Thursday, January 11, 2007

North By North West

Blown Around The Compass

I was going to travel by bus and train to Nottingham this evening to meet up with fellow navigators in Compass. But massive winds and torential rain meant that I had to drop anchor and settle for blogging.

It gives me a chance to explain what an old lefty like me is doing in Compass. I have to answer those who see them as rather naff.

I have three explanations. First, they are a welcome sign of life amongst the depleted ranks of the Labour rank and file. Secondly, they have welcome links with a wide variety of bodies who have Labour interests. Finally, if they ever are to achieve anything worth while, they need people who will regularly whisper in their left ear without unearthing them as traitors to the cause.

Where The Compass Is Pointing

Their programme is set out in a booklet entitled "The Good Society" in which they call for a much more equal, democratic and compassionate society. So far so good.

To achieve their aim, they initially propose the use of progressive forms of taxation, including taxes on pollution. Such additional revenue being directed towards eliminating poverty (from the cradle to retirement) and aided by existing public expenditure which would be skewed towards new priorities.

Programmes would need to be introduced to overcome the conditions which lead to crime and anti-social behaviour, rather than the current concentration upon the expansion of the regime of punishment. They remember that Blair was supposed to be tackling not just crime, but the causes of crime.

The same approach emerges in other key areas with proposals directed towards the removal of the social conditions which breed racism and the intollerence of immigrants and asylum seekers.
Whilst in tackling environmental problems, they even seek the means to overcome our addiction to car ownership, its use, sale and production.

What is called "progressive internationalism" is also propounded, so that efforts are recommended not merely to improve aid to the third world, but to restructure international agencies so that they direct their attention to tackling the vast inequalities and injustices which operate throughout wide areas of the globe.

How To Use A Compass

Much of the analysis in "The Good Society" is well expressed - although it lacks a proper conclusion to draw its threads together. And what it seeks is huge and significant.

Yet there is also a big problem with its analysis. It seeks to deliver its high aspirations within the context of our current free-enterprise economy. The free market would, of course, be subject to democractic and regulatory restraints. But Compass insists that what it propounds must not be structured in ways which are "anti-capitalist".

The result of their defence of capitalism is that powerful concentrations of power and wealth in Britain and throughout the world would subvert their proposals whenever these offended capital's interests.

I am not suggesting that there is an easy set of buttons to press (John McDonnell style) to eliminate such dominant capitalist influences. But I do feel that Compass should recognise the nature and size of this problem. So they will then see that strategies need to be developed to neutralise each effort by capitalists to undermine each of the proposals in "The Good Society".

My main reason for being in Compass is that it is a body which needs some of us to keep whispering about the above problem in its left ear. Yelling through a loud speaker at them is only likely to burst their eardrum and to be counter-productive.

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