Sunday, 15 November 2015

Mercia Rising: Bioregionalism in England

"A bioregion refers both to geographical terrain and a terrain of consciousness – to a place and the ideas that have developed about how to live in that place." -Peter Berg & Raymond Dasmann, Reinhabiting a Separate Country, Planet Drum Foundation, 1978

Recently friends of AE in Birmingham have taken decentralisation to heart and formed a new affinity group promoting the cultural heritage of their region with the aim of building a positive, left-leaning future. Their mission statement asserts the need to remove power "away from the political centre and return it to local people." Mercia Rising will work alongside other existing Mercian groups with the aim of mainstreaming the cause whilst tying it into issues that are most pressing to ordinary people, such as loss of local services and government cuts, on a similar model to other regionalist groups in England, i.e. building more direct and local democracy.

Although Mercian identity has its origins in early medieval history, the modern political Mercia is a fairly new concept. The original Mercia movement was founded in the early 1990s by activists inspired by both their local heritage as well as green-anarchist and radical decentralist economic ideas. This group which still exists as The Acting Witan of Mercia has made great efforts to establish a radical platform for Mercia and a constitutional basis for independence. The Witan sums up its core beliefs as threefold: Co-operative Community, Organic Democracy and Ecological Sustainability, stating their objective as the "re-creation of Mercia as an autonomous and sustainable bioregion within an English confederation."

Bioregionalism is a political and cultural system based on areas defined through natural physical and environmental boundaries and thereby seeking to harmonise the relationship between human culture and the surrounding ecology in order to build a sustainable future. Surrounded by sea on all sides, Britain could be said to constitute a particular large bioregion with Mercia and others making up a system of smaller related ecoregions. England and Scotland to the north also form quite distinct entities both in terms of flora and fauna as well as their individual cultural and political differences.

The human social aspect cannot be ignored, as Bioregionalism depends on finding local solutions to local issues and for decisions and actions to be made by the people who are most affected by them. Political action must therefore be built on a human scale. Its scope cannot be wholly determined by geological and climatic boundaries, which may be huge and difficult to co-ordinate effectively across. It makes sense then to build ecological solutions around the local democratic and cultural aspirations of regions and peoples in opposition to the established, political dominance of Westminister and its ties to global corporate interests. To make this opposition effective and beneficial to all each region should co-operate equally on a confederal basis.

Bioregionalism is then a completely different and much more radical concept than the regionalism that is currently being discussed by politicians and the media. To make a positive difference to the environment and the people who live there the initiative must be taken at the grassroots level, rather than top-down solution being suggested. This is the only way we can avoid the prospect of regional assemblies which are nothing more than another layer of politicos doing the bidding of central government.

An example where a bioregional movement has been most successful in establishing itself is in the Pacific Northwest of America in the region known as Cascadia. Here a large movement has developed in recent years built around a core of eco-activism combined with a vibrant cultural expression through music, sport and food. Their immediate aims may be modest but we hope that in time Mercia Rising can contribute to such an awakening here.

Useful links:

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Migration and the New Economics

Migration is the hot topic right now and an inevitably contentious one given that England is a small but relatively rich island nation with an unfortunate record on international intervention. Some would have us shut our doors tight and jealously guard a model of economic growth at the expense of the poorest of both this country and the world. The other camp would like to invite the whole world into a Britain of universal social provision. Unfortunately neither of these models is realistic or in any way sustainable. The former interpret economic success only in terms of the rich getting richer and hope that authoritarian measures at home and abroad can keep the dispossessed at bay forever. The latter, on the other hand, shares the delusion that endless growth is desirable and even possible.

A third view, neither austerity nor Keynesianism, is, however, both imaginable and increasingly pertinent. Back in 1973 the economist E.F. Schumacher published a series of essays under the title 'Small is Beautiful'. Tellingly it was subtitled 'a study of economics as if people mattered.' Whilst popular and prophetic of many of the problems we face today it has sadly gone unheeded by our political and economic leaders. As the blurb reads,
"Small is Beautiful looks at the economic structure of the Western world in a revolutionary way. For Dr. Schumacher maintains that Man's current pursuit of profit and progress, which promotes giant organisations and increased specialisation, has in fact resulted in gross economic inefficiency, environmental pollution and inhumane working conditions. Dr Schumacher challenges [this] doctrine... and proposes a system of Intermediate Technology, based on smaller working units, communal ownership and regional workplaces utilising local labour and resources. With the emphasis on the person not the product, Small is Beautiful points the way to a world in which Capital serves Man instead of Man remaining a slave to Capital."
Detailed precedents to Small is Beautiful can be read in both the Guild Socialist an Social Credit theories already outlined here and the prescience of Schumacher's environmental outlook should be obvious but is still sadly overlooked by short-sighted politicians and capitalists in favour of token sticking-plaster 'green' measures. Before we ask if migration is good for our economy we should perhaps ask whether our economic system is socially and environmentally sustainable.

We do not begrudge those seeking a better life and we certainly don't 'hate foreigners'. Migration is actually a natural fact of human civilisation, which cannot nor should it be completely stopped. Inter-marriage between social and ethnic groups is perhaps as old as human society itself and the most stable and successful means of assimilating 'outsiders' and ensuring the continued health and survival of the group.  Equally, providing shelter to a small number of refugees is a positive measure of our social evolution.

What is not natural, however, is our current economic system which requires huge amounts of imported labour directed toward the accumulation of abstract capital rather than social usefulness. Or to put it another way, the current system serves to further enrich the powerful whilst making the rest of us ever more disempowered. The challenge then is to build an alternative which will serve the human needs and not destroy (through enforced poverty, mass movement of people, climate-change, pollution and the effects of unrewarding and useless over-work) our environment and the social fabric both here and around the world.

International co-operation is desirable, especially with our nearest European neighbours but this should not be on the terms of the European Union which remains an undemocratic, elite, bureaucratic and economically unjust cabal. Equally, international aid to the poorest people of the world is desirable but true compassion must be voluntary and not done by governments to governments. It is in the long-term interest of all to aid non-governmental projects which support sustainable development in the poorer nations as well as our own. Unfortunately, government aid is currently little more than backhand sweeteners for trade deals that benefit only corrupt politicians and businessmen.

This is of course not a quick fix. It will take great efforts and self-analysis but is necessary for the long-term survival of our country and our planet. Just as in the nineteenth century rural populations moved on mass to the newly industrialised cities leaving the countryside poor and barren and the cities overcrowded smoke-filled slums, the same is occurring now on a global scale. The only way we can turn the tide of environmental and social destruction is not by building bigger fences or embracing the benefits of a larger labour pool brings to the neolibral economic system but instead to reinterpret 'progress' and build a New Economics accordingly.

I will finish with this quote by Dr. Schumacher on the task ahead:
"It is my experience that it is rather more difficult to recapture directness and simplicity than to advance in the direction of ever more sophistication and complexity. …it takes a certain flair of real insight to make things simple again. And this insight does not come easily to people who have allowed themselves to become alienated from real, productive work and from the self-balancing system of nature, which never fails to recognize measure and limitation."

Schumacher Center For New Economics 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Something Old, Something New, Something Blue

Since their embarrassing defeat at the election, Labour has fallen into yet greater disarray. Things looked promising for a moment. Talk of a mansion tax on the super-rich and tentatively addressing New Labour's past record on the NHS, war and border control put Milliband ahead in the polls. Unfortunately, the message wasn't positive and coherent enough. No amount of hand-wrought apologising would would let England forget that New Labour had ultimately failed us in power and actually started the great sell-off of the NHS. Granted, they gave us the minimum wage but now what we really need is a genuine living wage and I don't mean like the phoney one George Osborne cooked up in the budget.

In the end they weren't offering enough of a change from the Tories. Scotland voted for the nationalists because they had a positive and hopeful vision for that country's future and, unlike Labour, are actually willing to vote against the government on austerity! England sadly didn't have that option.  Labour's idealistic Left went Green, attracted by impossible promises of all things nice whilst the white working class shifted towards UKIP. Predictably, as soon as the results came in the old-guards of New Labour emerged from their coffins to say if only Labour was more pro-big-business they could 'reclaim' the centre-right neoliberal, globalist position from the Conservative Party. Such is our dearth of choice.

The race is now on to find a new leader. Thankfully, Mandelson's slick and suited 'British Obama' apprentice has dropped out. Chuka Umunna cannot rightfully be called a 'Champagne Socialist' because that would in some way suggest he is a socialist, which he isn't. He does like champagne though and spends rather a lot on it.  We still have a handful of Party clones, too afraid to say anything which might offend anyone and let them be seen to be straying off the pin-point centre-ground. And then there is Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn is the left-wing conscious of the Labour Party. The Left has long-needed it's own Farage, by which I mean someone who will actually say what they believe and be genuinely human rather than a programmed P.R. drone. There has been a groundswell of popular support for Corbyn's leadership challenge which has thrown the elites of the party and writers of the Guardian newspaper into abject panic. If they can't even listen to their own membership and supporters then how can we really trust them to government the country? 

Is Corbyn the savior? No, but he's certainly shaking up the Labour Party and British politics, which is a good thing and interestingly polls suggest he is the favoured Labour candidate among UKIP supporters which goes to show the potential broad appeal of a left-populist anti-establishment figure. Aside from the fight between the forces of old and of New Labour there is also Blue Labour, which had an influence over some of Ed Milliband's more populist policies.  They describe themselves as 'The Voice of Labour's Radical Tradition' and favour guild-socialist co-operative economics as opposed to neoliberalism. They also advocate what could be described as 'socially-conservative' populist approach to to crime, immigration and the EU. Of course populism should be self-critical and guided by a strong ethics if it is to avoid falling into the kind of crudeness displayed by UKIP. However, the emphasis on local, decentralised solutions against big Statist policies that have been proved to lead to dependency and demoralisation is a positive thing. So long as they remain faithful to their stated Radicalism by putting up a strong opposition to free-market dogmas and economic globalisation then they can avoid the kind of empty populism that leaves the fundamental structures of the system intact.

Another interesting development, which is unconnected to mainstream politics, is The Common Ground Movement. It's aim is to unite ordinary people of different political colours against the establishment on a platform of basic agreed principles. These are:

  • Peace: No more wars of aggression.
  • Liberty: End the surveillance state. End the militarization of the police.
  • Justice: Hold the corrupt political and financial systems accountable.

What can be achieved remains to be seen but it is good to see efforts that extend beyond narrow sectarianism.  It is time for the periphery to unite against the centre and to begin to work towards an anti-establishment Popular Front.  All this fighting amongst ourselves is exactly what those in power want.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Democratic Confederalism: The Kurdish Revolution in Rojava

The frontline of the fight against the so-called 'Islamic State' has not come from the intervention of Western forces but instead has been most fiercely fought by indigenous Kurdish people in defense of their native homeland, freedom and way of life. Since the start of the Syrian civil war and the withdrawal of Assad from the Kurdish region of Northern Syria, the militants of the YPG have not only successfully held off the fascistic designs of ISIS for regional and worldwide dominance but have asserted their autonomy in a revolutionary and libertarian way.

The Kurdish people constitute a stateless nation which stretches over the current borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The YPG is the armed-wing of the Kurdish People's Union, which is linked to the PKK that is based in the Kurdish region of Eastern Turkey. The PKK, which has been fighting a long guerrilla war with the Turkish government to establish a Kurdish state, is designated a terrorist organisation by the British government and also by many other Western powers.

The PKK is no longer anything remotely like the old-style Marxist-Leninist party it once was. Its own internal evolution, and the intellectual conversion of its own founder, Abdullah Ocalan, held in a Turkish island prison since 1999, have led it to entirely change its aims and tactics. They now say "No we are no Communists."
"When the PKK was founded over 35 years ago, they were first Marxists-Leninists. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, they analysed books and articles by philosophers, anarchists, feminists, communalists, and social ecologists. That is how writers like Murray Bookchin came into their focus. In a PKK Congress 1995, the PKK called the Soviet Communism a phase of “primitive and brutal socialism” and called for a new period in the socialist struggle. By the inspiration of Murray Bookchin the PKK Leader Öcalan, an atheist and ex-muslim, founded the democratic confederalism, which means a “democratic, ecological, gender-liberated society.“

The principles of democratic confederalism are participatory democracy, local autonomy,
gender equality, religious tolerance and an ecological socialist economy. This includes autonomy for all ethnic groups. Democratic Confederalism has as its goal the autonomy of society: in other words, instead of the state governing society, a politicized society manages itself."

The PKK has declared that it no longer seeks to create a Kurdish state based on a centralised government. Instead it is calling for Kurds to create free, self-governing communities, based on principles of direct democracy. In this way, they hope, the Kurdish struggle could become a model for a worldwide movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of vast bureaucratic governments and corporate power. Under the pressure of war the Kurds have set about achieving this liberation.

Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance based on the ethnic make-up of each municipality (for example, this could include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman.) There are women’s and youth councils, and a women's army, the “YJA Star” militia (the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.

Right now the YPG needs military support to defeat ISIS and are welcoming Westerners with combat experience to fight alongside them. This provides a much-needed counter-balance to the disgrace of those travelling on British passports to join Islamic State --a phenomena of Westernised Muslims themselves becoming neo-imperialist players in the Middle-east.

At home we can learn a lot from the Kurdish resistance to oppressive totalitarian governments and extremist ideologies, guided by a constitutional model for regional self-government.  We too can build our own systems of popular self-management, based on libertarian and traditional models, that work not only for the majority or minority but for all!

Biji Kurdistan and Free England!

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Social Commonwealth

"Under the present system of unregulated currency and credit, administered in their own interests by international groups of financiers and super-industrialists, the cost of living in terms of intensity of effort will rise, and the standard of life measured in terms of security, leisure and freedom will fall until the crash comes."
The present economic crisis has brought into sharp focus the inherent faults in capitalism and especially the grip that the banking and financial system has on our lives. We all know it is the bank's fault yet since getting into power our present Conservative government has shifted the blame solely onto us: the ordinary people. We are offered only one solution to the crisis of capitalism: more capitalism. Here 'Right' and 'Left' are just alike because they both have the same master. Whether it is austerity and cuts or ever more debt, the result is always financial slavery.

Almost 100 years ago an alternative to this was mapped out by a renegade economist named Major Douglas. His system of Social Credit grew out of the Guild Socialist movement and was first championed by the leading socialist journal of the day. Since then his ideas have been misinterpreted, dismissed and forgotten. There are parallels, however, with the renewed interest in Basic Income schemes but Social Credit is a more advanced albeit more complicated theory. The problem of misinterpretation comes from viewing Social Credit as an addition to the present financial system of exploitation and competition rather than as a completely alternative system rooted in Guild Socialist philosophy. Social Credit will never save capitalism from itself, just as syndicalism and true socialism cannot exist within the present financial system. Its design is to replace capitalism.

The whole economic system is dominated by the banks and, consequently, they dominate the lives and destinies of the people, and dictate the policies of governments. History proves this conclusively. Capitalism functions almost entirely on loans from the banking system. The banks have discretionary powers to call in these loans and overdrafts and can exercise this power with disastrous effects on the whole community. The banks only lend money as a repayable interest-bearing debt and hold rights over the assets of the borrower. In this way the banks maintain complete economic control over our individual and social lives.

Social Credit theory rests on the truth that human beings are capable of all they are presently capable of without and despite of money and the banking system. In fact our energies (or 'real credit' as oppose to 'financial credit') is held back and misdirected by the constraints of finance and the profit motive. Socially useful services are shut down because they don't make anyone rich. We are herded into useless and demeaning jobs that serve no real purpose just as a means to survive. It makes 'economic sense' to import goods that could easily be made here even though this is ecological insanity. Douglas argued that profit is is in fact the right not only of labour but of our shared inheritance of past inventions and the accumulation of technological innovations.

The remedy to the current misery then is that the monopoly of banking credit must be terminated, and the right to issue and control all money and credit be vested in the people as a whole. Savings should not be diverted from their proper function, i.e., purchasing power. Money and credit should be a means of distribution only, and not a commodity to be bought and sold at interest. Provision of purchasing power must be made for those not employed or displaced from industry by labour-saving machinery. We have the right to increased leisure, not increased suffering from technological advancement.

The first step to achieving all this will be the establishment of a People's Credit Authority to take complete control of the money system. This would restore money power to the people and do away with the monopoly of credit by private interests. With increases in national wealth there would be a considerable credit balance in every accounting period, representing the profit of national appreciation of wealth over national depreciation. Credit would be issued against the profit balance to establish an equation between purchasing power and prices and pay a National Dividend to all. Once we have established the control of our national credit, the power to do things would no longer be determined by money conditions. Under Social Credit, "WHAT IS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE IS FINANCIALLY POSSIBLE."

To implement a Social Credit policy and ensure co-operation, individual Guilds would join the National Guilds League to trade on mutually agreed margins of profit that would be high enough to encourage ample production, but not high enough to permit exploitation. This arrangement would control prices in a more scientific way than the present method of price fixing. This would ensure that the credit issued against the profit balance would not only increase purchasing power, but, at the same time, reduce prices. Supposing the price of an article was £8, and the purchasing power available was £5. The disparity is £3. Credit could be issued to reduce the price by £1.50 and to increase the purchasing power by £1.50. Purchasing power and prices would then be £6.50.

Although Social Credit attracted a great deal of attention from workers, intellectuals and artists in the 1920s and 30s, it was predictably attacked by the capitalists but also by leading figures in the socialist movement. Guild socialism had by this time all but completely lost out to Fabian socialism. Whereas the Guildsmen believed in a socialism from below and administered by the people, the Fabians represented an elite that wished to use capitalist growth economics to redistribute wealth through tax and nationalisation on their own terms 'for the people'. The result, as in Marxism too, is a lack of political freedom and the maintenance of wage slavery. Sadly the British Left has stuck firmly to this false and contradictory strategy ever since.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Where We Stand

English Revolution was created in response to the need for a left-wing engagement with a rising English sense of national identity and to explore a local and national response to traditional left-wing causes abandoned by the established parties and movements of the Left . This theoretical experiment emerged from a background of heterogeneous, non-dogmatic left-wing radicalism willing to look outside of itself for support, allies and ideas; coupled with a respect for progressive patriotism and the positive role of traditional culture.

Betrayed by the Blairite Labour Party and its project to combine only the worst aspects of capitalism and socialism, the English working class is faced with a dearth of options. The three largest parties fight for control of the status-quo, accepting all the rules of the global capitalist world order; differing only slightly in their carefully-crafted TV personalities and claims of managerial supremacy. Standing in the wings are UKIP and the Greens trying to pull the establishment consensus back into its old-fashioned Left/Right binary but ready to compromise and collaborate at the first sniff of power. Beyond that there is the more-or-less irreverent far-Left and far-Right fringes locked in their own political ghettos and fighting among themselves.

Since I began this blog, I have come into contact with a number of similarly minded people seeking a way beyond the establishment system and tired old dogmas. Some of the best dialogue I have had has been with people who have histories of involvement in the far-right but have since categorically rejected racism and found inspiration in the more creative history of English radicalism.  I have also had to draw a line in my dealings with certain people and organisations who do not yet share this same rejection of racism and mistakenly believe we would countenance such a viewpoint.

My attempt to synthesise libertarian socialism and English civic pride has sadly met with little interest from the mainstream Left. Marxist organisations mostly like to fight over who is the correct bearer of that 'infallible' dogma so tend to have no tolerance of dissident socialisms. Other objections have been based on knee-jerk liberal assumptions and misunderstandings about who we are and what we want. The upshot is that 'Autonomous England' has failed to materialise into anything like the movement I originally talked about.

So where now? I will keep this blog going with occasional articles promoting alternative political ideas and dialogue across the out-dated political spectrum but will no longer profess to be a political movement in itself.  I just hope that in time more people will wake up and realise we must fight the system not each other.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Lesson Of The Commune

The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first and perhaps only true 'communist' revolution. Occurring less than a century after the great cataclysmic French Revolution, the Commune differed greatly from its predecessor in its emancipatory content. The French Revolution had declared a Republic, which was highly centralised and replaced an absolute monarchy with an 'enlightened' elite who ruled 'on behalf of the people'. This would result in the Reign of Terror, the Napoleonic empire, restoration of monarchy and the crushing of regional identities which is still felt in France today. The centralised Republican model also became the basis of the Russian revolution and Soviet communism. Its legacy is evident as well in the European Union project.

The Commune emerged after decades of post-revolutionary oppression of ordinary working class people. With this background, the events of the Franco-Prussian war finally pushed the citizens to seize power for themselves. The Napoleanic regime had attempted and failed to invade Germany with the intent of restoring its 'prestige' and bringing an economic upswing to France. Instead the government had sacrificed its people and inadvertently brought an occupation Prussian army to surround Paris. The people of Paris called for the overthrow of the Empire, which was replaced by a Republican government in Versailles but they too were more terrified of the demands of the Parisian citizens they claimed to represent than of the foreign army surrounding them. Meanwhile Paris was under siege and its people starving. The time had come to rise up and in a tremendous revolutionary movement, the working people of Paris replaced the state with their own organs of government and held political power until their eventual bloody suppression.

The Parisian workers strove, in extremely difficult circumstances, to put an end to exploitation and oppression, and to reorganise society on an entirely new foundation. Under the Commune, all privileges for state functionaries were abolished, rents were frozen, abandoned workshops were placed under the control of the workers, measures were taken to limit night-work, to guarantee subsistence to the poor and the sick. The Commune declared its aim as ending the ruinous competition between workers for the profit of the capitalists. Standing armies separate and apart form the people were declared illegal. Religion was declared a private matter. Homes and public buildings were requisitioned for the homeless. Public education was opened to all, as were the theatres and places of culture and learning.

The Communards hoped that other cities, towns and villages across France would follow their example and set up their own self-governing Communes but, despite some attempts in other urban centres, most of rural France remained loyal to the government. Without the possibility of replacing the national government with a federation of self-governing Communes, Paris didn't stand a chance and in collusion with the Prussians the government destroyed the Commune and with it the hopes of the people.

Much has been written since about the failure of the Commune, particularly by Marxist communists. Marx and his allies had very little actual influence of the events in Paris, which was far more a spontaneous response to oppression and patriotic rising of the people in the face of a foreign army and a treacherous government. Their precedent and inspiration was a native tradition of rebellion such as the Mutualism of Proudhon.

The orthodox Marxist-Leninist view can be read in Trotsky's disgraceful assessment: "It is only through the help of the Party... that the proletariat frees itself... We can look, page by page, through the history of the Commune. We will find in it only a single lesson: there must be a strong Party leadership." This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the aims of the Commune, which was a rebellion without a leader or eventual dictator. It was an uprising of the people intent on not repeating a Reign of Terror or of replacing one oppression with another in the name of its revolution.

Much effort has also been expended in attempting to erase the patriotic content of the events in Paris. The fact that working class foreign nationals and fierce supporters of the Commune such the Polish general Jarosław Dąbrowski were accepted as comrades by the Paris citizenry does not contradict the patriotic element of the Commune in defending itself against an occupation army and a traitorous ruling class. This was a libertarian and social patriotism against the heirachical, self-serving patriotism of the elite and proof that patriotic feeling can exist alongside compassion and without chauvinism. The latter is a crude patriotism which does a disservice to a country and its people.

"When the Paris Commune took the management of the revolution in its own hands, when plain working men for the first time dared to infringe upon the governmental privilege of their 'natural superiors'... the old world writhed in convulsions of rage," said Marx himself. A far cry from the words of Trotsky and the Marxists of today!

The true lesson of the Commune is that revolution must come from the people responding to actual conditions and developing their own solutions to their own needs. We must not allow our dissent to be usurped by the power politics of individuals and parties or fall prey to sectarian divisions between city and country and political dogma.

Like the French, we the English also have our own radical tradition to draw upon. Remember then the Diggers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Jarrow marchers, William Morris and the legend of Robin Hood! Do not let yourself be lead by politicians and those that seek power only for themselves at the expense of true freedom for all!

Long live the Commune!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Rotten To The Core: The Westminster Abuse Cover-up

It is almost impossible to imagine anything more shocking than the revelations concerning Jimmy Saville, ex-Liberal MP Cyril Smith and others which have emerged in recent times. These most heinous of crimes become all the more disgusting for the length of time that they were perpetrated by those in positions of power and influence. It is, however, most unbelievable that they got away with it for so long without the knowledge and assistance of others in powerful and influential positions: others who are still alive and with us. Of course, some did know and tried to blow the lid on what was going on.

A dossier on paedophiles allegedly associated with the British government was assembled by the Conservative MP, Geoffrey Dickens, who handed it to the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, in 1984. The whereabouts of the dossier is unknown, along with other files on organised child abuse that had been held by the Home Office. Dickens claimed the information within was explosive and implicated a number of very high profile figures.

Dickens had already outed one powerful paedophile when he named the diplomat and MI6 operative Sir Peter Hayman in parliament. In October 1978, Hayman left a package of paedophilia-related materials on a London bus. Hayman was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange but even after a police investigation uncovered more incriminating evidence in an apartment used by the married father of two, he was released without charge and Dickens was roundly criticised by his parliamentary colleagues. Again in the early 80s a Tory MP was reportedly stopped at Dover docks carrying a consignment of child pornography. The MP who still remains unnamed was not arrested or charged and the evidence has now been lost or destroyed.

Later in 1985 Dickens was to say "The noose around my neck grew tighter after I named a former high-flying British diplomat on the Floor of the House. Honourable Members will understand that where big money is involved and as important names came into my possession so the threats began. First, I received threatening telephone calls followed by two burglaries at my London home." More recently his son added that about the time when the dossier was given to the Home Secretary, the MP's London flat and constituency home were both broken into but nothing was taken, presumably in a search for documents.

Last year it was also reported that a former Conservative cabinet minister appeared in footage and photographs from a London party where children were abused three decades ago. The minister has apparently denied any wrongdoing. The film and images were seized at the home of a known paedophile in London during a recent police raid. Some of the parties were organised by paedophile Sidney Cooke, who is currently jailed for the rape and manslaughter of young boys. Cooke was part of a notorious ring of paedophiles who picked up youngsters in London and from care homes across the UK, often taking them to Amsterdam to be abused. According to Exaro SIX Tory MPs - five of whom are still alive - frequently attended sex parties in Amsterdam in order to have sex with young boys. One of the former victims has claimed the ex-minister was one of those who raped him.

We also know that much of the abuse took place in this country at the notorious Elm Guest House. A list has been circulating for some time online of a shocking number of high profile figures who allegedly attended sex parties at the guest house. These include celebrities, an MI5 agent, a Sinn Fien member, a British neo-nazi leader and a number of Tory 'Monday Club' members. If true, there are some surprising bedfellows on that list. Most shocking of all is the name of the man whom the Dickens dossier was handed to and then subsequently 'lost'.

Whilst all these accusations made of course be false, there appears to be an appalling lack of urgency in the authorities investigations of those still living. One also has to ask why it has been so difficult to find a person to head the public inquiry who doesn't have connections to those named. When finally pressured to step down, Fiona Wolff said that only "a hermit" lacking her establishment links would satisfy the public. Perhaps just someone who is NOT a good friend of the man who lost one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in the case would be a good enough start. The lost dossier itself could be something of a red herring. Even without it, there are enough people out there who can remember what happened and have questions to answer.

For many of us our confidence in the establishment and political elite could not be lower. It would seem clear that the role of 'our' security services is primarily to keep us in our place and them safe in power. It is doubtful the full truth will ever be know whilst those in power manage the investigation. With every day that passes the need to overthrow the whole rotten system becomes more and more obvious. 'Our' government, civil service and secret services cannot be trusted. It is time we the people govern ourselves in our own interests because no one else will. Equally, the child abuse gangs of mostly British-Pakistani men preying on young white girls and subsequent cover-ups in Rotherham, Rochdale and elsewhere has highlighted the failures of institutional political correctness and the misguided application of State multicultural policy. Victims must be protected and abusers must be punished, regardless of race or social class.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

ISIS, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and their 'Sovereign Wealth Funds'

The obvious horrors of Islamic State hardly need stating. Their genocidal attacks on the Kurdish, Yazidi and many fellow Arab Sunni people are well documented. The irony of British and other Western-born Muslims leaving Britain to brutalise the Iraqi and Syrian people with a well-armed and 'righteous' ideology should not be lost either.

The rapid spread of Islamic State could only have occurred with a high degree of funding and support from without. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have most often been named, with money for terrorism either coming from super-rich individuals or the governments themselves. We know that both countries channelled large funds into Islamist groups in Syria in the early stages of the war there and that the two Gulf states have spent billions of dollars on promoting the militant interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism as well as committing many human rights abuses in their own countries.

It would seem odd then that 'our' UK government, which considers Islamic State our enemy, considers Qatar and Saudi Arabia to be our 'closest friends' in the region. Of course, beneath all the talk of human rights, freedom and democracy, this is simply an economic arrangement. We sell them arms and they sell us oil as illustrated by the controversial Al-Yamamah arms deal. Incidentally, Islamic State is now a major oil supplier in its own right, exporting 9,000 barrels a day.

Knowing that one day the oil will dry up, both the Qatari and Saudi Arabian governments have been investing their wealth all around the world. This comes at the same time that the British government seeks to sell out all of its last remaining assets. The Qatar Investment Authority is now the largest shareholder in Sainsburys and owns 12.7% of Barclays and 17% of Volkswagen. It's this kind of financial clout that allowed them to buy off FIFA for the 2022 World Cup.

The globalised world we are living in is indeed and very complex and ruthless environment. Political self-determination is inextricably linked with and must come alongside economic self-determination. The economy of the global elite must be replaced by one that is local and based on need rather than greed. Crude anti-Islamic rhetoric and racism must give way, as must the simplistic idea that the Middle-East as a whole is a passive victim of entirely Western interests. The militants of ISIS must be condemned, as must the shadowy fat cats who fund them and so too the hypocrisy and interference of Western governments.

Solidarity from Autonomous England to Kurdistan and all peoples seeking self-determination!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

England And Its Regions

"It is a mark of self confidence: the English have not spent a great deal of time defining themselves because they haven't needed to."

"We don't want to be ruled by Westminster!" is one of the cries ringing out from the Scottish 'Yes' campaign. Scotland, that proud nation occupying roughly the entire northern third of the British Isles, has always maintained a strong and healthy national identity and cultural uniqueness so then it is only natural for them to expect not only devolution but full independence from Westminster rule. A truly independent Scotland would finally force us south of the border to ask what it means to be English and do we, anymore than the Scots or the Welsh, wish to be ruled by Westminster. The answer to the latter would be from many corners of England a resounding ‘NO!’

Once known for our reserved self-confidence we have, however, has lost our way way over time. Since devolution was enacted within the United Kingdom, however, there has been a growing consciousness of our unique Englishness. Through colonialism, wars and loss of empire we have rightly come to question the values once instilled/imposed on us by an elite that conflated British Imperalism with the English character. Social engineering has always been there to serve the economic interests of the elite. Once it was "Rule Britannia!" and a deadly militarism that led so many ordinary men to slaughter. Today cheap labour and mindless consumerism are what are needed for that false prophet "economic growth", keeping the rich rich and our youth demoralised.  What little dissent there is finds its only outlet in either reactionary outbursts of hate or a self-sabotaging ultra-liberalism... whilst those in power look on with indifference. So is a middle way possible? A proud and healthy English civic identity that is, most importantly, radically democratic and liberatory to ALL English people?

First, however, we must consider what it to be English. There is no one singular Englishness. To be English in central London, or in Leeds or in rural Norfolk is a quite different thing. For us a Free England must be a decentralised England built on community and self-determination. There are currently a number of initiatives around the country that are focus on such a regionalist and community-based model. Yorkshire currently has its own devolution movement, which seeks to unite the traditional county into a modern region and take power back from London for the people of Yorkshire. Likewise there are the Wessex Regionalists and Independent Mercia who seeks to create a sustainable green future for England's ancient regions based on grassroots direct democracy. In the urban environment the Independent Working Class Association have developed a thorough program to hand power back to communities, emphasising class solidarity and self-determination across ethnic lines over often divisive state interference.  These are all positive initiatives we support for the building of a truly social and democratic Free England.

We also support Cornish self-determination, just as we support the same principal or all people of England and the British Isles.  Upon the dissolution of the United Kingdom the geographic and historical Britain will, of course, not cease to exist.  We only hope all communities within the British Isles can coexist as freely on the basis of equality, friendship and independence.  The same is true of autonomous communities across Europe and beyond.

For other organisations working towards decentralism and links of interest to English Autonomists, see also: Co-operatives UK, Transition Network, Devolve.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

‘National Guilds: An Inquiry into the Wage System and the Way Out” by S.G. Hobson

This book, of considerable length and quality, was written one hundred years ago. It has not, however, depreciated in value. If anything, its assessment of political economy is sharper now than ever before.

Whilst Hobson wrote with a healthy optimism that Guild Socialism would be proclaimed in his lifetime, he was mindful of a rather pernicious alternative which could, and did, take its place.

He made the point, time and time again, that “economic power precedes political power”. He was warning against the, then, Labour Party’s doctrine; that all the labour movement needed to do was to capture the state apparatus in order to be triumphant. 

Well, we can now see how that all turned out. 

After the ’45 landslide, the victorious Labour Party set about on a policy of nationalisation. The capitalist class was paid awfully well for this, both directly (in the form of purchase price) and indirectly (in the form of interest paid on the debt accrued to make such purchases). The working class were, thereafter, kept as wage slaves, if only a little better off.

All of this paved the way for subsequent governments to successfully argue for a gradual rightward shift away from such an arrangement. Culminating in the infamous Thatcher years; nationalised assets were sold back into private hands at knock down prices and all that work was undone.

This was all the fault of the Labour movement or, more over, its leadership for not heeding Hobson’s advice. The working class should have taken control directly, and not by state-proxy, of the means of production and the wage system should’ve been abolished.

“While the wage system persists, Labour is in leash.”

The opening of this masterpiece of a book is spent attacking the system of wage slavery to which the great majority of us are subjected, in every conceivable way.

Instead of being paid, the worker is waged; a distinction Hobson makes very clear. A wage, a payment for hours worked, reduces labour-power to a commodity; in this way, the profiteer, rent-monger and usurer all justify their livelihoods. The working class, the producer of all national wealth, live lives of bare subsistence whilst the capitalist class, the producer of no real wealth whatsoever, live lives of luxury.

They might raise wages from time to time but as Napoleon said: “The hand that gives is always above the hand that takes.” The fate of the working class should not be left up to them.

Hobson, along with his fellow Guildsmen, called for the creation of monopolies of labour-power (in the form of National Guilds) which, democratically accountable to their members, would pay workers what they were actually worth. There would be no room for profit, rent or interest; all of which imply a margin between the value of labour and the value of produce, where none would exist.

“Under capitalism the age of chivalry is dead; the Guild spirit will witness its resurrection.”

Hobson also spent a little bit of time on the spiritual aspect of the idea being propositioned. He suggested that the esprit de corps which exists in certain organisations today, most notably the armed forces, would be universalised. The working class would cease to be alienated from their work; as Guild members, they would have democratic control over the means of production, what work was to be done and how it would be done.

Yet more focus was given to how Guild Socialism would be achieved; that is, what we could do to achieve it. As stated initially, economic power would have to be fought for; political power is useless to all but the convinced liberal who sees no need to change the structure of our economy.

Economic power means, more specifically, labour power. Hearts and minds must be won over and strike action must be called for; nothing but an all-out war against the evil trio of profit, rent and interest will suffice. The worker, after he is empowered with the knowledge that his enemy is not low wages but the wage system itself, must overthrow the money power.

This is, of course, easier said than done; the Guild Socialists of old were foiled, though their work lives on as inspiration, and the power not only of the trade unions but of the average citizen has only, since then, been diminished.

The industrial butchery of the eighties, whereby all the great trades were mercilessly and ceaselessly destroyed, has given rise to an even greater obstacle. Only through a combination of the national and social struggles, can progress be achieved. 

The single most important point Hobson makes is that once Guild Socialism is established, it will be impossible to abolish. Once the working class have established democratic control over the means of production, their lives will only continue to get better and better. Increases in productivity will be directly translated into greater general living standards rather than, as is the case today, greater wealth for the capitalist class.

The Guilds and the State will negotiate on economic policy and the former will, holding a monopoly on labour power, always be the stronger of the two.  

Darwin Grey

Friday, 14 March 2014

Ten Myths About Capitalism

Capitalism in the neoliberal version has exhausted itself. Financial sharks do not want to lose profits, and shift the main burden of debt to the retirees and the poor. A ghost of the "European Spring" is haunting the Old World and the opponents of capitalism explain to people how their lives are being destroyed. This is the topic of the article of a Portuguese economist Guilherme Alves Coelho.

There is a well-known expression that every nation has the government it deserves. This is not entirely true. People can be fooled by aggressive propaganda that shapes thought patterns, and then are easily manipulated. Lies and manipulations are a contemporary weapon of mass destruction and oppression of peoples. It is as effective as the traditional means of warfare. In many cases, they complement each other. Both methods are used to achieve victory in the election and destroy unruly countries.

There are many ways to handle public opinion, in which the ideology of capitalism has been grounded and brought to the level of myths. It is combination of false truths that are being repeated a million times, over the generations, and therefore become indisputable for many. They were designed to represent capitalism as credible and enlist the support and confidence of the masses. These myths are distributed and promoted via media tools, educational institutions, family traditions, church memberships, etc. Here are the most common of these myths.

Myth 1. Under capitalism, anyone who works hard can become rich:

The capitalist system will automatically provide wealth to hard-working individuals. Workers unconsciously formed an illusory hope, but if it does not come to fruition, they will be blaming themselves only. In fact, under capitalism, the probability of success, regardless how much you may have worked, is the same as in a lottery. Wealth, with rare exceptions, is not created by hard work, but is a result of fraud and lack of remorse for those who have greater influence and power. It is a myth that success is the result of hard work and, combined with luck and a good dose of faith, depends on the ability to engage in entrepreneurial activity and level of competitiveness. This myth creates the followers of the system who support it. Religion, especially Protestant, works to support this myth as well.

 Myth 2. Capitalism creates wealth and prosperity for all

Wealth, accumulated in the hands of a minority, sooner or later will be redistributed among all. The goal is to enable the employer to accumulate wealth without asking questions. At the same time the hope is maintained that sooner or later workers will be rewarded for their work and dedication. In fact, even Marx concluded that the ultimate goal of capitalism is not the distribution of wealth but its accumulation and concentration. The widening gap between the rich and the poor in recent decades, especially after the establishment of the rule of neo-liberalism, has proven the opposite. This myth has been one of the most common during the phase of "social welfare" of the postwar period, and its main task was the destruction of the socialist countries.

Myth 3. We are all in the same boat

Capitalist society has no classes, therefore the responsibility for the failures and crises also lies on all and everyone has to pay.  The goal is to create a guilt complex for workers, allowing capitalists to increase revenues and pass expenditures onto the people. In fact, the responsibility lies entirely on the elite consisting of billionaires who support the government and are supported by it, and have always enjoyed great privileges in taxation, tenders, financial speculation, offshore, nepotism, etc. This myth is implanted by the elites to avoid responsibility for the plight of the people and oblige them to pay for the elite's mistakes.

Myth 4. Capitalism means freedom

True freedom is only achieved under capitalism with the help of the so-called "market self-regulation." The goal is to create something similar to a religion of capitalism, where everything is taken as is, and deny people the right to participate in making macroeconomic decisions. Indeed, the freedom in decision-making is the ultimate freedom, but it is only enjoyed by a narrow circle of powerful individuals, not the people, and not even the government agencies. During summits and forums, in the narrow circles behind closed doors, the heads of large companies, banks and multinational corporations make major financial and economic decisions of strategic nature. The markets, therefore, are not self-regulating, they are being manipulated. This myth has been used to justify interference in the internal affairs of non-capitalist countries, based on the assumption that they have no freedom, but have rules.

Myth 5. Capitalism means democracy

 Democracy can only exist under capitalism. This myth, which smoothly follows from the previous one, was created in order to prevent the discussion of other models of social order. It is argued that they are all dictatorships. Capitalism is assigned such concepts as freedom and democracy, while their meaning is distorted. In fact, society is divided into classes and the rich, being ultra-minority, dominate over all others. This capitalist "democracy" is nothing but a disguised dictatorship, and "democratic reforms" are processes opposite to progress. As the previous myth, this one also serves as an excuse to criticize and attack non-capitalist countries.

Myth 6. Election is a synonym of democracy

 Election is synonymous with democracy. The goal is to denigrate or demonize other systems and prevent a discussion of political and electoral systems where leaders are determined through non-bourgeois elections, for example, on the virtue of age, experience, or popularity of candidates. In fact, it is the capitalist system that manipulates and bribes, where a vote is a conditional term, and election is only a formal act. The mere fact that the elections are always won by representatives of the bourgeois minority makes them unrepresentative. The myth that bourgeois elections guarantee presence of democracy is one of the most entrenched, and even some left-wing parties and forces believe it.

Myth 7. Alternating parties in office is the same as having an alternative

Bourgeois parties that periodically alternate in power have alternative platforms. The goal is to perpetuate the capitalist system within the dominant class, feeding the myth that democracy is reduced to the election. In fact, it is obvious that two-party or multiparty parliamentary system is a one-party system. These are two or more factions of one political force, they alternate, mimicking the party with an alternative policy. People always choose an agent of the system, being sure that this is not what they are doing. The myth that bourgeois parties have different platforms and are even oppositional, is one of the most important, it is constantly discussed to make the capitalist system work.

Myth 8. The elected politician represents the people and can therefore decide for them

The politician was granted authority by the people, and can rule at will. The purpose of this myth is to feed the people with empty promises and hide the real measures that will be implemented in practice. In fact, the elected leader does not fulfill that promise, or, worse, starts to implement undeclared measures, often conflicting and even contradicting the original Constitution. Often such politicians elected by an active minority in the middle of the mandate reach their minimum popularity. In these cases, the loss of representation does not lead to a change of the politician through constitutional means, but by contrast, leads to the degeneration of capitalist democracy in the real or disguised dictatorship. The systematic practice of falsification of democracy under capitalism is one of the reasons for the increasing number of people who do not go to the elections.

 Myth 9. There is no alternative to capitalism

Capitalism is not perfect, but it is the only possible economic and political system, and therefore the most appropriate one. The goal is to eliminate the study and promotion of other systems and eliminate competition using all possible means, including force. In reality, there are other political and economic systems, and the most known is Marxist socialism. Even within the framework of capitalism, there are versions of the South American "democratic socialism" or European "socialist capitalism". This myth is intended to intimidate people, to prevent the discussion of alternatives to capitalism and ensure unanimity.

Myth 10. Savings generate wealth

The economic crisis is caused by the excess of employee benefits. If they are removed, the government will save and the country will become rich. The goal is to shift the liability for capitalist debt payment onto the public sector, including the retirees. Another goal is to make people accept poverty, arguing that it is temporary. It is also intended to facilitate the privatization of the public sector. People are being convinced that savings are the "salvation" without mentioning that it achieved through the privatization of the most profitable sectors whose future earnings will be lost. This policy leads to a decrease in state revenue and reduction of benefits, pensions and benefits.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

EU & Russia – Hands off Ukraine!

With the serious events occurring in Ukraine it is necessary to break our usual silence on foreign matters, in so far as these events are relevant to all peoples of Europe. Irish MEP Paul Murphy is right to draw attention to the neo-imperialist designs of both Russia and the European Union in this situation:

"Working people in Ukraine are currently caught in a tug of war between the EU/NATO and Russia. They will be the victims of this great power game which treats these people simply as pawns. On the one hand, Russian imperialism considers the Ukraine as part of its traditional sphere of influence. On the other, the US and the EU have been driving an imperialist agenda with NATO in eastern Europe to incorporate the former Soviet bloc countries into an organised ‘Greater Europe’, with the adoption of the EU neo-liberal model. There is no question that NATO agents are currently on the ground trying to ensure a result in the interest of Western capitalism. One hundred years on from the outbreak of World War One, which saw millions of working class people slaughtered in a war over colonies and power, people across the world must today reject all drives towards conflict here."

The hypocrisy of the politicians knows no bounds: each rival administration complains of the aggressive nature of the other. Each 'bloc', while professing pacifism and goodwill, follows its own line in foreign policy. Noble talk about "democracy" and "the fight against fascism" aside, this is nothing other than a fight for influence and markets. The answer lies not in the EU, Russia or any other 'superpower' but in the self-determination and autonomy of peoples in Ukraine, as in Britain, Europe and the world!

Ukraine crisis: EU offers Kiev $700m in trade breaks

Thursday, 13 February 2014

England Floods

The effects of austerity measures inflicted on the English people has become clear as vast areas of our country now lie underwater, devastated by the avoidable results of a mismanaged 'environmental policy'. Since Friday 29 January, 1,135 homes have been flooded. Around 5.2m (one-sixth) of properties in England are at risk of flooding. The clear-up costs after the latest floods could reach £1bn.

Now 'our government' who mercilessly cut flood defence budgets have resorted to useless squabbling as swathes of the country are suffering the damage. When their political careers are in the firing-line we hear that "money is no object" but Mr Cameron has still failed to promise that he will reverse the planned cuts to the Environment Agency, particularly the staff working directly on flooding. Despite the terrible effects flooding has had on many in the South-West, the government has been slow to act until the waters drew near their own citadels in the capital and England's wealthier South-East.  It is clear to us that no one in England should be considered 'more equal' than anyone else.

How would an autonomist, decentralist system deal with this problem? The answer is simple. Rather than funneling money into central government to pay subsidies to large business, foreign wars and other white elephant schemes that government is want to partake in, resources would remain in local hands. The deployment of theses resources would be directly and democratically decided by local people.  This does not mean, however, that regions will be forced to fend for themselves and pay for their own damage alone in times of disaster. The goodwill and compassion of the English people shines through in crisis. Under a system of free-federation communities can and would decide to send aid to other stricken communities, be it financial or manpower and technical support.

Outside of times of disaster, communities and the economy would be run on a holistic basis with the emphasis on our most important resources of all --our environment-- rather than on pure profit motivation. We need to be the change we wish to see in the world. Therefore, we must begin by following a policy of ecology at home while refusing to deal with companies, organisations and states who pollute the earth.  It is in our interests --each and every one of us-- that we must work towards this goal, whereas 'our leaders' work towards ever-increasing wealth for the few.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Towards A Decentralist Society

Neither Marxist nor Social Democrat, Autonomous England seeks to promote a new alternative for the people of England and the British Isles.

Our Socialist vision is that of decentralized society, based on voluntary association and participatory democracy, where we are organized in the workplace and in the community rather than in any centralist socialist state, which simply replaces one elite with another. Instead we advocate real power for ordinary people.

As such Autonomous England would like to encourage supporters to develop a wider influence of the movements, ideas, people and publications that inspire us.

Below is a list, of some of our main influences, please enjoy. More links will follow.

Inspiration and theory: ChartismLevellers, Diggers, Utopian socialism, Democratic socialismGuild socialism, Common Wealth Party, LocalismWorkerismAutonomismCommunalismLibertarian socialismLibertarian municipalismAnarcho-syndicalismCo-operative economicsSocial ecology, Paris Commune, Zapatistas.

People: William Morris, Robert Blatchford, William Cobbett, G.D.H. Cole Robert Owen Alfred Richard Orage, Edward Carpenter, George Orwell, R. H. Tawney, Hilaire Belloc, Jack London, Murray Bookchin, Albert Camus, Mikhail BakuninE.F. Schumacher, Georges Sorel, Herbert Read.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Rethinking the Left and Right Wing Dichotomy

In many ways Autonomous England could be seen as both the Left Wing of the English movement or the pro-English voice of the political Left. However, whilst the Right may see us as a bunch of Lefties, the Left fears we've fallen into a Right Wing trap. Clearly then we don't fit into either pigeon-hole. Perhaps politics and social philosophy is not so black and white... or red and blue... and there is commmon ground to be found across this spectrum.

This Left/Right dichotomy dates back to the French Rev­o­lu­tion when mem­bers of the Gen­eral Assem­bly clam­ber­ing most for change and rad­i­cal action sat to left of the cham­ber while those who urged cau­tion sat to the right. Since then, this dual­ity has become part of the stan­dard tax­on­omy for nearly every polit­i­cal move­ment.

The more complex our world has become, the more issues we have to deal with and the more decisions we have to make. Is it reasonable to suppose that if we advocate change or caution on one issue we will make the same choice on every issue? To say one is in favour of 'change' or 'caution' in a general sense is meaningless. Then, of course, there are many other intersecting axis on which to measure our political convictions: libertarian/authoritarian or centralist/decentralist for example.

Many on the 'Right' object to the 'Left' on the basis of Soviet Communism's authoritarian character and extreme centralism. They will quite rightly remind us of the human rights abuses, the failures of central planning and generally colourless life under that particular system but will spuriously use these facts against some very different political positions which are conventionally classified as 'Left Wing'. These abuses apply to Blair's 'New Labour' project as much as it does to the USSR. Many who consider themselves on the 'Left' reject both these systems and ideologies on the same basis as those on the 'Right', i.e. that they are counter to human freedom.

On the other hand, the 'Right' is associated by the 'Left' with an intolerance of difference. Difference is a psychological threat to a mindset that values tradition above all else. Too much resistance to change can lead to stagnation and can be just as ideological and illogical as "change for change's sake". It can also be used to defend all sorts of existing systems of oppression on the basis that they have "always been this way". However, conservation (i.e. caution / small 'c' conservativism) of both culture and the environment can be a very valuable counter to the rampant excesses of big business, government and technology.

People from both sides of the political spectrum may favour a more participatory system of democracy.
Decentralisation, which is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions and powers away from a central location or authority, is a concept favoured by both the libertarian Right and the libertarian Left. Localism and politics of 'smallness' is something dear to the hearts of both traditionalists and anarchists.

We would argue against the idea that nationhood --that is, a cultural affinity which extends beyond the parochial and individual but counter to globalisation-- is a solely Right Wing concept. We also reject an exclusionary ethnic model of nationality, which is illogical as it is contrary to existing fact and history. Communities, national and local, have assimilated newcomers at a manageable level as long as society has existed. Nationhood, therefore, is above all civic, social and cultural.

We differ radically from the libertarian 'Right' as well as the neoliberal 'Centre' consensus (Lib-Lab-Con) in believing that a participatory economics is essential for true liberty and democracy. Everyone speaks of 'democracy' and 'freedom' but we ask "for whom?". The health of a people can not be measured by the wealth of the richest individuals. We demand fairness and an economy which works for the majority and not just the few: a social economy administered by the people.

Ultimately, we must be free to make choices about what we wish to preserve and what we wish to change, irrespective of received wisdom and existing political dogma.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Communalism and Libertarian Municipalism

"Perhaps the greatest single failing of movements for social reconstruction — I refer particularly to the Left, to radical ecology groups, and to organizations that profess to speak for the oppressed — is their lack of a politics that will carry people beyond the limits established by the status quo."

"The Commune still lies buried in the city council; the sections still lie buried in the neighbourhood; the town meeting still lies buried in the township; confederal forms of municipal association still lie buried in regional networks of towns and cities.”

Communalism as a political philosophy was first coined by the well-known libertarian socialist author and activist Murray Bookchin as a political system to complement his environmental philosophy of social ecology. This primary method used to achieve this is called Libertarian Municipalism which involves the establishment of face-to-face democratic citizens' assemblies in towns and urban neighborhoods which are to grow and expand confederally with the goal of eventually replacing the nation-state. Politically, Communalists advocate a stateless, classless, decentralized society consisting of a network of directly democratic citizens' assemblies in individual communities/cities organized in a confederal fashion. The assemblies in these free municipalities join together to replace the state with a directly-democratic confederation. Bookchin tied libertarian municipalism to a vision for decentralizing cities into small, human scaled eco-communities which could operate on the same scale as rural villages.

Dating back to the days of his 1930s disillusionment with Stalinism, Murray had a lifelong fascination with revolutionary institutions — the various committees, councils, assemblies, soviets, and so on that were historically created during the revolutionary process. There must be no more Robespierres, he resolved, no more Stalins, no more Maos. There must be no more guillotines or gulags. Revolutionaries must learn the lessons of history. If a new revolution were to succeed in creating a liberatory, ecological society, and not devolve into just another brutal power grab, revolutionary institutions would have to be in place that would control and the ruthless desires of some individuals for domination. The only kind of institutions that could both liberate people and at the same time keep the power-hungry in check, he believed, were democratic ones that could hold revolutionary leaders accountable. Indeed the sine qua non of any revolutionary institution must be its ability to facilitate democracy. And by “democracy” Murray did not mean the system practiced by nation-states today, with representatives and legislatures and parliaments, which he considered to be republicanism, a form of statism. He meant, rather, face-to-face democracy.

Libertarian municipalist activists would therefore create groups to run candidates in municipal elections, on platforms calling for the creation of face-to-face democracy in popular assemblies. When the citizenry elected enough such candidates to office, the new city councilors would fulfill the one purpose for which they had been elected: they would alter city and town charters to create popular assemblies. Thus the assemblies would come about as a result of a conscious devolution of power from existing statist municipal institutions: The assemblies, so empowered, would take over the functions of municipal governments. They would municipalize the economy, taking over the ownership and management of local economic life, allowing the people of community to make decisions about economic activity in their area.

Libertarian municipalism uses the strategy of dual power to create a situation in which two powers—the municipal confederations and the nation-state—cannot coexist. According to Bookchin, “the proletariat, as do all oppressed sectors of society, comes to life when it sheds its industrial habits in the free and spontaneous activity of communising, or taking part in the political life of the community.” In other words, Bookchin thinks that democratisation of local communities may be as strategically important, or perhaps more important, to anarchists than workplace struggles. While Bookchin long placed libertarian municipalism within the framework of political Anarchism, in the late 1990s he broke with anarchism and in his final essay, The Communalist Project (2003), identified libertarian municipalism as the main component of Communalism. Communalists believe that libertarian municipalism is both the means to achieve a rational society and structure of that society.

"If libertarian municipalism is not to be totally warped of its form and divested of its meaning, it is a desideratum that must be fought for. It speaks to a time — hopefully, one that will yet come when people feel disempowered and actively seek empowerment. Existing in growing tension with the nation-state, it is a process as well as a destiny, a struggle to be fulfilled, not a bequest granted by the summits of the state. It is a dual power that contests the legitimacy of the existing state power. Such a movement can be expected to begin slowly, perhaps sporadically, in communities here and there that initially may demand only the moral authority to alter the structuring of society before enough interlinked confederations exist to demand the outright institutional power to replace the state. The growing tension created by the emergence of municipal confederations represents a confrontation between the state and the political realms. This confrontation can be resolved only after libertarian municipalism forms the new politics of a popular movement and ultimately captures the imagination of millions."

Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview; Murray Bookchin

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Income Inequality - A Swiss Proposal

Inequality has been rising rapidly in Britain for the past 30 years. The gap between rich and poor has widened and the share of income going to the top 1% has doubled (from 6% to 14%). If the growth in inequality continues at its current rate, we are heading towards Victorian extremes in the next 20 years. This brings undesirable outcomes for everyone - from the absence of social mobility to a division in society so large that rich and poor appear to inhabit different planets. And yet the public is largely ignorant of the extent of this growth in inequality. When asked to assess how wealth is distributed in the UK, many people believe the spread is much more even than it really is. We all like to think we live in a fairer society than is the reality.

But the signs are there for all to see. Owners of the multi-million pound homes in central London – often the international super-rich – may seem to live in a different world than those hit by the bedroom tax that penalises people in social housing with a “spare room”. However, both are part of the same social fabric. Our cohesion as a society is torn apart by the rampant growth in the gap between top and bottom. It fosters a lack of understanding between those at extreme ends of the spectrum, allowing a political debate over the so-called “strivers and skivers,” to gain traction.

The trend towards more unequal societies has been driven partly by globalisation. A more interlinked world economy has kept down wages at the bottom of the income scale by forcing working people to compete with low-wage economies internationally. At the same time, a growing share of the rewards has been channelled to those at the top. This has seen inequality rising across the OECD in the past 20 years. The UK has the fourth highest level of inequality in the OECD after Mexico, the US and Israel. It is going up quickest in some countries that have traditionally been the most equal such as the nordic countries and Germany. But here it is rising from a low base and has yet to catch up with levels seen in the UK and US.

Here’s an idea for how to end corporate greed and reverse the trend of growing income inequality worldwide: impose a new rule that would limit the pay of top executives to just 12 times that of the lowest-paid employees at the same firm. In other words, prevent CEOs from earning more in one month than the lowliest shop-floor worker earns in a year.

This proposal might sound like something cooked up by Occupy Wall Street or another radical protest movement, but in fact it comes from the heartland of a nation not usually known for its disdain of money-making: Switzerland. On Nov. 24, the Swiss will vote in a referendum on whether to enshrine the 1:12 pay ratio — in their national constitution, no less.

The initiative is backed by an assortment of mainstream political groups, including the Social Democratic Party and the Greens, who argue that CEO pay in Switzerland has gotten out of control and needs to be reined in. They quote a raft of figures to show that the ratio of top to bottom earners in Swiss firms has grown from about 1 to 6 in 1984, to 1 to 43 today. And that’s just the average. In some companies, especially banks, the gap is much wider, with top executives such as Brady Dougan, the American CEO of Credit Suisse, and Andrea Orcel, head of investment banking at UBS, earning hundreds of times as much as their juniors.

The campaign’s backers consider salary inequality to be a social injustice. A video cartoon made by the Social Democrats features a Swiss nurse who is astounded by the way top manager salaries have grown to “astronomical” proportions, even as hers has barely increased. Regula Rytz, a co-head of the Greens, says that a constitutional amendment is necessary because neither the government nor business has “a recipe against the self-service mentality in corporate suites.”