New ebook – Capitalist crisis, Coronavirus and (post) Corbynism

My recent long read article for Mutiny Capitalist crisis, Coronavirus and (post) Corbynism has been turned into an ebook and a PDF if you prefer to read it through other means than just scrolling through a website article

“We also need an honest examination of the legacy of Corbynism. While many are arguing that Corbyn ‘won the argument’ over austerity and helped pull the national dialogue to the left, we should be cautious even on that question. We have a vicious populist right-wing government with a significant mandate; the degree to which they are committed to anti-austerity is going to be tested by the damage of the economic collapse after COVID-19 and the oncoming world recession.

In the Corbyn era, the left got too sucked into the standard routine of Labourism, into backstabbing manoeuvres for temporary advantage in committees, into an uncritical parliamentary politics, into the petty ambitions and opportunistic advancement of wannabe politicians. The political culture was also toxic, with a cultish devotion and naïve adoration of the party leader – reminiscent of how many Labour Party members behaved under Blair. The criticisms levelled by the New Left in 1968 against Labour and the Labour left turned out to be true. Of course, it was the right thing to be in Labour and have that fight, but let’s not kid ourselves about the real-world impact.”

 

Why political meetings are useful, from 1807

English revolutionary Thomas Spence (1750-1814) published a book of poems which contained an anonymous account of why political meetings are important:
 
“Ye Sons and Daughters of Men over the whole Earth, Hearken to a Friend. Do you not love Liberty and Property, and do not every one of you, wish to be thought of some Consequence and Estimation? If so, take my Advice, and you will quickly become again Human Creatures, enjoying as you ought the Lordship of the Earth, and the free use of your Reason. In a word you will be free and happy. But means must be used: we cannot expect Miracles. God has commanded the Use of Means and has set us the Example, they were used in spreading the Gospel—What means? why simply the means of meeting together. Both Christ and his Apostles most earnestly Exhorted their Disciples to meet together. No Religion or Opinion can be spread or continued without meetings. The Gospel would soon die away and become extinct without meetings, and so would any Sect. Are not Liberty and Property and their happy Attendants worth meeting for? Do not Men when they meet encourage each other and resolve each others Doubts and thus build one another up in their Opinions? And cannot small meetings be effected where larger Ones durst not be attempted? If but two or three meet together in so good a cause, a blessing will attend them. Even under the modern Tyrannies of China, France, Turkey &c. what could hinder small Companies from meeting, in a free and easy convivial manner, and singing their Rights and instructing each other in Songs? Can Tyrants hinder People from singing at their Work, or in their Families? If not despair no longer but begin immediately, too much time has already been lost. Sing and meet and meet and sing, and your Chains will drop off like burnt Thread.”[link]

Ernest Jones speech at Kennington Common 2 April 1848

An account of the Chartists preparations for the mass gathering on 10 April 1848, when they intended, arms in hand, to march on parliament with a petition from the people to demand the implementation of their Charter for greater democracy.

At the event held on 2 April to garner some last minute signatures, two speakers  Mr John Fussell and Mr Ernest Jones regaled the assembled people.

The below account is based on the account published in the Morning Star 8 Apr. 1848.

Continue reading Ernest Jones speech at Kennington Common 2 April 1848

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay The Fight to Stop the Poll Tax

As this book was being prepared for publishing, Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to a decisive electoral victory on 12 December 2019. This defeat sent demoralising shock waves across the left. The spectre of a never-ending Tory government, headed by a narcissistic liar and born to rule populist demagogue, left many in despair.

Continue reading Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay The Fight to Stop the Poll Tax

Smaller trade unions impact on Labour’s vote

When I was interviewed on R4 about the LP conference they had some vox pops from ex miners in Yorkshire saying they are going to vote Tory. The point was to terrify the left – oh my god, ex miners are voting for Johnson! But what does it mean to be an ‘ex-miner’? Many of them are older men  who probably aren’t in unionised workplaces and have decided sticking it to the EU is the best way forward for them and their communities. They have no real organisation or perspective to challenge that. The old culture of ‘brothers’ and the union meeting hall are long gone in some places.

This fits in with a wider collapse in socialist conciousness since the 1980s – in Britain the twin defeats of the union movement and the collapse of “actually existing socialism” all made a huge impression on people. It culminated in the ‘there is no alternative’ thesis of Thatcher and Blair. The end of history, liberal democracy had won.

Now we can see that this was not the case, there is a global rivival of far right, authoritarian and fascistic views taking place, sadly we are not quite seeing the resurgence of socialist conciousness yet.

What does this mean for Britain? The problem is that for generations Labour relied on the implantation of trade unions in a lot of these communities to turn out the vote for the party. With the massive rolling back of unions and the closure of industries that used to be well organised, these people have no living, day to day connection with the organised working class. The union meetings, the banners the organisers, the union socials and regular contact with various communists and socialists from that movement means that people are left to their own devices, this means they are increasingly prey to the bourgeois media and its anti working class agenda.

What trade unions we have in this country are based largely in the public sector. The private sector has trade unions but they lack density and face vicious anti union managment culture who have the full weight of the law behind them to stop strikes and other independent actions by workers.

You might look at the 2017 election vote and say – “well it doesn’t really matter because we can still get 40% of the vote if we need to anyway.” Fair point. But I am talking about building a solid, working class movement which can not just a deliver a stable vote when the time comes but identifies with the goals and socialist aspirations of the movement. In other words an organised working class.

It goes without saying of course that I believe that the building of such a movement comes first, the votes are a by product of the fight to establish strong unions, co-operatives in struggle against capitalism.

This is why I also think abolishing the anti union laws is the most important startegic gain that could be made under a Labour government, it frees up our class to organise, to fight, to build up its own strength again.

 

Why do the oppressed suffer?

“When one amongst you suffers injustice, when, in his passage through this world, the oppressor overthrows him, and plants his foot upon him: if he complains there is none to hear him.

The cry of the poor ascends up to God, but it reaches not to the ear of man.

And I inquired of myself, Whence cometh, this evil? Is it that he who has created the poor as well as the rich, the weak as well as the strong, would wish to take from some all fear in their iniquities, from the others all hope in their misery?

And I beheld that this was a horrible thought, a blasphemy against God;
Beacuse each amongst you loves only himself, because he separates himself from his brtheren, because he is alone, and wills to be alone, therefore his cry is not heard.”
Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais

Shelley: Men of England! (1819)

A Song: “Men of England”

Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?
Wherefore feed and clothe and save
From the cradle to the grave
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat—nay, drink your blood?
Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?
Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?
The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.
Sow seed—but let no tyrant reap:
Find wealth—let no imposter heap:
Weave robes—let not the idle wear:
Forge arms—in your defence to bear.
Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells—
In hall ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.
With plough and spade and hoe and loom
Trace your grave and build your tomb
And weave your winding-sheet—till fair
England be your Sepulchre.