Squat to own – Sadiq Khan must think bigger to solve the housing crisis

In his campaign for London mayor, Sadiq Khan stated repeatedly that his greatest challenge would be the housing crisis. What we have experienced instead is a disappointing dearth in the mix of tactics to confront property speculation and skyrocketing rents.

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Previous generations responded to their own housing crises with massive social housing projects, housing benefit, rent control, cooperatives – and squatting. Already back-tracking on slightly more radical policies such as rent control, Khan’s central initiative has been Homes for Londoners, a private-public partnership to encourage investment in additional housing capacity. But, while Khan has criticised investors for regarding residential assets in London as “gold bricks for investment,” his own policies in fact capitulate to the speculative property market by offering “affordable homes” as just another investment brand.

Khan recently stated that he would be friendly with business as mayor of London.  Yet, as a public official, his remit extends beyond the narrow interests of business toward those of the wider community.  If his rapport with the market is to surrender to its logic, Khan will merely perpetuate the root cause of the housing crisis.  In line with the neo-liberal mantra, the “free market” is not meant to efficiently allocate housing as a social need, but to generate revenues and maintain property values.

The housing crisis, in this way, would seem to be a matter of perspective.  For landlords and investors, there is in fact no crisis at all, but record profits and expanding opportunities for investment.  The crisis exists only for end-users, housing consumers in a seller’s market – where supply is maintained in artificial scarcity.  Bound by this logic, Khan’s Homes for Londoners will provide little incentive for a shift in investment behaviour – and will therefore not solve the housing crisis.

A credible housing strategy – indeed, a housing revolution – must deploy a mix of tactics and must transform the logic of housing provision through public investment, regulation, and cooperatives.  Yet, as we have seen, Khan has not challenged the pre-eminence of the market – even though in housing allocation, it has so clearly failed. In the face of the contradiction between property as a residential asset and housing as a social necessity, Khan must challenge the market by expanding his range of options to deliver on his promises to London.

To read the rest of the article, please visit: Squat to own – Sadiq Khan must think bigger to solve the housing crisis.

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After Brexit: The Corporate Countryside

It is emblematic that on the day after the EU referendum, Donald Trump (perhaps the next president of the United States) was in Scotland, inaugurating his controversial new golf resort.  Oblivious to the country around him which had just voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, Trump congratulated his audience on their new independence.

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Yet, he was not speaking to the common people of Britain (much less to Scotland, trapped, along with Wales, in the Brexit scenario), but those in his audience, the new placeholders of aristocracy – wealthy investors, media moguls, business leaders and others set free from EU barriers to land ownership, property development, tourism and speculation.

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been the greatest barrier to a collapse in the UK property market.  The CAP is concerned with market stability, tariff-free trade in the EU and farmer livelihoods.  It consists primarily in a subsidisation of farmer incomes through direct payments.  It is well-known that most farmers make a loss on their operations and would not otherwise be able to continue without the subsidy.  As the tendency toward losses is primarily due to the downward pressure on prices from supermarket competition and its monopoly on distribution, the farmer’s subsidy is in many ways a backdoor subsidy for the retail and food processing industries.

With the elimination of the CAP, these subsidies will disappear and it is possible that they will either not be replaced or will be phased out in the near term.  The CAP has tended to maintain the status quo, not only protecting member states within the single market and in international trade deals, but also preserving the operations of loss-making farms.  The IMF, which Angela Merkel brought in to manage the Eurozone, has been pushing its 188 international members to quickly reduce or eliminate farming subsidies, a policy shift at odds with the pace of EU policy. The UK could decide to weather the storm of a radical re-adjustment in the structure of land ownership, especially in agriculture where it would become a corporate affair.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Corporate Countryside.

Fifty Shades of the IMF: America and the Empire of Dominance

Fifty Shades of the IMF

America and the Empire of Dominance

The BRICS Alternative and the Case of South Africa

Narcissism, not wisdom, guides American policy, which is itself a mask of anarchy.

James Luchte

Unlike the General Assembly of the United Nations, where each country has one vote, decision making at the IMF was designed to reflect the relative positions of its member countries in the global economy. The IMF continues to undertake reforms to ensure that its governance structure adequately reflects fundamental changes taking place in the world economy.

The International Monetary Fund

The economic health of every country is a proper matter of concern to all its neighbours, near and far.

President Franklin Roosevelt

Fifty Shades of the IMF

As with De Sade’s Justine, the IMF lures its victims with pledges of aid.

Again and again, the naive girl, still believing in virtue, finds herself imprisoned. Such was the case, for instance, with the abbey in the forest, inhabited by monks. Justine is saved, she believes – but the monks reveal themselves to be sadists, torturing, raping and killing their prey. The monks, hiding behind a mask of sanctity, do what they like, satisfy their peculiar and perverse desires, while disciplining and binding those they have abducted (ab ducere, to lead from, astray). The monks wait for their quarry as a spider who strikes. But, as with the carnivorous plant that seems to offer water, the monks contrive to bind Justine even as they extend a helping hand. Thomas Jefferson, writing in the same era, warned, ‘…under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate.’[1]

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Fifty Shades of the IMF: America and the Empire of Dominance

The Tory Regime – A Government of Paralysis

The Tory Regime – A Government of Paralysis

James Luchte

Divided Kingdom

Nearly two months after the Queen’s Speech, it has become all too clear that the Tory government is already in a state of paralysis. Central precepts of the Queen’s Speech have already been quietly abandoned.

The political earthquake of 2015 reverberated with the rise of multi-party politics in the UK, the decimation of the Labour Party in Scotland, the failure of Austerity Labour to reach disaffected Tories in England and the disillusion of the vast majority of the electorate with status quo politics. This disillusion was given expression in a fragmentation of voting demographics, which, due to the current voting system, was not reflected in the representational pattern in Parliament.

What we have been left with is a Conservative government with a slim majority. Yet, it is not the slim majority (obtained with a rather small percentage of the popular vote), that is the cause of the paralysis of the Tory government. The paralysis lies instead in the internal divisions within the Conservative Party itself.

To read the rest of the article, please visit The Tory Regime: A Government of Paralysis.

Give The Left A Chance: Reflections on “The Longest Suicide Note In History” – Labour’s 1983 Manifesto

The poetic cliché that “history repeats itself” has turned into parody and farce in the current leadership selection process in the Labour Party in which various right wing candidates, like brands of dish soap, vie against each other in a boring and meaningless spectacle.

This essay is published in Daily Wales: News for a Sovereign Nation, 19/05/2015

labour 1983

The parody and farce of the situation is manifest – a “Labour” Party in which the leadership selection process involves neither workers nor advocates of workers. The necessity of the intervention by Len McCluskey, a union leader, merely exacerbates the farce. But, no one in our corporate headline media will look at this process outside of the box.

The box is simply placed upon our heads and we are given a fait accompli which is a forced choice between different brands of the same corruption of the Labour Party. But, how many times have we been here before? The Left & the Right, the continuous and methodical divestment from the union movement and ordinary Labour Party members who are given the unenviable position of advocacy for something in which they no longer believe – all choice in politics becomes a forced choice if we do not have representation.

The current government has a mandate, an elective dictatorship for five years based upon 37% of the electoral vote. Very few of us were in any way involved in the selection processes of the leaders and thus our votes are merely a rubber stamping process, the criterion for which is an impressionistic sensibility disseminated by the information industrial complex.

Vague impressions, innuendo, brother stabs brother in the back, sick child, archetypes, corporate control, the manufacturing of control through distraction and superficiality. The problem is that we as humans in post-modern society live in a world of poetic clichés, inside a mythology of ghosts and innuendo. Old Labour, New Labour – clichés, stereotypes, misunderstandings, distortions and lost/missed opportunities.

The Left has never been given a chance, except for the catastrophe of 1983. But, in itself, the loss of Michael Foot means nothing. Should we talk about the interference in Wilson’s Labour government by the United States and the subservience of the United Kingdom to America ever since? Or, is that not allowed, outside of the box, extremist propaganda. But, outside the box is the truth, the perspective to see things as they are.

To read the rest of the article, please visit Give the Left a Chance.

The Tory Regime: A Truth Event

The Three Graces of Politics – The UK General Elections 2015

The Three Graces of Politics

Faith, Hope and Charity

By James Luchte

the hug

Jonathan Jones reminded us recently through “probably a wildly inappropriate pre-feminist art historical reference”, in his article, “Something new is happening in British politics. This image captures it.” (Guardian, 17 April 2015), of the resemblance of the embrace between the party leaders of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales and Green Party, Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon, respectively and the Three Graces.

The Three Graces are commonly known as faith, hope and charity, but have the tangible meanings of trust, confidence, and love or solidarity,.a symbolism common to many religions and tendencies of thinking.

Indeed, Jonathan’s suggestion is quite apt, and can demonstrate the importance of humanities (crassly cut out of the Coalition’s Tory budget) in the context of political reality. We already know what Burns, Mary and Percy Shelley, Dickens has taught us, and Camus, Joyce, Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas, as contributors to the ethos of a culture which engages in political economic and social questioning from differing perspectives.

This embrace of three progressive leaders, amidst an era of constant crisis, allows us, by coincidence, it would seem, to remember the Three Graces and their significance to the meaning of the New Politics – one of trust, well-being, and social solidarity.

These Graces, or Virtues, in this light, are politically speaking, the characteristics of a healthy society, with some resemblance to Plato’s own tripartite schema in his Republic, and I will consider each of them in turn.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Three Graces of Politics: The UK General Electiions

The Liberal Democrats: A Post-Mortem

Go to: Wales in the European Union

Go to: The Ends of the British State in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

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The Liberal Democrats: A Post-Mortem

James Luchte

Libdems looney tunes

The Liberal Democrats began to achieve momentum as a political party in an era in which the Labour government, dominated by the Blairite cliqué, had just embarked with George W. Bush upon a legally questionable invasion of Iraq, killing 1 million people.

In the light of such criminality, the Liberal Democrats were considered in 2005 to be a force for change.

In 2010, with the refusal of the Labour Party to set up an alternative coalition government with the SNP, the monstrosity of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government was born.

The publically stated raison d’etre of the Liberal Democrats was to gain concessions on policy, primarily a referendum on AV. However, as Eluned Parrot, Liberal Democrat, admitted on 2 March 2015 (Sharp End TV), the minority party in a coalition will often be “squeezed” and in the end the Liberal Democrats simply endorsed Tory policy.

Indeed, what is an even greater mystery than Ed Miliband’s decision in 2013 to abandon building a European-wide Anti-Austerity movement is the fact that, even as their Coalition partners actively campaigned against AV, which was defeated (not to mention the entire corrupt ethos of the Coalition government), the Liberal Democrats remained in the Coalition, simply propping up the wholesale demolition of the welfare state.

The Liberal Democrats sold their souls for nothing.

Millions have suffered and died from Tory Austerity policies and the Liberal Democrats are complicit in these policies, and they must take responsibility for their failure of judgement.

The Liberal Democrats should apologise for their betrayal of trust.

So, we return to the General Election of 2015.

The question to the voter was: Should we trust the Liberal Democrat party. seeing them as it wished to seem before the Coalition? Perhaps, such an attitude would be acceptable if the Liberal Democrats were truly at odds with Coalition policy.

Yet, the Liberal Democrats not only propped up the Tories for five years, but also actively voted in favour of Conservative, Neo-Liberal Austerity economics.  They are thus rightly seen as complicit in the damage to the people from the fraud of austerity. Nick Clegg’s pretense to populism only added insult to injury.

We can conclude that the Liberal Democrats, unwilling to apologise for the damage they has done to the people of the United Kingdom, were rewarded for their duplicity by losing all but eight seats in Parliament.