Archive for the ‘Wages’ Category

Tories’ Comments about Universal Credit and Self-Employed Show They Don’t Care About Small Businesses

March 2, 2018

Mike this evening put up a post about how the Tories are trying to justify the removal of benefits to the self-employed under Universal Credits by claiming that it ‘incentivises’ them. Mike makes the point that it clearly shows the cruelty behind the Tories’ policies. They’re all about cuts and making things harder, not about rewards. It’s always, but always the stick, not the carrot.

I’d have thought that to be self-employed, you have to be very well self-motivated anyway. I’ve heard from my father amongst others that to run your own business, you have to get up early and go to bed late. And about half of all small businesses fold within the first two years.

The self-employed and small businessman have it bad enough already, without the Tories making worse. And I think they should seriously consider voting Labour.

Oh, I’ve met enough small businesspeople, who say that they won’t vote Labour, because of the old canard that ‘Labour wants to nationalise everything’. That hasn’t been true since the rise of the Social Democratic consensus in the Labour party. As articulated by Anthony Crossland, this said that you didn’t need nationalisation or worker’s control, provided there was social mobility, a progressive income tax and strong trade unions. All of which have been destroyed under the onslaught of Thatcherism.

But even before then, socialist thinkers like G.D.H. Cole were arguing that Labour should also seek to protect small businesses as part of their campaign to defend and advance the cause of the working class. Cole was one of the most prolific of Socialist writers, and was one of the leaders of Guild Socialism, the British version of Anarcho-Syndicalism. Even after that collapsed, after the failure of the General Strike, he still beleived that workers’ should have a share in the management of the companies in which they worked. So definitely not a sell out to capital, then.

I am also well aware that many small businessmen are resentful of workers gaining wage rises and further employment rights. They argue that they can’t give themselves pay rises, because of the economics of their businesses, before complaining about how much it would all cost them. Well, perhaps. But they can decide how much they charge, and what they intend to pay themselves. And they control their business, not the people below them. I’m sure it’s true that some white collar workers are better paid than the self-employed, but that’s no excuse for not paying your employees better wages.

But a wider point needs to be made here: the Tories don’t support Britain’s Arkwrights, the s-s-small businessmen, who were personified by the heroes of Open All Hours, as portrayed by Ronnie Barker and David Jason.

And yes, I know about all the rubbish about how Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter, who slept above the shop when she was a child. But Thatcher, and her successors, was solidly for the rich against the poor, and big business against the small trader. That’s why they’ve given immense tax cuts to the very rich, and put the tax burden on the poorer layers of society. It’s why, despite repeated scandals, they will never willingly pass legislation to force big businessmen to pay their smaller suppliers promptly and on time.

And it’s why they will always back the big supermarkets, no matter how exploitative and destructive they are. George Monbiot in his Captive State has chapters attacking them. Not only are they parasitical, in that they pay their workers rubbish wages, so that they need to draw benefits, benefits that the Tories really don’t want to pay, they also destroy the small shops in the areas they move into. And they screw their suppliers with highly exploitative contracts.

In an ideal world, the big supermarket chains would be nationalised or broken up as monopolies.

The small businessperson needs to be protected. They, not the big supermarkets, create employment and healthy, living communities. They should be protected, just like the working and lower middle classes, which includes them, should.

And the only party I see willing to do that is the Labour party. Remember when Ed Balls said that Labour ‘wanted to grow your businesses’ to the small traders about this country? It was sincere. I think it was wrong on its own, as it shows how Labour under Blair had abandoned the working class, and was concentrating on hoovering up middle class votes. But ‘Red’ Ed did have a point. It should’t be a case of either the working class, or small businesses, but both the working class and small businesspeople.

Because the small businessman too deserves protection from exploitation. Which they will never get from the likes of Thatcher, Dave Cameron and May.


One Eighth of Bristolians Living in ‘Fuel Poverty’

March 2, 2018

‘Points West’, the local BBC news show for the Bristol region had a little report Wednesday night on the number of people in Bristol living in ‘fuel poverty’. This term, they explains, applies to anyone, who pays more than ten per cent of their income in heating costs. And there are 25,000 of them in Bristol. This is one-eighth of the city’s population. This is higher than in the surrounding country districts, but nationally about 11 per cent of the population are hit by it. They programme then interviewed some of the people, who had a choice between heating their homes, or eating.

They also talked to a Tory MP from over the other side of the country, who is trying to introduce legislation to improve matters. This won’t address issues like low wages and benefits, which are the root cause of this. No, he just wants to make sure everyone has proper loft insulation. David Garmston, the interviewer, tried to press him about the problem of low incomes, but he refused to be drawn, merely saying that he thought that Theresa May was concerned about this issue, and returning to his main concern of getting people cheap loft insulation so that everyone has it. And there the interview ended.

1/8 of the population of Bristol, or indeed, anywhere else, in fuel poverty is too many by far. The Tory’s plan for everyone to have state-sponsored loft insulation is a good starting point, but it’s only a starting point, not a solution.

And I don’t believe that Tweezer or any of the other Tories have any interest in the plight of the poor or those on low-incomes. Indeed, Tory policy for the past eight years or so has been solidly based on keeping wages and benefits low. Wages have either been frozen, or when they have been raised, the increase is deliberately set below the level of inflation. Benefits are being cut, and new ways invented all the time to throw the poor and disabled off them.

May and her squad of privileged thugs have promised that they’ll introduce a cap on energy prices, but this will not arrive for several months. Always assuming that it will arrive at all. The Tories have form for broken promises, and this is going to be one of them. I think they only made the promise because the problem of fuel poverty was too great to ignore, and that Corbyn and the Labour party had promised to solve it by renationalising part of the electricity grid. The prospect of any assault on the precious free market and private industry absolutely terrifies them, even when it is absolutely obvious to anyone not blinded by Thatcherite ideology that the free market doesn’t work. And so to stave off the threat of nationalisation, they’ve had to make a few promises of their own to regulate energy prices. Promises that I doubt they have any intention of keeping.

It’s been estimated that if the electricity network had been kept within the state sector, electricity prices would be 10 to 20 per cent cheaper.

This could all come back in Corbyn gets in and nationalises the grid. Which will mean cheaper electricity for consumers, but reduced profits for the energy companies, who donate to the Tory party, on whose boards no doubt many Tory MPs sit, and whose interests the Tories are keen to represent, against the wellbeing of the rest of us.

Don’t believe Tory lies. If you really want to see fuel poverty reduced, vote for Corbyn and the renationalisation of the electricity industry.

John Wycliff’s Arguments for Pacifism

February 18, 2018

Last Sunday I put up a piece about the Lollard sermon, The Perversion of the Works of Mercy. The Lollards were the late fourteenth-early fifteenth century followers of the English theologian and reformer, John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was a kind of proto-Protestant, who denounced the corruption of the church, rejected the papacy and maintained that the Bible should be the sole authority for Christian doctrine. The Perversion of the Works of Mercy attacks the way people have turned away from performing their Christian obligations to feed, clothe, give drink to the poor, visit and care for the sick and prisoners, and instead do this all for the rich and powerful. It’s a powerful message for today, when the Tories’ official policy is to increase the tax burden of the poor, in order to give massive tax cuts to the rich. The Tories are also cutting benefits to the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled as part of this programme of making the rich even richer, while at the same time claiming that the destruction of the welfare state is all for the benefit of the poor themselves. It’s saving them from ‘welfare dependency’, and is encouraging them, in the notorious words of Norman Tebbit, to get on their bikes and look for work. It’s all part of the Tory and Thatcherite embrace of the Victorian attitude of ‘less eligibility’, which stated that conditions of state aid should be as harsh as possible in order to deter people from taking it up, and encourage them to take any job, no matter how low paid or exploitative.

Wycliffe was also a pacifist. I also blogged a month or so ago about a book I found on his pacifism in the Oxbow Bargain Book Catalogue. Wycliffe’s pacifism is also discussed by Basil Cottle in his The Triumph of English 1350-1400 (London: Blandford Press 1969). Here’s the passage where he discusses Wycliffe’s rejection of war, quoting the medieval theologian himself:

In each particular, Wyclif’s views are revolutionary, and his treatment of of war is typical of this: those who go to war cannot with justice say the Lord’s Prayer. ‘And before the seven axingis that Crist techith in the Pater Noster meneth … algatis to axe in charite, and thefore men that liven in werre ben unable to have their axinge; but thei axen ther owne dampnynge in the fifte peticioun, for ther thei axen that God for3yve hem ther dettis that thei owen to Hym, ri3t as thei for3yven men that ben dettours unto hem.’ [And for this reason the seven askings that Christ teaches in the Lord’s Prayer mean… at all events to ask in charity, and therefore men that live in war are unable to have what they ask; but they ask for their own damnation in the fifth petition, because there they ask that God may forgive them their debts that they owe to Him, even as the forgive men that are debtors to them.] But what was the situation in which the divided Church now found herself?-the Pope offering indulgences t6o those who would fight against the antipope (a subject extensively treated in a sermon on Martyrs) , and Bishop Despenser of Norwich leading his beastly and futile ‘crusade’ of 1383 against Flanders: ‘now men seyen that thei shulden, bi lore of ther feith, werre upon Cristen men, and turnen hem to the Pope, and slee ther persones, ther wyves, and ther children, and reve hem ther goodis, and thus chastise hem. But certis this came nevere of chastyment of Crist, sith Crist seith He cam not to lese lyves bu save hem. And hefore this is chastyment of the fiend, and never chastyment of Crist, that uside pacience and myraclis.’ [Now men say that they should, by the teaching of their faith, war upon Christian men, and win them over to the Pope, and kill their persons, their wivs, and their children, and rob them of their goods, and thus punish them. But certainly this kinid of punishment never came from Christ, since Christ says He came not to destroy llives to save them. And for this reason this is a punishment from the dreadful fiend, and never a punishment from Christ, who used patience and miracles.] Yet ‘blynde heretikes wanten witt as ydiotis, whan thei seien that Petre synnede not in smytynge of Malcus ere, but 3af ensaumple to preestis to fi3t’ [blind heretics lack understanding, like idiots, when they say that Peter did not sin in striking off Maclhus’s ear, but set an example for priests to fight]-though Christ prevented him from fighting further. ‘Lord, where this Pope Urbane hadde Goddis charite dwelling in him, whan he stired men to fi3te and slee many thousaund men, to venge him on the tother People and of men that holden with him?’ [Lord, did this Pope Urban have ~God’s charity dwelling in him, when he incited men to fight and kill many thousand men, to avenge himself on the other Pope and on men who belong to his side?] The friars, says Wyclif, preach to a bellicose text- that the English must get in first with their attacks on their enemies in other countries, for fear they do the same and sin be increased on both sides; a hideous doctrine of sinning so as to good.)

Cottle goes on to observe that ‘This new pacifism may have distasteful to readers who still enjoyed the memory of Crecy and Poitiers and to the old soldiers who must have figure among the 1381 malcontents’ (the Peasant’s Revolt). (pp. 235-6).

This hatred of war was shared by Sir John Clanvowe, soldier, diplomat, courtier, poet, crusader, and the author of the Boke of Cupide. This was so similar to Chaucer’s works, that for a time it was accepted as that great poet’s own composition. Clanvowe himself died in a village near Constantinople. Clanvowe wrote

‘The world holt hem worshipful that been greet werryours and fi3teres, and that distroyen and wynnen manye londis, and waasten and 3even muche good to hem that haan ynou3, and that dispenden oultrageously in mete, in drynke, in clothing, in building, and in lyuyng in eese, slouthe, and many oothere synnes.’ [The world considers them honourable who are great warriors and fighters and destroy and conquer many lands, and waste and give much property to them that have plenty, and spend outrageously on food, drink, clothing, building, and living in ease, sloth, and many other sins.] (Cottle, op. cit., p. 253).

Cottle himself says of this passage that ‘the attack here is almost on rank, and Clanvowe is disgusted that it is of these proud and vengeful people that ‘men maken books and soonges, and reeden and singen of hem for to hoolde the mynde of here deedes the lengere here vpon erth’. [Men make books and songs, and recite and sing of them so as to keep the memor of their deeds the longer here on earth.] (p. 254).

As I said with my earlier post about the Perversion of the Works of Mercy, I’m not putting this up to attack Roman Catholicism. I despise religious intolerance and don’t want to provoke any more sectarian religious hatred. I’m also deeply impressed with the various Roman Catholic organisations, clergy and lay people that genuinely work for the poor and those in the needy, and radical groups like Doris Day’s Catholic Workers. My point here is to show merely that religious radicals, like Wycliffe and Clanvowe, despised the way the poor were ignored and treated by the rich, and condemned war as fundamentally unchristian.

This is an attitude that attacks and refutes the vicious opinions of the religious right, with their prosperity gospel – that Christ wants everyone to be rich, and if you’re poor, it’s your fault – and is solidly behind the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. These wars aren’t being fought to protect America, Israel or anyone else. They’re fought purely for the profit of immensely rich multinational corporations, who hope to profit from the theft of these nations’ state industries and oil reserves. As the above texts show, they would have been thoroughly condemned by Wycliffe and Clanvowe.

Chunky Mark on the Tory Supporter Who Punched Female Protester at UWE

February 7, 2018

One of the big stories this weekend, apart from the Sunset Times and Robert Peston libelling Mike as a Holocaust denier, was about the violence at a meeting held by Jacob Rees-Mogg at the University of the West of England in Bristol. The story, as reported by the mainstream news, was that the Antifa assembled there had attacked and hit Rees-Mogg. In fact, as Rees-Mogg himself stated later, he hadn’t been attacked.

But there was violence. And the Skwawkbox revealed that later footage of the incident showed it started with one of Mogg’s own Tory supporters. This thug stood in front of a young woman holding a placard, and struck her in the face. He then continued to stand there menacingly, and I think may have tried to hit her again.

And it also appears that this same man has also on occasion thought it would be jolly good fun to dress up in Nazi uniform.

In this clip from Chunky Mark, the Artist Taxi Driver, he expresses his own anger and disgust at the incident, and the thug’s predilection for Nazi dress. He also criticises the Tories’ hypocrisy over the incident. They’ve made much of the violence by the Antifa in order to discredit the left, as it shows them as intolerant. In the meantime, none of the mainstream media have covered the attack by this character. It was done by the Skwawkbox as a piece of citizen journalism. And Brandon Lewis, David Gauke and other Tories have actually defended the thug, who hit the young woman. Chunky Mark also attacks the way they want to take this round the universities.

He states very clearly and loudly that the Tories have no policies, and are attacking those who do. This is the people, who fight for higher wages, against homelessness, for the NHS and against people dying in corridors. People who believe that another world is possible.

I’m not surprised that the Tories supporter, who punched the protester liked to dress up in Nazi uniform. A number of them were caught doing this several years ago in a series of scandals. And Private Eye reported several times that the late Conservative cabinet minister, Alan Clarke, used to describe himself as a ‘Nazi’. He probably wasn’t, but it shows the fascination the Third Reich and the Nazis have for a certain type of right-wing Conservative.

As for Brandon Lewis wanting to tour this round the universities, and pass legislation so that it’s impossible to criticise it, this refers to the government’s concerns about democracy on campus. The Tories are afraid that some of the groups at university threaten free speech. By which I think they mean the anti-racist, feminist and gay rights groups. I think they’re afraid of the strong position such groups hold on campuses throughout Britain, and want to attack them as part of a campaign to promote approved Tory values. It’s just part of their programme to change educational system to indoctrinate children and young people with Conservative views. Like Michael Gove tried to do when he was head of education a few years ago, and complained about schoolchildren getting the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War.

They’ve clearly realised that actually admitting that they want to promote Conservativism amongst students would sound bad, and so they’ve been trying to pass this off as a defence of free speech. But the only speech they’re interested in defending is for themselves. They really want to close down everyone else’s. And so they and their supporters in the press were busy promoting this story about Rees-Mogg and his supporters being attacked, and very carefully ignoring the fact that the violence was started by the Conservatives.

Fabian Pamphlet From the 1980s: What Women Want are Left-Wing Policies

February 3, 2018

For a very brief period in the 1980s I was a member of the Fabian Society. The other day I managed to dig out of my collection of old Fabian pamphlets one by Patricia Hewitt and Deborah Mattinson, entitled Women’s Votes: the Key to Winning, published in 1989.

I haven’t read it yet, but the first page, in the introduction, astonished me by completely challenging the received wisdom about women’s voting preferences. As Hewitt and Mattinson point out, women have been considered far more Conservative politically than men. But at the last general election (1987), they supported the Labour party and left-wing policies just as much as men. The Introduction runs

The Labour Party needs women’s votes in order to win the next election. The evidence suggests that these votes can be won but the Party must persuade women that it will not only stand by it values but also carry out its policies when in government.

Until quite recently, it was accepted political wisdom tht women were more conservative than men. Within the labour movement, women voters were widely blamed for electing Mrs Thatcher and it was believed that a future Labour victory would depend more on men than on women.

Before the 1987 general election, the Conservatives generally did better amongst women than amongst men. The reverse was true for Labour. There was a ‘gender gap’, and it worked in the Tories’ favour.

That has now changed. In 1987 Labour closed the gender gap for the first time. There is good evidence for believing that, in future, Labour will do better amongst women voters than amongst men.

We start by looking at the 1987 and 1983 voting patterns to analyse Labour’s relative strength amongst women and men, and amongst different groups of women. We then look in more detail at women’s and men’s values and attitudes, drawing on recent opinion polling and qualitative research, including a series of small discussion groups undertaken especially for the Fabian Society and reported in this pamphlet.

Next we examine attitudes to issues and suggest the policy areas on which Labour should concentrate, before turning to proposals for how Labour can become more representative of women. Finally, we briefly consider unplublished and published material from Australia and the USA, where the Australian Labor Party and the American Democrats are reaching similar conclusions to our own.

The evidence strongly suggests that women voters are more likely to share and respond to Labour’s values than men. They are more likely to vote for an ‘enabling’ state which intervenes to protect the environment, regulate business and industry, redistribute income and wealth, provide a high level of social and welfare services, and promote greater equality between women and men. Increasingly, women are Labour’s natural constituency. (Emphasis mine.)

This bears out the ideology behind much of the right-wing, Conservative, and Libertarian misogyny in the US. The Libertarians, right-wing Republicans like Anne Coulter, and the Fascists in the Alt-Right, would like to deprive women of the vote partly because they see them as more left-wing than men, and more willing to expand the power of the state. Which challenges their notion of freedom under classical liberal economics, in which the ideal state is that of the mid-19th century.

It also shows why millions of women did not vote for Killary. For all Clinton’s promotion of herself as a feminist representing women, she signally did not. She was a bog-standard, corporatist politician and foreign policy hawk. Her gender made absolutely no difference whatsoever to the policies she promoted and espoused. She was far too right-wing for many American women, who voted with their feet. And they did so not because they were told to by their husbands and boyfriends, as Killary later claimed, or because of misogyny by nonexistent ‘Bernie Bros’.

The same goes for the female Blairites in the Labour party. They’re simply a continuation of Blair’s pro-corporate, neoliberal programme, which was basically just reheated Thatcherism with sickly grin. The comments by some of these female faux ‘moderates’ that they will be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories is not going to impress ordinary working women, already doing the worst paid jobs and, like working men, suffering from precarious unemployment conditions.

And this shows how desperate and threadbare the corporate, mainstream media has been in pushing the narrative that the Labour party under Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders’ supporters in the Democrats in America, are misogynists. Because they aren’t, and the neoliberal entryists know it. Hence too the portrayal by some of these corporatist women to draw a difference between themselves, representing the glorious middle-class, pro-woman future, and male-dominated, working class Old Labour.

The truth is, women seem to be more left-wing than corporatist, neoliberal shills like Hillary Clinton, Angela Eagle and the rest of the post-Blair faction in the Labour party. And its frightening them, and the rest of the Right-wing establishment. And so we’re left with stupid lies about misogyny and intimidation from them and the corporate media.

Another Crisis in the Outsourcing Industry: Capita Now in Trouble

February 1, 2018

Yesterday, Mike reported on his blog that the outsourcing giant, Capita, was now in trouble. Its share price has apparently halved, knocking £1.1 billion of its stock market value. It has axed its scheme to issue £500 million in dividends to its shareholders. Instead, it intends to raise £700 million, partly by selling off parts of the company, which it needs to balance the books. There are also fears that it will make part of its 67,000 strong workforce redundant as well as concerns for the firm’s pension fund.

Mike in his article notes that the company was responsible for assessing the infamous fitness for work tests, for which the government has imposed hidden targets. One of these is that 80 per cent of reconsidered cases should be turned down. Mike therefore comments that if the crisis means that some of these assessors get a taste of what they inflicted on benefit claimants, this would be a case of poetic justice. He also wonders what the firm was doing when it devised the scheme to issue those massive dividends to its shareholders. Did they believe that the government’s magic money tree would continue to allow them to give heaps of money to their rich shareholders? He also asks other searching questions, such as whether it was deliberately underbidding to get government contracts, and then using the money to help finance those projects it had already won.

Mike concludes

So: First Carillion collapsed. Now both Interserve (remember them?) and Capita are in trouble.

Who’s next? And what will happen to public services while the Tories dither over this crisis?


Capita, or as Private Eye dubbed it, ‘Crapita’, has a long history of incompetence behind it. Way back in the 1990s it seemed that hardly a fortnight went by without Capita turning up in the pages of the satirical magazine. And the story was nearly always the same. The outsourcing company won a government or local authority contract to set up an IT system or run IT services. The project would then go over time and over budget, and would be massively flawed. And then a few weeks or months later, the company would be given a contract somewhere, and do exactly the same thing there.

You’re left wondering how Crapita kept winning those contracts, when it was so manifestly unfit to carry them out. Who did it have on its board? Or was there a deliberate policy by Major’s government to support outsourcing, no matter how inefficient and incompetent they were, because it was private enterprise and so preferred and supported for purely ideological reasons?

In any case, what seems to have placed the company in a very precarious financial situation is the usual tactics of big companies in this stage of capitalism: award massive dividends to the shareholders. This usually goes along with starving the rest of the company of investment, which seems to have been done to. And granting massive, and massively unsustainable pay awards to senior management. There’s no mention of that in Mike’s article, but I don’t doubt that this was done too. I’ve got the impression that it’s just about standard practice across a huge swathe of industry.

This is a financial strategy that has driven far more than one company to the wall. I also wonder if the executives weren’t also trying deliberately to create a debt, so that they could dodge corporation tax for five years. This is one of the tricks Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack describe in their book on contemporary British poverty, Breadline Britain.

Over the years the outsourcing policy has been in operation, there’s been one crisis after another. The outsourcing companies have repeatedly shown themselves to be incompetent, not just in the case of capita, but also notoriously with G4S and the scandals over the violence and brutality it meted out towards asylum seekers in the detention centres it ran. And, of course, when a whole load of prisoners escaped on their way to court. Or jail.

Private industry has repeatedly shown that it is incompetent to do the work of the state sector. These firms have the disadvantage of having to make a profit for their shareholders, as well as the demands of their management for multi-million pound pay packets. The only way they can afford this is by cutting wages to their workers, and spending as little as possible on the service they are meant to be providing. The result of this has been a series of financial collapses. Carillion was the first. Now Capita and Interserve, another outsourcing company, is in similar trouble.

The only sensible recourse should be to cancel these companies’ contracts, and take everything back in-house. But this won’t be done. I think there’s a problem in that the state sector has been so decimated by the past four decades of Thatcherism, that it no longer has the capacity to run these services itself. There’s also the additional problem that too many politicians and media magnates have connections to these companies, or to firms in a similar position hoping for government contracts. Acknowledging that outsourcing was a failure would damage the interests of these politicos and press barons. There’s also the challenge of actually facing up to the fact that a central plank of Thatcherite dogma – that private enterprise is always more efficient than the state – is absolutely, undeniably wrong. Anybody who makes this point is denounced as a Communist in screaming headlines. You only have to look at the way the Tory press has vilified Jeremy Corbyn for daring to want to renationalise the NHS, the electricity net and the railways. His policies are very far from the total nationalisation demanded by Communists and Trotskyites, but you wouldn’t know it from the frothing abuse hurled in his direction by the Tories and Blairites.

There’s also another problem with calling an end to the outsourcing scam. PFI contracts and outsourcing allow some of the costs to be written off the official government accounts sheet. They’re still there, and we have to keep paying them, but they’re not included in the official figures. It’s why Mussolini used a similar scam when he was Duce of Fascist Italy. Any government that restores these projects to the way they were handled before risks putting millions back the official figures. And if that’s the Labour party, you can imagine the Tories making their usual hackneyed and untrue comments about ‘high-spending Labour’, and then re-iterating the spurious arguments for austerity.

I’ve no doubt that the government will do what it can to shore up the current mess the outsourcing companies are in. But the collapse of Carillion and now the severe financial troubles faced by Capita and Interserve show that outsourcing does not work. And given these companies’ highly checkered history, they should never have been given governments to begin with.

And it bears out exactly the description the author of Zombie Economics used for them in the very title of his book. Outsourcing, and the rest of the Thatcherite economic strategy of privatisation, wage restraint, low taxation and declining welfare are ‘zombie economics’ as they don’t work, but haven’t yet been put it into the grave.

It’s high time they were, and Thatcherite free trade capitalism was abandoned as the failure it so glaringly is.

No, Tweezer! It’s Not Labour that’s Attacking Investment, but Tory Privatisation

January 20, 2018

More lies from Theresa May, the lying head of a mendacious, corrupt, odious party. Mike put up another piece earlier this week commenting on a foam-flecked rant by Tweezer against the Labour party. She began this tirade by claiming that Labour had turned its back on investment. This was presumably out of fear of Labour’s very popular policies about renationalising the Health Service, the electricity industry and the railways.

But Labour hasn’t turned its back on investment. Far from it. Labour has proposed an investment bank for Britain – something that is recognised by many economists as being badly needed. It was one of Neil Kinnock’s policies in 1987, before he lost the election and decided that becoming ‘Tory lite’ was the winning electoral strategy.

The Korean economist, Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches at Cambridge, has pointed out that privatisation doesn’t work. Most of the British privatised industries were snapped up by foreign companies. And these companies, as he points out, aren’t interested in investing. We are there competitors. They are interested in acquiring our industries purely to make a profit for their countries, not ours. Mike pointed this out in his blog piece on the matter, stating that 10 of the 25 railway companies were owned by foreign interests, many of them nationalised. So nationalised industry is all right, according to Tweezer, so long as we don’t have it.

The same point is made by Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack in their book, Breadline Britain: the Rise of Mass Poverty (Oneworld 2015). They write

The privatisation, from the 1980s, of the former publicly owned utilities is another example of the extractive process at work, and one that hs brought a huge bonanza for corporate and financial executives at the expense of staff, taxpayers and consumers. Seventy-two state-own enterprises we4re sold between 1983 and 1991 alone, with the political promise that the public-to-private transfer would raise efficiency, productivity and investment in the to the benefit of all. Yet such gains have proved elusive. With most of those who landed shares on privatisation selling up swiftly, the promised shareholding democracy failed to materialise. In the most comprehensive study of the British privatisation process, the Italian academic Massimo Florio, in his book The Great Divistiture, has concluded that privatisation failed to boost efficiency and has led to a ‘substantial regressive effect on the distribution of incomes and wealth in the United Kingdom’. Despite delivering little in the way of unproved performance, privatisation has brought great hikes in managerial pay, profits and shareholder returns paid for by staff lay-offs, the erosion of pay and security, taxpayer losses and higher prices.
(P. 195).

They then go on to discuss how privatisation has led to rising prices, especially in the electricity and water industries.

In most instances, privatisation has led to steady rises in bills, such as for energy and water. Electricity prices are estimated to be between ten and twenty per cent higher than they would have been without privatisation, contributing to the rise in fuel poverty of several years. Between 2002 and 2011, energy and water bills rose forty-five and twenty-one percent respectively in real terms, while median incomes stagnated and those of the poorest tenth fell by eleven percent. The winners have been largely a mix of executives and wealth investors, whole most of the costs – in job security, pay among the least well-skilled, and rising utility bills – have been borne by the poorest half of the population. ‘In this sense, privatisation was an integral part of a series of policies that created a social rift unequalled anywhere else in Europe’, Florio concluded.
(pp. 156-7)

They then go on to discuss the particular instance of the water industry.

Ten of the twenty-three privatised local and region water companies are now foreign owned with a further eight bought by private equity groups. In 2007 Thames Water was taken over by a private consortium of investors, mostly from overseas. Since then, as revealed in a study by John Allen and Michael Pryke at the Open University, the consortium has engineered the company’s finances to ensure that dividends to investors have exceeded net profits paid for by borrowing, a practice now common across the industry. By offsetting interest charges on the loan, the company will pay no corporation tax for the next five to six years. As the academics concluded: ‘A mound of leveraged debt has been used to benefit investors at the expense of households and their rising water bills.’
(P. 157).

They also point out that Britain’s pro-privatisation policy is in market contrast to that of other nations in the EU and America.

It is a similar story across other privatised sectors from the railways to care homes. The fixation with private ownership tis also now increasingly out of step with other countries, which have been unwinding their own privatisation programmes in response to the way the utilities have been exploited for private gain. Eighty-six cities – throughout the US and across Europe – have taken water back into a form of public ownership.
(Pp. 157-8)

Even in America, where foreign investors are not allowed to take over utility companies, privatisation has not brought greater investment into these companies, and particularly the electricity industry, as the American author of Zombie Economics points out.

Lansley and Mack then go on to discuss the noxious case of the Private Equity Firms, which bought up care homes as a nice little investment. Their debt manipulation shenanigans caused many of these to collapse.

So when Tweezer went off on her rant against Labour the other day, this is what she was really defending: the exploitation of British consumers and taxpayers by foreign investors; management and shareholders boosting their pay and dividends by raising prices, and squeezing their workers as much as possible, while dodging tax.

Privatisation isn’t working. Let’s go back to Atlee and nationalise the utilities. And kick out Theresa, the Tories and their lies.

Musical Satire: Gauking Heads

January 17, 2018

This is another satirical song from Dutch Wogan over on YouTube. In it, he impersonates cabinet minister David Gauke singing a very pointed version of Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’. Gauke was one of those, who changed department in the cabinet last week. The song includes the lines ‘a new department every week’, and there is a definitely a hidden meaning when Gauke gets to the question, ‘Well, how did I get here?’ It also notes that Gauke is yet another Tory cabinet minister, who definitely doesn’t want to pay his workers, and so offers his staff instead ‘unpaid training jobs’. Enjoy!

Counterpunch on America’s Long Racist Hatred of Haiti

January 17, 2018

I blogged earlier this week about how Haiti was the first Black republic, where its enslaved people threw off their chains under the Black revolutionary, Toussaint Louverture, and threw out their French colonial overlords at the time of the French Revolution. The country became an inspiration to slaves struggling for their freedom in America and the Caribbean, and created panic among the European masters. They feared that their slaves were in contact with the Haitian revolutionaries, and that the next Black revolt would succeed where the others had been suppressed. And from the late 18th through the early 19th century, there were a series of revolts in the Caribbean by slaves, impatient for their freedom.

Mark Schuller, the Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University, and affiliate at the Faculte d’Anthroplogie, l’Universitat d’Etat d’Haiti, wrote a piece discussing Haiti and America’s obsessive hatred of the country. Put simply, it’s because the American plantation masters were terrified of the example the Black republic gave to their slaves, and so they did everything they could to limit discussion of it and ultimately to conquer and dominate it. And not just America, but also France, and the exploitation and class rule imposed by the Americans under neoliberalism after the overthrow of the last Haitian president. He writes

What is behind Trump – and white America’s – obsession with Haiti?

Haiti has been targeted for its decisive role in challenging what Southern planters – including eight U.S. Presidents – called a “peculiar institution.” The Haitian Revolution was the first time slaves were able to permanently end slavery and forge an independent nation. It also was a tipping point in U.S. history, leading to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, paving the way for U.S. “Manifest Destiny” stretching from sea to shining sea and eventual dominance. Chicago, the country’s third largest city, was founded by a Haitian, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who Haitian historian Marc Rosier called an “agent” of the Haitian government to pursue a pro-freedom international policy.

Haiti’s contribution to U.S. “greatness” has long been unacknowledged. The pivotal Haitian Revolution was literally “unthinkable,” as Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot argued. The demonization of Haiti was so strong, its inspiration to slaves so dangerous, that Congress imposed a gag order in 1824, preventing the word Haiti from being uttered in Congress, a year after the imperialist Monroe Doctrine.

White supremacy was not defeated in the Appatomox Court House in 1865, nor the 13th Amendment that allowed for a back-door legalization of slavery, nor in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, nor in the 1965 Voting Rights Act following “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, nor in the 2008 election of the first African American President.

Through it all, as Haitian anthropologist Gina Athena Ulysse analyzed, Haiti has served as the “bête noir” in a deliberate smear campaign against the descendants of the people who said no to white supremacy.

These narratives of Haiti continued throughout the initial response to the 2010 earthquake, from the likes of televangelist Pat Robertson and the New York Times’ David Brooks. As New Yorker contributing writer Doreen St. Felix pointed out, this obsession with Haiti has to do with white society’s rejection of black self-determination.

These discourses have definite and powerful material consequences.

France, which in 2001 declared slavery a “crime against humanity,” extorted 150 million francs from Haiti as a condition of recognition of Haitian independence, plunging Haiti into a 120-year debt that consumed up to 80% of Haiti’s tax base. Socialist president Jacques Chirac scoffed at Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s demand for reparations before being the first to call for his resignation in 2004.

Calling Haiti “ungovernable” provided justification for U.S. intervention: The United States invaded Haiti twenty-six times from 1849 to 1915, when U.S. Marines landed and occupied the country for nineteen years. During the U.S. Occupation, the Marines set up the modern army, opened up land for foreign ownership, solidified class and racial inequality, laying the groundwork for the 1957-1971 Duvalier dictatorship.

Incorrectly blaming Haiti for its role in the AIDS epidemic killed the tourist industry, which, along with the deliberate destruction of Haiti’s pig population, sent the economy in a nosedive. Neoliberal capitalist interests seized the opportunity to take advantage of the massive rural exodus to build sweatshops, exploiting people’s misery by offering the lowest wages in the world. With poverty wages, and a crippling foreign debt that according to the IMF’s own recordkeeping went to the paramilitary tonton makout, Port-au-Prince’s shantytowns had no services and no government oversight. These foreign interventions were the main killer in the 2010 earthquake.

He also makes the point that the accusation that indigenous Haitians were ‘looters’, along with other racist claims, meant that the efforts of the Haitian people themselves in combating the disasters that beset their country were ignored. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission was chaired by Bill Clinton, and the humanitarian aid coordinated by the UN. Native Haitians were excluded from these meetings either by foreign soldiers, or by the simple fact that they were in English, while Haiti itself is a bilingual country, speaking French and a French-based creole. The NGOs themselves had a top down, hierarchical structure, excluding people in the refugee camps from their decisions. The result was the break-up of Haitian families, and increasing violence against women.

His article ends:

Calling the world’s beacon of freedom a “shithole” sullies not only Haiti’s ten million residents on the island and three million in the U.S., but is an affront to human freedom and equality.

As award-winning Haitian author Edwidge Danticat argued, “today we mourn. Tomorrow we fight.”


More Eugenics from the Tories: Voice of Conservative Youth Wanted Young Unemployed Sterilised

January 17, 2018

I just read this little bit by Mike over at his Vox Political blog. It seems that Ben Bradley, who was appointed by Tweezer as the vice-chair of Young People, put up a blog post in 2012 declaring that unless something was done, Britain would drown in a sea of ‘unemployed wasters’ due to unemployed people on benefits having too many children. He then argued that they should be forced to have vasectomies. The story was, apparently, uncovered by Buzzfeed, and when they came to Bradley for comment, he simply deleted the article.

Bradley’s a nasty piece of work anyway. He was four-square behind the benefit cap, and voted against scrapping tuition fees, against university maintenance grants, against nurses’ bursaries, against Education Maintenance Allowance, ending the public sector pay cap and increases to the minimum wage.

In other words, he’s a typical Tory, who thinks only of enriching himself and his class, and exploiting working people, who no doubt after Ayn Rand he also regards as ‘moochers’ and ‘looters’. His comments about sterilising the young unemployed are pure eugenics. In the early part of the 20th century, the chattering classes all over Europe and America were worried by the possibility that the ‘dysgenic’ poor would outbreed all the responsible, biologically superior middle and upper classes, and so demanded legislation to stop them breeding. This programme was then taken up by the Nazis, who sterilised the congenitally disabled and recidivist criminals, before launching the infamous Aktion T4, which saw the mentally retarded murdered by Nazi doctors in clinics, in an operation run by the SS.

One of those, who was impressed by the eugenics argument was Lord Beveridge, before he issued his report that laid the foundations for the NHS. Beveridge argued that the long-term unemployed should be granted state support, but in return they would have to be sterilised to prevent them producing more children like them, who would be a drain on the state’s resources.

It’s recently been revealed that amongst his other activities, Toby Young attended a eugenics conference at University College London, as well as writing an article supporting it. And way back in the 1970s, Thatcher’s mentor Sir Keith Joseph expressed similar sentiments when he claimed that unmarried mothers were a threat to ‘our stock’.

The Tory party, it seems, is full of borderline Nazis, who hate the poor and the disabled, and wish them nothing but harm. Because they consider them a positive threat, not just to their position in society, but also to their biological superiority and purity.

Here’s Chunky Mark’s perspective on Bradley’s comments, in which he states that Bradley’s comments about it aren’t really an apology. He merely says that ‘the language was wrong’. Chunky Mark states that we are just experiments to the Tories, with people dying in corridors, and hormones injected into our food animals, which contaminate the meat. The Tories really believe in eugenics, and we’re their dinner.