A MANIFESTO FOR PEOPLE   -  PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST

 

Introduction

 

We face the most serious economic situation in living memory. This general election will be very important in deciding how we deal with this and the future direction of the country. The next government, whether Labour, Tory or a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, will attempt to impose policies which will badly affect our jobs, pay and working conditions. It will implement measures that will damage the local communities in which we live. It will make deep cuts in public spending on housing, health, education and welfare.

 

The policies of the next government have to be opposed by the people. This means we must organise ourselves not just as trade unionists. We need a new political party to represent working people. I am standing as a trade unionist and socialist candidate in the general election to put that message over. It is important that people are presented with an alternative. I will be working with my fellow trade unionists and socialists to put this before the people of Bermondsey and the staff and students at London South Bank University where I work.   

 

The voices of trade unionists and socialists are not usually heard. On a few occasions we are presented by the pro-big business media in a bad light for taking industrial action. Rail and transport workers, nurses, flight stewards, teachers, cleaning workers, building workers and civil servants are taking action to defend the jobs, pay and services on which people depend. The election is a time when we can speak directly to the people by putting forward a candidate to represent our views.

 

Of course we want to win all the votes of working people in Bermondsey. If that happened it would be the biggest shock to the system the people of Bermondsey could deliver. It would have far reaching consequences as a message to the rest of the country. It would be a warning shot across the bows of the new government. It would begin to derail the plans of the banks. Unfortunately, this is extremely unlikely to happen, not least because we don’t have the party machine or funding to get our message over. 

 

However, winning a seat in the ‘House of Thieves’ is not the most important thing. Trade unionists and socialists have to tell people the truth, and what we and they have to do to make a better life for ourselves. The value of the election is the opportunity to get our message across to as many Bermondsey people as we can and to the staff and students at London South Bank University. The main message is get organised in your communities, get organised in your trade unions and help us create a new party for the working class. We need a party that represents the interests of people and not the banksters, corporate “fat cats” and their political parties who rule our world and have made such a mess of it.  

 

A Manifesto for People

 

The policies we need already exist in the knowledge and experience of the millions of working people who make our economy and society function. People already know what works and what doesn’t. If that experience was organised and mobilised through co-operation instead of competition the world would be a much better place. But it isn’t.

 

If you want to know the best policy for the health service, the railways, education or building houses, then listen to the people in the front line who actually do the job. The real ‘People’s Manifesto’ is there. But it needs political organisation and campaigning to draw on all that wealth of talent, knowledge and experience. Unfortunately the world is not organised by people power. We must organise for change. 

 

Corporate capitalism with its ruthless pursuit of profit as its single overriding imperative has brought the world to the brink of disaster.Profit and greed decides everything and corrupts everything. This is especially true for the banks in the financial heartlands of the City of London. Our rulers do what suits their interests and not what helps us. Private property bestows the right to treat people as servants or wage slaves. They rule because we don’t. They rule because we are kept divided from each other. It benefits them to keep things as they are.  Parliamentary elections help maintain this façade.

 

It is not our intention to have a policy about everything under the sun. The last two years have highlighted some major issues facing the British people. The economic crisis, the failure of parliament, the war in Afghanistan, immigration, the environment and global warming are all different aspects of the same problem. Our world is organised and managed for the benefit of the few who own most of it.

 

Banks versus the People

 

The central question in this election is what to do about the banks? With 2.45 million people unemployed the economy is not producing enough and not creating enough jobs. One answer would be to invest more, spend more and cut taxes especially on low income families. But this would raise the budget deficit which at £167bn is already the highest since the Second World War. There is a serious employment crisis facing the country with no obvious answer in terms of spending less or spending more. Of course capitalism is a global system and the economic crisis is destroying jobs and increasing poverty across the world. But this is used by the banks, government and parliament as an excuse to avoid their own responsibilities and failures.

 

On 15 September 2008 Lehman Brothers, a major US bank, went bust and triggered an international financial crisis. The banks had been enjoying a boom built on ever rising house prices and feeding frenzy on US sub-prime mortgages. Massive profits and unbelievable bonuses rested on a huge mountain of bad debts. As soon as the economy began to slow down, a spark lit this inflated financial bubble turning it into a flaming inferno. In 2008-9 the British banking system virtually collapsed. The failure of Northern Rock which preceded the crisis was followed by the collapse of RBS and the Lloyds banking group.

 

The British economy is especially vulnerable to a banking collapse. The City is one of the world’s major financial centres responsible for about 8% of the country’s output. In the bubble years from 2001-2007 bank assets doubled to £6 trillion. The amount of taxpayers’ money needed to prop this up was enormous. By nationalising these bad debts the government is now on the brink of bankruptcy. None of the three main parties want much attention focused on what went wrong and who was responsible. All their policies concentrate on making the people pay with cuts in public spending and tax increases. The banks are escaping scot free.

 

Banksters 

 

The Banks provide a vital service. They take savings from some parts of the economy and transfer them elsewhere to enable trade and commerce to function and bills to be paid. They provide the oil which enables the capitalist economic engine to keep going. The crisis known as the “credit crunch” meant the banks went on strike and stopped lending. The whole economy stood on the brink of disaster. Because of the central strategic position of the banks in the economy the government had little choice but to surrender to their demands. 

 

The banks are much more than a social service dedicated to a healthy functioning economy. They are private businesses whose prime aim is profit, not charities serving the people. Like the swash buckling pirates of the Caribbean, their Executives are the buccaneers of modern capitalism. Gambling, robbery and plunder are among the black arts of private banking. They call themselves “risk-takers”. We risk and they take! Ferdinand Pecora, the chief counsel to the US Senate Committee on Banking in the early 1930s coined the term “Bankster”. The combination of “banker” with “gangster” described the behaviour of the top bankers before the Great Wall Street Crash in 1929.

 

British banks have their own “banksters” directing operations. Barclay’s president Bob Diamond received £63.3m pay package in March 2010. (Daily Mail, 20 March). Sir Fred “the Shred” Goodwin, was chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), when it made losses of £24.1bn in 2008.  He retired early and was paid off with a £700,000 per year pension. Eric Daniels, chief Bankster of the Lloyds-TSB and HBOS group received a pay and bonus deal worth up to £6.8million this year to top up his £1.12million annual salary. He told employees that the bank faced "very, very few restrictions".  All thanks to the injection of up to £5.5bn of taxpayers' funds. (Daily Mail, 26 March 2010)

 

Regulatory Failure

 

Powerful banks not only dominate the economy but have powerful influence at the heart of government. Their interests hold sway with the Bank of England, the Treasury and the Prime Minister. The City and the banks have been traditionally influential in the Conservative Party. But in 1997 New Labour embraced the City and this new relationship was signified by making the Bank of England independent. This meant a new freedom for the banksters to make profits and bonuses.

 

The Banksters remain the ‘untouchables’ of the British economy. No control was exercised by shareholders. They were happy to rake in dividends in good times and accepted state support when they failed. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) was set up to guarantee minimal regulation. It is effectively a banksters quango to protect them from public scrutiny. It saves the banks from too much regulation or ‘interference’ by parliament. Parliament has failed to exercise any real public scrutiny over the banks or pass the necessary laws and ensure effective implementation. Parliament is where the major system failure took place. 

 

The Great Bankster Robbery
 
The private ownership of the banks leaves immense power in the hands of banksters. It enables them to hold the country to ransom. They are threatening to go on strike by withholding vital finance. They are demanding that the government take action to cut public services and raise taxes to restore the “confidence” of the “markets”. The “markets” are code for banksters and “confidence” refers to their expectations about future profits and bonuses.

Would a country like Greece or the UK facing bankruptcy be helped by interest free loans or a “holiday” from interest payments? On the contrary while the vultures are circling overhead the robbers are demanding more and more. Currently the UK is paying £42bn in interest payment to banks. This is expected to rise to £78.8bn by 2014-15. The screw is being turned ever tighter.

 

Whilst the Irish workers have accepted 20% pay cuts the Greek workers are refusing to pay the robbers by taking industrial and political action. The banksters are very worried. The “markets” are jittery. They are now demanding 7.45% interest payments for lending to Greece. The Eurozone (Germany and France) have stepped in to offer £26.4bn at 5% (Financial Times 12 April). If the Greek workers are screwed too hard too quickly, there could be a political crisis or even some sort of revolution against banks. This could spread into other countries. The Greek workers have thus convinced the German banks to come up with a better offer! 


Public ownership and democracy


Public ownership combines state ownership with public control and accountability. Democracy provides the foundations on which public ownership is built. First workers must control management and exercise democratic vigilance inside the enterprise. Second parliament has to ensure accountability and regulation in the public interest. The recent nationalisation of the banks is not public ownership. It was the policy of the banksters to escape their debts, save them from bankruptcy and keep them out of public control. The plan is to return them to the private sector as soon as conditions allow. 
   
Public ownership is an essential policy to ensure the economy serves the people. Because of the central position of banks they must be taken from the banksters and brought under public control. This should be extended to other basic public services such as the railways, utilities (water, electricity and gas), house building, public transport, health and education. Health and education are managed by state bureaucracy. These must now be run on a democratic basis. There should be no cuts in public services. There must be public investment to create new jobs and reduce unemployment. 

 

Putting people first - making the Banksters pay

 

How will the UK’s national deficit be paid? The banks will pay if the government defaults on the debt or inflation burns away its real value. The people will pay if the government cuts public spending or increases taxes. But the question of how this debt is distributed depends on who has economic and political power. With public ownership and a democratic parliament the costs will be shifted to the banks. But privately owned banks and an unreformed parliament puts the burden onto public sector workers. All the three main parties are agreed that the people must pay for the banksters’ greed and reckless gambling. We say:

  • Public ownership of the banks
  • Parliamentary reform and regulation of all banks
  • Cutting waste on arms spending such as Trident, the Afghanistan war, debt interest payments, ID cards, consultants fees etc.
  • No cuts in public services. Reduce pay of top executives. Cut management bureaucracy  
  • Public spending and tax reduction to create employment
  • Progressive taxation and action against tax evasion - offshore accounts and tax havens 

 

After the election the next government will try to implement the policies of the banks by making people pay. The task of defending jobs, pay and public services will depend on trade unions. Trade unions must be freed from the shackles which the employers and the courts placed on them using the anti-union laws. These laws must be scrapped so that unions are accountable to members.

 

For a People’s Parliament not a House of Thieves

 

The UK has a failing parliamentary democracy. The MPs expenses scandal and the exposure of MPs Hewitt, Byers and Hoon offering hire by corporate interests at £5000 a day caused widespread anger and disgust. It is the tip of an iceberg. The House of Commons has been corrupted in a more fundamental way. It does not function as an effective legislature and has proved incapable of exercising real control of the government. As a representative of the people it is effectively neutralised or disabled. The Commons is little more than a political theatre. MPs are reduced to the role of lobby fodder or kept busy taking foreign trips.
 
The British system of government by the Crown concentrates power in the hands of the Prime Minister and senior Ministers and Civil Servants. Power is highly centralised and flows from the top downwards. The Crown effectively controls the House of Commons through the Whips and the system of promotions and rewards. A majority of people opposed the Iraq war. But the Commons voted for it because the government was in control. Public opinion can be safely ignored without immediate consequences.

 

The Banks and the City have a major influence through the Bank of England and the Treasury into the heart of government. Parliament has no means of control. It is a rubber stamp which provides an appearance of democracy which is absent in practice. After the general election the Commons will rubber stamp the biggest robbery the banks have ever carried out. Without radical reform it will remain the House of Thieves serving corporate interests and financial advantage of MPs themselves. After the general elections the Commons will vote through the biggest robbery the banks have ever carried out.

 

A people’s democracy is founded on the principle of the sovereignty of the people over parliament, civil service and government. A democratic, republican and secular form of popular government must be supported by an extension of democratic or public ownership. The reform of parliament must include the ending of all hereditary or unelected institutions such as the monarchy, House of Lords and Privy Council. Senior Civil Servants must be accountable to parliament and people and not as at present owing allegiance to the Crown.

 

MPs must be regularly elected and accountable to their electors annually. They should be elected by proportional representation and paid the average wage. Electors should have the right to remove any MP between elections. Parliament should control its own agenda. Ministers should be elected by and accountable to parliament. All information in the hands of civil servants belongs to the people and must be accountable to them and parliament.    

   

For People and Against War

 

The alliance between Wall Street and the City of London is the backbone of British foreign policy. Through the so-called “special relationship” with the United States, the United Kingdom pursues its world wide interests as a junior partner to Corporate America. In the 1960s Harold Wilson refused to send British troops to fight in Vietnam. That was an exception not the rule. In the last ten years the UK has been the main ally of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The UK continues to have ambitions as a world imperial power. This is hugely expensive for the British people in terms of a tragic loss of life for young soldiers and victims of terror attacks on our streets and in the massive waste of resources which could have been used to build houses, schools and hospitals. Set against this are the profits of the oil companies, the arms industry and the banks. We should not forget or ignore the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. They have suffered unimaginable tragedies and massive loss of life at the hands of the British and American high tech killing machine.

 

The British people who demonstrated against the Iraq war in their millions in 2003 have been vindicated. The UK needs a foreign policy independent of the international interests of the City and Corporate America. This policy should include an immediate withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan, opposition to the Israeli occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza and opposition to the American-Israeli plans for military action against Iran. This would strengthen popular democratic and secular forces in Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan.

 

This policy is not based on profit and greed but on the struggle of people for democracy and self determination. It will benefit of the people of all of these countries including our own. But it will remain “pie in the sky” unless the people bring the banks under public control, end the alliance with Wall Street as part of the process of the radical reform and renewal of democracy. The march of popular democracy and the end of wars of plunder go hand in hand for the peoples of Britain, the Middle East and the rest of the world.

 

For a People’s Immigration Policy

 

Everybody recognises there are issues and problems that relate to immigration. These are being exploited by the major parties and racist politicians who play on people’s fears and anxieties to divide the people. All the major parties agree that immigration must be controlled as a criminal matter. Like the criminalisation of drugs, such policies leave people as victims and make huge profits for criminals engaged in people smuggling and employers exploiting low wages. A people’s immigration policy begins with the principle of freedom for people and minimises the opportunities for criminal activity and the harassment of people.

 

In a free society every citizen should have the right to leave the country in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. It is not a crime to want to go, live and work somewhere else. No law should make it so. People must have the freedom to emigrate. The world is a better place for the skills and efforts of British workers who have emigrated to Australia, Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, India, North America, Pakistan, etc. Consider the Berlin Wall or the Gaza strip where the people are held like prisoners in a concentration camp. Denying people the right to migrate is a crime against humanity. 
However the freedom to emigrate is meaningless if there is nowhere else to go. Taken together, emigration and immigration are two sides of the same coin – a basic human right: the freedom of movement.

 

The globalised capitalist world has proclaimed its own principle of the freedom of capital to go wherever it wants in search of profit. But if all the capital concentrates itself in a few cities and all the people have to migrate to find jobs how irrational would that be? It would be a world of overcrowding, pollution and congestion. One side of migration policy is the control and planned distribution of the world’s capital.   

 

A people’s migration policy must put people’s rights at the very core – the freedom of movement. Yet this freedom of movement is denied to people by laws, regulations, restrictions, bureaucracy and police. A world based on people’s freedom would operate in the opposite way. Capital would be regulated and controlled and people would be free to move. This would cut criminal activity at a stroke not only people trafficking but offshore banking and the tax avoidance industry.

 

A country benefits from immigration as it loses by emigration. Jobs and work create wealth. Young people leaving their home countries in search of a better life are on average hard working and enterprising. A country cannot grow without labour. America, the richest country in the world, was built by migrant labour. The rapid growth of China in the last decades depends on surplus labour from the country migrating to the cities in the South.

 

Of course there are costs as well as benefits. Who pays the costs is a vital political question. Immigrants usually have to pay a high price by living in poor housing, earning low wages and being made victims for exploiters, criminals and police. Settled workers may have to pay if they are undercut with lower wages and have to compete for the limited supply of poor housing.

 

The problems are real enough and not caused by migrants or settled workers. They are caused by the same system which aims to maximise profits and minimise social resources allocated to working people. The answer is not more competition and more laws to divide people into legal and illegal workers. This is exactly what right wing racist politicians and parties are trying to do.

 

The answer to the common problems of jobs, pay and housing are not solved by racist divide and rule but by workers uniting and fighting for change by trade union and political means. The demand for trade union rights and decent houses for all is complementary to a migration policy based on the freedom of movement and control over the movement of capital.            

     

The Environment 


Recognise that we depend on our environment for survival. Move to sustainable, low-pollution industry & farming - stop the pollution that is destroying our environment. Recognise that many of our planet's resources are limited and that capitalism fritters them away for profit. Produce for need, not profit, and design goods for reuse and recycling. Make the prevention of global warming a top priority nationally and internationally. Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions - otherwise climate change, caused by capitalism, will destroy us. Invest in publicly owned and controlled renewable energy - not nuclear or dirty fossil fuel.


End the exemption from tax for aviation fuel, which causes huge global warming. Take and support action to stop the current large scale extinction of species. Make corporate polluters pay for the immediate and long term effects of their pollution, including health costs. Monitor local air, water and other pollution levels and publicise the results. Provide an integrated system of convenient, accessible, cheap, efficient public transport, publicly owned and run. Bring in mandatory targets for recycling for manufacturers, retailers and local authorities. Planned conversion of the energy industries to sustainable technologies. Favour local food over food transported long distance, by means of planning and other law and the tax system. Stop subsidising wasteful over-production in the UK and the European Union and stop harming third world producers by dumping subsidised food on their countries.


A New People’s England - for hope not hate

 

There is a new England waiting to be born. The election is an opportunity to highlight and accelerate the process of change which is desirable and necessary for a better future. The people who will create the New England are young people, many of whom are students. The future belongs to them and they have to make of it what they will. They have the energy, the drive and enthusiasm. They can change the world for better or worse.

 

Old England was created through the revolutions in the 17th century and as part of the formation of Great Britain in the 18th. England, which had already incorporated Wales, took its identity as an Anglo-Saxon Protestant country under a constitutional monarchy in a political union with Scotland and Ireland. Out of this grew the British Empire. England became a conservative country with a deeply embedded aristocratic class system. It is symbolised by its monarchy with the union jack and the flag of St George.

 

A new England will be very different. Its values will be secular, democratic, republican and internationalist. It will have a new relationship with Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It will recognise itself not only as a European country but as a world country. English is a world language of a multi-racial country. It will end the mythical hope for a white Anglo-Saxon master race. The seeds of a New England already exist. We need the people to make the changes now before Old England descends into the darkness which overcame Germany in the 1930s.      

     

People united

 

However the older generation, many of whom are now pensioners, have much valuable experience to contribute. They have learnt a lot about what is wrong with the world. They have fought many battles as socialists and trade unionists. They have a lot to offer the struggle for new England in so far as they are still fighters. The Pensioner’s movement shows what is possible.  

 

Only young people can make their revolution. But older people are a time saving machine. You don’t have to repeat all our mistakes. If young people can take the time to find out what works and what doesn’t then we move forward more rapidly. Young and old – the people united will never be defeated.  

 

Young fighters and old battle axes are a powerful and dangerous combination. This is why there is so much in our culture designed to keep us apart. To make older citizens fearful of the young and young people contemptuous, dismissive or distrustful of the old. Ageism and the cult of youth is designed to keep the people divided just as racism, sexism and homophobia are designed to do.

 

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