Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Occupy Movement and Public Sector Unions united will never be defeated…

Various Left wing activists, anti-capitalists, communists, anarchists, Trade Unionists, Labour party supporters, former Liberal supporters; all united against common enemies - Western Capitalism, the Coalition and Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson at Number 10

Nightmare for many, actually a dream for some...

The BBC gave the results of a poll that indicated there was ‘strong support’ for the recent public sector strikes over pension reform and certainly the Occupy movement in the UK have stated their support for the action that occurred on November 30th.

Occupy out and about on 'N30'

Occupy and Trade Unionists claim ‘solidarity’ with one another, stated clearly by the Occupy London movement and Unions have at different times claimed to support the Occupy Movement. Although it hasn't been as clear and definite as in the US with Occupy Wall Street, but the situation is much different there.

The Occupy London movement announced their support early on and some Unions have been clear in showing their support - Unite gives ‘sanctuary’ to the Occupy Cardiff Action Group

Occupy Cardiff outside Unite

Does this even count?

As an 'Occupation', as a protest, as anything..?

Certainly many in the Left, supporters of the Unions, support Occupy and some see there being the possibility of something similar to an overall Leftist movement with the help of the Unions.

The criticism of the multitude of objectives and political perspectives within the Occupy movement has been answered at different times by saying that it doesn’t matter as long as groups work together to bring about change and in truth the underlying aim for the majority of activists and supporters is to make the banks and the rich, pay for the financial crisis. And that is all fair enough, there does need to be change and they are more likely to create momentum and affect reform together, rather than as disparate movements, whether or not their ultimate aims differ.

It still seems that some of these desires for a future society may actually differ wildly and for the majority of supporters, really it’s not ‘capitalism’ per se that is the problem, but more corporatism and the current structure of the system, but they still want change.

This is precisely why there is no ‘solidarity’ between the Unions representing the Public Sector and their action against pension reform and the Occupy movement and their desire for change.

Public Sector workers striking

'What do we want..?!'

Occupy want to change the ‘system’ and the Unions want to maintain it.

At least a significant part of it, Occupy want to change the world economic system and the system in the UK that developed over many years, but particularly under Thatcher’s Tories and most recently under New Labour. Whereas the Unions want to maintain a significant part of the system Labour created, particularly the levels of public spending. Spending that as I have previously highlighted was funded by the boom in the financial sector.

If Labour had managed to stay in power and maintained a higher level of spending and public sector employment, the UK Occupy movement may still have been motivated (particularly as the movement began in the US), but the Unions and their members would not have been as apparent in their support.

There were some dissenting voices from the Unions and action taken when the Labour government tried to reform pensions and redundancy conditions, but without a doubt there wasn’t the ‘anger’ against the injustice of the system, when the Labour government maintained relatively good public sector conditions while moulding and facilitating an economic system that would ultimately come crashing down.

Nice one Gordon

He knows the truth...

There were anti-capitalist protests long before the crash, but we didn’t get much from the Unions about the ‘system’ and globalisation in those days.

Times have changed

There are seven billion people now…

Trade Union leaders and activists might well want change more akin to the core of the Occupy movement; from taxing the rich and re-nationalisation to some Trade Unionists that would profess to communist leanings (they certainly have in the past, from Scargill to Gilchrist). However, there is more a pervading desire to just a return to the conditions developed in the post-war years to the 60s and 70s; pre-Thatcher/deregulation days, with nationalised industries and high-unionisation.

Andy Gilchrist - former leader of the FBU

Based out of his student house...

Since the privatisation of productive industries, the Trade Union movement has changed and represents a different spectrum of society (identified by Twitter contributors, amongst others, in the build up to the #N30 strikes), many more middle class workers. It’s no longer an ‘us and them’ class struggle; the average modern union member simply wants representation and protection. Not about fighting for the workers, just about protecting their lot.

The pensions they are fighting for are relics of an economy and economic conditions that no longer exist, final salary pensions and other such benefits became commonplace during the stability that followed the Second World War. Britain was still a major industrial power and retained the remains of an empire, the developing world had barely had a chance to develop, let alone compete.

These pensions are intrinsically tied to the old system and surely the Occupy movement are not advocating a return to the 60s or 70s?

But maybe they are..?

The 1970s

When they knew how to strike...

The public sector pensions issue is obviously contentious in both sectors, as provision in the private sector is far worse, especially for low paid workers. So if Occupy support ‘fair pensions for all’ then they must want at least movement to similar provision for the private sector as well? Perhaps not, but I’m presuming they do, otherwise they won’t really be getting very close to representing the ‘99%’.

Of course the rich pay and everyone retires at 60 on a final salary pension. Fair pensions for all, too right! We’d all like a decent defined benefits deal and have things wrapped up by 60, if not before, but is it in any way feasible?

And in the fair world we’re looking for (surely they can’t just be thinking the developing world should remain without such comfortable benefits?), we should then roll this out to the whole 99%, almost everyone in the world… The 1% can pick up the tab. Sound reasonable?

It certainly sounds like a great world to live in…

And if there is going to be radical change, I mean the kind of anti-capitalist change that many in Occupy advocate, radically different to the current system and with much greater equality, it will have to affect the whole world and everyone will have to go with it (or at least a considerable majority). Otherwise it won’t work. There will be an alternative and opposition, and you just have to look at all the examples of communism in the relatively recent past to see which way it goes.


Lenin had his day


The struggle never ends

The world has changed beyond recognition since final salary pensions became widespread. The global economy has transformed and competition has intensified, living standards have risen and people everywhere are living much longer.

If you look simplistically at a hypothetical average public sector career and retirement (civil servant or council workers):

Working from 21, assuming it’s a graduate (it’s a right not a privilege…), and retiring at 60, then with good health living beyond 80, as so many now do, possibly even to 100, and more and more people will do that.

So 99% of the population able to work only do so for half, or perhaps as little as two-fifths, of their lives? How could that be supported?

That wasn’t a consideration for the utopian world they believed they were creating after World War Two, for people in the West... Most people were dropping dead soon after drawing their pension.

Times have changed, there’s no need to detail it and everyone should accept it. Maybe in the future the robots will do all the work, but we’re not there just yet.

The future..?

More complicated than it looks

The support for each other from Occupy and the Public Sector Unions exists simply because both groups are anti-government. They are of use to each other in many ways, but what use would the collapse of the system be to public sector workers? Who could guarantee their pension then…?

In terms of British workers their deal is still good. Lord Hutton has even said now that the reform needs to go further, due to the poor economic outlook.

And people have to think about the long term situation, in a world where Britain will face tougher global competition and we can’t be certain how we will fair; higher public spending or not.

The Labour Party know there needs to be reform, but they’re just sitting on the fence at the moment. The strikers are their support, yet they can’t condone the strikes, they will have to do something similar in Government and they can’t alienate the centre ground and centre-right. Not very ‘Blue Labour’…

Ed knows every vote counts

‘What would Gordon do…?’

There are calls for solidarity from workers in the private sector, but it doesn’t appear reciprocal, the Left claim the Coalition is creating division between sectors, but we heard little from public sector and their unions as Labour created the division over 13 years and during the first two years of the downturn. I have looked at these issues in previous posts and the specific issues of pensions in a post following the strikes in June.

Public Sector Pickets call for Solidarity

The message to Egypt

It must mean a lot to them...

Many of the voices from the Left of Twitter do not give a sense of solidarity, though they scream about it…

Fingers are pointed at the private sector as the cause of the crisis, consistently questioning why public servants should pay for the mistakes of the private sector (not specifically the financial sector) and one Twitter contributor repeats bizarre sweeping statements about the private sector workers (all of them…) being at fault for their own poor pension provision and there are many more. The Left accuse the Right of generalising and divisive politics, but both sides are pretty good at it, that’s why they’re on different sides…

Many Leftists will say those in the private sector only have to join a union to have a voice, which is true but only to an extent. Most changes in the private sector are to the point of inevitable, due to economic pressures not felt in the public sector and this is particularly so in the current climate. And the current state of affairs in both sectors came after 13 years of the Government most on the Left yearn to return.

The Unions are exerting their power and influence, and they are getting a relatively good deal. Considering their members represent ‘only’ 20-25% of the workforce, their voice seems disproportionately loud and so aligned with the Occupy Movement, it can give a distorted picture for the extent of support.

However, if Labour were to return and back the public sector, the Occupy Movement might then find themselves out in the cold (for want of a better phrase…).

Protesting students have solidarity with both Occupy and the striking Public Sector. There’s a natural connection with Occupy but as I’ve mentioned before I’m not sure they’re thinking through the support for the pensions strikes. They will be working until they die to pay for them. Unless they’re all hoping to find jobs in the public sector…

This issue has got a long way to go, considering the nature of what’s involved, we’re talking generations.

But before that apparently Occupy are trying to crank their protests up a notch, at least for a day. Occupy Everywhere will be with us on December 15th.

Not sure what sort of ‘workplaces’ they’re talking about occupying? Maybe they’ll just hole up in some public sector offices, or outside. Or Union offices as in Cardiff. Solidarity.

But let me bring it back to the fundamental issue of this blog, and the reason we’re all here (in the UK) - New Labour’s Brave New World.

Amongst the news and views on the weekend about pensions and the continuing economic turmoil, Labour’s Yvette Cooper, wife of Ed Balls said that the Government’s pessimism on the economy could be “self-fulfilling prophecy” or words to that effect.

There is a point in terms of talking down markets and consumer spending, but under Labour all we had was optimism, spin and little else.

The facade fell and here we are…

The last 30 years in Number 10

'Thank you and goodnight...'

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sympathy for the Occupy Movement – Welsh ‘Business’ Minister Edwina Hart’s capitalist “regret”

Judging by Edwina Hart’s recent statement she’d be there, outside St Paul’s with the Occupy London Stock Exchange movement, protesting against the ‘system’.

Occupy London - Open invite

But she’s not there. She probably doesn’t like camping, I’m sure she could claim a tent on expenses…

Instead she’s in the ‘Senedd’ in Cardiff and apparently she’s the Welsh Assembly government’s minister for ‘business’, and I’m not sure that the people of Wales should be happy about it.

Edwina Hart is as surprised as anyone she’s business minister

They don’t know why you’re there either Edwina…

Last week she was quoted as saying she has “regret" about the capitalist system, in her response to a Plaid Cymru tabled motion stating their party “regrets” Labour’s failure to respond to the economic crisis.

Edwina Hart said:

"Can I say that I was disappointed when I read the motion, but in view of the fact that it said 'regret' perhaps I should say 'regret' because in life we all regret many things.

"I regret about the capitalist system, if you want to go to history lessons perhaps I need to go back to Karl Marx and Engels and we could have a discussion about those issues."

This is the ‘BUSINESS' minister for Wales. She is a former trade union official and it is quite clear where her political sentiments lie. She feels it might be appropriate to discuss Marxism instead of discussing the failure of the Welsh assembly to develop the Welsh economy.

The Welsh economy is backward. The Labour government in Westminster and the Welsh Assembly government did little or nothing to fundamentally develop and improve it, during the many years of economic growth when they had the chance to act.

There is a massive over-reliance on the public sector and it has long been held that there is more public money spent in Wales than is raised from Welsh tax payers. This was mentioned recently by Peter Hain:

“The Holtham commission calculated that approximately £17.1bn of tax revenue is raised in Wales every year. Total public spending in Wales is around £33.5bn – almost twice the amount raised”

Unemployment in Wales tracked the UK rate for a few of the boom years up to the economic crisis, but this was with the high percentage employed in the public sector and significantly, a larger economically inactive population.

The unemployment rate also jumps quickly to a level higher than the UK average, soon after the crisis and before the cuts have even started, which does not indicate a robust economic structure.

When the focus is on Welsh development, Cardiff is held up as an example of success, but it has benefitted from being the base of devolved power and development has been focussed there, to the neglect of other areas.

This map shows the concentrations of public sector jobs in South Wales, with high percentages in the valleys, Newport and Swansea. But the same situation can be seen throughout the UK after 13 years of Labour rule, with higher concentrations in Scotland and the North.

The Welsh Assembly Government and DWP championed moving towards full employment in the heady days of 2007, while admitting to problems in the valleys.

I have already highlighted the failure of local authorities and the Welsh assembly with regards to development in Newport and the huge sums of money wasted on a ridiculous and pointless new railway station.

Newport's "futuristic" new station

The old station is now being converted for use, as a council office, including job centre services…

Newport's old station, just down the road

No need for comment on that 'development'… Except that the location is perfect, there's a Wetherspoons off to the right of this photo.

There was an outcry when the possibility of Newport’s passport office closing was suggested, because the already suffering city centre would effectively die. The outcry was justified because the decision seemed unnecessary, however, a greater outcry should have come from the clear illustration of the failure to develop a major city, in an essentially prime economic location and when the Ryder Cup had just been held in the area.

How could a major shopping centre apparently be so dependent on one public sector office?

Now it seem the office is just been being downsized. Newport city centre still has many problems.

Labour used to simply blame the Tories but now they’ve held power so long and had so much opportunity, they are blaming ‘capitalism’ (that’s still the Tories to them…).

What hope for business and enterprise in Wales in this environment?

They blame Westminster and the Tories for cutting them off, but they have had years of net investment to create a functioning economy.

Maybe Edwina Hart hopes the English will support a Marxist experiment in Wales? And what would Edwina Hart do in a socialist/Marxist society? Exactly the same f**king thing…!

English tax payers paid for Labour's 13 year experiment and it failed spectacularly. They can blame who they like; the economy is firmly dependent, in no way self-sufficient.

In 2010 Plaid Cymru’s Ieuan Wyn Jones claimed he wanted to see independence from the UK initially of course, but also that he wanted to see an end to Welsh economic dependence, ultimately from European aid. Wales is a long, long way from that.

Earlier this year Plaid released the details of a study that compared how an independent Wales might have fared to the experience of small European countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland and Luxembourg.

They shied away from using the obvious comparison of Ireland, for obvious reasons, and used the examples of long established and well developed, functioning small economies. There is no comparison… Again, Wales is a long, long way from any of that.

Peter Hain is not keen on the idea of the Assembly having tax and fiscal powers, but he does seem want to take the ‘progressive’ step of changing the Welsh electoral system to base it entirely on First Past the Post… Clearly wanting to consolidate Labour’s power in Wales and even claiming that it is the will of the people following the AV referendum earlier this year.

This is from Hain one of the original advocates of AV and the Welsh system is not even based on the alternative vote, it is far more proportional and fair.


Only when it suits Peter

Little progress when the likes of Hain have power.

There are a lot of problems in Wales and the politicians have been more concerned with building employment reliant on public spending, scrapping prescription charges for people that can afford them and ultimately consolidating their own power.

Who said these people know what they’re doing and what’s good for the people of Wales?

Edwina Hart regrets capitalism; she should certainly regret her party’s attempts at managing a capitalist system.

They throw a lot of money around, money that over the last 13 years was raised in no small part from the financial sector, they are incompetent big government. I’m not sure how well they actually sit with many elements of the Occupy Movement.

A selection of the '99%' at Occupy London

Rage at Occupy London

Is the Welsh Assembly Government a capitalist regime..?

There are apparent sympathies with the anti-capitalist protests and the Occupy movement in the Welsh Assembly; I have sympathy for the people of Wales.

Good luck with this shower, getting more and more power…

But then the Welsh electorate do keep voting for them…

Thursday, 20 October 2011

You say you want a revolution..?

Well, where to start..?

With the Occupy movements

Occupy Wall street, New York

Occupy London Stock Exchange

Developing from the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Occupy London Stock Exchange action is attracting a lot of interest at the moment and the movement has spread far and wide. But it seems to me that confusion reigns within the movement and its supporters, and so in turn, its detractors.

We all want to change the world and if they just wanted greater reform to the Banking sector, economic reform and a ‘fair deal’ for the poor, then it would be more coherent, would garner wider support and gain greater momentum. The UKUncut movement and the anti-cuts ( movement are at least clear in their aims.

However, this Occupy movement encompasses all of the anti-coalition politics that has gone before and more. They did manage to gather round and come up with a statement detailing their objectives.

This was welded together from the meeting of a lot of very strongly opinionated groups and gives a picture of the wide variety of viewpoints and aims of the people involved. They want a lot; a lot of very different things.

What is it that you want to do..?

'We want to be free...'

The first clear contradiction is that they state the current system is unsustainable, but then go on to say they do not accept the need for cuts and support student and public sector strike action.

So they want to overturn the ‘current system’, but they want to maintain the systems that the Labour government funded on the tax receipts from the boom in the financial sector and the pension arrangements that have been developed by successive governments over post-war years. Pensions that could only be sustained through continually increased input from younger generations, not to mention good performances in the stock market. I’ve mentioned previously that the students and public actions don’t actually sit very well together, if the students actually thought about it.

None of it fits together… But I’m sure they’re working through ideas how to marry it all up; a new system that will maintain public sector jobs and services, create worthy jobs for millions, make education free for millions and pay for the pensions of millions of people to retire for some 20 to 40 years on a reasonable income.

Good luck chaps…

The stated aims would seem reasonable to many and as I say, they do blend a lot of what has been demanded by public protests over the last couple of years. However, the first aim about the unsustainable system, as well as the ‘structural change’ mentioned in point seven, represent the underlying theme of the movement which is anti-capitalism, even the idea of a genuine revolution and a desire for anarchism or communism. I think the political theory gets somewhat blurred there.

All over the world, a symbol of defiance from a Hollywood film

The mask company must be doing very well

Regardless of any stated aims, wanting an end to the capitalist system, revolution, a communist system or anarchy means so much more than wanting the bankers to pay their ‘fair share’ and economic reform.

Again if we’re talking anarchy, as in no government, then the desire to maintain government spending and public sector spending is incongruous.

Laurie Penny (PennyRed) and many more would very much like an end to global capitalism apparently.

Rage against the machine

I'm intrigued... Let's give 'em a go..!

Anarchy in the UK?

It is with these anti-capitalist notions that everyone gets confused, supporters and critics alike. A good example of this occurred on ‘Have I got news for you’ on BBC One 21/10/2011

Within the scoffing of this Tory (Louise Mensch) there is a point and it’s completely overlooked, deliberately by Hislop, Merton and Baker; anti-establishment radicals that they are. She attempts to mock the anti-capitalists for participating in the capitalist society and enjoying its spoils; buying ‘coffee’ and tents, using smart phones, but she is rebuffed, of course. How could all of them get by without participating? A revolution cannot live on fresh air alone… Simple actions like buying coffee do not undermine your principles.

Well not in most cases. But this lot have been queuing up at Starbucks, the epitome of global capitalism! If she had just talked about the likes of Starbucks then she’d have made a point.

The fact is companies like Starbucks and Tesco do represent the system, its success as well as its failure, in pushing out smaller traders for instance.

Hislop et al (and hundreds more on Twitter) mock the Tory for saying the protesters are hypocritical for ‘buying coffee’, but the point should have been made clear about where it was bought. You can get coffee in all sorts of places, many independent. If you are making a very public protest against capitalism and you buy coffee from Starbucks, a massive global corporation, then it is contradictory.

I appreciate we’ve all got to eat, drink and clothe ourselves and the fact is where else would they get a tent and unfortunately for anti-capitalists, phones (very useful for revolutions it seems) are only produced by multi-national conglomerates. We all have to live within the current system, but Starbucks is something else (using them for the toilets or not. Or is just using the toilets sticking it to the capitalists..?).

One Twitterite questioned if she was suggesting that they should grow the beans themselves (aha hahahaha…). No, they could go to one of the many independent coffee shops, that I have no doubt there are in the city of London! You smug p****.

Too pricey? Is that because of the system? F*** ‘em anyway, they’ll just look like hypocritical t***s. To the right wing at least.

But maybe that’s it, they don’t care? They get cheap coffee (and/or use the toilet) and don’t see it as hypocritical, because when they finally get it together these corporations won’t exist..? Might as well get a reasonably priced coffee while you can and if you’re independent in London (charging more) you’re just as much a slimey capitalist… The employees will be liberated from both forms of slavery..!

Rejoice comrades, you will be free!

To do what instead..?

Maybe it’s ok because it’s fair trade (apparently, more Twitter…), but it took public criticism to get them to stop their policy of leaving the f***ing taps on non-stop! Not very environmentally conscious.

And that’s effective action right there, by the Sun newspaper no less

Would the Occupy protesters have crossed this picket line?

'You will be free, soon. But I just want an Americano right now...'

In Bristol there have been a number of protests about a Tesco store opening in an area known as Stokes Croft. Basically the protesters believe they’re defending their area from the effects of an evil corporation. If they boycotted the store, as well as smashing its windows, yet went round the corner and shopped in the more established Tesco superstore in a nearby area, wouldn’t that be hypocrisy?

Late night shoppers turn nasty

'We don't want your sort round here!!'

But in the cold light of day, a change of heart...

'It's just sooo convenient...'

It seems a lot of Lefties are willing to overlook hypocrisy, right wing bloggers are usualy quick to pick them up on it though - Guardian’s Tax Hypocrisy is Ridiculous

On the subject of the Guardian, their tax and Left wing hypocrisy, Twitter contributor @NewRedDawn ended that particular discussion with another user on this note:

"@fatcouncillor If I cheated on my wife, would I be a hypocrit (sic) for saying another man should not cheat on his? yes, but my advice invalid? no" (22/10/11)

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say” seems to be the order of the day for some Leftists.

NewRedDawn's tweets make for interesting reading and he does have some distinct views and ideas, also here on his blog, which I am yet to become completely familiar with…

As indicated by this gem of a tweet - "#occupylsx: communism to me, as a goal = super abundance of goods, elimination of want. Surely that is always a worthy goal?" (22/10/11). He advocates pure socialism/communism and he appears to think the 'do as I say' doctrine is perfectly reasonable. If he is right about the revolution, what in the Lord’s name does the future hold? Nothing different from the past…?

They seem to only worry about hypocrisy if it comes from rich Tories, because ultimately they’re in the right and they remain morally superior.

Hislop would normally love to pick up such contradictory behaviour, but this one is text book Daily Mail and the point was incredibly badly made by a Tory. Hislop, Merton and Baker couldn’t be seen to be on side with a rambling Tory and ridiculing a ‘popular’ Left wing movement, opposing the bankers and Coalition. But I’m sure one of them would have slipped in the Starbucks line had it panned out differently and everyone would have loved it…

Not sure what the Leftists on the internet would think though, they wouldn’t have been so quick to tweet their derision. They’re happy to gloss over their contradictions when they’re on the front foot against a bumbling Tory; very much like their current opposition to the coalition, happy to overlook their failings in government over 13 years that has lead us to this situation.

The confusion on the programme was clear, Louise Mensch saying being anti-capitalist you shouldn’t enjoy any of its benefits while campaigning against it and Hislop saying you can buy a coffee and still protest against banks, corporate greed, etc. But they want so much more than that, more fundamental than just wanting to stop cuts and make bankers cough up, and Mensch was just all over the place.

The global movement has gained some support and of course the anti-cuts protests already have massive support in this country, and more so the action against banking and corporate greed. But I doubt there’s much popular support for communism or anarchism, particularly in the US. People want a fairer system and representation but I don’t believe they want a true revolution. What exactly would that involve? (Historically speaking, armed conflict)

I don’t think people really understand what they want and that includes many involved in the movement. What kind of system do they actually see being created? One where everyone will have smart phones and there are still companies (or collectives?) producing them in abundance…?

We’d all love to see the plan…

If they wanted some clear effective action then shouldn’t they boycott Starbucks and other such companies? They might actually hurt the system that way. If a worker’s main power is (or was) to remove their Labour, then so to a consumer’s most significant power is their choice of consumption. At least it would be have greater symbolism, surely the Left place some significance on such action…

UKUncut are all about boycotting and picketing companies ‘guilty’ of the legal activity of tax avoidance. Topman, Vodafone, Boots and God knows many more, they’re all at it and all have them have been caused tremendous inconvenience by hordes of UKUncut and anti-cuts activists.


And in

It seems to have quietened down recently, maybe building up for further action, such as Occupy or combining with the strikes in November.

But maybe they realised they could no longer buy anything (and live without feeding the capitalist pigs..!) because all these c**ts are screwing over their tax, off-shoring their activities and where would one shop if one stuck religiously to your ideals…?

I imagine Starbucks must be alright with their tax (?), though judging by the Guardian example that can’t be certain, they like the coffee just as they like the media support…

They certainly couldn’t boycott Apple. Where would a revolution be without iPhones, iPads and all the other smart devices on the capitalist market? Along with the social media on the internet, they’ve revolutionised revolutionary movements and the organisation of protests. Although guns and/or military backing still seem to be the main difference with a successful revolution.

Throughout this (points 2 and 7) and previous action the participants and advocates have tried to claim solidarity with protests and revolutionary movements around the world, many of which have used social media, but many more that have guns as actual concern, whether it be using them or facing them.

The Occupy movement claim ‘We are the 99%’ and of course right wing commentators have mocked them for this and to be honest it’s quite fair. They are claiming to represent 99% of the population that suffer because 1% control the majority of the wealth and resources.

But they don’t represent all of the 99%, not even a fraction of it. They are just part of the 99%, but that’s not as snappy. There’s no point in even dissecting all of the groups they clearly do not represent in this nation alone, but with a core of anti-capitalism and revolutionary beliefs they are far from representing the majority of the world’s people, across a vast array of cultures and beliefs.

Even in America (where the slogan originated), with an underlying right wing or conservative sensibilities, does the Occupy Wall Street movement really represent 99% (or should the percentage be adjusted nationally for the number included in the 1% of the world’s population? It gets complicated…)?

This article suggests a majority of Americans supports Occupy Wall Street -

But what change would this huge and diverse number of people want?

The 99% are a lot of people wanting a lot of different things and most do not see the overthrow of the ‘system’ as a solution. Reform, yes and overthrow of particular governments, that’s a different subject.

When the student and anti-cuts happened there was a commonplace comparison with the uprising of the Arab spring, as mentioned above with Laurie Penny.

Gets me everytime…

But what does the occupy movement really have in common with the Arab people of North Africa and the Middle East? They have been trying to overthrow dictators and genuine oppression.

Do these people have similar ideas on freedom and do they want the same outcomes as the Occupy movements? The new rulers of Libya have recently declared that they will use the Sharia code as a basis for their law, not quite what the protesters have in mind…

As I have mentioned before a lot of the Arab political movements that ended in Dictatorships have had ‘Socialist’ principles, including Gaddafi, and Hugo Chavez, a hero of the world’s Left says Gaddafi was a martyr..! So where does the solidarity with the Libyans lie?

Do they really have much in common with the protests in Greece? There are a lot of Left wing revolutionaries there and there is action opposed to austerity, but the Greeks lived far beyond their means and too great a proportion of the population have problems with paying their taxes, so again where is the solidarity?

How about in Eastern Europe where they spent years trying to rid themselves of tyrannical Socialist governments? Now I know this lot will be professing inclusion and fairness, not the kind of centralist authoritarian governments that Eastern Europe endured but many of them do want socialism/communism. I’m not sure how that sits with those that lived in under these regimes and fought so hard against them.

Apparently Lech Walesa, the Polish solidarity hero, changed his mind about visiting Occupy Wall Street, due to the underlying influences from anti-capitalists and the hard Left.

So many of the current activists are too young to remember what happened, but don’t they research their history?

However much the current system is reformed, how will the new system work? In the globalised economy nothing works in isolation, either in a system of taxing the rich or pure communism, do they see it working in isolation? Like North Korea or Cuba (blockades and sanctions aside…)? Or like the USSR and its allies (obviously a much bigger scale)?

The Left often use the examples of much smaller countries that have successful higher tax economies (e.g. Scandinavia), but a vital difference is the population size, as well as cultural differences.

If the protesters had a proposition for some sort of global agreement on higher tax (or just equal tax levels) it might at least provide clarity. Getting agreement on it would be another thing, but a clear proposal would be a start (demanding an end to 'global tax injustice' is not the same thing).
Certainly the idea of eliminating tax havens was proposed from an early stage after the 2008 financial crisis and it did seem to have widespread support, at the G20 summit in the April 2009 for instance. However, I’m not sure how much effective action was taken, despite every UK Uncut have had to say on the matter, as this article suggests - G20 has failed to crack down on tax havens

A higher tax world economy would of course effectively be a socialist revolution. Some of the activists clearly want a world revolution of sorts, many will indeed claim to be Trotskyists and maybe some of them believe it could happen. But they must envisage stern opposition surely?

Really when you look at it closely all you’re left with is a lot of questions and if they were asked you’d more than likely get a lot of very different answers.

On a recent Newsnight programme ‘film maker’ and ‘writer’ Michael Moore compared the movement to the Suffragettes in terms of the attitude towards new movements and political concepts. But as Paxman pointed out the suffragettes had a clear and achievable goal, the Occupy movement has nothing of the sort.

People do want change and if there were some clear and considered ideas, then maybe there’d be more momentum. And it could enter the political arena and create change that way. I’m sure most of them would agree with the need for electoral reform (except maybe rabid ‘anarchists’), but following this years referendum on AV that has been set back years in some part because of the Labour party, the party that led us to the current state we’re in. The Left’s aims and objectives often differ greatly.

There needs to be economic change, though not necessarily of the nature the Occupy movement are suggesting, and maybe some change will stem from this action, it has a powerful voice when combined with its internet and media presence.
Protest movements often do cause change and pressure governments, though not quite the change that some would like. There have been comparisons with the political protests of the 1960s, particularly 1968 and how they caused political change.

The fact is in 1968 it was a different world, there were different circumstances and they had different goals.


But then whatever change occurred we still ended up in the current situation. It always settles back to the old routine…


You should learn from history (as the activists should about Eastern European socialism), but you need to understand circumstance and context, situations are rarely exactly the same. There are massive differences in the world today, already there is a huge amount of upheaval in the world economic system and the world’s powerbases and that should be the topic of my next post.

China and India are rising and while their poor populations still desire further change, the economic growth has already delivered for many. This has already affected and will further alter the West’s standard of living and it is not clear that these people want exactly the same things as the “99%” parked outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The location of the camp might be adding further ambiguity to the message; they were unable to ‘occupy’ London Stock Exchange so they’re outside the nearby cathedral. So St. Paul’s closing their doors has become major news and there is no issue with the Church as an organisation, as far as anyone can tell.

But they’re always sending out mixed messages.

For example; Billy Bragg’s tweet on the 22nd October

"Now #occupyLSX have shown how easy it is, thousands of atheists will be buying tents today and camping outside their local CofE church" ???

'What the f**k are you on about Billy?!'

Monday, 26 September 2011

What can a poor boy do, except loot from a Poundland store?

Poverty caused this? It’s certainly desperate…

So the summer’s gone and apparently some people saw that the time had been right for fighting in the street.

Street Fighting Men?

I missed the chance to post anything about it at the time, due to having no internet connection because of BT and I’m sure BT would like to apologise for that…

The aftermath is just about remaining in the news, except for the economic mess. The issue will long remain relevant; the riots were symptomatic of the fine mess the Labour party have helped create.

Labour are not alone, the Tories had a good crack at it as well, but the current Government and the cuts can’t be blamed for the depths this went to. While previous Tory Governments should take their share, the New Labour Government should take the lion’s share of the blame for their failure to make fundamental changes when they had the chance. And for their incessant use of spin, propaganda and downright bulls**t to cover up their inaction, while attempting to make people believe they had changed society for the better.

Labour failed in all of the most important areas; the economy, education and crime. These affect the whole of society and in 1997 the country was crying out for fundamental reform. There was some superficial change but basically they did very little, their ideas were few and thin and the action was limited. Times were good, the economy was ‘booming’ and they can bang on about the NHS all they like; they threw money into that pit for sure. But other than maintaining some semblance of a functioning service, the NHS, no matter what some might say, does not affect the fabric of society like the three areas mentioned above.

As it’s been the main topic of discussion since last year’s general election, the economy has been the main area for my criticism of the Labour party, but I have been meaning to mention crime at some point, as well as education because it is linked. So now, in the aftermath, the time seems right to slate the clueless cretins that formed the last Labour government.

Both parties have been equally superficial and insufficient, when apportioning blame and pontificating about the reasons behind the troubles. Cameron blaming simple ‘criminality’ and ‘gangs’ while Blair popped up, again (obviously feels he can now Brown’s f***ed off) and blamed a ‘disaffected’ section of society, condemning Cameron while managing to give an equally cursory explanation for the riots. But it is easy to see why he is saying it and the error of his motives; it is fundamental to the nature of New Labour.

He would claim he is trying to differentiate the perpetrators of these riots from other law abiding members of the same communities and in doing so avoid demonising a whole section of society and of course he mentions not wanting to “trash our own reputation abroad”, as if the pictures aren’t enough alone.

Welcome to London...

An every day scene in the UK...

Not the fire, the p***head wandering about with a can of Special Brew

In offering his analysis he is both trying to offend as few people (voters) as possible and also reduce the amount of responsibility the Labour party should take for the situation, all classic New Labour spin. But all he does is simply attempt to ring fence and point a finger at a what he claims is a particular group (even in the light of examples of individuals involved who do not fit the standard rioting profile, as with the Poundland incident) and excuse so many other groups in society, and of course his government, for their failures. He offers a view that is actually even more simplistic than Cameron’s (the BBC article about his comments notes the similarity) and with his ‘specific’ solution, ignores the need for change in wider society. It is all characteristic of his politics and his government; all talk no substance and ultimately, no action.

As he clearly knows exactly what the problem is, it’s such a shame he only came up with his ‘specific solution’ as he was leaving government, he must have been pondering it for the 10 years he was at Number 10… “Intervention family by family”, that’s a lot of families and a lot of resources. I would have liked to have seen him try…

I mean he must have left the details in Number 10, next to his plans for Middle East peace. And Gordon probably threw them out. Such a pity…

'If only that man didn't keep getting in my way...'

Whichever way you look at it there is failure in Government. Either the problem developed or worsened under his stewardship or, as is the reality, it highlights both his inability to identify the problem and the lack of effective action for 10 years.

He was right you know

And what did we get?

Were they right all along..?

Cameron’s ‘criminality’ and pointing the finger at gangs is simplistic. It’s probably true that gang members were involved but to accuse them of being the root of the problem is possibly more to do with having an excuse to launch targeted action against them. But Blair’s analysis is beyond simple, it’s just more empty propaganda, in part aimed at protecting his own legacy and his beloved party. All very easy for him to say when he has no power or obligation. It’s just makes you glad that is the case.

The Left are keen to offer simple divisive generalisation about the rich and the poor, haves and have-nots, them and us, etc, but usually steer clear of labelling and finger pointing within the ‘lower’ social classes. They tend towards highlighting the complexity of social problems within poorer groups; things are rarely black and white. Blair says it’s a specific group completely detached from normal society. No wonder the Lefties ain’t so keen on the Old Warmonger anymore…

What's your point...?

Nothing grey in his assessment, it seems to be simple ‘right and wrong’ for him, whatever the causes. So where do the likes of the EDL fit into his very specific view of the situation?

They were out on the streets apparently acting as vigilantes and trouble flared with police. Normally they’d be viewed by the likes of Blair at least on the side of wrong and often in criminal terms. And here, though apparently organising to prevent rioting, I have no doubt Blair would be far from condoning their actions.

Where does such a group fit into his view of society? Are they not symptomatic of wider problems?

EDL Demonstration in Bradford

The fact that apparently random people from varying social groups got involved in what is clear and extreme criminality, isn’t that incongruous with Mr Blair’s view of the problem?

The majority had criminal records, but certainly not all.

As always the reasons behind the disorder are complicated and somewhere in-between, sometimes quite far, from the claims made by politicians. They’re always looking for the sound-bites and the simple solutions palatable to the public and media alike. It’s what Blair is all about, but here he might be showing a lack of understanding of how any society works? Maybe he doesn’t understand and that would make sense…

I didn’t start writing this intending to only criticise Blair, I wanted to slate the Labour party as a whole and also look at the wider reasons behind the trouble, largely speaking accentuated by their Government, but it’s enjoyable attacking Blair. He represents New Labour and therefore all that was wrong with that Government. Well, almost as much as Mandelson.

Smug p***ks..?

Of course there hasn’t been a complete moral collapse in this country; the problems are fortunately limited. Cameron plays into the Left’s hands with such sound-bites and the debate descends quickly, Blair then contradictorily chooses an equally simple analysis. However, both Right and Left identify widespread problems in their reasoning and with social problems there’s always a gradation through society. It isn’t like a school with one bad group or one kid leading a group, but that’s effectively what Blair is saying. It’s vastly more complex and he says if they miss the ‘specific solution’ we miss the chance to deal with the problem. I think if we were to follow his advice and focus only on very specific groups and actions, we’d miss the chance to improve society as a whole and it’d be like 13 years of Labour all over again.

The rioters showed the depths that society can go to, but do they have no contact with anyone else in society? Are they not related to other members of society? More than simply immediate family, some who may spurn their relatives for their actions, others that would try to defend them. Do they not have friends and contacts and a variety of relationships with wider communities? Were they not ‘educated’ in schools, however rudimentarily? Few are ‘isolated’ in British society, so a problem is not and cannot be isolated.

The small minority ruining it for the rest is true to an extent, but even following the school analogy, wider groups are still complicit in creating and allowing a situation. From providing the audience, or even goading inappropriate behaviour, to other pupils and teachers failing to intervene when necessary, there is always wider culpability.

A group of individuals or even a ‘gang’ may have been involved directly but they don’t know others who may not have been there at the time, but would have joined in? There were people who stood by and watched, hardly looking on with outrage, let alone fear.

What a picture..?

Nothing better to do?

Random spectator...

'I say, that's really not on...'

There were others that tried to incite trouble using the internet and those prosecuted are only going to represent the surface. The problems do permeate through large sections of society; the indications are many and clear.

Trouble flared in Gloucester of all places, hardly a major urban centre, known for severe economic deprivation and gang activity. Not to say there aren’t social and economic problems there, but so many of the examples do not fit easily in the simplistic analysis.

Bristol experienced riots earlier in the year which related to protesting about the opening of a Tesco Express in an inner city area and the resulting police tactics.

So just don't shop there..?

This happened on more than one occasion and in truth the groups that rioted were not necessarily the same people that rioted in Bristol in August. The motivations were more akin to anti-globalisation action, more so than the rampant materialism that was apparent in August. Probably more alike the trouble that has followed some of the recent student and anti-cuts protests. It seems there are currently a lot of groups disposed to public disorder.

Exciting times when you're young and clueless...

Yes, you were there...

Even the motivations to riot in August, and the extent to which it went from such triggers, have to be questioned and again indicate far worse problems. In one area of London, there was a specific incident of the police possibly using excessive force, but other areas of London and the other cities quickly descended into looting, because an apparent opportunity arose, it was hardly solidarity for a fallen comrade.

These weren’t even the same as the LA riots in the early 90s. Not even the same as the riots that occurred in Britain in the early 80s and early 90s, with racial tension and economic deprivation being much clearer causes during those periods.

Complete disorder is fortunately uncommon and riots occur in particular circumstances, for one thing it usually requires a certain critical mass of people. However, minor disorder is more common place, from football violence to the average city centre or even housing estate on a weekend; usually it is a police presence that stops things from going too far. Too often it seems the presence of other law abiding citizens isn’t enough to prevent problems. Thankfully the vast majority do have at least some understanding of the need for order and there is a tacit agreement with the state that order will be maintained (there shouldn’t be any need for ridiculous police pledges) I wasn’t really intending to go into the political and social theory of law and order, I happened across this BBC article - Viewpoint: Why doesn't rioting happen more often?

Blair makes out as if the people causing the trouble were isolated and relatively few, but there are other people who may not go to those particular depths yet are certainly not averse to committing very serious crimes; drunken, drug related or otherwise. Going into all the permutations would take a long time and be completely unnecessary; the point is the many thousands that were involved are just the depths of a particular problem, paradoxically the visible surface of very deep problems. The tip of this iceberg is the worst of it, to ignore this sign, as Blair effectively suggests, would be insanity.

What does Blair know about any of it? What do the Labour party know or any politicians???

Blair, Brown and other Labour politicians have long scoffed at the ‘fear’ of crime, being so out of proportion with their figures. Figures showing such a steep decline in overall crime, I swear there should no longer be any crime in this country! But anyone who has lived on or near an economically deprived area in any town or city in the UK, or in declining post industrial regions, would know that crime is still commonplace and anti-social behaviour prevalent. Not everything is recorded or included in the figures, police methods have changes, as well as public attitudes towards crime and certain behaviour, almost more acceptant of certain activities.

Crime is very much concentrated in certain areas and that should be a concern, but violent crime, while still concentrated, has also become more widespread and random. There are many examples of violence in apparently surprising circumstances, by seemingly unusual perpetrators and in random areas.

Just for a few examples:

The three young professionals who attacked a man on a train for asking them to be quiet
A wealthy businessman kicked to death by a gang of youths outside a part-time police station in Henley-on-Thames
Teenager beat a man to death with a fire extinguisher after innocent banter between youths and men turned nasty

And for a bit of Daily Mail sensationalism...:
Random attack by thugs every 30 seconds as 'stranger assaults' soar in binge Britain

There is rage, bad attitude, anti-social behaviour and ultimately a lack of discipline and respect, it pervades through modern society. You see it and feel it if you live and work in an average town or city; Tony Blair doesn’t, few politicians do. They only have their figures and reports to go by.

If you have been a victim of crime it is hard to know what to believe about the figures, as always there are contradictory reports:


I’m not going to say things have definitely got worse, the figures obviously have substance, certainly things have been worse in the more distant past and as one gets older there is a tendency to view changing standards as declining standards. But I believe that considering the circumstances things have got little better, particularly in terms of the underlying problems.

Considering the opportunity, time and conditions Labour had from 1997 up until quite recently, there has not been anywhere near enough improvement and the riots have exemplified this.

Blair’s claim in 1997 was that they would be “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”, one of many neat sound-bites that typified the New Labour movement, but from the way they handled the situation it is not certain that they understood the causes.

Economic factors have long been understood to be the most significant fundamental cause of crime, particularly in Left wing circles. Of course Labour had a good 10 years of economic growth, so there’s one ‘cause’ sorted.

Poor education is also seen as cause of crime and Labour ploughed money into education, as they did with many other things.

However, Blair admitted they were ‘lucky’ with the economy and all they did in terms of education was use the money generated in the economy to build schools and provide facilities and equipment, that’s not actually ‘education’. Nor do the targets that continued to drive the seemingly inexorable rise in grades, equate to an ever improving system of education.

We all know what happened with their economic record and for just one example to question their record on education; you simply have to look at the recent youth unemployment statistics, alongside the testimony of so many employers, as well as universities. This issue can easily link back to the problem of crime and the recent public disorder.

Kids these days…

Looting from Poundland shows ‘desperation’ and also an alarming level of stupidity...

And in terms of employment, there was a consistent level of unemployment through the boom years under Labour. Long term unemployment remained a significant problem and this is clear when you look at the significant issue of households where no-one has ever worked

It’s not clear that Labour were at all “tough” on the causes, bit of luck and throwing some money around. They failed on the economy and their record on education is at best questionable.

What they did was lock up more people than ever, so perhaps they were ‘tough on crime’. Maybe the plan was to kill two birds with one stone, tough on the causes, well what is a cause of crime? Criminals… So they locked them up. And who can say it didn’t work? They’re not out causing crime. But it’s not very “progressive” and doesn’t really improve the situation in the long term.

There are other potential reasons for the apparent decrease in crime that occurred under the Labour government, generally they have little to do with their policies and most are seldom considered. Probably the most significant factor which does relate to the economic situation at the time was the availability of cheap goods, electrical or otherwise. It’s long been considered that burglary became less worthwhile as electrical goods, amongst many other things, became cheaper and subsequently lost their resale value. This also means that in the first instance if there are cheaper goods available there is less need to go out and steal them or raise money to buy them outside of normal income (let’s say; generous benefits…).

Improved technology has also provided a reason not to get involved in crime and this has been suggested recently (mentioned here amongst other reasons for a drop in crime in the US). Video games certainly keep people in doors, perhaps committing serious crime in a virtual world, much better for everyone… But also the internet is rarely mentioned as a reason for occupying people and there can be no doubt that it does.

Of course the internet has spawned its own crime and the details of this are never fully clarified, but surely the internet has drawn in certain people from other criminal occupations. Financial crime on the internet is significant but the full extent probably can’t be confirmed, in the past the police have asked that banks, etc, handle the cases themselves without reporting them.

In terms of solving and preventing crime the police have greater technology at their disposal; for instance, DNA in forensic evidence and CCTV for both prevention and detection. And you’d hope that as time goes by their understanding of crime and methods would improve, but you never know…

Labour had a strong economy and they did at least talk about moving towards inclusion and opportunity for all, as well as improving social services and intervention. With all these circumstances and all the good fortune that Labour had, there should have been no crime at all! But when you look at all of it, the reality is that all of these factors were superficial. They kept people in pocket and there were cheap goods and distractions, it was tantamount to keep a child distracted with TV and sweets.

Significant problems were not addressed and festered as Labour rode their luck. And now here we are; an economic mess with a fragile social structure.

When he was home secretary, Alan Johnson once admitted in an interview that although Britain had a record prison population, as a nation the number of convicted criminals that were actually sent to prison was only average. Well what does that say about the amount of crime?

Labour failed on crime as well.

Blair was in charge when they were locking up most of these people and perhaps he thought that way they could eradicate crime, he is delusional (between him and Brown the megalomania is pretty spectacular). If his assessment was correct and it is a very specific group then surely we could just lock them all up and job done?!

In the days and weeks following the riots and after so many rioters were caught, did crime drop to nothing? I doubt it.

Labour have already took us some of the way but we don’t want to follow the US model. Simply locking people up doesn’t work.

And what of the other countries, the ‘developed nations’ Blair mentions have the same problems? Again, being simplistic.

That is the nature of the man and the tone of his argument is as poor; “well it’s not just us, they’re as bad”. It’s an attempt to divert and gloss over.

He almost sighs and rolls his eyes, when questioned about Iraq, terrorism; “do we have to go through this again..?”…

He talks of depressing ourselves unnecessarily, while trashing our reputation abroad in a typically glib statement. Depress ourselves?? The scenes of violence and robbery are fine but the debate is just getting everyone down…

Let's not talk about what happened last night...

He talks as if the ‘nation’ has a sense of self-esteem and it is this exact kind of rubbish, based on image and spin (basically propaganda and indoctrination) that highlights the fallacy of the New Labour agenda. If you say something enough, people will believe it and then hopefully it will come true. Tell people there is no crime and the rest will follow…

And our reputation? People will make up their own minds, in this country and abroad.

Malaysian Student attacked during London Riots

And please, come again...

If we don’t appear to be assessing and dealing with the problems effectively then people will wonder what has happened to this country. It needs to be seen that the problems are taken seriously and not swept under the carpet, with a ‘very specific solution’… He’s probably concerned about tourism and rightly so, potential visitors would want to see swift action, but also long term change.

Do other developed nations all have the same problems? Certainly it’s true to some extent, but not exactly the same. France’s problems are well documented and have seen recent occurrences, and despite similarities with the recent trouble in the UK, the French unrest did have a more specific racial context. The problem of crime in the US is well known but it is such a different country in its social make up, no matter our cultural similarities. They view law and order differently as well as social problems and it is a much more diverse population, whereas here we are more densely populated. The differences are too many for Blair’s comparison. And you could go through the G20 and say the same things. And I’d like to see him point out these same groups in the likes of the Scandinavian countries and particularly Japan.

And if these nations do all have the same problems as he contends then surely they’d be more understanding of the situation here??? And our reputation wouldn’t suffer and we wouldn’t all get depressed, everyone milling about in the streets, not looking each other in the eye…

His rhetoric is empty, nothing’s changed there.

Even forgetting any of things he’s said about the Iraq War, this is the man who believes that Western military action since 9/11 has not incited further terrorism against the West, despite, well, everything that’s happened. We should ignore this man…

The summer has ended and we head into winter after a year of protesting and rioting. To what end? It isn’t 1968. The challenges faced are completely different and the West is not going to dominate as before. The protests in the 60s were about power and freedom and carried out in vastly different circumstances; the underlying theme of recent unrest has been money. How times have changed… And I’m not sure these people fully understand the situation.

Do they really understand, at any age...?

There are dark uncertain times ahead for all Western nations, monumental change is afoot and it is not clear how our economies and societies will come through these times. Maybe what we actually need is a smooth talker like Blair in power to ‘manage expectations’…

'This guy?! Seriously..?'

With men like this running the country, who knows what lays ahead...?