Thursday, October 2, 2014

Greasy Pole: Clashing In Clacton (2014)

The Greasy Pole Column from the October 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard

Jaywick is a village on the Essex coast with a stretch of golden sand. Built in 1928, it originally consisted of 'chalets' but these developed as permanent residences and the occasional holiday retreat for anyone who was in employment permanent enough for them to afford a week away to recover from That War followed by The Slump. For many it was as close to paradise as they were likely to get. But it is all different now, for Jaywick has fallen to the lower layers of poverty and decay. In 2011 a survey by the Department of Communities and Local Government stated that on the basis of poverty, crime, education, unemployment and housing it was the most deprived area in England. There is a lack of street lighting and pavements and what were parades of shops are now wastelands – empty and vandalised. It is part of the genteel Parliamentary constituency of Clacton, which was represented by the Conservative Douglas Carswell until August, when he changed to UKIP and stood down from Parliament with the stated intention of contesting the resulting by-election there.
Sofa Clique
Clacton was created as a parliamentary constituency for the 2010 election, when Carswell had a majority of 12,088. In common with a number of coastal towns, it has a higher proportion of retired people and a lesser number of those classified as 'non-white'. Votes there are cast defensively; local polls confirm support for Carswell's stand against British membership of the EU, for restricting the inflow of immigrants and longer prison sentences for repeat offenders... all of which add up to Clacton being a hopeful place for a UKIP candidate.  Among the polls the Conservative Home website predicted that Carswell would get some 56 per cent of the by-election vote as against only 24 per cent for the Tory candidate, for he promised to change things: 'Our politics is dominated by politicians. It's all about them, not the people they are supposed to answer to... First under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown, now David Cameron, it's all about the priorities of whichever tiny clique happens to be sitting on the sofa in Downing Street. Different clique, same sofa . . . They seek every great office, yet believe in so little'.
Someone Special
Carswell is well experienced in this matter of aiming for a place on that sofa. He first contested an election in 2001, at none other than Sedgefield where Tony Blair was the Member. At the time, before Iraq and the infamous lies, there was something of a slump in the popularity of that Labour government and Carswell reduced Blair's majority by 7,500. And then in 2005, after a spell in David Cameron's office, he stood for Harwich and turned out the sitting Labour MP by 920 votes. In 2007 he was a joint- author of Direct Democracy an agenda for a new model party, which led The Spectator to include him among '...the brightest young Conservative thinkers'. In the Sunday Times in July 2008 he was hailed as ' of the energetic young Tory modernisers elected to the Commons in 2005' and in the following year the Daily Telegraph named him as 'the Parliamentarian of the Year'. All of which, with his increasing majority in Clacton, entitled Carswell to regard himself as someone with real prospects. But every day, in so many ways, the arrogance of politicians with their bogus 'principles', their superficial 'energy', their 'modernising' is exposed to us. How does Carswell match up to this?
No Primary
After the 2010 election the Coalition agreement promised to introduce a system whereby the voters select candidates in primary elections. Carswell stated his support for this reform, in the so-called Contract With Britain. Which would have been more convincing if he had applied the system in his own case. But when he moved from the Tory Party to UKIP and resigned as an MP he said he would stand again without any mention of a primary election. Instead the matter was subject to the system he professes to despise; in fact it was even more closed – privately settled with Nigel Farage during a cosy meal in a discreet Mayfair restaurant. This took no account of the fact that there was already a selected UKIP candidate – Roger Lord, a local farmer who had been a member of UKIP since 1997. Lord complained bitterly about being elbowed aside, to the extent that he more or less removed himself from all political activity of whatever party.
If there were ever any doubts about Carswell's resolve to make his name – and ensure himself a place further up the Greasy Pole – they would have been stilled by what the Daily Mail called his 'fearless' call for the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin to be dismissed for his resistance to a more open system in the matter of the MPs' expenses. In May 2009 Carswell's motion of no confidence led to Martin resigning from the chair, pleading that this was 'for the sake of unity'. But Carswell himself was not backward in the scandal, for his campaign against MPs' sleaze (he complained that their standing had 'never been so low') did not prevent him being one of those imaginative claimants for 'expenses'. He began by designating a £1 million flat in London as his second home before flipping to a £335,000 house in Essex. This was followed by his claims for furniture and equipment which between 2007 and 2009 cost some £32,000. He claimed £429 for gardening and then, perhaps to reveal himself as someone with an eye for detail, 74p for a washing line from Tesco. But above all else was a £655 Maximus love seat 'in deep moss brushed cotton with extra fabric protector' for use when he moved in with his future wife.
We are fully accustomed to the sprouting of some smaller third party urging us to vote them into power because they are cleaner, more honest and reliable than the two big ones with their playing elections as a kind of gruesome Musical Chairs. We remember David Steel and his Liberals,  Roy Jenkins and his SDP. Now we have Farage and his strangely impulsive, self-incriminating lot. The signs are that come 9 November Carswell will be their first MP. But all the evidence says that he should not let this excite him into any further delusions. Which also goes for those who vote for him.

Review. (1911)

Book Review from the January 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

"My Case," By Walter V. Osbourne, (Eveleigh Nash. Is. net.)

Ten years ago a judgement in a certain trade union case was given by the section of the House of Lords known as the "Law Lords" that became world famous as the Taff Vale case.

It was an action by the Taff Vale Railway Co. against the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants to recover damages in respect to injury arising from a strike of the railway men, and the judgement was in favour of the masters.

This case was one of the greatest factors in the building up of the Labour Representation Committee (now the Labour Party) and Richard Bell, then secretary of the A.S.R.S., was chairman of the Committee during 1902.

Time's irony has brought another Law Lords; decision against the A.S.R.S., but this time levelled at the Labour Party it was so instrumental in building up. And as if to complete the sarcasm of events, Lord Farwell is one of the judges in the last case, as he was in the first.

In the November issue of this journal were given the reasons this party agree with the Osbourne judgement—so-known from the name of the individual who brought the action.

The book under review tells us singularly little that the ordinary reader of the newspapers did not know, unless we except the appendix containing the judgement of the five Law Lords. But there is a good deal of what can only be described as cant, while one or two curious statements are made.

On page 5 we are told the author started "without organisation or funds, relying wholly upon the justice of the cause" (obvious cant) while on page 18 occurs this curious admission: "It now became evident that the matter must go to the Courts. In order to obtain some standing I came forward as candidate for Walthamstow Town Council, and was returned in April 1906."

The reader may wonder what this had to do with an action that Mr. Osbourne is continually telling us was a trade union matter. The following may increase this wonder—or dispel it.

"At the Walthamstow Council I had the good fortune to meet Councillor Wilkinson, a solicitor in the City of London, who agreed to take charge of the case." (Page 28.)

Mr. Osbourne was certainly a fortunate man, for on the same page we are told "For myself, I was entirely without resources, and had no knowledge of how or where to obtain money, but after six months of persistent effort I succeeded in raising £250," and on page 29, after describing how he had lost both his case and his money in the lower Courts, he says: "Owing, however, to the great generosity of my solicitor in trusting me to raise the money eventually. I was able to proceed with the case."

And we are told that, in the Court of Appeal "our Counsel realised that they were fighting, not only for the liberty of their fellow citizens, but for the very safety of our Constituion."

My word! and we had been unaware of the danger until Mr. Osbourne became the chosen instrument for our defence.

Throughout the book the term "Socialist" is applied to the Labour Party and its leaders. Yet Mr. Osbourne must know that the Socialist Party has denounced them as anti-Socialists and misleaders of the working class, because our Party had to fight the executive of the A.S.R.S. over the exposure of the latters' action in connection with the North Eastern Railway.

These misleaders have been very busy throwing out insinuations and sneers with reference to the source of the funds Mr. Osbourne obtained. They are, of course, fine judges of "curious sources" whence funds are obtained. But on page 58 Mr. Osbourne reprints a letter sent to the Morning Post and other papers (7th Oct. 1910), challenging the Trades Union Congress to appoint an independent investigator, but although at that moment busy abusing him, the Congress did not tale his challenge up. So far as the present reader has heard, they have not replied to his letter at all—a significant measure of the worth of their criticism.
Jack Fitzgerald

Editorial: Stalin - the God who fell (1961)

Editorial from the December 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

For Stalin, the final disgrace.

His simple grave now mocks the memory of the days when he was the great dictator, who could make Krushchev caper like a court jester.

It mocks, too, the memory of the fulsome praise that was heaped upon him when his pitiless rule was at its height. Here is part of a poem which was published in Pravda on August 28th, 1936:
O Great Stalin, O Leader of the Peoples,
Thou who didst give birth to man,
Thou who didst make fertile the earth,
Thou who dost rejuvenate the Centuries.
Thou who givest blossom to the spring . . . 
And this is Krushchev himself, speaking at the eighteenth Congress in 1938 on the extermination of Stalin's opponents:
. . . Our victory in defeating the fascist agents—all these despicable trotskyists, bukharinists and bourgeois nationalists—we owe above all to the personal effort of our great leader, comrade Stalin . . . Long live the towering genius of all humanity, the teacher and the guide who is leading us victoriously to Communism, our beloved comrade Stalin.
Now that the truth about the "beloved comrade" is officially acknowledged in Moscow, we can expect some more rewriting of history, just as it was when Stalin wanted to eliminate the memory of his enemies.

In England the Communist Party will be in confusion for some time. Always taking their line from Moscow, they were among Stalin's worshippers, and disregarded the facts about the Russian dictator which Socialists, and others, put before them. The latest change of policy will be hard to swallow, even for them.

In the Kremlin the power struggle continues. Perhaps Molotov and Voroshilov will go as others have gone before them. Perhaps Trotsky will be posthumously reinstated. perhaps the Soviet government will gratify the historians who see similarities between twentieth century Russia and seventeenth century England by treating Stalin's corpse as Cromwell's was, after the Restoration. We can be sure that whatever happens will be excused in the name of the "Socialist Fatherland."

The Russian workers will probably accept this, in the manner of workers all over the world. How much more hopeful if they turned the belated denunciation of Stalin to good account. For what guarantee is there that Stalin's successors will be any better than the man they are now denouncing? None whatsoever. Yet the whole argument for having leaders must be in the assumption that they are beneficial to society. If they can turn out as Stalin did, the argument for them is destroyed. There is a lesson here for Russian workers and for those in other countries.

Let us repeat what we have often said before. The Soviet Union is not a Socialist country. It is a dictatorial capitalist country. Stalin was a dictator. So are Krushchev and his henchmen. All Socialist oppose systems like that in Russia.

Capitalism, whoever happens to be its leaders, can only bring misery and fear to the majority of people. It is useless to change one set of leaders for another. The real need is for the working class to gain enough knowledge to bring about Socialism.

That will be a world without dictatorships and suppression. Socialism will be a world of freedom.