Corbyn’s vision

Speech by Jeremy Corbyn

Whether you voted to Leave or to Remain, you voted for a better future for Britain.

One thing is clear, the Tories cannot deliver that. So today I want to set how Labour will deliver that vision of a better Britain.

This government is in disarray over Brexit.

As the Prime Minister made clear herself they didn’t plan for it before the referendum and they still don’t have a plan now.

I voted and campaigned to remain and reform as many of you may know I was not uncritical of the European Union. It has many failings.

Some people argued that we should have a second referendum. That case was put to our party’s membership last summer and defeated.

Britain is now leaving the European Union. And Britain can be better off after Brexit. But that’s far from inevitable and it certainly won’t happen with a government that stands by whilst wages and salaries are driven down, industry is hollowed out and public services are cut to the point of breakdown.

Because while the European Union has many problems so does Britain in the hands of Theresa May after six years of Conservative misrule.

Our social care system is failing to provide essential care for people with disabilities and over a million of our elderly people.

The NHS is in record deficit; nearly four million people are on waiting lists, the Red Cross is describing the state of our emergency health and social care as a “humanitarian crisis”.

Our jobs market is being turned into a sea of insecurity, six million workers in Britain earning less than the living wage, nearly a million people on zero hours contracts, record numbers of people in work living in poverty while in fat cat Britain, the chief executives had already received more than most people will earn all year by the third day of January.

My point is this, I don’t trust this government with social care, or with the NHS or with the labour market.

So do I trust them to make a success of Brexit? Not remotely.

Only a Labour government, determined to reshape the economy so that it works for all, in every part of the country, can make Brexit work for Britain.

And there can be no question of giving Theresa May’s Tories a free pass in the Brexit negotiations to entrench and take still further their failed free market policies in a post-Brexit Britain.

The Tory Brexiteers, whose leaders are now in the government and their Ukip allies had no more of a plan for a Brexit vote than the Tory remainers, like Theresa May.

They did however promise that Brexit would guarantee funding for the NHS, to the tune of £350m a week. It was on the side of Boris Johnson’s bus.

What’s happened to that promise now the NHS and social care are in serious crisis? It’s already been ditched.

And it’s not just on the NHS. We have had no answers from the government about any of their plans or objectives for these complex Brexit negotiations.

At no point since the Second World War has Britain’s ruling elite so recklessly put the country in such an exposed position without a plan.

As a result they are now reduced to repeating “Brexit means Brexit”. They are unfit to negotiate Brexit.

That is why Labour has demanded the government come to Parliament and set out their plan before they present it to Brussels and explain what they want to achieve for our country.

But in the glaring absence of a government plan Labour also believes it’s time to spell out more clearly what we believe the country’s Brexit objectives should be.

People voted for Brexit on the promise that Britain outside the European Union could be a better place for all its citizens. Whatever their colour or creed. A chance to regain control over our economy, our democracy and people’s lives.

But beyond vague plans to control borders the only concrete commitment the government has so far made is to protect the financial interests in the City of London. Though maybe that’s hardly surprising from a government that has already slashed the bank levy and corporation tax.

In the last budget there was not a penny extra for the NHS or social care but under the Tories there’s always billions available for giveaways to the richest.

As far as Labour is concerned, the referendum result delivered a clear message.

First, that Britain must leave the EU and bring control of our democracy and our economy closer to home.

Second, that people would get the resources they were promised to rebuild the NHS.

Third, that people have had their fill of an economic system and an establishment that works only for the few, not for the many.

And finally, that their concerns about immigration policy would be addressed.

Labour accepts those challenges that you, the voters, gave us.

Unlike the Tories, Labour will insist on a Brexit that works not just for City interests but in the interests of us all.

That puts health and social care, decent jobs and living standards first and a better deal for young people and the areas of this country that have been left behind for too long.

First, we will open the way to rebuilding our NHS by ending the under-funding and privatisation of health care.

Leaving the EU won’t free up the £350m a week that Boris Johnson claimed but savings in EU contributions could help close the gap.

And we will reject pressure to privatise public services as part of any Brexit settlement. Just as we oppose the attempt to give special legal privileges to corporate interests as part of the EU’s CETA or TTIP trade deals.

This government could have given the NHS the funding it needs but it has chosen not to. Their tax giveaways to the very richest and to big business hand back £70bn between now and 2022.

That is more of a priority for the Tories than elderly people neglected in their homes, patients dying on trolleys or millions waiting in pain to get the treatment they need.

Labour created the NHS, and it is only safe under a Labour government. We will give the NHS the funding it needs. The British people voted to re-finance the NHS – and we will deliver it.

Second, we will push to maintain full access to the European single market to protect living standards and jobs.

But we will also press to repatriate powers from Brussels for the British government to develop a genuine industrial strategy essential for the economy of the future, and so that no community is left behind.

Tory governments have hidden behind EU state aid rules because they don’t want to intervene. They did so again last year when the steel industry was in trouble. Other governments in Europe acted and saved their industry, the Tory government here sat back.

But EU rules can also be a block on the action that’s needed to support our economy, decent jobs and living standards.

Labour will use state aid powers in a drive to build a new economy, based on new technology and the green industries of the future.

That’s why Labour has set out proposals for a National Investment Bank with regional investment banks that will decide the priorities for their areas. A massive programme of investment that will be needed to rebuild regional economies.

This country is far too centralized. So we will take back powers over regional policy. And instead of such decisions being made in Brussels or in London, we will make sure they taken locally wherever possible. Taking back real control and putting power and resources right into the heart of local communities to target investment where it’s needed.

Third, we will use the huge spending leverage of taxpayer-funded services to massively expand the number of proper apprenticeships.

All firms with a government or council contract over £250,000 will be required to pay tax in the UK and train young people.

No company will receive taxpayer-funded contracts if it, or its parent company, is headquartered in a tax haven.

And we will not buy outsourced public services, such as care for the elderly, from companies whose owners and executives are creaming off profits to stuff their pockets at the expense of the workforce and the public purse.

Finally, a Labour Brexit would take back control over our jobs market which has been seriously damaged by years of reckless deregulation.

During the referendum campaign, many people expressed deep concerns about unregulated migration from the EU.

In many sectors of the economy, from IT to health and social care, migrant workers make an important contribution to our common prosperity, and in many parts of the country public services depend on migrant labour.

This government has been saying it will reduce migration to the tens of thousands. Theresa May as Home Secretary set an arbitrary political target knowing full well it would not be met.

They inflamed the issue of immigration. They put immense strain on public services with six years of extreme cuts and then blamed migrants for the pressure caused by Tory austerity.

And last week a government minister who voted “Leave” told an employers’ conference, “don’t worry, we’ll still let you bring in cheap EU labour”.

Unlike the Tories, Labour will not offer false promises on immigration targets or sow division by scapegoating migrants because we know where that leads. The worrying rise in race hate crime and division we have seen in recent months and how the issue of immigration can be used as a proxy to abuse or intimidate minority communities.

Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle, but I don’t want that to be misinterpreted, nor do we rule it out.

When it comes to border controls, we are proud to say we will meet our international obligations to refugees fleeing wars and persecution.

To those EU citizens who are already here, we will guarantee your rights.

And we continue to welcome international students who come to study in this country.

We cannot afford to lose full access to the European markets on which so many British businesses and jobs depend.

Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations.

Labour supports fair rules and the reasonable management of migration as part of the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, while putting jobs and living standards first in the negotiations.

At the same time, taking action against undercutting of pay and conditions, closing down cheap labour loopholes, banning exclusive advertising of jobs abroad and strengthening workplace protections would have the effect of reducing numbers of EU migrant workers in the most deregulated sectors, regardless of the final Brexit deal.

Of course migration has put a strain on public services in some areas that’s why Labour would restore the migrant impact fund that the Tories scrapped.

Sarah Champion is leading for Labour on our policies to ensure better integration and more community cohesion and part of that again will be about restoring funding for English language lessons.

Let’s not forget it was this Tory government that slashed funding for learning English as a second language. As we’ve seen with the Prime Minister talking about the need to strengthen mental health care, while cutting funding by eight per cent it seems the government’s second language is hypocrisy.

It is the ripping up of workplace protections and trade union rights that has allowed unscrupulous employers to exploit both migrant and British labour, and help to keep pay low, and drive down conditions for everyone.

But let’s be clear, public services are not under pressure primarily because of immigration – especially since many migrant workers keep those public services going.

They are under pressure because this Tory government has cut them to fund tax break after tax break to the super rich and big business.

That is the Tory game – low taxes for the rich, low pay for the rest, underfund public services, and find someone to blame , It’s brutal and it’s not working.
Labour will break with this failed model and offer solutions to problems, not someone to blame.

Labour will demand that the Brexit negotiations give us the power to intervene decisively to prevent workers, from here or abroad, being used and exploited to undermine pay and conditions at work.

We need a drive to provide British people with the skills necessary to take up the new jobs which a Labour government and the new economy will generate. I’ve already set out at the CBI and TUC conferences that this means asking companies to pay a bit more in tax to fund more and better access to education and skills training, and government contractors always providing decent skilled apprenticeships.

We will end the race to the bottom in pay, working conditions and job insecurity, setting up a new Ministry of Labour to get a grip on the anything goes jobs market free-for-all.

Labour will ensure all workers have equal rights at work from day one – and require collective bargaining agreements in key sectors in a properly regulated labour market, so that workers cannot be undercut.

That will bring an end to the unscrupulous use of agency labour and bogus self-employment, to stop undercutting and to ensure every worker has a secure job with secure pay, that’s why we’ll set the minimum wage at the level of the living wage, expected to be £10 per hour by 2020.

Those changes should be made to benefit the whole country.

But while we tackle low pay at the bottom, we also have to address the excess that drives that poverty pay that leaves millions of people in poverty even though they work.

In the 1920s, J.P. Morgan, the Wall Street banker limited salaries to 20 times that of junior employees.

Another advocate of pay ratios was David Cameron. His government proposed a 20:1 pay ratio to limit sky-high pay in the public sector and now all salaries higher than £150,000 must be signed off by the Cabinet Office.

Labour will go further and extend that to any company that is awarded a government contract.

A 20:1 ratio means someone earning the living wage, just over £16,000 a year, would permit an executive to be earning nearly £350,000. It cannot be right that if companies are getting public money that that can be creamed off by a few at the top.

But there is a wider point too. 20 years ago the top bosses of the FTSE 100 companies earned just under 50 times their average worker, today that figure is now 130 times. Last year alone, the top bosses got a 10 per cent pay rise, far higher than those doing the work in the shops, in the call centres, in the warehouses.

So what can we do?

… We could allow consumers to judge for themselves, with a government-backed kitemark for those companies that have agreed pay ratios between the pay of the highest and lowest earners with a recognised trade union.

… We could ask for executive pay to be signed off by remuneration committees on which workers have a majority.

… We could ensure higher earners pay their fair share by introducing a higher rate of income tax on the highest 5 percent or 1 percent of incomes.

… We could offer lower rates of corporation tax for companies that don’t pay anyone more than a certain multiple of the pay of the lowest earner.

There are many options. But what we cannot accept is a society in which a few earn the in two and a bit days, what a nurse, a shop worker, a teacher do in a year. That cannot be right.

This is not about limiting aspiration or penalising success, it’s about recognising that success is a collective effort and rewards must be shared.

We cannot have the CEO paying less tax than the cleaner and pretending they are worth thousands times more than the lowest paid staff.

So this is Labour’s vision for Britain after Brexit.

Labour will not block the referendum vote when the time comes in Parliament, we will vote for Article 50.

But as the Opposition we will ensure the government is held to account for its negotiating demands.

At the moment they are in total disarray, on Brexit, on the NHS and social care, on the pay in your pocket.

Labour will build a better Britain out of Brexit.

That will start with the refinancing of the NHS and the creation of a more equal country, in which power and wealth is more fairly shared amongst our communities. A genuinely inclusive society with strong and peaceful relations with the rest of the world.

This is Labour’s New Year pledge to the British people.

Of course they know it’s Christmas

Of Course They Know It’s Christmas
after Midge Ure & Bob Geldof

It’s Christmastime; and there’s every reason to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let the light love us and we banish shame
Down our streets of plenty we can spread the smirk of money
Throw your arms around a former bass guitarist
Whose name you think is Chris at Christmastime

But ping your pennies at the other ones
In the long line outside the foodbank
As you drive loudly past
In your silver BMW
Because it’s better than paying tax

At Christmastime
It gets hard, though not as hard as it used to, when you’re having fun
With a reupholstered former model who claims to be a cousin
Of General Pinochet’s personal physician
There’s a world outside your triple-gazed PVC window
And it’s a world of fear and hate
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting
Of an accountant from Penge
Peeing on rough sleepers
Because his train is late again

We could’ve kept our enormous
Mouths shut, or had the good taste
To be found dead in suspicious
Circumstances at least a decade ago
Instead we offer
A bunch of rock stars who’d be forgotten
If it wasn’t for this old song

And the alarms that go off there
Are the clanging chimes of private property
Well tonight thank Lucifer it’s them instead of Bono
And there will be ice in sleeping bags this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is death
Remind them that it’s Christmastime
In case they missed the ads


Appeal to Potential Asylum Seekers

Appeal to Potential Asylum Seekers
By Order of Her Majesty’s Government

The desserts of Vienna are creamier
than is the case in even
the better bits of Leeds or Swansea.
Their trams turn up when they’re meant to,
which is hardly ever true
of an outskirts-of-Great-Yarmouth Saturday night,
except when Prince Edward is dying,
re-marrying, or giving birth,
and there’s an Ian Stuart Donaldson concert to celebrate.

Also, we think it important we clarify:
Hugh Grant is not a real person.
So, there’s no point coming here
in the hope of making him
your husband, or even,
your wife.

Contrary to reports in the popular press:
our social security is in fact rubbish.
And we’re working hard to make it worse.
You’ll toil all the hours picking
shells off a beach in the dark;
or clean a pretend bank
for less per week than
Andrew Neil pays to have
his back waxed.

And you’ll have nowhere to live,
given our plan to gift
the last council house to former
model Jerry Hall
for rest and recuperation
the day after she’s taken annually
by Rupert Murdoch, as she’s now
contractually bound
to let herself be.

If you stay were you are,
as a gesture, we offer you
Richard Branson. The first forty four
legitimate asylum seekers
to complete the relevant form will each
be entitled to one of his teeth,
for use perhaps as collateral or
as a miniature sex toy –

on condition you remove
it at your own leisure using
the rudimentary
chisel provided.


The unions and migration

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey’s speech at the CLASS conference in London, on November 5.

Unite is proud of the part it played in establishing the movement’s very own think-tank [CLASS], and it is wonderful to see it now advancing its work by leaps and bounds.

Of course, it is hard when you are as adrift in the opinion polls as Labour is today. Most of what CLASS is advocating – the policies it is developing across a range of issues – will require a Labour government to put them into practice.

There are many reasons for this present poll deficit, one of them of course the summer wasted on an unnecessary bout of internal warfare triggered by some in the PLP.

But another is the subject I want to say a few words about today – immigration, the free movement of labour or however you want to describe it. What I would like to do is open up a debate on how our movement should respond, rather than pretend to say the last word on it.

There is no doubt that concerns about the impact of the free movement of Labour in Europe played a large part in the referendum result, particularly in working-class communities.

It is those same communities – traditionally Labour-supporting – where our Party is now struggling.

It would be easy to simply say – let’s pull up the drawbridge. However, that would be entirely impractical in today’s world and it would also alienate many of those whose support the Labour Party needs to retain as part of its 2020 electoral coalition.

But we are well past the point where the issue can be ignored. Indeed, I can reveal that as long ago as 2009 Unite private surveys of membership opinion were showing that even then our members were more concerned about immigration than any other political issue.

And we are also, I would argue, past the point where working people can be convinced that the free movement of labour has worked for them, their families, their industries and their communities.

It is fine to argue values and perspectives for the middle distance, but if it comes up against the reality of people’s daily experience, these arguments will fail.

Let’s have no doubt – the free movement of labour is a class question. Karl Marx identified that fact a long time ago. “A study of the struggle waged by the British working class,” he wrote in 1867, “reveals that in order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force.”

So it is today. Anyone who has had to negotiate for workers, in manufacturing in particular, knows the huge difficulties that have been caused by the ability of capital to move production around the world – often to China and the Far East or Eastern Europe – in search of far lower labour costs and higher profits.

Likewise, the elite’s use of immigration to this country is not motivated by a love of diversity or a devotion to multi-culturalism. It is instead all part of the flexible labour market model, ensuring a plentiful supply of cheap labour here for those jobs that can’t be exported elsewhere.

The benefits of this are for sure easier to see in Muswell Hill than they are in Middlesbrough. Of course, all socialists must ultimately look forward to a day when people can move freely across the world and live or work where they will.

But that is a utopia removed from the world of today, and would require international economic planning and public ownership to make a reality.

Argument that wage rates are not affected does not stand up to scrutiny either. Put simply, if all you have to sell is your capacity to work, then its value is going to be affected by an influx of people willing to work for less money and put up with a lower standard of living because it nevertheless improves their own lives. Supply and demand affects the sale of labour too, pitting worker against worker.

Of course, there is a straightforward trade union response – we need to do everything necessary to organise all workers here into trade unions, wherever they may have been born and whatever their history, and fight for decent pay, proper working conditions and full rights at work.

And we should join Labour in demanding that this country – the sixth richest in the world – provides every worker, wherever they are from, with a decent job and every family with a decent home.

And unions here need to unite with trade unions in other countries to end to the playing off of workers in one part of the world against each other, to oppose the power of global capital with the power of a renewed international labour movement.

The problem is not cheap labour in Britain – it’s cheap labour anywhere. And let’s not pretend that free movement is a straightforward benefit to the countries workers are leaving behind, being denuded of young people and skilled labour. We need to work with Socialists across Europe and indeed the world to create a system that works for everyone, wherever they are born.

There is another more immediate argument for free movement of Labour – it is the price for keeping access to the single market, which is essential for so many British jobs. That problem needs to be frankly acknowledged – fixed barriers to free movement will hardly be acceptable to the European Union if access to the single market is to be retained.

So we need a new approach. I believe it is time to change the language around this issue and move away from talk of “freedom of movement” on the one hand and “controls” on the other and instead to speak of safeguards. Safeguards for communities, safeguards for workers, and safeguards for industries needing labour. At the core of this must be the reassertion of collective bargaining and trade union strength.

My proposal is that any employer wishing to recruit labour abroad can only do so if they are either covered by a proper trade union agreement, or by sectoral collective bargaining.

Put together with trade unions own organising efforts this would change the race-to-the-bottom culture into a rate- for-the- job society. It would end the fatal attraction of ever cheaper workers for employers, and slash demand for immigrant labour, without the requirement for formal quotas or restrictions.

Add to this proposal Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to fair rules and reasonable management of migration, as well as Labour’s pledge to restore the Migrant Impact Fund for communities suddenly affected by large—scale migration, and there is the basis for giving real reassurance to working people in towns and cities abandoned by globalisation.

And let’s not forget what unites all of us: anger at the government’s disgraceful treatment of refugees, who deserve safety and protection; shame at the Tory attempts to use EU citizens already living and working here as a sort of negotiating card – they must have the right to remain; and a determination to resist the rise in racist attacks and invective which has blighted our society past-referendum.

But we can no longer sit like the three wise monkeys, seeing no problem, hearing no problem and speaking of no problem. We must listen and respond to working people’s concerns – because that is the only way to earn their support. That way we can consign today’s opinion polls to the dustbin and convince working people that the labour movement is their best protection in an uncertain present and their best hope for a prosperous future.

This article first appeared in LabourList (November 6)

Scottish independence is now a necessary antidote to the reactionary beast of Brexit

by John Wight

scottish-independenceIt was already the case that the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon was the only political leader to emerge from the Brexit debacle with any credibility. During her initial public statement after the result of the EU referendum was confirmed on June 24, she extended the hand of friendship to EU migrants and other immigrants living and working in Scotland, assuring them they were welcome and would remain so. It was a powerful statement of solidarity with people who’d found themselves reduced to the status of ‘the other’ during the course of a political campaign over Britain’s membership of the EU that plumbed new depths of indecency and mendacity. Strip away the embroidery and Brexit was driven by a tidal wave of xenophobic and British/English nativist hysteria, whipped by the the right wing of the Tory Party and UKIP.

Now, four months on, Sturgeon has placed the prospect of a second referendum on Scottish independence back on the table, at the very point at which Brexit starts to make its presence felt economically and politically. In this the SNP leader’s hand has been forced by a Prime Minister, Theresa May, who is no mood to compromise when it comes to wrenching Scotland out of the single market, regardless of the fact she has no mandate to do so.

As someone who opposed Scottish independence in 2014, writing numerous articles and appearing in public debates to put the case for unity across the UK on the basis of class, rather than division on the basis of nationality, I now believe that independence for Scotland is not only desirable but necessary. Not only is it necessary in the interests of people in Scotland, but even more significantly it is necessary in order to lift the banner of progressive politics out of the mud, where it currently lies, and raise it as a beacon of hope across a European continent engulfed by the ugly politics of racial and national exceptionalism to an extent not seen since the 1930s.

It is now inarguable that the dominant political culture in Scotland is at odds with its counterpart in England. Even while opposing independence in 2014, I did so while acknowledging the progressive character of a Yes campaign that was a tribute to political engagement, progessive ideas, and discourse. It was inclusive, idealistic, and driven by hope and the expectation of something better, more humane and just than the Westminster status quo. Compare this with the ugliness of Brexit and how it unleashed a poisonous anti-immigrant and triumphalist white British nationalism, legitimising xenophobia as a political current.

If anybody had allowed themselves to believe that this explosion of right wing reaction was merely an aberration, the Tory Party conference in Birmingham confirmed it is the new normal. With their verbal broadside against immigration, Theresa May and the Tories have aligned themselves with the working class rump that constitutes the British jobs for British workers crew — a demographic won to the fallacious argument that dwindling public services and the assault on jobs, wages, and conditions of the past six years is due to immigration and free movement rather than Tory austerity. The Tory Party conference confirmed that Brexit Britain has set sail for the 19th century, back to a time when Britain ruled the waves and Johnny Foreigner knew his rightful place as a lesser breed of a lesser culture.

Whether we care to admit it or not, the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence raised and awoke a national consciousness that is not going back to sleep anytime soon. It dictates that politics in Scotland is now viewed through this national prism, with Brexit likewise raising its British and English counterpart. The result is that politics across Scotland and the UK has been distilled into a choice between two competing nationalisms.

Who in their right mind, either north or south of the border, could possibly argue which of the two is the more progressive? When the late Jimmy Reid said, “Nationalism is like electricity; it can kill a man in the electric chair or keep a baby alive in an incubator,” he could have been describing the fundamental difference between the nationalist current that has taken root north of the border and its counterpart south of the border.

As for Jeremy Corbyn, his attempt to return the Labour Party to something approximating to its founding values has only served to confirm that it is a party doomed to disunity and internecine war for years to come.

But even if that were not the case, it is too late for Corbyn to have any serious impact on politics in Scotland. The test of political leadership is one he failed during the EU referendum, fighting a dispassionate and lacklustre campaign of a type consistent with allegations that he wilfully sought to sabotage Remain and in truth supported Brexit. And even if he did not sabotage Labour’s campaign to remain, he inarguably failed to understand the true character of this Brexit beast, which is unforgiveable for someone widely considered the most progressive leader Labour has ever had.

The question now, then, is not if there will be another referendum on Scottish independence, but when. The case made in the 2014 White Paper was nowhere near strong enough and will have to be reconfigured in light of the proven volatility of oil prices and the need to rethink the issue of a national currency. Overall, the vision needs to be more radical and bold, signifying a clear break with the status quo politically, economically, constitutionally, and, not to be underestimated, also morally and ethically. Key, too,will be the role of the EU in supporting the prospect of an independent Scotland as a member of an EU that is long overdue for reform. If the Scottish government receives a pre-guarantee in this regard it will be game on.

Scottish independence is now the last redoubt behind which everyone across the UK who believes in human solidarity, internationalism, and a multicultural society must gather to stem the rising tide of Brexit poison that threatens to drown us all.

This article originally appeared at the Huffington Post

Who will save us from America?

img_0169The first two US presidential debates did not reveal anything new when it comes to either candidate. They only served to confirm that Donald Trump is a slobbering megalomaniac who should be kept away from political office in the same way a three-year-old child is kept away from a box of matches. A poster boy for unfettered capitalism, he is a man so divorced from reality — and, with it, his own humanity —that every word that leaves his mouth comes over as a cry for help.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is a passionate disciple of US exceptionalism – someone who believes there is no country that cannot be improved with a shower of cruise and tomahawk missiles. She and her husband come as a package of liberal opportunism who have made a successful and hugely lucrative career out of speaking left and acting right. The fruits of this opportunism are mass incarceration, the entrenchment of Wall Street as the golden temple of the US economy, and perpetual war and regime change overseas. Christopher Hitchens perhaps put it best when he opined that they [the Clintons] “haven’t met a foreign political donor they don’t like and haven’t taken from.”

Such is the parlous quality of both candidates for an office which, even in its better years, is synonymous with war crimes and crimes against humanity, it is tempting to conclude that we’re fucked. I say this as a non-American given that the occupant of the White House is a matter of grave importance for a world by now grown weary of Washington’s vast and ongoing experiment in democracy, along with the moral sickness which fuels its untrammeled power and the doctrine of ‘destroying the village in order to save it’ that has long underpinned its foreign policy.

It begs the question of who will save us from America?

Writing these words while on a recent visit to Los Angeles, I was struck by the ocean of broken humanity that fills Hollywood’s mythical gilded streets. Anyone who believes that America is a classless society need only take him or herself over here to realize how utterly wrong they are. Indeed not only will they be assured that there is no society more defined by class than US society, but that every minute of a every day a fierce class war is raging in its towns and cities, with up to now only one side in this war, the 99 percent, taking all the punches and doing all the bleeding.

Across America the abandonment of the poor, the downtrodden and the sick to their fate in service to the rich has been so brutal and cruel that its human consequences given new meaning to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. America’s poor are a colonized people, be assured, which is why Malcolm’s assertion that, “You can’t understand what’s going on in Mississippi if you don’t understand what’s going on in the Congo,” remains one of his most cogent.

Yet as much as I loathe America for the scale of injustice, brutality, and mendacity that informs its treatment of the poor at home and abroad, hope arrives in the tremendous litany of rebels, dissidents, and counter-hegemonic movements which the country has produced in response. Oppression breeds resistance and throughout US history there has been fierce resistance against overwhelming odds — Sitting Bull, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, the San Patricios, Frederick Douglas, John Brown, Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood and the Wobblies, Eugene Debs, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, MLK, Malcolm X, SNCC, the Panthers, anti-Vietnam War movement, Cesar Chavez, and on and on.

Each of them, along with the movements they led or were a part of, were sustained by the same fierce moral outrage at the injustice they experienced and witnessed being inflicted in the name of progress and might is right. Many people experience at some level and point this burning sense of moral outrage at the injustice that defines the world they live in. The difference arises between those who learn to make their peace with it and those who refuse to make their peace with it – who instead choose to grapple with this monster in what they know before they start will be a losing fight.

This is the human condition at its most inspiring, the willingness to fight even while knowing you can’t win. But, then, such a reductive and one dimensional interpretation of victory has no place when we understand history as a river that flows without end and not a monument separating it into neat and tidy chapters, as in a book. Fighting is winning and winning is fighting in a struggle that will continue so long as injustice continues.

The race for the White House is a race for power engaged in by those Chaplin famously described as “machine men with machine minds and machine hearts.” It is a contest between two representatives of a psychopathic ruling class for the keys to a kingdom of despair. But lest they allow themselves to become smug and complacent as they wallow in lives of privilege and decadence, they should hark the words of Crazy Horse, spoken days before he died while resisting imprisonment. “The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.”


Theresa May’s conference speech


What’s my vision for Britain? My philosophy? My approach?
Today I want to answer that question very directly.
” Theresa May

Who am I? And what on earth am I doing here?
Let me be clear. Each time I stand up to speak
as your Prime Minister, the church organist at Midsomer
kills again: the village florist gets it savagely
across the back of the head with a cast iron frying pan
that’s been in the family since seventeen seventy six;
or her lover, the sexton, turns up strip-jack-naked
at the bottom of the better variety of slurry pit…

In my Britain the brothels that serve
next year’s Conservative Party conference
will only employ girls with ‘Best of British’ tattooed
tastefully across their lower backs. Trust me,
when all the relevant members of my cabinet
have had their faces sat on for a fee
by Staffordshire’s finest, the British people will see
we, as a government, are ready to grasp
this once in a generation chance for change.

I will glue our United Kingdom back together,
and never let divisive nationalists,
with the exception of those here amongst us today,
tear us asunder. To this end,
the children of Dundee and Kirkcaldy
will be made recite every morning before Latin
the collected works of Rudyard Kipling;
and every homeowner south of Rickmansworth
on a salary over thrice the national average
will be given a toy Glaswegian each
with a tiny can of Irn Bru preinstalled, courtesy
of the new Department of Citizenship & Ethnic Integrity.

We are not just a party for the big people,
the sort who know what’s in the compromising photographs
the average person must never be allowed see;
we also rely on the votes of those many millions
of little people who believe in
what the big people have in store for them.

Come with me as we rise
to meet this challenge and take
each of them – be they gay
or straight, white or a bit yellow,
complete slap head or hairy all over –
coldly by the gullet
and give them the shaking
we know they deserve.


Tory Party conference – echoes of Nuremberg

LBC’s James O’Brien did a superb job of placing the anti-immigration narrative of the Tories, unleashed at their first post-Brexit party conference in Birmingham, into its rightful and very worrying context. Simply put, we have entered a politics that bear a striking resemblance to that which Europe lived through in the 1930s, when in similar conditions of economic depression, austerity, and the ensuing assault on workers’ wages, conditions, and living standards, the politics of race and ultra nationalism were able to achieve mainstream legitimacy and traction.

If, by now, there is anybody on the left who still believes Brexit somehow enhances the prospect of a more just, equitable, and progressive society coming to pass, they are not only delusional but also mendacious. Those who sided with Farage and company — and here George Galloway with his obscene appearance at that now notorious UKIP anti-EU rally, where he baldly proclaimed, ‘Left-right, left right, all the way to victory,” springs to mind — in making the case for “taking the country” back should be hanging their heads in shame over the reality of Brexit, as opposed to the theoretical and doctrinal wonderland they inhabited while campaigning for it.

The warnings issued by those who saw further and deeper, that Brexit would unleash a tidal wave of right wing consciousness across the country, such as that which followed the Falklands War, were blithely ignored – even contemptuously dismissed – by people who should know better. The result is that we now have a Tory Prime Minister embracing the politics of anti-immigration and xenophobia in a move designed to curry favour with an indigenous white working class that has been persuaded that dwindling public services, low pay, and job insecurity is a product of immigration rather than inequality and Tory austerity.

With her speech — which followed on from an even more reactionary effort by her Home Secretary, Amber Rudd — Theresa May has drawn a clear dividing line in British society on the question of immigration and the status of migrants. In other words, you either stand in solidarity with migrants or you stand against them. Any nuanced middle ground left available to stand on when it comes to this question has now disappeared

Much of the responsibility for this state of affairs, the ability for such nakedly and brutal xenophobia to take root, lies with the left. As Ben Chu wrote in The Independent:

The academic evidence we have is very clear that immigration does not undermine average UK living standards, but actually enhances them. Some researchers have found that there is a negative impact on the wages of unskilled natives — but only a mild one. Overall the impact is positive.

Yet some on the liberal left, despite acknowledging this evidence, are moving to the view that telling people that they’re wrong when they complain of a negative economic impact of immigration is condescending.

Prior to the EU referendum, British society was already being dragged deeper and deeper into a swamp of identity and anti-politics. Seen in this light, Brexit marks an all-too regressive and reactionary culmination; tantamount to the reassertion of far right nostrums not only on free movement, but also on all immigration, minorities (particularly Muslims), and multiculturalism.

The reason such a vile and toxic mix has been able to gain the traction it undoubtedly has is austerity and the unleashing of the class war it describes and has informed. It has led to the collapse of the political centre ground, not only in Britain but all across Europe and the US, where Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency has served to elevate the same xenophobic and reactionary politics to mainstream legitimacy as Brexit. The space vacated by this collapse has been largely filled by the right and far right rather than the left. In sum, the right is currently winning the battle of ideas with the result the triumphalist re-branding of the Tories as a patriotic defender of British workers against their foreign counterparts and interlopers, coming over here to steal British jobs and push down the wages of British workers.

Jeremy Corbyn’s response to May’s conference speech, while of course welcome, was an exercise in attacking the Brexit horse after it has bolted. He and his team failed to understand the danger Brexit posed during the EU referendum campaign, else why was his campaign so lacklustre and woefully dispassionate?

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, who is the only party to leader to have emerged from the wreckage of Brexit with any credit, again proved her mettle when in response to May’s conference speech, she opined:

Theresa May’s vision of Brexit Britain is a deeply ugly one — a country where people are judged not by their ability or their contribution to the common good, but by their birthplace or by their passport. It is a vision the Scottish Government wants no part of, and one which we will never subscribe to.

The British people in 2016 are sleepwalking, just as people in Germany and elsewhere in the 1930s sleepwalked, into a sewer of right wing demagoguery and racism. Nobody should make the mistake in thinking it can’t happen here.

It can.