Socialist Worker

Back London left challenge to war and neoliberalism

Issue No. 2086

Respect’s Lindsey German offers a clear and consistent alternative in this year’s race for London mayor. In response to her campaign, supporters of mayor Ken Livingstone have resorted to a tired old theme reiterated whenever Labour faces a radical challenge from the left – “don’t split the vote and let the Tories in”.

Of course no one on the left wants to see Tory toff Boris Johnson as London mayor. But this is not a “first past the post” election, as there is a transferable vote. Lindsey will be urging the second preference vote of everyone who votes for her to be cast for Ken Livingstone.

The vast bulk of her votes will come from people so sickened by New Labour’s warmongering and love of the free market they might not bring themselves to vote for any official Labour candidate.

But on a wider level the argument is simple. If you swallow the reasoning that a left electoral ticket will simply let the Tories in then we might as well pack up and back the likes of Gordon Brown for evermore. This is the kind of self-serving argument you would expect New Labour to offer. The left should reject it.


Kenya violence

Divisions not ‘age-old’

Much of the media suggests that Kenya’s current violence can simply be explained by age-old “tribal” hatreds.

They say the origins of ethnic violence have nothing to do with colonial occupation – reports often imply that it was only Western intervention that provided a veneer of civilisation.

As we point out elsewhere (» Western responsibility for Kenya's ethnic violence ), this view ignores the brutal role of imperialism and the corrosive intervention of neoliberal economics.

These policies have devastated Africa’s poor. They have encouraged the kind of crisis that allows ethnic tensions to be stoked up across the world. It was such policies that brought Yugoslavia into crisis at the beginning of the 1990s. For a while it was in the balance whether this would lead to class or ethnic conflict.

The large number of different ethnic groups in Kenya makes it less likely that any section of the elite will try to base dominance on one of them or seriously attempt secession. However it is only when the poor build an alternative based on class rather than ethnicity that the cycle will be broken.


Apprenticeships

Labour’s McScheme

James Purnell, the work and pensions minister – the new one without any undeclared donations – announced his commitment to apprenticeships this week.

There used to be a time when being an apprentice meant that you got a decent skill, although you were badly paid. But Labour’s new scheme is to force young people, lone parents and people on disability benefit into low paid jobs.

There is already a £1 billion market in outsourced “back-to-work” services that are provided by the private sector rather than job centres. New Labour is to take away benefits, subsidise the private sector, and let McDonalds and low cost airlines give out qualifications.

Gordon Brown has told the TUC not to press for higher wages for apprentices. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said, “There is much to welcome in the government’s apprenticeships review.”

He should have said, “You’re fired.”


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