The Labour right-wing still doesn’t get it

Let’s face it, the New Labour cabal, the right-wing of the party and the ‘power at all costs’ sections of the Labour Party (often they are one and the same) just do not want Jeremy Corbyn or his socialism. They’ve tried every dirty trick in the book and according to their official spiel he is ‘an honest man, but just not leadership material’.

Okay then, working on that assumption, it clearly does not occur to the Labour right that the answer to the question is: another leader who embodies everything Jeremy Corbyn stands for; all the things that are the reason so many people have made an effort to support him. Of course there have been claims from all quarters claiming that this person or that person actually believes in all the same basic things Jeremy Corbyn believes, which if true makes you wonder why they so urgently need to replace him.

Do they just think he’s the wrong figurehead or is it really the policy they hate? Because they also keep making digs about ‘the politics of last century’ and ‘a dated approach’ etc etc. Unfortunately for them the ‘politics of last century’ is the real core of Labour. It is also the real core of right-wing politics too because despite the giddy excitement about the advent of broadband internet and accelerated globalisation, the gritty local problems of last century have not gone away. If people take the trouble to remove their PR-drenched media goggles for a moment they’ll see that things like the 21st century job market bears an uncanny basic resemblance to the pre-WW2 job market. Casual labour, work uncertainty, no real contracts, poor or non-existent sick pay, companies shirking employee welfare issues, suppression of organisation and industrial action through negative PR. Oh it’s a long list.

All of this disintegration of rights and conditions built up over 150 years – part of that including the foundation of the Labour Party to uphold these very values and achievements – has also occurred and been accelerated under Labour governments. Select representatives keep popping up on telly repeating that New Labour introduced the minimum wage, something they failed to implement in every previous Labour administration. Big deal. It didn’t stop the growth of zero-hour contracts or other capitalist trickery to bend the rules. New Labour homed-in on that little policy (of offering working-age people not much more than a fiver per hour) to cover the fact that they had no plan to offer any other traditional Labour Party policy and a master plan to cut loose with a host of neo-liberal shenanigans, which is exactly what happened. Then a crash and depression happened and a lot of people lost patience with the same old lies.

Unfortunately it took that economic crash to shake awake a good portion of the people who are sympathetic to what Corbyn represents and also created enough discontent to prevent the bigwigs at the top of the Labour Party from dismissing it as ‘fringe elements’ and carrying on unabated with the New Labour debacle.

On Saturday morning (that’s later on this morning), if the polls are correct, Corbyn is going to sweep Owen Smith and his cheerleaders into obscurity. If we are to believe the anti-Corbyn offensive he is also going to also sweep the Labour Party into obscurity. Well we’ll see. He’s the one calling for unity, they are the ones predicting collapse. It’s because they’ve fully absorbed and adopted the New Labour/right-wing economic rhetoric that social justice and national prosperity is achieved through deregulated market capitalism, privatisation, austerity for poor people etc ad nauseum. Jeremy Corbyn, or what he represents, is the backlash to all that. They still don’t get it.

 

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Jeremy Corbyn: A very British coup?

Jeremy Corbyn

If age is not on your side you might well remember the 1982 novel by Chris Mullins to which this post’s title alludes. A solidly left-wing and principled leader of the Labour Party becomes prime minister and sets in motion a cabal of secret service agents, high-level mandarins and establishment aristocrats conspiring to plot his downfall.

Well…Jeremy Corbin isn’t quite that far, but he seems set to do a version of it within the Labour Party. Those ‘senior figures’ within Labour – like Harriet Harmon and most of Corbyn’s other current competitors –  rather shot themselves in the foot when they initiated the ‘open forum’ that allowed Jeremy Corbyn to be propelled into the front running position he now occupies. His core supporters are firmly rooted in the values of what is now called Old Labour, as a contrast to New Labour, that banal and mediocre media transformation atop the policy transformation that saw Blair and Co., shift the party firmly in line with dominant neo-liberal ideology. Whatever New Labour is supposed to represent its very existence attempts to drop the guillotine on the party’s prior history, declaring its entire raison d’etre to be outmoded and out of line with the politics (though in truth they mean the economic hegemony) of the modern world.

Jeremy Corbyn has taken to the podium to tell us that this is nonsense, and he has a lot of willing listeners. These are not just disgruntled old pre-Kinnock Labourites, they are young people too; those who may have voted for Blair in 1997, or who were too young to vote and really are ‘Blair’s children’. What they all share is the disillusionment produced from those three Labour governments that oversaw monumental lies leading to war, a near-complete hollowing-out of social infrastructure, financial corruption and ending ignominiously in financial meltdown. Not content with having presided over this, the very same repertory of rotating faces is now trying to pretend that they offer something different. These are people who served in Blair governments and were touted as the new faces of New Labour. The Blair coup fully integrated the view that there is one way to win elections (because this is all they care about) and that is to court plutocrats and media-moguls and rub-shoulders, in a friendly way, with the people and institutions that Labour as a party was created to moderate.

In his book Feeding Frenzy Will Self remarked that “Never before has style so fantastically glossed substance.” That was New Labour’s real legacy for politics, a media realignment achieved by a full-scale in-house demolition project. Instead of holding principles and damn the media, the line was taken that it is the media that wins an election. It is the media that shapes public opinion and any party seeking office has to be in line with the ideological interests that now saturate the corporate media. In 1997 it was tempting to believe that some sacrifice was worth it just to end Tory rule and perhaps undo at least some of the damage of their privatisation frenzy and corporate cronyism. Never was an electorate so misguided as in 1997.

In Chris Mullins’s book the protagonist is a character modelled upon Tony Benn who at the time had just lost the deputy leadership to Denis Healy (by 1%) and had come in fourth in the leadership contest of 1976. Like Corbyn now, Tony Benn was always popular with grass roots Labour activists, but his fate in terms of leadership positions shows just how difficult it is for a principled politician to secure the position that directs the party; let alone capture the wide support that leads to 10 Downing Street. Generation upon generation of the regular voting public has been persuaded that anyone like Tony Benn is ‘bad for business’ and business (specifically dancing to its tune) is really all that matters. Under this supposed home truth everything has to be sacrificed to market ideology, or in reality a hegemony of massive corporations, banking giants and other financial institutions who cajole and blackmail any government not following orders. More usually its representatives hop back and forth between boardroom and Westminster. Tony Benn kept his principles and eventually became a back bench ‘voice of reason’ and fierce critic. Jeremy Corbyn has already been a back bench voice of reason and fierce critic for some time, so it’s interesting to see his ascent.

Radio 4’s The Report recently produced a programme about the ‘Corbyn effect’ and looked at the sorts of people supporting his leadership bid. It focused on two young people, essentially disillusioned young people produced during the Blair era who see those years in much the same way my generation saw Thatcher; which is a poor show indeed for the Labour Party. My generation also saw a Labour Party out of office for nearly twenty years, but at the time, despite the desperation and dashed hope, it mattered that you took a genuine stand rather than buying into the club just to be able to make some paltry difference, like New Labour eventually did.

If Jeremy Corbyn wins, the Labour Party will have a crisis on its hands because the rest of the shadow cabinet is largely made up of Blairites or Blair-lites who have fully signed up to the so-called new paradigm of British politics. The middle-class voters wooed to Labour by Blair (those who haven’t already gone back either to the Conservatives or onwards to UKIP) are a new generation of people who have no clue about class or a ‘right-left divide’ because they’ve been weaned on a culture of individualism and personal consumption of everything including political needs. It remains to be seen if enough damage has been done by Thatcher-Blair-Cameron to have pushed these people far enough, through austerity, housing shortages, unemployment and political corruption, to be able to accept a principled left-wing Labour Leader as man whose vision they can share. In Mullins’s book the status quo is maintained and his hero is removed by the establishment.

The core problem

‘In the various e-newsletters I receive from several left-wing organisations there is often a tone of desperation. There is also the familiar ‘call to arms’, the ‘arms’ in question being petitions, ignored peaceful marches and the get-togethers that hope to spread new roots and deepen the already-existing ones.  I’ve attended my fair share of the latter over the years and disappointment has never been very far behind.

It has always been a mistake to rely on the assumption that the next person’s understanding of something you think you share, is the same as your understanding of it. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a socialist gathering where everyone has been asked why they say they are socialist, or what they hope to achieve with it? Since the total triumph of Neo-liberal economic policy much of the left has taken the position of pressure group. Pressuring for what? That is the question. It appears to be the regular agenda of issues anyone calling themselves “left-wing” engages with alongside the core problem.

The ‘core problem’ refers to the problem of the plutocratically-owned capitalist economy. Not just a selection of its worst activities and the deleterious effects, but the problems arising from its very existence as the dominant underlying cause of social misery. It always stood to reason that the solution was its removal. Well, not quite. The second rung of socialism, the non-revolutionary path, has been satisfied with keeping capitalism on, but making sure it is safely chained-up and under strict supervision. From this we got the entire circus of sideshows including: reform socialism; social democracy; market socialism; capitalism with a ‘human face’. It has led here. To the universal triumph of capitalist markets presided over by powerful vested interests. Its products are the ugly transformation of work into profitable stupidity. To the unemployed wasteland of hundreds of years of human skills that are ‘no longer required’; forced into obsolescance in an economy that values a narrow ideas of ‘skills’ and yet dresses it up as the last word in skill diversity. It has led to housing scarcity; more poverty; chronic debt; economic catastrophe; more pollution; more reckless consumption.

It failed. Capitalism hasn’t been harnessed for the best outcome for all. People in all age ranges: the under-25s, the over 40s, the over 50s, a great mass of people, are with the programme. Some might be upset with various bits of ‘the programme’, some little result of it that complicates and adds uncertainty to their lives, but ‘the programme’ of neo-liberal economic dominance is perceived as simply the way of the world. It has failed dismally, beyond creating a consumption Mecca and replacing human skill with automation, and yet the greatest PR exercise ever has been in presenting this dismal failure as the greatest success story in the history of humankind.

In the Netherlands – which is a rather right-wing country within Western Europe – the socialist parties are neutered. The clearest sign that they have had to kneel down and kiss the ring of triumphant neo-liberalist ideology is the moderated language now used in reference to capitalist economics. The SP (socialistisch partij) is a decent organisation. It is critical of the governments of the day (which are invariably either centre-right or right-wing and all neo-liberal), but its critique always falls short of condemning the core of the problem. They are not averse to wheeling out the populist line of ‘getting small businesses working’; the sort of stuff appealing to the popular idea that capitalism, being essentially morally neutral, is merely hijacked by crooks and corporatism. The same basic idea feeding into the sub-normal fantasies of libertarians and followers of the Smith religion. Most importantly, they have no counter-offensive, no clear informational antidote to the all-pervasive neo-liberal ideology impregnated deep into general culture.

To express fundamental opposition to neo-liberalism (essentially extreme capitalist rationalisation) is considered equal to opposing empirical reality. An explosion of different and disparate ideas clouds the problem. Since the rise of ‘new atheism’ in the U.S. and the theatre of ‘birthers’ and ‘911 conspiracies’, an entire swath of people keen to disassociate themselves from flat-earth thinking likes to stick closer to what is regarded as the ‘rational truth’. Capitalist economics, in all its forms and guises, has the rather enviable position of being considered ‘normal reality’. To most of the world it is not so much an economic system among many as it is just something that ‘is’, like the weather or the sea. Capitalism is not considered as a ‘way’ of running an economy, it is thought of as ‘the’ economy. That is a powerful position to occupy and renders everything else as mere alternatives.

The current left (and even the left of the past) has concentrated too much on criticism and too little on portraying itself as legitimate. Walking the streets in crowds shouting ‘socialism now!’ instantly makes you into a sideline critic rather than someone playing equally on the field. Where is the magazine of heterodox economics that can counter the dominance of ‘The Economist’ as a mainstream discussion of economics? Current socialist thought is not far from the position of ‘alternative’ medicine compared to medical science; the latter seen as the rational truth, the former as a pretender with some crank adherents. One major failing is that the ‘core problem’, the economy, is focused upon less and less as socialist movements – especially the Netherlands International Socialists – busies itself with popular sociology and a never-ending series of anti-racism marches. Too often it is students who move up through the ranks and become academics making their careers as ‘theorists’ within these organisations. The small faithful applauds and the rest of society remains oblivious and carries on living under the ‘normality’ of the corporate-capitalist economy, sometimes happy, sometimes disgruntled.

By getting sidetracked from the ‘core problem’ socialist organisations are going nowhere apart from the next ignored and contained march and the next forgotten ‘conference’.

Evan Davies and other ‘economists’

Evan Davies (Wikipedia)

I’m getting rather tired of Evan Davies. When he was at Radio 4 and presenting the abomination known as Dragon’s Den, I didn’t have to listen to his irritating interview style quite so much. Since he took the main anchor position on BBC’s Newsnight, replacing the outgoing Jeremy Paxman, his profile has been raised and with it his visibility. The position now means that political interviews – much like the one-to-one leaders interviews taking place currently – are automatically given to Davies.

Several reviewers (in the Spectator, Guardian etc) have already commented upon Davies’s rather bothersome habit of asking questions and then proceeding to interrupt the answer before it has even begun; offering needless clarifications of his question. He also appears to keep a permanent grin on his face as the interviewee answers, which betrays a tone implying: I know the question is schoolboy-type philosophy and that we all know that the answer means nothing with regard to the influence it will have on an immovable political-economic policy.

Davies is one of those ‘economists’ that often seem to turn up on BBC News. Much like Stephanie Flanders (ex-Newsnight), Tim Harford and klaxon-voiced Robert Peston, he appears to sit squarely in the neo-classical tradition and often defaults to the position that despite everything there is a single economic reality and it is ‘free markets’, capitalism and everything that flows from that accepted economic paradigm. It would, of course, be unusual to see a BBC ‘economist’ taking a heterodox economic stance, which would be enough to fire up the right-wing lunatics who still believe that the Corporation is an arm of the Communist International. The default position means that when all is said and done in interviews, anyone going a little right of it (generally just being upfront about neo-classical neo-liberalism), they are ‘right-wing’and anyone inching toward social democracy is ‘far-left’ and both need to tread carefully to keep within the boundaries accepted of “economic normality”.

Davis is at the moment, the face of this position and as such is irritating, even without his mannerisms and too often vacuous questions. Both together are combining to make him thoroughly unwatchable.

Unhealthcare, the corporate insurance way

Healthcare and its affordability has been an omnipresent issue in the United States and beyond since the ascension of Obama. To have reformed the system to a collectively funded one would probably have had implications far outside of America. In Europe, health services funded in-part or wholly by taxation have been constantly and gradually eroded and ‘reformed’ over a 30-year+ period; Obama’s hijacked plan is like a green light to the European privatisation lobby.
In England particularly, the previous and the current government have had to conjure a lot of PR to try to make it appear that the NHS is still more-or-less the same service that people rely on, whilst at the same time engineering as many budget cuts or part-privatisations as they can possible achieve.
In one sense, England is a lot better-off than many other places. America’s swathes of uninsured are a ubiquitous phenomenon, the internet is filled with forums requesting and offering medical advice for people with no insurance or people with bad insurance hoping to save a few dollars. Dentistry is notoriously expensive, and since regularity of care is a must in preventing problems, regular, comprehensive care simply stands outside the affordability of many families.

The Dutch system operates on a private insurance system, much along the lines of the American system. The system is very lightly regulated, so that the ruthlessness of insurers is tempered somewhat, but not by much. Of course the succession of centre-right governments has never presented any real obstacle for the insurance companies. In 2005 a nationwide push tried to make sure everyone in the Netherlands was insured; not by increasing affordability or widening coverage capabilities, but by sending out ‘checkers’ to make sure people were buying insurance, and to fine them for not doing so. These people turned up at places like homeless hostels to find out who was insured. They enquired at a charity medical clinic I was supervising, asking how many were insured – an odd question for a place offering charity care for the uninsured.

Beginning this year the dental provision offered as part of the insurances packages will disappear. Previously insurers would pay ‘part’ of the costs, something which seemed to turn on its head the very point of having insurance. This latest move amplifies that absurdity. So now individuals will be expected to pay out-of-pocket for costly dental treatments; and it is costly. Molar removals, with added costs, easily amount to 250,- euros, and check-ups can be as much as 70-80 euros. Whomever can afford it gets treatment, those who can’t won’t – it’s another view of the tiered health system between the haves and the have-nots. Richer people have an emergency pot of money, the poor and the working poor generally live from month-to-month, with no emergency funds. They have two choices: bad teeth, or health debts, often eventually paid to a debt-recovery agency, with interest.

Health insurance is undoubtedly a racket. But if healthcare is to be a privately purchased commodity, and increasingly so since the coverage insurance offers is shrunk down further, then unaffordable insurance offering scant coverage ought to disappear, since it is poor financial investment. It is of course maintained through a mixture of politico-legal and economic ideology, maintained by corporate interests. Health is not really a purchasing choice in the same way electronics and other consumer durables are purchased. Like food and shelter it is a captive market that operates on fear or peace of mind. Just as the housing markets are dominated by neo-liberal swindling and financial speculation, so the health industry has its own money speculators, with a captive customer base, some bullied and cajoled or legislated into providing an endless supply of money for international money markets.
Their aim appears to be a situation where insurance premiums constantly rise as coverage constantly decreases in proportion. In 2010/2011 the Dutch will see another rise in insurance premiums that will leave tens of thousands either in healthcare debt or completely uninsured and in ill-health, facing unfair prosecutions as ‘wanbetalers‘ (people who don’t pay their bills), rather than people who simply can’t pay their bills.

Incomes are not rising, they are freezing or shrinking. So we reach a typical point of absurdity in neo-liberal economic policy: people actively lose spending power, but are asked or coerced into purchasing the ever more, and ever more expensive, commodities (including ‘services’) that keep the neo-liberal economic merry-go-round turning. Since the collapse of the banks and financial markets there has been a constant discussion about the levels of personal debt and the near-complete absence of a culture of saving money. The culture of ‘living on credit’ was initially wheeled-out as a contributing cause of mass indebtedness, yet health insurance is itself a contributor to indebtedness that cripples the very extra spending power the neo-liberal machine desires to keep it going. So at the bottom end it comes apart at the seams as the poorer sections of society live in a constant cycle of debt, credit-fuelled debt, forced payment of impossible living costs through the filter of debt-collection and all its resulting misery and poverty. The architects remain untouched.

Britain’s Con-Dem coalition have been talking big this week. Vince Cable has been dubbed “red” for his attack on the ruthlessness of capitalism left-to-its-own-devices. Danny Alexander talked about rectifying the enormous tax gap created by super-wealthy tax-dodgers. No matter how well-meant, the Lib-Dem critics are allied with a senior partner committed to preserving neo-liberalism by making the little taxpayer suffer for little in return.

They will privatize the Post Office and push through the budget-cuts, criticised by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, among others, as unfairly targeting the poorest sections of the society. And health will not go unscathed. The trajectory of the Post Office has not followed British ‘national’ policy, it has followed the policy of the European Union’s commitment to economic liberalisation, and within this the UK’s NHS is viewed as an obstacle. It doesn’t matter that it is funded without requiring a tax rate any higher than the Netherlands or France or Germany. It is simply a target because it does not fit in with economic ideology. An ideology where national well-being and even ‘customers’ come last in order of importance.

Life versus Capitalism

Dahr Jamail (The Morning Star)

If someone broke into your house, pinned down your loved ones and began pouring poison down their throats, would you stop that person?
What if someone poured crude oil all over your crops and livestock? Would you try to stop them from doing it?

Pointed questions like these come from a man named Derrick Jensen. They provide a lens through which to view the havoc that corporate capitalism is wreaking on our planet. They are meant to jolt us into the awareness that we are watching life being annihilated and to challenge us into thinking about what form our resistance to this should take.

“I think what we need to do is to stop deluding ourselves into believing that those in power will do what they have not done and they’ve shown no inclination to do, which is to support life over production,” says Jensen, an author and environmental activist who lives in northern California.

Lewis Mumford, a US historian and philosopher of science and technology, writes: “The chief premise common to both technology and science is the notion that there are no desirable limits to the increase of knowledge, of material goods, of environmental control – that quantitative productivity is an end in itself and that every means should be used to further expansion.”

But how can unlimited growth and productivity be possible on a planet with finite resources? Simple answer – it cannot. Yet we are all being pushed at breakneck speed toward a future that promises catastrophic global climate change, depleted natural resources, environmental degradation and human chaos and suffering on an apocalyptic scale. One hundred and twenty species of life are erased from the planet each day. Ninety per cent of all the easily caught fish in the oceans are gone. The Arctic ice cap is vanishing before our eyes as global temperatures continue to rise.

This is happening not because any of us want it but because those in power, answerable only to their corporate sponsors, are playing out their mantra of “every means should be used to further expansion.”

Mumford says a change in this mindset of perpetual expansion is only likely to happen with “an all-out fatal shock treatment, close to catastrophe, to break the hold of civilised man’s chronic psychosis.”

We have already had many of these “fatal shock treatments” – the Exxon Valdez spill, the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, Chernobyl, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Agent Orange, Love Canal, Three Mile Island, the Seveso Italian dioxin crisis and the Baia Mare cyanide spill. These are just a few. The list is long. And now we can add the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP’s oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded in April and for 36 hours its flames released immeasurable amounts of toxins into the atmosphere before the platform sunk.
We now know that the vast majority of the oil that gushed from the well was intentionally submerged by BP with heavy use of dispersants at the wellhead so most of the oil is floating around in giant undersea plumes – one of which is 10 miles long, three miles wide and 300 feet thick. They are like “oil-bergs” – what we see on top of the water is a mere fraction of what lies beneath.

If independent estimates of the amount of oil released into the Gulf are correct, as many as one Exxon Valdez-load of oil – 250,000 barrels – was released into the Gulf of Mexico every two-and-a-half days. That’s 8,700,000 barrels of oil or 34 Exxon Valdezes released into the Gulf of Mexico.

Conversely, what actions have been taken to bring BP to account? Will the CEO spend time in jail? Government officials and institutions that have colluded with BP – how about them being brought to justice?

When the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989 the incident was considered to be among the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters in history.

Even after the surface oil is cleaned up in the Gulf of Mexico, scientific studies already show, as they have shown in Prince William Sound, that oil can remain trapped in the seabed for decades continuing to contaminate and kill fish, shrimp, crabs and bird life. To date a maximum of only 14 per cent of the oil spilled in that disaster has been recovered. As you read this, BP is scaling down the response efforts to the current Gulf disaster.

Meanwhile, as the so-called free market that allows unchecked corporate powers like BP to pollute and destroy our ecosystems with impunity continues, another oil platform has exploded in the Gulf, this time 80 miles south of Louisiana.
Jensen believes that expecting those in power to do what is right for human beings, much less the planet, “is delusional.

“Their function in a democracy is to give us the illusion of power, but the truth is that they do what they want,” Jensen explains. “Why is it that cops are always called in to break strikes but not help the strikers? When the function of the state is to support the privatisation of profits and the externalisation of costs, what kind of state is this?”

Jensen summarises the situation we face. “The point is that when a gold-mining corporation spreads cyanide all over the mine and this hits our groundwater and wells, and destroys ground waters in Montana, they are not called a terrorist, they are called a capitalist.”

The same can be said for BP, Exxon, Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and Lockheed Martin. It’s a long list.

“If it was space aliens coming down and systematically changing the planet would we appeal to them through lawsuits, take off our clothes and make peace symbols, petitions?” Jensen asks.

Jensen believes that we are at a point in history where the existence of the very planet upon which we live is at stake. If the perpetual growth, corporate capitalist industrial machine is allowed to continue, we will die. Thus, it must be stopped by any means necessary.
To illustrate what might be possible by taking a militant approach Jensen points to Johann Georg Elser, the man who attempted to assassinate Adolph Hitler in 1939.

“Everyone agrees that if Hitler was killed in 1939 the war doesn’t happen,” Jensen explains. “The point is that I want people to think like members of a resistance. The first thing that means is to start thinking away from being part of a capitalist industrial system and away from this government that we all acknowledge serves corporations better than us, and toward the land where we live.”

Many are concerned that the approach Jensen advocates will generate extreme government crackdowns on activists working on topics across the political spectrum, that the use of violence to promote change is a bankrupt strategy and one that is doomed to failure.

“We need a wide range of tactics, which can include fighting back and attacking the infrastructure. I don’t know what is so radical or incendiary about believing that living oceans are more important than a social structure. The culture as a whole suffers from insanity, one form of which is that this social structure is more important than the living planet.

“I don’t believe you can suffer the delusion that you can systematically dismantle a planet and live on it. It’s very simple to me. Life is more important than capitalism.”

Read more of Dahr Jamail’s journalism at dahrjamailiraq.com. His new book The Will To Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan is out now published by Haymarket books.

The Morning Star

Dutch refuse-collector strike over

[Utrecht/Amsterdam]
For just over two weeks now the bins have been overflowing onto the usually rather spotless streets of Amsterdam and Utrecht. The city council had failed to reach any sort of agreement with refuse collectors and both central city bins and household rubbish has piled up in the streets.

Strike action began on the back of  demands for job security and a minuscule salary raise which amounts to about 20 cents an hour extra. Local government has hoped that the state of the streets and any associated public opinion would force the refuse collectors back to work. The unions and strikers have been present in the train and bus stations and have answered the public’s questions and concerns about why the strike action has been taking place. Many travellers have expressed support and solidarity.

The city refuse collectors have seen themselves parted into two groups with one group striking and another — consisting of mostly workers hired from work agencies, but also some full-timers — not joining the strike and waiting to go back to work. A striker interviewed for RTV-U local radio expressed dismay that the non-striking full timers would benefit from the action whilst at the same time they were offering no support and actively endangering it.

Local businesses have been regularly appearing on news bulletins to complain about the mountains of rubbish they produce not being taken away, with one wheeling out the complaint that

“it’s a shame that a historic city like Utrecht has to suffer by looking so untidy”

Businesses have attempted to overcome the problem by hiring containers and removing the piles of rubbish themselves, a move that has largely been unsuccessful as tons of plastic and paper and general refuse produced by businesses and consumers continues to line the streets.

A major Cub Scouts event taking place in Utrecht this afternoon saw many travellers from around the Netherlands arriving into the Central Station this morning with surprised expressions. One traveller with the scouts remarked that the city looked more like “the Streets of Lagos”.

As of today the report from both the FNV and the city council representatives is that an agreement has been reached, including both job security and a pay rise from next year, which will effectively put an end to the strike, although no-one is sure when the collecters and street sweepers will be back to work to remove the accumulated rubbish.

Just last month saw a similar successful strike action amongst cleaners active inside Utrecht’s central station which revolved around another tiny pay demand which both the city council and private hire firms had refused.

Travellers this morning arriving to a rubbish-strewn Central Station

(foto: JMV, ossp media)