Wednesday, March 28, 2007


According to the ITUC part of the repression in Zimbabwe has fallen on the trade unions there:
13 March 2007: The headquarters of the Zimbabwe Trade Union Congress (ZCTU) were today raided by government security forces, as part of a "concerted effort to try and crush all civic organisations" according to ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo. Central intelligence Organisation officials and police ransacked the premises at 09.30 this morning, assaulted three ZCTU staff members and detained the organisation’s Financial Administrator
Obviously - the workers' movement is the first thing any repressive regime needs to crush. Of course, things are so bad in Zimbabwe that the workers' movement is incredibly weak. This report from the South African SABC sets out the stall:
Regional leaders called the SADC meeting to discuss the political crisis in Zimbabwe which analysts say threatens to destabilise the region as millions flee food shortages, 1 700% inflation and 80% unemployment. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition in Zimbabwe, and other party supporters, were arrested and beaten after attempting to attend a banned prayer meeting this month.
pace the ideas of fantacists the workers' movement relies on a strong economy, 80% unemployment leaves proletarian politics impotent and the opposition flailing around in a sea of plebeian politics - not something that's easy to organise in a largely rural economy.

To be frank, I don't see much hope, the breaks within ZANU-PF may well unseat Mugabe - but he is a machine politician anyway - ZANU-PF will be there fore some time to come.

What can we do? We could send letters to the Zimbabwean embassy, but they won't listen. It's dangerous to probably send any letters of support to the ZCTU for fear of making them appear to be agents of foriegn/imperial domination. Any further suggestions?

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Many a mickel

OK, budget. Brown is very very clever. Riddle me this - he is inflicting pay cuts by holding wages down to less than inflation, but he gives a net tax cut to salaries/wages in thwe £17K-£43K bracket (according to you master Akehurst. This simultaeously will cut upward pressure on wages whilst also delivering a net benefit to the real size of the public purse. The cut makes brilliant politics because it is a headline cut in the nominal rate of tax, and so many people will benefit, slightly, that all talk of the overall increase in taxation will be swamped.

To my mind, Brown is and remains a highly ingenious Keynsian, with the political nouse to not say so. What we have in action is an incomes policy - IMNSHO.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The tragedy of the Commons

I'm kinda torn - OK, I support abolishing the House of Lords, but then I support trial by Jury - which the Lords have just defended. By the same token, though, they might well overthrow the sexual orientation regulations (SORs) that the churches loathe so.

Should I savour the Lords, rejoice in their sagacity, regret their follies?

Should I, that is, play practical politics and welcome whatever stick drums out my cause? I think not. I'm glad the erosion of trial by jury and the crasss stupidity that entails has been defeated (it was clearly a matter of change management and death by a thousand cuts) - but I won't welcome that the Lords did it, nor thank them. I still consider their intervention illegitimate and unwanted.

A great deal of harm is done by procedural power politics and doing things because you can without, per se, winning the argument or making the case - especially as if someone were to contrive a way around the procedural power point or to eliminate it altogether then nothing is there to prevent stupidity. Winning the argument is the only reasonable means to any political ends.

To reiterate the importance of Juries - they are there so we can consider that crimes are something that can be understood by the layperson. If fraud trials are too complex that is the fault of legislators and prosecutors for failing to make the tests clear enough. Nothing to do with ancient rights or whatever, but common sense that the minimum we want from our courts is that they maintain confidence in themselves and their proceedings.

Sling out the Lords, they're no bloody good.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

...bear it onward till we fall.

Pieter Lawrence, member of the SPGB for over fifty years (part of a family of members) has died after a long battle with cancer.

It's always a choker when old comrades pass.

I was in the same branch as Pieter, and despite fundamental disagreements on policy and theory, he was a solid comrade who could put his case together with cogency and aplomb.

His battle cry was for practical socialism - using making concrete proposals based on observation of contemporary society - such as the food and agriculture organisation being the the basis for a future world information clearing agency for food production. He was proud to have been instrumental in the authorship of the SPGB Pamphlet Socialism as a Practical Alternative(PDF).

On one occassion he and me had a screaming argument - or bellowing argument, I should say. Members on the fourth floor of SPGB HO could hear us raising our voices ever louder - it seemed to me, at the time, that in some way he enjoyed that sort of encounter. He certainly could bellow.

He was the author of the socialist novel The Last Conflict, as well as a book on Practical socialism. In the mid 90's he was instrumental in the debate on sexuality in the party that saw homophobes routed. Later he was central to ongoing debates on the existence of law in socialism.

If anything, somewhere down the line, his arguments for practical socialism played a part in my leaving the SPGB - afterall, if we're going to engage in practical politics then the SPGB isn't really the vehicle for it.

Ave Atque Vale.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Brief interlude

Yesterday I went to visit a dental hygenist. So fucking what? quoth thou. Indeed, I paid greatly to have my teeth scraped, but before hand the hygenist sought my professional advice, free of charge 9wanting to know if there were any free subscription dental health journals!). Sheesh, the noive of some people.

Still, nice to be appreciated though - but as the battle cry of the librarian goes - it's nto my job to know the answer, it's my job to know where to find the answer. In this case I suspect, off the top of my head, a visit to Ulrich's is in order.

As it was, I told her that PubMed was free of charge and local libraries have a duty to supply materials requested (at quite reasonable charges, really). Or her practice should pay for a sub.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

54 Varieties

In the latest Tribune an article on tax distribution notes there are 54 billionaires in the UK. Between them they personally pay around £14.87 million tax. Their accumulated incomes are £126 billion - at the rates of tax thee and me pay, they should be paying £50 billion (enough to rebuild and extend the entuire council housing stock of the UK, for a start). instead they effective tax rate is 0.14%.

Add onto that that companies pay no corporation tax, and Huston, we have a problem.

Luckilly, I have a solution - increase the basic rate of income tax. Yes. The basic rate, on the rest of us, we should pay more taxes. For why?

Well, I'll tell you why - because in so doing we'd drive up wages - with a bit of concerted union effort - we'd push the burden of that tax onto our employers - ultimately, the pockets of the 54. We'd be individually responsible for our own share of that tax claw back, and so there'd be 20 million or so tax inspectors making damn sure the companies can't avoid this one.

Don't tax the rich - tax the poor, until the rich cry.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Defeat is fine

Well, asides from being mugginsed into beign the minuites secretary, and still being half the age of the other members present I suffered my first political defeat at a co-op branch meeting this week.

For some reason, I didn't think it right that co-operators should affiliate to the Cuba solidarity campaign - dunno, I just think that the authoritarian rule of the Cuban Communist Party has little to do with co-operation. Little did I know.

After all, they have an all appointed legislature (sounds familiar, don't it?) and join Saudi Arabia in passing on the job of Head of State from brother to brother (quite an achievement, they also have high ranks in state murder, but that's by the by).

At least, though, it was refreshing to have a meaningful political debate, and I don't mind losing, its the fight that matters.

More substantial blogging soon, I promise...

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Friday, March 02, 2007

There's a place in Spain...

...called Jarama - and 70 years ago this week it saw serious action by the International Brigades against franco's fascists. The Tom Mann Battalion - the British contingent - saw action at what was soon to be named Suicide Hill, taking a feaerful pounding and losing 375 of their 600 strength. They held, though, for over a day under that hail of death.

Non Pasaran! and all that.

The blame in Spain falls mainly on many people - the British for strangling the republic of arms, Blum for joining the British instead of helping the Spanish (at least the british have the excuse of a Tory government).

The actions of the Communist Party and international Stalinism in Spain are unforgettable and unforgiveable.

But all that aside, the sheer human bravery of men to go and fight and be slaughtered for democracy, for ideals stands in stark contrast to today's armchair warriors cheering on world wide reaction as anti-imperialist.