Twenty or so people turned up for this Education Question Time. Our candidate, Adam Buick, got equal time with the others.
Education for competitiveness
The discussion was mainly, but not entirely, on education. In answer to the last question, the other candidates confirmed our candidate's assertion that under capitalism the education system's main role was to turn out for employers, workers of required types in the required numbers. They, and NUT Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney, spoke in terms of the need for a better education system in Britain to improve Britain's competitive position on the world market. Only the UKIP candidate, Alan Craig, dissented a little, saying he agreed with the socialist candidate that this was not what education should be about. A bit embarrassing but then he is a Christian and so probably has a pre-capitalist view of education. He had in fact been the leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance until 2013 when he defected to UKIP. He wasn't heckled, so Richmond NUT can't have any SWP members as the SWP pursue a no-platform policy towards UKIP. He spoke last and got in a plug for the Vote Leave EU campaign. He was surprised to learn that the Socialist Party weren't in favour of this but were neither for nor against as he expected a socialist to be against "the capitalist EU".
The Labour candidate, Martin Whetton, is the Merton Council's Cabinet Member for Education, i.e a full-time professional politician. He used up most of his 5-minute introduction urging people to vote for Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London. Incidentally, there's a full-page ad for him in this week's London local papers painting him as "The Council Estate Boy who will fix the Tory Housing Crisis". Oh yes? So he's going to buck the law of supply and demand? The Liberal spokesperson (not a candidate for the constituency but on the LibDems all-London list), Merlene Emerson, said she was from Singapore and is the founder of the Chinese Liberal Democrats. Which may explain the presence of a reporter/photographer from a free English-language paper available in Soho.
What our candidate said:
"We are standing in this election to raise the issue of capitalism or socialism.
Are we going to keep the present system of ownership by the few and production for profit, which is the root cause of most of the problems people face and which we are going to be discussing this evening? Or as we going to move on to a new and different system based on common ownership and democratic control, which will provide a framework inside of which these problems can be lastingly solved because it will allow production to be directly geared to meeting people’s needs instead of for sale on a market with a view to profit?
We make no apology for raising this issue at a local election. It so happens that this meeting is taking place the day after the Budget when the finance minister of one of the world’s leading capitalist countries confessed that world market conditions were blowing him off course and forcing him to revise the government’s spending plans and impose yet more cuts to essential services.
Since most of local councils’ money comes from central government, these cuts trickle down and affect the local services and amenities that councils provide. So, yes, the fact that we are living under capitalism is very definitely relevant to what happens at local level.
These cuts to essential services and amenities show that capitalism is not a system geared to meeting people’s needs. It’s a profit-making system in which making profits comes first. It’s a Profits Before People system.
Yesterday’s Budget is a good example. In fact every budget has been since the Great Crash of 2008 (caused by capitalist firms and banks overproducing and overlending in pursuit of profits). In each of them government spending on essential services have been relentlessly cut. In each of them Corporation Tax (which used to be called Profits Tax) has been reduced. Yesterday Osborne announced that this tax is go down again, to 17%. At the same time he announced drastic cuts to payments to the disabled.
Could there be a better example of how capitalism puts profits before needs?
What can be done about it? The other parties represented on this platform imagine, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that capitalism can be reformed so as to work in the interest of the majority. And they come up with various proposals to do this (some of which no doubt you’ll hear this evening). But, when in office, they don’t deliver. Which earns them the reputation of being makers of empty promises. They can’t deliver because it’s not governments that control the way capitalism operates. It’s the other way round: the economic laws of capitalism limit what government can do. No government can change capitalism’s spots.
What is required is something much more radical. The complete abolition of the capitalist profit system. It has to be replaced by a system of common ownership and democratic control of productive resources, which will allow production to be geared to directly satisfying people’s needs and not for profit, and for goods and services to be distributed and used in accordance with the principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs” instead of by the amount of money you have (or don’t have)
In short, socialism in its original sense (not what used to exist in Russia or what the Labour Party used to do). "