Dec 12th, 2013by Jack Dunleavy
I’m willing to make a bet: five years from now, everyone will be talking about Sergio de la Pava.
This is an exaggeration obviously, but anyone who likes The Wire will be talking about him, or Louis Ck, or The Occupy Movement. Anyone who is frustrated by ‘literary’ books which cover serious themes in a serious tone and implicitly look down on anyone who doesn’t. Anyone frustrated by the impenetrable nature of long, solemn broadsheet articles about the recession or criminal justice and just wishes that someone would write about these things in a way which was not only amusing and colloquial, but also, at points, astonishingly beautiful. Anyone who hates Ian McEwan and Carol Ann Duffy but loves Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace. Anyone who hates David Cameron, wants to (but can’t quite) love Barack Obama and isn’t quite sure who they should be loving instead. All these people will love de la Pava and probably a whole load more people who love/hate the opposite of all these things. That’s the kind of writer he is. Continue reading →
Dec 12th, 2013by Jon Lansman
The executive council of Unite the Union yesterday offered Ed Miliband a compromise in his efforts to “mend the link” between Labour and the trade unions, but also set out the red lines which it is not prepared to cross.
In a unanimous decision, it welcomed “any measures which increase the involvement of individual trade unionists in the Labour Party” and, as had been advocated by Len McCluskey from the start, specifically agreed Miliband’s proposal that “individual political levy paying members of trade unions be encouraged to ‘opt in’ to associate membership of the Labour Party as part of the drive to build a Party of mass membership.” However, it also insisted that collective affiliation of the trade unions should continue alongside the opting-in of individual levy-payers and that there should be no diminution of trade union voting strength or representation within Labour party structures. Continue reading →
Dec 12th, 2013by Michael Meacher
The latest quarterly jobs figures reported by Manpower reveal the real truth about the economy. Not the gushing presentation offered by Osborne in his autumn statement, but what the men (nearly always men) with power and money really think. After the supposedly independent OBR upped its growth forecast for this year from 0.6 per cent in March to 1.4 per cent, and next year to 2.5 per cent, one would expect employers to be pursuing an investment and re-employment strategy to exploit the promised surge in growth.
Not a bit of it. Despite the government’s triumphalist forecasts that the economy is now growing at the fastest lick for a decade, employers are taking a much more cautious and nervous line. They’ve continued to hire largely part-time staff, revealing their concern that the recovery still remains fragile. In fact the biggest source of new employment isn’t across the economy as a whole, but actually in energy firms who’ve recruited thousands of new staff to deal with the blizzard of complaints about soaring electricity and gas bills. Continue reading →
Dec 12th, 2013by Dominic Curran
Amid the arguments that the UK is headed towards a new housing bubble, it seems clear that the so called recovery is simply a “return to normalcy”, with none of the lessons from the crash being learned and dooming us to make the same mistakes.
At the time of the crash, the bailouts themselves seemed to be as much about letting the banks carry on with their damaging behaviour unencumbered as saving the country from economic catastrophe. In a reversal of the old demand “nationalisation without compensation” the government simply gave the banks money to cover their bad debts whilst not using its shares to influence the governance of the banks and direct it towards investment to aid the recovery. Continue reading →
Dec 10th, 2013by Conrad Landin
As you might expect in the run-up to Christmas, Amazon has been back in the headlines. Not only do they avoid tax, but a BBC investigation found their workplace conditions were so bad that their employees ‘face increased risk of mental illness’. This was shortly followed by Carole Cadwalladr’s report from the coal-face in The Observer, and Deborah Friedell’s essay on Amazon’s irresistible rise in the London Review of Books.
Now, the retail giant is taking on 15,000 agency staff for the Christmas rush, and a petition is being circulated calling on the company to become a living wage employer. This falls somewhat short of the suggestion of the newest member of the city council in Seattle, where Amazon is based. Last month, we reported on the rise and rise of Kshama Sawant, the first member of the Militant-affiliated Socialist Alternative party to win election in America. She called for the “collectivisation” of Amazon, alongside other Seattle-based corporations such as Boeing. Continue reading →
Dec 10th, 2013by Phil Burton-Cartledge
MP’s shouldn’t get a huge pay rise. And you don’t need a hotline to each and every registered voter to know the overwhelming majority would agree.
It’s quite simple. A £66k salary is a great deal more than the majority of people will ever see in their pay packet. A tidy sum like this may well have started out with the best intentions; of ensuring working people could afford to become an MP and that the Commons wasn’t the exclusive playground of the rich. However, if a week is a long time in politics what is a century? These days MPs’ remuneration connotes nothing of the sort. It speaks of venality, troughing, hypocrisy and greed. And even if your MP “is one of the good sort”, there’s always an army of imaginary others living it up on the taxpayer dollar. Continue reading →
Dec 10th, 2013by Mike Phipps
Mike Phipps collates some of the less mainstream assessments of the leader of South Africas liberation struggle.
Just as when Nelson Mandela walked free from jail nearly twenty years ago, or when he was elected President of South Africa in that countrys first ever free elections, now too in his passing, the world is witnessing some astonishing rewrites of history. As large chunks of the global imperialist establishment queue up to offer glowing tributes, one wonders why the apartheid regime lasted so long if its most famous opponent truly had all these influential friends. Continue reading →
Dec 10th, 2013by Michael Meacher
The costs of gross misconduct by leading banks, including RBS and Lloyds, have been estimated by LSE research at £130bn in the 6 years to the end of 2013. That is significantly more than Britain’s total budget deficit (£111bn) and substantially more than the international aid budget supplied by the 24 richest countries (£80bn). More too than the NHS budget in a year (up to £110bn).
However, these fines can also be seen in a different light. Against the profit these 10 major banking institutions have made in the last 6 years, the fines make a significant dent, but they are not crippling. Indeed it has been argued that the manipulation of a global interest rate, to the banks’ own benefit, where several trillion dollars’ worth of assets are priced to it, deserves a much more punitive penalty, partly because of the enormity of the crime and partly as a warning to others that this should never be tried again. Continue reading →
Dec 9th, 2013by Jon Lansman
I have read several times now the founding statement of Left Unity (set out below) which was carried with the support of three-quarters of the delegates at its founding conference. I agree with it all with the exception of the existential clause, a commitment to “engage in elections offering voters a left alternative” as a party to the left of Labour. What’s more I suspect that a large proportion of Labour Party members, perhaps even a majority, would think the same.
Not all of course. Blairites are not against capitalism. Blair himself wants a ‘new capitalism‘: “the change we seek should not be about replacing the free enterprise system or the market but about sustaining them in a way that is stable and enduring.” Ed Miliband also seems to want “to save capitalism from itself“, to create a ”responsible capitalism” in which socialist values and capitalism are in some kind of perpetual dialectic: “While there’s capitalism, there’ll be socialism, because there is always a response to injustice.” Continue reading →