Saturday, 31 December 2011

EMERGENCY! SOLUTION REQUIRED BEFORE MIDNIGHT!

The 'Unions, Labour Party and labour movement' matter will have to be continued in the next posting - as will further comments I wish to make about the Member of Parliament for the Barrow and Furness constituency, John Woodcock - because, as reported in yesterday's edition of the Morning Star, many Britons will (together with members of other English-speaking nations) at midnight this evening (31st December) either just make up, or mime, the words of the song 'Auld Lang Syne'.  How absolutely humiliating this must be for them, and how awfully embarrassing for those unfortunate enough to be in their company at what ought to be a joyful moment for everyone.
FEAR NOT; A COMMUNIST COMES TO YOUR RESCUE!
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,  And never brought to min'?  Should auld acqaintance be forgot,  And days o' lang syne?  For auld lang syne, my dear,  For auld lang syne,  We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,  For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,  And pu'd the gowans fine,  But we've wander'd mony a weary foot,  Sin auld lang syne.  (Chorus - For auld.....)

We twa hae paidl't i' the burn,  From mornin' sun til dine;  But seas between us braid hae roar'd,  Sin auld lang syne.  (Chorus - For auld....)

And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,  And gie's a hand o' thine;  And we'll tak a right guid willie-waught,  For auld lang syne.  (Chorus - For auld....)

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,  And surely I'll be mine;  And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,  For auld lang syne.  (Chorus - For auld.....)
Words by Robert Burns.  Tune 'I feed a lass at Martinmas'  Taken from 'The Song Book', published by Macmillan & Co, London and New York, 1892

OK, so a brief departure from things political as I have a headcold and I'm a wee bit peely-wally the nicht.

Sincere best wishes to all comrades actively engaged in the battles of the class war.
The struggle continues!

Monday, 19 December 2011

MASS POLITICAL PARTY OF LABOUR NEEDED

Barrow MP, John Woodcock, 'Baby Hugging'
SYSIPHUS AT LEAST GOT SOME SATISFACTION
Condemned to forever roll a boulder to the top of the mountain only to have it roll back to the bottom again was the lot of poor Sysiphus - but at least he had the satisfaction of getting that rock to the summit each time, which is more than can be said for those who struggle for socialism here in Britain.


Communists and socialists know that Socialism is the only system that will create a fairer society but  British working people do not appear to understand this simple message even when the results of capitalism (a ruthlessly greedy system designed to rob and cheat them and which offers them nothing but anxiety and conflict) are staring them in the face.


Millions buy copies of imbecilic tabloid 'newspapers' to fill their heads with vacuous nonsense and fantasies every day of the week and seem to be incapable of holding any type of meaningful conversation lasting more than a minute.  Yet persistent brief encounters reveal that these people know something is 'not right'.  Some will vote Labour and/or join a trade union in the hope that 'someone' will sort things out for them but it is then that the real problem is created - when Labour 'betrays' them, or their union 'sells out'.  


Socialists are ridiculed for suggesting that the Labour Party can be 'reclaimed' as a party for working people and that the individual unions can unite in the struggle to achieve a more just society when, according to critics, historical evidence demonstrates this is but a pipe dream.  Unfortunately, historical evidence does indeed prove them to be correct - Labour governments do betray working people and unions do sell out their members.  But, today, people on 'the Left' are engaged in finding ways of 'restoring the trust' (in Labour and the unions).  Does the contemporary issue of the Communist Party of Britain's programme, Britain's Road to Socialism, offer any guidance?


   Whether the trade unions and the socialist and social-democratic trends (in the Labour Party) will be sufficiently strong, resolute and united to take back control of the Labour Party from New Labour can only be assessed in the course of a determined struggle to do so.
   The working class and peoples of Britain need a mass political party, based on the labour movement, that can win general elections, form a government and implement substantial reforms in their interests.
   For as long as many of the biggest trade unions are affiliated to the Labour Party, the potential exists to wage a broad fight to reclaim the party for the labour movement and left-wing policies.  Certainly, this is the most direct route to ensuring the continued existence of a mass party of labour in Britain, and is an objective that every non-sectarian socialist and communist should support, whether from within the Labour Party or from without.
   But decisive progress in this direction requires the unions themselves to fight both inside and outside the Labour Party for policies that will challenge state-monopoly capitalism in Britain.  Moreover, support will need to be won at every level of the trade unions and the whole labour movement for an alternative economic and political strategy (AEPS) to that being pusued by the British ruling class.  This would provide the most favourable conditions in which to resolve the crisis of working class electoral representation.  Here, too, the Communist Party and the daily socialist Morning Star newspaper have an important contribution to make to the struggle within the labour movement.       (BRS, p21)
Now, before there are groans of "Oh, no - just more of this 'reclaim the Labour Party' wishful- thinking nonsense!" it is necessary to read further......
   Only after a determined fight can the big trade unions make a realistic assessment of whether the Labour Party can be reclaimed.  They will have to decide whether to persevere or, together with their political allies, to re-establish a mass party of labour that will represent the interests of the working class and the people generally.
   For as long as little or no progress is made in the direction of reclaiming or re-stablishing such a party, other left-wing and class-struggle trends are likely to emerge that are not organisationally or politically related to the Labour Party.  It is likely that they will seek to participate in the political and electoral arena.
   The Communist Party's role is to work with all left trends that have a real, sustained base in the labour movement, urging them to unite around policies and in actions which raise the combativeness, confidence and political consciousness of the working class.  This would lay the basis for their convergence in a reclaimed or re-established mass party of labour, one federally organised to permit the affiliation of socialist and communist parties committed to the fight for socialism.   (BRS, p21)
So the way forward is either by
a) the trade unions, and the socialist and social-democratic trends uniting to take over the Labour Party, or by 
b) them abandoning a Labour Party that no longer represents their interests and forming a new federal party of labour that is unequivocal in its aim to establish a British socialist state.


Well, that's the theory and it all seems quite simple and straightforward, so what could possibly go wrong?  (To be continued in the next posting)


Meanwhile, leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, does not agree with workers striking to defend their pensions, makes no proposals for returning energy provision or transport to public ownership and has little to say about regulating speculative bankers and financiers.
   John Woodcock, (pictured above) Labour MP for this constituency, believes 'The Cuts' are necessary.  He was unable to attend a public meeting for the defence of the National Health Service because, his assistant explained, he was attending 'a meeting'.  Yes, he was - he was on a trip to Israel as new chairman of Labour Friends of Israel and was pictured 'standing in an area that could receive a Palestinian rocket attack'!  Gosh!  As no full explanation for the visit was provided, are we to assume it was just another meeting to draw up some new lucrative weapons contract to assist Israeli expansionism and further illegal occupation of Palestinian territory?  Or did he advise them, as a friend, to begin heeding United Nations resolutions before the Security Council finally loses patience, imposes sanctions, draws up a comprehensive 'no fly zone' and lays the ground for a full NATO invasion?
   Robert Pointer, Labour Councillor and secretary of Barrow Trades Union Council, agrees 'The Cuts' are necessary. This probably explains why he persistently ignores requests to support the TUC-endorsed People's Charter local campaign and why he did not attend the recent meeting of Trade Union Councils in Derby - though he did confess "I don't like travelling in winter."


The struggle continues.
       


   
  

Saturday, 10 December 2011

SOME WORDS ON STRIKES AND COMPROMISES

Strikers rally in front of Town Hall, Barrow, 30 Nov 2011
Guidance worthy of note from comrade Lenin
Can there ever be compromise in the class war?  Is it ever acceptable to retreat at the height of confrontation with the class enemy?


'...proletarians schooled in numerous strikes (to take only this manifestation of the class struggle) usually understand quite well the very profound (philosophical, historical, political and psychological) truth expounded by Engels.  


Every proletarian has been through strikes and has experienced "compromises" with the hated oppressors and exploiters, when the workers had to go back to work either without having achieved anything or agreeing to only a partial satifaction of their demands.  Every proletarian - owing to the conditions of the mass struggle and the sharp intensification of class antagonisms in which he lives - notices the difference between a compromise enforced by objective conditions (such as lack of strike funds, no outside support, extreme hunger and exhaustion), a compromise which in no way diminishes the revolutionary devotion and readiness for further struggle on the part of the workers who have agreed to such a compromise, and a compromise by traitors who try to ascribe to outside causes their own selfishness (strike-breakers also enter into "compromises"!), cowardice, desire to toady to the capitalists, and readiness to yield to intimidation, sometimes to persuasion, sometimes to sops, and sometimes to flattery on the part of the capitalists. (The history of the British labour movement offers especially many instances of such treacherous compromises by British trade union leaders, but, in one form or another, nearly all workers in all countries have witnessed the same sort of thing)' (My emphasis - FR)


And further...
'Of course, in politics, where it is sometimes a matter of extremely complicated - national and international - relations between classes and parties, very many cases will arise that will be much more difficult than the questions of a legitimate "compromise" in a strike, or the treacherous "compromise" of a strike-breaker, traitor, etc.  It would be absurd to formulate a recipe or general rule ("No Compromises!") to serve all cases.


One must use one's own brains and be able to find one's bearings in each separate case.  That, in fact, is one of the functions of party organization and party leaders worthy of the title, namely, through the prolonged, persistent, variegated and comprehensive efforts of all thinking representatives of the given class, to evolve the knowledge and experience and - in addition to knowledge and experience - the political instinct necessary for the speedy and correct solution of intricate political problems.'


And finally...
'Within every class, even in the conditions prevailing in the most enlightened countries, even within the most advanced class, and even when the circumstances of the moment have roused all its spiritual forces to an exceptional degree, there always are - and inevitably will be as long as classes exist, as long as classless society has not fully entrenched and consolidated itself, and has not developed on its own foundations - representatives of the class who do not think and are incapable of thinking.  Were this not so, capitalism would not be the oppressor of the masses it is.' (My emphasis - FR)


Text from "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder, V.I. Lenin, pp 63, 64, 65


For many who took part in the one day of action on 30th November, this was their first ever strike.  The public sector workers who took part that day did so in the belief that their leaders were taking the correct decisions and had a strategic plan for the future confrontations that are sure to follow.  These workers are advised to keep a close eye on that leadership and the nature of any 'negotiations' conducted on their behalf.


  

Friday, 9 December 2011

TUC ONE DAY PUBLIC SERVANTS' STRIKE

7.30AM PICKET, DWP, 30 NOV, BARROW IN FURNESS
   NOVEMBER 30TH 2011
"United, we stand; divided, we fall."  is a simple enough statement and one that most people understand yet it is apparently beyond the comprehension of many in Furness.  Either that or the many have become convinced that, no matter what they do, they will not succeed in bringing about change.


Many remember Prime Minister Gordon Brown declaring there would be a cut of 100,000 civil servants and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling warning that cuts about to be imposed by the New Labour government would be 'worse than under the former Tory Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher'.  And all this before the General Election in May 2010 at which the Conservatives, with the backing of the Liberal Democrats, took (unelected) power to unleash a slash and burn campaign against the Welfare State and to privatise sections of the National Health Service.


The TUC one day strike of Public Sector workers on 30th November was, in Furness terms, quite well supported.  Pickets were evident outside schools, the offices of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP, pictured above), the Town Hall, and Furness General Hospital, for example.  A thirty minute 'rally' in the town square, supported by local members of Unison, GMB, PCS, and NUT unions culminated in 'one minute of noise' obtained by blowing of whistles and vuvuzelas.  Furness Against the Cuts attended with a stall and members of Unite Against Fascism displayed their banner.  The secretary of Barrow Trades Union Council was seen sidling about in the background and the local Labour Party was conspicuously absent.  Later, the local press gave the event good coverage estimating an attendance of 300 persons.  


Was the strike successful in drawing the public's attention towards the threat to its Public Services and demonstrating workers' strength of feeling against the proposed Pensions reform?   The strike certainly made national headlines in the press and was featured in TV news programmes so, in this, it was a successful piece of publicity.  Did the strike serve to strengthen workers' resolve to take further action?  In as much as the strike had little affect upon the government's Pensions plans and further pressure will be required, then the results of future union strike ballots will demonstrate whether resolve was, or was not, strengthened.  


One thing that has not yet been clearly understood by local unions is the pressing need to educate the public about the damage being planned for the Welfare State and the National Health Service.  They will certainly not educate anyone by sitting in a room discussing issues amongst themselves, or having a 'fun' rally for half an hour every six months:  they need to follow the lead provided by Furness Against the Cuts by getting out into the town, talking to members of the public and explaining exactly what is at stake here.  But then, of course, any serious campaigners would have been doing this months ago and promoting the People's Charter as the TUC's alternative to the government's politically-motivated cuts agenda.


Blackleg office worker entering DWP "I'm not supporting the strike; the union's never done anything for me!"
Picketing union official "What do you think your union is doing for you today, then?"   
JOB CENTRE PICKET, 30 NOV,  BARROW IN FURNESS
Neither the secretary of Barrow Trades Union Council nor the secretary of Ulverston Trades Union Council was prepared to attend tomorrow's (Saturday 10th December) Trades Union Councils' Joint Planning Meeting - for Jobs, Industry and Public Services - at Derby.  Literature for this event clearly points out 'The TUC Trades Council programme of work highlights working with The Peoples' Charter'.  Given that Carlisle Trades Union Council and Kendal TUC have both been defunct for some time, and that Barrow and Ulverston TUCs are contemplating a merger 'just to keep going', it would seem the first proirity of the Trade Union movement ought to be encouraging trade union branches to support their local Trades Councils recognising that TUCs are an invaluable means of communicating directly with the general public.  Class conscious, politically aware, trade unionists know this of course.  Has anyone spotted the elephant in the room here - that thing which is so obvious but which most seek to deliberately ignore?    




  



Saturday, 8 October 2011

WHERE HAVE ALL THE WORKERS GONE?

TUC march, Manchester, 2nd October 2011     
SENT UP 'THE GARDEN PATH', EVERYONE.
When will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?  


The answer, my friend, isn't blowing in the wind - it's being held in denial by those very same trade union organisations that workers are looking to for a sense of purpose and direction.


People are asking,"If there is little difference between Conservatives, Liberals and Labour, who do we vote for?"


The coalition government of Tories and LibDems will administer a swift death for our Welfare State and National Health Service.  Labour, on the other hand, prefer a more lingering demise.  Whichever is chosen, the result is the same.  The coalition government claims the cuts are necessary and Labour agrees.


The unions huff and puff, work people up into wanting to 'do something', arrange a 'day of action', book coaches in towns and cities and ferry thousands to either the capital or a major city to march with balloons, banners, flags, whistles, horns, drums and loud hailers to protest and demand an end to government policies - then they get on the coaches and return home.


What has been achieved?  Other than a superficial sense of solidarity, absolutely nothing because, the following day, it is as if the event didn't happen. Everything returns to 'normal'.  


The government continues its policies of attacking the standard of living and quality of life of those who depend on a wage or a salary (and those who are totally reliant upon sickness or disability allowances) for their survival.  Labour declares it would reform none of this legislation if elected to government and major unions continue to bankroll the Labour Party even though this party will not eliminate 'anti-union' laws which prevent unions from taking action to defend their members' terms and conditions of employment or act in solidarity to defend other workers against exploitation.


Workers become frustrated and angry.  They need to let off steam.  Organise a day's march and a rally!  Yes, that will do nicely to shut them up for a while.  How much more of this will workers tolerate before they begin to ask "What the hell are we doing here?  These marches are achieving nothing!"  How much longer will it be before workers tell the unions to stuff their marches and demonstrations and to provide some meaningful political leadership?


There was a time most unions 'educated' their new members, providing them with an understanding of Surplus Value and a sound understanding of the Class System.  Sadly, this has not been done for many years and is why workers look upon a major economic crisis, with its attendant unemployment and deprivation, with incomprehension.  If the system can plunge them and their families into destitution then there is something wrong with the system. It is inhumane. Surely, it is not beyond the wit and wisdom of the human intellect to come up with an alternative, is it?


At its November conference in 2009, the British Trade Union Congress completely endorsed the People's Charter.  This Charter explains why ordinary members of the British population, who did not cause the current economic crisis, should not be required to pay for it in terms of a severe reduction in their standard of living and quality of life.  


The Charter describes how the deficit could be met by closing the doors to 'tax havens' (make the super rich pay their taxes just like the rest of us), stop forking out vast sums for foreign wars, introducing a Tobin Tax (also known as the Robin Hood tax) with a tiny percentage paid on all business transactions and, controversially for Furness, cancellation of all further development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (such as submersible American Trident missile launch platforms - affectionately referred to as Trident subs in these parts). These measures would eliminate the deficit and provide funds for manufacturing leading to economic growth and a return to prosperity. 


Now, that sounds pretty good, doesn't it?  Some trade unions appear to disagree for they have done precisely nothing to promote the Charter.  In Furness, the unions ignore the Charter completely and boycott all efforts to bring it to the attention of the general public.  Their blanket of silence is fully endorsed by the local Labour Party and the Labour MP, John Woodcock. Oh, they will make sympathetic noises but they are indifferent to the suffering which is about to be inflicted upon the constituents of this region and the population at large.


In closing, I am minded of what George Bernard Shaw had to say about the opposite of Love.
"The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference."



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER STRUGGLE

TUC march and rally, Manchester, Sunday 2nd October 
SHOWING OPPOSITION TO TORY AUSTERITY MEASURES
The people have marched against war, they've marched against the Poll Tax, they've marched against racists and fascists and now they march against the Tory attack on our Welfare State and National Health Service.  When, I wonder, will 'marching fatigue' set in and the people demand more direct action? 


And, if and when they reach that stage of wanting something else what will they choose to do?  Will they engage in non-violent direct action (such as blocking major roads and bridges - as in the USA) or resorting to rioting (as seen recently in towns and cities here in Britain)?  Will doing either - or both - bring about the changes they claim to desire?  Unfortunately, no.


In the first place, the struugles in the street are only about economics - about jobs, benefits and pensions.  Yes, this is coupled to a defence of the Welfare State and the National Health Service, but there has been no complete awakening of class consciousness and the need to act politically, to move in a particular political direction i.e. socialism.  


Marxist-Leninists know the road to socialism is through class struggle which can be realised in three forms:economic, political and ideological.  Of these, the political struggle is the most important because it throws into relief the primary question of the class struggle - of power - and how it can be resolved.


Workers can complain and campaign until they are blue in the face but they will change nothing unless they are prepared to learn from the political lessons dished out to them by the boss class and organise to bring about a fundamental, revolutionary, political change.  

Saturday, 24 September 2011

STILL PUSHING AGAINST INDIFFERENCE

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN NOBODY WANTS TO KNOW?
The answer to that is, of course, "Keep going" because, although the savagery of the cuts will eventually dawn on the local population - and this is likely to be 'later rather than sooner' in Furness if past performance is anything to go by - it might just be possible to awaken a few and then a few more.  It is slow, frustrating work, especially when the unions in Furness remain intransigent.


The local anti-cuts group has received assistance from the GMB which printed its posters for a public meeting - the group provided the paper - to be held at The Forum, Barrow, on the evening of Thursday 6th October.  A few members have been distributing the posters and unions and community organisations have been notified.  A 'street stall' on Saturday 1st October will publicise the meeting and further promote the local anti-cuts campaign.  


It is interesting to note Ryan Shaw, secretary of Cumbria PCS, who had promised support for the anti-cuts campaign, appears to have hibernated and is not answering phone calls, or responding to email or text  messages.  It must be the way unions do (or don't do) things around here for this is exactly how Deborah Hamilton, Secretary of Cumbria branch of Unison conducts (or does not conduct) union business, the secretary of Barrow Trades Union Council never responds to communications and neither does the secretary of Barrow NUT.  It has been asked "How do these useless officials remain in office?"  I wish all questions were as easy to answer as this....it is because nobody else wants the job so it ends up in the hands of someone who wants the status but not the responsibility.  What better set of persons could a lazy union member wish to have in place than a committee that doesn't  organise regular branch meetings or pester them to campaign to protect their own pay and conditions of work?


What local trade unions and their members do not seem to realise is that when they are called upon to take any form of action to defend their jobs, pay and conditions (such as the proposed national day of action on 30th November) they are going to need the public on their side.  To get that support means them being out on the street, weeks in advance, patiently explaining to the public why they are taking action - not just for themselves - but against the cuts that will affect everyone except the most wealthy.  If they do not apply themselves to this task it is likely the general public will be antagonised by any union action that causes members of the public any personal inconvenience (such as schools being closed for the day or cancelled hospital appointments, for example)  And this struggle against the cuts is one struggle that workers in Britain cannot afford to lose.  As has already been explained in earlier postings, a one day strike may allow workers to gain some idea of their potential but, politically, is of little consequence.  


Workers who will not defend themselves are easy meat for the boss class.  If workers do not fight the greed of the capitalist class they will, as Marx himself put it, be degraded to one level of broken wretches past salvation. "By cowardly giving way in their everyday conflict with capital, they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any larger movement."
K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol2, p.75


The people of Furness have certainly demonstrated over the past eighteen months that they qualify for such disqualification.  Given this, there must come a time when persistently fruitless efforts to motivate them are discontinued.  As of this date, I cannot envisage the anti-cuts campaign lasting beyond December.....

  ......but, for now, the struggle continues.






LATEST NEWS
Terry McSorely, agent of our local member of parliament, John Woodcock, has written that the MP will 'not be able to attend' the public meeting. No explanation was provided.
Note:  John Woodcock MP was also 'not able to attend' the previous Anti-Cuts public meeting held in March of this year.


OOPS!  Last digit missing from phone number - 1405 
Corrected as many distributed posters as possible even though it's most unlikely anyone will use it.  Phone number required for authentication purposes so it had to be correct.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?

Billboard boy in Barrow earning a crust.
                 1936
LESSON FROM HISTORY
Italy has never seen anything similar to the type of planning exhibited by the Government of Soviet Russia.


When an important branch of the banking system, or a large-scale industry which could be confused with the "higher interests of the nation" has threatened to collapse, the Government has stepped into the breach and prevented the breakdown by emergency measures. If there is a field in which planning is necessary and can be done without notable obstacles, it is that of public works; but even a Fascist expert is obliged to recognise that "they are begun as required without a general plan in the region where the depression is most severe."  


The policy of the Italian dictatorship during these years of world crisis has been no different in its aims, methods, and results from the policy of all the Governments of the capitalistic countries.


The Charter of Labour says that private enterprise is responsible to the State.  In actual fact, it is the State, i.e. the taxpayer, who has become responsible to private enterprise.  In Fascist Italy the State pays for the blunders of private enterprise.  As long as business was good, profit remained to private initiative. When the depression came, the Government added the loss to the taxpayers' burden.  Profit is private and individual.  Loss is public and social.
Under the Axe of Fascism, Gaetano Salvemini, LBC, 1936, page 416


In Britain today, taxpayers bailed out failed banks to the tune of £1.3 trillion and workers are paying the price of this in job losses, benefit cuts, erosion of health care, wage freezes, and rising energy and food costs whilst the bankers and financiers are able to return to awarding themselves millions in annual bonuses.  And this has been achieved without the usual Fascist coercion techniques of blackjacks, torture or concentration camps.  How much longer will it be before the unemployed will be housed in 'hostels'  and engaged in 'work details' for the good of society - and will they be obliged to wear striped pyjamas, perhaps?


In the meantime, three men (one, in his twenties here in Furness) have died in eight days as a result of police using a combination of immobilizing tasers and pepper sprays.  There has been a significant increase in cases of police intimidation and brutality against young, elderly, and even disabled civilian demonstrators in recent years and courts are dismissive of any attempts to bring thuggish police to account.  The future use of water cannon and plastic bullets must surely now be on the agenda as protests against government-imposed poverty increase in size and frequency.

Monday, 15 August 2011

CRISIS OF CAPITALISM LURCHES DOWNWARD

'Workers' sculpture, shopping centre, Barrow in Furness
IT'S A RIGHT MESS
Whilst fully aware of events that are happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia and in some towns and cities here in England (but not Scotland or Wales, please note!) this blog is chiefly concerned with events and reactions here in Furness.  On the riots, let it be sufficient to quote from a recent Morning Star editorial: 'Someone who has a job, a home and a future does not riot.'


The general public here does not really seem to be aware of any particular crisis unless it is the one regarding seagulls.  Yes, that is correct - seagulls.  Some are working themselves up into quite a lather about seagulls 'pooing' on their cars parked in the street and on washing hung out to dry and are calling for these birds to be culled i.e. killed.  (Heaven help the bankers if this lot wake up and realise how they've been swindled!)  Fortunately, seagulls - and, unfortunately, bankers - are a protected species so any local councillor hoping to gain popularity by reducing the seagull population will have to think again.  Surprisingly, these gulls live by the sea - which is why they are called seagulls.  If some people don't like seagulls they should move away from the coast. Sorted.


On a more serious note - in just one edition of the Evening Mail it was reported that FOUR Barrow businesses are in trouble.  The Appliance Services Centre in Dalton Road has gone into liquidation (that's yet another shop front to be decorated with a giant photograph of a shop interior), Cumbria Commercials, a car repair workshop on Walney Road, has also gone into liquidation together with The Fire Place, a heating company based in Holker Street, and an engieering firm is currently under investigation by Her Majesty's Inland Revenue for alleged tax irregularities.  These losses will add to the 1,810 people already on Job Seekers' Allowance chasing just 128 vacancies (figures for June 2011). The breakdown is as follows:
Barrow Island  151
Central              299
Hawcoat             33
Hindpool          212
Newbarns        106
Ormsgill            219
Parkside           100
Risedale           166
Roosecoat        104
Walney Nth       104
Walney Sth       104
Dalton Nth         102
Dalton Sth         110


And the tide comes in and the tide goes out - twice a day.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

DEFEND NHS CAMPAIGN CONTINUES


LABOUR PARTY HOSTS PUBLIC MEETING TO DEFEND NHS
Westmorland & Lonsdale Constituency
Labour Party called a public meeting to address government proposals to sell off the most highly profitable parts of the National Health Service to private companies.  The meeting was held at the Shakespeare Centre, Kendal, on Thursday 14th July and was attended by about 45 persons.

The panel (left to right) consisted of  Paul Gardner (Royal College of Nursing), Tim Ellis (Unison), Paul Braithwaite (W&L CLP) and Doctor David Wrigley, GP (Keep Our NHS Public campaign).

Dr Wrigley, a member of the British Medical Association Council, described the remarkable step forward when, 64 years ago, the National Health Service was introduced.  Minister Bevan described this as a Milestone in History and a Civilized Step for it provided health care for all that was free at the point of need. Gone was the great fear of falling ill and having to meet a doctor's bill for treatment and medication.  No health and social care for vulnerable people should rely upon service provided by some business that could, like some retail company, fail and be bankrupted. (Liquidation of Southern Cross care homes is a good example here - Muddz)  Dr Wrigley explained how the Private and Public Finance Initiative (PPFI), introduced by the previous Labour government, has cost £65 billion for a value of just £25 billion.

Tim Ellis stated the NHS needed to be fully resourced and trusted.  He stated contributions to the public purse would be much greater if the 49 richest people and 220 companies that PAY NO TAX were to pay the estimated £120 billion lost through their tax evasion.  The current White Paper is about introducing competition into the NHS and should not be amended but killed off.  Public pressure could sink this bill just as it did Thatcher's bid to introduce the Poll Tax in the 1980's. (Top Tories noted public opposition, feared this would have electoral consequences and so pressed Thatcher to drop it - Muddz)

Paul Gardner reported 98% of delegates attending the RCN conference in Liverpool gave a vote of 'No Confidence' on the current Secretary of State.  The RCN severely critical of commissioning by GP fund-holders and strongly suggests there be a nurse on every commissioning body.  Essentially, priorities are quality of care, safety, assessment of level of safety and of risks during and following hospital treatment and that the experience of the patient must be positive.  Minister Lansley's agenda undermined these.

There followed some good contributions by members of the audience with, of course, one by the token defeatist "These cuts will go through so what we've got to do is see how we can reduce their impact on people."  (It was noted that not a single person under the age of fifty years was in attendance - Muddz)

The meeting ended with an overwhelming vote to ask our local Members of Parliament to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill.

As the cuts begin to bite it is being reported that some (nonNHS) dentists are refusing to treat gum disease in children "because it is too time-consuming and thus not profitable." This on Dispatches: 'The Truth about your Dentist' ,Channel 4, 8pm, Monday 23 May 2011. Untreated gum disease, apart from being extremely painful, can lead to tooth loss and serious illness.

Some NHS Trusts are refusing to fund operations to remove infected tonsils as a cost reduction measure.  If untreated, diseased tonsils can be extremely painful, give rise to quinsy and blood poisoning with possible fatal consequences.


And yet other Trusts are now charging for cataract and hip replacement operations, and have privatised their ambulance service.


But campaigning against the cuts is being sustained by very few.  It was sad to note that Kendal Against the Cuts has folded owing to lack of consistent support but encouraging that Furness Against the Cuts remains active - street stall to be held from 10am until noon on Saturday  27 August and a Public Meeting already booked for The Forum, Barrow, from 7.30 until 9.30pm on Wednesday 14 September.


The struggle continues!
  

PENSIONERS' PARLIAMENT JUNE 2011

Assembling in Blackpool for the march to the Parliament
PENSIONERS' ANTI-CUTS
CAMPAIGN FLOPS AT THE 2011 PARLIAMENT
Unlike the pouring rain of last year, this year's march to the Winter Gardens for the 2011 Pensioners' Parliament was bathed in glorious sunshine.


Many had expressed the hope that, this year, the parliament would not just be yet another 'talking shop' and that a definite plan of campaign against the cuts would be formulated.  It was also anticipated that the government minister for pensions, Webb, would be given a 'rough ride' when he addressed the parliament as promised.  Neither of these things happened.


Delegates heard some rousing speeches from the platform and, in the various workshops, considered specific issues (e.g. failures of the Care Quality Commission).  However, apart from affirming support for the Pensioners' Manifesto (given below) there were no anti-cuts resolutions or even statements of intent to mount protest action against the government's proposed austerity measures and its plans for privatisation of the National Health Service and dismantling of the Welfare State. 


As for the government LibDem minister for pensions, he got off very lightly indeed by employing a well tried and tested political trick - whenever a delegate complained against a certain government decision he simply agreed with them (because it is impossible to argue with someone who keeps agreeing with every criticism)  A few delegates attempted to challenge the minister from the floor but, lacking access to a microphone, could not be heard by most people in the auditorium. Furthermore, the chairman conducting the meeting (who did have access to a microphone) chastised them rather than inviting at least one of them onto the stage to make their point.  Thus it was all kept under control, very civilised and polite, and the minister, acknowledging the applause of the majority of delegates, left the stage wearing a satisfied grin.  So much for a 'rough ride'!   What will such pensioners do if they get really angry - remove their teeth and give somebody a sound 'gumming'?


THE PENSIONERS' MANIFESTO 
All men and women shall be entitled to dignity, security and fulfilment in retirement that includes:
1 A basic state pension set above the official poverty level (estimated at £165 a week in 2009)  which is linked to the higher of earnings or prices, and paid alongside other existing concessions, to provide some financial security for all.
2 Free long-term medical and social care funded from general taxation and provided to the highest standards in order to maintain dignity and without the need for means-testing, rationing or postcode lottery.
3 Good quality local services funded through national income tax rather than council tax.
4 Free UK wide travel on all forms of public transport (buses, trams and rail) to encourage independence and greater mobility, as well as helping the environment and reducing demand on care services.
5 An end to discrimination where it adversely affects the opportunities, goods and services available to older people.
6 A winter fuel allowance of £500 per pensioner household to help maintain a warm and comfortable home.


Wouldn't some of the above be unnecessary if British pensioners received a pension that allowed them to 'pay their way' thus avoiding the need for special 'benefits', 'concessions', 'cut-price offers', 'hand-outs', and other charitable offerings?  Surely, pensioners want dignity and respect - not charity and sympathy, don't they?

Friday, 12 August 2011

STEADY WORK AGAINST IMPOSED AUSTERITY

Furness Against the Cuts at the 'Poverty Summit', 22nd June
HOW JOLLY NICE
A 'Poverty Summit' was organised by Barrow Churches Together and held at the Trinity Centre, Barrow, on Wednesday 22nd June.


The object of the exercise was 'to address poverty and financial exclusion' but what it boiled down to was the setting up of a Barrow Credit Union supported by Cumbria County Council.


Furness Against the Cuts attended with the message that the policies of the present government were creating poverty for many people throughout the country by job losses and cuts to benefits of the vulnerable.  Many other organisations were also present such as Shelter (homeless charity), Citizens' Advice Bureau (charity providing information on a range of issues), Christians Against Poverty, Furness Multicultural Forum and two Credit Union organisations.  


The difference between Furness Against the Cuts and the other organisations was that FAC urged the eradication of debt whereas the rest just gave advice on how to manage it.  The FAC approach was "Never mind showing people how to bail out faster, show them how to plug the holes in the boat!"


Yes, the idea behind a Credit Union is philanthropic but in reality smacks of 'we middleclass people must show these feckless working class chappies discipline, how to budget, and the benefits of deferred gratification.'  It is true that some people have no access to a bank account but in many cases this is simply because they pay out all that comes in and are often left wondering how they will manage for the last couple of days before payday or the arrival of their next benefit payment.  


Credit Unions are able to offer small loans at a very low rate of interest (eg 1%) and anything that helps to prevent desperate people falling into the hands of loan sharks is to be welcomed. However, to become entitled to a loan through a Credit Union, a person must first make regular savings for eight weeks to qualify.  Generally, poor people are poor because their level of income means they have no spare cash that they can save each week.  The only people that really benefit from a Credit Union are those who are 'not too badly off'.

'DEFENDING PENSIONS' DAY OF ACTION

PCS members picket Barrow Job Centre 30th June
ONE DAY IN JUNE
First, absence of posts here was caused by a need for eye surgery.  This didn't prevent me from being 'active' however.  


The 30th June was an official national day of action by the Public & Commercial Services union (PCS), National Union of Teachers (NUT), and the Association of Teachers & Lecturers (ATL).  


PCS members had a picket at the local Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) and also at the local Job Centre.  The picket was well received and respected and only non-union employees crossed the picket line.


The majority of schools in the borough were closed for the day so it would be incorrect to state the action was ineffectual.  A cynic might suggest school staff simply welcomed the opportunity for a day's holiday without fully appreciating the significance of the action.


There are two branches of the NUT in this region: Barrow NUT covers schools in the borough of Barrow in Furness (this includes Dalton, Askam and villages), and Furness NUT which extends from Ulverston to Broughton (which includes Grange, Cark, Cartmel, Levens Valley and other villages)  Barrow NUT was to have a branch meeting at the Custom House, Barrow, at 4.30pm at the end of the Day of Action but cancelled this at the eleventh hour (so nothing's changed here in 30 years - at least they are consistent!) 


There has been no further action by these unions since June.  Is it too much to hope that they are preparing for campaigns in the autumn following the annual conference of the Trade Union Congress in September?


   

Saturday, 14 May 2011

MAY DAY - TWENTYFOUR YEARS AGO

ONCE UPON A TIME......
Barrow in Furness had an active branch of the Communist Party of its very own.  It upheld the May 1st celebration of  International Workers' Solidarity and attended the May Day Gala at Barrow's public park with its own professional
market stall selling Communist/Socialist literature, posters and badges.  


The branch continued to support the Gala even after the local Labour Party and Trade Union Council dumped responsibility for organising the
event into the welcoming arms of The Charities who saw this as a great fund-raising opportunity.  It was not long before the new 'Gala Committee' rid the event of any unseemly political activity and, not long after that, the field in the park was used to site the new sports centre (with swimming pool).


Local CP members became too embroiled in the Inner Party conflict (between the Marxist-Leninist loyalists and the EuroCommunist revisionists) to have any energy left for May Day activity and nobody else was interested. The local CP became 'South Lakes CP' - a talking shop of no consequence and even less relevance.  Thus May Day in Barrow and the rest of the Furness peninsula was forgotten - just as it is to this very day.


The Socialist Observer, illustrated here, was produced and distributed by Barrow CP but fell victim to the turbulent reactionary political events of the time and only three editions were published (three years before the collapse of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the re-establishment of the Party as the Communist Party of Britain)


Furness people at that time did not understand that when Tories make an announcement, what they say is not necessarily what they mean.   For example, when Cecil Franks, Tory parliamentary candidate, used the slogan 'Trident means jobs' the locals thought this was a promise of job creation and security.  Not so; soon after the Trident project got under way, the shipyard offloaded 11,000 jobs - just as the local CND group said would happen (but who listens to CND, eh?) Then Thatcher declared "The NHS is safe in our hands!" whereas what she really meant was "The NHS safe is in our hands!" and was followed by hospital ward closures.  Arthur Scargill, National Union of Mineworkers' Union leader, warned the Tories planned to close over seventy pits.  The Tories denied it, smashed the NUM whilst the TUC looked on, then shut down over seventy mines.  


And now we have Tory leader Cameron spouting about 'The Big Society' when he and his millionaire cronies are actually creating 'The Pig Society' for themselves at the expense of everyone else. Well at least the people of Furness don't mind being ripped off so Tory policies are perfectly acceptable here, or so it would seem.  


But the local electorate returned a borough council with an overwhelming Labour Party majority in the recent election and the constituency has a Labour Party Member of Parliament so that's an impressive force with which to support a Furness campaign against the Tory/LibDem coalition government's attack on the NHS and the Welfare State, isn't it? Isn't it?
Well, isn't it?  Yes, or no? (Watch this space)

Friday, 15 April 2011

TUC'S 'MARCH FOR THE ALTERNATIVE'

HALF A MILLION MARCH
Half a million people took to the streets of the capital on Saturday 26th March and the red flag flew beneath Big Ben.
Although pleasing, a far better sight would have been to see the hammer and sickle flying above Big Ben!


Now the question must be "So, what's next?" Many of those attending the demonstration will now expect the TUC to lead further actions against the cuts but, if history is anything to go by, they are likely to be disappointed.


In Furness, the work of the Furness Against the Cuts steering group has begun and further attempts are being made to encourage people, either as individuals or as representatives of unions, community groups or voluntary organisations to join the campaign.  Indeed, any person or organisation that is without prejudice towards age, gender, sexual orientation, race, colour or religion and sharing the aim to resist government-imposed cuts will be made welcome.


In a previous posting it was noted leaders and members of local unions, community groups and voluntary organisations (with the exception of Barrow & Furness Pensioners' Association) had never in the past twelve months shown the slightest interest in mounting a campaign against the cuts.  However, once the local newspaper, the North West Evening Mail, began to feature the national demonstration the various 'leaders' crept out of the woodwork to mouth off and get their mugshots published.


Bob Pointer, 'secretary' of the defunct Barrow TUC wrote a letter describing how important it was for ordinary people to resist the cuts blah, blah, blah.  Alec Proffitt, Unison Barrow Branch official, Pauline Charnley (Four Groves Community Association), Anne Carruthers (Barrow Island Community 'Activist') and Margaret Burrows (Furness Disability Association) each stuck their oars in for a nice piece of personal publicity. The only person missing was Steven Forbes of the GMB who has been very quiet of late - well, quieter than usual: silent.


This blog has been described (by some) as being 'snarky' which I believe is street-speak for 'sneering and sarcastic'.  Surely, this is not the way a communist ought to behave if the aim is to encourage people to unite against their oppressors.  To a certain extent, they have a point. It would be a joy to report how local organisations - unions in particular - were leading the anti-cuts campaign with all-inclusive rallies and demonstrations in the town centre once a month and how they'd organised coaches to take local people to the 26th March TUC event but none of this happened.  Those who have access to campaign resources have sat on their hands and, until very recently, kept their mouths tightly shut.  So what would be the point in pretending in this blog that they are genuinely concerned about the people of this area and taking action against the cuts when they have done precisely nothing?  Don't they deserve criticism?


But Unison did organise a coach for the London demo!  True, this union which had done nothing all year did in fact organise a coach - for Unison members only.  So a non-campaigning union took non-campaigning members to a national campaign.  Bravo!  And a jolly time was had by all, no doubt.  It's reminiscent of a union day trip to Blackpool but without the buckets and spades. 


As shown above, trade union 'tribalism' is alive and well here in Furness.  The instruction was that the anti-cuts campaign should be union-led.  But what do people do if the unions are incapable of providing that leadership?  If I had waited for my union (NUT) to instigate anything at all in the last thirty years I'd be fossilised by now.  The teaching assistants who  recently held their rally and petition in the town centre were Unison members who had been promised pamphlets, posters, banners and flags - but received none of these things.  One of the organisers bitterly remarked that Unison would see a significant dip in union subscriptions next year!


So, the next few months might be interesting.....or not.  Whatever the situation, this blog will continue to report the situation as it really is and not as some would pretend it to be.  And useless hoosegow-head (nothing gets in and nothing comes out) hypocrites deserving of criticism will indeed receive it.    



Monday, 11 April 2011

THE TEACHING ASSISTANTS' CAMPAIGN

TOWN CENTRE PETITION
The Teachers' Assistants certainly got their act together and held a very successful campaign and petition in Barrow's main shopping area.


The day began wet, draughty and chilly (nothing new in these parts) but at noon the clouds parted, the rain stopped, and the place was bathed in warm sunshine - just in time for the photo-shoot appearance of our local Labour Member of Parliament, John Woodcock.


I had met, some weeks previously, one of his assistants at the 'retirement do' of a mutual acquaintance and I remarked that I had imagined a conversation between our new MP and his predecessor, John Hutton - oops, sorry Sire, I mean Lord Hutton of Furness.  Anyway, the conversation went something like this:  "Well, Johnnie m'lad, you've landed on your feet.  And if you do like wot I did i.e. keep your nose clean, get lots of photos of you opening charity events and wandering around BAE in a yellow hardhat, say you're a socialist - but watch out for the commie git on the front row - kiss plenty of babies and keep away from Public Parks, then you'll end up just as rich as me and get to feel the irmine collar on your neck."
(The Public Park reference relates to an occasion when, soon after his election, our MP -JW- ventured into a park on Walney Island and was subjected to intimidating abusive language and behaviour by a bunch of young hooligan proletarian Island Aboriginals - a fitting introduction to the area, I thought at the time)  


The assistant was not amused nay, not one jot I kid you not. Now consider for a moment the scene of me standing next to that same assistant this fine sunny lunchtime and observing...  yes, you've guessed....John Woodcock with someone's child in his arms! The assistant, by the way, is the very same person to whom I gave a lift one evening (see Blog Archive  2010, September, 120 Years the Internationale Anthem - for a Socialist World! There Aren't Many Of You About, Are There? but only if you're interested!)


The TA cause is a just one.  Cumbria County Council has finally decided to introduce Single Status which lumps Teaching Assistants together with Dinner Ladies, Cleaners, Mid-Day Supervisors and Drivers yet, as campaigners respectfully point out, none of the latter would ever be called upon to obtain professional qualifications and to cover groups of children or supervise whole classes in the absence of a teacher. Some TAs stand to lose up to £3000 a year as a result of adjustment. These dedicated workers are merely asking for a wage that reflects their professional role in the education system and one which adequately recognises the value of their hard work. Sadly, the Steering Group of the Campaign Against the Cuts has not yet succeeded in obtaining recruits to support such local demonstrations.


MEANWHILE, the University of Lancaster has become the latest institution to charge students the maximum £9,000 in fees.  It seeks to justify this hike, to be introduced next year, by claiming the fee would reflect its teaching and research standing...................
Shopmobility in Kendal faces closure leaving hundreds of disbled people prisoners in their own homes.............
As price of metal increases so too does theft.  A floodwater pumping station in Barrow was disabled when copper wiring was stolen and there is a report of a break in at a scrap metal dealer in Kendal so wait for railway points and signalling systems to be rendered useless as scallies rip out miles of cabling and churches spring leaks as lead is repeatedly stripped from their roofs....
But things should get easier for our light-fingered acquisitive bretheren because Cumbria Constabulary must shed 80 officers and make plans about how an £18.7 million budget deficit is to be handled.