Posts Tagged ‘RCG’

Socialism is Survival

Friday, May 29th, 2020
Capitalism is Extinction – Socialism is Survival’

In 2008 Richard Wilkinson wrote an opinion in The Guardian, ‘Follow Cuba’s emissions standard‘ in which he states:

“According to the WWF, Cuba is the only country that has managed to combine an environmentally sustainable footprint per head of population with an acceptably high quality of life as measured by the UN Human Development Index. And if Cuba can do that without the latest and most economical technology, how much easier should it be for us?”

Follow Cuba’s emissions standard

Part of the reason for this is, as he also states, that resources in Cuba, though relatively limited are shared much more equally than in market-led democracies such as the UK and the US. He makes the point that material differences between people are destructive, reducing well-being and quality of life and leading to many social problems, and that wealthy societies such as our should be concentrating on reducing inequalities rather than pursuing economic growth.

Cuba Leads the Way

To put it simply, we already have enough, and the important thing is now that everyone gets a decent share. We don’t need exact equality, but we do need to avoid the kind of indecent excess we now see, with the rich with more money than they can ever sensibly spend and the poor unable to afford decent food and safe housing, with too many sleeping on the streets or in overcrowded properties, often with little or no security of tenure and too many in jobs on less than a living wage and often zero hours contracts.

Smach Capitalism! Save Our Planet!

The biggest challenge we face as a world and as a nation is of course not the largely irrelevant matter of Brexit but climate change, and inequality also drives that – both directly by the senseless consumption of the ultra-rich and the poor quality environment of the poor, and indirectly by the encouragement to consume of living in the same society as those who feature most largely in our advertising and media coverage. We are going to have to make huge changes to survive, cutting down our footprint on the world’s resources to perhaps a quarter of the current UK levels, a change that it is hard to see a market-led capitalist system adapting to. And while Wilkinson suggests it should be easier for us, I think our current wealth and political system probably make it impossible. At least without a real revolution.

The Solution is Socialism

The Revolutionary Communist Group put it more starkly and simply than Wilkinson: “Capitalism is Extinction – Socialism is Survival’ but also base their conclusion on the closest we have in the world to a socialist state, Cuba. Despite punitive economic sanctions imposed by the USA (and perhaps sometimes as a result of them) Cuba under communism has made enormous strides in some areas, producing universal literacy and one of the leading health services in the world – and its medical services are one of the country’s main sources of foreign income. Increased life expectancy – to values similar to much rich countries such as the USA and UK – in a roughly static population is now presenting familiar problems. Energy use has remained relatively low with per-capita consumption only around a quarter of that in the UK.

Of course that isn’t the whole story, though it is perhaps difficult to know exactly what is, as all sources of information about the country reflect considerable bias. Many in the RCG have been to Cuba and seen the country at first hand, but what and who they saw will to some extent be affected by their own political affiliations and those of their hosts. Much of the more commonly spread information in the media comes from émigrés who left the country because of their dissatisfaction with the situation and the regime, or from anti-communist individuals and and capitalist organisations.

‘Practically Perfect In Every Way’

Castro and his guerrilla band took the country back from one of the worst and most corrupt governments in history, a dictator who had seized power in a military coup in 1952, but haven’t managed to eliminate corruption – though it is now said to be is the 60 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries by Transparency International. It would be hard not to admire a country which has withstood the sanctions and intrigues of the USA for so many years. Castro himself was apparently the target of over 600 assassination attempts by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency but died of natural causes in 2016.

You can read more about the protest and rolling picket outside various temples of consumerism on Oxford St at Cuba leads on climate say RCG.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Another Grenfell protest

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

It seems increasingly unlikely that we are ever going to see justice for the victims of Grenfell as the establishment use all the tricks in their book to protect those responsible.

Perhaps in the end after years of purposefully drawn out inquiry by police and judges a few small companies will be found guilty of failing to follow some aspects of building regulations and be given insignificant fines, though I doubt even that. But the real culprits seem almost certain to escape scot-free.

THe RCG have a fine banner by Andrew Cooper

So far we have only seen the first stage of the official  Grenfell Tower Inquiry which appears to have been a travesty, with the judge shifting blame on those responsible for fighting the fire and coming to a conclusion that not only flies in the face of what experienced fire-fighters say, including those who were there on the night, but could well lead to more deaths in other high-rise fires. People are almost certain given the publicity by the report to die in some future fires because they try to escape rather than staying safe in their homes. And quite clearly had the idiotic Jacob Rees Mogg lived in Grenfell he and his family would have died there.

These blocks – Grenfell included – only got approval on the basis that any fire would be contained within a flat and would be expected to be able to burn itself out even if fire-fighters did not attend. Building regulations made sure that this was the case, and the towers were built to enable any firest that did occur to be safely fought from within the building. The flats were essentially small self-contained concrete units, isolated from each other, with dry risers to supply water on the landings when needed and smoke traps.

Simon Elmer of ASH who produced a report on Grenfell

The blame for Grenfell lies squarely with the government ministers who altered the regulations and allowed building owners to make their own fire inspections, with owners who saved money by arranging inadequate inspections and employing contractors to add unsuitable cladding and otherwise compromise the building safety. Contractors too bear some resposiblity for agreeing to install unsafe cladding and for doing so in a way which removed the gaps essential for safety.

Another small left-wing group declined the offer to join the RCG protest

Kensington & Chelsea Council and its TMO must bear the main responsibility for this particular building, with councillors and others taking the decisions which made the building a fire-trap. They were more than incompetent, bullying those who informed them of some of the problems.

The council too failed to properly deal with the survivors, despite some extravagant promises made in the early days after the fire by Theresa May and others. A full year after the fire only 41% of the households from Grenfell Tower and adjoining Grenfell walk had been permanently re-housed. Of those in the wider affected area, 29% had been able to return to their homes and 1% – one family – permanently rehoused. The other 70% (90 families) were still in some form of temporary accomodation. This despite Kensington & Chelsea being one of the wealthiest boroughs in the country.

Many of those most closely involved are still suffering intensely from trauma and both initial relief and counselling were other areas where the council and other official response are felt by many to have been inadequate – and put to shame by the community response. As an outsider I don’t feel entitled to comment, though I’ve certainly heard the pain expressed by some of the community.

People pose on the council steps at the end of the RCG protest

Various groups formed after the fire, some with more support among the victims and wider community than others. Although all have I think taken part in the monthly silent walks which aim to keep the memory of the events alive, there have been arguments with some groups urging a more radical stance is needed to get action.

Two of these groups, both relatively small, had come to protest at the Kensington & Chelsea town hall outside the council meeting. I had gone to photograph the protest by the Revolutionary Communist Group who have run street stalls on Ladbroke Grove close to Grenfell and organised other protests in the area as well as taking part in the silent walks. As well as their own speakers they had invited others to talk, and as main speaker Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing, whose report and film produced within a few weeks of the fire remains the most authorative account of the reasons why Grenfell was a tragedy waiting to happen.

More at No Justice for Grenfell


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Guardian Lies on Venezuela

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Back to looking back at my own work from a few months ago, and a protest outside the offices of The Guardian, a canal-side block on York Way to the north of Kings Cross, part of King’s Place. It’s a place I’ve visited a few time as in the ground floor entrance they have regular exhibitions of photographs, but on this occasion they were not letting people in to see them, with security staff at the door.

The protest was organised by the Revolutionary Communist Group, a name that might put some people off, but who I think are one of the friendliest and most sensible groups in left politics, and while I may not always agree with their views, they have been very active in campaigning on some of the our pressing social issues – including housing, universal credit and other benefits and disability, working together with other groups without trying to take things over. Often they are the people who bring a PA system to protests and make it available as an ‘open mike’ for others as well as them to speak.

They have a newspaper too, ‘Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism’ and it runs readable and well-researched articles on many subjects, and it includes much coverage of events in South America, informed by people who have lived and worked and have good contacts there.

Of course they view the situation from a particular political perspective, supporting the left-wing popular movements in the continent, and in the case of Venezuela, the government under President Nicolas Maduro. Of course not everything is rosy in the country which has suffered greatly from US sanctions, low oil prices and other economic pressures, but they are very aware of these pressures and the problems they have led to.

The stringences in Venezuela have particularly affected the middle-classes, while the Bolivarian revolution begun under Hugo Chavez meant great gains for the peasants and indigenous peoples, even though there has been deterioration in recent years.

The Guardians coverage of events in Venezuela have been almost entirely from the point of view of the middle classes who their correspendent clearly is at home with, and have largely ignored the popular support still enjoyed by Maduro. While the support of most of our press owned by billionaires as well as the establishment BBC for the US-backed efforts to mount a coup in the country against the democratically elected leadership is hardly surprising, many on the left are surprise that The Guardian should so one-sidedly support it.

The protesters held up posters listing some of the successes of the Venezuelan government under Chavez and Maduro with the Bolivarian revolution building socialism and transforming the lives of the poor which have led to the crippling US sanctions and the US-backed coup and called on The Guardian to stop publising lies and to report the facts and both sides of the argument in Venezuela rather than simply parrot the views of the US-backed opposition.

Towards the end of the protest a small deputation attempted to deliver a letter to The Guardian but were not allowed to enter the building. Instead the security man at the door accepted their letter and promised that it would be delivered.

More pictures at Guardian lies about Venezuela.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Tottenham

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Since I was going to photograph a protest in Tottenham, a part of north London I don’t often get to, I thought I’d take a look at the new stadium there. I’m not a Spurs fan, nor of any other team, though I do still occasionally read the reports on Brentford’s matches in one of our free local papers with a little amusement. Although I was keen on sports when young and played in my areas leading under-11 football team – two of whose members went on to play for Brentford and one for Chelsea – and continued to compete for my school and several teams at football and rugby while a student, I’ve always considered watching sport – either live or on TV – a waste of time.

The new stadium looks fine, though I didn’t have time to investigate it beyond a few quick snaps. But what really gets me annoyed is that the club want to change the name of nearby White Hart Lane station (in White Hart Lane) to Tottenham Hotspur, and that TfL are more than happy to oblige in this annoying piece of corporate branding and pocket £14.7m for doing so. TfL’s job is to run a transport system, not to provide publicity. I will also feel rather disappointed if Spurs fans accept the name change for the ground and stop calling it White Hart Lane.

The protest outside the Tottenham Job CentrePlus was a small one, taking place on a Thursday lunchtime, and organised by the Revolutionary Communist Group, a relatively small left-wing organisation, but about a major issue, Universal Credit. Although some of its aims to simplify the benefits system are laudable it has been clear from the start that there were huge problems in the implementation, and that the whole scheme has simply not been properly designed. Add to that some political interference to cut costs and the whole thing is a disaster.

Much of the problem is I think that the scheme was designed by well-off and well-connected people who have little or no appreciation of how those affected live. The kind of people who, if they are a little short of cash at some point can sell a few things (perhaps some of their investments or the second or third house), get a loan at a relatively low interest rate from a bank or ask friends or family to tide them over.

Waiting a five weeks (or rather longer) for their money would not be a problem for them, but for those who are dependent on benefits it can be a disaster. It is a public disgrace that we need food banks, but UC has been a major factor driving the huge increase in people who have to use them – or starve. The other major factor driving people to them has been benefit sanctions, with people losing benefits often for trivial or even made-up reasons so that DWP staff can meet the targets set for them, leaving people with no resources on which to survive for months or even years.

Many too have become homeless for the same reasons, evicted because they cannot pay the rent. And far too many have died. It’s a scandal and one that attempts to draw public attention to and organise opposition I think deserve support, whoever organises them. It’s a pity that the sectional nature of left-wing politics means that the RCG seldom gets much support from people outside its own group for protests such as these.

As a photographer, small protests such as these present something of a challenge to make them newsworthy. As much as possible I try to cover them in a way that brings out the issues, perhaps as reflected in posters and banners, and also to produce images with some visual interest.

Scrap Universal Credit Jobcentre protest
Tottenham and Spurs


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images