Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

People's Charter For Change

A People's Charter For Change was launched in Britain this week supported by a range of individuals and organisations. The aim is to achieve a million signatures. I may add my comments on the substance of the Charter later in the week, but first, here is the Charter itself:

A fair economy for a fairer Britain
Take the leading banking, insurance and mortgage industries fully into democratic public ownership run for the benefit of all. Regain control of the Bank of England and keep interest rates low. Tightly regulate the City markets to facilitate lending and to stop speculation and takeovers against the public interest. Ban hedge funds, raids on pension funds, asset-stripping and corporate tax loopholes. Restructure the tax system so big business and the wealthy pay more and ordinary people pay less.

More and better jobs
Existing jobs must be protected. Public and private investment must create new jobs paying decent money. In particular in manufacturing, construction and green technology. More jobs mean more spending power to stimulate the economy, increased tax revenue and fewer people on benefit. Build full employment. Reduce hours, not pay, to create more jobs. Raise the minimum wage to half national median earnings and end the lower rate for young workers.

Decent homes for all
Stop the repossessions and keep people in their homes. Offer 'no interest' loans. Control rents. We need 3 million new homes. Give local government the power and money to build and renovate affordable quality homes and buy empty ones, ending the housing shortage, and creating jobs.

Protect and improve our public services
- no cuts Save public money: bring energy, transport, water, post and telecommunications back and keep post in public ownership. End corporate profiteering in health, education, social and other public services. Stop the EU privatisation Directives.

Fairness and Justice
Free heating and transport for every pensioner. Link state pensions and benefits to average earnings. Protect pension schemes and restore the lost value of private pensions. End child poverty by increasing child benefits and tax credits and providing free nurseries and crèches. Enforce equal pay for women. End racism and discrimination in all its forms. No scape-goating of migrant workers. Invest in young people and give them a real stake in the future. Provide youth, community, arts and cultural centres, sports facilities, and clubs for all. Guarantee training, apprenticeships and education with grants for everyone and no fees. Restore union rights to allow them the freedom to fight the crisis and to protect workers.

Build a secure and sustainable future for all End the cost of war in blood and money. Bring our troops home. Don't waste £billions on a new generation of nuclear weapons. And beyond the current economic disaster, climate change threatens us all. Our future must be based on massive investment for a greener, safer world now. Debt is crushing millions of people forcing them to move and producing war, famine and misery. Get rid of the debt economy in Britain and cancel the debts of the poor of the planet. A better future for all the people of the world.

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At 10:06 pm, Blogger greenman said...

First, I must say that I think the idea of a Charter is a good one, with an honourable pedigree in British political life. It can perhaps draw together those who see it as radical with those who see it as timid, (but a first step in achieving more) - and therefore achieve a more powerful movement than would be the case if these elements were to work seperately. It can be a rallying agenda for protests and events and can lead to more fruitful and interesting developments than the text would at first suggest.

The key questions therefore, with this charter, are (for example) does it have demands which take forward the struggle for a better society, or are the demands flawed to such an extent as to be counter productive? Is it sufficiently broad and interesting to engage a large cross section of the population? And from the point of view of further development does it make demands which will open eyes to the nature of the capitalist status quo with the likely response of the ruling class, or does it give that ruling class a chance to appear responsive and democratic without really changing very much or shifting the balance of power in society?

On the economy and banking system the demands would have seemed radical two years ago but now seem almost mainstream. If achieved, they would alter the balance of power, but the phrase "democratic public ownership" could obviously mean a number of things.

The section on jobs does address current concerns of large numbers of workers in Britain, but again (given recent history of PFI and PPP etc), the phrase "public and private investment" could be problematic. Reductions of hours and equality of younger workers are basic union demands worth popularising.

On housing, shifting power back to local government in this area would be a step in the right direction. The mechanism for stopping repossessions is not outlined, but this could be a point offering radical possibilities.

On public services public ownership of the utilities etc chimes with public feeling, though again, lack of mention of new democratic frameworks is to be regretted - old models of nationalisation will not take things forward, we must seek a self-management based model.
The implicit attack on PFI and PPP here is welcome, though and is another opportunity for mobilisation.

The fairness and justice section brings together the demands of various popular movements and sections of workers - all of which are worthwhile and most of which would prefigure a more radically democratic set up.

The last paragraph seems like a take on the demands of the coming March 28th Demonstration (Put People First) and again have explicit mobilising potential.

It is perhaps a flaw that the Charter is so focussed on domestic UK issues, but that may be in the nature of the tactic. The current government would find it difficult to accede to all the demands, but that is not necessarily a bad thing politically as it exposes the narrow nature of the current political set up and the need for change.

Generally, I am very sympathetic to the Charter and wish it well. It is not an end in itself, but a step in the right direction that hopefully should also encourage debate around key areas.


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