Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 54 Number 16, June 29, 2024 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

July 4 Election

Vote for Anti-War Candidates and Challenge the Pro-War Cartel Party System!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

July 4 Election :
Vote for Anti-War Candidates and Challenge the Pro-War Cartel Party System!

Labour's Fraudulent Plans for "Great British Energy"

Workers' Movement:
Jarrow's Rebel Town Festival 2024

Election Meeting:
Workers Party Stands in Lewisham and Greenwich

July 4 Election

Vote for Anti-War Candidates and Challenge the Pro-War Cartel Party System!

A total of 4,515 candidates have been nominated throughout England, Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland, more than in any previous general election. [1]

This is a sign of the profound discontent with the cartel parties, the House of Commons and the entire political system. In particular, it is a manifestation of the sentiment that voting for the pro-war cartel parties is neither a "choice", nor can it bring about "change".

Our call is to go all out to elect anti-war candidates and challenge the cartel party system.

There are very many candidates running as independents and some are representing small or recently formed anti-war parties. A vote for these candidates is a vote which says No! to the first-past-the-post electoral system which brings a cartel party to power.

The disaffection with the political system which keeps the electorate disempowered and which is presented as which of the Labour and Conservative leaders "runs the country" is such that it can be said that a space has opened up for democratic renewal. Let us make way for that renewal!

The perspective of voting for anti-war candidates and challenging the cartel party system is first and foremost that it is a stand for empowering oneself, paving the way for being empowered to speak in one's own name, individually and collectively. It is a slap in the face for any cartel party's claim that they have a "majority" and therefore have a "mandate to govern". It is a stand against the outdated and dysfunctional form of "representative democracy" where the act of voting is the moment at which an elector hands over all power to unaccountable governments taken over by narrow supranational private interests with no connection to the people they claim to represent.

Unison National Conference, June 18-21 2024

Even the members of the cartel parties are thoroughly disenfranchised and have no say over candidate selection or decision-making. Furthermore, there is serious dissatisfaction that candidates of these parties are being prevented from speaking their mind and are not decided on by their constituencies. And the media refuses to discuss the relevant issues of concern for the people.

Let us make this election a turning point. Out of the crisis of representative democracy which disempowers the working class and people, let us further take up the demand for democratic renewal. Let us affirm the right to speak in our own name, empowering ourselves at every stage to take stands which we know to be just, humane, effective, and at one with the resistance of the people to oppression world-wide. It is the people's forces themselves who have the interest in bringing into being new forms which truly empower them.

Build the Resistance!
All Out to Elect Anti-War Candidates!
Build the Voice of the People!
Take up the Need to Renew the Political Process!
Together We Can Achieve Success!

1. See Wikipedia, "Candidates in the 2024 United Kingdom general election", and also follow the links to candidates by constituency.

Article Index

July 4 Election

Labour's Fraudulent Plans for "Great British Energy"

The Labour Party manifesto outlined plans to establish a state-run Great British Energy company. The manifesto claims it will deliver 100% clean power by 2030, cutting energy bills, creating jobs, ensuring energy security, and making Britain energy independent. It will build an energy system for the future, "run for the British people." [1]

Not only is it a set of empty promises, but it is also fraud of highest order. It is aimed to divert the central issues concerning the production and distribution of energy, which are: who decides, who controls and in whose interests are they run? In conditions of deepening economic chaos, war and environmental damage, the need is for scientific planning over such production - and indeed all production - and its raw materials and waste products, with fidelity to human and human-nature relations. The foremost block to achieving this is the control of the sector by the global cartels.

An article in Politics Home [2], which discusses the plan in some detail, explains that the idea originally came from the Common Wealth think tank in 2019, supported by Ed Miliband, John McDonnell, and Caroline Lucas. Miliband has since stated that the company will have two main concerns: leading investment in technologies such as offshore wind in partnership with the private sector; and the "local power plan", a form of public-private partnership at the level of local authorities. Trade unions "will have an important role in relation to the board of GB Energy". Regardless of its origins, it is New Labour through and through.

The fraud is on three fronts. One is the framing of the plan as one to create abundant clean energy and achieve carbon net zero, which is designed to exploit the growing widespread concern over the damage to the environment. This concern is very real and justified, and people are in motion, particularly the youth. The aim is in part to divert this motion and direct it towards getting people behind the electoral coup in the making and the private interests the Labour Party represents. It also reflects those private interests, and their pipe dream that they can maintain the status quo with limitless clean energy to do as they please without consequence.

Another fraudulent claim is that the new company is "national" and run in the interests of the people. All indications are that a new wave of the ongoing economic crisis is building, bringing further destruction of the productive forces and unemployment on top of the current cost of living crisis, a key factor in which is energy prices. In that context, the Labour Party claims GB Energy will be a new national company. The experience of privatisation has been the devastation of social programmes and key infrastructure, opening them up as direct sources of profit, and spiralling prices. Describing itself as both "pro-worker" and "pro-business", with its "New Deal", Labour is attempting to bring workers on side, to get behind the aims of big business, while offering "nationalisation" of energy as a kind of Trojan horse to this end.

Both "nationalisation" and "privatisation" take place in a context. We are no longer in the era of social democracy; it is not the 1940s-70s. We are in the period of neoliberalism, and in particular the decay of neoliberalism and conditions of perpetual crisis, marked by disequilibrium and the total domination by the oligopolies. Today, with the politicisation of the most powerful private interests, which have completely usurped the public authority, a state-run energy company can be run just as much for these oligarchic interests as a private company. These interests, continually on the hunt for big scores to offset their generally-falling rates of return, are looking to state provision of their energy needs, as well as demanding state-backed infrastructure projects as a safe investment for their capital as the economic outlook again becomes uncertain.

"The story of decarbonisation is electrification. We need to electrify everything we can," Politics Home quotes one industry source as saying. "If GBE is enabling new infrastructure to be built or grid connections to be made, honestly, we'll bite their arm off."

"The key for state involvement is to address market failures," says head of Octopus Energy Greg Jackson in the same article. "This includes situations where there's simply not the data for private investors to assess risk and return, such as ultra-long duration storage or tidal power..."

"Using GBE to 'de-risk' or 'crowd-in' private sector investment will mean handing over more money to energy companies whilst we pay for it if it goes wrong," the article reports Alex Stephenson, energy campaigner for Labour for a Green New Deal, as warning.

"In some ways it's the state again doing all the heavy lifting of frontier technological change, and all the risks involved...," said Common Wealth director Mathew Lawrence similarly. "It plays into all their themes of energy security, securonomics and patriotism."

This relates to a third aspect of the fraud: that it will provide British "independence". The interests of the oligopolies reflect their contention over energy production and energy corridors, which has been a significant factor in the proxy war in Ukraine - a conflict that has in turn exacerbated the contention.

The oligopolies therefore demand energy security, and there are further contradictions over who controls energy production and distribution. In Western Europe, the biggest base for the energy industry has been France, with its giant state-run EDF. The creation of GB Energy is in direct competition to this French state-run monopoly. In this respect, it clearly follows the present Conservative government's relaunch of BNFL as Great British Nuclear in July last year [3].

Hence the promise to set up a "Great British" Energy company is thoroughly imbued with Great British chauvinism. The conception is entirely Blairite, a Third Way-style plan to "Make Britain Great Again", aligned with the aims of pro-war government and all its attendant dangers. But it is also fraudulent because there is no such independence. Creating a so-called Great British Energy company does nothing to change that when it is carried out under the conditions of the domination by the most powerful multinational monopolies and run in their interests.

Indeed, there are all kinds of promises and unsupported claims being made in this election campaign. There is widespread criticism of the idea being pie in the sky or a pipe dream, that it contains nothing of real substance, nothing concrete, but empty claims.

Fundamentally, nothing in the Labour Party programme addresses the direction of the economy, who decides that direction, and what claims are made on the economy. Will the economy be aimed at meeting the needs of the people and society, and the social and natural environment, as its priority? Will it be in the service of peaceful and friendly international relations and trade based on mutual benefit? Or will continue to serve the pro-war interests of competing private factions of the global oligarchy?

The response to this vapid nonsense and dangerous fraud is for the working class to lead the way to a new direction. The main thing in this election is to point the way to democratic renewal and elaborate a government that is anti-war.

1. "Labour's plan for GB Energy", Labour Party, September 28, 2023
2. "GB Energy: What role will Labour's state-owned energy company really play?", Sienna Rodgers, Politics Home, May 2, 2024
3. "Great British Nuclear: Overview", Government Policy Paper, July 18, 2023

Article Index

Workers' Movement

Jarrow's Rebel Town Festival 2024

Arthur Scargill, former National President of the NUM speaking at the Festival

On Saturday, June 22, several hundred people took part in the eighth annual Rebel Town Festival in Jarrow. The march led by the Felling Silver Band started with a speech and a song by the side of the William Jobling memorial on the Tyne, going next to the site of the closed shaft of the last Jarrow mine where the band played Gresford to the silent gathering and the historic miners' banners displayed around. This was dedicated to all miners who had lost their lives in Britain and throughout the world. The march then went on to a rally in the car park of the Crown & Anchor in Jarrow and followed by the music of the Shamrock Street Ceilidh band. The march and the stage at the Crown & Anchor was festooned with many Palestinian flags showing how close the cause of the Palestinian people is to the working people who took part.

Among those speaking at the rally, despite his recent ill health, was the organiser and inspirer of this event, ex-miner Davy Douglass, a local historian and secretary of the Follonsby Wardley Miners Lodge Banner Community Heritage Group. Davy's work has breathed new life into recording the heroic struggles of the mining communities, ensuring that the sacrifices and hardships endured by the people of Jarrow and elsewhere are never forgotten. He also spoke out against the whole present attack on the working class today and the pro-war stand and support for Israeli genocide supported by all the big cartel party leaders. Arthur Scargill, former National President of the NUM, also spoke at length about the fighting experiences of the 1984 miners strike which this year marks its 40th anniversary. He spoke in detail about the great struggles of the miners in that strike with his comrades like Davy Douglass and how they continually planned at all times to win the strike against a vicious enemy in Margaret Thatcher's government and continued betrayal by some of the trade union leaders. Most importantly all the speakers spoke about the continuation of the struggle of the working class today.

The restored Follonsby Wardley Miners Lodge banner

During the event, speakers and those attending reminded themselves of the festival commemorations. Importantly, those events that took place in Jarrow in the 1830s with miners strikes against the slavery bonds [1] of the mine owners. In 1831, the union, led by Tommy Hepburn, conducted its first successful strike, winning a reduction in the working hours from 18 hours to 12 hours a day - for children under the age of 12! The event specifically marks the injustice against seven leading Jarrow miners in their 1832 strike against the bond. Thomas Armstrong, John Barker, Isaac Ecclestone, David Johnson, John Smith, Bartholomew Stephenson, and John Stewart were found guilty and convicted of "conspiracy" for joining a union and sentenced to death. However, instead of meeting the gallows, they were unjustly banished to the faraway penal colony of Botany Bay, never to return.

Part of the parade of the fifth Jarrow Rebel Town Festival in August 2021

An eighth Jarrow miner, William Jobling, was arrested in 1832 in connection with the killing of Nicholas Fairless, a magistrate who received a blow from which he later died. However, before he died, Fairless admitted that it was Jobling's friend Armstrong who struck the blow. While Armstrong escaped never to be seen again, William Jobling was arrested and tried and was ultimately hanged on August 3, 1832, in Durham. His lifeless body was covered in pitch and placed inside a metal cage, which was then transported to Jarrow Slake, where it was suspended on a towering seventeen-foot-high gibbet placed in close proximity to his family's residence in Jarrow. In the night his comrades cut down his body and brought it to the Public House overlooking the Tyne where now a memorial stands to him erected by the people of Jarrow. From there his body was secretly buried.

Today, the Rebel Town Festival held in Jarrow stands as a testament to the enduring memory of the Seven Men and William Jobling. It serves as a poignant reminder of the injustices they endured and the profound struggles faced by the working class in their pursuit of better conditions and for the new in society. Their stories continue to shed light on the resilience of ordinary people against the most oppressive forces and the transformative power of collective action. Most importantly this year's Jarrow's Rebel Town Festival, which took place in the middle of the General Election, re-enforced that the workers need to have their own programme independent of the cartel parties and their political factions. This can only be achieved by the workers working out solutions which favour them and not relying on any other force.

[1] The Coal Miner's Bond
Until 1872 all of the miners of Northumberland, Cumberland and Durham were employed under the hated bond system whereby they contracted their lives away each year (or each month from 1844 to 1864) to a "Master" in return for a "bounty" and little else of substance. By the terms of the bond, under pain of a substantial penalty, they were obliged to submit to various fines and conditions and to work continuously at one colliery for a whole year. The system was a kind of legalised temporary serfdom. The colliery owner on his part gave no undertaking to furnish continuous employment or indeed any employment at all. After 1809, the annual bond was usually entered into on/about April 5 when a colliery official read out the rate of pay and the conditions available at the pit to the assembled workers and would-be workers. Those who signed up were given a "bounty" of 2s. 6d. (12.5 pence) to start work. The first few to sign up were given extra money which was usually enough incentive to cause a stampede among the poverty-stricken workforce to "make their mark".

If anyone broke the bond he was liable to arrest, trial and imprisonment. If he struck in an attempt to improve conditions, the law was largely against him. If he stood on a picket line, and even looked at a blackleg, it could be construed as attempted coercion. If he attempted to unionise he was intimidated or dismissed and put on a county-wide black list. If he still gave trouble to the authorities he was liable for transportation to the colonies. For the truly unreformable there was always the ultimate sanction in an age when over 200 crimes theoretically carried the death penalty

Article Index

Election Meeting

Workers Party Stands in Lewisham and Greenwich

A lively election meeting was held in Catford on June 24. The six Workers Party candidates for Lewisham and Greenwich participated, along with Workers Party leader George Galloway. All candidates loudly supported Palestine and condemned the Labour and Conservative parties for their backing of Israeli atrocities and their failure to call for a ceasefire.

George Galloway pointed out that since October Israel has dropped more bombs on Gaza than were unleashed on Dresden, Hamburg and London during the Second World War.

All the Workers Party candidates said "we want peace". They condemned the West's military interventions around the world led by the US, and they opposed NATO, saying that Britain should not be involved in foreign wars. George Galloway spoke of the grave danger of a third world war.

The candidates together with George Galloway all said that both the Labour and Conservative parties were warmongers and had nothing to offer working people. Several candidates spoke of the need for local communities to assert their rights and make their own decisions. They all urged everyone to vote for the Workers Party or an independent candidate.

The Workers Party of Britain is standing 152 candidates throughout England, Scotland and Wales. It is also endorsing a number of candidates of other affiliations.

Article Index

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