Sunday, March 26, 2023

Who guards the guardians?

Baroness Casey has issued a damning report on the conduct of the Metropolitan Police. This independent review was set up last year following the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving member of the London police. During the proceedings another member of the Met charged with rape turned out to be a serial rapist and a violent sexual predator who had preyed on women for over 20 years.
    London’s police say their vision “is to be the most trusted police service in the world”. In their own words they say “we contribute to making London the safest global city, we protect its unique reputation as an open and welcoming city, and we want Londoners to be proud of their police”. But that’s been, once again, seriously questioned.
    While the Met is the public face of law and order in London that’s rolled out to control protests and demonstrations and monitor picket lines for the benefit of the employers that they ultimately serve. Catching criminals is another matter and sadly only a small number of perpetrators are ever brought to justice.
    Baroness Casey was tasked with determining “whether the Met’s leadership, recruitment, vetting, training, culture and communications support the standards the public should expect”. Her report concluded that London’s police is “riddled with deep-seated racism, sexism and homophobia”.
    None of us should be surprised at its conclusions or the corrupt and decadent culture within the capital’s police that the report exposed. Nor should we expect more from the worthy social worker whose recommendations are little more than appeals for the Met to genuinely reform itself.
    Some on the left call for a renewed effort to end the corrupt culture that exists within the Met. Others for the replacement of the Met with a new police authority. Sadly none of this is going to happen and even if it did it wouldn’t change the essential nature of the London police.
    The Metropolitan Police is a key instrument of the bourgeois state and its culture reflects that of those who rely on it to maintain the power of the ruling class in the capital of the country they control. Rapists and murderers within the police force are, naturally, severely punished – not just for abusing their power to break the very laws they’re paid to uphold but also by bringing the institutions of repression that the ruling class ultimately rely on to maintain their power, into disrepute.
    The police are supposed to protect and serve the public; fighting crime and promoting justice for all under the laws of the land.
    Who will guard the guardians is a question that goes back to the philosophers of ancient Greece. Socrates believed the solution was to properly train their souls. These days the talk is of “transparency”, “accountability” and “awareness programmes”.
    Communists rightly argue that only a people’s police force can justly serve the needs of the working class. But we will only get that when we get a people’s government, and that sadly is not on the horizon at the moment,
    In the meantime we must argue for the complete overhaul or break-up of the Metropolitan Police to weed out the psychos and perverts in its ranks and root out the sexist, homophobic and abusive sub-culture that was exposed in the Casey report.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The language they understand

Budget Day is never good news for workers – least of all when it’s under a Tory government. But whilst the Chancellor droned on in Parliament workers were walking out in a new wave of strikes against the austerity regime. Tube workers and train drivers, junior doctors, teachers and civil servants were all taking industrial action over pay.
    Down the ages the employers’ mantra has always been “Management’s right to manage”. In its purest form, it is expressed in the Master and Servant laws of the Victorian era when unions were barely legal, and the ‘corporate’ laws of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In post-war Western ‘democracies’ the corporate class do their best to marginalise unions and limit the right to strike.
    The bosses claim that they have their workers’ best interests at heart and that strikes are pointless and useless. But no-one believes them.
    If it wasn’t for the unions, kids would still be climbing up chimneys whilst their parents slaved away in factories and mines six days a week for just enough to keep them going.
    The five-day week, paid holidays, pensions, free health care and education, all the trappings of what we used to call the Welfare State – were won by the labour movement. Genuine reforms by Labour governments brought in the health and safety legislation and recognition laws that empowered the unions in the 1970s.
    Those days may be forgotten but what workers still know is that free collective bargaining is meaningless without the ability to withdraw one’s labour. And at the end of the day, the only thing Management understands is industrial action.
One–Nil to Lineker

Gary Lineker has been reinstated as presenter of Match of the Day following an apology from the BBC. The BBC has wisely backed down over the Lineker saga whilst the Government tries to distance itself from a row that was clearly of its own making.
    The Government clearly wanted to silence Lineker who had Tweeted his objections to the Government’s new asylum seekers’ plan – a widely-publicised but clearly personal opinion made in his own time and on his own Twitter account.
    Many believe that the Government wanted the BBC to make an example of the sporting guru. The Government clearly believed that packing cross-Channel asylum seekers off to Rwanda was a vote winner that would shore up Tory support in the so-called “Red Belt” of northern seats taken from Labour at the last general election. But they were much mistaken.
    Millions of people supported the football guru who was suspended for comparing the language used by the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, to introduce the new Tory ‘Illegal Immigration Bill’ to that used in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Millions more defended the former England player’s right to free speech – a right supported by Lineker’s colleagues who walked out in sympathy. Even the supine Labour leader was moved by the furore over the sports presenter to call on Rishi Sunak to “stand up to his snowflake MPs waging war on free speech” following the Gary Lineker row.
    What Lineker said was quite right. The Tory plans are indeed “beyond awful”. As he said: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ‘30s.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Embracing Equality

The struggle for equal rights and the ending of all discrimination against women is re-affirmed every year on 8th March, International Women’s Day. In the people’s democracies and other parts of the Global South the day is genuinely celebrated to mark the end of feudal concepts and the emancipation of women who Chairman Mao famously said “hold up half the sky”. The day was adopted as a UN holiday for women’s rights and world peace by the United Nations in 1977. But its origins go back to the early days of the modern socialist movement at the end of the 19th century. Marx and Engels wrote about the social situation of working women in their day. They focused on the exploitation of wage labour as well as the additional forms of inequality and oppression, exclusion and discrimination that were part and parcel of the capitalist system of oppression.
In 1911 the Second International Socialist Women's Conference established International Women's Day to demand the right to vote, to fight against sex discrimination in the workplace and to hold public office. All these aims were achieved by the Russian revolutionaries in 1917. International Women’s Day became a public holiday in the first workers’ and peasants republic and as Lenin put it “ the Soviet Republic of Russia promptly wiped out, without any exception, every trace of inequality in the legal status of women, and secured her complete equality in its laws”.
Capitalism has nothing to offer working women except exploitation, oppression and poverty. The problems working women face today are rooted in the capitalist way of organising society and production according to the criterion of maximum capitalist profit. They cannot be solved by imperialist associations and institutions, business groups and governments.
That’s why International Women’s Day is barely recognised in the imperialist heartlands beyond the inevitable commercialisation used to sell goods to the “women’s” marker. Likewise bourgeois politicians all pay lip-service to its aims but they rarely go beyond their usual attempts to woo the “women’s” vote. When women’s rights get a mention by the media gurus that serve the ruling class it is only as a tool for imperialist propaganda. They’ll point to the lack of women’s rights in Third World countries that defy the West – but ignore those of the feudal Arab oil princes and the servile dictators of South America that do the bidding of US imperialism. They’ll elevate the problems of middle-strata women in breaking through the “glass ceiling” of bourgeois society while routinely ignoring the problems of inequality, homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence, drink and drugs that hit working class women the hardest.
Many of the issues affecting women naturally also impact on men and the fight for equality for women is a crucial part of the class struggle. Inequalities sow divisions in the class when unity and solidarity are most needed.
The emancipation of women can only be achieved under socialism. Or as Lenin put it “it is precisely the Soviet system, and the Soviet system only, that secures democracy. This is clearly demonstrated by the position of the working class and the poor peasants. It is clearly demonstrated by the position of women…the working women s movement has for its objective the fight for the economic and social, and not merely formal, equality of woman. The main task is to draw the women into socially productive labour, extricate them from "domestic slavery", free them of their stultifying and humiliating resignation to the perpetual and exclusive atmosphere of the kitchen and nursery”.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

A Windsor Knot

Rishi Sunak may not have achieved much during his tenure in No 10 over the past five months. But the “Windsor Agreement” that resolved the long-standing dispute over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit relations with the European Union was no mean achievement for the Tory leader who had to ride rough-shod over the protests from his Unionist allies in the north of Ireland and amongst his own back-benchers.
    The agreement was given a diplomatic and highly symbolic blessing by King Charles and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, over tea at Windsor Castle last week. But the donkey work was done by Sunak’s team, who together with their Irish and Brussels counterparts, managed to settle the dispute over the movement of goods between the European Single Market and the United Kingdom to the satisfaction of all the players with the exception of the northern Irish bigots and Boris Johnson.
    Johnson, who clearly hoped to exploit the issue to pave the way for his political come-back, predictably says he cannot support this new Brexit deal. The Democratic Unionists are equally sceptical claiming the new agreement may undermine Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom. But Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O'Neill said "I rarely find myself agreeing with a British prime minister but access to both markets has to be grabbed with both hands".
    The Irish government, the rest of the European Union and the majority on both sides of the House of Commons have welcomed the Windsor Framework. More importantly, as far as the British ruling class is concerned, so has the White House.
    The Remainers are, naturally, hoping that this will create a new and favourable climate to greater co-operation with the European Union. Regardless of who wins the next general election they’re working in their think-tanks and their less than secret conferences for some sort of associate status with the EU that would create the climate for a second referendum and a return to full membership of the Brussels club.
    They say Brexit isn’t working but that’s not true. There have been problems but these were almost entirely due to the short-sighted policy of the Johnson government that placed all its bets on replacing the Treaty of Rome with a “Treaty of Washington” that would create a colossal trans-Atlantic free trade area. It was a pipe-dream that depended entirely on Donald Trump getting re-elected. And we all know what happened next.
    What Johnson should have done – and what Sunak should do now is to reach free trade agreements with our other major trading partners – like China – and ending the sanctions regime against Russia which had pushed energy prices to breaking point. There is an alternative to slavishly imposing sanctions at the behest of the Americans. Sunak could pursue an independent economic policy to revive the ailing British economy. We could return to the “golden era” of trade with China that existed when David Cameron was at the helm. We could access cheap gas from Russia if we stopped supporting the American sanctions regime.
    But Sunak won’t. Neither will Starmer. The bourgeois consensus that all the leaders of the mainstream parties reflect is that British imperialism’s future can only be guaranteed by American might – and that can only be secured by doing America’s bidding.
    It may work for them but it doesn’t work for us. Socialism is the only answer to the crisis and we have to put it back on the working class agenda now!

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Allie Burns returns

by Ben Soton

1989 by Val McDermid. Softback: Sphere 2023; 464pp, rrp £8.99. Hardback: Little, Brown 2022; 432 pp, rrp £20

1989 was by the standards of those of us belonging to the progressive part of humanity a pretty dreadful year. The main news stories seemed to have been counter-revolution, leading to the destruction of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and AIDS. These two events are reflected in 1989, the most recent novel by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid.
    The story features the adventures of the investigative journalist Allie Burns; the lead character in 1979 McDermid’s previous novel.
    Ten years on Burns finds herself working for Ace Media and living with her girlfriend Rhona, also a journalist. Both women work for Ace Media, owned by the multi-millionaire Wallace Lockhart. Lockhart, who has striking similarities with Robert Maxwell is not painted in a good light. He is portrayed as power grabby and venal whilst the story covers the theft from his company’s pension fund. Meanwhile his slightly wayward daughter Genevieve; again, a parody of Maxwell’s daughter Ghislaine, is portrayed as reckless and devious as well as willing to cheat her own father out of money.
    Essentially two stories – the first being about HIV infected Scots migrating to Northern England in the hope of better treatment for what was then a fatal illness. The second, and longest part of the book takes Burns to the German Democratic Republic on the brink of the notorious counter-revolution. The novel exposes the author’s lack of awareness about left-wing politics and the former socialist countries. At some point in her novel, she describes life in East Germany as so bad that it would make the Trots who sell Socialist Worker vote Tory. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Socialist Worker sellers were and still are on the same side as the Tories when it comes to supporting the overthrow of people’s democracies past and present.
    McDermid’s lack of understanding of left-wing politics should not necessarily diminish her abilities as a crime writer. Her politics can best be described as Guardian reading left-liberal; constantly exposing capitalism’s failings whilst showing an innate hostility to its only alternative. The book possibly represents an evolution in the development in the lead character Alison Burns from investigate journalist to private detective; two jobs with a very similar skill-set. In other words, watch out for future novels featuring the investigative journalist turned private-eye.

No2 NATO – No2 War

A new mass movement was founded in London last week at a meeting supported by a galaxy of anti-war campaigners including Workers Party of Britain leader George Galloway and Socialist Labour’s Chris Williamson, the former MP hounded out of the Labour Party on trumped-up charges of anti-semitism. Other supporters include Max Blumenthal, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Grayzone, an independent investigative news site as well as the rapper Lowkey together with NCP comrades, supporters of the International Ukraine Anti-Fascist Solidarity campaign and many, many more right across the broad anti-war spectrum.
    The hidden hand did it best to stop this meeting taking place. Venues were cancelled at the last minute. But the conference went ahead thanks to the generosity of the Venezuelan embassy that opened the doors of its cultural centre in London to the anti-war campaign to allow its foundation meeting to take place.
    On the street people are sick of the shortages, price hikes and soaring inflation due to the Ukraine war and the NATO sanctions regime on Russia. Millions want to see an end to the conflict that has brought death and destruction to Ukraine while impoverishing millions of working people in Britain and the rest of Europe over the past 12 months or so.
    Now People’s China has launched a 12-point peace plan that could lead to a just and lasting peace in Ukraine. The Russians have welcomed the initiative. So has the Global South or what we used to call the non-aligned countries of the Third World. But the Americans are trying to kill it stone dead.
    Biden doesn’t want peace. He wants victory – regardless of the suffering of the Ukrainian people he claims to support.
    The American establishment, the “deep state” that cuts across the bogus political spectrum in the United States, is dominated by the war lobby that reflects the interests of the most aggressive and reactionary elements of the American bourgeoisie. They are supported by the venal elements of the British ruling class who believe that their global post-colonial interests are best protected by the military might of US imperialism.
    Since the Second World War crawling to the Americans has been almost compulsory for Tory and Labour leaders who drone on and on about “partnership” and the “special relationship” to justify British imperialism’s slavish support of US power throughout the world.
    The Stop the War movement has long ceased to play any positive role in the anti-war movement. It calls for “peace” while making the same demands as NATO for an unconditional Russian withdrawal from the Donbas and Crimea. But now we have the chance to close ranks around a new movement committed to genuine anti-war demands.
    In Britain the ruling class would have us believe that we live in what the Americans call the “free world”; that the USA is some sort of democratic utopia and that anyone who opposes imperialism is evil, mad or both. Backed by bought and paid-for labour leaders and a daily dose of lies from the bourgeois media they think they can play this cynical game forever and ever. We must prove them wrong.