County Council: Death By A Thousand Cuts

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Lingchi was an an ancient Chinese torture method which is more widely known in the west as death by a thousand cuts, a torture method this council seems to have adopted as its model for local government policy.

Make no mistake that sooner or later people will die because of the butchering of our local services, make no mistake that people are already suffering under the brunt of the county councils new torture regime.

This is an ideological restructuring of local government, the Tories have already committed themselves to destroying the state on a national level, and now their cronies at a local level are going full steam ahead with this ideological mission in their destruction of local services.

Removing lifelines for some and completely changing the face of our local services, is of course spruced up with fancy words like “efficiency savings” but regardless of what words they use to make these cuts more palatable it will never disguise them from the cold hard reality, and when reality bites believe me people will be angry.

Earlier this year the County Council agreed to outsource all its services, and now it is going to be cutting a further £77 million from its budget, no doubt they love to gamble with the future of our town, sadly the only losers in this will be us, the people of Northampton.

As it was reported the budget “Proposals include a reduction in children’s centre services, a reduction in funds for the fire service and highways maintenance, a cut in the subsidies given to the bus services, the cessation of Nourish school meals service and decommissioning two care homes run by Olympus Care Services.”

Just how much more do they think the people can take? Just how much more of this burden do we have to shoulder? We were never responsible for the recession, yet time and again we are the ones footing the bill.

These cuts, like the cuts at national level are being billed as the only way, that there is no alternative, but this is pure political posturing, there is always an alternative. When these cuts continue to hammer home just keep one thing in mind, there is but one group of people to blame for them; The Conservative Party.

We are now locked into a race to the bottom, and who knows where it will end? No support for young people, no care for the elderly? Just how far are they willing to fall, and how much suffering are we going to have to endure?

Instead of a council with a commitment to slash and burn, how great would it be to have a council committed to helping the people? To homing the homeless, to protecting those that need it, to investing in the future of the town.

Because that is the alternative, investment, investing in the future instead of planting the seeds of this towns suffering, creating revenue outside of tax. We are expected to believe that outsourcing and businesses (which we will be paying to carry out these services), will be more efficient.

Well why is that the case? Instead of throwing money at private companies (making them very rich), surely the brilliant minds in government can operate these things as good, if not better. Instead of them being operated for the profit of private companies they should and could be operated for the improvement of the town, for the benefit of the people.

The governments in post war Britain recognised this, that is how they dug their way out of a 200% deficit, through investment, through public ownership, and ultimately through a commitment to helping people, instead of cutting them piece meal.

Just how much more can the council take? How much more can we take?

What are your views on the cuts? Are you afraid of the future? Let me know in the comments.

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What are we hoping for?

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What are we building? What are we fighting for? I’m no longer sure. It seems to me that the left has become the most complex and convoluted system for lobbying the government that has ever existed.

While communities have come under prolonged and sustained attack, completely ripped apart for generations now, it looks to me that we are arguing over what kind of biscuits to bring to the revolution, and lets not get started on the tea, or we will be here till tea time.

Where is the vision? The ambition? The hope and the passion? Where is the strategy in acting as a glorified lobby group?

This week we witnessed the Greek people vote oxi (no to me and you) to austerity, and from the response you would think they had just smashed the capitalist hegemony of the globe. I think it is great that they did mind you but I don’t want to look for Greece to hope, I want to look to the left in the UK to provide my people with hope.

What are we doing? Arguing over austerity and like Canute trying to turn back the tide, or in our case convince the Tory party or the Labour party to change course? To take pity on us poor peasants and allow us to have a little bit more of the harvest next year? Or to find a heart and stop sending us to our deaths with a stroke of their pens?

In the meantime how insignificant are the left becoming? Take Left Unity for example, the party I am involved with – it is trying to emulate and act like a traditional party. Like it stands any chance of beating these guys at their own game, like it is in any position to even contemplate taking them on at their own game.

If Left Unity is to survive it needs to stop trying to be a traditional party, it needs to rip apart the rule book on what a political party is, and create something new, something new and inspiring that the people of the country can believe in and get behind!

All I am seeing is more of the same, and more of the same has got us into this mess in the first place. We know the fight to change society and the face of this country is a long one, but what are we doing to bring about that goal? A campaign here, a petition there and a march on the odd occasion.

Yes these things sometimes do have the desired effect, our masters change their course and we gain a small victory with which we may build something a little better or bigger in the future. Or people pack their things up and go home, it is all the same.

We have been operating that way for generations, and it clearly is not hitting the mark anymore. It may have had an effect in the 20th century, but we are not in the 20th century anymore. We need to adapt, we need to grow and we need to stop flogging a dead horse.

I do not have all the answers, I do not even know all the problems but please just try to think outside the box, stop trying to do what you’ve always done because it is what you’ve always done. We need to change, we need to stop pushing blame onto everything else and accept our responsibility in the downfall of the left.

We need to take stock of where we are, re-evaluate where we want to be and actually come up with something worth while. I don’t want to be in a focus group, I do not want to just be a lobbyist to whatever overlord we have that year. I want to be part of something fresh and new, new not just in name but in structure, outlook, strategy – something we can actually call revolutionary.

By revolutionary I am not saying we take out the pitch forks and storm Buckingham Palace, but something the left have completely lost the ability to do and that is talk to people on a level, talk with people, not down to them, not preaching to them but with them.

By revolutionary I’m talking about our outlook, how we conduct ourselves, what we consider to be political action. This linear form of politics is getting us no where, it isn’t even fit for this day and age.

We can hold a rally of 250,000 people and you can all pat yourselves on the back and say that it is a movement now, but rallies don’t make movements, at a rally what are you doing? Standing still listening to someone tell you something. Then you can go home, you may have learnt something but what has changed in your community? Unless you live in London, not a damn deal.

We need to be building up resistance, we need to be building up networks and be engaged in activities which are empowering to communities and empowering to ourselves, this has to be creative and it has to be local.

All political activity and the voice of opposition against these unjust, unfair and immoral acts are great but what purpose are they serving in the long run? What are we doing outside and around that which truly is creating a movement, truly is doing something beneficial to the cause?

There is this hollow shell in the place of communities up and down the country, what are we doing to solve that problem? The left is a husk, it must be great for academics that love boring meetings and arguing the finer points of the events of the Russian revolution, but what else?

Surely there has to be more to what we are doing than this? Surely there is something we are missing? Otherwise, if this is all there is, if this is as good as it gets? We may as well pack our bags and give the revolution a miss, the weather will be shit and it’s not like it’s going to be on the tele anyway.

How long are we going to be defined by which punches the government are throwing at us and which ones we are quick enough to dodge? These negative reactive campaigns which are ultimately not providing hope, not creating positivity, not rolling out change within communities. I do not want to survive anymore, where the best I can hope for is if we manage to bloody the governments nose once in a while.

We need to build something, we need to create something, we need to thrive.

Left Unity and the election

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Let me start this blog by saying well done to everyone that had the courage and nerve to put themselves forward in local or national elections for Left Unity, while the results may have not reflected the hard work and dedication you showed, you deserve praise for having the balls to put your head above the parapet.

This article however is not going to be kind on Left Unity and its involvement in the elections, for they were an absolute disaster. Some of us within the party argue, albiet unsuccessfully at the folly of rushing into national and in some cases local election politics, when so much had yet to be achieved.

I personally argued for a local election focus, as if any network or fight back is going to be waged against this system, it will start at the bottom of communities.

Left Unity however first and foremost sought to be a social movement, it sought to ride the wave or if need be create the wave that would turn the tide in the battle for that which communities the length and breadth of the country hold dear.

Which is why many of us myself included, were distraught at the direction and turn Left Unity had started to take, it changed course dramatically and begun sailing straight towards the rocky waters of electoral politics without a care in the world for the direction of the political winds.

The forces of political nature were therefore harsh and unforgiving as socialists shamed themselves yet again in England in an utter massacre. As we rounded up to take part in our bi-decade self-flegellation that sees us humiliated and shamed.

This experiment has been an expensive failure, and a harsh lesson for Left Unity to learn, with members dropping out and abandoning us because of our performance, or in some cases the despair at not seeing the change and breath of fresh air we had hoped the party to be, materalise in any meaningful way.

What is done cannot be undone and it is how we seek to get out of the hole that we blindly and willingly dug ourselves into that will define the next five years for us.

How long will we keep doing the same old things and expecting fresh and new results? We want to build a successful party, we want to or at least I am fighting to improve communities because I don’t want people to starve, I don’t want people to be forced to live in shame, I don’t want my friends to go cold in the winter.

Yet I am dismayed at the complete and utter disconnect that the left keeps showing with the communities of this land, we keep doing failed and destructive methods and then hope or try to define and exclaim our failures as something else, we pass the buck without examining our own responsibility within those failures: That has to stop now.

I will tell you why we failed, we are not trusted – the people of the country don’t trust us, that can be for a million reasons, of course the mainstream media barrage against our ideas and figures is a major part but we ourselves have done little to earn their trust.

The London activist bubble, and hardened and great comrades up and down the country, many of whom I respect fo their services to the movement have got locked into a paradigm which is no longer beneficial to the left movement, the strategy no longer serves us. This can be seen in our falling power and popularity, and general standing – the trend is not good for the left.

Left Unity a party that is fighting for the many, fighting for the majority yet it is manned by a skeleton crew – why is that? Why are we irrelevant? in an age of such despair, why are we not a beacon of hope? Why are we not cutting through the forces of austerity with our sword of socialism? Why are people up and down the country not singing our praises as we stand shoulder to shoulder with them against the full brunt of this capitalist onslaught?

The common thread of community struggle, the glue that holds society together and creates an effective network for people to organise and resist attempts to attack and destroy the things we hold dear, has been eroded and destroyed over successive generations. Now we must work to rebuild these lost links and remember that which is being forgotten and lost.

Most importantly we have to earn the peoples trust and we are not going to do that with words, only with actions will the people be emboldened to fight, only through actions will people have the courage to stand against austerity and only in the fires of action will the weapons against this system be forged.

Another debate, another protest, another time – these methods do have their place, and must be used, they serve a purpose. We are not however doing what needs to be done around these, we need to get into communities and fight against austerity not with words but deeds!

Starving to death? Well people should know that Left Unity will not let you starve to death, it will feed your family – it will keep you alive. Freezing to death? Well people should know that Left Unity will not let you freeze because of a cold heartless government – it will keep you warm.

All we are hearing is words, we need to change the direction and outlook we have on what political activity means. We talk the talk, we talk tough – yet ultimately it falls on deaf ears because we are not walking their walk. You can talk about austerity from your heated home, your lovely three bedroom house, but to someone who has hunger in their belly, they want more than inspiring words.

There is merit in standing in elections, however we invested 18 or so thousands of pounds in our election effort, in a time when people are starving to death, thousands of people dying because of planned austerity measures, planned poverty – this investment should of gone on people, not polls.

We invested so much, for what return? What gain did we get on our investment? Very little. We could of showed solidarity with the people of this country, we could of begun a program to fight austerity in this country, instead we chose the tried and failed route of electoral politics first, and ultimately we are now going to pay the price – I only hope the price is not the most cruellest one to pay, that of our own demise.

Elections have their time and place, they serve a purpose – local elections are cost effective ways of campaigning and highlighting an issue within local communities and building links within local communities. Local must come first if we are to have any hope of achieving anything, it has to start at the bottom – we have to start at the bottom,.

Even if you go down the electoral strategy route, there was no strategic planning in placing candidates all over the place, diffusing our limited resources and isolating our many skirmishes and battles. If elections were a war, we spread our armies too thin and then paid the ultimate price – defeat.

There is hope for the future, there is hope for Left Unity but we have to get our priorities straight, we have to change – the left has to adapt and change to meet the current needs of the people. We need to be backing up our intellect with our actions, one without the other is meaningless.

In the end we need to not only say we want change, we need to display what change means, we need to showcase socialism, we need to put socialism into action, as the saying goes “socialism, the radical idea of sharing” – It is time socialism is taken to the streets!

One member one vote – but please vote our way.

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Left Unity a party that was built with internal democracy in mind, with yearly elections a prominent feature of how we hold the party to account. We operate a one member, one vote system, where ideally members are free agents to choose who they want representing them.

How turned off I have been then to see key groups within LU (no groups are recognised as a subset of LU, so these operate within LU unofficially) releasing list after list of who their members should vote for. It makes a mockery of our democracy, and is completely alien to the principals LU is trying to further within the workers movement, and the wider community.

The kind of politics I’ve started to witness forming around and within Left Unity this past year, is exactly what I joined LU to get away from. It was a breath of fresh air away from the sectarian ramblings of madmen, cultist despots and thought police.

It will be a sad day for LU, for the left and also the masses of working people that have been alienated by the left if anyone of these outside factions assumes control through majority representation on the NC, as we already know they vote the same, free debate and thought within the party would be finished, and as a result the party would be finished also.

Vote however YOU want, vote for what YOU believe yourself, vote for what YOU believe in – I don’t know kind of left politics you’re trying to build or be part of, but I’ll tell you what we don’t want, uniformity of thought, uniformity of process, – centralised control over how we should act. We joined LU to get away from these failed past models of thought control, and alienation.

Down with this democratic deficit, this undemocratic beast we have nurtured within the party and allowed to grow unchallenged, enough with this shit! Normal people unaffiliated to any of these vultures, without some kind of sectarian loyalty to this brand of socialism or the next, are going to be left behind, they’re already being pushed out.

What is socialism? What is the workers movement, what does it mean to be involved with left politics? What does it mean to you to be a member of the working class? I don’t need to look to someone for the answer, I don’t need to report to someone for “suggestions” – neither do I need to think about it, because I feel it in my gut, it is in my heart.

Some of these positions are representative, and I find it extremely difficult to understand how someone can truly represent sections of the party, if they being forced (coerced/softpower) to vote in a way which has no direct link to the people they are representing.

This is a problem that Left Unity needs to face up to and address, otherwise democracy within the party is a mockery, a thinly veiled facade and LU will fall even quicker into the abyss of failure, a train wreck and a failed experiment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to happen.

How angry we would of all been if the current EC or NC released a list telling people who they should vote for, what kind of party do we want to be involved with? Like the Grand Old Duke of York marching his men up and down the hill, how long are we going to be stuck doing the same things over and over again? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Lets face it the left has been a sinking ship for a long time now, with groups diminishing in size and capability, we can either bury our head in the sand and think everything is peachy fucking creamy, or we can look at ourselves, because we can spruce it up with fancy words and theories as to why the left is weakening, ultimately we are to blame for it, groups are to blame for it. We either change, adapt, advance and grow, or we are dead, and we have lost.

The most positive forces which have come to the fore in recent years haven’t come from the traditionally walked path, like the FocusE15 Mothers, there is a lot of hope and new ideas circulating not only in the UK but in the world, so lets end this stale politics of the past, it is time for a new kind of politics.

The path to unity is not paved with swords, the road to socialism is built upon the cooperation and friendship of the people.

Northampton Council Meeting of Contempt

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Northampton Borough Council has shown complete and utter contempt for the chamber, the position and most importantly the people of Northampton, as they spend their last full meeting before the elections patting themselves on the back and electioneering.

They seem to have forgotten the problems facing the administration, and will face up until the time of the election, they seem to have completely forgotten that their position is to represent the people that elected them.

I wish I could say this kind of behaviour shocked me, surprised me even but time and again they have ignored the concerns of residents, time and again they have ignored our views and warnings, and time and again they have put their own interests ahead of the people of Northampton.

Lets not forget how the Chron have played into the egoist fantasies of the council leader Mr.Mackintosh without a week going by when his face isn’t offending my computer screen. I could write endlessly listing the failures of this council, but everyone living in the town is already well aware of them.

They seem to be living in a different town to you and I, for among their many glowing achievements (which the council recognised) were the Northgate bus station, which has been a complete and utter disaster, causing untold amount of traffic delays, let alone the distress it has caused bus users and the general public.

Mary Markham even goes on to congratulate them all on how well they have done at combatting homelessness, even though figures released suggest homelessness has increased year on year during their control of the council.

The only shocking thing from the whole night is that the Labour group walked out in protest, finally an opposition – shame they are only four years too late. It would have been great if they had shown this kind of passion while we have had to put up this this lot.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://goo.gl/QR8kbq ]

Kindness doesn’t kill, cuts do!

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A campaign recently launched in Northampton called “Kill with Kindness” (yes that is its real name), has the aim of encouraging people not to be kind to homeless people.

It declares that homeless people are drunks and drug addicts and by giving them money you are therefore feeding their habits and killing them.

It declares that you should instead give your money to charity which has already been butchered in this county, maybe its time the council supported its services properly, so we didn’t have to prop them up!

This campaign is dehumanising, demonising and degrading and feeds into the myth that homeless people are to blame for their situation.

Not all homeless people are drunks, and not all of them are drug addicts and any campaign which starts off with this assumption is very insulting and damaging.

Instead of attacking the powerless, vulnerable and poor, they should run a campaign that tackles the root causes. Why not have a campaign called “help the homeless” or “home the homeless” – why run a campaign that sends the message that homeless are undeserving of kindness?

This campaign takes place within a backdrop of our county council butchering its services, meaning more adults are going to be vulnerable, and ultimately thrown on the scrapheap.

When are they going to tackle the underlying problems and come up with proper solutions to these problems? Homelessness, addiction – they take away our support network and then have the cheek to say we’re less than human (not worthy of kindness).

Social housing programs are few and far between not only in Northampton but the whole country, social enterprises and charities have had their funding cut and removed by local government, meaning less services and support for the homeless.

Homeless people are wait for it – people too. If a homeless person spends a couple of quid on alcohol, then who are we stop them? Would it be better if they drunk a bottle of wine a day?

What are the underlying causes of homelessness addiction? I don’t think the cause of these problems are created by the kindness of strangers, or by homeless people getting a few quid begging.

More than likely the causes of these problems relate to where they find themselves I.e on the streets, mental health related, there are a myriad of reasons why a homeless person may drink but one thing we can be certain of it definitely isn’t kindness that is killing them.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/local/shoppers-in-northampton-urged-not-to-give-money-to-beggars-in-the-town-centre-1-6600489%5D

Left Unity: Two steps forward, one step back.

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Left Unity’s internal elections are fast approaching, the yearly elections we have to stop the kind of cult worship, and long standing power-grabs that can and have existed in the past. I would encourage everyone to get actively involved, the more new people we can get standing for positions the better, but not only do we need to encourage those who are new to politics to get engaged, we need to support them – politics and especially the left can be quite a scary place.

While the officers have done some great things this past year, building a party is no easy task, there have been mistakes made, and there have been allegations thrown around. Words all too familiar to anyone that has been on the left for more than a day, undemocratic, Stalinist, conspiracies, you know how the list goes on and on.

I can’t help but think this is part of the internalised culture that exists within the left, a kind of internal paranoia, scepticism, and cynicism. Where every mistake is seen as an intentional act of power hungry megalomania, or when a certain decision doesn’t happen in the way we want it to, rather than the fault be within incompetence or political difference, it is calculated political manoeuvrings or subverting the will of the party.

I won’t be going into detail about each and every issue or allegation that has been hurled around this past year, instead I think all of us need to have a steadfast resolve in improving the parties infrastructure, to improving our internal democracy, transparency and accountability.

Some have abandoned Left Unity and wrote it off as a failure, which to me seems a bit short sighted when we haven’t even had our second election. The party is still being built, have we done everything right this past year? No. Are we a perfect organisation? No. The important thing is however, we can shape Left Unity, it is up to us what kind of party we are involved in.

Once the dust of the election settles there are definitely things that need to be looked at and improved, we need to look at how the party operates, how we communicate with one another, how we formulate policy and ultimately how we improve on the foundations and principles we were founded on.

The party system of old is dead, it doesn’t belong in the 21st century, it isn’t suited to the internet age, and we need to be looking at how the internal workings of Left Unity can be upgraded and incorporated so that every single member has the maximum amount of power.

The constitution was a start but that was it, a start, it wasn’t the end it was the beginning. We are not doing this in a vacuum, we can build on what has come before, we can look to how Syriza and how Podemos operate. I however don’t want to build a party like Podemos or like Syriza, I want to build a party like Left Unity, one that we can call our own.

So how do we do this? Left Unity needs to adopt direct democracy internally in the realms of decision making, I’ve already wrote a small piece on how we can improve conferences which will have a knock on effect. We need to be as open as we possibly can about as much as we can, we have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.

We really need to rip up the rule book of organisation, and try out radical new ways out engaging members, supporters and non-members alike. In the meantime however and of a matter of urgency we need to improve communication, when there is a lack of communication, people who make allegations have free reign on opinion, and in the age of the internet that means they can influence others, as information spreads so quickly now.

Members area of the websites needs to be improved to accommodate more information, as well as a way for members to interact with one another, at the moment the main area of communication across the whole of Left Unity nationally is an unofficial Facebook group, which had to get shut down once already, it is ridiculous.

Left Unity needs to step up to the plate and embrace the internet, just running with the website idea each member could have their own profile, there can be some form of internal message board where we can communicate with one another, there can be an official statement one for Left Unity to keep everyone up to date with what is going on, with disputes, problems, etc.

Mass Skype meetings? Email? Forums? Apps? Polls? There is literally an untold amount of ways we can communicate with one another and keep each other informed, there is no excuse in this day and age – we are not living in the dark ages.

The very structure of how Left Unity operates could easily fall into the trap of alienation of its core supporter by making them feel powerless and disengaged with the whole creative and informative process. Branches have a lot of power, but they are not being supported enough. How many effective and operational branches do we have? What steps are we taking to improve upon these?

The majority of the problems I alluded to earlier were directly caused because a lack of communication, so lets go back to the constitution and see how we can be more transparent, lets go back to the spirit of 45 and lets see what we can do to improve the party we founded, and that we are building here. The future is ours, we only need to grab it!