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.”