A New Initiative

January 14, 2010

It might only be an electoral coalition, but the long wait for ‘Son of No2EU’ seems to be over – the Socialist Party has announced the creation of a ‘Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition’.  Even though it doesn’t have any national union backing, it does have the personal support of Bob Crow (which is significant) and Brian Caton of the POA (less significant as he’s in the Socialist Party).  It’s not clear at the moment who else is involved, but it would be good if the Communist Party and smaller groups threw their hats into the ring, to ensure that it genuinely is a uniting of left forces rather than just the Socialist Party and a few leading trade unionists (however impressive these are).

I’ve argued on this blog before that a new broad left workers party is essential, a drum the Socialist Party have also been banging for a while now.  It’s clear that any differences that exist in the Labour Party are purely of presentation, whether to be honest about making cuts t0 public services or whether to pretend that you won’t, while secretly planning on it.  The eccentricities of the electoral system mean that when Labour lose in May or June, they lose a lot more narrowly than their popular vote warrants.  The right-wing union leaders and some in the blogging world will no doubt harbour illusions that the party can somehow be won back, but the only decent thing a socialist can do would be to contribute towards killing off the party.

Talking of bloggers, I was sad to see that Nation of Duncan, and Leftwing Criminologist (who also blogged at the newer site ‘And Now for Something Completely Sectarian‘) have called it a day.  Time is a precious commodity for active socialists, and I can understand why they have decided to do this, but it is unfortunate all the same.  Both have supported this blog, and I am grateful to them for that, as well as the many excellent posts they have contributed over the years.

On ice, but not dead

November 15, 2009

A recent comment from Nation of Duncan reminds me that I have been neglecting the blog recently, this is unavoidable owing to the many committments I have at the moment, but I will be back with regular posts as soon as I have sufficient time to post something worthwhile.  I will definately be reporting with the Carnival of Socialism in December.  Normal service will resume.

I’d Rather Be A Picket Than A Scab

October 21, 2009


Vengeance and Fashion would like to offer all posties his solidarity in the strike action they are taking – safeguarding their futures and the future of our postal service.  Visit Red Postie for the unvarnished truth, and boycott the lying mainstream media.

Any Decision You Like, As Long As It’s Yes

October 1, 2009

The undemocratic charade that has been the ratification of the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty will probably take a step nearer to completion tomorrow with the referendum in Ireland.  You may remember there was an identical referendum last year, when Irish voters thumbed their noses at the neoliberal charter 53-46%.

As that was clearly the incorrect decision, so far as the trans-European elite and the Dublin liberal cognoscenti are concerned, the Irish people have been generously afforded another opportunity to make the correct decision.  This time they have been helpfully guided to the right answer by not-at-all veiled threats about the Irish economy going from a shipwreck to nuclear scorched Earth in the event of a ‘No’ vote.

Sadly, opinion polls show that it seems to have worked, but there is still a (slim) chance of a late rally.  The main left No campaign seems to have been a model of unity, and even if they don’t succeed in a remarkable second No vote, they have laid bare the undemocratic nature of capitalism, and the pro-big business agenda of the European Union.

Below are three videos produced by elements of the No campaign, featuring People Before Profit Alliance Councillor Richard Boyd-Barrett, Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins and Sinn Fein speakers:

Another New Low For New Labour

September 30, 2009

A brief preview of Labour’s bold new policy:

Now, obviously they haven’t gone so far as to strongarm adoptions from unmarried mothers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they suggested something like that as a desperate, ‘populist’ throw of the dice with massive electoral defeat coming in the weeks before the General Election.

Just when you think that bunch of slimy, cynical scumbags can’t get any worse, they pull it off.  Well done Gordon, well done Mandy.  Mission accomplished.

Left Foot Forward in Germany

September 28, 2009

In what apparently was the most boring election in German history, owing in part to the lack of charisma displayed by the leaders of the two main parties, there has been some fascinating results.

First, and most certainly least, the conservative CDU/CSU has stagnated.  In fact, their combined vote is down 1.5 percentage points on 2005.  This belies the almost adulatory coverage of Angela Merkel in the British media, which implied that she had mass support amonsgt the German people.  It would appear not.

The free-market Free Democrats (FDP) are almost certainly going to be Merkel’s coalition partners.  This is a Thatcherite party of small business and Yuppies that Daniel Hannan would feel at home in.  Their vote is significantly up, possibly benefiting from an anti-status quo vote, and an increasingly influential faction in the ruling class that demands more aggressive neoliberal policies.  Their voice will  be strengthened by these elections, and may push at an unlocked door when they press their coalition partners for these measures.

The big losers, in more ways than one, have been the SPD.  On the first-past-the-post seats they declined 10.5 percentage points on the 38.4% they achieved on that side of the ballot paper in 2005.  They slumped to 23% from 34.2% on the second, proportional vote.  They are suffering for a number of reasons.  They have participated as a mute partner in a CDU/CSU led government since 2005.  They backed the economic and foreign policies of that Government, including the deeply unpopular occupation of Afghanistan.  Many of their moderate voters either have opted for the real deal (CDU/CSU) or gone for a slightly less tainted alternative (the Greens).  Left-wingers will have preferred the social agenda of the Left Party.

Like New Labour, they have triangulated themselves into trouble.  They abandoned their base to attract more right wing voters, and now they have lost those voters, have found that their lack of loyalty to their traditional working class voters has been reciprocated.  Good.

German left-wingers are lucky, as they have somewhere to go – the Left Party.  The Left Party went from 8.7 % to 11.9%, which resulted in an increase of 22 seats to 76 in the Bundestag.  The Left Party has benefited from a proportional election system, the prominent pre-existence of the PDS in East Germany, and having the former SPD Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine as a figurehead.

What happens to the Left Party depends on how it uses its increased presence in the Bundestag and in State Parliaments.  There is a tendency, particularly in the East, to want to participate in coalitions with the SPD.  There is some tension between those in the West and in the East.  Bear in mind that while the electoral support for the Left Party is increasing in the West, it hits consistent heights in the East.

Something that makes me uncomfortable is the thought that, had it not been for the collapse of Stalinism, many of the leading figures in the Left Party in the East would be leaders of an oppressive, totalitarian state.

Coalitionism and the reformist/Stalinist element in the Left Party could seriously damage its prospects of being a mass force to be reckoned with, though given the nature of German politics, coalitions are far less damaging than they would be in the British political context.  The Left Party’s participation in the coalition Government of Berlin does not make them the 21st century German descendants of Ramsay McDonald and his ilk.  But it does undermine an anti-capitalist party to preside over cuts and privatisations.

The Left Party is a coalition of dramatically different political perspectives and cultures, and what happens in those internal struggles is of critical importance for socialism in Germany and Europe as a whole.  The political make up of the party will certainly improve one funeral at a time, but the critical battles ahead mean that this pace needs to be quickened in the direction of principled, genuine democratic socialism.

LD MTH Lily Allen Makes A Fool Of Herself

September 24, 2009

Well-known struggling artist Lily Allen, who spent years living hand-to-mouth in rat-infested digs on her no doubt long and arduous route to the top, has spoken out against copyright-infringement by file-sharing.  Rich enough from someone who has probably never had problems finding the readies to buy CDs and DVDs, this outburst has the delicious added touch of Allen herself committing these cardinal sins by reproducing copyrighted content on her own website.

So hypocrite she may be, but is she right?  A group of leading musicians called the ‘Featured Artists’ Coalition‘ thinks not.  They realise that file-sharing has changed everything, and seek to ensure that artists get a fair income, while opposing any efforts to victimise music fans for downloading music.

I made the case in an early post for radical changes to the way music is disseminated, and while this new group doesn’t share all my views, it does seem to be a genuine attempt at a new way of doing things.  They contend that “[f]or those of us who don’t get played on the radio or mentioned in the music media – artists established and emerging – peer-to-peer recommendation is an important form of promotion.”  Anyone familiar with the sterile and homogenous output of most music-oriented media will sympathise with this argument.

The FAC are opposed to those who “reap commercial benefit” from their music by operating file-sharing sites, demanding that “the industry and Government to come down on those thieving rascals with all the weight of the law.”  Now, these “thieving rascals” are clearly as bad as the recording industry themselves, who have turned living off the talent of others into an art form.  But I think this is largely a red-herring.  Most file-sharing sites only raise enough money to cover their costs, and those who run them seem to do it out of a sense of service or even moral obligation.  Cheeky members of Fagin’s gang rather than Bill Sykes, who is either the recording industry or Lily Allen.  M’Lord Mandelson is the drunken judge or the Beadle in this example.  I don’t know who Nancy Sykes is in all this, but Oliver Twist gave some sperm to Michael Jackson apparently.

Dickension diversions aside, although the FAC’s prescriptions are far from perfect, and are based on some straw-man assertions, their hearts appear to be in the right place, particularly in their opposition to the record industry and harsh penalties for music fans who download illegally.  They have some interesting ideas and a strange coalition of members (from Billy Bragg to Robbie Williams and Annie Lennox), and are worth keeping an eye on in the debates ahead.