Birthdays/death days/Weekender

Today, September 29th, is my favorite performer’s 73rd birthday, Jerry Lee Lewis, who performs in UK again in late October, two London shows. I’m also seeing him in Paris in November.

Today is also the 17th anniversary of the death of my partner, George Miller. I try to think of it as his 17th birthday on the Other Side, but of course it is always a sad day for me, bringing back painful memories.

I’m just back from the Kings of Rock’n’Roll Weekender at Sand Bay Holiday Village in Somerset. I enjoyed most of the performers, but it was the most disorganized, chaotic Weekender I’ve ever been to.

The camp itself had a restaurant which was total chaos. A mixture of self-service and waiter service, where you had to be served with first and last courses, but could if you wish get up and serve yourself with the main course. You also had allocated tables, which ensured nobody was able to sit with their friends (unless they all booked together into the same chalets), and so had to sit with total strangers. Also there was a ban on smoking in the chalets themselves, which wouldn’t have suited my mother had I taken her along.

The actual Weekender had three different flyers advertising different headliners and other acts, apparently. The actual program we received on arrival bore little resemblance to what actually happened. Acts appeared at different times, sometimes on different days, and two of the main ones I wanted to see didn’t come on till well after midnight on Monday morning, because they’d added two extra acts earlier on.

This meant the last group, Flyin’ Saucers, were playing to a largely empty hall, as people had to be up early. As it was I got about 4 hours sleep.

I’ll never go back to that camp or that Weekender. I’ll leave that to those who enjoy total chaos.

‘The Tyrant of the North’ up to its old tricks again?

The son of an American friend of mine is in Bolivia working at a school. He seems to be something of a liberal ‘leftie’ to use American parlance, or ‘progressive’ to use a more universal term. In a recent letter to his mother he used the phrase ‘the tyrant of the North’ and then described how USAID is used to make Bolivians dependent on the USA. Aid has always been a way of controlling the developing world; just look at how the World Bank, IMF, etc. dictate privatization policies in return for loans and aid. Not just saddling these poor countries with huge interest-gathering debt, but also making sure their natural and human resources are exploited by the American dominated multi-nationals.

No longer can these developing countries turn to the Soviet bloc for aid, as that has collapsed. Therefore it is very encouraging to see the brave efforts of many Latin American countries following Cuba’s heroic example, defying ‘the tyrant of the North’ and following a path of Socialism.

But the old tyrant is still using the same old tricks to de-stabilize any government it does not approve of, especially on its own back doorstep in Latin America. Following on from the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion attempt on Castro’s Cuba and the decades-long economic blockade of that country, and the assassination of President Allende of Chile in which the CIA undoubtedly had a hand, the USA is now trying to de-stabilize countries like Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, etc. by stirring up protests and revolts against their legitimate, democratic governments.

In Bolivia, some of the oil-rich Eastern provinces have spawned a seccession movement, seeking to break their areas away from Bolivia. As the son of this American friend of mine writes, they would then reverse Evo Morales’ land reform policies, and of course American oil companies would move in and take over the oil wells, making a few of the local rebels rich in the process. The hand of the CIA is so obvious – overthrow or break away from the Bolivian government, and we’ll make you rich.

The Bush regime in Washington doesn’t even bother to hide its interventionist policies. The reason the US ambassador has been expelled from La Paz is because he was seen to be hobnobbing with these rebels in the Eastern provinces, obviously encouraging them. This blatant interference in the internal affairs of another country is NOT in the remit of diplomats.

In solidarity with Bolivia, and because U.S. diplomats in their countries are no doubt up to similar tricks, Venezuela and Honduras have also expelled their U.S. ambassadors, and all three countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Washington.

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, with Evo Morales of Bolivia at his side, summed it up precisely in revolutionary language when he spoke of expelling the ‘Yankees’ and welcoming back their diplomatic ‘comrades’ from Washington D.C..

Whether Socialism can survive this latest interference from the ‘tyrant of the North’ remains to be seen. Cuba has done so heroically for nearly 50 years now.

The alternative to Socialism in Latin America doesn’t bear thinking about – a return to the string of corrupt, rightwing dictatorships which ruled the area for so long, spouting military coup and after coup as one fascist military-backed dictator was deposed and replaced by another.

Thank goodness for a few politically aware American citizens like my friend’s son who are in Bolivia and similar countries to genuinely help the ordinary people, not to overthrow their government and try to create another rightwing U.S. puppet regime.

Genuine assistance to countries like Bolivia would involve trying to boost their legitimate exports by trading in things like coffee and oil (produced by Bolivian cooperatives or at least Bolivian companies) and thus helping to combat the illegal coca exports which many ordinary Bolivians are at present forced to rely on just to survive.

The British political scene

There is constant realignment on the British political scene. This is not always obvious, as for many decades the House of Commons has been dominated by two political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, who have both formed many governments over this period. But the realignments have involved the emergence of the Social Democrats some decades ago, who later joined with the Liberal Party to become the Liberal Democrats, and the resultant lurch to the Thatcherite right of the Labour Party, which has now become informally known as New Labour. It bears very little resemblance to old Labour, seeking to pander to the property owning, get-rich-quick middle-class ‘yuppy’ type voters, and abandoning its traditional working-class base.

The ‘first past the post’ electoral system used in Britain, and also in the USA, ensures strong governments with large majorities, but often based on minority votes. This is because most votes are completely wasted under this very undemocratic system. Governments are decided by relatively few voters, nearly all of them living in constituencies which are ‘marginal’ with regard to the two main political parties. The rest of us are, effectively, disenfranchized.

If we live in a constituency where the sitting MP has a huge majority, not only is there very little possibility of unseating him or her, but whichever candidate or party you vote for will be a complete waste of time. In effect, you don’t have a vote. At least not one which counts.

All a candidate needs to be elected under our system is a majority of 1 vote. All the votes in excess of this are thus wasted and effectively not counted, and votes for all the other candidates are similarly wasted and count for nothing. Thus all these voters, probably the majority in the constituency, have effectively been disenfranchized.

Take this hypothetical simplified example, where Party A wins the election in a constituency by getting 20,000 votes, Party B gets 19,000 votes and Party C gets 18,000 votes. Under our ‘first past the post’ system, the candidate for Party A gets elected with a 1,000 majority, all other candidates lose.

In this example, it can clearly be seen that only 19,001 of the votes actually had any effect whatsoever on the result of the election. Thus of the 57,000 votes cast, 37,999 were totally wasted. The candidate elected had 20,000 people vote for them, and 37,000 vote against them (999 votes for the winning candidate were ‘wasted’, these electors might just as well have not voted at all.)  Then imagine this being repeated throughout the country, and it is easy to see why we get governments with big majorities of MPs, but most of the electorate have not voted for the Party in government.

In most European countries there are different forms of voting which are much fairer. Either true proportional representation, where EVERY vote counts, and those for losing candidates are totted up nationally, and if a certain threshold is reached, extra candidates are deemed elected. Or second and maybe third rounds of voting, where the candidates with the lowest votes drop out, and people who voted for them can then choose between the remaining candidates. Or the ‘alternative transferable vote’ systems whereby there is one round of voting, but the electorate can indicate their second choice if their first choice doesn’t receive enough votes to get elected.

The advantage of the ‘first past the post’ system, often quoted by its supporters, are that it gives strong government by single parties with large majorities. The disadvantages are obvious: these strong governments are often undemocratically elected by a minority of the voters. Thus we are constantly saddled with governments most people haven’t voted for, but the ruling government can then do more or less what it likes as the opposition parties can rarely muster a majority of MPs in Parliament to vote against any Bill. This is because the ruling party is over-represented with far more MPs than it is entitled to, and all other parties are under-represented with far fewer MPs that they should have.

PR and the other alternative voting systems frequently give rise to situations where no party has an absolute majority, and so coalitions have to be formed. These involve agreements and compromise between various political parties to achieve a consensus. So it could be argued that nobody gets exactly what they voted for. But at least everyone’s vote counts, and perhaps compromise and consensus is what is needed in politics.

Of course when one political party is elected with a huge majority under our political system, all the members and supporters of that party think ‘first past the post’ is a great system. The landslide victory for the Labour Party in the 1945 election, for instance, led to a triumphant march towards Socialism in the ensuing years, with the taking into public ownership of many industries and services, and the setting up of the National Health Service. This would probably not have been possible under a coalition government elected under a system of PR.

On the other hand, the ensuing years resulted in governments of different political persuasions, and eventually privatization of most of the industries/services once nationalized. This was partly ideological, but it must also be admitted that some of these nationalized industries and services were wasteful and inefficient.

Had the 1945 Labour victory resulted in a Labour-led coalition of political parties forming a government, then perhaps full-scale nationalization, creating huge State monopolies, would not have occurred in all these industries and services. We may, for instance, have had instead a compromise whereby individual companies were kept intact, albeit now publicly owned, either as cooperatives or as just publicly owned companies. The system which operated in former Yugoslavia, and which was, by and large, far more dynamic, competitive and successful than the British/Soviet model of huge State monopolies.

Then we come to our unwritten constitution, which is that of an unelected Head of State, i.e. the Monarchy. This too is quite undemocratic, even though the power of the constitutional monarch is reduced to a puppet or ‘rubber stamp’ of the undemocratically elected government of the day. But surely the electorate should have a say in who is our Head of State, who represents us abroad, who officially receives foreign Heads of State, and who we are required to swear allegiance to in our courts of law, etc.? I strongly objected, when doing jury service, first to being asked to swear on a Bible I didn’t believe in (I was able to affirm), and then to have to swear allegiance to a Queen I didn’t even recognize as a legitimate Head of State since nobody had voted for her, however good or bad she was at the job.

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EU flag

We are now members of the European Union, and despite what politicians say, it is likely that this will either collapse completely, or eventually develop into a federal super-state along the lines of the USA. I see little scope for unelected monarchies or quaint undemocratic ‘first past the post’ electoral systems in a federal European structure. Nor, of course, for currencies like the pound sterling. In a federal European republic we would have one voting system based on proportional representation or some sort of alternative transferrable vote or a second and possibly third round of elections, and of course one currency – the Euro. And the sooner the better as far as I am concerned. The EU has already resulted in much progressive legislation in Britain, including the equalization of the age of consent for gay men, the sweeping away of other discriminations against gays generally, the eventual achievement of equalization in the age of retirement for men and women, etc..

As a Socialist, I would dearly like to see the Labour Party return to its Marxist working-class roots, and the same would apply to its sister parties in what was once known as the Socialist International – the various Socialist/Social Democratic parties in other countries.

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How an ESU (European Socialist Union)  flag might look

Ideally, in the distant future, I’d like there to be the opportunity to establish Socialist constitutions in Britain and other European countries, and for these states to break away from the EU and form a Socialist European federation. These constitutions would enshrine the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange as the basis for the economy, but would allow all shades of political opinion to be freely expressed and voted for, and would allow all democratic political parties/organizations to exist and contest genuine free elections. Any political party or coalition elected and forming a government, could then implement its own brand of Socialism (and there are many).

Alternatively, the government elected could then announce a referendum on the Socialist Constitution, proposing an alternative. If they won a substantial majority in the referendum, say two-thirds of the vote, then a new constitution would be put in place – be it one based on private enterprise, a constitutional monarchy, or even perhaps a Communist constitution in which the State starts to ‘wither away’. All options would be open.

Meanwhile, back to reality. We are faced with three major political parties, only two of which, Labour and Conservative, stand any chance whatsoever of forming a government under our first-past-the-post electoral system. Both parties follow Thatcherite policies, and at the moment there seems little prospect of this changing in the near future.

The most those of us who disagree with these policies can do is register our opinions in protest votes (which might unseat a few MPs in marginal constituencies) and in extra-parliamentary activity, such as demonstrations, strikes, etc..

The whole political scene, with the Press and media dominated by The Establishment and the political rightwing (even newspapers like The Independent and The Guardian are hardly leftwing voices for some sort of Socialist alternative to capitalism), is thus very depressing. We can only hope the continuing crises of capitalism results in a resurgence of Socialist ideas, and that a more representative electoral system is introduced in Britain so that at least, if we vote for the minor parties, we know our votes will not be wasted.

Diana – empirical evidence being sought

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Although the podcast interviews have stopped for the time being, things have been going on behind the scenes.

After-life researchers are seeking empirical evidence that the ‘Diana’ entity is indeed who she says she is, though the numerous interviews still available on the Internet (see http://www.archive.org/details/DianaSpeaks or http://www.sessionswithspirit.info/) already provide considerable evidence from voice patterns, phraseology, emotions, intimate knowledge of Diana’s life and the very energy of the Diana personality that it is her.

I am very pleased to report that one of the new developments is that the ‘Diana’ entity via her voice channel, Andrew Russell-Davies, has talked over the phone with a materialization medium who is, with others, seeking empirical proof as to whether it really is her or not.

I can’t say exactly how this evidence will be obtained, but these materializations are repeatable experiments occurring regularly, so there are many possibilities.

John Logie Baird, the TV pioneer, once described a partial materialization in which the fingerprints of a suicide were obtained, and then matched with the fingerprints on the razor with which he killed himself.

If even a partial materialization of Diana’s hand could produce her fingerprints, arranged in advance by the materialization medium and the Diana entity speaking thru her voice channel Andrew, and the fingerprints then matched with those of Diana when she was alive, we would have our empirical proof.

I eagerly await further developments. Meanwhile, it is reported from the same source that a TV station in the EU has expressed interest in the ‘Diana’ entity, via her voice channel Andrew Russell-Davis, being interviewed by a skeptic who will be trying to catch her/Andrew out. So far nobody, including myself, has been able to do this. In many interviews with American medium Rose Campbell and phone conversations with myself and other after-life researchers, ‘Diana’ has never once made us doubt that it is she. I posed a question which I thought might catch her out, but her immediate and accurate answer helped convince me I was talking to the spirit of the real Diana.

So listen to the podcasts, hopefully there will be more soon. But even better, we may get Diana speaking on radio and TV around the world about such things as the future (or lack of it) of the Monarchy, the apparent assassination in Paris, and other matters. And she will tell the world that she was not pregnant with Dodi’s baby (or anybody else’s) at the time of her death, and explain, as she has in the podcasts, how Mohammed Al-Fayed may have got the wrong idea from something Dodi his son might have said over the phone about their forthcoming engagement.

Meanwhile, my own article on the Diana podcasts and my phone conversation with her is expected to be published in Tales From The Woods magazine towards the end of this month. I personally don’t care if people think I’m nuts – I’m spreading the word about this. I played some of the podcasts to two friends last weekend, and have now sent a link to my brother who I told about them when I met him the other day.

We’ll be proved right, and maybe a lot sooner than some people think.

Political Dilemma 3

I really feel there is currently no political party of the Left I feel happy about joining.

What is needed is some sort of re-alignment of leftwing politics in this country. Ideally, this would involve a shift to the Left from the Labour Party itself, or alternatively the Party splitting into two, with the leftwing finally deciding it is time to launch a real Labour Party based on Socialism, since New Labour is now guided not by Karl Marx’s ideas but by the ideology of Margaret Thatcher. Even the Cooperative Party (part of the Labour Party of course) seems under the control and influence of New Labour politicians like Gordon Brown, rather than influenced by the ideas of Robert Owen who started the cooperative movement.

Outside of the Labour Party, we have the various ultra-leftist parties, which can be categorized into three sub-groups. There are the Trotskyite revolutionary parties, there are the successors to the orthodox Soviet-style Communist parties, and there are the odd groups like the WSM/SPGB who claim that the Soviet Union and other ‘Socialist’ countries were, in fact, ‘state capitalist’.

None of these four categories seem particularly attractive to me. Although I applied to join the Cooperative Party, I shall not take up membership or pay any subscription in view of what I have learnt. They are entirely controlled by and subservient to New Labour, and will not act as a leftwing pressure group inside the Party. Indeed the whole Cooperative movement in Britain seems to have lost its vision of promoting a different form of public ownership, and employs many younger people who think it is just another capitalist business.

The practice of the Cooperative Bank in encouraging people to take out loans they can ill afford, charging them interest, and also encouraging high-interest investment accounts prove they know little about Socialism or the ‘surplus value of labor’. The only legitimate way to create value is thru labor; all unearned income is stolen from the workers’ wage packets somewhere in the world. Even the prizes in lotteries, TV quiz shows, etc. is, of course, paid for by the toiling masses in the end, as value cannot be created without labor.

At least the Cooperative movement still has some commitment to green and ethical policies, and is still owned by its members. But the Cooperative ‘loyalty’ card blurs the distinction between the genuine profit-sharing of a consumer cooperative in the form of ‘divi’ and the gimmicky loyalty cards gathering points given out by capitalist retail outlets.

The orthodox Communist parties, such as the CPB, are too tainted by the history, policies and symbols of the 20th Century Communist parties, the Soviet Union and the other Socialist countries of that era. Few people nowadays are going to vote for, let alone join, any party with the hammer and sickle as its emblem, so this also taints the various Trotskyist political groups.

All three ultra-left groups outside the Labour Party envisage eventually to move to a self-governing society where the State has either been abolished or has been allowed to ‘wither away’. They have learnt nothing from 20th Century experience, where even with a strong Socialist State the masses never were motivated to take control and hold on to it, and a new ruling class of opportunists, careerists, bureaucrats and corrupt Party officials distorted Socialism to their own ends.

If these groups can’t see that without a State at all it would be so much easier for a new corrupt ruling class to take over, then they are living in cloud-cuckoo land. It would take an extremely politically mature working class to be so committed and involved in running a Communist or syndico-anarchist utopia that all attempts by criminal and opportunist elements to take over or exploit the people could be nipped in the bud by sheer collective power of the masses.

A strong Socialist State would be needed for centuries to control criminal elements, to ensure work was adequately rewarded, to give even a politically immature electorate at least the chance to vote out a corrupt or inefficient government and replace it with an alternative, albeit Socialist alternative, government. After hundreds of years of Socialism then perhaps, just perhaps, people will be ready to work together and control society without artificial regulators. I am not optimistic about even this remote possibility, as I think there will always be elements in society out to take over and exploit the masses, and eternal vigilance on its own is not enough to defeat these determined, selfish elements motivated by greed and lust for power.

So my political dilemma continues, and is likely to do so indefinitely. At least until there is some substantial political realignment of the Left in this country.

I am NOT about to give up my independence and freedom of thought by joining some political group, such as the Cooperative Party inside New Labour or the CPB outside it, which tell me I must vote for Labour candidates, however rightwing or New Labour they are, in the absence of a Labour-Coop or CPB candidate standing in my local constituency. No, I will decide for myself who to vote for, whether it be Labour, Communist, Green, Liberal Democrat, or whatever.

However, I hope the Left can sort itself out and once again give the electorate a genuine Socialist party they can vote for, and indeed join, which is not tainted by the mistakes of the past, and which does not hold on to unrealistic visions of an impending utopia where everybody lives happily ever after without the police, money or all the other trappings of the State.

Political dilemma – 2

I am now narrowing down my choices to probably two: remaining outside all political parties/groupings, or joining the Cooperative Party.

Both the CPB and CPGB have failed, so far, to answer my questions. The Cooperative Party does not need to answer or clarify anything for me: I know they are committed to multi-party democracy with genuine free elections, and that they will promote the Cooperative movement, which I see as one of the main forms of Socialist public  ownership in the future.

Yes it would mean I’d be expected to vote Labour in elections, but the same is true of the CPB which puts up very few candidates of its own.

But I still haven’t decided whether to join any political grouping. I’d like, for instance, to see what direction Labour goes in after losing the next General Election, or after dumping Gordon Brown as leader.

But whatever happens I am a strong supporter of the Cooperative movement, so I guess the Cooperative Party would be my natural home, even if there is no local Party I can become active in.

I’ll think about this over the next few weeks/months. Meanwhile, if the CPB in particular bothers to reply to my two emails, I’ll consider them as well.

Regarding the comment about the World Socialist Movement, this sounds to me totally impractical. They are advocating Communism without even an intermediate Socialist stage, i.e. the State not ‘withering away’ gradually, but disappearing overnight. This is a sure way to a new corrupt dictatorship, as the masses are clearly nowhere near politically mature enough to run society without a State machine. Some self-interest group of opportunists would quickly move in to fill the vaccuum, and a dictatorial new ruling class would emerge. 

I assume the WSM includes the Socialist Party of Great Britain, a well-known non-Leninist party advocating Communism or syndico-anarchism. It is not for me.

In fact any sort of society with the State not existing at all, whether being abolished overnight or withering away over decades/centuries, seems quite impractical. If it is ever possible, it is so far in the distant future that it is not worth even considering at this point in time.

So, no, I feel I can no longer describe myself as a ‘Communist’. I am a Socialist who believes, for the foreseeable future, i.e. the next few hundred years at least, a strong State with all that entails will remain necessary. This means a police/security force, a monetary system, multi-party elections, etc..

Hopefully, over the next few hundred years, a Socialist system can be established worldwide, and we’ll see how society develops from there.