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Say No To Calderdale Cuts

From Cllr Susan Press

Sunday, 19 September 2010

It is deplorable that people in Calderdale are being asked to choose where they want the draconian cuts imposed by ConDem government to bite. It is the job of Labour Party members and suporters to make it clear they are totally opposed to any cuts and make the case for a socialist alternative.

At least Nick Clegg is being honest and has made it clear that he is so happy with power that any notion the LibDems were to the left of Labour is now history.

But where does that leave Liberal Democrat councillors who used to say their party was "progressive" .

32,000 people have joined Labour since May. Expect that to become a flood as Lib Dem voters realise they were conned into voting in a Tory Government.

However much Clegg et al are enjoying power now, their support for Conservative policy ensures they will be consigned to the dustbin come next May and the local elections.

From Christopher Reason

Sunday, 19 September 2010

There's something almost to admire in Susan's belief that the Labour Party will rescue us from the present mess.

Sadly many of us these days have about as much faith in the Labour Party as we do in the infallibility of the Pope.

Does she not remember 1976? The year that Labour Chancellor Denis Healey imposed an earlier set of IMF inspired cuts on the British public?

What makes her think it will be any different now? At least back then there actually were a few genuiney socialist MPs.

I was fresh out of university in those days and signed up to a left wing theatre outfit called CounterAct. Our avowed intention was to take anti-cuts propaganda to rank and file Trade Unionists and thereby bring about the new dawn of socialism.

What did we get? Margaret Thatcher.

From Jonathan Timbers

Monday, 20 September 2010

Susan's post is good, knockabout party political stuff but it's so simplistic that I'm neither reassured nor persuaded by it.

The Labour Party is not against 'any cuts', as Ed Balls's recent Bloomberg lecture demonstrates:

Labour in government envisaged substantial cuts in the public sector and if they were still in power they would have to put forward a credible 'deficit reduction' programme. If they didn't there would be a more severe crisis than the one which we are enduring now.

In their favour, very few left leaning economists actually argue that there should be no cuts at some point. The argument is about the severity and timing of the cuts, which will leave many, including probably myself, stranded on the dole because any private sector recovery will either be insufficiently developed or, worse, stalled, as the result of coalition cuts, and therefore there will be no suitable private sector jobs to apply to.

We could of course argue that it is the bankers who should suffer for this but the sad fact is that the UK economy and its public services depend on the health of its banking sector. In any event, revenging ourselves on the banks would in practice be more likely to hurt other workers. Millions work for the banking sector, including many people in Calderdale, where HBOS/ LBG (or however it's now styles itself) is the other major employer, along with Calderdale council.

That doesn't mean that we should accept the system as it is. It is unfair, damaging and corrupt (but unsustainable ? I don't know). Ideally, banks should be under democratic control (should they be mutuals? Again, I don't know. HBOS was once a mutual. Look at what happened to it, and what it did to us). We should also not forget about the Tobin tax, both as a tool for achieving social justice and regulating the banking sector. I welcome real debate ? rather than tub thumping ? about what the outlines of an alternative might look like, provided nobody tries to sell me the line that it'll be easy or straightforward. That's just more political claptrap. I've had enough of that and I can't be bothered engaging with it anymore. No one benefits from it except the powers that be, because it changes nothing.

From Cllr Susan Press

Monday, 20 September 2010

Jonathan is absolutely right. Alisdair Darling was planning a sweeping programme of cuts and the Labour Govt's support for that is one of the reasons we lost.

But it did not have to be that way. Over £120billion is lost to the Treasury each year in tax evasion. The Tobin tax, or Robin Hood tax as it has been re-dubbed, would cost the bankers a miniscule amount yet raise billions to boost the economy.

The bankers need to be held to account and the banks should be mutualised.

Ed Balls has increasingly made the case for investment.

Cuts in Trident expenditure (now being mooted by Ed Miliband as part of a spending) would save around £76billion. All these cuts/measures could be incorporated into a Labour manifesto and the mood at Westminster is now very different.

I find it extraordinary that anyone could see Clegg's 100 per cent volte face - and the betrayal of millions of Lib dem voters- as anything other than self-interest and disregard for Party members. He has hijacked his Party in much the same way Blair did.

This Govt is committed to £15 billion in cuts to welfare benefit. It talks of unemployment as a "lifestyle choice" - Clegg himself said this weekend that anyone who thought the Lib dems were a force to the left of Labour was barking up the wrong tree and should go elsewhere.

The Labour Party, which is once more finding its radical voice, will welcome all who are now disillusioned with this LibDem-Con trick. 10,000 former Lib Dem voters have already joined us. Once the full horror of the Corporate Spending Review is revealed in October Labour and the trade union movement will fight these cuts with all their force.

The Lib Dems are finished

From Michael Piggott

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Jonathon Timbers says 'very few left leaning economists actually argue that there should be no cuts at some point'. Now, while I am not an economist, although certainly left-leaning, the question that needs to be asked is, why can we not envisage an entirely different political approach that would obviate any need for any cuts - by making the rich pay? I'd like to address this and other questions at rather greater length.

Now that the Labour Party has elected a leader who claims to have made a clean break with the parliamentary Party's reactionary recent past, it's time to discuss what policies should actually be put forward to solve the crisis. Where exactly should Labour and the broad progressive Left stand in relation to the ConDem government? What should we be fighting for?

Obviously, at the local level, the immediate focus of most of us will be the coming cut-backs. There is a very real concern that the most vulnerable in society should be protected, as far as possible. We could prioritise. My list would begin with children with special needs, through home-care for the disabled, to the free bus services, especially local, that make it possible for pensioners to get out to the shops and access doctors' surgeries. I fear that services such as libraries will be seen as non-essential, and we all know that education will be targeted.

But while we are concerned with such local issues, we should also look at the wider context. This can be viewed in two parts:

Who has caused the crisis, including the apportioning of responsibility;

What is to be done about it, politically?

We all know who has brought about the massive financial crisis that the vast majority of the population is now being called upon to pay for: the rich, especially the bankers including in this country, directly, the Cameron and Clegg families, whose fortunes have increased hugely through their City activities during the years of Thatcherite and New Labour governments. I'd like to quote from an article by Simon Head in the Guardian on 2nd October:

Cameron and Clegg are both scions of the gentrified City bougoisie. For most of the 20th century generations of Camerons have worked at the leading City stockbrokers Panmure Gordon, and Nicholas Clegg senior is chairman of the Unity Trust Bank of Haymarket in Mayfair, specialists in property finance and bridging loans. Judging by their own properties - a chateau in France and a spacious chalet in Switzerland - the Cleggs outrank the Camerons in financial wherewithal, but as senior City figures whose peak earnings years coincided with the 23 fat years lasting from the big bang in 1985 to the great recession in 2008, both the Cleggs and the Camerons are almost certainly a great deal better off today than they were 25 years ago.

It is the class that Cameron and Clegg represent that is entirely responsible for the vast debts that the rest of the population are being told they have to pay for and not the middle and working classes or the unions of all the affected countries, which is, in effect, the whole capitalist world. It is not surprising that the capitalist-owned media makes so little of this, in contrast with the past, when the unions were blamed for all economic problems; remember, it was always the 'greedy unions', never the greedy bosses. What is disturbing is that the leadership of the Labour Party has gone along with the myth that 'we are all in this together', and that swingeing cuts are necessary.

Surely we all know that unleashing such destructive forces on society is only necessary if the vast fortunes and staggering incomes of the exceedingly rich are to be left untouched? How can anyone justify the very rich, who owe their stupendous wealth to the society from which they continue to greedily extract it (this year's City bonuses will exceed ?7 billion), being exempt from paying for even a reasonable share of the debts they have incurred through their actions?

We should be seeking to implement policies which would rebalance the vast gap between the incomes of the poorest and the wealthiest. We could start by demanding the confiscation (sorry, taxation) of half the wealth of all those with fortunes above, say, ?10 million, and/or a rapidly escalating progressive income taxation on incomes above, say, one million pounds a year. Either measure should pay off the national debt, and allow increased expenditure on important public services. Well, why not? We all need health, education and welfare; can anyone truthfully argue that anyone needs capital above ten million quid, or an income over a million a year? Of course not!

Which leads us on to what I believe to be the real necessity, of addressing why Labour seems too nervous to even talk about adopting the policies that the situation really demands.

There is a very long history of the media demonising the working class, their unions, and the political party set up to represent them in 1905 - the Labour party. It can be acknowledged that there was at times some justice in the old Labour leadership fear that in supporting legitimate labour movement demands, including those presented through strikes, most of the middle class and some of the working class were deterred from voting Labour - at least they were in the past, with notable exceptions (for example, the miners' strikes of the early seventies arguably had the opposite effect, when a Tory government was brought down and a Labour majority increased). The question is, does this still apply?

If it does, and if we can agree that there is a need for policies which are labelled 'socialist', should we fear hostile opinion as expressed through the right-wing media - or should we instead grasp the nettle and argue for such policies? You may agree, if you are in the Labour Party or broadly on the Left, that rather than reflect the reactionary ideology of the Right, that we should show leadership, and seek to convince the electorate that there is an alternative to the reactionary and destructive capitalism that has been so damaging to us all, the very rich upper classes excepted. (Actually the voters may not need too much convincing: according to a study by Anthony Wells of Polling Report, the centre-ground voters Labour lost want people on higher incomes to pay more tax to limit the scale of the spending cuts. Ed Miliband hinted that he would favour such a policy; it will be interesting to see whether he will pursue it.)

Most of the parliamentary Labour leadership and many members of the Labour Party may fear that effective measures to bring rampant capitalism under control, such as nationalisation of essential services and industries under the now-abandoned policy of Clause 4, will also frighten off the voters.

These fears urgently need to be addressed. We should do so by promoting the case for nationalisation, in particular, of the railways, the banks, and the utilities. Essential services and industries have not always been run purely or primarily for profit, nor should they be.

I believe that great opportunities have been missed by the Blair and Brown governments. If Blair had been inclined to lead a radical change in society, rather than ally himself with the bankers and other speculative capitalists, the public mood for change in Britain in 1997 would have allowed for sweeping reforms. A relative of mine (now sadly deceased), a Labour councillor in Enfield, had expressed the conviction that the first act of an incoming Labour administration would be to renationalise the railways. He was articulating a widespread view of the time. It could have been done, and should have been done. The public would have at least gone along with that, and probably actively supported it, given what was going on in the industry. One survey, only two or three years ago, suggested that renationalisation of the railways would have commanded up to 80% support.

When the banking crisis struck, those banks in serious trouble should not have been bailed out. They should have been allowed to collapse. Very controversial, this, I know; yet given the public mood at the time, I believe that if a Labour government had possessed the courage to fully nationalise the collapsed banks, taking them permanently out of the capitalist economy, perhaps by mutualisation, paying only the existing market value for shares (even if they were worth nothing), but at the same time guaranteeing bank deposits, then the essential measure of nationalising the banks could have been carried out with majority public support. Having failed to take the bull by the horns at the time, the task now would be much harder.

Probably the case for such a policy is much stronger in Ireland today (how can a government bail out a single bank, Anglo-Irish, to the tune of an entire year's tax income?) and in the likely event of the double-dip recession to come, such a policy should be back on the agenda in the U.K.

To be realistic, I don't feel hopeful that a Miliband leadership will embrace the policies I am advocating. But I think they should be advanced, and they should be fought for. After all, one lesson we should have learned from the past thirteen years is, if a Labour government pursues Conservative policies, then what is the point of a Labour government?