Fundraisers v Public Money for NHS

“Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim”…Clement Attlee

We love our NHS

The NHS is the ‘jewel in our crown’, our ‘national treasure’…. we love our NHS. In fact, we love it so much we’re pained to see it’s staff struggling to cope with the Covid19 outbreak.

Our hearts go out to the families who have lost their loved ones from this terrible illness, and to the NHS staff battling to save them, who sometimes have to make the most difficult decisions about treatment pathways laid down by NICE guidelines.

Understandably, talking about the NHS brings out our strongest emotions. Knowing that NHS staff and Social Care workers are not being provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in too many settings – hospitals, GP surgeries, Residential homes, ambulance crews, community nursing/caring, it brings out a natural response: we want to help.

Hence, there has been an explosion of fundraising activity on social media platforms. The biggest has been organised by NHS Charities Together:

As someone who has been a proactive campaigner in support of #OurNHS for three years, I fully understand the desire to help.

However…. Stop It! Our NHS Is Not A Charity

Be warned, you may find what you’re about to read controversial. I ask for your patience in reading all the way to the end. I might challenge your perceptions, but bear with me, I hope by the end you will have seen why I felt it was important to write this blog.

I’m going to set the historical context first. Then I’ll demonstrate how the context has impacted our NHS and why it’s in the position of needing help and support today. Next I will put forward the macroeconomic context, and finally I intend to show that Public Money should be the winner in a Fundraiser v Public Money for our NHS argument.

The NHS – brief historical context

NHS: the Early Years

In post war Britain 1948, the Labour government launched our National Health Service

A publicly owned, publicly run, and publicly delivered comprehensive *National* health service free at the point of need for all.

Birth to death….from the cradle to the grave.  Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, mind, limbs, internal organs, disease, infection…. Midwifery, District Nursing, Consultations, Tests, Treatments, Hospital stays, and Prescriptions were free.

Aneurin Bevan, Health minister at the time said:

Many governments have come and gone, making changes such as implementing prescription charges, centralizing and decentralizing the ambulance service, and in 1998 devolution had some impact….

The UK’s four systems were created very similar at the high water mark of British political unity. They were all ‘national health service’ (NHS) systems, with the government directly owning hospitals, contracting with primary care General Practitioners (GP) and employing most other staff in a system centrally financed out of general taxation and provided for free at the point of service.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5127421/

Corporatisation and Markets

The internal competitive market and Foundation Trusts (run as businesses) were introduced early to mid 2000s.  

But…. every Secretary of State for Health of whichever political party in government had the responsibility to provide comprehensive healthcare for it’s citizens…. until the Health and Social Care Act 2012* passed into law.

NHS Death Knoll – The Lansley Act

Professor Allyson Pollock (March 2013):

“The UK NHS was created by national consensus in order to ensure that every citizen was guaranteed health care. Underpinning these arrangements was the secretary of state’s core duty to provide or secure a comprehensive health service, a duty repealed by the first clause of the Health and Social Care Act*.”

leftfootforward.org/2013/03/why-we-need-a-political-campaign-to-reinstate-the-nhs

This was passed at a time when the country was still reeling from the 2008/9 global financial crash and the coalition government had imposed severe austerity measures on public services. But more on that a bit later.

  • The Act opened up all our NHS services to the external market except for acute emergency and obstetrics.
  • It opened the flood gates for private sector provision of health and social care services
  • The Act also gave birth to four quangos: NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, and NHS Northern Ireland each responsible for the provision of health and social care. Although still called NHS it was no longer a National Health Service

NHSE – The US model of healthcare comes to England

The appointment as head of NHS England was given to Simon Stevens, worked for the USA giant United Health Insurance company, where he was president of their global health division, and CEO of Medicare.

His job as NHSE head was to oversee implementation of the complete reorganization of our health and social care service in England, by splitting England up into 44 regional health economies – ‘footprints’.

The aim was to establish AccountableNB Care Organisations (an American model) which we now call IntegratedNB Care Systems/Organisations.

These ICS/ICOs are contracted out to a body (which can be a private business or a combination of local authority and private partnerships) who are responsible for the provision of health and social care across their ‘footprint’ within a fixed budget. They are run like a business, so must balance the books or make a profit… they cannot go into deficit.

NBAccountable in a financial sense, ie accounting  Integrated in an admin sense ‘back room stuff’

Government Austerity and NHSE Combine for Maximum Impact

  • Under Austerity, we saw swathing cuts in budgets to our public services from 2010 onwards
  • NHS trusts told to make ‘efficiency’ savings, savings targets set and if not achieved, financial penalties imposed. A Trust could even be put in to Special Measures for being in ‘debt’
  • Staffing levels were cut, wards and small hospitals closed, bed numbers dropped.
  • Businesses have taken over services such as diagnostics, Mental Health, phlebotomy, radiology, cleaning, catering, ophthalmology, and so on.

In the private sector, the leanest service they can give the more profit they make. Our health service and social care system began to feel the strain.

“Sustainability” became the mantra of Government and NHS England chiefs.

By 2016 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) were published. These were the plans which would transform our health service and social care into ICS/ICOs.

Some STP Boards held Public Consultations

https://midessexccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/public-consultations/your-care-in-the-best-place/3221-your-care-in-the-best-place-consultation-document/file

As small gatherings of ‘the aware’ sat and listened to highly paid NHSE employees give glossy presentations, telling us that our NHS will not survive unless we make these changes, which would improve the service….. make it sustainable so it’s there for the future.

They asked for our views, which in practice were never going to make the slightest difference to their grand plans.

And Here We Are…..

2019 saw our fragmented, under-resourced, under-funded, and under-staffed system in a very poor state:

  •  43,000 nurses and 10,000 GPs short
  • Hospital targets abandoned because they consistently couldn’t be met
  • Worn out staff working longer shifts than they were being paid for
  • Cancelled appointments and operations a common occurrence
  • Little to no mental health support
  • 3 week waits to see a GP
  • Apps being touted as the answer to everything

People were dying who shouldn’t have been……

“Like many junior doctors who have worked in overwhelmed and understaffed A&E departments, I’ve seen things happen as a result of the overstretched conditions that I believe should be classed as “never events”. Since 2016, nearly 5,500 patients have died in England alone as a direct result of having waited too long to be admitted to hospital. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly twice the number of people killed in terror attacks in the UK since 1970. We should be outraged”

https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/10/doctor-johnson-thousands-deaths-nhs-patient

Now in 2020, the pandemic has hit an already ‘in crisis’ health care service (exacerbated by a chronic problem in social care)

Our NHS…. Macroeconomic Context

It is political!

To all the naysayers who shout “Keep politics out of our NHS”………… you can’t.

Government has control of the public purse it’s role is to spend public money for public purpose and social benefit.

If the job is to be done, the state must accept financial responsibility

So what is the public purse and public money?

  • The public purse is not a fund, and public money is not tax payers money
  • The public purse is the Bank of England and public money is the creation of pounds sterling by keystrokes – entering numbers into banks’ reserve accounts so they in turn can credit the account of a person or company selling it’s goods or services to the Government – as instructed by the Treasury.

Having said this, I can hear you ask….. but where does the money come from? It must come from somewhere?

The key word is “creation” 

The UK Government is the sole issuer of our sovereign fiat currency. Every time the Government (of whichever colour) spends, it creates pounds sterling out of thin air. If the government needs to purchase goods or services which are for sale in GBP, then it simply instructs the Bank of England to do so via the Treasury. The Chancellor of the Exchequer provides the Budget Statement ie ‘shopping list’ and this is administered by the Treasury’s Debt Management Office (DMO) and the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) at the Bank of England.

There is no taxpayers money funding Government spending. The only constraints on spending are the availability of resources (goods, services, labour) and inflation caused by resource shortages.

Now ask yourself….. when the global financial markets collapsed in 2008 what shortage did this cause?

Government told us “There is no money! We have to tighten our belts… Austerity!”

Did anyone shout back “Hang on a cotton picking minute…….. you create money!”

[To be fair, some did. But the response they got (and still do, but from fewer people) was “Venezuela” and “Zimbabwe”….. which demonstrated how little they know about those countries’ economies. 

See my blog https://idleobs.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/coronavirus-economic-stimulus-but-how-will-you-pay-for-it/ ]

The Truth: Our Government can NEVER run out of money

The Final Argument – Why we should not have to fundraise for the NHS

Current Shortages in our Health and Social Care Services

  • Nurses, Doctors, Radiologists, Social Workers, Care-workers ie labour
  • Equipment, especially PPE, Covid19 Tests, and Ventilators ie goods
  • Diagnostics/Testing laboratories ie services

Labour – the workforce

500,000 volunteers have come forward to help our ‘NHS, there must be jobs that these volunteers are doing, and that is great. Practical help at a time of most need.

No shortage of people willing to work for no pay – although government could pay them via a Job Guarantee programme, and this could encourage more people into care-worker jobs.

However, the shortage of clinical staff and social workers needs addressing urgently through government investment in bursaries, decent wages, and free education, but will not help in the immediate crisis.

Goods

Through a combination of incompetence or deliberate policy, the government did not purchase goods listed above prior to the pandemic, despite being forewarned in the pandemic simulation report 2016. Government’s initial ’do nothing’ strategy exacerbated the situation as global demand for equipment and tests grew. By the time Matt Hancock and NHSE tried to get hold of, or refused to deal with certain suppliers of, what we needed, the goods aren’t there (although that’s debatable)

Volunteers across England are making PPE out of the goodness of their hearts and donated material. Practical help at a time of most need.

Services

Although slow to start, government are negotiating contracts with laboratories. Money is being created to purchase these services.

Conclusion

There can never be a shortage of public money to purchase anything if it’s available for sale in our own currency………

There is not a shortage of money to attract, train and retain staff, only the shortage of will by the government to do it

There is not a shortage of money to purchase equipment, only the shortage of will by the government to do it, and at the right time

So why does the ‘NHS’ need money from charity when government can provide it with public money? 

It doesn’t and shouldn’t!

If the government keeps getting away with not accepting financial responsibility, they will keep starving our NHS of money to pay for the facilities, staff, equipment, and resources it needs to exist !!

Please stop giving money to charity for the ‘NHS’

Demand from government that it carries out it’s duty to use public money as it was meant: for public purpose and social benefit.

Coronavirus Economic Stimulus: But How Will You Pay For It?

As disruption to daily life continues, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, our Government are spending money like water and making provision for projected high budgetary demands. Consequently Government spending is a hot topic on Twitter.

From observing tweets and comments, there are two distinct and quite different perspectives of how our economy works. One (the majority view) is based in the politically conveyed, mainstream neoliberal economics system, the other is based in a non-mainstream exposition of macroeconomics in a sovereign fiat currency-issuing nation, ie Modern Monetary Theory.

Examples of the kind of comments I’m seeing on Twitter:

  • If we hadn’t wasted the taxpayers’ money on Brexit, NHS would be better off
  • The kids who are off school now will one day be the taxpayers who have to pay this money back
  • [Re Quantitative Easing] UK bankers have the UK taxpayers by the balls
  • Peston – ‘If Coronavirus continues and people have to stay at home, business will suffer and Government will have to put money in people’s pockets’ No! ‘Government’ doesn’t have money. Any handouts will go on to UK taxpayers’ expansive tax tab – as always! Doh!
  • Govt response to the Coronavirus has exposed flaws in neoliberalism/free market ideology and the ‘how will you pay for it?’ myth
  • Tories have found the Magic Money Tree again…. it proves austerity was a lie
  • Govt will finance free parking for NHS staff at hospitals. Why aren’t people asking ‘How will you pay for that?’ like they did when Labour’s manifesto promised hospital parking would be free?

UK govt is a sovereign fiat currency issuer, it can never run out of money

  • USA government is a Sovereign fiat currency issuer like the UK, Japan, Sweden and many others.  Here’s the proof ‘taxes don’t pay for’ (clip of Ben Bernanke – Head of Federal Reserve, Central Bank 2006-2014 responding to the question “Is that tax money that the Fed is spending?” His answer: “No, it’s not tax money. We simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account…”)  https://youtu.be/O5mMW6dZtfw

On the one hand we have people believing that paid taxes go into a ‘pot’ and is used to fund government spending; when the ‘pot’ is empty government has to borrow from somewhere and later, taxpayers have to bear the brunt to pay this back.  On the other hand, we have people saying taxes don’t pay for anything and government simply creates money when it spends.

@duncanpoundcake neatly summarises the two different perspectives:

I spotted this BBC article by Faisal Islam 26/03/2020

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/business-52044374

Here are a couple of extracts I find intriguing…..

“.… the Monetary Policy Committee is considering buying [£200bn] UK government bonds directly from the Treasury…..”

“.… For Mr Hughes, the official who for three years was in charge of the Treasury’s relationship with the government bond market, the unique global damage from the wretched pandemic, highlights a significant point.

‘Governments may need to turn to their central banks for the liquidity needed to pay out against their commitments while government bond markets are temporarily disrupted,’ he says.” (my highlight)

*MPC is the Monetary Policy Committee which is a Bank of England committee. They manage the Government’s monetary policy, such as quantitative easing, deciding the UK’s base interest rate and monitoring the CPI (consumer price index) to ensure it’s kept close to the target rate of inflation.

A supporter of MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) replied with this image on Twitter to the question “What do we pay taxes for?”

A reply to this from another tweeter, quoted Zimbabwe as an example of how “printing monopoly money” doesn’t work, and said that “MMT is a sham”.

After a few tweets back and forth, they challenged the MMTer to explain how MMT would be viable in one or two paragraphs.

To explain a non-mainstream macroeconomic perspective in one or two paragraphs is a ridiculous expectation.  However….. as an MMT supporter myself, for this blog I will outline the basics :

  • As a sovereign fiat currency issuer Govt creates new money each time it spends
  • Taxes do not fund govt spending therefore no limited pot of money as a constraint to spending. 
  • Govt ‘Debt’ is a record of how much Govt has spent into circulation minus how much has been taken out via taxes. Borrowing ie selling bonds & gilts is simply an accounting mechanism. Issuing Bonds is the same as issuing £5/£10/£20/£50 notes… “I promise to pay the bearer”
  • Govt can always service it’s debt (eg a few days ago MPC talking about BoE purchasing £200bn in bonds from the treasury)
  • ‘Deficit’ is just the difference between debt & revenue ie how much there is in circulation ie private assets & savings. When a ‘deficit’ is squeezed (austerity) or in surplus people & businesses have to depend on personal loans which have to be paid back with interest, or savings, or not spend, which throws the economy out of balance by restricting flow & reducing production.
  • Govt spending is limited by the availability of resources & services (labour) for sale in it’s own currency.
  • Govt can spend on stuff as long as there’s sufficient resources & services to absorb their spending. The govt is not like a household which depends on income before it can spend, so the phrase “balance the books” is nonsense.
  • Fiscal instruments such as taxation are used to influence/manipulate the economy to maintain it’s balance. Currency flow is the key.
  • Hyperinflation is caused by resource constraints. For example, when production fell in Zimbabwe after the government took farms away from owners, and handed them over to ‘the people’, who had no clue how to run them! Once there’s a severe shortage, inflation follows. We are seeing this right now in UK with… toilet rolls and hand sanitiser! Thankfully our economy isn’t dependent on these items.

I return to @duncanpoundcake who frequently makes me stop and think….

So in conclusion, when we’re through this very scary time, if the UK government (whoever that may be) tell us that we have to cut spending, or say ‘we cannot afford to implement the Green New Deal or fund public services such as the NHS…. we should challenge them and demand adequate funding for these social benefits.

Tackling Climate Change – Is it a Taboo Subject?

Why isn’t Climate Change trending?

Extinction Rebellion UK has more than 37k followers

Why do their tweets get relatively few RTs and Likes?

Tweeted on 17th February (7:21am) screenshots taken at 3pm same day and on 21st February at 13:30 4 days later

Lots of people are aware of the climate emergency it seems…….. 256.9k likes

So, why isn’t any of this front page news? Why isn’t any of this Trending every single day?

Is Climate Change a taboo subject? I don’t think so. In my opinion, for most people there’s a cognitive dissonance between knowing the facts and acting on the facts. For the last 40 years we have been inculcated to view our lives through an individualistic lens, not a collective one. How then, can we expect everyone to act collectively and in solidarity?

Just consider how the following groups have been demonised and the language used to achieve this:

Unions – “Troublemakers” “crippling mail services” “destructive”

Yet we wouldn’t have had the weekend, safety at work, secure jobs if it hadn’t been for the collective action of union members

NHS Campaigners – “Scaremongers” “Activists” “Loud, placard waving crowd”

Yet if it wasn’t for campaigners, England’s health and social care system would have  been established as Accountable Care Organisations run by big American health insurance companies in 2017/18, with only 44 acute 24/7 A&E “Super” hospitals serving the population, and a co-payments system.

Extinction Rebellion – “criminal organisation” “vandalising” “raving lunatics”

Yet without XR protests getting media attention, albeit negative, would we be so aware of why there’s an urgent need for climate action?

It isn’t the subject of climate change which is taboo, it’s any sign of collectivism and social solidarity. This is how the Establishment fights it’s corner, by demonising any group or action that demonstrates people power, no matter how vital the cause.

In the UK we are seeing increasing frequency and strength of storms…Flood victims homes and possessions have been destroyed by river water and sewage. In a lot of areas it’s worse than it would’ve been, or wouldn’t have happened at all, if rivers and flood defenses had been maintained/built. Australian forest fires have destroyed whole towns and villages. Mining companies had diverted river water for their own use, causing severe drought in local areas; regulation on forest floor clearance was reduced significantly; and, year on year record-breaking high temperatures; all contributed to the unprecedented extent of the fires.

Insurance companies are refusing to insure people in these flood and fire hit areas…. the insurance companies know these catastrophic effects of climate change are going to continue!

Almost all the World’s governments are not acting urgently or adequately enough to prevent the devastating consequences of climate change, and not enough people are demanding they do.

Tracking climate action targets across the World

Why is there such a tiny area of green shading?

https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/

I would argue that Governments have been well aware of the consequences of climate change, so too are carbon emissions’ biggest offenders: the companies who lobby them. It seems that their priority is money not lives. Do I think the J.P. Morgan leaked document this week will push Governments into serious, effective action?….

         The Telegraph 21st February 2020 

I’m afraid not. We, the people, are the ones who will have to do the pushing.

Addendum: A twitter thread …..  https://twitter.com/Pamos19/status/1231287370575745026?s=20

Trolls and bots came out to play

Troll-bots popped up every now and then on Twitter when I first joined just over two years ago. I just thought they were behaving like toddlers, poking you to get on your nerves. But in 2019… they came in their thousands! and had mutated into vicious beasts.

Troll-bots favourite diet? Socialist MPs and their supporters. They’d pounce into a tweet with loathsome intent, spitting vitriol. You could almost imagine the keyboard…. like gnashing teeth as they created insults, slanderous accusations, vile abuse and even threats.

When someone showed they weren’t going to be intimidated, troll-bot mates joined-in. Like a pack of wolves they’d rip their prey to pieces. Why? In my view, to incite a reaction of anger, fear, retaliation…. masters at twisting something you said into a weapon they could use against you, and aha! the troll-bot turned victim and accuser. Few escaped unscathed.  

Lots of targeted socialists tried reasoning, but eventually said stuff debate! we’re sick of…. “only to be expected from Corbynistas” and being called: cultist, racist, antisemite, commie, Stalinist, Trotskyite, Marxist; they fell into tit-for-tat responses: typical Tory, far-right, liar, fascist… and so on.

There’s an invisible wall now, dividing the left from everyone else, over which people shout back and forth. Some are single-shot profanity rallies “f*ck off” and “c**t”, others are tirades.

Embroiled in mudslinging matches or defending themselves, socialists got reported and too often, suspended from Twitter!

Caught in their trap last year, by twisting what I said, they accused me of being something I most definitely am not. I was defending someone being targeted by multiple troll-bot mates. Afterwards, I realised it was a deliberate, cruel game to get us both suspended – lesson learned…ps

We know most tweeting takes place in echo chambers making a troll-bot’s targeting easy. Lots of tweets said ‘ignore the trolls’ or ‘Bot. Blocked’ but others felt they had to ‘fight back against the lies and smears’.

Troll-bots baited, hooked and reeled ‘em in for their propaganda machine to then display cherry-picked examples to tar all lefties with the same brush, as “thugs” “hooligans”….. ie socialists are ‘baddies’ and everyone else ‘goodies’.

The troll-bot game managed to close down a lot of voices, and it succeeded in amplifying the right-wing, neoliberal propaganda message that Socialism is ‘bad’.

PS I haven’t modified what I tweet, I just don’t play the troll-bot games. 

20/01/2020

Growing Socialism at Grass Roots Part 3/3

Why not create Socialist Community Hubs? A place for meeting and socialising, getting practical help, to learn something, to build support for a community project, or build an effective local campaign.  

Socialism at work at grass roots level. How do we start though?

‘Big Bug’ and my thinking…..

I love the Stranglers, it’s very interesting reading about their music inspiration and meaning behind the lyrics. Hugh Cornwell and Robert Williams collaborated on an album Nosferatu…I started researching the background to the song “Big Bug”, it refers to Trotsky’s war train during the Russian revolution. I found a chapter in his autobiography: Trotsky’s Life called ‘Train’…

In this chapter, he talks about the train as a campaign machine.. he identifies three different qualities making up the group in ratio 20:60:20.

  1. the positive, motivated, proactive fighters of the cause
  2. the middle undecided, vacillating between likely winners and losers, not knowing who to follow in moments of danger they succumb to panic
  3. the hostile, skulkers.

Trotsky uses the first group (the motivated) initially in each place he visits, to enthuse and teach necessary skills to others, in order to alter and increase the ratio in the cause’s favour.

My brain started whirring… imagine a socialist campaign ‘train’ enthusing and skilling-up ‘leaders’ who help create and develop the Socialist Community Hubs, who then carry on after the train has moved to it’s next location, and to keep the momentum going till the train returns.

Labour leadership elections coming up. The deputy leader’s role could be key to the creation of Socialist Community Hubs:

“Burgon has pledged to overhaul campaigning, messaging and selections, and to chair a special commission on rebuilding support in leave seats. Rayner, meanwhile, …… a commitment to “community campaigning” “ (The Guardian 18/01/20)

Butler says in her candidate statement “As a working-class socialist with a history of fighting, delivering and winning, I will be relentless in building an inclusive base.”

With backing from socialist Labour in laying the foundations, and party support in maintaining the hubs, the enthused, committed activists could be our local leaders and organisers of Socialist Community Hubs.

Could this be how we develop and grow socialism?

03/02/2020

Growing Socialism at Grass Roots Part 2/3

During the fifties and sixties, the spirit of socialism was in local Labour activity and it spilled out into the community. A Labour Government enabled communities to come together too, we had council run social and educational facilities: Over 60s club,Youth Centres, vocational and academic evening classes.

In my 21st century joint-constituency, I am aware of only an occasional quiz night, the Labour hall has no social club, and hires out the car park to London commuters. Going to meetings in my 150k population district is like going to a hundred year old person’s wake, where there’s hardly anyone left to attend. There is a notable shortage of young people, ie two mid-late twenties (at a guess). Social media has become the Labour communication tool, but it can’t compensate for the tangible camaraderie and practical support felt amongst a face to face group of people. Also on social media, information only gets to an engaged section… it becomes an echo chamber.

Like most regions we have lost many local hubs, such as our Community Centre, Senior Citizens club, Youth club. Our district town has a Community Centre: it hires out rooms to organisations or individuals to run classes or counselling sessions at out-of-reach prices for many; to get there, public transport is not only expensive, it is sparse or non existent in the evenings. Plenty of local gyms and leisure centres… if you have £40 (single) to £100 (family) a month spare for membership.

So where am I going with this? It seems apparent to me that ‘grass roots’ socialism isn’t just about campaigning around the country. It’s a way of life which develops within community activity.

I hear some say ‘but there’s a myriad of voluntary and charitable organisations’. Yes, however, they compete against each other for donations, often paying CEOs fat cat wages… this kind of doing ‘good’ is mostly a corporate enterprise which exploits our emotional response to the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable. In my view this enables the government to maintain it’s complete lack of civil and social responsibilities.

If we are to succeed in developing a more socialist society, at grass roots level, why not bring together the elements which made it happen before… why not create Socialist Community Hubs?

I have seen a few mentions on Twitter about the need for CLP offices in every town. Yes! But why not combine the ‘surgery’ activity with community activity? A place for meeting and socialising, getting practical help, to learn something, to build support for a community project, or build an effective local campaign.  

Socialism at work at grass roots level.

02/02/20

Growing Socialism at Grass Roots Part 1/3

Coming out of post GE doldrums I saw lots of tweets saying socialist Labour needs to find a way to combat or side-swipe MSM propaganda if we are to stand a chance of winning the next General Election. Some replies suggested the way forward is at grass roots level… which to be honest, is where I thought the engine that drove Corbyn’s Labour campaign was, helped by Momentum.  This made me think… was it really a Grass Roots campaign? If so, why are we still a Tory voting country?

Obviously there was Brexit. Who could miss that?! People have tweeted: real socialists wouldn’t have voted Tory or for the Brexit Party, or even for Lib Dems.

I wonder if, after 40 years of neoliberalism via Tory and New Labour governments, the meaning of socialism has been contaminated with neoliberal ideology? If so, how do we decontaminate?

As a pre-Thatcher adult, I asked myself…how did my socialist beliefs develop? 

I grew up in the post war ‘Golden Age’ of socialism. Primary School was: the three Rs….reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic; learning hymns; and discipline. Secondary education gave kids from council estates an opportunity to gain qualifications: GCE, RSA, CSE. Many school friends left at 15, boys went on to be apprentices while girls worked in Woolies, got engaged, married and had a child within a couple of years. Those of us who ‘stayed on’ to do exams only did the ones which teachers decided would improve league tables. “Girls don’t do Maths GCE” I was told by the teacher every time I put my hand up to ask a question, in a class full of boys. Girls only did human biology as their Science subject. Needlework for girls, woodwork was a boys only subject. History taught us names and dates of English Kings, famous English battles, and which countries were our allies or enemies in WW2. Geography was naming continents, countries (learnt on maps duly coloured-in to show colonies, but never explained how they became such), capital cities, major rivers and mountain ranges. I remember going on a Geography field trip once in my school career… we measured the speed of the river flow… I’ve no idea why, or how it related to Geography lessons, but heyho! it was a day out.    

My schooling was about learning a body of knowledge which certainly never gave me any view other than through the Imperialist establishment lens – Churchill was a hero, ‘Red Indians’ were savages that needed rescuing from their savagery, Janet and John and Enid Blyton stories engendered roles for everyone in society. School was hardly the place to develop strong socialist values.

My dad was an active Labour party member. From a very early age, he would take me with him door knocking and leafleting (Mum insisted, to get me out from under her feet!) I helped him at the village hall when he and other members set-up on polling days. The Constituency Labour Hall in town had a social club and sports club. Socialists gathered to enjoy themselves, families, singles, old and young. They would bring along friends, non-Labour members. I remember a sense of fun and togetherness, it was a community. If people were (what we called) stuck… it seemed there was always someone to help out. I remember collections: he’s been on the sick for a few weeks, got two little ones, the paraffin man is demanding they clear their tab before selling them any more.

The spirit of socialism was in local Labour activity, and it spilled out into the council estates, town terraces, village halls, and into the workplace: social clubs, outings and ‘dos’ often organised by unions.  

01/02/2020