Archive for the ‘Working Conditions’ Category

Tweezer Runs from Bexit Vote

December 10, 2018

More lies, cowardice and broken promises from Theresa May. After telling the world that she was going to hold a vote on her Brexit deal tomorrow, 13th December 2018, Tweezer has once again shown her true colours and run away. Just like she pulled out from a debate with Jeremy Corbyn when she found that the Labour leader was not going to give in to her and hold the debate on the Beeb, in a format packed with Tories or pro-Tory voices. Just like she also demanded Corbyn debate her at the election in 2017, and then ran away from that when agreed.

It’s standard Tweezer policy when the going gets sticky. And the going here was very sticky end. According to RT, 62 per cent of the country think her deal is bad for Britain. MPs on all sides of the House are lining up to criticize it, and her own cabinet is bitterly divided on the issue. Plus leading Tories are lining to up to say they’ll challenge her leadership of the party, the latest being Esther ‘Killer of the weak and disabled’ McVey. So Tweezer has decided to postpone the vote.

This is a woman, who doesn’t like facing an audience unless everything is very carefully stage-managed. Like during the electioneering last year, when she went round supposedly meeting ordinary people. Except she didn’t. The meetings were very carefully staged, often in private, and with very carefully selected audiences, in order to exclude anybody who was going to ask awkward questions.

May has therefore postponed the Brexit vote. Mike has asked on his blog whether this means it’s effectively been cancelled. Which would lead to another contempt of parliament motion. This wouldn’t surprise me either. It would have been the first promise Tweezer has broken. Some of us still remember how she promised all manner of things last year, including workers on management boards, which were forgotten or postponed as soon as she got into No. 10.

But Mike also asks what this means for democracy. Without the vote, she can simply push it through parliament, no matter how bad it is for the country and the amount of opposition to it in parliament.

Are we living in a democracy, or slaving under Dictator May?, Mike pointedly asks.

It’s a very good question.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/10/theresa-may-has-postponed-the-meaningful-vote-in-parliament-on-her-duff-brexit-deal-does-she-mean-cancelled/

Mike has also mischievously suggested that one reason May pulled out of holding the vote on her wretched Brexit deal tomorrow is that Andy Serkis did an impression of her as Gollum. Serkis is the actor, who played the character in the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit films. And it’s appropriate. Tweezer got nicknamed Gollum after her obsequious fawning and curtsying to the monarchy, just like the character flits between fawning over Frodo and the others searching for the Ring and spitting hate about them.

It appears that Serkis did his impression of May/Gollum as part of the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum. I found it on the We Wants It channel on YouTube, which takes its name from Gollum’s cry about the Ring, ‘We wants it, precious!’ Just as the we, the country, or at least some of us, wants a second referendum. Here it is.

Mike has also written about this latest piece of massive cowardice by May. His piece also includes Serkis’ Gollum impression, taken from the Mirror, as well as some very grim pictures of May groveling to the Royals. It’s at

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/10/did-andy-serkis-impression-of-gollum-may-prompt-her-to-postpone-her-big-brexit-vote/

Don’t have nightmares!
D

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The Operation of Worker-Owned Companies in Martian SF

December 9, 2018

A week or so ago I put up a few passages from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars (London: HarperCollins 1996), a science fiction book about the colonization and terraformation of the Red Planet. In Robinson’s book, on breaking away from terrestrial domination the Martians establish a constitution which makes all the companies not owned by the global Martian state or its constituent cities worker-owned cooperatives, partly modelled on the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain. On page 301 Robinson describes how Nadia, the new Martian president in the capital, Sheffield, works to transform the planet’s industries, including those formerly owned by terrestrial metanats – vast multinationals that now dominate the industries of whole countries – into the new system. Robinson writes

Nadia, however, never made it to this conference. She got caught up by affairs in Sheffield instead, mostly instituting the new economic system, which she thought important enough to keep her there. The legislature was passing the law of eco-economics, fleshing out the bones drawn up in the constitution. They directed co-ops that had existed before the revolution to help the newly independent metanat local subsidiaries to transform themselves into similar co-operative organisations. This process, called horizontalization, had very wide support, especially from the young natives, and so it was proceeding fairly smoothly. Every Martian business now had to be owned by its employees only. No co-op could exceed one thousand people; larger enterprises had to be made of co-op associations, working together. For their internal structures most of the firms chose variants of the Bogdanovist models, which themselves were based on the co-operative Basque community of Mondragon, Spain. In these firms all employees were co-owners, and they bought into their positions by paying the equivalent of about a year’s wages to the firms equity fund. This became the starter of their share in the firm, which grew every year they stayed, until it was given back to them as pension or departure payment. Councils elected from the work-force hired management, usually from outside, and this management then had the power to make executive decisions, but was subject to a yearly review by the councils. Credit and capital were obtained from central co-operative banks, or the global government’s start-up fund, or helper organisations such as Praxis and the Swiss. On the next level up, co-ops in the same industries or services wer associating for larger projects, and also sending representatives to industry guilds, which established professional practice boards, arbitration and mediation centres, and trade associations.

I can’t say I’m happy about the idea of worker managers buying their share of management with the equivalent of a year’s pay. This seems far too easy for someone to exploit to me. And I’m also not sure how practical it would be to turn all companies into co-operatives. However, we do need industrial democracy, if only to overturn the massive exploitation of working people that has gone on under Thatcherism. Under the current Thatcherite orthodoxy, wages are frozen, jobs insecure and the welfare system undermined and destroyed. A quarter of a million people have been forced to use foodbanks to save themselves from starvation, and 330,000-odd people are homeless. And the number of people dying on our streets, and the elderly in their homes due to Tory cuts in the cold weather payments, has shot up. And this has all been to give the rich tax cuts and provide employers with a cheap, cowed workforce.

Enough’s enough. We need a proper government with a proper vision that treats working people decently, with proper wages and rights at work, invigorates trade unions, restores a strong and health welfare state, builds properly affordable homes and reverses the privatization of the NHS. Only Corbyn’s Labour promises all that. And part of this promise is to put workers on the boards of all firms with over a certain number of employees.

Corbyn is the person we need to have in No.10. Not Tweezer and her gang of crooks and profiteers. Get them out, and Labour in.

RT Video on WASPI Women’s Protests Before Tomorrow’s March

November 21, 2018

This is another very short video from RT, put up in anticipation of the march tomorrow by the WASPIs – Women Against State Pension Inequality. It shows some of the protests and questions in the parliament that these ladies have raised over the past few years.

It begins by showing scenes in parliament, followed by a demonstration outside, with protesters holding banners, one of which says very clearly, ‘You Are Killing Us.’ This is intercut with a woman explaining why they were marching. She says

We are marching against the acceleration to the state pension age that began for women in 1995.

This is followed by a female MP with a Scots accent saying

Given that the Prime Minister is a WASPI woman herself, how he can justify a rise of 413 per cent in the number of women over 60 in receipt of ESA, because of this government’s refusal to give them their pension?

This is followed by someone from the government benches standing up to say

I do accept that the government must do all we can to assist everyone affected into retraining and employment and provide support if that is not possible. And that commitment to provide support is clear, unequivocal and ongoing.

It’s the usual Tory lies we’ve heard whenever the opposition or campaigners show that state welfare provision is woefully inadequate. They immediately start lying, telling everyone that state support is there, and how there is more of it in real terms than there was under Labour. Or a big increase is coming. As for all this guff about retraining, this reminds me how the Tories have tried to disguise the exploitation of the unemployed in their wretched ‘welfare to work’ training by presenting it as teaching the unemployed the necessary skills, discipline and experience to get a job. Or by pretending that the ‘Jobs Coaches’ who ring up the unemployed to pressure them into getting work are something other than officious pests, whose job is to humiliate and degrade their victims into feeling so wretched that they’ll leap at any job, no matter how poorly paid or exploitative.

We’ve heard these lies before. So have the women in the video, who respond to this load of Tory nonsense with cries of ‘shame’ and ‘Shame on you!’

Women generally have been the worst hit by the Tories’ austerity campaign, but as it’s ordinary people suffering, it really doesn’t matter whether the PM is a WASPI woman or not. She’s rich and entitled, and so couldn’t care less what happens to those women, or people generally, for that matter, who are less fortunate than her. At the same time, the Tories will show off her, and their other female MPs, as a demonstration that they’re somehow empowering women. But all the women they’ve empowered, are rich girls, who, like the blokes on the Tory benches, seem to get a kick out of inflicting more and harsher poverty, degradation and despair on those lower down the social ladder.

I’m sick of their lies, and wish the ladies on the march every success. And I hope it will encourage a few more people, who might be inclined to listen to them, to turn their backs on the Tories, and hasten their departure from power. If May goes tomorrow, it won’t be too soon.

Fascism Based on the Values of Business and the Military

November 20, 2018

On Saturday I put up a number of extracts from Robert A. Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) to show that, contrary to what the Republicans in America and the Tories in this country would have us believe Nazism was firmly capitalist, not socialist. Brady argued that Nazism was, economically, monopoly capitalism with businessmen put in charge of the economy, very much like the corporatist capitalism introduced by the Tories, the Republicans and Blair’s New Labour.

Brady also argued that the autocratic social structure of Fascism was based very much on the hierarchical structure of business and the armed forces, including the businessmen’s contempt for the low paid. He wrote

With respect first to the condition, it has been pointed out in the first chapter of this study, and illustrated in subsequent chapters, that the German business community did not depart one iota from tried and true “business principles” when they underwrote the Nazi programme. Every business practices towards its own staff the “leader” and the “authority” principles, and it undeviatingly aspires towards the “total” principle. That is to say, all officers and staff members are appointed and removed from on top entirely at the discretion of management (leader principle), and authority is from the top down, responsibility from the bottom up (authority principle). And every employer attempts to control so far as humanly possible the attitudes, beliefs, and points of view (weltanschauung) of his employees and every section of the public with which he comes in contact (total principle).

Every business establishment is, in other words, completely autocratic and completely undemocratic in structure, ideology, and procedure. It is, by the same token, completely intolerant of all opposition within or without, or of any criticism which does not redound to the advantage of the profit-making possibilities of the enterprise. The enterprise may be compelled, it is true, to make important concessions on all points, but it should not be forgotten that these are concessions, not departures from principle.

Furthermore, every employer regards the gradation of pay and authority amongst the staff over which he presides as being essentially just and sound, because each indicates the relative ability he or she possesses by the position occupied. The criteria are not productive, but acquisitive. Each is paid according to his ability to acquire or “get ahead”, not according to his contribution to output. If the two – contribution to output and contribution to acquisition – happen to go together, well and good. If they do not, it matters little, since their juxtaposition is a matter of accident, not of interdependence.

The condition of society in which the business men would rule would be that one which is natural to them. It would, as a matter of course, be centralized, autocratic, and intolerant, and it would be so constructed that each would get exactly what he deserves for the simple reason that according to the rules he deserves whatever he can get. It is the well accepted business view that most, if not all of the unemployed are shiftless, worthless, irresponsible, and undisciplined. it is taken as axiomatic that the lowest wage-earner receives all that “is coming to him,” since if he could get more by any means which does not disturb business routine it is obvious that he would. His failure is the measure of his incompetence, and with that all has been said about it that may be mentioned by gentlemen of good breeding and respectable station!

This condition is one that would normally appeal to the conventional army officer. The military is the only other completely undemocratic, completely autocratic, and completely intolerant – completely “leader”, “authoritarian”, and “totalitarian” – organization in modern society. Provided due allowance is made for recognition of the military hierarchies of “authority” and “duty” in the fascist state, it can be fitted into the pattern of the businessman’s ultima thule without a single tonal jar. The moods, attitudes, points of view, values, and appraisals of human worth are fundamentally the same.

It is for this reason that it seems so easy for the military and business hierarchies to get together as they have in Italy, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, and many other places. But the significance of this natural alliance is that the military holds the key to political power. Once the alliance takes place, fascism is here unless the elements arrayed against it-as in Spain-possess superior force. It does not follow that the army rank and file will follow their officers any more than it does that labourers will follow their employers. But, if they do, fascism is practically certain to gain the ascendancy. (pp. 335-7).

The shared values of business, the military and Fascism helps explain why the British stock exchange applauded at the news of the Fascist revolt in Spain, at least according to Orwell, and why sections of Conservative party have always overlapped with the Fascist fringe, such as the National Front and the BNP. And why the Libertarians, like the Freedom Association, formerly the National Association for Freedom, or NAAF – make your own jokes up – backed murderous Fascist regimes in South and Central America. Of course, Milton Friedman, the founder of Monetarism, Thatcher’s favourite economic theory, and the Chicago School supported right-wing dictators like General Pinochet because they reasoned that it would only be through a Fascist coup that their programme of completely destroying the welfare state and state economic interference could be implemented.

And it exactly explains the Conservative and New Labour hatred of low wage workers and the unemployed, and why Thatcher was so keen on supporting the police and military against strikers. And it’s also a very strong argument for introducing some measure of industrial democracy – workers’ control – in order to make this country truly democratic.

And this is quite apart from the imperialism that is at the heart of Fascism – the wars fought for the benefit of American and western multinationals, from the coups in Latin America to the latest, so-called humanitarian interventions in the Middle East.

We desperately need a programme like Corbyn’s, which offers both industrial democracy, and a better deal for the unemployed and those in work in Britain and an end to wars abroad. Because without it, as we’ve seen, is the road to real Fascism, as shown in the militantly racist and anti-Semitic parties gaining strength in Europe.

The Capitalist Nature of Nazism

November 17, 2018

Every now and then a Conservative defender of capitalism tries to argue that Nazism and Fascism were forms of Socialism. Jonah Goldberg tried it a few years ago in his book, Liberal Fascism, a Tory MP stood up in the European parliament a couple of weeks ago and made the same accusation, though he had to take it back and apologise. And Private Eye in recent weeks have also published a couple of letters from readers making the same claims.

Fascism did have Socialistic elements. Mussolini was originally a radical Socialist, who broke with the rest of the Italian Socialist movement in supporting Italy joining the First World War. The Fascist party was originally extremely left-wing in its programme of 1919. Its corporativism was not only based on the ideas of the right-wing Italian Nationalists, but also from part of the syndicalist movement, which moved away from demanding absolute workers’ control to advocating an industrial structure which included both capitalists and workers in a series of corporations set up to govern each industry, or sector of the economy. The Nazis also included socialist elements in their 1922 programme, such as the nationalization of firms and profit-sharing in industry, as well as the break-up of the department stores.

However, the Fascists and Nazis came to power through their alliance with business and the aristocracy. Both the Italian Fascists and Nazis in Germany were hostile to socialism, communism and workers’ trade unions. In Italy, they also allied with the Vatican to destroy the Populists, a party set up to represent Italian Roman Catholics against persecution by the Liberal state, which was distrusted by the Papacy because they considered it too radical. Once in power, the socialist elements of these parties’ programmes was soon jettisoned. Hitler declared that he had no intention of nationalizing businesses, unless they were badly run. He had the SA massacred in the Night of the Long Knives because this part of the Nazi party did take the socialist elements of party programme seriously. The word ‘socialist’ had only been included in the name of the Nazi party – the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – against bitter opposition by some of its founders. Hitler stated that he did so in order to steal potential recruits from the real left-wing parties. Furthermore, the Nationalist intellectuals who first advocated a right-wing ‘socialist’ order in the 1920s stated that they did not refer to the nationalization of industry, but to the socialization of people to serve the state. And just before the Nazi seizure of power, Hitler made a speech to German industry stating that Nazism would protect private industry.

Robert A. Brady, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, made the capitalist nature of the Nazi regime very clear in his The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937). The book is a thorough description of German society under the Nazis – its ideology, social structure, the coordination of science, industry and agriculture, the instruments of power and the various party organisations used to recruit and control the masses. Brady states

The regime which the Nazis proceeded to establish is fairly described, by the very nature of the major interest which sponsored it, as a dictatorship of monopoly capitalism. Its “fascism” is that of business enterprise organized on a monopoly basis, and in full command of all the military, police, legal and propaganda power of the state. (p. 33, emphasis in the original). He lays out the essential capitalist nature of the Nazi state as follows on pages 41-2.

1. Productive Property and natural resources are to be privately owned; freedom of contract is guaranteed (excepting to “aliens” and the peasants under the Inheritance laws).
2. Individual initiative, the business entrepreneur, conduct of business for profit (“reward for services performed”), and ownership (individual or stockholder) control are basic.
3. Business men are to be free, if “responsible” (“self-government in business”), to fix by agreement prices, production totals and quotas, marketing areas, and the conditions and terms of purchase and sale.
4. Stock and commodity exchanges, commission houses, brokers, and speculative transactions are inevitable and necessary for the conduct of “organic business.” (Business as usual.)
5. Heavy industries, particularly those catering to the military and foreign trade, are encouraged; large-scale units, unless “uneconomical” are to be kept intact; co-operatives are to be broken up.
6. The social class structure of society is sanctified, strengthened, made semi-hereditary, and hardened into caste lines
(Standestaat, class state); the “Middle Class” are the Myrmidons of the Elite (Fuhrerstaat, leader state) and, as such, the backbone of the state.
7. Employers have practically complete control over workmen in regard to wages, hours, and working conditions. They must “take care” of their workmen-i.e. see that they are fed and do not grumble.
8. Collective bargaining is completely abolished; strikes are illegal; trade unions are forbidden; requests for wage increases are
lese majeste.
9. Control is completely from on top; there is and can be no such thing as control or discussion of policies from below; the “leaders” decide all things as they see fit; each holds appointed office for indefinite periods at the will of his superior.
10. The National Socialist Party and the German State are one and inseparable, as spirit and body. Legislative, executive, and judicial authorities are fused together. The central government controls all local government and all activities in all their details.
11. Civil and military are fused together; as in the military there can be no freedom of speech, of assembly, of writing, of acting, of “thoughts.” “Anyone may grumble or criticize the government who is not afraid to go to a concentration camp.” (Goebbels).
12. Germany must be made self-sufficient at all costs.
(Autarkie).
13. Non-Germans cannot be citizens; as a corollary, all Germans residing outside Germany either belong or owe allegiance to the Third Reich.
14 Communism (Bolshevism, Marxism) is the major enemy. There can be no such thing as equality of rights, opportunities, or income for classes, races, or sexes. The “broad masses” are fools and must be duped and led to meet the purposes of the elite
(Herrenstaat). Class war is the major crime; material rewards for the rank and file sheer folly.
15. All sciences and “culture” must be co-ordinated and made to serve the purposes of the “leader,” “total,” “corporate” “master”
(Herren)state. propaganda is the method. Propaganda knows neither right nor wrong, neither truth nor falsehood, but only what it wants.

In fact, business autonomy was severely limited by the imposition of the apparatus of state planning as Nazi Germany became a centrally planned economy similar to the Soviet Union, though in the case of Germany and Fascist Italy the economy was still very definitely capitalist private industry. Brady also goes on to discuss in his book how the Nazis celebrated and lauded the businessman as biologically superior through their social Darwinist ideology, and made sure that the leaders of industry, whether state-owned or private, were all drawn from the private sector.

Nazi rhetoric was anti-capitalist, but by this they meant free trade, which they identified with the Jews, just as they claimed the Jews were behind Socialism, Communism, the trade unions and other left-wing movements. They also borrowed some elements from Communism. Fellow Germans were ‘national comrades’, rather like the Marxist use of the term ‘comrade’ to describe a fellow Communist.

However, it is clear from this that Nazism was deeply Conservative and capitalist in its economic and social policies, and bitterly anti-socialist. It had socialist elements, but they were not taken seriously and only ever used as propaganda against the genuinely socialist parties and organisations. Any description of the Nazis as really socialist is utterly false and a lie, a rhetorical attempt to discredit contemporary socialism through guilt by association, and must be seen as such.

Spice Girls Call on People to Support May in Brexit Negotiations

November 13, 2018

Here’s another story from the I, simply reporting a piece that was in another newspaper. Yesterday, the I was repeating a piece from the Sunday Times that David Miliband might come back to England to lead the new ‘centrist’ Blairite party that’s been debated for months now. Today, 13th November 2018, the I ran a piece about an article in the Scum, in which the Spice Girls called upon the people of Britain to support Tweezer in her Brexit negotiations with Brussels.

The article on page 7 of newspaper ran

The Spice Girls have called on Britons to back up Theresa May in her Brexit negotiations.

The band were known for their girl power message during the 1990s, but Emma Bunton, aka Baby Spice, told The Sun of a change in message more than 20 years on. She said, “It’s people power. We’re about equality and bringing everyone together.”

Bandmate Geri Horner also backed Mrs May, saying the Prime Minister did not have an “easy position”.

She said: “We don’t have to agree on politics, it’s bigger than that. You can just support a woman doing the best she can and that’s it.”

Er, no, you don’t have to support May. She might be doing the best she can, but she’s the head of a party that has single-handedly done its absolute and level best to reduce ordinary working people, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed to grinding poverty. While at the same time depriving them of employment rights, privatizing the health service and stripping back the welfare state to make benefits as difficult and as humiliating to obtain as possible. As a result, something like 14 million are in poverty, a quarter of a million at least are using food banks, and homelessness has shot up. And there is an ongoing genocide of the disabled which is largely ignored by the mass media. Her predecessor, David Cameron, by calling the referendum did more to split the UK than Sinn Fein and the Scots Nats, because everyone in Northern Ireland and Scotland wishes to remain in Europe. It’s only we English, who swallowed the xenophobic rubbish and outright lies of the Leave campaign.

And whatever Tweezer says, any deal she makes will not benefit the vast majority of this country’s people. Despite her party’s rhetoric, there have no interest in doing anything to improve conditions for the rest of us. Quite the opposite. The Tory party is the party of the rich and affluent, the aristocracy and the business classes. Thanks to austerity, their wealth has massively increased while Britain’s working people have become much poorer. Any deal May will want to make with Brussels will be intended to benefit them, not us.

The best thing in the circumstances will be for Tweezer’s negotiations to fail, an election called and the Tories kicked out and replaced with a proper, Labour government that can actually do the job of rebuilding our economy, welfare state, NHS and relationship with Europe.

As for the Spice Girls themselves, I don’t hate them, but I was never a fan. They always struck me as Conservatives, and a number of my friends didn’t think much of them, regarding them as a manufactured band. As for their slogan ‘Girl Power’, the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror film website, Moria, in its review of their film, Spice World, said it was meaningless. It was a kind of ‘post-feminist feminism’, and so was essentially as meaningless and empty as their music. The video for ‘Spice Up Your Life’, in which the girls fly through a dark, twilight city of towering skyscrapers, drenched in rain and given occasional illumination by a distant searchlight on high-tech surf boards seems so much based on Los Angeles of the SF film Blade Runner that I’m surprised Ridley Scott didn’t sue them for copyright. Blade Runner is one of the great classics of SF cinema, not least for its striking cityscape and Vangelis’ synthesizer score. It’s a downbeat, depressing movie, in sharp contrast to ‘Spice Up Your Life’, which is just a piece of inconsequential fun. But the movie had something deep to say about humanity and our assumptions of moral superiority over the biological machines we may create to serve us. Plus the fact that it had that awesome speech by Rutger Hauer as the Replicant leader, Roy Batty, to Harrison Ford’s Rik Deckard at the end: ‘Now you know what it’s like to be a slave. To live in fear. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, seen ships on fire off the shores of Orion…’ etc. Seeing the Spice Girls’ video of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ the other day on YouTube reminded of just how great a piece of cinematic art Blade Runner was.

As for ‘people power’ and the rhetoric about equality and bringing everyone together, that’s very rich coming from the Scum. The Scum’s the mouthpiece of the Tory party, which has done everything it can since it was founded by Murdoch to divide Britain, not least through its strident, persistent racism. It’s thanks to the Tory party and their imitators, New Labour, that there is now a yawning chasm between rich and poor, while the Tories have exacerbated and created further racial divisions by whipping up hatred and fear against immigrants and asylum seekers. Quite apart from the general hatred and fear the Tory press incites against the unemployed and disabled, whom they despise and denigrate as ‘scroungers’.

The Spice Girls are planning a comeback, and if people like their music, that’s fine. They gave people a lot of pleasure back in the 1990s. But this time, their message in the Scum is definitely best ignored.

An Argument for Industrial Democracy from the Mars of SF

November 5, 2018

I’m currently reading Blue Mars, the last of a trilogy of books about the future colonization of the Red Planet by Kim Stanley Robinson. Written in the 1990s, this book and the other two in the series, Red Mars and Green Mars, chronicle the history of humans on Mars from the landing of the First 100 c. 2020, through full-scale colonization and the development of Martian society to the new Martians’ struggle for independence from Earth. In this future, Earth is run by the metanats, a contraction of ‘metanational’. These are the ultimate development of multinational corporations, firms so powerful that they dominate and control whole nations, and are the real power behind the United Nations, which in theory rules Mars.

As the Martians fight off Terran rule, they also fight among themselves. The two main factions are the Reds and the Greens. The Reds are those, who wish to preserve Mars in as close to its pristine, un-terraformed condition as possible. The Greens are those on the other side, who wish to terraform and bring life to the planet. The Martians are also faced with the question about what type of society and economy they wish to create themselves. This question is a part of the other books in the series. One of the characters, Arkady Bogdanov, a Russian radical, is named after a real Russian revolutionary. As it develops, the economy of the free Martians is partly based on gift exchange, rather like the economies of some indigenous societies on Earth. And at a meeting held in the underground chamber of one of the Martian societies – there are a variety of different cultures and societies, reflecting the culture of various ethnic immigrant to Mars and the political orientation of different factions – the free Martians in the second book draw up their tentative plans for the new society they want to create. This includes the socialization of industry.

Near the beginning of Blue Mars, the Martians have chased the Terran forces off the planet, but they remain in control of the asteroid Clarke, the terminus for the space elevator allowing easier space transport between Earth and Mars. The Martians themselves are dangerously divided, and so to begin the unification of their forces against possible invasion, they hold a constitutional congress. In one of the numerous discussions and meetings, the issue of the socialization of industry is revisited. One member, Antar, is firmly against government interference in the economy. He is opposed by Vlad Taneev, a biologist and economist, who argues not just for socialization but for worker’s control.

‘Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government ought to encourage?’
‘Yes!’ Antar repeated, looking more and more annoyed.
‘Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their work place? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue – control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is – a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives’ labour, under duress, to fee rulers who do no real work.’
‘Business leaders work,’ Antar said sharply. ‘And they take the financial risks-‘
‘The so-called risk of the capitalist is merely one of the
privileges of capital.’
‘Management -‘
‘Yes, yes. Don’t interrupt me. Management is a real thing, a technical matter. But it can be controlled by labour just as well by capital. Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past labourers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce. No! The system called capitalist democracy was not really democratic at all. That’s why it was able to turn so quickly into the metanational system, in which democracy grew ever weaker and capitalism every stronger. In which one per cent of the population owned half of the wealth, and five per cent of the population owned ninety-five per cent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.
‘So. We must change. It is time. If self-rule is a fundamental value. If simple justice is a value, then they are values everywhere, including in the work place where we spend so much of our lives. That was what was said in point four of the Dorsa Brevia agreement. It says everyone’s work is their own, and the worth of it cannot be taken away. It says that the various modes of production belong to those who created them, and to the common good of the future generations. It says that the world is something we steward together. That is what it says. And in our years on Mars, we have developed an economic system that can keep all those promises. That has been our work these last fifty years. In the system we have developed, all economic enterprises are to be small co-operatives, owned by their workers and by no one else. They hire their management, or manage themselves. Industry guilds and co-op associations will form the larger structures necessary to regulate trade and the market, share capital, and create credit.’
Antar said scornfully, ‘These are nothing but ideas. It is utopianism and nothing more.’
‘Not at all.’ Again Vlad waved him away. ‘The system is based on models from Terran history, and its various parts have all been tested on both worlds, and have succeeded very well. You don’t know about this partly because you are ignorant, and partly because metanationalism itself steadfastly ignored and denied all alternatives to it. But most of our micro-economy has been in successful operation for centuries in the Mondragon region of Spain. the different parts of the macro-economy have been used in the pseudo-metanat Praxis, in Switzerland, in India’s state of Kerala, in Bhutan, in Bologna, Italy, and in many other places, including the Martian underground itself. These organization were the precursors to our economy, which will be democratic in a way capitalism never even tried to be.
(pp. 146-8).

It’s refreshing to see a Science Fiction character advocate a left-wing economics. Many SF writers, like Robert A. Heinlein, were right-wing. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, about a rebellion on the Moon, contains several discussion in which Heinlein talks about TANSTAAFL – his acronym for There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.

Praxis is the fictional metanational corporation, which supplies aid to the colonists against the rest of the terrestrial super-corporations. I don’t know about the references to Switzerland, Kerala, Bhutan or Bologna, but the Mondragon co-operatives in Spain certainly exist, and are a significant part of the country’s economy. They were set up by a Spanish priest during Franco’s dictatorship, but managed to escape being closed down as he didn’t recognize such enterprises as socialist.

I don’t know how practical it would be to make all businesses co-operatives, as there are problems of scale. Roughly, the bigger an enterprise is, the more difficult proper industrial democracy becomes. But co-operatives can take over and transform ailing firms, as was shown in Argentina during the last depression there a few years ago, when many factories that were about to be closed were handed over to their workers instead. They managed to turn many of them around so that they started making a profit once again. Since then, most of them have been handed back to their management, however.

But the arguments the Vlad character makes about democracy being a fundamental value that needs to be incorporated into industry is one of that the advocates of industrial democracy and workers’ control, like the Guild Socialists, made. And we do need to give workers far more power in the work place. Jeremy Corbyn has promised this with his pledge to restore workers’ and union rights, and make a third of the directors on corporate boards over a certain size elected by the workers.

If Corbyn’s plans for industrial democracy in Britain become a reality, perhaps Britain really will have a proper economic system for the 21st century, rather than the Tories and Libertarians trying to drag us back to the unfettered capitalism of the 19th.

Corbyn Criticizes the Tory Budget

October 30, 2018

The main news story today is Philip Hammond’s budget. Details of it were released a few days, and it’s been discussed ever since. In it, Hammond, dubbed by some ‘Phil the Bleak’, is trying to convince the voting public that austerity is coming to an end, and more money is going to be pumped into welfare services like mental health and the NHS, and town centre shopping in the high street will be revitalized as business rates for the shops in those areas will be dropped.

It’s strange how all these promises were suddenly made just when the Tory party is seriously challenged by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, and is being widely attacked for its colossal ineptitude and massive divisions over Brexit, and the immense hardship it is causing with Universal Credit. I don’t doubt that the Tory press will hail – or in the case of the Daily Mail, heil, the budget as a genuine boost to the economy, which should be enthusiastically embraced by all right-thinking Brits. Just like I can remember the Sun’s headline screaming the benefits of Norman Lamont’s budget back in the late ’80s or first years of the ’90s: ‘The Lager of Lamont’. Which pretty much shows the level the Scum is aimed at – drunken yobs. And for ordinary people, you have to be drunk to think there’s any substance or real benefit in the budget.

Mike’s extensively critiqued it on his blog over the past few days. Yesterday he put up a piece showing that it was all a tissue of lies. Despite his claim that austerity is over, public sector pay is not going to rise, nor are benefits, the bedroom tax ain’t going to be repealed and there aren’t going to be 20,000 more police on our streets.

Furthermore, the tax cuts he’s promising will only really benefit the rich. As Mike points out, this is another swindle to decrease the amount the state takes in tax, which is then redistributed as benefits to the poor, or spent on public services.

But the Tories are still going to introduce 7 billion pounds’ worth of cuts. Hammond also said that

Brexit would not affect spending plans because he had assumed an “average-type free trade deal” between the UK and EU after Brexit, and had £4.2 billion in reserve in the case of a no-deal scenario.

Mike ends his piece by stating that this is also a piece of deception, saying

But you can bet that this will not be enough to deal with the consequences of a Tory Brexit. They want harmful effects because they will then be able to justify harsh cuts to your rights and living standards.

About the only welcome announcement in the whole sorry mess was the decision to stop using hugely-wasteful Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes.

One of Mike’s many excellent commenters, Barry Davies, points out that the PF1 and PF2 deals would simply become PPP, so there’s really no change there.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/29/its-phil-the-bleaks-fantasy-budget-would-you-buy-anything-hes-offering-before-brexit/

Actually, I think all Hammond’s promises are worthless for the same reason Mike does: their provisional. They only have force until Brexit occurs in March, when I full expect Hammond to announce that the terrible deal forced upon Britain by the European Union will mean that they’ll have to reverse their policies and start cutting benefits, public services and again reverse their spending on the NHS.

It’s all lies, from a government of liars, who lie and lie again without qualm of conscience.

Jeremy Corbyn has already responded. This little video from RT UK, posted yesterday shows him denouncing it as ‘a broken budget’. He says

The Prime Minister says austerity is over. This, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is a broken promise budget. What we’ve heard today are half measures and quick fixes while austerity grinds on and far from people’s hard work and sacrifices having paid off as the Chancellor claims, this government has frittered it away in ideological tax cuts to the richest in our society. This budget won’t undo the damage done by 8 years of austerity and doesn’t begin to measure up to the scale of the job that needs to be done to rebuild Britain. The government claims austerity has worked, so now they can end it, but that is absolutely the opposite of the truth, austerity needs to end because it has failed.

Corbyn’s right: austerity has failed. It’s failed working people, the poor, the disabled, the long-term sick, and the unemployed. But it’s done wonders for the rich, who’ve benefited massively from the Tories’ tax cuts, and privatization of public services, including the NHS. And, of course, the provision of cheap labour through the welfare to work industry, pay freezes and the removal of workers’ rights. Reforms all intended to make workers easy to hire and discard, and create a cowed workforce in constant fear of the sack and starvation, which will accept any work, no matter how precarious or poorly paid.

And as you can see from the video, when Corbyn laid into the budget, he was greeted with the usual Tory sneers and laughter, especially from Hammond and the Maybot, who jerked and spasmed as if she was suffering a short-circuit. Well, the Tories always find working class poverty a great laugh. You just have to remember how Cameron and IDS had a right good guffaw in parliament when one woman’s suffering due to the benefit cuts was read out.

Well, let’s cut their cackling short, and vote them out at the earliest opportunity.

Trailer for Mike Leigh’s ‘Peterloo’

October 28, 2018

The left-wing British film director, Mike Leigh, has a film coming out about the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in 1819 when a defenceless crowd that had gathered in Manchester to hear the radical politician, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, was charged by cavalry.

It was a period of severe economic recession, unemployment, political discontent and stifling censorship of freedom of speech, protest and the press. This passage from The History of the World: The Last 500 Hundred Years, General Editor Esmond Wright (Feltham: Hamlyn 1984) describes the conditions at the time.

At the end of the war England entered upon a long depression which brought to many even greater hardship than the war had done. Industries lay depressed with the sudden cessation of wartime demand, agriculture no longer enjoyed the protection that Napoleon’s blockade had brought and began to contract, while European countries, impoverished after years of conquest and exploitation, could not afford to resume their former level of trade. It was, in fact, twenty years after 1815 before British exports recovered to their previous level. Added to the existing problems of unemployment and low wages were some half a million demobilized soldiers and sailors, suddenly thrown onto a labour market that could not absorb them. The years from 1815 to 1820 were mong the darkest in English history when many feared, with some cause, a repetition of the events which had torn France apart in 1789.

Radicalism – an extreme form of politics which advocated fundamental reform of the constitutional and financial system – grew to brief importance under such popular leaders as Cobbett and Hunt. In their hatred of industrialization they preached a naïve ‘back-to-the-land’ philosophy which seemed attractive to populations of former peasants exposed to the insecurities of town life. Significantly, the cause of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, when a defenceless crowd was charged by squadrons of cavalry, was a speech by Hunt, not on the problem of wages or unemployment, but on the subject of land reform.

Most labour movements in the first half of the century had this strong agrarian background. A majority of the new town dwellers were peasants by origin, unaccustomed to the regularity of factory work and the overcrowded life in slums and tenements. They turned instinctively to solutions that offered simpler, better understood relationship in which men seemed to be something more than mere instruments of production. Working people gave their support to Radicalism, not because they understood or even cared very much about abstract democratic principles but because it represented a protest against the unacceptable conditions of life. To its few middle- and upper-class supporters it was much more – a progressive, democratic demand for a government responsible to the popular will and an administrative system based on efficiency rather than privilege.

To such suggestions the governments of the fay responded with severe repression. The Tory party remained in office from the end of the war until 1830, first under Lord Liverpool, later under the wartime hero, the Duke of Wellington. Their belief was that the British constitution was perfect and that any attempt to disturb it must be put down firmly. Trade unions were illegal until 1824 and even after that striking was still a criminal offence, public meetings and meeting-places required to be licensed and newspapers were subject to a crippling stamp duty of five pence a copy. Together with such measures went a crude system which paid a meagre dole to labourers whose earning were inadequate to support their families (the Speenhamland system of poor relief) and which had the effect of impoverishing whole areas of the country. (p. 396).

This sounds very much like the kind of Britain Tweezer, Bojo, Rees-Mogg and their followers would like to return to us to. A country where unions and strikes are banned, restrictions on public meetings and censorship of the press. Except when it supports the Tories, of course. Blair and Cameron both tried to bring in legislation limiting demonstrations. They’ve been banned within a certain area of parliament, and Cameron wanted to pass legislation outlawing public protests if they caused a nuisance to local residents. Which is a convenient way of suppressing public expressions of dissent while claiming that you aren’t intending to do any such thing. ‘The government is fully behind freedom of speech and assembly, but this will be an intolerable nuisance to the people actually in the area’, is how the argument would run. And they’d also like to see more people slaving away in cruel and exploitative conditions in poverty, with a benefits system totally unable to cope.

Which is what makes Leigh’s movie of such contemporary significance. Here’s the trailer.

I caught a few moments of Leigh being interviewed on the Beeb the week before last. He was talking about how the incident was an important event in Manchester’s history. Walking around the historic part of Manchester, he pointed out buildings that had been there at the time and which had been included in the film.

Leigh’s known for his improvisational approach to film making, but the interviewer said that this movie felt more scripted, and Leigh agreed. I can’t say I’m a fan of Leigh’s work – it’s a bit too grim for my tastes – but this is something I’d like to see. The Peterloo Massacre is nearly 200 years ago, but it still has resonance and immense importance to the early 21st century Britain of Tweezer and the Tories.

The Artists Saying ‘Nope’ to the Arms Industry

October 19, 2018

This is another great little video from Novara media, posted on YouTube on the 17th October 2018, about a group of artists, who withdrew their work from the Design Museum and exhibited elsewhere. This is the Nopetoarms collective, a group of radical artists protesting against the arms industry.

They made the decision to withdraw their works following the announcement that the museum would be hosting a reception for Leonardo, the 9th largest arms company in the world. Novara’s Ash Sarkar tweeted that it was a case of the British art establishment coopting radical artists to stay relevant, and ‘facilitating the social calendar of slaughterers to stay wealthy’. They also told her it was a private event, and she had to use other entrances and exits. One of the artists, Glen Orton, states that the movement contained work by Syrian artists, the Hong Kong movement, and other protest groups, who’d been teargassed, beaten, bombed. He was ‘gobsmacked’ that they even considered hosting the company. The Museum stated that they could not immediately commit to refusing money from the arms, oil and tobacco industries.

Another artist, Jess Worth, states that when the time came to move their works, there were forty people in the collective, which now comprised a third of the exhibition. The artists then decided to exhibit their work themselves, on their own terms. Charlie Waterhouse, another artist with the group, states that once the decision was made to remove their work, the Museum’s PR machine attacked them by claiming they were trying to shut down free speech and stop people seeing the exhibition. This made them think that putting the show back on would be a good thing. The exhibition is now being held in the basement of a leisure centre in Brixton, where it is curated and controlled by the artists themselves.

Worth explains that they wanted their exhibition to be free, unlike the Design Museum, which charged 12 pounds, the artists would write the labels themselves, so that it would present the work in the way they wanted. They wanted it grounded in community. They also wanted to make it accessible to people, who wouldn’t normally go to an art gallery.

Waterhouse also explains why the art is hung on clothes pegs from fences. It’s so that people say, ‘Oh, I can do that. Then, ‘I can do that’, and go and do it.

The video explains that oil and arms funding in the arts industry is a massive problem. Worth explains that being in a museum space conveys the impression that a company’s work is legitimate, because otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to be there. This is immensely valuable to the companies involved.

Waterhouse goes on to say that this has got to stop. On the one hand, they’re taking money from the arms industry. On the other, they’re levering cachet from the artists’ work without paying them. It’s a scam, he concludes.

The video also explains that the collective would like to do more. Worth says that what they’d really like to see is museums and other cultural bodies having a code of fundraising ethics, determining who they will and won’t take money from, that’s really clear on their website that everyone can see.

Waterhouse says that it’s time for artists to mobilise, to realise that their ethics, morals and feelings are valid, and they don’t just have to kowtow to the money.

Orton ends the video by saying that the Design Museum doesn’t know what it’s done.

The video shows the works of art as they’re displayed in the leisure. They not only comment explicitly on the arms industry, corruption and other issues, but also on the exploitation of the poor and working class through zero hours contracts. And among the iconic figures used in the works there’s David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

I think it’s really great that these artists have stood up for their beliefs against the arms industry, and that they’re encouraging their public to get involved and create their own pieces as well. I wish them all the best for their exhibition.