Archive for June, 2016

Counterpunch Article on Israel’s Fear of Arab Jews

June 30, 2016

Earlier this evening I put up a piece about John Newsinger’s article on Labour and the anti-Semitism allegation in Lobster. Newsinger quotes a Jewish historian of the Holocaust, a passionate Zionist, to show that Livingstone was correct about the Zionists’ cooperation with the Nazis to encourage European Jews to emigrate to Israel to escape Nazi persecution. Newsinger also goes beyond this, to show how several of the great Zionist founders, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben Gurion, had nothing but contempt for the many incredibly courageous German Jews, who were determined not to give in to Hitler and his hordes. These included patriots, who had fought for their country in the carnage of the First World War, who formed the Reichsbund judischer Frontsoldaten. (Literally, ‘Imperial League of Jewish Soldiers of the Front’. These ex-servicemen were particularly awkward for Adolf’s goons, as in no way could they be reasonably accused of being ‘unpatriotic’.

A few days ago, the American radical Left magazine and website, Counterpunch, put up a piece by Jonathan Cook about Israel’s distrust of the Mizrahim. These are Jews from the surrounding Arab nations. Initially, the Israelis didn’t want to encourage them to immigrate, as they were afraid they would dilute the culturally superior Western element and so retard the country’s progress and acceptance as an equal by the Western nations. They were only allowed in because the Holocaust meant that there was a shortage of Ashkenazi and Western Jews to provide the new country with labour. One of the ways the Mizrahim were recruited to Israel was through false flag attacks on their homes in the Arab countries, for which their gentile compatriots were blamed. Inside Israel, they were segregated, and forced to attend separate schools. Like the British schools in Wales and Scotland, which penalised pupils for speaking the indigenous languages of Welsh and Gaelic, the Mizrahi pupils were forbidden to speak Arabic. And once again, David Ben Gurion showed that he was disgustingly bigoted and racist towards them, too, as well as those Jews, who wanted to continue to be Europeans. He called the Mizrahim ‘human dust’ and ‘rabble’. Cook notes that these Israelis have internalised the hatred of Western Jews towards them, and are as bitterly anti-Arab as they are. Indeed, they often provide solid support for Likud and the parties of the Israeli religious Right.

These issues came to the fore as Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, banned Mohammad Madani, an official close to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, from entering Israel, accusing him of terrorism and other offences. Madani had been trying to establish contact with Israeli Jews, but had made the cardinal sin of contacting the Mizrahim, rather than the ruling Ashkenazim. For Cook, Madani’s ‘crimes, as defined by Lieberman, are worth pondering. They suggest that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is rooted less in security issues and more in European colonialism.’

See:http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/23/israels-fear-of-the-arab-jews-in-its-midst/

This is the reason behind liberal anti-Zionism. Left-wing critics of Israel don’t criticise it and document its misdeeds and atrocities from an animosity towards the Jews, but because they view it as a European-American settler state. And this affair certainly shows that there is much to this analysis. It seems to show the fear and distrust of a European ruling elite to the indigenous peoples of the region, even if they are other Jews.

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Lobster on the Anti-Semitism Allegations, the Zionists and the Nazis

June 30, 2016

Mike has posted up yet another piece, which shows the disgusting attitude of the Blairites and their willingness to do anything to unseat and smear Jeremy Corbyn. It seems Sami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour party has generally given the party a clean bill of health. However, that hasn’t been good enough for Ruth Smeeth and Sam Stopp, two members, who seem absolutely convinced that the party is riddled with it and it’s all Corbyn’s fault. In the case of Smeeth, it seems to be because someone else in Labour called her a traitor because she was giving some assistance to the Torygraph in writing an article about it. And as she’s Jewish, she decided it must be because of her religion/ ethnicity, rather than in the fact that she was helping the notoriously anti-Socialist paper. In the case of Stopp, it’s because he looked at a speech in which Corbyn made it clear that Jews weren’t responsible for the actions of Israel, any more than Muslims were responsible for atrocities committed by ISIS, and came to the direct opposite of what was being meant. He perversely concluded that Corbyn was saying that Jews were responsible for the actions of Israel, and like Smeeth, promptly threw his toys out of the pram. See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/30/farcical-anti-semitism-accusations-fly-at-anti-semitism-inquiry-report/

These accusations about anti-Semitism in the Labour party are partly based on Ken Livingstone’s statement that Hitler too supported sending Jews to Israel. This was perfectly true, but was too much for the historically challenged Blairites, who in the person of John Mann, threw a fit and started accusing Red Ken of being a Nazi himself. Of course the old Leninist newt-fancier isn’t. When he was the head of the GLC, it was notorious for being right-on, anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic. In his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, Leninspart makes it very clear that he has no truck with racism, whether against Blacks, Jews or Irish, and provides deep and telling criticism of how the British and American governments recruited the real thing as part of their campaign against Communism. The Nazis they recruited as anti-Communist spies included heinous individuals, who had taken active part in the Holocaust and pogroms against the Jews during the invasion of the USSR. I’ve blogged about this before, many times, and quite simply I’m sick of having to explain it yet again.

John Newsinger, one of the long-time contributors to the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, has also put up a piece about the scandal, entitled in ‘Livingstone, Zionism and the Nazis in issue 71 of the magazine for Summer, 2016. Newsinger is, or was, a history prof at Bath Spa university. He makes it clear at the beginning of the article that’s he’s not impressed with Leninspart, because he played into the hands of the Blairites and their appalling allies in the Labour Friends of Israel and the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Mark Regev, an Israeli ‘hawk’. But he cites histories of the Holocaust written by Jewish historians, including David Cesarani, to show that Livingstone was historically correct. He also goes on to show, more specifically, the vile attitude of Israel’s founders to the plight of their fellows under the Nazis in Europe. The great Zionist pioneers had nothing but utter contempt for Jews, who wished to stay in their European homelands, and were more than content to see the Nazis persecute and butcher them, if it meant that some would go to Israel.

Cesarani himself was the son of Italian Communists, and a strong supporter of Zionism. He briefly became disillusioned while staying America, but when he came back to Britain, he returned not only to Liberal Judaism, but also was one of the first to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, Cesarani’s book on the Final Solution provides abundant quotes showing the Livingstone was correct. Cesarani’s book states that the Zionists took very little interest in defending Jewish Germans, and were opposed to Jewish organisations, such as the Centralverein and the Reichsbund Judischer Frontsoldaten, a patriotic Jewish servicement’s league, that did. For the RjFS, leaving Germany was out of the question. It was a form of surrender. Cesarani describes how the Nazis actively promoted the Zionists as a way of getting the Jews out of Germany anyway they could, even providing quotes from those responsible. In 1935, Reynhard Heydrich wrote in the SS newspaper, Das Schwarze Korps, that the Nazi regime was ‘in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, the so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry throughout the world, and the rejection of all assimilationist ideas.’

Cesarani also provides some chilling quotes showing the indifference of leading Zionists to their people’s suffering. He describes how (I)n January 1934, the
American, James McDonald, was appalled by the attitude of Chaim Weizmann when he ‘expressed his contempt for German Jews as a whole, his indifference to their fate, and for that matter, his indifference to the fate of millions of Jews elsewhere, just so long as a saving remnant could be preserved in Palestine’. pp. 132-133)
This grotesque attitude was also shared by David Ben Gurion, who told a closed meeting of the Jewish Agency ‘If I knew that all the Jewish
children of Europe could be saved by settlement in Britain and only half could be saved by settlement in Palestine, I should choose the latter’. He also notes that Zionists and Orthodox Jews were quite satisfied with the ban on mixed marriages in the Nazis’ notorious 1935 Nuremberg Laws.

Cesarani’s book also describes how the Nazis supplied arms and support to the Haganah, the Jewish organisation in Palestine that helped the British crush the First Intifada, the Palestinian insurrection against the Mandate. Eichmann also gave his support to people smugglers, like Bernard Storfer, whom he put in charge of the illegal emigration of Jews to the embryonic Israeli colony. While Newsinger is clearly not a Zionist, he is deeply impressed with Cesarani’s scholarship, and urges Lobster’s readers to look at Cesarani’s first book, Justice Delayed: How Britain Became a Refuge for Nazi War Criminals. This describes how the post-War Labour government recruited immense numbers of Nazis as potential recruits for SIS, one of Britain’s intelligence agencies. Among those recruited were the 9,000 members of the SS’ Galician Division, Ukrainians responsible for horrific atrocities in that part of the USSR. He also rightly takes the British government to task for failing to take in Jewish refugees during the Third Reich. In his concluding paragraph, he states that a firm resistance to anti-Semitism must be a part of any determined anti-Zionist campaign, as it was only due to anti-Semitism in Europe that there was any real support for Zionism. He ends with this observation:

If the United States, Britain, and other countries had opened their doors to Jews fleeing the Nazis, these countries would almost certainly have been the destiny of choice for the overwhelming majority of European Jews. Instead, the doors were kept closed except for a comparative few. Once again, this was anti-Semitism at work. It was European anti-Semitism, culminating in mass murder and
attempted genocide, that made the Zionist project viable at the expense, we have to insist, of the Palestinian people. Consequently the fight against anti-Semitism is a vital part of the fight against Zionism.

This is very much the attitude of most liberal critics of Israel. The American radical left magazine, Counterpunch, has also run articles recently on how Winston Churchill and the British government bowed to the prejudice and xenophobia expressed by papers like the Daily Mail, and had German and Austrian Jews interned as ‘enemy aliens’ during the War in camps with the very Nazis that were persecuting them. And Newsinger also shows that, despite his obvious anger at Livingstone for giving the Israel lobby a weapon, the great newt fancier was very largely correct.

The article is at: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-livingstone.pdf. Read it for the information that the Blairite’s don’t want you to have.

The Independent on Wearing a Safety Pin to Show Support for Immigrants

June 30, 2016

I’ve put up a couple of posts today about the massive growth in racist incidents after the Brexit vote. Unfortunately, some of the Nazis lurking in British society have decided that the vote to leave the EU now means that it’s permissible and accessible to intimidate immigrants to our great nation. One of the pieces I put up was sent by Michelle, one of the commenters here, who posted a link to a pamphlet from a Peace Studies prof at Bradford University on personally challenging and standing up to racist incidents.

Joanna, one of the other commenters to this blog, has also sent in her comment on the piece, which links to an article published on Tuesday in the Independent. It’s another great piece on how people can show their support for immigrants against rising racism. An American woman in London, Allison, has started a campaign to encourage people to wear a safety pin to show their solidarity. It’s inspired by the ‘I’ll ride with you’ campaign in Australia, which was launched last year after the Sydney Café killings. Here’s the comment and the link:

hi beast have you seen this?

http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/safetypin-the-simple-way-to-show-solidarity-with-the-uks-immigrant-population–ZJzeRPz6kHW

She also assures us that she’s going to wear one!

Of course, to some of us of a certain, wearing safety pins as jewelry brings us back to the heady days of 1977, when the Sex Pistols were in charts scandalising everyone, and in addition to brightly coloured hair and mohicans, punks were also sporting safety pins through their noses. This was when Johnny Rotten, now John Lydon, was intoning ‘No future! No future!’ I think it’s a great idea that the safety pin has come back as a fashion item to show no future for their racists after Brexit.

From Private Eye: A Few Choice Comments on Blair (and the Blairites)

June 30, 2016

With the Blairites now doing their level best to oust Jeremy Corbyn, I thought I’d post here a few appropriate comments on their leader from some old copies of Private Eye. The first is their cover for Friday, 2nd October 1998.

Blair Purge Cover

Under the headline, ‘Blair Calls For Unity’, it shows Blair pointing at a monitor screen, saying, ‘There’s a leftie – chuck him out!’ Which is precisely the same attitude as the Chickencoup rebels now trying to unseat Corbyn.

And in reply to them, I’ve decided to post this advert for a line of rugby shirts from Private Eye for the issue of the 4th-17th February 2005.

Bollocks to Blair Ad

I realise that the firm behind it was probably a load of Tory toffs, just as I apologise for the language. But sometimes the only appropriate response is profanity.

Blair screwed the working people of this country, and led us into an illegal war in Iraq. So screw the Blairites and their boss!

Johnny Cash Finger

Pro-Corbin Article in Today’s Counterpunch

June 30, 2016

The American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, has an important article by Thomas Barker urging people outside the Labour party to support Corbyn in his desperate battle with the Blairites. Barker describes how 172 MPs have come out against him, including Ed Miliband, all claiming that he is ‘unelectable’, despite having the biggest mandate of the party leaders. He states very clearly that their opposition to Corbyn is based on his desire to bring back real Socialism into the party, and make the Left a renewed force in British politics, through supporting the nationalisation of the railways, free education, a better minimum wage and so on. He states that Corbyn also has limited support from the constituency parties, and so urges those outside the party to show their support.

He begins

Since last Thursday’s EU referendum, some 172 right wing Labour MPs have put their name to a vote of no confidence in their leader Jeremy Corbyn. They claim that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’, despite winning the biggest mandate of any party leader in British history.

Even leaders proven to be ‘unelectable’, such as Ed Miliband, are now calling for Corbyn to resign.

In reality, these Blairite MPs are opposed to Corbyn’s program of a £10 an hour living wage, mass council house building, free education, and nationalisation of the railways.

It is hardly surprising that right wing MPs have come out against Corbyn, but what is most galling is the attempt by small groups of Labour members, including MPs and councillors, to enclose the debate within the confines of the party.

This is a huge mistake.

The implications of the ongoing leadership struggle are much bigger than one party. This is a struggle to reconstitute the left as a mass force. The idea that you need to be part of Labour to have an opinion on this is exactly the kind of exclusionary nonsense that needs to be avoided if Corbyn is to succeed.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/30/saving-labour-from-blairism-the-dangers-of-confining-the-debate-to-existing-members/

Go and read it.

People are indeed showing their support for Corbyn. Mike has linked to an internet petition asking him not to resign, and on Tuesday evening there was demonstration in his support on College Green in Bristol

And the Blairites, as a political faction, are vile. Tony Blair was a neoliberal Tory and a Thatcherite. One of the first things he did when he got into No. 10 was invited her round. She described New Labour as her greatest achievement. Well, she did make it very clear she wanted to destroy Socialism.

Blair continued the disastrous PFI, which has seen this country saddled with massive, off-the-accounts debt for shoddy workmanship in public utilities. He also continued and expanded Thatcher’s privatisation of the NHS. This was a conscious policy. He wanted to introduce an insurance-driven system like America, but didn’t want to lose an election by telling the voters. See Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ NHS-SOS. It was Blair that also called in ATOS to conduct the fitness-for-work tests that have so far seen 500 or see people die of starvation and misery, and a further 290,000 suffer varying degrees of harm to their mental health. And it was Blair, who began the transform of our publicly funded schools into privately run academies.

Quite apart from Bliar, Mandelson and Broon introducing tuition fees.

This has all reduced the British people to poverty. It’s provided the basis for Cameron’s policies, which have continued them. As a result of 30 odd years of Thatcherism, our children will have worse schooling, the working and lower middle class will be saddled with immense debt if they go to Uni, and we are being charged for the health service, to the profit of private medical firms like BUPA, Circle Health, and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Care.

Enough’s enough. It’s time the Blairites were thrown out of the party, and treated with the contempt they deserve by the working people of this country, whom they’ve spurned. It was after all one of the Blairite MPs, who stated that Labour would be even harder on jobseekers than the Tories. All to curry favour with the corporate, tax-dodging fat cats and media barons like Murdoch, Dacre, Desmond and the weirdo Barclay Twins.

And so I say: I support Corbyn.

C.A.R. Crosland on German Co-Determination and Worker’s Representation

June 30, 2016

On Tuesday I put up a piece from an Austrian government pamphlet explaining the system of Mitbestimmung, or Co-Determination, that operates in Austria and Germany, in which the workers’ interests in factories and enterprises are represented through a system of workers’ councils. C.A.R. Crosland also discusses this system in his book The Conservative Enemy: A Programme of Radical Reform for the 1960s (London: Jonathan Cape 1962). This is interesting, although Crosland believed it was inferior to negotiations carried out by free trade unions. Crosland wrote

In Germany, unlike Britain or the United States, we find a strong Left-wing pressure for direct participation in management; and this has found expression in the Mitbestimmung (‘co-determination’) experiment.

Under Mitbestimmung proper, which operates only in the coal and steel industries, the workers in each enterprise and the Trade Unions nominate between them half the members of the Supervisory Board (a part-time body which appoints the full-time Board of Management, and scrutinises and approves all major policy decisions). These worker-representatives not only participate fully (in theory) in the work of the Supervisory Board, but have the further right to nominate one members, the ‘Works Director’ (whose functions correspond roughly to those of a Personnel Director in a large British firm), to the full-time Board of Management.

Outside coal and steel, the workers in all firms of over a certain size nominate one-third of the Supervisory Board. They also elect a Works Council, which has certain co-management fights in personnel matters (wage-payments, hours, conditions of work, dismissals, etc.); and the Works Council and management are equally represented on a joint Economic Committee, which exists mainly for the transmission of information from management to workers.

This amounts to a very elaborate legal framework. But there are, of course, reasons external to industry for this constitutional approach: the German propensity to define and codify everything in legal terms, a tradition of legally-constituted Works Councils dating from early Weimar days, and above all, a powerful political motive. the German Left retains bitter memories of Krupp and Thyssen, and of the use of economic power for political ends. it was, at the end of Hitler’s war, determined to lever itself into a strategic position inside the actual governing councils of German industry, where it could ensure that industrial profits were never again used to finance a totalitarian political party.

In assessing the results of co-determination, we must notice first an incidental benefit: a marked humanisation of German management attitudes. Before the war, not only were German employers often feudal in outlook, but ‘personnel management’ in the Anglo-America sense was scarcely known. Today, the psychological effect of legal co-determination, and the practical effect of having worker-appointed Works Directors in two major industries, has been at once to liberalise employers’ attitudes and to direct attention to the importance of enlightened personnel policies.

How much actual power does co-determination give the German worker? The Works Councils have undoubtedly advanced his interests and increased his influence on all matters affecting working conditions in the plant. But, to be sure, they do nothing which goes beyond what shop-stewards or branch secretaries do in Britain in the course of their normal day-to-day negotiation with the management; and their power to influence management is certainly less than that of the unions in Britain or America.

At the level of higher management, representation in the Supervisory Board again gives the German unions a greater influence than they previously enjoyed over the personnel policies of the firm; but again, this is not as great as that wielded by British or American unions through collective bargaining from outside the managerial structure.

Moreover, with few exceptions, the workers’ delegates confine themselves to representing the workers’ interests in the traditional ‘collective bargaining’ field; that is, there is little participation in general management. This explains why many of the difficulties conventionally associated with workers’ management – the danger of divided loyalties, the difficulty of finding worker-representatives with experience of large-scale management, the apathy of the ordinary worker to the wider aspects of management – have not arise in an acute form. The worker co-managers have largely restricted themselves to the personnel field which they thoroughly understand; and within this field they have avoided split loyalties by accepting a first loyalty to the interests of the employees.

One should therefore see the German experiment less as an approach to workers’ management in the strict sense (for there is little participation in general decision-making) than as an attempt to gain additional bargaining representation for the workers – that is, to supplement the external bargaining strength of the unions with a Trojan horse of legal representation within the managerial structure. See in this light, co-determination was a sound policy for the post-war years. The bargaining position of the unions was weak; the mood of the workers was far from militant; and the continuous influx of refugees from the East meant a permanent buyer’s market for labour. Under these circumstances, it was a shrewd move to redress the balance by calling in the law and gaining formal representation inside the firm. This has without doubt increased the power of the unions at all levels; and it has done so more rapidly, and to a greater extent, than would have been possible under any alternative policy.

Yet this power is till less than that exercised by unions in other countries without attendant complications of co-determination. The German experience therefore does not invalidate the attitude of the British unions. Indeed, it may well be that as the autonomous power of the German unions increase, their interest in Mitbestimmung will diminish. (pp.220-222).

I can’t say that I don’t find this assessment disappointing. Nevertheless, the Austrians believed that their system had contributed to social peace, and the Germans talk about the realisation of the ideal of the ‘constitutional factory’. Meanwhile, successive British governments have done their best to destroy and marginalise the trade unions on this side of the North Sea. I think we do need a much stronger trade unions movement, allied with workers’ representation inside the factory through something like factory councils, or direct election to the management boards.

Useful Information on Personally Challenging Racist Incidents

June 30, 2016

I put up a piece yesterday reporting that anti-racist activists had held a rally on College Green in Bristol to show support for immigrants and foreign nationals living in Bristol after the Brexit vote. There has been an alarming rise in racist incidents across the country after the victory of the ‘Leave’ campaign. Michelle, one of the many great commenters on this blog, posted up this very helpful comment on the post, and the link to an online pamphlet. This shows how people can safely step in to stop or challenge racist abuse. Michelle wrote

Lisa Cumming has been working on peace studies and interracial dialogue for the last 10 years at Bradford University on Saturday said that she had ‘been contacted by more fearful people in the last 24 hours than in over a decade of working in community conflict’, Lisa also gave out this helpful advice on ‘how to step in’ if you witness racist confrontation, aggression or anger: /em> http://www.unitedagainstracism.org/archive/pages/info30.htm

It’s horrendous that somebody working in the area of challenging racism should see that the number of people living in fear of racist abuse or violence skyrocket to such proportions. Hopefully, people like her and the other anti-racists activists, as well as the decency of ordinary people, will win out in the end and put a stop to this.

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Hope Not Hate on Another Split in the National Front

June 30, 2016

A few minutes ago I put up a piece about the report on Mike’s blog that the BNP had been pushing one of their vile leaflets through people’s doors in Dewsbury, accusing the murdered MP Jo Cox of being ‘misguided’ and aiding people, who could join ISIS. I suggested in my post that this was an attempt by the BNP to show that it’s still relevant, having lost membership through various splits and leadership coups.

This factionalism and bitter infighting is also shared by the various other corpuscules forming this country’s Fascist fringe. Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation reported yesterday that another group had emerged from the noxious stew of British Fascism. The stormtroopers holding the banner in Newcastle on Saturday proclaiming ‘Stop Immigration Start Repatriation’ were the Northern Patriotic Front, who have merged with some of the bootboys from the NF to another grouplet, Northern Nationalists. The stormtrooper holding the banner was one Simon Biggs, who has been accused by his former National Comrades in the NF of stealing their banner, an accusation which Biggs denies.

Hope Not Hate concludes by saying it’s a case of ‘Same old rubbish. Just a different name.’

See: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/national-front-splits-again-4933

Vox Political: BNP Accusing Jo Cox of Aiding Potential Muslim Terrorists

June 30, 2016

Racism, and racist incidents in Britain has increased as a result of the Brexit campaign, and it seems the BNP is trying to do its best to capitalise on this. It’s particularly trying to exploit the assassination of Jo Cox, who was killed after holding a constituency surgery in Birstall. She had particularly angered the racists and Islamophobes in West Yorkshire for her work supporting immigrants and anti-racist campaigns. And now, after her death, the BNP are trying to smear her.

According to Mike over at Vox Political, Paula Sherriff, the Labour MP for Dewsbury, has complained about leaflets shoved through her constituents doors by the stormtroopers. This accuses Cox of taking ‘misguided action’ by helping Muslims, who may then go on to join ISIS. She also states that it includes other vile claims. She also has complained that many of her constituents have also been racially abused. She mentions in particular a case where a seven year old girl was told by someone that the Leave vote ‘was the best day of my life’ and that the girl and people like her should all go home. Actually, those weren’t the exact words used, as Sherriff was taking out the expletives so it could be decently repeated in the House.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/30/bnp-posts-jo-cox-muslim-slur-through-neighbours-letterboxes-as-racist-attacks-soar/

It’s almost predictable that the BNP would try something to smear Cox and try to promote itself on the back of her murder. This also shows how desperate the BNP are. The party’s been the subject of various splits and leadership disputes, with former Fuehrer Griffin having been ousted. He is now running around eastern Europe trying to get the squadristi there to give him free meals and publicity. The far right in this country has shrunk down to a very few, split between a number of squabbling grouplets, all desperate to steal each others’ members. This looks like a sordid attempt by the BNP to show it can take the lead and still has some relevance in the politics of hate. It also shows how vile and pathetic the group has become, now it’s fallen from the threat it was eight or so years ago. This is it’s true face – racist, mean-spirited, slanderous and desperate. Their leaflets are only fit to be slung in the bin, as is the party itself.

Aganbegyan on Perestroika and Workers’ Control

June 29, 2016

Earlier this week I put up a translation of an Austrian governmental pamphlet from the 1980s on the system of factory councils and workers’ representation in industry. Over the in Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet Communist president, advocated a system of workers’ control and the transformation of state enterprises into co-operatives, in order to reform and invigorate the moribund Soviet economy and political system. It was also intended as part of a wider series of measures, like free speech and elections, which were to transform the USSR into a Socialist democracy. I’ve posted up pieces from Gorbachev himself in his book, Perestroika, about the new thinking, and from Ken Livingstone, who was deeply impressed with this aspect of the Soviet experiment. Gorbachev’s chief economist, Abel Aganbegyan, also discusses the importance of industrial democracy in his The Challenge: Economics of Perestroika (London: CenturyHutchinson 1988).

Aganbegyan states that the importance of co-operatives in the Soviet economy was recognised by Lenin, and that Gorbachev was returning to this earlier Soviet ideal. He wrote:

The development of cooperatives and self-employment is not a departure from Socialist principles of economic management. In Soviet conditions a cooperative is a socialist form of economic management, foreseen by Lenin in one of his last articles “On Co-operatives”. As is well known, Lenin’s last articles were dictated by him. He was extremely ill and sensed his imminent death; these articles are rightly seen as his last will. It is symbolic that among the various questions to which Lenin wished to draw society’s attention, was the question of cooperatives as an important form of socialist economic management. Lenin fully understood that a socialist society could not be developed solely on enthusiasm and on the application of administrative measures. He wrote about the need to employ the principles of material self-interest, self-financing, financial accountability (Khozraschet) and material responsibility. The cooperative form of economic management is indeed a form which ensures greater material incentive in work, more responsibility and the ability to pay one’s way. At the same time it is a democratic form since it is voluntary. Lenin attached fundamental importance to the voluntary nature of the cooperative. Cooperatives are self-managing organisations, where the collective itself decides everything and things are not fixed from above by an official. Thus the potential advantages of cooperatives within our society are far from exhausted. And we know from economic history, no economic form will disappear if it contains within it potential for self-development. The development of self-employment has also to be approached as a way of strengthening the material interest of individuals in creative labour.

The aim of socialist development in the final analysis lies in meeting the needs of all members of society more fully. Cooperatives and self-employment contribute to this end and therefore reinforce our socialist principles. They completely correspond to Gorbachev’s slogan for prestroika, ‘Give us more socialism!’ (p. 30).

The Cooperatives and Democratisation

Aganbegyan also makes it very clear in the book that the creation of the co-operatives was part of the wider process of democratising the USSR.

Democratisation of the whole of our society including the development of glasnost is an important aspect of perestroika. As it applies to the economy, debate is proceeding on an increased role in workers’ collectives in the resolution of economic questions, and in the transition to self-management. In the Law on Socialist Enterprises, workers’ collectives have been granted extensive rights in framing the plan of economic development for their enterprise, deciding on the way incentives should be offered, on work conditions and salaries, and the social development of their collective.

Of particular significance is the right of workers’ collectives choose their economic leaders, at brigade, enterprise and association level. Earlier, under the administrative system, directives on the conduct of the plan, even the smallest details, were handed down from above. Now, with full economic independence and self-accounting, the welfare of the collective depends above all on work organisation and levels of productivity. Its leader, as head of the working collective, must take the lead in striving for higher efficiency and productivity. (P. 31).

The Workers’ Democracy in Action

Aganbegyan also describes the new system of industrial democracy at work, and how it was introduced by a number of firms, so that managers had to compete for their positions. As a result of this, 8 per cent of the most inefficient were weeded out.

In the new system of economic management the rights of working collectives have been greatly expanded by the Law on Social Enterprises passed in June 1987. The working collective now determines the development policy of the enterprise. It also establishes the plan of development for its enterprise, including the plan for the five-year period. Plans set by the collective are final and are not subject to the approval of any higher authorities. The collective determines the way the enterprise uses the self-accounting income which it has earned. it scrutinises particularly the way the enterprise’s funds are used in the technological research and development fund, the social development fund and the financial incentives fund.

The working collective carries out its f8unctions both directly at meetings of the whole working collective and through democratically elected Councils to represent its interests. The decision to broaden the rights of the working collective was not taken dogmatically, but on the basis of generalisation of the experience accumulated at individual enterprises in the Soviet Union. At the Kaluga Turbine Factory, fore example, a council of brigade leaders, representing the working collective’s interests, has been operating effectively for many years. The fact is that here collective labour brigades were genuinely organised. Each brigade elects its brigade leader, so that the brigade leaders’ council is a democratically elected body. The factory has major productive and social results to its credit and, moreover, the long-term development policy of the enterprise is in the main the responsibility of the brigade leaders’ council.

For the first time working collectives are being given extensive rights such as the right to elect the manager. This affects the election of managers of all ranks: the brigade elects the brigadier, the workers and section foremen the section head, the working collective of the factory elects the director of the factory, and the whole working collective of the association elects the General Director. These elections are planned as a creative process. They must be preceded by public competition for managerial posts, with a preliminary selection made by, say, the working collective council. Each candidate then meets with the workers in the sections, departments and enterprises, attends meetings and meets with representatives of public organisations. Each candidate for the post of manager draws up a programme of actions and presents it to the working collective. Secret elections then take place with votes cast for a specific person, whose particulars and potential are known, and for a definite development programme for the enterprise.

The idea of appointing managers by election has already been taken up by many working collectives. Even before the official acceptance of the Law on Enterprises these elections were being organised independently in many places. Interesting events occurred for example at the Riga Car Factory. This factory produces the RAF microbuses which gained popularity in their day, but had eventually ceased to meet the increasingly sophisticated demands as needs changed and technology developed. The factory was in a deep crisis and stopped fulfilling the plan. A new leader was needed. Under the aegis of the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda a nationwide competition was held for the post of director of the factory. A total of four thousand applications was received from all corners of the country and a commission was specially created composed of car construction specialists (from the Ministry of Car Industry), from the factory and from local bodies. About thirty candidates were shortlisted. They studied the factory and made their proposals for it. One the basis of a detailed examination of these more concrete data the list of candidates was further reduced to eight. They came to the factory, familiarized themselves with the work, stated their views on how to improve the situation and finally the working collective in a secret ballot selected its factory director. This turned out to be V.L. Bossert, an energetic young manager, 35 years of age, who up to then was working as the manager of the Omsk Factory, a major producer of gear-boxes for the Moskvich car. The collective supported the candidacy of this new director and gave its views on his programme for the full reconstruction of the factory and the design of a new model of microbus which would be on a par with world standards. Having elected the director, the collective began to work intensively and soon fulfilled the plan. The number of claims for replacement of defective goods was reduced. The financial situation of the enterprise improved, people started to receive prizes and work motivation grew. Parallel to this, work continues on designing a new car and reconstructing the factory.

This experience has proved to be successful and it has caught on. Based on the RAF factory’s example, tens and even hundreds of other enterprises have organised elections for directors. Success is assured wherever this is carried out not as a mere formality, but where competition is guaranteed, where time is given and conditions are created for the preparation of imaginative programmes of development of the working collective, and where people really feel they are participating in the advancement of their enterprise at management level. In discussing the question of appointment of leaders by election, we have studied attentively the experience of other socialist countries, Bulgaria and Hungary. In Hungary in particular, the democratic mechanism has been very effective. In re-election for the post of direct 8% of former directors were voted out, but 92% had their competence at management confirmed by the collective. IN this way the quality of managers has been improved.(Pp. 197-9).

Unfortunately, this experiment was abandoned. The cooperatives throughout the eastern bloc were transformed into bog-standard capitalist enterprises through the voucher system. Yeltsin recklessly privatised everything he could lay his hands on, with the result that the Russian economy went into meltdown. And the end result of this has been the rise of Putin and the oligarchs. It is a great pity, as if this experiment had succeeded, Russia could have been the first and greatest genuinely democratic, socialist country, and undoubtedly the benefits this gave its working people would have been taken up and copied around the world.