Sunday, 30 May 2010

Birthday #1 Meme

Phil at A Very Public Sociologist: Birthday Song Meme is asking what was the #1 single when you were born.

So here's mine, Gerry & The Pacemakers - How do you do you do it?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Child Trust Funds

So Osborne and Laws, the dynamic duo at the Treasury have announced plans to knock Child Trust Funds (CTF) on the head.

For those who don't know CTF are savings accounts set up to provide a cash fund when a child reaches 18. The Government puts in £250 when a child is born. When the child reaches 7 then the Government shells out some more cash. Parents and relatives are encouraged to add money when they can afford it.

For some it seems a good deal - providing a handy nest egg for University or house buying. Others deride it as giving money away to the poor and undeserving.

Ian Cowie in the Telegraph is certain that pulling the plug on the CTF was the right thing to do.

Here and now, unpopular though it may be to scrap the CTF, it is undoubtedly the right thing to do at this stage of the credit crisis. The reason is that these payments were gifts from a government up to its neck in debt. This scheme was an egregious example of Gordon Brown’s Great Debt Delusion.

And Kate Green MP, a chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group explains the vindictive nature of the cut in Child Trust Funds.

This is just the sort of mean-spirited, below the radar cut we can expect to get used to now. Young people wouldn't actually have received the money in their Child Trust Fund till they reach age 18 - so today even the first potential recipients won't yet have reached their teens. By the time families notice what they've lost, the blame that attaches to George Osborne for this ungenerous decision will have been long forgotten. But for two parties that have made such play of improving social mobility, this is a cynical step.

As for me I'm with George Osborne! Although not for the same reasons.

About 20% of the UK population is below 18. Over that 18 years stretch the Government will be pumping in £500 a child, plus whatever other voluntary contributions the parents and relatives can afford. In Government giving it will be about £330M a year.

That's £330M+ a year that's going to the banking system, the very same system that treats the working man as nothing more than a trust fund to allow them to play super casinos. We've seen how they've raided the working man's pension funds, reducing the benefits yet maintaining their fees. On the basis that we're funding a wretched, corrupt and immoral financial capitalist system should be enough for it never to have got off the ground. These bankers will be benefiting more from this influx of cash more then our children ever will.

Why we can't create a world where everyone has the same opportunities, where everyone is equal, where the state is a servant of the people, where greed is frowned upon, where a harm to a neighbour is a harm to all? A world where your potential isn't engrained by where you live, what your parents do or what school you went to! I despair when I see our Government buying into this capitalist system and entrenching it into our daily lives.

A new world is possible.

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Monday, 24 May 2010

Bollocks to the Big Society

Just been reading the paper on the 'Big Society' put out by the Government of all the talentless. It's not pretty reading.

Running through it all is the theme of offloading services from local and national government to so called 'local' initiatives. It doesn't take a genius to understand why. Take people's taxes and instead of redistributing them via local councils and national initiatives you pass the loot over to local organisations. And of course all these local organisations will need 'managing'. From Secretaries to Treasurers to Committees, all posts that will undoubtedly come at a price and can be filled by men and women of good upstanding, of course. 'Jobs for the boys', the 'old school tie network', it's not what you know it's who you know. Unelected as well, no doubt.

There's talk of local people being able to start up their own schools if enough people consider that local ones are failing in some way. Fantastic news to the middle-class pushy parents - take the money from the local comp and set up up a school in your own image. Result! Poor kids in the local school get starved of funds and undoubtedly the new school will have some from of admissions policy. How jolly it will be to lord it over the riff-raff on the estates!

Another by-product will be the marginalisation of trades unions, I mean if the employees 'own' the company then it's bleeding obvious that the potential for strike action diminishes. That'll be a poke in the eye for the red menace!

And how long before this expands to the provision of what we now see as rights - unemployment benefit, housing benefit and the rest. Imagine all this being put into the hands of an organisation who can dish the pittances out at their own whim! I shall have to buy a cap, else what else will I have to doff with?

There's a favourite quote of mine from a book written by Clem Attlee in the 1920s. It goes thus:

'In a civilised community, although it may be composed of self-reliant individuals, there will be some persons who will be unable at some period of their lives to look after themselves, and the question of what is to happen to them may be solved in three ways - they may be neglected, they may be cared for by the organised community as of right, or they may be left to the goodwill of individuals in the community. The first way is intolerable, and as for the third: Charity is only possible without loss of dignity between equals. A right established by law, such as that to an old age pension, is less galling than an allowance made by a rich man to a poor one, dependent on his view of the recipient’s character, and terminable at his caprice'.

God help us in our hour of need that relief comes in the form of charity when we have a perfectly good welfare state that can deal with all of these matters.

Then there's the plan for a 'National Citizen Service'. When we have all these unemployed what the chuff are we doing cobbling together a pool of the young whose labour can be harnessed for free. Another nail in the coffin for the Minimum Wage. I smell the Hitler Youth!

I don't think I can write anymore, getting too angry. I'm normally reserved in my wording but I have to say to this ConDem government. You're a bunch of cunts.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Phil Ochs - Outside Of A Small Circle of Friends

This song has left me absolutely gobsmacked. Getting to my age and never knowing about Phil Ochs - inexcusable!

Friday, 21 May 2010

My Contribution to the Labour Leadership Extravaganza

There's a certain cartoon in the Morning Star archives by the excellent Martin Rowson. It goes something like this:

Who's that in the window?

Sunday, 16 May 2010

E. ON call centre workers suffer from pay cut

Call centre workers at one of Britain's biggest energy companies, E. ON, have had their pay slashed while their bosses have escaped from any wage cuts.At least 2,500 of the lowest paid staff at the gas and electricity firm have been told their pay will be cut by about £2,000.

The announcement comes just a day after the business, which is owned by a German company, had increased its profits six fold in Britain thanks to keeping customer bills high, despite enjoying substantial falls in wholesale prices.

It comes to something when a Tory paper like the Telegraph posts a damning item on corporate greed yet the party that claims to represent the workers is woefully complicit in this sort of activity by refusing to repeal the repressive anti-union laws brought in by the Tories. Any party with balls would have been vociferously condemning this sort of industrial activity. I can only conclude that the Labour Party is for all intents and purposes defunct. To be honest it has ever since it crowned Kinnock.

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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Ryan Harvey - Men Can Stop Rape

Rummaging around for some David Rovic songs I came across the Riot Folk Collective at A collection of folk musicians whose aim as the website says is "Making folk a threat again!"

Here's Ryan Harvey.

I hope you are satisfied

That's what I'll be asking my local Lib Dem councillor should I have the misfortune to bump into him. Mind you, the way the Lib Dem councillors have behaved in the past I don't expect to hear a peep from him until the next council elections.

I put my hands up and admit to voting for Lib Dems in the national poll. There was no chance of them getting elected in Aldershot, even less of Labour but there was hope, however miniscule that Howarth could be given the heave-ho. I mean, could it be so bad? After all, the Lib Dems are a progressive party with some policies to the left of Labour. In the end Howarth increased his percentage of the vote. So I suppose I can wear the badge that says "I voted Lib Dem but all I got was a stinking Tory/Lib Dem Coalition Government".

Now Clegg must be old enough to remember the last Tory administrations under Thatcher and Major, how the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised, the minorities were treated, how unemployment was a "price worth paying". Yet he still got into bed with Cameron and his continuation of Thatcher policies.

Clegg, you and your party have betrayed a generation, you have betrayed the progressives in your party, you have betrayed the voters. I will never, ever consider voting for the Lib Dems until my dying day. You have aligned with the enemy, dropped the mask and shown your true colours. At least we can be thankful that the charade of playing up as a progressive party has been shattered. Orange Tories.

I hope you are satisfied.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

A defeat for who?

So the UK is in a state of flux because of the situation of being in a hung Parliament. Good and bad news for those on the left. But bad news for the Tories and the Lib Dems.

The Tories have failed to capitalise on 13 years of right-wing Labour government which has given us 3 foreign wars of dubious legality,  a massive encroachment onto civil liberties with calls for 90 days detention without trial, ID cards and trial without jury on the mainland. Even with the Cashcroft coffers they just can't muster the support of the people. We've seen numerous business talking heads talking bullshit with no sign of the media bringing on board the trades union leaders to give a balance. But still the Tories flopped.

The Lib Dems were given a totally unjustified equal platform with TV debates amongst the leaders yet we see no increase in the number of MPs. What a farce, pure media hype to try and spin some viewer interest.

On the left the good news is that left leaning Labour MPs have bucked the trend and been re-elected, many with increased majorities (congratulations to John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbin and others!). And Labour has made huge inroads into local government at the expense of the Tories and Lib Dems.

Now what to do?

I would let the Tories and Lib Dems join in marriage and let them carry the can for the pain and hurt that the British people will be seeing, along with the Greeks, Portugese, Italians, Germans and others. For there is nothing that national sovereign governments can do within the capitalist framework. The real power lies with the middle-aged white men controlling international finance. This worldwide crisis in capital is merely the system being re-jigged to ensure that the system is optimised for continuing profits off the back of the working class and the world's resources.

So whoever's in charge it's going to hurt. I spent three years unemployed during the last Tory administration and I really fear for the future. But this is a fantastic opportunity for the left to rally and to educate the voters about the disgusting system that capitalism is.

Let's use the next couple of years to really highlight where the blame lies.
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Friday, 7 May 2010

The Socialist Sixth of the World

Soviet hammer-and-sickle symbolImage via Wikipedia
So who wrote this?

"England is the land of justice." Nine in ten of the comfortable classes take this for granted. Yet it is false. Where is justice when, in times of slump, two million unemployed are restrained by force from access to land, machines, and tools with which they could be profitably employed, and condemned to eke out a miserable existence in enforced idleness and dwarfing poverty? Where is justice when, in an age of potential plenty, millions live in needless want; and half Britain is paralysed by fears of sickness, old age, or the other insecurities and vicissitudes of life ?
It is taken from a publication called "The Socialist Sixth Of The World" by The Very Reverend Hewlett Johnson who was commonly know as the Red Dean. He was the Dean of Canterbury from 1929 to 1963 and was infamous for his support of the Soviet Union from the October Revolution until his death in 1966.

He died in 1966 but it's only now that his family have released thousands of documents from his archive. Here's to hoping that they become publicly available as to me his life seems absolutely fascinating. I come to Socialism not through Marxism (although I may or may not disagree on specific aspects) but through Christianity so anything like the life of Hewlett Johnson is especially interesting to me.

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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Local effect of Bigotgate

Just received a local election leaflet from the local conservative candidate Lucy Kurjeza for my ward, Mayfield in Farnborough, Hampshire. I think she's received her encouragement from Gillian Duffy and 'Bigotgate'.

Let's have a look at what's splurged on the page:

...many in Mayfield are alarmed at the increase in the number of Nepalese..

...Borough of Rushmoor has 2nd highest number of Nepalese in England...

...local schools unable to cope...

...GPs' surgeries unable to cope...

...not able to keep up with the relentless influx of not only the Nepalese, but also those from mainland Europe...

All the usual stirring you'd expect from a party like the BNP. Except that it's not the BNP but Cameron's Tories. And with quite a high level of BNP support in this ward perhaps it's what you'd expect. But with such a tactic comes the message of dividing a community and encouraging racism. Perhaps a true reflection of how the Tories care about what she says is the "3rd most deprived ward in Hampshire."

She should be ashamed of herself. Bigotry at best, incitement to hatred at worst?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

God is the only landlord

I like this!

Sung to the tune of "We Plough The Fields And Scatter"

H/T The Episcopelican

An Anglo-Catholic Socialist hymn, for May Day.
Original lyrics by Charles Dalmon.
Revisions by Fr. Kenneth Leech for the Jubilee Group, and Ted Mellor.

1. You faithful saints and martyrs
Who fought for truth and right,
We ask your prayers and blessings
To aid us in our fight.
Your faith shall be our watchword,
Your cause shall be our own -
To fight against oppression
Till it be overthrown.

Lift up the people's banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

2. In many a golden story,
On many a golden page,
The poets in their poems
Have sung the golden age,
The age of love and beauty,
The age of joy and peace,
When everyone lived gladly
And shared the earth's increase.

Lift up the people's banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

3. Today the tyrants triumph
And bind us for their gains,
But Jesus Christ our Saviour
Will free us from our chains,
And love, the only master,
Will strive with might and greed,
Till might is right no longer,
And right is might indeed.

Lift up the people's banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

4. God is the only Landlord
To whom our rents are due.
God made the earth for everyone
And not for just a few.
The four parts of creation --
Earth, water, air, and fire --
God made and ranked and stationed
For everyone's desire.

Lift up the people's banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

5. God made the earth for freedom
And God alone is Lord,
And we will win our birthright
By truth's eternal sword;
And all the powers of darkness
And all the hosts of pride
Shall pass and be forgotten
For God is by our side.

Lift up the people's banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

6. Christ blessed the meek and told them
That they the earth should own.
And he will lead the battle
From his eternal throne.
O have no fear, my comrades,
Cry out in holy mirth!
For God to us has promised
His Kingdom here on earth.

Lift up the people's banner
And let the ancient cry
For justice and for freedom
Re-echo to the sky.

May Day Message by the Central Committee of the Greek Communists

Elections in GreeceImage via Wikipedia
As international capital seeks to strip the resources and dignity of the Greek people the KKE, the Greek Communists, have released a statement this May Day.

Worth reading all the way through. Can't say I disagree with a word of it. All power to them and their cause.

Comrades, workers, Greeks and immigrants, young women and men, pensioners, unemployed,

KKE calls you to turn the events of this year’s 1st May in honour of the struggles and the sacrifices of our class into a new beginning of class political awareness and militant uplift in order to repel and overthrow the criminal policy of the government and the plutocracy that leads the working class, our families and children to the most savage and brutal exploitation, to permanent poverty and unemployment.

It is our duty, especially towards young workers, men and women, towards the children of the workers and the people, to defend the conquests that the previous generations have shed their blood for. Nobody should be afraid to make sacrifices for the struggle; nobody should succumb to the dark days, the result of this policy that serves the profitability and the reinforcement of the monopolies. It’s time to rise up with class unity and people’s mobilisation against the war on our rights. To struggle for our rights and for our children’s future. Our class has the power and the capability to lead the formation of a great antimonopoly, anti-imperialist, democratic front that will overthrow the power of the monopolies and will struggle for people’s power.

People should have no trust in the parties of the plutocracy or in the EU.

The brutal anti-labour measures of the PASOK government, supported by the parties ND and LAOS, will persist and will escalate as long as the workers and the people do not show their real strength. The subversion of social security rights, the dramatic increase in retirement age limits, the drastic cuts on pensions and benefits, the abolition of restrictions on mass dismissals, the elimination of Collective Labour Agreements, even the abolition of the basic salary and the generalisation of the temporary and flexible employment are measures predetermined years ago.

Their goal is the labour force to become even cheaper, the young people to be deprived of fundamental rights as regards labour, education and healthcare services. The same measures are promoted in all EU countries as require the interests of the capitalists. They want the workers to pay for the capitalist crisis and the impasse of their aged, outmoded capitalist system.

Capitalism cannot become human; neither can it avoid the crises. It is not a one-way road. The more powerful the monopolies get, the more the workers and the people will suffer, the greater parasitism, corruption and barbarity will become.

Today, more than ever, the material preconditions in order for the people to have contemporary rights and stable secure job actually exist. The working time and the retirement age limits can be reduced, Health and Welfare services, Education, housing, sports and cultural activities can be free and contemporary. Do not tolerate the deterioration of the terms of your life.

You have already experienced the path of development that serves the capitalist profit. It will only place new burdens on your shoulders. However, there is a way out. There is a path of development that serves workers’ and people’s needs. It’s the path of people’s power, of people’s economy.

It is imperative our class to trust and use its own strength.

The working class is the most powerful social force. It produces the wealth; it creates and makes the factories, the enterprises and the infrastructure work. Greece has natural resources that are required for the development of the country in favour of the people.

The basic preconditions are all monopolies to become popular-social property and to be subjected to central planning and to social and workers’ control, as well as our country to be disengaged from the imperialist organisations.

Reject the slander and the lies of the supporters of capitalism about the socialist construction in the 20th century. It has been the first attempt to construct socialism which despite the difficult conditions and the mistakes proved that the working class and the people can live much better without capitalists.

It proved that the planned social production can bring an overall development without crises and at the benefit of all the people. We draw lessons from the achievements but also from the mistakes made during this great effort so as to construct socialism with confident steps, to achieve unprecedented incomparably greater gains.

Workers, young people

Trust KKE!

The Central Committee assures you that our party will devote all its forces to the unwavering defense of the rights, the present and the future of our class. However, we cannot win the general war that plutocracy and its parties launched against our rights without your participation in the struggle.

Join the struggle without any delay; for a movement with strong roots in the workplaces and the sectors; with a strong class unity and solidarity liberated from corporatism, yellow trade unionism, the erosive influence of labour aristocracy that spreads the poison of submission and defeatism.

Rely on your party and support it in the big coming struggles, for the big radical change; for the rights, the power of the working class, for socialism. This is our class patriotic duty for the present and the future of our class, our internationalist duty towards the working people of Europe and all over the world who suffer from capitalist exploitation and the plundering by the monopolies.

Nowadays, we have to struggle without any compromise, we deserve a better life where the needs of the people will be satisfied.

Honour and glory to the victims of our class, to the class struggles; their sacrifices have yield fruits; they call us to new and victorious struggles. The future is in our hands.

The Central Committee of KKE

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