four weeks (28 days a year) – which now thanks to Unite has to be paid at average pay.
There have been massive improvements on equal pay; the right to be consulted on redundancies; to have information about your company and for workers in multinational companies the right to be heard and consulted at European level and improvements on health and safety.
Tory Eurosceptics and Ukip echo the right wing and defeated Tea Party in the United States offering Britain a prospectus of becoming an offshore financial centre – like Hong Kong. Left to them we will become Europe’s economic and political renegade.
If the Tories and Ukip get their way they will set us on this calamitous course to exit the EU. That’s why manufacturing workers need to vote Labour on 7 May.
“Misogynistic, vitriolic, very dangerous” – George Galloway as described in Naz Shah’s Maiden Speech.
Just out: “Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab) (Maiden Speech House of Commons)
It is customary to say a few pleasant words about my predecessor—[Laughter.] I have many words, but sadly only a few pleasant ones.
My predecessor was, I am told, a great orator.
The sad truth is that the only words he ever directed towards me were misogynistic, vitriolic, very dangerous and, to quote him, “only ever had a fleeting relationship with the truth”.
However, it would be most unwise of me not to compliment him on his sensational acting abilities, not forgetting, as demonstrated in “Big Brother”, his taste for red leotards and black hats. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his actions, which united the people of Bradford West. Their patience—and, indeed, mine—certainly paid off when we handed him his P45 on 8 May.
The Spandex Cat has truly left the building.”
Ha, Ha Ha!
Good on you Naz!
End Austerity Now Demonstration: a Personal Report.
Around 80,000 people (the Tendance’s estimate) marched in London on Saturday. They protested against the newly elected Conservative government’s plans to continue, and deepen, austerity.
It’s unnecessary to list the faults of these policies. It’s enough to see the people begging in the streets, a few hundred metres from the office of Ipswich Tory M.P. Benedict Gummer. Without the response of the People’s Assembly, the unions, the diverse groups and parties on the demonstration, and the wider public, Cameron and Osborne will have free rein to create a mean-spirited free-market Britain.
From Ipswich and Stowmarket 42 people piled in our coach – there were more travelling to London by train. Up to 70% were under the age of 40, with a large percentage in their teens and twenties. This was reflected amongst the marchers, with a strong presence of young people.
While assembling by the Bank of England we were addressed by various speakers. Those advertised included Kate Hudson (Chair, Left Unity, CND) and Diane Abbott (Labour MP and candidate to represent the party for the London Mayoral contest). They and others made good, rousing, contributions on the need to fight austerity.
Weyman Bennett (SWP/Unite Against Fascism) linked people being rude to women wearing the Islamic veil to the massacre at Charleston and the heart-rending plight of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Lee Jasper (Respect Party), the ‘controversial’ former Director for Policing and Equalities under Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Authority Assembly continued in this vein.
Someone (one can imagine who) compared his peroration unfavourably to Ali G.(1) One Suffolk comrade remarked that on what she called the “shouting”.
It was to be regretted that there was nobody from the National Shop Stewards Network – a group which, whatever one’s political differences, represents a lot more than the former two users of the demo microphone – was not invited to speak.
The route of the protest, which began next to the City, took us from Ludgate Circus, down the Strand, past Trafalgar Square. This was the venue of a – poorly attended- commercial beano, a pop radio concert. It symbolised the use of public space for corporate gain.
Local People’s assembly groups (like Suffolk People’s Assembly) unions, Left Unity, anti-cuts organisations, disabeld rights groups,the SWP, the Socialist Party, and other (even) smaller left parties, the Labour Assembly Against Austerity , the Green Party …to Class War, were present.
In Parliament Square there were more speeches. Again there were solid well-argued arguments against the Cabinet’s plans, from Steve Turner (UNITE and the People’s Assembly) onwards. John Rees included a reference to the rights of atheists in a call for to defend the freedoms of different beliefs. His claim that the demonstrators were from all ethnic backgrounds was perhaps not fully substantiated by a glance at the overwhelmingly white crowd.
Charlotte Church made an exceptional contribution.
The Mirror called it an “incredible speech“.
The Conservatives’ intention was to create a society around their principles, of private profit and public loss.
Describing the idea that Britain needs austerity as “the big lie”, Charlotte said: “They will sell off our schools and our hospitals. When it’s done, it will he hard to reverse.
“One aspect of this that really gets under my skin is that it’s all wrapped up in a proud-to-be-British package.
“I’m proud to be British because of the NHS and David Bowie, not because of the Union Jack.
“Be proud for the right reasons. We need to win back these young minds and save ourselves from years of yuppie rule.
“If you are ashamed that you have to use a food bank, because this Government would rather see you starve than put a note in your pocket, walk tall. You have the moral high ground.
“We are not afraid of national debt and we will not let our public services be attacked.”
She added: “What this country needs is economic stimulation – most economists around the world would say the same. We need to get the blood pumping.”
Earlier, she said: “I’m here today in a show of solidarity with everyone here – it is a massive turnout – everybody who thinks that austerity isn’t the only way and thinks it is essentially unethical, unfair and unnecessary.”
It was hard not to be moved by Charlotte’s clear and heart-felt words.
Her call for positive alternatives and hope will resonate across the country.
For many present, Jeremy Corbyn, standing for the Labour Party leadership, made a decisive call to make sure there is a strong left, anti-austerity, vote in this election.
End Austerity Now was a success.
Where we go from now is the subject of serious discussion.
One way forward can be seen in the multitude of protests against welfare reform: from the continued campaign against the Bedroom Tax, Benefit cuts, Workfare, to the – still not fully implemented – psychological treatment of some claimants.
It is to be regretted that some parties see groups like the People’s Assembly as a recruiting ground.
In Suffolk the Green Party does not appear to publicise this:
Suffolk’s best-known Green Party politician has pulled out of the battle to become Ipswich MP in next May’s general election – because he hasn’t “got the heart” to take on Tory Ben Gummer.
Mark Ereira-Guyer, leader of the Green and independent group on Suffolk County Council and an experienced election campaigner, was chosen earlier this year to fight for the Ipswich seat, but has now dropped out.
“Although I find Conservative policies odious and overly focused on free market fundamentalism, crass cost-cutting measures and ecological destitution, I am of the view that the current MP Ben Gummer is dedicated and hardworking.
“I respect his honest endeavours for the town. And, therefore, I can’t drum up sufficient energies to really take him on. I like my politics to work on a human level, and not in a tribalist way.
The day was an achievement for the organisers.
It was, as they say, only a beginning.
(1) This is what Jasper said (Charlie Hebdo and Europe’s rampant racism. 17th of January) about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo (he doesn’t even mention the anti-Semitic murder at the Hyper-Casher):
“JeSuisCharlie in this context is nothing more than appeal from right wings white’s to be allowed to be racist without opposition in the name of free speech. It’s a sort of #WhiteLivesMatter statement particularly when viewed in the context of the tragic violence and world silence about the Nigerian massacre by Boko Haram.
This privilege allows them to disregard the social environment and political context of such satire and its consequences. Writing in this flawed tradition is the perogative of white, middle class Libertarian anarchists. Charlie Hebdo is for me, a silly magazine and quintessentially an exercise in white privilege and arrogance.