Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Note on the Trade Union Vote

There's been some confusion about the Trade Union section vote in Labour's leadership contest quite apart from mendacious attempts by Tories, Blairites and sundry ignoramuses to turn it against Ed Miliband. And that confusion is about the low turn out. I believe that while the turn out was abysmally low and is a cause for concern, it isn't particularly surprising.

Political science makes a distinction between first and second order elections. Here in Britain the one election widely perceived "to matter" is the general election, simply because it determines who runs the government for x number of years. Other elections to council, devolved parliaments/assemblies, the European parliament, and referenda are second order because they are not perceived to matter so much. Hence their turn out is much depressed (which is why it's generally a good thing to run second order elections on the day of the general, if at all possible).

A similar process is at work in our trade unions. Firstly most union members do not join because they want to participate in its decision-making structures. Finding a member who's been to a regular branch meeting is a rarity. They join because of the protections unions offer at work. As a consequence the votes that tend to matter for most members are those relating to industrial action of some kind. This is the unions' 'first order' election.

The second order elections, from the standpoint of everyday workers' relationships to their union do not matter. In this category falls general secretary, officers', executive committee and, of course, Labour leadership elections. So quite how the Socialist Party comes to the absurd conclusion that the low turn out and high spoiled ballot paper rate is "because none of the candidates reflected their urge for radical socialist policies to meet the challenge of the current devastating economic crisis" is beyond me, especially when Roger Bannister, standing in this year's Unison general secretary's election, could only persuade 2.76% of the entire membership to vote for his "radical socialist policies".

The low turn outs for all second order elections reflect the weakness of the labour movement as a whole. Now is not the time to moan about how members should "take an interest". Instead the labour movement has to make more effort to listen and speak to their concerns.

Ed Miliband: Obviously An Apologist for Hamas

Another guest post from Brother G.

It can’t be easy being Ed Miliband. Having won the leadership election (hurrah!) by the narrowest of margins, he has within days been maligned by the press as a secret commie and overshadowed by his brothers resignation from frontline politics.

It now seems that he has managed to unnerve some pro-Israel supporters by speaking at a Labour Friends of Palestine event. Ed had the audacity to voice such shockingly anti-semitic intentions as an ‘interest in visiting the region and espousing British values in order to bring about peace in the region’. As a lobby group containing individuals such as Andy Burnham MP and Richard Howitt MEP, the organisation itself isn’t exactly Hamas.

It is disappointing that the mere act of displaying solidarity with a people currently living under occupation in increasingly desperate conditions is enough to send vested interests into a self-righteous hissy fit. Such reactions are particularly stupid given Ed Miliband’s background as the son of Jewish refugees.

In a conflict where the line between nationalist, religious and cultural concerns have become intertwined, Ed Miliband’s measured approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict, along with his brother's objections to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon during his time in the cabinet, should be welcomed as evidence that people of Jewish heritage, and indeed anyone with a concern for international affairs, can and should defend Israel’s right to exist without acting as apologists for its worst offenses. In a week which has seen Israel’s actions against the Gaza Aid flotilla deemed illegal by the UN and the resumption of settlement building on occupied land, this issue remains as pertinent as ever.

In his speech on Tuesday, Ed Miliband called for a foreign policy dictated by our values and not our allies. Nowhere is this more important that in the region of the Middle East.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Cracks in the Coalition

It was inevitable cracks would start showing in the coalition as the Autumn Spending Review loomed ever more menacingly on the horizon, though some might be surprised the first significant public difference of opinion is between the Tories instead of their yellow bellied LibDem satraps. But given the nature of the first fracture I suppose it was inevitable.

One of the Tories' strongest suits has been their unqualified support for British militarism. Whereas Labour's record has never been one of principled anti-imperialist internationalism given the nature of the party and its support base, the influence of pacifistic, unilateralist and anti-militarist positions have ebbed and flowed and have tended to be (rightly or wrongly) associated with Labour's "ideological family".

This is not the case with the Tories. Where there has been episodic opposition to particular military adventures, such as Iraq, it has tended to be qualified in terms of pragmatic considerations rather than overarching principles. This is after all the party who last exercised an "independent" foreign policy by taking Britain to war over the Falklands, are most associated with Britain's nuclear deterrent, aggressively prosecuted the Cold War to its conclusion, and enthusiastically joined in America's assault on Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. And that's just the recent history.

So cuts to the military budget was always going to be a hot potato for the Tory party. This is the context for the leak of defence minister Liam Fox's letter to David Cameron. In the piece, Fox opines that big cuts could threaten front line morale and hit the Tories themselves: "I am concerned that we do not have a narrative that we can communicate clearly", he moans.

He is right to be worried. Since Blair's invasion of Iraq the Tories have opportunistically jumped on every logistical problem for political advantage. Not enough flak jackets to go around? A shortage of helicopters? Inadequate armour on APCs? No matter the issue, the Tories were over them like a rash trying to tap into the latent but widespread support for "Our Boys". So to be seen dismembering the armed forces is very dangerous for the Tories short and medium term electoral prospects.

But the issues Fox highlights are potentially more catastrophic than a set back at the polls. The Tories' obsession with the deficit was bound to cause ructions within capital itself. The financiers and their lackeys in the City were never going to be too concerned. Despite Dave's Big Society rhetoric it remains responsibility-free business as usual. On the other hand, for manufacturing and construction capital the Coalition's subordination of economic policy to deficit reduction was always going to drive parts of this sector, especially that dependent directly or indirectly on public sector spending, into some form of opposition. These cuts however are different. Not only do they threaten to upset British arms companies grown fat on decades of military Keynesianism, but shake up one of the key organic props of Toryism itself: the officers' establishment.

This is akin to New Labour's ill-thought attacks on its core support. By slashing spending here not only are the numbers of officers under threat but so are the cosy careers many can assume upon retirement in the arms industry. Tory MPs from a military background will not be pleased and many beyond their numbers will be subject to the high society pressure of esteemed brigadiers and colonels. While by itself it won't be enough to split the party, it could mobilise a back bench rebellion of sufficient magnitude to scupper Osborne's military spending plans and with it the whole edifice of the cuts programme. Using his own rhetoric against him, will party interest come before national interest?

Not many on the left will lose sleep over this. Despite claiming to be opposed to all cuts I can't see many Trotskyists marching for Trident or demanding the aircraft carrier programme goes ahead. And yes, one can sit back and enjoy the schadenfreude of the Tories fragmenting at the rate of their beloved cluster bombs. But we need to make clear our own positions on what is to be done about "defence": calling for the army's abolition and a workers' militia just won't cut it if we want to exploit the Tories' divisions to the full, let alone effectively tackle the persistent roots of British militarism.

Update: Duncan recommends Eric Joyce's shadow cabinet pitch as a means of thinking about Labour and the labour movement's relationship to "defence".

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Stuck in the Middle with Ed

Someone has been reading Lord Ashcroft's recent report. Given the nature of stupid red-baiting criticisms leveled at Ed Miliband since his victory in the Labour leadership contest, today's speech was never going to include the nationalisation of the top 100 monopolies. It struck a broadly social democratic tone while simultaneously appealing to the Middle England that obsesses the media and the triangulators alike. It was replete with buzzwords - new generation, good society, fairness, opposing new thinking to old thinking - and delivered with a conviction (whatever one may think of its content) that Blair's speeches often lacked. No, he didn't walk around the stage, and no he didn't speak without notes, but who really cares?

The key talking points were:

* The dogmatism of New Labour and its transformation from a "radical" and "establishment-challenging" force into a remote and out of touch establishment itself.

* The need to reduce the deficit with Alistair Darling's four year plan as a starting point. Neither was he necessarily opposed to every cut, accepted that certain things cut by Cameron would not be reinstated by a future Labour government, and was concerned with rebuilding Labour's "fiscal responsibility". He also attacked the Tories' lack of a plan for growth.

* Labour must understand why many voters are exercised by immigration. But instead of using it as a cue to start bashing them, he argued that employers should not be able to play different nationalities off on one another to undercut wages (when was the last time any mainstream politician fielded such an argument?)

* Unsurprisingly, Ed Miliband distinguished between responsible trade unionism for ensuring "decency" and "fairness" at work and the more militant kind. But also argued for a "disciplined" campaign against the coalition, one which does not see "irresponsible strike action" against the cuts for fear of alienating public support.

* While stressing the unions' responsibility, he also said business and the rich had their own. He reiterated his commitment to the living wage and to incentivise the tax system to encourage it.

* The ritual (coded) pledge to get tough on benefit claimants but again, using careful language to avoid demonising welfare recipients and speaking of a "benefits trap".

* Reinforced his commitment to civil liberties, wanting to reclaim this ground from the Tories and LibDems.

* A "values-based" foreign policy.

* The need to make politics more responsive via vote reform, an elected Lords, more local democracy, and a vague demand politicians have to speak to the issues and not focus group talking points.

Obviously this will be filled out with detail over the coming weeks. Who he appoints shadow chancellor will demonstrate the line of march on the deficit issue: his brother if he wishes to stick fairly closely to the Darling plan, Ed Balls/Yvette Cooper if he wants to assume a more combative approach (given his comments about strike action and "responsibility", he's more likely to go with the former, with qualifications). And of course there's the Autumn Spending Review: he has previously pledged to have ready an alternative to the coalition's demented slash and burn policies. But will it be that much of one?

It wasn't radical but it was something of a break with Blair/Brownism. And it did what it set out to do, stake out a new centre ground of mainstream politics and pitch a tent there. As he said himself, "Red Ed? Come off it ..."

Monday, 27 September 2010

Is Left Unity in the Offing?

This short report comes from Campaign for a New Workers' Party secretary Pete McLaren via the Independent Socialist List. It seems after years of prevarication, sectarian squabbles, and a general passing up of opportunities, the far left could finally be getting its act together. And in typical fashion, it happens to do so in the least auspicious of circumstances to found a party to Labour's left in a generation. Let's just say if all the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition can boast about is a £20k donation from the Rail, Maritime and Transport union and a national vote of 15,580 then prospects are grim to non-existent. As always this blog will cover interesting developments on the far left, even if they're on the road to nowhere.

Comrades

A very brief report from today's CNWP Open Steering Committee. A full report will be available in the next few days.

There were 22 present, including members of the Socialist Party, Socialist Alliance, Communist Party of Great Britain and a number of independents

Hannah Sell's political introduction laid out the tone for the meeting - anti cuts campaigns were growing, and a number would want to stand candidates in next year's local elections. TUSC welcomed that and would endorse any such candidates who wanted to stand under its umbrella. There would be a Conference for all such TUSC anti cuts candidates on January 15th. She accepted TUSC was not the finished article, let alone a new Party, hence the need to continue promoting the CNWP. However, she argued that TUSC had laid down a marker with its TU support, the RMT having donated over £20,000 to general election candidates which was a first in terms of a national TU promoting non Labour candidates. She accepted that the election of Milliband would galvanise the TU leadership and the labour party, but not the rank and file - and Labour Councils were already pushing cuts through.

Dave Nellist, in the chair, added that the next TUSC Steering Committee on October 13th was discussing how to broaden the structure of TUSC, including how to involve independent socialists which Nick Wrack was delivering a Paper upon. There followed a wide ranging discussion on the possibilities arising out of TUSC, its limitations, how we should learn from the anti poll tax campaign, the role and potential to grow of the Labour Party under Ed Milliband, the serious effects the cuts would have on benefit claimants as well as public services.

It was agreed that the next CNWP Conference, initially scheduled for March 2011, might have to be delayed until June to avoid any clash with a national anti cuts demonstration which the TUC was at present suggesting should be in March. It was noted that there would almost certainly be anti cuts demos before then, locally and nationally, with the Fire Brigades' Union, RMT and Public and Commercial Services union giving serious considersation to a national demonstration on Sat Oct 23, three days after the Public Services Review, itself a day earmarked for local and national demonstrations.

After a break, the SP and SA resolutions were debated at length, most of the discussion centering around the SA resolution, but not in a particularly negative way. Both were passed without any votes against (one abstention to the SP resolution)

As a result, the CNWP is now committed, amongst other things, to establish the prototype of a new Left Party before the end of 2011 at the latest. This process will include a specific session at the CNWP 2011 conference which will consider an outline draft constitution for consideration by a future founding conference which includes:

* The long term aims of the Party
* A federal structure recognizing the rights of both affiliating organisations and individuals,
* A mechanism to ensure that no single affiliated organisation can impose its views on the Party as a whole
* Clear democratic structures to ensure that any internal Party body is representative of the Party as a whole,
* Recognition that affiliated organisations remain free to campaign externally to the Party
* Recognition that members are entitled to form open political factions able to campaign both internally within and externally to the Party.

So at least there will now be discussion about how a new Left Party should look - that surely is a start, and could be the blueprint, dare I say, for the creation of such a Party in the forseeable future. But I don't think I will hold my breath!

Comrades should join the CNWP to help us in any discussions that do take place

In unity

Pete

Sunday, 26 September 2010

After Diane Abbott

Across the electoral college Diane Abbott won 35,259 individual first preferences (10.42% of total votes cast). For someone who ran a lacklustre campaign and wasn't taken all that seriously by the press, that vote isn't too bad. It is a better tally than the one mustered by Andy Burnham (28,772 votes) and Ed Balls (34,489 votes). But because of the unequal weightings between MPs, party members, and affiliate members, Diane's third place in terms of votes translates into just 7.42% of the college, while Burnham and Balls were on 8.68% and 11.72% respectively (see here for a solution to the present electoral college). Does this tell us much about the strength of the Labour left?

Not really. In the Labour members' section Diane polled just 9,314 votes (7.3%) and came in last place. Only the individual trade unionists boosted her overall total above Burnham and Balls. It might prove tempting to identify this with the 'Labour left vote' and extrapolate a number of conclusions from this - such as its weight in the party, the limited horizons of its prospects and, who knows? Maybe that Labour is dead and a new workers' party is needed? But some caution is needed.

No one is denying the Labour left is weak. But it is wider than the confines of the
Labour Representation Committee and sundry Marxists with an internet connection knocking about the party. These days the Labour left is not so much a force and more a constituency: strictly speaking it is less than the sum of its parts. If the Trotskyist shibboleth of boiling working class politics down to a crisis of leadership has any relevance, this is the one place it will find most purchase.

Without any real cohesion the manner of Diane's entry into the contest alienated a lot on the hard left who were banging the drum for John McDonnell. And as the campaign progressed hers failed to become a point around which left-wingers could rally. Another side effect of this is without an acknowledged and authoritative lead coming from anywhere, a lot of the left went all over the place. For me and a lot of comrades Diane became the choice by default. For others, Ed Balls' campaign conversion to Keynesianism was a good enough reason to command left wing support. And more than a few elected to give Ed Miliband a punt as a means of keeping David out. This poor state of affairs is indicative of the distance to be travelled before the influence of the Labour left matches the numbers of its self-identifying adherents.

Does this support the arguments of those comrades who remain advocates of a new party of the left? Despite being persistently reticent about where an alternative to Labour could come from, you might reasonably assume its impulse to come from within the labour movement (further thoughts
here). But as the results for Diane in the trade union section demonstrate, if there was little appetite for the left wing Labour leadership contestant among the more conscious layers of the workers' movement, what scope for the more 'advanced' demand of a new vehicle of working class political representation?

There is another issue too. Ed Miliband's victory graphically demonstrates that Labour remains open to the influence of the organised working class. That the more social democratic of the two front runners managed to win a plurality of trade unionists' votes counts for something, a reality I'm sure none are aware of more than Ed Miliband himself. So while he will inevitably tack to the right, the conditions of his victory has placed something of a leash on him. It is something he cannot get away with too often or for too long. And all because of the organic links Labour has with the labour movement. Having far from withered away, the links are there and should be deepened. Socialists who ignore or deny them are making a lot of unnecessary and ultimately frustrating work for themselves.

Meet the New Boss ... Same as the Old Boss?

And so "Red" Ed Miliband pipped David Miliband to the post thanks to the affiliated votes of rank and file trade unionists. Predictably some Blairites have been crowing about this while mendaciously ignoring the affront to democracy of the MPs and MEPs section, where one of their votes counts for that of 600 members. The Tories and LibDems immediately jumped on it too, some of them making themselves look completely stupid in the process. Strangely, some of the loudest mouths attacking the trade union section are enthusiasts of open primaries. Well, what is more open than a primary of 250,000 people?

Andy has a
good piece defending the trade union vote.

Contrary to the worst nightmares of the triangulators, we are highly unlikely to see the return of social democracy circa 1983. During the campaign he did make some very soft noises in this direction. There was the pledge to extend the 50% tax rate. The junking of New Labour's civil illiberalism. The commitment to review industrial relations legislation. A coherent industrial strategy. A more 'independent' foreign policy. A refusal to demonise immigrants. The need to reconnect with core working and middle class support. Hardly the stuff of a latter day transitional programme, but a clear break with New Labour into the sunlit uplands of (right wing) Labourism. And neither are they the electoral albatross some in the party and the press like to pretend.

But there is a gap in his politics that will ultimately determine the outcome of his political career and whether Labour are able to win the next general election. And that's his attitude to the cuts.

His piece in the
Telegraph this morning flags up a certain ambiguity on this issue. He writes:
But I will do that in a way that doesn’t fall into the trap of opportunism. On the deficit, we will not oppose every cut. After years of expansion that transformed our public services from the days of leaky roofs and portable cabin classrooms, our public services will now need to learn to do more with less.
This is followed by a list of qualifications and excuses that amount to 'too deep, too soon'. This sounds more like a slightly fluffier version of Alastair Darling's commitment to arbitrarily cut the deficit in half in four years (this was also the programme David Miliband was wedded to). But then again the way the language is couched could leave the door open for Ed Balls' alternative, which doesn't talk about cuts (nor, for that matter, rules them out), but at least has the virtue of offering a powerful challenge to the coalition's cuts consensus. Unfortunately, rumours abound that his aggrieved brother's in the frame for the shadow chancellor's job - a move I believe will cost Labour dearly down the line. So on this crucial issue, the indicators point to an uncomfortable fudge that concedes way too much to the Tories.

Then there's Ed Miliband's attitude to workers' struggles and labour disputes. He might be committed to looking at the law in this area (without offering concrete proprosals), but on further commitments he's proving more slippery than an eel dipped in KY jelly. On this I agree with what
Louise says, his Delphic language about genuine grievances and "justified strikes" means we won't be seeing Ed on a picket line any time soon.

Overall, Ed Miliband's election represents less a move to the left and more an awkward shuffle. But that in itself opens more political opportunities for socialist ideas than would have been the case under the alternative. However, it means those of us who want the Labour party to become a properly effective weapon in the battle against the Tories still have a job of work ahead of us.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Wolf Becoming Anus

Many thanks to Brother G for drawing my attention to this. I'm no slacker when it comes to reading impenetrable philosophy. For instance, I've been able to read Louis Althusser *and* understand the points he's been arguing (though I do have memories of spending about an hour trying to understand two particularly dense pages in his Reading Capital). But everyone's favourite Marxist wannabe submariner has nothing on the bizarre works of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

I know these guys are important fellas in the history of 20th century philosophy. Both of their works ran with a number of post-structuralist themes around decentering the subject, the problem of how we 'do' thought, how things constantly shift and metamorphose into other things, deterritorialisation/reterritorialisation, and a host of other issues. I've had no problem thinking through these sorts of issues in graduate essays past with recourse to good, solid materialist dialectics. But, as Martin Heidegger once noted, legibility is suicide for philosophy.

And so it is for our deceased pomo friends. With that in mind, what the hell are we supposed to make of this from their A Thousand Plateaus?
'For in the end the anus also expresses an intensity, in this case the approach to zero of a distance that cannot be decomposed without its elements changing in nature. A field of anuses, just like a pack of wolves. Does not the child, on the periphery, hold onto the wolves by his anus? The jaw descends to the anus. Hold onto those wolves by your jaw and your anus. The jaw is not a wolf jaw, it's not that simple; jaw and wolf form a multiplicity that is transformed into eye and wolf, anus and wolf, as a function of other distances, at other speeds, with other multiplicities between thresholds.' (p.36)
Answers preferably not on a 700 page tome. And please, no jokes about this blog becoming arse.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A Lesson for Chris Moyles

My heart bleeds for Chris Moyles. It really does. In a rant against the BBC on his Radio 1 breakfast show yesterday morning, he attacked his bosses for not paying him since July. Among many other things, he said "I am so angry that they've put me in this position where now I have to choose whether or not I go to work."

Being paid your wage regularly and on time is still, incredibly, something that has to be struggled over in *this country*, never mind elsewhere. So despite the obscene amount of money Moyles commands (or rather, doesn't), trade unionists and socialists would instinctively sympathise with his predicament. But then again there might be a certain reluctance to support him when
we recall this from May 2005:
The BBC's flagship Today radio programme fell victim to a 24-hour strike by thousands of journalists and technicians today.

A 24-hour strike by BBC workers brought disruption to TV and radio schedules today.

The BBC's flagship Today radio programme was the most high-profile victim of the industrial action.

Picket lines have been mounted outside Bush House in central London, TV Centre in White City, and Broadcasting House.

Thousands of journalists and technicians are taking part in the stoppage in protest at plans to axe BBC 4,000 jobs.

As well as Radio 4's Today programme, BBC1's Breakfast, BBC News 24 and BBC World have also been affected by the strike.

...
Some stars of BBC radio, such as Radio 1 Breakfast Show presenter Chris Moyles and Radio 2's Terry Wogan, did break the picket line and went to work as normal.
Oh dear.

Perhaps if Moyles had backed the union then they would be backing him now. There's a lesson there for anyone prepared to do the indecent thing and scab on a strike.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Labour Leadership Vote


I sometimes wonder if I'm cut out for this political blogging lark. Apart from preening our vanity and practicing our writing, presumably us bloggers would quite like to influence people too. When it comes to the Labour leadership contest, I've failed on this score completely. I *have* finally made my choices this afternoon but realise this blog is too late in the day to influence the bakers' dozen of affiliated trade unionists and Labour Party members who regularly turn up on this site. Never mind, I'll be sure to get the posts about the next round of NEC and National Policy Forum elections in plenty of time!

This is how I voted. I have doled out all five of my preferences, because that's the way I fly.

No prizes for guessing first preference. I gave it to Diane Abbott. I haven't been impressed with her campaign or pleased with the manner of her nomination. From the stand point of socialists politics John McDonnell's candidacy would have made for a much more interesting and lively contest. There is talk of Ed Balls challenging the cuts consensus (more on that shortly), but McDonnell would have fronted a much more comprehensive and wide-ranging critique (which is precisely *why* he didn't secure enough nominations). But we are where we are. Diane Abbott is the only candidate in favour of scrapping trident, opposed the Iraq and Afghan wars in deeds as well as words, does not think the public sector and the working class should pay for the deficit, has a parliamentary record of opposing New Labour's authoritarianism, refuses to scapegoat immigrants, and takes seriously the need to restore party democracy. I know Diane won't win, and she can't even count on united left backing, but a good vote sends a clear message. It tells the eventual victor that they can afford to ignore the left at their peril. And it shows the wider electorate who've been alienated from Labour by the Blair/Brown axis that a significant section of the party is unchanged and unashamed of its relationship to the working class. That's why I voted Abbott, and would recommend others to do so too.

Barring an unforeseen upset, one of the Milibands are going to win. With this in mind my second preference went to "Red" Ed. I won't lie. When Ed Miliband
visited Stoke he performed much better than I expected. Politically he's hardly Marx or Engels, let alone Tony Benn, but he does appear to have drawn many of the right conclusions about why we lost the 2010 general election. He knows New Labour's blind enthusiasm for repressive legislation cost the party dearly among its core middle class support as much as its default setting for useless and regressive neoliberal policies drove a section of our working class vote away. Significantly, along with Abbott, he has refused to bash immigrants. He knows they are a lightning rod for all kinds of discontent, not least unemployment and lack of housing. He is committed to rebuilding the trade union movement and making sure they're listened too (though MiliE has been equivocal over his support for strikes against the cuts). And above all, he's more of a social democratic figure than the others bar Abbott and is not wedded to the disastrous "worse than Thatcher" cuts Alastair Darling promised before the election. If Ed Miliband wins, I think there will be more room for socialists to make their influence in the Labour party felt and more of a chance of Labour getting back into power than under any of the others.

Ed Balls would probably have got my last preference if it wasn't for his saving grace:
economic policy. For those opposed to the cuts, it is difficult to overstate how important it is for our argument to have someone articulate an anti-cuts position from within mainstream politics. Yes, we can put forward arguments light years ahead of present day consciousness about expropriating the expropriators, but there are hardly useful for winning a majority against the cuts now. Whoever wins, a fair vote for Balls will give a boost to his shadow chancellor's campaign, which he's sure to launch shortly after the the conclusion of this contest.

I just want to reiterate something I've said on this blog before. On a personal level, I quite like David Miliband. And if it wasn't for his mistaken view of how to win the next election, the question marks over rendition flights during his watch as foreign secretary, his submission to the cuts agenda, a good chunk of his policy platform, and the support of the most right wing, anti-democratic and neoliberal figures in the Labour Party, I might have voted for him. All that said, he is no Blair mark II. He is more "Labour" than the anointed one and appears more relaxed about trade union influence. Much is made of his name recognition among the public, but I'm convinced this is more a function of having a higher profile in the previous government than the others. What is potentially very worrying is Miliband's endorsement by practically all the right wing press. He is part of the New Labour cohort still obsessed with how things play out in
The Mail and The Sun, even though their power is not what it was when The Project was germinating. Among the five, he is the candidate most likely to win Murdoch's endorsement at a general election. But he's also the one most likely to be blown from pillar to post by press pressure.

But it's Andy Burnham who gets my last preference. He has said some good things about the NHS, the need for a national care service, and party democracy. But little else. His 'aspirational socialism' makes vacuity look substantive. His continued support for the Iraq War, despite everything, shows Burnham up as dogmatic and out of touch. And advocating a reduction of union influence in the party was never going to score brownie points with me. So no, Andy, no.

Elections for the National Executive Committee have been taking place too. There has been much less public discussion of this, for obvious reasons. Just so you know, I voted for Sam Tarry, Christine Shawcroft,
Susan Press, Sofi Taylor, Ann Black, and Peter Kenyon.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

25 Things ...


Cheers to Louise for posting this. As Sundays are the day for memey posts I thought I'd have a go too. The objective, she writes, is to rustle up "a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you." Here goes ...

1. There was a member of the SWP in my sociology class at college. He never tried selling the paper and was more interested in talking about Nottingham Forest.
2. My nana and grandad's house were one of the few places around my ex-pit village you could see Tory literature on display at election time.
3. The first time I got drunk was in December 1993. I can remember it (fairly) clearly.
4. On firsts ... the first Labour meeting I went to was in 1996. The chair opened with the words "if we don't win the election, there's no point being in the Labour Party". He subsequently went on to become a party full timer.
5. Our cat is ridiculously vocal.
6. For a brief period in my early teens I was attracted to fascism. Watching a single interview with John Tyndall was enough to convince me the errors of my ways.
7. I used to hide my money box underneath my bottom drawer.
8. I'm joining the ranks of the aspiring petit bourgeoisie and going into business!
9. To my eternal shame, I really like watching Starcraft II
matches.
10. I have never lived alone.
11. On a Thursday afternoon at college, 'Don' Andy, Ledge, and myself repaired to the library to flick through copies of
Stern and read up on European and colonial history.
12. Well into my 20s my mum kept insisting on giving me £3/week pocket money.
13. We got married in Las Vegas at the Little White Wedding Chapel.
14. Sometimes wish I'd paid more attention to physics and maths and gone down the astrophysics/astronomy route.
15. For about a year I used to drink a three litre bottle of Old English before going out, followed by four or five pints of Scrumpy. Without fail I would spend a portion of the next few hours hunched over a toilet bowl.
16. When I was about eight I had an argument with a car parked on the pavement. It left me with a hole in my forehead big enough to stick your thumb in (or so my folks say).
17. From the age of about 15 I began seeing myself as some sort of socialist.
18. We held our engagement do at a local balti house.
19. In my four years as a Socialist Party member I never met Peter Taaffe.
20. There was a point when willfully stupid and mistaken criticisms of Marx used to massively wind me up.
21. When I was about 15 I passed up the chance of going to a 'cool kids' house party for a night at some weird Christian event with the class's token religious girl. I didn't even fancy her.
22. Spent an evening at a rave in Amsterdam in the company of Workers' Power.
23. Failed my driving test four times :(
24. If I could have my time blogging again, I'd call this place '... well grubbed old mole!'
25. My SO made me wear bunny ears for a set of arty photos.

Shall I tag? Why not. Here you go
Jim, Anna, and Mod. And to help them out of their blogger's block, consider yourself so tagged Splinty and Glyn.

NB. Photo a result of sticking '25 things' into Google Images.

How to Pick Between Milibands

Chortle.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Pope and Atheist Identity Politics

Unlike many of my internet-travelling contemporaries who flit around the liberal left, I am not that exercised by the Pope's visit to Britain. Yes, the Catholic Church can hardly be placed on the side of reason and progress (let alone situated in the camp of the working class). Yes, the church has systematically covered up child abuse. Yes, the church has given succour to mass murdering dictatorships. Yes, its regressive stance on contraception, reproductive rights and sexuality supply ammunition to misogynists and homophobes the world over. Yes, the former Joseph Alois Ratzinger is famous for nudging Catholic theology in a more conservative direction. Yes, the Pope was daft to recently liken atheists to Nazis. And yes, the purported £10m cost of the state visit could have been spent on better things.

But there has been something deeply unsettling about the chorus of criticism that's met the Pope's trip. I have absolutely no problem with polemic and critique. For example, last week's
Peter Tatchell documentary was absolutely right to shine a light on the murky corners of the church and its "infallible" head. But what I am not comfortable with, and neither should any socialist, is the *glee* with which sections of the commentariat and their cheerleaders in blogland and Twitter have been attacking Catholicism. It might be a cliche, but if you can substitute Catholic for Muslim or Jew in these diatribes and have it come out sounding Islamophobic, anti-semitic and downright racist, chances are you have anti-papal bigotry decked out in fashionable modern dress. Just look at these examples from today's protest.

Much of the recent round of criticism directed toward the Pope and Catholicism generally is framed in terms of the so-called 'New Atheism' as propounded by Richard Dawkins and a cohort of sympathetic (minor) media personalities. As we have
seen before, Dawkins' The God Delusion suffers from the ideas delusion. In the name of philosophical materialism, Dawkins believes religion can be combatted and neutralised by reasoned argument. It's just a matter of everyone be converted to logical thinking and hey presto! All that's left is a (holy) ghost of religious belief.

This is plain dumb. The appeal of religion is deeply rooted in the alienation and atomisation consistently and systematically produced by capitalist relations of production. It is not a matter of being brainwashed or too thick to pierce the sacred aura of His Holiness. As I clumsily put it a few years ago, "when people are atomised, individuated and powerless, the belief we are only feathers buffeted by a divine wind
can make more sense than salvation lying in our own self-activity as beings capable of consciously making history." Polemicising against religion makes for jolly interesting and entertaining debates, but it does nothing to erode its place in capitalism's ideological pantheon.

Not that this matters to some. For many among the most vocal, atheism has become the new identity politics of the liberal intelligentsia. Their atheism is derived not from a desire to change the world but speaks to feeling smug, superior, enlightened and oh so clever. I wasn't surprised to see many of the media luvvies, bloggers and tweeters most vociferous in their opposition to the Pope are the same arbiters of political and moral rectitude who had a field day condemning people who thought Raoul Moat was "a legend", were quick to castigate BNP voters in the European elections, fell over themselves to brand the Lindsey Oil Refinery workers 'racist', and cheerfully put the boot into Jade Goody over the Shilpa Shetty incident. It doesn't really matter what the issue was, each provided an occasion for establishing clear distance between their educated and "progressive" selves and an ignorant, reactionary mass; an 'other' all too often identified with the (white) working class.

Call it what you like, but a great deal of this new atheism is being used as an excuse for good old-fashioned bigotry.

See also Harpymarx, Socialist Unity, Liam, and Luna17.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Blogging Will be Light

Got a lot on at the mo, innit.

Until blogging resumes here's a circular from the Right to Work campaign. Far from turning their back on the petty authoritarianism of New Labour, the Tories appear completely relaxed about West Midlands police attempts to sabotage the October demonstration against Conservative party conference. I recommend readers sign and circulate:
Reinstate our right to march past the Tory Conference

*On Tuesday 24th August a delegation from the Right To Work campaign met with West Midlands police and a representative of Birmingham City Council to discuss the route of the protest march outside the Tory party conference on Sunday 3rd October.

* West Midlands police stated that they were happy for RtW to march past the conference centre and confirmed that centenary square, the square directly in front of the conference centre, would not be a “sterile zone”. A route was suggested by Birmingham City Council and West Midlands police and the delegation accepted the offer to walk the route being proposed.

*The Police have now reneged on the proposed route citing security reasons. They are denying us the right to march past the conference centre.

*We are asking everybody to sign the following statement:

"We are alarmed to be informed that, despite earlier agreements with the Police and Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police are attempting to stop the trade union demonstration against public service cuts from marching past the Conservative Party conference at the ICC on Sunday 3rd October.

"The march has been initiated by the Right to Work Campaign and is backed by three national trade unions (the PCS, NUJ and UCU), the Labour Representation Committee and a number of local trade union and campaigning organisations.

"We feel that this is a violation of the right to freedom of speech and our rights to protest peacefully against the Government. Peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society and people have taken their opposition to Government actions to their conferences for decades. The decision of the West Midlands Police takes that right away. We note that Centenary Square will not be a “sterile zone” and that people will be able to access the area freely. By not allowing the Right to Work campaign to march past the International Convention Centre we are concerned that West Midlands Police is attempting to make political decisions about how visible protests against the cuts can be and are denying a basic democratic right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

We believe that West Midlands Police should permit the demonstrators to march past the Conservative Party conference on Sunday 3rd October."

*Add your name by clicking on the link
here

Thank you for your support.

In solidarity,
Matt Raine
West Midlands Right To Work

Monday, 13 September 2010

17 Again

For the third consecutive year yours truly has made it into the top 20 of the Total Politics top 100 left blogs. Sadly the forward march of AVPS has been thrown into reverse, finding itself back where it was when the blog landed in the top 20 for the first time in 2008. Still, I'd like to take this opportunity thank my cat, my ex-PhD supervisor, my microwave, etc. etc. for making it all possible. Without your solid support and that of the AVPS-browsing public I'd never have made it into the blogging establishment (whether that's a good place for a socialist to be I'll leave readers to judge).

Long time viewers know I have a penchant for lists and throwing them down on here, so allow me this further indulgence. Here's the top 20:

1
Left Foot Forward
2 (3)
LabourList
3 (1)
Tom Harris MP
4 (2)
Hopi Sen
5
Liberal Conspiracy
6 (8)
Next Left
7 (4)
Alastair Campbell
8
Political Scrapbook
9 (5)
SNP Tactical Voting
10 (6)
Luke Akehurst
11
The Staggers
12 (58)
John Rentoul
13 (16)
Blog Menai
14
Labour Uncut
15 (27)
Penny Red
16
Guardian Politics Blog (Andrew Sparrow)
17 (12)
A Very Public Sociologist
18 (10)
The Daily (Maybe)
19
Hadleigh Roberts
20 (22)
Socialist Unity

Leaving aside whether the likes of Tom Harris and John Rentoul can be regarded men of the left by any meaningful measure, there's still a good showing from proper socialists like Socialist Unity, Jim Jepps, me, and Laurie Penny. Left Foot Forward's top position is thoroughly deserved, so well done to them. A couple of other new entries - Political Scrapbook and Labour Uncut are very good at what they do as well. PS for being Labour's answer to Guido Fawkes, but without the witless bigotry. And LU for a thoughtful (insider-informed) addition to the Labour blogging firmament.

I imagine a few other comrades will be tickled pink by the top 100 too. I'm very pleased to see Harry's Place failing to stain the top 20 with its B52 liberalism, dropping 18 places to number 27. And to rub salt into the wound Socialist Unity came out ahead of them. Likewise
Counterfire will be chuffed to best the SWP's premiere blogger in the contest too. Congrats also to Glyn for flying the Socialist Party flag in the top 100 (I don't know if it's me but there doesn't seem to be that many about these days).

In all I reckon there are 20 blogs on the list, inside and outside of Labour, who I'd regard as comrades and socialists, which, if memory serves, is about the same as last year. Will the coming resistance to the cuts effect the composition of next year's lists and propel those arguing a hard line against the cuts up the rankings? We shall see.

Annoyingly, AVPS does not feature in the
list of Labour bloggers. This wouldn't matter if it was only a bit of fun, but the TP list is taken by the political and media establishment as a fair summary of the present state of political blogging. By excluding me the top flight is distorted and makes left voices look that little bit more marginal. Using the top 20 left wing blog vote as a guide AVPS should in actual fact be at number 10 (sorry Hadleigh, you only made the top 10 on a technicality). Prior to the closure of the competition I let TP know on three occasions this blog should be included in the Labour category too. When it was published with me missing I let the God-Emperor of political blogging himself know, and was told I'd been placed in the correct category. And still the list stands incorrect. I have no doubt it's a cock up, but getting it changed is proving nigh-on impossible.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

This Is What Progressive Austerity Looks Like

The TUC launched a verbal shot across the government's bows earlier today, evoking the imagery of the poll tax struggle and promising a campaign of civil disobedience, protests and industrial action to see their cuts off. To coincide with its warnings, the TUC has released a substantial report in defence of public services.

When George Osborne unveiled his so-called
emergency budget in June, he attempted to cloak his programme of class warfare in flowery progressive language. But thanks to the TUC's work, the graph below (from page nine of the report) shows how the pain of public spending cuts will likely be distributed across income groups.


How empty the Tory/LibDem claims to be a progressive government are.

What Castro Really Said

Never posted anything about Cuba before and then two show up at once. Regardless of what the hard of thinking might say, Castro hasn't come out as a convert to neoliberalism and said Cuban "socialism" is a failure. No one reading his interview in Atlantic Magazine could possibly reach this conclusion, unless they hate the regime and/or are grinding the market fundamentalist axe. Sadly, for a man as verbose and expansive as Castro his discussion of Cuba's "failure" is rather truncated. Perhaps AM are holding back the best bits for next issue. The relevant bits and pieces are:
I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," he said.

This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, "Never mind"?

I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, "He wasn't rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under 'the Cuban model' the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country."

Julia pointed out that one effect of such a sentiment might be to create space for his brother, Raul, who is now president, to enact the necessary reforms in the face of what will surely be push-back from orthodox communists within the Party and the bureaucracy. Raul Castro is already loosening the state's hold on the economy. He recently announced, in fact, that small businesses can now operate and that foreign investors could now buy Cuban real estate. (The joke of this new announcement, of course, is that Americans are not allowed to invest in Cuba, not because of Cuban policy, but because of American policy. In other words, Cuba is beginning to adopt the sort of economic ideas that America has long-demanded it adopt, but Americans are not allowed to participate in this free-market experiment because of our government's hypocritical and stupidly self-defeating embargo policy. We'll regret this, of course, when Cubans partner with Europeans and Brazilians to buy up all the best hotels)
Hardly a disavowal of the Cuban revolution. It seems the government are taking a leaf out of the Chinese book and allowing a controlled return of the market in certain sectors of the economy. Whether they will avoid the inequalities and social problems those reforms have brought to China remain to be seen. But the much smaller size and population of the island means the party/state bureaucracy can monitor their reforms more closely (as Andy has variously written, despite China's foreboding and brutal reputation, the state is quite institutionally weak outside its Eastern heartlands). Cuba also has its own homegrown experience of the blackmarket to draw on: the impact this has had on Cuba's social fabric and the contradictions set in train will, if state planners have any sense, inform the introduction and condition the reviews of the reforms' performance.

From the standpoint of maintaining Cuba as a bastion of anti-capitalism in the Western hemisphere and given the present balance of forces in the world, these reforms are probably necessary. Cuba is no North Korea located in sunnier climes, but the longer it carries on in the old way the more likely the economy will seize up. That said market reform will certainly exacerbate and generate contradictions within Cuban society, but at the same time they offer an opportunity for developing cooperatives, encouraging debate on various types of ownership and could add to the pressure for democratisation (there seems to be a
real movement in Cuba pushing in this direction).

Friday, 10 September 2010

A Right Honourable Member

Apologies to readers for slipping into Guido Fawkes territory, but I could not resist preserving this for posterity. The below picture is featured in this Mail article. View it quickly before Paul Dacre, if you'd pardon the pun, pulls it.


The Mail helpfully has an enlarge facility.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Cuba: Another Education is Possible

Last night's meeting of North Staffs TUC heard from Bill Greenshields of Derbyshire Cuba Network and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign speak, funnily enough, on Cuba. As readers can imagine Bill's talk was unashamedly pro-Cuba, but this is an important corrective to received notions that have it as a gulag with palm trees - a view assiduously cultivated by the US state department, right wing Cuban exiles, and intellectually dishonest ex-lefts.

Bill opened with a very quick overview of the Cuban system, touching on the statutory right to work, the 1:650 doctor/general population ratio, the strength and depth of social solidarity, and its avoidance of personality cults and dogmatism characteristic of similar societies. If we realise how all this is possible in a poor country under the lash of an economic blockade then, Bill argued, we can also understand why the USA sees Cuba as a threat.

As a former leading member of the National Union of Teachers, most of Bill's talk focused on Cuba's education system. We were given the impression this extends far beyond formal schooling and HE. Crucial to retaining mass support for the Cuban revolution are the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution. These community organisations, working in conjunction with the other mass organisations (the party, the federation of women, the young pioneers, and the unions) are responsible for community events and officially tasked with maintaining high rates of "morality" (i.e. social solidarity).

Pre-school begins at the age of three, with compulsory schooling kicking in at six. This ends at 15 with a guaranteed job for every school-leaver. The way education is done will be quite different to the experiences of readers of this blog. Central to it is 'emulation'. Instead of a system based around competitive exams the emphasis is one educating the collective. If a group of students grasp something in advance of others, the expectation is they will work to help the rest of the class get it. If a section of the class still can't understand it then no one passes the set task. This has led to a reconfiguring of competition between students - instead of awards based on grades, praise is conferred on those who seek to lead emulation.

There is, however, something of a teacher shortage on the island. Education policy is committed to reducing class sizes to 15 for primary and 20 for secondary schooling. The situation is complicated by attempts at integrating disabled children from special schools into the mainstream system: they are guaranteed by statute one-to-one teaching, therefore while integration does take place it is rare.

Apart from the discussion of education and digressions into the health system, Bill gave us a good sense of Cuban social relations. While it is true there are political prisoners and penalties for those who criticise the system, society is more cohesive and solidaristic than in advanced capitalist states. How this manifests itself in education and elsewhere deserve careful study by socialists outside Cuba.

Personally speaking I am always wary of solidarity campaign talks, as they're usually structured around guided tours that show the country in question in the best light. But even with my critical hat on Bill's presentation did an excellent job showing that Cuba, despite its problems and less than spotless record on democratic rights, is a different kind of society. If Cuba is a living example of what can be achieved on a small island under conditions of economic autarchy, imagine the kinds of achievements within our reach if this was married to greater deomcratisation and available resources.

I don't think Cuba is socialist, but it does prefigure some features of future socialist societies. For this reason, despite its flaws, Cuba deserves the solidarity and support of labour movements everywhere.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Strange Statistics

Proper blog post coming later. But in the mean time ... there's something curious happening with my audience stats.

A few days ago I noticed that Google have so helpfully included a basic stats package as standard with every Blogger blog. This is part of a package of measures at making the creaky old blogspot interface more user friendly. As any convert to Wordpress will tell you, theirs is the bees knees and much more intuitive than the clunky thing suffered by the likes of me, Jim, Lenny, etc.

The stats package is basic. And I mean, really basic. You can browse top referrers, country of origin, audience figures over variable time frames, top searches, most popular posts and so on. However, and somewhat strangely, it only records visits. Not uniques. Not returning visitors. Just page views.

Back when a supple-faced youth founded this blog in December 2006 I took out a free (i.e. basic) account with Statcounter, and I've been using it ever since. So I thought it would be interesting to compare the Statcounter figures with the sorts of numbers being yielded by Google's package.

This is where things get a bit confusing. According to the built-in statometer this blog was visited 1,053 times yesterday. But Statcounter has a different story. It says I had 745 page views. The day before Google has me on 1,051 visits, and Statcounter 774.

Why the discrepancy? Just what is going on? Does Statcounter run a particularly stingy and stringent counting operation? Are Google inflating visits SWP-stylee so bloggers feel less bad about their lack of reach?

Any explanations none-too-heavy on techie talk are welcome.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Andy Burnham for Labour Leader

This is the last in the series of emails from the Labour leadership candidates. Andy Burnham's entry into the race has certainly raised his profile and in public appearances he's done an excellent job attacking Tory plans to dismantle the NHS. But at present I'm undecided whether he'll get my fourth or fifth preference. I will blog more about the vote before the end of the week. In the mean time, if this isn't enough Andy for you here's my take on his 'aspirational socialism'.


Dear Phil,

It’s time for us to be Labour again

As the Leadership contest enters the final stages, I’m giving everything I’ve got because the cause is a great one – I’m fighting for a different kind of Labour Party.

I am asking for your first preference vote today – because I need your help to rebuild Labour from the bottom up.

Our Party has been in the grip of a warring political elite for too long. They have dragged us down with their factional battles. They are out of touch. So it’s time to put power back where it belongs - with you, the members.

Going forward, we just cannot have more of the same.

And yet, that is what some of the Party’s senior figures want. They are making this contest a battle between old and new Labour.

It is the last thing we need.

It threatens to entrench factionalism in our Party for another generation and doesn't represent the views of our members.

As I travelled the country in my Battle Bus throughout August, members everywhere told me that they are sick to the back teeth of old versus new Labour, Blairites versus Brownites. We are Labour – and proud of it.

Both old and new Labour had their strengths – but neither fully reflected mainstream Labour opinion. Old Labour was too often out of step with public opinion. New Labour, whilst right for its time, became hollow and disconnected.

So it’s time for us to be Labour again.

I am offering you that choice. A chance to rebuild our Party from the bottom up, with power returned to members; our councillors valued and listened to; and a grassroots force in every community.

In recent years, we were frightened of our own shadow, taking only modest steps forward. That must change. A Labour Party that listens to its members will rediscover the courage of its convictions and get back in the business of inspiring ideas that bring big social change and a fairer country. That is what is needed to lift Labour hearts, enthuse people to join our Party again and put us back on people’s side.

So, throughout this campaign, I have spoken for mainstream Labour opinion and for the values of the British people. My detailed Manifesto – Aspirational Socialism – brings together the best of old and the best of new Labour, leaving the negatives of both behind. It sets out bold and progressive proposals in the best traditions of our Party such as:

• a free National Care Service funded by a new 10% Care Levy on all estates – giving peace of mind to all older people in this century of the Ageing Society and helping them protect their homes and savings

• a radical reform of the tax system, with a Land Value Tax replacing Council Tax, Stamp Duty and Inheritance Tax – bringing fairness to the system and helping all people get on in life

Both embody Aspirational Socialism – that by working together, and supporting each other, we can help everyone be the best they can be, fulfilling their hopes and dreams.

These are the biggest ideas that any candidate has put forward. I have done so – underpinned by my own philosophy - because I believe politics going forward needs to be more than just marketing and PR.

You can hear more about my proposals here.

I am in this contest to win because I know that our Party needs to change. I have listened and heard what you have been telling me about how it needs to change.

I was equally loyal to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Not everyone can say that, but I can. My first loyalty has always been to the Labour Party, not any faction or clique. This is why I am best placed to move Labour forward beyond the old battles. And this is why I can break the grip of the elite.

I don’t have the support of any establishment in this race - in the media, the unions or our own Party. But I don’t want their support - they don’t want things to change. I want your support to rebuild our Party.

I will unite our Party – members, trade unionists and councillors.

I will be a Leader you and Britain can believe in.

With your first preference vote I will make you proud to be Labour again.


Best wishes

Andy Burnham

Sunday, 5 September 2010

In the Socialist Future ...

This interesting quote prefaces Ken's 2005 book, Learning the World:
Population will mightily increase, and the earth will be a garden. Governments will be conducted with the quietude and regularity of club committees. The interest which is now felt in politics will be transferred to science; the latest news from the laboratory of the chemist, or the observatory of the astronomer, or the experimenting room of the biologist will be eagerly discussed ... Disease will be extirpated; the causes of decay will be removed; immortality will be invented. And then, the earth being small, mankind will migrate into space, and will cross the airless Saharas which separate planet from planet, and sun from sun. The earth will become a Holy Land which will be visited from all quarters of the universe. Finally, men will master the forces of Nature; they will become themselves architects of systems, manufacturers of worlds.

Winwood Reade,
The Martyrdom of Man, 1872
Gives me a good excuse to plug last month's post on Socialism and Space again.

New Left Blogs

Time for your no-frills round up of new(ish) left and labour movement blogs that have hit the streets:

1.
North West Hampshire Labour Party (Labour) (Twitter
2.
Claire French (Labour) (Twitter)
3.
Green Gabbles (Greens) (Twitter)
4.
Jules Mattsson (Unaligned) (Twitter)
5.
So What Changed? Post-Election 2010 (Labour) (Twitter)
6.
The Scribe of the Red Rose (Labour) (Twitter)
7.
Second Hand News (Labour) (Twitter)
8.
The Red Rock (Unaligned)
9.
Eyes on Power (Unaligned) (Twitter)
10.
Latte Labour (Labour)
11.
Keane on Politics (Greens) (Twitter)
12.
A Thousand Cuts (Unaligned) (Twitter)
13.
Conservative Policies Dissected (Labour) (Twitter)
14.
Questioning the Cuts (Unaligned) (Twitter)
15.
Seph Brown's Blog (Labour) (Twitter)
16.
PCS North Staffs (Unaligned) (Twitter)

That's it for August/September. If you know of any new blogs (a year or less old) that haven't been featured before, drop me a line via email, the comments or on
Twitter. The new blog round up is posted on the first Sunday of every month.