To mark the launch of Cinzia Arruzza’s book Dangerous Liaisons: The Marriages and Divorces of Marxism and Feminism Socialist Resistance hosted a meeting on 28 January in London with speakers including Terry Conway, Sara Farris and Cinzia Arruzza.
Terry speaks (click here to watch the video) about her experiences of joining the International Marxist Group (IMG), then the British section of the Fourth International (FI), as a young, 17 year old woman. Contrary to the socialist parties of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who set up their own women’s organisations, as transmission belts into the party, the IMG and other FI groups supported the autonomous women’s liberation movement, In 1979 the FI passed a resolution on women’s liberation, a major gain for the politics of the FI.
Sara Farris (click here to watch the video) welcomes the renewed interest in feminism and appreciates Cinzia’s book in that it combines a chronology and a theoretical journey of the relations between feminism and Marxism. She (Sara) makes a critique of Engels’ book on the origins of women’s oppression and in particular of its use of anthropological evidence (from his contemporary, Morgan) that she argues was both Eurocentric and even racist. This leads to problems still evident today, for example in the debate amongst the left on the use of the veil in France.
Cinzia speaks (click here to watch the video) of the problems of the relation between class based and gender based movements, not just because of the conflicts this relation throws up, but also because of the need to unify movements of the exploited and oppressed, including those oppressed by racism, disability, etc. We should not make a fetish of ‘unity’ in today’s world. In opposition to the idea that autonomy is a threat to the unity of the class and that there is a hierarchy of oppressions she argues that conflicts will always be there and that all aspects of capitalism need to be analysed, including domination, power, exploitation and alienation.
You can see all these videos, as well as the speakers’ responses to the discussion and videos from other events we’ve hosted here.
If you’ve spent a lifetime going to the cinema you probably won’t have heard one character accuse another of being a Shachtmanite writes Liam Mac Uaid. They were an obscure and largely forgotten offshoot of American Trotskyism. This verbal curio is the only indication you’d get that the United States folk scene of the late 50s and early 60s had a strong radical edge to it, though it would be fair to guess that this reference would be lost on a significant minority of viewers. Pete Seeger, who died within a few days of the British release of Inside Llewyn Davis directed by Ethan and Joel Coen was perhaps the best-known example of the political musician. Though Dylan’s influence is hinted at right at the end of this epic of self-centredness.
The Coens depict their folk singer as a hipster wastrel who makes a mess of everything he does, from looking after a cat to trying to get gigs. With his beard, self-absorption and studiedly scruffy clothes he could be any one of the thousands who fill the streets of the hipper parts of London from Thursday night to Sunday evening. His main interaction with a political organisation is a botched attempt to go to sea which is thwarted by union rules. It’s just not fair!
The penny drops that this is supposed to be an odyssey when the cat’s name is revealed to be Ulysses. In this case though it is a journey without a resolution, destination or obvious purpose. Oscar Isaac, who plays Davis, bumbles from one crisis to the next never once displaying a glimpse of self-awareness of his own contribution to the mess that his life has become.
Idiosyncrasy is a hallmark of the Coens’ films and the name of their anti-hero maintains that tradition. However it was a loser’s story that could have been set in any place in any time. The few bits of period music that do appear are well-crafted, such as the Clancy Brothers tribute, which features musical Satan Marcus Mumford, but anyone looking for a film from which they will learn about the New York folk scene will have to look elsewhere.
A rather grandiose title perhaps writes Jane Kelly, but how else to write about young people, sexuality and new technology without trying to relate it all to the society within which we live? Young and old, women and men, white and black, etc. etc. we all have our understanding of what is right and wrong cut through with dominant ideas created in society, ideology.
Young people, both female and male, are especially targets of ideology, not only in simple terms of creating desire for things to buy – from soft toys to the latest shoes, from trainers to electronic toys – but also in how to behave, what’s acceptable and what isn’t. But like all ideology these ideas are riven with contradictions especially when it comes to sex and sexuality.
Two reports were recently published on sexual practices amongst young people. The first, ‘It’s Wrong But You Get Used To It’ was published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England. It discussed sexual experiences in “gang-associated contexts”, and found “shocking and profoundly distressing evidence of sexual assault, including rape, being carried out by young people against other children and young people.” The deputy commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, stated,”this is a deep malaise within society, from which we must not shirk”.
The second, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles published by the Lancet, is described as the most comprehensive survey of Briton’s sexual behaviour for a decade, was reported as finding that, “One in 10 women in Britain admit they have been forced into having sex against their will, prompting a warning from researchers that sexual coercion may have become ‘normalised’.” It noted that the majority of such cases were amongst young women around the age of 18.
These reports come on top of the recent discussion on ‘sexting’, images of themselves by young women and girls in sexually provocative poses sent to individuals which then go viral. Obviously we are against rape and coercive sex, but the social context of sexist images (mostly of young women) in adverts, newspapers, on the TV, etc. is missing from the comments on these reports and about teenage sexual behaviour generally. We are all surrounded with so-called ‘news’ about the sexual exploits of the rich and famous, sexist lad’s mags, sexually explicit adverts and soft porn but no connection is made between these and teenage behaviour. And the issue which has created the most moral panic is the availability of pornography, especially involving young children, on the internet, leading to calls for censorship.
On this I agree with Laurie Penny when she says:
The British like to ban things, but we don’t like to change things. This week, there’s been yet another conflict between Silicon Valley permissiveness and British censoriousness, as our politicians attacked Facebook for hosting graphic videos. Elsewhere, the latest flagship campaign in mainstream UK feminism focuses on pressuring Tesco to remove lads’ mags from its shelves, as if by some sympathetic magic sexism might thereby be solved. In a country with no constitutional protection for freedom of speech, calling for censorship lets the moderate left politely ask for progress without really asking.
Guardian (26 October 2013)
This call for internet censorship has been described by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the worldwide web, as part of a “growing tide of surveillance” threatening the democratic nature of the internet, telling us a lot about how this is being planned. Stung by the recent secrecy leaks by Edward Snowden, those who would censor the internet are using the fear of pornography, especially child abuse, as a means of gaining control over what is and isn’t allowed to be posted.
A spectrum of panic
How are the authorities able to use this fear of sex to attack our democratic right to know what governments are up to? And what lies behind this moral panic about sex and young people?
There is a spectrum to this panic. At one end of this spectrum we have the appalling sexual exploitation of young girls by older (mostly Asian) men in and around Rochdale, including various reports that expose the incapacity of all the agencies involved to protect the children despite many warnings. Then there is the gang-associated sex that seems to involve young people mostly of the same age involved in rape and coercive sex. What these news items have in common is the class of the young people involved – working class children, many supposedly under local authority supervision – and race, Asian men exploiting poor, white girls, or in the case of ‘gang culture’, black kids gang-banging other mostly black kids.
At the other end of the spectrum we find young women (and young men) from wealthier backgrounds ignoring the age of consent and having plenty of underage, hetero and homosexual encounters, but here the discussion is more ‘sociological’ than ‘judicial’. There is a concern about ‘sexting’ because it might catch up with you when you apply for a job, but no suggestion that these young people are ‘out of control’ or need social services to take them into care.
Why is all this so problematic for the powers that be? One reason is the situation many young people find themselves in. Most are unable to leave home because they are unemployed and rents are too high, and even when you have a job it is likely to be on a temporary, zero-hours contract. Increasingly alienated from society, young men especially are seen as dangerous to the status quo, a force to be controlled.
Another reason is the inability of society to square the circle that says that sex should take place in marriage when only a minority live in traditional family set-ups and our society uses sex in advertising and elsewhere to make us desire things we neither need nor want? In the 1970s feminists in the women’s liberation movement did some useful work on deconstructing these messages, showing how along with the sexist imagery went other contradictory ideological messages about the importance of the family and the roles women should play and for a time the extreme end of sexual selling was curbed. But today it is back with a vengeance, naked or semi-naked women (and men) in sexually alluring poses suggesting that if we buy this or that perfume we will become irresistible.
Sex is good for you
A report from 2011 showed that less than a fifth of people think they are part of a traditional family, and eight in 10 thinking their families do not conform to the stereotype of two married parents with two or more children. Despite these statistics the family remains the basic unit of society for the ruling class. Thatcher’s famous dictum, ‘There is no society, only families’, remains the disappearing ideal through which children are raised, ideology taught and pieces picked up as the welfare state is torn apart. While the WLM of the‘70s and ‘80s debated and analysed the problems and oppressive nature of the family, there is much less discussion today on the ways that the family and especially mothers are being blamed for the ills of society.
Finally what, as socialists, do we have to say about these debates? Firstly I think we should make it clear that having sex is good for you! And the fact that the age of consent is being ignored by thousands of young people is neither here nor there. There is some evidence that in early, tribal societies teenagers went off together for several years at a time to look after themselves and do whatever they wanted beyond the judgemental eyes of their elders. While there is no real comparison between tribal societies and our own, we can still point out that sexual repression and the guilt that accompanies it is not healthy.
We should also refute the current demands to ‘censor’ the internet on the basis that young people might come across pornography. There is no real evidence that viewing such things in and of itself leads to distorted ideas on women, sex or anything else. Abuses of young children for sexual gratification can be prosecuted by all sorts of legislation without introducing censorship. The oppression of women (and other groups in society) is reproduced by many things above and beyond sexist imagery, including the nuclear family. And the intention of government to censor internet pornography is simply a cover to censor many other, especially oppositional ideas freely available to more people than ever before.
It was always going to be a tall order to adequately cover the tumultuous events of the overthrow of apartheid and the transition to majority rule in South Africa in a little under 150 minutes, and so it proves with Mandela – Long Walk to
Freedom, the recently released film based largely on Mandela’s autobiography of the same name writes Andy Richards. A great deal of the story is skated over or ignored completely, of which more later. But that is not to say that the combined talents of director Justin Chadwick and the two leads, Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, have not produced a film of real power, which is at times is also deeply moving.
At the start of the film we find the young Mandela working as a lawyer in Johannesburg, at this time more interested in partying and pursuing women than politics, being approached by ANC activists to join the movement, and apparently needing some persuading. He is finally shown becoming involved through a bus boycott and in demonstrations against the Pass Laws. The film skates over this process of change and it would have been good to see how he became convinced to become part of the struggle.
Similarly, throughout the film much of the content of Mandela’s life and political career is shorn away. We know that there were ten defendants at the Rivonia trial, but we learn little of Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and the others. The film rather makes them extras in their own story. The role of the Communist Party and the trade union movement is not mentioned at all.
In many ways the most powerful part of the film is its depiction of the appalling treatment of Winnie Mandela, who was continually harassed by the apartheid regime, and the film does not shrink from showing the arbitrary arrests, solitary confinement and vicious assaults to which she was subjected. It is impossible not to be moved by the Winnie’s first brief visit to Nelson in prison six months after his sentence, and his meeting with his eldest daughter, who was not allowed to visit until she was 16.
The film also extensively covers Winnie’s personal and political break with Nelson after his release, albeit in somewhat simplistic terms. But one of the big messages of the film that, in many ways, life was actually harder for those left on the outside than those in prison.
Idris Elba makes a convincing Nelson Mandela and his respect for the person he is playing shines through. But the performance of the film is from Naomie Harris, whose work has been hailed by Winnie Mandela as the first truthful portrayal of her. But it has to be said again, aside from these two, no-one else in the film gets very much to do! Maybe one day someone will make a mini series to fill in all those gaps.
If your inner anti-capitalist has ever suspected that major financial institutions are home to a bunch of coked up wankers, Martin Scorsese has proved you right in his new film The Wolf of Wall Street writes Liam Mac Uaid. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jordan Belfort is advised on his first day on in the office that the secret of professional success and longevity is a daily cocktail of masturbation and cocaine. However, what Scorsese does not do is to offer a subtly excoriating critique of contemporary capitalism. That’s his style. No one who has watched Goodfellas comes away thinking that Scorsese wants us to disapprove of the Mafia. He is at his best when he is showing a closed society observing its own rules. Whatever moral judgement is made about the characters is left to the viewer while the director shows them squarely on their own terms. You may feel that Belfort is an amoral, drug addled, misogynistic, anti-social, thieving, wife beater but the director lets him provide the narrative to his own life and career. There are only a couple of scenes in which the impact of financial speculation on the rest of the population is hinted at. Belfort’s first wife has some qualms about him taking the life savings of postal workers and cab drivers. His sincere response is that he knows how to spend it better than they do. Then, right at the end of the film, his nemesis is sitting on a tube train surveying the travellers who inhabit a parallel universe to Wall Street.
Any film that’s three hours long is a huge gamble. On the other hand any film that opens with Dust My Broom by Elmore James has hit the ground running and, there’s no doubt about it, Scorsese keeps up the pace of a world class middle distance runner for every second of the 180 minutes. This is an attempt to recreate the frenzy of a crooked, get rich quick form of capitalism. As one of the characters observes to DiCaprio, they produce nothing tangible. They sell stocks and shares, persuade clients to buy more stocks and shares in the belief that a rise in their price makes them rich. They only people who get to see real cash are the brokers who trouser the commission.
Belfort and his cronies who set up a brokerage house called Stratton Oakmont in the 1990s got rich beyond imagination. Office parties had dwarf throwing competitions, marching bands and waiters offering unlimited champagne. Todays’s mega rich think nothing of spending £100 000 on a bottle of wine. Back then the fashion was for exclusive vintage drugs. 150 feet yachts, helicopters and Lamborghinis were essential lifestyle accessories. It’s easy to see where the Russian kleptocracy learned its habits.
This film is a real return to form by Scorsese and DiCaprio turns in his best ever performance as boy from an ordinary background who joined the global elite. He’s the narrator and he takes it for granted that only an idiot wouldn’t want to be like him. The real Belfort on whose book the film is based is now giving interviews saying. “For me, it’s important that the movie is viewed the right way, certainly as a cautionary tale.” Actually, no. As he points out himself, all the big Wall Street firms do more or less what he was doing and very small numbers ever went to jail and that was usually for less time than they deserved due to striking deals with prosecutors. Regulatory agencies were ineffectual and easily bamboozled. As Scorsese tells the story it was only the relentless determination of one FBI agent which finally brought Belfort’s world crashing down. Meanwhile, as recent history has demonstrated, most of the rest of the big crooks carried on business as usual.
I left it very late to go to this and it finishes on Sunday 26 January, but it is a very good exhibition. Not as famous as his contemporaries Courbet and Millet, Daumier is best known for his political and satirical cartoons and caricatures. They are well represented in the exhibition including some famous ones such as his caricature of Louis Philippe as ‘Gargantua’ of 1831. He shows an obese king shitting parliamentary bills and vomiting peerages and bribes to a waiting crowd of courtiers. It was banned and Daumier paid heavily for it with 6 months in prison.
He was a radical and highly political but all his life faced the possibility of censorship or the refusal to publish by the editor of ‘Le Charivari’ and ‘Le Caricature’. Another famous print by Daumier also exhibited, is Rue Transnonain, le 15 Avril,1834’. We are shown an interior with several dead bodies, the execution of an innocent family after rioting in the Paris streets.
After the 1848 revolution which overthrew Louis Philippe, Daumier welcomes the short-lived Republic with several images showing for example Marianne, lit by a shining sun at an open door and several ex-ministers falling over themselves to escape.
With the election of Louis Napoleon in December1848 and the inauguration of the Second French Empire in 1852, Daumier’s work becomes less overtly political and more satirical, with the bourgeoisie often his target.
While his politics is often hidden or less overt, nonetheless readings of his images of for example street players, ‘saltimbanques’, show him making comment on their plight when under attack from the government as “teachers of subversion”and for plying ‘socialist ballads’. In the last room of the exhibition there are five or six of these images. As T.J.Clark noted in his groundbreaking book of 1973, ‘The Absolute Bourgeois’, they were banned from performing at times when there were most people about, had to get their songs licensed, and this was often refused, were not allowed to use any child under 16 years of age in their shows.
“…combining high morality and the maximum nuisance to the clown’s profession: the child had been abducted, was starving, was exploited, and the child must be rescued. But it was the child who brought in the money, taking the hat round and running through the patter; and if he was rescued where did he go?”
I’m reminded of the recent attacks on Roma and their children. In fact all the way through the show we are reminded of contemporary politics, the narcissism of politicians, the greed of the bourgeoisie, the poverty of the working class, and class in general.
As well as these cartoons and drawings there are some fine paintings in the show. Like nothing else you’ve ever seen in mid 19th century French painting, there are images of washerwomen with children, working people in a railway carriage, and other more symbolic paintings like the huge ‘Ecce Homo’. These often look like sketches and Daumier rarely exhibited them, but they are very striking and appear almost like personal notes for himself rather for showing in the Salon.
Other drawings and paintings show ordinary, probably working class or artisan people in everyday situations. Without any overt political content, they show with powerfully human emotions of love for children, tenderness between two adults, sadness and hope.
Although I have known his work for many years I found the exhibition very impressive.
Alan Thornett debunks the Tory lies about the “recovery”.
Few people, other than the rich and the ruling elites, celebrated when some faltering growth crept back into the economy in the latter part of last year. This was because few could feel any benefit from it in any part of their lives. As the growth was talked up wages and living standards continued to decline along with job security and employment conditions.
The Tory press has been crowing this week over a fall in the January unemployment figures (for the three months until November) by 167,000 to 2.32 million (or from 7.4% to 7.1%) as if 2.32 million unemployed people is something to gloat about—particularly since the official figures are deeply flawed and the real figure very much higher. Even on the official figures both long-term and youth unemployment remains very high.
Not that some fall in unemployment was particularly surprising given the steep decline in wage levels and the cheap labour now available to British employers. Wage rises were less than half of the rate of inflation in the three months concerned. As benefits are cut people are driven to take ever-lower paid and more precarious jobs or resort to equally precarious self-employment.
George Osborne’s new-year message, however, was bleak and to the point. If the national books were to be balanced by the end of the next Parliament, and the Tories win the election, there will have to an additional £25 billion of cuts—on top of those already in place—for the period 2016 – 2018. This means that the cuts Osborne has in mind are not even half way through.
The crisis, he said, was not over, in fact it was ‘not even half over’ and ‘difficult sacrifices’ would have to continue. 2014, he said, would be ‘the year of hard truths’.
In other words he intends to launch bigger and more sustained attacks on the poorest in society whilst protecting the rich and the powerful. Tax increases (particularly for the rich) would be ruled out and all economies would have to be achieved through spending cuts. No wonder The Times named him ‘2013 Briton of the year’.
Osborne’s vision is of a society based on high levels of exploitation of labour, hugely diminished welfare, and an energy system based on a new generation of fossil fuels obtained through fracking for shale gas. A society based on low wages and flexible (i.e. appalling) working conditions with lower pensions paid later and the employers having the unfettered right of hire and fire.
He is right that the crisis is not over, of course. To the extent that there is a recovery it is based on increased household spending and rising house prices – mainly in the South East. People are spending money that they don’t or have borrowed from loan sharks. The economy, we are told, is growing but spending power is declining. It is a ‘recovery’ based on falling living standards, poverty pay, depleted welfare, precarious employment, and personal debt. Women and disabled people in particular are at the sharp end of it.
In Osborne’s Britain public debt is still rising by £100m a year and personal debt has reached £2 trillion.
His original plan—now long gone—had been to balance the books by the general election in 2015. This has now sunk without trace—though whether he really believed this could be done, or was using it as a lever for forcing through cuts, is another matter.
Transfer from the poor to the rich
Half of this new £25 billion of cuts, he said, would come off of the welfare budget with pensions excluded. This means a further £12 billion reduction in working age benefits. With Tory voters defecting to UKIP he clearly sees the grey vote as too politically sensitive to touch. For him young people are an easier target and has suggested withdrawing housing benefit to the under 25s as one useful way of raising money.
The importance of the grey vote for the Tories can hardly be over-estimated. The pollster Ipsos Mori estimate that only 44% of 18–24 year olds and 55% of 25–30 year olds voted in the last election whilst 73% of 55–64 year olds and 76% of 65 and over cast their vote. UKIP supporters are overwhelmingly in the oldest bracket.
The real hard truth Osborne had in mind, of course, was that draconian cuts are not, as he has been arguing for the past three years, designed to ‘clear up the mess left by Labour’ but are a permanent feature of political life with the Tories in office. They are an ideological commitment. A part of a long-term strategy designed to bring about a much smaller welfare budget, a permanently smaller state, and a major transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.
His speech was a sharp change from the rhetoric at the end of last year when we were told that that the worst of the crisis is over, that a corner had been turned, that the ‘recovery’ would increasingly take hold as long as austerity was not ended too soon, and we were heading back towards some kind of pre-crash normality. His new-year message was designed to puncture such illusions.
In fact Osborne has two contradictory lines of argument depending on the immediate political requirements. He has the cynical/opportunist option that allows him to make minor concessions for electoral purposes—if possible without allowing the Lib Dems to claim the credit.
The latest example of this is his call for an above inflation rise in the minimum wage. This is because the Tories are vulnerable to Labour on the falling standard of living—at least if Labour were to play a half decent hand on the issue. (In fact the minimum wage has been declining since the coalition has been in office and it would take a rise to £7.00 an hour to take it back to where it was).
Then he has his real line, his strategic line, which ultimately overrides such temporary electoral considerations. This is to take full advantage of the opportunities opened up by the recession to bring about radical and permanent change in the form of a small state with minimal welfare provision. It is the drive for this which has led to the ditching of all of Cameron’s early posturing around ecological issues and his lies about the government being the greenest ever.
If anyone doubts that we are facing a dual crisis of the economy and of the ecology they only have to look at the recent floods in Britain and other extreme weather events around the world.
Back to 1948
It is this strategic line which brings Osborne ever closer to the Tea Party Republicans in the USA and the ideology of Milton Friedman whose mantra was that a recession is not a problem but an opportunity. That it is a chance for capital to drive up the rate of profit and impose higher levels of exploitation on the working class that would not be impossible in ‘normal’ times: i.e. outside of a period of recession and crisis. Naomi Kline describes all this very well in her book ‘shock tactics’.
The Lib Dems strongly objected to Osborne’s New Year speech, having backed his austerity programme to the hilt for three years. Clegg described it as a ‘monumental mistake’. If you can ignore the sheer hypocrisy involved in this, however, it was stronger than anything Labour were prepared to say about it.
Not that Clegg has suddenly discovered some principles, of course. The Lib Dems are facing possible electoral meltdown next year and they have to start putting some distance between themselves and the Tories if they are to avoid it. They would like people to forget that they have not only enthusiastically embraced Osborne’s whole approach from the outset but that none of it would have been possible without them.
This, and the absence of any sustained resistance, has allowed Osborne to chalk up some important successes in this regard. Already (and remarkably) by 2018, according to the Office for Budge Responsibility, and taking Osborne’s Autumn Statement into account, government day-to-day spending as a proportion of the total economy is set to fall below pre-1948 levels: i.e. before the welfare state existed.
It is a landmark moment. Public services from heath, education, transport, welfare and many more are to be slashed in an unprecedented way over the next 5 years if the Tories win the election and Osborne has his way.
Already we have seen the biggest fall in living standards for over 100 years and a new generation that is set to be worse off than its parents for the first time since the second WW. The average household in Britain has lost £1,500 a year in real terms since the coalition came to office. The gap between rich and poor has been growing even faster. In the OECD Britain now ranks 28 out of 34 in the equality league table. The top 1% enjoy 14% of total income.
Low wage Britain
Poverty wages are now endemic in Britain. Although real wages have been falling for many years—since trade union strength was broken in the name of a flexible labour market—this has accelerated since the banking crash. In fact wage levels have fallen by 6% since 2008, which is the biggest five-year drop since 1921-26.
By 2013, according to the low wage think tank the Resolution Foundation, 4.8 million Britons, or 20 per cent of workers (25 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men), were paid below the rate deemed necessary for a basic standard of living: i.e. the living wage of £8.80 in London and £7.65 elsewhere. This was an increase of 1.4 million since 2009. In addition 77% of young workers under 20 earned less than the living wage.
Almost 1.5 million workers are on the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour. Many more—the official figure is 350,000 but the reality is certain to be higher—are paid illegally below the minimum wage. There are virtually no prosecutions for this taking place.
Increasing numbers work for nothing in the hope of getting a job ate the end of it – meanwhile the employers cash in.
At the same time the cost of living for the poor is rising faster than for any other section of society. Growing numbers of the working poor are trapped between rising rents and mortgages, and essentials such as food gas and electricity, and falling wages and benefits. Even households with two jobs often cannot make ends meet. Tax credits, though essential to the working poor, subsidise the employers and institutionalise low wages.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has concluded that living standards are set to be lower by the time of the general election than they were when the coalition came to office. This is a big problem for the Tories since governments are rarely re-elected if they have presided over this kind of decline.
A Tory victory in next year’s election, however, is far from impossible whilst Labour remains compromised over the cuts agenda and is not prepared to mount a radical and sustained challenge to the coalition.
An important part of Tory election preparation is a revival of the housing market through their Mortgage Guarantee Scheme that underpins private mortgages from taxation. They hope that this alongside a large dose of racism, xenophobia, anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner rhetoric between now and the election alongside plus bashing the poor and branding claimants as scroungers will be enough to win them a majority.
Such high-risk state intervention into the mortgages market has indeed stimulated the housing market. House prices are now rising 5 times faster than wages. Even the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has called on the Bank of England to impose a cap on house price inflation in order to avoid what it called a ‘dangerous debt bubble’—the same kind of bubble that caused the crisis in the first place.
The real housing problem, of course, is that prices are being kept high by a deliberately created shortage. Fewer than half the new homes needed are being built every year. Public money that is thrown at the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme is therefore finding its way to developers and landlords rather than to people who need housing.
Boom time for rip off landlords
The result of all this is a new wave of Rackmanism has emerged as private landlords cash in and put up the rents. The Guardian recently exposed Fergus Wilson, a landlord renting out over a 1,000 homes, who is in the process of evicting 200 of his tenants who are on housing benefit on the basis that they will be unreliable once universal benefit takes effect and the rent is paid directly to them and not to him. Adding to the misery for tenants is the bedroom tax and the cap on housing benefit.
This leaves young people, in particular, in a desperate situation. They no longer have access to the kind of secure jobs or the pay rates which would allow them to raise a deposit or get a mortgage under normal market conditions. Even if they can get on to the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme they might end up with a house which they cannot afford if they loose their job or get a pay cut.
According to the Office of National Statistics, 3.3 million 20 to 34-year-olds were still living with their parents last year 25% more than in 1996 when records of this began. Between 1997 and 2007 the numbers increased to 2.6 million but after the banking crisis it leaped by a further 700,000.
One thing which has prevented the cost of living rising even higher has been the historically low interest rates which have kept down mortgage payments—though this has hit the incomes of those who were relying on interest on savings.
The question is how and when can interest rates start to rise again and what will be the consequences when they do? It is a huge unresolved and unprecedented problem. People who could pay their mortgages at the old rates, before the crisis, may well find it impossible to pay such rates today with declining incomes and bigger bills. Even a small rise in interest rates could result in large numbers of defaults.
The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney – the best central banker in the world according to Osborne – had said that the rate may have to go up once unemployment reaches 7%. Since the latest figure 7.1%, however, this could happen quite soon, and since it would be politically unacceptable to the government to raise it before the election there had to be a rapid rethink. He is now suggesting that 7% could be revised to 6.5%.
UKIP setting the agenda
There will be heavy political pressure on him to stick to this since even a small rise in interest rates can have a very big effect on monthly mortgage repayments.
On the face of it Labour could hardly be better placed for the election next. The Lib Dems have gone from crisis to crisis and are now reeling from their inability to deal with the Rennard sexual harassment allegations.
UKIP has not gone away either, despite some of their vilest politics leaking (or bursting) into the public domain. In fact their vote is still going up and they are likely to do very well in the European elections this year. If this is the case they will take some votes from Labour but the bulk will come from the Tories. Recent figures have shown that Labour would win if UKIP hold on to the 5 or 6 per cent of Tory voters they have recently won over—and the UKIP effects is particularly strong in the marginal seats.
None of this means that Labour can coast to a victory next year on the basis of the fall in the standard of living. If they try to do that they will loose. The Tories have a powerful media operation and a powerful media behind them. They also have a lot of populist (and reactionary) policies designed to frighten voters into their camp.
If Labour are to win they are going to have to do it from a positive position. They have to start making a serious critique of Tory policy rather going along with large parts of it and they are going to have to have some attractive policies of their own designed to defend the working class against the Tory onslaught. Raising the issue of the falling standard of living and promising to freeze the price of oil and gas was a start but it is not enough to win them the next election.
23rd January 2014
The placement of the story on Scotland’s debt in the Financial Times (you may need to register to view the piece) was carried out for political reasons to raise the debate about Scotland’s share of the debt and the currency and how the SNP would react. A story that appears on the front page of the Financial Times on a Monday with a whole page inside of comments and analysis from various sources was clearly pre-planned writes Ralph Blake.
It was designed to show how reliable a borrower Scotland would be and also highlight the credit risks that an independent Scotland would have.
A response of not taking full liability for Scotland’s share of the debt was seen by the markets and lenders as tantamount to a default. If you can default in the disengagement with the UK then you can default in the future. This will only add to the yield investors’ demand from future issuance of Scottish debt.
It also helped focus financial markets on Scotland’s likely economic situation after SNP independence. They essentially see a large variable deficit that is heavily determined by volatile oil revenues. An economy heavily dependent on oil and the financial sector which are both exposed to the ups and downs of the world economy and a large public sector that needs financed by debt. A deficit that is running at 10% of GDP and debt to GDP ratio of 75% (if Scotland takes its population share of the total UK debt) would see an unsustainable debt burden in only a matter of years after independence. The markets see there is observable plan to reduce spending or boost the economy so tax revenues increase. These factors would add more percentage points to Scotland’s borrowing rate.
The markets look at the fact that Scotland now contributes to the UK 7.5% of income tax revenues while taking about 9.5% to total public expenditure with the geographical oil revenues only in some years making up the difference because of their volatility (in in three out of the last seven years Scotland’s deficit has been large then UK as a whole. For these reasons they see that Scotland should take a population share of the total debt (currently about £111.7 billion) as only fair.
They expect that Scotland would pay the interest on their population based proportion of the debt to the Treasury and when debt matures they pay their proportion of the principal to the borrower. About two thirds of the UK debt matures in the next nine years with the remaining chunk maturing after 2037. The Treasury may want to transfer (“novate” in the jargon) Scotland’s post 2037 share to Scotland
At the same time Scotland must issue £12 billion of debt a year. If they do not accept the payment scheme I have set out above we would have to issue debt at considerably higher interest rates to where the UK issues its debt. This will be a default premium. The Treasury may offer to issue Scotland’s new debt if it agrees to the payment terms. This will likely be their bargaining chip. Otherwise you are on your own and pay a lot more for the reasons I have argued above.
The question of assets and the pound I think is a spurious one. The only realisable assets are those of the Bank of England. Scotland would only get them (and the liabilities) if they had their own currency. The other assets cannot be turned in to cash easily. The UK will simply say have them on your balance sheet as share and not give us the cash for what we think they are worth.
What is Scotland’s share of the UK national debt?
Some including the SNP argue that Scotland’s share of the debt should be lower than its population share. They make two arguments. The first is that Britain national assets are largely held by the UK and that Scotland does not have access to them and must be compensated in any division of assets and liabilities. The second is that the North Oil Boom primarily benefited the Southeast of England during the Thatcher years and there should be compensation for that as well. We will address both these arguments here.
According to the national asset register of 2007[ii] Scotland owns 6.8% of the nation’s £337 billion of assets. Just below the 8.4% they would own by their percentage of the population. But in the remainder of the total are included defence and transport assets that are located in Scotland that are not counted as part of the Scottish total. Scotland easily owns at least its population share of the national assets. But the main point is these are assets are not held against our national debt as security for our loans or indeed very few of the assets value can be readily realised. The nationalist argument will be in the event of Scotland gaining independence be easily dismissed by the Treasury in any negotiations.
The second argument confuses the benefit to the South East of England with the benefit to middle and upper classes from the boom in North Sea Oil tax revenues. It allowed the Thatcher government to cut the top rate of tax while keeping public spending unchanged. It was not just Scotland that lost out but the working class of the whole of Britain. The boom itself was driven by credit expansion and deregulation of the financial markets. This benefitted parts of Scotland too with a rapid increase in the financial sector there particularly in Edinburgh. Nationalists confuse the root cause of Scotland’s ills with England rather than with capitalism. Independence is attractive not because it gives Scotland a chance to break with England but because it gives Scotland a chance to break with capitalism which we hope inspires England to do likewise.
Dave Bangs reviews George Monbiot’s latest book.
“Feral”, is both a passionate polemical demand for a rethinking of nature conservation strategy and a love tribute to the kind of wildlife and habitat which is central to his proposed way forward – big beasts, forests, and the sea.
In it he proves himself to be a superb nature writer, on a par with Williamson (‘Tarka the Otter’) and modern writers like Michael McCarthy (‘Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo’). I hope this new turn to explicit nature writing is something we will see more of from him.
Monbiot’s book galvanises the debate around an already controversial subject – rewildling. He defines it as the reinstatement of significant areas in which natural processes will be left in charge, with no defined management outcomes. Top predators and herbivores are to be encouraged or reintroduced, both for their intrinsic interest and as ‘keystone species’, stimulating all sorts of beneficial and unpredictable changes in ecosystems (“trophic cascades”).
His main focus is on the uplands of Britain and he places his vision in the context of major rewilding initiatives in Eastern Europe and beyond. This review looks at that and does not discuss the issues around marine conservation.
Monbiot wants to rid the uplands of livestock farming, chiefly sheep, end the monopoly of big landowners’ recreational usage (deer stalking, grouse shooting) and return the uplands (the Cambrian Mountains in Wales and the Highlands in Scotland) to unmanaged forest. He wants to bring back the wolf, the lynx, wild boar, possibly the bear…and maybe even larger beasts…
…Indeed, as he does the rounds promoting his book his name is tied more and more to the story of the straight tusked elephant. Though extinct, now, for 40,000 years, that beast, he writes, played a keystone role in the development of our temperate broad leaved forests. It is hypothesised that this species was a forest browser that knocked broad leaved shrub and timber species over and smashed their crowns (much as tropical elephants do today) and that the evolutionary response of these species was to develop the pollard and coppice habit of re-growing from the broken crown or basal stool. (There appears to have been no equivalent in the boreal conifer forests. If their trees are cut down they simply die). All those many generations of smallwood coppice workers, charcoal burners and tanners were performing the ecological role that elephants had once done.
I don’t doubt Monbiot’s honesty, and I absolutely don’t doubt his commitment to nature. His polemic, though, will make enemies where he could have made friends, risks doing actual harm to nature conservation and wildlife, and will confuse as much as clarify the issues.
A Welsh example
The most significant chapter for me (The Hushings) was that in which he describes going to visit Dafydd Morris-Jones, a Welsh farmer and activist for the language and his community who believes that “conservation should be about how we can live in nature”. Morris-Jones knocks spots off Monbiot and throws him in turmoil (“cognitive dissonance”) as he tries to weigh up supposedly intractable alternatives (“rewilding” versus “the sheep farming that kept Dafydd’s…culture alive”). Yet Dafydd’s approach, as Monbiot describes it, is not at all intractable. He helps run a community woodland that has replaced a local conifer plantation (a sort of rewilding, in fact) whilst also working as an educationalist, translator and conservationist.
I was struck by the question of why it took that encounter for Monbiot to face up to the social politics of rewilding. Why was it not more formative, more obvious to him ? He lives, after all, in a nation whose endemic language culture is both strongly held and deeply threatened, and in which the farming economy is one of its strongest redoubts.
He does attempt an honest appraisal of earlier rewilding projects, such as the big National Parks of eastern and southern Africa, of the United States, and Slovenia, in the former Yugoslavia. He writes with great feeling of the decline of Masai pastoralism in Kenya, where he spent much time and made close friends. In Africa and the United States such rewilding has been at the expense of the long-present native inhabitants. In Slovenia it has been a part of the fall-out from genocidal ethnic strife and population transfers.
He does not, however, see the destruction of small, mixed, and low intensity farming in Britain as a social and productive regression that should be rectified. Though he confesses that his position changed after his encounter with Dafydd, it only changed towards proposing an amelioration of hill farmers’ distress, whereby they would receive agricultural subsidies without a requirement to farm – a sort of dole, if they no longer wished to farm.
He dismissed the productive contribution of upland farmers with the assertion that Wales imports by value seven times as much meat as it exports, though, as Simon Fairlie comments[i], “that sevenfold influx of meat into Wales is supplied through an agricultural system that is widely regarded as unsustainable”. Monbiot’s figures are predicated on continuing major imports from countries like New Zealand, whose endemic ecosystems and erstwhile forested highlands have their own need for ecological restoration, from Europe outside Wales, and from the Americas, where far greater destruction to far richer ecosystems continues at a primary level – through ongoing forest clearance. Those imports are dependent upon massive food miles, use of fossil fuel derived fertilisers, pesticides, excessive irrigation, on imported animal feeds, notably South American soya, on appalling animal welfare standards, and on an inflated dietary usage of meat.
His dismissal of upland productivity says little about the wasted potential of wool, too, mouldering in barns for decades, whilst our clothing importers collude with Bangladeshi sweatshop owners. In lowland sheep country such as my own South Downs the primary roles of sheep, historically, were as producers of wool and of dung, transferred from the biologically diverse, but productively poor high ground to fertilise the arable of valley and plain, via the nightly folding thereon of the flock. The Lord Chancellor sat on a wool sack, not a mutton pudding.
I discussed these issues with a Welsh livestock farming friend (an English speaking lowland Gwent socialist) who had no knowledge of the rewilding debate. He had none of Monbiot’s tardiness in acknowledging the social implications of the removal of farming activity from the Cambrian Mountains, and needed no prompt to assert that “it’s just another form of ethnic cleansing”. His father would have said the same, I am certain, though he characterised the Cambrians as a ‘green desert’ many years before Monbiot used his phrase the ‘Cambrian Desert’.
Monbiots’s focus on the rewilding of the uplands is leaking down to the lowlands, too, as I see in my own Sussex Wealdencountryside with the removal of 3500 acres of agricultural land on the Knepp Estate from tillage to ‘wild land’, though it was cropped for perhaps a thousand years. Simon Fairlie rightly comments that, with our current population, the “rewilding of upland Britain[ii] is probably dependent upon the continued existence of industrial agriculture and in particular chemical fertilisers. Or conversely, one argument in favour of intensive chemical agriculture is that it allows a measure of rewilding”. And one of the things that has most surprised me is the enthusiasm with which elements of the political right have jumped on the bandwagon. This agreement of some of the most destructive, most productivist elements of food industry capital with the rewilders is only one manifestation of the governing tendencies which are at work across all of our British and European countryside. Marginal lands are left derelict, subtracted from agriculture, exploited in stripped-out, single product versions of old mixed farm economies (as with the upland sheep pastures), and converted to owning class recreational usages. The most productive lands, by contrast, are super-exploited for intensive food production, and all their prior ecosystems, landscape features, and physiographic nuances are levelled and simplified on a unified production ‘floor’.
If we are to cater for our current and increasing population, break our dependence upon fossil fuel and chemical applications, and necessarily return to organic systems, then we will not have the option of removing farming from our marginal lands. As Fairlie says: “The more we rewild in Britain, the more food we will need to import and the more we are likely to dewild land in countries that provide us with substitute food. Conserving our natural environment at the expense of other peoples is a neo-colonialist agenda”.
Monbiot’s use of language vis a vis other parts of the nature conservation movement is harsh, polemicising vigorously against those who value open habitats (pasture, meadow, moor, fell, heath). He denounces the atavism of many nature conservationists, who wish to “preserve the farming systems of former centuries”, whilst celebrating the atavism of rewilders who call for the return of ecosystems which pre-date significant human modification. He doesn’t even want to call the sites conserved by those who focus on open habitats ‘nature reserves’. For him they are best described as ‘culture[iii] reserves’. He does not, by contrast, wish to emphasise the cultural nature of the rewilded areas, which will likely contain different humanly introduced species sub-species and geographical varieties from those species which have been lost, hopefully to act as surrogates for those rendered extinct.
As for the “sheepwrecked” Cambrian Mountains, the steep decline over the past 40 years of their extant wildlife assemblage – with black and red grouse, golden plover, merlin, curlew, harriers, to name just a few charismatic species – runs in tandem with the abuse of sustainable pastoralism encouraged both by post-war UK and EU agricultural support systems and the ‘natural’ process of capitalist farming’s productive intensification. Monbiot omits from his account that the Cambrian Mountains formed the last haven for the polecat and the red kite, from which they have now re-emerged across Britain. It was there, too, that the wild cat and pine marten had their last refuges south of the Lake District, only to be extinguished there post 1850 (the former) and in the twentieth century (the latter).
The modern leader in British ancient woodland ecology, George Peterken, has none of Monbiot’s contempt for open habitats, developing a profound involvement with meadow ecology which has brought him in late life to the writing of a definitive study of them[iv]. His appreciation of them could not be more different from Monbiot’s damning faint praise. (“I do not object to[v]…protecting meadows of peculiar loveliness in their current state”). For Peterken, meadows have a strong link with woodland. They are one part of a larger matrix, and meadow-like vegetation communities can be evidenced from more than 70,000 years ago, that is, more than 50,000 years before the mega beast cave paintings of Lascaux. Peterken’s book has a photograph of a huge and colourful upland meadow taken close to the spot near the Elan Valley reservoirs, where Monbiot expounds his contempt for the management of upland grazed nature reserves.
Let me take two examples relevant to this debate from my own countryside.
- In the High Weald I have surveyed an area of tiny fields and smallholdings excised over the centuries from the fabric of a large heathy common. Fragmented ownership, the rumpled landscape and poor soils have served to preserve not just this pattern of fields, but much of their rich archaic grassland, too. It is an extraordinary collective survival, and the small grazed pastures and hay meadows provide a haven for such species as chimney sweeper moth, cowslip, pale sedge, heath spotted orchis and pepper saxifrage. By contrast, the surviving areas of common have been abandoned (rewilded) for a century, and have grown over to a banal mixture of dense bracken, holly, birch, and oak. The common’s rich open vegetation survives only on a few bits of mown lane verge, where cow wheat, bitter vetch, betony, hawkweeds, et al, give a hint of the richness that has been lost.
- In the centre of a Mid Sussex town, there is large Victorian cemetery, which was created on the site of ancient heathy woodland. It is vigorously maintained, mown at least every fortnight, and its turf is, in many places, as short as a bowling green. Despite this over-enthusiastic management it provides a refuge for an extraordinarily rich suite of woodland, marsh and heath species, including many scarce plants such as ivy leaved bellflower, bog pimpernel, wood horsetail, indigo pinkgill, marsh pennywort, sphagnum mosses, and many colourful waxcap fungi. Next to it is an area which has been fenced out of the managed cemetery and designated a “nature reserve”. It is left to natural processes – rewilded. It is a rank place of stinging nettles, Himalayan balsam, Japanese Knotweed, beer cans and rotting litter.
Does all this matter? Is it all a matter of personal preference for different types of nature, a matter of nature conservation fashion
Sadly not, for the real problems that the nature conservation movement faces are all too obvious: – gigantic cuts in public funding, redundancies, staff teams in public and voluntary sector organisation reduced to skeletal levels, loss of whole projects, neglect of critical management tasks, deteriorating sites and ecosystems, monitoring and survey work left undone, and lost opportunities at the very point when public consciousness was ready, at last, to accept the need to fund the conservation imperatives.
Statutory wildlife protections are under attack (badgers, harriers, buzzards, pine martens), ameliorative planning protections are undermined, the public conservation estate is everywhere threatened (public forests still, local authority lands).
Erstwhile common birds, plants, and invertebrates continue in the most shocking declines. Cuckoos and turtle doves, willow tit and wood warbler will soon be nationally extinct at these rates….and what will follow ?…starlings, house sparrows, mistle and song thrushes ? Macro moths shrink to a fraction of their former abundance. Ecologists argue that only ponds – sealed off from the polluted and over-extracted river system – can act as guaranteed refuges for the national freshwater wildlife assemblage.
Massive continuing habitat losses, habitat fragmentation, continuing pollutions, dangers from invasive disease, parasitic, and competitor species, dangers from climate change, (as “species”, to paraphrase Maggie Thatcher, “find themselves in the wrong place”), massive competition for land….these are the real issues.
Yet for Monbiot, the matter of personal preference is crucial. He makes no bones about his feeling of kin with the world of the big beasts, extols the pleasures of the hunter gatherer (foraging for fungi, fishing, shouldering a dead deer carcass). He tells us that before his breakthrough to the rewilding project he was suffering from “ecological boredom”.
But how seriously should we take his boredom, given the golden opportunities with which his class background, good fortune and talent have presented him ?
For most people, cooped up as we are, the chance to see wild deer or a rabbit is a thrill. For most people, a summer afternoon blackberrying, or fishing on a reservoir or canal, offers peace and connection with nature. For people in my life, on several occasions, the sight of a wood with bluebells in full bloom has brought them to tears.
It is imperative to plan the return of some of the lost big beasts in some places. It is essential to make the conservation of nature an imperative across large areas of our countryside, and to have large areas where natural processes are given much greater autonomy (both forests AND open habitats).
It does not help, however, if rewilders like Monbiot diminish the efforts of us folk to preserve the extant wildlife communities near our homes and in our countryside.
It does not help if rewilders argue the case for large scale nature conservation without embracing the fundamental need for an alliance with our friends who are struggling for sustainable mixed, low impact, and organic farming systems.
The preservation of nature can only be won in alliance with the struggles of small and disempowered food producers, in alliance with the struggles of those who wish to preserve existing rural communities of poor and middling folk, and in alliance with those who are struggling to preserve the existing wildlife of their localities.
Socialist Resistance welcomes the news that the comrades who left the SWP in December as a consequence of the ongoing crisis over the abuse of women in that organisation have launched Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st century(RS21). We recognise that they have done this in order to continue the struggle for revolutionary politics and we look forward to establishing both practical and political collaboration with them.
We welcome the openness of the statement they have posted on their website and the basic principles around which it is framed.
It is never a time for celebration when an important organisation of the revolutionary left goes into crisis and decline because, ultimately, the whole movement suffers. The question it poses, however, is how to build something new and better out of this experience and how to move on in a positive direction.
It is no secret that, for us in Socialist Resistance (SR), what is posed by the SWP crisis is the issue of revolutionary unity. We are already involved in such discussions with the comrades of the International Socialist Network (ISN) and Anti Capitalist Initiative (ACI). The far left in Britain has long been weakened by a legacy of divisions which neither reflect today’s political reality or the needs of the wider movement, in fact they are destructive to the wider movement.
Yet such divisions are difficult to transcend despite the fact that many of the old arguments, like the class nature of the Soviet Union, for example, have been overtaken by history.
Events like the SWP crisis open up the possibility of a breakthrough in this regard. A chance to build something new that would cut across the existing traditions and divisions of the far left. A chance to build something on a different political basis and to give a strong new emphasis, for example, to feminism and self-organisation, and, in our view, the ecological issues as well.
Even before the SWP crisis reached its present stage there were signs of realignments and recomposition opening up – for example with the emergence of the ACI.
The new organisation we would want to see would have a different kind of internal democracy from the current far left model. The old way that democratic centralism has been conceived and used (and not only by the SWP) is way past its sell-by date. Such an organisation needs to ensure full rights for minorities, including, proportional representation on leadership bodies. It should also give individual members the right to express minority views in public
We remain ready to dissolve SR into such an organisation if it is established. We recognise that building a new organisation of this kind is not easy and that it will take time. There is also an urgency, however, since such opportunities when they arise do not hang around for ever.
Meanwhile there are plenty of openings for joint work in the broader movement which should in any case underpin any process of regroupment. For us Left Unity is particularly important given the ongoing crisis of working class representation. It has established 50 groups around the country with over a thousand members and, after its successful founding conference in November last year, is preparing a policy conference in March. As important is the People’s Assembly and the struggle against the cuts. The fight against austerity, cuts and privatisation is central to our priorities and the People’s Assembly gives an important forum which brings together the trade unions and community campaigns and practical action on the ground. We are also involved in the Campaign Against Climate Change, anti-fracking initiatives and of course in the unions.
In fact we are already working with RS21 comrades in various ways. Comrades from RS21, as well as from the ISN and ACI, are involved in building the meeting on February 15th in solidarity with the Syrian insurrection. Both Dave Renton and Ian Birchall are speaking at our event on the New Left on Feb 1st. There will be other opportunities as well. For example we have a comrade from Bangladesh doing a speaking tour in Britain in March on super exploitation and the climate crisis in Bangladesh, which the comrades would be very welcome to get involved in.
The RS21 comrades argue in their statement that: ‘The working class movement is more powerful when the left finds ways of working on what unites people against our common class enemy’ and go on to say that they ‘will seek to work with broader working class forces on the basis of agreement where possible’. We strongly agree on this.
They also say: ‘The revolutionary left faces a series of difficult questions and important tasks. We hope that together we can begin to address these challenges.’ In our opinion, the best way to address such challenges is to work to establish both joint work and a common view as to how to create a new revolutionary organisation in the future which would, we think, be a real pole of attraction not only to those currently members of far left organisation but also to many others who are not.
Socialist Resistance Executive Committee