Monday, December 14, 2009

Do You Need A Compass When You Cover Two Regions?

Dronfield falls within the East Midlands Region, but it is situated immediately to the south of the boundary of the Yorkshire and Humberside Region. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group should attract both its speakers and its audience from both of these Regions.

But who should we get to addresses us about the role of Compass the Democratic Left pressure group? For Compass have convenors for both of these Regions.

Easy really, yesterday evening (at their own suggestion) we were addressed by both Steve Yemm their convenor for the East Midlands Region and Alex Sobel their convenor for Yorkshire and Humberside.

It was a fine occasion, aided by the fact that we had a room full of 20 people who were keen to participate in the discussions. We were also grateful to Christine, Caroline and Rosie Smith for providing us with a Xmas spread, which we finished off in the lounge bar after the meeting - where the discussions continued.

Steve and Alex stressed that the position of Compass was centred around its belief in the need for social equality, democratic participation and sustainable communal provisions, including environmental sustainability. It was felt that the failure of global capital had placed us at a cross roads in history. This had followed a period in which neo-liberal advances had dominated the political agenda and labour movements had mainly be forced into re-active stances. There was now a chance to adopt more positive and creative platforms in building a new economic and cultural paradigm.

Scope was seen for measures which included co-operative ownership, a high pay commission, tackling consumer values with measures such as a ban on advertising directed at children under 11 , the Tobin Tax and the return of powers to Local Government. Whilst Compass campaigned with other groups on the key issue of climate change, where so many young people recognised the great need for an environmental push.

Models were seen as arising from decades of social democratic achievements in Sweden and more recent developments in Venezuela.

As you would expect from the regulars at our discussions, this was all sound material for the dialectics of our debates. Numbers of us are also members of Compass or are aware of its activities. As a group we also made submissions to Compass on Political Education and Integrated Transport - for details of these see here and follow the links and labels they provide.

Our discussion group has also shown that it is possible to have serious political debates on a Sunday evening in a pleasant social setting. It is a recommended approach, especially if you are seeking to fashion your own compass.


  1. The following comment was sent to me by post from Ken Curran, it is a follow up to the Discussion Meeting we held on Sunday 13th December entitled “Does Labour Need a Compass?” Ken's letter was held up in the Xmas post. H.B.

    Alex Sobel of Compass suggested that “building coalitions with other groups was part of the Compass Perspective to secure a left of centre victory.” My words not his. While time didn’t permit every theme of the speakers’ talks to be followed, it left enough loose ends which require further analysis.

    Bearing in mind that both the climate change dilemma and the current global financial crisis have a common root in the sense they are both bi-products of global capitalism, this suggests that Compass has not fully appreciated the true seriousness of the problems facing humanity due to the failure of capitalism. Both the Banking Crisis and Climate Change are due to Competition. One of the fundamental tenets of capitalism is the need for competition. Competition for resources, markets, profits, customers, land etc; none of our political parties actually call for another system on how to organise a humanitarian society on planet earth.

    The only Political Party which is currently trying to present an alterative vision for mankind is the Co-operative Party. Which makes me wonder why they are currently affiliated to the Labour Party. As things currently stand the two parties appear to have little in common. Common Sense and Co-operation go together .

    New Labour still talks up competition. The disciples of New Labour fail time and again to produce any rationalism to give support for their policies. On Climate Change and the Banking Crisis, New Labour seem reluctant to engage. This is not at all surprising bearing in mind it was New Labour who were in awe of Bankers, Wealth and Competition. The truth is that New Labour is a spent force, its intellectual store was always rather bare and now it is empty.

    If the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference does not reach an agreement that would limit further temperature rise to under 2% across the planet, then all of our hopes and plans become academic. It would signal political failure and world wide disaster.

    I would love to think I am wrong.


  2. The following comment appears in 2 parts. It was posted to me by Ken Turton. It is a further follow up to our discussion meeting on Compass which sets the scene for this thread. HB.

    PART 1.

    “The difficulties of arriving at a policy which would excite socialists and bring them together in united and effective action, is the fact that there are too many issues to address and each of these can claim priority.

    However socialists need to acknowledge that their starting point should be the call for taking over the commanding heights of the economy. So that in the crisis we find ourselves in, we must take into Government control the Finance Houses, Banks, Insurance, Pension Funds etc.. The greedy Bankers and other speculators have shown us that they need to be controlled.

    This Government has failed to do this, but has handed the initiative back to those who gamble with the people’s money. Instead the Government should take back the billions of pounds it has offered in support of the banking system. These Banks created the problem by forgetting the basic needs Marx and Engels taught the world by the formula M.C.M and M.C.M+, when the Banks allowed themselves the extreme speculation of selling each others debts in the USA’s Housing Sector. This was done to such an extent that the final source of the debt could not be traced. Hence the crisis.

    Next we should abandon the Private Finance Initiative which is Brown’s mantra. That way money could instead be used as Government investment into industry and it would increase employment and create a demand economy. This would further boost employment and help to ensure that the employed would themselves have a greater influence over the policies within their own industries, making certain that we have a bottom-up form of control as opposed to the current top-down structure.

    Wars need to become a thing of the past. This would create a situation allowing for more domestic investment. So we should be campaigning to stop conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan, thereby advancing stability and peace throughout the world. In bringing stability throughout the world we would abandon Portfolios and allow the free passage of essential goods to countries which are in short supply. With equal access to these materials, we can eliminate the causes of disputes.

    A domestic priority should be to make the movement of supplies easier than it is at the moment by investing heavily in transport. This is essential to help us build up our industry. Not only does transport provide the means of increasing the demand for manufactured goods, but by increasing transport investment we also increase the links between industries which further increases output. So the life blood of industry lays heavily in a better and fully integrated transport system"

    KEN TURTON (see Part below).

  3. Part 2, continued from the above.

    "The health of the nation comes into the equation when it comes to the lessening of world-wide tensions. Tension in all its forms is life shortening and demands much of our productive activity in areas such as medical supplies and drug production. These are areas which call for local controls as a move to taking such operations over completely, under full public control.

    The greed of current suppliers causes a crisis in the Health Service in having to pay excessive amounts of money for drugs and other medical supplies. It would be much better if the Health Service provided its own research and development.

    We have only to look at the primitive conditions that applied during the 2nd World War for prisoners in the Japanese sphere of influence and to see what was achieved by the doctors and medical orderlies without any help from their captors and whilst having to start from scratch in extremely trying circumstances.

    For those who are sceptics about whether the working class can achieve such lofty ideals, they need to look at how a worker in the shape of a Welsh Miner gave us the NHS. Nye Bevan showing the world how to take care of itself. This was a mighty achievement which should make the rest of us sit up and take notice.

    So whilst I have no expertise in sound bites preferring real evidence, I would say that to take control of our economy we must first control finance so that investing the nations resources can take priority. Investment needs to be directed to where it will do the most good in the shortest time. First with transport, then the supply industry. This widening of domestic markets and the creating of employment itself creates demand. This needs explaining to a sceptical audience with patience and understanding. Going over the points time and time again until the message is loud and clear. And whilst this is not easily achieved, it is the only way forward at this point. Along with this point is the need to stress that wars only create poverty in all countries, including those who produce the war materials.”


    (NOTE : Here is my interpretation of the formula used by Ken in Part 1. In the formula M.C.M+, M stands for money and C for commodities. Capitalists use their money (M) to purchase commodities (C) , they then seek to sell those commodities on to others, in a form that will make them additional money (M+). One way in which this can be done is to move the goods to where there is a higher demand, employing labour to perform the transport. A second way is to employ labour to turn the raw materials into products which are in demand - or where a demand can be created. In both cases the surplus value is created by the input of labour, which is paid less (often much less) than the added value that it has worked to produce. If I have got this wrong, then Ken will correct me. HB).