Archive for July, 2016

Theresa May Attacks Slavery, but Happy with Other Forms Exploitation

July 31, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up an article commenting on the hypocrisy behind Theresa May launching her anti-slavery campaign.

Slavery is indeed a terrible crime against humanity, and down the centuries slaves have been treated with more or less appalling brutality. But Mike points out that there are also exploitative employers, who force wages down and torture their workers psychologically. He has seen it, and wonders if his readers also have. But this, apparently, is perfectly fine with May.

As is student debt, which according to a report released today by the Intergenerational Foundation will wipe out any ‘graduate premiums for most professions’. In other words, getting a degree will keep you poor, and won’t do you any good. But May still keeps telling us that higher education leads to greater employability and pay.

He then discusses how the National Living Wage is no such thing, and you can’t survive on benefits, because the benefits system is biased against giving them out.

All fine by May. As is the form of slavery embodied in workfare. The government has spent four years trying to keep the names of the firms and charities involved in this absolutely secret, because they were well aware that the British public wouldn’t stand it. But that form of exploitation is fine by May.

Mike states that he fully believes slavery should be wiped out in Britain, but states that May’s campaign against it shows up the hypocrisy in the Tory party, which is quite prepared to tolerate and promote other forms of exploitation.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/31/heres-why-mays-campaign-against-slavery-is-a-contradiction/

This contradiction between attacking slavery and tolerating, or even participating, in ‘wage slavery’ and the exploitation of paid employees, was one of the criticisms made against many of the Abolitionists in both Britain and America, like William Wilberforce. Wilberforce’s critics made the point that it was hypocritical of him to attack Black slavery for its cruel exploitation of other human beings, when he himself exploited the ‘factory slaves’ toiling for him. The same point was made by the defenders of slavery in the southern states of the US against northern abolitionists, as they pointed out the appalling conditions for the workers in the northern factories. This isn’t an argument for tolerating slavery. It is an argument for ending the exploitation of nominally free workers. It’s why the British Anti-Slavery Society also published pamphlets attacking what it considered to be exploitative labour conditions in Britain, such as the employment of children beyond a certain maximum number of hours.

And some of the recent developments in workforce conditions worry me, as they are extremely close to real slavery. Mike mentions student debt. In America, Obama passed legislation stating that graduates cannot even declare themselves bankrupt to clear themselves of it. These debts may reach something like £30-40,000 and above. I’ve even seen it suggested that the total student debt for a medical student may reach £70,000, putting a career as a doctor or surgeon beyond most people’s ability to pay. But if they cannot clear the debt as they would others, then it becomes a particularly heavy, persistent burden. It only needs for another US president, guided no doubt by a donor in the financial sector, to declare that the debt should be made hereditary so they can recoup their investment, and you have debt slavery, exactly as it exists in India, Pakistan and other parts of the world.

Disgusting.

And then there’s the welfare to work industry. Standing in his Precariat Charter also devotes pages to attacking this form of exploitation. And this is also trembling on the edge of real slavery. Under existing legislation, a sanctioned individual may be forced to work, even though they are receiving no benefits. This is surely slavery.

The exploitative nature of workfare is tied to a very proprietorial attitude by the upper classes towards the unemployed. The Tories and other advocates of similar reforms have the attitude that because the unemployed and other recipients of benefits are being supported by the state, they have certain obligations to the state beyond ordinary citizens, a notion that has extended into a form of ownership. Thus we have the imposition of the bedroom tax, levied on a fictitious ‘spare room subsidy’ that does not exist. One of the madder peers declared that the unemployed should have to publish accounts of their expenditure, like public departments and MPs. And the whole notion of workfare is that the unemployed are getting something for nothing, and so should be forced to do something for the pittance they are receiving.

Ultimately, all these attitudes derive from the sense of feudal superiority instilled in the Tories as members of the upper classes, and which causes them to persist in seeing the rest of us as their serfs, who owe deference and toil to them as our social superiors. Workfare can even be seen as a contemporary form of corvee, the system of labour obligations to a serf’s lord that existed in feudalism. The feudal landlord in this case, is Sainsbury’s or whichever of the various firms and charities have chosen to participate in the scheme.

May’s right to attack slavery. But it’s long past high time that these other forms of exploitation, and the attitude of class snobbery and entitlement behind them, were removed as well.

Corbyn Will Re-Introduce Collective Bargaining and End Zero-Hours Contracts

July 31, 2016

This looks like a piece of very good news. According to Mike, Jeremy Corbyn plans to repeal the laws passed by Blair’s government in 1999 limiting workers’ rights to have a recognised trade union, and end zero-hours contracts.

Corbyn wrote a piece in the Observer stating that he felt the changes were necessary due to the scandals over Sports Direct, Philip Green and BHS, and the Byron Hamburger chain to help immigration officials arrest 35 illegal immigrants, who were working for them.

At the moment, current legislation stipulates that a union wishing to be recognised at a workplace must show that 10 per cent of employees are members, and 50% want them to lead in pay bargaining. If that isn’t the case, then a secret ballot must be held, at which at least 40% of those able to vote do so, and the majority vote in favour of union recognition.

Corbyn, however, wants to introduce a French-style system, in which firms with over 250 members would have to recognise a specific trade union, and bargain with them over pay. He states

“Even Theresa May understands she has to pay lip service to change in the workplace and the boardroom …,” writes Corbyn.

“But the best way to guarantee fair pay is through strengthening unions’ ability to bargain collectively – giving employees the right to organise through a union and negotiate their pay, terms and conditions at work,” he writes.

“That’s why it should be mandatory for all large employers, with over 250 staff, to bargain collectively with recognised trade unions.”

Corbyn also states that he wants all workers to be given specified hours, that are written into their contracts. If an employer wants them to work beyond these hours, they are to specify the length of time and give them a reason. They will also have to give workers additional compensation, similar to an on-call payment, for being willing to work beyond their usual contracted hours, whether the workers in fact do so or not.

Mike is unsure about the wisdom of the reforms on union recognition, and would like comments on this matter from experts on trade union matters and employment law. However, he welcomes the proposal to end zero-hours contracts.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/31/corbyn-pledges-to-scrap-blair-union-laws-in-favour-of-collective-bargaining-and-an-end-to-zero-hours-contracts/

The decision to end zero-hours contracts is an excellent policy. Guy Standing devotes several pages in his book, A Precariat Charter, to attacking them. They are widely recognised as a highly exploitative and pernicious system of employment for those trapped in them.

Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack make clear that the assault on collective bargaining and the trade unions was a deliberate policy of Maggie Thatcher, and has resulted in the contraction of wages, high unemployment, and the impoverishment of the working class in their book, Breadline Britain: The Rise of Mass Poverty(London: OneWorld 2015). They write

Deteriorating opportunities are also the direct product of an about-turn in the country’s political economy. At the end of the 1970s, fighting the rising rate of inflation became the number-one economic goal, displacing the former priority given to maintaining full employment. The instruments used – tight monetary and fiscal policies and a strong pound – accelerated long-term de-industrialisation, while triggering mass unemployment. The critical decision in the 1980s to adopt a more aggressive, market-oriented model of capitalism led to the sweeping away of regulations, the favouring of finance over manufacturing, the outsourcing of public sector jobs, relentless pressure on companies to cut labour costs and, critically, an assault on labour’s bargaining power.

Cabinet papers for 1983 reveal that Mrs Thatcher admonished Norman Tebbit for being too timid on trade union reform, telling him we ‘should neglect no opportunity to erode union membership’. In Britain the proportion of the workforce covered by collective bargaining has fallen from around eighty percent in 1979 to below twenty-five percent today (fifteen percent in the case of private sector workers). This is one of the lowest levels of coverage among rich nations, adding to the heavily skewed and economically unhealthy concentration of corporate power. The UK stands at twenty-first place out of twenty-seven countries in the European Union in terms of workplace representation, though parts of the European continent are also seeing more recent falls in the level of coverage, though from a much higher base.

Britain’s much vaunted ‘flexible labour market’, engineered during the 1980s to give business greater freedom to hire and fire, was necessary, it was claimed, to enable domestic firms to compete in an increasingly globalised economy. Such freedom for employers has continued to be championed by subsequent governments. Yet, just as over-restrictive labour laws can be bad news for dynamism, so can under-restrictive laws.

Britain’s low-wage, high-unemployment economy is as much the product of these internal, political forces as of external, economic ones. Indeed, it was later admitted by one of Mrs Thatcher’s top economic advisers that one of the government’s central aims was the taming of labour. ‘The nightmare I sometimes have about this whole experience runs as follows … there may have been people making the actual policy decisions … who never believed for a moment that this was the correct way to bring down inflation. They did, however, see that it would be a very, very good way to raise unemployment.’ This was how Sir Alan Budd, chief economic adviser at the Treasury in the 1980s, summed up – in 1992 – the multilayered assault on inflation and the unions. He continued: ‘And raising unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes…what was engineered there, in Marxist terms, was a crisis of capitalism which created a reserve army of labour and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since.’ (pp.101-3, emphasis mine).

They further write on page 242

Perhaps the most effective, and radical, measure for boosting the total wage pool at the bottom would be a rebalancing of bargaining power in favour of the workforce. Another would be a more concerted attempt to reduce the significant pay gap between men and women by raising women’s wages. Both measures would raise the share of national income going in pay and would be critical elements of an effective strategy for cutting poverty levels among the workforce.

Far from being a strength, the sustained decline in workforce bargaining power in the UK is an economic and democratic weakness. Because of the ‘wage premium’ associated with collective bargaining, this erosion of labour’s bargaining power has played a big role in wage contraction. Evidence across sixteen rich countries has shown that the higher the level of trade union membership, the lower the degree of inequality. Further, it is likely that the erosion may have encouraged British employers to move down a low-pay and productivity road. By being able to minimise pay and rely on casualised labour, British employers – unlike say their German counterparts – have had few incentives to improve skills and introduce more productive processes.

Phased in over time, such a policy mix – a boost to the minimum wage, a reduction
in the numbers on less than the living wage, wider collective bargaining coverage and lower unemployment – would put the thirty-year long trend of a shrinking wage share into reverse, and make an important contribution to reducing poverty among the low-paid, while taking some of the strain off the benefit system.

Corbyn’s decision to expand and strengthen collective bargaining therefore appears from this to be an excellent measure. It will also doubtless be attacked by the Confederation of British Industry and the right-wing press and Blairites with just about every ounce of abuse they can muster. We’ll hear once more about how this will threaten British businesses with bankruptcy, and how this will lead us all back to the strike-torn 1970s, the Winter of Discontent, and all the old Thatcherite rubbish. The reality is that Britain was no more strike-prone in the 1970s than many other countries, and much less so than America. And the Winter of Discontent was, in the views of at least one historian I’ve read, the response to the system of wage restraint buckling under the weight of political pressure it was not designed to deal with, and which the unions should not have been expected to shoulder.

Of course, the real reason for the rage at the reinstatement of collective bargaining and the ending of zero-hour contracts will be that it attacks the nearly forty years of exploitative Tory employment policies that Maggie introduced. These employment practices have caused real misery, just as Thatcher and the economists she followed, von Hayek and Milton Friedman, intended them to. They should end now.

May Refuses to Release Rape Figures at Detention Centre for Commercial Reasons

July 31, 2016

This shows the hollowness of the Tory Claims that somehow they are pro-feminist, and that the installation of Theresa May in No 10 is somehow an advance for this country’s women.

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that the Independent had made a request for the official figures of the number of rapes that had occurred at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where immigrants are held while their cases are decided. The Indie noted that many of the women held their had been fleeing rape and war in their countries of origin. The detention centre is operated by Serco, one of the government’s favourite outsourcing contractors, along with G4S. Current legislation means that public bodies have to disclose information when it is in the public interest. But the Home Office turned down this request for information as it would harm the commercial interests of the companies running the centre.

Mike asked the obvious question: When did it become acceptable to use ‘commercial interest’ as an excuse to hide rape?

The question is rhetorical. Of course it isn’t. Mike makes the point that the framing of the request for information makes it clear that it has gone on more than once. he also states that as May was the minister in charge of the Home Office, she has the overall responsibility for what occurred there. And if she is indifferent to the crimes and abuse that happened there, what does this show about her concern for the rest of this country’s population?

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/when-did-it-become-acceptable-to-use-commercial-interest-as-an-excuse-to-hide-rape/

The Conservative party has repeatedly used the excuse of ‘commercial interests’ to justify their refusal to release details of the failures of private government outsourcing companies, including private hospitals and clinics. I distinctly remember Mike reporting a few years ago on the way requests for information on the standard of care at the private hospitals and hospital management companies contracted in to perform operations and manage PFI hospitals as part of the government’s privatisation campaign, were similarly turned down for the same reason. Yet similarly confidential information about the costs of running public hospitals were to be given to private companies. This was a naked display of the government’s intention to privatise the Health Service, by giving every advantage to the private sector, while covering up their failures. It is exactly the same here.

The excuse that the information must be protected for reasons of commercial confidentiality while the state’s must be public is easily dismissed. If a private company is performing work for the state, then it effectively becomes part of the res publica, and it is in the public interest to examine how efficient and trustworthy that company is, for exactly the same reasons governing the release of information about public bodies. Part of the rationale for employing private companies is that competition leads to higher standards than possible in a bureaucracy. But competition depends on there being competitors, who are aware of the faults of their rivals, and can correct these to offer better services.

The fact that the Tories don’t want to release such information suggests that they’re not interested in genuinely promoting competition. They’re just interested in promoting private companies. It also suggests that the supposed superior performance of the private sector is a myth. If the number of rapes in Yarl’s Wood detention centre was actually lower than those in state management, then I don’t see how there could be any objection to releasing them. It also suggests to me that, outside of the usual recidivists, there are no other outsourcing companies bidding to take over such services. The government has got to stick with Serco, or G4S, or whoever, because nobody else is going to do the job, and if they go, the whole project fails.

This is exactly similar to the government’s promotion of private healthcare and privatisation of the NHS. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their book, NHS-SOS make the point that there is no market for private healthcare in this country, and that private hospitals themselves aren’t efficient compared to state healthcare. The result is that the government, in the form of New Labour and the Tories, has had to resort to continuous intervention in order to do so. And it’s very obvious that’s also the case here.

Private healthcare doesn’t work, and the NHS should be renationalised.
Private prisons and detention centres don’t work, and should be renationalised.

As for what the government’s refusal to release figures specifically about the incidence of rape shows about May’s feminism, it shows that she has little interest in women’s welfare, or at least, in the welfare of women who don’t belong to the upper and upper middle classes. Rape, and violence against women in general, is the quintessential feminist cause. Yet here, May shows that she has no interest in combating it, if it means that her precious companies don’t make a tidy profit. Capitalism first, women’s safety second. After Angela Eagle’s leadership campaign collapsed, one of the female hacks in the I newspaper lamented the absence of strong, charismatic women in the Labour party, and pointed to the Tories’ election of May as their second female prime minister. But this ignores the fact that Maggie Thatcher did not see herself as a feminist. Her public persona was so aggressively masculine that one of the feminists in the Observer dubbed her ‘the best man in the Tory party’. Much the same has been said recently about Hillary Clinton, who is as aggressively militaristic as any of the male hawks with which she surrounds herself. And the same is true of Theresa May. She represents the ability of middle and upper class women to break through the glass ceiling and take senior positions in politics and management. But she has no interest in protecting the interests, rights, dignity and welfare of the people below her, including women.

Mike says of this incident that it’s about time the honeymoon with her was over. I agree. She will do nothing for the poor, and vulnerable, and will just carry on with Cameron’s policies. The fact that she is a woman is merely a piece of liberal camouflage hiding the harshly, exploitative Tory policies underneath.

Labour Rebels Want to Create Party within a Party, and Corbyn’s Response

July 31, 2016

Mike’s put up two pieces reporting and commenting on the plan of unnamed Labour rebels to set up a separate party within the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It was reported in the Mirror and Torygraph that senior Labour rebels were so convinced that Corbyn would win the leadership, they want to create virtually a second party, with its own shadow cabinet and leader. They would also issue a legal challenge to get control of the Labour party’s name and assets, and would petition John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to nominate them as the official opposition.

Mike comments that the idea seems ‘hopelessly naive’. He makes the point that if they did carry out their plans, they would disrupt opposition to the Tories, and convince the majority of Labour members and supporters that they are really ‘Red Tories’ – Conservatives in disguise. Any attempt to gain the party’s name and assets would fail without the support of the majority of members. Mike also notes that they are also making a huge assumption that the majority of their rebel MPs would stay with them, when one of them, Sarah Champion, has already recanted and re-joined the Corbynites. He also notes that none of the leaders of this supposed plot have had the courage to reveal their identities, thus demonstrating once again the cowardice that has led their detractors to call them the ‘Chicken Coup’. And without knowing their identities, for all we know the story may have been made up by the Mirror and Torygraph. He concludes by stating that the only thing this will do is undermine Owen Smith’s own bid for the leadership.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/contempt-for-democracy-labour-rebels-plan-to-start-their-own-party-within-a-party/

Later yesterday Mike also put up a piece from the Groaniad, reporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s response to news of the plot. Corbyn said

“We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge – via the Daily Telegraph, very interesting – the very existence of this party.”

He stated that the Labour party was founded by pioneers, brave people, and that under the registration of parties act, they are the Labour party. There isn’t another, and he was very proud to be the leader of the Labour party. He also stated that it was nonsense that his leadership could cause a split, as membership had doubled since he became leader, and activity had increased.

McDonnell urged Smith to condemn the minority of MPs supporting his campaign, who were trying to subvert the election and damage the Labour party. Smith, when asked for a comment, said he refuses to indulge in gossip.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/bizarre-labour-rebels-can-never-steal-the-partys-name-and-assets-corbyn/

The Labour party has suffered a series of splits over its century-long history. Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, which was one of the Socialist groups involved in the foundation of the party, later split away in the 1920s to form, with other groups, the Communist Party. Keir Hardie’s ILP also split, to carry on as a radical Socialist party. One of its most distinctive policies was a complete rejection of the wages system. Outside the Labour party it very swiftly declined. The last time I heard anything about it was thirty years ago, when I found a copy of its magazine/ newsletter in Cheltenham Public Library.

The most recent and notorious of the splits was that of the SDP in the 1980s, formed by the right-wing Labour MPs Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen. They claimed to be ‘breaking the mould of British politics’, and Owen at the 1987 election told the party faithful to go back home and prepare for government. There was then, almost inevitably, a Tory victory. Screaming Lord Sutch later offered Owen a place in his Monster Raving Loony Party, saying cheekily that if Owen had joined them, he would be preparing for government. The SDP forged an alliance with the Liberals, and the two eventually merged to become the Liberal Democrats. They have also signally failed break the mould of British politics, despite the Guardian telling everyone to go out and vote for them at the 2010 elections. As for Owen, in the 1980s he was so desperate for power that at one point he even offered to support the Tories in a coalition, just as thirty years later Clegg decided to get into bed with Cameron.
And the SDP were also influenced by the neoliberal ideas of the Chicago School. Ann Soper, their Shadow Education Minister, was a fan of Milton Friedman’s ideas for school vouchers, which parents could use either on state education, or private.

If such a split did occur, it would be extremely unpleasant indeed. The wrangling about party assets and name could take years to settle. The vast majority of grassroots members would depart, and stay with Corbyn. And I’ve no doubt that rather than establishing themselves as the ‘official’ Labour party, the coup plotters would find the British public turning their backs on them as treacherous and untrustworthy intriguers. They’d decline into another rump party, while Corbyn’s faction would probably expand. They might also go the same way as the SDP, and try to join the Liberal Democrats after the number of their MPs declined past a certain point, no doubt all the while grumbling about ‘unelectable’ Corbyn being somehow responsible for the misfortunes they had all brought down on themselves.

Pinochet, Hillary Clinton, and Theresa May’s Proposal for Worker Directors

July 30, 2016

I found this very interesting paragraph in a piece by Michael Hudson ‘Obama Said Hillary Will Continue His Legacy. And She Will!’ in this weekend’s collection of Counterpunch articles:

Obama’s brilliant demagogy left many eyes glazed over in admiration. Nobody is better at false sincerity while misrepresenting reality so shamelessly. Probably few caught the threatening hint he dropped about Hillary’s plan for corporations to share their profits with their workers. This sounds to me like the Pinochet plan to privatize Social Security by turning it into exploitative ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs). The idea is that wage withholding would be steered to buy into the company’s stock – bidding it up in the process. Employees then would end up holding an empty bag, as occurred recently with the Chicago Tribune. That seems to be the great “reform” to “save” Social Security that her Wall Street patrons are thinking up.

Hudson’s article is a sustained demolition of the liberal image Shrillary and the rest of the establishment Democrat Party have promoted. She is not remotely on the side of the increasingly impoverished Middle and working classes, but a neoliberal corporatist concerned with promoting the profits of her donors in Wall Street and Big Business at the expense of ordinary Americans. She stands for more austerity, further cuts to education and welfare programmes, including Medicare, and the TTP and TTIP free trade agreements, that threaten to outsource more American jobs.

She’s also an extremely militaristic hawk, who has supported a series of bloody interventions from Iraq, Libya, and Syria to Honduras. She promises a further escalation of American military action around the globe. To divert attention from the corrupt machinations in her favour by the Democrat party machine, headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she has attacked Putin for supposedly hacking into the Democrat’s computer, which held details of these underhand deals. She’s also using Trump’s friendship with the Russian leader to attack him, in which Hudson sees as a return to the Red-baiting antics of the McCarthy era. He describes how she has appealed to Republic voters against those of Bernie Sanders and the progressive Left. And how Bernie Sanders has also ill-served his own supporters by endorsing her, despite the fact that she stands for everything he opposes.

Hudson also makes the wider point that many, if not most of the policy positions Hillary adopts are exactly the same as Obama. Obama was no radical: he described himself as a ‘moderate Republican’. The only radical feature about him was his ethnicity. He was Black, and this constituted a liberal point in his favour, just as Shrillary’s biological femininity is a point in hers. But Hudson makes the point that Shrillary’s biological gender is irrelevant to her politics. She does not embody the traditional female characteristics of empathy, but a very masculine aggressive militarism, in which she is ‘one of the boys’ with the other army hawks.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/29/obama-said-hillary-will-continue-his-legacy-and-indeed-she-will/

There is much here that parallels the political situation over here in Blighty. Owen Smith and the Blairites in Labour are also neoliberals, standing for austerity, welfare cuts, aggressive militarism and pursuing the aims and enrichment of the super-rich at the expense of the poor. It’s not even remotely surprising, as Blair modelled his New Labour project on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. And both parties based their electoral strategy on trying to win over Conservative voters through the adoption of corporatist, anti-working class policies.

But the piece also indicated very strong parallels with Theresa May’s Conservatives. They’re even more corporatist than New Labour, but May announced when she entered No 10 that she was in favour of workers on companies’ boards of directors. This is a radical socialist policy. It’s one so radical, that leftwing Labour MPs like Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone were ruthlessly pilloried for endorsing it in the 1970s and 1980s. Now May, an arch capitalist, says she’s in favour of it.

She clearly isn’t, at least as far as it is conventionally considered. It may well be, as I’ve said before, just rhetoric, a piece of left-wing guff to make her sound more progressive than she actually is. David Cameron, her predecessor, did the same before he became prime minister. He and Ian Duncan Smith opposed New Labour’s welfare cuts, including the privatisation of the NHS, and made noises about supporting Green policies. Cameron’s political mentor, Anthony Blonde, claimed that neoliberalism had failed, and that the Tory party would support pro-worker policies in his book, Red Tory. He even made approving noises about the great 19th century Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin.

Except that it was all rubbish. Once in power, the Green policies were swiftly jettisoned and fracking and nuclear power wholeheartedly endorsed. Neoliberalism was declared to be the only way forward. And he made deeper cuts under his austerity campaign than Labour, and, if anything, stepped up the privatisation of the NHS.

It looks like May is repeating that strategy: first appear a bit left, then, when your position has been consolidated, get rid of it all and carry on as normal.

But it may be that she does mean something about worker directors. If she does, it won’t be for the welfare of the working class. Hudson states that Hillary’s call for profit-sharing sounds like Pinochet’s attempts to privatise social security through turning it into a employee share scheme. Something like this is also likely over here with May’s worker directors. The Tory party has already tried to promote one scheme, by which workers were able to acquire shares in their company, if they signed away their employment rights. It looks very much to me that May will try something similar under the pretense of introducing industrial democracy. If she ever does anything like that at all in the first place, that is.

Kay Dickinson on the Exclusion of Grassroots Labour Members in West Ham

July 30, 2016

In my last article, I discussed a piece put up earlier today by Mike, reporting that a fifth of the constituency Labour parties that had nominated Owen Smith for leader, had done so in locked meetings from which ordinary, grassroots members were excluded. This was done in Blaenau Gwent, where the sitting MP was a director of Progress, the New Labour faction within the Labour party. It was done in Chuka Umunna’s party in Streatham, and in St. Helen’s North by Conor McGinn, who then span a complete fiction about being threatened by grassroots members when a group of women discovered how he’d misled them.

Kay Dickinson, one of Mike’s readers, posted this comment to Mike’s piece, describing how the same dirty tricks had been done to the members of the Labour party in West Ham. He wrote

Exactly the same happened in West Ham – 57 delegates decided the nomination for a CLP with well over 500 members and apparently the members are fuming – the result was 30-27 for Smith. The same almost happened in Morecambe too – we had an opportunity to speak on behalf of either candidate and not one person spoke for Smith – yet only 8 people in the whole CLP were allowed to vote and the nomination only went JCs way cos one delegate didn’t express a second preference. I’m going to be proposing that delegates are fine for day to day decisions but that there has to be an option for the members to ask for a full members vote for issues they deem important enough. I’d encourage others to do the same – maybe voxpolitical can help make it a national campaign?

See the article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/anti-corbyn-stitch-up-in-labour-leader-nomination-process-is-another-attack-on-democracy/ and scroll down. Mr Dickinson’s is the first comment.

As a Labour supporter, I fully back Mr Dickinson’s proposal. In questions like this, the ordinary members should be allowed to vote. Anything else is undemocratic. As for the Blairites, while they may be congratulating themselves in having succeeded in checking some of the overwhelming support for Corbyn, they are in fact storing up massive resentment, a resentment that will be expressed sooner or later. And their antics are doing far more than anything Jeremy Corbyn himself is advocating to discredit Labour as a political party. New Labour has shown itself to be deeply anti-democratic, willing to use lies and horrendous personal smears against its opponents and the ordinary people in its grassroots organisation. Part of the reason Broon lost the 2010 election was because he was despised for apparently looking down on ordinary members of the electorate. And even before then, New Labour had a reputation for spin and ‘negative briefing’, the euphemism given to the attacks on party members and officials, who didn’t toe the line laid down by the Dear Leader Blair.

The Blairites desperately need to clean up their act. They should fully embrace democracy and the wishes of their grassroots members, and make due apology to those they have lied to and about. if they cannot do this, they should leave.

New Labour Sets Up Delegate-Only Meetings to Exclude Corbyn Supporters from Nominations

July 30, 2016

Mike today has posted up another piece about the anti-democratic dirty tricks pursued by the Blairites to stop Labour party members voting for Jeremy Corbyn, according to an article in the Evening Standard. Mike reported yesterday how Conor McGinn, the Labour MP for St. Helen’s North, had misdirected Corbyn supporters to Century House for a meeting over a vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. McGinn and at least six of his cronies held the real meeting behind closed doors over in the Town Hall. When a group of women, who had come to support Corbyn and been misled, tackled him about it, McGinn reported them to the police and then wrote a completely misleading account of the incident for Politics Home, claiming to have been threatened and intimidated by them.

This process has been repeated in Blaenau Gwent, where Labour party members were prevented from attending a meeting to nominate, who they wanted as leader of the Labour party. The CLP instead chose Smiffy. It is not remotely coincidental that the local Labour MP is a director of Progress, the Blairite faction in the Labour party.

Now it also appears to have been done in Chuka Umunna’s local party in Streatham. The party’s grassroots members were locked out of the meeting, and the nomination was made by the party’s general committee, which chose Smudger. A party spokesman told the Standard that they had to do it like that, as the party’s membership was too large for everyone to be notified at such a short notice.

Mike points out that this is rubbish. They could have used email. If the problem was that the membership was too large to fit in the usual premises, then they could have done what Jeremy Corbyn does, and booked larger premises. Mike speculates that the people, who’ve arranged such anti-democratic tricks, don’t realise the amount of ill-will they’re creating for themselves, ill-will that will be expressed later on. Or they simply don’t care, as they’re trying to create a literal party within a party with Labour.

Mike concludes his article with the following recommendation

In the meantime, anyone who feels mistreated by this attempt to sidestep democracy is entitled to express their displeasure to the NEC – perhaps in the form of a multiple-signature letter or petition; perhaps with a motion of no confidence in the nomination decision and the process by which it was made.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/anti-corbyn-stitch-up-in-labour-leader-nomination-process-is-another-attack-on-democracy/

I’m not surprised that Chuka Umunna’s CLP in Streatham have tried this trick. Umunna is a Blairite through and through. A little while ago, when it seemed the party was going a little too far to the left for his liking, he warned that if it continued to do so, he and other ‘aspiring’ Blacks and Asians would leave the Labour party. This was part of a general warning by Blairites that a leftward turn by the Labour party would lose them the votes of all the aspirant, upwardly mobile ‘swing voters’ Blair, Broon and Mandelson had cultivated as part of their electoral strategy.

In Umunna’s case, there’s a nasty undercurrent of racial entitlement in this. The Labour party was founded to protect the interests of the working class and poor. At the heart of Socialism is a profound belief in equality, a belief that also motivates Socialists to support the independence movements that arose in the British colonies abroad, and support Blacks and Asians in their campaigns for racial equality at home. But Umunna’s statement suggests he believes that the majority of British people, regardless of colour, should continue to suffer if they are poor or working class, in order to reward Black and Asian swing voters, who are, like their White part counterparts, likely to come from the more affluent sectors of the population. It’s a nasty, racist attitude, though I doubt Umunna sees it as such. He probably sees it as supporting the rights of Blacks and Asians to join the affluent White groups, a demand for equality, even if it means the further impoverishment of everyone poorer than them.

It’s also particularly toxic politically in the present climate post-Brexit. Brexit has led to a massive increase in racism and racist incidents across Britain. Many racists believe that the vote to leave the EU has given them tacit permission to express publicly their private racial hatred. Dissatisfaction and frustration by the White working class was one of the fundamental causes of the Brexit vote. By pursuing the votes of affluent ‘swing voters’, Blair, Brown and Mandelson left very many members of the working class feeling left behind, as conditions for the working class generally worsened. Tory papers, such as the Scum and the Heil have consistently attacked affirmative action campaigns to improve opportunities for Blacks and Asians, and immigration, as discrimination against the White British. Umunna’s comment could easily be seen by disaffected Whites as confirming their belief that New Labour has no interested in helping the poor or working class, unless they are Black or Asian.

Owen Jones, in his book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, makes the point that despite the abandonment of the working class by New Labour, the working class as a whole isn’t racist, although the Tory press has done its level best to claim that it is. He describes a strike at a large industrial plant against the use of cheap immigrant labour. Yet while the Tory press claimed that this was purely a racist attack on the employment of migrant workers, the trade union that called the strike did so partly because it was concerned about the exploitation of the migrant labourers, who did not share the same working conditions as the British fellows, and were forbidden to join a union.

The demands by Umunna and his White counterparts that the Labour party should continue to focus on getting the votes of the middle class, and promoting the ambitions of the aspirant few against the impoverished many, should be strongly rejected. Mike himself has quoted surveys from Labour supporters that show that social aspiration rarely, if at all, figures as one of their concerns. Furthermore, the neoliberal policies Umunna and the rest of the Blairites have embraced, have actually destroyed social mobility.

If Umunna and the rest of them are serious about restoring social mobility, and enabling Blacks and Asians, as well as Whites, to rise higher, then they need to go back to the old Social Democratic consensus. The architect of this strand of Labour ideology, Tony Crosland, argued that it was in the interests of business to support the redistribution of wealth through the welfare state, as this allowed the workers to buy more of their products, and so stimulated both production and profitability. And he also argued that there was no need for more radical forms of industrial democracy, such as works councils and worker directors, if trade unions had an active role in negotiating with management, and workers had good chances of promotion.

If New Labour returns to this policy, then it will both bring prosperity back to working people, regardless of their colour, and get more Blacks and Asians into the middle classes. It isn’t social democrats like Corbyn blocking the social advancement of Blacks and Asians – or anyone else, for that matter. It’s neoliberals concerned to hold on to the status and privileges of the rich at the expense of the poor, no matter what colour they are.

Vox Political: Real Wages Fall by Ten Per Cent Under Tories

July 30, 2016

Mike also published a piece last week on a report published on Wednesday by the TUC, which found that while wages had grown in real terms across the EU between 2007 and 2015, they had fallen in Britain by 10.4%. The average rise in wages across the EU was 6.7 per cent. In Poland, wages had risen by 23 per cent. In Germany wages rose by nearly 14 per cent, and in France by 10.5 per cent. The only countries across the OECD which suffered a fall in wages were Portugal, Britain and Greece.

Mike’s article has two illustrations – one is a graph showing the rise in real wages in various countries, while another is a meme showing the massive pay rises enjoyed by other, very privileged groups, in Britain. Like Bankers, whose pay has risen by 35%, directors of FTSE 100 companies, 14%, and MPs, whose pay has gone up by 11%.

Mike makes the point that New Labour must share some of the blame for this, as not only was Peter Mandelson and his chums very relaxed about people making money, they were also extremely relaxed about wages stagnating. He makes the point that the crash his the poorest the hardest, and the austerity launched by the Tories has been punishing and impoverishing the poor to bail out the bankers and the rich. He also makes the point that Owen Smith’s solutions are just cosmetic, and won’t do anything without concrete proposals for the redistribution of the extra money gained through the ‘wealth tax’ he proposes.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/real-wages-in-the-uk-have-fallen-by-more-than-10-per-cent-under-tories/

Mike’s right about New Labour being very relaxed about wages stagnating. In fact, wage restraint has been a major part of the neoliberal consensus ever since Maggie Thatcher took power in 1979. Keynsianism tolerated high inflation – and in the 1970s at times the inflation rate in Britain was truly eye-watering – as it was coupled to an expanding economy. Both Labour and the Tories attempted to keep pay rises within certain boundaries nevertheless. Thatcher’s Monetarism was much harder towards inflation. It saw this it as the major obstacle to economic growth, and so demanded that it be ruthlessly cut, even if this meant shedding jobs on a truly massive scale, accompanied by a fall in real wages, and the dismantlement of various welfare programmes. It also meant abandoning the Keynsian commitment, pursued over 40 years, to full employment.

Robin Ramsay in a piece on his ‘News from the Bridge’ column in Lobster, made the point that when he was studying economics at Uni in the 1970s, Monetarism as an economic theory was so poorly regarded by his lecturers that they left it to the undergrads to work out what was wrong with it. Which shows you it was known even then to be totally rubbish and useless. He argues that it was adopted by the Tory party because it gave them a rationale for doing what they wanted to do on other grounds – destroy organised labour, dismantle the welfare state, including the Health Service, and grind the working class into poverty.

Now a number of economists are pointing out that, despite the emphasis by the Tories on wage restraint and very low inflation rates, the economy is not growing. I think Han Joon Chang is one of these in his 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.

The comparison with Greece is particularly chilling. Greece has been ruthlessly punished by the Troika with very harsh austerity policies, partly because the Greeks dared to defy the Eurozone authorities and elected Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. Counterpunch has attacked the economic despoliation of the country by mainly German banks as a form of economic warfare. Greece was one of the countries that suffered from the effective collapse of the Eurozone. The result has been grinding mass poverty for its people. One recent programme on the country’s plight showed children picking rubbish off dumps to sale, just as they do in Developing Nations. The presenter looked on, aghast, and made the point that he had never seen this before in what was supposed to be a developed, European country.

Is this what New Labour and the Tories have in store for us? One of the books I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday was about how Britain would have a ‘third world’ economy by 2014. Clearly the book was written a little while ago, and the timing’s out, but nevertheless, the appearance of third world conditions in Britain is a real possibility. There are already 3.7 million people living in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands facing off poverty only because of food banks. I also remember how this was predicted on a BBC Horizon programme, entitled, ‘Icon Earth’, twenty years ago. The programme was about how the image of the Earth in space, taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, had affected global religious, political and economic perspectives. That image had stimulated people around the world to realise that everyone on Earth shared a common home. One result of this, so the programme claimed, was globalisation. It discussed the growing campaigns against migration from the developing world with an Indian anti-racism activist. She predicted that as globalisation progressed, pockets of the third world would appear in the first.

She’s right. This has happened with Greece, and it is occurring in Britain, thanks to the Tories and New Labour. But unlike Greece, we cannot blame the EU. We never joined the Eurozone, and the deterioration in wages and conditions will occur because of Brexit. The cause of this stagnation ultimately is three and half decades and more of Thatcherism.

Vox Political on Hidden Payments to MP’s Funding

July 30, 2016

More electoral corruption from the Conservatives, though Mike points out that it appears unconnected to the wider issue of electoral fraud by Tory MPs. Yesterday, Mike reported that the BBC had uncovered that three payments of £10,000 had been made to the fighting fund for the Tory MP for Northampton South, David Mackintosh. Although the payments, comprising £30,000 in total, were made under different names, they appear to be all from the same company, 1st Land Ltd, which is being investigated for the disappearance of millions of taxpayer’s money. Mackintosh says he will fully co-operate with police, and that he had no reason to believe the money didn’t come from the donors claimed.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/29/police-investigate-hidden-payments-to-northampton-south-mps-fund/

Corruption is endemic at all levels of politics, and some of the prize examples of electoral fraud and the bribery of MPs and local councillors can be read regularly in the pages of Private Eye. If affects all parties, but Tory funding is particularly murky. About a decade ago Colin Challen, a Labour MP, wrote a series of articles in Lobster about his attempts to trace the funding of the Tory party. It’s unknown, or at least, it was then, where the Tory party got half of its money. It’s clear from this that the Tory party is funded by some very powerful, extremely secretive, and very probably extremely corrupt individuals and companies. Dubious payments like this made to Mr Mackintosh is just the most obvious tip of a very large, nasty iceberg. It’s probably small potatoes, and run of the mill corruption compared to what else is going on in the party.

Vox Political: Former Miner Criticises Owen Smith for Exploiting Site of Orgreave

July 30, 2016

Mike also put up another piece reporting that Owen Smith had been verbally tackled by a former miner over his use of Orgreave, as the place to launch his policies. Smudger finally unveiled his programme of reform at the town a few days ago. Of the twenty policies he announced, Mike reports that 13 of them were either lifted from Jeremy Corbyn, or were inspired by him.

But what angered the miner, John Dunn, was that Smiffy had chosen the town as the place to make his grand statement. Orgreave was the site of one of the most notorious incidents during the 1980s miners’ strike, when the police physically attacked the striking miners. Footage of the struggle was edited by the BBC, and then broadcast to show the miners as the aggressors, rather than the victims. Dunn said on his Facebook page that he had asked Smiffy to stop what Dunn saw as ‘shameless opportunism’. Smudger then started saying something about his own background in South Wales, but this cut no ice with the irate miner. Dunn reminded him that when Smudger was working for a pharmaceutical company, he and the others were struggling for justice. He further asked Smiffy why, if he was so keen on the issue of Orgreave, he hadn’t signed Ian Lavery’s early day motions about it. He then compared Smudger to the UDM scabs, who undermined the strike. Smudger didn’t have an answer to that, and ‘scuttled’ back into his car.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/28/former-miner-tackles-owen-smith-for-exploiting-orgreave-as-the-site-for-his-policy-speech/

Mr Dunn is, of course, quite right. New Labour has done everything to cave in to the Tories’ demands to destroy the abilities of the trade unions to fight to protect people’s jobs and employment rights. Blair himself threatened to cut the party’s ties with the trade unions, if he didn’t get his way reforming the party’s constitution. Once in power, he did everything he could to minimise their importance within the party, despite the fact that the Labour party was partly founded to defend the trade unions and their right to strike after the Taff Vale judgement. As for Smudger himself, he worked for Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, for which Smiffy issued a PR puff lauding Blair’s privatisation of the NHS as a great opportunity for the company. In parliament, Smiff abstained from voting on the Tories’ welfare cuts.

Smiffy therefore stands for everything which the Labour party was founded to oppose – the impoverishment and exploitation of the poor and working people, the denial and sale of welfare support and healthcare, and the expanded power of private industry and corporate profit, against declining wages and conditions for workers and employees. Yet, like New Labour, he continues to use the iconography and rhetoric of radical Labour history to present himself as far more radical than he actually is. He isn’t. New Labour has consistently pursued a strategy of appealing to big business and swing voters in marginal constituencies. Corbyn has challenged this tactic by articulating a genuinely left-wing programme of renationalisation, renewed trade union rights, and genuine welfare reforms. This is ardently supported by an expanded party membership. This has clearly frightened New Labour, which took the working class for granted. So they have now taken to adopting some of his policies, and invoking the memories of past battles between Labour and capital. But it’s all a sham. Smudger’s new, left-wing policies are simply a disguise for the neoliberalism that he really favours. He and the rest of the 172 anti-Corbynite MPs have shown themselves willing to lie and smear in order to discredit Corbyn and his supporters anyway they can. I have no doubts that Smudger’s lying about these policies as well. Once in power, they’re liable to be swiftly forgotten, or watered down to the extent that they’re useless. Or maybe he’ll just say that the time isn’t right just now, so wait a bit.

We’ve waited too long. We’ve waited for over thirty years of privatisation and welfare cuts. It’s long past the time this was all stopped, and Smudger, Eagle and the other Red Tories voted out in favour of the true members and supporters of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn and his followers.