Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vote early

Well, this morning I voted. I voted in the Kentish Town "Arizona by-election" - caused by the Lib-Dem councillor who thought he could represent an inner London ward from Arizona (he went there to get a Phd.).

Given the unrelenting lies of the Lib-Dems - including the dodgiest of bar charts (not to scale, using the last election but one, putting a text box over the bars to disguise where the zero line was, etc. - all to try and make their real challengers in the ward, the Greens, seem less of a threat) - I was sorely tempted to vote to try and get them out.

In the end, though, Party discipline prevailed, and I spoilt my ballot by writing "World Socialism: SPGB" across my ballot paper.

My way of explaining this strategy, this days, is by likening it to strike action. By consciously applying a political picket line, which says: "We are not going to express priorities and preferences, unless and until this great issue of class is sorted out." They need our votes, our input.

Sometimes it might hurts us a little, as all strike action does, but the final goal is clear.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More bloody war

Insomnia has its uses. Often reports on the horror of the war in the Congo don't make news headlines blightyside. After all, last weekend saw a slow newsday in which a quarter of an hour of news time could be spent on some ramblers trapped on the pennines.

This morning, though, I heard the World Service, which, naturally, has prioritised such an important story.
An estimated 20,000 people have already fled towards Goma, many of them having left a refugee camp in Kibumba as the fighting approached on Monday.

About 200,000 people fled their homes after fighting resumed in the area in late August.

The United Nations says many refugees are malnourished and some are dying of hunger.[...]

"There are already some 800,000 to a million people internally displaced in this region, so it's really a huge population in need of help."
Over 5 million have died in this war. It doesn't throw up as much heat and light as the Israel/Palestine issue, but it has thrown up considerably more death and misery. Still, that's what happens in Africa, ain't it?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fed up

Uncle Charley Marx once wrote about ending the divide between town and countryside. Following a reference in Ken Macleod's latest, I found this interesting stuff on vertical farming:
It seems crazy to talk about farming in a hi-rise; the vision it gives rise to is of a kind of student-residence crammed with pot-smoking hippies who've traded their carpets for wheat. In fact, the approach is pretty hard-nosed and industrial, with very high outputs as its aim. And here's where it gets interesting from the point of view of our ambition to rewild the country: in the study entitled "Feeding 50,000 People, Anisa Buck, Stacy Goldberg and others conclude that a single building covering one city block, and up to 48 stories high depending on the design, can grow enough food to sustain 50,000 people. This calculation doesn't require any magical technology; there's no fairy-dust being evoked here, we could build such a structure now.
It would take about 1,200 such to feed the entire UK population - more sensibly, 150 to feed London. Now, I'm not thinking of "rewilding" but of opening up more space for us to live in, if we use less land for industrial agriculture, we can more in and garden the rest - I think the results would be equally eco friendly, and we could all spread out.

But, this would represent the conquest of the countryside by the city, the turning of farming into another factory/desk job with industrial scale feeding going on. Coupled with algae biofuel (which we could grow in some of the space abandoned from farming as well), a picture emerges that suggests we could return to the 1950's sci-fi vision of urban progress. Maybe we could build the megacities of the future. After all,t he algae might provide the energy source to make the whole shebang efficient...

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Getting the vote out...

It is instructive, not to say intriguing, to hear about ballot access in the states. Looking over at the web page of the so-called Socialist Party USA candidate for president, we see how few states they have their name on the ballot paper (eight in all, including Florida and Ohio, so they're playing for swing state voters). On a few more they have "official write-in status" presumably that means if someone write in a name resembling theirs they will get the vote.

As this post illustrates, they are facing official obstructions from officials keeping them off the ballot. You have to wonder, if officials can attempt to manipulate the election by making getting on the ballot at all prohibitively hard for small party candidates, no wonder they are tempted to try it for the main contenders.

The fact is, America's democracy has always been rough and ready, gerrymandering (a word invented state side) has always been there, you could call it corruption by consent, in as much as the powers that be do what they think they can get away with. After all, a bit of voter fraud when you have a landslide anyway is neither here nor there, it only comes out when races are close.

Of course, what this does is enforce the two party system, constraining rational choice.

Really, running for president shouldn't be an option, the SPUSA admit their aim is to influence the big parties. Unless and until you hold a few congressional seats and maybe control one state legislature they shouldn't even bother.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Round up on a crisis

It's been hard to know what to write over the last few months - so much has been happening, yet so little - I just couldn't bring myself to comment on the ins and outs of George Bush becoming the biggest failure in history (I mean, a pretty rabid right Republican president carrying out one of the most swinging nationalisations in history, he should get an order of Lenin award).

I'll just pip in with a small observation - in the 1930's international competition for finance, particularly the US cornering the market in gold - lead to a deepening of the crisis and war. This time round, the liberal democracies of the world have co-operated, and the various national capitalist classes have fallen in with the establishment in taking action to secure their future.

That is all. A blip. Let's move on and talk about socialising the economy so we won't have to go through this again.

p.s. Unemployment is >begining to rise at the time of the Great Depression unemployment of 1 million was seen as a national calamity - today that is the base line, they reckon we'll hit two - lets hope not more, I remember what 20% unemployment on Teesside looked like in the 80's - let's no go back, eh? This is something to worry about - lets hunker behind our unions while we organise a political fight back.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Honest accounting

Quoth Alistair Darling:
The Financial Services Authority has announced a further increase from tomorrow to the compensation limit for retail bank deposits to £50,000 per depositor, which means £100,000 for joint accounts. That measure will ensure that 98 per cent. of accounts are fully covered.
Now, quoth Iain Duncan Smith:
At the Dispatch Box, the Chancellor mentioned, quite rightly, that our protection covers about 98 per cent. of all depositors, but he will also recognise that we have significantly more money on deposit than Germany does. The reality is that that 2 per cent. represents a very significant amount of money. What concerns me right now is that, given the febrile nature of the markets—watching little things and then panicking—if they see any flight of capital, even that 2 per cent., towards Germany, it could cause another stampede and another crisis. I recognise the Chancellor's problem about indicating what he may or may not do, but does he not recognise that that 2 per cent. alone is perhaps enough to tip over the markets if they saw a flight of that money to, say, Germany or even Ireland?
So, what they are saying is that the vast majority of accounts in the UK hold less than £50,000 (£100,000 for joint accounts) in retail banks.

What they are saying is that there is an incredible disparity of wealth - but that the very wealthy have the capacity to cause crises by the overwhelming might of their money.

Let's be clear, what this means. Economic crises are not natural phenomena, they are the results of the owners of society exerting their influence. they are profoundly political - the wealthy making us dance to their tune. The wealthy on strike. Capitalism causes a crisis by its very existence, starvation, starvation related diseases, gross poverty, curtailed life-spans, wars - they are all ignored as background noise. When the capitalists feel the pain, then we are all made to jump.

This isn't a case of being for or against bail-outs - after all, who can blame the man with a gun to his head - but a matter of being for or against capitalism. Our only demand must be: "End class society!" else this will all happen again. It is not a glitch, it is politics, the political decision of the real voters to vote with their feat.

Labels: , , , ,