Dead Men Left

Friday, March 31, 2006

It's the Sun Wot Won It

Struck by the contrast between comments deposited about the pensions strike at the (nominally left-leaning) Guardian site, and those left at the Sun. Bloody liberals.

Standards in Public Life

Rich Tories, for a change:

The Conservatives today revealed the names of 13 wealthy backers who had lent the party nearly £16m - but repaid a further £5m in order to preserve the anonymity of other lenders...

Among the 13 listed, the biggest lenders are former party treasurer and deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft (£3.6m) and Scottish philanthropist Lord Laidlaw (£3.5m).

How the hell can anyone who gives £3.5m to the Tory Party still be described, straight-faced, as a "philanthropist"? "Misanthropist", possibly.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dead rich

Inheritance tax. Tends to make unpleasant people become inordinately concerned about the welfare of the extraordinarily rich. Seems to be popping up quite a bit at the moment, though. This from Andrew Bartlett is worth reading, not least for the large numbers of vaguely unpleasant commenters valiantly failing to defend the indefensible.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Sun promotes pensions strikes shock

The Sun is inviting its readers to "HAVE YOUR SAY" on the pensions strike yesterday, below a story about Unison leader Dave Prentis going to watch Arsenal. The comments on the website are (presumably) carefully edited. And yet:

For the first time in my life I went on strike yesterday. I viewed the strike action as a last resort to put pressure on the Local Government Association and Government to see common sense and stop playing politics with my pension. When I first started paying into my pension scheme, the Government at the time allowed local councils to have pension breaks - hence the mess we are left with today.
Donna Abrahart

I fully support the strike. Local government workers have been paying into the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) for their whole careers on the understanding that when they retired they would get the benefit of those contributions. Now the government is trying to change the terms of the contract they made with those workers to cut the payments and make it harder for people to get what they have paid for.
Stephen Booth

Pensions should be improved for all not worsened! Britain is the fourth richest country in world. But we have officially over 1 million pensioners who are poor. What sort of society do we want?
Tim Ellis

Why shouldn’t he go to the football?
Jim Webster

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Excellent, excellent...

This makes for heartening reading, especially alongside the reports and pictures here from France. Recidivists, Luddites, and wreckers, the lot of them; and a good thing, too.

"Student of irony" summed up the prevailing ruling class attitude, the "politics of envy":

It's a point that's struck me many times, that we live in a world where the affluent are envious of the [rest] of us. They never stop going on about how the rest of us have got too much.

I've wondered, in the past, if we're not rapidly approaching what is fashionably called a tipping-point for neoliberalism. As a mode of rule, across great swathes of the globe it is demonstrably failing to deliver the goods: neither reliable economic growth, nor political consent. Resistance to privatisation and deregulation and the rest of it is, whilst still very uneven, becoming sufficient to undermine the programme; whether the strikes today will derail the alleged reforms is a moot point, of course, but you can certainly see the potential.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More New Labour corruption

Down in Tower Hamlets:

Nasir Uddin, ex-Labour councillor for the St Dunstan's and Stepney ward, and his younger brother, Ain Uddin, dramatically changed their pleas today (Weds) at Southwark Crown Court in a fraud trial also involving Kumar Murshid, a serving member of Tower Hamlets council and a former top advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Nasir Uddin, 33, now of Cotswold Gardens, East Ham, admitted taking £15,694 for personal gain from the Stepney-based Youth Action Scheme four years ago.

Depressing about this story are the pitiful sums of cash involved. Whilst New Labour wallows around in £14m secret loans, dispensing honours as needed, its underlings are reduced to scrabbling around after sums you'd hardly think worth risking prison for - sums that, nontheless, would make a difference if they'd been spent as intended. Tower Hamlets' "corrupt political culture" may yet choke.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


An excellent week: the worse it gets for Blair, the better it can get for the rest of us. New Labour's going to get slaughtered at the local council elections, especially in London; whilst his grip until now has been impressive, Blair's not going to cling on much after that.

I have only one complaint: it's not "sleaze". It's corruption. Why mince words?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Making history: Aznar, Eta, al-Qaida

It's possible the glaring omission in this excerpted article arose from dodgy editing, but it is still incredible that an account of Aznar's ignominious exit from office can contrive to ignore the mass mobilisations that preceded it.

In the end, it was not al-Qaida that brought down the People's Party (which was fielding Mariano Rajoy for prime minister, as Aznar stuck to a pledge not to serve more than two terms). It was Eta. Or, rather, it was the party's obsession with Eta which meant it could not - or did not want to - see that the real culprits lay elsewhere.

First, this is a brazen effort to absolve the People's Party of their responsibility: attempting to hide the consequences of the invasion of Iraq behind Eta was a sick piece of spin. Second, this is - in a typical dodge - attempting to write activist politics out of history; in this case, to the point of total implausibility. Here's another view.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ontology and picket-lines

K-Punk, squeezing much from talking to scabs and reactionaries:

An ideological position can never be really successful until it is naturalized, and it cannot be naturalized while it is still thought of as a value rather than a fact. In the case of the lecturers I was talking to, it seems that Capitalist Realism has been so successful in installing Business Ontology that there is no longer any question of evaluating it at all. Business assumptions are now transcendental presuppositions, defining the horizons of the thinkable. It is simply obvious that everything in society, including education, should be run as a business. It is simply obvious that no other criteria can come into play. Hence the reason that my flailing attempts to raise issues of 'justice' were not so much rebuffed as greeted with blank incomprehension.

cf. Tony Cliff:

The class struggle always expresses itself, not just in a conflict between workers and capitalists, but inside the working class itself. On the picket line it is not true that workers are there to try and prevent the capitalist from working. The capitalists never worked in their lives so they will not work during a strike. What the picket line is about is one group of workers trying to prevent another group of workers from crossing the picket line in the interests of the employers.

The question of workers’ power, what Marx called the dictatorship of the proletariat. Why would you need a dictatorship of the proletariat if the whole working class is united and there are only a tiny minority of capitalists in opposition? You could say go home, and we’d finish with the bosses. If the whole working class is united we could spit at them and flood them into the Atlantic!

The reality is that there will be workers on one side and backward workers on the other side. Because “the prevailing ideas of every society are the ideas of the ruling class”, the workers are split between different levels of consciousness.

Mark also thinks The Apprentice "should be compulsory viewing for all Marxists", a sentiment I agree with mightily. "Pathetic self-delusion, baboonery dressed up in Harvard Biz School lingo, massive ego over-investment in projects so abjectly inane that they are not even pointless: suddenly it all becomes clear why Capitalism is so mired in banality and incompetence." (It's the language that really frightens me: my god, these people appear to actually think in terms entirely provided by management self-help books. So nice to see them turning on each other, like underfed dogs in a pit.)

Deep entry

I've been woefully lazy with the blog this last month or so. Been horribly busy, just not had much time on my hands.

Someone for whom this clearly doesn't apply has written a biography of Blair as if he were what I believe is known as a "deep entryist". This is really significantly less fun than it sounds: it means being a secret revolutionary lurking inside a large political organisation, becoming a good and dutiful apparatchik, and quietly waiting for the glorious day to arrive when the blinkers are thrown from the masses eyes, the shackles of reformism are cast asunder, etc, and your true politics can be revealed and the masses rally to your banner.

Blair's mask slipped last week when he admitted that Isaac Deutscher's biography of Trotsky got him interested in politics in the first place. (Unusually good taste on Blair's part, it must be said.) So this is the PM as undercover Trot, hell-bent on destroying what one crazed old Stalinist ("17 years a Communist councillor in this borough") of my acquaintance insists on calling the "historic party of the British working class". All of which put me vaguely in mind of Lionel Jospin.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Keeping with the utter cynicism theme, how's about this one - front page of the Independent on Sunday - for a not entirely subtle attempt to make sure the pretty straight kind of guy doesn't have his squeaky-clean hands anywhere too obviously near this particular till?

A furious Tessa Jowell decided to separate from her husband David Mills after it emerged that the businessman had attempted to trade on his relationship with Tony Blair, The Independent on Sunday can today reveal."

Thing is, Mills has been grade-A shady for years:

Now for something else you won’t find in the mainstream media. Mills was under long term surveillance by the Serious Fraud Office for numerous dubious financial transactions. Approximately nine years ago, his office was actually raided by the SFO. As the investigation drew to a close, New Labour came to power. An inside source tells me that SFO staff believed they had a good case, and wondered whether his friendship with the new Prime Minister Blair had any bearing on it not coming to court. A Sunday Times Insight investigation into Mills was spiked by the editors.

So these current peculiar financial dealings do not drop out of a clear blue sky. A lot of taxpayers’ money has been spent investigating Mills before. He is well dodgy.

You have to wonder if at any point in the whole international tax lawyer-bribery allegations-Mafia connections-SFO investigation shennanigans anyone bothered to ask how Mills made his money, exactly. Perhaps. Maybe these things simply aren't done in the better social circles.


A vague glimmer of sense:

Building new nuclear plants is not the answer to tackling climate change or securing Britain's energy supply, a government advisory panel has reported...

Research by the SDC suggests that even if the UK's existing nuclear capacity was doubled, it would only provide an 8% cut on CO2 emissions by 2035 (and nothing before 2010).

Anything that chips away at the pernicious myth that nuclear power is a carbon-free quick-fix should be welcomed. Particularly insidious is the idea that a our current merry, energy-intensive existence can be sustained if we just build a couple of oh-so-clean, oh-so-cheap nuclear power plants.

It can't, of course.

Prof Jaccard told The Daily Telegraph: "If humanity is serious about huge carbon emission cuts this century, zero-emission fossil fuels will dominate nuclear, renewables and energy efficiency."

He has worked out that Britain would need not only to replace its existing nuclear power stations but to double their number if it were to generate enough electricity and to fuel its transport - whether by charging electric cars or by making hydrogen or biofuels - by nuclear means alone.

He said: "It is one thing to build a nuclear power plant on an existing site, but imagine building 15 new ones."

What bothers me is this. I have a horrible sinking feeling that, after discreetly floating the possibility last year, the government is already pretty well set on building a new generation of nuclear plants. They will attempt, as ever, to take the line of least resistance against corporate interests: they will not contemplate the kind of public investment needed to turn renewable sources into a viable energy prospect, and they're (as yet) demonstrably unwilling to tackle energy efficiency.

The Energy Review and Nick Stern's climate change commission are likely to offer, at best, agnosticism on nuclear power. One or both may end up strongly in favour - most likely the Energy Review. If that's the case, Jonanthah Porritt's well-meaning intervention will be little more than a bright green fig-leaf for a dirty energy policy.