The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 2nd March 2007
Slavery and Freedom by Prof
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IS LABOUR’S BEST HOPE
by Daphne Liddle
IT’S ALL getting very messy at the top of the Labour Party as
Blair’s premiership winds down, long past its natural end, and lacking
any leadership it is falling apart.
A YouGov poll last week put Tory leader David Cameron 13
percentage points ahead of Gordon Brown when people were asked who
would make the best prime minister.
Brown’s succession is becoming less and less a foregone
conclusion as he faces challenges from the right and left.
Ultra-Blairites Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke are calling for a
full debate over the future leadership of the Labour Party. They claim
they are doing this for the health of the party but neither has said
they will not run for the top job themselves.
Meanwhile on the left most trade union and organised support is
coming together behind backbench MP John McDonnell, leader of the
Labour Representation Committee, who is standing for a return to a
socialist Labour Party.
But veteran MP Michael Meacher is now putting himself forward
also as a challenger from the left and claiming to be “more credible”
than McDonnell. Meacher has attended many LRC events but has not
committed himself to join. He has recently attacked the growing wealth
gap and the obscenity of the money that the fat cats of finance and
industry are paying themselves.
But he has weaknesses, especially for his own private wealth. The
press has wasted no time in pointing out the hypocrisy of his remarks
since he owns 11 separate properties, which provide him with a
substantial rental income.
There is a real danger that he could split the left-wing within
the Labour Party and make it easier for Brown to win.
The essential thing is that Brown should be challenged. If
McDonnell gets the signatures of 45 fellow Labour MPs this will force a
contest in which the whole Labour Party membership gets to vote,
including members of affiliated unions. When that happens, Brown’s
succession is very far from certain.
McDonnell and the LRC are currently campaigning for support for the
Trade Union Freedom Bill, introduced by McDonnell, to restore union
rights to workers in Britain that were abolished by the Tories in the
1980s – and which Blair has failed to restore.
McDonnell is also speaking at a rally in Friends House, 173,
Euston Road, London, next Tuesday 6th March at 7pm on “The Case for a
Socialist Labour Government”.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union Broad Left has
unanimously endorsed the John4Leader campaign. They join national
unions: ASLEF, the RMT and FBU; union broad lefts: Amicus Unity
Gazette, CWU Broad Left and Unison United Left.
McDonnell also has the support of activists’ organisations: Welsh
Labour Grassroots, Scottish Campaign for Socialism, Socialist Youth
Network, CLPD, and the LRC – all of whom have backed the campaign
unanimously or overwhelmingly.
There is another great battle going forward for the position of
deputy leader, to replace John Prescott who will resign at the same
time as Blair, with Peter Hain trying to pretend to be left wing again.
The only candidate with any shred of integrity seems to be Dagenham MP
John Cruddas, who has a very creditable record of doing grass roots
work and fighting the fascist British National Party.
There have been open arguments between Cabinet members over
policy on families and Home Secretary John Reid has been scrapping with
MI6 over whether or not the military intelligence agency – known as the
armed wing of the Confederation of British Industry – should be merged
into his new “Security Department” when, as Reid hopes, the Home Office
is divided in two.
They are all trying to cap each other in dreaming up new
draconian measures to be imposed on “threats” from single mothers to al
Brown has announced that immigrants should be compelled to
perform voluntary work in order to integrate them into the community.
Since they are not allowed to receive any benefits when they first
arrive, how they are expected to pay the rent and feed themselves while
they are doing this “voluntary” work is a mystery. Many have pointed
out that forced unpaid “voluntary” work is slavery.
Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is proving she does
have a sense of humour after all by claiming with a straight face that
there is no link between the planned withdrawal of 1,600 troops from
Iraq and the posting of 1,400 to Afghanistan.
Blair is saying that at least 4,000 British troops will stay in
Iraq for five years.
The best we can hope for is a McDonnell victory – and it is a
real possibility. It will not bring what we mean by socialism but it
will be a retreat from the anti-working class New Labour policies.
A plague of locusts
THE GMB union last Tuesday
staged a demonstration in Ludwig-Erhard Anlarge, Frankfurt in Germany
outside an international conference held by the European Private Equity
and Venture Capital Association. The venture capitalists are
threatening to leave Europe if they are forced to pay taxes; the union
banners told them to “slam the door shut as you leave and good
Venture capitalism came to the headlines under the Thatcher
government of the 1980s, when a group of “corporate raiders” led by Sir
James Goldsmith and his Mayfair chums made fortunes for themselves by
pooling their funds, buying up working capitalist enterprises through
hostile bids. Once they had taken over a company they would sell off
capital assets like land and buildings – sometimes renting them back.
They would use the company’s financial standing to borrow huge sums;
pay themselves a fortune in salaries and bonuses and then abandon it,
now stripped of assets and loaded with debts, to its fate.
This was the age when the Government decreed that “greed was
good” and the process was healthy for capitalism because it weeded out
lame ducks – all part of the survival of the fittest philosophy.
Venture capitalists also avoid paying taxes by running their
investments technically at a loss.
Shareholders were happy to sell out to the venture capitalists at
a tidy profit. The real victims were the workers employed by these
companies that were sucked dry and spat out as jobs were cut by the
thousand. The process culminated in the scandal of Enron, which rocked
Now the venture capitalists are back. The GMB first raised the
alarm a couple of years when the private equity group Permira took over
the Automobile Association. Its first action was to derecognise the
union, then sack 3,500 workers, who are represented by the GMB. The
remaining workers were bullied into doing increasing overtime; AA
patrols now work an average 11.75 hours a day and cannot give a decent
service. The company is rapidly losing customers but Permira have
loaded the AA with debts of £1.9 billion, equivalent to six years
of subscription income.
Now Permira has bought Birds Eye in Hull from Unilever. The local
MP, Cabinet Minister Alan Johnson, was assured the jobs were protected
under Tupe arrangements. Six months later the workers are being sacked.
Another private equity group, 3i, took over National Car Parks. It
fixes daily targets for parking fines and bullies and harasses staff to
penalise London motorists to meet these targets. 3i’s website claims a
“strong sense of values” and “close partnerships” with the companies it
“invests” in. But it doesn’t want to know about its workers who are
getting beaten up on the streets. If they don’t return to work at once
they are threatened with dismissal. 3i is now selling it on to an
Australian bank after having made a fortune from it.
Venture capitalism is an extreme form of capitalism, one that
preys on other capitalists, a parasite on the back of other parasites.
But it is also an inevitable development of capitalism. The GMB
is fighting mainly to defend union recognition and save jobs. But a
capitalist government has no answers. It cannot legislate to stop
capitalists behaving like capitalists, even though this behaviour is
like a virus that will ultimately destroy the whole system.
Last weekend a new sinister development emerged: venture
capitalists have been making big donations to the Labour Party. They
may well be after the value tied up in Labour halls and offices up and
down the country but it is more likely they are set to destroy the link
between Labour and the unions. They know their real enemy is the
organised working class.
We must support the union campaigns against venture capitalism
but at the same time point out that only socialism can put a stop to it.
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