Posts Tagged ‘Carpenters’

Vox Political: Thatcher Was Urged to Levy Poll Tax on the Homeless

February 20, 2016

This piece from Mike over at Vox Political shows not only what utterly contemptible villains were in Maggie Thatcher’s government, but also how they were blissfully unaware that their wretched tax reforms undermined the basis of civilisation itself. Just as their successors are doing now.

Recently declassified documents released from the National Archives show that Thatcher’s Welsh Secretary, Peter Walker, wanted to impose the ‘Community Charge’ not just on those with homes, but also the homeless. He was afraid that if they were exempt, then people would start sleeping on the streets to avoid paying it. Mike says of this

Obviously Peter Walker was scum and the Poll Tax was a disaster – but worse people than him are running the Conservative Government now.

The idea of charging homeless people a tax on property is clearly ridiculous but that wasn’t the point Walker was trying to make.

He wanted to ensure that every last penny was squeezed from the poorest people, in order to support Conservatives and Tory voters who no doubt needed the money to clean the moat in their duck pond or suchlike. He’s further afraid that the intervening years have made people more susceptible to Tory lies, not less, and that they’ll be taken in the next time they peddle another fraudulent scheme.
See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/19/margaret-thatcher-was-urged-to-make-homeless-people-pay-poll-tax-by-senior-cabinet-minister/.

It’s a truly grotty piece of legislation, but what has been missed is the way that it effectively threatened to destroy part of the fabric of society. If people cannot afford to pay a tax, so that they are forced to leave their homes and sleep rough, then you’ve effectively dealt a blow to civilisation. The very word after all comes from the Latin civilis, a city. It’s part of the reasons why Rome fell: the taxes became so great, urban citizens could no longer afford to pay them. The senatorial aristocracy all moved away to avoid paying their whack, and the burden of taxation fell to the free poor, who couldn’t. As a result, they too moved into the countryside. The result was that in the Third Century AD there was rising inflation and a declining number of urban tradesmen – the bakers, butchers, cobblers, carpenters, smiths and so on that form the industrial and commercial life of cities. The Romans tried to stop this steady migration of tradesmen away from the cities by making certain trades hereditary, setting up a caste system rather like Indian. Unlike India’s, it didn’t work. And so the empire tottered on to its doom as the barbarians invaded.

Not that you’ll hear this from the Tories, including classicists like Boris Johnson. Oh, Boris admires the early Roman Empire with its small bureaucracy, but you won’t hear him talk about how, like now, the Empire fell because the senatorial super-rich decided to escape paying taxes by fleeing to their country estates, just as the super-rich today try to shirk their financial responsibility to society by registering their companies offshore. And they really, really won’t want to talk about how they shifted the tax burden on the free Roman poor, just as today’s working and lower middle classes are also required to make up the tax deficit left by the rich.

No, to them, the real threat to western civilisation comes from an influx of foreigners, just like the Romans had during the barbarian invasions.

But their tax policies and continuing impoverishment of the poorest sections of society are undermining our society and weakening it, quite apart from its complete absence of any morality. These are people, who will grind down the poor to the extent it’ll bring down society itself, just to be that little bit richer.
Complete amoral psychopaths.

The Young Turks: Low Paid Workers Have the Highest Death Rates

November 3, 2015

This is another video from The Young Turks. It does, of course, discuss an American problem, but it’s still relevant over here. And especially as the Tories have copied so much of their ideology from across the Atlantic.

In this video, The Turks discuss the findings of a survey showing that the least educated workers in the poorest paid, unskilled jobs, have shorter lives than their better educated, better paid co-workers. In some parts of America, the difference can be by as much as 33 years. Women, however, tend to live longer than men, which the Turks state is just about the only area in which women do better in the work place. I think the stats also show that Blacks and other racial minorities also have shorter life expectancies than Whites.

They identify the factors in the work place that have the largest influence on mortality. These are

Unemployment and layoffs
Lack of health insurance
Low job control
Job insecurity (for men)
Shift work (for women)

They recognise that some extremely highly paid groups, like bankers and lawyers, can also suffer stress, but point out that it’s not the same kind of stress as the low paid. Those groups, for example, are not under the same kind of pressure as a single parent with a child working two jobs simply to pay the rent and put food on the table.

One of the Turks’ panel, John Iadarola, did his Master’s degree on the way politics reflect deeply embedded ideas about morality in American culture. If you don’t do well at school, or have a low-paid job, it’s your fault, because you’re obviously lazy.

Here’s the video:

This is obviously acutely relevant over here, as the Tories have exactly the same ideas. Work is good for you. Hence the policies to kick everyone off benefits so that they get some kind of work, no matter how poorly paid, unsuitable, or simply impossible for some people, like the disabled or people with long-term health problems, to perform. There’s any numbers of Tories prattling about the ‘health benefits’ of work. One of them even started an opinion piece in one of the papers by going on about how true Auschwitz’s maxim of ‘Arbeit macht frei’ – ‘Work makes (you) free’ – was, before reality or the editor kicked in and that section was pulled. Obviously, somebody realized that perhaps quoting the Nazis approvingly, especially the slogan on their death camps, wasn’t a vote winner.

And the Tories have exactly the same kind of Victorian attitude towards poverty. If you’re poor, it’s not because of a genuine lack of ability on your part. Not everyone has the intellectual ability to be a financial whizzkid, or brilliant scientist or engineer, or entrepreneur or whatever. Just as clearly not everyone can be a skilled manual worker, like a carpenter or blacksmith, or have the physical prowess to be an Olympic sportsman or woman. But the Tories believe that if you don’t succeed at Uni or have a brilliant job, it’s because you’re lazy. Or feckless. Or whatever other word they want to use to stigmatise them as someone who has failed due to their personality defects or lack of suitable morals.

And in these days of mounting student and graduate unemployment, even being highly educated doesn’t not guarantee that you will have a good job, and be able to pay your bills. Social scientists have identified a new social group, the precariat. These are low paid workers, in precarious jobs. They’re on short-term or zero hours contracts. And they are often too highly educated for the work they do.

The American finds also confirm what has been known from the 1990s: that people at the bottom of the social hierarchy live shorter lives than their superiors, even if they’re not in particularly dangerous jobs. Part of the evidence for this is the records of civil servants’ lives and performance going right back to the first years of the last century. These showed, not surprisingly, that the lower clerks at the bottom died earlier than the mandarins at the top. Part of the reason for this was stress, the same stress the Tories want to pile on to the majority of working people.

The civil service stats show the Tories’ argument about work, any kind of work, being good for you is rubbish. This piece from The Young Turks adds further confirmation.

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Agitator, Part 3

May 28, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Last week, I posted the tune for the radical song, ‘The Agitator’, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. As with nearly all the other tunes from that book, I hadn’t noted down the words. Jess kindly supplied further information on them, pointing out that it was written in the 1870s to support the Agricultural Labourers’ Union. She also supplied further background information about the Union and the songs written by its members in their campaign for recognition and better wages and conditions. See the post ‘Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Agitator, Part 2’. Now she’s kindly supplied the lyrics for the song itself.

The Union’s founder, Joseph Arch, said

Of course I was called an agitator; so I was, because everyone, who stirs people up to do things is an agitator, but those who so named me attached a bad meaning to the word. I was agitating for the right and not for the wrong; I was no ‘Arch Apostle of Arson’, as some one chose to call me. The Bishop of Gloucester (Dr Ellicott) was one of my worst enemies in the early days of the movement. He wanted me, and those, like me, ducked in the horse pond. As to the parsons generally, I never expected them to have much sympathy with us. Their stock argument against the Union was that it was ‘setting class against class’. This was their poll-parrot cry. ‘Oh yes, said they, ‘the men have a perfect right to try and improve themselves, and we will help them; but the Union is setting class against class’.

According to Palmer and Pamela Horn, who wrote a biography of Arch in 1977, the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union was founded in 1872. He believes that ‘The Agitator’ was written the following year, 1873, by the Union’s secretary, Henry Taylor. Taylor was a carpenter, who was admitted to the Union because of his previous trade union experience. The farm labourers’ unions produced a great number of songs, which were collected into a pamphlet, Songs for Singing at Agricultural Labourers’ Meetings (London and Leamington). These proved to be popular. According to Harold Evans in his Radical Fights of Forty Years, the pamphlet sold 120,000 copies.

The lyrics go

The Agitator
Tune – The Nobby Head of Hair

A jolly, jolly ploughboy I am, as you may see,
But never mind, I always strive to live by honesty;
I’ve always done my very best, by hard work, fare, and sweat, –
To get about the winid, boys, but I’m never out of debt.

Chorus
So I’ll agitate, I’ll agitate, whatever folks may say,
Till all have joined the Union, and get a fair days’ pay.

We care not what the Parsons say, -though they’re the chaps to know,
They say that all who agitate, to their dark friend must go;
And if ’tis tru, ’tis very clear, themselves had best look out,
So milt their agitation is, they often get the gout.
We’ll agitate, etc.

The farmers say they can’t afford to pay us proper wage;
But still they keep their carriages, and follow fashion’s rage;
‘Tis true that some poor farmers have their necks beneath the heel
Of selfish Lords, and unjust laws, which soon we must repeal.
We’ll agitate, etc.

The ‘Lords’ complain their rent of land, per cent. enough don’t pay,
‘Political Economy’s’ a law we must obey,-
If so, they’ll very soon become defunct throughout the land,
For ‘mongst the People I’m quite sure, for Lords there’s no demand.
We’ll agitate, etc.

They say the Labourers are not Serfs, – that we have liberty;
With our wages and our perquisites, how happy we might be;
But if we join the ‘Union’ chaps, say nought of better wage,-
O what a flare-up all at once! don’t they go into a rage?
We’ll agitate, etc.

They turn us out of house and home, they sack us there and then,
But off we go to other jobs,- we’ll do it, boys, like men;
For if to be successful with our cause we are inclined,
Why, then, a little sacrifice, my boys, we must not mind.
We’ll agitate, etc.

Our cause will prosper in the end, for all th’oppressors might;
We’ll do our best to help ourselves – ‘God will defend the right’;
‘The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower’,
So let us all take heart again, and whilst we have the power,
We’ll agitate, etc.

Like very many of the other songs I’ve posted up here, it’s very much of its time. Nevertheless, also like the other songs, parts of it are still very relevant. People are being forced heavily into debt, and forced from their homes. And we are being led by an aristocratic government that keeps invoking economics to justify their attacks on the poor and working and lower middle classes. So let’s show them that, as the song says, there’s no demand for lords in 21st century Britain.