A Difficult Time Of Changes

A friend stayed with me a few days last week, well he’s more than just a friend actually. We had a good time especially on Friday when we met up with another friend for some drinks and a Chinese meal, then I and the friend staying with me went on to a pub near me where a band was playing our favorite rock’n’roll music, and several other people we knew were there. We therefore missed the monthly meal/gang meet-up of The Woodies group which also took place this Friday.

Next day I traveled back to St Leonards (Hastings) with my friend, who now lives there, and together we visited a very old friend of me and my partner who’s now in a care home suffering from dementia, severe diabetes and various complications. I’d seen him last month, and a couple of months before that with another old friend, and on that first occasion we all laughed and joked about old times.

How things can change in a few months or even weeks. On Saturday he hardly recognized me, and I’ve known him for nearly 40 years. Not just because of his bad eyesight – he said in a very strange posh voice which he used the whole hour we were there: ‘I think I know you, vaguely.’ A friend who lives in Hastings and has helped him since his partner died 5 years ago says he is not recognized either, or hardly. It is all very sad. He’s lost his flat and the contents. A few items such as his photo albums were with him in the care home but have disappeared. All I could find was one photo album. Apparently my friend threw the rest out of the window. At least his Harrods’ Xmas/New Year Teddy Bear collection hasn’t suffered the same fate, yet.

I went back for a coffee with the friend who’d been staying with me, but his wife and daughter were there and their place is very claustrophobic, so I didn’t stay long. Wandered along the seafront feeling very low, remembering all the good times I’d had in Hastings with my partner, our friend now on his last legs in the care home, and his partner who died five years ago. The place holds nothing for me now – I have no base there. The sun came out briefly thru the clouds, so I sat on the beach and braved a dip in the sea. Called another friend who lives there, but couldn’t get hold of him. Wandered around, had a meal and then gratefully caught my booked train home, vowing not to go to Hastings/St Leonards again until next Spring or Summer if the weather’s really hot, by which time I’m sure my friend will have passed on or be so badly demented he won’t even know I’m there let alone recognize me. All very depressing, but probably next time I’ll go down there might be for his funeral.

In the midst of all this there is the Diana Work centered in Germany and America. Now is a crucial time involving big changes for Andrew Russell-Davis and others connected to him in Germany and around the world. Now is the time for him to know who his true friends are, and we think for the Diana Work to really take off.

I was in a very confused state, but now am much happier about the situation, as is Andrew. I got a very clear message this morning from my partner in Spirit, George, about how I had to be a ‘sheetanchor’ or a dependable person for Andrew in the event of an emergency, and another friend of Andrew’s who’s psychic got virtually the same message – that I was to be a lifeboat if the cruise liner should sink. These are all analogies to describe a situation which would be temporary, but which we all think will probably not happen. This seems to be a time of changes, and of testing us all. It comes at a time when I needed reassurance and confirmation about all things Spiritual, and by golly did I get it this morning. George also told me all that has happened with the Diana Work so far has been just a preamble to the main event, so it really does look as if it is about to break open in some way. Of course what people’s reaction to it will be nobody can foretell – we all have free will.

All I can say is watch this space, there could be some quite momentous things happening soon, but if this takes off you won’t need to read about it here. Dates play an important part in my life and in Andrew’s, perhaps in all our lives. Diana died on August 31st,  1997, and August 31st, 2010 was a deadline for Andrew when certain decisions had to be made. Nobody planned this, it just happened, but is surely more than just coincidence.

As is the fact that my best friend and my maternal grandmother both died on my birthday (different years), and my life-partner died on the birthday of Jerry Lee Lewis, a singer I am quite fanatical about.

So we must all be prepared for changes, some good, some perhaps not so good. But if Brian passes to Spirit soon he will be much happier, reunited with old friends and his partner. The most depressing thing would surely be if he lingers on in the care home for years getting more and more demented and physically handicapped.

One era ends, and another begins. That is what life is all about I guess, and how we progress. We also have to sometimes make difficult decisions and test friendships. This has happened to me in the past, usually at crucial times such as three times just before my partner passed to Spirit, when I had to prove my loyalty to him or put him first.

Before Diana can make herself known as being back to the wider population certain conditions have to be right, and the right people have to be involved in the work and supporting those doing the vital work.  Controversial in life, things will certainly not change in that respect when people realize the lady is back, or more correctly, she has ‘not gone quietly’ and will not do so.

Colorful Characters

A more light-hearted blog today, after the long, ponderous ones on philosophy and politics. I have known many colorful characters in my life, and have invented more to amuse my partner when he was alive, and friends. Some of these fictional characters were loosely based on real ones.

Mrs Do-not-shout was one of these. A Polish lady who moved into an upstairs room or flat next door back in the 1950s when we lived in Bowes Park, Wood Green. She was probably the first foreigner/ethnic person to move into the street. Studying to be a doctor, the noise of my brother and me playing in the garden interrupted her studies, so she’d slowly lift the sash window, pop her head out and say in a sing-song Polish accent: ‘You must not shout’. My brother and I thought this hilarious, so deliberately screamed and shouted to make her do this. My grandfather later heard her reading aloud from her medical books in the garden behind our chicken shed, the only place she could find a little peace and quiet.

I made Mrs Do-not-shout into one of my characters whose voice I imitated to amuse people, along with Noreen, an immigrant from Barbados. Noreen was based on a Mrs Camp, part of the first black family to move into Marlborough Road, Bowes Park in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Mrs Camp got friendly with my grandmother, who used to babysit for her. The ‘souse’ Mrs Camp made (a typical West Indian dish apparently) became a favorite of Noreen’s, whose voice I also imitated.

Another accent I imitated was a comic version of my Greek-Cypriot relations on my father’s side. These too were always women – I rarely imitated men’s voices (just a few).  Granny Nina became a favorite, selling everything she could to make money and telling people to come to ‘beautiful Kypros’ (Cyprus) where you could pick lemons from the trees. ‘You like to pick a lemon?’ she would ask. A later incarnation became Madame Moussaka who published a column in the magazine ‘Tales From The Woods’.

But my favorite all-time character was an upper-class British aristo, Lady Lobelia Snobbo (who Granny Nina called ‘Lady Snob’). Lady Snobbo developed from a childhood fictional character I called ‘Mrs Posh O’Bean’ after hearing my mother calling any woman a bit middle or upper class ‘a posh old bean’. Lady S. became a regular entertainer at the parties my partner and I held for gay and straight friends, he usually playing a hooker who insulted Lady S. by suggesting she was also ‘on the game’ and poaching the first hooker’s clients. Drawn into this sketch was often Lord Henry Snobbo (who rarely spoke) and who turned out to be one of the hooker’s clients, much to the shame and horror of Lady S. The couple were after all part of the aristocracy of Old England, living in Snobbo Manor, Wiltshire.

Real characters I’ve known include the wonderful Mrs Malvin Side, an old lady who went on every anti-nuclear protest in the 1960s despite her advanced age. She regularly came into CND head office where I worked to buy ‘Sanity’ the campaign’s monthly newspaper or to give a small donation, and one day was complaining about everything that was wrong with the country and world, adding at the end of nearly every sentence: ‘And it’s all that dreadful Harold Wilson’s fault’. What she would have made of Tony Blair and New Labour is anybody’s guess.

The Fabulous Freda was another character who my partner and I first met at Jean Frederick’s Drag Balls at Porchester Hall. Real name Freddie Williams, he lived in a pre-War council estate in Waterloo with his dog Sandy. Freda made his own extravagent costumes with headdresses adorned with colored ostrich feathers, and he won many prizes at the drag balls. He also did a cabaret act at our parties, and for various pensioners’ clubs who couldn’t believe he was the rather scruffy old man in a flat cap walking his dog locally.

Freddie had been in the theater as a dresser, and before that in the Merchant Navy. He entertained us with stories about this, coming out with lines from plays he’d been involved with, all quoted out of context such as: ‘Your mother, she’s not in here.’ He told us of places he’d visited around the world, and of eccentric gay characters he knew in the West End of London before and during the War – with nick-names like The Painted Lady, Doodlebug Daisy, Kangaroo Kate, Pissy Morris and names even more outrageous and unmentionable.

I love a bit of eccentricity, and the place to go to find such characters used to be Speakers’ Corner, near Marble Arch, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Alas the place is now almost deserted most days, or on Sundays largely taken over by various political and religious speakers. But in earlier decades you could also find many amusing characters, such as the politically incorrect and totally biased Irish Mary and her English friend from Leeds who insisted that ‘if you’re Jewish they put you in the House of Lords, if you’re Irish they put you in Long Kesh’ (the old name for the Maze prison). Or the man who carried a big Christian Cross with an ‘L’ plate, tin cans, etc. attached to it. A lot of people remember the other man who walked up and down Oxford Street with a banner telling people all the things they shouldn’t eat if they wanted to live a long life and then go to Heaven. Practically anything was taboo.

I miss all these old characters, most of whom seem to have disappeared from London. Many survive in New York possibly, or emigrated there like the late Quentin Crisp, who my partner knew before he became well-known.

Sadly Noreen, Lady S, Granny Nina, etc. are in retirement since my partner died. When Lady S. was not entertaining guests at our parties, the other characters were entertaining my partner. A sign of my own eccentricity is that I sometimes use these voices when alone in my council flat to entertain myself. They have, in the past, been known to ring people and play practical jokes on them, but with the advent of 1471 this has become more difficult to pull off effectively (though you can of course withhold your number). Perhaps I have just become a little more mature in my old age or the novelty has worn off.

Imitating Lady Snobbo in an overnight answerphone message to a place where I worked, I had to stifle my giggles when the old chap I worked with who picked up the message complained about ‘some mad old duchess’ who had rung up complaining about the quality of domestic servants nowadays. He never did realize it was me putting on my Lady Snobbo voice.

Using the same voice when Sarah Ferguson became Duchess of York I rang St James’s Palace and indignantly protested that she should be called the Duchess of Clapham Junction since that was where she used to slum around.

Primitive Socialism

Primitive Socialism is my term for what existed in the Soviet Union and other Socialist states of the 20th Century.  An interim state between Capitalism and true Socialism which can hopefully be avoided in future now we are aware of it.

It wasn’t entirely Lenin’s fault that things turned out the way they did after the Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian Bolshevik Revolution). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were the theorists of Communism, but they never had to actually put these theories into practice or were put in a position where they made mistakes.

From the 19th Century writings of Marx and Engels sprang not only the Communist movement of the 20th Century, but also the Socialist and Social Democratic traditions. The old Constitution of the British Labour Party was solidly based on Marxist theories about the surplus value of labor and the necessity of taking the means of production, distribution and exchange into some kind of common ownership and democratic control. This portion of Clause IV of the old Labour Party Constitution was printed on all Party membership cards.

Lenin and his comrades in the Bolsheviks were faced with putting Marxist theory into practice in very difficult circumstances. The Revolution took place during the First World War, so their first task was to get Russia out of that imperialist escapade. Then they had to face the White Armies and hostile capitalist states who all tried to crush the Bolshevik Revolution in its infancy.

Because of all the internal and external enemies trying to crush Socialism in the old Russian Empire, which soon became the Soviet Union, mistakes and unwise decisions were made. All opposition to the Bolshevik line was crushed, including alternative Socialist groupings. Marx’s ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ was not meant to be the dictatorship of one political party in the early stages of Socialism. There were clear class contradictions which had to be resolved before a classless society could evolve, and also there were many different ideas for implementing Socialism.

As officials were appointed to governmental posts and to manage various sections of the economy and State, resentment grew about the privileges they were awarding themselves, and also about the increasingly dictatorial nature of the Bolshevik Party with decisions handed down from the leadership. All this contravened true Marxist ideology, and the Communist doctrine of democratic centralism was not carried out.

When the soviet system of local workers’ councils was established with the slogan ‘All power to the soviets!’ things looked hopeful, but a number of things conspired to change things. First of all there were fifth columnists and anti-Socialist elements disguising themselves as allies of the proletariat. Also there was the fact that the Russian Empire under the Tsars had no tradition of democracy at all. The people just weren’t ready to take on the responsibilities of governing themselves thru the soviet system.

As the State became established under the firm control of the Bolsheviks, which became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), rebellions took place, such as the Krondstadt uprising. Some of these rebellions were attempts to crush the new Socialist state, and some like Krondstadt were genuine attempts to return to the principles of Marxism and preserve the Socialist, proletarian ideals of the Revolution.

Lenin and his comrades in the Bolshevik leadership, including Leon Trotsky who was head of the Red Army, crushed all these rebellions, including Krondstadt, and so the example was set for Joseph Stalin to follow and take to extremes when he took over the leadership after Lenin’s death in 1924.

Lenin foresaw this danger too late, and his famous ‘Last Testament’ warning of deficiencies in Stalin’s character which might lead him to increasingly dictatorial policies was ignored by the Party. Trotsky was only one of many victims of Stalin’s purges in which State enemies were seen everywhere; a legacy of a Revolution which the world tried to crush immediately and which led to a constant state of paranoia.

The difficulties in establishing Socialism, let alone the final stage of Communism, were immense, especially in a State which was run as one country (the old Russian empire, later the Soviet Union) with no tradition of democracy. There was also a large peasantry (the kulaks) and various other classes and the country was not industrialized so the proletariat were numerically weak at the beginning.

Stalin used brutal methods to defeat the kulaks, collectivize the farms and industrialize the Soviet Union. For these achievements, also wiping out illiteracy and later defeating the Nazi invaders and making the Soviet Union a super-power to rival the USA, Stalin is today revered by many in Russia as the kind of strong leader they hanker after again.

But the cost was immense in human deaths and misery, and the legacy of Stalin’s reign of terror led not to a Communist utopia but ultimately to a collapse of the Soviet Union and a return to capitalism.

Some would say that had Stalinist policies been continued after his death the Soviet Union would still be intact, stronger than ever. However the facts speak otherwise. All the terrible purges, labor camps and gulags of the Stalin years decimated those ranks of true Socialists and Communists who stuck to their ideals, and left in place the ‘sway with the wind’ opportunists and careerists who would eventually destroy the Soviet Union.

These opportunists infiltrated the CPSU and other organizations of the State, paying lip-service to Stalin, Socialism or whatever leader and policy was in place at the time. They had no difficulty praising Stalin to the skies one minute, and denouncing him with Krushchov at the 20th Party Congress the next. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, they immediately and enthusiastically embraced capitalism – anything to maintain their status and privileges. This is the legacy of Stalin, and originally of Lenin and Trotsky’s one-party dictatorship.

It is true that under Marxist theory it was envisaged that a classless society would emerge under Socialism, with capitalist opposition defeated, and that this process would be led by the old proletariat. It is also true that in order to progress to Communism it would at some stage be necessary for the masses to unite in one Party or political organization to collectively and democratically run the Socialist State in preparation for Communism when this State would wither away, and the masses would be in firm control of society without artificial regulators.

However this was hopelessly optimistic, and in any case Marx and Engels set no time-scale for achievement of this stateless utopia. It was certainly not envisaged in the conditions of Socialism in one country or one group of countries surrounded by hostile capitalist states, nor in a short timescale.

I question whether it could ever be achieved, given the experience of the 20th Century experiments in Socialism and their failure to draw the masses into political activity effectively to defeat opportunists, careerists and even criminal elements out to take control and award themselves special privileges.

What it amounts to, and what Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin all failed to recognize, is that in between Capitalism and Socialism is a possible  intermediate stage, which we could call Primitive Socialism. This is what existed in the Soviet Union and the other Socialist states. Another possibility, also not envisaged by Marx, Engels or Lenin, is National Socialism or Fascism, which is neither Capitalist nor Socialist, and which bears a close resemblance to some of the more extremes of Primitive Socialism such as the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea (Cambodia) and the Stalin period in the Soviet Union.

The basis of true Socialism was established in many countries, with the bulk of the means of production, distribution and exchange in some form of common ownership (State or cooperatives), but democratic control was severely limited, if it existed at all in many Socialist states, and a new ruling bureaucratic clique or class had taken over. It was not ‘State capitalism’ as some have suggested, but it certainly was a distortion of true Socialism.

Despite many positive achievements such as the abolition of illiteracy, free education and health care for all, good public transport and other services, full employment, security in old age, etc., all the Socialist states were seriously flawed in that corruption was everywhere and it was extremely difficult to defeat once the ruling clique had gained control of the organs of State power. So you had Socialist states administered by a ruling clique or class consisting of many corrupt and opportunist elements, providing the basic necessities for the masses, but running the State inefficiently and keeping (or importing from the capitalist states) luxuries for themselves.

It might have all been so different had there been a long tradition of democracy in Russia, and had opposition parties (even if only Socialist ones) been permitted. Then corrupt administrations could have been replaced easily, and the masses gradually politicized until eventually, maybe after a hundred years or more, a classless, self-governing society would start to emerge. At that time, not before, would opposition parties gradually disappear as the masses democratically administered the various organs of the Socialist State, until ideally these organs and the State itself gradually withered away to usher in the final stage of Communism.

The important thing is to learn lessons from the past and not to repeat the mistakes of 20th Century Socialism. The democratic nature of Socialist states must always be preserved or corrupt administrations will take over and be virtually impossible to remove. Different forms of Socialism must be allowed to be tried – former Yugoslavia’s system of worker/consumer cooperatives rather than vast State enterprises for example.

So I would now describe myself as a Socialist, or a Marxist, but not as a Marxist-Leninist. Ideally I’m still a Communist, but this self-governing utopia seems such a remote possibility I’m not certain it could ever be achieved on a large scale. Perhaps in small communes, which could proliferate and gradually become widespread. Meanwhile I would be content with true Socialism, administered by means of a democratic Socialist state. If this state never withers away to usher in Communism it would be no great tragedy. Much better than trying to force the pace, and ending up with a disastrous return to capitalism which is what has happened.

One phrase of Lenin, however, I will quote as it is so accurate. Progress towards Socialism, and possibly Communism eventually, is not a steady one. It is a case, as Lenin stated, of  ‘two steps forward, one step back’.

The establishment of the Soviet Union and the Socialist states was certainly two steps forward, but their collapse was one step back. However in future we will be aware of the mistakes and deficiencies of 20th Century Socialism and hopefully avoid them, so we are still one step forward as Lenin said.

Cameron/Clegg Attack Council Housing

The latest loony proposal by David Cameron, apparently supported by his Lib-Dem puppet deputy Nick Clegg but not by some other Lib-Dem government members, is that new council tenancies should be limited to 5 or 10 years at which time the occupants will be expected to move out into privately rented accommodation, obtain a mortgage to buy a property or get into a housing association property if they can.

This is not only a totally impractical policy, but I hope it will fail to gain a majority of votes in favor in the Houses of Parliament. I really can’t see most Lib-Dem MPs supporting it, nor Labour or most of the smaller parties in the House.

The reason for this proposal is the shortage of council housing and the many on the waiting lists, but what is the good of going on a waiting list and just obtaining a council tenancy for 5 or 10 years? No point whatsoever.

The reason there is a shortage of council housing is because of the ‘right to buy’ policy, which I believe may be discontinued, coupled with the fact that few, if any, new council homes are being built. Nor are private properties which have remained empty for years been requisitioned or compulsorarily bought by local councils for those on their waiting lists.

After 5 or 10 years council tenants will be expected to be earning enough money to afford either a mortgage or private accommodation, but what if they can’t? Will thousands of council tenants be thrown out on to the streets?

It would make more sense to stipulate that once a council tenant is earning a certain amount of money they would be expected to either obtain a mortgage or move into privately rented accommodation, but then again suppose they lose their job or become incapacitated – will they then be rehoused quickly by the council?

The only real answer is to insure there is enough social housing, provided by councils or housing associations, at reasonable rents for people who can’t afford to buy or rent privately.

Setting an arbitary 5 or 10 year maximum for council tenancies is a non-starter. I hope this legislation fails or is amended so that a financial threshold of earnings decides whether people can remain council tenants or not, rather than the length of time they’ve been a council tenant.

People should not be forced to sign up to life-long mortgages against their will, nor should they be thrown to the mercy of private landlords who could well exploit the situation – a new era of Rachmanism. Run-down, badly maintained properties at exorbitant rents.

Secure council tenancies should still be allocated, and the right to buy council properties stopped. However if people on higher salaries in council property wish to buy, they should be encouraged (with financial incentives) to buy in the private property market, thus releasing their council property for those on the waiting lists. This is the only really sensible option.

New Gadgets/Technologies

People can get carried away with these, especially the younger generation, but it also affects much older people. In our throw away/buy new society they are always encouraging us to discard perfectly good things in order to sell us something else.

Take the fad for MP3 players for example, which followed on from CDs, which took over from good old vinyl records and cassette audio tapes. Now these newer technologies are fine in their place, and great for new collectors who can download on to their MP3 players all the latest tunes. For older people like myself who have large collections of vinyl records and cassette tapes, is there any point in buying the software/hardware necessary and spending hours and hours transferring everything to MP3 or CDs?

I started transferring a lot of my VHS tape recordings to DVD, but got fed up with this seemingly never-ending task and haven’t done it for months. Life is just too short to waste time like this, though some stuff has been transferred and DVDs certainly take up less room. Not convinced they will last longer – they don’t get tangled up like tapes, but the slightest fingerprint will stop them playing, and some refuse to play at all on some equipment, and play OK on other equipment – very tempremental.

Then there’s digital cameras, and of course mobile phones with cameras, TV, computers, etc. incorporated into them (do I really want to watch a TV program, let alone a full-length film, on a mobile phone?) I’m so far sticking to film cameras, a technology I’m familiar with, though I’m sure digital is very simple, everyone tells me so. It is, however, just something else to get my head around if I go down that path.

We have no choice about digital TV which is being forced upon us, and as for HD I have a set described as digital/HD ready but apparently it would still need a box or something to enable me to see Wayne Rooney’s zits in detail – not that I want to see them, or that I watch football or any sport come to that. I have seen HD via video clips on the Internet, and it is instantly recognizable as clearer and sharper, but quite frankly I’m content with the very serviceable picture I get on a regular TV channel and will not be subscribing to HD ones.

3D is something else, a technology invented in the 19th Century I believe and which has had short-lived periods of popularity ever since. I do like 3D ever since first experiencing it at the Saturday Morning Pictures as a kid in the early 1950s, but I’m not convinced I need to go out and buy a 3D TV set in order to watch programs in 3D when they are broadcast. I did see a short 3D film about the Beijing Olympics demonstrated on a 3D TV set last week and it was quite stunning, but I’m not convinced my wide, flatscreen HD-ready TV will not be just as good at showing 3D as I already have the necessary glasses for it.

I believe in choosing what new technology I go for, and what I ignore. The Internet is great and has more or less taken over my life. It can be very educational as well as creative and recreational. But mobile phones which do everything but wash and iron my clothes I can do without – a simple one which is just a phone and only used in emergencies will suffice. I hardly ever use it, and a £10 top-up lasts me months.

Little of this new technology is completely new. I was a Telex Operator for years (have only just learnt the word stands for TELEprinter EXchange), but this very old technology is the basis for all modern written communications via phone lines – fax, email and even texting I guess (some Telexes and telegrams were transmitted by radio at least for part of their route). Telegrams preceded Telex, but used the same technology – teleprinters across the world linked by phone lines or radio, and decades ago they had photo telegrams. These were expensive, but used exactly the same technology as fax to transmit pictures and text over phone lines, and were available long before fax machines came on the market.

The kids go mad with mobile phones, but this is a very old technology. Phones were used in the 19th century, as were cameras of course. You’d think these had just been discovered judging by how much mobile phones and digital cameras are used by the younger generation. And yes we did have a sort of mobile phone decades ago in the early/mid 20th Century – they were called walkie-talkies, but we didn’t all go around with them. They were reserved for special occupations which needed them. Do I really need my friends ringing me when I’m on a bus or walking along the street? Years ago people would be locked up for walking along the street apparently talking to themselves.

So I pick and choose which new technologies I use. Now when they perfect a phone or webcam which can link me reliably to my friends and relatives who have died and passed on, then I’ll rush out and buy it. This is not pure fantasy – Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC) – is a technology which is being investigated and improved by people around the world to contact departed Spirits, etc. electronically. 

Meanwhile I’ll continue to use the Internet daily, but for music I’m happy with a mixture of MP3s on my computer, CDs, vinyl records and cassette audio tapes. They’ll see me out, so why should I replace them all? It would take me months/years to transfer all these recordings to, say, Ipods even if I had the necessary knowledge, software and hardware, and you can bet by then some new gadget would come along making MP3 players ‘old hat’.

European Left

I am applying for individual membership of the European Left (http://www.european-left.org/english/home/home/), an umbrella organization which links many member Left political parties and individuals within the EU for a common stance on many issues.

I have not been a member of any political party, since leaving the British Labour Party when it abandoned first unilateralism (giving up Britain’s so-called independent nuclear deterrent) and then Socialism in the form of the old Clause IV of the Party’s Constitution.

In general and local elections I have wavered between voting for the Greens, Liberal Democrats and only once Labour when it was for Ken Livingstone as London Mayor (I also voted for him when he stood and won as an independent candidate.) Now it has gone into coalition with the Tories, I’m not sure I can vote Liberal Democrat again. Obtaining a referendum on the Alternative Vote system is not sufficient – I at least expected a referendum on other voting systems such as full PR. The AV system will only help the Liberal Democrats and any other parties which come third in any election.

Unless and until the Labour Party returns to its Socialist roots I have no intention of rejoining that Party. I am very much in favor of the Cooperative movement, but unfortunately the Cooperative Party is an integral part of New Labour and seems to be completely controlled by its leaders. It is not, therefore, a pressure group for true Socialism within the Party.

The smaller Socialist and Communist splinter groups/parties in the UK are too fragmented for me to consider joining any one of them. I am not convinced any have come up with a true analysis of the Socialist experiments of the last century, learnt from the mistakes made and from their positive achievements, analyzed the various forms of Socialism (as different as those in the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia for instance), and almost all are anti-EU.

I therefore find it refreshing that there is a Left political grouping which accepts the EU as a reality which can nevertheless be transformed into something more democratic and progressive. Even in its present form, however, I am in favor of the EU since it should prevent future wars starting in Europe and also it has actually introduced a lot of progressive legislation which has filtered down to member states like Britain, for example legislation on equal rights and non-discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, age, etc.

It seems no political party in Britain has yet formally signed up to the European Left, but shoud one do so in the future I will certainly consider joining that party or political grouping.  Meanwhile, if my membership application is accepted, at least I feel I can contribute something, however small, to the cause of Socialism in Europe.

The reality as I see it is that sooner or later we will have a federal EU, and it will be necessary to have a pan-European Socialist party or alliance in order to campaign and stand in EU, national and local elections for Socialist and Left policies. The European Left seems to be such an embryo alliance.