Posts Tagged ‘Cold Weather Payments’

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.

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IDS Has Resigned, But Curb Your Enthusiasm…

March 19, 2016

Someone just as bad if not worse will probably be around shortly.

The big news this morning is that Ian Duncan Smith has finally walked. Several of the commenters on this blog posted pieces about his resignation late last night, with due expressions of not the slightest bit of grief. In fact, quite the opposite. Much joy was felt by them and indeed by very many other people up and down the country. And who can blame them! Ian Duncan Smith is, after all, the wretched mass-murderer, who has used the benefits sanctions regime he inherited from Bliar’s New Labour to immiserate hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Under him, 590 people have died of starvation, poverty and neglect. Some by their own hand. A quarter of a million more have been pushed into anxiety, depression and mental illness. And for all that he’s resigned as head of the DWP, IDS is still head of a party which has forced 4.7 million people into ‘food poverty’. That, to you and me, is being literally on the breadline and not having enough to eat, or wondering where your next meal is coming from.

I’m surprised that he’s resigned, but the signs were all there. Over a week ago he was whining about how unfair it was for people to blame him from the hardship and misery his cuts were causing, when it was Labour that started them. Well, Blair and Brown did. But he and Cameron got in by pretending that they were going to be more left-wing, more caring than New Labour. That was the central promise of Philip Blonde’s book, Red Tory. And I distinctly remember George Osborne telling everyone that he was going to end the disastrous Private Finance Initiative, that’s saddling the country with mountains of debt for the profit of private companies running public services. But that’s another election promise the Tories conveniently forgot once they were in power.

Mike over at Vox Political has written several pieces commenting on Smith’s departure.

In his first piece about it, Mike urged a note of caution before we accepted that there was anything altruistic about Smith’s motives.

Yes, it’s great that he has gone. But I don’t think it’s over a matter of principle, no matter what he might say. Iain Duncan Smith has lied far too often for me to take anything he says at face value.

No, he’s either trying to be clever about the EU referendum, lining himself up to be in Boris’s good books if the vote goes against Cameron and Osborne, or he’s putting distance between himself and the Department for Work and Pensions after a judge ruled that potentially damning documents about Universal Credit must be published.

It seems the documents may show that Duncan Smith (I can’t be bothered with the nicknames – feel free to substitute ‘RTU’ or ‘the Gentleman Ranker’ if you like) misled Parliament and the public, time and again, about the floundering new benefit system.

Sick and disabled people will remain the targets of brutal benefit cuts. The unemployed are still enmeshed in a Kafka-esque nightmare of conditions they have to satisfy in order to draw their benefit. Social housing tenants are still persecuted by the Bedroom Tax.

Duncan Smith happily presided over more than £28 billion worth of cuts in payments to the most vulnerable people in the United Kingdom. That’s why This Writer doesn’t believe he has had a crisis of conscience now.

You can read the rest at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/19/never-mind-the-ides-of-march-its-the-march-of-ids/

I think Mike’s right. This has far more the look of a piece of political manoeuvring than any kind of statement of principle. Mike in the above states that IDS resigned when the cuts he was complaining about had already been shelved. Which is a curious way to protest. He also put up this piece, reporting a story in the Mirror that Nadine Dorries has stated that IDS begged her to vote for the cuts just before he decided to walk. See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/19/nadine-dorries-slams-iain-duncan-smith-for-begging-her-to-vote-for-disability-cuts-before-resigning-mirror-online/

In the statement from IDS reported on the TV news, Smith has apparently claimed that the reasons he resigned is because the cuts demanded by George Osborne were falling entirely on people of working age. This bears out what Mike reported in another of his pieces written about Smith’s resignation today: that he resigned from frustration at being blocked from killing pensioners. Mike writes:

Okay, it might not have been framed in quite the way expressed in the headline above, but that’s what the latest claims about Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation seem to be saying.

The allegation is that he was unhappy that the Conservative Government was continually targeting its cuts on working-age benefits, and wanted pensioners to take some of the pain as well, contrary to a directive from prime minister David Cameron that senior citizens’ benefits are not to be touched.

He would have taken away universal pensioner benefits like free bus passes, together with the winter fuel allowance and cold weather payments.

The effect of these cuts would have been a large increase in pensioner deaths – as predicted by the Taxpayers’ Alliance when that organisation suggested such cuts, only a few months ago.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/19/iain-duncan-smith-quit-because-he-wasnt-allowed-to-kill-pensioners-claim/

The Taxpayers Alliance, you understand, is the astroturf organisation the Beeb turns to whenever there’s a debate about government expenditure. This is the pressure group that campaigns for further reductions in taxation. It claims to be politically independent, but its leadership is composed to a man of paid-up members of the Tory party. It’s at best a satellite of Tory fellow-travellers, if not actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tory Party Plc (People lying continually). A few months ago they were urging the Conservatives to cut pensions, arguing that it wouldn’t have any effect on the party’s electoral fortunes, as by the time the election came around, all their victims would have died anyway. This is what passes for humour at Taxpayer Alliance Towers as they’re waiting for sentencing for tax fraud.

Mike’s report has more than just the ring of truth. I can remember Mike himself posting a piece a few years ago reporting that there was some friction between the Unctuous Spawn of the Baronet of Ballymoney, George ‘Lionel’ Osbo, and the Gentleman Ranker. Osborne wanted cuts that could only come from inflicting them on pensioners, according to IDS. As this is one of the demographic groups where Tory support is the strongest, Osbo rejected making them share the burden of the cuts as being ‘very courageous’, in the sense deployed by Sir Humphrey Appleby. Now it seems this report is essentially correct, and IDS has resigned rather than face the continued frustration of having to concentrate on killing and impoverishing those of working age, rather than killing and immiserating the elderly.

There is a bright side to this though! The street wags and practical jokers have been up and out with the jolly japes. Mike has a picture up of the fake ‘missing person’ ads which have been placed on a lamp-post asking where the great man is.
Answers on a postcard, please.

URGENT! Missing person alert!