Archive for the ‘Wages’ Category

A Study of the Ideology Behind 1960s French Revolutionary Radicalism

June 1, 2023

Richard Gombin, The Origins of Modern Leftism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1975)

The late 1960s saw a wave of radical ferment and agitation erupt in America and France. In America, the Students for a Democratic Society and other groups campaigned against the Vietnam War and for a radical reform of American society, while Black civil rights activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X demanded the end of segregation and improved conditions for Black Americans. This radical agitation was marked by race riots and left-wing terrorism by groups like the Weathermen. I think that most people on this side of the Atlantic are probably more familiar with the American situation than the French through the close ties between Britain and America in the Special Relationship. But France also experienced a wave a radical unrest beginning with the occupation of the Sorbonne by radical students in 1968. These then established contacts with ordinary workers, who struck in sympathy, and there was a wave of wildcat strikes. By the end of the decade and the early 1970s, sections of the radical left were turning to kidnapping and terrorism. Although the French revolutionary activism of these years may be less-well known, it has nevertheless impressed itself on British memory and culture. The left-wing French director, Jean-Paul Godard, produced a film about the agitation and unrest around Jagger and the Stones preparing to record ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. The Sex Pistol’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, spuriously claimed to have been a member of the Situationists, one of the radical groups involved in the unrest. And the ideas of ideologues like Guy Debord have found a readership and supporters among the British left. Way back in the 1980s there was a volume of revolutionary texts from 1968 published, I think, by the Socialist Workers Party. And the radical unrest and its turn to terrorism is covered by Guardian columnist Francis Wheen in his book on ‘70s paranoia.

Gombin was an academic attached to the Centre de la Recherche Scientifique. His book isn’t a history of the revolutionary movement of the late 60s in France, but an examination of its ideology. He calls this ‘Leftism’ and contrasts it with ‘extremism’, which is how he terms radical Marxism. This is the extreme left-wing Marxism, often Trotskyite, which approaches or has some of the ideas and attitudes of the Leftists, but does not go as far as them by rejecting Marxism. And ‘leftism’ itself could be described instead as post-Marxism. Gombin explains that Marxism came late to France, and as a result the gap of a quarter of century or so until French intellectuals and activists caught up with the radical experiments and revision of Marxism carried out by the German, Hungarian and other eastern European Communists and radical socialists in the council and communist revolutions of 1919 and the early 1920s. The revelations of the horrors of Stalin’s brutal dictatorship in the USSR, the gulags and the purges, came as a shock to left-wing intellectuals in France and elsewhere. The Communist party had uncritical accepted the lie that the former Soviet Union was a workers’ paradise. In response to these revelations, some Marxist intellectuals like Sartre condemned the purges and gulags, but otherwise remained faithful to the Communist party. Others went further and joined the Trotskyites. But a few others were moved to use Marx’s critical methods to examine Marxism itself, and rejected many of its central doctrines.

The revolutionary movement was led by a number of different groups, such as Socialism ou Barbarie, Rouge et Noire, the Situationists and radical trade unions like the CFDT, which had originally been set up a social Catholic organisation separate from the socialist trade unions. There seems to have been no overarching ideology, and indeed the radicals explicitly rejected any ideology that sought to dictate the course of the revolution. Nevertheless, there were a set of key ideas and attitudes shared by these groups. This rejected all hierarchies, those of modern, capitalist society, the trade union leadership and the patriarchal family, as well as the education and university system. They adopted wholeheartedly Marx’s slogan that the emancipation of the working class should be done by the working class, while also creating new ideas responding to the new welfare state and affluent society.

The viewed Marxism and trade unionism as a response to the conditions of the 19th century, when the working class had to concentrate on winning concessions from the capitalists and authorities in order to survive. However, the establishment of the welfare state had removed the threat of death and deprivation, and so the workers could now move on to the task of reforming society itself. The expanded Marx’s doctrine of alienation so that it didn’t just cover capitalism’s alienation of the worker from the goods he produced, and the latter’s fetishization, but also the alienation created by the affluent society. People’s real needs and desires were suppressed, and false needs created instead. Work should be playful, but instead the worker suffered boredom.

They also considered that there was a fundamental similarity between the capitalist west and the Soviet bloc, which resulted in them calling the USSR’s brand of state socialism ‘State capitalism’ in contrast to the ideal socialism in which society would be run by the workers. Communist rule in Russia had not liberated the workers, but instead created a new governing class. Unlike western capitalism, the Communist bureaucracy did not own the properties and industries they directed, but otherwise held the same power and privilege that in the west was held by the capitalist elites and industrialists. Changes in capitalism had also resulted in a cleavage between those who owned the companies, and those who directed and managed them. As a result, the struggle in the west was between workers and directors, not workers and owners. Soviet Communism was dubbed state capitalism as it was held the bureaucratic socialism of the USSR resembled that of western capitalism, the difference being that in the Soviet bloc all industries were owned by the state rather than private capitalists. One ideologue, Burnham, considered that Fascism and Communism were both examples of ‘state collectivism’, with the difference between the two being that private industry was retained under Fascism. Burnham was a vicious anti-Semite, and had previously urged the workers to unite with the Fascists against the Jews.

The radicals also rejected critical Marxist doctrines like dialectal materialism and its claim to have produced a science of capitalist development. In his later writings, Marx had believed that he had uncovered the sociological laws that would lead capitalism inevitably to give way to socialism. The Leftists rejected this because it was removed the voluntarist element from revolutionary activity. Instead of revolutionaries deliberately setting out to overturn capitalism and usher in the new socialist society, this attitude instead that all they needed to do was wait for it all to happen on its own. In their view, this attitude was closer to the evolutionary socialism of Bernstein than the Marxism of 1848. They rejected Lenin’s doctrine of a centralised party of active revolutionaries, because the workers on their own could only attain trade union consciousness. This, according to the Leftists, had resulted in a bureaucratic class that ruled over the workers, and was certainly not the vanguard of the working class as it was declared to be by Lenin. They did, however, believe in some kind of central party or organisation, but this would only be to guide and suggest possible ideas and actions, not to dictate a revolutionary programme. And all revolutionary ideas and policies should be subjected to the rigorous test of whether they worked in practice. If they did, they were true. If not, they were ‘ideology’, used in the same sense of Marx’s ‘false consciousness’. The revolutionary could only be carried out by the conscious will of the workers, as they became aware of their mission to reform society, independent of any ideas of social progress or objective historical conditions. There was therefore a radical subjective aspect to their conception of revolutionary activism in opposition to Marx’s ideas of historical progress according to object material conditions. Some of them also challenged Marxism-Leninism’s materialism, in which consciousness arose from matter and was merely matter reflecting itself. This got them attacked as ‘Idealists’ by the Communists.

They rejected the patriarchal family as an institution which brought up and trained the worker to accept hierarchical authority and his position in society as a worker, as well as the sexual repression that resulted from the prohibition of extra- and premarital sex. In fact, the student revolt that sparked the ferment started with a question about this by a student at the Sorbonne to a visiting government minister, who come to open the university’s swimming pool. The student also queried him about the university’s rules against male students entering the women’s halls. Well, as the poet once said, sexual intercourse was invented in 1963.

As for the institutions that should be used by the workers to govern politically and manage industry, there seems to have been a difference of ideas. Some, like the Dutch astronomer and Marxist Pannekoek, argued for worker’s councils like the German Raterevolution of 1919. Others refused to speculate, except to state that they should be created by the workers in response to the conditions of the time and the situations they were faced with. Regarding the conduct of the strikes, these were carried out through workers’ meetings on the shop floor, who would then elect a strike committee that would then take their grievances and demands to management. Some observers felt that this harked back to France’s native socialist and revolutionary traditions that predated Marx. The shop floor meetings were, in their view, related to that of the sections during the French Revolution.

Apart from these political and industrial ideas and aspirations, there were also a set of revolutionary ideas about the proper reform of the arts. These looked back to the attacks on official art by the Dadaists and Surrealists, but felt that they had failed in their mission to create an anti-art. They therefore looked forward to a new, revolutionary society in which everyone would be an artist or a poet.

Well, the revolutionary agitation passed with the sixties and first years of the 1970s. Wheen seems to suggest that it ended when one group was about to bomb a millionaire’s yacht but finally drew back. Nevertheless, the terrorism carried on over this side of La Manche with the IRA in Northern Ireland and in Britain by the Angry Brigade, an anarchist group. In France the anarchists, syndicalists and Anarcho-Syndicalists were largely excluded from the revolutionary movement. Some of this was due to the antagonism between anarchists and Marxists and to the isolation of the anarchist groups themselves. By 1968 these had declined in membership and largely confined themselves to keeping the flame alive and commemorating great anarchist revolutionaries of the past, such as the Ukrainian Nestor Makhno.

The revolutionary movement of 1968 is now over fifty years in the past, overtaken in Britain and America by Reagan and Thatcherism. These two started a political counterrevolution aimed at preventing such a situation ever happening again. The right-wing, if not reactionary philosopher, Roger Scruton, said in an interview in the Spectator that he had been a socialist. But he was in France during the revolutionary movement, and was horrified by their ‘anti-civilizational rage’. The ideologues of the period still have an influence in the radical left. People are still reading and gaining inspiration from Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, for example. I think they also exerted an influence on the anti-capitalist movement of the ‘90s and noughties. Their protests had a deliberate carnivalesque aspect, with costumed marches, puppets and so on, which seems to have drawn on the ideas of the Situationists and other revolutionaries.

I strongly believe, however, that the leftist rejection of the family has had a profoundly negative effect on western society. The Tory right loathes Roy Jenkins because of the socially liberal legislation he introduced in the late 60s Labour government. This decriminalised homosexuality and made divorce easier. Jenkins was certainly not as socially radical as the revolutionaries across the channel. In 1982 he, Shirley Williams and David Owen left the Labour party to form the SDP on the grounds that the party under Michael Foot was now too left wing. Still, the Daily Heil once denounced him as the man who had ruined Britain. Jenkins probably had completely different motives for his legislation than the Revolutionaries. In Britain the movement for the legalisation of homosexuality had started, or at least had the support, of Winston Churchill. Churchill had been worried about the danger of gay ministers, civil servants and others establishment figures being blackmailed by the Soviets because of their sexuality. As for divorce, I think this came from the humane desire to stop people being trapped in unhappy, loveless marriages, especially to brutal, violent partners. John Mortimer in his one-man show in the ‘90s recalled that before Jenkins’ reforms, the only cause for divorce was adultery. There was one man, who was so desperate to divorce his wife, that he came home in different hats so that people would think she was being unfaithful.

Unfortunately, there were radical activists, hostile to the institution of marriage and the traditional family. I can remember a pair who turned up on an edition of the lunchtime magazine programme Pebble Mill in the 1970s to present their views, much to the disgust of many of the programmes’ viewers. The result has been a rise in fatherless families. I am very much aware than many unmarried mothers have done an excellent job of raising their children, but the general picture is grim. Children from fatherless homes perform less well at school and get poorer, lower-paid jobs. They are more likely to turn to crime, do drugs and engage in promiscuous sex. Many Black activists are particularly concerned about this and the way these issues are especially acute in their community.

As for workers’ control, I would love a degree of it introduced into industry, but not to the exclusion of parliamentary democracy. And while the radicals have a point in that trade unions hierarchies have frequently acted to stifle revolutionary activism by the workers, trade unionism as a whole was tarnished by the wildcat strikes that broke out against the wishes of the union leadership. It’s resulted in the caricature of union activism presented by the Tories in which Britain was held hostage to the union barons and its economy and industry weakened by their strikes. We desperately need a revival of trade union power to protect workers, especially with Sunak and the rest of them preparing to scrap the EU legislation protecting workers’ rights.

And with an ever-growing number of people in Britain relying on food banks to stave off starvation, because the Tories have wrecked the welfare state, we’ve gone back to the early conditions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when trade unionism and other forms of working class activism are very much a matter of survival.

On the plus side, I think the revolutionary movement has left a tradition of radical working class activism, which is no longer confined to either left or right. French working people seem much less willing to put up with government dictates than Brits, as shown in the Yellow Vest protests and the marches and riots against Macron raising the official retirement age. This has been admired by many Brits, including YouTube commenters and people on talk show phone-ins. We really need some of that spirit over this side of the Channel.

There is no doubt, from the position of democratic socialism, that the radicals went too far. Nevertheless, the continue to inspire members of the radical left with rather more moderate aims now protesting against predatory, exploitative capitalism, the exploitation of the environment, and racism, although this is not an issue that the book considers. Nevertheless, it was there, at least in the views and campaigns of post-structuralist Marxist activists.

Now The Tories Are Coming for Those on Sickness Benefits

May 25, 2023

Earlier this week the Spectator published a noxious piece by its noxious editor, Fraser Nelson. Nelson was complaining about the numbers receiving sickness benefit while businesses in Britain are struggling to recruit workers. This included, he said, army officers with a beginning salary of £35,000. From what I could gather, the thrust of his article was that the people on sick leave and benefits should be taken off them and then forced to go into one of these vacant jobs. This has been followed by various other right-wing politicians declaring that they intend to retrain the long-term sick to fill these vacancies. The implication here is the old Blairite assumption about people on disability benefits that a certain proportion of them, at least, must be malingerers. It’s why the work capability assessment was set up to find a certain percentage of claimants fit for work, whether they were or not, and the consequent scandals of genuinely critical disabled and terminally ill people being thrown off benefits and told to get a job. It’s the attitude behind the New Labour and the Tories’ wretched benefit reforms, which not only demands claimants look for work and have their searches checked by the staff, but also has them thrown off benefits and sanctioned on the slightest pretext. If they’re starting on the long term sick, it probably indicates that they’ve gone as far as they can demonising and humiliating the unemployed and have been forced to start demonising and humiliating the sick. It’s also based on the unsympathetic attitude that working is good for you and will get you back on your feet. This was the attitude a few years ago when Dave Cameron’s coalition government came to power, and disability campaigners tore into that, showing that this simply wasn’t the case. There seems to be no awareness that some people are sick because of their jobs and working conditions. As for the mental health crisis hitting Britain, it isn’t due to Gary Lineker spreading fears about climate change, as Richard Tice has declared. It’s far more to do with the cost of living crisis caused by rising inflation, stagnant wages kept below the rate of inflation, as well as job insecurity caused by zero hours contracts and the gig economy and the detrimental effects of Brexit. But Reform and the Conservatives can’t admit that, as they believe that this has all been a splendid success and will make us all wealthier and business more secure and prosperous in the long run.

Behind this, I suspect, is the need to get British workers to take the jobs that were originally filled by immigrants and migrant workers now that immigration has become such a hot topic and the Tories are announcing their intention to cut it. It’s basically a return to the calls for Brits to work a fruit pickers instead of migrant workers a few years. That was met by complaints from people who had tried, but were turned down as the farmers preferred to employ migrants.

As for retraining the unemployed to fill certain jobs, there are obvious problems with this. Not everyone has the strength or temperament, let alone the academic qualifications for certain jobs. Army officers are an example of this. Membership of the armed forces demands physical and mental toughness as well as the ability to kill while observing the laws of war. In the case of the officer corps, it also demands intelligence, the jokes about military intelligence being a contradiction in terms aside. Those are very exacting standards and not everyone is able to fill them. There are other problems matching people to jobs. I was given grief when I tried signing on after gaining my archaeology Ph.D. nearly ten years ago by the clerks at the Job Centre. They were annoyed that I spent my time looking for jobs as an archaeologist, particularly in academia. I was told at my last meeting with them, where the supervising girl basically told me not to bother signing on any more, that I should really have been looking for menial jobs like cleaning before trying to find the work I was qualified to do. It shows the way the Job Centre staff aren’t interesting in making sure the right people find the right jobs but simply getting people off their books. But the problem with this is that employers of such jobs probably aren’t interested in taking on graduates, who are obviously overqualified. And some of the jobs that need to be filled require years of training and experience. Our favourite internet non-historian the other day put up a piece asking why this country needed to import architects and archaeologists from overseas. With archaeologists I think he may have a point, as I think there may be surplus of qualified archaeologists compared to the number of jobs. The profession was expanding a decade ago, but that seems to have passed and the number of archaeology firms set up in the boom time may have shrunk. I don’t know about architects. Assuming that there is a shortage of British architects – and I’m not sure there is – the problem here is that it takes years of study and training to qualify as one. It’s not a profession where someone can be retrained and fit to work in a few weeks.

The demands for people on sickness benefit to be retrained to fill these job vacancies then is just more right-wing Tory ideology about benefit scroungers and malingerers, which ignores the real reasons behind their sickness and the problem the unemployed face finding jobs they can actually do. But as the government and business faces increased difficulty recruiting foreign workers because of Brexit and the controversy over immigration, we can expect these demands to get worse.

Megaphone Petition Against Redundancies at London Southbank University

May 25, 2023

Just had this internet petition come through from the internet campaigning department of the TUC against the university’s plans to lay of 60 workers and outsource their jobs.

‘David,

London Southbank University want to cut over 60 jobs next month and outsource low paid workers in Estates and Facilities to private companies by August.

The University’s website says it is rooted in the South London community and strives to positively impact society, but these plans will only make lives worse. In the worst cost of living crisis in memory, they want to leave workers without an income to support their families or at the mercy of profit driven private companies.

Southbank University workers are organising through their union UNISON to protect their jobs and terms and conditions.

Can you add your name and support UNISON members at Southbank University?
Join the campaign – sign the petition

University management want to carry out their attacks on jobs, terms and conditions without anybody noticing. We need to show them that the South London community stands with these workers.

A big public campaign will make Southbank management think twice about the reputational damage layoffs and outsourcing will do to the University’s image.

And it will show the workers that their community has their back and give them extra strength in their fight.

Join the campaign – sign the petition

Something else Southbank says on it’s website is they ‘understand that people are always stronger together’.

So do the workers they are attacking. That’s why they are fighting back together through their union.

So do we. That’s why we are coming together to say ‘no’ to job cuts and outsourcing.

Daniel,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve signed it, and I’ve put it up here in case any of my readers also wants to sign it.

Private Eye Skewers Mogg’s Hypocrisy over BBC Presenters’ High Salaries

May 19, 2023

The Murdoch media has been running attack stories against the BBC for a long time focusing on the very high salaries enjoyed by star presenters like Gary Lineker. They’ve been joined by Tory politicians like Jacob Rees Mogg. This fortnight’s Private Eye for 10th May – 1st June 2023 neatly exposes the hypocrisy of Mogg and his gang by revealing the very handsome salaries and fees they get for presenting and appearing on their rancid, toxic programmes on GB News. The article runs

Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously queried the high salaries paid to BBC stars calling its presenters some of “the most well-off in our society” in a diatribe against the licence fee. Of course Rees-Mogg is himself now enjoying a very healthy media salary since he signed up to present a tedious weeknight evening show on GB News this spring, effectively becoming a part-time politician.

The latest register of MPs’ interest shows the ex-leader of the Commons earned just of £32,000 for 40 hours’ work on the show over just a few weeks. That equates to £802 an hour, and makes the already wealthy financier one of the best-paid MPs in terms of outside earnings.

GB News is a cash cow for Tory politicians. The latest register also shows it paid ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng £1,000 for a single interview. In addition, it shells out a £100,000 salary to the party’s deputy chairman Lee Anderson, as well as recently paying around £10,000 each to married Tory MPs Philip Davies and Esther McVey for their pisspoor co-presented weekend offering.

Meanwhile, parts of GB News continue to be a haven for conspiracy theories. Earlier this month, regulator Ofcom again found it in breach of broadcasting rules for an episode of the Mark Steyn programme last year when guest Naomi Wolf said the Covid-19 vaccine amounted to “mass murder”, comparable to the “doctors in pre-Nazi Germany”. Executives have been told to go for a meeting with the regulator.

Despite the rap on the knuckles, GB News presenters show no sign of changing their crackpot ways. Last weekend Neil Oliver shared an image online of Bill Gates that featured the Microsoft founder holding vaccine vials while wearing symbols including a swastika and an Illuminati pyramid. Lovely!

While the vast salaries to MPs such as Rees-Mogg who aren’t very good at presenting might seem a waste of money, the political connections at least allow the channel to retain a veneer of respectability.’

Erm, not quite. One Labour MP has said that GB News presents two types of views on its programmes, the right and the far right. The head of Ofcom had an uncomfortable appearance before a Commons committee in which she was asked why the channel was allowed to break the rules against politicians presenting news programmes. One of the most notorious of these breaches was when one Tory MP interviewed Boris Johnson.

The channel was also in Private Eye last fortnight or so when it reported that GB News was in such dire financial straits that it was no longer paying guests appearing on their wretched programmes. Presumably the money saved helps to pay the inflated salaries of rich Tory presenters like Mogg. How very Conservative!

Management Consultants Raking in £3,000 a Day from the NHS

May 4, 2023

One of the great commenters on this blog remarked a little while ago that they had seen or heard something to the effect that although Blair did give increased funding to the health service, much of this disappeared into the pockets of management consultants and administrators rather than actually reaching where it was needed – the medical professional on the front line, for example. The pro-democracy organisation Open Democracy has published a piece reporting that the NHS spends £3,000 per day on private management firms. The piece by Adam Bychawski begins

‘NHS England is paying management consultants day rates of up to £3,000, despite the government claiming it cannot afford to give nurses and junior doctors a real-terms pay rise.

Some executives from top consulting firms including Deloitte and PA Consulting are being paid the equivalent of an annual salary of more than £600,000 by NHS England for their services – more than double what its own CEO is reportedly paid.

Deloitte, which charged the most for its consultants last year at up to £3,000 a day, was ironically hired to help NHS England improve how it keeps track of its spending on private companies.

The findings come after a deal was struck between health unions and the government for a 5% pay rise for more than a million NHS workers. Ministers had dismissed demands for an above-inflation rise on the grounds that it would be unaffordable.

Unite and the Royal College of Nursing rejected the offer, with the former saying that it fell well short of the current rate of inflation. Both are planning to continue with strike action, while the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents junior doctors, is continuing negotiations. The BMA is looking for a 35% pay rise to make up for 15 years of below-inflation pay increases.

Unite’s national lead officer Onay Kasab called the figures “a damning indictment of a government that seems intent on destroying the NHS and has learnt nothing from the pandemic, when it allowed the health service to be plundered by private sector profiteers”. He added: “The money would be much better spent providing a proper pay rise for NHS staff to end the recruitment and retention crisis that is crippling health services.”

The day rates were disclosed to openDemocracy through a Freedom of Information request only after the Information Commissioner’s Office warned NHS England that it could be taken to court if it continued delaying its response.

The figures also show consultants from PA Consulting were paid up to £2,500 a day to provide NHS England with support for its Covid vaccination programme between December 2022 and March 2023.

More than a dozen consultants from Ernst and Young were paid up to £2,343 a day last year to give NHS England recommendations for a system that would make it possible to share patient health records electronically between trusts.

The health service also forked out up to £2,350 a day on consultants from KPMG to support improvements to its digital services.

NHS England told openDemocracy that the rates are negotiated centrally by the government.

“It is absolutely appalling to see huge sums of money syphoned off into consultancy firms in this manner,” Julia Patterson, chief executive of NHS campaign group EveryDoctor, told openDemocracy. “At the very least, there should be published reports annually demonstrating the added value provided by contracting strategic advice.

“Local healthcare experts – such as the NHS clinicians, who are woefully underpaid – would be much better placed to offer advice about the planning and processes within their respective areas.”

The sums raise questions about whether the government has learnt from its disastrous NHS Test and Trace scheme, which was criticised for relying too heavily on private sector consultants. Deloitte staff were paid up to £6,000 a day to work on the programme despite an inquiry later finding that it failed to slow the pandemic.’

For further information see: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/nhs-england-consultants-deloitte-kpmg-pa-consulting-ernst-young/

Get the privatisers and profiteers out of the NHS, and the Tories out of government.

Starmer Promises to Teach Boys to Respect Women – A Sop To Get Women’s Votes?

April 27, 2023

A few days ago Keir Starmer announced that if Labour came to power, boys would be taught to respect women in school. I can see the point of this, though it also seems to me to be a bit prim and schoolmarmish. It reminds me of the female management advisor who appeared on one of the TV shows a year or two ago and advised managers not to allow men to discuss sport at work in case it led to chauvinist behaviour. It also displays the totalitarian woke fixation with controlling how people think. But as a policy, I also find it rather threadbare as it ignores the real, material problems ordinary people are facing. This is the cost of living crisis with rising electricity bills and food prices. Some parents, and I think it may well be mostly mothers here, have been denying themselves the food they need in order to give enough to their children. People need higher wages, and unemployment and disability benefits at a level where they can afford food and other necessities. And, of course, an end to the humiliating, vindictive and persecutory sanctions regime. Starmer’s announcement does nothing to address these issues, nor those of massive profiteering by the oil and power companies and the raw sewage being pumped into our waterways. And you wonder how sincere Starmer is about anyway. He’s broken every other promise.

I wonder if it was designed to appeal to women following the debacle in Scotland over the gender recognition bill that brought down the SNP. Scots were rightly worried and angry at violent rapists and child abusers being put in women’s prisons after declaring that they were trans. Starmer and various other leading Labour MPs have made it clear that they believe transwomen are women and support the trans ideology, though Starmer’s commitment to it briefly wavered when Sturgeon was forced to resign. He stated that amending the gender recognition act would not be a priority under a Labour government. He’s been criticised for his bizarre statement that 99 per cent of women don’t have penises, while the right and gender critical have applauded Sunak’s statement that no, women don’t have male sexual organs. I wondered if Starmer had become worried that he was losing the support of ordinary women because of the trans controversy, and so made the announcement about teaching boys respect for women as a ploy to win it back.

Complacent Spectator Supporting Bank of England on Low Wages

April 27, 2023

More proof of the Tories’ complete indifference to ordinary’s people’s suffering. The Trussel Trust, which runs the majority of Britain’s food banks, reported yesterday that there had been a steep rise in the number of people using them. They reported that last year they had served 1.3 million emergency food parcels. This is an absolutely disgrace in a country as rich as Britain. They recommended that benefits should be pegged to keep pace with the price of food.

Brilliant idea!

The response from the Tories was predictable, however. You got a statement saying that they were determined to eradicate poverty or something, and that they had raised benefits already by 10 per cent. My guess is that however much they raised it, it’s still below the rate of the inflation, so that food is still unaffordable for some people. Also, it doesn’t address the issue of the vicious and sadistic sanctions system, nor the poverty wages being paid by some businesses which means that many of those claiming benefits are actually working people.

The Beeb on their breakfast news this morning put up a series of graphs showing wages compared with the rate of inflation. The railway workers average wages were above, but those for teachers and nurses were below. Well below. If teachers’ wages had kept pace with inflation, they’d be on £44,000 by now.

But wage rises in line with inflation is too much for the Bank of England and the Spectator.

Yesterday an article from the Spectacularlyboring appeared stating that the Bank of England was right to demand that wages be kept low. This comes from very well paid Tory journalists repeating the ideas of exceptionally well paid Bank of England executives. I think the attitude is that if wages are raised, this will increase inflation.

Except that it’s not ordinary wages driving inflation. Robert Reich has said that it’s driven by profits, and although he was referring to America I dare say it applies over here.

What we need is a return to a prices and wages policy, but as this went out with Maggie Thatcher, it would be admitting that part of Thatcherism is a massive failure. And once that’s admitted, the rest is vulnerable too. And we can’t have the masses questioning the absolute truth of Thatcherite economic orthodoxy.

It’s long past time that Thatcherism fell. And the Trussell Trust is right:

Make benefits rise in line with food prices!

1 in 5 American Doctors Planning to Leave US Healthcare

April 13, 2023

This comes from Amanpour & Co, a US news and comment channel on YouTube. They’ve put up a video discussing the news that supposedly 117,000 American doctors, one in five of them, is planning to leave their healthcare system. If this is true, then it’s very important as it shows America’s private healthcare system is also on the brink of failure. I put up a piece yesterday of a Bristol plastic surgeon, who was concerned about the numbers of British doctors planning to leave the NHS for greener shores downunder with the Ozzies and Kiwis. Those countries are more attractive because they’re offering better wages and conditions. Are the American doctors planning to leave US medicine also considering going there as well? And what does this say about the superiority of private medicine? The Bristol surgeon was suggesting that the NHS should be shrunk to deal with the problem – meaning certain services should be privatised, thus ending the NHS’ commitment to provide uniform healthcare free at the point of delivery. But as America’s healthcare is private, privatisation is obviously no solution. And what about the market forces Thatcher was always bleating about? They should dictate that in order to encourage doctors to stay with the healthcare system, they should have their pay and conditions improved. But obviously something in the American private healthcare system is preventing that from happening. It means that Blair and the Tories are utterly wrong when they try to outsource NHS services and look to American private healthcare as the model for efficiency. In fact the US healthcare system almost broke down a couple of years ago.

The message from this is that a fully private healthcare system is a disaster, as is the privatisation of the NHS. But you won’t find either the Tories or Starmer, let alone the British right-wing press, acknowledging or telling you this.

Bristol Plastic Surgeon Wants to Shrink the NHS

April 12, 2023

And we all know what that means: more privatisation. This has got me really angry. The BBC local news for the Bristol area, Points West, has added a little local slant on the current NHS crisis. It has covered the views of a plastic surgeon, who was at one point appointed to an NHS committee of some description. Now the surgeon’s calling for a Royal Commission to examine the NHS and what changes should be made to it. The man’s concerned that 40 per cent of doctors graduating are planning to leave the health service, lured by higher salaries and better conditions in Australia and New Zealand. That is a problem that needs solving. However, his solution is to shrink the NHS. He opines that it’s too big, and is actually one of the world’s biggest employers. The NHS is indeed huge. I read somewhere that it employs more people than the Indian railway. But it’s always been big, and historically it always has given value for money. Until David Cameron, Tweezer, Johnson, Liz Truss and Sunak. But way back in 1979 the Royal College considered that improvements to the Health Service would be easily paid for by tax revenue. And to be fair to Tony Blair, it was properly funded during his tenure of 10 Downing Street, even though he really wanted to privatise whatever he could of it.

This is what we’re talking about here: Privatisation. Selling off some of the NHS’ services, so that it no longer provides a service to everyone, free at the point of delivery.

This is what the Tories have been aiming for, and what their media mouthpieces, like GB News’ Nana Akua, are demanding. The present Health Secretary denied that there were any plans for any such thing. Yeah, and Thatcher denied that she wanted to privatise the NHS, but she did. What probably alarmed the Health Secretary was that this surgeon spoke their plans out loud. The Tories are despicable, as is this surgeon’s views. I hope, I really hope, that more medical professions will come forward to challenge the government and their slow privatisation of this precious institution.

And that the government pays our junior doctors what they’re worth.

That Preston Journalist: Talk Tv Losing Money

April 12, 2023

Here’s another piece of interesting news from former Tory councillor That Preston Journalist. It seems Talk TV, another right-wing news station, is, like GB News, losing money. They’ve just signed Piers Morgan on a £50 million contract. That Preston Journalists thinks that the contract might be for three years. He also states that the channel is earning less than one month’s of the former Mirror editor’s salary. Which means that it’s revenue is less than £1.5 million. He wonders how long the channel can go on, as its other stars – Julia Hartley-Brewer, Andrew Tice and co – also don’t come cheap. The channel’s owned by Murdoch’s Scum, which has also been losing money for a long time, but Murdoch won’t close it down because ‘it’s his baby’. But it remains to be seen if he’s willing to extend this indulgence to Talk TV.

Okay, there are a few things that need to be said about Murdoch’s relationship with the Scum and its sister paper, The Times. Both of these have been losing money and in the case of The Times, if it was any other paper it would have been wound up long ago. Murdoch is keeping the going, but not out of sentimentality. The Times is Britain’s paper of record, and its cache allows the Dirty Digger to influence elite opinion, including that of senior politicians and the cabinet. One insider remarked that when Blair was in power, Murdoch was an invisible presence at cabinet meetings with the Gurning Liar wondering how various policies and decisions would go down with him. Murdoch has this influence over politicians because of the propaganda value of his papers, including, obviously, the Scum. He thus exerts considerable political influence on the parties, as each one tries to get him and his propaganda network on board, even though his papers are in serious financial trouble and their influence is waning. Murdoch may well decide to keep Talk TV going. But if he does, it’ll be because he considers it a useful propaganda outlet for his own right-wing views and commercial ambitions.