*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.

Trade Unions and the fight against the 1%

In my N30 Strike speech today, I talked about this graph:

It shows union membership over the last 100 years. AND it shows the wealth of the top 1%.  The lines of those graphs are diametrically opposed!

100 years the unions were young as the labour movement began to catch on and fight the gross injustices around work. The rich were powerful; their wealth, stratospheric. But as the unions grew, so did the gains of the people as a whole, and the wealth of the 1% diminished.

Union membership reached its height in 1978. And the wealth of the 1% reached its lowest point in the last 100 years.

When the people are strong, the unions are strong and the rich can’t take as much from us.

In 1979 that all changed with the election of Thatcher. As she attacked the unions, the NUM especially, she brought in anti-union legislation and union membership fell.  Since 1979, almost every year,  it has continued falling, including through the Labour years.

Interestingly, now in 2011, union membership is about where it was in 1940! There’s a long way to go! So join a union!

If you’re in one become active in it. If you know workers who aren’t in a union show them this. Explain THIS is how we take on the bankers and win! For our future and for generations to come.

AND – if you don’t like the way the unions support the Labour Party – which did *NOT* support this strike –  then join the Greens and bring that voice into the labour movement too.

There’s a future to fight for.

Together we can win.

BAE Systems to move 900 Yorkshire jobs to America

Friday’s announcement that BAE Systems will be building Hawk trainers in America comes as no surprise to us.

BAE Systems is largely owned by American stockholders and the majority of its contracts are for the Pentagon. So why shouldn’t an American company be providing American jobs?!

But nothing in these developments is part of the Green Party vision for society.

In the 1970s, British Aerospace used to provide employment for over 10,000 people at Brough, East Yorkshire. The corporation has reduced those numbers year by year to the meagre 1350 left – and now reduced by a further 900 to the skeleton crew that’s left.

It is a stark reminder of how we are at the mercy of big corporations and the banks, somehtting the Green Party has been warning about for years. The Lib-Lab-Con are not going to rescue our communities from these giants.

Corporations, like BAE Systems, will happily wreck entire communities based around the work and industry those communities have performed for them for years. There should be no doubt that this skeleton crew is left with the intention of closing the plant down and selling it off.

We have been warning for decades about the predatory actions of corporations across the world, to societies, to the planet – and now even on our doorstep. Many people accept this as inevitable. But in fact they are all down to political choices. Arms manufacturers have thrived for decades under whatever government Conservative or Labour.

It would be different if we had representatives to tackle them and rein them in, rather than politicians who cosy up to them, who give them the key to Downing Street – literally – who arrange a biillion pounds in hidden subsidies for them. What we have is corporations abusing their power.

The Green plan would see places like Brough, instead of being destroyed by an international giant, retooled for industries which really serve society, like transportation, trains and renewable energy development.

Martin Deane

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.

Miliband’s new campaigns!

In the wake of yesterday’s historic march, Labour’s Edward Milibland announces his new campaigns:

  • NO taxes on the banks!
  • NO taxes for the wealthy!  (these haven’t been collected for over a year anyway…)!
  • NO closing of tax loopholes!
  • DON’T chase major tax avoiders!
  • DON’T re-regulate the financial sector!
  • CUT all the services anyway! (just spread them out a bit more).

The Labour Party leader, Ed Milibland, was very poor yesterday! His was the total hypocrisy of equating  the 500,000 marchers (figure via police announced by Len McCluskey from stage) with apartheid and the civil rights movement, etc – WHILE he fails to share the ACTUAL policies the march was about!

A Real Alternative? Unbelievable, isn’t it? And major Unions think this is where hope lies?!?

Hull, on the other hand, was rather splendid. Somewhere around 17 coaches went, including the (Fire Brigade) FBU’s 3 from the area. (Twice the number of coaches that went for Iraq in 2003).

We had a great time. The demonstration was massive, very good-natured and determined. But we all know the battle goes on.

The message must get through: tax the banks, tax the ultra-rich, make the cuts history.

—————

Update: After rumours of attack on Fortnum and Mason’s, a mob of tweed-clad old Etonians retaliate and vandalise Lidl in Slough. #mar26

Tw: Best placard so far: ‘there are two things I don’t like about nick clegg: his face’ #26march #march26

Tw: The march was a total success – 500k. Pity the ‘alternative’ is cuts over 72 months instead of 54 months. Ed is not the alternative.

Workers may March but Labour isn’t the alternative!

The biggest march this decade, to be held on Saturday, will have only one political party speaker: Ed Miliband.

Is Saturday’s huge demonstration really going to be a March for an Alternative? Or a march for more failed policies from a favoured party?

The TUC March for the Alternative on the 26th, calls for a Robin Hood Tax on banks, for closing tax loopholes and for policies for jobs and green growth.

Caroline Lucas MP, the one Green MP in Parliament, has been calling for these policies for over a year! And more: for an end to tax avoidance and evasion, for increased taxation of the rich, for closing tax loopholes for banks and big business, and not for destroying a million jobs through cuts but for creating one million jobs in green industries instead!

The policies the TUC March is calling for are from her manifesto!

But they’re not in Ed’s! Ed Miliband wrote Labour’s manifesto which called for these same cuts over 6 years, just not 4 1/2! How much history are people expected to forget to think that Labour are the answer?

Greens today call on the TUC and trade unionists to really fight the cuts, to put real pressure on politics and invite a greater representation of anticuts parties and politicians.

———————————————————
Martin Deane
Letter to TUC
info@tuc.org.uk, media@tuc.org.uk, bbarber@tuc.org.uk

Dear TUC,

As a teacher, an active anti-cuts campaigner and a member of a political party, I am utterly dismayed to hear today that Ed Miliband MP is to be the only party political speaker from on 26th March.

I am ashamed and disgusted by this sectarian move to allow a platform to a leader of a political party who has been advocating almost the same cuts as well as supporting the privatization of our beloved public services for over a decade.

Caroline Lucas MP is a sane voice in Parliament who has been calling for the policies this March is promoting for over a year! For an end to tax avoidance and evasion, for increased taxation of the rich, for closing tax loopholes for banks and big business, for creating one million green jobs instead of destroying a million. The policies the TUC March is calling for could be from her manifesto! But they’re not in Ed’s!

Is this really going to be a March for an Alternative? Or a march for more failed policies from a favoured neoliberal party?

I write to urge you to reconsider your decision. The March is important but if it’s simply pro-Labour then it will then be the TUC which is selling out the people. The trade unions monopolising the anti-cuts movement for the Labour Party line would be a failure of pluralistic politics, and bowing to the conservative ideology of present Labour policies. It will be truly and simply un-trade unionist.

It will be a shame if the TUC acts in this manner.  Please act immediately to provide a range of political representation for people who will reeally fight these cuts.

Sincerely,

Martin Deane

Hull

Hull Anti-Cuts Protests, Feb 24

Today the LibDem run Hull City Council attempted to set its cuts budget.

At midday a crowd of many hundreds protested around the city and at 4.30 gathered again outside the Guildhall. A locally donated PA system kept the crowd entertained. Maybe a dozen speeches were heard. A crowd of 40 at a time were allowed into the gallery of the council chamber.

Occasional raised voices challenged the councillors and eventually they adjourned and called for the Gallery to be cleared. A mini invasion of the Guildhall took place.

Picture from a protester looking out from the Guildhall balcony to the demonstration below.

Hull is facing around £80 million worth of cuts this year entailing some 2000 jobs all told.

It will be the worst hit authority in the region.