Barber-ed retorts

Apologies for the excruciating pun, there.

A little bit of comparing and contrasting.

Tom Mellen in The Morning Star, writes:

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber called for a national debate on inequality on Friday after warning that Britain has a growing group of “soar-away super-rich” who are cut off from the rest of society.

Mr Barber also warned that “simmering resentment” among millions of public-sector workers over pay could cause clashes with the government.

In his New Year message, he called for more help for workers at the bottom of the heap and faster progress on the government’s pledge to end child poverty as well as making workplaces fairer.

Mr Barber observed that “simply closing the non-domiciled loophole would raise enough to halve child poverty.

“No-one particularly enjoys paying tax, but it is the price tag for a civilised society and it’s about time that we had a proper debate about whether those who can afford it are paying their fair share,” he declared.

Mr Barber pointed out that, “if the super-rich and big companies are not paying their fair share, it means that the rest of us, including small and medium-sized businesses, are paying too much, that public services are not getting the growth they need and that we do not have the resources to end child poverty.”

He insisted that vulnerable workers should have their rights properly enforced, while “abuse and exploitation” of agency staff should end.

Mr Barber attacked the government for planning to limit pay rises in the public sector to 2 per cent a year over the next three years, noting that “the arguments for doing this do not stack up and the risks are big.

“It does not just threaten the recruitment, retention and morale of public servants but will damage an industrial relations system that has minimised conflict in the public sector,” he predicted.

Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths applauded Mr Barber for “identifying the problem,” but he wondered: “What is the point of further debate?”

Mr Griffiths observed that, according to the office for National Statistics, “500 of Britain’s 700 biggest companes pay little or no tax on their enormous profits and the richest 10 per cent own three-quarters of the country’s wealth.

“We need a wealth tax on the super-rich and a windfall tax on banking and oil super-profits,” he insisted.

So, a gentle response from the CPB.

Now, here’s The News Line‘s editorial, titled “Barber’s two ‘big worries’, the crisis of capitalism and workers’ anger!“, pulls no punches:

BRENDAN Barber the TUC general secretary in his New Year message confesses that he has two ‘big worries’ for the year 2008.

He said ‘2008 may be a rocky year. After a decade of steady economic growth and stability, prospects for the economy are distinctly uncertain. The full effects of the credit crunch triggered by irresponsible lending in the USA sub-prime mortgage market have yet to work their way through the economic system. Northern Rock has already been taken in its wake.’

The implication is that Northern Rock is only the first to go.

After years of denying that there was such a thing as a crisis of the capitalist system, he is now at a complete loss about what to do about it when it stares him in the face. He certainly does not propose a socialist alternative. He does not mention the word ‘socialism’ in his entire New Year message.

All he can write is a plea for more regulation: ‘For many years we have been told that over-regulation and red tape are the biggest barrier to economic growth. Yet the biggest threat to the world economy has come from a failure to regulate the US mortgage market, and its biggest victim here flows from a regulatory failure in UK banking system oversight.’

He actually thinks that the crisis of capitalism is a product of a lack of government inspectors!

Inspectors cannot prevent or resolve the crisis of capitalism. The only way to do this is to expropriate the capitalists and the bankers. That means nationalisation and the advent of a socialist planned economy, with workers management of industry. But this is anathema to Brendan Barber.

He continues that ‘My other big worry is the simmering resentment across the public sector at government pay policy. Public servants have already suffered a cut in their living standards this year.

But the government is planning a further three years of reduced living standards.’

Note, his worry is not about the government policy, but the response of the working class to it!

His answer is not to take on the government and smash the policy, but to plead for ‘more help for those at the bottom . . . We now have a growing group of the soar-away super-rich. . . . This is why I hope that in the year ahead we can have a proper debate about tax. We need a campaign for fair tax.’

It is the old bankrupt Kinnock battle cry of tax the rich, to try and prevent the massive anger in the working class over Brown’s wage cutting policies exploding into mass strikes and revolution. It is a cowardly evasion of the issues involved.

In fact, the bosses, are being driven by the developing crisis to attack the jobs, wages, and working conditions of the working class. Far from taxing the rich they are everywhere increasing the taxation of the poor.

The job of the TUC is to provide leadership in this struggle to the working class to defeat the bosses and the bosses Brown government to go forward to a workers government and socialism. Barber has no intention of providing such leadership.

He showed where he stood on this issue when he sold out the sacked Gate Gourmet workers, alongside their union leader Woodley.

Now both face a much bigger struggle on the UK’s airports where BAA workers are due to take strike action to defend their pensions, and the BAA bosses are preparing to bring in replacement workers and to sack the strikers, in another Wapping.

Barber and leaders like Woodley and Brendan Gold have no answer to this bosses attack except to equivocate, preliminary to capitulating.

The TUC must tell the BAA bosses that the introduction of replacement workers will be met by the TUC calling a general strike to defeat the BAA and the Brown government that is supporting the bosses.

Barber and Woodley are incapable of leading this struggle, where socialist policies and the struggle for socialism are vital. They must be forced to resign and be replaced by real leaders at once.

Chance, as they say, would be a fine thing…

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? Who benefits?

The assasination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is sad news for the people of Pakistan and will benefit the US-funded military dictatorship.

The wave of anger generated by Bhutto’s killing will give Musharaf a pretext for suspending the constitution again – during which time opposition activists and trade unionists will be rounded up and all dissent forbidden.

Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, George Galloway, had this to say of his late friend:

Benazir Bhutto is yet another martyr from a family whose tragedy would have taxed Shakespeare himself. Her father, both brothers and now she have been murdered one way or another whilst serving Pakistan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party was hanged by the military tyrants who have sucked Pakistan’s blood since its foundation. Her brothers, Shahnawaz was poisoned, and Mir Murtaza was gunned down in much the same way as she now has been herself. I have no doubt that Benazir has been murdered by the dictatorship of president General (Retd) Parvaiz Musharaf. The professionalism of the assassination, the way in which the killer managed to get within pistol range of the opposition leader, the decoy suicide bomb story, all point to the intelligence apparatus of the dictatorship being involved in the crime. But it is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder. A terrible wave of violence and extremism will now sweep and perhaps break Pakistan. I was lucky enough to be Benazirs friend from the time she arrived thin, bleeding from her ears as a result of ill-treatment in the Rawalpindi jail in the early 1980s. I was with her when she became the first elected woman leader of a Muslim country in 1988, with her too when she was twice deposed with western collusion and in her long exiles. She was the bravest woman I ever met, bright brave and beautiful. I planned to be with her on the campaign trail from January 2nd. I am broken hearted that I will never see her again.

The following analysis of the events comes from Socialist Appeal:

On the murder of Benazir Bhutto
By Rob Sewell
Thursday, 27 December 2007

Today’s cold-blooded assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi has once again thrown Pakistan into political turmoil, less than two weeks before national elections. Thirty more people have died and 40 injured in the bomb blast after the assassin blew himself up. Millions of supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party are in a state of shock, disbelief and grief. But they are also angered by this murderous act by the forces of black counter-revolution.

Thousands have taken to the streets throughout Pakistan in protest at this outrage. People flocked to the Rawalpindi General hospital and have been chanting anti-Musharraf slogans, including describing him as a “dog”. The street protests have also spread, with reports of demonstrations in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Multan, and Quetta. The Pakistan army has been put on ‘red alert’ and an emergency meeting has been convened by Musharaff of top officials to decide the fate of the forthcoming election. There is a danger that emergency rule will be re-imposed.

Who benefited from this murder? Those behind the killing clearly wanted to prevent the victory of the PPP on 8th January. They are the Pakistani ruling elite, which has brought the country to ruin. The fact that the assassin was able to shoot Benazir at close quarter after passing through several levels of security checks, indicate the involvement of sections of the security forces. Once again the assassination points to the Islamic fundamentalists linked to al-Queda, who have close links with the security forces (ISI) and have stepped up their attacks, especially since the storming of the Red Mosque in July. Already this year, nearly 1,000 people have been killed by suicide and armed attacks.

This whole situation underlines the counter-revolutionary role of fundamentalism, which despite its demagogy, carries the banner of black reaction, and is linked by a thousand threads to the ruling elites of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere.

On Benazir’s return on 18th October, the first assassination attack came at a mass rally the following day, claiming 140 deaths and 500 injured. Bhutto pointed her finger at the Islamic groups for the bloody attack. During the election campaign, attacks have continued, most notably in Peshwar and Islamabad. Today, minutes before to Benazir’s murder, a simultaneous attack resulted in four people being shot dead at an election rally of Naswar Shariff in Islamabad.

The West’s plans and calculations of “managed transition” are in complete disarray. The American imperialists had supported General Mushariff, but this role had been discredited. They were hoping that a “conconciliation” would take place between him and Benazir. They were hoping that Benazir would pursue their interests. However, behind Benazir and the PPP stood the millions of workers and peasants who were yearning for fundamental change.

“We stand with the people in Pakistan in the struggle against the forces of terror and extremism,” said George Bush. But the plans of Washington have now gone up in smoke. It was their actions (the so-called war on terror) which have built up the fundamentalists throughout the region. They initially financed and armed al-Qaeda and their supporters, which has now fallen to the drug barons and secret services to continue. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have added to the chaos. The imperialists are in uncharted waters. The UN security council has even called an emergency session to discuss the assassination. There is a note of alarm in their statements, fearing that the region could spiral out of control.

The campaign to postpone the elections is an attempt to block these pressures welling up in Pakistan for revolutionary change. Despite Musharrif’s calls for calm, shops and businesses have been closed and demonstrators have taken to the streets across Pakistan. Police cars and other vehicles have been set alight. It is a spontaneous protest against the counter-revolution. It is defiance against those responsible for the attack and the beginning of a fight back by the masses.

Whatever the immediate outcome, including the likely postponement of the national elections, the masses will seek to push the PPP into power at the earliest possible moment. They will seek the road of fundamental socialist change by demanding that the PPP return to its revolutionary roots as the only way forward. The death of Benazir Bhutto, despite the initial shock, will act as a spur to the further radicalization the party and the millions that follow it throughout Pakistan. The assassination will certainly not break the will of the masses to change society. It will harden their determination.

Red Christmas

“Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation, of the kind of misery and inequality that destroys social values. If you really look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ — who I think was the first socialist — only socialism can really create a genuine society.”

Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, 2006

The unions can beat wage restraint by calling for an English parliament

The respective Christmas messages of Alex Salmond, First Minister of the Scottish government, and Gerry Adams – President of Sinn Fein, which shares power at Stormont in Northern Ireland – shows the extent to which the British state has become decentralised and is threatened with fragmentation.

This year saw nationalists enter government in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Ten years after it won power promising devolution, New Labour – in particular, but the other Westminster parties, too – must adjust to the consequences of maintaining the centralised British state. (Note that it doesn’t make sense to include the Scottish and Welsh parties within “New Labour” – the Welsh party especially, with “clear red water” between it and the Westminster party.)

I believe that there was an alternative. New Labour could have offered each nation within Britain a choice, the outcome at the time would probably have been federalism, saving the British state. But such a process would have involved New Labour giving up power – and having the appearance of weakness in England. (And at the time, it was not a concern of the ruling class – the expectation being that devolution would kill of the Celtic nationalisms.)

New Labour was and is purely concerned with electoral results, providing the ruling class with a stable two-party system of politics. Constitutional and democratic reforms have always been conditional upon cementing New Labour’s position.

So while there may be some vague possibility of the voting system being made more proportional – especially if a coalition with the Liberals is the outcome of the next general election – there is little chance of New Labour conceding an English parliament or even allowing a serious discussion of England’s lack of national political institutions.

It’s always been my view that the small-L labour movement – that is to say, the working class movement – should be concerned with political matters. This means opposing the governing party that is privatising and waging wars even if it is the Labour party and the funding link still exists. It is clear that threats to withdraw funding would not trouble Labour, it can always find a dodgy businessman, or else borrow one of the Tories’.

So here’s my modest proposal: if a union is in dispute with the government and it wants to give New Labour and the whole political class a good kicking, the cheapest and easiest way to do it is to campaign to for extension of devolution to England. Trade union support for an English parliament – with MPs on an average worker’s wage – would really rattle government ministers…

PS: These videos from CongressTV on the “Speak Up For Public Services!” campaign are worth watching. In the first, TUC Gen Sec Brendan Barber is interviewed, in the second it’s Dave Prentis, Unison Gen Sec.

As the blurb has it:

The TUC and its 26 public sector member unions are launching a major new campaign urging the Government not to impose below inflation public sector pay increases.

So the union bureaucracy is finally acting in a co-ordinated fashoin against New Labour’s wage policy. It’s a start, I suppose… More pressure is needed, though.

Bliar’s Catholicism non-story trumps BAE revelations

Yes, it’s official.

Bliar’s become a Catholic. Not a great surprise, it’s a shame he didn’t have the balls to convert years ago.

Confession’s going to be difficult, isn’t it? He’s not one for being honest.

Take the inquiry into BAE Systems’ alleged corruption:

The Grauniad’s reporting that newly released documents prove that he pestered the attourney-general Lord Goldsmith to call of the inquiry, then claimed it was not about the big bucks, but national security.

New Liberal leader “Dick Cleggeron” – who recently came out as atheist – is calling for an official inquiry into the whole thing.

The BAE deal, I mean, not Bliar’s Catholicism.

Anyhow, since it seems to be the season for coming out, here’s one of my friends…


Scottish Parliament backs referendum on EU consti-treaty

This story might have missed you – unless you read The Scum – and I thought I’d posted it a few days ago, but have just discovered that the gremlins got it…

On Tuesday, Labour MSPs abstained from voting on a Scottish National Party motion calling on the British government to hold a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, meaning that the motion passed by 64 votes to 17.

This failure to act highlights the rift within the Labour party on the EU and the fear of Labour parliamentarians that failure to hold a referendum on the new treaty will result in voters punishing them at the next election.

However, the party is not in complete revolt: Scottish Labour’s own ammendment endorsing the treaty was narrowly defeated (64 to 61) in the devolved parliament.

That the SNP brought the motion is a not sign the party is returning to its historic euroscepticism, rather it is part of their strategy of asserting their democratic and populist credentials – battered by recent controversy over their appeasement of Donald Trump, the American billionaire looking to build a golf resort.

Don’t bank on it

A banking crisis. A huge trade and budget deficit. Steadily growing inflation.

It isn’t going too well for the former Chancellor. Prime Minister Brown has a 60% disapproval rating – a positive thumbs down.

When the shit really hits the fan Brown won’t tell us he had nothing to do with it, he’ll send someone out to say it for him.

I’m just as gutless:

Gamblers unanimous
(Wednesday 19 December 2007)

NEVER again can Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling be taken seriously when they claim that particular policies put forward by the labour movement are unaffordable.

Their readiness to gamble up to £60 billion in an effort to protect feckless and irresponsible bankers from the consequences of their own short-sighted avarice shoots down the “unaffordable” excuse stone dead.

These two bankers’ friends have shown that there is no real shortage of cash available. It is simply a matter of deciding on priorities.

And the priority for new Labour is jumping to attention when the bankers call rather than answering the demands put forward by working people for investment in jobs, council housing, railways renationalisation and the manufacturing sector.

Despite the Brown-Darling line that everything is proceeding as planned, they have shown the same blind panic and dithering as the Prime Minister displayed over whether or not to call a snap general election.

Having made the first panic-stricken decision to inject £24 billion, they now resemble gambling addicts who feel the need to throw good money after bad.

They have committed the unbelievable amount of £2,000 from every taxpayer in Britain to Northern Rock and yet they have no guarantee of ever seeing the return of this cash.

Ignoring the effect on the public purse, the PM has underwritten any cash spent by financial institutions to buy a stake in Northern Rock – heads they win, tails they win.

If the Labour leader had had any of the political principles with which he had first set out, he would have taken Northern Rock into public ownership when the bank admitted that it was insolvent.

And, instead of looking for ways to pass on profitable sections of it to other banks at the earliest opportunity, the government would have run a people’s bank to show the difference between offering an essential service and gouging maximum profits out of customers.