In his December 11 letter responding to my recent article on migration, comrade John Fisher asks me whether I want London to “continue to be one of the principal homes of choice for international finance capital” and might perhaps be “frightened” by the thought of it ceasing to be so. Similarly, the comrade wonders if I agree with “the arguments of the CBI” and therefore think it “would be reckless, from a business perspective, for Britain to leave the EU”.
You do not have to share the “business perspective” of the CBI to recognise that the prospect of a UK exit from the European Union would trigger a major flight of capital. As I said in my original article, at the very least we would see a 20% reduction in the UK’s tax base - and you do not have to be particularly imaginative to work out how the government, Tory or Labour, would react under such conditions: that is, intensify austerity and in general increase the attacks on the working class. In that sense, pushing for a capitalist Britain to leave the EU is “reckless” - the fact that the CBI also says so, for its own big-business reasons, does not make it any less true. Our programme must be for the international working class to take power - for a workers’ Europe, in the first instance.
In the same way, it is an elementary communist principle to support the free movement of labour - workers should have the right to move around the world as they please. More importantly, communists fight to change the current state of affairs, where we are divided up on the basis of nationality - something comrade Fisher appears to agree with when he says that countries are a “nonsense” and that communists should be “urging their dissolution with some alacrity”. The fact that Angela Merkel supports the free movement of labour for her own reasons is neither here nor there - she wants to use it to undermine the working class, whilst we want to unite the working class. Two totally different projects. Communists, after all, are not obliged to put a minus sign where the bourgeoisie puts a plus. We develop our own independent working class politics based upon our programmatic understanding of the tasks before us.
The fact that London - or the City - is one of the “principal homes” of international capital does not exactly fill me with joy. Then again, I am hardly delighted by the knowledge that finance capital operates from Tokyo, New York and a whole host of other centres. Communists struggle to positively transcend capitalism over the entire globe, not carve out little patches or so-called ‘liberated zones’. Or, to put it another way, finance capital does not operate in North Korea - yet is hardly a model we want to emulate: it is a Stalinist hell-hole.
As for my comments on Norway, a country I have never visited, they were intended purely to highlight - or expose - the faulty thinking of the Eurosceptics in Britain, who try to use Norway as an example of the way forward, when actually it enthusiastically embraces the same pro-capitalist agenda. On the free movement of labour, it has a bigger proportion of other EU nationals in the country than Britain, for instance: no country is an island. Whether anti-migrant sentiment is on the rise or not in Norway, as comrade Fisher mentions, is an entirely different question.
Finally, the comrade thinks it would be a good idea for the CPGB to “join forces” with European United Left, Nordic Green Left, European Anti-Capitalist Left or the Party of the European Left. Alas, the CPGB is a small group, whose overriding priority is to use the pages of the Weekly Worker to fight for rapprochement and left unity as part of the struggle for a mass, internationalist Marxist party (as opposed to a diffuse and ineffective ‘broad’ party). There is also the point that all of these parliamentary blocs listed by comrade Fisher are dominated to one degree or another by social democratic and reformist parties of various stripes, the Nordic Green Left being a classic example. Needless to say, this runs contrary to what the CPGB stands for - which is to organise the working class on a global level and fight for extreme democracy in all spheres of society. We seek to expose each and every attempt to manage a ‘fairer’ capitalism.
To those who say that the Socialist Party in England and Wales and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are advocating border controls, couldn’t they be accused instead of barking up the wrong tree (‘Immigration controls kill’, November 20)?
Jules Guesde and the French socialists called for a prohibition on employers hiring foreign workers at wages less than those paid to French workers, so could a compromise on the left be reached? Instead of focusing on ‘the immigrants’, why not focus on the employers hiring specific groups of them?
Investopedia’s Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell wrote a recent article on the five countries where it is hardest to obtain citizenship (‘Five hardest countries for getting citizenship’, December 11), and lists Austria, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the United States. Referring to the last one, she wrote: “Unless a person is coming to the US through family or an approved job, it is very difficult to establish permanent residency.”
So as to help stop the downward pressure on wages for ‘unskilled’ domestic labour, and perhaps create a ‘labour shortage’ to put upward pressure on the precariat, why shouldn’t the left call for a blanket ban on all employers hiring ‘unskilled’ non-permanent residents?
The economic effect would be the same as that of right-populist anti-immigration planks. However, the onus would be on those employers - particularly petty bourgeois ones, who snide about unskilled immigrants having a better ‘work ethic’ than unskilled citizens - not on the unskilled immigrants themselves.
I read Eddie Ford’s piece in the Weekly Worker (‘Chancellor’s book of doom’, December 11) and understood his demolition of Osborne’s plans and even his sneering critique of James Meadway’s economic alternative reported in the “creaking” Morning Star.
So far so good, but where is Eddie’s alternative for the left? By issuing a statement that everything is bad and the proposed solutions will not work, he is creating a despairing position - unless he believes that revolution is imminent and the masses will rise up and smash capitalism before the next parliament.
If there was a positive suggestion in the article, please share, as I have missed it. I do not proclaim any expertise in this area, so it is possible.
Like an Egyptian
The choice of the name ‘Orion’ for the latest Nasa spaceflight to test a capsule for travel to Mars seems to reflect a continued bizarre obsession within the agency for the three ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses: Osiris, Isis and Horus (‘Mission Mars and the final frontier’, December 11). Publicly, this only shows up in its choice of repeating blatant choices of simple mission patch designs, but on examination we can see most launches over the past 50 years have ‘coincided’ with unusual stellar alignments, usually involving one or more of the stars, Sirius, Regulus and Al Nitak (in the belt of Orion).
According to most Egyptian mythologists, the star constellation of Orion was the celestial representation of the central figure of Egyptian gods, the god of the underworld and of ‘resurrection’, revered as Osiris. The star Sirius was regarded as the living embodiment of his wife and sister, Isis, the goddess of life and nurture, and Regulus, the blue-white star at the start at the heart of the Leo constellation, represented their son, Horus, who avenged his father’s murder, and became the first ‘man god’, from whom all human pharaohs were said to be descended. Horus, like the Apollo in Greek mythology, was the Egyptian ‘god of the sun’ and, curiously, also ruled over Mars. The ancient Egyptians in fact used the same name for both Mars and Horus, to mean ‘Horus the red’.
Jack Conrad follows the standard Nasa line that Mars is ‘dead’, with no atmosphere, flora, fauna or running water, and presumably there is little point for the latest imperialist scramble for new lands and territories. Yet for billions of years and until very recently in astronomical terms, Mars, together with our Earth and Venus, occupied a comfortable place in what is known as the habitable zone of our solar system and was warm, wet and hospitable, with all the necessary conditions for life as on Earth, until some cataclysmic event or series of events 1.35 million years ago, probably involving the destruction of a whole existing planet, resulting in today’s asteroid belt and stripping away most of Mars’ atmosphere, wrecked its magnetic field, and left half the planet crated and unable to support any advanced forms of life.
I think the stakes are immensely greater than Jack believes. The very powerful religious and cosmological ideas set out in ancient Egyptian funerary and rebirth texts and the so-called ‘hermetic’ writings - which have subsequently been adopted by Freemasonry and also informed the occult roots of Nazism - express the idea of the drawing down to Earth of cosmic powers as an essential step in humankind’s quest for the knowledge of the divine and immortality of the soul. Egypt was seen as “an image of heaven. Or, more precisely, in Egypt all powers which work and rule in heaven have been transferred to earth below”.
Ancient Egyptians believed in something called Zep Tipi, a ‘first time’, when the ‘gods’ established their earthly kingdom, a golden era of absolute perfection, “before rage, clamour, strife or uproar had come about. No death, disease or disaster occurred in this blissful epoch known as the time of Osiris or the time of Horus.”
The ultimate aim of the ancient Egyptian rituals was to equip the initiate, the ‘Horus-King’, to make the necessary journey ‘back’ in time to Zep Tipi, and into a new cosmic kingdom of Osiris, when sky and ground could be reunited in perfect harmony. (There is a possible parallel in Marxism, which sees the role of the working class and the revolutionary party as ultimately to bring about a new golden age, a world of full communism, going back to the ideals and perfections of primitive communism before society divided into classes, and bringing these into modern times).
So what are such rituals and apparent ‘mumbo jumbo’ doing at the heart of Nasa, a supposedly scientific endeavour aimed at increasing knowledge for the benefit of all humankind? Are they really just paying homage to some mostly forgotten Egyptian deities - a bit of ritualistic but harmless fun? Or do some people in Nasa genuinely believe they are attempting to establish a connection - or may already have one - with powerful forces which to us, like to the ancient Egyptians, appear to have powers and abilities beyond our current comprehension?
What are Nasa really looking for on Mars and do they already know much of what is there to be found from their reading of the ancient Egyptian texts? Our own all but forgotten pasts amid the reddish sands?
There have been a number of reports in the local media recently about general increases in poverty and, in particular, significant rises in the numbers of people forced to use food banks. Members of Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have been talking to benefit claimants outside Rugby jobcentre every week for over a year now, and the stories we hear certainly back this up.
One of the many problems people face nowadays is that benefits are either not paid on time or, even worse, are suspended or actually stopped for up to a month if a claimant is a few minutes late for an appointment or simply cannot attend for medical reasons. We hear complaints of this nature every time we leaflet outside the jobcentre against the government’s welfare reforms and cuts to benefits, and this is likely to be even worse in Rugby because we are one of the few areas piloting the government’s flagship welfare reform, universal credit - which is nothing more than a deliberate attempt by this Tory government, supported by the Labour opposition, to cut spending on welfare.
We met someone only last week who didn’t know where he would sleep that night - or the foreseeable future - because the jobcentre hadn’t sorted out his claim despite the fact he had attended for interview and had no money at all after recently returning to Rugby. He spoke to me before and after his appointment, and was nearly in tears. Last month a man in his thirties told us he had been sanctioned for three months - which means no benefits - for missing one appointment at the jobcentre by mistake. He nearly lost his rented accommodation as a result. Others have been even less fortunate.
This is a dreadful state of affairs in one of the supposedly wealthiest countries in the world, and will get worse with the further cuts announced in the recent autumn statement. It is no wonder the media have been reporting an increase in poverty, or that use of food banks in Rugby has risen so much.
We have expressed our serious concerns about universal credit in particular, and the benefit cuts in general, to local Tory MP Mark Pawsey on a number of occasions, but he has not been able to adequately answer our queries. He has passed on our concerns to government minister Lord Freud as a result, and we await his response. Whatever they are, they will do nothing to put food on people’s tables this Christmas or prevent them being evicted for non-payment of rent. This is an absolute disgrace.
In a half-hearted attempt to get into the Christmas spirit, I recently visited my local food bank to donate 10 tins of food. The food bank is based at my local Baptist church and is one of 400 run by the Trussell Trust, staffed by well-meaning, do-gooding, church-going types.
One of the staff told me that most of the people visiting the food bank have had their benefits ‘sanctioned’ (stopped) by the jobcentre, which then gives them a voucher to take to the food bank. All this comes in the wake of a report by a cross-party group of MPs, supported by the archbishop of Canterbury, which suggests that benefit sanctions are the main reason why 900,000 people over the last year had to visit food banks.
I have recently been reading the first few chapters of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, which details how out of touch the tsar and his clique were from the poor, suffering Russian masses just before the February 1917 revolution. The same applies today to the Tories and their vicious regime of benefit sanctions targets placed on jobcentre workers by the department for work and pensions.
Benefit sanctions on jobseekers were first introduced by the Department for Work and Pensions during the last New Labour government by arch-Blairite ministers Alan Johnson and James Purnell. Since 2010, the Tories have taken these benefit sanctions to another level, with more than a million job seekers in the last year having their benefits sanctioned for four weeks or more. The benefit sanctions regime at jobcentres is one of the reasons why so many jobseekers have been forced into taking zero-hours jobs or moving into ‘self-employment’.
Apart from calling a halt to the policy of the DWP giving jobcentres targets for the number of sanctions carried out on jobseekers, it is unlikely that an Ed Miliband-led government will abolish them. Even though such a policy of benefit sanctions is causing untold misery and distress to hundreds of thousands of jobseekers, Miliband is frightened of the gutter press describing Labour as the ‘welfare’ party. Evidence for this comes from Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow minister for work and pensions, who has explained that “Labour will be tougher on the unemployed than the Tories”.
In addition to opposing ‘workfare’, Marxists call for jobseeker’s allowance to be set at the equivalent of a minimum wage of £400 a week, and linked to education, training or a job without compulsion. Whilst Marxists can have no confidence in an Ed Miliband-led Labour government, Tusc, together with Left Unity, should use the slogans, ‘End all benefit sanctions now’ and ‘Make food banks history’, as part of our day-to-day campaigning work.
I would like to join Phil Walden (Letters, December 11) in remembering the late Roy Bhaskar (1944-2014). Bhaskar began as a philosopher of science, offering a particular version of critical realism, which, as well as opposing naive empiricism, countered the anti-materialism of the postmodern scepticism then fashionable.
This critical realist model of science rejected any focus on perceptible events, but stressed instead the investigation of hidden ‘generative mechanisms’, as in the theory of natural selection or the contradictions of capitalism.
Bhaskar went on in his later work, such as Dialectic: the pulse of freedom (1993), to emphasise the reality of change and development, while presenting the goal of a society defined by individual ‘flourishing’ - the ‘absenting’ of constraints and promotion of possibilities - with nevertheless an appreciation of the groundedness of being and the logic of a totality where all flourished.
Bhaskar spent many dense pages in his Dialectic sketching out a definition of the social good - freedom which doesn’t destroy the freedom of others - that Marxists might well claim as their own.