Archive for the ‘Wages’ Category

Megaphone Petition Against Government Plans to Allow the Hiring of Agency Strike Breakers

June 24, 2022

I’ve also received this email from Megaphone urging people to sign their petition about the government’s proposal to undermine the unions by allowing companies to hire agency staff to break the strike. I’ve signed it, as strikes, or the threat of strike action, is the major weapon for unions to protect the rights of their members and workers as a whole.

‘David —

This week has been huge for the trade union movement. The TUC Join a Union website is seeing record traffic, with visits this week up 800%. 

As RMT members stand up for their jobs, pay and our services, they are giving hope and confidence to millions of workers. The last few weeks has clearly shown that if you want a pay rise, a secure job and a decent life, you need to be in a union.

So what has the governments response to this been? To propose laws that would undermine the most powerful tactic working people have: strike action.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, is proposing to change the law to allow companies to replace striking workers, with inexperienced agency workers. 

The government will try to sneak these changes through so people don’t notice, so we must get the word out far and wide. We will not let them undermine our right to strike.

Will you add your name to the petition to stop plans to undermine unions by allowing companies to hire temporary staff during strike action?

Sign the petition

We cannot let this happen.

Allowing agency staff to replace striking workers would undermine the right to strike and create genuine safety risks for the public and workers.

Please sign and share the petition now.

In Unity,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK

Email from the Megaphone Urging Support for the Railway Strike

June 21, 2022

I also got this email from the left-wing campaigning organisation the Megaphone urging people to write to their MPs making it plain they support the RMT and the railway strike. As the email points out it’s not just about the train drivers’ pay, but about all the other rail workers and opposing the devastating cuts to public services.

‘David,

It’s the biggest show of industrial power in a generation.

Rail unions are running three days of national strike action to put a stop to devastating cuts to services, staff and conditions proposed by company bosses on million-pound salaries.

When jobs are on the chopping block and livelihoods are at stake, union members stand together to defend each other.

And 50,000 rail workers from mechanics to depot workers, ticket officers and many more need our solidarity tomorrow:

In just a few hours, rail workers across the UK will take to the picket lines for the fight of their lives. Can you write to your MP and show you stand with them?

WRITE TO YOUR MP

We have the resources and the funding to build a world-class rail system in the UK.

But for two years, this government and the Transport Minister have chosen confrontation over negotiation.

They choose to bail out private companies, while workers in safety-critical jobs face the sack.

They choose to condemn rail unions, when train bosses make millions in profits and cut corners on pay.

They even want to ban the right to strike, removing our most powerful bargaining tool when we have no other means to act.

Everyone deserves better pay, jobs and services. And rail workers are standing up for our safety.

A win for rail workers this week is a win for all of us in the UK who believe in our collective power to organise, demonstrate and win a better future.

Defend our rail service and defend people’s jobs — email your MP and ask them to write to the Transport Minister today.

In solidarity with tomorrow’s strikers,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve had absolutely no problem writing to my local MP to say that I do, and I support not only the union’s strike, but the fundamental right to strike, which the Tories have always hated and always tried to curb and ban anyway they can.

Privatisation has been a disaster. The rail network needs to be taken back into public ownership and properly funded and maintained, without the profits being siphoned off into shareholder’s dividends and the bloated salaries of the management.

A Black American Intellectual’s Attack on Official Attitudes on Race

June 19, 2022

Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race (New York: Basic Books 2013)

Thomas Sowell is himself a Black American intellectual. A former Marxist, he wrote an excellent book on Marxism which I’ve used on this blog, before crossing the floor to become a conservative. According to the blurb on the back flap, he is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow for Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. That’s the same Milton Friedman, I presume, who backed General Pinochet’s Fascist regime in Chile because only a Fascist regime could introduce the free market reforms and abolition of the welfare state Friedman wanted against the wishes of the workers. The same Milton Friedman whose monetarism was considered so daft by economics lecturers in the 1970s that they simply didn’t bother discussing or refuting them. The same Friedman who caused consternation in Tory ranks in the late 1980s when he announced that his policies were a failure.

Race and IQ in the views of the Progressives

The book is a survey of official attitudes to race, intelligence and social, economic and intellectual achievement from the Progressive era around the close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th up to the late 20th century and today. These two periods had markedly different attitudes towards race, and especially its supposed links to intelligence. During the Progressive era, senior academics, intellectuals, politicians and policy makers followed the social Darwinist dogmas of their day and believed that race defined intelligence. They believe in a racial hierarchy of peoples, with Nordic Whites at the top, southern Europeans below them, Black Africans below them and right at the bottom aboriginal Australians. This led to brutal, callous and genocidal attitudes towards race. Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin, declared that ‘we should not be sentimental about the gradual extinction of inferior races’. They were particularly worried about the decline in superior Nordic immigrants from Europe and mass immigration from the supposedly inferior peoples from southern Europe. Hence they were keen to impose legislation limiting the arrival of the latter. They were also afraid that intellectual inferior Whites from the lower orders would also outbreed their more intelligent social superiors, and so imposed legislation providing for their sterilisation and isolation. These men weren’t cranks. They included leading academics from America’s best universities, and politicians like American presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Most of the examples Sowell gives were on the political left. They believed in conservation, state intervention, publicly owned utilities and strong trade unions. He does, however, mention that over here in Britain eugenics’ supporters included Ernest Beveridge, H.G. Wells and Conservatives like Winston Churchill.

The American authorities thus initiated a programme of IQ testing, the results of which do appear to show that they were right about the average IQ of certain racial groups at the time. But many of the groups whose IQ scores were low have gone on to achieve considerable social and economic success. Blacks had an average IQ of 85, but other immigrant groups like Greeks, various Slavic peoples also had IQs in the low 80s, while Spanish immigrants had an average IQ, on these tests, of 77. These low-scoring peoples also included eastern European Jews, which is astonishing given the massive uplift of the Jewish community and their prominence in academia. As for the Chinese, who believers in the Bell Curve consider are superior to Whites in intelligence, they were found to have an IQ of 98. Interestingly, Blacks from the northern US scored higher on IQ tests than southern Whites. This racist ideology had a direct effect on Black employability. Under Wilson, various state departments, such as the post office, began to sack their Black workers. But not all of those who believed in the link between race and IQ were monsters. One psychologist stated that he took 3 sessions with a child before administering the test. He believed the children he saw were more intelligent than the tests showed. he therefore spent time getting them used to him. In the first three sessions he let them play, drawing on the blackboard, making things with clay. It was at the fourth session he administered the test. Using this technique, the children’s test scores went up by 8 points. This psychiatrist still believed that this was a small amount, but it is roughly half of the 15 per cent average difference between Black and White IQs. The link between IQ and race was later discredited when another psychiatrist issued damning criticisms against it, one of which was that the tests were not often not administered in a language the subjects, often immigrants, understood. The same psychiatrist also did not believe that Blacks were incapable of being educated, but thought that they could achieve much more given better teaching methods.

General Rise in IQ

He also notes that IQs generally are rising, and that no-one really knows the true range of the Black IQ, or even that of the human race as a whole. The reason why average IQs have always remained at 100 is that they’ve been periodically renormed to keep 100 as the average level. If they weren’t, and psychiatrists continued using the same standards, then the average Black IQ would 104. As for the range of Black intelligence, he cites the example of a nine year old girl, who by one set of tests had an IQ of 140, and 200 by another set. Unfortunately, his scepticism towards racial differences in IQ does not extend to the Bell Curve, whose authors and work he defends. He notes that they state in the book that there isn’t enough evidence to decide one way or another if IQ is affected by race.

But IQ alone does not explain why some groups outperform others, even when their intelligence is exactly the same. For example, Chinese with an IQ of 100 perform at the same level in jobs, education and so on, as Whites with IQs of 120 or so.

Culture and Historic Environment as the Determining Factors in Ethnic Skills and Performance

Sowell believes that the performance of ethnic groups depends on the environment in which these groups historically lived and their traditional culture. These create skills which have allowed minority groups the world over to achieve prominence in business and academia, such as the Germans in Latvia and Bohemia, the Jews in eastern Europe, and the Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia. These groups have often prospered despite immense persecution, like the Jews. For example, Italian immigrants to the US and Australia were dirt poor. But they always repaid their debts, hence a separate bank was set up in California, the Bank of Italy, was set up to cater to them. This bank eventually became the Bank of Italy. At the same time there was a marked disparity between the achievements of Jewish and Italian kids at school. The two groups lived in the same areas and attended the same schools. But Jews did much better than Italians. Why? Sowell puts this down to different cultural attitudes towards education. Even the poorest Jews had a respect for learning, while there was a hostility to it in the Italian south, from which many of the latter migrants came. When there Italian government introduced compulsory schooling, there were riots, and attacks on teachers and schools. He takes issue with some of these groups now being described as ‘privileged’. A survey of different races in Toronto declared that the Japanese were the most privileged people in the city. But the Japanese owe their success to their own efforts, not privilege. They were also subjected to restrictive legislation and were interned during the Second World War for far longer in Canada than in the US. He is also highly sceptical that racism accounts for the poor performance of American Blacks. While they’re often the last to be hired, and the first to be fired, the next in line for sacking are Whites. Asians are the last to go, and perform better generally than Whites, even in White owned companies. But this is not mentioned in discussions about race, as it would cast doubt about the poor performance of Blacks being solely due to White racial prejudice.

White Racism as the Cause for Black Marginalisation

And it’s White racial prejudice which is the dominant explanation for Blacks lagging behind Whites and the rest of society today. This began with Gunnar Murdal’s 1944 book, An American Dilemma, which claimed that this was due to ‘confused and contradictory’ attitudes among Whites. But Sowell considers this an insufficient explanation, as American Blacks made their greatest progress, both professionally, economically and educationally, during the period before the Civil Rights Act, when racism and overt discrimination was far more acute. He also describes how White racial attitudes changed over time. For example, from 1840 to 1890 some areas were remarkably racially tolerant. In these cities, Whites and Blacks lived in the same areas. As time went on, Blacks not only exercised their right to vote, but also were elected themselves in areas where the majority of voters were White. There were no zoning regulations and the communities weren’t segregated. Sowell believes this was because the Black communities that had moved north in this period had become acculturated and had the same values and standards of behaviour as their White neighbours. This changed with mass Black migration from the south. Sowell draws on observers to the south, like Alexis de Toqueville, Frederick Olmsted and others, to argue that there is a common southern culture, shared by Blacks and Whites, and ultimately coming from the British immigrants that settled those areas. This culture rejects education in favour of aggressive masculinity., The new Black migrants had none of cultural values of the previous Black arrivals,. Crime rates shot up, dismaying the traditional Black citizens as well as Whites. As a result, these communities introduced zoning laws segregating the two colours.

As time went on, the Progressives called themselves liberals, and the explanation for Black underachievement and poverty changed from intelligence to White racism. The solution for these ills, as proposed by the intellectuals, is multiculturalism. Blacks are to be given greater access to academic places through preferential treatment that allows them to get into universities with lower grades than White applicants. At the same time, the features of Black culture that are holding the Black community back are either excused or simply denied as well as the racist attacks by Black gangs on Whites and Asians. Multiculturalism, according to Sowell, is not only not working, it is actually positively harmful.

Affirmative Action Holding Blacks Back Educationally

The book argues that, contrary to the claims made by some educationalists, there doesn’t need to be a ‘critical mass’ of Blacks in a class to get the bright Black students to do better. What works instead is when bright blacks are put in with Whites at the same intellectual level. As for university admissions, much harm is being done through mismatching Black applicants with the wrong colleges. Elite American universities are giving places to Black students, who without such preferential placements would have gone instead to second tier universities. These students find it difficult to keep up, and drop out. The second tier universities, denied a pool of applicants from these aspiring Blacks, offer places instead to Blacks, who would have gone to third tier institutions. And these two drop out, all the way down the line. This is a controversial assertion, and has been argued against, though the professors doing so have not made their research available to scrutiny by others. The book instead to the academic results achieved by the University of California when they dropped giving such preferential placements. There were drops in admissions at the some campuses, but of the Blacks who attended, more passed with better grades. He also argues from the example of Amhurst College that teaching Black history and insisting on Black culture also isn’t necessary for Blacks to get ahead. Amhurst was a Black only college that sent a small but significant number of students on to Stanford. Alumni from the college have said that they were taught Black history as it affect America, like slavery and abolition. But beyond that, it wasn’t taught and there was no interest in it. They said they knew about as much about Africa as they knew about Finland.

He also criticises such academic preferential programmes on the grounds that they don’t work for the poor who really need them. Instead the places offered go to members of the upper classes of the groups targeted. In America, that means the children of lawyers and businessmen. And it’s the same with the Indian version of affirmative action.

The Decline of Black Communities Following the ‘White Racism’ Explanation

Sowell also gets angry about how multiculturalism has led to the decline of life in Black communities. Anything done by Whites for Blacks is immediately suspected of being for some sinister, racist purpose. When a subsidized housing project was built in Harlem in the 1960s, writer James Baldwin declared that it showed how much Whites hated Blacks. That was why people were urinating in the lifts, smashing anything they could, and fornicating in the playground. Sowell argues that there was never a time when this would have been acceptable, and it didn’t occur before the ’60s and White racism became the explanation for everything. He cites the memoirs of other former residents of Harlem, who say that when they lived there, none of this vandalism and loutish behaviour occurred. He cites Theodore Dalrymple, one of the columnists in the Spectator, who declared that the same destructiveness is found among lower class Whites in Britain. They can’t blame racism, so it must come from a common attitude of resentment fostered by the post-60s intelligentsia.

He also argues that most Blacks were against the race riots of the 60s, citing polling data. One of the polls showed that 58 per cent of Blacks thought the riots were harmful for them. But the rioting was excused by the media, which claimed that the anger that fuelled it was quite rightly felt by all Blacks. Sowell is concerned and angry at the way Black culture is being dragged down to the lowest common denominator of rioters, criminals and vandals. He suggests that Black underperformance in schools comes from a resentment of intelligent, academically able Blacks by other students, who will attempt to stop them from achieving. And the same attitude, according to Dalrymple, exists among White Brits. From my own experiences at school forty years ago, I think Sowell has a point. There is a resentment among some Blacks and some Whites, not all, against anybody, who seems to be doing better than them, and they will bully them. For Sowell, this clearly harms the Black community when middle class Blacks feel compelled to emulate the poor behaviour of their less-achieving classmates.

Multiculturalism Preventing Blacks from Acquiring Social Skills Leading to Achievement

This attitude prevents Black Americans from acquiring the same civic qualities and skills that other groups have in their progress upward through society. For example, German Jews were highly acculturated, compared to more recent immigrants from eastern Europe. They took it upon themselves to educate and uplift them. As a result, eastern European Jews from Romania and elsewhere were told to learn English, speak without vulgarity ‘and learn the uses of soap’. Two Black newspapers in one of America’s northern cities advised Black arrivals not to dump their rubbish in the yard or the passage by their houses, watch their language, and not to talk too loudly on the tramcars. In other words, to act couth. Sowell doesn’t mention it, but similar attitudes were impressed on the British working class during the 19th and early 20th century as part of the culture of working class respectability.

Again, there’s a similar example from Britain. In the 1980s or 1990s, according to the Independent, the head of education in one of the northern towns had lost her job following accusations of racism by the Pakistani community. She’d been concerned at the way they took their children out of schools to send to Pakistan for three months at a time. This was damaging their educations. But the Pakistani community denounced her as racist, and had her sacked. It was over a decade before the council realised she was right and had the courage to reverse the policy.

Multiculturalism Creating Anti-White Racism and Violence

And then there’s the racial animosity produced by multiculturalism and its attitude that all Black America’s problems are due to White racism. This has led to racist mob attacks by Blacks against Whites and Asians, but they aren’t reported. In one, where a gang of Blacks attacked a White girl and 10 others, the cops when they arrived weren’t interested in taking down their statements or particulars, but told them simply to go home. As for a girl left bleeding from a punch, they laughed at her and joked ‘White girl bleed a lot’, which became the title of a book arguing that there was more violence by Blacks against Whites than the reverse. When these attacks occur, the race of the attackers is never identified. They are just unspecified ‘youths’. And if the details are given, then racism as a motive is both denied and justified. After a White woman was gangraped in Central Park by Blacks, a New York Times hack declared that racism wasn’t a cause, but it was part of their motivation as resentment against their treatment by White society. At the same time, a White academic has redefined racism so that it depends on power and privilege, as a way of denying Blacks can be racist.

Something very much like this has happened in Britain. Back at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of this one, Whites were briefly the ethnic group suffering most racist assaults. And it was noted that the number of racist murders of Whites was nearly at the same level as the White racist murder of Blacks. And then there were the Asian grooming gangs, were allowed to get away with their predations for 20 years because the police and authorities were afraid of being accused of racism. And there have been the same accusations of the media cover-up of racist assaults and murders of Whites.

Another White academic felt that it was only right that young Whites should be denied places under academic preference schemes, considering how he had benefited from White privilege. Sowell states that he was therefore punishing someone younger, who had nothing to do with it, for something he himself had done. He makes the point that these decision are not about abstract people, but affect real individuals.

Slavery

He also discusses slavery, which is now held to be simply a case of Whites enslaving Blacks. But it has existed all over the world, from the days of the Roman Empire onwards. Before the arrival of Europeans, Africans enslaved other Africans, and there were more slaves in India than in the whole of the USA, and slavery was also extensive in China and southeast Asia. White Europeans were also enslaved by the Barbary pirates. Before the technology existed to transport slaves en masse, most civilisations enslaved people of their own race. As for racist lynchings, fewer Blacks were lynched in American history than Armenians were killed by Turks, or Ibo tribesmen by Nigerians in one year.

The Racism Industry and Its Assault on Business

He is also critical of what he terms the race industry and particularly the American equivalent of the Equal Opportunities Commission/ Equalities and Human Rights Commission. This prosecutes companies for not employing the correct number of ethnic employees according to demographic statistics, leading to long, expensive cases costing millions of dollars which drag out over the years from court to court. And this is despite no individual actually claiming they were subjected to racism by that corporation. Few companies can afford this process, and so they settle out of court. While this technically means that no offence has been made, it is taken by the department as an admission of guilt and a victory for them.

And what also infuriates Sowell is that none of the intellectuals, who ever pushed these policies, whether it is the racism and genetic determinism of the Progressive era or contemporary multiculturalism, ever has to take the consequences of their views. But academics, news people, politicians and educators will pay the price if they speak out against these orthodoxies. But intellectuals, meanwhile, promote these views with impunity, seeing themselves as the anointed on the side of the angels.

Sowell’s Right-Wing Bias

The book has a clear conservative bias. It’s no accident that Sowell marks out the Progressives as the promoters of social Darwinism, despite the same views being held by the right. Big businessmen during the Silver Age of the 19th century used social Darwinist arguments to oppose welfare and safety at work legislation. It was no use passing these laws, they argued, because the poor would never really benefit and would instead become a burden on society while outbreeding their brighter, more successful social superiors. But American conservatives are now using past racism to discredit anything left-wing. Previous generations of left-wingers were supposedly racist, so you shouldn’t back their policies today. It’s pure guilt by association. He likewise blames the expansion of the welfare state for the decline of the Black family, and argues that Black employment fell as a result of minimum wage laws passed in the 1930s. The motive of some of those arguing for them was that they were needed to prevent Chinese workers undercutting Whites. But this did happen, and resulted in race riots against the Chinese in 1909 in Britain. Then a number of companies sacked their White workers and replaced them with Chinese, causing the riots and racist attacks on Chinese people. After this, the firms sacked the Chinese workers and rehired the Whites. As for minimum wage laws today, these are desperately needed whether the workers are White, Black, Brown, Yellow or whatever. Without them the mass poverty we’re already seeing thanks to neoliberalism and the war in Ukraine will become particularly acute.

Decline of Marriage Not Due to Welfare State

I also disagree with his statement that the decline of marriage and the two-parent family among Black Americans is due to the welfare state or its expansion. I’m sure he’s right that this occurred in America about the same time as LBJ passed the welfare legislation of the late 60s, but as Sowell himself says, correlation is not causation. In Britain the marriage rate declined as a result of the sexual revolution of the 60s, but only really got going in the 1970s,, several decades after the introduction of the welfare state by Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1948. The decline of marriage as an institution might have been aided by the socially liberal legislation passed by Roy Jenkins in the 1960s, which made divorce much easier, but I think it has far more to do with a changing attitude towards sexual morality than greater welfare provision. At least over here in Britain.

Racial Tensions Increasing

But I do think he has a point about multiculturalism and the way it is leading to greater racial tensions. At one point in the book he states that in the 30s, 40s and 50s Whites would go into Harlem for entertainment and parties. This rings true, if only because this was the heyday of some of the great Jazz musicians and their orchestras – Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Howlin’ Wolf, Duke Ellington. Yeah, I know, some of these were really in New Orleans, while Howling Wolf was in Chicago. At the end of a good evening’s fun, people were even able to sleep in Central Park unmolested. I believe that as well, as I’ve read interviews with various writers – I think one of them was veteran journalist of UFOs and the weird John Keel – who have done so.

And I do believe that attributing all of Black America’s problems to racism is making the situation worse. Note here that Sowell doesn’t deny racism existed or exists now. He just doesn’t believe that it’s the ultimate cause of Black America’s dire situation, not when other groups have suffered the same persecution, started out with the same low IQ scores, but have managed to rise and prosper like Jews, Asians and the Chinese. And here the book becomes a warning. Throughout history the resentment of the success of one ethnic group by the others, from the Czechs’ resentment of the Sudetenland Germans, to the Chinese in southeast Asia and Malaya, the Indians and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, and the Jews in eastern Europe, has resulted in terrible official persecution and ethnic cleansing. Here he could have added the White farmers in Zimbabwe, attacked, beaten and murdered by Robert Mugabe’s thugs. These tensions have been exacerbated by versions of affirmative action. This suggestion also contains another veiled criticism of socialism, as the resentments he criticise also apply to those at the bottom of society against those at the top, and he is very much against redistributive economics. But redistributive economics through a strong welfare state in Britain has meant that there hasn’t been the level of grinding poverty that there is in the US, where the living standards of some parts are worse than some developing countries. This may be one of the reasons why the crime rate here in Britain and Europe has traditionally been lower than the US. People traditionally haven’t been as desperate. Quite apart from the fact that if social tensions in America and Britain have got worse, it’s because of an increasing gap between the rich and everyone else, so that ordinary Americans and Brits don’t feel that the system is rewarding them as it should for their hard work.

Critical Race Theory as an Explanation for the Failure of Affirmative Action Programmes

Sowell states that these affirmative actions programmes were, in many cases, only supposed to be temporary. But they have always been renewed. We’ve had positive discrimination in Britain for forty years now, ever since riots of 1981/2. These were also supposed to be only temporary. I think the intention was that after Blacks gained proper demographic representation proportional to the White majority, the situation would become self-sustaining. The programmes could be discontinued because Blacks would no longer need such official help. But this hasn’t happened. Blacks still lag behind, and have been particularly hard hit by austerity and the banking crisis.

I think this is one reason why the radical left is pushing Critical Race Theory and White privilege, even though some of this is obvious nonsense. CRT holds that the level of racism is the same today as 100 years ago. It’s just better hidden. But I doubt that very, very much. At the same time, all Whites are racist and benefit from the privilege of having White skin. But this is also not true, as shown by the White vagrants you can see on the streets and the very fact that many of the BLM protesters were White. There is institutional racism, but I don’t think it can be held to be the source of all the Black community’s problems. And I do fear that the belief that White racism is responsible for Black poverty and marginalisation is just increasing racial tensions. CRT and White privilege seem to me to be a desperate attempt to explain why previous anti-racism policies haven’t worked, and making even more dubious claims. Sowell states that the supporters of multiculturalism never give any supporting evidence for their views, and are never asked for any. It’s just assumed they’re right. The Black Tory MP, Kemi Badenoch, has today been reported as stating that the concentration on race is resulting in greater segregation. She may well have a point.

Perhaps now’s the time that multiculturalism and its accusations of racism as the cause of Black poverty and marginalisation should be questioned.

French Radical Social Catholicism and its Demands for the Improvement of Conditions for the Working Class

May 16, 2022

The chapter I found most interesting in Aidan Nichols’ book, Catholic Thought Since the Enlightenment: A Survey (Pretoria: University of South Africa 1998) was on 19th century Social Catholicism. Social Catholicism is that branch of the church that seeks to tackle with social issues, such as working conditions and justice for the poor, women’s rights, the arms race, the problem of poverty in the global south and so on. It’s governed by the doctrine of subsidiarity, in which it is neither politically left or right. Nevertheless, there are some Social Catholic thinkers whose idea were very left-wing, at least for the 19th century. The chapter mentions two 19th century French writers, whose ideas could be considered socialistic.

One of these was Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont, who retired from public life following for the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, taking the opportunity to write a book on Christian political economy. He advocated state intervention, not only to relieve poverty and distress, but wanted it to ensure that workers could conduct their own economic activity aided by credit unions, mutual aid societies and other institutions. This was when the economy was still dominated by cottage industry and many workers were self-employed craftsmen.

Rather more radical was Philippe Benjamin Joseph Buchez, who wrote a forty volume history of the French Revolution, which was later used by the British right-wing anti-capitalist writer, Thomas Carlyle. In his treatise Essai d’un traite complet de philosophie au point de vue du Catholicisme et du progress and his journal l’Europeen, as well as his presidency of the French constitutional assembly during the revolution of 1848, called for the establishment of cooperatives for skilled artisans, the state regulation of working conditions and a minimum wage. (p. 92). The chapter also goes to note that other social Catholics favoured private initiatives and charity to tackle the problems of poverty. Others also went on to recommend a corporative solution to social problems, in which workers and masters would work together in decentralised self-regulating organisations based on the medieval guilds, very much like the corporate state as promoted, but not practised, by Mussolini’s Fascist Italy.

Villeneuve-Bargement’s and Buchez’s ideas ran directly counter to the laissez-faire economic doctrine of the 19th century and clearly anticipated some of the developments in the last and present centuries, such as the establishment of the minimum wage in Britain and America. While people can disagree with their theology, depending on their religious views, it seems to me that their ideas are still relevant today.

And I rather people looked to their Roman Catholic solutions to working class poverty and labour, than Iain Duncan Smith. Smith seems to use his Catholicism and his supposed concern with eliminating poverty as just another pretext to cut benefits and make the poor poorer.

So dump Smith, and return to 19th century French Social Catholic radicalism!

Mitch Benn ‘What Shall We Do With the British Sailors?’

May 5, 2022

This little piece of musical satire comes from Mitch Benn and his channel on YouTube. It’s an attack on P & O’s sacking of their British maritime staff and replacement with foreign workers on lower wages. Benn states it was too conceal their corporate failures, but points out that it’s a consequence of Brexit. A consequence that the Remainers foresaw, but were ignored. Because people were driven insane by the idea that our passports were the EU’s rather than our own. Now the jobs have fled overseas and Brits can’t get jobs abroad. But ‘this is the Brexit that you voted for’, the song concludes.

You might expect it to be sung to the tune of ‘What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor’, but it’s not. The tune is Benn’s own, strummed on a guitar. But it’s right, and although it’s rather old news now, it’s still worth remembering as the right and the Brexiteers try to make our departure from the EU look like some kind of resounding success. Or simply hope that we’ll ignore and forget its spectacular failure.

P&O’s sacking and rehiring of its sailors also worried me because it reminded me of the origins of the anti-Chinese riots that broke out in the first decade or so of the last century. Firms across England had sacked their English staff and replaced them with Chinese workers, resulting in race riots. Nothing like that happened when P&O sacked their British people and replaced them with cheap foreign labour. I am worried, however, that with increased racial tensions over woke ideology and its attack on ‘Whiteness’, coupled with the Tories’ determination to roll back our human rights protections, something similar may break out again the future.

Commoners Choir – ‘These Are the Bastards’

May 5, 2022

And now, as the late, sorely missed computer-generated video jockey Max Headroom said, ‘More – of the same’. Here’s another deeply satirical musical attack on the Tories and their backers in industry, the media and the aristocratic landlords from Commoners Choir and their channel on YouTube.

It’s presented as a school lesson, showing us the bastards who underfund everything, rarely work, don’t pay tax, print lies, fiddle accounts, and frame our laws. The bastards making money responsible for starting wars, play golf while damning the poor, privatising everything they can while going grouse shooting, and tell lies. The same people who botched the response to the Coronavirus, failed to prevent further deaths by going into lockdown as soon as possible, botched supplying the protective masks and equipment. The Tory and industrial elite that deliberately don’t employ enough staff and underpay those they do, curtail public rights of way, cut grants and condemn the sick. The aristos and toffs who use public school arithmetic to drag everything back to the 19th century and before. They are arms merchants, landowners, the proprietors of the news media, and the rich figures who hypocritically front appeals while enjoying obscene wealth themselves. It also has a go at beardie Branson for suing the NHS and then grovelling for the state to bail him out. It ends with the request that people remember what they learned today, with images of people demonstrating against the privatisation of the NHS and the message spoofing the government’s own warnings about the Coronavirus – ‘Stay alert> Stop the bastards> Save Lives.

It’s less music than an old-fashioned schoolroom chant accompanied with the images of the offenders themselves. They are too numerous to list, but obviously include Johnson, Cameron and co. as well as Murdoch, the Barclay twins, Margaret Thatcher and many, many more.

Jewish Left-Wing Song – March of the Jobless Corps/ Arbetslozer Marsh

May 4, 2022

More Jewish music from the left. This comes from the Klezmer group of Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird, one the Oriente Musik YouTube channel. It bitterly attacks the corporate rich and the culpability for mass unemployment in America. It talks about how the factories have been closed down, ‘there’s no manufacturing in the land’, workers are being made made hungry and homeless, living in tents and subsisting on bread and water while lazy CEOs guzzle fine wine. It also attacks useless unions, for taking the dues from the workers but not standing up for them, so all their work goes in making goods for the rich. This is repeated in Yiddish, and the final verse ends with an optimistic look for a new, just land where everyone has work.

The video shows the band marching and dancing through abandoned factories, meeting solitary workers doing carpentry or working at a sewing machine, before people finally come together for a stately traditional Jewish dance.

It’s an excellent riposte to the racist nonsense that Jews are all rich businessmen, somehow responsible for the evils of modern capitalism. This is the real, murderous anti-Semitic conspiracy theory pushed by Hitler and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Unfortunately, the Blairites in the Labour party didn’t get the message. Remember a few years back when Jezza was leading the party, and one of the female MPs appeared on Radio 4 to blithely declare that socialism was anti-Semitic because it attacked capitalism, which was somehow synonymous with Judaism? That was torn to shreds by the Corbynist left, as it should have been by any decent person who knows their history. Because Hitler and the wretched Protocols also claimed that ‘Marxist socialism’ was also controlled by Jews to enslave Aryans. And Corbyn was supported in the party by a strong Jewish contingent, like Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Jewish Voice for Labour, who stood for Jewish working people, who like their gentile comrades were worried about deteriorating working conditions, the destruction of the welfare state, cuts to public services and the privatisation of the NHS. Who wondered how they would pay for the social care their elderly parents and relatives needed, and support their families with the wage freeze.

But there also was in Britain are real ‘Jobless Corps’ – the National Union of the Unemployed, which I think was set up by the Communist Party. As part of their protest, they staged a kind of invasion of the Ritz hotel in London. They went in and ordered a meal. Of course, as working people they weren’t welcome in such an exclusive establishment. They replied by pointing out that plenty of the rich also went down and had their meals in cafes in the working class parts of the capital. They called this ‘slumming it’, but the protesters said they were perfectly welcome there, just as they should be in the Ritz.

We’re supposed to have the lowest unemployment rate for years, but I don’t trust official figures. They’ve been fiddle too often. One of the problems is that they only count people receiving benefit. This obviously doesn’t include the masses who’ve been thrown off thanks to the sanctions system. And it doesn’t count the underemployed, like the poor souls on zero hours contracts, who are effectively unemployed when their employers don’t need ’em.

Perhaps we need a revival of the idea of unemployed workers’ unions, that will attack current neoliberal capitalism and the Thatcherites and Reaganites who are doing their best to prop it up to deprive ordinary people of properly paying work for their own profits.

Richard Burgon’s Petition for a Wealth Tax Not National Insurance Increase

March 16, 2022

I’ve just had this email from left-wing Labour MP Richard Burgon for a tax on the superrich one per cent to be imposed instead of the Tories’ increase on National Insurance, which will affect the working class.

‘People are being hit by a cost-of-living emergency from soaring energy bills, high inflation, falling real-term wages and cuts to Universal Credit.

Yet next month the Tories are going to make this even worse by hiking National Insurance on ordinary working people.

I’ve launched a campaign to scrap this tax rise on working people and to replace it with a Wealth Tax on the richest 1%.

I’ve put down a parliamentary motion calling for this – already backed by over 60 MPs from 8 parties.

Next week I’ll be presenting a public petition in parliament calling for the Tories to scrap this National Insurance rise and replace it with a Wealth Tax.

Will you back my campaign by adding your name to the petition I am presenting in Parliament next week?

Sign the petition to tell the Tories: we want a Wealth Tax not a National Insurance rise

I’ve absolutely no problem with signing the petition. Since the election of Thatcher, the Tory party has given massive tax cuts to the rich, which has been offset by shifting the tax burden onto the working class. The proposed National Insurance tax hike is part of that policy. It’s time it was ended and the rich were made to pay their fair share.

A Black Conservative Call for Racial Uplift Based on Entrepreneurship not Political Power

March 3, 2022

Jason L. Riley, False Black Power (West Conshoshocken: Templeton Press 2017).

This is another book analysing the plight of Black America from a Black conservative perspective. According to the book, Riley’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes for the Wall Street Journal and contributes to Fox News. But the book does quote statistics and sources, which means it’s almost certainly more trustworthy than that news network. When academics from the American universities reviewed Fox’s content, they found that people who took no news at all were better informed about the world than the people who watched Fox. America is indeed being ‘dumbed’ and Murdoch’s part of it. But this book is absolutely fascinating and, if accurate, is a much needed refutation of some of the myths about Black American history.

The introduction starts with an attack on the idea that the decline of the Black American family was caused by slavery. It’s true that slavery did destroy Black family life, as slave families were frequently split up, with fathers separated from their wives and children, children separated from the parents and so on. This, so the argument goes, has made it difficult for Black men to develop the necessary feelings of attachment to form permanent, two-parent families. As a result, most Black American families are single-parent, headed by the mothers. But Riley cites Herbert Gutman’s 1976 book, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925, examined a variety of sources to the show that the disruption of the slave family did not persist into emancipation. Looking at Confederate plantation records, the testimony of former slaves and the records of Black families in Buffalo and New York City, showed that from the second half of the 19th century to the 1920s, these communities were predominantly two-parent. In Buffalo between 1850 and 1920, the figure was 82 to 92 per cent. In New York in 1925 the figure was 85 per cent. (p. 5).

Riley’s argument is that the present poverty and misery experienced by many Black American communities cannot be blamed solely on racism and the legacy of enslavement. He and the authors he cites don’t deny that racism and discrimination exist, rather that the main cause of the present troubles of family breakdown, crime, unemployment and welfare dependency are due to the misplaced social programmes of the 1970s. Like Shelby Steele, he believes that Black Americans have taken the wrong road to uplift. Since the civil rights movement, they have concentrated on acquiring political power, resulting in the election across America of Black politicos, mayor and other officials. But these have not helped ordinary Blacks. He states at one point that Black politicians will ignore the underclass just to stay elected just as White politicos will, and cites a couple of scandals were Black politicians on their constituencies’ education boards were caught fiddling the exam results. He argues instead that Blacks should have followed the example of other impoverished communities, like the Chinese and Pennsylvania Germans, who eschewed acquiring political power in favour of economic uplift. He contrasts these groups with the 19th century Irish. These had political power, but nevertheless the Irish community itself remained poor and marginal.

Riley cites a number of other authors that show the explosion of Black entrepreneurialism after the end of slavery, as Blacks took over and entered a wide variety of professions. These scholars have argued that by the end of the 19th century Black communities also had their own business districts like White communities, as well as excellent schools. The 1913 Negro Almanac boasted of this achievement, comparing the capital accumulated by Blacks with that of the former Russian serfs. The former serfs had collectively $500 million in capital and a literacy rate of 30 per cent. Black Americans had $700 million and 70 per cent ‘had some education in books’. (74). In Chicago in 1885 there were 200 Black-owned businesses operating in 27 different fields. (75). And this trend continued, with the emergence in other areas of a small, but significant Black clerical class. At the same time, the number of Black Americans owning their own homes increased massively. Black prosperity increased during the years of the two World Wars,, when Blacks took on White jobs. They were still below that of Whites, but were catching up. As were Blacks in education. Blacks typically left school four years before Whites. But as the 20th century went on, this fell to two. Between 1950 and 1960 the number of Black doctors, lawyers and social workers expanded so that in 1953 a real estate journal called Blacks ‘the newest middle class’. (77). But this professional, educational and economic rise and expansion somehow came to an end in the 1970s.

At the same time, Riley cites the statistics to show that the American cops are not gun-happy racists bent on shooting Blacks. Rather, a study by Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, found that Blacks are 23.8 per cent less like than Whites to be shot by the police. (63). As for New York’s stop and frisk policy, that was shown to stop Blacks 20-30 per cent below the appearance of Blacks in the description of suspects.(64). As for police shootings, these fell massively in New York from 1971 to 2015. In the former year, the cops shot 314 people, killing 93. In 2015 they shot 23 people, of whom 8 were killed. (65). He also notes instances where there was still friction between the Black community and police even when the town’s leaders and senior police officers were Black.

On a less serious note, he talks about the Barbershop films and their unsparing, humorous look into the condition of Black America. Set in a Black barbershop and with a majority Black cast, these films showed Blacks making jokes at the expense of revered leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, decrying their kids’ fashion sense – trousers being worn low on the hips to expose the buttocks – and worrying about gangster culture and Black on Black violence. This upset Black activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but Riley maintains that they nevertheless accurately reflected the way Blacks talk when Whites aren’t around. The same concerns are held by many other Blacks, including one mayor, Nutter, who gave a similar speech at a Black church. He advised people not to dress in a threatening manner if they wanted anyone, of any race, respect them, and called for the kids to work hard at school and pull their trousers up. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, chanting ‘Buy a belt! But a belt!’ But his speech was angrily attacked by Black liberals because it didn’t reflect their priorities of blaming everything on racism. Riley also described the way Obama was often pilloried for his outspoken comments about poor standards in the Black community, while playing the race card himself. Riley also argues that the decline in Black educational standards also has its roots in dysfunctional attitudes among Black youth. If you’re too nerdy or bookish in these communities, you’re going to pilloried for ‘acting White’. This is a controversial position, but, Riley argues, the evidence for it is convincing and solid.

Despite being written from a conservative viewpoint, there are aspects of the book that can also be embraced by those on the left. Firstly, the expansion of Black businesses, jobs, and professions after slavery demonstrate that Black America is as talented as every other racial group in America. I found it a convincing refutation of the genetic argument that states that Black poverty and lack of achievement is somehow because Blacks are, on average, biologically intellectually inferior to Whites and Asians. And the argument that Blacks achieved more when they had stable, two-parent families, would have strongly appealed to a section of the British Labour party. British socialism was influenced, it has been said, more by Protestant, Methodist nonconformity than Karl Marx. Years ago the Spectator reviewed a book on the reading habits of the British working class. They found that the favourite reading matter of a solid working class Welsh community in the teens or twenties of the last century was the Bible.

Much more questionable is the apparent link between the affirmative action programmes of the 1970s and the persistence of Black poverty. Riley doesn’t anywhere show why or how they failed, and correlation is not causation. Just because their introduction was in a period of economic decay and impoverishment for Blacks doesn’t mean that they caused it. And I wondered how much of the decline was due to general, structural changes in the American economy that have also badly affected Whites. For example, Bristol used to have a flourishing print industry. There still are printers in the city, but the industry has declined considerably from what it was and many of those skilled jobs have been lost, along with those in other industries. Many Brits and Americans were hit hard by the oil crisis of the 1970s and the consequent recession and unrest. Thatcher, and then Blair, favoured the financial sector over manufacturing, which destroyed many working class jobs. And then there’s the whole nasty complex of welfare cuts, outsourcing, zero-hours contracts and wage freezes that have kept working people in Britain poor. And the same situation is true in America. This impoverishment and economic restructuring is going to hit Blacks especially hard as the Black community is poorer and less affluent. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that there are problems causes unique to the Black community, of which racism is going to be one.

But this is nevertheless a fascinating and important book, and I think it should have its place in schools if they’re teaching Critical Race Theory. That pernicious doctrine holds that Blacks are being held back solely by White privilege, in which all Whites benefit. The government recently stated that teachers must present controversial ideas impartially and was duly denounced by activist groups and the left for doing so. But I believe the truth in this issue lies somewhere between both sides, and that, if these ideas are being taught, children should be exposed to both sets or arguments. And then make their minds up.

And then, after hearing a variety of viewpoints, we might be more successful in creating a more equal society and truly enabling Black achievement.

GB News Running Down NHS Ready for Privatisation

February 21, 2022

One of my criticisms of mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield is that he’s a supporter of NHS privatisation. He seems to believe that selling it off will somehow make it cheaper and more efficient. He doesn’t recognise, nor at least he doesn’t admit to recognising, that it’s the piecemeal privatisation of the health service and its opening up to private healthcare providers that has, with over a decade of Tory cuts, made the health service less efficient and increased administration costs. Nor does he tell his viewers that if the health service is privatised, it will be funded instead the American way – through private health insurance. Which 20 per cent of Americans couldn’t afford until Obamacare lowered that percentage. Every year, 50,000 Americans die because they can’t afford their medical treatment. And medical fees are either the leading cause or the second leading cause of bankruptcy in the Land of the Free.

Well, Belfield got suspended for a fortnight and has now vanished behind a paywall over at Ustreme after being factchecked about Covid and one or two other complaints. But now it seems that GB News, the Murdoch alternative to the ‘wet and woke’ BBC is getting in on the act of pushing for the health service’s privatisation.

Yesterday their presenter Nana Akua posted a video with the darling title ‘The NHS Is A Total Rip-Off’, in which she started with the claim that the health service wasn’t free and that, per month, private healthcare was probably cheaper. She then went on to say that there were six NHS executive earning over £150,000. Her video was accompanied by a similar one in which Calvin Robinson declared that the NHS was full of ‘bloat and waste’. Of course it all comes from the time-worn Tory playbook. This maintains that the health service, like every other nationalised industry, is wasteful and needs to have its funding cut in order to make it lean and efficient. As part of this drive for increased efficiency, it must be opened up to private industry, who are automatically better than state run enterprises. Except they’re not, and this is all a pack of lies and half truths.

Britain actually spends less on its health service than many other countries, including Germany and America, which is why it’s in such a state. In fact the privatisation has increased administration costs so that they’re heading up to the level of private American companies at 24 per cent. Private healthcare isn’t better – it’s worse. It’s fine for those, who are in reasonably good health, but it is not set up to treat the disabled or those with long term conditions. They are not profitable patients. As a result, private hospitals are smaller than NHS. Blair believed that the system adopted by the American healthcare giant, Kaiser Permanente, was more efficient and tried to remodel the NHS on it. Kaiser Permanente weren’t, and rather than increasing patient choice, the need to send patients to the cheapest hospitals and clinics for treatment has resulted in less choice, contrary to Thatcherite dogma. But the privatisation of the NHS is backed by big donations given to the parties by the companies seeking a bit of NHS action. And it has the full backing of Rupert Murdoch. Hence Akua and Robinson now coming out in favour of it.

As for the salaries of senior NHS staff, there’s a double standard going on here. We are deliberately not being told the salaries of the executives and managers of the healthcare companies seeking to take over after the NHS is privatised. This is common Tory practice. They deliberately made it easy for the private companies to bid against the NHS by forcing the health service to publish its accounts and costs while keeping those of the private companies secret. Because it’s ‘commercially sensitive’ you see. How convenient.

If GB News and the Tories have their way, Brits will end up having to pay for their healthcare with all consequent poverty, ill health and hardship attendant with the American for-profit system. But it’ll make Murdoch and the chief executives of the private healthcare companies rich, along with venal politicians looking for their donations.

Don’t believe the lies. Back a nationalised NHS and get rid of GB News.