Posts Tagged ‘David Sainsbury’

Observer Unveils Launch of New ‘Centrist’, Corporatist Party

April 10, 2018

On Sunday, the Absurder covered the launch of a new ‘centrist’ party, which it was claimed would break the mould of British politics. And talking about it with Mike, I certainly got the impression that the party sounded very mouldy indeed. It has been launched with £50 million worth of funding, backed by businessmen and donors.

Yes, businessmen and donors. This looks to me like more continuity Blairism: claiming to represent the centre, while instead promoting the policies and business interests of the corporate elite. Just like Blair did in New Labour, when he gave government posts to a whole slew of businessmen in return for their cash and support. The party’s launch was also covered by the Mirror, which quoted two of the leading officials in the Labour party about it. One described it as ‘a party for the rich, by the rich, and with the rich’, which sounds very true, although it also describes the Tories, Lib Dems and the Blairites in Labour. Another leading member mocked the new party for having no members, no rule book and no ideology.

Well of course it doesn’t. It looks very much like Tony Blair trying to claw his way back into British politics. I don’t know if he’s behind this, but he certainly made murmurings about starting a new party. This party has been set up a party to appeal to the ‘centre ground’ he thinks are being alienated from Labour by the ‘far’ left Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, Corbyn is centre left, and is actually becoming increasingly popular as the corporatist, Thatcherite policies pursued by Blair and the Tories before and after him are increasingly shown to be failing.

He also doesn’t seem to have learned that far from being attracted by corporatism, voters are actually repelled by it. Blair’s time in office was marked by numerous exposes of his rewarding greedy donors, as well as George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, which described how, under Blair and his predecessors, the British state had been made into the vehicle for the interests of big business. Like the supermarkets, led by New Labour donor David Sainsbury, amongst others. Far from this attracting voters, the Labour party actually lost them as Blair continued to ignore the party’s traditional base in the working and lower middle classes in order to appeal to ‘aspirational’ middle class voters.

And its lack of ideology is part of its Blairite nature. Blair too described New Labour as having left ideology behind, by which he meant socialism, and would use instead what worked. By which he meant private industry, which spectacularly hasn’t. It also appears that Blair believes that this new party will also borrow, or work with members of other parties where necessary or appropriate. Which is back to Blair’s ‘Government Of All the Talents’, which included leading Tories like Chris Patten.

So far from breaking the mould, this new party is simply more of the same from Blairism. It’s also highly debatable how different it is from the other, existing parties. The Tories are dominated by corporate interests, which they have been representing since the 19th century. So too are the Lib Dems under Vince Cable. Statistics gathered way back in 2012 or so showed that 77 per cent of MPs had one or more directorships. This is a major problem for those trying to get our elected representatives to work for ordinary people, rather than the corporate elite. The same problem is particularly acute in America, which is why Harvard University issued a report stating that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but an oligarchy. Once elected to office, American politicos follow the wishes of their corporate donors, not their constituents.

This new party isn’t going to reinvigorate democracy. It’s unnecessary, unwanted, and if anything a real danger to it by standing to give even more political power to business people as its members and donors. It looks less like a serious contender, and more like a vanity project by Blair, trying to show that the public still want him and his increasingly worn out policies.

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Does Anybody Really Believe that Alan Sugar Ever Really Supported Labour?

April 6, 2018

Alan Sugar, the multi-millionaire host of the British version of the Apprentice got himself into the news this week. He’s another one, who has joined the chorus of rich industrialists and Conservatives denouncing Corbyn as an anti-Semite. On Wednesday he put up on the Net a photoshopped picture of Corbyn riding in a limo with Adolf Hitler. Faced with a storm of criticism for this outrageous smear, Sugar took it down. But crucially, he didn’t apologise. Then yesterday he put up a nasty poem attacking Corbyn.

This little ditty was denounced by at least one female Corbynite as misogynist. And rightly so. In one of its stanzas, it describes Corbyn having sex with Diane Abbott, who ‘lies back and thinks of Russia’. Corbyn is supposed to have had an affair with Abbott. But as the female critic pointed out, it also shows the misogynist fixation with female sexuality, and discomfort at the fact that women are free to have sex with whomever they choose. In this instance, Sugar’s like the White supremacists of the Alt Right, who have a similar fixation with controlling women’s sexuality, as well as denying them the right to vote. There’s also a nasty undercurrent of racism in this as well. Most of the racist and sexist abuse sent to MPs is actually centred on Diane Abbott. She was one of the first Black MPs elected to parliament in the 1980s, and is notoriously concerned with combating racism. So much so, that the Scum quoted her in their infamous anti-Labour campaign during the 1987 election as saying that ‘All White people are racist’. I don’t know if she said it or not. If she didn’t, it wouldn’t be the first the Scum libelled someone. Not by a very long chalk.

As for thinking about Russia, this is just more of the Tory ‘Red Scare’ drivel that the party’s been running ever since the Zinoviev Letter in the 1920s. Labour is supposed to be full of Communists, ready to do Moscow’s bidding. Or, now that Communism’s fallen, Putin’s bidding. Sugar then goes on in the poem to rant about how Corbyn supports our enemies, listing them as the IRA, Hamas and Russia. All of which we’ve heard before, and despatched. He never supported the IRA, but recommended that the British government should talk to them. Which Margaret Thatcher was doing, all the time she was loudly denouncing the Labour party for daring to suggest that she should. Well, as someone once said, the Tory party is an organised hypocrisy. As for Hamas, I’ve seen allegations that they were either created, or helped into power, by the Israeli state, who thought that this would make it easier to control and disinherit the Palestinians. Corbyn isn’t an enemy of Israel, but he does want a just settlement for the Palestinians. Hence the outrage of the Israel lobby, who can’t bear anyone taking their side, even if they’re actually not opponents of Israel or anti-Semites.

He also claimed that Corbyn was the worse Labour leader ever. Well, I can remember the Tories making the same accusations, minus those of anti-Semitism, against Neil Kinnock in the 1987 election, and before that against Michael Foot and Harold Wilson in the 1970s. The CIA, MI5 and the Tories, including Maggie Thatcher, were convinced that Wilson was a KGB spy. He wasn’t, but they still smeared him.

As for Corbyn being extreme left, he stands for the renationalisation of the health service, a partial renationalisation of the electricity grid, and the renationalisation of the railways, as well as an end to the murderous benefit cuts. This is a return to something like the post-war social democratic consensus, and very far from the total nationalisation demanded by the genuine far left, like the Socialist Workers’ Party. Not that this bothers the Tories, who never let the truth get in the way of a good lie.

And I have always been uneasy about Sugar as a supporter of Labour. It never seemed quite genuine. There are, and always have been, businesspeople who supported the Labour party. But I don’t think Sugar was really one of them. I might be wrong, but I seem to remember Sugar appearing on Terry Wogan’s weekday talk show way back in the 1980s. He poured scorn on the idea that you needed an extensive education to become successful in business, and talked about how he’d begun his career aged fifteen selling things from the back of cars. Or something like that. I can remember my father looking at me, and remarking that he was the type who’d have children climbing up chimneys again.

Sugar left Labour three years ago, about the time Corbyn was elected leader, so he’s definitely no supporter of the current Labour leadership. It seems very much to me that he was one of the big businessmen Blair ingratiated himself with, and who were given seats in government in return for their support. Like David Sainsbury, who was another donor to New Labour, now departed. He’s basically another Tory, who was drawn to New Labour because Blair was continuing the Thatcherite programme of privatisation and benefit cuts, but was electorally more attractive than the Tory party itself under John Major.

His poem was basically another Tory screed of lies and hate, from someone, who only seems to have joined Labour out of political and commercial opportunism. There’s absolute no reason to take him, or his opinions seriously.

End Workfare Now! Part 2

June 20, 2017

Arguments for Workfare

The arguments trotted out to support the workfare policies are these.

1. Everyone has a duty to work. Those who take money from the state have a reciprocal obligation to work for the support they have received.

2. Following Moynihan in America, it’s argued that part of the problem of poverty in society is communities, where there are families, which have not worked for generations. In order to break the cycle of poverty, these people must be forced into work.

3. It’s also argued that many individuals have also been unemployed for so long that they, too, have lost the habit of working. These people must also be forced to work.

4. The unemployed are also socially marginalised and excluded. Workfare helps them, its supporters argue, become integrated into society and so become productive members of the community once again.

5. It is also claimed that workfare allows people to acquire new skills. In 2012 a report was published on the exploitation of the people forced to work for free as security guards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A spokesman for the ConDem coalition responded to the claim by stating: ‘The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop skills that they need to get a job that is sustainable.’ As Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols sang back in 1977 ‘God save the Queen and the Fascist regime.’

6. Workfare somehow reduces government spending on welfare programmes. Liam Byrne, New Labour’s advocate for workfare, who was quoted in the first part of this article, said ‘The best way to save money is to get people back into work.’

In fact there are serious arguments against just about all of these points, and some of them simply aren’t factually true. Let’s deal with each of these arguments in turn.

The Duty to Work

If people have a duty to perform free work for the goods and services that are provided freely by the state, then the middle classes and the elite should particularly be targeted for workfare, because they use the state infrastructure and its services more than the proles and those at the bottom of society. But the middle and upper classes most definitely are not required to perform these services. One of the worst policies of Mao’s China during the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of the 1960s and ’70s was the policy of taking skilled workers, intellectuals and artists away from their work to perform manual work elsewhere in that vast nation. It was bitterly resented, although at the time it was in line with the idea of creating a classless ‘workers’ state’. The respected TV critic and broadcaster, Clive James, in his column for the Observer, reviewed a programme that exposed this aspect of Chinese Communism. James was horrified at the effect this had had on breaking the health and skills of those sent to labour in the fields, such as a dancer for the state ballet. But if such forced labour is unacceptable for the middle and upper classes, it should also be so for those, whose only crime is to be without a job.

Furthermore there are also strong objections to performing workfare for a profit-making company. Those who do so, like those poor souls working free of charge for the big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, are helping to make these companies even more profitable. It isn’t society that profits from their work, but extremely wealthy individuals like David Sainsbury and his shareholders, and the people running his competitors, for example. This parallels the exploitative nature of Stalin’s gulags and the Nazis’ use of skilled Jewish workers by the SS. The gulags were the immense archipelago of forced labour camps used to punish political prisoners and other victims of Stalin’s regime. Over 30 million Soviet citizens are estimated to have been imprisoned in them at the height of the terror. The vast majority were totally innocent. The system was used to industrialise the country, whose economy had formerly been dominated by agriculture. Under Stalin, the heads of state enterprises would supply lists of the types of workers they needed to the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, the state secret police. The NKVD would then arrest workers with those skills, and supply them to the businesses as requested. In Nazi Germany, the SS also formed an enterprise to exploited the skilled Jewish workers, such as jewelers, they had imprisoned. They were put to work producing luxury goods, which were then sold by the SS. They even produced a catalogue of the products made by these slave artisans.

This claim also implies that low income people have a duty to work in an inferior position for the benefit of their social or economic superiors in a master-servant relationship. This is a distortion of the concept of duty. The same idea also leads to the view that if you are unsuccessful in the labour market, you therefore have a duty to work for nothing, a view of society that is both regressive – harking back to some of the worst aspects of the Victorian era – and alienating. On the other hand, if you are performing work that is unprofitable, then there should be no duty to perform it. If it is genuine, valuable work, then the people performing it should be paid the current market rate, not simply provided with unemployment relief.

Standing also makes the point that the concept of duty has led to the belief that people should be forced to find work. But the use of coercion is divisive and actually undermines the commitment to work. He also argues that it actually amoral, because it takes away from workers their ability to choose for themselves whether to be moral. Plus the fact that workfare is not levied on the idle rich, or the friends and relatives of the politicians forcing it on others

Multigenerational Families of the Unemployed

The number of families that actually fit this description is so small as to be negligible, both in America and over here in Blighty. The academics T. Shildrick, R. MacDonald, C. Webster, and K. Garthwaite examined this issue in their Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain (Bristol: Policy Press 2012). Their research revealed that only 1 per cent fitted the description of a family in which two generations were unemployed. Official attempts to find these pockets of intergenerational unemployment have similarly turned up next to zilch. The whole idea is rubbish, but that hasn’t stopped papers like the Daily Fail claiming it’s true.

Getting People out of the Habit of Not Having a Job

Researchers have also looked at this one, too, and guess what? Yup, it’s similarly rubbish. There are very few people like this. But rather than acting as an incentive to find work, actually being forced to work unpaid in poor conditions may actually act as a deterrent. The Anarchist activist and writer, Alexander Berkman, made this point about work generally in his 1929, What Is Anarchist Communism? He made the point that much poor work was caused by forcing unwilling workers to perform jobs that they did not want and weren’t interested in. He pointed to the experience of prison labour, as an illustration. In prison, those workers, who were forced to perform such jobs did so badly. However, if they were given a job they enjoyed, then their work rapidly improved. He also made the point that Standing also makes about poorly paid but necessary work, that instead of forcing people to do it, wages should be increased to encourage workers to do them, and increase the social respect for those, who did those jobs. In a very stretched comparison, he described how both road sweepers and surgeons both helped keep people health. Surgeons, however, were given respect, while road sweepers are looked down upon. He felt this was simply a question of money, and that the social stigma attached to cleaning the streets would be removed, and the two professions given equal respect, if road sweepers were paid the same amount. This is too simplistic, as the surgeon is far more skilled than the road sweeper. But sweeping the streets and related dirty jobs would undoubtedly be more attractive if they were better paid.

Integrating the Jobless Back into Society

Far from being calculated to help the long-term unemployed back into society, the type of work that they are forced to do under workfare is humiliating. In many cases, this is quite deliberate as part of the government’s ideology of ‘less eligibility’ and dissuading people from going on benefits. And studies by the researchers and the DWP itself have also found that workfare makes absolutely no difference to whether a claimant gets a job afterwards.

Enabling the Unemployed to Acquire New Skills

This is also rubbish, as the type of menial work people are giving under workfare, in which they sweep the streets or stack shelves, are by their nature unskilled. And if a skilled worker is forced to perform them for months on end, this type of work is actually like to make them lose their skills.
Workfare Cuts Government Spending

This is also rubbish. In fact, workfare increases government expenditure on the unemployed, as the government has to pay subsidies to the firms employing them, and pay the costs of administration, which are actually quite heavy. And the work those on the programme actually perform doesn’t produce much in the way of taxable income, so money doesn’t come back to the government. Furthermore, most of the people on benefits are actually working, which makes Liam Byrne’s statement that the best way to save money is to get people back into work’ a barefaced lie.

In addition to demolishing the government’s arguments in favour of workfare, Standing also provides a series of further arguments against it. These are that the jobs created through workfare aren’t real jobs; workfare is unjust in its treatment of the unemployed; it stops the unemployed actually looking for jobs for themselves; it lowers their income over their lifetime; it also acts to keep wages down; it keeps the people, who should be working at those jobs out of work; it’s a dangerous extension of the power of the state; and finally, it’s a gigantic scam which only benefits the welfare-to-work firms.

Workfare and Real Jobs

According to the ideas of the market economy developed by the pioneer of free trade, the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, workfare jobs don’t actually constitute real jobs. Smith believed that the market would actually produce higher wages to entice people into performing unpleasant jobs. On this reasoning, if workfare jobs were real jobs, then they would have a definite economic value. They would be created through the operation of the market, and the workers in them would also be paid proper wages for performing them.

There are also moral problems in the definition of what constitutes a ‘real job’ that someone on workfare should have to perform. If it is defined as one paying the minimum wage, then workfare is immoral as it puts downward pressure on the wages and conditions of the people already performing those jobs, forcing them into poverty. If those ‘real jobs’ are defined as those which are dirty, dangerous, undignified or stigmatizing, and so unpopular, they would have the opposite effect of what the advocates of workfare claim – that they are encouraging people to find work.

The solution for progressives is to make the labour market act like it is supposed to act, rather than it actually does in practice. Adam Smith was quite wrong about wages adjusting upwards for unpopular jobs in a market economy. The wages provided for work should match both supply and demand, and people should not be made into commodities as workers. They should have enough economic support to be able to refuse jobs they don’t want. Instead of assuming that people need to be forced to work, there should be the presumption instead that most people actually do. It is arbitrary and ultimately demeaning for all concerned to try to identify people who are somehow ‘undeserving’. Genuine supporters of equality should want the wages in unpleasant jobs to rise, until there is a genuine supply of willing labour.

Vox Political: Torygraph Spreading More Lies about Break-Away Labour Group

May 11, 2017

It seems the Torygraph will publish any old rubbish, not matter how hackneyed and obviously wrong, to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. Yesterday Mike put up a piece about an article in it, which claims that about 100 Labour MPs are in talks with potential donors about setting up a new ‘Progressives’ group in parliament if Corbyn stays on after a Tory landslide.

As Mike says, this is just the same old rumours that right-wing Labour MPs were planning to split the party that were circulating just before Corbyn won his second leadership election with a landslide.

He concludes

This is just a stupid smoke-and-mirrors bid to sap support for Jeremy Corbyn after Labour’s storming campaign launch and yet more blunders from ‘Team Terrible’ – I mean, Team Theresa.

I notice the name of the Torygraph reporter is ironically appropriate – C Hope? There’s no hope for Tories to see here.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/10/how-many-times-must-we-read-this-twaddle-about-mps-breaking-away-from-corbyns-labour/

A little while ago Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this remark about similar rumours of a Labour split:

It seems you may not have long to wait, as rumour has it that Blair is indeed trying to found a new party (or should that be a New Party?), with Sainsbury’s money being redirected from Progress to the New Blair Party. I have no doubt at all that this will claim to hold the middle ground as long as the ideals of neoliberalism seem centrist and “moderate”. I also have no doubt that this is yet another attack on the working people of the UK.

Let’s just stick with the current Labour party, that has promised to represent the 99%, and not the 1%?

My guess is that the Torygraph writer has heard some of these same rumours, and decided to repeat them as fact. It might be true that Blair wants to set up a new ‘Progressives’ party – the title of this new ‘moderate’ – read: neoliberal – group touted by the Torygraph seems to be based on ‘Progress’, the Blairite faction in Labour. Blair himself wants to return to British politics and was in the papers a week ago spouting on about how he wishes to spread ‘moderate’ politics.

I doubt he would have any chance of forming a new party. As Richard Seymour has pointed out in his book on Jeremy Corbyn, Progress is tiny numerically. It’s only causing trouble because its members have seized key position in the party. Furthermore, Blair himself is politically toxic, though like Thatcher he has no idea that he is long past his political sell-by date. Mike and Seymour in his book have pointed out that from 2002 to the end of their administration, Labour lost five million votes. He alienated voters with his right-wing policies.

And even some Tories despise him for reasons that are entirely right and correct. The Mail on Sunday columnist, Peter Hitchens, refers to him as ‘the Blair creature’ and voices his intense disgust at him for starting the needless wars in the Middle East which have cost so many brave men and women their lives and limbs.

My guess is that if the 100 Labour MPs did split off from Labour, it would result in them immediately losing their seats. The party would then be able to put up proper left-wing candidates, who would support Corbyn – or a suitably left-wing successor. These proper Labour MPs would then win the seats previously held by their Blairite predecessors.

But as Mike said, rumours of these splits have run before, and been wrong. The Blairite MPs themselves have been desperate to hold on to their nominations as Labour MPs by any means, fair or foul. We’ve seen whole local Labour parties suspended on trumped up charges because they’ve scared the Tom Watson and his minions by threatening to deselect their Blairite MP.

And Barry Davies, one of the long-term commenters over on Mike’s blog, raises the spectre of what happened to the SDP:

Well let’s honest if they “moderate’s” broke away what are they going to do, renew the social democrats?, start another party? join the lib dems, whatever they would be assured of losing their cushy jobs.

Yes, what did happen to the SDP? They were supposed to be about to break the mould of British politics. I can remember David Owen telling his troops to go back home and prepare for government.

It didn’t happen.

But he did get an invitation from Screaming Lord Sutch to join the Monster Raving Loony Party. Sutch said in his autobiography, Life As Sutch, that if Dr Owen had joined them, he’d be in government by now.

This looks like wishful thinking at best from the Torygraph. They’ve been one of the most venomous and persistent of Corbyn’s critics in the media. Possibly this is due to the paper’s very blatant right-wing bias, made worse by its ownership by the weirdo Barclay Twins, and desperation to ingratiate itself to potential advertisers by spiking stories that reflect badly on them. According to Private Eye, this prostration before the advertisers has resulted in readers leaving it in droves. I got the impression that this has resulted in mass sackings by doddery CEO Murdo McClellan and the Gruesome Twosome in order to keep the paper’s share price up.

Either way, it’s the Torygraph that’s in dire straits, not Labour. And hopefully one result of a Labour victory will be to utterly discredit the Telegraph and the other right-wing denizens of Fleet Street as influential opinion-formers.

How Labour Can Become a Party of the Countryside

April 2, 2017

Last Thursday Mike put up a piece asking ‘How can Labour become the party of the countryside again?’, following the announcement by the Fabian Society that it was launching a project to investigate ways in which the Labour party could start winning over rural communities in England and Wales. The Society stated that the government had promised to match the subsidies granted to farmers and rural communities under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020. However, farmers are faced with the devastating prospect of losing access to European markets, while being undercut by cheap foreign imports. Environmental regulations are also threatened, which also affect the continuing beauty of the English and Welsh countryside.

The Society recognises that agriculture isn’t the only issue affecting rural communities. They also suffer from a range of problems from housing, education, transport and the closure of local services. Rural communities pay more for their transport, and are served worst. At the same time, incomes in the countryside are an average of £4,000 lower than in the towns, but prices are also higher. Many market towns, pit villages and other rural communities have been abandoned as their inhabitants have sought better opportunities in the towns.

The Society is asking Labour members in rural communities to fill out a survey, to which Mike’s article is linked, and give their views on how the party can succeed in the countryside.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/28/how-can-labour-become-the-party-of-the-countryside-again/

This is a fascinating project, and if successful would see Labour challenge the Tories and Lib Dems in their heartlands. The Tories in particular seem to see themselves as the party of the countryside since the 18th and 19th centuries, when they represented the Anglican aristocracy, who tried to emphasise the rural traditions of a mythical prosperous ‘merrie England’ against the threat of the towns of the growth of the Liberal middle class.

Mike states that one of the problems he’s faced as a Labour party campaigner in his part of rural Wales is the myth that ‘Labour wants to nationalise farms’. Clearly, this is the part of the same complaint I remembering hearing from middle class children at school that ‘Labour wanted to nationalise everything’. It was to allay these suspicions that Blair went off and got rid of Clause 4 as part of his assault on Labour as the party of the working class. But even before then it was nonsense.

Following Labour’s defeat in the 1950 elections, the party halted its programme of nationalisation. Labour was in any case committed to nationalise only when it was necessary and popular. Thus, Atlee’s government set up the NHS and nationalised the utilities, with very little opposition from the Tories, but did not proceed further. And the Social Democratic section of the party, led by Tony Crosland, argued very strongly against nationalisation on the grounds that it was not only unpopular, but the benefits of nationalisation could be achieved in other ways, such as a strong trade union movement, a welfare state and progressive taxation.

This held sway until the 1970s, when the Keynsian consensus began to break down. Labour’s response in 1973 was to recommend a more comprehensive programme of nationalisation. They put forward a list of 25 companies, including the sugar giant, Tate & Lyle, which they wanted taken into public ownership. How large this number seems to be, it is far short complete nationalisation.

The party was strongly aware of the massive problems the Soviet Union had in feeding its population, thanks to the collectivisation of agriculture. Most of the food produced in the USSR came from the private plots the peasants were allowed on their kholkozy – collective farms. Tito’s government in Yugoslavia had attempted to avoid that by letting the farms remain in private hands. At the same time, only companies that employed more than 20 people were to be nationalised.

Even in the 1930s and 40s I don’t think the nationalisation of farmland was quite an option. Looking through the contents of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, I found an old copy of Production for the People, published by the Left Book Club in the 1940s. This explored ways in which Socialists could raise production in industry and agriculture, to the benefit of working people. The section on agriculture was almost wholly devoted to the question of subsidies and suitable government infrastructure to support farmers. I can’t remember there being any mention of nationalisation. The closest the book came was to argue for an expansion of rural cooperatives.

This project may well embarrass the Fabian Society. I’ve got the distinct impression that the Society is now staffed very strongly with Blairites, and it is Blairism as a barely left extension of Thatcherism that is at the heart of so many of the problems of rural communities. Blair, for example, like Major and now the administrations of Cameron and May, strongly supported the big supermarket chains. But the supermarket chains have done immense damage to Britain’s small businessmen and farmers. They force small shopkeepers out of business, and impose very exploitative contracts on their suppliers. See the chapter on them in George Monbiot’s Captive State. Yet national and local governments have fallen over to grant their every wish up and down the country. David Sainsbury even had some place in one of Blair’s quangos. I think he even was science minister, at one point.

If Labour would like to benefit farmers and traders, they could try and overturn the power of the supermarket chains, so that farmers get a proper price for their products and are not faced with the shouldering the costs while Sainsbury’s, Tescos and so on reap all the profits. At the same time, your local shops together employ more people than the local supermarket. So if you cut down on the number of supermarkets in an area, you’d actually boost employment. But this is unlikely to go down well with the Blairites, looking for corporate donations and a seat on the board with these pernicious companies when they retire or lose their seat.

At the same time, rural communities and livelihoods are also under attack from the privatisation of the forestry service. Fracking is also a threat to the environment, as is the Tories campaign against green energy. A number of villages around Britain, including in Somerset, have set up local energy companies generating power from the sun and wind. But the current government is sponsored heavily by the oil and nuclear companies, and so is desperate to close these projects down, just like the Republicans are doing in America.

The same goes for the problems of transport. After Maggie Thatcher decided to deregulate bus services, the new bus companies immediately started cutting unprofitable services, which included those to rural areas. If Labour really wants to combat this problem, it means putting back in place some of the regulations that Thatcher removed.

Also, maintaining rural communities as living towns and villages also means building more houses at prices that people in the countryside can afford. It may also mean limiting the purchase of housing stock as convenient second homes for wealthy urbanites. The Welsh Nats in the ’70s and ’80s became notorious for burning down holiday homes in Wales owned by the English. In actual fact, I think it’s now come out that only a tiny number – perhaps as low as 1 – were actually destroyed by Welsh nationalists. The rest were insurance jobs. But I can remember my Welsh geographer teacher at school explaining why the genuine arsonists were so angry. As holiday homes, they’re vacant for most of the year. The people, who own them don’t live locally, and so don’t use local services, except for the couple of weeks they’re there. Furthermore, by buying these homes, they raise the prices beyond the ability of local people to buy them, thus forcing them out.

This is a problem facing rural communities in England, not just Wales, and there are some vile people, who see nothing wrong with it. I’ve a friend, who was quite involved in local politics down in Somerset. He told me how he’d had an argument on one of the Somerset or rural British websites with a very right-wing, obnoxious specimen, who not only saw nothing wrong with forcing local country people out of their homes, but actually celebrated it. This particular nutter ranted on about how it was a ‘new highland clearances’. I bet he really wouldn’t like to say that in Scotland!

Labour may also be able to pick up votes by attacking the myth of the fox hunting lobby as really representing rural Britain. Well, Oscar Wilde once described them as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible’. Which about accurately describes them. They were resented in the early 19th century, when some farmers and squires started ‘subscription hunts’. Their members where wealthy urban businessmen, off for a day’s ‘sport’ in the country. At the same time, harsh laws were passed against poaching, which saw starving farm workers transported.

Mike’s put up statistics several times on his blog, which show very much that very many, perhaps even the majority, of rural people do not support fox hunting. And I know people from rural Britain, who actively loathed and detested it. I had a friend at College, who came from Devon. He bitterly hated the Tories and the fox hunters, not least because the latter had ridden down a deer into school playing field and killed it in front of the children.

Another friend of mine comes from East Anglia. He told me how many of the tenant farmers over there also hated the fox hunting crowd, not least because of the cavalier way they assumed they had the right to ride over the land of the small farmers in pursuit of the ‘game’.

The fox hunting crowd do not represent rural Britain as a whole, and their claim to do so should be attacked and shown to be massively wrong at every opportunity. As for the Tories’ claim to be the party of the countryside, they have represented the interests only of the rich landed gentry, and the deregulation and privatisation introduced by Maggie Thatcher and carried on by successive right-wing administrations, including May and Cameron, have done nothing but harm real working people in rural Britain. The bitter persecution of the farmworker’s unions set up in the 19th century clearly demonstrate how far back this hatred and contempt goes.

More on Progress, the Groaniad, and the Israel Lobby

September 27, 2016

Lobster 70 also had some very interesting little snippets about the Israel lobby, and its connections to sections of the Labour party and the press, specifically ‘Progress’, and the Guardian.

‘Progress’ is the Blairite faction within the Labour party. In ‘Tittle-Tattle’ for that issue, Tom Easton praises Solomon Hughes in the Morning Star for his work investigating and exposing Progress and its dodgy donors. Hughes had written about the close connection between Tristram Hunt and David Sainsbury. As I’ve blogged previously, Sainsbury was a big corporate donor to the Labour party under Blair and Brown. He stopped funding the party as a whole when Ed Miliband became leader, but, according to Hughes, he continued funding Progress. Just as he continued funding the SDP rump under Dr David Owen after the rest of it had merged with the Liberals. One of the SDP’s members was Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.

In November 2014 Hughes described Hunt’s speech at the previous Labour Conference, in which he made a joke about the secretive and numerically small nature of the faction, which did not go down well with the Progress hordes. He wrote

‘When I went to the Progress rally at the last Labour conference, Tristram Hunt was one of the speakers, where he declared he was “delighted to be with Progress” because “you might be an unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire, but you are OUR unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire”.

Here were two dozen true words spoken in jest. Hunt’s joke was so close to the bone that the shiny happy people of Progress — this is one of the biggest events on Labour’s fringe — seemed embarrassed into silence.

Hunt’s insistence that Progress was “the Praetorian Guard, the Parachute Regiment, the Desert Rats of Labour” also raised few laughs, even though the meeting took place in a Comedy Club at the edge of the Labour conference site. Even joking that Progress is new Labour’s shock troops was a bit too much.’

One of Progress’ board members is Patrick Diamond, who is a long-time associated of Peter Mandelson. He is the Vice-Chair of Mandy’s Policy Network, as well as frequently contributing columns to the Guardian. Progress’ president is Stephen Twigg, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Progress’ chair, John Woodcock, the MP for Barrow and Furness, contributed the foreword to the Labour Friends of Israel’s The Progressive Case for Israel. And when it seemed Liz Kendall was about to don the mantle of leadership for New Labour, she got a positive press from the Jewish Chronicle. The week after Labour lost the election, the newspaper ran the headline, ‘Labour Must Now Pass the Israel Test’. Which shows just how close New Labour is to the Israel lobby. And in another item in the same column, Easton states that another former chairman of the LFI is Jim Murphy, the head of Scottish Labour. Which sheds yet more light on his determination to block Rhea Wolfson’s attempts to get on to the NEC. Murphy persuaded her local Labour party not to back her because of her links to that terrible anti-Semitic organisation, Momentum, despite the fact that they’re not, and Wolfson herself is Jewish.

A further item, ‘Grauniada’, also comments that that the Graun’s connections to Zionism goes back ‘to the early days of both’, noting that the newspaper itself had told the story of its relationship with Israel in 2008 when it published Daphna Baram’s Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel. The same item also notes that Jonathan Freedland, one of the leading critics of Jeremy Corbyn, is also a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle.

All this shows the very strong connections between New Labour, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the Jewish Chronicle, and how they are absolutely united in their hatred of Jeremy Corbyn.

The same item in Lobster also speculates on how long the connection between the Graun and Zionism will survive, now that the new editor-in-chief is Katherine Viner. Viner and Alan Rickman produced a theatre production based on the diary entries and writings of Rachel Corrie. Corrie was the American peace activist, who was killed by bulldozer driven by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza in 2003.

There’s also another section in that part of the magazine specifically about the Israel lobby. Most of the politicians reported in that item, ‘Israel Lobby News’, are Conservatives and Lib Dems, such as Eric Pickles, Nick Clegg’s head of communications, James Sorene, who went off to head BICOM, while local councillors elected in May that year were invited to join the Local Government Friends of Israel by Rachel Kaye, the Executive Director of We Believe in Israel. Kaye stated that the director of We Believe in Israel was Luke Akehurst, a former Labour councillor for Hackney, and had worked with Peter Mandelson’s former press secretary in the PR and lobbying firm Weber Shandwick.

Ruth Smeeth, the Anti-Semitism Smears and the Israel Lobby

September 22, 2016

Ruth Smeeth is one of the other Blairites, who made allegations of anti-Semitic abuse earlier this year. According to Wikipedia, she demanded that Corbyn resign, after Marc Wadworth, of Momentum Black Connexions, accused her of working ‘hand-in-hand with the right-wing media’. She claimed that this was a slur against her as someone of Jewish heritage, because it was linking her, as Jew, to a conspiracy theory. See the entry at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Smeeth

Easton, in his ‘Tittle-Tattle’ column in Lobster 68 for 2014 also reveals that she’s a member of Progress, the Blairite party-within-a-party, funded by David Sainsbury. She was also a former director of public affairs for another Israel lobby group, BICOM. A number of organisation have documented how BICOM are involved with the occupation of the West Bank and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

As was remarked at the time, if I recall correctly, her accusation is all about protecting the neoliberalist entryists in Labour and protecting the Israel lobby and its influence.

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.

Vox Political on the Denial of Voting Rights to Life-long Members of the Labour Party

September 6, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also posted up a piece about what looks suspiciously like another ruse by the Blairites to stop ‘Old Labour’ supporters voting. He states that he received a comment from David Chesters, who has a vote in the leadership election as he is a life-long member of the union, Unite. His mother has also been a life-long member, and was also expecting to receive her ballot papers so that she too could vote in the election. But she didn’t. When Mr Chesters rang Unite HQ to inquire about this, he was informed that his mother did not have the vote, as she had reached the age where she no longer had to pay to the contributory fund. As she no longer paid in, she no longer had the right to vote. Mr Chesters is clearly upset about this, and wonders how many hundreds – or thousands – of others have also been denied the right to vote. Mike in his comment is also suspicious, as older members of the party may be more likely to have traditional, ‘Old’ Labour views. He doesn’t mention them, but they are presumably the belief that the party should actually do what it was founded to do, and stand up for the working class, the poor, and the unemployed, and that certain essential industries and services, such as health, electricity, gas and water, are better managed by the state. All beliefs that were rejected by the Blairites in their determination to take voters from the Tories. Such older members are more likely to vote for Corbyn, and this seems to be the reason why they’ve been denied the vote. After all, the Blairites have denied so many others theirs, often on the very flimsy pretext that somehow they have injured the party’s reputation through online comments. One woman was told that she was being suspended because of a tweet she made using strong language to express her enjoyment of the music of the Foo Fighters. The tweet had nothing to do with the Labour party, and such language, though still frowned upon, is so common that it hardly raises an eyebrow. But any excuse will do in the Kafkaesque attitude of New Labour.

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/06/a-new-twist-non-contributory-union-members-excluded-from-labour-leadership-vote/

I’ve said before that I’m a supporter, but not a member of the Labour party. But it’s my opinion that this excuse for denying someone their vote in the leadership election because they’ve been in it for so long that they no longer pay the subscription, is still wrong. If someone qualifies as a life-long member, then simple, common decency should mean that they also have the right to vote.

This also shows something of the grim, New Labour attitude to politics and political empowerment. You only get a voice if you can stump up the cash. Hence, they’re all too keen to take money from Tory donors like David Sainsbury, and give him some say in how the party is run. But for those, who have a reached the age where they don’t have to pay because of their seniority, they want to do nothing for them but exclude them.

We’re back once again to money talking. And it’s crying out ‘corruption!’.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 2

August 8, 2016

The arguments trotted out to support the workfare policies are these.

1. Everyone has a duty to work. Those who take money from the state have a reciprocal obligation to work for the support they have received.

2. Following Moynihan in America, it’s argued that part of the problem of poverty in society is communities, where there are families, which have not worked for generations. In order to break the cycle of poverty, these people must be forced into work.

3. It’s also argued that many individuals have also been unemployed for so long that they, too, have lost the habit of working. These people must also be forced to work.

4. The unemployed are also socially marginalised and excluded. Workfare helps them, its supporters argue, become integrated into society and so become productive members of the community once again.

5. It is also claimed that workfare allows people to acquire new skills. In 2012 a report was published on the exploitation of the people forced to work for free as security guards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A spokesman for the ConDem coalition responded to the claim by stating: ‘The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop skills that they need to get a job that is sustainable.’ As Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols sang back in 1977 ‘God save the Queen and the Fascist regime.’

6. Workfare somehow reduces government spending on welfare programmes. Liam Byrne, New Labour’s advocate for workfare, who was quoted in the first part of this article, said ‘The best way to save money is to get people back into work.’

In fact there are serious arguments against just about all of these points, and some of them simply aren’t factually true. Let’s deal with each of these arguments in turn.

The Duty to Work

If people have a duty to perform free work for the goods and services that are provided freely by the state, then the middle classes and the elite should particularly be targeted for workfare, because they use the state infrastructure and its services more than the proles and those at the bottom of society. But the middle and upper classes most definitely are not required to perform these services. Furthermore there are also strong objections to performing workfare for a profit-making company. Those who do so, like those poor souls working free of charge for the big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, are helping to make these companies even more profitable. It isn’t society that profits from their work, but extremely wealthy individuals like David Sainsbury and his shareholders, and the people running his competitors, for example. This claim also implies that low income people have a duty to work in an inferior position for the benefit of their social or economic superiors in a master-servant relationship. This is a distortion of the concept of duty. The same idea also leads to the view that if you are unsuccessful in the labour market, you therefore have a duty to work for nothing, a view of society that is both regressive – harking back to some of the worst aspects of the Victorian era – an alienating. On the other hand, if you are performing work that is unprofitable, then there should be no duty to perform it. If it is genuine, valuable work, then the people performing it should be paid the current market rate, not simply provided with unemployment relief.

Standing also makes the point that the concept of duty has led to the belief that people should be forced to find work. But the use of coercion is divisive and actually undermines the commitment to work. He also argues that it actually amoral, because it takes away from workers their ability to choose for themselves whether to be moral. Plus the fact that workfare is not levied on the idle rich, or the friends and relatives of the politicians forcing it on others.

Multigenerational Families of the Unemployed

The number of families that actually fit this description is so small as to be negligible, both in America and over here in Blighty. The academics T. Shildrick, R. MacDonald, C. Webster, and K. Garthwaite examined this issue in their Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain (Bristol: Policy Press 2012). Their research revealed that only 1 per cent fitted the description of a family in which two generations were unemployed. Official attempts to find these pockets of intergenerational unemployment have similarly turned up next to zilch. The whole idea is rubbish, but that hasn’t stopped papers like the Daily Fail claiming it’s true.

Getting People out of the Habit of Not Having a Job

Researchers have also looked at this one, too, and guess what? Yup, it’s similarly rubbish. There are very few people like this. But rather than acting as an incentive to find work, actually being forced to work unpaid in poor conditions may actually act as a deterrent.

Integrating the Jobless Back into Society

Far from being calculated to help the long-term unemployed back into society, the type of work that they are forced to do under workfare is humiliating. In many cases, this is quite deliberate as part of the government’s ideology of ‘less eligibility’ and dissuading people from going on benefits. And studies by the researchers and the DWP itself have also found that workfare makes absolutely no difference to whether a claimant gets a job afterwards.

Enabling the Unemployed to Acquire New Skills

This is also rubbish, as the type of menial work people are giving under workfare, in which they sweep the streets or stack shelves, are by their nature unskilled. And if a skilled worker is forced to perform them for months on end, this type of work is actually like to make them lose their skills.

Workfare Cuts Government Spending

This is also rubbish. In fact, workfare increases government expenditure on the unemployed, as the government has to pay subsidies to the firms employing them, and pay the costs of administration, which are actually quite heavy. And the work those on the programme actually perform doesn’t produce much in the way of taxable income, so money doesn’t come back to the government. Furthermore, most of the people on benefits are actually working, which makes Liam Byrne’s statement that the best way to save money is to get people back into work’ a barefaced lie.