Archive for the ‘Wages’ Category

William Blum on Socialism vs. Capitalism

September 19, 2017

William Blum, the long-time fierce critic of American and western imperialism, has come back to writing his Anti-Empire Report after a period of illness. He’s an older man of 84, and due to kidney failure has been placed on dialysis for the rest of his life. This has left him, as it does others with the same condition, drained of energy, and he says he finds writing the report difficult. Nevertheless, his mind and his dissection of the ruthless, amoral and predatory nature of western capitalism and corporate greed is as acute as ever.

There’s a section in the Anti-Empire Report, where he discusses the advantages of socialism versus capitalism. He notes that there were two studies carried out under George Dubya to see if private corporations were better than federal agencies. And the federal agencies won by a huge margin every time. He writes

Twice in recent times the federal government in Washington has undertaken major studies of many thousands of federal jobs to determine whether they could be done more efficiently by private contractors. On one occasion the federal employees won more than 80% of the time; on the other occasion 91%. Both studies took place under the George W. Bush administration, which was hoping for different results. 1 The American people have to be reminded of what they once knew but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want BIG government, or SMALL government; they don’t want MORE government, or LESS government; they want government ON THEIR SIDE.

He also states that the juries’ still out on whether socialist countries are more successful than capitalist, as no socialist country has fallen through its own failures. Instead they’ve been subverted and overthrown by the US.

I think he’s wrong about this. The Communist bloc couldn’t provide its people with the same standard of living as the capitalist west, and the state ownership of agriculture was a real obstacle to food production. The bulk of the Soviet Union’s food was produced on private plots. Similarly, Anton Dubcek and the leaders of the Prague Spring, who wanted to reform and democratize Communism, not overthrow it, believed that Czechoslovakia’s industrial development was held back through the rigid structure of Soviet-style central planning.

However, he still has a point, in that very many left and left-leaning regimes have been overthrown by America, particularly in South America, but also across much of the rest of the world, as they were perceived to be a threat to American political and corporate interests. And for the peoples of these nations, it’s questionable how successful capitalism is. For example, in the 1950s the Americans overthrew the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz after he dared to nationalize the banana plantations, many of which were own by the American corporation, United Fruit. Benz was a democratic socialist – not a Communist, as was claimed by the American secret state – who nationalized the plantations in order to give some dignity and a decent standard of living to the agricultural workers on them. The government that overthrew Benz was a brutal Fascist dictatorship, which imposed conditions very close to feudal serfdom on the plantation labourers.

Which leads to a more general point about the emergence of capitalism, imperialism and the exploitation of the developing world. Marxists have argued that capitalism had partly arisen due to western imperialism. It was the riches looted from their conquered overseas territories that allowed western capitalism to emerge and develop. Again this is a matter of considerable debate, as some historians have argued that the slave trade and plantation slavery only added an extra 5 per cent to the British economy during the period these existed in the British empire, from the mid-17th century to 1840. More recently, historians have argued that it was the compensation given to the slaveowners at emancipation, that allowed capitalism to develop. In the case of the large slaveholders, this compensation was the equivalent of tens of millions of pounds today. At the time the plantation system was in crisis, and many of the plantation owners were heavily in debt. The slaveholders used the money given to them by the British government – £20 million, a colossal sum then-to invest in British industry, thus boosting its development.

This system has continued today through what the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal termed ‘neocolonialism’. This is the international trading system which the former imperial masters imposed on their colonies after the end of imperialism proper following the Second World War. High tariffs and other barriers were imposed to stop these countries developing their own manufacturing industries, which could produced finished goods that would compete with those of Europe and the west. Instead, the former subject nations were forced through a series of trade agreements to limit themselves to primary industries – mining and agriculture – which would provide western and European industry with the raw materials it needed. As a global system, it’s therefore highly debatable how successful capitalism is in providing for people’s needs, when the relative success of the capitalist west has depended on the immiseration and exploitation of countless millions in the developed world.

And in the developed west itself, capitalism is failing. In the 19th century Marx pointed to the repeated crises and economic slumps that the system created, and predicted that one of these would be so severe that it would destroy capitalism completely. He was wrong. Capitalism did not collapse, and there was a long period of prosperity and growth from the late 19th century onwards.

But terrible, grinding poverty still existed in Britain and the rest of the developed world, even if conditions were slowly improving. And the long period of prosperity and growth after the Second World War was partly due to the foundation of the welfare state, Keynsian economic policies in which the government invested in the economy in order to stimulate it, and a system of state economic planning copied from the French.

Now that Thatcherite governments have rolled back the frontiers of the state, we’ve seen the re-emergence of extreme poverty in Britain. An increasing number of Brits are now homeless. 700,000 odd are forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together, as they can’t afford food. Millions more are faced with the choice between eating and paying the bills. In the school holiday just passed, three million children went hungry. And some historians are predicting that the refusal of the governments that came after the great crash of 2008 to impose controls on the financial sector means that we are heading for the final collapse of capitalism. They argue that the industrial and financial elite in Europe know it’s coming, are just trying to loot as much money as possible before it finally arrives.

The great, free trade capitalism lauded by Thatcher, Reagan and the neoliberal regimes after them has failed to benefit the majority of people in Britain and the rest of the world. But as the rich 1 per cent have benefited immensely, they are still promoting neoliberal, free trade policies and imposing low wages and exploitative working conditions on the rest of the population, all the while telling us that we’re richer and generally more prosperous than ever before.

Back to Blum’s Anti-Empire Report, he also has a few quotes from the American comedian Dick Gregory, who passed away this year. These include the following acute observations

“The way Americans seem to think today, about the only way to end hunger in America would be for Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to go on national TV and say we are falling behind the Russians in feeding folks.”

“What we’re doing in Vietnam is using the black man to kill the yellow man so the white man can keep the land he took from the red man.”

For more, see https://williamblum.org/aer/read/150

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Crisis and Closures in the Academy Schools

September 13, 2017

One of the major issues is the Tories’ continuing attempts to destroy whatever remains of value in the British education system, all for the profit of big business. Last week, one of the academies closed only a week after it had opened. I did wonder what would happen to its pupils. Would they be thrown out and denied an education, as they had enrolled in the wrong school and there may not be places available in the other local schools.

Fortunately, that’s not going to happen. From what I understand the school will be kept open until someone else is found to take it over.

But it is still absolutely scandalous that British schools are now run by private companies, who can announce at any time that they are no longer interested in running them. Especially as tens of millions of taxpayers’ money is given to individual academies, far beyond the budget for the local LEA. In some cases, the amount spent on an academy can reach £40 million, while the budget for the LEA is under a million.

As for replacing LEA’s, from what I understand from talking to friends about them, the authorities dictate that schools can only join certain academy chains. This makes a mockery of the claim that they are outside LEAs, as these chains in effect act as them. But I suppose as the academy chains are all privately run, the government thinks this is just as well then.

I also understand that one of the academies in Radstock in Somerset doesn’t even belong to a chain based in the UK. The chain’s based in Eire, and all its directors live across the Irish Sea. I can’t say I’m surprised. Eire attempted to encourage investment by massively cutting corporate taxes, in the same way that the Tories are doing for Britain. Thus you find many businesses, that actually do their work in Britain, have their headquarters over there, using the country as a tax haven. And the ordinary people of Ireland have paid for this, just as we Brits are paying for the Tories’ self-same policy over here. One of the books I found rooting through one of the bargain bookshops in Park Street was by an Irish writer describing the way his country’s corporate elite had looted the country and caused its recession. Like the banksters in Britain and America.

The academies are a massive scam. They were launched under Maggie Thatcher, and then quietly wound up as they didn’t work. Blair and New Labour took over the idea, as they did so much else of the Tories’ squalid free market economics, and relaunched them as ‘city academies’. And then, under Dave Cameron, they became just ‘academies’.

They were never about improving education. They were about handing over a lucrative part of the state sector to private industry. They aren’t any better at educating children than state schools. Indeed, many can only maintain in the league tables by excluding poorer students, and those with special needs or learning difficulties. And if state schools had the same amount spent on them as those few, which are more successful than those left in the LEAs, they too would see improved standards.

In fact, academies offer worse teaching, because as private firms in order to make a profit they have to cut wages and conditions for the workforce to a minimum. And with the Tories freezing public sector workers’ wages, it’s no wonder that tens of thousands of teachers are leaving the profession.

And those companies interested in getting a piece of this cool, educational action are hardly those, whose reputation inspires confidence. One of them, apparently, belongs to Rupert Murdoch, at least according to Private Eye again. Yes, the man, who has almost single-handedly aimed at the lowest common denominator in print journalism, lowering the tone and content of whatever newspaper he touches and whose main newspaper, the Sun, is a byword for monosyllabic stupidity and racism, now wants to run schools. Or at least, publish the textbooks for those who do.

Academy schools are a massive failure. They’re another corporate scam in which the public pays well over the odds for a massively inferior service from the private sector, all so that Blair and May’s mates in the private sector could reap the profits.

It’s time they were wound up. Get the Tories out, and private industry out of state education.

The Privileged Class Background of BBC Staff, and the Problem of Oxbridge Public School Elitism

August 26, 2017

Earlier this week I put up a piece reviewing Tom Mills’ The BBC – Myth of a Public Service. This contributes immensely to the debate about the Corporation’s bias by showing how it consistently allies with the elite against the left and the working class.

And Mills makes a very strong case that, apart with the institutional methods of control the government exercises over the Beeb through the license fee and the appointment of its governors, the BBC also sides with the elite because of the elite, upper and very middle class origins of its managers and staff. Mills describes this background on pages 29 and 30. He writes

A 2014 report of the quasi-official Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission had no qualms about identifying these top BBC executives, and over a hundred other senior BBC managers, as members of ‘Britain’s elite’ – along with politicians, civil servants, the super-rich, FTSE 350 CEOs, newspaper columnists and other groups. The Commission’s survey of 125 BBC executives found that 26 per cent had attended private school (compared with 7 per cent of the population), 33 per cent had attended Oxbridge (compared with just 0.8 per cent of the population) and 62 per cent had attended one of the Russell Group of leading universities (compared with 11.4 per cent of the population) – figures which were comparable with those for other factions of Britain’s power elite, as the report shows. Senior BBC managers are also extremely well paid: in 2014/15, the seven executive members of the BBC’s Executive Board earned an average of over £424,000. Meanwhile, around eighty BBC executives are thought to earn over £150,000, even after policy measures were put in place to reduce executive pay following fierce criticism from the press. Among this executive cadre are around a hundred or so senior managers in editorial policy who on average earn just over £100,000, and the most senior of whom can earn two or three times that.

Below these senior editorial managers, we see similar patterns of privilege. In 2006, the Sutton Trust examined the educational backgrounds of 100 leading news journalists in the UK, of whom 31 worked at the BBC. It found that 54 per cent were privately educated and a remarkable 45 per cent had attended Oxbridge. Educational background is of course an indicator of shared class background. But it is also in itself a profoundly important basis for elite cohesion, forging along with other formative experiences, if not a shared set of ideas, then at least a shared demeanour and set of dispositions. Elitist recruiting practices – which are naturally justified in meritocratic terms, even if they are recognized to create serious problems in terms of legitimacy – thus create subtle forms of institutional and cross-institutional cohesion.

This bears out a comment made by one of the television directors Mike and I heard speak over two decades ago at a Doctor Who convention here in Bristol. He stated that it was very difficult to become a director at the Beeb unless you had been to Oxford or Cambridge. If you hadn’t, it was very difficult. If you had, on the other hand, it was very easy.

As for Oxbridge, I’m currently reading Gregory Benford’s SF novel Timescape (London: Gollancz 1980). The novel’s plot is split between the devastated Britain of 1998 and the optimistic California of 1963, as a group of scientists in Cambridge attempt to use tachyons to carry a message back to their counterparts in La Jolla to warn them of the coming ecological crisis which is gradually causing global civilization to collapse. Benford is an American, and one of the team of Cambridge scientists, Gregory Markham, also hails from across the Pond. The book therefore includes descriptions and meditations on Britain’s relationship to its past, compared with America, and the class structure of British society. On page 182, Benford comments on the educational segregation at Cambridge High Table.

He walked back towards the colleges, letting this feel of the press of time seep into him. He and Jan had been to High Table at several of the colleges, the ultimate Anglophile experience. Memorial plate that gleamed like quicksilver, and crested goblets. In the after-dinner room of polished wood, gilt frames held glowering portraits of the college founders. In the great dining hall Jan had been surprised to find de facto segregation: Etonians at one table, Harrovians at another, the lesser public schools’ alumni at a third, and, finally, state school graduates and everyone else at a motley last table. To an American in such a citadel of education, after the decades of ferocious equality-at-all-costs politics, it seemed strange. There persisted a reliance on inherited advantages, and even the idea that such a system was an inherited virtue as well.

This is not too far removed from the description of outright class snobbery Thackeray describes in his Book of Snobs. Casting his eye about England’s great, and at the time, only universities, he noted the way the class system affected even the type of gowns undergraduates wore:

If you consider, dear reader, what profound snobbishness the University system produced, you will allow that it is time to attack some of those feudal middle-age superstitions. If you go down for five shillings to look at the ‘College Youths’, you may see one sneaking down the court without a tassel to his cap; another with a gold or silver fringe to his velvet trencher; a third lad with a master’s gown and hat,, walking at ease over the sacred College grass-plats, which common men must not tread on.

Me may do it because he is a nobleman. Because a lad is a lord, the University grants him a degree at the end of two years which another is seven in acquiring. Because he is a lord, he has no call to go through an examination. Any man who has not been to College and back for five shillings [the price of the train fare to Oxford and Eton], would not believe in such distinctions in a place of education, so absurd and monstrous do they seem to be.

The lads with gold and silver lace are sons of rich gentlemen, and called Fellow Commoners; they are privileged to feed better than the pensioners, and to have wine with their victuals, which the latter can only get in their rooms.

The unlucky boys who have no tassels to their caps, are called sizars – servitors at Oxford – (a very pretty and gentlemanlike title). A distinction is made in their clothes because they are poor; for which reason they wear a badge of poverty, and are not allowed to take their meals with their fellow-students.(pp. 60-61).

One of the other, British characters in Benford’s novel, Renfrew, who has the idea of using tachyon radiation to transmit to the past, is also an outsider. He’s the son of a working class Yorkshireman, and because of this is also an outsider amongst the public schoolboys. At one point Renfrew remembers how, as an undergraduate walking down Oxford’s corridors, he passes another pair in gowns. One of these says very loudly in an Oxbridge drawl, ‘Oh God, not another oik come up on a scholarship!’

Oxford has been under considerable pressure to make its more democratic, and Robert Peston has said in his book, Who Runs Britain, that there’s an element of hypocrisy amongst some of the Scots universities, who tried to capitalize on the class scandals that have erupted over Oxbridge in recent years. Some of the Scots universities, particularly St. Andrews’, are even more elite and class-ridden.

It’s tempting to think of those days of class snobbishness as having vanished along with scholarships. However, as the Tories are intent are privatizing the British school system, and really, desperately, want to bring back grammar schools if they can get away with it, as well as cut away the last vestiges of the student grant to the poor, it’s likely that they’ll come back.

American Comedian Jimmy Dore on the Jeremy Corbyn Commercial that Made Right-Wingers Cry

August 18, 2017

Remember the advert for Jeremy Corbyn that went around a week or so ago, which showed a group of very middle class people sneering at Corbyn and his supporters, while showing up how each and everyone was a hypocrite? Here the American comedian, Jimmy Dore, comments on the advert and why it’s so good.

The various characters featured sitting round a dinner type, guzzling wine and moaning about how modern kids want something for nothing, are all portrayed as having done exactly the same themselves. Such as a man moaning about how students don’t want to pay for their university tuition, when he himself never paid for his. The Tories and their supporters went berserk, claiming it was just bourgeois stereotypes, and that ‘Lenin would have been so proud’.

As Dore points out, these aren’t stereotypes. Mike also made the point in a blog post he put up about it that, for all their whining, the Tories hadn’t actually shown that these ‘bourgeois stereotypes’ were wrong. They clearly aren’t, as you can see by reading the Daily Heil or some of the letters from right-wingers in the press. There was one from a woman in the I newspaper a week or so ago which claimed that Corbyn was ‘bribing’ students with promises to make university education free.

Dore also goes on to discuss neoliberalism and globalism, and how they approach the economy the wrong way round. This should all be familiar to people who read Mike’s blog, and Another Angry Voice and Mainly Macro. He points out that these came in with Ronald Reagan. Neoliberalism wants taxes cut to give more money to those at the top. But this doesn’t work. F.D.R. showed that with his New Deal. If you give money to working people, they spend it and stimulate the economy. If you give it to the rich and the bosses, they don’t do anything with it. The money just sits in their bank accounts and stagnates.

As for globalism, this means simply taking domestic – American, in this case – jobs and offshoring them to another country where the people are even more desperate than in America. The corporation profits, but not America, because the profits don’t come back over here.

He also attacks the trend for great mechanization, and the craze for driverless cars and robots at McDonalds. This suffers from the same problem, as driverless cars and robots don’t spend money.

As for domestic poverty, a half of all American wage earners are paid less than $30,000. This is in the richest country in the world.

And Dore also points out that while Ronald Reagan introduced neoliberalism – a misnomer, as there’s nothing ‘liberal’ about it, it was Bill Clinton, who put it on steroids. So did Tony Blair, who, he reminds us, is like George Dubya, a war criminal.

In addition to these comments, it struck me that one reason the Tories went berserk over this is because Channel 4 screened a real-life programme that was very, very much like this shortly before Labour’s landslide election in ’97. It was called ‘The Dinner Party’, or something similar, and featured a group of very middle class individuals sat round a dinner table, making stupid, ill-informed and bigoted comments about the lower orders. The Independent, if I recall correctly, reviewed it, and said that it almost made the Labour victory inevitable.

Which is clearly what the Tories and their supporters are afraid of here.

They’re also upset because they can’t refute it. It strikes too close to home. So all they can do is moan about how stereotypical it is, without offering any real evidence to refute it.

Vox Political: Tories Lying About Full Employment

August 18, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a very necessary piece critically examining the Tories’ claims that Britain now has ‘full employment’, meaning that the unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent, and three million more people are in work since this time last year. Mike states very clearly that if you’re confused by your inability to get a decent job or a proper, living wage, despite this news, you’re quite right. It’s because the figures are a lie.

He cites the figures included in two critical reports of the Tory claims, one by The Canary and the other by the UK Business Insider. The Canary states that in order to reach this figure of 3 million more in work, the Tories have had to include 10,000 unpaid family workers and 35,000 on temporary training contracts.

As for wages, these have fallen by 0.5 per cent year on year, so that you’re actually £6 worse off now than when the Tories took power.

The Canary article concludes

“Since the Tories came to power in 2010, more people are in precarious self employment; the public sector has been decimated; young people have been abandoned and we’ve all seen our wages plummet. So, far from being “all in this together”, the UK is becoming a dustbin for employment opportunities. ”

And the UK Business Insider states that the official stats are lies, and the true unemployment rate is higher. Much higher. So high, it will shock you.

“The statistical definition of ‘unemployment’ relies on a fiction that economists tell themselves about the nature of work,” the article states. “The official definition of unemployment disguises the true rate. In reality, about 21.5% of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics.

They also state that this is proved by the fact that wages have not risen. Economics states that if there is low unemployment, then wages should rise as firms compete to attract more workers by offering higher wages, because labour is so scarce.

But instead, public sector wages are capped at 1 per cent, and wages generally are stagnant.

The article goes on

“More important, wages are not keeping pace with inflation… Workers’ real incomes are actually in decline, which is weird because so-called full employment ought to be spurring wages upward. Overall inflation ought to be driven by wage inflation. Yet wage inflation isn’t happening.

“The answer is that unemployment is not really that low. In reality, about 21.5% of British workers are either officially unemployed, inactive, or employed part time even though they really want full-time work. (The ONS has a chapter on that here.) Some of those people — parents with newborns, university students — may not want jobs right now, but they will want jobs soon.”

Mike concludes

Now, you could argue that nobody is saying that 21.5 per cent of working-age people aren’t out of work – the employment rate is only said to be 75 per cent, after all.

But the unemployment rate is said to be only 4.5 per cent. That’s why we’re being told the UK has full employment and it isn’t true.

That’s why you can’t get a job that pays well – even though the Tories claim there are 768,000 vacancies; there are still so many people out of work that they can continue pushing wages down.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/08/17/still-cant-get-a-job-even-though-weve-reached-full-employment-its-because-the-figures-are-a-lie/

This is important, as these fiddled and highly unreliable figures are being touted by the Tories to show that they’ve been successful in tackling unemployment. And as Mike’s shown, they’re a grotesque falsification.

Mike’s piece has also confirmed what I’ve suspected for a very, very long time: that the official statistics for unemployment have been doctored and adjusted by successive governments to disguise the real rate, that they’re completely unreliable.

I can remember how Margaret Thatcher’s administration altered the official unemployment rate when she came to power way back in 1979. And every government since then has done the same thing.

The latest trick done by the Tories was by making the figures count only those who were signing on as jobseekers. As the whole benefits system is designed to humiliate benefit claimants into either getting a job, or not signing on, with sanctions imposed for even the most trivial reasons, many people don’t sign on for jobseeker’s allowance because of the stress of being harangued and bullied by the jobcentre staff.

Thus the unemployment figures are a conscious lie here, based on a spurious method of counting the unemployed.

Then there’s the actual percentage of people really unemployed in Britain – 21 per cent. This makes a complete lie out of the Tory claim that we’re much better than the other EU states, which may have an unemployment rate of 25 per cent. I’ve read that this is Spain’s unemployment rate, along with some of the other EU countries. The argument is that these nations’ more generous welfare systems and highly regulated economies are causing high unemployment by stifling the free market and the beneficial effects of private enterprise.

This becomes extremely questionable if the true British unemployment rate is only 4 per cent behind that of states like Spain. Moreover, economists such as Ha-Joon Chang have shown that free market economics simply don’t work, and that the older, ‘Keynsian’ system of protectionism and a mixed economy with a welfare state actually works far better in promoting economic growth and prosperity.

My guess is that the drive of successive European government to have 50 per cent of all school leavers enter higher education is also, in part, an attempt to disguise an otherwise high unemployment rate. There probably simply isn’t the jobs for all the school leavers, if only 2 to 20 per cent of young people entered university as they used to before the expansion of higher education back in the 1990s.

In short, the unemployment figures May and her cronies are proudly boasting are complete fabrications, designed to deceive the public into believing the economy and job opportunities are far better than they are.

Don’t be fooled. Get May out before she make the situation worse, and already desperately poor people even poorer.

Forthcoming Programme on the Destructive Consequence of IT

August 1, 2017

Next Sunday, the 6th August, BBC 2 is showing a documentary at 8.00 pm on the negative aspects of automation and information technology. Entitled Secrets of Silicon Valley, it’s the first part of a two-part series. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Tech Gods – who run the biggest technology companies – say they’re creating a better world. Their utopian visions sound persuasive: Uber say the app reduces car pollution and could transform how cities are designed; Airbnb believes its website empowers ordinary people. some hope to reverser climate change or replace doctors with software.

In this doc, social media expert Jamie Bartlett investigates the consequences of “disruption” – replacing old industries with new ones. The Gods are optimistic about our automated future but one former Facebook exec is living off-grid because he fears the fallout from the tech revolution. (p. 54).

A bit more information is given on the listings page for the programmes on that evening. This gives the title of the episode – ‘The Disruptors’, and states

Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world. He visits Uber’s offices in San Francisco and hears how the company believes it is improving our cities. But Hyderabad, India, Jamie sees for himself the apparent human consequences of Uber’s utopian vision and asks what the next wave of Silicon Valley’s global disruption – the automation of millions of jobs – will mean for us. He gets a stark warning from an artificial intelligence pioneer who is replacing doctors with software. Jamie’s journey ends in the remote island hideout of a former social media executive who fears this new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown and the collapse of capitalism. (p. 56).

I find the critical tone of this documentary refreshing after the relentless optimism of last Wednesday’s first instalment of another two-part documentary on robotics, Hyper Evolution: the Rise of the Robots. This was broadcast at 9 O’clock on BBC 4, with second part shown tomorrow – the second of August – at the same time slot.

This programme featured two scientists, the evolutionary biologist, Dr. Ben Garrod, and the electronics engineer Professor Danielle George, looking over the last century or so of robot development. Garrod stated that he was worried by how rapidly robots had evolved, and saw them as a possible threat to humanity. George, on the other hand, was massively enthusiastic. On visiting a car factory, where the vehicles were being assembled by robots, she said it was slightly scary to be around these huge machines, moving like dinosaurs, but declared proudly, ‘I love it’. At the end of the programme she concluded that whatever view we had of robotic development, we should embrace it as that way we would have control over it. Which prompts the opposing response that you could also control the technology, or its development, by rejecting it outright, minimizing it or limiting its application.

At first I wondered if Garrod was there simply because Richard Dawkins was unavailable. Dawko was voted the nation’s favourite public intellectual by the readers of one of the technology or current affairs magazines a few years ago, and to many people’s he’s the face of scientific rationality, in the same way as the cosmologist Stephen Hawking. However, there was a solid scientific reason he was involved through the way robotics engineers had solved certain problems by copying animal and human physiology. For example, Japanese cyberneticists had studied the structure of the human body to create the first robots shown in the programme. These were two androids that looked and sounded extremely lifelike. One of them, the earlier model, was modelled on its creator to the point where it was at one time an identical likeness. When the man was asked how he felt about getting older and less like his creation, he replied that he was having plastic surgery so that he continued to look as youthful and like his robot as was possible.

Japanese engineers had also studied the human hand, in order to create a robot pianist that, when it was unveiled over a decade ago, could play faster than a human performer. They had also solved the problem of getting machines to walk as bipeds like humans by giving them a pelvis, modeled on the human bone structure. But now the machines were going their own way. Instead of confining themselves to copying the human form, they were taking new shapes in order to fulfil specific functions. The programme makers wanted to leave you in new doubt that, although artificial, these machines were nevertheless living creatures. They were described as ‘a new species’. Actually, they aren’t, if you want to pursue the biological analogy. They aren’t a new species for the simple reason that there isn’t simply one variety of them. Instead, they take a plethora of shapes according to their different functions. They’re far more like a phylum, or even a kingdom, like the plant and animal kingdoms. The metal kingdom, perhaps?

It’s also highly problematic comparing them to biological creatures in another way. So far, none of the robots created have been able to reproduce themselves, in the same way biological organisms from the most primitive bacteria through to far more complex organisms, not least ourselves, do. Robots are manufactured by humans in laboratories, and heavily dependent on their creators both for their existence and continued functioning. This may well change, but we haven’t yet got to that stage.

The programme raced through the development of robots from Eric, the robot that greeted Americans at the World’s Fair, talking to one of the engineers, who’d built it and a similar metal man created by the Beeb in 1929. It also looked at the creation of walking robots, the robot pianist and other humanoid machines by the Japanese from the 1980s to today. It then hopped over the Atlantic to talk to one of the leading engineers at DARPA, the robotics technology firm for the American defence establishment. Visiting the labs, George was thrilled, as the company receives thousands of media requests, to she was exceptionally privileged. She was shown the latest humanoid robots, as well as ‘Big Dog’, the quadruped robot carrier, that does indeed look and act eerily like a large dog.

George was upbeat and enthusiastic. Any doubts you might have about robots taking people’s jobs were answered when she met a spokesman for the automated car factory. He stated that the human workers had been replaced by machines because, while machines weren’t better, they were more reliable. But the factory also employed 650 humans running around here and there to make sure that everything was running properly. So people were still being employed. And by using robots they’d cut the price on the cars, which was good for the consumer, so everyone benefits.

This was very different from some of the news reports I remember from my childhood, when computers and industrial robots were just coming in. There was shock by news reports of factories, where the human workers had been laid off, except for a crew of six. These men spent all day playing cards. They weren’t employed because they were experts, but simply because it would have been more expensive to sack them than to keep them on with nothing to do.

Despite the answers given by the car plant’s spokesman, you’re still quite justified in questioning how beneficial the replacement of human workers with robots actually is. For example, before the staff were replaced with robots, how many people were employed at the factory? Clearly, financial savings had to be made by replacing skilled workers with machines in order to make it economic. At the same time, what skill level were the 650 or so people now running around behind the machines? It’s possible that they are less skilled than the former car assembly workers. If that’s the case, they’d be paid less.

As for the fear of robots, the documentary traced this from Karel Capek’s 1920’s play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robot, which gave the word ‘robot’ to the English language. The word ‘robot’ means ‘serf, slave’ or ‘forced feudal labour’ in Czech. This was the first play to deal with a robot uprising. In Japan, however, the attitude was different. Workers were being taught to accept robots as one of themselves. This was because of the animist nature of traditional Japanese religion. Shinto, the indigenous religion besides Buddhism, considers that there are kami, roughly spirits or gods, throughout nature, even inanimate objects. When asked what he thought the difference was between humans and robots, one of the engineers said there was none.

Geoff Simons also deals with the western fear of robots compared to the Japanese acceptance of them in his book, Robots: The Quest for Living Machines. He felt that it came from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. This is suspicious of robots, as it allows humans to usurp the Lord as the creator of living beings. See, for example, the subtitle of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein – ‘the Modern Prometheus’. Prometheus was the tAstritan, who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity. Victor Frankenstein was similarly stealing a divine secret through the manufacture of his creature.

I think the situation is rather more complex than this, however. Firstly, I don’t think the Japanese are as comfortable with robots as the programme tried to make out. One Japanese scientist, for example, has recommended that robots should not be made too humanlike, as too close a resemblance is deeply unsettling to the humans, who have to work with it. Presumably the scientist was basing this on the experience of Japanese as well as Europeans and Americans.

Much Japanese SF also pretty much like its western counterpart, including robot heroes. One of the long-time comic favourites in Japan is Astroboy, a robot boy with awesome abilities, gadgets and weapons. But over here, I can remember reading the Robot Archie strip in Valiant in the 1970s, along with the later Robusters and A.B.C. Warriors strips in 2000 AD. R2D2 and C3PO are two of the central characters in Star Wars, while Doctor Who had K9 as his faithful robot dog.

And the idea of robot creatures goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of fire, was a smith. Lame, he forged three metal girls to help him walk. Pioneering inventors like Hero of Alexandria created miniature theatres and other automata. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this technology was taken up by the Muslim Arabs. The Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century AD created a whole series of machines, which they simply called ‘ingenious devices’, and Baghdad had a water clock which included various automatic figures, like the sun and moon, and the movement of the stars. This technology then passed to medieval Europe, so that by the end of the Middle Ages, lords and ladies filled their pleasure gardens with mechanical animals. The 18th century saw the fascinating clockwork machines of Vaucanson, Droz and other European inventors. With the development of steam power, and then electricity in the 19th century came stories about mechanical humans. One of the earliest was the ‘Steam Man’, about a steam-powered robot, which ran in one of the American magazines. This carried on into the early 20th century. One of the very earliest Italian films was about a ‘uomo machina’, or ‘man machine’. A seductive but evil female robot also appears in Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis. Both films appeared before R.U.R., and so don’t use the term robot. Lang just calls his robot a ‘maschinemensch’ – machine person.

It’s also very problematic whether robots will ever really take human’s jobs, or even develop genuine consciousness and artificial intelligence. I’m going to have to deal with this topic in more detail later, but the questions posed by the programme prompted me to buy a copy of Hubert L. Dreyfus’ What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason. Initially published in the 1970s, and then updated in the 1990s, this describes the repeated problems computer scientists and engineers have faced trying to develop Artificial Intelligence. Again and again, these scientists predicted that ‘next year’ ,’in five years’ time’, ‘in the next ten years’ or ‘soon’, robots would achieve human level intelligence, and would make all of us unemployed. The last such prediction I recall reading was way back in 1999 – 2000, when we were all told that by 2025 robots would be as intelligent as cats. All these forecasts have proven wrong. But they’re still being made.

In tomorrow’s edition of Hyperevolution, the programme asks the question of whether robots will ever achieve consciousness. My guess is that they’ll conclude that they will. I think we need to be a little more skeptical.

More Hypocrisy from the Tories and the Daily Mail as They Accuse Labour of Bigotry and Intolerance

July 8, 2017

The Conservatives and Daily Heil are back to the old tricks of accusing the Labour party and its supporters, particularly those in Momentum for Jeremy Corbyn, of intolerance, vandalism and intimidation. Sheryll Murray, the Tory MP for South East Cornwall, whined in an article in the Fail about her treatment by Labour supporters. She claimed that

“I’ve had swastikas carved into posters, social media posts like ‘burn the witch’ and ‘stab the C’, people putting Labour Party posters on my home, photographing them and pushing them through my letterbox. Someone even urinated on my office door.”

Dominic Sandbrook, one of the rag’s journos, then went on to opine that “The fact is the overwhelming majority of the abuse, bullying and intimidation comes from the Left.”

Tory MP Nadine ‘Mad Nad’ Dorries put up a photograph of one of these vandalised posters with the accusation that it was done by Momentum supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, along with her judgement that Britain was heading back to the 1930s.

As Mike has pointed out on his blog about the article, citing Tom Clarke, the Angry Yorkshireman, neither Murray, Dorries nor Sandbrook has absolutely any evidence that this was done by Labour supporters. It’s just another unfounded accusation to smear the Labour party.

And Murray herself also has form when it comes to intolerance. At one of her rallies, she stated that she’s glad there are food banks in Cornwall. When a section of the crowd, not unreasonably, shows its anger, she first tries to wave it off by saying, ‘Let’s ignore these, shall we?’ As Mike also asks rhetorically, what does she mean when she refers to the protesters as ‘these’? When they continue, she threatens to call the police.

Mike concludes

This Writer reckons the Tories are on the back foot, and this is a desperate attempt to regain credibility with the public.

It must not succeed.

So, if you see a Tory trying to defame the Left in this manner, don’t let it pass; challenge it.

We’ll see how long their feigned indignance lasts when they’re made to produce evidence – or shut up.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/06/tories-accuse-the-left-of-intolerance-and-bigotry-without-evidence-pot-kettle-black/

There are a number of issues underlying the petulant shrieks of intolerance by the Tories, some going back to patrician attitudes to the working classes that predate democratic politics.

Firstly, as Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman point out, there’s absolutely no evidence linking any of this to the Labour party. Indeed, some of it is just as likely to come from the Lib Dems or indeed just from people of no fixed political opinions, who are fed with the Tories. In rural areas like parts of the south west, the main rivals to the Conservatives aren’t Labour but the Liberal Democrats, and I’ve heard from former Conservative local politicians that the real hatred isn’t between Labour and the Conservatives, between the Tories and Lib Dems.

Secondly, the Tories’ attitudes in many ways is simply a display of the old, upper class suspicion of the working class. Way back in the early 19th century the upper classes hated and feared the Labouring poor as prone to rioting, and potentially subversive and disloyal. The only way to keep the unwashed masses in line was through outright repression and stern policing. This attitude vanished, or at least was seriously weakened when the great unwashed turned up at the Great Exhibition. And instead of wanting to burn the place down, showed themselves orderly, responsible and interested. But this latest accusation from the Fail with its petit bourgeois readership shows that the old hatred and fear of the working class as a seething mass of social disorder, yobbishness and violence, still remains.

Thirdly, it shows just out of touch ‘Nads’ Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook are. If people are lashing out at Tory MPs and their propaganda, it’s because they’ve been driven to it by grinding poverty and an administration that ignores everyone except the richest quarter of the population. Many areas of rural Britain, including Cornwall, have high unemployment. There’s also a problem of getting housing, which is often well out of the price range of locals thanks to wealthy people from outside the area buying it as second homes. I’ve a friend from Cornwall, who was particularly angry about this nearly a decade ago. I can remember him getting up to tackle a group of ‘upcountry’ people about it in a pub, when he overheard them talking about how cheap property was down there.

Then there are the national problems of acute poverty, caused by stagnating wages and cuts to basic welfare support. People want and deserve proper unemployment and disability benefits, and very definitely not to be forced to support themselves through charity and food banks.

And then there’s the whole issue of the privatisation of the NHS. A few months ago I wrote another pamphlet about that, in addition to the one, whose contents I put up here a week or so ago. While writing this, and documenting the way a long line of right-wing governments have been aiming to privatise the NHS since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, I felt so furious that I really couldn’t face any kind of Tory propaganda. I felt so bitterly angry at the way the health service is being run down, in order to soften it up for privatisation and purchase by largely American private healthcare companies.

Given all this, the British public has an absolutely right to be angry, and while I don’t approve of people urinating in anyone’s letter box, I honestly can’t blame them for vandalising the posters. In Bristol popular anger against the Tories could be seen just before the general election in a piece of graffiti scrawled outside the Eye Hospital near the BRI. It read: Donate Tory Blood – It’s Worth More!

Nads’, Murray’s and Sandbrook’s sneering about ‘left-wing intolerance’ shows the complacency and complete indifference to suffering of the Tory middle and upper classes. They’re very comfortably off, thank you very much, and the Tories are serving them very well. So they have no idea, and indeed react with absolute horror at the very idea that part of the masses hates them with a passion, because they have no understanding, or sympathy, with the real poverty and deprivation many people are struggling with. We’re back indeed in the territory of Matthew Freud’s comments about how the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they have less to lose.

There’s also an element of the old Tory landlord class, who expect their workers to put up and tug their forelock to the master, no matter how badly they were treated. A few years ago one of the BBC history programmes covered the Highland Clearances, the period in the late 18th and 19th centuries when the Scots aristocracy enclosed and forced their tenant farmers off their land so they could devote it to sheep rearing. The image of the wild, romantic Scots countryside actually post-dates this process. Before then the countryside north of the border was filled with rural communities – townships – and their people. It only became a wilderness when these people were forcibly evicted and their crofts and other homes pulled down.

And to add insult to injury, those workers, who managed to keep their jobs were expected to tug their forelocks and sing the praises of their masters. The programme mentioned how one ‘improving’ landlord, who was actually English, or half-English, got very upset when he decided to have a statue put up of himself. He expected his workers to pay for it, and was furious when many of them were less than enthusiastic.

It’s the same attitude here. The Tories still expect absolute feudal loyalty and subservience. When this is not forthcoming, and anger is shown instead, their own selfish indifference to the plight of the lower orders comes out, and they start screaming about how it’s all so unreasonable, intolerant, and, by implication, disobedient.

And lastly, it’s also massively hypocritical. The Tories have absolutely no business accusing anyone of intolerance, and especially not the Daily Heil. Not when sections of the party is still bitterly racist, with Mail and the Tory party championing even more stringent state censorship and surveillance of what we may read and post online, or say on the phone or other forms of social media. Not when they’ve created the legal infrastructure for secret courts, where you can be tried without trial, with having your lawyer see vital evidence against you, or even know who your accuser is, if the government decides this would all be against ‘national security’. Just like Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy!

And the Tories certainly have no problem with violence and intolerance when it directed against the left. I remember how the Scum put up an approving story during the Miner’s Strike, about how an old lady struck the then head of the NUM, Arthur Scargill, with a tin of tomatoes she’d thrown. This old dear was praised for her pluck and daring at the evil Commie, who was destroying the mining industry and forcing all good, right-thinking Thatcherite miners out of the pits. Yet when the reverse occurs, and someone throws eggs at the Tories, they start frothing and screaming at their intolerance.

And if we’re talking about the Right’s intolerance during the Miner’s Strike, then how about the way Thatcher used military-style policing, including unprovoked charges, against the miners. This was done officially, and covered up by a complicit media, including the Beeb. Violence, and the savage beating of protesters, ain’t intolerance when it’s done by the Tory forces of law and order.

Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook show themselves with this article, to be intolerant hypocrites themselves. They’re all too happy to see people ground into the most extremes of poverty and misery, but panic when some few show their dissent by tearing down their propaganda.

Cartoons of Cameron, Osborne, Peter Lilley, Milton Friedman and Paul Dacre

July 2, 2017

Hi, and welcome to another cartoon I drew a few years ago of the Conservatives and their supporters in the press and leading ideologues.

These are more or less straight drawings of five of the men responsible for the present nightmare that is Theresa May’s Britain. A Britain where a hundred thousand people are using food banks to stop themselves from starving. A Britain where a further seven million people live in households where they’re eating today, but don’t know if they’ll eat tomorrow. This is the Britain where the NHS is being gradually privatised behind the public’s back, so that the Tories don’t lose the next election. A Britain where the majority of the public would like the railways and utility industries renationalised, but the Tories want to keep them in private hands so that they provide substandard services at high prices for the profits of their managers and shareholders.

This is a Britain where the press screams hatred at ‘foreigners’ – meaning not just recent immigrants and asylum-seekers, but also EU citizens, who came here to work, but also second- or third-generation Black and Asian British. A press that demonises and vilifies Muslims, no matter how often they march against terrorist monsters like those of ISIS and their ulema – the Islamic clergy – denounce hatred and mass murder.

Immigrants and foreign workers are net contributors to the British economy. They are less likely to be unemployed and rely on the welfare state, so that their taxes are supporting the rest of us. Many of them have come here to fill very specific jobs. But they are still reviled for taking jobs from Brits, and for being scrounging layabouts, preventing true, hardworking Brits from getting the benefits they need.

This is a press that also denigrates and vilifies the very poorest in society – the unemployed, the disabled, unmarried mothers and others on welfare, so that the Tories can have the support of the public when they cut benefits to these groups yet again.

This is a Britain were the majority of people in benefits are working, but they’re stuck in low-paid jobs, often part-time, or zero hours contracts. Many of them are on short-term contracts, which means that, while they have a job today, they may not in a few months time. Nevertheless, even though these people do still work hard, the Tories have decided that the jobcentres and outsourcing companies should also pester and harangue them to get off benefits, because it’s their fault they’ve got a low-paid job. And this is despite the fact that it has been nearly four decades of Thatcherite doctrines about maintaining a fluid labour market, and a ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ to keep wages down.

The Tories are a party that yell passionately and incessantly about how they are ‘patriotic’, while the others were the ‘coalition of chaos’, but who have done so much to break up the United Kingdom into its separate kingdoms and provinces. Cameron called the ‘Leave’ referendum, hoping it would draw the venom from the Tory right. England voted for Brexit, but the rest of the UK voted to Remain. With the result that there is a real constitutional crisis about whether the UK can leave the EU and still remain intact.

It also threatens to renew the Nationalist/Loyalist conflict in Northern Ireland. Part of the Ulster peace process was that there would be an open border with Eire. The majority of people in the Six Counties, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, wish to retain the open border. But if Britain does leave the EU, then there’s a possibility that border will have to be closed.

The Tories have also endangered the fragile peace in Ulster in other ways. Having lost their majority in parliament, they’ve gone into an alliance with the DUP, a group of highly sectarian Loyalists, who condemn evolution, abortion, homosexuality and bitterly hate Roman Catholics and Gaelic Irish. They’re the same people, who demand the right to march through Roman Catholic areas screaming hatred at the residents. A party, whose links with Loyalist terrorists are so strong they’ve been dubbed ‘the Loyalist Sinn Fein’.

This is the party, that tries to present itself as for ‘hard-working’ ordinary people, while its dominated by elite aristocratic, old Etonians toffs like David Cameron and George Osborne.

The Conservatives have also been trying to present themselves as female-friendly and pro-women, as shown by their selection of Theresa May to lead them. But the people worst hit by austerity have been women, who make up the majority of low-paid workers, particularly in the service industries, like care workers and nurses. Some of the latter are so poorly paid, they’ve had to use food banks. When asked about this, all that brilliant intellectual Theresa May could do was to mumble something about how there were ‘complex reasons’ for it. No, there’s a very simple reason: you’ve paid them starvation wages.

This is a Britain where, according to Oxford University, 30,000 people were killed by the Tories’ austerity policy – introduced by Dodgy Dave Cameron – in 2015 alone. A policy which has dictated that people on benefits should be thrown off them apparently at the whim of a jobcentre clerk, and that terminally ill or seriously injured citizens should have their benefits withdrawn, ’cause they’re ‘fit to work’. Such poor souls have included cancer patients in comas.

Here’s a selection of some of those responsible for this squalid carnage.

At the bottom left is David Cameron. Bottom centre is George Osborne, and on his right is Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail. This is the Tory rag that has done so much to spread hatred against immigrants, ethnic minorities, the EU, the working class, the trade unions and which has been consistently anti-feminist. This last has been quite bizarre, considering that it was a founded as the newspaper to be read by the wives of the city financiers, who read the Torygraph.

On the right, above Dacre and Osborne, is Peter Lilley, from a decades old issue of Private Eye.

Lilley’s there because of his role in destroying the welfare state and privatising the NHS. It was Lilley, who pranced across the stage at a Tory conference in the 1990s reciting a stupid song he’d written about having a little list, in imitation of The Mikado. This was a list of everyone he hated, including single mothers and other benefit scroungers.

Lilley was also responsible for the PFI scheme, in which the government goes into partnership with private contractors to build and run public services, such as bridges and hospitals. These schemes are always more expensive, and deliver poorer service than if the bridge, hospital or whatever had been constructed using purely public funds. Hospitals built under PFI are smaller, and have to be financed partly through the closure of existing hospitals. See George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, about the way Britain has been sold off to the big corporations. But governments like it, because the technicalities of these contracts means that the costs are kept off the public balance sheet, even though the British taxpayer is still paying for them. And at a much higher rate, and for much longer, than if they had been built through conventional state funding.

Lilley’s PFI was the basis for New Labour’s ‘third way’ nonsense about running the economy. It has also been a major plank in the ongoing Thatcherite project of selling off the NHS. A few years ago, Private Eye published an article showing that Lilley developed the scheme, because he wanted to open the NHS up to private investment. And now, nearly two decades and more on, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries are being run by private healthcare companies, and the majority of NHS operations are actually being commissioned from private healthcare providers. The Tories hotly deny that they are privatising the NHS, but Jeremy Hunt has written a book in which he stated that he loathed state medicine, and Theresa May has kept him on Health Secretary, despite the bankruptcy of an increasing number of NHS Trusts, this shows that the reality is very much the complete opposite of their loud denials.

And the person on the left of Lilley is the American economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman was one of the great, free market advocates in the Chicago school of economists, demanding that the welfare state should be rolled back and everything privatised. He was the inventor of Monetarism, which was roundly embraced by Enoch Powell and then Maggie Thatcher. This was to replace the Keynsianism that had formed the cornerstone of the post-War consensus, and which stated that state expenditure would stimulate the economy and so prevent recessions. One of the other world leaders, who embraced Monetarism as his country’s official economics policy was the Chilean Fascist dictator and friend of Thatcher, Augusto Pinochet. Friedman regularly used to take jaunts down to Chile to see how the old thug was implementing his policies. When Pinochet was not imprisoning, torturing and raping people, that is.

One of Friedman’s other brilliant ideas was that education too should be privatised. Instead of the government directly funding education, parents should be given vouchers, which they could spend either on a state education, or to pay the fees for their children to be educated privately. This idea was also adopted by Pinochet, and there’s a very good article over at Guy Debord Cat’s on how it’s wrecked the Chilean educational system. Just as New Labour’s and the Tories privatisation of British universities and the establishment of privately run ‘academies’ are destroying education in Britain. It was also Maggie Thatcher, who began the trend towards removing the payment of tuition fees by the state, and replacing the student grant with student loans. The result has been that young people are now graduating owing tens of thousands in debt.

Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, said that when he was studying economics at Uni in the 1970s, Monetarism was considered so daft by his lecturers that no-one actually bothered to defend it. He suggested in an article that it was adopted by the Tories for other reasons – that it gave them an excuse to privatise the utility industries, destroy the welfare state and privatise the NHS. Even so, eventually it became too glaringly obvious to too many people that Monetarism was a massive failure. Not least because Friedman himself said so. This sent the Daily Heil into something of a tizzy. So they devoted a two-page spread to the issue. On one side was the argument that it was a failure, while on the other one of the hacks was arguing that it was all fine.

In fact, it’s become very, very obvious to many economists and particularly young people that the neoliberalism promoted by the Tories, New Labour, Friedman and the other free market ideologues is absolute rubbish, and is doing nothing but press more and more people into grinding poverty while denying them affordable housing, proper wages, welfare support and state medicine. But the elites are still promoting it, even though these ideas should have been put in the grave years ago. It’s the reason why one American economist called neoliberalism and similar free market theories ‘Zombie Economics’ in his book on them.

May’s government looks increasingly precarious, and it may be that before too long there’ll be another general election. In which case, I urge everyone to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, as he’s promised to revive the welfare state, renationalise the NHS and parts of the energy industry, and the rail network.

They’re policies Britain desperately needs. Unlike the poverty, misery and death created by the above politicos.

Cartoon – Cameron and Osborne Laughing at the People, Who Elected Them

July 1, 2017

This cartoon is simply a straight drawing of David Cameron and George Osborne, based on photographs of them from Private Eye. These showed them laughing like a malignant, old Etonian Nazi version of the Chuckle Brothers. Of course, the Tories enjoy a good laugh mocking the Labour party, or anybody else in parliament who dares to tell the truth about the mass poverty they’re inflicting for the profit of big business. Remember the way May laughed robotically shortly before the election, when Jeremy Corbyn dared to remind her of it?

But it’s also not hard to imagine that they are laughing, not simply as a way of trying to shrug off the entire accurate attacks on them and their vile policies, but also at the poor and the very people, who are suffering through their policies. Mike put up a picture a year or so ago of Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith, the minister in charge of culling the disabled, having a real belly laugh in parliament at a speech, in which the sufferings of one disabled woman due to their welfare reforms, were being read out and described.

If you want a graphic demonstration of the Tories’ real attitude to the poorm that was it.

The Tories are dismantling what’s left of the welfare state and privatising the NHS, all for the benefit of the rich and big business. They have seen their tax rates cut, while the tax burden has increasingly shifted to the poor and working class through the imposition of indirect taxes. This has been a direct consequence of nearly forty years of Thatcherism. Left-wing economists, politicians, and writers have said that it is the largest redistribution of wealth upwards for decades.

The result has been massive wealth for the few, while the 75 per cent of the population who aren’t rich have been thrust further into poverty. Over a hundred thousand people are forced to use food banks. Seven million people live in food insecure households, just about feeding themselves today, but unsure whether they’ll have enough tomorrow. Wages are stagnant and below the rate of the inflation. The disabled and unemployed are thrown off benefit at the whim of jobcentre clerks and decision makers. Many of those fortunate enough to have jobs are stuck in short-term, part-time or zero hours contracts. Insecure short-term work, which does not pay enough to support them or their families. The majority of people claiming benefits aren’t the unemployed, but people in work hit by this type of poverty.

And the Tories are hitting the working poor as well. If you’re low paid and need benefits, it’s your fault for not being able to get a better job, rather than due to structural faults in the economy and decades of Thatcherite employment policies. So they’re busy trying to find ways of sanctioning these poor souls as well.

This is all done in the name of creating a fluid jobs market, enabling employers to hire and fire workers at will, and not having to pay those workers they do retain if they don’t need them that day. This is supposed to create employment.

But the Tories aren’t interested in creating mass employment. 19th century free trade economists and their monetarist successors wanted to keep a certain proportion of the population – about 8 per cent – unemployed in order to use the threat of unemployment to keep the working class in line and wages low.

This has made the rich much richer. And some of the Tories were very frank about what it meant at the time. Private Eye, reviewing one of the ‘heritage’ books that came out during Thatcher’s period in office about the wonderful lives and stately homes of the aristocracy, quoted Hugh Massingberd’s comments about it in the Times. After decades of attack by Labour governments, who had imposed death duties on them to break up their wealth, the aristocracy were returning to their old power and status. It was, he declared, ‘a social restoration’.

The anonymous reviewer pointed out what this meant for the rest of us. The rich were winning back their old seats in society, and the rest of us were going to be sat on.

Meanwhile, the Tories have sought to maintain their grip on power through lie after lie. They claim that only they represent the real working class, defending hardworking people against idle scroungers like the unemployed and asylum seekers. The NHS is being privatised and cut to the bone, but they then claim with a straight face that in real terms, there’s more money being spent on it than ever before. They aren’t depriving people of benefits, only reforming it so that it goes to the people, who deserve. Yeah, it’s because these reforms are so accurate that we have so many people dying of starvation.

As for food banks, people are only using them because it’s free food. It’s another lie. You can only use them if you have a chit from the jobcentre to say you have no money and can’t feed yourself. But the truth is irrelevant to Tories mouthing this nonsense, like Edwina Currie.

And at the top you get the sneers and condescension from very rich Tories, who are doing very well, thank you very much. Johnny Void, Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman at Another Angry Voice carried a sample of some of these a few years ago. One Tory patrician declared that the homeless were ‘the people you step over coming out of the opera’. And Matthew Freud, who was briefly a member of Blair’s New Labour before jumping ship and joining the Tories, declared that the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they had less to lose.

These people are out of touch, and are sneering at the victim of the poverty they have imposed.

After the elections in the early 1990s, which saw John Major enter downing street as the new Tory pm, Spitting Image ran a series of sketches. These showed the Tories turning up outside the homes of ordinary people and asking them if they vote for them. When they said ‘Yes’, Major and his cabinet chanted ‘Stupid, Stupid’ at them. This was because the British public had voted them back in, despite massive poverty due to cuts and a housing crisis that had created a rise in homelessness as people had their homes repossessed for not being able to repay their mortgages.

Just as the lack of affordable housing now means that the majority of working people will be unable to afford their own home, and rents are also high.

So behind the carefully crafted veneer of ‘one nation’, ‘compassionate’ Conservatism – which is in fact anything but – it’s not hard to see that the Tories are having a laugh at the British public, sneering at the ordinary people, who elect them sincerely believing that they mean to serve them.

They don’t serve us, and have nothing in common with us, despite all that bilge about how ‘we’re all in it together’. They serve only the rich, and despise and hate the working and lower middle classes.

But for a genuine politicians, who does have the interests of the poor at heart, vote Labour and get Corbyn into office when ‘strong and stable’ May’s administration finally collapses.

Cartoon of the Tories as Pagan Cannibal Cult

June 27, 2017

This is another of the cartoons I drew a few years ago of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition under David Cameron and Nick Clegg and its cheerleaders and propagandists in the media.

As I’ve written in my posts about the other cartoons I’ve drawn of them, the Tories are responsible for misery and deaths in Britain on a massive scale. This has been a direct result of their austerity policy of freezing wages, cutting benefits and their use of the sanctions system within the DWP to throw tens of thousands off benefits every year, often for the most trivial of reasons. Terminally ill patients on their death beds have been told that their benefit has been removed, because they’re ‘fit for work’. Amputees have been asked when they expect their limbs to grow back. People have had their jobseekers allowance removed, because they missed an interview at the jobcentre due to being in hospital at the time. Disabled people with mobility problems have been required to attend fitness for work interviews at offices situated several floors up, with little or nothing in the way of disabled access.

Whistleblowers have also come forward to say that the DWP and the outsourcing companies it employs, such as Atos, have a quota system in which they are supposed to get a certain proportion of claimants off benefits regardless of their actual physical condition. Staff in jobcentres have also been awarded prizes, such as gold stars, sheriff’s badges, Easter eggs and so on for being the clerk, who has got the most people off benefit that week.

The result has been carnage. Mike and other disability bloggers managed, after a very lengthy campaign, to get figures from the DWP showing that for a given period, 13-14,000 people died after being found fit for work by Atos and the DWP. Researchers at Oxford University have found that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people. This means that from 2015 to date, in mid-2017, and including Mike’s figures for an earlier period, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers, have killed 87-88,000 people with their policies.

Over a hundred thousand people are now forced to use food banks as they have no income due to their benefits being removed. Seven million people live in ‘food insecure’ households, where it’s a struggle simply finding the money for this week’s food. Women are going hungry, because if they feed themselves, they’ll starve their children.

Meanwhile, the assault on the state sector continues. The Tories are pushing ahead with the privatisation of the NHS, transferring state healthcare which is free at the point of use into a private, for-profit system like the American system.

And so I decided to draw them as members of a pagan, cannibalistic cult like the Aztecs, or like those of the ancient Canaanites and the demons in ancient Mesopotamian religion.

Thus I drew David Cameron eating a human arm, and George Osborne wearing a human skull as a headdress. I decided to depict Alan Duncan with empty eye sockets and eyes in the palms of his hands, like the sinister Pale Man in Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth. Behind Cameron and Duncan loom a sculpture of a demon from ancient Iraq, and a human skeleton. Below Duncan and to his right is the figure of an ancient Mesopotamian priest or king. Left of Cameron is a drawing of Eric Pickles, who was one of the ministers in Cameron’s cabinet. I’m afraid the drawing’s a bit smudged, so you may not be able to make him out. And behind and to the left of him is Evan Davies, the BBC presenter. I put him in after he made some comment supporting the Tories or austerity.

And below Davies and Pickles is Andrew Lansley, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s wretched health minister. Lansley was responsible for a piece of convoluted legislation way back in 2012, which effectively removes the health minister from his statutory obligation, dating from the establishment of the NHS in 1948, to provide state healthcare. This is one of the major legal foundations for the Tories’ planned eventual privatisation of the NHS. See the discussion of this in Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book, NHS-SOS. And so I gave Lansley a sign saying ‘NHS – For Sale. Apply A Lansley’.

Since I drew the cartoon, Lansley’s been replaced by the equally appalling Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has been responsible for plunging tens of British hospitals into massive debt as part of the Tories’ piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.

Adding insult to injury is the lies the Tories are spinning about this crisis. People, according to them, aren’t going to food banks because they’re hungry. No! It’s because it’s free food. In fact, you can only use a food bank if you have a chit from the Jobcentre to say that you don’t have any money. And when Theresa May was asked by a TV presenter whether it was right that nurses should have to use food banks, she could only reply the weak excuse ‘There are complex reasons.’

There aren’t any complex reasons. There’s a very simple one: the Tories are paying starvation wages. Whey they are actually paying anyone, that is.

Davis and Tallis also point out that the NHS was in budget under the Labour administration the Tories replaced. And state expenditure was actually lower under Labour. But despite massive cuts to the NHS, the Tories are lying that the financial crisis, which they are using as their pretext to cut services and benefits, was all due to ‘high spending Labour’, rather than the 2008 financial crash created by corrupt bankers. And while NHS budgets are being cut to the bone and beyond, they’re also trying to tell the public that real expenditure on the NHS is higher than ever before in real terms.

All lies.

Bloggers such as Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike and DPAC have blogged about some of the victims, who have been killed by this murderous policy, and there are lists, art works and videos commemorating them. At present, the people on these lists number 500-600 plus, but this is just a tiny fraction of those, who have died.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to undo the Neoliberalism and austerity that is killing tens of thousands of people every year. He intends to scrap the fitness for work tests, pay people proper benefits and renationalise the NHS.

So please, vote for him and end the Tories’ reign of death and misery against the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the lower middle and working classes.