Posts Tagged ‘Anarcho-Syndicalism’

Reichwing Watch on Libertarian Anarcho-Fascism

July 20, 2017

At first glance, Anarcho-Fascism should be a contradiction in terms. Anarchism stresses the absolute autonomy of the individual, while Fascism glorifies the state, and subordinates the individual to the collective. In the case of Italian Fascism, this was the nation and the state. As Mussolini said, ‘Nothing outside the state, nothing against the state, everything for the state’. It was also il Duce who coined the term, totalitarianism, when he talked about ‘the total state’. For Hitler and the Nazis, the individual should be subordinated to the volk, the racial group. He once declared that the individual should never be left alone, even in a skat club.

I’ve put up a couple of posts recently commenting on the way Libertarianism, which has previously described itself as Anarcho-Capitalism or Anarcho-Individualism, is morphing into what its own supporters are calling Anarcho-Fascism. I’ve already posted up a video from Reichwing Watch about the way Libertarianism is becoming a front for Fascism. In this video Reichwing Watch goes on to show how the Anarcho-Capitalists themselves are formulating Anarcho-Fascism.

The video features a series of Libertarian ideologues, politicians and bloggers, including That Guy T, Rand and Ron Paul, Ayn Rand and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, as well as clips from a documentary on Italian Fascism, Noam Chomsky and Adolf Hitler himself.

The Libertarians, including That Guy T, the Pauls and Hoppe make it clear that Libertarianism is compatible with Fascism because it is about preserving personal rights and individual liberty against democracy and the masses. It rejects rights for minorities and the poor, and, like Fascism, is firmly opposed to the organized working class and Socialism. That Guy T and Hoppe talk openly of forcibly removing Socialists and others, including, for Hoppe, democrats, who fail to recognize individual autonomy and wish to foist their views on the collective. Libertarianism is firmly in favour of private industry, as was Hitler. There’s also a clip of the Nazi leader rhetorically asking by what right the working class demands a role in government and to manage industry. Noam Chomsky also explains how modern industry is anti-democratic, as you have a small number of the owners of industry at the top, who give the orders to the mass of workers at the bottom. And the clips from the documentary on Fascist Italy serve to make clear just how brutal Mussolini’s thugs were in dealing with Socialists, democrats, and anyone else, who was a threat to the state.

There’s also a piece from a Vox documentary explaining that Trump supporters rate highly on the scale psychologists use to measure authoritarianism. The presenter states that these questions are posed very delicately. They don’t directly ask for views on race, which people are likely to avoid or disguise, but as them more general questions, such as whether they prize liberty or discipline in rearing children. On some issues, such as crime, authoritarians are indistinguishable from everyone else. However, they are much more afraid of foreign threats, and favour curtailing civil liberties to counter them, to the point where it can be used to predict just who supports the orange buffoon in the White House.

An older gentleman speaking in the video, who clearly had been a Libertarian, talks about the Social Darwinism in Libertarianism, and how they sneer at and attack the poor in order to reward the rich. He cites Ron Paul’s tax policy, which was aimed at penalizing the poor to subsidise the rich, as an example. There’s a clip from an interview with Ayn Rand, in which the founder of Objectivism rejects humanitarianism, and reproaches humanity as a ‘sacrificial species’. The older gent goes on to explain how Mussolini himself overcame the apparent contradiction between Fascist statism and Libertarian individualism when he subsidized the publication in Italy of her books, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. These glorify the wealthy, intellectual, Nietzschean superman against the mass of the uncreative poor, who are vilified as ‘feeders’. As for tax policies which benefit the rich over the poor, there’s another clip from one of Hitler’s speeches, showing that he also shared this Social Darwinist view.

The Fascistic nature of Libertarianism and its organisations and supports has been around for decades. I remember how, way back in the 1988 or ’89, there was a controversy when it was discovered that one of the Libertarian organisations in Britain had links to one of the Fascist regimes and its death squads in Central America. I think it might have been Guatemala. And Lobster has published articles showing that the Freedom Foundation in Britain, previously the National Association For Freedom, or NAFF, was violently opposed to Socialism and trade unions.

One of the aspects of this video, which is particularly shocking, is that one of the speakers advocating Anarcho-Fascism, That Guy T, is Black. ‘T’ is clearly educated and intelligent, so it’s astonishing that he’s all-out in favour of a movement that particularly despises ethnic minorities, including Blacks, to the point of active persecution. Mainstream Conservatives, whose views ‘T’ seems to have picked up, see the poverty, alienation and disenfranchisement of Black Americans as their fault. As they see it, Blacks lack the individualism, discipline and entrepreneurial spirit to improve themselves and lift themselves out of poverty. Instead, they condemn themselves to low achievement and dependence on state welfare programmes.

This is nonsense, of course. Black poverty is caused by the same social and economic causes as White poverty, as well as pressure from a social and political system that, even after the abolition of slavery, was explicitly established to keep them in an inferior status through segregation and Jim Crow. A system whose legacy is still very evident today, and which may become worse yet due to the Right’s hatred of the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s.

But if you want to see how Fascism – genuine Fascism – views Blacks, you only have to look at the Klan, the bitter hatred of White supremacist groups and neo-Nazi movements like the American Nazi Party and the BNP, NF and their ilk over on this side of the Pond.

As for the links between Fascism and Anarchism, Italian Fascism and the corporate state had its origins partly in a section of the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement, that decided what they were opposed to wasn’t capitalism and the state, but laissez-faire individualism. They revised syndicalism so that the new industrial organisations – the Fascist corporations – not only comprised trade unions, but also the employers’ organisations. The latter were left largely intact and retained their influence after Mussolini set about smashing the old working class trade unions in order to render them powerless.

During the Spanish Civil War, the Fascists tried to win over the Anarcho-Syndicalists on the grounds that both movements praised dynamism, rejected parliamentary democracy, and the corporative state partly realized the Syndicalists’ ideal of a state based on industrial associations. The Anarchists and Syndicalists weren’t impressed, however, and very definitely rejected such an attempt to stifle genuine working class autonomy.

They were right. And this new, permutation of Fascism, in the guise of Libertarianism, also needs to be strong rejected and fought.

Reichwing Watch: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America

November 16, 2016

This is another excellent video from Reichwing Watch. Entitled Peasants for Plutocracy: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America, it’s about how wealthy industrialists, like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, created modern Libertarianism and a stream of fake grassroots ‘astroturf’ organisations, in order to attack and roll back Roosevelt’s New Deal and the limited welfare state it introduced. And one of the many fake populist organisations the Koch brothers have set up is the Tea Party movement, despite the Kochs publicly distancing themselves from it.

The documentary begins with footage from an old black and white American Cold War propaganda movie, showing earnest young people from the middle decades of the last century discussing the nature of capitalism. It then moves on to Noam Chomsky’s own, very different perspective on an economy founded on private enterprise. Chomsky states that there has never been a purely capitalist economy. Were one to be established, it would very soon collapse, and so what we have now is state capitalism, with the state playing a very large role in keeping capitalism viable. He states that the alternative to this system is the one believed in by 19th century workers, in that the people, who worked in the mills should own the mills. He also states that they also believed that wage labour was little different from slavery, except in that it was temporary. This belief was so widespread that it was even accepted by the Republican party. The alternative to capitalism is genuinely democratic self-management. This conflicts with the existing power structure, which therefore does everything it can to make it seem unthinkable.

Libertarianism was founded in America in 1946/7 by an executive from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of the Foundation for Economic Education. This was basically a gigantic business lobby, financed by the heads of Fortune 500 companies, who also sat on its board. It’s goal was to destroy Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vice-President Wallace in an op-ed column in the New York Times stated that while its members posed as super-patriots, they wanted to roll back freedom and capture both state and economic power. The video also quotes Milton Friedman, the great advocate of Monetarism and free market economics, on capitalism as the system which offers the worst service at the highest possible profit. To be a good businessman, you have to be as mean and rotten as you can. And this view of capitalism goes back to Adam Smith. There is a clip of Mark Ames, the author of Going Postal, answering a question on why the media is so incurious about the true origins of Libertarianism. He states that they aren’t curious for the same reason the American media didn’t inquire into the true nature of the non-existent WMDs. It shows just how much propaganda and corruption there is in the American media.

The documentary then moves on to the Tea Party, the radical anti-tax movement, whose members deliberately hark back to the Boston Tea Party to the point of dressing up in 18th century costume. This section begins with clips of Fox News praising the Tea Party. This is then followed by Noam Chomsky on how people dread filling out their annual tax returns because they’ve been taught to see taxation as the state stealing their money. This is true in dictatorships. But in true democracy, it should be viewed differently, as the people at last being able to put into practice the plan in which everyone was involved in formulating. However, this frightens big business more than social security as it involves a functioning democracy. As a result, there is a concerted, and very successful campaign, to get people to fear big government.

The idea of the Tea Party was first aired by the CNBC reporter Rick Santilli in an on-air rant. Most of the Party’s members are normal, middle class Americans with little personal involvement in political campaigning. It is also officially a bi-partisan movement against government waste. But the real nature of the Tea Party was shown in the 2010 Tea Party Declaration of Independence, which stated that the Party’s aims were small government and a free market economy. In fact, the movement was effectively founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Back in the 1980s, David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-president. The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform stated that they intended to abolish just about every regulatory body and the welfare system. They intended to abolish the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Authority, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, the FBI, CIA, Federal Reserve, Social Security, Welfare, the public (state) schools, and taxation. They abandoned this tactic, however, after pouring $2 million of their money into it, only to get one per cent of the vote. So in 1984 they founded the first of their wretched astroturf organisation, Citizens for a Sound Economy. The name was meant to make it appear to be a grassroots movement. However, their 1998 financial statement shows that it was funded entirely by wealthy businessmen like the Kochs. In 2004 the CSE split into two – Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity. The AFP holds an annual convention in Arlington, Virginia, attended by some of its 800,000 members. It was the AFP and the Kochs who were the real organising force behind the Tea Party. Within hours of Santilli’s rant, he had been given a list of 1/2 million names by the Kochs. Although the Koch’s have publicly distanced themselves from the Tea Party, the clip for this section of the documentary shows numerous delegates at the convention standing up to declare how they had organised Tea Parties in their states. But it isn’t only the AFP that does this. Freedom Works, which has nothing to do with the Kochs, also funds and organises the Tea Parties.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on propaganda, analysing these astroturf organisations makes the point that for propaganda to be effective, it must not seem like propaganda. It must seem to come either from a respected, neutral source, or from the people themselves. Hence the creation of these fake astroturf organisations.

After its foundation in the late 1940s, modern Libertarianism was forged in the late 1960s and ’70s by Charles Koch and Murray Rothbard. Libertarianism had previously been the ideology of the John Birch Society, a group harking back to the 19th century. Koch and Rothbard married this economic extreme liberalism, with the political liberalism of the hippy counterculture. They realised that the hippies hated the state, objecting to the police, drug laws, CIA and the Vietnam war. Ayn Rand, who is now credited as one of the great founders of Libertarianism for her extreme capitalist beliefs, despised them. The film has a photo of her, next to a long quote in which she describes Libertarianism as a mixture of capitalism and anarchism ‘worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two different bandwagons… I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect.’

The documentary also goes on to show the very selective attitude towards drugs and democracy held by the two best-known American Libertarian politicos, Ron and Rand Paul. Despite the Libertarians’ supposedly pro-marijuana stance, the Pauls aren’t actually in favour of legalising it or any other drugs. They’re just in favour of devolving the authority to ban it to the individual states. If the federal government sends you to prison for weed, that, to them, is despotism. If its the individual state, it’s liberty.

And there’s a very telling place piece of footage where Ron Paul talks calmly about what a threat democracy is. He states clearly that democracy is dangerous, because it means mob rule, and privileges the majority over the minority. At this point the video breaks the conversation to show a caption pointing out that the Constitution was framed by a small group of wealthy plutocrats, not ‘we the people’. This is then followed by an American government film showing a sliding scale for societies showing their positions between the poles of democracy to despotism, which is equated with minority rule. The video shows another political scientist explaining that government and elites have always feared democracy, because when the people make their voices heard, they make the wrong decisions. Hence they are keen to create what Walter Lipmann in the 1920s called ‘manufacturing consent’. Real decisions are made by the elites. The people themselves are only allowed to participate as consumers. They are granted methods, which allow them to ratify the decisions of their masters, but denied the ability to inform themselves, organise and act for themselves.

While Libertarianism is far more popular in America than it is over here, this is another video that’s very relevant to British politics. There are Libertarians over here, who’ve adopted the extreme free-market views of von Hayek and his fellows. One of the Torygraph columnists was particularly vocal in his support for their doctrines. Modern Tory ideology has also taken over much from them. Margaret Thatcher was chiefly backed by the Libertarians in the Tory party, such as the National Association For Freedom, which understandably changed its name to the Freedom Foundation. The illegal rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s, for example, operated out of part of Tory Central Office, just as Maggie Thatcher and John Major were trying to ban it and criminalise ‘music with a repetitive beat’. Virginian Bottomley appeared in the Mail on Sunday back in the early 1990s raving about how wonderful it would be to replace the police force with private security firms, hired by neighbourhoods themselves. That’s another Libertarian policy. It comes straight from Murray Rothbard. Rothbard also wanted to privatise the courts, arguing that justice would still operate, as communities would voluntarily submit to the fairest court as an impartial and non-coercive way of maintain the peace and keeping down crime. The speaker in this part of the video describes Koch and Rothbard as ‘cretins’. Of course, it’s a colossally stupid idea, which not even the Tory party wanted to back. Mind you, that’s probably because they’re all in favour of authoritarianism and state power when its wielded by the elite.

I’ve no doubt most of the Libertarians in this country also believe that they’re participating in some kind of grassroots, countercultural movement, unaware that this is all about the corporate elite trying to seize more power for themselves, undermine genuine democracy, and keep the masses poor, denied welfare support, state education, and, in Britain, destroying the NHS, the system of state healthcare that has kept this country healthy for nearly 70 years.

Libertarians do see themselves as anarchists, though anarcho-individualists, rather than collectivists like the anarcho-syndicalists or Communists. They aren’t. This is purely about expanding corporate power at the expense of the state and the ordinary citizens it protects and who it is supposed to represent and legislate for. And it in practice it is just as brutal as the authoritarianism it claims to oppose. In the 1980s the Freedom Association became notorious on the left because of its support for the death squads in Central America, also supported by that other Libertarian hero, Ronald Reagan.

Libertarianism is a brutal lie. It represents freedom only for the rich. For the rest of us, it means precisely the opposite.

Paul Mason: Elite About to Go Tinfoil over Momentum

September 20, 2016

Paul Mason on Saturday posted a long, but excellent piece discussing the way the elite were changing their tactics from attacking Jeremy Corbyn, to attacking his support group, Momentum. This followed the appearance of an article in the Times about the group’s supposedly dodgy activities in Liverpool, based on an anonymous dossier put together from a Labour member, who had visited their chatrooms. He quotes right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes and the Time’s editorial about how Momentum are really cuckoos in Labour’s metaphorical nest, seeking to infiltrate and take over the party. Mason points out that two other films are also scheduled to attack Corbyn and Momentum this week, and notes the way the story being peddled by the Blairites and the elite has changed. Whereas before it was just Corbyn and a few members of Momentum who were infiltrators, with Smudger demanding the right to address their rallies alongside Corbyn, in a speech last week Smudger equated Momentum with Militant Tendency in the 1980s, and almost suggested that Momentum should similarly be thrown out of the party as Militant was.

Mason points out how ridiculous the comparison is, and compares the open and democratic structure of Momentum with both Militant and the Blairite successor group, Saving Labour. He writes

With 18,000 members Momentum is four times bigger than the Militant Tendency ever was, even at the height of its influence in the mid-1980s. Momentum is organising The World Transformed — an open, free, largely unstructured culture and ideas festival alongside Labour conference in Liverpool as a way of attracting non-party activists and local young people. The organisers have arranged open press access and gained sponsorship from two Labour-affiliated unions and a major NGO. Indeed until last week their main problem was convincing the press to cover it.

Militant, by contrast, was a rigid grouping, with two layers of secrecy, an internal command/control structure and an elected leadership along Bolshevik lines. It operated like this because that is how the Labour right operated. It was in some ways a mirror image of the bureaucratic hierarchy it tried to oppose.

Today, that is still how the Labour right organises: Saving Labour, for example, is a website co-ordinating attacks on Corbyn which has still not reveal who funds it or owns it. Labour Tomorrow is collecting funds from rich donors for purposes as yet unannounced. It has no publicly accountable structures at all. Momentum, by contrast, is an open and democratic group.

Mason states that the intention behind these stories is to begin a witch hunt against Momentum if Corbyn loses. If, on the other hand, he wins, it’s to form the basis of the Blairite’s legal campaign to gain the party’s name, bank account and premises on the basis that these had been illegally stolen by infiltrators. He notes also that these attacks on Momentum itself are based on the failure of the attempts to uncover dirt and smear Corbyn himself. Corbyn is popular with the party’s grassroots and his views poll well with the public.

Mason feels the solution would be to make Momentum and Progress, their Blairite opponents, affiliated sections of the Labour party so that their members become Labour members, and are subject to Labour party rules. But this would need a change in the party’s regulations. He is happy to see anyone become a member of Momentum, though, provided they don’t campaign for rival parties like the TUSC, the Greens and SNP. But Mason also believes that Labour members also need to join Greens, Left nationalists, anti-political people and even Lib Dems in grassroots campaigns on issues like Grammar schools. He also makes the point that the reason why Momentum grew so rapidly after Corbyn was in reaction to the dull, hierarchical and very bureaucratic structure of the existing party, and particularly hostility by the Blairites.

He goes on to make the following recommendations on what the party needs to do to attack the government and counter its policies:

•to de-select the (hopefully few) MPs who insist on actively sabotaging and abusing Corbyn;
•to bring forward a new “A-list” of candidates — more representative of the class, gender, ethnic and sexual-orientation of the UK population than the present PLP;
•passing coherent radical policies Labour Conference 2017 and the next National Policy Forum;
•deepening the left’s majority on the NEC and reversing the purge;
•focusing activist resources into geographical areas where the official party is weak;
•and turning Labour’s regional structures from anti-left “enforcement” operations into local networks of co-ordination to fight the Conservatives.

Mason states that Social Democrats in the Labour party should defend it as one of the remaining elements of the party’s Left wing, going back to the Clarion newspaper in the 1920s. And he also makes this point that it can be seen that it is not a far left movement can be seen from the fact that the true far left parties don’t like it:

And one of the clearest indicators that Momentum is a genuine, democratic formation is that the surviving far left — the SWP and Socialist Party–stand separate from it and their leaderships are wary of it. This suits me — because I have no sympathy for the bureacratic and hierarchical culture of Bolshevik re-enactment groups; it is precisely the open-ness, cultural diversity and networked outlook of Momentum, and the generation of youth drawn to it, that terrifies them.

He further argues that Social Democrats should support it, even if they disagree with its policies, as it has prevented the Labour party from undergoing a process similar to the collapse of PASOK in Greece, where the party has been ‘hollowed out’ and replaced by a party of the far left.

He concludes

The bottom line is: Momentum has a right to exist within the Labour Party and its members have a right to be heard.

If you’re a member of it, the best way to survive the upcoming red scare will be to smile your way through it. This is the tinfoil hat moment of the Labour right, as it realises half a million people cannot be bought by the money of a supermarket millionaire.

So get out the popcorn. You’re about to see what happens to the neo-liberal wing of Labour — and its propaganda arm — when the workers, the poor and the young get a say in politics.

In modern parlance: they are about to lose their shit.

See: https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/elite-goes-tinfoil-over-momentum-dd544c9d8f1c#.fwtj82i9m

I think Mr Mason’s exactly right about all this. He is certainly is about the highly centralised, and rigidly hierarchical nature of the real parties of the Far Left – the Communists and Trotskyites. Parties like these, such as the SWP and the Socialist Party, have a very un-democratic party structure based around Lenin’s doctrine of ‘Democratic Centralism’. In order to prevent the party splitting up into various competing factions, Lenin stipulated that the party must be organised around the leadership of committed revolutionaries, who would be responsible for laying down policy. These could be questioned up to a point, but the moment the leadership took a decision, further debate was outlawed and absolute obedience demanded from the members. There is also a very rigid attitude to party doctrine. Only the leaders’ view of Marxist ideology is considered authentic and conforming to objective reality. Any opposition to it is labelled a ‘deviation’ and its supporters purged, very much like heretics from a religious group. Stalin clawed his way to power by fighting a series of campaigns against his opponents in the party, who were labelled ‘deviationists’ of the Left and Right. When Tito in Yugoslavia decided he wanted to purge Milovan Djilas, one of the architects of workers’ control, he accused him of ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviationism’.

Momentum doesn’t have that mindset, but the Blairites – Progress, Tomorrow’s Labour and Saving Labour, certainly do.

As for the opaque nature of Saving Labour’s funding, my guess is that much of it comes from big business and the Israel lobby. This isn’t an anti-Semitic smear. Blair was funded by the Zionists through Lord Levy and David Sainsbury. It’s because the Zionist lobby is massively losing support through the BDS movement, which is also supported by many Jews fed up with Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, that the Zionists in the Labour party have accused Corbyn and his supporters of anti-Semitism. My guess is that Saving Labour won’t reveal who funds them because it would show their opponents to be right about their connection to the rich and to the Israel lobby.

Are the Blairites Trying to Discredit Parliamentary Democracy?

July 12, 2016

To the revolutionary far left, parliamentary politics are a corrupt sham. The parliamentary system, and the parties represented in it, always represent the interests of the capitalists, the industrials and aristocrats, against the peasants and the working class. Despite major disagreements in doctrine and tactics, this is the attitude that unites Anarchists, Anarcho-Syndicalists and Communists. Although not an advocate of the revolutionary overthrow of existing society, P.J. Proudhon, one of the founders of Anarchism, described democracy as the process by which the people elect their jailers.

The same hostility also extends to moderate, reformist Socialist parties and their leaders. Moderate socialist parties, like the Labour party in Britain, the Social Democrats in Germany and Austria, and their reformist and gradualist counterparts in France, Italy and elsewhere were despised by the revolutionary Left for betraying the working class, as they saw it, to capitalism and the bosses. Revolutionary Anarchists, Syndicalists and Communists bitterly denounced mainstream Socialists for calling an end to strikes and clamping down on working class militancy in order to preserve, as they saw it, their position of leadership in the working class movement. The great Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, bitterly reproached the Italian Socialist party for ending the occupation of the factory, and thus ending a period working class militancy that could have resulted in a revolution similar to that of the Soviet Union.

In most cases, the analysis is wrong. By and large, there has been little support for the ultra-left and revolutionary organisations and parties in western Europe, and they have always been a minority. However, I’m starting to wonder if the Blairites in the Labour party are trying to prove the hard-left critique of parliamentary democracy true. Jeremy Corbyn is immensely popular with the Labour rank-and-file. He is certainly not a Communist, despite the ranting of the right-wing press and media. Standing for the renationalisation of the railways, free, state education and healthcare, does not make anyone even remotely like Lenin. But to the Blairites, this is all too much. They are trying to destroy Corbyn’s leadership and smear both him and his supporters. And they do represent the interests of the bosses.

Blair was impressed by Margaret Thatcher, neo-liberal economics, and the rich. One of the first things he did in Downing Street was invited Margaret Thatcher round for tea. She reciprocated by proclaiming ‘New Labour’ her greatest achievement. He went even further in privatising Britain’s industries, including the NHS, than the Tories. He also reduced the welfare state even further. It was Blair that introduced the infamous work capability tests, which has seen severely disabled people unfairly thrown off benefits after they’ve been judged ‘fit to work’. He also introduced workfare, which effectively operates as a form of cheap, subsidised labour for big business. He appointed some of the most grasping, exploitative, and sheer murderous businessmen to government departments, and declared that ‘this government is extremely relaxed about getting rich’. But if there’s one thing he disliked and distrusted, it was the unions. Despite having got into politics through being sponsored by one of them, he also threatened to cut the Labour party’s ties with them. As they were founding, constituent elements of the Labour party, which was established partly to defend their interests, this was a major attack on the party itself.

And Blair and his coteries have been amply rewarded. Private industry donated vast sums to the party, sponsoring conferences and all manner of other events. And when he retired, Blair went off on very lucrative speaking tours, and got himself a job as ‘peace envoy’ to the Middle East. Which sounds like a very, very sick joke.

The result of this for ordinary people has been the removal of workers’ rights, wages cut to a minimum, and the threat of poverty and unemployment through zero hours contracts and welfare cuts. And all so that the party could win the votes of middle class voters in swing marginals.

Meanwhile, the working class became increasingly alienated and disenfranchised. New Labour took them for granted, and expected to continue having their support, regardless of what they did. But they didn’t. Between 1997 and 2008 or so, Labour lost five million votes. Many people have said repeatedly that they don’t vote, because there’s no difference between the parties. A few years ago the press reported on how there was a mood in this country of angry disenfranchisement.

This appears to be what Angela Eagle, Tristram Hunt and co all want to bring back. A Labour party that is just a pale imitation of the Tories, that has no interest in doing anything for the working poor beyond a few, minimal policies. A party that sees itself as pursuing the policies of rich industrialists. And in doing so, a party that appears to corroborate everything the revolutionary Left has ever said about the failure and corruption of parliamentary politics.

In my view, only Jeremy Corbyn stands for genuinely creating a real alternative to the Tories, and reinvigorating not just the Labour party, but the moribund, cynical state of parliamentary politics itself.

Solving Unemployment through Trade Union-Run Cooperatives

April 2, 2016

The German-born anarcho-syndicalist, Rudolf Rocker, devotes a passage in his Anarcho-Syndicalism (London: Pluto Press 1989) to Robert Owen’s proposal in the early 1830s to set up a Grand Consolidated Trade Union which would include all the working people in every trade, its plans for supporting unemployed workers, and finally its gradual decline in the 1840s. See pages 57-66. The Grand National Consolidated Trade Union was intended to supersede the existing situation where the workers were divided into separate trade unions according to their different trades and industries. At the same time, the new, umbrella union would be organised into different divisions for the workers in specific branches of industry. The ultimate aim was for the workers themselves to take over production, which they would then market themselves through special shops, according to the cost of manufacturing the article. Instead of conventional currency, special labour notes, representing labour value, would be exchanged for these products. To support unemployed workers, the trade unions would also invest in land, which would be worked by unemployed workers, and co-operatives, which would also provide the unemployed with work, producing needed goods that would be purchased by the other members of the Union.

Rocker quotes the following passage from the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union’s statement of its aims.

As land is the source of the first necessaries of life, and as, without the possession of it, the producing classes were ever remain in a greater or less degree subservient to the money capitalists, and subsequent upon the fluctuations of trade and commerce, this committee advises that a great effort should now be made by the unions to secure such portions of it on lease as their funds will permit, in order that in all turn-outs the men may be employed in rearing the greater part, if not the whole, of their subsistence under the direction of practical agricultural superintendents, which arrangements would not have the effect of lowering the price of labour in any trade, but on the contrary would rather tend to in increase it by drawing off the at present superfluous supply to the manufacturers.

The committee would, nevertheless, earnestly recommend in all cases of strikes and turn-outs, where it is practicable, that the men be employed in the making or producing of all such commodities as would be in demand among their brother unionists; and that to effect this, each lodge should be provided with a workroom or shop in which those commodities may be manufactured on account of such lodge, which shall make proper arrangements for the supply of the necessary materials.

That in all cases where it is practicable, each district or branch should establish one or more depots of provisions and articles in general domestic use: by which means the working man may be supplied with the best commodities at little above wholesale prices. (Pp.61-2)

Rocker notes how this was greeted by the radical paper, The Poor Man’s Guardian

But far different from the paltry objects of all former combinations is that now aimed at by the congress of delegates. Their reports show that an entire change in society-a change amounting to a complete subversion of the existing order of the world-is contemplated by the working classes. They aspire to be at the top instead of the bottom of society-or rather that there should be no bottom or top at all. (p. 59).

Rocker then describes the mass agitation for a general strike to bring about a ten-hour working day, the denunciations and persecution of the union, trade unionists in general, and political agitators, and how the G.N.C. finally petered out. Many of its members left to join the Chartists, while the events on the Continent in the 1840s also worked against working class radicalism.

The G.N.C.’s supporters made it very clear in their debates with other radicals, who wanted the political reform of the franchise and the House of Commons, that after the G.N.C. took power parliament would be made totally redundant.

Rocker writes

If, for example, one reads The Pioneer, the organ of the G.N.C. managed by James Morrison, one frequently encounters arguments that sound thoroughly modern. This is revealed especially in the discussions with the political reformers, who had inscribed on their banner the democratic reconstruction of the House of Commons. They were told in reply that the workers had no interest whatever in efforts of that sort, since an economic transformation of society in the Socialist sense would render the House of Commons superfluous. Its place would be taken by the labour boards and the industrial federations, which would concern themselves merely with problems of production and consumption in the interest of the people. These organisations were destined to take over the functions of the present entrepreneurs; with common ownership of all social wealth there would no longer be any need for political institutions. The wealth of the nation would no longer be determined by the quantity of goods produced, but by the personal advantage that every individual derived from them. The House of Commons would in the future be merely a House of Trades. (pp. 62-3).

It’s a hopelessly utopian dream. Unfortunately the need for legislation and a democratic parliament isn’t removed by the almost complete socialisation of the land and industry, as the former USSR shows. The various shops set up to sell goods according to the labour theory of value collapsed because they didn’t take into account demand for the goods. Nevertheless, the system has been revived on a small scale by communities running various local currency schemes, in which vouchers are exchanged for so many hours of work, and these have had some success. As these schemes are locally based, they have stimulated the revival of local, small businesses.

As for the idea of the Union purchasing land, that’s very much part of the ‘back to the land’ movement of the early 19th century. It’s similar to Bronterre O’Brien’s demand at the Manchester Guardian of ’40 acres and a mule’. As many of the new urban workers either themselves had been, or were the children of migrants to the towns from the country, the idea of going back to the land to gain a livelihood, away from the horrors of urban life, was obviously attractive.

There are also links to the ideas of the French Utopian Socialist, Louis Blanc, during the Revolutions of 1848 for ‘National Workshops’. These would be stare run workshops for the unemployed, which would be managed as co-operatives. Any profits made would be put back into buying up other factories and workshops, until gradually the whole of French industry would be nationalised. Although these workshops were set up, they were deliberately run down and mismanaged so that the scheme eventually collapsed. It was given to a minister or civil servant who hated the idea, and the workers employed in them were given pointless tasks, such as digging ditches, only to fill them in again.

Despite this, I do like these ideas. And I do wonder now long workfare would last, if a trade union set up a genuine workers’ co-operative on the Owenite model, and then applied to join the government’s wretched scheme as a ‘workfare provider’. All workers receiving some form of reward for their labour beyond their jobseekers allowance, with the workshop aiming to buy out other factories, or at least, some of the other ‘workfare providers’.

Somehow, I can imagine that going down at all well with the Tories. They’d be utterly aghast, and try to find all kinds of reasons not to take it on. I sort of wish someone would try, if only to see the ‘welfare to work’ industry turned on its head to support unemployed workers, not the overpaid heads of outsourcing companies and big businesses like Sainsbury’s, Tescos, or various charities like the Salvation Army, who are just seeking to exploit an easy supply of cheap labour.