Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Lyttleton’

Vox Political: UN Criticises Tory Scheme to Legalise Scab Labour

February 17, 2016

Fascist Book Cover pic

Cover of Adrian Lyttleton’s book, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1929, showing triumphant Fascists returning from raid on trade union headquarters.

Mike over at Vox Political has posted this piece from The Canary, reporting that the UN’s International Labour Organisation has criticised the Tories’ Trade Union Bill. The bill would legalise the use of workers from agencies to supply labour during strikes. The ILO points out that this would effectively undermine the right to strike, by allowing employers to disregard strike action.

Now cue right-wing ranting in the Daily Heil and the Express about evil foreigners hypocritically attacking noble Britain. No doubt they’ll also rant about how the unions cripple British business, and hold British workers to ransom, forcing them to pay the levy to the Labour party, etc. ad nauseam.

The Tories have always hated organised labour and the trade unions, and have tried to get rid of them since the 19th century, when they passed laws against the as illegal ‘combinations’. Then there was the Taff Vale judgement, which ruled that trade union funds had no protection under law, and so could be pilfered with impunity.

And then there’s the use of scab and blackleg labour by the employers themselves. I can remember hearing from older man I once did voluntary work with, who told me about the way union meetings had to be guarded from infiltration by the bosses’ spies.

And now here comes Godwin’s Law again. With this piece of legislation, we’re back once again with Fascism. The Fascist parties all over Europe hated independent trade unions with a passion, and did their best to destroy them. In Nazi Germany trade unions were banned, for pretty much the same reasons the Daily Heil and the Express spews: they’re evil ‘Marxist’ organisations that exploit workers. In Italy, Mussolini’s Fascists formed their own trade unions to supply blackleg labour and break strikes. Unable to convince the mainstream, Socialist trade unions to join them after the Seizure of Power, they banned them and made it compulsory for workers to join the Fascist unions.

And in Britain the copycat British Fascist groups that sprang up in imitation of Musso’s squadristi had much the same tactics. They included the British Fascisti, who used to career about in vans trying to break up strikes and workers’ demonstrations. Such organisations were extreme Right-wing Tories, rather than independent Fascists. When Oswald Mosley asked one of them what they would do about the corporate state, in which trade unions and the employers’ organisations were amalgamated into giant industrial bodies based roughly on the medieval guilds, their leaders promptly had a fit of the vapours and declared that it was ‘Socialism’. Nevertheless, the Tories continued trying to found alternative trade union organisations to break the traditional Social Democrat organisations. These included a Conservative trade union body, which was dissolved in the 1990s. Its leader then complained that the Tories were doing the work of the bosses. Well, duh! You only just noticed? And then there was the right-wing electricians union, which did the Tories’ work in the TUC and during the miners’ strike.

And if we’re really going to go to the ultimate origins of Nazism, some historians of the Third Reich have traced it to ‘Yellow’ trade unions, set up by the employers for the benefit of their ethnic German employees, and to protect them from competition from Czech and other ‘Slav’ workers.

No doubt we’ll hear a lot of Tory noise about how they’re protecting businesses and the public from the disruption of public services by wicked trade unionists and Socialists. And how they’re freeing the workers from having to enrol in trade unions, though that went long ago when they outlawed the closed shop, or having to abide by trade union decisions.

It’s just more excused to break the unions through scab labour. It also reveals how much the Tories hate the working people of this country, and how close they are to the Black Shirts, Fascists and Nazis.

Blair, Mussolini, Neo-Liberalism and ‘The End of the Ideology’

March 4, 2014

Mussolini

Fascist Dictator Mussolini adopting typically grandiose posture

After the scrapping of Clause 4, the section of the Labour party’s constitution committing it to nationalisation, Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ government was hailed by many as the expression of the new pragmatism in politics. With ministers drawn from outside as well within the Labour party itself, New Labour was celebrated for its empirical approach to politics. Instead of following the dictates of ideology, the party was instead formulating policies and appointing personnel according to what worked. Just as Francis Fukuyama described the new political era ushered in by the Fall of Communism as the ‘end of history’, so there was a tendency to describe Blair’s government almost as the ‘end of ideology’. This type of rhetoric resembled some of the attitudes adopted by Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship when it seized power in the 1920s.

19th and early 20th century Reformist Social Democrat politicians had believed that society and history proceeded by fixed laws, laws that were leading to the inevitable triumph of socialism. In their defence and advancements of socialism, the British Fabians, for example, who strenuously rejected Marx’s doctrine of the Class War, argued that Socialism was merely the continuation and expansion of existing government policies interfering with and regulating the economy. Sidney Webb, who with his wife, Beatrice, was one of the founders and leading Fabian intellectuals, wrote

The practical man, oblivious or contemptuous of any theory of the social organism or general principles of social organisation, has been forced, by the necessities of the time, into an ever-deepening collectivist channel. Socialism, of course, he still rejects and despises. The individualist town councillor will walk along the municipal pavement, lit by municipal gas, and cleansed by municipal brooms with municipal water, and seeing, by the municipal clock in the municipal market, that he is too early to meet his children coming from the municipal school, hard by the county lunatic asylum and municipal hospital, will use the national telegraph system to tell them not to walk through the municipal park, but come by the municipal tramway, to meet him in the municipal reading-room, by the municipal art gallery, museum, and library, where he intends to consult some of the national publications in order to prepare his next speech in the municipal town hall, in favour of the nationalisation of canals and the increase of Government control over the railway system. ‘Socialism, Sir,’ he will say, ‘Don’t waste the time of a practical man by your fantastic absurdities. Self-help, Sir, individual self-help, that’s what’s made our city what it is’.

Sydney Webb, Socialism in England, quoted in E.C. Midwinter, Victorian Social Reform (Longman: Harlow 1968) p. 94.

This idea of slow progress leading to the gradual victory of Socialism seemed to be shattered by the reality of the First World War. This seemed to show that all such ideologies of historical laws of gradual progress were wrong. To the activists and intellectuals that formed part of Mussolini’s Fascists, the War instead showed that history was made through will. As a result, Fascism vigorously promoted itself as the first movement that was no constrained by ideology or values. Some non-Fascist Italian intellectuals were initially favourable to them because of this. It seemed to look past the political stalemates that had occurred in the Italian parliament through the conflicts between the different political groups.

Adrian Lyttleton in his book The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1929(London: George Weidenfeld and Nicholson Ltd 1987, describes the situation thus

The interventionist intellectuals conceived of the war as an assertion of will and energy in defiance of the supposed ‘laws’ of historical development. ‘The world war has destroyed the ideology of progress as a slow ordered succession of events and institutions … it has destroyed the bourgeois, reformist, evolutionist conception.’ In the postwar period, activism ceased to be merely an intellectual fashion and became a widespread state of mind. The confusion and dissatisfaction with all existing ideologies had become acute. While other parties appeared to deny the existence of a crisis of values, Fascism not only recognized by glorified it. Mussolini’s attitude of tough-minded pragmatism, his claim to have seen through and ‘transcended’ the old ideologies, appeal to may intellectuals. They celebrated Fascism as the end of ideology, as the first realistic political movement free from both moral and intellectual preconceptions, one in which practice would precede and form values instead of the other way round. Fascism taught the value of Negative Thinking. There were echoes here of Nietzsche’s ‘transvaluation of values’; the Fascist felt himself to be the superman freed from conventional moral restraints, and this helped him to act with confidence and ruthlessness. (p. 367).

Regardless of the rhetoric surrounding Blair’s government as indicating the end of ideology, Blair was not, unlike the Fascists, a moral nihilist. He did not reject all systems of morality nor celebrate force and violence. Indeed, he was always keen to promote some kind of moral reason for his actions and policies, some of which, like the invasion of Iraq, were indeed highly questionable. Nor can the Blair regime be seen as inaugurating the ‘end of ideology’. Blair’s New Labour did not reject ideology – it just rejected traditional socialism in favour of Neo-Liberalism. They still retained some belief in social justice and state interference in the economy for the good of society, but this was to be kept at a minimum. Following Thatcher, who gave her official endorsement of Blair when she met him at 10 Downing Street after his election, private enterprise was regarded as the foremost solution to the problems of the economy and society. This attitude has continued to inform politics after Blair’s departure. It underlies Brown’s management of the economy, and now, in a far purer and more extreme form, that of the Coalition.

I don’t, however, believe that the Neo-Liberal consensus has meant the end of ideology. The vast majority of the population, for example, do not want the privatisation of the NHS. Nor did they wish for the privatisation of the Post Office when this was mooted by New labour. Furthermore, as Mike has pointed out, there is considerable support for the renationalization of the railways and the utilities. What has changed is not so much the opinions of the electorate, but that of the governing political elites. And this is leading to a crisis of faith in politics. Increasing numbers are not voting, because they see little difference between the parties. These particularly include the young, the poor, the unemployed and disabled, who believe that there is no point in voting, as none of the parties are interesting in doing anything for them. This has not led to a revolt, whether of the Left, like the Communists, or the Right, like the Fascists. But it is corroding democracy in this country. If we are not careful, it will lead to the emergence of a managerial, technocratic elite, who govern without a mandate and whose policies do not reflect the will of the electorate, even more so than the Coalition at present.