Thursday, April 30, 2015

What We Are Saying To Voters

Listen here to a recording of the SocialistParty Election Rally address held at our Head Office on 26th April featuring a speech by our Vauxhall candidate, Danny Lambert.

The other candidates have been active answering the many requests for further information. 

These are the questions Oxford Friends of the Earth have sent to the local candidates there:

1. Parts of Oxfordshire have been earmarked for fracking (exploitation of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing). Do you support fracking in Oxfordshire?
2. Thanks to the great work of the Low Carbon Hub, a number of schools in the constituency have installed solar panels, or are planning to do so. Do you commit to setting a target for almost entirely carbon free electricity generation by 2030, delivered by at least 75% renewables, and by making it possible for every school to be powered by solar energy by 2016?
3. Do you think that the proposed Flood Relief Channel, at a cost of £125M is the right solution to Oxford’s flooding problems?
4. Do you commit to tackle cold homes by insulating, on average, 1 million homes per year up to 2020, of which half are low-income homes?
5. Currently there is an EU-wide moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid presticides due to the harms these do to our bees. Do you commit to strengthening the National Pollinator Strategy and extending the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides?
6. Do you commit to protect the freedom to campaign by immediately repealing the 2014 Lobbying Act?

Kevin Parkin, Oxford East, Socialist Party of Great Britain:

Thanks, but I should first explain that I am contesting this election solely on the basis of seeking the votes of those who want to replace the existing, capitalist system of minority ownership and production for profit by a a new world society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the Earth's resources, natural and industrial, and their use to turn out what people need while at the same time respecting ecological balances. In our view, this is the only framework within which the problem of global overwarming and climate change can be rationally tackled. This point of view is developed more fully in this article from our monthly magazine, the Socialist Standard:
I am sure that the measures you propose would contribute marginally to this global problem and would be part of the solution in a socialist society but I don't want people to vote for me on the basis that I might agree with them.

Mike Foster, Oxford West and Abingdon, Socialist Party of Great Britain

1. Parts of Oxfordshire have been earmarked for fracking (exploitation of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing). Do you support fracking in Oxfordshire?
 Fracking is an example of how capitalism periodically gets itself out of a fix by finding new techniques or commodities to replace old, unprofitable ones. However, fracking isn’t being used to answer the call for global need, but to acquire more profits for corporations. The amount of energy we need is fairly stable and predictable, whereas profitability depends on the uncertainties of the economic market. So, in capitalism, fracking’s development isn’t going to be straightforward and problem-free. Capitalism’s short-term drive for profits is more important than considering any of fracking’s long-term consequences.
2. Thanks to the great work of the Low Carbon Hub, a number of schools in the constituency have installed solar panels, or are planning to do so. Do you commit to setting a target for almost entirely carbon free electricity generation by 2030, delivered by at least 75% renewables, and by making it possible for every school to be powered by solar energy by 2016?
 Our current society has created several barriers to having low carbon producing electricity generation. Fossil fuels will continue being squandered as long as they remain profitable to the corporations which own them. Their use will only decline when it is no longer as profitable, perhaps when damage to the environment starts to damage the economy. But at the moment, the wealth – and therefore, influence – owned by fossil fuel companies dwarfs that of renewable energy providers. Another reason why our current society struggles to reduce its carbon footprint is because of the massive amount of energy and resources wasted on pushing money around. Institutions like banks, insurance companies and finance departments don’t produce anything useful, but prop up the current system. If we replace this system, then we will no longer need these wasteful institutions. Instead, we can produce what we need and want in the most responsible way. So, to be a low carbon community we have to live in a society where this is possible. The Socialist Party aims for a new society where energy production and all other industries and services are owned and democratically organised by the whole community. Then, production will be driven by what is in our self-determined best interests, not what makes money for a minority. This will allow us to manage our resources and environment in a sustainable way, without relying on dwindling fossil fuels.
3. Do you think that the proposed Flood Relief Channel, at a cost of £125M is the right solution to Oxford’s flooding problems?
 The right solution to Oxford’s flooding problems should be one which balances safeguarding people’s homes and belongings with the minimum of harm to wildlife and conservation areas. Unfortunately, in our society, such decisions are shaped by economic circumstances, particularly the funding limits of the council and the drive for profits by any companies involved. The question has become ‘what flood defences are best value for money?’ rather than ‘what flood defences are best for ourselves and the environment?’. This distorted way of thinking distracts us from considering any proposals on their own merits. And because of the way society is run, important decisions are made by distant, unaccountable leaders with their own interests to protect. If we instead lived in a society where its land, resources and infrastructure were owned and democratically managed by the community as a whole, then decisions about issues like flood defences could be made in a more reasonable, inclusive way.
4. Do you commit to tackle cold homes by insulating, on average, 1 million homes per year up to 2020, of which half are low-income homes?
 Being fuel poor and unable to afford home improvements can only happen in a society where money is more important than our wellbeing. If we lived in a society where we had free access to goods and services, then there wouldn’t be anything to prevent the community building the most energy-efficient homes, or increasing the use of renewable sources of power. Funding or subsidies wouldn’t be required because money itself would no longer be needed. So, the Socialist Party’s aim is to promote a new society where financial cost isn’t a consideration at all.
5. Currently there is an EU-wide moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides due to the harms these do to our bees. Do you commit to strengthening the National Pollinator Strategy and extending the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides?
 The Socialist Party’s role is not to support specific reforms, even if they help safeguard something as important as bee populations. Our role is to draw attention to the circumstances in which issues like pesticide use arise. Pesticides (as well as other chemicals and techniques like genetic modification) are used because they make farms yield more profits by boosting plant growth. Concerns about their effects on the environment are only acted upon if they represent a threat to profitability or financial viability. The decline in bees is serious enough to threaten many industries, and therefore the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides was possible. Even if this ban is beneficial, it was still made for economic reasons. If we lived in a society where production was directly for use, without the drive for profits, then economic considerations wouldn’t get in the way of deciding how best to use resources.
6. Do you commit to protect the freedom to campaign by immediately repealing the 2014 Lobbying Act?
 The Lobbying Act has been criticised because it threatens to stifle the voices of campaigners, trades unions and charities. The issue shows how undemocratic our current society is. The more wealth an organization or person has, the more political influence they can have. Parliament defends the interests of the most wealthy, despite the pretence that MPs represent their constituents. The Socialist Party is opposed to the whole system of government, of which lobbying is just one aspect. What little democracy we have is worth using, but it bears no relation to what a truly inclusive democratic society could be.

Our candidate, Mike Foster for Oxford West and Abingdon, is very assiduous at answering questions from electors, this time from a local group in Abingdon, offering even the socialist position of vegetable stalls in Abingdon!

1. Do you anticipate making election promises in the campaign that you will be unable to keep if elected?
I’m not making any promises at all! The Socialist Party argues that our current economic and political system can’t be made to work in the interests of the majority, so we don’t advocate reforming it. Candidates promising to make changes when they are elected risk those promises being scuppered by dictates from their party’s leaders and the cumbersome bureaucracy of the system. And, any reforms have to fit in with what’s financially viable, regardless of what individual MPs want. I’m standing in the election to advocate a different kind of society; I’m not standing to make promises which can’t be kept.
2. The only independent fresh fruit and vegetable seller in Abingdon is a stall at the market on Monday mornings whilst the vast majority are at work. How will you help smaller businesses?
Smaller business struggle to compete against larger companies which can plough more money into advertising, can absorb losses better and can afford the most cost-effective methods. The Socialist Party aims for a world where organisations of different sizes can co-exist without economic competition getting in the way. This would involve the abolition of the economic system itself, and its replacement by a society where resources, industries and services are owned by everyone in common. This would mean that all organisations would be working directly for people’s benefit, rather than competing to survive in a cut-throat economy.
3. Which public sector service sectors do you see as having been worst affected by austerity measures and how would you seek to redistribute spending?
I work in homeless services, so I have seen how cuts have prevented some of the most vulnerable people from having access to even basic necessities. Funding shortages have led organisations to reduce the amount of supported accommodation available, and tighten the criteria for those who can receive a service. For example, ‘local connection’ policies have been brought in across many areas, meaning that homeless people won’t receive much housing-related support unless they have been in the area for at least six months.
Any measures to redistribute public spending won’t work in the long-term. Wealth tends to go where it can be re-invested to make more money, and public services aren’t attractive investments. The Socialist Party aims for a world of free access, meaning that all services (including healthcare, education, transport etc.) would be provided without money being needed. Such a society could only exist if its resources and infrastructure were owned and managed by the community as a whole.
4. What steps would you take to ensure the transparency of commercial interests in policy making?
The Socialist Party aims for a world where there are no commercial interests at all in policy making. Commercial interests arise because those who own the most wealth aim to add to their wealth. Having economic power translates as having influence in decision-making. We advocate the abolition of private ownership of resources, industries and services. If society’s resources were to be owned and run by the community as a whole, then the community could work together for the benefit of everyone. There would still be differences of opinion about where to build houses, or how to organise services, but decisions would be made democratically, without leaders. The form this democracy takes would depend on the circumstances. Some decisions would be made by elected representatives; others could be made by the whole community being able to vote directly on an outcome. In a socialist society, democracy would extend throughout society, and not just be limited to voting in some of our leaders every five years or so. This framework would allow the most transparency, inclusivity and accountability in decision making.
5. What controls would you put in place in the housing sector to protect renters from exploitative landlords?
Landlords rent property in order to make money for themselves, not because people need housing. This is how the rental housing market is structured, and legislation or revised guidelines can’t change it. Many landlords want to provide decent housing, but some aim to exploit people who have lower incomes and therefore less choice. All landlords aim to maximising their income by spending as little as possible on repairs, decorating, furniture etc. So, their interests pull in the opposite direction to those of tenants.
The Socialist Party aims for a world where houses are built directly because people need and want them. This would remove the distinction between ‘owner’ and ‘tenant’, meaning that people would be able to have much more control over where they live. A socialist society would also be able to plan how many new houses are built based on what’s needed and wanted, rather than what the financial market allows.
6. Why aren't more tax evaders facing prison sentences?
I suspect that this is partly because tax evaders can afford to hire accountants, solicitors and advisors to help them manage their finances to their best advantage, in a way which draws least attention.
7. How will you ensure that future housing developments in Abingdon are bought by residents rather than landlords as "buy to let" properties?
See my reply to 5.
8. What are the percentages of social housing that you will support?
See my reply to 5.
9. What are you doing to stop the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement?
The Socialist Party’s view on TTIP:
For years the World Trade Organisation has been trying to change the rules of global trade in the interests of global investors. The US in particular wants to ease the out-sourcing and off-shoring of jobs, permitting employers to seek the lowest wages and weakest government oversight protections around the world; and to incorporate patent and intellectual ownership rules that will further restrict access to medicines for millions and could be expanded to include even surgical procedures and not just drug treatments. Overall, it is a bid to implement a globalisation policy of trade harmony at the lowest common denominator that will further the interests of global investors by relaxing various standards to weaker levels of consumer and public protection. It would represent a further reduction in the ‘sovereignty’ of national governments and their already weak power to resist the dictates of the world market. But these negotiations have not yet reached a conclusion because some countries do not want to open their doors too much to multinational corporations.
At the same time the EU and the US are negotiating a ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’. One of the points under discussion is a mechanism known as ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS), which would give corporations the right to challenge a country’s laws. Clearly, this is something more than a mere ‘free-trade’ deal. Even if a new reform or policy applies equally to domestic and foreign investors, ISDS proposes to allow corporations to receive compensation for the absence of a ‘predictable regulatory environment.’ Another proposal in TTIP is for ‘regulatory cooperation’ which would give big business lobby groups wide opportunities to influence decision-making, outside the normal democratic decision-making processes on both sides of the Atlantic. The clear intention is to allow business to in effect co-write international regulations, as already happens at national level.
The socialist attitude is that, at the end of it all, the arguments within the WTO which have so far prevented agreement are a dispute between vying capitalist factions, free-trader versus protectionist, foreign versus native capitalist competitors, fighting to defend or create conditions that offer them the best return. Even so, among the casualties are working people the world over, who will end up as collateral damage, more powerless and more vulnerable than ever in the face of global capitalism. In short, this is a problem of capitalism from which the working people of the world can never emerge as winners. The way-out for them is not the restoration of 'national sovereignty' but the establishment of a world society, without frontiers, where the industrial and natural resources of the Earth will have become the common heritage of all humanity and used to produce what people need instead of for the profit of those who own the world. In short, global socialism. Then, they will no longer be the casualties of trade agreements or disputes between different capitalist states.
10. What will you do to restore the balance between state surveillance and civil liberties?
The Socialist Party advocates the abolition of the state. This is because the state is there to try and manage an economic and political system which works in favour of the rich, and not the vast majority. State surveillance is one technique used to try and run this system. One of the reasons used to justify state surveillance is that it detects and prevents crime. However, crime itself is created by the system: in a world where deprivation and frustration are commonplace, some people will turn to criminal behaviour. So, again, the system itself is at fault.
11. Would you support compulsory sex and relationships advice for primary school pupils, including information on LGBTQ relationships?
The Socialist Party doesn’t have policies on particular issues like this. In a socialist society, such decisions would be made democratically by parents, schools and anyone else with an interest, and not by political parties. Personally, I think that age appropriate information about sex and relationships (including LGBTQ issues) should be part of education for primary school pupils.
12. If given a free vote in parliament would you vote with your personal conscience or in line with the wishes of your constituents?
The parliamentary system is inherently undemocratic. It is part of the state, which is there to defend a system which is biased in favour of the minority with most wealth. Also, I’m not sure how an MP – one person – can represent the needs and wishes of tens of thousands of people with different views and in different circumstances.
If socialist MPs were elected, it would be with the mandate to dismantle the state, retaining any of its useful aspects, such as the infrastructure of the NHS, for example. This would only be practical and realistic when a majority of people were in favour of it. Regarding smaller issues, a socialist MP should represent the wishes of the majority of their constituents, although they would struggle to do this within the current framework. 

Meanwhile in Islington North Bill Martin received this inquiry:
 As a Manchester United fan and a voter in the Islington North constituency, before I vote on May 7th I would like to know whether you will support legislation to reform football governance? We believe legislative changes are necessary as outlined here. Your response to the question below may impact decisively on my voting intentions: Will you personally, and your party generally, support new legislation as outlined in the above link? Bill (personally, very much more a rugby football fan) answered:
The Socialist Party is campaigning for the creation of a society based on common ownership of the wealth of the world, so that it can be directly administered in all our interests, rather than in the interest of the minority who currently own it.  this would mean an end to buying and selling, and production for needs, not for sale and profit.
The issue your campaign highlights, of the obligation of directors to shareholders over fans, neatly illustrates the problem of class ownership of wealth.  The pleasure of football becomes a simple means to capitalist ends so long as the market remains.
As the vast sums of television money show, football fans are part of the product, as capitalist firms make extra profits through showing the sport and advertising to football fans.
 With common ownership of the wealth of the world, we would see an end to money dominating sport, and simple organisation for pleasure of the game as an end in itself. If our delegates find themselves serving as a minority in a parliament dominated by pro-capitalist parties, our membership will instruct them to vote (after a democratic debate) in the best interests of the working class.
Bill Martin 
Socialist Party Candidate, Islington North

In Brighton the activity of the "roller derby" was more of an interest.

Jacqueline Shodeke, Brighton Kemptown, Socialist Party of Great Britain replied:
 “Hi. I’m just standing for socialism and not making promises on any subject because we’re not running the sort of campaign where parties say “Vote for us and we’ll do this or that for you”. So all I can say is that amateur sport is good, and that in a socialist society all sports will be amateur, since it will be a society without money and its corrupting influence on everything including sport.”

The Fetish of Finance

Research reveals that we are living through the largest investment boom in human history. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated, "Urgent action is needed to mobilise, redirect, and unlock the transformative power of trillions of dollars of private resources to deliver on sustainable development objectives." Oxford University's Bent Flyvbjerg, an economic geographer who specializes in mega-project planning and management, estimates global mega-project spending at between $6-9 trillion annually. This is 8 percent of the world's combined GDP. A single "mega" (million-dollar) project can easily exceed the national economy of a low-income country; a single "giga" (billion-dollar) project can outpace the earnings of a middle-income state; and a single "tera" (trillion-dollar) investment project can compare with the GDP of one of the world's top 20 richest nations.

Mega-projects are are growing in number and in scale. Investments in behemoth infrastructure projects in the transportation, energy, water and agricultural sectors, in particular, are rapidly increasing. Between 2004 and 2008, China alone "spent more on infrastructure in real terms than during the entire 20th century” according to a 2014 paper published in the Project Management Journal by Oxford University's Bent Flyvbjerg, an economic geographer who specializes in mega-project planning and management.  According to private sector estimates, an additional $60-70 trillion of infrastructure capacity will be required by 2030 to spur economic growth. With current investment trends suggesting $30-35 trillion per year forthcoming from public sources and $10-15 trillion per year from the private sector, this leaves $15-20 trillion unaccounted for. This "infrastructure gap" can only be met by tapping into the roughly $85 trillion of long-term institutional finance held in sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, hedge funds and insurance schemes around the world.

Titanic players in the world economy are forging ahead with their plans for investment in infrastructure. China's the $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), is designed to finance infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region and has 46 countries among its founding members.
The Group of 20 (G20) launched the Global Infrastructure Initiative, a multiyear program aimed at improving the environment for public and private investment in large infrastructure projects worldwide.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and seven major multilateral development banks (MDBs) expressing the need for additional investment in "quality infrastructure." These seven institutions - the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank Group - and the IMF announced their collective capacity to provide $130 billion of financing for infrastructure annually.
The World Bank unveiled its own Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) described as a "global, open platform that facilitates the preparation and structuring of complex infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to enable mobilization of private sector and institutional investor capital." Comprised of other MDBs and 16 private sector partners that include Citibank and HSBC, the GIF's partners hold over $8 trillion in assets and has $80-100 million at its disposal, to "operate globally, to support infrastructure projects in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDE)" in the energy, water and sanitation, transport and telecommunications sectors.

Already the World Bank's contribution to infrastructure development is huge: In 2014, it provided $24 billion for this purpose. But this is apparently not enough. The Bank's president, Jim Yong Kim, explained, "Our loans and projects will fall far short of what the developing world needs. The infrastructure gap is simply enormous - an estimated $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion more is needed each year."

Brent Blackwelder, president emeritus of Friends of the Earth International, calls "the ABCs of economics" - namely, whether projects deliver their stated benefits, on time, within their allocated budget - only one in 1,000 mega-projects meets the criteria for success. Flyvbjerg reported that "nine out of 10 projects have overruns" while "50 percent overruns in real terms are common and over 50 percent are not uncommon." In real terms, these overestimates end up costing billions: The delayed Channel Tunnel - a 50-kilometer passage connecting the United Kingdom with France - went 80 percent over budget, costing the British economy about $17.8 billion.

"Very frequently, the government, taxpayers and consumers meet the cost of these delays and extra expenditures," Nancy Alexander, director of the Economic Governance Program at the Heinrich Böll Foundation explained. Financialization entails creating infrastructure as an asset class, so that investors - especially long-term investors - can finance portfolios of public-private partnerships (PPPs). Yet, here again, there is no evidence that financialization (especially speculative finance) will not "socialize losses and privatize gains," since the state is required to provide significant protection of investors and guarantee certain rates of return. According to Alexander, neither the international financial institutions (IFIs) nor the United Nations has engaged in a serious assessment of how - or whether - financialization of investment plans will serve the public interest. PPPs reveals little evidence of success and ample proof of failure.

"An independent evaluation group (IEG) of the World Bank did an evaluation of PPPs last July and found that, in financial terms, 67 percent of World Bank-funded energy distribution projects failed," she explained. The same held true for 41 percent of water-related projects. “Why the massive scaling up of PPPs without waiting for better results?" she asked. "It isn't really logical."
The Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). In PIDA's first phase, the collective price tag for these mega-projects touches $68 billion, and the result is a continent severed by highways, pipelines and dams with no apparent assessment of their impact on the environment or the poor. The governance bodies of PIDA show little regard for transparency, information disclosure, consultation with civil society or participation by affected communities. To the contrary, they have blocked engagement and some governments have threatened those who challenge their plans. "Most of these projects are directly counter to any notion of sustainability because they are producing incredibly long-term costs ... and are putting the risks of failure on to the public rather than onto private investors," Blackwelder said. "The result is ... billions of dollars going into the coffers of transnational corporations [while] compromising the lives of the poor and undermining all life support systems on this planet needed to sustain a global population of more than 7 billion."

Even now, Ethiopia's gigantic Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric power project on the Omo River, which feeds the world's largest desert lake, Lake Turkana, in Kenya, is causing widespread hunger and threatening the lives and livelihoods of several hundred thousand people who have relied on these fisheries and surrounding forests for generations. This is just one example. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed that World Bank-funded projects displaced an estimated 3.4 million people between 2004 and 2013, the majority of those displaced were from Asia and Africa, where the Bank pumped $455 billion into 7,200 projects over a single decade. While the bulk of the projects were aimed at strengthening transportation networks, energy grids and water supply systems in some of the poorest countries for the purpose of reducing inequality, in reality, they have added to the impoverishment of some of the world's most destitute people - farmers, indigenous communities, slum dwellers and fisher-folk.

Experts fear that public-private partnerships will only build on this history, broadening - rather than shrinking - an already gaping wealth gap. In a presentation to the Manchester Business School in July 2014, Nicholas Hildyard, founder-director of the UK-based research and advocacy group The Corner House, broke down the myths surrounding PPPs, concluding that they are less about "financing development" and more about "developing finance" - which in turn "enables the extraction of public wealth for private gain." In a world where the wealth gap between the richest and poorest nations has increased from 35:1 during the colonial period to 80:1 at the turn of the millennium, and the world's richest 85 people control more wealth between them than one half of the entire earth's population put together, the question remains: Who is this investment boom for? The IMF, World Bank and others have been aggressively lending to the developing world by mainly dealing with corrupt head's of states. They convince the corrupt officials to borrow for costly projects that have actually been found to have harmed those nations since the true aim of the lenders are to collect hefty profits from the interest and fees not what happens to the project after the contracts have been signed.

"We are building more pipelines, more dams, more bridges than we can maintain and roads to nowhere," Blackwelder said. "We have now reached a crossroads, where we have got to change the vision of what is 'sustainable' and start investing in an entirely new mentality."

The socialist do present a new mentality and our criticism is broader and deeper than mere reform of
investment policies. Reliance on the imagined powers of money runs through every problem. The fetishism of money is part of the ideology of the profit system that claims uncountable victims across the world. Every day politicians give lack of money as a reason why we cannot provide better infrastructure, health-care or reliable electricity and water supplies or the many other public services that are in urgent need of improvement. Throughout the world the same mantra is chanted week in and week out, year after year, “if only we had more money, something could be done”. This ignores the fact that productive resources are materials, means of production, transport, energy, communications and networks of infrastructure through which goods and services are produced. And all these depend on one single resource which is labour. These are the real resources on which the lives of communities depend and there is an abundance of labour to provide for needs. At times there may be millions of unemployed people, factories standing idle and unused materials being stockpiled but capitalist politicians still repeat, “We do not have the resources.” They are unable to see the availability of real resources because their minds are pre-occupied by the illusion that only money resources count. They imagine that real resources can only be brought into use by money, whereas the opposite is the truth. The powers of the community to solve problems can on be fully released with socialism and the abolition of money.

The need for international bank-loans and appeals for finance are a pathetic substitute for the availability of real resources and the freedom that communities in socialism would have to immediately use them. A “fetish” means when an object is worshipped on account of its supposed magical powers. We sacrifice our children in homage to the god of money, on the altar of the capitalist system.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our election leaflet - Let's Stand Together for a Better World

Why We Need Socialism

One of our election campaign team has endeavoured to interest the media (as yet to no avail) with this message:

There is no national solution to the problems that we face at this election. Even the politicians competing for your vote admit that there are global worldwide forces working against them.

We can either address the global causes of our problems or we can pretend they do not exist and make promises we cannot keep. All candidates except the socialist candidate are offering to continue with the existing state of affairs in which 1% of the population owns more wealth than the other 99%.

The earth and its resources are owned by a very small minority. For example the richest 92 people own more wealth than half the population. Wealth is produced for sale on the world market with a view to making a profit for the tiny minority.

These are the global forces working against us and require our attention.

The socialist candidate is an elected delegate of the World Socialist Movement, he is not a leader and he makes no promises to solve the problems caused by capitalism.

The World Socialist Movement advocates a democratic revolution to take into common ownership the earth’s resources and to organise the production of goods and services to meet human needs instead of the needs of profit

 Vin Maratty, 
Election Agent for The Socialist Party (GB)
Easington Constituency

Here's a recording of discussion  on immigration on BBC Radio Oxford at which our candidate, Kevin Parkin, took part:

Kevin managed to bring out well that socialists consider themselves "citizens of the world" and not, like the other candidates, Brits wanting to control "our" borders and keep out immigrant benefit "scroungers". Bit annoying that the presenter kept on saying that "immigration" was a big issue when it's not really, only what the media are telling people to think is, so opening the way for UKIP whose representative caught the ball and ran with it.

We can only sow the seeds of the socialist idea, we cannot force them to sprout and bloom but we do trust that eventually the principles of socialism will germinate and grow

On 7 May, you will have your occasional ration of democracy. It's all very well having a vote—but are you normally given any real choice? Let's face it, if it wasn't for the political party’s name on the election leaflet, could you tell which party was which? It's tempting—in the absence of any real alternative—to get drawn into the phoney war that is political debate today. Whether Labour or Tory, SNP or UKIP, they all spout the same promises. But it all amounts to the same thing—they offer no alternative to the present way of running society. Do you really think who wins an election makes any difference to how you live? And do politicians (whether left-wing, nationalist or right-wing) actually have much real power anyway? OK, they get to open supermarkets and factories, but it's capitalism and the market system which closes them down.

Do any of the political parties address any of the real issues:
Why is there world hunger in a world of food surpluses?
Why are there unemployed nurses, alongside closed-down hospitals and waiting lists?
Why are there homeless people in the streets and empty houses with "for sale" signs?
Why do some people get stressed working long hours while others get stressed from the boredom of unemployment?

The press and television are screaming at us about the importance of this general election. It's all nonsense of course. The day after the election we will find that it is business as usual. Men and women of the working class will return to the office, the factory or the hospital where we work for a wage or a salary. That is those of us "lucky" enough to have a job. The same round of work, insecurity and poverty will continue irrespective of the make-up of the new parliament.

If you don't like present-day society, if you are fed up with the way you are forced to live, if you think the root cause of most social problems is the market system, then your ideas echo closely with ours. We are not promising to deliver socialism to you. We are not putting ourselves forward as leaders. This new society can only be achieved if you join together to strive for it. If you want it, then it is something you have to bring about yourselves. The Socialist Party are not after your unthinking support. We do not want your vote unless you understand that the present system of society—capitalism—cannot be made to run in the interests of the majority. We are taking this opportunity to reach out to as many workers as possible. We We want you to consider an alternative society to the present production for profit rat-race that is capitalism. We want you to look at present-day society and ask yourself: does it operate in your and your family's interest?

This society operates against the majority and only favours a tiny handful of wealthy owners. The whole purpose of producing anything today is to sell it and make a profit. No profit, then no production. That is why so many live in sub-standard housing while building workers are unemployed. That is why people throughout the world are undernourished while farmers are paid not to grow food. Production for profit means that the world is armed to the teeth. Billions are spent on armies, the whole purpose of which is to protect markets, trade routes and sources of raw material. Wars are inevitable under capitalism. Capitalism is based on competition, and the logical outcome of global competition is military violence.

At this election you have a wide choices of parties. Conservative, Lib Dem, Labour, various Nationalist, Green, even some calling themselves "socialists". There are many differences in their policies, but what have they all got in common? They want your vote on the basis that they could run the system better or more fairly. Despite their differences they all want to run the buying and selling system of capitalism, and this applies as much to the "left" as the out and out supporters of capitalism. This system is based on the production of all wealth by the working class for a wage or salary. The owning class live off the unpaid labour of the working class. To talk of "fairer" capitalism is like talking of "fairer" robbery. Capitalism must go and be replaced by a new society based on common ownership and democratic control. There must be production to meet people's needs instead of production for profit. We must all be free to take what we require to satisfy our needs, without being rationed as today by the size of our wage packet. This new society can only come about when a majority want it and are determined to get it. Nobody can bring it about for you. So it's up to you, not the politicians. The future is in your hands, not theirs.

 We campaign to get workers to say no to a society based on profit, privilege and competition and yes to a society based on equality, cooperation and meeting people's needs. Where we are not standing any candidates our message to those who want socialism is to use their first vote to vote against all the various reformist and pro-capitalist candidates by writing the word "SOCIALISM" across the ballot paper.

Changing The Odds: Reform Or Revolution?

The stories about the tens of thousands of people seeking entry in New York’s “poor door” are an urgent reminder of the need for more affordable housing across our country. (Image: Children's Defense Fund)

More than 88,000 people have applied to enter the “poor door” at a new luxury condominium tower on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Only one in 1,600 will win the lottery to live there. Some months ago a New York developer made headlines with the plans for this building, which takes advantage of zoning rules encouraging affordable housing by including some low-priced rental units along with the luxury condos for sale. A separate entrance for the people living in the low-income apartments continues with segregated living inside. Low-income tenants won’t be allowed to use the pool, gym, private theater, or any of the other amenities reserved for the wealthy owners. Critics immediately pounced on this design as a modern-day form of Jim Crow. But the need for affordable housing is so overwhelming that when the deadline came this month to participate in a lottery for the spots behind the “poor door” tens of thousands applied. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that most of the 219 luxury condos on the other side of the building have sold, some for more than $25 million.

The contrast between the haves and have-nots might be especially stark at that New York building, but millions of families across the country are finding themselves on the wrong side of the poor door. Housing is the single largest expense for most families and for far too many is growing increasingly out of reach. The number of families with worst-case housing needs increased from 6 million in 2007 to 8.5 million in 2011, including 3.2 million families with children, and the number of homeless public school students was 85 percent higher in 2012-2013 than before the recession.

 Ayriq Sims has been one of those students. He and his siblings spent their childhood bouncing between unstable living arrangements, extended stays at relatives’ homes, and homeless shelters. Even when Ayriq’s family had somewhere to stay, he remembers all the times their lights and water were turned off, or when he went hungry because he’d made his younger siblings something to eat but there wasn’t enough food left for him to eat too. Through it all Ayriq stayed committed to excelling in school and winning an academic scholarship to The Ohio State University. But even this year, his senior year in high school and on his way to college, he found himself homeless again. Ayriq says: “I don’t want to be homeless again. I don’t want that to be who I am.”

The Children’s Defense Fund honored Ayriq with a scholarship for overcoming tremendous odds. Homelessness and housing instability can have serious, negative consequences on children’s emotional, cognitive, and physical development, academic achievement, and success as adults. Federal rental assistance, including public housing and vouchers for private rentals, helps about 5 million of the neediest low-income households afford a place to live. But because of funding limitations only about 1 in 4 needy families with children receives assistance. To add insult to injury, the Republican House and Senate budgets are proposing severe cuts to already inadequate and desperately needed housing subsidies. The White House estimates that compared to the President’s budget proposal, the Republican House budget would cut housing vouchers for 133,000 families and housing assistance for 20,000 rural families. This is on top of the 2013 sequestration cuts that led to 100,000 fewer families receiving assistance by June 2014.

In our Children’s Defense Fund report Ending Child Poverty Now we asked the nonprofit Urban Institute to study the impact of expanding the housing voucher program to better meet the huge need among poor and near-poor families with children who would have to pay more than half of their income to afford a fair market rent apartment. The Urban Institute found that providing enough subsidies to serve eligible families would reduce child poverty by 20.8 percent and lift 2.3 million children out of poverty — the largest impact among the nine policy improvements we proposed in our report. More than 2.5 million more households would receive a subsidy, worth an average of $9,435. We could easily pay for this housing subsidy expansion by making fairer and common sense reforms to close corporate accounting tax loopholes, saving $58 billion a year. Or if we had more responsible and more just members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, instead of repealing the estate tax which amounts to a $27 billion a year giveaway to the 5,400 ultra-wealthy estates worth over $5.4 million — in the top two-tenths of 1 percent — as the Senate and House both voted to do, we could invest the $24 billion a year needed to ensure poor and near-poor children a chance to grow up in a stable place to call home.

Instead of making extraordinary students like Ayriq struggle to beat the odds every day we should be taking common sense and essential steps like this to change the odds. The stories about the tens of thousands of people seeking entry in New York’s “poor door” are an urgent reminder of the need for more affordable housing across our country. Cutting back on already inadequate help to those most in need to give more tax welfare subsidies to those least in need is not the answer and is profoundly unjust. Families should not have to win a lottery to live in segregation just to get a roof over their heads.

from here

Another often proposed solution, a 'common sense' reform aiming to alleviate some of the conditions of poverty. There's some old saying about common sense not being too common and as far as pushing for reforms here and there we can go along with that old saying. All things taken into consideration the common sense approach would favour changing the system totally so that such inequalities were impossible to happen. A society built on common ownership with no economic discrimination possible would guarantee housing for all, along with access to the products of our labour, not as charity but as a right. The common sense solution is a socialist revolution.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015



April 2015. Wikipedia says it suspects that “someone
close to Grant Shapps” has been “doctoring” entries
of his Party rivals in a negative way on their site

The Tory Chairman, Grant V. Shapps,
Is in a beastly plight;
As Wiki folk allege he may,
(In his own enterprising way!)
Have tried to keep his peers at bay,
By ‘doctoring’ their site. (1)

Unlike the former ‘Green Affair’, (2)
This firmly was denied;
Not ‘over-firmly’ as before,
When pressured strongly to withdraw,
By Britain’s vigilant Press Corps,
Alleging that he’d lied!  

His alter-ego, Michael Green,
Had claimed erroneously;
When he’d said to the Media Mob,
(With more than just a heartfelt sob!)
That “He’d not held a second job,
When he was an M.P.”!

This was retracted double-slow,
When some expressed a doubt;
And then, somewhat reluctantly,
He struck out his ‘Not Guilty’ plea,
To almost everybody’s glee,
On having been found out!

This time his Doppelganger states,
That Mr Shapps “May sue--
Because the latest tale’s a lie,
A Labour-sponsored porky-pie, (3)
Direct from Brewer’s Green on high, (4)
And utterly untrue”.

And though some say that Michael Green,
In past times may have erred;
This time we must take Mr Shapps,
As one of the top Tory chaps,
(Although inclined to the odd lapse)
Completely at his word!

(1) A practice known as ‘Sock-puppetry’. A sock-puppet is an
online identity used for purposes of deception.(Source Wikipedia)

(2) Shapps repeatedly denied running a business under
the name of Michael Green whilst an M.P. and finally
admitted he’d “screwed up” by “over-firmly” denying it.

(3) Cockney rhyming slang for ‘a lie’ or as politicians would say,
a ‘terminological inexactitude’ or being, ‘economical with the actualitĂ©’.

(4) The Labour Party’s London Head Office.

© Richard Layton

BBC News Longer Version

Perhaps more clearly audible is the BBC iPlayer version of the interview but which unfortunately is not available to non-UK based ISP providers but here is the You Tube upload.

The BBC on the SPGB

The BBC website featured an item about our election campaign

Election 2015: Socialist Party of Great Britain outlines election plans.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is standing 10 candidates in the general election.

The party does not have specific policies, but advocates the abolition of capitalism. It proposes establishing common ownership and democratic control of the world's resources, saying that there would be no state or classes in a socialist society.

The party does not have a leader, believing all members should be equal. "What we stand for is socialism, where all the resources of the world would be owned in common by all the people of the world, to be used under democratic control to produce what they need, instead of now, under capitalism, where there is production for profit," says Adam Buick, a party representative.
And Mr Buick explained why the party does not have a leader. “We say only sheep need leaders. Leaders implies followers, and a follower is somebody who has abdicated their responsibility to act to someone else. What we stand for is a participatory democracy where everybody takes part in it. Don't delegate the authority to act to some professional politician," he said.

The party says the system it advocates would be a wageless, moneyless, worldwide society of common - not state - ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution.

It also says that under the party's proposals, there would be a sharp break with capitalism, with no "transition period" or gradual implementation of socialism.

"People say that in an election they are electing a government; in fact, in most constituencies, this is not the case," Mr Buick said. "What we are saying is people should express what they want. If they want a society without frontiers, without class, without state, without money, without wages - voting for one of our candidates is an opportunity to show what they want and also, at the same time, of course, rejecting the present capitalist system."

The candidates standing for the Socialist Party of Great Britain are:-

Brighton Kemptown: Jacqueline Shodeke
Brighton Pavilion: Howard Pilott
Canterbury: Robert Cox
Easington: Steve Colborn
Folkestone & Hythe: Andy Thomas
Islington North: Bill Martin
Oxford East: Kevin Parkin
Oxford West & Abingdon: Mike Foster
Swansea West: Brian Johnson
Vauxhall: Danny Lambert

The Party was also featured on a news clip

For all people - Don't let them drown

The British and other EU governments response to the boatloads of refugees trying to make it across the Mediterranean was driven by a warped logic. Tory minister Baroness Anelay’s claimed last year that supporting search and rescue missions for sinking vessels was a “‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing”, convinced others in the European Union. Sure enough, when they stopped trying to save drowning people, they drowned. Leaving poor people to die on its shores in the hope it will discourage more poor people from coming hardly qualifies as humanitarian ideals.

The reason the Tories thought they could get away with pushing such a heinous and callous plan is because they felt there would be no electoral price to pay for beating up on foreigners. Labour, with its “Controls on immigration” mug, has wilfully contributed to a political culture whereby immigration is understood not as an enriching opportunity but a sickness of which migrants are the most obvious symptom. Generally speaking, the opposition has not challenged the prevailing misconceptions but pandered to them. The fundamental issue is not what is pulling migrants but what pushes them. By the time they have boarded these rickety vessels they have often paid thousands of dollars to be led through the desert. People don’t make that kind of journey so they can come to the west and draw state-benefits. Their aim is not to capsize and be rescued but to get to the other shore.

Throughout Europe, xenophobic and racist parties shape the agenda, preying on people’s ignorance and fear. According to opinion polls, Britons and Spaniards believe they have twice as many immigrants in their country as there actually are; in Italy, Belgium and France it’s closer to three times; in Hungary it’s eight times; in Poland, more than 30. No wonder they’re frightened. The politics of xenophobia can be summed up into a single sentence. “They’re coming here to get what’s yours.” This is, of course, a lie.

A return to search and rescue missions and more funding for patrols – will save more lives in the short term. But such a plan is also clearly inadequate for anything other than the shortest of terms. It seeks not to cure the problem but to placate the consciences of those who have been most culpable.

No substantial immigration policy is possible that does not engage with the reality of capitalism. 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The global 99% did not come about by accident. It’s the result of centuries of colonization and imperialism plus the current corruption that has allowed a handful of people, in different ways at different times, to steal natural resources and pilfer from the world’s common treasury. Inequalities have been reinforced by a global trade system that operates according to the golden rule – that those who have the gold make the rules. Put bluntly, Europe is rich (even if those riches are most definitely not evenly divided) in no small part because other nations are poor.

On top of that, a large number of these people are displaced by wars. The top three nations from which maritime refugees to the EU come are Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. The country where they are most likely to start their journey is Libya, which is now effectively a failed state. In other words, many are running for their lives through countries NATO have bombed. Those politicians in the west who insist we cannot take in “the world’s misery” should acknowledge how much of that misery they are responsible for. Many are fleeing to here because European governments insisted on sending troops and bomber planes there. The U.S.-backed bombing campaign that helped bring down Moammar Kadafi in 2011 also destroyed Libyan coast guard and naval vessels deployed during Kadafi's rule to intercept illicit migrant traffic. Libya's previous cooperation with Italy on immigration matters has gone by the wayside since Libya's subsequent descent into chaos.

The migrant crisis is exacerbated by climate change. Climate change is affecting such basic environmental conditions as rainfall patterns and temperatures and is contributing to more frequent natural disasters like floods and droughts. Over the long term, these changing conditions can undermine the rural livelihoods of farming, herding and fishing. The resulting rural dislocation is a factor in people’s decisions to migrate. Nobody argues that climate change is the only factor driving them. But climate change cannot be ignored. The second-order effects of climate change — undermined agriculture and competition for water and food resources — can contribute to instability and to higher numbers of migrants. Underlying climate and demographic trends can squeeze the margins of life at the family and community levels, contribute to decisions to migrate, heighten conflicts over basic resources and threaten state structures and regional stability. In northwest Africa, climate change will exacerbate difficulties in areas already facing numerous environmental and developmental challenges. Overall, up to 250 million people in Africa are projected to suffer from water and food insecurity in the 21st century. In the Sahel region, three-quarters of rain-fed arable land will be greatly affected by climate change. Droughts and flooding are already more frequent in Niger and northern Nigeria, along with temperature rises that jeopardize crucial rural activities. The Niger River faces diminishing flows of roughly 10%, which numerous new dam projects will only worsen. If current water consumption trends continue, withdrawals from the Niger basin will increase six-fold by 2025, with profound implications for Nigeria. Lake Chad, which supports 25m people, is drying up and is one-20th of its size in 1960. Northern Algeria, home to most of the country’s population and agriculture, may see rainfall reductions of 10% to 20% by 2025. Rainfall in Morocco is expected to decrease by 20% by the end of the century. North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa are tied together by longstanding and well-established migratory routes. As early as 2011, research indicated that about 65,000 migrants passed through Agadez, Niger, on their way north to Algeria, Morocco and Europe each year. As climate change takes a toll on farming, herding and fishing, undermining livelihoods and contributing to decisions to migrate, these numbers could grow larger. Nigeria is losing more than 1,350 square miles of land to desertification each year, a pace that may increase with climate change. With 70% of Nigeria’s population reliant on agriculture for its livelihood, and 90% of Niger’s workforce reliant on rain-fed agriculture, desertification represents a fundamental threat to rural life. These are not the abstract complaints of climate scientists. In Niger, frequent droughts have impoverished many and contributed to migration. When faced with deteriorating conditions, humans have long turned to migration; it is a basic adaptive mechanism.

Any effort to address the migrant tragedy playing out in the Mediterranean must address and incorporate these deeper-root causes. Though the warning signs have long been evident, policymakers still tend to focus on the symptoms rather than the causes.

Many of the smugglers are themselves immigrants who first arrived in Europe via the clandestine passage. Some have since won political asylum in Italy or elsewhere, authorities say. Though widely demonized as ruthless villains, the smugglers seem to view themselves as pragmatic businessmen providing an essential service, the Italian wiretaps indicate. "We do a dirty job; we can't help everyone," said one smuggler. "They want to leave and we make it possible." 

The countries bearing the heaviest challenges with refugees are poor, developing world nations such as Pakistan, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And xenophobia is not a preserve of wealthy, white nations. South Africa is still recovering from an outbreak of anti-immigrant violence that left many dead last week.

If you build a 10ft fence to keep out people who are hungry, they will build an 11ft ladder to climb over it. If you weaponise a fortress to repel people who fear hunger or war, they will seek ever more desperate ways to penetrate it. They have no choice. They are fighting for their lives. And we socialists support them. We said in an earlier blog post – it all stems from an economic  system in which borders are wide open for capital yet close firmly to people.

Yet another "natural" disaster

As the death toll climbs it is once again apparent that even a “natural” disaster such as an earthquake can be mitigated…with money.

‘If we had money we would have built a strong house,’ says one woman who, like hundreds of thousands of others across Nepal, has been left homeless. “But we had none. There is no place to go. There is no one to look after us. Life was hard for us already. I don’t want to be alive,” she said. 

What all the casualties mostly share is that they are poor. Though some had predicted that an earthquake in Kathmandu would bring the newly constructed cement apartment blocks tumbling down, it was the older, brick and wood homes that, almost exclusively, were reduced to rubble. Anyone who stayed in these could not afford better.

“It’s obvious” said Bhaskar Gautam, a local sociologist “The wealthier you are, the stronger the house you have,” .

Often four or five storeys high and subdivided into cheap family apartments like tenements in Victorian London, the homes of people have long been known as a risk. The family’s home was their “bad luck”. “We should have moved 20 years ago,” said one victim.

Thousands are still camping on open spaces, frightened to return to their homes. Some say they will wait until 72 hours have passed, but continuing aftershocks scare. Many, too, are still seeking treatment for bad injuries, some waiting outside hospitals. The morgue at Bir hospital, the city’s biggest, is overflowing, with bodies now lined up outside.

There is also the fear of disease. “Now there could be communicable illnesses, diarrhea, flu and so forth. The earthquake will have broken all the sewers and pipes so the water supply will be contaminated,” said Dr Sameer Thapa

It is necessary to understand why the poor suffer more even in natural calamities. The world is structured in such a way the poor bear the brunt. Poor people are and will be always most susceptible to disasters and unpredictability (natural, financial, wars, etc.). They are unable to invest in preventive, security, education and often lack surplus for relocation or compensation. Poorer communities take far longer to rebuild and are far more to likely to disease, aftershocks and becoming further impoverished because they cannot to afford to privately re-build, move temporarily or simply migrate to another area.