South Kings bilateral visit

Comrades from South Kings Socialists, a US based Marxist-Leninist group have met with comrades from Birmingham.

General agreement on a broad range of issues characterised the meeting, with comrades discussing the harmful influence of idpol on the youth, the tasks of anti-imperialists in the imperialist countries, the study and dissemination of Marxism by cadres and masses and a many other similar matters.

In a visit that has taken in Glasgow, Derry, London and Birmingham the comrades from the US have been able to experience something of the conditions this side of the Atlantic.

The energy, commitment and sincerity of the South Kings comrades, in the face of fascist violence, gang intimidation and the sterilizing influence of idpol, will stand the comrades in good stead and we wish them all the very best in their labours.

QuickQuid – cut and run

QuickQuid

QuickQuid, Britain’s biggest payday lender have gone into administration after talks with the UK Financial Conduct Authority fell through. CashEuroNet UK, the US owned lender which is comprised of the “QuickQuid, On Stride Financial and Pounds to Pocket brands”, announced that all three US owned UK lenders have gone into administration on the 25th October.

According to their website, whilst the Company has gone bust and is unlikely to cough up the millions it owes, the lawyers make it explicitly clear that all borrowers must continue to pay off their debts to the Company “all outstanding loans remain subject to the terms agreed with the Company and borrowers should continue to make payments in the usual way according to the company’s terms and conditions”(Enova International, Inc., 2019). Talk about having your cake and eating it…

Why have QuickQuid gone into administration?

QuickQuid received more than 10,000 complaints and legal challenges in recent months due to loans being mis-sold over affordability, with rates typically as high as 1575%. After entering talks with the FCA over a high volume of complaints in order to try and resolve this, the talks fell through and CashEuroNet UK pulled the plug, likely deciding it’s better to up and run with the QuickQuid they made rather than stay and have to answer and pay back those they took advantage of at a time of austerity, poverty, deprivation and record levels of unemployment in Britain.

What does this all mean for working people in Britain?

The double standards and rank hypocrisy of capitalism in Britain couldn’t be clearer. Punishment for the poor and reward for the rich is the message, as borrowers who have been mis-sold aren’t guaranteed to compensation whereas QuickQuid sell off their assets and leave with all the funds taken from hard working people, a pretty penny for the parent company CashEuroNet UK, a QuickQuid indeed.

What should workers do?

If you live and work in Britain, you are a British worker, no matter where in the world you are from, we believe that the only thing workers can do is to organise, educate and retaliate in order to protect ourselves and our families from austerity, oppression and all other problems put onto us by the wealthy class and bankers. This is one of the essential reasons workers in Britain have come together and formed our own organisation. One single fact strikes out clear as day, whenever there is trouble in the economy it is the workers that pay the price for the greed of the wealthy and the political class in Britain, when there’s a debt to be paid, the ruling class and bourgeois state expect us to foot the bill.

 

A few further links on this story

Enova International, Inc. (2019). Brands & Services – Enova International, Inc.. [online] Available at: https://www.enova.com/brands/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

Grant Thornton UK LLP. (2019). Grant Thornton CashEuroNet UK LLC Administration. [online] Available at: https://casheuronetukadministration.grantthornton.co.uk/administration/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

CPGB-ML. (2019). The true level of unemployment. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2019/10/26/news/true-level-unemployment/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

CPGB-ML. (2019). Shameful levels of malnutrition in Britain. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2019/09/13/news/shameful-levels-malnutrition-britain/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

CPGB-ML. (2019). Join the party or become a supporter. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/join/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

CPGB-ML. (2019). Workers for Brexit: why our party supported leave in the EU referendum. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2019/03/29/tv/workers-for-brexit-why-our-party-supported-leave-in-the-eu-referendum/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

CPGB-ML. (2019). About the Communists. [online] Available at: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/about/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2019].

GMB protest at Rugeley Amazon

A large protest was organised this afternoon by the GMB outside the premises of Amazon near Birmingham.

The rally was part of a week of events organised by GMB, mirroring action taken across the globe. Amazon have a number of large warehouses in the west midlands and employ nigh on 30,000 workers in Britain and the north of Ireland, with a total worldwide workforce of 630,000.

Staff at warehouses around the world reportedly walked out on Monday this week to coincide with Amazon’s 48-hour ‘Prime Day’ sale – dubbed its very own Black Friday.The sale offers discounts exclusively to Prime members – which is the retailer’s £79 a year subscription service.

Seattle-based Amazon, founded by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, says new deals will launch as often as every five minutes until midnight on Tuesday, “giving shoppers plenty of reasons to come back again and again”. In Germany, the trade union Verdi brought out 2,000 workers on strike in Verne, Weinberg, Leipzig and Koblenz. In Britain, amongst a veritable shopping frenzy, Labour-affiliated GMB said:

“We’re not calling for economic damage for Amazon… What we’re asking for is for people to be aware. Leave feed back on Amazon”.

Companies like Amazon and Deliveroo, with large workforces enduring stressful conditions on poverty pay, are working hard to deny their workers the right to trade-union representation, even when those unions explicitly state that they don’t wish to impact on operating profits.

If the working class is to get up off its knees, there will have to be a fight-back (quite possibly impacting on operating profits, which by the way are of no benefit to the workforce). Britain’s poorest workers have for so long endured high levels of insecurity, unliveable pay and inhuman conditions, the first step to rectifying this will be advocating the interests of workers and not shareholders.

photos:

Housing: foreign investors head to Birmingham

seven capital birmingham

An abandoned old tesco at ground and derelict offices above are transformed into “Birmingham’s hottest property” by SevenCapital

A report in The Times on July 8 described the rush of foreign capital into Birmingham’s housing market. With cheap, cramped and ugly apartments flying up across the city, it is clear that there is money to be made.

Birmingham reportedly has the youngest population of any city in Europe, is now the most popular destination for those escaping from London and stands to benefit from even better rail links to the Capital once HS2 is completed (journey times of 1hr 15mins are already available on some services). Furthermore, with house prices a fraction of those in London it is easy to understand why workers from the south are looking to cash in and buy in Birmingham, and other poorer workers merely escape to cheaper rents in the West Midlands.

“While London and Manchester were previously the prime targets for foreign investors there has been a surge in interest in Birmingham, with overseas buyers snapping up as many as 100 flats each in new developments.

As well as the promise of huge yields renting to young people, investors are being lured by glossy brochures boasting that Birmingham is “one of the greenest [cities] in the UK” has “more miles of canals than Venice” and is home to the “iconic” Bullring. Another developer, whose conversion of a factory in the trendy Digbeth area is being marketed in Hong Kong, promises almost guaranteed rental income.

Seven Capital, which is behind numerous developments in the city, is telling investors that demand from tenants is so high that some properties are being let on the same day they are purchased.”[i]

The Times, which is not well known for being concerned with the prospects of ordinary working-class people reported that,

“Chloe Thorn, 26, has been saving for a deposit to buy a flat in Birmingham since she was 16. But when she began putting offers in she found that minimum deposits were either out of reach or flats were marked as investment-only. “It’s like being priced out of the city I’ve grown up in,” she added. “I remember when I first started looking in 2017 and seeing all these new buildings being built and thinking I may stand a chance of buying somewhere in the city once they are done. But once they went online to buy it was all investors-only on the majority.””

Capitalism only builds for profit

What Chloe failed to realise is that houses are not built so that working people can have a nice place to live, to bring up children and start a family. Under capitalism flats and houses are built so that they can be sold for a profit. Under capitalism, commodities (houses, cars, food, video games) are produced so that they can be sold on the market, they are not sold at their value, they will be sold for as much as the seller can persuade somebody to part with. Capitalism does not work for ordinary working people.

Housing under capitalism has become a vehicle for the wealthy to invest money in. The influx of foreign capital into housing in Birmingham is a consequence of the lack of better (more lucrative) schemes for the wealthy to invest in, and despite the claims of estate agents in Hong Kong and elsewhere, it is far from certain that investment like this can return the rents which these landlords hope for. Birmingham is a working-class city, more than 100,000 children live in poverty and one in five workers earn less than the Living Wage (£8.25p/h), recent accounts from the city council show that many workers cannot afford to pay their council tax with Birmingham owing £115m in outstanding arrears – not a cast-iron guarantee for great rental incomes.[ii]

Whilst estate agents will say anything to shift overpriced, poor quality housing, it is surprising that there are so many gullible enough to fall for it. Even in London the property bubble is due to pop, and there are already signs that in the highest end of the market the glory days are already over,

“Viewed from Bangalore, the purchase of a newly built three-bedroom apartment in London for more than £1.4m seemed like a safe investment bet. The top-floor three-bedroom home under construction in Keybridge House south of the Thames boasted views of the City of London and the Shard skyscraper. As Shonu Bhandari considered the purchase two years ago, agents told him he could expect the value to rise 15 per cent before the property had even been finished. The Indian entrepreneur, who runs a medical products company, happily signed up to buy. But his purchase soured quickly. When Bhandari approached a mortgage lender, it valued the property not at 15 per cent more than he had agreed to pay — but at 20 per cent less. With completion of the building looming, he signed over the property to a new buyer in March this year for £1.2m, losing more than £200,000 of his deposit.

…One new-build brochure from the estate agent Savills in 2016 said price growth in prime central London was expected to average 21.5 per cent by the end of 2020. Prices have so far fallen 10.4 per cent since that date, according to LonRes, a data provider.

“Global capital entering local real estate markets is not particularly new, but what was new was the intensity with which it entered places like Vancouver, New York, London, Melbourne and Sydney,” says Andy Yan, a planner and academic in Vancouver.”

“…In London, research by Savills shows construction continues to be out of step with demand. The London market over the next five years will need 42,500 new homes a year for sale or rent at cheaper than market rates, the property agency found — but only about 3,500 a year will be built.

Demand also far exceeds supply in the “lower” and “mid” markets, up to £700 per square foot. But above that, planned supply starts to exceed demand. In the £700 to £1,000 a sq ft category, annual demand for 7,000 homes a year will be catered for by almost 10,500.  Prices at the top end are falling, but the median London house price remains more than 12 times average earnings. “What we don’t need in London are more £1m-plus apartments with swimming pools, spas, cinema suites and service charges of £7 or £8 a sq ft [per year]. Those are not for normal Londoners,””[iii]

Socialism the only answer

Houses should be homes for people, shelter and a secure family life is a right for every worker. Houses should not, as they are under capitalism, be commodities, sold only to those who can afford to buy or rent them, rather than provided for those who need them. By its utter inability to solve the housing question and meet this basic need of working people, the capitalist system is providing yet more proof that it is well past its use-by date and due for demolition.

The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party (CPGB-ML), held in September 2018, passed a resolution on housing which put forward the basic demands of the Communist Party on the housing question. These demands form the basis of the party work on housing, and should be taken up by all advanced workers:

  1. Scrap the 2016-17 housing bill:the immediate scrapping of the 2016-17 housing bill, which threatens hundreds of thousands with poverty and homelessness.
  2. Build council houses not ‘affordable homes’:the provision of at least 300,000 new council houses per year to end the crisis.
  3. Guarantee secure social housing:guaranteed, secure and well-maintained social housing for all who want it, close to people’s work and families, and the abolition of divisive allocation criteria.
  4. Council ownership not ALMOs:the return of housing association and ‘non-profit’ properties to council ownership.
  5. Abolish housing charities:the abolition of housing charities and the reintroduction of the legal right to decent, secure housing for all; slums, overcrowding and homelessness are an indictment on capitalism and a crime against humanity.
  6. Set a rent cap: the introduction of a rent cap at 20 percent of minimum wage for all privately rented accommodation, and the scrapping of housing benefit (a subsidy to landlords that has helped to fuel rent rises).
  7. Protect existing council housing:the scrapping of all schemes that fuel prices, create shortages and offer subsidies to landlords and developers.
  8. Use existing surplus housing stock:the confiscation of all surplus homes and unfinished developments and their transformation into council housing.
  9. Provide decent homes for all:the establishment of residents’ management committees to oversee planning and maintenance and ensure that all workers have access to adequate space, necessary amenities and decent facilities, including having usable and pleasant outdoor spaces and community halls.

 

Some links

[i] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/birmingham-housing-foreign-buy-to-let-investors-pricing-out-locals-bkdfb2ws5

[ii] https://birminghamworker.org/2019/06/13/birmingham-council-cash-reserves-increase-by-736/ & https://birminghamworker.org/2019/07/03/thousands-of-birmingham-workers-too-poor-to-pay-their-council-tax/

[iii] https://www.ft.com/content/ea9c9abc-943d-11e9-aea1-2b1d33ac3271

Thousands of Birmingham workers too poor to pay their council tax

council tax rise 2019

a poster issued by Birmingham Worker in April this year when council tax for many households rose by £70+

In May Birmingham Worker reported on the crisis in council tax and its anti-working class character hitting many of the poorest in our cities. A publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) into council tax inequality focused on London but taking into account some statistical evidence for the whole of Britain concluded that council tax was beginning to look a lot like the ill-fated Poll Tax.

The Birmingham Mail on 2 July carried the story that council tax arrears in Birmingham have soared to their highest levels on record with workers in Birmingham owing a total of £115.6million in outstanding council tax. Non-payments in 2018/19 totalled £21.4million – an overall collection rate of 94.4%.

This was a rise from £111million in 2017/18, and up by almost a fifth compared to £98.5million in 2012/13 (the figures are cumulative and include arrears that stretch back many years).

The UK is ranked by the OECD as having, after France, the greatest reliance on property taxation of all OECD country respondents as a proportion of GDP. For 2017, property taxes accounted for around 4.2 per cent of GDP, more than twice the OECD average.

Today’s system of council tax leaves those living in the lowest-value homes paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value, than those living in the highest value homes. This is particularly acute in London where property investment has taken house price prices to ludicrous levels. The poorest Londoners pay 8.1% of household income in council tax, whilst those in the top income decile contribute just 1.3% of their declared earnings.

Council tax

No tinkering with the present system of taxation will be enough to stop the steady slide of hundreds of thousands of workers and middle classes into absolute destitution and misery. The crisis of overproduction, its consequent lay-offs and redundancies destroy the purchasing power of the masses who are also crushed under the weight of rising prices and taxation which they can no longer afford. Millions of workers today are a pay cheque away from ruination. Raising taxation of empty homes in London does nothing to undermine the financial power of the landlord and capitalist class, it does nothing to alleviate the underlying cause of the people’s misery – capitalism. Only under socialism, where the private ownership of the land by a tiny few is replaced with a socialist system of land ownership and taxation, where the recurrent crisis of capitalism is done away with and replaced by planned production can the working man and woman finally find themselves liberated.

Join the communists

If you want to fight for a better life for yourself, your class and your children, get in touch with the communist party in Birmingham:

Thousands of Birmingham children are taught in classes which are too big

children in class

According to figures released by the Department for Education, 11,503 children in Birmingham are being taught in classes of more than 30 pupils (as of January this year). This means one in nine primary pupils in Birmingham (11%) are now being taught in a large class, up from 10.9% a year before.

Across England, there were 558,658 pupils in primary schools being taught in classes of 31 or more.

The Birmingham Mail reported Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, as saying: “Today’s figures expose the consequences of the Tory cuts to our schools, with more and more pupils crammed in to super-sized classes that can only make it harder for them to learn.”

What Angela Rayner and other Labour MPs/councillors etc want to hide from the public is that the commercialisation of schools began under Tony Blair’s Labour party with the Learning and Skills Act 2000. Successive Labour governments, and then the Liberal Democrats and Tory coalition (and in more recent times the Conservative governments of Cameron and May) have consolidated and deepened this process.

The academies, which began to replace LEA-funded schools brought private finance into the running of schools, and are a part and parcel of move towards full-scale privatisation in primary and secondary education. Along with the increase in religious, private and grammar schools, academies paved the way for the re-establishment of the two-tier system in state education, abolishing comprehensive schooling.

What do communists say?

At the 8th Congress of the Communist Party (CPGB-ML) held in Birmingham last year, a motion on education declared:

“This congress notes that today in Britain, rather than education and vocational training being viewed as a social necessity and individual necessity required for the full flourishing of society as a whole as well as the individuals within it, education and training are treated as a commodity, which is sold to the working class as a product that will provide a higher income to them as individuals, irrespective of its social utility or its ability to enhance the individual life.

Congress believes that all education and training from creche and kindergarten through school, university, vocational college and on to adult lifelong learning and retraining should be provided free, along with full maintenance grants to full-time pupils and students, that sufficient teachers should educated, trained and provided, and that vocational training should be awarded equal respect to academic education, since the plumber is as useful and as necessary as the sanitation engineer.

Recognising the above, congress resolves that the party’s demands regarding education are:

1. The expulsion of all private interests in education, including the abolition of academies and their return to the state school system and the end of private provision of goods and services to educational institutions, with all staff brought in-house with realistic wages and full employment rights.

2. The abolition of private, religious and ethnically-divided schools.

3. The abolition of tuition fees in all institutions at all levels of education.

4. The provision of maintenance grants to cover living expenses of working-class students and their families, from creche and kindergarten through nursery, to school, undergraduate and higher-degree level.

5. Changes in the syllabuses and teaching methods should reflect the scientific, historical and artistic needs and interests of working-class people, including the teaching of materialist philosophy, science and working-class history and politics.”

If you’d like to find out more, get in touch:

Birmingham Councils £2.7bn PFI deal with Amey ends in divorce

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The infamous £50m pair of bollards

After eight years the £2.7bn PFI deal which Birmingham city council made with private contractor Amey has come to an end.

Amey have agreed to pay the council £160 million to exit early from the contract  to look after the highways for 25 years, which was at the time the largest PFI contract for highways, covering the management and maintenance of more than 2,500km of highways, 96,000 street lights, 1,000 traffic signals and more than 850 bridges, structures and tunnels.

In a joint statement agreed after a hearing in the Court of Appeal, the contractor and council announced that:

“The full retendering of the project to find a permanent replacement contractor will take place during 2020-21.”

Workers and ratepayers in Birmingham deserve much better than another hashed PFI outsourcing nightmare. PFI has been proven to be unable to deliver public services time and again. Contractors assume that they will be able to deliver the promised services on a shoestring, happy to cut staff numbers, slash pay, pensions, work breaks, travel time and other rights of employees in their quest to make a profit. Workers must demand that these services are taken back in house.

Politically the lesson for workers is that the Labour party which nationally and locally championed PFI and continues to support big business interests is no friend of the working class. The fight for socialism cannot be taken forward by those who hide this truth from the workers.

 

 

Czech comrade speaks in Birmingham and London

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Comrade Josef Skala from the Prague branch of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) gave two insightful talks this weekend, the first in Birmingham on Saturday evening, and the second in central London on Sunday.

In his talks to members of the CPGB-ML, Dr Skala recalled his youth in socialist Czechoslovakia and described the vast social and cultural progress which the Czech people made under socialism. A huge growth in the Czech economy, a twelve fold increase in production in the years following the Nazi occupation, the building up of the Czech machine tool industry and the fraternal assistance rendered by the Soviet Union in the post-war years were topics of interest and lively discussion. It was notable, said Dr Skala that meat consumption in the Czech Republic has yet to return to the levels before the ‘Velvet revolution’ and the GDP of the country took 15 years to recover to the levels it attained before the counter revolution.

Josef Skala joined the Communist party a few days after turning 18 in the fateful year of 1968. His talk on the ‘Prague Spring’ delivered in London will be made available on the party youtube account in due course. In a long and distinguished political life Dr Skala acted as the President of the International Union of Students, in which capacity he met Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi amongst other revolutionary leaders, as well as traitors such as Mikhail Gorbachev. A well read, multi-lingual worker-theoretician, he continues to write, teach and play an active role defending the honour of his homeland and the revolutionary teachings of Marxism-Leninism.

Birmingham council cash reserves increase by 736%

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100,000 children in Birmingham live in poverty according to the Children’s Society.  Birmingham is a young city with almost half its 1.1 million residents aged under 30. Birmingham’s parents earn very little with one in five workers in Birmingham earning less than the Living Wage of £8.25 per hour.

From the above its clear to anybody that the services provided by the city council to meet the pressing needs of Birmingham’s poorest are absolutely essential. Any reader will know that Birmingham city council, under a Labour administration, has waged a ruthless campaign of cuts to services and attacks on the working conditions of council employees, with bin strikes and care worker disputes making regional and national news.

The Labour party career councillors blame it all on Tory cuts, they say there is simply no money. The same excuse is used by their acolytes in the Socialist Party and other Trotskyite groupings.

It’s a similar picture up and down the country, where two-faced councillors squeeze the poor while building up cash reserves, handing the assets over to private contractors and wasting millions in short sighted projects and on overblown salaries for top executives.

In a lengthy report published in The Times, it is alleged that Birmingham council like many others has built up huge cash reserves in the last ten years whilst drastically reducing spending on services. The piece details hundreds of local authorities with Birmingham city council topping the table for having increased its cash reserves by £411 million in eight years.

“English councils have amassed huge cash reserves while blaming budget cuts for reduced spending on services, official figures suggest.

Local authorities, excluding police or fire and rescue authorities, were sitting on £21.8 billion of non-ringfenced reserves last year, £5 billion more than they had in 2017 and £11 billion more than they had at the start of the decade.

Spending on local services, including libraries, parks, bus services and bin collections, has fallen by about 21 per cent since 2010, when the government began slashing the central grant it gives to local authorities. Many councils have also been raising council tax bills.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns for lower tax, said that some authorities were making questionable decisions with their budgets that meant residents ‘paying more for less’.”

Midlands local authorities change in non-ringfenced reserves since 2010

Birmingham £411m 736%
Nuneaton & Bedworth £9m 338%
Worcester £8m 265%
Warwickshire £96m 259%
Daventry £19m 238%
Coventry £69m 236%
Rugby £6m 221%
Stratford-on-Avon £8m 208%
Warwick £5m 38
Worcestershire £20m 32%
North Warwickshire £1m 21%
Redditch £0m 12%
Dudley £5m 10%
Wolverhampton £-3m -5%

According to the report Coventry city council said it could no longer afford to provide free school buses for disabled children whilst “holding £97.6 million in usable reserves, up 76 per cent on 2017.” Coventry is planning a further £11 million of cuts.

“In its annual accounts the council accepted that it was difficult to explain the need for such high levels of reserves but said that the financial challenges it faced and projects it had established provided a ‘strong justification’.”

Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink

All this cash floating about without a penny for the workers pay, nor services for working class families reminds us of the tale of the ancient mariner,  ‘water water everywhere nor any drop to drink’. In that poem the ancient mariner brought a curse upon his shipmates by shooting an albatross and he is forced to wear the albatross around his neck as his shipmates suffer from thirst.

The working class prolongs its suffering in the continued support of the imperialist Labour party. The Labour party and its deeds hang on our necks, never has it been clearer that workers need to build a Communist Party to lead the fight for socialism and rid ourselves of the curse of class collaboration, fake socialism and opportunism in the ranks of the labour movement. Get in touch: