Thursday, 29 May 2008

On getting old

When you are only in your early seventies you can potter around, pretending to be an old person, without much risk of being challenged on your right to exist. However, when you approach the stage of being awarded a free TV licence, you should surely consider the future. Why have they assumed that you are so decrepit that you need to sit and stare at a TV screen ? Most of it is just packaging for cretinous commercial advertising. At times you wonder which is the more mind destroying, the programmes or the advertising. Even the BBC advertises itself and its wares inexhaustibly. Repeats are repeated and repeated again.

It's all very suspicious. If they ( you know, them ) consider that you are so far gone at the age of seventy five  to need this degree of drug therapy, to keep you out of harm's way, what will they think of you when you reach eighty ? Will they look at the space you are occupying and wonder if somebody younger should be there ?

Think on.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Towards a Carers' Charter 2

Thanks for the comments so far.

The proposed Charter is based on the original Chartist Movements' demands and is essentially about the human rights of a much abused section of the community. I hope that it can be kept flexible and amendable over time, as circumstances dictate.

Certainly, I think that carers who work less than a full week should be included. The principle is pay for work undertaken, as opposed to an allowance as a token gesture.

I will incorporate the additions proposed into an updated version, after others have been given a chance to contribute their ideas.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Towards a Carers' Charter

A first attempt to respond to my own question. What might a Carers' Charter look like ?

It would be the basis of a campaign to establish human rights for carers. At the centre must be the right to a reasonable life. So a recognition of the work carers do must come first. Carers are workers who need and are entitled to a wage. If they did not undertake this work, the state would have to undertake responsibility for it and it would cost far more. Carers also need an organisation to fight for a wage and improved conditions of service, an embryonic carers trade union. Their right to organise and negotiate on behalf of carers should be recognised by the TUC and the trade union movement generally.

Carers conditions of service should include a full medical assessment of their carees needs and of their own capacity to care for them. Carers who are incapacitated themselves should receive all necessary support.
( Other carers and our supporters are invited to add to this list of conditions of service. )

More Later.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Down with Brown ?

When Labour lose the Crewe and Nantwich by-election tomorrow, should Golden get the blame ?

It's not that unusual for governments to lose by-elections eleven years into office, even in what are usually considered to be safe seats.

Brown has not been a conspicuously successful Prime Minister, that is undeniable. The once reasonably social democratic Brown has become a vacuum, unlike Blair, who was always that way. Their overwhelming need to win produced a capitulation to the political Right which was always shameful and has now become pathetic. They adopted the 'free market' ideology in the name of a spurious 'third way'. They imagined that their triangulation to attract ' middle-class ' voters would be a permanent achievement, but they misunderstood both the nature of the international economy and the depth of commitment that many people still have to the idea of a welfare state. Could the more populist and charismatic Blair have won tomorrow ? Possibly.

Given that this is a safe Labour seat at general elections, Blair may just have held it. You won't really be able to blame Golden, unless the loss is massive. In which case, it will be seen as a judgement on his short premiership.

We may then be tempted to join in the baying for Brown's removal. This is a temptation which socialists and social democrats in the Labour Party should resist. I'm not fond of Brown, although I probably dislike him a little less than Blair. However, this is surely a matter of politics, not of personalities alone, no matter to what extent those personalities themselves personify a particular kind of politics. New Labour is the enemy.It is the marketisation agenda, the privatisation of our public goods, the betrayal of the working class, in its fullest sense, including all disempowered people, my fellow carers, the sick and disabled and the elderly poor. The involvement in American imperialist wars, with their vast loss of lives and the maiming of innocents. This is the betrayal.

I don't imagine that the good people of Crewe and Nantwich will have all of these considerations in mind when they reject Labour tomorrow, although they may have some of them. They will see Blairite and Brownite New Labour alike as having been an egregious failure. If the Labour Party is to be revived as a major political force in this country, it may possibly do so by a reconstruction of the New Labour Project under a new name and a new leader. That seems to me to be unlikely, but I wouldn't want to be a part of that in the slightest way, in any circumstances. If we can't remake the Labour Party as a decent, sincere and authentic social democratic force, then we will need to try to forge a new kind of politics, based on a new alliance between socialists and radical greens and other genuine progressives. 

A green-red politics ?

Everybody is a green these days, riding the wrong way down one-way streets on their Cameroonian bicycles. Blue-green why not, it's a lovely shade of politics. Hypocrisy may come in many colours.

But is there a deeper connection between environmentalism and politics ? Perhaps we should take a closer look at the Green Party. Its middle-class image does not immediately appeal to old socialists like me. Take an even closer look and you will spot a section of the Party which calls itself the Green Left. It has an analysis which connects capitalism to environmental pollution. An analysis which makes deep sense to those of us who have been opposing the neoliberalism beloved by the three major parties. The drive towards profit maximisation, the domination of international finance capital, and the sheer greed of the mega-rich places our earth in great danger. For the foreseeable future, its the only place we have to live . The earth will survive. The danger is that in time it will become an unfit place for human beings and other complex life forms.

I remain a member of the Labour Party, for the moment, but I have been taking a hard look at the Green Left for some time now.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The not so hidden persuaders

Is liberal democracy really that democratic ? Is the divide between politics and economics really that wide ? We are surrounded by commercial advertising exhorting us to buy. Under New Labour advertising techniques, developed by commercial advertising, has become the medium through which political communication is conducted. Buy our politics, they are the best the market can offer. An increasingly unconvincing claim for the Labour Party these days.

The 'free market' system is not so free when your ears and eyes are filled with insistent demands to buy this and that. After a while, it begins to smack of totalitarianism. The same advert. is repeated over and over again. And when the depressingly frequent commercial breaks come around, the volume of the TV is raised. This is not information giving, but rather an attempt at brain washing. The insidious underlying meta-communication is that the consumer society is the good society. Vote retail therapy. It really isn't necessary for you to think for yourself, we'll do it for you, at a price. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Why won't the political Left love carers ?

All carers vary, in both the nature of their caring role and their attitude to it. To keep things simple, let us take a 24/7 carer like me. Not that I am that typical, as an OAP I have a pension to live on, which is much better than the pittance younger carers have.

The 24/7 carer is not the heroic proletarian of socialist mythology, by and large. Struggling to cope against overwhelming odds, with little and decreasing support, they are even demonised by some as social security scroungers. Many of them, in my experience, are sadly lacking in political awareness, or even in awareness of the reality of their own situation. The most aware of them, like those in Care Watch, would like to do something about their blatant, but unrecognised exploitation. However, given the constraints of their situation and their lack of resources, they are in need of some help.

So what is more natural than for them than to turn to those historic defenders of the exploited, the political Left. However, for some reason, with a few very honourable exceptions, we are not loved by the Left. We cannot be the vanguard of the revolution, we don't have the time or the energy. Remember that the working class do not consist exclusively of industrial workers, unionised and ready for action. Less so now in the UK than previously. It consists of all the exploited. Carers need a trade union too, to defend their interests and negotiate on their behalf, precisely because they are workers too. They need a wage and decent conditions of service too.

New Labour are about to launch a new attack on carers, the elderly and the disabled. Will the MPs associated with Compass and the Labour Representation Committee defend us ? Will the wider Left support us at last ?

A socialist kind of social democracy

No doubt the factions of New Labour will attempt some kind of ideological reconstruction of The Project, hopefully in opposition to each other, prior to the general election. That is all the much proclaimed death of New labour will mean. New Labour is dead, long live New Labour.

It actually has to be defeated, along with all those other political forces who exploit the working class for their own gain. For those of us who remain in the Labour Party, for various reasons, the defeat of neoliberalism remains our ongoing task. The struggle, as always, will take place at various levels, organisational as well as ideological. It seems to me that, most immediately, the struggle over ideas is salient. The probability is that the reconstruction of New Labour will involve a revival of the notion of social democracy, in order to differentiate the Labour Party from the Tories, for narrow electoral reasons.

The struggle for ideas is an inherent part of political struggle. It is not about reaching an agreement on the meaning of terms for the sake of clarity. It is about defeating a political project which seeks to misuse the historic labour movement to defeat the material interests of those who labour.

We choose to use the term 'social democracy' to oppose neoliberalism. All political terminology has a history. It would be difficult to find a political label which has changed its meaning over time as much as 'social democracy'. It was originally associated with the Left, it came to be associated with an evolutionary approach to socialism, with gradualism, with 'moderation' and then with a new form of political reaction, the Gang of Four, the Owenites, and then the awful neo-cons in the USA and New Labour.

Historically, it undoubtedly belongs to the Left. We reclaim it as our own. It expresses precisely our opposition to that extreme form of market capitalism, neoliberalism, which has become dominant in recent times. In opposition to this we stand for a social democracy in which the useful members of society run their own affairs in a democratic way.

The struggle to make the Labour Party an authentic social democratic party is under way. The Blairites and Brownites are not, in any authentic sense, social democrats and they should never be allowed to get away with describing themselves as such, without being challenged.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The demise of New Labour ?

Compass Chair Neal Lawson declares the death of New Labour. That was a couple of days ago. So why are they still there and still in government ? Come on Neal explain yourself.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

A Carers' Charter ?

Campaigning for carers' rights in this society is not easy, Carers are usually seen as a mixture of the deserving and the undeserving poor. Of course, carers and caring situations do vary somewhat. The apparatus of state and charity organisations is there to organise, contain and control the situation. Carers are nourished, advised, scolded, encouraged, discouraged, placated and told how wonderful they are in their dedicated incarceration. They are serious charity cases. They deserve their pathetic allowances. Well, the deserving ones do. The others are well........

What they are not is employees recognised as authentic workers, doing an essential job which the state would have to pay for if they were not there to do it. It's true that their exploitation is partly of their own making. These are decent people who can't just walk away from the often desperate needs of their much loved carees. Is their inherent decency a good reason to exploit them ?

Carers organisations, like Carer Watch, are there to demand and campaign for the rights of carers. They are indeed authentic workers. Just like other workers they need a trade union to represent their interests. Unfortunately, the official trade union movement seems very reluctant to recognise their status. There has to be a reason for that. They need a wage based on the work they do. Let's have an end to the farce of allowances. The terms and conditions of employment of carers should be freely negotiated in a formal collective bargaining situation, just like other workers.

Our society owes much to the brave sacrifices of the historic Chartist Movement who fought so hard to establish many of the democratic rights we all enjoy today. The pathetic creeps of New Labour, of course, no longer value the struggles on which our movement was built. Is it now time to establish a charter of rights for carers ? A basis on which the carers' movement, divided and weak as it is, can come together and campaign for the recognition and rights which carers so richly deserve ?

At this stage, I just ask the question.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

So now we know.

Ken lost, New Labour lost and all the talk is now about how to make the Labour Party a viable electoral force again. Frankly, I don't give a damn.

For me political parties are all about how to achieve certain defined objectives, based on underlying collective values. They are not an end in themselves, but only a means to an end.

New Labour had its objectives, really rather remarkably explicit, considering the chicanery they were up to. It was to destroy residual social democracy in this country and create a two-party system based on the American model, with an in party and an out party and not much by way of substantive policy difference between them. Some very naive people hoped hoped that Gordon was a tad more social democratic than Tony, a view which completely defied the available evidence. Another cup of tea Lady Thatcher ?

Now we know. The electorate currently prefer the out party to the in party. A campaign for Real Labour anyone ?

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Greetings to all on May Day, the international worker's day.

Good luck Ken

I want Ken Livingstone to win today.

It's true that I don't like him as much as I once did.

He used to be opposed to the whole idea of an executive mayor believing, as I still do, that it concentrates power too much in the hands of one person. Now that he is that person in London, he's changed his position. He likes the power too much. Let's get away from executive mayors throughout the country and revert to a more democratic and accountable system.

I don't like his position on the City of London, the Olympic Games, the police and all this global city nonsense. He's become a big city boss, in the American style, and I just don't like that. He really does need to be held more to account and the London Assembly is too effete to do that job properly at the moment.

A.V. is far from the best electoral system. A more democratic system would be STV and I support that for all elections, including those for Westminster. However, the alliance that Ken has formed with the Green Party is encouraging.

The stark fact is that this election comes down to a choice between Ken and BoJo, the right-wing Tory fop. It's a no-brainer. Make no mistake BoJo represents the re-ascendent Tory Toff Tendency, based on an antediluvian caucus of old Etonians. However, they are no old-fashioned one-nation Tories, in their economic and social policies. They are neoliberals, just like New Labour. Ken is still, in a rather compromised way, the man who took on and defeated New Labour. When he first opposed the Labour Party machine, I supported him with great enthusiasm, like many others. I support him still. Less enthusiastically, more conditionally, but it's still Ken for my old home city of London today. I haven't live there for a long time, so I have no vote to give him. I can't vote for him, but if I could vote for him, I would vote for him, newts, warts and all. He continues to represent the best hope for a social democratic London. If he wins I will cheer and hope for a socialist next time.