Consensus Politics

I have been urged to write a blog on consensus politics, so feel like a kid at school who’s been given the subject of an essay to write. Those not interested in politics can scroll down to the final three paragraphs for a brief summary of how consensus can be achieved in other areas.

I have always been on the extreme Left politically but even I can see that you can’t move too far ahead of the electorate. It is therefore necessary to take small steps towards your ultimate goal, and carry the general public with you as things progress.

This, of course, is easier said than done. However what is the alternative? Small political groups and factions crying in the wilderness? Violent revolution which imposes ideas on society for which it is nowhere near ready? We’ve had plenty of examples of the latter, and it results in repressive regimes and widespread corruption.

By ‘consensus politics’ I don’t mean the kind of coalition government we have in the UK at the moment consisting of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. This is a Conservative government in all but name, the Liberal Democrats acting very much the junior partner and very few, if any, of their policies being adopted. The referendum on the Alternative Vote system not only failed to win over the electorate, but was far too narrow and should have included other options such as Proportional Representation. No wonder it got defeated.

Equally unsatisfactory were the kind of enforced coalitions which existed in places like the CSSR (Czechoslovakia) and the GDR (East Germany) during the Socialist era. These all-party coalitions were totally dominated by the Marxist-Leninist Party, often taking orders direct from Moscow.

True censensus politics involves finding common ground between Left and Right and all shades in between. Proportional Represention in voting systems is a way towards achieving this as it tends to deny any single political party an absolute majority to force through its policies. When this does happen under the first-past-the-post systems used in places like the UK and USA it often results in minority governments. Both Thatcher and George W. Bush ‘won’ elections even though the majority of the electorate voted for other parties or candidates.

In order to achieve any political goals it is necessary to take the general public with you, and not be either too far ahead or too far behind. This does not mean abandoning basic principles or ceasing to popularize them. It does, however, mean you cannot always achieve everything you wish to immediately; you often have to take small steps, sometimes even steps backward. Even on the Far Left this has been accepted in the past, for instance when Lenin was forced to introduce the New Economic Policy after the Bolshevik Revolution and allow some private shops, etc. to re-open. It was described by him as ‘Two steps forward, one step back’. This is often how slow progress has to be achieved.

I just use this as an example – it does not mean the abolition of all private enterprise is necessarily the ultimate goal of the Far Left. Indeed the competitive element of small-scale family businesses can be beneficial and is often much preferable to either vast near-monopoly multi-nationals or bureaucratic monopoly State enterprises, both of which stifle competition, can be against the interests of workers and consumers, and can be very wasteful and inefficient.

My ideal society would have a mix of small-scale private family businesses with restrictions on employing hired labor, worker/consumer cooperatives and mutual societies with profit-sharing schemes, small-scale publicly owned enterprises and a few State enterprises for things like the utility companies and transport networks. All these competing in a friendly and mutually advantageous market place.

I see this in itself as a form of consensus politics, since it combines the competitive elements of free enterprise with the profits being shared by those who produced them and those most in need, rather than going into the pockets of faceless shareholders and company directors. In fact companies with no profit-sharing schemes for their workforce or bonus schemes for workers (rather than directors) provide little or no incentive to increase productivity or improve quality, and this applies equally to vast capitalist multi-nationals and old-fashioned inefficient State enterprises.

Before any of the above could be achieved, however, much smaller steps need to be taken to eliminate corruption and unfairness in the present system. These measures could be described as ‘reformist’ rather than ‘revolutionary’, but this is really how society has advanced over the centuries – by evolution rather than revolution.

Without the trade union movement, for instance, workers in the developed capitalist countries would never have achieved the wages and working conditions they now enjoy. This, however, has meant that increasingly the labor force and resources of the developing world are exploited ruthlessly by the vast multi-nationals, at the same time making millions unemployed in the advanced capitalist countries.

The formation of trade unions and cooperative enterprises in the developing world would be a big step towards reducing this exploitation by the muti-nationals. Not a revolutionary step perhaps, but a more gradual evolution towards a fairer world.

Here in the UK consensus politics would mean first a new PR voting system which more accurately reflects the views of the electorate, protects the rights of minorities, and takes account of the views of minor political parties like the Greens, for instance.

On a European scale it means devising an EU Constitution and framework which unites the continent by taking into account national aspirations and creating a level playing field in wages, taxation, working conditions, cost of living, etc.

On a global scale it must include the same principles as for Europe. To have vast pools of cheap labor working for peanuts producing goods which are then sold at high prices in the developed world is not achieving consensus, nor is exploiting the natural resources of the developing countries.

True democracy means empowering people to protect their basic human rights and to have freedom to choose what policies are implemented by their respective governments. In order to achieve this a consensus has to be achieved, otherwise you have some form of dictatorship with minority rights and opinions quashed.

However it is not only in the political field that consensus must be achieved. Equally in the fields of religion/humanism/science and what can be described as New Age or psychic matters a consensus is possible and is slowly becoming apparent. There is common ground in all these fields: great teachers who set a good example in all religions and also in atheistic humanism: the Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Karl Marx, Sir Bertand Russell, etc., etc. – these should all be respected and heeded. Scientific language and that used by religious and New Age sources is very different, but sometimes describe the same sort of principles. For instance, New Age people talk about various planes of existence, religious people conceive of various alternative states of existence too (such as heaven, hell, purgatory, nirvana), and some branches of science envisage a multi-dimensional universe with other dimensions existing side-by-side with our own (in particular Quantum Physics and String Theory suggest this.)

In order to progress in all these fields during the 21st Century I feel there has to be a gradual coming together of various political, social , religious, Spiritual and scientific ideas into some enlightened consensus, taking the best ideas from various areas and adapting them.

I was inspired or urged to write a blog on this subject, and hope I have done it justice. It has not been an easy one for me to write, and I fear my own personal views have perhaps been emphasized too strongly. However I do now accept that any ideas, my own or other people’s, cannot be imposed by force, and this is the jist of what I’m trying to convey here. There has to be some sort of consensus before real progress can be made in any of the areas mentioned above.

 

 

Trouble in the Eurozone and the EU

The financial crisis extends far beyond the Eurozone of course, but there are problems unique to the Euro because it is a unique currency. Country after country in the Eurozone has to be bailed out to prop the Euro up.

Many say this is a a good reason not to join the Eurozone, and to opt out of the EU altogether. I say the very opposite. All the problems stem from the European Union being far too weak. It’s a half-way house, neither one thing nor the other.

The U.S. dollar has its ups and downs, but Texas or Louisiana don’t have to be ‘bailed out’ by the rest of the USA.  Soviet Uzbekistan didn’t have to be rescued by the rest of the USSR because it was bringing the ruble down. Why? Because these were federal republics or federal unions – one democratic and one not  you could say, but that is irrelevant to the fate of the currency.

The troubles with the Euro are summed up in the proverb ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. To work, the single currency has to be administered and controlled centrally by a federal agency for the whole of the EU, and there have to be federal taxes and federal laws to make wages, prices and all economic policies regular throughout the EU.

There is no half-way house that will work in the long run. It is a case of either going back to each European nation having its own currency, or the Eurozone at least becoming a federal state. I would argue that all EU countries should become part of a United States of Europe and adopt the Euro, and that the European Parliament should become the seat of the federal EU government which would control centrally economic policies, taxes, etc.

Without a level playing field the EU project will never work, and it is not just the Euro which suffers. Migration of workers from poorer parts of the EU to the more prosperous parts where wages are higher causes serious problems, but this would not be the case if there was a federal government and the same taxes, working conditions and minimum wage throughout the EU.

Lesser powers could be devolved to state legislatures as in the USA. Each state there has a considerable degree of autonomy, and this was copied in the set up of the USSR though of course the dominance of the Communist Pary passing down decrees from Moscow made this largely a paper democracy. The Stalin years insured this was the case, and true autonomy was never achieved before the Soviet Union broke up and even then democracy did not always come with autonomy.

The EU is in danger of developing towards the Soviet centralized model by not moving to a full federal structure. More and more central bureaucracy without the democratic safeguards. In the case of the Soviet Union it was because a structure that looked democratic was imposed centrally on the old Tsarist empire and then expanded to include the Baltic states after the Second World War. Old habits die hard, and the Russian Empire never had a tradition of democracy, and even now those states are struggling to develop democratic governments.

Here in the EU most states have a democratic tradition, so it should be much easier to build a truly democratic United States of Europe. The alternative is break up into individual nation states which not only will find it difficult to compete with huge countries like the still existing Russian Federation, the USA and China, but we will once again risk war breaking out in Europe and perhaps spreading all over the world again.

Specifically about the Eurozone are the problems we are seeing with the single currency, not because there is anything inherently wrong with the Euro itself, but because it is not controlled and regulated centrally by a democratically elected European government. One weak economy brings the rest of the Eurozone to its knees.

It was probably a mistake to create a single currency before putting in place a federal structure for Europe. To paraphrase a certain Austrian, my slogan would be: One country, One people, One Euro. We must all recognize we are European citizens and be proud of it:  proud of our blue and gold flag, proud of our anthem Ode to Joy, proud of the Euro and proud of our joint European history and culture. Proud that we’ve put our wars behind us forever and  joined together in a truly democratic federal union of autonomous nation states.

We must develop a sense of true unity and citizenship throughout Europe or the whole EU project will fail with disastrous consequences. This does not mean we will all be ruled from Brussels, Strasbourg or wherever the European Parliament is finally based (a federal capital will need to be established in a neutral zone like the Australian Capital Territory or the District of Columbia in the USA). Wherever it is based a truly democratic structure can insure that member states have full autonomy and control over everything that they need to. Texans are still proud to be Texans as well as Americans, and the calls for an independent Texas Republic are really a minority, and not many other states have similar nationalist movements, not since the American Civil War anyway when Dixie wanted to break away from the Yankee states.

That was about a breakaway federation (the Confederate States of America), not the break-up into single states. It may well be that at a later date a group of EU states will break away, and of course this should be allowed, or any individual state must be allowed to leave the Union at any time. That is democracy. Personally I hope for a breakaway United Socialist States of Europe at some point in the distant future.  Each federation would have its own currency, but to try and have a single currency in a number of nation states which are only loosely linked is extremely difficult and becomes like a never-ending juggling act with nobody really in control of the skittles.

Get the priorities right. Do we want a federal Europe or not? If not, stay out of Europe, but those who want a federal Europe, go ahead and create it and the single currency will then work.

My personal choice, at the moment unlikely to be agreed by my fellow countrymen, is for the individual states of Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) to become autonomous states in a federal United States of Europe with the Euro as our currency. (Northern Ireland would be reunited with the Republic of Ireland which would also be a member state.)

We can’t muddle along like this forever. We already have a flag, a Constitution, a President, an anthem, a single currency – now we need a single country, a federal union, to go with the rest or the whole thing will fall apart.

 

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Challenged?

Quotes from New Scientist webpages:
On 23 September, physicists with the OPERA experiment in Italy said they had caught neutrinos arriving from the CERN particle physics lab in Switzerland  60 nanoseconds sooner than light. That seemed to violate Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

The CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland, which is trying to investigate the origins of our Universe, seems to be proving in the latest experiments that some neutrinos can travel faster than light itself.

If these experiments can be repeated and replicated, and if the results are not some miscalculation, then this is a truly revolutionary discovery which will rock orthodox science based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which stated that nothing can travel faster than light. Alternatively it may give concrete evidence of extra dimensions, a theory favored by Quantum Physics and String Theorists.

If proven by further experiments the faster-than-light neutrinos this will mean re-thinking the whole of orthodox science, opening a way for theories such as the Big Breed universe theory put forward by Ronald Pearson. This theory in itself would open the way for all things paranormal, including the scientific reality of survival of death.

There was a program on TV about the CERN OPERA results. Here is the link for those who may wish to watch this program in the next few days:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b016bys2

I have also heard enough, and read enough in the papers and on the Internet, to know that this is potentially a really revolutionary discovery if proven by repeated experiments.

Einstein himself said on his 70th birithday he believed his theories may not stand the test of time. He could never, for instance, match some of them up with Quantum Physics, and scientists have been trying to do so ever since. Also the Big Bang theory of the Universe doesn’t really match the observations of an accelerating expansion of the Universe, so theories such as ‘dark energy’ have to be invented to explain this and other anomalies.
Looks like scientists might have to really re-think some of the ideas and theories they’ve had in the past century. It would take repeatable results like this to force them to do so, and look at alternative theories like Pearsons and those others which postulate alternative dimensions existing side-by-side with our own.

Rockin’ Weekend

Teds gather outside The Pavilion

And it wasn’t one of the rock’n’roll Weekenders down at the coast. Saturday was the All-Dayer (well late afternoon and evening) at The Pavilion, Battersea and loads of Teds (Teddy-boys) were there. I put on my original drape (well I’ve had it since 1967, made by Burtons to the original design from the 1950s) and it still fits, a bit worse for wear (like me).

In my 1967 blue Burtons drape jacket

Got there in evening, just in time to see Rockhouse do their first set. ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ featuring Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino, The Treniers, The Platters and Eddie Cochran was showing on the big TV screen (no sound), and then 6.5 Special and some Oh Boy! shows from the 1950s.

Yan, lead singer of CorrupTED

There were two bands, doing two sets each with records in between. CorrupTED are a young band led by Yan, a French guy backed by two English guys. That’s what I love about rock’n’roll – it unites people of all ages from all over the world. Yan used to be the drummer with the young Ted group Furious, who will be down the Pavilion at some similar events next year, as will CorrupTED.

Teds enjoying music and a drink

First time I’ve actually seen/heard either of these two groups, and I enjoyed the music and the friendly atmosphere. Met several friends – Stu who used to be with Wild Wax Show, Mick and Peggy from Guildford, Rocker Bill, local Battersea Ted Tom Hogan, etc. Sorry I missed Tom Ingram, but we didn’t recognize each other from photos. We’re Facebook friends.

Then tonite I was down the Half Moon, Putney to see the great Roy Young and his band, with Howie Casey on tenor sax, Roy on vocals and keyboards. The man has been going about 50 years and is incredible. Today (Sunday 16th, it’s now after midnite) Roy was celebrating his birthday, and a cake with candle was brought on stage.

Rarely do we hear even rock’n’roll bands do blistering rock’n’roll like Roy does. The nearest thing to a white British Little Richard you’ll ever see, and even Richard doesn’t do a lot of these numbers live: She’s Got It, Bama Lama Bama Loo, Ooh, My Soul!, Hey Hey Hey Hey (Goin’ Back To Birmingham, Way Down In Alabam), Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave, Lucille, Ready Teddy plus Ray Charles’ Mess Around, Jerry Lee’s Great Balls of Fire, Larry Williams’ Slow Down, Fats Domino’s Ready Willing and Able…. hard driving frantic rock’n’roll all the way. Fantastic!

Met up with friends Nick Cobban and Brian Jessup. Rod Jolliffe and Dave Carroll were also there. The main bar is being re-furbished, but the back music venue was certainly rockin’ tonite, and we even had tables and seats if we got there early enough, like I did.

A great weekend.

(Sorry, Roy Young pix were too blurred/far away with my phone camera, but a video came out pretty good. Posted on my Facebook page.)

Me and Yan (why does my blue jacket look black?)

Scotland The Brave

My life-partner came from Glasgow and we made many trips to Scotland during our time on Earth together, and I made a few since. Although he came to London when he was in his teens and lost his Glaswegian accent, we of course kept in touch with his relatives who we visited, and who came down to visit us.

On our trips to Scotland we visited his many relatives in Easterhouse and Drumchapel, vast council housing schemes built after the Second World War to replace the bombed-out buildings and the slums. Unfortunately these areas were not exactly Welwyn Garden City or Hampstead Garden Suburb. Gangs roamed the streets – on my first visit up there George’s nephews told me if stopped in the street to say I was a member of such-and-such gang. As if I with my London accent would be believed, though now after many visits with his relatives I could at least attempt a Glaswegian accent.

On my first visit I could hardly understand a word they said. Not just the broad Glaswegian accent (think Rab C. Nesbitt from the TV sitcom), but the local slang. Talking of Rab C. Nesbitt, George’s brother-in-law Chick was the spitting image complete with string vest, and his son Charles took after him.

Glaswegians have a language all their own so at first I couldn’t understand what on Earth they meant by ‘the weans’re greetin” or ‘Ah’m away oot fer messages’. I didn’t know what a ‘fish supper’ was, nor ‘tatty scones’ or ‘a piece’n’gammon’.

Visiting his cousin Margaret and her husband John in Dalmuir, a kind of suburb of Clydebank just outside Glasgow, she’d talk of being ‘away up the factor to complain about the middens’ or come out with phrases like ‘he’s a query!’ At first I thought she meant the neighbor was a gay man, but she just meant a misfit or someone she couldn’t make out – a mystery man who she didn’t like because she thought he was up to no good.

Dogs were ‘fly’, meaning clever. Everyone was a republican and a Socialist it seemed, which suited me and George as so were we. All except cousin Margaret who actually admired Maggie Thatcher. Cousin Margaret had a heart of gold, however, and would help anyone in need. She and John always made us very welcome in their home, as indeed did all George’s relations.

Just outside Glasgow, easily accessible by local train to Balloch, is beautiful Loch Lomond dominated by Ben Lomond. We had trips to Inverness, Loch Ness, Oban and Fort William in the Highlands, also to The Trossachs, but nothing could beat the beauty of Loch Lomond.

I’d also been on a CND march to Faslane on Gare Loch, sleeping  the night on a school floor in Dumbarton, but this was before I’d met George or his relations. This march was to protest the British Polaris base at Faslane. An American Polaris base was situated on the Holy Loch. Why Scotland should be made a target for Soviet nuclear missiles was a source of great anger for Glaswegians and the surrounding area especially, for these two nuclear armed submarine bases were quite near Scotland’s second city.

George often took me to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. That is the real Scottish city of culture with its Edinburgh Festival and much more refined culture. True Glasgow has a fine art gallery and its Citizens Theatre, both of which we also visited, but if you wanted culture you headed East to Edinburgh. There you had the historic Royal Mile around the Castle, Holyrood House, and Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano rising in the center of the city, which we climbed on at least one occasion. Also in Edinburgh was Miller’s Walk, not named after my partner’s family apparently. It led to a delightful countryfied pathway along by a river, one of our favorite Edinburgh walks.

On one holiday we stayed in George’s nephew’s caravan at Kinghorn, the other side of the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh. We went into Edinburgh by train for the Festival, and after seeing a fringe production missed the last train back and had to await the first train in the morning. After a night without sleep we almost missed our stop and ended up in the Highlands.

Dundee was another place we visited, home of the Beano and Dandy, and also The Broons, a cartoon strip from a Scottish Sunday paper which George liked. All written in the local dialect of course.

So I still feel an affinity to Scotland. George once took me to Crawford Street in Partick, West of the city center,  where he was brought up. His whole family lived in tenement blocks in that street, including his cousin Margaret. I once saw a reproduction of a typical Glasgow tenement flat in the local museum, complete with a bed which pulled down from the wall. The entrances to the blocks, and the more modern ones in Easterhouse and Drumchapel, are known as ‘closes’. Not much was left of Crawford Street as a new housing estate had been built, but his old school was still there in ruins, about to be demolished, so I saw the playground where young George used to play. Also still standing was the old Orange Lodge building which his father was a member of. Like Belfast and Liverpool, there is a strong Protestant/Catholic rivalry in Glasgow and Orange marches. This rivalry is also kept alive by the two big football teams, Celtic and Rangers. What George’s father thought when his daughter Betty married a Catholic, and all the children were confirmed in that faith, I don’t know. He did die when George was still a teenager, and George’s mother had died when he was very young.

Unfortunately longevity is not helped by the local lifestyle of heavy drinking and poor diet, fried food being the staple diet. ‘Weans’ visting us in London would turn their noses up at meat, two veg and gravy, not at all liking this foreign muck. They much preferred sausage and fritters (basically hamburger and chips) or ginger (fizzy drinks) and sweets from the local Indian shop.

I still keep in touch with George’s relatives, though he died 20 years ago. I have not, however, been up to Scotland for a long while. His nephew and some others visit me occasionally, and I’m referred to as his uncle, which is nice.

I’ve always found the Scots a very friendly people who always made me feel welcome, and also my mother who has visited up there as well. Many of George’s relatives have now died, but those that remain keep in touch in various ways.

Scotland now has its own Parliament and a more progressive national government than the UK as a whole. Once a supporter of independence for countries like Scotland, Wales, Catalonia, the Basque region, etc. I now am more of an internationalist, so would prefer these all become member states along with England of a United States of Europe. Northern Ireland should, of course, be reunited with the Republic and become a unitary state of the EU.

This brings me, finally, to other countries which I feel an affinity for, and in the EU these include France and Germany. I’ve always got on with the people from both these countries, and learnt a few words of their respective languages. Paris is one of my favorite cities, and was George’s (he lived there for a time). The Germans are just so efficient and straightforward. They are the ones who made imperfect Soviet-style Socialism work best in the old GDR (East Germany) which I visited twice.

Scotland, Germany, France, USA and the old USSR – these are all countries or super-states I felt an affinity with for various reasons. Scotland, however, is the place I have family connexions with thru my ‘out-laws’. There were no civil partnerships while George was alive, so they can’t legally be described as ‘in-laws’, but they were more friendly than some of my legal English ‘in-laws’!

Best of all was to experience an old-fashoned Scottish Hogmanay back in the early 1970s. The partying went on for two or three days, and having black hair at the time I was sent to neighbors ‘first-footing’. It was a wonderful experience, with neighbors dropping in, and an old granny from next door who they kept putting to bed and who kept getting up again to drink some more and carry on partying. Happy memories, though George drew the line at neighbors dragging us out of bed early the next morning to carry on drinking in the local pub. He said Scottish pubs at New Year of all times were not the place to be, especially as the drinking there and at home went on all day and thru the next night.

‘Youse Sassenachs cannae keep up wi’ us!’ Ha ha! George had lived in London so long he was often mistaken for being English, but always retained a love for Scottish delicacies like tatty scones and Scottish black pudding, which I developed a liking for too. I’ll ask my nephew to bring some down next time he comes – oh and a big Scottish meat pie from the local butcher – you don’t get food like that down here. The only butcher near me is Hal-al, and the local meat stall at the Saturday market doesn’t sell meat pies.