Archive for the ‘Working Conditions’ Category

‘I’ Newspaper on Labour’s Plans to Liberate University Regulator from Market Forces

February 16, 2019

Today’s I for Saturday, 16th February 2019 has an article by Florence Snead on page 4 reporting Labour’s plans to overhaul the universities regulator, and remove the free market ideology currently underpinning its approach to higher education in the UK. The piece, entitled ‘Universities ‘should not be left to the mercy of market forces’ runs

Labour has unveiled how it would overhaul the higher education system as it claimed the system’s new regulator was “not fit for purpose”.

The shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner will criticize the Office for Students – established by the Government in 2018 – in a speech today at the annual University and Colleges Union conference.

She will say the regulator represents a system “where market logic is imposed on public goods” and where “forces of competition run rampant at the expense of students, staff and communities.”

Labour said it wants the regulator to report on diversity in university staff and student bodies and to take action to make universities “genuinely representative of the communities they serve”.

Staff should also be represented on the regulator’s board to ensure their views are heard, it added.

The party said it would also ban vice chancellors sitting on their own remuneration committees.

Ms Rayner is also expected to address the issue of universities being on the brink of bankruptcy, as previously revealed by I.

“Students would be left with immense uncertainty about their futures and entire communities would lose one of their major academic, economic and social institutions.”

Universities minister Chris Skidmore responded: “Universities know they can’t trust Corbyn as his plans would crash the economy, mean less investment in our higher education, compromising its world class quality”.

Actually, if anything’s trashed our world class education system, it’s been the Thatcherite programme of privatization and free market ideology. Scientific research at UK universities has been hampered ever since Thatcher decided that university science departments should go into partnership with business. Which has meant that universities can no longer engage in blue sky research, or not so much as they could previously, and are shackled to producing products for private firms, rather than expanding the boundaries of knowledge for its own sake. Plus some of the other problems that occur when scientific discoveries become the property of private, profit driven industries.

Then there’s the whole problem of the introduction of tuition fees. This should not have been done. I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol when Mandelson and Blair decided to do this, and it’s immediate result was the scaling down of certain departments and shedding of teaching staff. Those hardest hit were the departments that required more funding because of the use of special equipment. This included my own department, Archaeology, where students necessarily go on digs, surveys and field expeditions. This means that the department had to have transport to take its staff and students to wherever they were excavating, provide digging equipment, although many students had their own trowels. They also needed and trained students in the use of specialist equipment like the geophysical magnetometers used to detect structures beneath the soil through the measurement of tiny changes in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as labs to clean up and analyse the finds, from the type of soil in which they were found, the material out of which the finds were made, chemical composition of various substances, like food residue in pots, so you can tell what people were eating and drinking, and the forensic examination of human and animal remains.

I’ve no doubt that this situation was made worse when Cameron and Clegg decided to raise tuition fees to their present exorbitant level. Which has meant that students are now saddled with massive debt, which may make it difficult for some ever to afford to buy their own homes. Student debt was already an issue just after I left college, when the Tories decided to end student grants. After the introduction of tuition fees it has become an even more critical issue.

Then there’s the whole issue of proper pay and conditions for university lecturers. This is nowhere near as high as it should be. A friend of mine in the ’90s was one of the Student Union officers at our old college/uni. He told me one day just what some of the highly skilled and educated lecturers were earning. And it was low. Many of them were on part-time work, and I think the pay for some of them was at average wage level or below. And that was then. I’ve no idea what it’s like now. I’ve come across reports of a similar crisis at American universities and colleges, where the pay for the managers has skyrocketed while that of teaching staff has fallen catastrophically. And this is all part of the general pattern throughout industry as a whole, where senior management has enjoyed massively bloated pay rises and bonuses, while staff have been laid off and forced on to short term or zero hours contracts and low pay.

All this has been done in the name of ‘market forces’ and the logic of privatization.

I am not remotely surprised that British higher education is in crisis, and that an increasing number of colleges and universities are facing bankruptcy. This was always on the cards, especially as the population surge that inspired many colleges and polytechnics to seek university status on the belief that there would be enough student numbers to support them, is now over. Market logic would now dictate that, as the universities are failing, they should be allowed to collapse. Which would deprive students and their communities of their services.

The structure of British higher education needs to be reformed. The entire Thatcherite ethic of privatization, free markets, and tuition fees needs to be scrapped. Like everything else Thatcher and her ideological children ever created, it is a bloated, expensive and exploitative failure. My only criticism about Corbyn’s and Rayner’s plans for the unis isn’t that they’re too radical, but that they’re too timid.

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Private Eye on the Real Reason James Dyson Is Moving His Business to Singapore

February 8, 2019

A week or so ago I put up a number of posts reporting and commenting on the outrage James Dyson caused when he announced that he was moving his company’s HQ to Singapore.

Dyson has been given a great deal of support from this country, and in the West Country he was regarded, or at least presented by the local media as a local hero. But he’s done this before. A few years ago he demanded that Bath give him more land to expand his business. They refused, so he decided instead to expand in the Far East. He needn’t have done so. If there was no room at Bath, he could have happily gone to other south-western towns. He already has plants in Malmesbury and Bristol, for example. Or gone further afield, like Wales or the north, which would also have been glad to have him. But he didn’t.

It was especially hypocritical as Dyson was telling everyone within earshot a few years ago that we should have joined the Euro. Then he decided he was backing Brexit. Now it appears that he has gone to Singapore partly because they’ve signed a trade agreement with the EU, which would make it easier for him to export his goods to them from there rather than Blighty.

Private Eye has run two pieces on Dyson in this fortnight’s edition for 8th-21st February 2019. And they make it very clearly that he’s going for the same reasons every exploitative multinational is heading abroad due to neoliberalism: to take advantages of countries with low tax rates, where workers can be hired and fired almost at will. The first article, ‘Bye-Bye Suckers!’ on page 7, runs

So Sir James Dyson’s relentless bullishness about post-Brexit Britain was so much hot air. The man who will now move his HQ to Singapore evidently has little real faith that Brexit will unleash the potential he has long claimed.

Th benefits of Singapore are likely to go beyond the proximity to his Asian empire that Dyson claims. By moving east it will also be easier to reduce workers’ rights. As Dyson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr last year: “This is controversial, but since I don’t know what orders I’m going to get next month or next year, industry, manufacturing industry’s very volatile. Not being able to flex your workforce is another big reason why you wouldn’t start a manufacturing business or expand a manufacturing business.” Elsewhere, he agreed bluntly, it was easier to hire and fire.”

This is not the most generous response to what the UK has given Dyson. Since 2012 his group has sucked up around 100m pounds in tax credits, ie discounts on its corporation tax bill. IN 2011 the then chancellor George Osborne brought in a special tax break for buyers of “energy efficient hand-dryers”, which meant…Dyson airlades.

There’s more information in the Eye’s ‘In the City’ column, entitled ‘Singapore fling’ on page 41. This runs

What is it that so attracts billionaire inventor, entrepreneur and avid Brexiteer Sir James Dyson to Singapore? Last month he announced that his privately owned Dyson group was switching legal residence to the Far East city state for “commercial reasons” and “future-proofing”. This followed the decision to produce the Dyson electric car in Singapore from 2020.

The Dyson party line is that the imminent move is nothing to do with Brexit or tax – it will still pay UK tax on UK operations – but all to do with Singapore being a lot closer to China, its main market, than Wiltshire. Who knew? Dyson’s 2bn pound move from hairdryers and bagless vacuum cleaners into cars is his biggest gamble.

So what does Singapore have over a “no deal” Brexit Britain – which Dyson welcomed? What about:

* A recent free trade agreement with the EU, to go with ones with China and the United States, plus the Singapore Freeport;

* International companies who headquarter themselves in Singapore can see corporation tax (currently 17 per cent, compared with 19 per cent in the UK) fall to 10 or 5 per cent or even zero, thanks to lengthy tax breaks and generous incentives, especially for those who create jobs;

* No tax on dividends – the Dyson family could have paid 38 per cent on the 86m pound dividends for 2017 (down from 111m) from the parent Weybourne Group;

* No capital gains tax on a future sale or inheritance tax (IHT) (Dyson is 71);

* Less stringent corporate disclosure and governance requirements for private companies (a Dyson moan);

* Finally, no risk from a Corbyn government targeting the rich.

Dyson moved control offshore once before – to Malta in 2009 – then returned in 2013. He has also legitimately taken advantage of film tax schemes and IHT-efficient investments in agricultural land. Still, Singapore tax and access attractions clearly played no role in the move east by this latter-day Stanford Raffles, who assured Leave voters that no deal with the EU was no problem because “they’ll come to us”. Now it seems Dyson has decided to go to them.

Thatcherite Labour MPs Once Again Threatening to Quit Party

February 5, 2019

Another week, Labour ahead of the Tories once again in most polls, except those the Beeb and the rest of the lamestream media pay attention to, and once again the Blairites in the party are threatening to leave. According to yesterday’s and today’s papers, it’s all about the anti-Semitism, you see. Again. I caught a glimpse of the Beeb’s news today, and it showed the far-right islamophobic hate group, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism once again camped outside parliament, or Labour HQ, waving their lying placards against ‘anti-Semitism’. While inside parliament, the Thatcherite entryists were all ready to up sticks and leave if Jenny Formby doesn’t satisfy them that enough is being done to tackle anti-Semitism.

But this isn’t about anti-Semitism. Never has been. And the row erupted long before Corbyn was elected leader of the party. On Sunday, when the threats were first made, Mike put up a piece reproducing the Tweets of CremantCommunarde, who showed very clearly that it all blew up when the Jewish Ed Miliband was leader of the Labour party. He was accused of anti-Semitism, despite his Jewish heritage and conspicuous absence of genuine Jew-hatred, because he had dared to recognize Palestine as an independent state. Veteran actress Maureen Lipman left the party in disgust. Just as she claimed to have left the party in disgust last year because Corbyn is an anti-Semite. Except that he isn’t, and has worked tirelessly to counter all forms of racism, including genuine anti-Semitism. Being pro-Palestine does not mean hating Jews, or even Israelis. It means attacking a bigoted, racist state imposing apartheid and a slow genocide on the indigenous population. A state that was set up as part of imperialist machinations by us and then maintained and supported for geopolitical reasons to maintain western, US and UK, dominance in the region.

See Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/03/labour-leaders-challenged-over-anti-semitism-again-but-will-the-accusers-accept-the-facts/

As for the people angrily denouncing anti-Semitism in the Labour party, their true moral stature is shown by their own actions. Former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks a few years ago led a contingent of British Jews to Jerusalem to participate in the March of the Flags. This is an ultra-nationalist occasion where right-wing Jewish Israeli thugs parade through the Muslim quarter of the Holy City vandalizing Palestinian property and threatening and intimidating its people. The same people claiming Corbyn is the next thing to Adolf Hitler included the kind of people one Jewish Israeli scholar called ‘Judaeonazis’. Like the couple who decided that they would show their racial tolerance by wearing T-shirts with the symbol of a banned Fascist Israeli terrorist group, Kach. As well as members of the Jewish Defence League and other Zionists, who mix easily and unashamedly with the EDL and various unsavoury characters from Britain First. The kind of people who, if they were not Jews and not connected with Israel, would automatically be denounced by everyone as Fascists and Nazis.

And now the Blairites are trying to use the pretext that Labour is riddled with genuine Jew-haters to threaten once again to split the party and leave. Just like the ‘Chicken Coup’ plotters threatened to do a few years ago. And then again a little later, when the media reported that they would leave the party to join a new centrist, pro-EU party that was being formed. A party that boasted the backing of millionaire corporate donors. An exciting new party that has since fizzled out and vanished without a trace.

But never mind! We are reliably informed by a corrupt, mendacious media, that there are more than six right-wing Labour MPs ready to depart. And Vince Cable is hoping they’ll come over and join his gang of morally corrupt corporatists and sell-outs in the Lib Dems.

The right-wing Labour MPs supposedly ready to depart aren’t really upset because they honestly believe that Corbyn’s an anti-Semite. They’re upset because they’re Blairites, Thatcherite entryists, who believe in continuing her poisonous, destructive policies of privatization, outsourcing, the destruction of the welfare state, and selling the NHS off to private healthcare firms. And destroying the trade unions in the name of creating a cowed workforce ready to accept any kind of work, no matter how ill-paid or precarious. A party so enamoured of the corporate elite that they eagerly took their donations and then gave the chairmen of these companies and senior management positions in government. All in the name of creating a properly business-friendly environment, introducing the alleged greater expertise and efficiency of private industry, creating a fluid labour market. And generally rewarding the corporate elite, who also offered them not just donations but nice, lucrative places on their boards when they left office.

Corbyn threatens all that, because he believes in a genuinely socialist Labour party, overseeing a mixed economy where the utilities, including the railways and water industry. A Britain whose working people are properly served by strong unions and have job security and rights at work from day one. A Britain whose poor are supported by decent benefits, where the jobless don’t have to wait weeks or months for welfare payments, and where a quarter of a million people aren’t forced to use food banks to stop themselves from starving in misery. A Britain where the disabled aren’t deprived of the support they need because they’ve been found ‘fit for work’ by a rigged system of tests, based on pseudo-scientific bogus theories. In other words, everything that threatens the Tories’ and Blair’s precious, poisonous Thatcher revolution.

That’s really why the Blairites have been trying to undermine Corbyn from day one. It’s why the press and people like Joan Ryan have been sneering at him and his supporters as Trotskyites, Communists and Stalinists, and why they are so desperate to claim that he’s unpopular and that he’ll never get elected by the general public. Because he threatens the Blairite policy of taking over the ideology and policies of the Tory party. Because they’re scared that he will get elected, and the Thatcherite policies they admire uncritically will be consigned to the dustbin.

I’ve had enough of their constant attempts to undermine a democratically elected and popular leader, as well as their disdain and contempt for the party’s grassroots and this country’s working people as a whole. I’m sick of them constantly threatening to leave, only to stay in the party to threaten to leave again later, whenever they feel they can do the most damage. Or whenever they think anyone will back them. I just now want them to go. They’re Conservatives anyway, and really don’t have any place in a party that genuinely supports working people instead of the corporate elite.

But as Mike has pointed out on his blog, they won’t. Because the moment they resign the party whip, their constituents will vote against them at the next election. And so they’re determined to hang on, all the while fraudulently claiming that they’re the really Labour party and whining about ‘Labour values’. They aren’t really Labour, and the party’s real values go back to Clement Attlee, Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan and the Webbs and Fabians. Genuine socialists, whose achievements Blair and his cronies have done their best to destroy.

They should now either leave for good, or shut up and support their leader. But whatever they do, it’s going to be glaringly clear to an increasing number of people that, despite their lies, they’re not interested in anti-Semitism. They’re only using it as ploy to destroy Corbyn for the same reasons as the press and the Tories they claim to want to defeat electorally.

Yay! My Book on Slavery in the British Empire Has Been Published with Lulu

January 30, 2019

On Monday I finally got the proof copies I ordered of my book, The Global Campaign, which I’ve just published with Lulu, the print on demand service. The book’s in two volumes, which have the subtitles on their first pages The British Campaign to Eradicate Slavery in its Colonies. The book’s in two volumes. Volume One has the subtitle The Beginnings to Abolition and the British Caribbean, while Volume Two is subtitled Africa and the Wider World.

My blurb for the book runs

British imperialism created an empire stretching from North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, much of whose population were slaves. Global Campaign tells how slavery in the British Empire arose, the conditions and resistance to it of the peoples they enslaved, and the steps taken to end it by the abolitionists across the Empire and the metropolitan authorities in London.

The first volume of this book, Volume 1: The Beginnings to Abolition and the British Caribbean describes the emergence of this Empire, and the attempts to end slavery within it up to end of apprenticeship in 1838.

Volume 2: Africa and the Wider World describes how the British tried to end it in their expanding Empire after 1838. It describes how abolition became part of the ideology of British imperialism, and spurred British expansion, annexation and conquest.

The two volumes also discuss the persistence of slavery after abolition into the modern world, and its continuing legacy across continents and cultures.

The contents of vol. 1 are an introduction, then the following:

Chapter 1: the British Slave Empire in 1815
Chapter 2: From Amelioration to Abolition
Chapter 3: Abolition, Apprenticeship and Limited Freedom, 1833-1838.

Vol. 2’s chapter are

1: Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and Lagos
2: India, Ceylon, Java and Malaya,
3: The Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji
4: West Africa and the Gold Coast, 1874-1891
5: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Sudan
6: East and Central Africa
7: Zanzibar and Pemba
8: Legacies and Conclusion

Both volumes also have an index and bibliography. I also drew the cover art.

Volume 1 is 385 pages A5, ISBN 978-0-244-75207-1, price 12.00 pounds.
Volume 2 386 pages A5, ISBN 978-0-244-45228-5, price 12.00 pounds. Both prices exclusive of VAT.

The books are based on the notes and summaries I made for the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum of some of the official documents they’d acquired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on slavery. I also supplemented this with a mass of secondary reading on slavery, the slave trade and the British Empire. It’s a fascinating story. I chose to write about slavery in the British Empire as a whole as I found when I was looking through the documents that slavery certainly wasn’t confined to the Caribbean. It was right across the world, though most of the published books concentrate on slavery in the US and the Caribbean. There has been a recent book on slavery and abolition in British India and Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and I remember seeing a book on the British campaign against slavery in the Pacific, published, I believe, from one of the antipodean publishers. I doubt very many people in Britain are aware that it existed in India and Sri Lanka, and that attempts to outlaw it there date from c. 1798, when the British judge of the Bombay (Mumbai) presidency ruled that it was illegal. Similarly, general histories of slavery do mention the infamous ‘coolie trade’ in indentured labourers from India and China. They were imported into the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world in order to supply cheap labour after the abolition of slavery in 1838. However, they were treated so abysmally in conditions often worse than those endured by enslaved Blacks, that it was dubbed by one British politician ‘A new system of slavery’. There’s an excellent book on it, with that as its title, by Hugh Tinker, published by one of the Indian presses.

General books on slavery also discuss the enslavement of indigenous Pacific Islanders, who were kidnapped and forced to work on plantations in Fiji and Queensland in Australia. But again, I doubt if many people in the UK have really heard about it. And there are other episodes in British imperial history and the British attempts to curb and suppress slavery around the world which also isn’t really widely known. For example, abolition provided some much of the ideological impetus for the British conquest of Africa. Sierra Leone was set up in the late 18th century as a colony for freed slaves. But the British were also forced to tackle slavery and slaving in the Gold Coast, after they acquired it in the 19th century. They then moved against and conquered the African kingdoms that refused to give up slaving, such as Ashanti, Dahomey and the chiefdoms around Lagos. It’s a similar story in east Africa, in what is now Tanganyika, Zambia, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Malawi. The British initially wished to conquer the area as part of the general European ‘Scramble for Africa’, and their main rivals in the region where the Portuguese. But the British public were also aware through the missionary work of David Livingstone that the area was part of the Arabic slave trade, and that the indigenous peoples of this region were being raided and enslaved by powerful local African states, such as the Yao and the Swahili as well as Arabs, and exported to work plantations in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba off the east African coast. At the same time, Indian merchants were also buying and enslaving Africans from that area, particularly Uganda.

The British were also concerned to crush slavery in Egypt after they took control of the country with the French. They encouraged Khedive Ismail, the Egyptian ruler, to attempt to suppress it in Egypt and then the Sudan. It was as part of this anti-slavery campaign that the Khedive employed first Colonel Baker and then General Gordon, who was killed fighting the Mahdi.

At the same time, Stamford Raffles in Singapore and Raja Brooke of Sarawak justified their conquest and acquisition of these states as campaigns to end slavery in those parts of Asia. The British also took over Fiji at the request of the Fijian king, Cakabau. White Americans and Europeans had been entering the country, and Cakabau and his advisors were afraid that unless the country was taken under imperial control, the settlers would enslave the indigenous Fijians. Indeed, Cakabau had been made king of the whole of Fiji by the colonists, though he was acutely aware of how he was being used as a figurehead for effective White control of his people. At the same time, the White planters were also forming a White supremacist group. So he appealed to the British Empire to takeover his country in order to prevent his people’s enslavement.

British imperial slavery started off with the British colonies in the Caribbean and North America. I’ve ignored slavery in the US except for the period when it was part of the British Empire. The Canadians ended slavery nearly two decades before it was formally outlawed throughout the British Empire. It was done through enlightened governors, judges as well as abolitionists outside government. The country’s authorities did so by interpreting the law, often against its spirit, to show that slavery did not legally exist there. There were attempts by slaveowners to repeal the legislation, but this was halfhearted and by the 1820s slavery in Canada had officially died out.

After the British acquired Cape Colony at the southern tip of Africa, the very beginning of the modern state of South Africa, they were also faced with the problem of ending the enslavement of its indigenous population. This included the indigenous Khoisan ‘Bushmen’, who were being forced into slavery when they took employment with White farmers. At the same time, the British were trying to do the same in Mauritius and the Seychelles after they conquered them from the French.

The British initially started with a programme of gradual abolition. There was much debate at the time whether the enslaved peoples could support themselves as independent subjects if slavery was abolished. And so the abolitionists urged parliament to pass a series of legislation slowly improving their conditions. These regulated the foods they were given by the planters, the punishments that could be inflicted on them, as well as giving them medical care and support for the aged and disabled. They also tried to improve their legal status by giving them property rights and the right to be tried in ordinary courts. Special officials were set up, the Guardians and Protectors of Slaves, to examine complaints of cruelty.

This gradualist approach was challenged by the female abolitionists, who grew impatient with the cautious approach of the Anti-Slavery Society’s male leadership. They demanded immediate abolition. I’ve also tried to pay tribute to the struggle by the enslaved people themselves to cast off their shackless. In the Caribbean, this took the form of countless slave revolts and rebellions, like Maroons in Jamaica, who were never defeated by us. At the same time a series of slaves came forward to accuse their masters of cruelty, and to demand their freedom. After the Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery did not exist in English law in the late 18th century, slaves taken to Britain from the Caribbean by their masters presented themselves to the Protectors on their return demanding their freedom. They had been on British soil, and so had become free according to English law. They therefore claimed that they were illegally kept in slavery. As you can imagine, this produced outrage, with planters and slaveowners attacking both the anti-slavery legislation and official attempts to free the slaves as interference with the right of private property.

This legislation was introduced across the Empire. The same legislation that regulated and outlawed slavery in the Caribbean was also adopted in the Cape, Mauritius and the Seychelles. And the legislation introduced to ensure that indentured Indian and Chinese labourers were treated decently was also adopted for Pacific Islanders.

Slavery was eventually abolished in 1833, but a form of servitude persisted in the form of apprenticeship until 1838. This compelled the slaves to work unpaid for their masters for a certain number of hours each week. It was supposed to prepare them for true freedom, but was attacked and abandoned as just another form of slavery.

Unfortunately slavery continued to exist through the British Empire in various forms despite official abolition. The British were reluctant to act against it in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Java and Perak in what is now Malaysia because they were afraid of antagonizing the indigenous princes and so causing a rebellion. In Egypt they attempted to solve the problem by encouraging the slaveowners as pious Muslims to manumit their slaves freely as an act of piety, as the Prophet Mohammed urges them in the Qu’ran. In the Caribbean, the freedom the former slaves enjoyed was limited. The British were afraid of the plantation economy collapsing, and so passed legislation designed to make it difficult for the freed people to leave their former masters, often tying them to highly exploitative contracts. The result was that Black West Indians continued to fear re-enslavement long after abolition, and there were further riots and rebellions later in the 19th century. In British Africa, the indigenous African peoples became second class citizens, and were increasingly forced out of governmental and administrative roles in favour of Whites. Some colonies also conscripted African labourers into systems of forced labour, so that many came to believe that they had simply swapped one form of slavery for another. The result has been that slavery has continued to persist. And it’s expanded through people trafficking and other forms of servitude and exploitation.

The book took me on off several years to write. It’s a fascinating subject, and you can’t but be impressed with the moral and physical courage of everyone, Black and White, who struggled to end it. I chose to write about it in the British Empire as while there are many books on slavery across the world, there didn’t seem to be any specifically on the British Empire. Studying it also explains why there is so much bitterness about it by some people of West Indian heritage and how it has shaped modern politics. For example, before South Sudan was given its independence, Sudan under the British was effectively divided into two countries. In the southern part of the country, the British attempted to protect the indigenous peoples from enslavement by banning Arabs. They were also opened up to Christian evangelization. In the Arab north, the British attempted to preserve good relations by prohibiting Christian evangelism.

I also attempt to explain how it is that under the transatlantic slave trade, slavery became associated with Blackness. In the ancient world and during the Middle Ages, Whites were also enslaved. But Europeans started turning to Black Africans in the 14th and 15th centuries when it became impossible for them to buy Slavs from eastern Europe. So common had the trade in Slavs been that the modern English word, slave, and related terms in other languages, like the German Sklave, actually derive from Slav.

It’s been fascinating and horrifying writing the book. And what is also horrifying is that it persists today, and that new legislation has had to be passed against it in the 21st century.

Vox Political Right Again! May Prepares Plan for Martial Law Post-Brexit

January 28, 2019

Mike’s keen eye for the direction events are taking us has been vindicated once again. A little while ago he predicted that Tweezer was preparing legislation to declare a state of martial law in the event of serious civil disruptions following a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. These would be caused by shortages of food and medicine. As Mike reminds us, there was a commenter, who doubted whether 3,500 troops could hold down a country of 60 million people.

Now it seems Mike was exactly right. According to the Sunday Times, which Mike acknowledges is a dodgy source, and the I, Tweezer has indeed prepared a plan to declare martial law in just such an event, and quotes the relevant passage from the latter paper. Cause obviously, he doesn’t want to give money to the Mendacious Murdoch Machine.

Mike’s on something of a roll here, as he was also proved right about Brexit negatively affecting Jaguar Landrover. They’ve stopped production for an extra week because of uncertainties over Brexit. He was also right when he said that after criticizing Rachel Riley and her supporters for fake anti-Semitism claims and trolling a schoolgirl with anxiety issues, he’d also get attacked. And he was.

How bad will the situation be post-Brexit. Well, the I’s article quotes one source, who says that it will be worse than the disruption caused by volcanic ash, and would be comparable to a major Europe-wide war.

Mike concludes his article with the comment

Of course, martial law is an extreme measure that would be imposed only in dire need – or if a government is desperate to keep power in spite of the will of the people.

Do you trust Theresa May not to follow the latter path?
See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/27/martial-law-plan-for-post-brexit-britain-shows-this-site-was-right-again/

Well, no, I don’t trust Tweezer to put country ahead of party, or even her own personal interests. She’s never done so in the past, and won’t in the future. Ian Hislop called Gordon Brown ‘Mr Limpet’ after the 2010 election on Have I Got News For You because of Brown’s determination to hang on to power even after the losing the election. The Lib Dems claimed that they were willing to form a coalition with Labour, but only if Brown went. He refused, so they joined the Tories. Except that they’d been in talks with the Tories for weeks before, and the whole claim that they were willing to support Labour was a sham. But Tweezer surely deserves to be called ‘Mrs Limpet’ because of her determination to cling on to power, regardless of the harm her government is doing to this country and, hopefully, the future of the Tory party.

Corbyn has repeatedly been attacked because his policies of supporting the nationalization of the utilities and strong unions and workers’ rights supposedly threaten to take this country back to the 1970s.

But it’s Tweezer who’s doing that.

It’s been under watch that last week there was a terrorist bombing in Ulster, and she’s preparing to declare martial law because of civil unrest and shortages. The last time I recall this happening was during the ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1979, when it was all blamed on the trade unions. And friends of mine in the Smoke told me they were affected by a power cut. Again, the last time I remember this happening was back in the 1970s when Ted Heath was trying to show the miners, who really ran the country. Well, as the election showed, it wasn’t him.

This is Tweezer and the Tories’ Brexit Britain: power cuts, potential shortages and martial law. And this time they can’t blame Labour nor the unions.

Get Tweezer out, and Corbyn in, before Tweezer really does turn this country into a dictatorship.

Daily Mail Labeled ‘Fake News’ by Microsoft News Software

January 23, 2019

Ho ho! Another fascinating story Mike put up today is a piece reporting that Microsoft Newsguard, a piece of plug-in software designed to warn users if the news website they’re looking at is unreliable, has flagged up the Daily Mail’s Mail Online as fake news. If you onto the Daily Mail while using the software, you get a message telling you that

“this website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability” and “has been forced to pay damages in numerous high-profile cases”.

Mike quotes the Guardian on the software, which says that it is run by veterans of the news industry, who are trying to establish industry-standard benchmarks for judging how trustworthy news sites are. It employs experts to analyse sites to see if they meet certain journalistic standards. It makes all its judgments public and invites news outlets to respond to criticism and improve their standards.

So how bad is the Fail? Well, according to the site Tabloid Corrections, it’s pretty terrible. In fact, it’s worse even than the Scum. It was sanctioned 28 times by the press regulator, IPSO, last year, 2018. The Times was second with 18 sanctions. Behind the Times came the Scum, with 16, the Mirror with 10, the Express and Torygraph with 7, and the Star with 4. Still, the Fail has improved. In 2017 it violated journalistic rules 50 times.

Mike comments that this probably won’t affect the Daily Mail, as most people regard it more as a comic. They only read it to laugh at the nonsense inside. And, sadly, some probably read it only to ogle the scantily clad women in the very sexist newsroll on the right of its webpage. I’m not so sure about this. Years ago a friend of mine said that he thought the Mail was more dangerous than the Scum, because while the people who read the Scum treated it as a joke, those who read the Heil take it seriously. I think he’s partly right, but even this is far too optimistic. Yes, the Scum and the Mail are viewed with contempt by very many people, with more sophisticated tastes and attitudes to the news and journalism, at the same time I’m sure that their readers do take them absolutely seriously.

Mike also states that the Beeb’s Politics Live has also been discussing fake news, but hasn’t mentioned the Mail, concentrating instead on a piece about the UK parliament but which confuses it with the American political system.

Mike concludes

The issue is one that This Site has highlighted recently – that anyone claiming to quote facts about political issues must provide proof, usually in the form of references to their sources. Then readers can check those sources.

If there aren’t any references then you assume the claim isn’t true – and draw your own conclusions about the person or organisation making it.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/23/daily-mail-website-flagged-as-fake-news-by-microsoft-mobile-web-browser/

Mike’s piece is interesting not just because of what it says about the Heil, but about the rest of the UK media. The Heil is Britain’s worse paper for misreporting, but the second and third worse are the Murdoch papers the Times and the Scum. The Scum will be no surprise to anyone. But the Times prides itself on being Britain’s paper of record. This shows how vacuous and spurious that claim is. And I don’t regard its sister paper, the Sunday Times, as any better. Not after the repeated way it has libeled Labour party leaders and members, like Michael Foot and Mike himself. It’s not up there on the list, but it still slanders and smears decent people simply for the benefit of the Tories, big business, and in Mike’s case, for New Labour and the Israel lobby.

It will also be interesting to see if Private Eye reports this in their ‘Street of Shame’ column. It’s always reported the findings of press regulators, particularly when one of the most notorious rags has been claiming that it is the paragon of journalistic standards and has never made anything up or libeled anyone ever. And Private Eye is now casting its critical gaze over the alternative news sites. Last issue, for the 11-24 January 2019, it carried the article ‘Skwawk-boxed’, reporting that ‘Britain’s sole state-approved press regulator’, Impress, had made its eighth ruling against the Skwawkbox because it misrepresents or distorts the facts, and confuses fact with comment. It claims the regulator oversees 111 titles, but over the past two years has been called in to deal with 15 complaints. More than half of these have been against the same publication, and at least five have been upheld. This is against the Skwawkbox, which it describes as

‘the ultra-partisan Corbynite website run by Labour activist Steve Walker, which specializes in paranoid conspiracy theorizing and simultaneous attacks on the “MSM” for fake news.’

I dare say that this piece is correct, as far as it goes, and its criticism of the failure of journalistic standards in the Skwawkbox is probably correct. But I trust the Skwawkbox far more than I trust mainstream news. The MSM does present appallingly slanted news, including the Beeb, which it hypocritically maintains is objective, trustworthy fact. The massively biased coverage of Corbyn and the Labour party is a case in point. The media has smeared him and his supporters as Trotskyites, misogynists and anti-Semites, when the opposite is true. And there are organisations with very hidden agendas manipulating both the news and government policy. These are the various intelligence agencies, right-wing thinktanks, and industry groups trying to manipulate official policy to promote the neoliberal agenda of privatization, poor wages, destruction of the welfare state and workers’ rights and the invasion and exploitation of the Middle East under the pretense of combating terrorism. You can read about this over at Lobster, Counterpunch, and in the books of and website of Greg Palast and the now sadly departed William Blum and his Anti-Empire Report. Walker might have to tighten up his journalistic performance, but I don’t doubt that there’s more truth in what he writes than in the Fail or the rest of the mainstream media.

And he and the other left-wing news sites supporting Corbyn and genuine socialism in the Labour party clearly are frightening Private Eye along with the rest of the old media. Otherwise the Eye wouldn’t have published this, and another story attacking the excellent the Canary. The genuine left-wing news sites are catching up on the old media very quickly. It’ll be interesting to see if next fortnight’s Eye includes this story, as it did the piece on the Skwawkbox.

Hypocrite Brextremist James Dyson Abandons Britain for Singapore

January 23, 2019

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that James Dyson, the multimillionaire inventor of the vacuum cleaner that bears his name, has abandoned Britain for Singapore after strongly promoting Brexit. He was one of the leading industrialists in Britain supporting the ‘Leave’ campaign, and when they won, he told the rest of us that leaving the EU’s single market would liberate the UK’s economy and allow us to make other trade deals with the rest of the world. He also said that we should leave the EU without worrying about an interim deal, because ‘uncertainty is opportunity’, and that they would come to us if we just walked away.

Dyson has shown how much faith he has in the British economy now that they’re due to leave the EU and the possibility of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is unfortunately all too strong: he’s decided to abandon his present headquarters in Malmesbury for Singapore. He hasn’t any, and Mike’s article on this has a series of tweets from people criticizing him for his decision. One of those is ‘Shop Steward’, who tweeted

“The thing is he’s a multimillionaire so he could stay here and still make a profit In fact he could stay here, improve workers pay & conditions, and still make a profit …but greed won’t allow that. No, profit must be maximised at all costs because enough is never enough.”

Quite. Another commenter, Paul Bernal, asked how many other Brexiters have to leave the UK, either personally or just their businesses, before voters realise they were being conned. Gavin Esler, who I remember was the name of one of the Beeb’s foreign journalists, reported that P&O has just re-registered its UK fleet to Cyprus before Brexit.

Deeply Unhelpful Shelly responded to this with the observation that are probably very many others, who won’t make it public because they fear being attacked by the ladies and gentlemen of the media. Mike also observes that while P&O didn’t promote Brexit, they are sending a message to other businesses that they should get out while they can.

As for Dyson, Mike says

Dyson is on record, not just as a Brexiteer but as a Brextremist, and his decision reeks of the worst kind of hypocrisy.

He supported Brexit; he influenced other people to support it; and now he is abandoning us to the consequences while he scarpers, taking his business and any benefit it has for the economy with him.

Make no mistake: This man is toxic.

He has helped inflict economic ruin on the UK, both by encouraging us into Brexit and by taking his business out of the country before it happens.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/23/taking-vac-control-how-many-brextremist-bosses-will-leave-before-we-realise-weve-been-conned/

I’m not surprised that Dyson has run off to Singapore. He has previous on this. Here in the West Country, Dyson was regarded as one of the great molten gods of local business. Following the success of his vacuum cleaner, he appeared several times on the local news programme in the Bristol/ Somerset/Gloucestershire/Wiltshire are, Points West, whenever there was an item about local authority initiatives to boost business. But as I reported in a previous article, Dyson has moved his business out of Britain before. A few years ago he demanded that Bath council should allow his factory in the area more space to expand. The council told him they couldn’t. So Dyson picked up his ball like a grumpy child unable to get its way, and went elsewhere. I think he moved his business to Indonesia, or somewhere else in the Far East.

He didn’t have to do that. His business was perfectly profitable here in the UK. If there wasn’t enough space for it to expand in the area around Bath, he could have moved it elsewhere in the West Country or Britain. There would have been plenty of other places in Britain which would have been delighted to have him bringing work and jobs, particularly in the depressed areas of the North.

But Dyson didn’t take that option. He went to the Far East, where he knew he could make even bigger profits through exploiting the lower wages and poorer working conditions in the Developing World. This is the logic of neoliberalism. It’s done to allow capital to move their businesses around the world in order to reduce wages and take advantage of lower taxes in these countries. Just as Jacob Rees-Mogg has part of his money invested in Far Eastern companies through his capital management firm. And you can bet that the wretched authors of Britannia Unchained, who also believe that Brits should work longer hours for less pay in order to compete with the Developing World, are likewise also ready to run out on Britain the moment it suits them.

Dyson is a massive hypocrite, but he’s just one of many rich, Brexiteer businessmen, who promise that Brexit will bring prosperity and jobs to Britain, but realise only too well that it won’t. They’re now running off to the real low wage, low tax havens in the rest of the world, whose people they really want to exploit.

He’s toxic, and so are the rest of them. And they’re determined to wreck Britain. His attachment to Britain and the West Country was always questionable. We’ve lost nothing by his departure, but we should never have listened to him and those like him in the first place.

Adolf Hitler on the Capitalist Nature of Nazism

January 21, 2019

According to a piece on Zelo Street, Raheem Kassam, one of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign and another fixture of the Libertarian extreme right, has been on Twitter arguing with James Melville arguing about the nature of nationalism, imperialism, Fascism, Nazism and Conservativism. Kassam had been complaining about left-wingers mass-reporting his tweets to the company to get his account closed down. Melville was entirely and rightly unsympathetic, stating that Kassam had tried to get his own followers to pile onto Melville’s twitter stream, and thus force him off twitter. It’s a strategy called ‘dog-piling’. He commented that Kassam was reaping what he’d himself sown. He also upset Kassam by criticizing a photo Kassam had put up showing Winston Churchill in a yellow vest, asking Kassam if he knew that Churchill fought against right-wing extremism. The annoyed Kassam responded

”Lol now this guy who had a meltdown yesterday is going through my feed picking out tweets he thinks he can argue with. Churchill defeated imperialistic (opposite of nationalist) National Socialism (opposite of right wing) which wanted a united Europe under Germany (EU)” and

“Fascism is an ideology. Conservatism is a philosophy. There’s your first problem in attempting to link the two. Fascism concerned itself with a corporate-state nexus (like socialism, and indeed our current pro-EU system does). Your understanding of philosophy is poor”.

Which as Zelo Street noted, shows that Kassam knows nothing about history and doesn’t know the difference between Fascism, socialism and corporativism.

Both Nazism and Italian Fascism had socialist elements, but they very quickly allied themselves with the nationalist, capitalist extreme right and served their interests against genuine socialism, trade unions and organized labour. I’ve written several pieces about the capitalist nature of Nazi Germany, and how the Nazi regime promoted private industry and privatization over state-owned enterprises. Hitler did define himself as a socialist, and a strong proportion of the Nazi party did take the socialist elements in the Nazi programme of 1925 seriously. But Hitler made his opposition to the socialization of German industry and his support for capitalism very clear in a debate with Otto Strasser, one of the leaders of the Nazi left. There’s an account of the debate between the two in Nazism 1919-1945: Vol 1 The Rise to Power 1919-1934, A Documentary Reader, edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983), pp. 66-7. Hitler makes his attitude towards the nationalization of German industry clear on page 67.

‘Let us assume, Herr Hitler, that you came into power tomorrow. What would you do about Krupp’s? Would you leave it alone or not?’
‘Of course I should leave it alone’, cried Hitler. ‘Do you think me so crazy as to want to ruin Germany’s great industry?’
‘If you wish to preserve the capitalist regime, Herr Hitler, you have no right to talk of Socialism. For our supporters are Socialists, and your programme demands the socialization of private enterprise.’
‘That word “socialism” is the trouble, said Hitler. He shrugged his shoulders, appeared to reflect for a moment and then went on:
‘I have never said that all enterprises should be socialized. On the contrary, I have maintained that we might socialize enterprises prejudicial to the interests of the nation. Unless they were so guilty, I should consider it a crime to destroy essential elements of our economic life. Take Italian Fascism. Our National Socialist state, like the Fascist state, will safeguard both employers’ and workers’ interests while reserving the right of arbitration in case of dispute.’
Hitler, exasperated by my answers, continued: ‘there is only one economic system, and that is responsibility and authority on the part of directors and executives. I ask Herr Amann to be responsible to me for the work of his subordinates and to exercise authority over them. Herr Amann asks his office manager to be responsible for his typists and to exercise his authority over them; and so on to the lowest rung of the ladder. That is how it has been for thousands of years, and that is how it will always be.’
‘Yes, Herr Hitler, the administrative structure will be the same whether capitalist or socialist. But the spirit of labour depends on the regime under which it lives. If it was possible a few years ago for a handful of men not appreciably different from the average to throw a quarter of a million Ruhr workers on the streets, if this was legal and in conformity with the morality of our economic system, then it is not the men but the system that is criminal.’
‘But that-‘ Hitler replied, looking at his watch and showing signs of acute impatience ‘that is no reason for granting the workers a share in the profits of the enterprises that employ them, and more particularly for giving them the right to be consulted. A strong state will see that production is carried on in the national interest, and, if these interests are contravened, can proceed to expropriate the enterprise concerned and takeover its administration.’

Hitler thus made it very clear that he was strongly opposed to nationalization, except for failing companies, and did not want the workers to receive a share in the profits of the firms for which they worked, nor to be consulted about its management. And when the Nazis seized power, they destroyed the trade unions and sent their leaders and activists to the camps, along with socialists, anarchists and other political dissidents. Hitler didn’t believe in laissez-faire free trade – under Nazism industry was controlled by a state planning apparatus like that of Soviet Union – but industry remained by and large very definitely in private hands.

As for the Strasser brothers, Otto and Gregor, who were two of the leaders of the Nazi ‘left’, Hitler had one of them murder in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ along with the rest of the SA and the other fled to South America. Which shows how bitterly he despised those who took the ‘socialist’ parts of his programme seriously.

Whatever Hitler himself may have said about ‘socialism’, he was no kind of socialist at all.

Book on Industrial Democracy in Great Britain

January 12, 2019

Ken Coates and Anthony Topham, Industrial Democracy In Great Britain: A Book of Readings and Witnesses for Workers Control (MacGibbon & Kee, 1968).

This is another book I got through the post the other day. It’s a secondhand copy, but there may also be newer editions of the book out there. As its subtitle says, it’s a sourcebook of extracts from books, pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles on workers’ control, from the Syndicalists and Guild Socialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through the First World War, the General Strike and the interwar period, the demands for worker participation in management during the Second World War and in the industries nationalized by Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government. It also covers the industrial disputes of the 1950s and ’60s, including the mass mobilization of local trade unions in support of four victimized workers evicted from the homes by management and the Tories. These later extracts also include documents from the workers’ control movements amongst the bus workers and dockers, establishing works councils and laying out their structure, duties and operating procedure.

The book’s blurb reads

The issue of workers’ control in British industry is once more n the air. As a concept, as something still to be achieved, industrial democracy has a long and rich history in fields outside the usual political arenas. The newly-awakened movement that revives the wish to see workers given a voice in business affairs is, in this book, given its essential historical perspective. From the days of ‘wage-slavery’ we might at last be moving into a period of fully-responsible control of industry by those who make the wealth in this country. While this notion has generally been scoffed at – by working class Tories as much as members of the capitalist groups – there is now a formidable body of evidence and thought to give it substance and weight.

The editors’ theme is treated in four main sections: the first covers the years from 1900 to 1920, when people like Tom Mann, James Connolly, G.D.H. Cole were re-discovering ideas of syndicalism, industrial unionism, guild socialism and so on. The second traces the development of the shop stewards’ movement on the shop floors. Much of this material is especially interesting so far as the period 1941 – 45 is concerned. Section three deals with the nationalized industries’ relations to unions, and here the centre of interest lies in the relations between the unions and Herbert Morrison in the thirties and beyond. The last section deals with the re-invigorated growth of the post-war efforts to establish some form of workers’ control. It is the conviction of their editors that the movement they document so thoroughly has only just begun to develop seriously and it is therefore something that both business and political parties will have to take increasing account of. The book is both anthology and guide to one of the important issues of our time.

After the introduction, it has the following contents.

Section 1: Schools for Democrats
Chapter 1: Forerunners of the Ferment

1 Working Class Socialism: E.J.B. Allen
2. Industrial Unionism and Constructive Socialism: James Connolly
3. The Miners’ Next Step: Reform Committee of the South Wales Miners, 1912
4. Limits of Collective Bargaining: Fred Knee
5. Forging the Weapon: Tom Mann
6. The Servile State: Hilaire Belloc
7. Pluralist Doctrine: J.N. Figgis
8. The Spiritual Change: A.J. Penty
9. The Streams Merge?: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechofer
10. Little Groups Spring Up: Thomas Bell

Chapter 2. Doctrines and Practice of the Guild Socialists

1.The Bondage of Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
2. State and Municipal Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
3. Collectivism, Syndicalism and Guilds: G.D.H. Cole
4 Industrial Sabotage: William Mellor
5 The Building Guilds: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechhofer
6 Builders’ Guilds: A Second view: Raymond Postgate

Chapter 3 How Official Labour met the Guild Threat

1 Democracies of Producers: Sydney and Beatrice Webb
2 ‘… In no Utopian Spirit’: J. Ramsay MacDonald

Chapter 4 Eclipse of the Guilds and the Rise of Communism

1 In Retrospect: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revolution and Trade Union Action: J.T. Murphy
3 Action for Red Trade Unions: Third Comintern Congress, 1921

Section II: Shop Stewards and Workers’ Control; 1910-64

Chapter 1 1910-26

1 Shop Stewards in Engineering: the Forerunners: H.A. Clegg, Alan Fox, and E.F. Thompson
2 The Singer Factory: The Wobblies’ First Base: Thomas Bell
3 A Nucleus of Discontent: Henry Pelling
4 The Sheffield Shop Stewards: J.T. Murphy
5 The Workers’ Committee: J.T. Murphy
6 The Collective Contract: W. Gallacher and J. Paton
7 Politics in the Workshop Movement: G.D.H. Cole
8 The Shop Stewards’ Rules: N.S.S. & W.C.M.
9 The Dangers of Revolution: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
10 What Happened at Leeds: the Leeds Convention 1917
11 A Shop Stewards’ Conference: Thomas Bell
12 After the War: Dr B. Pribicevic
13 An Assessment: Dr B. Pribicevic
14 Prelude to Unemployed Struggles: Wal Hannington
15 Defeat; The 1922 Lock-out: James B. Jefferys
16 Shop Stewards on the Streets: J.T. Murphy
17 T.U.C. Aims: T.U.C. Annual Report 1925
18 ‘The Death Gasp of that Pernicious Doctrine’: Beatrice Webb

Chapter 2 1935-47

1 ‘… The Shop Stewards’ Movement will Re-Appear’: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revival; The English Aircraft Strike: Tom Roberts
3 London Metal Workers and the Communists: John Mahon
4 The Communists’ Industrial Policy: CPGB 14th Congress, 1937
5 ‘… A Strong Left Current’; John Mahon
6 Shop Stewards against Government and War: National Shop-Stewards’ Conference, 1940
7 The A.E.U. and the Shop Stewards’ Movement: Wal Hannington
8 For Maximum Production: Walter Swanson and Douglas Hyde
9 Joint Production Committees: Len Powell
10 The Employers Respond: Engineering Employers’ Federation
11 How to get the Best Results: E & A.T.S.S.N.C.
12 The Purpose of the Joint Production Committees: G.S. Walpole
13 A Dissident Complaint: Anarchist Federation of Glasgow, 1945
14 The Transformation of Birmingham: Bert Williams
15 Factory Committees; Post-War Aims: J.R. Campbell
16 After the Election: Reg Birch
17 Official View of Production Committees: Industrial Relations Handbook
18 Helping the Production Drive: Communist Party of Great Britain

Chapter 3 1951-63

1 Post-war Growth of Shop Stewards in Engineering: A.T. Marsh and E.E. Coker
2 Shop-Steward Survey: H.A. Clegg, A.J. Killick and Rex Adams
3 The Causes of Strikes: Trades Union Congress
4 The Trend of Strikes: H.A. Turner
5 Shop-Stewards and Joint Consultation: B.C. Roberts
6 Joint Consultation and the Unions: Transport and General Workers’ Union
7 Strengths of Shop-Steward Organisation: H.M.S.O.
8 Activities of Shop-Stewards: H.M.S.O.
9 Local Bargaining and Wages Drift: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
10 The Motor Vehicle Industrial Group and Shop-Stewards’ Combine Committees: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
11. Ford Management’s view of Management: H.M.S.O.
12. The Bata Story: Malcolm MacEwen
13 Fight against Redundancy: Harry Finch
14 How They Work the Trick: Ford Shop Stewards
15 I work at Fords: Brian Jefferys
16 The Origins of Fawley: Allan Flanders
17 Controlling the Urge to Control: Tony Topham

Section III: Industrial Democracy and Nationalization

Chapter 1 1910-22

1 State Ownership and Control: G.D.H. Cole
2 Towards a Miner’s Guild: National Guilds League
3 Nationalization of the Mines: Frank Hodges
4 Towards a National Railway Guild: National Guilds League
5 Workers’ Control on the Railways: Dr B. Pribicevic
6 The Railways Act, 1921: Philip Bagwell

Chapter 2 1930-35

1 A Re-Appraisal: G.D.H. Cole
2 A works Council Law: G.D.H. Cole
3 A Fabian Model for Workers’ Representation: G.D.H. Cole and W. Mellor
4 Herbert Morrison’s Case: Herbert Morrison
5 The Soviet Example: Herbert Morrison
6 The T.U.C. Congress, 1932: Trades Union Congress
7 The Labour Party Conference, 19332: The Labour Party
8 The T.U.C. Congress, 1933: Trades Union Congress
9 The Labour Party Conference, 1933: The Labour Party
10 The Agreed Formula: The Labour Party

Chapter 3 1935-55

1 The Labour Party in Power: Robert Dahl
2 The Coal Nationalization Act: W.W. Haynes
3 George Brown’s Anxieties: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
4 Cripps and the Workers: The Times
5 Trade Union Officials and the Coal Board: Abe Moffatt
6 Acceptance of the Public Corporation: R. Page Arnot
7 No Demands from the Communists: Emmanuel Shinwell
8 We Demand Workers’ Representation: Harry Pollitt
9 The N.U.R. and Workers’ Control: Philip Bagwell
10 The Trade Unions take Sides: Eirene Hite
11 Demands for the Steel Industry: The Labour Party
12 The A.E.U. Briefs its Members: Amalgamated Engineering Union
13 Making Joint Consultation Effective: The New Statesman
14 ‘Out-of-Date Ideas’: Trades Union Congress
15 A Further Demand for Participation: The Labour Party

Chapter 4 1955-64

1 Storm Signals: Clive Jenkins
2 The Democratization of Power: New Left Review
3 To Whom are Managers Responsible?: New Left Review
4 Accountability and Participation: John Hughes
5 A 1964 Review: Michael Barratt-Brown

Section IV: The New Movement: Contemporary Writings on Industrial Democracy

Chapter 1 The New Movement: 1964-67

1 A Retreat: H.A. Clegg
2 ‘We Must Align with the Technological Necessities…’ C.A.R. Crosland
3 A Response: Royden Harrison
4 Definitions: Workers’ Control and Self-Management: Ken Coates
5 The New Movement: Ken Coates
6 The Process of Decision: Trades Union Congress
7 Economic Planning and Wages: Trades Union Congress
8 Seeking a Bigger Say at Work: Sydney Hill
9 A Plan for a Break-through in Production: Jack Jones
10 A Comment on Jack Jones’ Plan: Tony Topham
11 Open the Books: Ken Coates
12 Incomes Policy and Control: Dave Lambert
13 Watch-dogs for Nationalized Industries: Hull LEFT
14 Revival in the Coal Industry: National Union of Mineworkers
15 Workers’ Control in Nationalized Steel Industry: The Week
16 Workers’ Control in the Docks: The Dockers’ Next Step: The Week
17 The Daily Mail Takes Notes: The Daily Mail
18 Labour’s Plan for the Docks: The Labour Party
19 Municipal Services: Jack Ashwell
20 The Party Programme: The Labour Party
21 Open the Shipowners’ Books!: John Prescott and Charlie Hodgins
22 A Socialist Policy for the Unions. May Day Manifesto

The book appropriately ends with a conclusion.

The book is clearly a comprehensive, encyclopedic treatment of the issue of workers’ control primarily, but not exclusively, from the thinkers and workers who demanded and agitated for it, and who occasionally succeeded in achieving it or at least a significant degree of worker participation in management. As the book was published in 1968, it omits the great experiments in worker’s control and management of the 1970s, like the Bullock Report, the 1971 work-in at the shipbuilders in the Upper Clyde, and the worker’s co-ops at the Scottish Daily News, Triumph of Meriden, Fisher Bendix in Kirkby, and at the British Aircraft Company in Bristol.

This was, of course, largely a period where the trade unions were growing and had the strength, if not to achieve their demands, then at least to make them be taken seriously, although there were also serious setbacks. Like the collapse of the 1922 General Strike, which effectively ended syndicalism in Great Britain as a mass movement. Since Thatcher’s victory in 1979 union power has been gravely diminished and the power of management massively increased. The result of this has been the erosion of workers’ rights, so that millions of British workers are now stuck in poorly paid, insecure jobs with no holiday, sickness or maternity leave. We desperately need this situation to be reversed, to go back to the situation where working people can enjoy secure, properly-paid jobs, with full employments rights, protected by strong unions.

The Tories are keen to blame the unions for Britain’s industrial decline, pointing to the disruption caused by strikes, particularly in the industrial chaos of the 1970s. Tory propaganda claims that these strikes were caused by irresponsible militants against the wishes of the majority of working people. You can see this view in British films of the period like Ealing’s I’m All Right Jack, in which Peter Sellars played a Communist union leader, and one of the Carry On films set in a toilet factory, as well as the ’70s TV comedy, The Rag Trade. This also featured a female shop-steward, who was all too ready to cry ‘Everybody out!’ at every perceived insult or infraction of agreed conditions by management. But many of the pieces included here show that these strikes were anything but irresponsible. They were a response to real exploitation, bullying and appalling conditions. The extracts dealing with the Ford works particularly show this. Among the incidents that provoked the strike were cases where workers were threatened by management and foremen for taking time off for perfectly good reasons. One worker taken to task by his foreman for this had done so in order to take his sick son to hospital.

The book shows that workers’ control has been an issue for parts of the labour movement since the late nineteenth century, before such radicalism because associated with the Communists. They also show that, in very many cases, workers have shown themselves capable of managing their firms.

There are problems with it, nevertheless. There are technical issues about the relative representation of unions in multi-union factories. Tony Benn was great champion of industrial democracy, but in his book Arguments for Socialism he argues that it can only be set up when the workers’ in a particular firm actually want, and that it should be properly linked to a strong union movement. He also attacks token concessions to the principle, like schemes in which only one workers’ representative is elected to the board, or works’ councils which have no real power and are outside trade union control or influence.

People are becoming increasingly sick and angry of the Tories’ and New Labour impoverishment and disenfranchisement of the working class. Jeremy Corbyn has promised working people full employment and trade union rights from the first day of their employment, and to put workers in the boardroom of the major industries. We desperately need these policies to reverse the past forty years of Thatcherism, and to bring real dignity and prosperity to working people. After decades of neglect, industrial democracy is back on the table by a party leadership that really believes in it. Unlike May and the Tories when they made it part of their elections promises back in 2017.

We need the Tories out and Corbyn in government. Now. And for at least some of the industrial democracy workers have demanded since the Victorian age.

Tony Benn: Socialism Needed to Prevent Massive Abuse by Private Industry

January 7, 2019

In the chapter ‘Labour’s Industrial Programme’ in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism, Tony Benn makes a very strong case for the extension of public ownership. This is needed, he argued, to prevent serious abuse by private corporations. This included not just unscrupulous and unjust business policies, like one medical company overcharging the health service for its products, but also serious threats to democracy. Benn is also rightly outraged by the way companies can be bought and sold without the consultation of their workers. He writes

The 1970s provided us with many examples of the abuse of financial power. There were individual scandals such as the one involving Lonrho which the Conservative Prime Minister, Mr Heath, described as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. Firms may be able to get away with the payment of 38,000 pounds a year to part-time chairmen if no one else knows about it. But when it becomes public and we know that the chairman, as a Conservative M.P., supports a statutory wages policy to keep down the wage of low-paid workers, some earning less than 20 pounds a week at the time, it becomes intolerable. There was the case of the drug company, Hoffman-La Roche, who were grossly overcharging the National Health Service. There was also the initial refusal by Distillers to compensate the thalidomide children properly.

There were other broader scandals such as those involving speculation in property and agricultural land; the whole industry of tax avoidance; the casino-like atmosphere of the Stock Exchange. Millions of people who experience real problems in Britain are gradually learning all this on radio and television and from the press. Such things are a cynical affront to the struggle that ordinary people have to feed and clothe their families.

But the problem goes deeper than that. Workers have no legal rights to be consulted when the firms for which they work are taken over. They are sold off like cattle when a firm changes hands with no guarantee for the future. The rapid growth of trade union membership among white-collar workers and even managers indicates the strength of feelings about that. Not just the economic but also the political power of big business, especially the multinationals, has come into the open.

In Chile the ITT plotted to overthrow an elected President. The American arms companies, Lockheed and Northrop, have been shown to have civil servants, generals, ministers and even prime ministers, in democratic countries as well as dictatorships, on their payroll. The Watergate revelations have shown how big business funds were used in an attempt to corrupt the American democratic process. In Britain we have had massive political campaigns also financed by big business to oppose the Labour Party’s programme for public ownership and to secure the re-election of Conservative governments. Big business also underwrote the cost of the campaign to keep Britain in the Common Market at the time of the 1975 referendum. (pp. 49-50).

Benn then moves to discuss the threat of the sheer amount of power held by big business and the financial houses.

Leaving aside the question of abuse, the sheer concentration of industrial and economic power is now a major political factor. The spate of mergers in recent years in Britain alone – and their expected continuation – can be expressed like this: in 1950 the top 100 companies in Britain produced about 20 per cent of the national output. By 1973 they produced 46 per cent. And at this rate, by 1980, they will produce 66 per cent – two-thirds of our national output. Many of them will be operating multinationally, exporting capital and jobs and siphoning off profits to where the taxes are most profitable.

The banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are also immensely powerful. In June 1973 I was invited to speak at a conference organised by the Financial Times and the Investors Chronicle. It was held in the London Hilton, and before going I added up the total assets of the banks and other financial institutions represented in the audience. They were worth at that time about 95,000 million pounds. This was at the time about twice as much as the Gross National Product of the United Kingdom and four or five times the total sum raised in taxation by the British government each year. (p.50).

He then goes on to argue that the Labour party has to confront what this concentration of industrial and financial power means for British democracy and its institutions, and suggests some solutions.

The Labour Party must ask what effect all this power will have on the nature of our democracy. Britain is proud of its system of parliamentary democracy, its local democracy and its free trade unions. But rising against this we have the growing power of the Common Market which will strip our elected House of Commons of its control over some key economic decisions. This has greatly weakened British democracy at a time when economic power is growing stronger.

I have spelled this out because it is the background against which our policy proposals have been developed. In the light of our experience in earlier governments we believed it would necessary for government to have far greater powers over industry. These are some of the measures we were aiming at in the Industry Bill presented to Parliament in 1975, shortly after our return to power:

The right to require disclosure of information by companies
The right of government to invest in private companies requiring support.
The provision for joint planning between government and firms.
The right to acquire firms, with the approval of Parliament.
The right to protect firms from takeovers.
The extension of the present insurance companies’ provisions for ministerial control over board members.
The extension of the idea of Receivership to cover the defence of the interests of workers and the nation.
Safeguards against the abuse of power by global companies.

If we are to have a managed economy-and that seems to be accepted – the question is: ‘In whose interests is it to be managed?’ We intend to manage it in the interests of working people and their families. But we do not accept the present corporate structure of Government Boards, Commissions and Agents, working secretly and not accountable to Parliament. The powers we want must be subjected to House of Commons approval when they are exercised. (pp. 50-1).

I don’t know what proportion of our economy is now dominated by big business and the multinationals, but there is absolutely no doubt that the situation after nearly forty years of Thatcherism is now much worse. British firms, including our public utilities, have been bought by foreign multinationals, are British jobs are being outsourced to eastern Europe and India.

There has also been a massive corporate takeover of government. The political parties have become increasingly reliant on corporate donations from industries, that then seek to set the agenda and influence the policies of the parties to which they have given money. The Conservatives are dying from the way they have consistently ignored the wishes of their grassroots, and seem to be kept alive by donations from American hedge fund firms. Under Blair and Brown, an alarmingly large number of government posts were filled by senior managers and officials from private firms. Both New Labour and the Tories were keen to sell off government enterprises to private industry, most notoriously to the firms that bankrolled them. And they put staff from private companies in charge of the very government departments that should have been regulating them. See George Monbiot’s Captive State.

In America this process has gone so far in both the Democrat and Republican parties that Harvard University in a report concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but a form of corporate oligarchy.

The Austrian Marxist thinker, Karl Kautsky, believed that socialists should only take industries into public ownership when the number of firms in them had been reduced through bankruptcies and mergers to a monopoly. Following this reasoning, many of the big companies now dominating modern Britain, including the big supermarkets, should have been nationalized long ago.

Tony Benn was and still is absolutely right about corporate power, and the means to curb it. It’s why the Thatcherite press reviled him as a Communist and a maniac. We now no longer live in a planned economy, but the cosy, corrupt arrangements between big business, the Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour, continues. Ha-Joon Chang in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very strongly that we need to return to economic planning. In this case, we need to go back to the policies of the ’70s that Thatcher claimed had failed, and extend them.

And if that’s true, then the forty years of laissez-faire capitalism ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan is an utter, utter failure. It’s time it was discarded.