Posts Tagged ‘Ann Soper’

Labour Rebels Want to Create Party within a Party, and Corbyn’s Response

July 31, 2016

Mike’s put up two pieces reporting and commenting on the plan of unnamed Labour rebels to set up a separate party within the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It was reported in the Mirror and Torygraph that senior Labour rebels were so convinced that Corbyn would win the leadership, they want to create virtually a second party, with its own shadow cabinet and leader. They would also issue a legal challenge to get control of the Labour party’s name and assets, and would petition John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to nominate them as the official opposition.

Mike comments that the idea seems ‘hopelessly naive’. He makes the point that if they did carry out their plans, they would disrupt opposition to the Tories, and convince the majority of Labour members and supporters that they are really ‘Red Tories’ – Conservatives in disguise. Any attempt to gain the party’s name and assets would fail without the support of the majority of members. Mike also notes that they are also making a huge assumption that the majority of their rebel MPs would stay with them, when one of them, Sarah Champion, has already recanted and re-joined the Corbynites. He also notes that none of the leaders of this supposed plot have had the courage to reveal their identities, thus demonstrating once again the cowardice that has led their detractors to call them the ‘Chicken Coup’. And without knowing their identities, for all we know the story may have been made up by the Mirror and Torygraph. He concludes by stating that the only thing this will do is undermine Owen Smith’s own bid for the leadership.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/contempt-for-democracy-labour-rebels-plan-to-start-their-own-party-within-a-party/

Later yesterday Mike also put up a piece from the Groaniad, reporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s response to news of the plot. Corbyn said

“We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge – via the Daily Telegraph, very interesting – the very existence of this party.”

He stated that the Labour party was founded by pioneers, brave people, and that under the registration of parties act, they are the Labour party. There isn’t another, and he was very proud to be the leader of the Labour party. He also stated that it was nonsense that his leadership could cause a split, as membership had doubled since he became leader, and activity had increased.

McDonnell urged Smith to condemn the minority of MPs supporting his campaign, who were trying to subvert the election and damage the Labour party. Smith, when asked for a comment, said he refuses to indulge in gossip.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/bizarre-labour-rebels-can-never-steal-the-partys-name-and-assets-corbyn/

The Labour party has suffered a series of splits over its century-long history. Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, which was one of the Socialist groups involved in the foundation of the party, later split away in the 1920s to form, with other groups, the Communist Party. Keir Hardie’s ILP also split, to carry on as a radical Socialist party. One of its most distinctive policies was a complete rejection of the wages system. Outside the Labour party it very swiftly declined. The last time I heard anything about it was thirty years ago, when I found a copy of its magazine/ newsletter in Cheltenham Public Library.

The most recent and notorious of the splits was that of the SDP in the 1980s, formed by the right-wing Labour MPs Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen. They claimed to be ‘breaking the mould of British politics’, and Owen at the 1987 election told the party faithful to go back home and prepare for government. There was then, almost inevitably, a Tory victory. Screaming Lord Sutch later offered Owen a place in his Monster Raving Loony Party, saying cheekily that if Owen had joined them, he would be preparing for government. The SDP forged an alliance with the Liberals, and the two eventually merged to become the Liberal Democrats. They have also signally failed break the mould of British politics, despite the Guardian telling everyone to go out and vote for them at the 2010 elections. As for Owen, in the 1980s he was so desperate for power that at one point he even offered to support the Tories in a coalition, just as thirty years later Clegg decided to get into bed with Cameron.
And the SDP were also influenced by the neoliberal ideas of the Chicago School. Ann Soper, their Shadow Education Minister, was a fan of Milton Friedman’s ideas for school vouchers, which parents could use either on state education, or private.

If such a split did occur, it would be extremely unpleasant indeed. The wrangling about party assets and name could take years to settle. The vast majority of grassroots members would depart, and stay with Corbyn. And I’ve no doubt that rather than establishing themselves as the ‘official’ Labour party, the coup plotters would find the British public turning their backs on them as treacherous and untrustworthy intriguers. They’d decline into another rump party, while Corbyn’s faction would probably expand. They might also go the same way as the SDP, and try to join the Liberal Democrats after the number of their MPs declined past a certain point, no doubt all the while grumbling about ‘unelectable’ Corbyn being somehow responsible for the misfortunes they had all brought down on themselves.

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The Demands of the Berlin Workers’ Central Committee

February 22, 2014

1848 Revolution Germany

F.G. Nordmann: The Barricades on the Kronen- and Freidrichstrasse on the 18th March 1848 by an Eyewitness

I found this manifesto of the demands by the Berlin Workers’ Central Committee during the continental revolutions of 1848 in the ‘Vormarz’ volume of the anthologies of German literature published by Reclam. Although it was written over a century and a half ago in Germany, their demands are still acutely relevant to early 21st century Britain. Over half of the demands made by the Berlin workers have or are being attacked by the Cameron and Clegg. I thought that these demands were worth putting up here, both as an historical document showing the aspirations of 19th century German workers, and as a comment on the way the Coalition’s reactionary regime is trying to destroy everything that has been achieved to improve working peoples’ lives since then.

I last did German at school over twenty years ago, and so I apologise for my highly rocky German. If anyone with a better grasp of German than me wishes to revise some of this, let me know, and I’ll post up the original for them to see and comment on.

The Demands of the Berlin Workers’ Central Committee, 18th June 1847

1. Determination of a minimum wage and working hours through a commission of workers and masters or employers.

2. Workers to unite for the maintenance of the living wage.

3. Lifting of indirect taxes, introduction of progressive incomes tax with the exemption of those, who only have life’s necessities.

4. The state to undertake free instruction, and, where it is necessary, the free education of youth with supervision for their abilities.

5. Free public libraries.

6. Regulation of the number of people learning a trade, which a master is allowed to have, through a commission of workers and employers.

7. Lifting of all exceptional laws on workers’ travel, namely those expressed in the itinerary books.
[This refers to the laws in Wilhelmine Germany limiting a worker’s ability to travel in search of work. Every worker was supposed to have a book listing his employment history. The laws were eventually abolished. The Labour Books, however, returned with the conscription of labour under the Nazis in the Third Reich.]

8. Lowering the voting age to 24.

9. Employment of the unemployed in state institutions, to which the state should provide a measure existence for their human needs.

10. Establishment of model workshops and the expansion of the already constituted public artisans’ workshops for the education of able workers.

11.The state to provide for the helpless and all invalided through work.

12. Comprehensive right to native country and freedom of movement.
[This is another attack on the laws limiting the right of workers to move around Germany. In this case, the laws that prevented them from going back to their homes.]

13. Limiting official tyranny over working people.

The above are only to be dismissed from their places through the decisive judgement of a Committee.

In its demands for commissions of workers and employers, the manifesto shows the influence of the continental system of ‘concertation’, in which both workers’ and employers’ groups are consulted and represented in governmental decision-making. It’s the type of corporativism that Edward Heath attempted to introduce into Britain in the 1970s, and which was abolished by Thatcher. What Thatcher resented was not corporativism per se, no matter what she might have said about promoting free trade, but the inclusion of workers’ groups and organisation in the process. Her government still continued to include private industry in the process of government, so that the Thatcher administration has been fairly described as ‘corporativism without the workers’.

The demands for the unemployed to be given work in state workshops, and for the establishment of model workshops, is less a demand for workhouses after the British model, than for a system of National Workshops as was proposed by the French Socialist, Louis Blanc. These were to be set up by the government, but managed co-operatively by the workers themselves. They were set up by the French government in that year, but deliberately poor funding and management by the authorities, which made the work pointless and degrading, undermined them and led to their collapse.

Now let’s see how these demands are faring under Cameron and Clegg.

1. The minimum wage and working hours. Almost from the start, the Coalition has introduced a series of measure designed to get round them. This has been done through workfare, which allows the participating firms to benefit from the unpaid labour of the unemployed; internships, where aspiring young trainees are also taken on without being paid; the new apprenticeship system, which also seems less concerned with training young workers as with allowing employers to pay them less than the minimum wage.

The zero hours system has also allowed employers to cut wages, by tying workers to their employers, who only employ them when they’re needed, and so don’t pay for them when they are not. The rest of the working population, on the other hand, has suffered from a massive expansion of the working week.

2. Union of workers for the fixed wage. Since Thatcher, successive governments have shown themselves hostile to labour unions, and have done their level best to undermine them and reduce the legislation protecting workers. New Labour in its last year or so of government repealed a vast tranche of labour legislation. The Coalition is, if anything, even more opposed to union and labour legislation, with Vince Cable sputtering all kinds of threats when the public sector unions threatened to strike a year or so ago.

3. Lifting of indirect taxes and introduction of progressive income tax. The Conservatives have hated and demanded the removal of incomes tax since the 1980s. I can remember the Sunday Times demanding the removal of incomes tax and its replacement by indirect taxes following the recommendations of the decade’s monetarist economists. Now George Osborne has raised VAT to 20 per cent, and cut incomes tax for the very right. The result has been a massive transfer of wealth from the working to the upper classes.

4. Free instruction and free education by the state. State education is something else that has been under attack by the Right since Thatcher. Milton Friedman urged the introduction of education vouchers, so that parents could have a choice between educating their children in the state or private sector. Guy Debord’s Cat has shown how Friedman’s reforms has led to massive inequalities in the Chilean educational system. Nevertheless, education vouchers were taken up by Ann Soper of the Social Democrats, amongst others.

The Coalition is intent on effectively privatising the school system, with schools taken out of the state system even when the governors themselves are opposed to the scheme. One of the left-wing blogs – I believe it may have been Another Angry Voice – also covered a school, which had effectively introduced school fees. The school was being run by an American company, which used its own, copyrighted curriculum. The company therefore charged the parents of the children at the school over £100 per year for their children’s use of the company’s curriculum materials.

5. Free public libraries. These have suffered massively under the Coalition’s ‘localism’ and ‘Big Society’ agendas. Central government funding has been cut, and libraries have been forced to close. The intention was that they should be taken over and run for free by local community groups. In fact, few groups have members with the necessary skills or experience to take over their management. Many of those that have survived have been forced to cut staff and opening hours.

8. Lowering of the voting age. This is again another hot issue, as the Scots Nationalist wish to reduce the voting age north of the border to 16. Young people tend to be more idealistic than their elders, who have had all their dreams of creating a just world hammered out of them by life. In Scotland they also tend to be more nationalistic than their elders. The Tories thus wish to keep the voting age at 18 as at present.

The Coalition have also altered the procedure for registration for voting, with what looks suspiciously like the intention to make it so complicated that many people will be unaware of the new regulations and so lose the franchise through default.

9. Employment of the unemployed in state institutions and support of their human needs. Osborne is a rabid Libertarian, and so despises any attempt by the state to directly interfere to promote growth through a programme of public works. It is nevertheless true that when the country has experienced a spurt of growth under Gideon, it’s been when he has adopted a Keynsian programme. So the modern equivalent of national workshops to provide work for the workers has been attacked and discarded by the Coalition.

There was a system of workshops like those advocated by the Berlin workers for the disabled. The Remploy workshops, however, have now been closed down by the Coalition, adding further hardship and unemployment for those with disabilities.

As for unemployment benefit, this has and continues to be savagely cut in order to create a pool of the unemployed and desperate in order to bring down wages. The result of this is that thousands have been thrown out of work and have no support due to benefit cuts and sanctions. As a result, people are being forced to use private charity and food banks. The country has therefore seen rising starvation and the return of diseases believed to have been banished since the 19th century.

10. Establishment of model workshops and the training of the able workers. The Coalition, as good Libertarians, are hostile to direct government intervention, and so have embarked on a comprehensive system of privatisation and the further undermining of workers’ employment rights. They are keen to support various training programmes for young workers, but these seem less about providing new skills, than inculcating the attitude in the unemployed that their inability to find a job is their own fault, rather than the government’s or the economy’s. As for the acquisition of new skills, this largely seems to be focused on computer literacy. This is indeed a vital skill, but it does not suit everyone and there seems to be little provision for the less academic. As for the new apprenticeship programme, this also seems simply a way to exploit trainee workers by not paying them the minimum wage. It also seems to be just another way to falsify the unemployment figures by claiming that the unemployed are in fact in work, while they are only on work placements and other temporary schemes.

11. The state to provide for the disabled. As with unemployment benefit, this is something else that has been savagely cut and undermined by the Coalition. Like the Jobcentres, Atos have been set quotas for people to be thrown off benefits by being falsely declared fit for work. The result has been a truly colossal death rate. As many as 38,000 per year may have died in poverty and hardship due to the governments cuts.

12. The right to one’s native country and freedom of movement. Britain in the 19th century did not have laws restricting workers’ freedom of movement as in Germany. However, rising housing costs and the Coalition’s cap of Housing Benefit is resulting in ‘social cleansing’, in which the poor are being forced out of more expensive, upmarket areas. This is especially true in London. Poor Black communities have been particularly hit, and there is resentment there about the way gentrification has forced them out of their neighbourhoods as these have been bought up by affluent, often extremely affluent, Whites.

13. Limitation of the tyranny of officials. Actually, the tyranny of officialdom over the unemployed has expanded massively under the Coalition. While there are genuinely understanding, caring staff at the Jobcentres, and even, surprisingly, within Atos, these are very much in the minority. Government policy is designed to make the process of signing on as humiliating and degrading as possible. Hence, you are harangued and pressured when you sign on. Many of the staff have real hate towards the unemployed. One female member of staff at one of the Jobcentres was caught on Facebook describing how she hated claimants and her joy at sanctioning them. Such abuse has been privatised under the Tories. An unemployed friend of mine has been repeatedly rung up at home by an employee of the company, that has the contract for getting him into work from the government. As a result, he is continually harangued by this clerk, who has claimed that they are somehow motivating him to find work.

As for workers only being sacked after a decisive judgement by an employment commission, Blair and New Labour did their level best to repeal these laws, and the Tories are pursuing the same policy with a vengeance. All in the interests of promoting a more fluid labour market, of course.

Many of the demands made by the Berlin workers in the 19th century, or their equivalents, are therefore under attack in Britain in the 21st century by a highly reactionary regime. Thatcher and the Libertarians looked back to the 19th century and Victorian values. As a result, post-Thatcher administrations have done much to remove the successes and advances of the 19th and early 20th centuries in improving the lives of the working and lower middle class. This is being done across the world in the name of globalisation and free trade, for the benefit of the multinationals paying the Tories and governments like them. It needs to be stopped. As Marx and Engels ended the Communist Manifesto, working people of all countries, unite!