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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: For May Day … Capitalism, Charity, Food Banks and Workers’ Rights by NY Brit Expat

2:56 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Most probably people have heard of the bizarre investigative journalism by The Mail on Sunday in an article which appeared on Easter Sunday (of all days in the year). The Mail on Sunday sent in a reporter, a wannabe Jimmy Olsen, to investigate provision of food by food-banks in Britain and that reporter literally took food out of the mouths of the hungry in order to prove some point. This provoked a backlash on social media that demonstrated that the neoliberal agenda seems to not have sunk too deeply in the hearts and minds of the British people. That is a relief and quite honestly more than I expected, given the constant barrage in the newspapers and on the news on telly that has never questioned the logic (forget the morality) of welfare caps and cuts to welfare benefits.

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ht: my sister Mia for comments and editing on this piece

However, the issue goes far deeper than the attempted neoliberalisation of the provision of charity in the context of the capitalist economic system in a Britain living under austerity; it actually raises issues of wages and incomes ensuring social subsistence in the context of capitalism and hence the reproduction of the working class.

The issue impinges upon the basic rights of human beings to be ensured their subsistence irrespective of the ability to work; this relates both to:

  1. Being unable to find work as there are no jobs due to laws of motion of the capitalist economic system
  2. Being unable to work due to disabilities, illness, or having caring responsibilities and the capitalist economy’s unwillingness to create social policies guaranteeing full accessibility for people with disabilities that can work and the full socialisation of care for children, the disabled, the sick and the elderly which would free women from caring responsibilities.

This then raises the question what are the moral precepts underlying our society in terms of guarantees to all members of the rights to a basic subsistence ensuring housing, food, heating, clothing, clean water and electricity?

The Attempt to Neoliberalise Charity Provision

In many senses, the article is rather chilling in terms of what was attempted. It is also way over the top; charity is private and individual by nature. One would think that would be sufficient to fulfil Tory fantasies of assistance for the poor and unemployed no longer provided by the social welfare state, but guess again.

An “investigative reporter” (and that is using the term very generously) goes to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (the go-to place when you need assistance to deal with an unfriendly and complex class society) and tells them that he is having trouble making ends meet due to rising fuel bills (this is a very common problem due to rising prices of energy, fuel and electricity). The Citizens Advice Bureau contacts the Trussell Trust who runs many food-banks in this country (along with community groups, other church groups and horribly enough the Red Cross who have been distributing food for the first time since World War II) and issue the “reporter” a voucher coupon).

As an aside, and, to add insult to injury, these vouchers to food-banks, appallingly, are also given by government Jobs Centres when clients come in and tell them that they have insufficient funds to purchase food. The provision of voucher coupons by the Job Centres is part of government policy … even worse, it is government policy to send the hungry and unemployed to food-banks instead of providing sufficient benefits income to those that come in for assistance which is also, disgustingly, government policy.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau then sent our intrepid reporter to the food-bank where he tells the same story. Correctly, the food-bank provides food and basic goods to this investigative reporter. They did not search his house, ask him for proof of insufficient economic means, demand evidence of any sort; they are a charity and their role is to provide food when people need it. Their job is not to shame people or investigate people or means-test people – their role is to step in to ensure that those that say they have insufficient income to buy food are covered.

That brings us to the first issue: due to government cutbacks in benefits, people cannot limit their use of food-banks to a disastrous situation; which was their original and sole purpose. Sometimes even with the best planning people run out of money; there are unexpected expenses (e.g., dentists, new school uniforms, higher utility bills than usual), which can blow a budget especially in the absence of credit cards and unwillingness to take out a usurious loan (which is impossible to get if you are unemployed anyhow). Food-banks are supposed to be a last-gasp resort for people. As the Trussell Trust (and various clergy have pointed out), the government’s attacks on the social welfare state are literally forcing people to rely on food-banks on a regular basis rather than in desperate circumstances!

For his Easter message, David Cameron enjoyed talking about what a Christian nation Britain is; ironically, he clearly does not want to hear members of the Clergy that came to talk to him about poverty caused by government policy as his staff called the police! Let’s give Cameron a round of applause, as his party seems to be the only one in Parliament that called the police on the Clergy. While extolling the principles of Christianity on the abstract level or when they are useful for anti-immigrant bashing, in actual practice concrete Christianity and David Cameron seem to be at odds.

In many senses, this appalling policy is reminiscent of the “Thousand Points of Light” nonsense promulgated by George HW Bush (the father, not the son) in his inaugural address where voluntarism and charity donations were supposed to replace a modern social welfare state. Thanks again to the US for exporting yet another failed and reactionary policy overseas to justify the destruction of a real social welfare state (as opposed to the rather pallid and anaemic imitation in the US)! In fact, I would argue that this nonsensical speech by GHW Bush was the beginning of the identification of the social welfare state with charity, while these two things are separate and distinct and should never be conflated.

The Response to the Maul on Sunday article

The response to the article by The Mail on Sunday was swift and angry. It spread all over social media and this was chronicled by The Guardian.

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According to the Trussell Trust:

Thousands of people took to social media to express their support for The Trussell Trust and its foodbanks. Well-known names like the author Mark Haddon, musician Billy Bragg, financial journalist Paul Lewis and comedian Jon Ronson donated to the Trussell Trust Easter appeal to show their support and encouraged others to do the same. Almost 5,000 people have donated to the Help Crack UK Hunger Justgiving page since the article was published, and donations to the appeal page rose from £2,000 before Sunday to over £60,000 to date.

Today The Trussell Trust says that since Sunday, donations to Help Crack UK Hunger, combined with donations to Trussell Trust’s general funds, have reached an incredible £97,673.57p. A large proportion of this amount can be attributed to reactions to the Mail on Sunday article and additional coverage.”

Trussell Trust Chief Executive David McAuley says:

“We have been moved, humbled and overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of the British public following the Mail on Sunday’s article. It’s been amazing to see thousands of people react in such a positive way, wanting to help people in crisis. I would like to thank everyone who got behind this campaign, not just for their donations, but also for the positive words of encouragement. It means a lot, and will make a big difference to lots of people who are struggling in the UK.”

The Trussell Trust team has been blown away by the generosity and support of so many people. All the funds raised will help The Trussell Trust to do more to help stop people going hungry in the UK (http://www.trusselltrust.org/latest-news#HCUKH).

As an understatement, I was extremely relieved that so many British people were so appalled by The Mail on Sunday piece and the attempted neoliberalisation of charity.

But, and this brings me to the main issue, I have been far more concerned about the acceptance of the argument that it is charity that needs to provide for those whose wages (whether wages or benefits; as there are working poor people in Britain that get help along with those that are unemployed) or whose benefits are now insufficient due to government economic policies.

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The essential problem is two-fold:

  1. To address the economic crisis, the government suppressed wages to keep profits up under the ideological position/obfuscation that higher profits would ensure investment and get the economy growing again; this is known as Say’s Law for those that know mainstream economic theory (which maintains that all economic growth derives from income saved from profits which is then invested leading to economic growth). This specifically was the case for wages of public employees whose increases were frozen at 1% (way below the rate of inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index which they substituted for the Retail Price Index which covered housing increases), state and public worker pensions were re-pegged to the Consumer Price Index to decrease future increases;
  2. The government then proceeded to cut income for the working class by cutting benefits. The social welfare system in Britain is different from that of the US. It does not only cover the unemployed and poor. There are elements that are cross-class, like child tax credits, child-care benefits, winter heating allowance, disability living allowance and incapacity benefit (that independent worker’s personal contributions), and, of course, the NHS which is available to all. It has historically also been used to prop up incomes of those earning insufficient income to cover general living expenses thus freeing capitalists from having to pay higher wages (e.g., child-care benefit, child benefits, housing benefits, etc).

What is really going on?

What we are seeing is a contradiction of the capitalist economic system manifesting itself. On the one hand, we have the introduction of austerity, the manner in which neoliberalism is attempting to deal with an economic crisis, which is lowering wages to increase profits and profitability. On the other hand, there is the need in the capitalist economic system to ensure the reproduction of working class as these workers are needed to actually work and to produce goods and services over and above the value of their wages to ensure the creation of surplus value (value of the surplus product over and above reproduction of the economy at the same level) which forms the basis of interest, profits and rents.

Moreover, wages need to be of a sufficient level for workers to actually purchase the goods and services in order for realisation of profits to occur; in the absence of sale at a price over cost of production, there are no profits. So, undermining the social subsistence level (and remember this is throughout the advanced capitalist world) could actually interfere with realisation of surplus value in the form of profits.

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That is why there is so much babble about export-led growth; they are actually hoping to ensure the sale of goods and services overseas whilst undermining social subsistence levels. However, what happens when all countries in the advanced capitalist world are all lowering wages to prop up profits? That means that sale of goods is not increasing sufficiently to keep the wheels of the system greased. Guess what, that also means that investment by capitalists to increase output (and employment) is not happening.

That is why economic growth in the advanced capitalist world has not been spectacular. It is also why so much attention is being paid to China to increase wages and create a social welfare state so that the Chinese working class will save less and spend more.

There is an inherent contradiction between the needs of labour (to subsist and reproduce; i.e., to cover housing, food, clothing, heating, water and to have families) and the needs of capital (to have continuous growth and rising profits and profitability) in capitalism.

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What is happening in this period (and this is the culmination of economic policy since the 1970s) is that the perceived needs of capital are increasingly in conflict with the needs of labour. As a result, not only is the recognised social subsistence level being eroded to prop up profits; the fact that the system (in the absence of a public or state sector to increase employment) cannot create full employment of labour is becoming more and more evident.

Essentially, under capitalism, the number of workers that are employed depends on the available technology that can be used to produce goods and services; and what is produced depends on expected profitability of these goods and services which depends upon the expected demand for these goods to be produced.

In capitalism, what is produced does not depend upon human need (it depends upon profitability and expected profitability); the manner in which these things (goods and services) are produced (i.e., technical choice: the use of labour, land and capital of varying types) does not depend upon ensuring jobs for all, but rather potential profitability.

Moreover, the needs of capital do not take into account the impact of economic growth on the planet itself; a planet that we all need to sustain life and not the needs of capital.

We need to understand that capitalism needs to be eliminated; it is sucking literally sucking the lifeblood out of the majority of people on the planet and the planet itself!

We deserve a world that does require the existence of food-banks, where everyone has what they need to lead a fulfilling life; this should not be a privilege granted solely to the members of the ruling class.

This means that we need to talk about what are our social responsibilities to each other as human beings. Yes, we can reform capitalism certainly; but those reforms will not change the basic nature of the system that depends upon wealth and income inequality and exploitation of the majority to fulfil the needs of the economic system of continual growth and profitability.

We also need to discuss how we can ensure that the basic needs of all human beings are covered and that we do not destroy the planet to ensure these things. We need to address how more than basic needs for humans to develop and create and advance themselves can be met. In order to do this, we need to understand that as human beings we have the right to what we need to lead fulfilling lives, irrespective of our ability to work. We also do not have the right to undermine others’ rights to the same fulfilling lives. To put it simply:

“From each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs.”

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Hoping everyone had a wonderful May Day! Please share photos (if you have them) of events where you live!

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Left Unity – The New Party that Could by NY Brit Expat

3:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

LEFT UNITY HAS BEEN CREATED! Yes, this is the new political party, not necessarily the reality of “Left Unity” itself. Like all births, it is never easy. But it has the possibility of actually changing electoral politics in Britain. And like all births, it should be recorded.

Tonight’s piece covers a piece of news, some coverage of the student occupations in Britain including two petitions in response to the actions of the universities to these occupations, and a short homage to Nelson Mandela and the endless hypocrisy of our mainstream politicians.

While, of course, the justifications for permanent austerity under the Tories and the pensionable age being shifted to 70 and tax breaks for married people whose earnings were over a certain level, while somehow continuing impoverishment of the majority were sort of glossed over (really if impoverishment of the majority is required for your system, wouldn’t you start to raise the obvious point that the system is NOT worth it?) were found all over the BBC following the Autumn Statement of Minister of the Exchequer, George Osborne, many things that should have been said never quite made it to the news of the BBC. Given that they have a 24-7 news channel; surely a few moments could have been spared from their extensive scheduling.
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I. The Founding Conference of Left Unity

You would not have known it if you did not listen to Radio 4 (beginning at 34:37) which was the only British mainstream news that covered the conference (there was a lot of coverage on Left sites and in Left-wing newspapers). Interestingly, the Russian channel RT did cover it … given I pay taxes in Britain for the BBC and not in Russia (thankfully), the lack of coverage was rather disconcerting; I also find that it surreal that such a reactionary country can cover it (it is not as though Russia is in anyway opposed to neoliberal capitalism), one wonders if it was too difficult for the BBC to actually come to the centre of London.

Had they been bothered to come they could have viewed an attempt to create a party to the left of Labour; yes, given how far to the right Labour is, I guess that is not really news that people may actually reject the neoliberalism and pro-austerity arguments of all 3 main parties and our special brand of British xenophobia in UKIP. Since the conference was not covered by the BBC and even in my wildest fantasies would never be covered in the US, here is a report of the founding conference of Left Unity!

Yes, we had our conference on November 30th. Our party name is Left Unity (yes, there was a vote on 4 different names: Left Unity, the Left Party, Left Unity Party, and Democratic Voice) as chosen by the majority of those present at the conference .

If you want to watch the live streaming of the whole conference, here is the link (I will be sharing some videos in the piece).

Participation at the Conference

Attendance on the day was 495, which is not bad for a group just starting out. There are over 1,200 registered as founding members of Left Unity (more have probably signed up since the conference; this was the figure at the start).

So, we have a campaigning party of the left to fight austerity and neoliberalism. It has a broad left, feminist, environmentalist, socialist and working class orientation with an internationalist perspective. There was strong representation of people with disabilities, women and not everyone was white, male and over a certain age; so this is a step forward. However, and this is a big however, participation of people of colour is insufficient, the numbers of women at the conference was still small, and we need more young people participating. It will participate in the electoral process; but it is not limited to this … much of its work will be to link up with the movement and campaign around political issues raised by the movement.

This conference was an attempt to build a campaigning party from the bottom up, not the top down. This has been successful (motions, platforms, constitution) were drafted by branches and large numbers of people and serious discussion and this was enshrined in the constitution of the new party. There was broad discussion in the branches on the various proposals, motions, and platforms; these were available to people well in advance of the conference enabling discussion and debate. The atmosphere of the conference itself was for the most extremely friendly and comradely; this is impressive given the differences of opinion expressed and the strength of people’s convictions on what they were arguing.

Given that the conference was creating a new campaigning political party, it was inevitable that it would be spent in discussing the aims, platforms, constitution and various motions and proposals from the various branches. That meant that much of the discussion was not directly linked to political discussions, but those political discussions were underlying much of the debate that occurred at the conference. I must say that I am extremely proud of what we achieved, but there were things with which I am less happy and I will discuss those below.

The Issue of Ensuring Accessibility

Importantly, accessibility issues from a social (not physical) context were strongly recognised and various attempts to address the specific needs relating to accessibility were planned (there were no steps into the conference, seats were saved for those with disabilities, a T-loop was arranged (this enables people with hearing aids to link directly into the microphone), large sized type in sans serif conference bulletins were provided, there was disabled registration, a disabled toilet (alas only 1) and a lift to those toilets. The conference was live-streamed for those that were not able to be there.

However, the best laid plans and all that … not all that was planned worked, unfortunately: for example, the seats saved for people with disabilities were taken by those that did not need to be in the first few rows, the T-loop for those with hearing aids did not extend after the first few rows (and neither of these were flagged by the stewards at the conference in the beginning to try and shift people who probably did not know these things when they sat down or assumed the name-tags on the seats were for the great and good rather than those with special access needs), people with neurological conditions and arthritis could not hold voting cards over their heads, there was insufficient space between seats and aisle seats were often taken by those that didn’t really need them.

The worst thing was the insufficient breaks in the conferences, specifically the lack of a break in the afternoon session. This does not only affect people with disabilities, people in general have difficulty concentrating for more than 30 minutes; by the end of the conference, it was clear that people were exhausted and unable to concentrate. For people with disabilities who need more time to use the toilet, who need breaks to shift positions, who may need to eat and take medicine at intervals, it was extremely unpleasant. In my case, I could not get a seat in the first few rows so the fact that there was a T-loop did not have an impact on my hearing comments from the floor; I also spent most of the conference standing as I could not climb over someone to get a seat inside the row.

Here is Bob Williams Findlay, a long-term disability rights activist, discussing problems that people with disabilities had at the conference (starting from 1.34):

There is a disability caucus and we will be meeting to discuss accessibility and to provide some guidelines … it is ok to make errors, but we need to learn from them and to avoid making the same mistakes.

Ensuring accessibility not only ensures the participation of people with disabilities, it applies to all those that need special assistance to be capable of full participation in our movement. It is essential and it is up to all of us to ensure that this is possible. We also need to recognise the obvious point that accessibility does not only relate to people with disabilities; we need to provide for childcare (there was not a crèche at the conference, but funds for private childcare were provided) and there was a subsidy for those that could not afford to attend the conference (to cover travel and costs). In spite of good intentions, things can be improved.

Conference Decisions

The Safe Spaces policy was remitted back to conveners to amend, but it was accepted that it would be part of the constitution. This is the call to move the Safe Spaces policy to the conference:

Caucuses were set up for women, people of colour, LGBT caucus, people with disabilities and youth. The latter 3 were guaranteed 2 people representing each caucus on the national organising body (the issue of women’s representation will be discussed below in detail).

The aims of the party were agreed to be voted upon separately from the platform debate. Ken Loach’s proposal to not have a vote on aims and platforms was defeated. There were 5 platforms and a motion submitted for vote (Left party platform, socialist platform, class struggle platform, communist platform, platform 9 and ¾ and the republican socialist platform. Since the aims were separated from the platform that meant that people could vote for more than one platform.

For voting information purposes only (this is not an endorsement of this group’s position):

“When it came to the vote, the IDC aims were declared clearly carried on a show of hands, while the Hackney and Tower Hamlets statement was agreed by 173 votes to 121, with 46 abstentions. The LPP received a huge total of 295 votes, with 101 people opposing and 12 abstaining, while the SP picked up 122 votes, with 216 against and 28 abstentions. The Republican and ‘9¾’ platforms were withdrawn, while those of the CP and Class Struggle were declared clearly defeated on a show of hands (http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/989/left-unity-making-a-safe-space-for-left-ideas).”

So, the Left Party Platform as amended by the Camden branch was accepted by the party (I will return to these below) by a 3:1 vote, along with the Hackney/Tower Hamlets branches statement.

There was a decision to support 50+% of women on all national and regional bodies of the conference and as speakers for the party (more on this below).

It was agreed that LU would not organise directly in Northern Ireland.

One member-one vote was reiterated, but it was recognised that there would be permanent political factions, but that they could not campaign against the party itself. This, I am certain will come back to bite us on the arse in the future!

Socialism and Feminism

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While there were substantial victories, there were also discussions and statements that made me realise that we have a long way to go to address sexism in the left. One problem that I have is that there seems to be (on the part of some members of the hard left) the opinion of an inconsistency between feminism and socialism. While overwhelmingly they recognise gender oppression under capitalism, they seem to believe that somehow advocating a socialist feminism argument threatens a class analysis. So while they will argue that women are oppressed under capitalism and argue that only socialism can eliminate women’s oppression, they seem to oppose any cross-class movements along a feminist perspective and in that sense they refuse to argue for reforms in the context of capitalism, arguing that the existence of socialism is necessary to eliminate women’s oppression.

While I agree that socialism is necessary to eliminate women’s oppression completely as it is tied into property and class; it is not sufficient. I strongly believe that we can struggle for reform even in the context of a cross-class movement. What is essential is that the movement not be led by the upper classes so that the interests of working class women and women of colour are heard. Inability to struggle against patriarchy now, implies that reforms cannot be undertaken. Patriarchal ideology is transhistorical from the beginnings of private property and class societies and it is deeply embedded in what are viewed as normal social interactions now, they will not simply disappear with the elimination of private property and class societies. We need education and reform now or we will be maintaining women’s oppression if socialism is ever achieved. Given sexism (and downright misogyny) among the hard left (it is no more immune to this than anything or anyone else as it exists in a sexist and misogynist society even though it is trying to change it), it is essential that not only do we recognise this, educate ourselves and begin the fight now or this will be carried over into any future systems that we create.

The day started for me in a worrying manner; the so-called “infamous” safe spaces policy (on page 8) was remitted (it was unable to be rejected — it could only be accepted or sent back to the convenors).

Soon after, the amendments to the Left Party Platform (LPP) from the Camden branch (all but 3 of these were already accepted by the LPP, see section 4.4 for LPP and Camden Amendments) were accepted by conference. There are specifically two major amendments that concerned me and the fact that they were justified on the basis of making the LPP more socialist is deeply concerning to me.

Paragraph 4 deletion:

Adopted by the conference:

4. “We are feminist because our vision of society is one without the gender oppression and exploitation which blights the lives of women and girls and makes full human emancipation impossible. We specify our feminism because historical experience shows that the full liberation of women does not automatically follow the nationalisation of productive forces or the reordering of the economy.”

What was deleted was the following, which was the last part of paragraph 4:

“We fight to advance this goal in the current political context, against the increasing divergence between men’s and women’s incomes, against the increasing poverty among women, against the “double burden” of waged work and unshared domestic labour, and against the increasing violence against women in society and in personal relationships, which is exacerbated by the economic crisis.”

Essentially what was deleted was a definition of women’s oppression from a socialist feminist perspective and I would love to know how this is inconsistent with socialism and why something that is easily factually demonstrated was deemed problematic.

Paragraph 8 deletion:

Adopted at the Conference:

8. Our political practice is democratic, diverse and inclusive, organizing amongst working class communities with no interests apart from theirs, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working. We will campaign, mobilise and support struggles on a day to day basis, recognising the need for self-organisation in working class communities. We recognise that support for our party and its electoral success will only advance to the extent that it is genuinely representative of working class communities, has no interests separate from theirs, and is an organic part of the campaigns and movements which they generate and support. We will engage in elections, offering voters a left alternative – where any elected representatives will take an average wage and be accountable to the party membership – while understanding that elections are not the only arena or even the most important arena in which political struggles are fought.

The original paragraph 8 in the Left Party Platform:

8. Our political practice is democratic, diverse and inclusive, organising amongst working class communities with no interests apart from theirs, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working; to the mutual respect and tolerance of differences of analysis; to the rejection of the corruption of conventional political structures and their reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society. We recognise that economic transformation does not automatically bring an end to discrimination and injustice and that these sites of struggle must be developed and won, openly and together.

What was deleted was:

“To the mutual respect and tolerance for different s of analysis; to the rejection of the corruption of conventional political structures and their reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society. We recognise that economic transformation does not automatically bring an end discrimination and injustice and these sites of struggle must be developed and won openly and together”

The vote for accepting the amendments to the Left Party Platform were 134 against, 137 in favour and 74 abstentions. So, that made two defeats essentially for women in the political platform of the party. And that followed after the remittance of the Safe Spaces policy.

The next discussion was far more successful from the point of view of gender representation. However, what was extremely disturbing was what was said in opposition to the demand on the part of both those presenting alternative motions and those speaking in opposition.

Here is the debate on the 50+% women on national and regional bodies. There were two other proposals which were defeated, one which called for 40-40% men and women and one which rejected quotas completely:

From 4.50 onward, here is the explanation of the 3 proposals and the stated motivations of those that moved them:

Here are the statements and comments in response to the proposals on gender representation. The link begins with a call for amendment of the constitution to allow for a women’s caucus (it already contained provision for a caucus for people of colour, people with disabilities and a youth caucus) by Kate Hudson. Following that come the statements:

I don’t know about you, but I am really quite tired of fighting the same battles over and over again!

So the state of things after the conference is that of a formalistic acceptance of 50+%, but the explanation of women’s oppression under capitalism was eliminated.

Quite happy about the quota, rather unhappy indeed in the manner in which opposition to it was expressed. Needless to say, it is evident that we have a lot of work to do.
So, yes, I am not perfectly happy, we still have a lot of work to do. But I am thrilled that we managed to get as far as we did. This was a major achievement, we managed to get a party established based on the notion of a broad Left party to the left of Labour. It is a one member-one vote (there are no organisational affiliations) and we actually successfully put in place guaranteed representation for oppressed minorities and women (we are not a minority, but we are not only exploited as workers, but we are oppressed in terms of our primary responsibility for social reproduction which is based on our unpaid labour). There is a policy commission conference coming up in the New Year and I know that both the disabled and women’s caucuses are up and moving.

This is the birth of a broad party of the left … let’s welcome it into the world, we have a lot of work to do to enable it to live up to its potential!

II. Student’s occupation of several universities and police brutality in Bloomsbury

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There have been a couple of occupations by University students this week in Britain. Students initially went out in strike support for the lecturers and university staff, but there was also another issue that has been raised several times and that has to do with the outsourcing of campus services. In the case of the University of London Union the union run by and for students was actually abolished to be replaced with management run services. So, at the moment 5 students have been suspended by Sussex University, students were assaulted and arrested at the University of London. 39 people are under arrest and the university of London has banned protests .

While this has been covered in several newspapers here, I was not certain that it was covered in the US, so I decided to share some information. For further clarification and discussion please see the report on the student occupations and the reaction from the powers that be from the Guardian by John Harris and another piece by Aaron Bastani ; Also from the International Socialist Network, and an excellent piece by Richard Seymour.

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Protest: police clash with students outside the University of London’s headquarters in Bloomsbury (picture by Oscar Webb) from the Standard

We actually have a political party now that defends students and activists and calls out the police:

Left Unity Press Statement defends student protesters

Left Unity – the recently-founded new party of the left – has condemned the growing crackdown on student protest, including police evictions of student occupations.

More than 100 police officers stormed a peaceful sit-in protest at the University of London yesterday, with videos and reports in today’s Guardian, Independent and Evening Standard of officers punching and dragging students. There are reports of further police provocations today.

Five students have also been suspended from the University of Sussex for their role in student protests there.

Andrew Burgin from Left Unity said: “The right to protest is a fundamental freedom, whether it is on the streets or on university campuses.

“Students should never face police evictions, arrest or disciplinary action from their universities for protesting against cuts to education.”

In a statement, the elected student officers of the University of London Union said: “Hundreds of police descended on the occupation at around 8.30pm and broke into the occupation. We are still investigating what happened inside, but initial reports indicate that protesters were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair.”

There are several petitions supporting the students and the right to protest:

Sussex

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/professor-michael-farthing-vice-chancellor-of-sussex-university-to-immediately-retract-the-suspension-of-five-sussex-students-which-began-on-the-4th-december?share_id=ccaqWGoUcJ&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

University of London

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/defend-right-to-protest-uni-of-london/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=create_petition

III. The Crocodile Tears of David Cameron on hearing of Nelson Mandela’s death

“One of our brightest lights of our world has gone out”

Like the Queen, Cameron spoke of Nelson Mandela as a man of forgiveness, perhaps given the British government’s complicity with the Apartheid regime, Margaret Thatcher’s description of him and the ANC as terrorist and the poster of the Federation of Conservative students in the 1980s (of which Cameron was a leading member and his free pro-apartheid fact finding mission to South Africa) forgiveness was the quality that he desperately felt he needed from Nelson Mandela. Just so that you do not have the impression that all the Tories are hypocrites, here is Norman Tebbit arguing “Nelson Mandela was the leader of a movement that resorted to terrorism and the Tories were right to shun sanctions against South Africa at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle.”

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I want to end this piece by sharing the following on Nelson Mandela, addressing his legacy, and the struggle which still remains in South Africa and the rest of the world.

La Lucha Continua!

For videos that won’t post, see http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Anti%20Capitalist%20Meetup%20Group

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Austerity, Triple Dip Recessions and Economic Crisis by NY brit expat

1:00 am in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Sitting there looking vainly at the growth, or lack of it to be more precise, of the British economy quarter by quarter following the introduction of austerity measures is a dubious use of time. So rather than sit there each quarter and discuss a dismal economy, I think the first step is to understand that we are in a world-wide economic crisis of the capitalist system. We also need to understand that the policies being introduced are actually not only extending the current crisis, but given that they are leading to increased income and wealth inequality, they will have a devastating impact upon the working classes in the countries introducing these measures. Moreover, the impact of austerity is not accident, it is being introduced specifically to create the economic contraction and the increased wealth and income inequality in the hope that private sector will take over the state sector services being undermined.

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Triple-dip recession?

We need to understand that the introduction of austerity in an economic crisis does not lead to economic growth contrary to the absurd pronouncements of Prime Minister, David Cameron. Essentially, following a slight blip caused by the Olympics, I suspect we will be witnessing rather bad news. The combination of “beggar thy neighbour” low corporate taxation (to supposedly encourage investment in Britain) and cuts to public spending, services and benefits is not leading to a reinvigoration of the economy; rather the opposite is occurring.

Quite simply, the fall in service sector activity (which accounts for 75% of British economic activity) for the first time in two years (note that it was not in great shape beforehand) means that the economy is contracting.

“The closely watched CIPS/Markit purchasing managers index (PMI) for services dropped from 50.2 to 48.9 in December, below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. It is the lowest reading since April 2009 and substantially undershot analyst forecasts of a rise to 50.5 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/04/uk-service-sector-contracts-pmi).”

There are additional things that indicate future problems. The manufacturing sector is geared towards export; decreases in demand due to the introduction of austerity in the periphery in the EU are starting to be felt in Great Britain (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/11/honda-cuts-800-jobs-swindon), whether this will be balanced by increased demand for luxury cars in China (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21003670) is another important question depending on the amount of trade to each area.

The collapse into administration of three high street companies [Jessops (2000 jobs at risk), HMV (4500 jobs at risk) and Blockbuster (4190 jobs at risk) will clearly add to unemployment. The fact that the internet buying is replacing these businesses means that workers who have lost jobs will not be rehired by these companies and some of these companies pay minimal taxes in Britain (e.g., Amazon).

In Britain we are seeing declining productivity because businesses use cheap labour rather than making capital investments (it makes no sense to introduce capital and increase productivity both due to labour costs being so low and no demand for increased goods and services); it also indicates that they are keeping people on irrespective of declining demand for goods:

“Figures for the economy as a whole were not much better, with a 2.4% decline in productivity over the year. The figures take the sheen off supposedly buoyant employment statistics that showed companies continuing to create jobs throughout last year.
Some companies have retained staff by forcing employees to accept pay freezes, or in some cases a cut in wages. But, as productivity declined, labour costs per unit of output rose by more than 3% over the year to October (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/03/business-productivity-declines-demand-falls).”

If businesses are keeping workers on irrespective of demand for their goods and services and waiting for the economy to pick up, what will happen if the economy does not pick up? Clearly, they will sack workers if the economy contracts. Moreover, if the economy picks up, most probably, they will force an increase in productivity by using speed-up or forcing workers to work harder to raise productivity. In either case, it is not a good sign for employment possibilities for workers in the near future. Additionally, there may be some problems with the government’s argument that jobs are being created in the private sector as they seemed to have misused the employment statistics of Office of National Statistics by including as employed those in government programmes who are not being paid by employers but rather through benefits (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/15/uk-jobs-soar-real?INTCMP=SRCH) which are far lower than even the woefully inadequate minimum wage that is not a living wage.

Government concentration on the supply side of the labour market, as though people are lazy and do not want to work is the reason for unemployment is more than an obvious denial of reality. It is part of a divide and rule campaign demonising the poor and disabled as scroungers rather than addressing the fact that there are no jobs. This amounts to punishing the victims of the economic system (the poor and unemployed) and those that quite simply are unable to work due to illness and chronic health conditions. Cutting benefit will not force people into work, there need to be available jobs for that to occur; it will simply increase impoverishment and misery. An estimated 200,000 children are being pushed into poverty by the government’s policy of a 1% benefit cap over the next three years, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/17/benefits-squeeze-200000-children-poverty), a statistic not being disputed by the government.
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Quite simply, the attack is hitting the most vulnerable: the disabled, single mothers, the elderly and the long-term unemployed who are already barely surviving on benefits that are meagre to say the least. The government’s argument when introducing the 1% cap on benefits that benefits should not increase faster than wages (when stagnating and decreasing wages is part of government policy and benefits are so very low) is playing off the working class and the poor against each other. In a period of deliberately created increases income and wealth inequality fuelled by the incorrect view that profits and the income of the wealthy are the basis for economic growth, it is the majority in British society that are paying for the class warfare being waged in the advanced capitalist world.

Austerity and its impact:

While leading members of the IMF claim that they underestimated the impact of the introduction of austerity and pretend to be shocked at the situation in Greece, the British government pretends that it does not understand that austerity is introduced to contract an economic system in the short run; both claims are extremely dubious to any person that has studied mainstream macroeconomic theory.

So, why is austerity being introduced and how has the government (and the Troika for that matter) got the strange idea that austerity will lead to economic growth? This relates to the impact of these measures in the long-run which attempt to remove “imbalances” between the public and private sector in favour of the later; in fact, David Cameron alludes to this when he makes the absurd argument “that the public sector cannot create growth.” However, for those that have any memory of the post-war period, we are well-aware that the public sector can create growth; it does so in three ways:

1) Hiring people in the public sector (direct government job creation) creates jobs and income for those that did not have it who then use that money to buy goods and services from the private sector;

2) The social welfare state provides additional income for those that do not have it and also provides services so that income is not spent on things provided by the government (e.g., health care), this means that there is more income to buy goods and services from the private sector;

3) The government demands goods and services from the private sector; this removes uncertainty for the private sector in terms of investment, output production, and job creation.

All of these things benefit the private sector and are part of what enable economic growth especially following a bust in the economy; both government investment and higher incomes can create economic growth. Austerity measures will not do this in the short run and it is debatable whether this will be a successful strategy for economic growth in the long-term; the increasing instability introduced by increased wealth and income inequality and lack of regulation will certainly lead to deeper and stronger fluctuations.
However, the government and large numbers of people in extra-governmental agencies (e.g., the IMF and the World Bank) believe that it is the private sector that are so-called “wealth creators” and they believe that privatisation (which enables the private sector to make profits providing these services instead of the government) and squeezing wages will enable profitability leading to economic growth. What we are seeing is that while this ideological argument may sound wonderful, reality is quite another story.
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It is necessary to understand the interrelationships between production, consumption and distribution in the context of a capitalist economic system to understand what is happening today. The capitalist system hit a point of over-accumulation in the collapse of the financial sector in 2008 and we are still in an economic crisis. While the financial sector recovered from the crisis due to bank bailouts and centralisation of surviving capital, the rest of the economy is not faring as well as an understatement.

We are seeing the result of the long-term attack on the standards of living of working people in the advanced capitalist world from the late 1970s forwards, falling rates of profits in the industrial/manufacturing sectors in the advanced capitalist world due to high wages and decent working conditions leading to MNCs shifting production to the capitalist periphery to cut both labour costs and costs of raw materials has led to the creation of persistent unemployment in the advanced capitalist world and the shift of the economies in the advanced capitalist world to dependence upon the service sector.
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Instead of shoring up the social welfare state and the state sector to keep employment and income up following the crash to enable a recovery, austerity measures have been either forced upon so-called debtor countries or introduced by right-wing governments throughout the majority of the advanced capitalist world. Bailout of the financial sectors led to both rising government deficits and rising public debt/GDP, the introduction of “austerity measures” essentially forced the majority to pay for the crisis due to deficit and debt reduction policies that they had no responsibility in creating. Shrinking the public sector, privatisation of public sector services (e.g., public health services) and selling off of nationalised companies (e.g., Greece, Spain and Italy), lowering pensions directly (e.g., Greece) and through changes in inflation indices (e.g., Great Britain), decreasing benefits, and wage and pension freezes for state workers is a direct assault on incomes. The attack on the public sector has also led to increased unemployment and the ability to introduce a wage squeeze for those still employed. While theoretically this will cut costs and raise profits, the problem arises that decreased incomes means that demand has decreased and there will be no increased investment, employment and output in the absence of demand for these goods and services.
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While this has limited effect on the export-oriented manufacturing sector, that sector will certainly be affected by the introduction of austerity in the periphery of Europe.

Who are the wealth creators?

When Cameron (and other leaders in the advanced capitalist world) describe businessmen as “wealth creators” they seem to have forgotten the contribution of labour; land lying fallow creates nothing except spontaneously, capital does nothing in and of itself … it is the direct application of human labour (in combination with land and capital) that enables the creation of wealth. In the absence of sale at a price ensuring that profits are returned, profits remain unrealised. It is the incomes of working people that enable the sale of goods and undercutting their incomes means that goods and services will remain unsold. This deliberate inversion of the reality of the capitalist system serves them ideologically, but demonstrates a lack of understanding of the interrelationship between production, consumption and distribution.

So while privatisation potentially creates an area of profitable exploitation for the private sector, the decreased incomes of the majority means that they are unable to purchase services that were formerly socialised. For those on lower incomes and those on benefits, purchase of services is far too expensive and it is women that are filling in the gap in services (e.g., child-care, caring for the sick and elderly) in their homes. Contrary to neoliberal expectations, the private sector has not jumped into fill the gap, that is, because demand is not being matched by the income to pay for these things and the private sector will not create growth in the absence of perceived increases in demand and hence profitability. That means, that all these policies will do is eliminate access to services on the part of the majority as they cannot pay for them and further increase impoverishment. The so-called wealth creators cannot create wealth without labour both in production and in consumption.
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Perhaps, they are taking their inversion of reality too seriously … without demand there is no growth, without income there is no demand, without labour there is neither production nor consumption!