*Time for economic democracy*

*Britain is an economic dictatorship*

*We expect political democracy. Why not economic democracy too?*

Peter Tatchell, Green Party

Huffington Post – London – 29 November 2011

Up to two million trade union members went on strike on Wednesday, in
protest against the government’s attack on pensions and cuts in public
services. Their grievances are real. But their solutions don’t go far
enough. Pressing the government for fairness isn’t the answer. Staging a
protest is second best. These are reactive, defensive responses to
fundamental flaws and failings in the way our economy is organised and run.

The perennial failing of most trade unions is that their horizons are so
limited. They seek a better deal for their members within the economic
status quo, when the real solution is to reform the system of economy that,
by its very nature, leaves the vast majority of working people powerless,
disenfranchised and marginalised. When it comes to the economy, the average
person has no meaningful say in the decisions that affect their jobs,
wages, pensions and working conditions.

We expect political democracy. Why not economic democracy too?

Behind the cosy democratic facade, Britain is a cut-throat economic
dictatorship. A rich and powerful economic elite makes all the key economic
decisions, excluding millions of employees and consumers.

Our country’s democratic political transformation – pushed forward by the
Levellers, Chartists and Suffragettes – has never been matched by a
corresponding economic democratisation.

‘One person, one vote’ has been won in the political sphere (albeit
imperfectly) but not in the realm of economics. Britain’s democratic
revolution, begun four centuries ago, remains unfinished.

It is time to put economic democracy on the political agenda; to bring the
economy into democratic alignment with the political system.

Extending the economic franchise is about democracy and justice. It can
help create a greater plurality and diversity of economic power, and also
lay the foundations for a more equitable and productive economic
partnership between all those who contribute to wealth creation and to the
provision of public services, from local councils to the NHS.

Whatever people think of the current economic system, one thing is
indisputable: it is characterised by an absence of democracy,
participation, transparency and accountability. Employees and their
representative bodies – the trade unions – are frozen out of economic
influence and decision-making.

Big business rules. The captains of industry, commerce and finance have
almost total power. They run their enterprises on totalitarian lines. All
decision-making is concentrated in the hands of a tiny, privileged cabal of
major shareholders, directors and managers. They alone determine how the
company operates. Employees – without whom no wealth would be created and
no institution could function – are powerless and disenfranchised. They are
little more than glorified serfs of the moneyed classes and their
government.

Not much has changed in two centuries of capitalism. There have been no
major democratic reforms of the economy. Although millions of people bought
shares in privatised public enterprises like BT, their individual holdings
are minuscule and marginal. They have no real influence. Big corporate
interests retain the decisive economic power. This power is as centralised
and autocratic as ever. A few determine the fate of the many.

The advent of nationalised public industries, utilities and services
changed nothing. They have been run in much the same centralised,
dictatorial manner as their privately-owned counterparts. There was never
any economic democracy in the state-run railways or coal mines. The system
of ownership changed but not the system of management. The bosses of public
utilities and nationalised industries were almost as powerful as the
captains of private enterprise. Their employees remained locked out of the
decision-making process. It was state capitalism, not socialism. The Labour
Party and the trade unions have made a huge mistake in over-emphasising
public ownership, to the neglect of public control.

The same applies today in the NHS and other public services. They are
administered according to the classic capitalist model of top-down command
and control. NHS big-wigs have almost as much power as private medical
bosses. Doctors, nurses and ancillary staff are excluded from policy-making
in both public and private medicine.

Their years of accumulated hands-on, frontline service knowledge is
disregarded when it comes to policy-making. This is a huge waste of human
resources.

Wherever we look, in all sectors of the economy, the democratic deficit is
universal. Power is concentrated and wielded in ways that is contrary to
the democratic, egalitarian spirit of modern, twenty-first century Britain.
The time for economic democracy is now.

Hull Green Party to welcome Deputy Leader to Hull on Friday

ImageGreen Party Deputy Leader, Adrian Ramsay, will speak in Beverley and Hull on 1st and 2nd December.

In a momentous week, where Wednesday may see the biggest strike since 1926, Hull Green Party will hear Deputy Leader Adrian Ramsay on how cuts to jobs and attacks on pensions are the wrong way to go.

“Government has responded to the recession by making sweeping cuts to public services. The Green Party has said from the outset that this is the wrong approach,” says Adrian Ramsay.

“The cuts are punishing the most vulnerable in our society while failing to address the reckless behaviour of parts of the banking industry that caused the recession in the first place.”

Adrian Ramsay will speak about the Green vision for the economy as the way out of inequality and debt.

“Cutting jobs and public services is a false economy as it leads to more people claiming benefits and greater burdens on the NHS, police and social services, “Adrian Ramsay comments.

Recently, the difference between Tory and Labour spending policies was shown as $5bn (0.3% of GDP) (Newsnight, 25 Nov). Osborne is just more zealously pursuing many cuts which Labour also planned.

Adrian counters, “The best way to build a stable economy is to create jobs in areas where they are most needed. Producing more of the foods and manufactured goods we need in the UK would boost jobs and cut carbon emissions. Investing in home insulation schemes, rail and bus services and renewable energy could create a million new jobs while cutting people’s bills.”

——————————————————————————————–
Adrian Ramsay will be available for interviews.
Adrian will speak at:

Beverley, Norwood Methodist Church on Thursday 1st Dec at 7.30
Hull University Larkin Building on Friday 2nd at 2-4pm,
and at Relax Café, Newland Ave, 5pm.

Adrian Ramsay was Norwich City councillor for many years. He received the second biggest Green vote in the country in the General Election. Adrian built up Norwich Green Party over 10 years to second on the Council (14 councillors to Labour’s 16).

Down with Goldman Sachs!

UPDATE – And yes, he was an excellent prankster, an attention seeker not a trader.

The Rastani Moment – Well done. More believable than the traders you lampooned.

But let’s look at some of that content.

The power of Goldman Sachs is utterly undeniable – its representation in Obama’s cabinet – from the earliest days – is stunning. Were I a financier Id be in awe of what they’ve gotten away with it!! His (overdone!) shark-ish attitude was precisely the thing which drove the SPM and CDF fiascos that led to the 2008 crash. The film Inside Job describes *how* the bankers did it. Precisely that attitude to selling (whatever cost (deferred)). And they’re doing it again – because our governments have REWARDED that bad behaviour. And for those in the game, it doesn’t matter whether the markets go up or down, they live off gambling well.

This is why it’s right to regard most financial trading as merely a big game. And right that it be highly regulated so real people don’t suffer!

And with the severest penalties for companies who get too big and for politicians who enable them.

Free-market capitalism has just about enslaved all humanity. We must break the chains of this most cruel and deceptive ruler.

The “Single Issue” Party

A frightening number of left-leaning progressives dismiss the Green Party as a single issue party. By this, of course, they mean the environment – surely one of the most complex “single issues” ever!

The left is also known for being highly ideological and to split frequently on ideological lines. (It’s easier on the right; when ideology hinges on market advantage and material profit, life is much simpler). But the main leftist division, that of workers and bosses, leaves important things out of the equation such as the exploitation of the Earth (which we call “resources”) and the exploitation of labour abroad, which is often not given due weight and seen as another resource.

Hence the importance of internationalism, but where better to start than to adopt a global perspective in the first place?

Many leftists remain unaware of Marx’s writings on capitalist agriculture and soil ecology or on the changing human relationship with nature. Were he writing today I have no doubt he would be writing about species, oceans, air, rivers and forests under human-capitalist assault; let alone the human species itself with the capital-driven 16 million who die a year in a world of plenty. Just from greed.

The three major parties have all well and truly sold out to international capital and are determined to make our education, forests, pensions and health, its victims. Maybe the left should look more closely at Britain’s fourth biggest party.

In a way, we are all a single issue party. It’s called Life. It means living and allowing to live; it means looking after the balance which once we inherited and soon we will pass on. Or neglect it at our peril.

Greens support J30 Pensions Strike

The East Riding Green Party banner departed Hull Station today for Thursday’s major London demonstration.

In Hull, a meeting of the teachers, public sector workers and trade unionists concerned, will be held at the Quality Royal Hotel on Thursday. The meeting will decide on a demonstration.

Teachers and other public sector workers strike, Thursday, firstly to secure pension arrangements promised to them for years.

Major and unnecessary government changes being proposed will make workers poorer now – and in the future.

Government tells us pensions are unaffordable and unsustainable; we’re living longer; there are more pensioners, etc, etc.  But that’s not what the National Audit Office said as of last December (1).  It said pension arrangements already in place would stabilise costs in the long-term relative to Britain’s wealth or GDP.

The truth is pensions have already been reformed and made sustainable. This pre-dates the ConDem government proposals and comes before the Hutton Pensions Report. (2)

Under the new proposals, lifelong teachers, for example – would pay much more to government each month in contributions – and then future governments can give them about £200,000 less, each, over the course of their retirement!

The government here – like the government in Greece – is using the notion of a large deficit to beat the people into submission and accept austerity.

So, how DO we lower the deficit??

The first thing the  government should do is to begin a low level micro tax on banking – the single biggest industry whose failure is responsible for the current pressure on state finances. It should also close the major tax loopholes that let big corporations off billions in taxes.

Not only are these Green Party policies – they are the policies all the national unions called for at the biggest demonstration on March 26th this year .

We must assume Government is taking this path for ideological reasons. It should not be attacking hard-working public sector professionals.

Martin Deane

Chair, Hull and East Riding Green Party

Notes.

1. The National Audit Office concluded: “In addition to saving significant sums of money, the changes are projected to stabilise costs in the long-term around their current level as a proportion of GDP.”

2. http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/this-is-not-a-pension-reform-it-is-simply-a-pay-cut

3. The ConDems have already replaced the pensions-RPI link with the lower CPI link so taking 15% off the value of pensions.

Green Party Policy #57: the Robin Hood Tax

The Green Party formally adopted the Robin Hood Tax into policy at Conference in February. This is long overdue, as we have seen the banks bankrupt the world. Our aim would be a proper Tobin Tax to curtail casino-type trading.

(DISCLAIMER: the idea that I hold Alistair Darling either dear or a darling should not be inferred from the following).

Alistair Darling (HM Treasury)

Dear Mr Darling,

Like many of the tens of thousands of supporters of the Robin Hood Tax I will be looking closely at your budget.  I hope you are not planning any measures that would mean people like me will again have to bear the brunt of paying down the deficit.

I strongly believe a tiny tax on major financial transactions is the fairest way to address the economic challenges we face. You could start on March 24th by putting a small tax on sterling currency transactions. This would hit multi-million pound trades by banks, not people’s holiday money.  It could raise at least £3 billion every year to deal with the budget deficit, and provide extra money to address poverty and climate change. The UK’s leadership would also pave the way for other Robin Hood taxes at a global level.

The Treasury’s response at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/global_tax_campaign_information.htm demonstrates that you are taking my views seriously. I am encouraged. To be clear: what I urge you to consider here is a unilateral sterling currency transaction tax in the Budget ahead of further international negotiation. I am not discussing an “insurance levy” in this instance.

Last year we all bailed out the banks and for many of them the worst has passed. But for people in the UK and around the world, the financial crisis is far from over.  It’s time for those who caused the crisis to take greater responsibility in putting our public finances right.  I hope your budget will reflect this and that you will introduce the first Robin Hood Tax, on sterling.

A copy of this message has also been sent to the prospective parliamentary candidates in my constituency.

You may be interested to see how other MPs and candidates are engaging with us at http://robinhoodtax.org.uk/your-action/

Yours sincerely,

Martin Deane

What should we cut to pay the bankers and pay for wars?

The 3 biggest parties are all promising us cuts. But don’t buy the lie! No way was it necessary to pay off the banks to the extent that government did – and now use it as an excuse to make all of us fill the gap. We, along with a large number of economists, are calling it rewarding bad behaviour.

Meanwhile, the new party of fairness, (that’s the government by the way…), have undertaken to slash UK higher education by £2.5 billion. There is no threat, however, to the 2 aircraft carriers on order, who’s price has risen steadily to £5 billion so far this year. And no, it’s not a buy one get one free offer either.

Iraq was costing us a billion pounds a year (2007) as time went on. You’d think you’d get a discount per decade or something… and Afghanistan last year was the deadliest year so far for the invaders.

Whatever American plans for Iraq and Afghanistan, whatever the bleak prospects for a workable Afghan future, the UK government doesn’t seem to have a problem paying for it – that is, making us pay for it through draconian cuts in education, welfare, health.

What would you like to see cut to pay for the bankers and pay for the wars?

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Guardian (Feb,2009)

2008/9:  Iraq and Afghanistan to cost £4.5 bn over year.

2008/9:  Afghanistan cost s UK £2.6bn.

2007/8:  Afghanistan costs UK £1.5 bn

2001-9:   cost to UK military has been over £14 for both theatres (excl. Civil aid money, also in billions).

2009:   8000 UK troops in Afghanistan.