Monday, December 1, 2014

The meaning of TTIP

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free trade and investment treaty being negotiated in secret between the European Union and the USA. TTIP negotiations were first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address of February 2013, and negotiations between European Commission and US officials began that July. The talks are to be rushed through swiftly with no details entering the public domain, so they can be concluded before the peoples of Europe and the USA find out the scale of the TTIP threat.

Officials accept TTIP is not really to stimulate trade by removing tariffs between the EU and USA, as they are already minimal. Its aim, they admit, is to remove regulatory “barriers” which restrict the profits possible by both US and EU based transnational corporations, “barriers” that are actually standards and regulations important to us, such as labour rights, restrictions on GMOs and food safety rules, limits on the use of toxic chemicals, fracking, digital privacy laws, and financial and banking safeguards meant to prevent another bank-led financial crisis. TTIP also seeks to open public services and government procurement contracts to transnational corporations, threatening a wave of privatizations in sectors like health and education. These costs to us could not be higher.

Worst of all, TTIP gives investors a right to sue sovereign states, in customized private tribunals, for loss of profits from any of their governments' decisions that reduce corporate profits. This ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) puts transnational capital on the level of national states, thereby challenging or destroying popular democracy in both the EU and USA, and instituting a corporatocracy as the NWO!

So TTIP is not a negotiation between trading partners, but an attempt by transnational corporations to deregulate markets on either side of the Atlantic. EU and US citizens are equally concerned at the threats posed by TTIP, and civil society groups, trade unions, academics, parliamentarians, and others are uniting to prevent pro-capitalist bureaucrats from signing away valuable social and environmental standards. Join this resistance in an existing union or local campaign, or by starting one.

Free trade is an ideology of the powerful and can be a very effective means of engaging in lobbying. Critics are right to seek to prevent TTIP. For the real danger of TTIP is beyond well-known headings such as chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated meat and GM food—the attempt of commercial lobbyists to establish undemocratic procedures which would give corporations substantial influence, on two continents and thus worldwide.

A Warning From Canada

The free trade agreement with Canada has been under negotiation since 2009 and has now been largely completed—but not published. The EU Commission probably fears that the text of the agreement will be met with so much public outrage that TTIP negotiations would fail immediately and permanently.

The EU Commission has already experienced twice how dangerous public outrage can be—the multilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was blocked in 2012, as was the international investment agreement MAI in 1996. Thus, the EU Commission is silent on what it has negotiated with Canada. Until now, all we have are rough summaries and some excerpts that have been leaked. But even this meagre amount of information is sufficient to alert experts.

A principal witness is the Canadian lawyer Howard Mann, who has been dealing with investor protection agreements for more than 15 years and has co-operated with more than 75 governments on issues of investment clauses. In December 2013, Mann was commissioned by the Canadian parliament to assess the free trade agreement with Europe. His assessment was devastating—This agreement was the most “investor-friendly” contract the Canadian government had ever negotiated.

It can thus only be concluded that we cannot trust the EU Commission’s assurances that it wants to restrict investor protection. Instead, it is presumably going to enter into agreements which go far beyond prior agreements.

The agreement with Canada is, however, not merely a blueprint of what could be expected from TTIP. It is worse. The German Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK) warned that TTIP would not even be necessary, should the agreement with Canada be ratified. For the US and Canada are both members of the NAFTA free trade zone. Put simply, a branch in Canada will be sufficient to rely on the investor protection clauses.

Nothing speaks in favour of free trade agreements, ( be it with Canada or the US. The risks are enormous, and the benefits minimal.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Helicopter Money?

Simon Jenkins (The Guardian, Wednesday 26 November, 2014), as he suggests in his article advocating “Helicopter Money” by citing Keynes, is recommending a form of Keynesianism, but the EU and the Tory party want nothing to do with it.

Keynes, together with our rulers’ fear of communism spreading west, gave us the 30 odd years of post war satisfaction with “welfare capitalism”, “one nation Toryism” and “social democracy”. The world’s capitalists did not like it, because their greed makes them resent losing any of “their money” unnecessarily, and they are evidently not bright enough as a group to realise that they were actually doing well themselves out of it. As soon as their fear of communism went, they decided to return to their old authoritarian ways, having followed the US in making suitable preparations for it throughout the Golden Post War Age.

Hitler and then FDR were early to recognise the value of Keynesianism.

Ever since the credit crunch the continent has been suffering what Keynes called a classic liquidity trap. There is too little money around and thus a chronic shortage of demand. People have too little to spend, which means shops close, supplies dry up and no one invests.(S Jenkins)

Hitler solved it and got Germans working again by building infrastructure that would be needed in the war he planned, and the military to effect it. Western capitalists helped him do it, expecting him to show his gratitude by attacking the USSR, not the west. FDR invented the New Deal which also used public works to get people back into employment.

It works. Money need not be put into everyone’s bank accounts, but paid as wages to those being employed rather than out of work. Keynes showed that every pound put in at the grass roots was spent and spent again—there was a multiplier effect. Ian Duncan Smith has exactly the opposite policy in trying to stop people from receiving welfare benefits, forcing down demand from the unemployed and badly paid. The point is, that people need to spend in any form of capitalism that does not exclude a deprived underclass from the social benefits of civilization.

What saved Britain was George Osborne not practising what he preached.

Again, as Jenkins says, the only way that Osborne has given his austerity policy an illusion of success is by furtive Keynesianism. Why this persistent idiocy?

Perhaps they are idiots. Perhaps they are not idiots but are preparing for a society in which a super class will live in luxury, served by robots serviced by a small class of technicians, and everyone else will have to scratch a probably criminal living among the underclass. Or perhaps they want an intermediate state in which most of us are reduced to that underclass which will serve the luxurious rulers by cutting out any form of Keynesianism and making them fight for the few jobs available, while an authoritarian state keeps them in check. Umm! Well that is where we are now.

Yet versions of helicopter money (HM) are now emerging into public debate.

John Muellbauer, professor of economics at Oxford, points out that, as existing policies to revive Europe’s growth have faltered, “proposals for distributing money directly to citizens have been quietly gaining traction among critics of orthodox central banks—QE for the people”.

The commentator Anatole Kaletsky points out that if the £375bn of QE had gone to private bank accounts rather than to buying bonds from banks, it would have meant £24,000 per British family. This would have transformed the demand economy.

Keynes did not propose, so far as I know (but I am not an economist), giving away money to everyone, and even socialists do not expect to get something for nothing. He saw his proposal working by creating public sector jobs, which allow fresh government money to circulate boosting private industry (capitalism) as it circulates. It could not therefore have been seen as a handout and so a “moral hazard”. No one is getting “cash they have not deserved”.

Jenkins rightly says the EU and the ECB “are in a line of descent from those who sealed Europe’s fate with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, the Great Depression and the 2008 credit crunch”. But presumably they have a plan like those already mentioned, the last of which it seems to be. The real purpose of the austerity brigade is to impoverish ordinary people, making them compete viciously for the limited work available in an increasingly automated society and thereby reducing labour costs, while redistributing wealth via quantitative easing and the booming stock market into the hands of the super rich.

It is a plan that is working for them but democracy is a nuisance, so neither the EU nor the USA is democratic, and authoritarianism, fed by bogus fears of “extremists” (extremists are, of course, “terrorists” our rulers surmise!) is on a sharp rise.

The next government could use traditional Keynesianism to stimulate the economy by building houses, restoring the NHS and the civil service, funding it largely by taxes on the rich like stiff income tax, and a wealth tax, together with borrowing in the knowledge that once the economy grows then so will taxation and so a carefully planned stimulation package would pay for itself. Oh, and get out of the EU and its military arm, NATO!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I am not a self-hating Jew!

Young Jewish girl rebuts Israeli propaganda while being denigrated as a self-hating Jew by ardent followers of the propaganda.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lift the Embargo on Cuba.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Winstanley: A film about the Diggers

Winstanley is a film made in 1975 in the UK by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, based on the 1961 David Caute novel Comrade Jacob. Gerrard Winstanley made a declaration that the land was not just for the few so-called Lords of the Manor:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Marx’s Class Analysis is Still Correct! Workers have yet to Realise it!

Tensions between classes in the US are rising. Society is split between the 99 percent (ordinary working people, struggling to get by) and the 1 percent (the super rich getting richer every day). Statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. In the USA, which has no nobility, the working class are called the “middle” class. A Pew Research Center poll found two-thirds of its respondents thought the primary division in society was the strong conflict between rich and poor, 19 percent up on 2009.

Michael Schuman says in Time (March 2013) an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study found:

  • the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the US in 2011, at $48,202, were smaller than in 1973
  • 74 percent of the gains in wealth in the US, between 1983 and 2010, went to the richest 5 percent while the bottom 60 percent experienced a decline.

Union membership in the US has continued to decline through the economic crisis, the global labor market having apparently rendered unions toothless throughout the developed world. But the world’s workers are getting more impatient with their prospects. They have common problems, but seem still reluctant to unite to resolve them. Even so, tens of thousands have taken to the streets of cities like Madrid and Athens, protesting against massive unemployment and austerity.

Marx’s trenchant criticism of capitalism—that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive—cannot no longer be easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. He wrote:

Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole.

Yet since the deregulation big bang of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the political left has been unable to unite around a practical alternative strategy. Jacques Rancière, a political analyst at the University of Paris, says:

Virtually all progressive or leftist parties contributed at some point to the rise and reach of financial markets, and rolling back of welfare systems in order to prove they were capable of reform. I’d say the prospects of Labor or Socialists parties or governments anywhere significantly reconfiguring—much less turning over—current economic systems to be pretty faint.

Michael Schuman concluded that though Marx’s revolution has yet to successfully appear, Marx had correctly diagnosed both capitalism’s flaws and the outcome of those flaws, and that:

If policymakers don’t discover new methods of ensuring fair economic opportunity, the workers of the world may just unite. Marx may yet have his revenge.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Talking Back against European Union Naivety

The Germans are wonderful people in my limited experience of them, and so are most other Europeans, and their parties are doubtless heavenly compared with the Tories, but it is all quite irrelevant to our being all members of the same EU international bund.

The EU was set up as the Common Market to be run by bureaucrats with a mockery of a parliament, and it still is 40 years later. Knowing that, and the rest that we now know, would any of us want to vote “yes” in a referendum today? We are told the EU is not imposed on us externally. We have freely joined it. Then why cannot we decide to exit it? Because it suits our ruling class, which, some say are worse than the ruling classes of our fellow Europeans, but our rulers are not so stupid they do not realize they are stronger while they have these virtually unbreakable ties with almost every other country in Europe, not to mention the threat of NATO looming in the background should anyone show dissent. It is harder to blow a hole in a big wall than it is in a small one, it is harder to untangle a large skein of legal threads than a small one. The longer we stay in it the harder it will be to get out.

And it seems we shall soon have another layer of courts to deal with, besides the ECJ, as a condition of the TTIP. If EU membership offers us any crumbs of benefits, the shackles and conditions imposed for them render them worthless.

In discussing our predicament in the EU, some light-hearted contributers, think it is fun to propose various hypothetical stances, but we actually are in a real situation, right now! It has never been the game some depict it as. While we remain in the EU, all thoughts of socialism are wishful thinking—the very rules of the neoliberal club exclude it. And for those who are loath to lose their European identity, we were Europeans before we joined the EU. If we leave it, we shall still be European, besides being British. That we would be rejecting the people of Europe by leaving the EU has always been one of the main false lines of the pro-European media. Lastly for those of a Marxist inclination…

How the Trotskyist Organizations in the UK helped to bring down the CPGB

Trotskyite organizations of the 1970s were critical of both factions within the CPGB. They disagreed vehemently with the Eurocommunist ideas, which were seen to be unfairly critical of the Soviet Union, despite their own views, and the abandonment of Marxism-Leninism and the class struggle. They picked up some new members from the CPGB as the Eurocommunists undermined it. However, they were barely more successful than the communists, taking some dissident members but doing little to promote Marxism in Britain.

The most significant of them was the SWP (formerly the International Socialists or IS), supposedly 4,500 strong in the late 1970s. Like the CPGB then, it focused on workers in industry, and on trade unionists. It had attacked the CPGB for the abandonment of class conflict by the Eurocommunists, and because they identified the traditional CP’s attempts to influence trade unions as representative of the trade union values it abhorred. The SWP claimed a lot of workers would overthrow capitalism but for the bureaucraric trade union leaders whom the CPGB supported. The party’s newspaper, the Socialist Worker, spent most of its time attacking the CPGB in the late 1970s. The SWP tried instead to set up ’rank-and-file organizations’ within each union, and had then about fifteen ’rank-and-file’ newspapers in various, mainly white collar, trades—the Hospital Worker, Journalists’ Charter, Rank and File Teacher and, in the civil servants’ union, Redder Tape. These also relentlessly attacked the alleged secret deals and corruption of putatively reformist CPGB trade union officials, “wild allegations made without any real evidence”, Professor Keith Laybourn says. The SWP influence faded, and only six ’rank-and-file’ newspapers remained by 1982.

The International Marxist Group also had some success in rhe 1970s but then dropped Tariq Ali from its leadership in 1972, and made a call for a general strike which hardly anyone heard.

The Workers’ Revolutionary Party (WRP formerly the Socialist Labour League, run by Gerry Healy) had made little progress because of the dissension Healy provoked.

The Militant Tendency, founded in Liverpool in the 1950s by Ted Grant as the Revolutionary Socialist League, added to the damage of the CPGB around 1980 while the Labour Party was claiming to be most hurt by them. It challenged the very fundamental policy of the CPGB, stating in its constitution: “unlike the reformists, centrists and Stalinists, the Marxists decisively reject the theory of the Parliamentary road to socialism”... Its policy of entryism into the Labour Party is well known but, like the Communist Party, it played little part in the Labour leadership crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, as the Bennites within the Labour Party promoted the idea of an electoral college selecting the Labour Party leader.

The SWP and the Militant Tendency inflicted some damage on the Eurocommunist-rent CPGB, challenging both its trade union orthodoxy and its lack of commitment to the class struggle, yet set against its decline after the defeat of the Heath Government in 1974 and the rise of Eurocommunism, the Trotskyite impact was minimal.

Adapted from K Laybourn, Marxism in Britain: Dissent, Decline and Re-emergence 1945-c2000

There is No Need for Austerity: Tony Benn

Tony Benn, interviewed by Michael Moore, describes how the UK welfare state, in particular, the NHS came out of the horror and destruction of WW2.

He explains that there was no unemployment during the war. If it is possible to employ everyone killing Germans, then why cannot we employ people building hospitals? The post War Labor government did it even though the country was wrecked by 6 years of Nazi bombing.

Why then cannot we do it now that we are much better off, there is more money and better technology and we are in one of the most advanced countries in the world? The truth is that we have not overspent. It is simply that the vast wealth we now have is not evenly distributed among us. A tiny fraction of people own nearly all of the wealth. Benn says 1 percent owns 80 percent, though it is more extreme still. A few thousand families own almost all of it.

So there is no need for austerity, no need for warfare, but there is a need to realize the reason why the politicians pretend there is. It is to make sure the wealth stays in private hands, and that it is, indeed, concentrated into them even more. People are constantly fooled by artificial threats and the threat of destitution. Benn says fear and demoralization keep people malleable. It's true!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

People’s Assemblies: Norfolk’s Experience

Re-posted from The Morning Star.

Norfolk People’s Assembly has been at the forefront of the battle to beat the Tories. David Peel explains how the group has had such an impact

Look around. Our country is being torn apart. People are suffering and dying. Lives are being wrecked. Public services destroyed. Changes we never believed possible are being forced through against our wishes. They call it "austerity forever"—the idea of a handful of arrogant, aloof Eton public schoolboys and their rich friends.

However, as Karl Marx once said about capitalism, they are creating their own gravediggers. The British people, true to centuries of tradition, are rising like lions. We are on the move and our movement is called the People’s Assembly. Our message is simple—no cuts, no austerity, and if it won’t listen, no coalition government.

Since we launched in June last year around 100 assemblies have sprung up across Britain, rooted in local communities. This is our movement’s great strength, and why we are here to stay. We have united thousands of activists and campaigners with ordinary people, many of whom have never been involved in this kind of “politics” before. And we don’t get together to bemoan austerity. We plan and take action.

In Norfolk, this has been particularly successful—but why? And what drives us?

Here’s one reason. People with severe mental health needs in this county and in Suffolk are taking their own lives in utter despair as a direct result of cuts in services.

When Norfolk People’s Assembly was told about these deaths from comrades in the mental health services we took action straight away and occupied the constituency offices of “Care” Minister and local MP Norman Lamb. We filmed a statement from inside his office, rightly blaming him and his coalition for the deaths, and uploaded it to the internet. The minister was dragged kicking and squirming onto the media to answer the charges. Thousands saw our angry message and witnessed his discomfort. Today the campaign against mental health cuts which have plunged the service into crisis is one of the biggest, most active and successful we have seen in years. Mental health staff, patients and carers have been given the confidence to blow the whistle and fight back. They now have the mental health trust board of directors by the balls, and their campaign is saving lives. It was kick-started by a People’s Assembly initiative.

Here’s another reason. Today in Norfolk, no coalition cabinet minister dares breeze in, make a few sham announcements and breeze out again. They are met with vigorous protests. When Prime Minister David Cameron visited, demonstrators crowded round every entry to the TV studios where he was to be interviewed. Those who later saw the broadcast said he looked rattled. I didn’t see it. I was inside a police station, under arrest for attempted criminal damage to his armoured Jaguar car having thrown a small cardboard placard at it—allegedly. The Crown Prosecution Service recently dropped their case. On local radio, listeners calling a phone-in about the incident backed our action, criticising the media for its craven attitude to coalition ministers. When Chancellor George Osborne came his car was surrounded and stopped by our activists. It disrupted his speaking engagement. We were interviewed by the media, catapulting the People’s Assembly onto news bulletins watched by tens of thousands. No coalition minister—or shadow minister who supports austerity—should be able to visit any People’s Assembly area, anywhere in Britain, without protests.

Here’s a third reason for our success. When Norwich City Council threatened to evict families for bedroom tax arrears, we put down a public question, then turned up the volume with a highly visible Spanish-style pots and pans protest outside. Inside the chamber we were verbally abused by ruling Labour group councillors, but we extracted a precious and very public promise from the deputy leader. No tenant would be evicted for bedroom tax arrears. It put us—and the council pledge—on the front of Norwich evening news.

We are not fools. If the council betrays its pledge, we will have a "stop evictions network" of activists around any home threatened by bailiffs. They shall not pass. We have marched, occupied banks like Virgin, shops like Primark, stood on picket lines with firefighters, handed out leaflets at schools supporting striking teachers and hassled local MPs like Brandon Lewis, Chloe Smith and Simon Wright. We are the self-appointed official opposition to austerity in Norfolk where every mainstream political party is implicated in hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts.

Our activism never ceases, as readers of the People’s Assembly house newspaper the Morning Star will know. Every local assembly in Britain planning action should be telling the Morning Star. This is the only daily newspaper on sale round this country which is fighting austerity tooth and nail. In Norfolk, we have a sympathetic newspaper too, the Kett Gazette, named after home-grown rebel leader Robert Kett. We always warn visiting coalition ministers that they will get "a robust Kett county welcome" if they come here.

In just six months Norfolk People’s Assembly has transformed the best activists in the county into a force to be reckoned with. We spoil coalition PR opportunities, put anti-austerity on the agenda and inspire others to join us and fight back. Action is the life of all. People join us because we take action. We have courage and commitment, but don’t get us wrong—we are not hotheads. Our actions are thought through. Campaigners come to us because we have experience. We can organise demonstrations, liaise with police, set up and speak at public meetings, lead occupations, ambush ministers, hold councils to account, lobby charities and churches and build networks which are broad and strong.

Our media profile is strong. We pour out information, shaping the debate and thinking around austerity. We never get defensive when criticised but stay upbeat, positive, and proactive. Our campaigns are creative and imaginative. We cannot be ignored. We have earned respect.

We are led by women, most of our officers are women, the majority at our meetings are women. Women alongside the disabled are hardest hit by this austerity. We are inextricably bound to trades councils and trade unions fund us. We go to union meetings. They come to ours. It gives us a militant, organised edge. For the first time in years, we are bringing members of the public to strikers’ picket lines.

The People’s Assembly is about to step up several gears. Perhaps here in rebellious Norfolk we have blazed a trail. Here might be one strategy for growing this movement in our communities, taking it to a place in our national life where we can turn the tide of austerity, and history, and bring this unelected coalition down.

Friday, January 10, 2014

When We Stand Together-A film about UNITY against The Tories

Susie "Pip" Stewart’s film for the Facebook Page United against the Tories, which outlines the achievements of the Labour Government of 1945-1951 contrasted with the horrors of Thatcher’s and Major’s Tories of 1979-1997, then contrasts the Blair/Brown Labour government with the present neoconservative/neoliberal Tory/Lib-Dem coalition.

Well done Susie even though, despite some useful legislation by Blair’s government, it overlooks his adoration of Thatcher and his destruction of democracy within the Labour Party, leaving it owned by the Parliamentary Party and so guaranteeing that the only candidates who can be selected in the future are careerist opportunists like Blair himself. Of course the other thing Blair did was wrap up the Labour Party as a socialist Party by getting rid of Clause 4, leaving the ghost of a wish for socialism in its place, not that it could have been relevant when the rule changes made it nigh on impossible for socialists to be selected as candidates.

Despite those rather important things, this video is a passionate cry for the British people to get rid of the Coalition, and the implication for Labour of its post war history, notably Clement Attlee’s remarkable 1945-51 Labour Government that gave us everything that made post war life in Britain distinctive and worth living in. All of it is now being systematically demolished by the Tories and their Lib-Dem poodles, so the message to people is to make sure the Tories are not elected in 2015, and to Labour that their model ought not to be Thatcher or Cameron but Clement Attlee and the excellent set of Labour ministers who did so much to renovate Britain according to a socialistic pattern in only six years.