Tag Archive: fees


VOAG-Logo-(Brick)5-transparThe VOAG joined the Surrey United Anti-Capitalist Students Society (SUAC) For Freshers Fair 2013, at the University Of Surrey. 

One small step for the proletarian revolution, one giant leap for the Surrey United Anti-Capitalists, as the SUAC Students Society Romps home with 72 new members recruited at this years Surrey University Freshers Fair.

The VOAG salutes and congratulates those (they know who they are) who made this year’s Freshers Fair the most successful freshers fair ever. And not a swappy in sight!

The stool looked amazing, featuring picture boards of recent activities, a looping slide show, as well as various flyers. Props to all those that helped!    

SUAC is the only left group on campus. The SWP have tried in past years to start a student group, but to-date have always failed to get enough members to establish themselves. This year the SWP stayed a home.

Whilst the Lib-dems and Tories have abandoned Surrey University,  there is, on paper, a Labour Club. It keeps its head well low, never campaigns and doesn’t ever meet. The Labour Club appears out of thin air every Freshers Fair, and then hibernates until the next. 

The Green Party managed to arrange a stool, and sent two elderly, woolly jumper types. The VOAG ventured over to the lonely couple, but was scared off, fearful of frostbite, The Socialist Fight magazine the VOAG was carrying, alerted them that the VOAG was outside their target audience, and an icy chill deended on their stall.

The nearest thing to politics in the University of Surrey, outside the SUAC, is the Go Green Society. The VOAG went over to their Freshers Fair stall out of curiosity and to investigate if there were any issues of mutual interest that we might work together on.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

What Labour’s energy price pledge says about Britain

The VOAG is everywhere - The VOAG is watchingBy Julie Hyland (for WSWS), September 2013.
The howls of outrage that greeted Labour leader Ed Miliband’s timorous suggestion of some mild reforms starkly illustrates social reality in Britain.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Miliband pledged that if elected in 2015, his government would freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. The pledge is hardly the return to “old-Labour-style” policies of “tax and spend”, much less the full-blooded “socialism” claimed by Miliband’s media critics and supporters alike.

Amounting to an average household saving of just £120, it is a drop in the ocean when compared to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition’s austerity measures, which have produced, as Miliband acknowledged, the longest fall in living standards since the 1870s.

For his conference speech, however, Miliband had to come up with some headline grabber. He is, after all, a man with his back against the wall. Miliband leads a party that is all but destroyed by its long period of association in government with rampant free market speculation and colonial-style wars of aggression. Labour’s vote collapsed to just 29 percent in the last election, and there is little sign of a revival.

Membership has fallen to just 180,000, and the most recent opinion polls give the Conservatives a slight lead on Labour despite the widespread hostility to Prime Minister David Cameron and his government. Almost half of voters think Labour would be better without Miliband, and nearly two thirds think he can’t win an election.

With such odds, Miliband had to make some pitch for support, even if only to save his own leadership. Surrounded by images of the union flag, he again advanced Labour as the “One Nation” party, where “rich and poor alike” have “responsibilities to each other”.

Pointing out what everyone knows—that the so-called economic recovery has only been for the super-rich—he complained that this was the result of Conservative support for a “global race to the bottom” at the expense of wages, conditions and rights.

Miliband barely referenced the role of the Liberal Democrats in government. With little likelihood that Labour could win election outright, the Labour leader is banking on a coalition with the Tories’ current partners—whose own poll ratings have fallen through the floor and whose membership numbers are below 50,000.

Miliband claimed that Labour stood for a “race to the top”. What this consists of was not spelt out, but it was accompanied by promises of minimal reforms such as energy decarbonisation, overturning the coalition’s tax break to big corporations in order to cut business taxes on small companies, breakfast clubs for primary schools, and a “look at whether there are some sectors where we can afford” a rise in the minimum wage. Such a rise would only take place in agreement with business, Miliband stated.

His pledge to freeze energy prices for a period was also directed primarily at providing savings for small businesses, in keeping with his One Nation mantra. It was not possible to have a “dynamic market economy when one section of society does so well at the expense of others,” he said, urging the energy giants to cooperate with his plan.

Miliband made clear that these limited measures were entirely within the framework of Labour’s commitment to austerity. Being in government would be “tough,” he said. Labour would have to “stick to strict spending limits…we are not going to be able to spend money we don’t have.”

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls stressed the same message, making clear there would be no reversal in the coalition’s cuts and that Labour would have to make more of its own. To underscore the point, he had written to the Office of Budget Responsibility requesting that it audit the party’s manifesto commitments to prove its fiscal discipline.

Their statements underscore that the energy price freeze pledge is a mere reshuffling of a hand that will see working people lose every which way. Nonetheless, the response from the major corporations and much of the media was hysterical. The Financial Times decried what it called the “whiff of Poujadiste populism” in the proposal—a reference to the 1950s French right-wing populist demagogue, Pierre Poujade.

For their part, the major energy companies threatened darkly of power blackouts and of pulling out of the UK altogether. Centrica’s chairman, Sir Roger Carr, described a price freeze as a “recipe for economic ruin,” claiming that it would no longer be “economically viable to continue” in Britain.

Amid threats of an investment strike, Neil Woodford from the fund manager Invesco Perpetual denounced the plan as “economic vandalism.” If the energy corporations “cannot make any money supplying electricity to the retail market then they won’t supply it. The lights will go off, the economy will shut down,” he said.

In reality, energy bills have almost doubled since 2000, with households spending an average of £1,339 on gas and electricity. According to the consumer group Which?, households have been paying £3.9 billion a year over the odds for their energy. Meanwhile, the annual profit made by the UK’s big energy firms rose by 73 percent in the three years to 2012.

The Guardian ’s environmental blogger, Damian Carrington, also pointed out: “Coalition policies to deliver new generation capacity will remain unchanged, which means the government will guarantee the price energy companies will be paid for 30-40 years. That’s an extraordinarily good investment in an uncertain world.”

In other words, while complaining about frozen prices for customers, corporations are more than happy with decades of frozen prices for themselves. This is a ruling elite that will not accept a few crumbs being tossed to working people, even if such a move is intended to help them keep plundering the economy for their personal enrichment. Max Hastings summed up their attitude in the Daily Mail, when answering Miliband’s rhetorical question as to whether it was satisfactory for “a country to be working harder and longer for less?”  The “fact is”, Hastings stated, “all Western societies must do exactly that.” Any politician who pretends that this can be avoided by “loading more tax on banks and millionaires, is either a fool or a liar,” he wrote.

The angry response to Miliband’s feeble attempt to gain some popularity testifies to the total grip of the major corporations and the super-rich over the entire political system. Absolutely nothing must be allowed to infringe on their interests and wealth. Even while billions of state funds are given over to maintaining their obscene lifestyles, the financial oligarchy openly declares that the maintenance of their system depends upon destroying the living standards of the mass of the population.

The continued existence of this parasitic layer is incompatible with the needs of society. But as events of the last days have underscored, its economic stranglehold will not be broken by appeals to its non-existent conscience, much less by its political lackeys in the moribund Labour Party.

It can only be achieved through the mobilisation of the working class in a revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist profit system, and the fight for a workers’ government based on socialist policies.The VOAG is watching, the VOAG is everywhere!

Save Our Schools – Academies Are Asset Stripping Our Schools.

Mumsnet.com, May, 2013
Before the election councils in England held the title deeds to schools and land valued at over £2.5bn. But most people don’t know the very fine print of the academies bill and what it means. 

1. The title deeds of the school and the land are transferred to a private company when the school becomes an academy.

2. Michael Gove borrows £25,000 to pay the legal fees for the private companies to ensure the title deeds are transferred from the council (us taxpayers who paid to build the schools) – to these private companies).

So far £1billion of title deeds for schools has been transferred from taxpayers – with Michael Gove increasing the deficit by £481,750,000 – just for legal fees to transfer ownership of the schools from councils to private companies.

So who has the title deeds now:
Tory party member Philip Harris has his hands on £millions worth of title deeds. Philip Harris made donations to David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party. He is considered to be one of his personal friends.

Stanley Fink, another friend of Cameron has donated £2.62m to the Conservative Party. David Cameron made Fink a Lord as soon as he came to power, and has since made him Tory Party Treasurer and handed his company £millions title deeds for schools.

And today David Cameron has told us, as well as changing the law to transfer state assets to Tory Party members (and I thought only China did that) – now he is changing the laws to allow them to start selling the Land.

Just so you know – Stanley Fink – his company states in their accounts – any extra money – his company has a policy to transfer the funds to the Cayman Islands – via stockbrokers that Stanley Fink just happens to be on the board of.

Now if I remember correctly the directors of southern cross did the same thing with care homes – selling them off – the money disappears offshore, the company goes bust and pensioners are left high and dry (with taxpayers expected to step in).

Well Cameron has just announced Tory Party members who have their hands on the title deeds for our schools and school land can start doing the same thing. And just to be clear – Stanley Fink’s company accounts for the schools also state – if Stanley Fink’s company controlling the schools, the school budgets and the title deeds goes bust – Stanley Fink (Tory Party treasurer on the Times rich list) only has to pay £10.

Academies are not about education, they are about asset stripping, and parents and children will find (just like the pensioners who were left without facilities due to the directors of Southern Cross) private companies selling off the assets and disappearing in to the sunset.

Do Michael Gove and David Cameron shout from the rooftops that they are spending £25,000 per school to cover legal fees to transfer the title deeds to Tory Party members – no I wonder why not. – Could it be they don’t want parents to know the real intentions of the academies bill? It’s not about education, it’s about asset stripping by Tory Party members – thanks to David Cameron, Michael Gove, every Tory MP and every Liberal MP.

These are your schools – they do not belong to the Tory Party (well they do now). Ask Michael Gove if your council gets the money when they sell off school land. Ask Stanley Fink (ARK SCHOOLS) – will this Tory Party treasurer be selling playing fields and as his accounts state, the money be transferred to the Cayman Islands (with his stockbrokers taking a cut along the way). Serious questions – £1bn worth of assets stripped – £half billion in legal fees to pay for it (which we the taxpayers must pay back as Gove had to borrow the money).

A study of ARK accounts for the 8 schools they controlled in 2010 showed Stanley Fink and the other directors of Ark Schools under spent the education budget by 7%. The money that Stanley Fink was given to educate children which he chose not to spend, went to the Cayman Islands via his stockbrokers – to the Ark Cayman Island Fund. In its 2010 accounts Ark reported an operational surplus of £1.8 million, and in 2009 it was £3.6 million.

We paid for our schools and paid for the land. Stanley Fink did not pay 1 penny for any of the schools he holds the title deeds for. Stanley Fink did not pay 1 penny for the playing fields he is now selling. Just because Cameron and Gove changed the law does not make it legal or right. If Parents don’t stand up now and demand these schools are transferred back to councils, like Southern Cross, there will have no schools and no land.

And who is Stanley Fink selling the land to and how much for? Where does the money go? Schools are not assets for stripping – schools are there to educate. But David Cameron, Philip Harris and Stanley Fink all believe it’s not education – its assets for selling.

Save our schools – save our school land – demand the title deeds back into the safe hands of councils – after all they ran schools for years without selling the land, and the title deeds were kept in trust for you. And councils have never transferred education funds to the Cayman Islands via Stockbrokers they own, which is exactly why only democratically elected; accountable councillors can be trusted with the title deeds for our schools.Visit Guildford Against Fees And Cuts on Facebook

Voag-Logo-9After a year of silence The VOAG is back!

Bringing news and scurrilous stories

from Surrey and Beyond.

Campaigning for a better society.

&

Supporting

Surrey United Anti Capitalists
Save Our Services In Surrey
Socialist Fight Group

 Join The VOAG Facebook group to join the discussion or leave comments

Surrey County Council Health Committee Tory Councillor, John Butcher: “Force seriously ill people out of Surrey to push up house prices”

From Political Scrapbook blog -June 1st, 2012.
A Tory councillor on Surrey’s health committee has called for seriously ill people to be forced out of the county. John Butcher has suggested those with “self-inflicted morbidity” should be “encouraged” to “move away from Surrey” – in the name of pushing up house prices.

Butcher wants groups such as smokers —  referred to as the “self-inflicted” — to be offered slower NHS treatment so that they will be forced to move: “This factor would attract more ‘other’ patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more sick, he ventures that this would benefit the Tories in elections: “any political party that seeks to pander to the needs of the self-inflicted unhealthy, and to win their votes, will suffer twofold … mortality will ensure that its voters will be much fewer in number than the ‘others’”

 Councillor Butcher’s email, which went round Surrey Council like wildfire before being leaked, is reproduced in full below:

1 Please pass on my apology for absence from the Surrey HOSC meeting on 24 May 2012, but I have a hospital appointment that day, and it has already been postponed once.

2 Because of the economic catastrophe facing the capitalist world, the NHS, that is a Marxist organisation, is bound to fail – like Greece.

The government’s efforts to ‘improve’ it are merely a postponement of that failure, which will arise from ever-increasing demand for, and the unit costs of, healthcare and the ever-decreasing national wealth available to afford those demands and costs, through taxation or otherwise.

Politicians who support the diversion of increasingly scarce fiscal resources into propping up the NHS, without taking measures to curb demand, not only accelerate its eventual demise but allow more important demands on the public purse to go unmet, with serious adverse consequences to the people. It will be the people who suffer from the collapse of the NHS – but they will have only themselves to blame – for voting in politicians who promise to improve the NHS regardless of other factors.

3 One way of saving the NHS is to encourage patients to take very much more care of themselves, with penalties on those who won’t do that. If the NHS in Surrey were to be run on the basis that patients with self-inflicted morbidity (mainly – smoking, alcohol, narcotics, obesity) and injury (dangerous activities) are, following due warning, placed in a much slower-moving queue for healthcare than ‘other’ patients, this would encourage the self-inflicted to move away from Surrey, to areas where there is no differentiation between patients on the grounds of their contribution towards their condition.

And it would deter the self-inflicted from coming to live in Surrey. Over time, that would result in the healthcare for the ‘other’ patients in Surrey being significantly better than the average national level for all patients, as the resources deployed to the self-inflicted would be very much reduced.

This factor would attract more ‘other’ patients to come to live in Surrey – and that would push up house prices here – assuming that planning controls remain similar to now.

4 Eventually the self-inflicted patients would end up living in ‘equality’ areas that are dominated by politicians who pander to their needs, thus driving more ‘other’ patients out of those areas, as healthcare there will be badly affected by the over-dominance of the self-inflicted.

These ‘other’ patients would move into areas, such as, hopefully, Surrey, where ‘other’ patients are not nearly so adversely affected. Eventually the country will be sharply divided into two types of area:

4.1 the ‘equality’ ones, where the self-inflicted unhealthy are treated the same as all patients, and 4.2 the ‘others’, such as, hopefully, Surrey.

Average life expectancy will be substantially lower (by, say, 20 years) in the ‘equality’ areas than in the ‘others’. This may mean that ‘other’ patients moving out of ‘equality’ areas may have to live in a less desirable dwelling, because of house price differentials, but that is a trade-off, that they can choose, with healthcare differentials between the two types of area.

Such house price differentials already apply for schooling, with houses on one side of a catchment boundary being worth a lot more than houses on the other side of it.

Indeed, the perception that the gap in those prices between those two types of healthcare area will grow substantially will encourage the ‘other’ patients in those ‘equality’ areas to move out of them sooner, lest they see their dwelling there becoming worthless.

5 Thus, any political party that seeks to pander to the needs of the self-inflicted unhealthy, and to win their votes, will suffer twofold:

5.1 mortality will ensure that its voters will be much fewer in number than the ‘others’, and

5.2 by concentrating its voters into particular areas, that party will never be able to win enough seats to dominate Parliament.
Regards John Butcher.
18 Bramble Rise
Cobham
Surrey
KT11 2HP
jvcbutcher@btinternet.com
Tel: 07899 891685

A Marxist Critique of
“A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”

A Marxist Critique of “A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”
Reply by Gerry Downing to Steve Ballard’s “A Scientific Critique of Unscientific Marxism”

Gerald Downing, Editor Socialist Fight.  2012
This short document is a synopsis of a much longer one by Steve. However in neither document does he use actual quotations from Marx and Engels. He makes assertions that they ‘recognised’ this, they ‘hypothesised’ they ‘elaborated’, etc. but makes no attempt to prove these assertions. Supplying an academic apparatus would make his “scientific critique” far more scientific. His original text is in bold in quotation marks and this is followed by my reply.

Steve Ballard writes: “Marx and Engels were the first to recognise how:- The essence of capitalism is a system oflaws, created by dynastic owners of surplus property, which ranks their self-aggrandisement above all other socialobligations, including the obligation to nurture all life, human and otherwise.”

The essence of capitalism is not a “system of laws” but, in common with all forms of class society, the private ownership of the means of production. Wealth is privately owned under capitalism but socially produced. The conflict this creates between capital and labour, the means of production and the social relations of production is the class struggle and according to the first sentence of the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing (class) society is the history of class struggles”

Already we are on the wrong idealist track, Capitalism rests not on a “system of laws” but on this objective relationship, independent of will and consciousness. We might  therefore acknowledge that whilst Marx and Engels regarded “historical processes as law-governed processes” these laws are derived from a study of the evolution of capitalism and are the laws of Historical Materialism.

It is the task of the revolutionary party to make this historical processes a conscious process, we must become the “conscious expression of the unconscious historical process” (Trotsky, My Life). “Marx determined that the concealed essence of capitalism could be found in its history, and that this essence and history were then preserved in disguise within its existing institutions and beliefs. History thus was the entry point for the study of capitalism. This is the materialist interpretation of history, based on the view that what gives history its meaning is material life, meaning economic forces. From this standpoint, Marx was studying classical political economy, but the method he selected is what married this study to Hegelian philosophy. The dialectical element, derived from Hegel, emerged from the realization that there is extreme tension caused by the unequal relations between the superior and inferior classes within society. The main driving force of historical change is thus seen to be the class struggle, and this is associated with a dialectical view because it reveals a contradiction located within all modes of production, a contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production.”(Marx on Historical Change & Capitalism) http://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1702624.html)

We really do not know what “surplus property”, might be, the expression is found nowhere in Marx or Marxism and can only refer to a reformist notion that the rich have too much property and we should take some of it off them because they do not need it all. This is in line with the current thinking that if only we could retrieve the bankers’ bonuses and invest that all would be well with the capitalist economy. Such notions are pushed by the SWP and the World to Win in their LEAP stuff for John McDonald and the Labour Representation Committee. Feldman performed a like service for Ken Livingstone in his WRP days. There is, of course, “surplus value”, an entirely different concept which forms the bedrock of Marx’s study of Capital.

And really the notion that the owners of this supposed “surplus property” are very nasty  and irresponsible beasts which, “ranks their self-aggrandisement above all other social obligations” and could not give a hoot for their “obligation to nurture all life, human and otherwise” is simply another reformist moralist gripe about the nastiness of the ruling class. And anyway some of them do give a stuff; that nice Mr Gates gives away untold millions to help the poor, surely  he takes his “social obligations” seriously? Even if that is true that he does he is, of course, amongst the foremost defender of the system that starves a great proportion of humanity materially and whilst the world obviously has the capacity to feed, cloth, give proper healthcare, education, etc. to every individual on the planet. But that capitalism can never do, with the best will in the world.

But here we really need to go into some detail about the effects this private ownership of the means of production has on humanity in general; the details of how these social relations distorts and deforms the human psyche of the whole of humanity (including the capitalists) via the four forms of alienation analysed by Karl Marx’s in his Theory of Alienation:

(1)There is the alienation of the worker from the work s/he produces, from the product of his/her labour. The product’s design and the manner in which it is produced are determined not by its actual producers, nor even by those who consume the products, but rather by the capitalist class, which appropriates labour – including that of designers and engineers – and seeks to shape consumers’ taste in order to maximize profit.

(2) This is coupled with the alienation of the worker from working, from the act of producing itself. This kind of alienation refers to the patterning of work in the capitalist means of production into an endless sequence of discrete, repetitive, trivial, and meaningless motions, offering little, if any, intrinsic satisfaction.

(3) There is the alienation of the worker from himself as a producer, from his or her “species being” or “essence as a species”. To Marx, this human essence is not separate from activity or work, nor static, but includes the innate potential to develop as a human organism.

(4) Alienation of the worker from other workers or producers. Capitalism reduces labour to a commercial commodity to be traded on the market, rather than a social relationship between people involved in a common effort for survival or betterment. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/Marxism.htm)

“Alienation (which) describes the separation of things that naturally belong together; and the placement of antagonism between things that are properly in harmony…Alienation (Entfremdung) is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society, because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his and her humanity… Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realised human being, as an economic entity, he or she is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, in order to extract from the worker the maximal amount of surplus value, in the course of business competition among industrialists.”(Marx’s theory of alienation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx%27s_theory_of_alienation, Wiki – our numbering)

“The capitalist system of secular laws must eventually overwhelm all pre-capitalist systems of religious laws, because of capitalism’s façade of freedom, its semblance of scientific neutrality and objectivity. Capitalism’s self-perpetuating, self-serving, quasi-scientific ideology of ‘survival of the fittest’ obscures the underlying oppression of whole populations, by owners of the greatest amount of surplus property, with complete disregard for the needs of any life that does not serve their self aggrandisement, human and otherwise”.

“Religious doctrinal laws oblige whole populations, including their most self-aggrandising clans, to nurture all life, human and otherwise, however imperfectly and inequitably; capitalism’s state-enforced repudiation of the socially-necessary obligation to nurture all life (a consequence of science’s repudiation of religion), must eventually cause the disintegration of all societies, pending the development of scientific socialism.”

Here again the problem is posed as if it was ideological and even on this level it is wrong. Only in a very few historical instances were whole societies governed totally by religious laws; Israel and Judea in Roman times, the reign of Mohamed, etc. Even the old Islamic Empire of the Ottoman Turks and modern Islamic Republics like Iran are mixtures of secular and Sharia laws. Already by the early Middle Ages conflict between church and state saw increasing secularisation of the state. And this was a progressive thing, an inevitable step in the preparation of society for the socialist revolution and the taking of power by the working class and so to the abolition of all classes. “Religious doctrinal laws oblige whole populations, including their most self-aggrandising clans, to nurture all life, human and otherwise, however imperfectly and inequitably;” seems to suggest that the development of
capitalism was reactionary and not progressive, this is surely a reference to noblesse oblige, a mere hypocritical principle to justify the jus primae noctis etc. And again we really do not know what “pending the development of scientific socialism” means if it does not signify some vague ‘raising of consciousness’ project and not the socialist revolution.

Look at how Christopher Hill describes this transformation in his great analysis of the intellectual and ideological conflicts that took place in the approach, during and after the English Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down (p242-3)

“One of the fascinating problems in the intellectual history of seventeenth-century England is the collapse of Calvinism. It was as though it had performed its historic task with the establishment of a society in which the protestant ethic prevailed. Before 1640 Calvinism had been attacked from the right by sacramentalist Laudians;[1] during the Revolution it was attacked by rationalist Arminians[2] of the left – John Goodwin, Milton, Quakers. Presbyterian discipline was unpopular both with the ungodly lower classes and with upper class anti-clericals. More serious, Calvinism had proved unable to sustain its defences against Antinomianism.[3] So long as the elect were respectable bourgeois Puritans, their sense of freedom through cooperation with God brought no fundamental danger to the social order. But it was impossible, once discipline brisk down, to decide who the elect were. The radicals rejected as hypocrites those Puritans whose faith did not result in works of love. Artisan Fifth Monarchists[4] proclaimed that they were the saints who should rule. Mechanick preachers and lower-class Quakers[5] were convinced that the Holy Spirit was within them. Some Ranters preached a dionysiac Antinomianism that would have subverted all the moral standards of a propertied society”.

Failure to agree who the elect were drove the men of property back to works — by their fruits ye shall know them. Standards and norms of conduct could be established and enforced by lay J.P.s with no danger of a clerical Presbyterian discipline. This was a very different theology of works from that of Catholics or Laudians; it was non-sacramental, in no “dependent on a mediating priesthood. It avoided both types of clericalism. And the sects themselves, once they had accepted the world and the sinfulness of man, cooperated in enforcing a morality of works on their members. We are all so Arminians now that it requires a great imaginative effort think oneself back into the pre-revolutionary society which Calvinism dominated.

The Catholic counter-reformation at the Council of Trent (1545–1563) decreed that an excerpt from the Gospel according to St John which begins; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” be read out in the vernacular (the only part that the mass of ‘the  common people’ could understand, the rest was unintelligible Latin and Greek until the 1960s) in all churches. It was very important for organised reaction to counter the rising materialist ideology which put men above God and welfare above that of the church.

In the Enlightenment it fell to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to demolish this idealistic reaction in the words of Faust: “This is how ’tis written: “In the beginning was the Word! Here now I’m balked! Who’ll put me in accord? It is impossible, the Word so high to prize, I must translate it otherwise If I am rightly by the Spirit taught. ’Tis written: In the beginning was the Thought! Consider well that line, the first you see, That your pen may not write too hastily! Is it then Thought that works, creative, hour by hour? Thus should it stand: In the beginning was the Power! Yet even while I write this word, I falter, for something warns me, this too I shall alter. The Spirit’s helping me! I see now what I need and write assured: In the beginning was the Deed!”  Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

All serious Marxists side unequivocally with Goethe, it is not “thought works, creative, hour by hour” but thought-driven practice, it was not the “battle of ideas” that determined the outcome of the great British miners’ strike of 1984-5 but the Battle of Orgrieve, which they lost. “Marx and Engels hypothesised that the only means to overcome the quasi-scientific ideology of capitalism would be science ­— the deeper and wider understanding of the unity and interdependence of all life, human and otherwise. They characterised their approach as scientific socialism to distinguish it from democratic or ‘utopian’ socialism, which disregards the particular significance of science’s discipline and methodology in the development of society.”

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Marx’s theory of alienation would refute this sentence. Marx never saw the objective as simply the raising of consciousness and enlightenment. We are revolutionaries because bourgeois ideology is constantly re-imposed on the consciousness of the working class by the social relations of production all workers are forced to enter into in order to make their living. They must sell their labour power to the capitalist; they must subordinate their will to the capitalist in a humiliating relationship as explained by Marx:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters.

The VOAG joined the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group for a demonstration outside Kingston Council’s Budget meeting at the Guildhall, Wednesday, 29th February.

 The council approved cuts of over £8.6million with another £4.4million planned for next year and a further £12 million the year after. They follow cuts of over £15million last year.

Kingston Council has already made a 100 redundancies, cuts to  children’s services and £1.4million cuts to mental health facilities. At the same time the council has spent £20,000 on car park “rebranding”. A further 600 jobs are to be lost at Kingston hospital, together with £6million cuts to adult social care and services for children with Special Educational Needs. Another £500,000 is to be cut from “One Kingston” projects.

Kingston TUC, the CWU and GMB unions, the Communist Party, Kingston Anti Cuts Group, Kingston SWP, the Socialist Party, Surrey Unison, the IWW and Kingston Labour Party were represented in the 60 strong demonstration.

The demonstration was joined by the Christian Peoples Alliance, who held a candle-lit vigil and said prayers for “those less fortunate than themselves” (us), before taking off in their brand new cars.

As the Tory and Lib-Dem councillors arrived for the meeting, they were met with chants directed at the Tory council leader: “Derek Osbourne get out, we know what you’re all about- cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”. Campaigners also shouted “Save our services- stop the cuts!” and gave out leaflets to passers-by.

Kit Leary from Surrey County Unison gave a spontaneous speech to the demonstration assembled on the steps of the Guildhall, he said: “With all these job losses, it’s a time when we need our public services more than ever.” When the meeting was due to start the campaigners joined the councillors in the warmth of the Guildhall.One fat balding Tory, councillor Priyen Patel, spoke of the council becoming a “commissioning council”. This is Tory speak for privatising services, where-by public services, presently provided direct by the council, are bought, or commissioned from private companies who profiteer from the tax-payer. He spoke of boosting charities rather than providing services.

Campaigners and residents in the public gallery were outraged. They shouted “They’re not ‘savings’ they’re CUTS, call them what they are” and chanted “Shame on you!”. The mayor Councillor Patrick Codd was forced to adjourn the meeting whilst half the public gallery were escorted out of the meeting under a threat of arrest. They chanted “shame on you” and “why don’t you stand up for the people you represent?” Some of the protesters broke away from their escort to run back into the meeting via another door to continue their berating.

The demonstration attracted a very positive reaction in the local press and won some great publicity for the Kingston Anti Cuts campaign. Once again the Super-Swappies (SWP) of Kingston, who organised the event, show the rest of us how it’s done. Some of those present asked after the South London Anti Capitalists and wondered why they hadn’t come out to support the demonstration. Well, the VOAG thinks the clue is in the acronym.

The VOAG (Voice Of Anti-Capitalism in Guildford) joined the Kingston SWP for a  demonstration against Workfare. Kingston Town Centre, February 22nd, 2012.

Below is a quick Powerpoint report on the evenings events together with a few pictures.
Please click on the picture below.For more on this story, click: https://suacs.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/workfare-demo-kingston/

The next National Day Of Action aginst Workfare will be on Saturday, March 3rd. Protest outside BHS, Oxford Street from 11.30.  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

For more about Workfare and tips on how to avoid being trapped in to it by the Job Center, go to  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

Tesco is boosting it’s £4 billion profits by using the slave labour provided by the Government’s ‘Workfare’ schemes. Take the fight against Tesco into the streets of Kingston on the National Day of Action against Tesco. Wednesday, 22nd, February. 5:30pm until 6:30pm, Kingston Station

From Corporate Watch
The campaign against workfare has claimed some major successes over the last month, with Sainsburys, Waterstones and TK Maxx bowing to pressure and pulling out of some (though not all) of the government’s workfare programmes. Other companies now face a dilemma: do they also withdraw to avoid further bad publicity, or do they continue to enjoy the free labour that workfare brings? Corporate Watch finds the benefits of workfare for retailers such as Asda and Argos make it difficult to say no to.

Over the Christmas period for example, the government’s eagerness to send unemployed people on unpaid placements meant stores did not need to go to the trouble of hiring and paying temporary workers as they would normally. Joe Wilson, a 21 year old on Jobseekers Allowance, worked a four-day week, unpaid, for six weeks from the middle of November at the Asda superstore in Harrogate, Yorkshire.He told Corporate Watch: “There were about 15 of us on placements. The manager said they had overspent on stocking Christmas stuff so they’d got people in on placements [to save money]. The paid staff told us they were being asked to leave before they’d ended their shift as we could do the work. I worked Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. They arranged it so everyone came in those days.”

 His Jobcentre had said that if he didn’t attend the placement his benefits could be stopped: “The Jobcentre had got a group of us in for CV writing training. It was really obvious stuff – don’t use a crayon and so on. When we were there they said some people had come to speak to us about a work experience programme. Then a few days later I got a letter saying that, as I’d expressed an interest they’d be organising a work placement. The letter said if I didn’t go they’d stop my JSA. I’d never said I wanted to do a placement in Asda.”

A spokesperson at Asda’s head office told Corporate Watch that the company hadn’t received any reports of workfare placements replacing paid staff and they would “investigate further,” adding the placements were “not designed to substitute colleague roles”. Despite several follow-up calls and emails, we have not heard anything since.

Argos: discount products, discount labour
A claimant in Bristol told Corporate Watch how paid Christmas work in the Argos store in the Galleries shopping centre disappeared when the company realised it could get people in for nothing on workfare placements. ‘Jason’, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Seetec, the ‘provider’ company that he was sent to by the Jobcentre, had arranged an interview for him and 13 others for temporary work. They were not hired because the store instead took people on unpaid placements organised by Prospect, another employment provider company, which ironically has its Bristol office in the same building as Seetec.

Argos told Corporate Watch that its stores had “liaised over our peak Christmas trading period with local job centres to offer working opportunities to job seekers through initiatives called work placements or work trial”. The retailer went on to say it is currently assessing whether its trials over the Christmas period will continue and that it “endeavoured to offer permanent roles to young people” after the placements. Corporate Watch asked how many permanent roles had been offered but we have not received a reply. Prospect did not reply to any of our enquiries.

You’re supposed to find me a job, not turn me into a slave!
Workfare does not only replace paid work at Christmas. ‘Chris’ was sent to do a three month placement in Booker Wholesale in Bath. He told Corporate Watch that when the placement commenced the manager said that if he worked hard he would get a job, but he soon found out that this was unlikely:

“I asked the manager about jobs and he said: ‘keep working as you are and you will be fine’. The turning point came for me about two months in, when two part-time employees were laid off for stealing some alcohol. I thought there would be a job for me but they hired the brother of an employee already working there. I went to see the manager and he said that there were no positions. He suggested I could continue doing four days a week unpaid. I left in disgust and took my last two days off. They had the nerve to say: ‘what if we are counting on you to be there?’ Then hire me! You’re supposed to help me find a job, not turn me into a slave.”

Paid employment ‘unlikely’
Workfare is becoming such a popular way for retailers to staff their stores that they are finding it hard to keep count of how many workfare staff they have. A spokesperson for entertainment retailer HMV told Corporate Watch its placements are organised on “a more localised basis” so it is difficult to “fully track all the placements in place across the chain at any one time.” But at least the company is less coy than Argos and Booker about the likelihood these placements will lead to paid work, admitting: “it’s unlikely that [a] large number will go on to achieve full time paid employment with the company.”

Have you been sent on an unpaid work placement or do you know someone who has? Contact Corporate Watch on 02074260005 or contact corporatewatch.org

National Day of Action against Tesco.
Wednesday 22nd, February
5:30pm until 6:30pm Kingston Station
Wood Street, KT1 1TG London, United Kingdom

Victory To The Sparks!!! –
Balfour withdraws ‘Sign Or Be Sacked’ contracts!

From Union News: 17th February, 2011

In a major breakthrough, Unite has announced that Balfour Beatty has withdrawn the self-declared BESNA contracts at the centre of a 7-month dispute which has brought chaos to industrial relations across the construction industry.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services was regarded by Unite as the ring-leader of a group of seven firms seeking to impose new contracts on thousands of sparks, plumbers and other engineers which they said would have substantially eroded skills required for new workers coming into the industry and enforced cuts in pay and allowances of up to 35% for the existing workforce.

The withdrawal of the contracts follows talks between Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey and Balfour Beatty’s chief executive officer Mike Peasland. Unite says the negotiations will be followed by further high level talks to secure members’ livelihoods and the stability of the industry.

It comes after Balfour Beatty lost a High Court action yesterday seeking an injunction to prevent strike action at the company. (You can read our detailed analysis of the judgement here)

Unite is calling on the other six firms to follow the lead of the main player Balfour Beatty and withdraw the contracts and the threat of dismissal.

Welcoming the news, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: “Balfour Beatty’s decision to withdraw these contracts, the threat of dismissal and to enter high level talks is a welcome move.

“Not only is it a victory for common sense, but it is testament to the resolve of hard-working construction workers who have stood shoulder to shoulder to defend their livelihoods.

“Continuing to impose these contracts would have resulted in a race to the bottom that would have been bad for the industry. We expect the other six construction firms to see sense and follow Balfour Beatty’s lead in talking seriously about securing livelihoods and bringing stability to the industry.”

In a message to supporters, one of the leading rank and file organisers of workplace protests against the contracts, Steve Kelly of the London Construction Branch, said: “You are all working class heroes. Well done to one and all.”

Dozens of Unite electricians had already handed back unsigned, the letters they had received demanding they accept the new contracts.   More on this story at:  Union News.co.uk